This week I was very proud to have the chance to support a long overdue change in our laws to help protect our armed forces veterans from vexatious claims and endless cycles of reinvestigation against them. The Overseas Operations Bill would make it exceptional for serving personnel and veterans to be prosecuted five years or more after an incident that took place during overseas operations. Find out more about why it has been introduced below. Sadly, the Labour Party didn't back the bill. On a related note, I got the chance to thank local reserves from the Mercian regiment who help during lockdown in Parliament this week, you can watch the clip below and hear the thanks and appreciation from the Minister as well.
Locally I was pleased to see that a new Covid-19 testing site will be opening in Crewe on the 1st October, which will help to ease demand for test in the area, especially for those without access to a car. I know testing demand is still outstripping supply and new facilities like this are going to help us overcome that.
We also saw some new lockdown rules come into force. In light of an increasing number of cases the Prime Minister announced a new series of measure to reduce the risk of transmission, such as, workers should work from home where it is possible and face masks becoming mandatory in more settings. To help businesses and employees, over what could be a difficult few months, the Chancellor set out his Winter Economy Plan on Thursday, which includes measures and schemes to protect viable jobs and give businesses extra flexibility when they need it. I was sorry to see a Labour Shadow Cabinet member Kate Green describe this crises the government is fighting hard to get through as a something to be exploited, saying "I think we should use the opportunity ... don't let a good crisis go to waste."
Lastly, the NHS coronavirus app was launched which I would encourage you all to download onto your phones. It doesn't run on some older phones at this stage but every person using it will enable us to better stop virus outbreaks. You can get it here https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/the-nhs-app/
Dr Kieran Mullan
MP for Crewe & Nantwich
Overseas Operations Bill
Thanking the Mercian Regiment Reserves
New Testing Site in Crewe - Opening 1st October
New Coronavirus Measures
Winter Economy Plan
Internal Markets Bill
2,300 Self-employed in Crewe and Nantwich Received Support
Litter Picking in Shavington
Free World Cup Tickets for Key Workers
Face Masks and the Deaf Community
Overseas Operations Bill:
This week in parliament I supported the Overseas Operations Bill. It was approved by 331 votes to 77 in Parliament by MPs. The bill was introduced in March, after operations in Iraq and Afghanistan gave rise to an unprecedented number of legal claims. This is a key hurdle passed for getting it into law.
The Al-Sweady Inquiry was a five-year public inquiry led by Thayne Forbes which investigated accusations of mistreatment of prisoners by the British Army following the Battle of Danny Boy. The enquiry commenced its investigations in 2009.
The inquiry cost nearly £25 million. The report was published in December 2014 and concluded that whilst there had been instances of mistreatment the allegations of torture and murder were "wholly without foundation and entirely the product of deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility", but that nine Iraqi detainees had been ill-treated.
Subsequently Leigh Day, one of the law firms involved, were referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to answer complaints about its handling of action brought by Iraqi detainees against the Ministry of Defence. Another, Public Interest Lawyers, later closed down. In addition, the independent Iraq Historic Allegations Team found around 70% of the allegations that were received by them were dismissed as there was no case to answer.
A key aim of the Overseas Operations Bill is to limit false and historical allegations against service personnel and veterans in relation to overseas operations. The bill would make it exceptional for serving personnel and veterans to be prosecuted five years or more after an incident that took place during overseas operations.
Our troops go out and put themselves in extreme danger and operate under the most difficult of circumstances. No one is above the law and these changes still allow for the proper and proportionate investigation of allegations of improper conduct. But we should not allow our troops to be subjected to endless investigations motivated by money and orchestrated by legal firms with only their own bottom line as their main concern.
Despite pledging to want to back our troops, the Labour Party did not support this new law in Parliament which I was incredibly disappointed by.
Thanking the Mercian Regiment Reserves:
Roughly 1,800 Army reserves were mobilised as part of Operation Rescript, the MOD’s contribution to the COVID response. From distributing personal protective equipment to the NHS to delivering mobile testing units and helping build the Nightingale hospitals, our army reserves were invaluable during the height of the pandemic in this country.
