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Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson on Omicron, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, hare coursing and Online Safety Bill

Julie Marson, MP for Hertford and Stortford, writes for the Indie...

I hope Christmas was as festive and relaxing as you wanted it to be and I wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

I'm sure we all share the hope that 2022 will be the time when we can talk about Covid in the past tense, although, with Omicron still spreading in the community, we are not quite there yet. I do hope that the positive news from South Africa, as well as studies in Britain which indicate it is a milder disease that peaks relatively quickly, is reflected and that this means we are entering an 'endemic' phase, rather than 'pandemic'.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect front-line workers in the NHS and care sector, says Julie Marson
Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect front-line workers in the NHS and care sector, says Julie Marson

I certainly believe that we must learn to live with this virus and that the costs in other parts of our lives – whether economic, educational or to other medical conditions and mental health – will outweigh the costs of indefinite restrictions.

The current relatively limited restrictions expire at the end of January and we will see where the data leads us from there. It is worth reflecting that this time last year we were entering another lockdown, so things are certainly better than they were. Our front-line workers in the NHS and elsewhere continue to do a brilliant job and we can continue to support them by getting vaccinated or boosted if you have not already done so.

We were inundated with casework again last year, which is indicative of the difficulties the pandemic has inflicted on many aspects of our lives.

Issues with backlogs at Government agencies have featured prominently, particularly at the DVLA and Home Office visa and passport service. We have seen residents wanting to take up work but having issues getting their driving licences and we have been able to assist in these urgent cases, even managing to ensure one couple got to their wedding in Antigua despite passport delays, with only two days to spare! It was cutting it very fine but it was lovely to help it happen.

I would like to pay tribute to my fantastic team for this vital work. Whilst certain parts of the media like to focus on a few headline-grabbing aspects of MPs' work and the work of Parliament in general, the majority of my team's work is dedicated to helping local people with real and pressing problems and they do an absolutely brilliant job, day in and day out.

Parliament returned on Wednesday (Jan 5). Economic issues are likely to be prominent, with inflation rising and energy costs under severe pressure, but we are forecast to be the fastest-growing economy in the G7 in 2022.

It means that my work on the Treasury Select Committee will continue to be an important part of my job, as will my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Ministry of Justice as we debate the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill as it returns to the House of Commons after its progress in the House of Lords. It is a huge and complex Bill but contains many important measures to maintain public safety, combat crime and support the justice system, so I look forward to that.

I am particularly hopeful – and very excited – that my conversations with the Home Secretary on the disgusting and damaging activity of hare coursing have been productive and that the Government will bring forward amendments to the PCSC Bill to tackle this vile crime.

I pointed out to the Home Secretary last year that I was concerned that hare coursing was still governed via the 1831 Game Act and that we desperately needed updated, tougher powers and penalties to stop it. She was very receptive to my arguments, as I reported at the time, and I am hopeful of a positive announcement very soon.

Another major piece of legislation will be the Online Safety Bill. This has been undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny via a joint select committee and will be a landmark Bill to establish a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful online content.

I will be taking a close interest in the measures proposed and am particularly interested in how we can help to protect consumers from online crime and fraud, an issue we have looked at on the Treasury Select Committee and which has unfortunately grown hugely during the pandemic.

Locally, I want to continue to campaign for a further education college for Bishop's Stortford and its surrounding area, and for better funding for SEND education for our children. We are a growing community and we absolutely need to have facilities which reflect our increasing demand and which continue to deliver quality services for all parts of the community.

I will also continue to liaise with councils and developers to try to ensure that we see good-quality development which respects our existing environment and local people's views and which incorporates the very best environmental and building standards.

I am also very focused on our local businesses. We are home to many outstanding businesses, large and small, and I have always sought to use my experience in business and finance to support them, whether retailers, manufacturers or in other sectors, including the burgeoning hi-tech sectors of the Innovation Corridor.

Please contact me on Julie.Marson.MP@Parliament.uk if you have specific areas of concern or issues which you think should be a priority during 2022. Or indeed if you have issues or problems which you think my team can assist you with, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I look forward to 2022 with hope and optimism. We can continue to support one another as a community as we always do and continue to be a wonderful place to live, work and visit. Happy New Year!

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