In My View - Equal Opportunity as Important as Ever

Good news this week as details were published of the Dairy Response Fund set up to provide support because of the drop in milk sales. This will help a lot of our dairy farmers here in the South West and it’s great the Government has listened to calls to help this crucial sector. Applications open on 18th June.

The debate over quarantine for travellers flying back from abroad is difficult one. Now that we have brought the number of coronavirus cases in the country down, and made so many sacrifices to do so, it is just good sense that we don’t want new cases arriving through the airports. However, it’s also clear that the proposed two week isolation would make going abroad virtually impossible for those with work or other commitments and make things extremely tough for the travel industry which is already so badly affected. Hopefully it will be possible to work on a refined scheme to allow fewer restrictions for countries with low rates of the virus. I have written to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, to urge further Government intervention to support our travel companies and airlines in particular.

There’s nothing easy about the economic situation we are in but I am encouraged that the Government is listening and responding to issues quickly. Help for the self-employed has just been extended and one of my suggestions looks to be going ahead: allowing furloughed staff to return part-time will allow a graduated return to work for many in cases where returning full-time would be unaffordable for the businesses. It balances support for our employers with managing the public finances and I hope will be a useful part of getting the economy firing again.

The remote and virtual working arrangements put in place for MPs have allowed a lot of our work to continue over the last few weeks. I have had some really productive online meetings and also been able to physically attend some visits whilst following the social distancing guidelines. It has had frustrations though and I know that very few people will have not had problems and challenges with work since the lockdown began.

Our week started with some disagreement amongst MPs about arrangements in Parliament. I have been very keen to get back to Westminster to be able to get our issues in the South West in front of ministers more quickly and continue my work on the Board of Trade. That said, I share concerns that MPs who are in vulnerable categories, because they are older or have a health condition or disability, absolutely must be given the same opportunities to represent their constituents.

As all workplaces look at how they operate and look for ways to protect their employees we must be extra vigilant to be sure that we are inclusive and that opportunities are equal. Parliament has to set an example and it is so important that we get that right. I know that the Speaker, Sir Lyndsay Hoyle, shares this view.