I hope this finds you safe and well.
It was not quite back to business as usual in Parliament this week but it was important for MPs to get back to ‘the office’ after lockdown. I was happy to do so. It’s time. We have a serious programme of legislation to come, not least ahead of the 31st December when the Brexit transition period ends.
The PM this week hosted the Global Vaccine Summit, rallying countries in the fight against infectious diseases and committing £1.65 billion which will reach 75 million children at risk. It’s vital that we maintain immunisation programmes during the pandemic.
Vaccines were first pioneered by Englishman Edward Jenner (1749-1823) whose discovery, that inoculating patients with cowpox, made them immune to smallpox, a disease that claimed the lives of over 300 million people.
Today’s researchers and scientists are working round the clock in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine, the antibody test is being rolled out, first to front line workers, and very newly, those who have survived the virus, can now donate their plasma to others fighting it right now.
This week also marked World Environment Day and on the day, we pledged to protect rare wildlife and habits including turtles in the British Virgin Islands to coral reefs in the Comoros.
Closer to home, my work on the Environment Bill Committee will restart soon with Parliament back in session. This Bill is a key vehicle for delivering a step change in environmental protection and recovery, inspiring a more resilient and sustainable economy and leaving a positive legacy for future generations.
Whilst public health is clearly the world’s major front line and meaningful action on climate crisis is still every bit as pressing as it was before the pandemic what was also brought into searing focus this week is the prejudice and discrimination which persist in our societies. One in three women experience physical or sexual violence. Muslim, Christian, Jewish are persecuted to destitution and death for their faith. And in the shocking and distressing images of George Floyd, killed by a police officer, racism and abuse of power by some were laid bare.
The officer and those on scene have been arrested; he has been charged with second degree murder and they with aiding and abetting. That people state-side were inspired to protest such outrage is right but true change will not be brokered by those who under cover of protest, ran riot, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. George Floyd's family themselves appealed for peaceful protect and my heart goes out to them.
Here at home there is genuine concern that those who took to the streets to protest in London in this week put their health and others at risk when we are still under a 2m social distance rule. It was confined to a small minority but to see incidences of incitement and physical attacks against our own officers, was deeply troubling and wholly unacceptable.
Looking ahead, I have spoken with our Police Crime Commissioner about the protest to be staged in Eastbourne next Saturday to ensure every measure is in place to protect the public and I thank the officers of Sussex Police who have served and protected us through this pandemic. I support peaceful protest and I support the concept of Black Lives Matter because I believe each and every life matters.