This last week we have been remembering the men and women of our Armed Forces who sacrificed so much to keep our country safe. It has been completely humbling to be your MP this week as I attended and laid wreaths at Remembrance Ceremonies outside St Andrew’s Church in Penrith and St John’s in Garrigill, part of Churches Together on Alston Moor. Thank you to everyone who meticulously organised these modified and restricted ceremonies this year. It is so important that these services were able to go ahead. We must never forget.
The restrictions on Remembrance Ceremonies were a consequence of the national guidelines that have been introduced this month, measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus. No Government wants to bring in restrictions like these but sadly the epidemiology of the virus has now made this necessary. I fully support the Prime Minister and Government in this decision and I voted in the House of Commons accordingly. I appreciate that these stricter measures impact on all of our ways of life, but I firmly believe we must comply and play our part in saving lives and protecting the vulnerable. It is so important that we protect our NHS so that there is the capacity to treat people both with Covid-19 but also so importantly, people without the disease who are in need of vital treatment for other conditions. We must act in a spirit of togetherness to suppress this virus now to save lives. I will continue to call on the Government to support individuals and businesses with financial measures through this crisis, including sectors that have been hit especially hard.
Much brighter news this week was that one of the candidate vaccines against Covid-19 has been reported to show very promising efficacy results which is so encouraging as I firmly believe that a safe and effective vaccine will be part of the solution in our battle to defeat this serious and, sadly for many, life-threatening viral disease.
There has been, and quite rightly so, much discussion in recent weeks about the need to fully support vulnerable families during the pandemic and especially with food provision for children. In the recent Opposition Day debate on free school meals I was unhappy with the Government’s position, so accordingly I did not support the Government in this vote. I have been pushing with colleagues for Government to provide additional support. The footballer Marcus Rashford has done a fantastic job in campaigning on this issue and I congratulate him on his leadership in this campaign and am really pleased that all of this has brought about a welcome change in position from the Government. As a result, the Government has announced an additional support package which will ensure families that need extra support with food and bills this winter can access it. I’m pleased that the Government has also announced the extension of the Holiday Activities and Food programme, which provides healthy food and activities for children during the Christmas, Easter and Summer school holidays. These measures are important and go some way to addressing the food insecurity issues that families are facing and that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
As an update to the Agriculture Bill, this returned to the Commons this month and I again voted against the Government by voting for additional safeguards against substandard food imports. Disappointingly, the vote was defeated and we again missed an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that the UK is not willing to lower its high animal welfare and agri-food standards. I have been committed to pushing the Government to uphold the highest standards in animal welfare and food production since I was elected last December. As an active member of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee I will be playing a role in scrutinising these trade deals and as an MP and veterinary surgeon I will be true to my principles on these matters. However, I do welcome that the Government has listened to our concerns and is extending the statutory remit of the Trade and Agriculture Commission and bolstering parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. The Government is heading in the right direction on this.
Finally, I wanted to welcome the fantastic news from America this week of the election of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. This is such good news for America and the rest of the world. Joe Biden has said that under his leadership there will be an outward-looking America, engaging again with the climate change crisis, the Iran nuclear deal, the WHO and NATO to name but a few areas. His renowned spirit of working cross-party to achieve what is best for people is one that I truly admire. I wish them well.