News from Westminster
This month will surely rank as one of the strangest in our recent history, culminating in a glorious Easter weekend where we have all been instructed to stay at home… If over Christmas it had been suggested that in a few short months we would be telling people not to travel – positively discouraging tourism to Dorset! - not to go to work, or school, not to visit their families - I doubt that many would have believed it. The churches have been closed for the first time since 1208. We are asking teachers to keep schools open in the holidays. Pubs have been shut. We are living through unprecedented and worrying times, and it is not yet over.
As I write, the Prime Minster has just come out of hospital, and thousands of people are fighting this awful virus. Our health services are working as hard as they can to help people, and the entire machinery of government – both national and local are working together to fight the pandemic.
As soon as Parliament rose for recess, I returned to Dorset. I have had regular conference calls with local councils, with the police and fire services, our NHS and Clinical Commissioning Group and other organisations. I have spoken to many headteachers, vicars and leaders of voluntary groups about everything that they are doing to support our communities. Many hundreds of constituents have been in touch asking for clarification for their businesses, or support in their community or help for elderly relatives and friends. I have been very impressed by the help and support that communities are giving each other. Many businesses are having to adapt – pubs becoming pop-up shops, restaurants delivering take-aways, shops turning to online ordering. I am also very grateful for everyone who is abiding by the social distancing rules, and staying at home unless it is essential.
Many people are finding new ways of keeping in touch, or working remotely from each other. MPs are no different. My staff and I are all working from home, and like many people, I catch up with my family around the country via the new technology Zoom or a more traditional phone call. Parliament is currently looking at ways in which MPs can “return” to Parliament after recess. It is right that MPs should be able to ask questions of the government, and they need to be able to do this in a safe way. The Speaker of the House is making arrangements for MPs to be able to ask questions remotely. It is likely that a few MPs will be needed in London each week, to ensure continuity of government, but this will be done ensuring that there is still social distancing. I will be able to report next time on the progress of our new virtual House of Commons, but like so many I sincerely hope that we can return to “normal” as quickly as it is safe to do so.
Please do get in touch if you help or support. You can contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office on 01202 624216. I send out a regular email update – you can sign up on my website www.michaeltomlinson.org.uk where you can also find links to the latest coronavirus advice.