Parliament is currently in recess, but there remains plenty to hold the government to account on. I am pleased to finally see our local pubs, restaurants, shops, hairdressers, gyms and others begin trading again. This has been a devastating year for our local businesses – as well as the public’s wellbeing – made worse by a government whose incompetence has led to serial lockdowns. We must proceed with caution to ensure we don’t end up in another one before enough of the population has been vaccinated.
The government is currently looking into domestic vaccine passports. It is not clear so far what the benefits are compared to the risks and costs. Asking people to produce a vaccine passport to access pubs, shops etc is discriminatory, it will add a huge burden to businesses and come at huge cost to the taxpayer. I want the government to get the basics right: the vaccine rollout including to young people, a focus on vaccine take-up where it is slower so we don’t risk pockets of people exposed to the virus, self-isolation, and contact tracing.
Since being appointed Labour’s Shadow Universities Minister, I’ve been busy meeting university staff and students to discuss issues faced by the sector – which, of course, is so important to our local community with the University of Warwick and Coventry University nearby. I spoke in parliament last week about the need to invest in our Science and Discovery Centres, as well as in research more generally. Universities have demonstrated their importance throughout the pandemic response, particularly on vaccines, yet the government is introducing stealth cuts to university research budgets.
Finally, the local elections are just around the corner on Thursday May 6. You will all at least be voting for your County Councillors and Police and Crime Commissioner. I encourage you to arrange a postal vote before the deadline on April 19, via the Warwick District Council website.