7 January 2021
CHESHAM & AMERSHAM’S MP CONTRIBUTES TO DEBATES AS PARLIAMENT IS RECALLED TWICE TO DISCUSS COVID-19 AND THE BREXIT TRADE DEAL
It’s been a busy time for Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham & Amersham, who has actively taken part in the Parliamentary debates on 6 January 2021 – about the new lockdown and alert level 5 Covid-19 regulations – and on 30 December - when the Commons debated the Brexit trade deal.
Dame Cheryl has again told the Commons what a fantastic job Buckinghamshire Council and the Buckinghamshire NHS Healthcare Trust have been doing to look after residents – and how important it is that individuals reinforce that work by following the regulations to prevent the spread of infections.
On 6 January, Dame Cheryl called for specific help for younger adults with learning disabilities and autism, when she questioned the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP:
“ Public Health England data shows that younger adults with learning disabilities and autism are up to six times more likely to die of covid. Please can they be added to the priority vaccination list immediately? Also, during previous lockdowns, vital exemptions included autistic people being able to exercise more frequently, which was incredibly important in helping them cope and continue to have that much-needed routine in their lives. Will the Prime Minister confirm that these exemptions will apply for the new lockdown, so that autistic people are not left stranded, and will he commit to accessible information about this being published as soon as possible?”
The PM replied:
“Yes, indeed. I will commit to better and fuller information if that is necessary, although of course as my right hon. Friend knows, it is a general principle of these restrictions that people have more freedoms when they need to exercise for health needs.”
Dame Cheryl returned to this theme when she was called to speak in the Public Health debate, also adding the need to guard against “fake information” circulating about Covid-19.
With many constituents working at Heathrow, Dame Cheryl emphasised the need for more support for the aviation industry.
Dame Cheryl said, “I am pleased there is more that finds common cause across the political divide in this time of national emergency than divides us. These regulations are retrospective and not amendable. That, sadly, reflects the impotence of back benchers which should be rectified, and I would like to identify myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend, Sir Graham Brady MP. The regulations last until the end of March, but there should be weekly reviews and a debate on the Floor of the House at least every two weeks during this period when such draconian restrictions have been placed on our citizens.
The vaccination effort in this country is remarkable, but we need to do more, particularly when so much fake news is being circulated. Many of my constituents are constantly picking up fake stories about everything from so-called cures and drugs that protect someone from covid to conspiracy theories and priority being given to privileged people. Can we boost the Government communications effort, so that firm rebuttals and accurate information are issued rapidly and widely to prevent more fear and anxiety? Can we have a frequently asked questions section on the Government website, to help combat this fake news? Can we add teaching staff to the priority list, alongside young adults with learning disabilities and autism, as the Public Health England data has shown their vulnerability? The Prime Minister missed the opportunity to respond to my question earlier today.
Throughout the last year, Heathrow has provided a valued air bridge for repatriation flights and vital cargo, including medicines and PPE. It is facing a proposed reduction of only 7% in its £118 million rates bill, while airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland and even supermarkets have a 100% waiver. We are lagging behind other international countries, so can we have more support for the aviation sector and review it, so that its services are not threatened?
We need more assistance for the excluded, and we need to examine how we can spread the help to that group, who have received nothing for nearly a year. These regulations stop golf and outside activities. This is patently ridiculous and we need some common sense, for goodness’ sake, as this sort of nonsense damages our credibility.
Most of all, we need an exit scenario set out and the goals identified publicly, as the most frequent question is, “When is this going to end?” The Prime Minister has set a 15 February date as a milestone and we need to know, for example, at what stage we hope to have sufficient people vaccinated to, say, open our schools safely again, or at what point the levels of incidence and spread of the virus will allow retail and hospitality to reopen.
I finish by saying, locally, how fantastic Buckinghamshire Council and Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust have been throughout this terrible period. People will never know the amazing work that they have put in to keep our county functioning and our residents safe. Let us not forget what further burdens these regulations place upon them and our tireless public sector workers, and if we have to face these restrictions on our liberty, let us at least do the frontline staff the courtesy of observing them.”
On 30 December, expressing her support for the Brexit trade deal, Dame Cheryl said:
“ I also welcome the fantastic news on the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which along with the Bill gives us a double reason for celebration. I add my congratulations and plaudits to the Prime Minister and all our negotiators on their steadfastness in bringing home this deal.
Make no mistake, it took guts and determination both to leave the EU and, finally, to deliver this result. It may not be perfect. I, too, for example, share the reservations expressed by my right hon. Friend Mrs Theresa May MP, about the position of our services industry, which needs urgent resolution on, for example, what the equivalence rules will look like.
The deal has been hard won and delivers zero tariffs and zero quotas, which brings a huge sigh of relief to many businesses and industries across the country. At the same time, it allows the UK once again to control its destiny through its own elected representatives and its own courts—the independence and control over our affairs that I and many others voted for in the referendum.
This is not a precipitative end to our relationship, but the controlled departure that we were all hoping for. Our participation in programmes such as Horizon Europe and EU Space Surveillance and Tracking indicates our recognition that there are things we can do better together across Europe, but now without having to be subject to a regime that we could not change or, at the very least, even influence.
There will be many other things that we can do better, such as the Turing scheme, which is going to offer 35,000 UK students worldwide opportunities and will replace Erasmus. When we pass this legislation today, we will be in a golden position to create a great future for the United Kingdom—a future that the people of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England will grasp with both hands. The trade deals and continuity agreements that we have already signed with 62 countries are testament to that, and we must make a great deal of fuss about the work that has gone into those signings, which will mean so much for our country in the future.
To those who continue to wage a war of attrition against this reborn independence and look backwards towards membership of the EU, I hope they, too, will now move on and develop the guts and determination of our Prime Minister to back our own Union and contribute positively to its future success. I believe that the UK’s future is bright, working alongside Europe, but finally, after today, not subjugated by it.
It is with great pleasure that I support this Bill. “