Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:05 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 6:05 pm, 12th January 2021

I think we have reached a stage in the life of these debates when it is difficult to think of anything original to say. Nevertheless, the residents of Southend West want their voices to be heard through their Member of Parliament. I am pleased to say that the vaccination of most of the vulnerable people in Southend is well under way, but will the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend Jo Churchill, assure me that Southend will be receiving enough vaccines to complete the inoculation of people who are most at risk as soon as possible? After all, we do have the greatest number of centenarians in the country. Will she also update us on the progress with authorising recently retired nurses and doctors to administer vaccinations?

The partnership approach between the police, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and public health is working extremely well, and has minimised the spread of the virus. However, without clear rules about what people can and cannot do, the police are having to use their own judgment on grey areas, which leads to a breakdown in community confidence. It is also essential that the service on the c2c line is frequent enough that key workers are able to socially distance.

I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have not been eligible for any Government support throughout the pandemic. I urge the Government to announce support for directors of limited companies who have been left with no income for almost a year. Business rates also need to be cut and made fairer to ensure that independent businesses are still around at the end of the pandemic. One of my constituents who was employed in human resources has been made redundant and does not qualify for universal credit or other benefits, so has had no income for over seven months. That cannot be right. With no signs of when pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen, we must make sure that hospitality businesses are given targeted support.

With the return to remote learning for most school pupils, it is vital that the most vulnerable students are supported. I have been contacted by a number of constituents expressing their concerns about the safety of nursery schools and other early year providers as coronavirus cases continue to rise. The summer exams have been cancelled, and schools, parents and students must have clarity about when and how grades will be assessed and awarded. We must also ensure that university students are not forgotten. Some students who are eligible for free school meals are now being provided with food parcels. Well, if the pictures of them that I have seen today are accurate, I ask myself: who was the fool who authorised this? It is essential that we keep our churches open.

I end with these thoughts: we all need things to look forward to and we have had that with the vaccinations; I now challenge the Government to come up with something else that we can all look forward to.