Bassetlaw MP: Parliament's early finish means more time to help local people

As the global pandemic surrounding Covid-19 continues, Parliament finds itself in recess a week early, writes Brendan Clarke-Smith.

Friday, 3rd April 2020, 7:00 am
Brendan Clarke-Smith, Bassetlaw MP
Brendan Clarke-Smith, Bassetlaw MP

Far from being the ‘Easter holidays’ it’s sometimes portrayed as, this period gives us MPs vital time to spend in our constituencies working on local issues.

Over the last few weeks I have been contacted by countless numbers of workers, self-employed people and local businesses and whilst we can’t ensure that every individual is completely unaffected by the crisis,

I hope that the packages the Government has announced will at least help mitigate the impacts of this extremely difficult situation.

One area that is regularly confused is that of the ‘key worker’.

This definition was mainly introduced to distinguish between those who will still need school provision for their children, whilst they are partially closed to others.

The Government has also announced the enforced closure of places such as pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential retail stores and also asked people to work from home if at all possible.

What this does not mean is that if your work is not as a key worker then your place of business must close.

Whilst employers have been asked to take whatever steps they can to promote greater hygiene standards and social distancing, it is their choice whether to remain open or not and the Government cannot personally order any business to close its doors unless it is on the list it has published.

Many businesses have chosen to take advantage of the Government’s job retention scheme, whereby they can furlough (effectively freeze) an employee’s position and the state will cover 80 per cent of their salaries up to a certain amount.

Grants for businesses are also available and can be accessed using Bassetlaw Council’s website, as well as interest free loans from banks for those who need them.

Whilst these schemes can’t 100 per cent compensate for the difficulties faced, it is hoped that they will at least allow many businesses to survive and help make sure that, once this is over, people still have a job to go to.

I was saddened this week to hear of the passing of Joe Ashton OBE, MP for Bassetlaw from 1968 to 2001

Thirty-three years is a long time to serve as an MP and whilst I didn’t know Joe personally, I have heard some lovely tributes from people both inside and outside of Bassetlaw.

My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Brendan Clarke-Smith is MP for Bassetlaw.