Again the news has been dominated by the number of vaccines that have been delivered. Over 10 million people have now been vaccinated with their first jab and have a good measure of protection which will last until the second vaccine which will be given within 12 weeks. Numbers of covid cases are whizzing down so I hope that we will have some good news from the Prime Minister on 22nd February when he lays out the way forward. He is very keen not to go through another lockdown so is taking a cautious approach. Having talked to local police this week, mental health is an increasing issue and not surprising when people are stuck inside all day and are unable to sit in gardens or parks because of the weather unlike the first lockdown. I am particularly worried about the mental health of children and hope that we get our schools back as soon as possible. I spoke to Action for Children this week and they have had a massive increase in young people contacting them.
Another meeting I had this week on World Cancer Day was a very positive one as the two Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in the constituency, SE Hampshire and West Hampshire treated more cancer cases than in 2019, 9% and 5% respectively. This is a credit to our local NHS and by keeping Southampton Hospital and our independent hospitals Covid-free, they have been treated safely. I hope that encourages anyone who is worried about their health to contact their GP in confidence.
On a more global issue, the Government have put in a bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TransPacific Partnership (CPTPP) which will offer tariff-free trade on 95 per cent of our goods within a growing and innovative market worth £9 trillion, without having to pay any membership fees, bringing benefits to the whole of the UK as we build back better from coronavirus. Countries in this group include Australia, Canada and Singapore and industries will include food, drink, cars and the growing technology market. Having spoken to a Japanese Minister, I know how keen they are for us to get involved.
My role as PPS to the Department of Work and Pensions is giving me a good insight into the preparations to get people back to work following Covid. To help young people we have set up a scheme called Kickstart which pays for a salary of a young person working in an organisation for 6 months. This will give them valuable insight into work and may even find them full time employment after the initial 6 months. If you know any company that would like to take on a young person, please let me know so I can point them in the right direction. We have already got 120,000 jobs on offer but could do with many more. We have also set up a Job Finding Support service with a team of work coaches around the country to help people find jobs. There are going to be tough times ahead for workers but there is optimism as we start to control the virus.
I managed to ask two questions of the Defence team this week, one on whether it would attract more women into the Army if some of the titles were more gender neutral – the Army has not reached their 15% target for female soldiers. I was also able to ask about the length of time that complaints are taking within the armed forces, it was something I picked up when I was the SE Region chair of the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee. You can find them here:
On a more local front, I had a frustrating time waiting to speak in a debate in Parliament on town centre funding and irritatingly there was not enough time for all the speakers including me – the more you speak, the further down the list you go next time. I am keen to get going with the vision for Waterlooville but we need to find the cash to help put it together. I had another meeting with BT about broadband and again brought up the frustrations of many constituents without fast internet. Broadband is now becoming an essential service and it is important that we all have access to it. Please let me know if you are aware of any issues in your area.
It is going to get cold from Sunday so wrap up warm and have a good week.