Parliament is back which allows me to get on with the job of holding government ministers to account in person – on your behalf. This is particularly important now that we’re seeing a significant rise in Covid across the country. While cases are still relatively low in our community, they are creeping up at the fastest rate in months. I urge you to continue to exercise caution through adhering to social distancing and wearing masks in indoor public spaces. It’s clear government is still struggling to get a functioning test and trace regime and this must be resolved with urgency if we are to avoid further lockdowns.
Since being back, I have questioned the education secretary twice on the challenges for our schools – focusing on the safety, as well as provision of laptops to ensure every pupil has access to learning from home when needed. I want to take this opportunity to thank school staff and leadership teams, including governors, for their work getting schools ready for reopening. We must exercise extreme caution, and I will be regularly checking in with schools, but there has been an enormous effort to get pupils back which should be recognised.
I must mention Brexit, as the topic creeps back into the news. The deadline for agreeing a trade deal with the EU is looming. The government promised that it had an ‘oven-ready’ deal: that it would strike a trade deal by December and that is what must be delivered. This must mean free trade in goods and services, and maintaining protection for workers, consumers and the environment. A ‘no deal’ would be seriously damaging for our manufacturing sector and I can assure you that I will do all I can to hold the government to account on these promises, which are vital to the long-term prospects of our country.