I began the week in Westminster, chairing a Delegated Legislation committee. The committee discussed the temporary measures designed to help UK companies and other entities during difficult times caused by Coronavirus. The reason these temporary measures are being extended is to continue to protect companies from aggressive creditor enforcement whilst the adverse effects from the coronavirus pandemic continue and the related social distancing restrictions remain in place, including regional tiered arrangements which affect normal trading. The provisions cover England, Scotland and Wales. There was cross party support and the provisions were extended until 31st March 2021.
The following day, I was fortunate to secure a Westminster Hall debate entitled “Squash and the Olympics”. I have been playing squash since the mid-seventies and have represented Wales over a hundred times. I was a former Squash Wales National Coach. The world squash family has been campaigning for squash to be included in the Olympic Games programme since 1986, but unfortunately other sports have been included ahead of squash. Squash is dynamic, physically and mentally challenging, strategic, tactical – like chess on legs. A heathy sport for all ages. I am not in any way criticising other sports who have been included ahead of squash, because it is the aspiration of any sport to be able to grandstand its players on the Olympic stage. To play for your country is a tremendous honour, but to have the opportunity to take part in the Olympics is the ultimate honour. If squash had been included in the Tokyo Olympics now scheduled for July 2021, our International Stars, Joel Makin, from Aberdare, and Tesni Evans from Prestatyn, ranked number one and two in Great Britain, and both ranked number nine in the January 2021 World Rankings, would have been automatically included in the GB Olympic Team. And rated as probable gold and silver medalists. Such a shame. But we won’t give up campaigning.
At the end of the week, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, made an announcement ahead of a debate, emphasising that the Commission of the House has a duty of care to all members and to all staff that work on the Parliamentary Estate. Public Health England has continuously provided advice regarding working practices on the Estate, which sought to limit physical attendance, especially during lockdown. But members have been able to take part virtually in debates in the Chamber. However the Grand Committee Room where Westminster Hall debates take place does not have capacity for virtual participation and Friday Sittings for Private Members’ Bills require 100 members to be in attendance for votes on closure motions, because proxy voting does not cover PMBs and we do not have virtual voting. The Leader of the House proposed that changes to Parliamentary procedures be made immediately. Westminster Hall debates were suspended from 14th January until a virtual participation system can be set up and Friday Sittings have been suspended. Members were assured that Westminster Hall debates and Friday Sittings would resume as soon as alternative arrangements are in place.
Many constituents have been getting in touch this week to ask about the vaccination process in Neath, wondering where and when they can expect to receive the jab. The main advice I can give is to continue to be patient and await contact from the NHS regarding the vaccine. I do understand how difficult a time this is for everyone, however, and how anxious people are to know when they will be contacted. The Welsh Government announced their vaccination strategy this week, laying out how they plan to vaccinate our communities. All care home residents and staff should have been vaccinated by mid-February, as well as frontline health and social care staff, everyone over 70 and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. This will be followed by everyone over 50 and all those at risk due to underlying health conditions by the spring, and all other eligible adults in Wales by the autumn. I hope this will help to give some reassurance that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and progress is being made on rolling out the vaccine. Vaccine figures will now be published daily.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about any matters that fall under my role as an MP, 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, and remember – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe.