HAYES IN THE HOUSE: Search for the silver linings for the darkest of clouds
The House of Commons has been the beating heart of our democracy for centuries – weathering all manner of storms through turbulent times. That’s why, despite the disruption and despair we have endured this year, it is pivotal that MPs continue to scrutinise policy and those who make it.
With this in mind, as soon as Parliamentary authorities permitted me to do so, I was one of the MPs that returned to Westminster following Spring’s national ‘lockdown’, to amplify the values which matter most to my constituents.
Despite unprecedented circumstances, my work in Westminster has remained busy and productive. This year alone, according to House of Commons figures, I’ve submitted over 200 Parliamentary Questions and spoken over 100 times in Parliament.
Nationally, amongst 2020’s legislative achievements; I have been directly involved in Bills central to our country’s safety, including the National Security and Infrastructure Bill – protecting British businesses from foreign purchasers with questionable motives. There is still more to welcome with the introduction of a points-based immigration system and, most of all, our momentous departure from the European Union – finally taking back control of our laws, money and borders – stands tall.
Personally, I was proud, in May, to form the Common Sense Group – now comprising over 50 Tory MPs – to give voice to patriotic Britons so long dismissed or derided by the left leaning liberal establishment. Already, we have made considerable progress – meeting the Home Secretary and other ministers regularly, whilst challenging institutions such as the National Trust and National Maritime Museum, which have succumbed to lazy ‘politically correct’ assumptions.
All Party Parliamentary Groups remain an invaluable vehicle for Parliamentary cooperation. The APPG on Funerals and Bereavements – of which I am Chairman – has made a real difference in response to extraordinary, ‘once in a generation’ events, providing support to industry professionals as they respond to the loss and grief of COVID-19 heartbreak.
Over recent weeks, using Zoom, I have continued to Chair both the All Party Group on Craft Skills and that on Haemochromotosis, as well as contributing last week to a large online meeting on deafness and tinnitus and regular meetings of the Government’s advisory steering group on housing and planning.
This summer, I was honoured to be appointed to one of Parliament’s most senior bodies- the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), responsible for the oversight and scrutiny of organisations tasked with keeping us safe, including the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the Security Service (MI5) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). As you might imagine, the weekly work of this small cross-party group of MPs could not be more significant.
Here at home, my casework grows week in week out. This year, I have received up to 1,000 personal letters and emails, each month – all of which I read. As a result, constituents will know that the number of my advice ‘surgeries’ has been increased - offering help to all kinds of people with all kinds of problems, including assisting many with applications to the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Bounce Back Loan Support Programme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. As well as which, I have been working with the host of wonderful organisations throughout South Holland and The Deepings, which are providing help – both material and emotional – to those isolated and struggling.
Whilst 2020 has been darkened by the sadness and loss of COVID-19, other important challenges – both national and local - do not simply disappear in a global pandemic. With hope in the form of a coronavirus vaccine, I am optimistic that, as the new year dawns, we can start to recover and rebuild.
Its human nature to search for silver linings to even the darkest clouds and so perhaps the loss of many of life’s everyday, simple joys will mean we anticipate their return with refreshed appreciation.