Parliament resumed this week - albeit somewhat differently to usual - and it was great that Welsh Questions was the first virtual session with MPs asking questions via videolink. Our new Shadow Welsh Secretary asked the UK Government to ensure that 100% of business interruption loans are underwritten to give our businesses a sense of security during these difficult times. Our small and medium sized enterprises are so important to our local economy and need the UK Government’s support - alongside that announced by the Welsh Government - to get them through this and to ensure that they are able to fully recover once this pandemic is behind us.
It was a great first PMQs for our new Labour leader, Keir Starmer, who took the UK Government to task for their poor handling of PPE supply and distribution. Keir also tackled the UK Government over the mismatch in their promises of testing numbers and the reality we’re seeing on the ground.
On the subject of PPE, it’s fantastic to see our local community pulling together to support the NHS. The Gower Gin Company are continuing to make their wonderful hand sanitiser (for every £5 bottle bought, one gets donated to the local NHS staff - bestonlinebutcher.co.uk/product/glan-hand-sanitiser/) and Penyrheol D&T Department have produced over 300 face visors for use by local front line workers. The generosity of spirit and innovative minds at work here truly show the best of the Welsh people and I am proud to represent such a fantastic community.
I think I read somewhere this week that this April is one of the warmest we’ve seen and we’ve certainly not had the showers that the month is famous for. Despite the glorious weather outside, we all must remember the social distancing guidelines. I know it’s so difficult not being able to see family and friends in person and just give them a massive hug, but we have to stick to the guidelines to support the NHS and to protect those who are more vulnerable. We will have to continue to embrace the wonders of technology and the internet a little bit longer to virtually cook and eat together, have a chat over a cuppa, and even watch the same TV!
Ramadan began this week and for those observing the holy month, it will be a very different experience. With mosques and community centres closed, Muslims who are used to being together to pray and share food when breaking fast will need to be creative with how they do that. I am confident that communities will weather this challenge and will find new ways of observing this month together.
We marked Earth Day this Wednesday, which, despite the more immediate crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, raises awareness of one of the most serious issues facing the world. There have been reports linking high levels of seriously ill people from coronavirus with cities that have high levels of pollution. More research needs to be done to prove this link, but the links between high levels of pollution and greater incidences of respiratory illnesses such as asthma are well established. Once this pandemic is behind us, we must not let a return to normality be a return to high pollution, high carbon emissions, and little care for our natural environment. This is our only home and we must protect it.
It’s been very concerning to see the high number of grass fires afflicting our local area, with a large area near Fairwood Airport set on fire this week. Arson is a crime. Not only does it put people at risk, but it has a wider impact as the many firefighters needed to bring the blaze under control are then diverted from other emergencies. During this particularly difficult time, when our emergency services are already swamped with work and are sacrificing so much to look after us and our loved ones, any fires set deliberately show an appalling lack of responsibility and compassion. Anyone with any information on these grass fires is asked to call the Arson Reduction Team on 01792 705130.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Stay home, keep well, and remember – keep washing your hands!