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Julie Marson MP on Afghanistan: 'My office has been working hard with the Foreign Office and Home Office to try to assist local people and their families stranded and at terrible risk in Kabul'

Julie Marson, Conservative MP for Hertford and Stortford, writes fortnightly for the Bishop's Stortford Independent...

The UK evacuation from Kabul has ended. Operation Pitting succeeded in bringing 15,000 people to safety in the UK. I pay tribute to our armed forces personnel and those working in the diplomatic service who showed huge resilience and courage in the face of terrible conditions, particularly the bombing atrocity.

Whilst such events can seem far away, members of our local community are affected directly and my office has been working hard with the Foreign Office and Home Office to try to assist local people and their families stranded and at terrible risk in Kabul. We continue to do so as we witness the exit of the last US troops and the return of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

I appreciate all those constituents who have contacted me to share their views. I encourage them, and all other interested residents, to read about this issue, and others, on my website – I am keeping this updated for them as regularly as I possibly can.

I remain particularly concerned about the prospects for women and girls and will continue to raise this issue and work with colleagues across the House to focus on their plight and find such solutions as we can.

A number of individuals and families from Afghanistan have already arrived in Hertfordshire and I look forward to continuing to see our own community welcome them. The interest residents have shown in wanting to support these refugees has been heart-warming, and I thank everyone who has been in touch with me to find out how to do this. I have been signposting them towards the Government’s new easy-access portal for people to help in whatever way they can.

RAF Brize Norton personnel handing out food, drink, toys and blankets. Picture: UK Ministry of Defence
RAF Brize Norton personnel handing out food, drink, toys and blankets. Picture: UK Ministry of Defence

Many residents would still like to know exactly how this might work on the ground. I have been in close communication with East Herts Council as to this in response. It's important that the council continues to engage with authorities across the UK to determine the most effective way for our area to help; they have my full support and co-operation in doing so.

Several people have written to me to raise their concern regarding the potential release of new guidance for children over 12 to begin receiving Covid vaccinations. Press reports are largely speculation and I have been assured by ministers that no decision has yet been made by the scientific and medical experts rightly in charge of such advice.

Our Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is still reviewing the data and evidence on this from other countries and will not be implementing any changes until this is complete. It has, however, already been proven safe and effective for the most vulnerable children in this age group to get vaccinated and I am fully confident the UK’s high health and safety standards that have regulated this and all other decisions regarding vaccine safety and eligibility will only continue to be upheld. NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care are operationally prepared for whatever course of action will be deemed entirely safe.

It is great news that almost 160,000 doses of the vaccine have now been administered across Hertford and Stortford. This is testament to all those staff and volunteers on our local front line who have worked tirelessly to ensure we can all now enjoy the continued, safe return of normal life in our area.

Whilst overall vaccine uptake rates are already very good, this must continue, particularly where the youngest who are now eligible in our community are concerned. About 45% of under-18s in Hertford and Stortford have received their first dose and I urge them and others to get both of their jabs as soon as they can. Vaccination clinics across the constituency, including in Bishop’s Stortford, are accepting walk-in appointments.

Though the end of summer is approaching, I am excited at the prospect of a tree-planting initiative across Hertford and Stortford that I have been working on. I have secured over 30 new cherry blossom trees and have been working closely with councillors and organisations to organise their distribution.

This is part of the nationwide Sakura Cherry Tree Project, with the trees being a gift from the people of Japan to the UK so that communities like ours can share in the beauty of this renowned tree. The protection and enjoyment of our local landscape and wider natural environment is very important to me and I forward to seeing the trees in situ later this year.

I was delighted to visit Stort Valley Pride at South Mill Arts this weekend. It was a wonderful event and I warmly congratulate everyone involved. I hope it will become a regular fixture and will, I’ve no doubt, go from strength to strength.

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