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The events of the last few months have been unprecedented and many are facing significant hardship or loss. I pay tribute to all the workers and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to keep our vital services running and support people in need. Throughout the crisis, my team and I have also been working hard to support local residents.
Throughout this crisis I have been doing all I can to support local business and to safeguard jobs, and I well appreciate that the current restrictions have caused significant hardship for many in our community. While I’m keen to see our economy, schools and public services re-open, the primary consideration in how and when restrictions are lifted must be public safety and protecting lives. This is a responsibility we all share and that is why the Cummings affair was such an affront to so many law-abiding people.
As scientists and NHS leaders have warned, easing restrictions prematurely risks undoing all the work of the lock-down. Sadly, the UK’s infection rate is still high- and rising. Elsewhere, the Test and Trace system that we were promised would be fully operational by 1st June is now expected to be so by the end of the month according to the Chairwoman running it. However, her Chief Operating Officer has said it may not be until September or October. This is extremely concerning.
After advocating for a local test and trace system, I welcome that Warwickshire has been chosen as one of 11 Local Authorities to pilot a local trace and trace scheme and I’m pressing for this to be implemented at a pace. I will be watching it closely. When countries like Germany and South Korea had comprehensive test and trace systems in place months ago, it’s clear that there been critical failings in the Government’s approach and I’m pressing for transparency on why we have faced such a delay.
This week, I spoke in Parliament during a Statement from the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, asking him what had happened to the laptops he had promised schools two months ago- see below. More generally, I understand people’s concerns about schools returning; I have been urging the Government and Local Authorities not to rush this decision, and only re-open schools to more students when certain safety criteria have been met. Local primary schools have worked incredibly hard to welcome additional groups of pupils safely, and I am in regular contact with all local schools to ensure they have the support they need.
Looking forward, it’s crucial that students are not disadvantaged by this break in education and it is a priority that the Government urgently works with schools to put in place an action plan for education. I and other colleagues have been pressing the Government to adapt next years’ curriculum and exams to reflect the learning that has been missed, and ensure schools have the funding to offer pupils additional academic and pastoral support. I welcome that the Prime Minister has agreed to provide a further roadmap for education by next week, and will be monitoring this closely.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a US police officer has shocked the whole world. I stand in solidarity with those in the US and closer to home who are standing up to this abhorrent racism and calling for justice for George Floyd.
This is unfortunately the latest example in a long line of black men and women who have suffered from police brutality. I condemn in the strongest possible terms the lack of leadership and the incitement of division shown by Donald Trump. I am also calling on the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to use their influence and condemn Trump’s handling of this matter and immediately end the sale of riot equipment to the US.
Last week, I sent a message of solidarity to the protesters in Leamington (where I urged for social distancing), who were using their voice to demand justice. Whilst I can’t condone public gatherings at this time, such moments of collective anger and purpose are often fleeting and must not be allowed to pass. Let’s be clear: racism and inequality is not just an American problem. Black and minority ethnic communities in the UK continue to face vast inequalities and we need urgent action to address this.
Please read my full statement on Black Lives Matter and the action I am taking here: https://mattwestern.org/news-article/BLM/
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