It’s been a difficult week here in Wales as we’ve continued to feel the worst effects of Coronavirus. We’ve now seen over two hundred deaths from the virus – each one of them a loved and missed friend, family member or colleague. My thoughts are with all those people who have lost someone. The figures are a stark reminder of the importance of continuing to follow the guidelines on social distancing in order to help the NHS cope with demand on its services. You can find the full guidance here: Full guidance on staying at home and away from others.
This week I signed a letter coordinated by Christine Jardine and David Lammy to the Home Secretary to ask that all foreign-born NHS workers who are working with such dedication in our health service at this time of crisis are given indefinite leave to remain. Just over 13% of all NHS workers are not British born, which rises to nearly 30% among doctors. They are putting their own health and safety on the line and some of them have already tragically died as a result of the virus. Giving them and their families the security of indefinite leave to remain is the least we can do to repay them for their professionalism and compassion at this time. If we truly aspire to be a leading power in a 21st century world, then we could do far worse than to offer our country as a home to a group of such selfless and inspiring people.
I was also pleased to sign Gill Furniss MP’s important letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma and the Chief Executive of the Royal Mail, calling for urgent agreement with the Communication Workers Union’s proposals to protect postal workers. The Royal Mail, for their role in delivering post and parcels – including important items such as prescription medicine – were rightly categorised as key workers, but the health, safety, and wellbeing of staff must be a priority. The CWU are asking that offices are only opened where social distancing can be followed, that unnecessary post – including flyers – is suspended, and that access to personal protective equipment for staff is guaranteed. We need urgent action to protect our vital key workers.
The impact the coronavirus is having on families up and down the country is heart-breaking. That’s particularly true of the necessary restrictions on visiting in hospitals which is keeping families apart at the most difficult times. It’s a worrying time for cancer patients, who may be concerned about the impacts of the coronavirus on their treatment or their increased risks if they catch the virus. Marie Curie are, as always, there for those who need them. They have extended the opening times of their support lines to provide cancer sufferers and their families with the extra help they may need at this trying time. Call 0800 090 2309 or visit mariecurie.org.uk/help.
Many charities are struggling with reduced donations and increased pressure at the moment, so it was welcome news that the UK Government has set aside £750 million to be allocated to charities, with £360 million to be allocated directly by the Government, and £370 million to be allocated via grants. Charities prioritised for this will be the ones helping to provide essential support at this time – those delivering and providing food for the vulnerable, those who provide financial advice, and hospices and domestic abuse support services. The Chancellor also announced this week that the UK Government would match all donations to the BBC’s Big Night In appeal later this month on 23 April. At least £20 million will be donated to the National Emergencies Trust appeal.
This has been a stressful time for constituents who have family members stranded abroad due to the lockdowns and travel bans prompted in many countries by Covid-19. I signed Emily Thornberry MP’s letter to the Foreign Secretary calling on the Government to get people home quicker and onto repatriation flights. The Government’s approach to repatriation, the very patchy information and support being provided in some countries, and the lack of direct action to bring British nationals in the most serious need or difficulty back to the UK, was very concerning.
My team were in constant contact with constituents who were looking to get home from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Indonesia, and those aboard cruise ships that struggled to find a place to dock. I am happy to report that most have made it home on commercial flights. While I appreciate that the FCO staff are all working very hard, the direction from those at the top hasn’t been good enough and it is clear from the emails that I have received that they needed to take further steps to provide a more comprehensive repatriation offer to Brits stuck overseas; people should not have been left to the mercy of exploitative private airlines who have ripped vulnerable people off, without helping them to get home.
Away from Coronavirus, this week saw the new leader of the Labour Party announced with Keir Starmer being elected by the membership. I’m thrilled for Keir and am confident that he will unite both the Party and the country. We need a strong opposition that will support the Government through this crisis but will also hold it to account. While I’m sad not to be continuing in the role of Shadow Secretary for Wales, I completely understand Keir’s decision to put in place a new-look Shadow Cabinet team. He will have my complete support from the backbenches and I wish everyone well in their new roles. I’ve written a little about my time as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales here – take a look if you have time over the Easter break!
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but, as always, we remain there should you need to get in contact with us.
I hope you stay well, enjoy the weekend and, remember – stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.