Friends and constituents from Crewe & Nantwich were part of those forces serving in the Mercian regiment. It was great to get my thanks to them on the permanent Parliamentary record! I took the opportunity to raise with the Minister things that might allow us to support our reserve forces better. Government is running a review on this so I would encourage reserve force members to give their feedback.
New Testing Site in Crewe – Opening 1st October:
A new semi-permanent, walk-in, Covid-19 testing site will be set up in Chester Street, Crewe. The site will operate from the 1st October and will offer pre-booked appointments, improving access to tests locally, especially for those who do not drive or cannot use public transport.
Semi-permanent testing sites are designed to supplement existing testing facilities such as regional and mobile testing units. Unlike mobile testing units, which are often deployed for around four days, this site will be open for several months to ensure that accessible testing is continually available to people within their communities
I know that some constituents have contacted me about difficulties accessing tests over the last couple of weeks, so I have been asking for greater local testing capacity. This new facility should help to ease local demand as we approach the winter months.
Keep in mind we now have one of the biggest testing programmes in Europe, we have gone from 2,000 a day to more than 200,000 a day. But more to do!
New Coronavirus Measures:
The Prime Ministers address to the nation this week. If you missed it, it really puts into black and white what the challenge is and what we need to do now. (starts just after 3.40)
Cases are currently on the rise, so it is more important than ever that we all follow Government advice. I know it can often be difficult to keep track of the rules so whenever unsure this link to the Governments FAQ's is very useful:
- Those who can work from home should: Those in professions such as construction and retail who cannot do this should continue to attend their workplace
- All Pubs and Restaurants must operate table service only
- All hospitality venues must close by 10pm
- Face coverings must be worn in more settings: This includes staff in retail, taxi users, staff and customers in indoor hospitality except when seated at table to eat or drink.
- Maximum of 15 can attend weddings
- Rule of 6 extended to indoor team sports
Whilst this is a change from what we have experienced in the past couple of months, this is not a return to full lockdown. I don't think that means we were wrong to relax lockdown. We are learning. It was right to try and see what activity we could allow whilst controlling the rise of cases. We must carry on growing the testing programme as this will allow us to reduce quarantine, but if we keep being too relaxed when mixing with households the virus will keep spreading, testing or not testing. Talk to your friends and family and encourage each other to stick at it. We don't want or need a harsher lockdown if these measures don't work.
Winter Economy Plan:
Today the Chancellor laid out the Winter Economy Plan, a series of measures designed to protect jobs and help businesses over the uncertain months ahead. It consists of:
- Job Support Scheme: The scheme, starting on the 1st November until the end of April 2021, will help protect viable jobs following the end of the Jobs Retention Scheme. The Government will assist with the cost the hours not worked due to reduced demand, so long as an employee works at least 33% of their usual hours.
- The Self Employment Income Support Scheme will be extended, providing an initial lump sum to cover from November until the end of January and another, subject to the circumstances we find ourselves in, for February until the end of April.
- VAT Cuts for Tourism and Hospitality Sectors will be extended until the end of March next year.
- Businesses who deferred VAT bills will be given more breathing space through a New Payment Scheme, allowing them to pay back in smaller instalments.
- 11 Million Self-Assessment tax payers can extend payments by 12-month on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility.
- Businesses will be given greater flexibility for repaying loans through the new ‘Pay As You Grow’ scheme.
- Extension to the deadline for new applications for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), and the Future Fund. The new deadline will be November 31st 2020.
Internal Markets Bill:
This Internal Market Bill seeks to ensure businesses across the whole of the United Kingdom will continue to enjoy seamless internal trade, as they have done for centuries, after the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.
Many will have heard about the fact the Government is using UK law to override a part of the EU withdrawal agreement we signed. The reason for this is simple. When we signed the agreement, the EU agreed to work with us in good faith. That is a part of the legal agreement that both the UK and the EU signed.
