Monthly Newsletter Update from Laura Farris
MP for Newbury
Welcome from Laura
As Parliament rises for summer recess, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on a busy few months. From the staggering success of the England football team to Team GB’s Olympic success, there is much to celebrate.
Restrictions came to an end on 19th July and despite continuing political argument about issues like mask-wearing, the early data shows that cases are continuing to fall and people are continuing to take reasonable precautions. At the time of writing 72.5% of eligible adults are fully vaccinated, and deaths from the virus are 94% below their January peak – the clearest evidence yet that the vaccine is working.
Of course the pandemic is not yet over and its trajectory remains unpredictable. I am well aware of the disruption that has been caused by the ‘pingdemic’. However, the 19th July was a watershed moment when the efficacy of the vaccine was put to the test and I am delighted that – so far – progress is good.
Before MPs returned to their constituencies for the summer, I spoke in the House about some of the outstanding work that has been undertaken in West Berkshire in the last year. In particular I paid tribute to all at Newbury Racecourse and the clinical staff and volunteers who devoted six months at its vaccination centre, turning the tide of the pandemic locally.
I also raised the efforts of 105-year old Ruth Saunders who raised £50,000 for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance by walking 26.2 miles around her local streets in November 2020 inspired by Captain Tom. Ruth was awarded a Points of Light Award by the Prime Minister which I presented to her last week.
Presenting the wonderful Ruth Saunders with her 'Points of Light' Award from the Prime Minister.
I also took the opportunity to outline environmental campaigns I am working on locally.
The first of these is to secure a bus route between Newbury and Oxford (which will stop at Vodafone HQ, the Harwell Science Park, the Milton Business Park and Abingdon along the way). The data shows that increasing numbers of West Berkshire residents are employed on the A34 corridor and the absence of any direct transport link leaves most with no choice but to get in their cars. I want to create a bus route (preferably hydrogen) which will give them a low-cost environmentally friendly alternative.
Second I spoke about my work on protecting the River Kennet, which I have been working on with my neighbour Danny Kruger MP to address water pollution and extraction. You can watch my full speech here.
- Raised the outstanding work of Newbury College with the Chancellor and asked for more support for small businesses looking to recruit apprentices (watch here).
- Made a speech on the Criminal Justice System, specifically about ending violence against women and girls (watch here).
- Asked the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, about what steps the Department of Health is taking to ensure that vaccine development will be ready to meet future variants of the virus (watch here):
- A further question to the Health Secretary about increasing uptake of the vaccination among younger age groups (watch here).
- Asked the Business Minister about the practice of ‘fire and rehire’ which has caused huge stress to many of my constituents including those employed by British Airways and Centrica (watch here).
Opening Hungerford Town FC's new changing pavilion.
In the Constituency:
I have particularly enjoyed holding constituency surgeries in the local community. During July I held surgeries in Wash Common, Beedon, Hampstead Norreys, Streatley and Hungerford. I find this one of the most effective ways of meeting residents and hearing about the local issues that matter to them. This will be followed by more local events in the coming weeks - I am planning on setting up a stall in Hungerford, Thatcham and Newbury during their respective market days. Check my website for details once dates are confirmed and I hope to see you for a chat!
Last month I also held a “Pre-COP 26 Environmental Summit” where I invited speakers from the COP President’s Office, Ministers from DEFRA (including one Lord Benyon who you might dimly recall) and local environmental groups. This was an opportunity for constituents to hear about what the Government hopes to achieve from the Summit in November this year, what the objectives are in terms of global agreement on climate targets and what are going to be the biggest challenges. The truth is that getting countries as varied as Israel and Iran, China and the USA to agree and commit to mutually binding targets is an enormous challenge in itself but this is the eleventh hour and there is no time to waste. I am grateful to the constituents how joined the call and have written to the COP President, Alok Sharma, reflecting some of the views that were expressed.
At the end of July I launched my 2021 Pub Competition which is open for nominations throughout August. We have some true gems here in West Berkshire and I want to see their work recognised. You can go online to my website here to nominate your favourite in any of the categories: best food and drink, best pub garden, best family pub, best dog friendly pub and best all-rounder and I encourage you to do so.
I have also been out meeting pupils at local primary schools –from Falkland to Beedon to Lambourn Primary Schools. I always find that my youngest constituents ask the best and most probing questions and I love explaining to them how special (and sometimes strange) the job of an MP can be.
In addition, I have been out visiting local businesses. Some who have found new opportunities during the pandemic by diversifying their work and others who have really struggled because of extended closures. The success of Newbury’s businesses and the livelihoods they sustain will always be my priority as Newbury’s MP and they have my full support as they reopen.
Finally, I held my quarterly roundtable with West Berkshire’s farmers – this time in stunning Welford Park - home to the Great British Bake Off. We talked everything from new technology to Brexit and hearing about the common issues affecting our farmers gives me the strongest basis to make representations on their behalf to DEFRA.
I hope you all have a wonderful August – despite the rain – and look forward to seeing many of you I hope, in the constituency over the months ahead.