Dear friends and colleagues,
With coronavirus, we are experiencing a very difficult time. Hopefully, the lockdown is now easing up, although there will still be bumps in the road.
As I have said before, I want to pay an immense tribute to all in my constituency and across the country and to all those in essential public services for everything they have done, often with great bravery, and specifically members of this association for the work they have been doing on a voluntary basis.
I have been inevitably engaged in an extremely wide range of matters and I want to especially thank Councillors Patrick Farrington, Ian Parry, Keith Flunder and others, who have been so helpful in providing me with information. I am aware that fly-tipping is causing a great deal of concern in the countryside and I am grateful to Cllr Graham Hutton for alerting me to this.
I also wish to thank Stone Branch chairman Steve Walley and the recently formed committee for their hard work in re-invigorating the Stone Branch and establishing an active social media presence and I am also talking to Harry Gillow about his Young Conservatives initiative.
On small businesses I played a significant part in successfully advising the Government on the bounce back loans with the 100% Government guarantee and on farming matters I have had several lengthy conference calls with the National Farmers Union locally and nationally.
I have been greatly involved with pressing for improvements to PPE for doctors and those in the health services and also on the question of testing on an ongoing and continuous footing. I have been involved in numerous conference calls on a wide range of matters inside and outside of Parliament, including care homes. I have intervened in relation to a specific care home problem where the Care Quality Commission and the Government department required some significant pressure to avoid things going badly wrong.
I am truly grateful to all of the local communities for their enormous commitment. I have placed advertisements in all the local newspapers to thank everyone.
On the issue of schools, I understand that almost all of the schools in my constituency did return this week and I have asked the County Council to give me the latest attendance figures for those schools when they are available. I must stress that despite the concerns of some, the return to school is on a voluntary basis and that parents who deem it necessary not to send their child to school will not be fined. Opinion is divided on this subject, but evidence from other countries suggests that although it is a balance of judgement, it is important for children to receive their schooling with a degree of flexibility as well.
In the meantime, HS2 continues to be a matter of enormous concern to my constituents and I have been in daily correspondence and discussion with leading members of my constituency on this subject and in correspondence with the Government ministers concerned, setting out my continuing opposition to the project.
While coronavirus rightly dominates the media, Brexit still remains a fundamental issue on which, as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, I have been involved in preparing several reports and in correspondence with the Prime Minister and Government ministers, as well as other Members of Parliament. I will continue to ensure that Brexit is followed through in line with the decisions of Parliament by the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement Act 2020, including the Section 38 which reaffirms the sovereignty of Parliament.
On Thursday 04 June, I took part in an essential debate in the House of Commons regarding the negotiations with the EU. As Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, I led on the debate with Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – it was an important milestone for Brexit. The Labour Party had put down an amendment in the name of Keir Starmer, but uniquely decided not to press the amendment to a vote. In my speech, I insisted that we must stand firm on the sovereignty of the UK Parliament and Michael Gove and the Government made it clear that this would be the case. The next step will be the Prime Minister going to Brussels around the middle of June, which will be a crucial and critical moment. We left the EU as the result of a succession of Acts of Parliament, including the Referendum Act itself and the result of the referendum to leave, endorsed by the democratic will of the British people in the general election last year and there must be no extension to the transition period.
I repeat my congratulations to all members of the association and to all of the officers including Roger Barnard and for all of the help I have received from the Constituency office and all local Conservative councillors and volunteers, including Stone Branch Chairman, Steve Walley and Stone Branch Committee member, Brigadier (Ret’d) Simon Bell for all the coordination they are providing.
With very best wishes.