The Leader Times Series April 24th 2020

It was very interesting to see the new arrangements made due to Covid-19 but I didn’t travel back to the House of Commons this week when Parliament resumed. I’m remaining in Pendle to continue to both support local residents & carry on all my parliamentary duties remotely.  I pay tribute to the House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and all involved in making it possible for us to have a “virtual parliament” and for MP’s to remain in their constituencies. 

The number of queries and requests for help from the public has increased substantially due to Covid-19 and I and my team (all from their own homes) are doing our best to respond as quickly as possible to people.  The decisive action taken by the government on issues like business rates and to help pay millions of peoples wages via the furlough scheme have helped millions, but the sheer volume and complexity of issues arising from the current pandemic is keeping me very busy!  I would therefore once again like to thank everyone who is playing their part by staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives. 

In response to the pandemic my Ministerial role in the Department for Transport, to which I was promoted in February, has changed with me focusing on maintaining critical freight routes (by air/sea and road) in addition to my usual responsibilities (HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the transpennine upgrade).

I also now sit on the General Public Services Ministerial Implementation Group (MIG) which meets daily (online) to take decisions on issues like public order, education, food deliveries, transport and other (non-health) issues related to Covid-19. This is one of four MIGs with the other three focused on health, the economy and the international response.

My first Parliamentary commitment this week is to give evidence on HS2 to the Transport Select Committee on Friday. This will also be done remotely, with Select Committee members and all witnesses participating from their own homes/offices.  It will be the first time in a month that I have had to put a suit on, which will feel a little strange, but lots of things feel strange at the moment.  Working from home, where people are able to does appeal to some people, but like many others I can’t wait for this all to be over and get back to the office