This week saw MPs return to Parliament, and whilst there are a few minor teething issues, I do believe that our return to Westminster will allow myself and other MPs to better represent you in Parliament.
Prior to this holding the government to account and asking questions had been more challenging when done virtually and was subsequently having an impact upon the effectiveness of our representation.
When MPs are physically present in the chamber or on a committee, there is a better sense of being able to hold the Government to account and quiz Ministers and others on the work they are doing.
When you’re physically present you can look ministers in the whites of their eyes and you can directly interact with them literally on a daily basis in the voting lobbies and the many corridors of Westminster. This enables MPs to have private conversations and to establish what might and might not be possible based upon constituents concerns and wishes.
Government ministers often have a very full plate of issues, policies, and legislation to address, and as a result they can, understandably, lose the perspective of backbench MPs who are closer to their constituencies. A fully functional Parliament will therefore bring the major benefit of allowing ministers to test ideas with MPs, of all political persuasions, who may be better equipped to evaluate how policies will be received by the British public and operate in practice.
Yet prior to my return to Westminster, as always, I continued to answer constituents’ questions and raise their issues. The past two weeks have seen 3 issues dominate.
First, the return to schools has attracted significant concern from teachers, parents and union leaders. Some parents are concerned about allowing their children to return too soon while others are eager for their children to return as soon as possible because they are worried about the damage being done to their children’s education.
Thankfully, the government, advised by SAGE, has concluded that it is safe for the current plan to allow reception, year 1, and year 6 to return to school. It is essential that we get these key year groups back in the classroom. Failure to do so could risk permanently damaging their future career and educational prospects. This applied even more so for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. So I would urge parents to trust the government’s advice, and the measures put in place in schools, and return your children to school.
Second, the British Airways dispute continues to cause concerns across the region. I received a written answer from the government, after raising the issue, and received assurance that the government is monitoring the situation closely. I do believe that this is the correct response as although it would be wrong for the government to interfere with the business of a private company, it is also right that we ensure that the employees of this important airline are treated fairly. Especially when we consider how much work airline staff have done to help repatriate British nationals amidst the pandemic. It may well be wise for the Government to express its concerns and perhaps recommend arbitration given the number of employees affected.
Finally, many constituents wrote to me regarding the Mr Cummings. This has placed huge time pressures on my parliamentary staff, but I am pleased to say that I have now managed to reply to every constituent. It is right that Mr Cummings has explained the actions publicly and answered numerous questions from journalists. It is also important to note that he is not an MP but an advisor. As a result, this is a staffing matter to be decided by Number 10. Despite the questions raised in this instance I would urge us all to continue to follow and respect the guidance.
My primary focus is on constituents’ concerns, lifting lockdown safely, kick-starting our economy to save jobs and livelihoods, and achieving sensible new international trade relations by the end of year, now that we’ve left the EU.
So as we move out of the lockdown and into summer, I trust we’ll continue to stay alert and enjoy the great outdoors responsibly.