Julie Marson MP: 'Despite the gloomy atmosphere that overshadows this season’s festivities, I believe there are strong grounds for optimism about the year ahead'
Julie Marson, Conservative MP for Hertford and Stortford, writes a fortnightly column for the Bishop's Stortford Independent
This is my last column of 2021. I have to admit that I had hoped we would not be heading into Christmas with Omicron looming. There is much we don’t know about this latest Covid variant, but I know that the priority remains to avoid an increase in infection rates overwhelming the NHS and that is why we are supercharging the booster vaccination campaign.
This is a huge challenge for our local providers, but, as ever, they are rising to the challenge magnificently. Our GPs are carrying out the majority of vaccinations with support from pharmacy-based clinics and vaccination sites.
I popped into Bishop’s Stortford Football Club on Sunday to offer my support and gratitude. From the very first moment, being greeted and assisted in the car park by the hardy volunteers, to the superbly efficient and cheerful staff and volunteers inside, it was so obvious that all those involved are as absolutely wonderful as ever! I helped out by filling in some vaccination cards, but of course my efforts pale into comparison next to those of the staff and volunteers here and across our community.
Indeed, we owe a debt of gratitude to all those on the front line who have kept the wheels turning in our community all year: teachers and school support staff, transport workers, retail staff, carers, doctors, nurses, police, other emergency services, charity workers and many others, as well as neighbours looking after each other and making our community the wonderful place it is. Thank you all.
I am conscious that public health measures have an impact on our local businesses, particularly in the travel and hospitality sectors, so I am pleased that the Chancellor is looking at further potential support for those most severely affected.
In Westminster we have enacted the Nationality and Borders Bill, a major piece of legislation designed to destroy the business model of people traffickers and to ensure that there are safe routes to the UK for genuine asylum seekers.
Some of my biggest responsibilities continue to be my membership of the Treasury Select Committee and my work as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Ministry of Justice.
On the former we are regularly scrutinising the work of the Treasury and the pandemic support measures, and on the latter I am pleased we have just announced the Prisons White Paper and plans for a Victims Bill, alongside the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is currently in the House of Lords.
My recent paper with the Centre for Policy Studies on outcomes-based spending has been well received and I am continuing to have discussions with ministers on this subject, as well as on how we get more private sector investment into our economy.
Though there are more than £10 trillion worth of assets existing under management in this country, only a small amount of that is currently being invested into venture, where much of our future innovation and growth lies. That’s why I’ve been working closely with experts in this area to help design regulatory changes that will release more of these assets.
I have had various conversations and held a couple of promising meetings with ministers and officials at the Treasury on this in recent months, and I remain both optimistic and excited for the progress to come in this area next year. This ties into my priority for our local Innovation Corridor economy.
Looking ahead, I want to encourage people to get in touch with me on their top priorities for Hertford and Stortford in the next year. This could be anything from improving road safety to looking after our beautiful landscape. I look forward to receiving people’s thoughts in the coming weeks.
My office will, in the meantime, be operating at reduced capacity over Christmas as my team get a well-deserved break and will be prioritising urgent casework only during this period. For anything else, we may take a little longer to get back to you than we try to normally, but please do still contact me at email@example.com.
Despite the gloomy atmosphere that has somewhat overshadowed this season’s usual festivities, I do still believe there are strong grounds for optimism about the year ahead. Only last week, I was in my office in Westminster when I heard Big Ben, that has slowly been uncovered over the past few months, chime in all its glory – it was such a wonderful sound.
We are in a different position to where we were this time last year. In the past few weeks alone, vaccination rates have doubled and more than half a million people in Hertfordshire alone have now received their booster jabs. Everyone must continue in this effort, one arm after the next, to ensure we can all continue along such a promising road to recovery.
Until then, I wish everyone and their families a happy Christmas and healthy New Year.