Over the past few months, my team and I have helped thousands of local businesses and residents who have reached out in need of urgent support. From establishing what mechanisms of support they may be entitled to, to taking cases to Ministers, to lobbying pub landlords or ensuring the Government guidance is understood, my team and I have worked tirelessly to make sure Rutland and Melton residents are informed and bolstered throughout this crisis.
I wish to thank all the residents of Rutland and Melton who have committed so whole-heartedly to lockdown restrictions and social distancing. With your actions, you have each saved lives and protected our community. We have remained one of the safest places in the country throughout this crisis, and I thank you. I would like particularly to pay tribute to all those critical workers who have worked tirelessly for our communities throughout the crisis – you are truly heroes.
Since my last newsletter, I have been appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In addition to my seat on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, I have also been appointed to the National Security Strategy Joint Committee, which scrutinises the role of the National Security Council and the National Security Adviser. I understand I am the first MP to have served less than ten years in the House of Commons to be appointed to the Committee.
This pandemic is not yet over, and we still have a fight to see-off the virus entirely. It attacked our health and our economy, and it will take some time for our lives to return to normal. I have every confidence that residents will exhibit the same consideration for their neighbours as our hospitality sector reopens and as we adapt to our new ways of living.
As ever, I am committed to supporting each of you however I can as your MP. Please do be in touch if I can be of assistance to you.
Stay well –
Leicester Lockdown Update
The Health Secretary has announced measures to tackle the high rate of COVID-19 infections in Leicester. In Rutland and Melton, we are not part of the higher infection rate areas. I am most grateful to all our residents and communities for adhering so strictly to social distancing measures.
Over the last month, the level of infections in Leicester has not reduced as it has across the rest of the country, this has also impacted on some areas of the county. The new measures are being introduced to starve the virus of social contact in Leicester and to secure the decline we need.
Despite Leicester’s cases having not declined for the last month, we have not seen an impact on our communities in Rutland and Melton, and this lockdown will ensure we do not.
Restrictions have been brought in on those areas with higher infection rates. The map above shows the full details of which areas have higher COVID-19 infection rates. I urge residents to refrain from all but completely essential travel to these areas, including for work which I ask residents to do from home if possible.
Within this boundary, restrictions have been put in place pending a review expected on 18 July. This means:
- Non-essential shops that reopened on 15 June were asked to close from Tuesday (30 June).
- Bars, restaurants and hairdressers in this area will not reopen tomorrow.
- Schools closed from Thursday 2 July except to vulnerable children and children of key workers. They will not reopen until next term.
- The relaxation of shielding measures due on 6 July cannot now take place in Leicester.
- Single-adult households (those who live alone or with dependent children only) can still form a support bubble with one other household
- People are still able to meet in a group of up to 6 and only outdoors, provided strict social distancing is followed.
- People in Leicester are recommended to stay at home as much as they can
- we advise against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester
In the last fortnight, the Government massively ramped up testing in Leicester to increase the data available on the virus’ hold on Leicester. It is right that before locking down almost half a million people, the Government undertook intensive data collection, so the restrictions are targeted and protect as many people as possible.
I recognise that the upcoming opening of some businesses on Saturday will be concerning to residents considering the Leicester lockdown. The Police have robust plans in place in preparation for the easing of restrictions in some parts of our county and Rutland alongside the lockdown in Leicester. They remain prepared and ready to adapt to the circumstances.
I will continue to liaise with Local Authorities, the Department for Health and Social Care and Public Health England to ensure residents are kept informed about Leicester’s outbreak and the implications it may have for them.
Modified Restrictions from Tomorrow (4th July)
Tomorrow, we enter step three of the plan the Prime Minister set out in May. I am so very pleased that many of our hospitality businesses will be reopening and residents will be able to reunite with loved ones more wholesomely. So many of us have waited for this, for so long.
From tomorrow (4th July) residents will be able to:
- Meet in groups of up to two households in any location public or private, including indoors. Support bubbles count as one household.