And what is the EU threatening to do if we don't get a trade deal? The EU have threatened to suspend the movement of all agricultural goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. This threat is simply not acceptable, and no UK Government should allow this to happen. The UK agreed to work in good faith with the EU to help them monitor and check what goes between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. We already do some of these checks. We have played our part, even investing money in new infrastructure to help these checks take place.
Even after the positive action we have taken in the past, the EU have decided to act in this way. It is clear that the EU are using this threat purely as a bargaining chip to force our hand. That is not acting in good faith, that is breaching the protocol we agreed.
It is because of the above reasons that I voted in favour of this Bill, which will ensure our laws prevent the EU from behaving in this way. We will listen, we will negotiate, we will compromise. We have left the EU, we haven't left Europe. But we should not allow the EU to use peace in Northern Ireland to force us into an agreement that isn't right for this country and to threaten to cut off key trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. I will continue to back the UK and look to protect our valuable relationship with Northern Ireland.
Following its second reading, I voted for the Bill which was approved with 340 votes to 263.
Last week, I spoke on TalkRadio about the introduction of this Bill. My interview can be listened to here: https://twitter.com/talkRADIO/status/1305837517862772736
2,300 Self-employed in Crewe and Nantwich Received Support:
Great to see that so many local people have benefited from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which the Government launched to ensure those who work for themselves were getting the support they needed during difficult times.
In Crewe and Nantwich:
- 2,300 benefited from the 2nd tranche of grants
- £5.4 Million worth of grants was received
This is alongside the £8.4 Million received locally in the first round of support. I know not everyone who is self employed has been helped but unfortunately we were not able to convince government there was a way to do that with people without previously submitted accounts to use as the reference.
Litter Picking in Shavington:
Nice to be on a litter pick last weekend in the sun in Shavington Online Community Group seeing a new business Petal Power thriving! Thank you to Shavington fish barfor refreshments for the junior litter pickers!
Free World Cup Tickets for Key Workers:
Are you or someone you know a key worker and a Rugby fan? The Rugby League World Cup 2021 are very generously giving away 20,021 free tickets for key workers to recognise their efforts during the Coronavirus crisis.
Applications are open on the 21st September until the 13th October and can be made via this link: https://rlwc2021.com/keyworkertickets
To be eligible your occupation must be listed by the Government as a key worker here: https://www.gov.uk/.../guidance-for-schools-colleges-and...
Face Masks and the Deaf Community:
While it is encouraging to see that more and more people are wearing face masks in public, I have been written to with concerns over the effect that they have on the deaf community , who overwhelming rely on facial expressions and lip reading for effective communication.
Local resident Richard, who got in contact with me about this said "I am a supporter of the National Deaf Children’s Society, they bought this issue to my attention. I have had partial hearing loss since childhood and I know the difficulties it can cause, I struggle sometime when speech is not clear and I cannot see a person’s mouth (e.g. hand over mouth when speaking) as this sometimes helps in understanding what is being said."
The National Deaf Children's Society has published some tips on how to effectively communicate with people who have difficulty hearing, while wearing a mask here: https://www.ndcs.org.uk/blog/face-masks-and-communication-coronavirus-i….
The following are road closures for the week ahead, as reported by Cheshire East Council.
- Maw Green Road and Maw Lane - Closed until 16th October
- Cherry Tree Road, Crewe - Closed until 2nd October
- Delamere Street, Crewe (Between Tower Way and Queensway) - Closed until 2nd October
- Westminster Street, Crewe - Closed 28th September - 2nd November
PREVIOUS EMAIL NEWSLETTERS
Friday 18th September
Friday 11th September
Friday 4th September
Friday 28th August
Friday 14th August
Friday 7th August
Friday 24th July
Friday 17th July
Friday 10th July
Friday 3rd July
Friday 26th June
Sunday 14th June
Sunday 7th June
Sunday 31st May
Friday 22nd May
Friday 15th May