Monthly updates from Laura Farris
MP for Newbury
Welcome from Laura
In June we saw some of the biggest changes to lockdown yet and the announcement of more easing of lockdown to come in early July. Among the biggest announcements and changes seen in June was the re-opening of ‘non-essential’ shops and retail and the Prime Minister’s announcement that pubs, theatres, cinemas and restaurants are among a range of businesses to open from the 4th July. June also saw some welcome changes to the guidelines, including the introduction of household bubbles and the resumption of some sports and training in small groups outside.
As we look towards life beyond lockdown and as cases and deaths continue to fall, the focus is beginning to shift towards thinking about how we can open the economy and support jobs safely. From my discussions with local healthcare leaders, it is obvious that the prevalence and circulation of the virus in West Berkshire is very low. Whilst I encourage people to follow all social distancing and Public Health England guidance to stay safe, I would also encourage everyone to do all they can to support the wonderful shops and businesses that call West Berkshire home and help drive our local recovery.
As always, if you have any thoughts or problems please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
My priority continues to be supporting businesses, schools and people across West Berkshire. Throughout this crisis, businesses and workers have benefited from the extraordinary level of support provided by the Government. This includes over 2,000 businesses being awarded small business and sector-specific grants, totalling nearly £30 million (out of over £10 billion nationally), £1.22 million of which was awarded to businesses across a range of sectors including the arts. What is more, around 12,000 people in the constituency have had their wages and jobs secured by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
I have continued to hold discussions with businesses in the area – big and small. I had some conversations with major local employers – including Vodafone and Roc Technologies – as well as small business groups and associations, such as a forum with Federation of Small Business members and the Newbury BID team ahead of another forum with their members in early July. It was great to speak to businesses to get a feel for the future they face in what is an undeniably challenging landscape to let them know I am here to support them and their employees as best as I can.
I look forward to holding more forums and meetings in the coming months and I will continue to bring their voice to Westminster. My team and I also remain in close contact with West Berkshire Council and their Economic Development Team who have been working proactively to support businesses as they look to open in the near future. They have launched a new online portal and form to provide businesses a single point of contact for any questions they may have. This can be accessed here.
My discussions with local secondary and primary school head teachers remain ongoing, and they are always a valuable opportunity to hear their thoughts and feed them back to the Department for Education. We now know that all of our pupils will be returning to their classrooms full-time in September. I will continue to do all I can to support this incredibly important transition for our young people.
Finally, my visits to the incredible community groups that have been established in the wake of this virus have continued. Last month I caught up with the amazing Lambourn Junction and Hermitage Volunteers. Both groups have done so much to support their communities in what are really difficult conditions for many. Like all of those who give up their time to help those in need, they remind me daily why I am so proud to be your representative.
I am still continuing to collect Community Champion nominations, so if anyone comes to mind please do email me their name and why you think they deserve this award. Thank you so much to all of you who have written in – the scale of selfless generosity and good work in this constituency is phenomenal.
My Parliamentary calendar has been really very busy through what has been my first full month back in Westminster for a while.
A lot of my schedule had been taken up through my selection to be on a Parliamentary Public Bill Committee. While not always glamorous (my Bill Committee was looking at the legislation going through Parliament on constituencies), these committees play a really important part in ensuring that legislation presented to the House is as robust as possible and included hearing evidence from experts in the field and quizzing them accordingly. You can also see my contribution to the Constituencies Bill debate in the House here.
The Home Affairs Select Committee continues to meet over Zoom and this month we have held sessions and opened investigations on some really timely issue, including the Macpherson Report (which looked at institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police following the murder and investigation of Stephen Lawrence) twenty-years on, as well as the publishing of our report into the Home Offices preparedness for COVID-19. At the end of the month we questioned the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, as well as quizzing senior officials on the success of Home Office measures to ensure inclusivity in the Department, the effect of our immigration system on health and social care and child exploitation and harm online.
In the House I spoke on a number of issues impacting my constituents. On June 3rd, I asked the Prime Minister at PMQs about amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill which I have campaigned on since I arrived in Parliament in December. Watch it here.
I also made several additional contributions to debates and questions to Ministers including:
- BA workers who face redundancy (watch here);
- The (now successful) re-opening of wedding venues (watch here);
- The debate over the continued provision of Free School Meals to pupils during the summer holidays, an issue I had strongly lobbied the Government to continue to provide and welcomed their decision to do so warmly (watch here);
- The impact of COVID-19 on women and the support women need during the recovery as a group particularly vulnerable to being furloughed and redundancy (watch here);
- Ensuring best practice is shared between health care professionals in the fight against COVID (watch here);
- The appalling and cowardly terror attacks in Reading, sending my condolences on behalf of us all and asking the Home Secretary to ensure police and security services have all available surveillance powers to effectively protect us all (watch here);
- Changes to the way Parliament deals with complaints to ensure that victims and complainants are guaranteed a proper and impartial investigation (watch here);