In last Monday’s blogpost, I highlighted the uncertainty for my week ahead created by the coronavirus. Now the situation is much clearer, in a way that was unimaginable until recently, with the new rules on social distancing.
Parliament, like other organisations, is adjusting to the situation with significant changes in the way we work. Non-urgent business has been dropped and attendance in the Commons Chamber is limited to a small number of members who can sit some distance from each other. The Government must remain subject to scrutiny, but it will be organised in a way that minimises attendance in order to comply with public health guidance.
So, as I’ve not got a specific role in relation to this week’s business, I’ll not be in Westminster. I will though be keeping my office open, by phone and email only, to deal with the enormous number of constituents getting in touch for help and advice – and I’ll be pressing concerns to Ministers. My staff team are working remotely from each other, but we’re using the normal office phone number if you need to get in touch.
Over the weekend, for example, this ranged from constituents stuck in Peru to small businesses unclear on available support. I also wrote to the Chancellor on behalf of the large number of self-employed workers who contacted me after his announcement failed to protect their incomes.
I’ll also be continuing to liaise with local agencies and voluntary groups involved in co-ordinating the response to coronavirus – as well as continuing with some ordinary business, with ‘virtual meetings’ planned on young carers, homelessness and electoral reform.