The Coronavirus outbreak once again dominated my work this week, with daily updates from the Prime Minister and updates in Parliament from the Health Secretary, alongside my normal work in Parliament and in the constituency.
Before starting, I want to reassure Southport residents that I am in contact with the Chief Executives of both Sefton Council and Southport Hospital. I am receiving daily updates from both, and am relaying any concerns and requests they have directly to government ministers. I will do all I can to ensure that our town gets the resources it needs to overcome this crisis.
My Monday began, like most, with a train down to London to start a busy week in Parliament. Sitting on a near-empty train, which is usually packed, both made me anxious of the effect the COVID-19 outbreak has had on everyday life in the UK, but also glad that the public is taking the advice of both the Government and NHS – only travel if it is essential. Whilst I would prefer to spend my week in Southport doing all I can on the ground, I know that it is the duty of MPs to scrutinise and hold the government to account - a duty which is more essential than ever at a time of crisis.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, updated MPs in Parliament on Monday on the work his department is doing to tackle this COVID-19 outbreak. After the update, I headed back to my office in Parliament, and began writing letters to supermarkets in Southport asking them to set out the measures they were taking to ensure that the elderly and most vulnerable residents in our town had access to food. I’m pleased that a number of supermarkets have announced that their first opening hour of each day will be ring-fenced for these elderly and vulnerable residents, and that limits will be set on the number of each product shoppers can purchase. More measures are needed, but we’re heading in the right direction.
On Tuesday the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, spoke in the Commons on the work of the Foreign Office in supporting those British residents who have found themselves stuck oversees. A number of Southport constituents who have found themselves stranded across Europe, Asia, and South America have been in contact with me to seek my support in helping them return. I am working flat-out, with the support of the Foreign Office, to bring them home. I spent some time later on Tuesday reviewing constituency correspondence which needed to be signed - despite the Coronavirus outbreak my office and I are still progressing casework, and helping local residents with issues they are facing.
Prime Minister’s Questions is still taking place each week, although on a slightly reduced scale. MPs were advised this week not to physically go into the House of Commons to watch PMQs unless they were due to ask a question. As I hadn’t been selected for a question, I watched the Prime Minister address the near-empty chamber from my office. Despite the crisis we are facing, it is right that the Prime Minister still goes to Parliament and account for the actions of the Government. I held a few meetings later on Wednesday, before getting the train back to Southport to support my team and speak with residents and businesses directly
I recently announced that all my upcoming visits and in-person meetings had been cancelled, replaced (where possible) by phone calls. I held a 5-hour telephone surgery on Friday where I spoke to a number of local residents who needed support due to the Coronavirus outbreak. These people ranged from self-isolators, parents worried about school closures, workers who feared losing their jobs, and businesses requesting support. I’ve been speaking to businesses throughout the week, ensuring that they know exactly what support is available to them. I am doing all I can to help, and I’m glad that we’ve already resolved a number of issues.
I’ve updated my website, which now has a section devoted to information on the Coronavirus. There are details on up to date Government and NHS advice, action I am taking, government hotlines and links for business and resident support, and a page detailing community groups and local businesses willing to deliver to those self-isolating. It is great to see how our town is really pulling together to help each other during these hard times. I wrote next week’s Champion article toward the end of Friday, alongside this My Week in Parliament. My Champion column will focus on what I am doing to support local residents and businesses.
If you are reading this and there is anything I could do to help you, please head to the ‘contact’ page on this website and get in touch.