- Continue meeting in groups of up to six people from different household when outside providing social distancing is adhered to.
- Visit additional businesses and venues including; restaurants, pubs, cinemas, tourist attractions, hotels and campsites. Libraries, community centres, places of worship, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms will also be able to open.
- Stay overnight away from your home with your own household or support bubble, or with members of one other household.
In the last week, my team and I have spoken to hundreds of local businesses to ensure they are prepared for their reopening tomorrow. It has been truly fantastic to hear our local businesses’ commitment to keeping us all safe.
I know that many local businesses have had concerns about re-opening given the current lockdown in Leicester. I have every confidence that residents will continue to act with the same consideration for their neighbours that has allowed us to progress and make these adjustments while supporting our wonderful local hospitality sector. I have been visiting our towns and seen just how hard people are working to keep people safe.
Discretionary Local Authority Grants Help Hundreds
The Government put in place an incredibly generous and extensive support mechanism to protect jobs. We saw 12,400 jobs protected by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in Rutland and Melton alone, and a further 3,800 self-employed jobs were supported by the similar scheme for the self-employed. This is in addition to a wide range of further measures to support livelihoods.
During my work to support local businesses I became aware that a number of businesses were falling out of the Government support mechanisms because they were based in shared premises, local Council buildings or were in receipt of charitable business rate relief, but would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business or Rural Rates Relief.
I lobbied the Government on behalf of these businesses, bringing together a coalition of Conservative MPs, and after a month of hard work behind the scenes, secured the Discretionary Local Authority Grant fund.
I wait to hear the full number of businesses that benefitted from this scheme, but locally there are hundreds who will now receive Government support, and likely tens of thousands nationally. I am delighted to have been able to secure this support for businesses.
Working to Improve Local Rail Services
Over the last month, I’ve been able to return to working on our shared local priorities. I’ve been working on how we improve connectivity around Melton so that we have all the opportunities possible to embrace greener ways of transport and to improve our connectivity locally.
I have submitted two bids to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway Fund which will see a total of £500 million spent on restoring lost railway connections across the country.
My first bid seeks to bring more regular services to Bottesford on the Poacher Line. Having heard your concerns about the A52 on the doorsteps countless times, an increase in train services will reduce demands on our roads and give everyone living in the Vale more transport options.
For too long residents have endured frustrating and frankly unnecessary route changes when travelling to Nottingham for both work and leisure. The second bid I submitted calls for increased services to Nottingham and Leicester, via Syston and Loughborough from Melton Mowbray. This will better connect residents travelling for both business and leisure purposes.
The East Midlands has long suffered from connectivity problems, highlighted in a report recently by Melton Borough Council. Both these proposals will have huge economic, environmental and social benefits for the region, and will significantly improve connectivity across the region. I very much hope my submission is successful.
Update on the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road
A number of residents have been in touch about the southern portion of the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road, which is a key piece of infrastructure for Melton and the entire Borough.
I am very glad that the northern and central portions are going ahead, but I am committed to ensuring that the bypass is delivered in its entirety and have been working enormously hard to ensure Leicestershire County, Melton Borough Council and Central Government work together to deliver what the people of Melton need and deserve. It is together that we achieve that which our communities need.
Welcome Support for our Agriculture Industry
Rutland and Melton’s agriculture, food and drink industry has played a pivotal role in feeding the nation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As we rebuild our country, I’m determined that we recognise and support these wonderful sectors and have been lobbying Ministers to better support our food and drink producers.
I welcome that the Government’s new ‘bounce back’ plan will bolster the sector with a series of measures to help our world-class producers increase trade with the rest of the world. Specifically, I’ve been in conversations with Ambassadors and the Department for International Trade to make sure that our food producers can export internationally, especially our beef, lamb, Stilton and Melton Mowbray pork pies.
A new SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot will increase the level of international e-commerce backing for SMEs in the food and drink industry. Additionally, the first Agri-food Counsellor serving the Gulf will be introduced to represent the interests of UK businesses already exporting, or planning to export, to the region.
