Dear Reader, this week I have been back in Westminster with a new Opening of Parliament and Queen's Speech.
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** Vicky Ford InTouch May 2021
Opening of Parliament
This week I have been back in Westminster with a new Opening of Parliament and Queen's Speech. After such a difficult time for Her Majesty, it was very moving to see her back for her first official engagement.
There is much to be excited about in the Queen’s Speech, especially the Lifetime Skills Guarantee which will enable people of all ages to access new skills and opportunities. The Health and Care Bill will lay the foundations for a more integrated and efficient health and care system. This will let NHS staff focus on delivering the best possible treatment and care for their patients. Following such a long period of immense pressure on the NHS, it will take time to rebuild the health services, but this is a top priority for the Government.
Her Majesty also announced the Building Safety Bill, to ensure that people are safer in their homes. It will strengthen the regulatory system for building safety, change the industry culture and introduce rigorous safety standards for construction products and a clearer path to redress for homeowners. I know this is an issue many Chelmsford residents care deeply about, and it is a top priority for me. I will continue to work with leaseholders who are affected by fire safety issues.
The Environment Bill will set legally binding targets, which will help the UK achieve its aim of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As we work towards the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, it is so important that the UK continues to show leadership on the international stage in tackling climate change.
The Queen's Speech also announced the Animal Welfare Bill. This will ensure the UK has the highest standards of animal welfare and will ban the export of live animals.
As Children’s Minister I was also delighted that the Queen's Speech announced that we will be bringing forward measures to ensure children have the best start in life by prioritising the early years. This is an area that I have been working on very closely.
Even despite the pandemic, a huge amount was accomplished in the last term of Parliament, some of which has been reported in the press but other areas often don’t get much media focus. There were new trade deals worth around £900 billion and new laws which introduce longer sentences for terrorists and for abuse of animals. We introduced new protections for our soldiers, action to tackle money laundering and stronger powers to restrict hostile foreign direct investment. We also passed the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill which will make such a difference to victims and their children. Backbench bills were also passed including one which will reduce the cost of School Uniform and another which will protect children from inappropriate cosmetic procedures such as Botox.
Roadmap to Recovery
This week the Prime Minister also announced that we are moving to Step 3 of the easing of restrictions, this is super news. Seeing the shops and restaurants in Chelmsford open when we moved to Step 2 of the roadmap to recovery was a very special day and I know how important Step 3 will be for so many businesses, especially those in the hospitality and leisure sector.
It is vital that we come together as a community to show our shared support for each other after what has been a very challenging time. It will take some time for some businesses to get back on their feet, and I would like to thank all of those who are working so hard to make sure that they can reopen safely.
Thank you so much to all those who voted in the recent local elections, it was such a pleasure to speak to so many residents on their doorsteps, and to discuss with them how important it is to have our say, especially in such uncertain times. I will continue to work with local Councils and public services to resolve issues raised by constituents.
Vaccine and Health Services
It is very good news that across the country, two thirds of all adults have had their first COVID-19 vaccine, and one third of adults have had their second dose too.
It will take some time for our health services locally to recover back to normal after the pressures that they have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of our local GPs practices have been doing an outstanding job during this very difficult time, and I thank them so much for all they have done. I have also followed up with the NHS clinical commissioners locally about concerns raised by some residents in certain parts of Chelmsford.
Our Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst, was re-elected in the local elections. Under his leadership the Essex Police force grown by 500 officers and more are on the way. Night-time safety is a priority and the Government has increased the funding available for Safer Streets initiatives. As part of this I have asked Roger to particularly look at safety in the Bunny Walks area.
As ever please do stay in touch if you need help or advice. The easiest way to do this is by email, my email address is [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) . I have been holding virtual surgeries, and I will be resuming face to face surgeries in the future with social distancing measures in place. If you do need to speak to me urgently, please do call my office on 01245 352872.