I am very pleased that the Government will also establish a new Trade and Agriculture Commission to make recommendations for UK agricultural trade policy, higher animal welfare standards across the world and export opportunities for UK farming. This is something I have supported and will bolster the legal commitments to protect our food and animal welfare standards.
We produce some of the best food and drink in the country – I want to put the Rural Capital of Food on the map and ensure that we get the national and international investment our local agriculture, food and drink producers deserve. These developments will help us capitalise from the opportunities being opened up by new Free Trade Agreements with exciting new partners.
Review into the Resilience of Multilateral Organisations
The first duty of Government is to keep its people safe. Since I became a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, I have lobbied for a review of the multilateral organisations of which the UK is a member to determine what vulnerabilities they have to international actors attempting to unduly pressure or subvert them. By recognising the vulnerabilities of some organisations, and how they are exploited, we can identify how to build their resilience, or reform them to protect them. I am delighted that the inquiry is underway.
I must be clear that this is by no means a call for the UK to withdraw from international organisations, nor to downgrade our role within them. Indeed, it is quite the reverse. As we become an independent trading nation our alliances are amongst our greatest assets, and we should be unapologetic and bold in our defence of them. We must bolster both our national security and our economy if we are to truly reap all the benefits our new independence can afford us. I look forward to how the recommendations of the inquiry will help protect the international rules-based order and its organisations.
I wrote a piece on the importance of this enquiry in the Times, which was published last week but can be read on my website.
Recent Developments in China
It is deeply disappointing that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made the decision to bring forward their ‘national security law’ which violates multiple freedoms protected in the Sino-British declaration, threatens the UN covenant on civil and political rights, and contravenes China’s own law for Hong Kong which says Hong Kong should bring forward its own national security law. The CCP has already started enacting this law – arresting people for singing and chanting. I, like the rest of the world, am appalled.
I have written to both HSBC and Standard Chartered who have condoned the introduction of this new law to highlight my dismay at their support.
I am proud that the Government is standing up for the Sino-British Joint Declaration and will rightly offer a specific route for BNO holders in Hong Kong to come to UK with five years’ limited leave to remain and work, and thereafter to apply for citizenship. There will be no limits on numbers on the number of those eligible, and their immediate families. We have a moral and legal duty to act, and we have stood by those duties.
This new law is yet another example of the CCP’s lack of consideration for human rights. I remain extremely concerned about the ongoing abhorrent treatment of China’s Uyghur community – forced sterilisation of women, “re-education camps”, children forcibly removed from their families, forced labour, organ harvesting, torture, rape and displacement of communities. Religion is not a pathology.
This week in the House of Commons I urged the Government to bring forward Magnitsky-style sanctions against Chinese Communist Party officials who perpetrate and profit from systematic and industrialised efforts to commit this cultural genocide against the Uyghur people.
Work to ban LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy
Since my last newsletter, I have been examining legislative options to end the abhorrent practice of so-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ for good.
I was proud to receive written confirmation of the Government’s commitment to end this practice following a written table I questioned to the Minister for Women and Equalities, and a meeting I arranged with the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. I am immensely pleased that the Government has commissioned a review to set out potential legislative options, and I look forward to seeing this fraudulent and wrong act criminalised once and for all.
Unsung Hero Nominations Close Soon
Throughout the pandemic, it has been truly humbling to see the strength of our communities coming together and I have been delighted to recognise many wonderful local people, businesses and organisations who have gone above and beyond at our time of need. I have recognised them as Rutland and Melton’s Unsung Heroes and will hold a thank-you event in the Autumn to thank them in person.
As our communities and country slowly return to normal, nominations for Rutland and Melton’s Unsung Heroes will close on Thursday 23rd July at 23:59. The last Hero will be announced on August 2nd.
If you know someone who deserves recognition for their altruism and hard work throughout the pandemic, please do nominate them before Thursday 23rd July at 23:59 at aliciakearns.com/heroes.