TOUCHING on Covid-19 first – with the rise in cases across the country, the Prime Minister took the difficult decision to put further restrictive measures in place across England, asking people to stay at home as much as possible for four weeks.

Many of you have been in touch sharing a very wide range of views and while I recognise that as a region we are not at present as badly affected as other parts of the UK, the infection rate is rising in Somerset and I would encourage everyone to make this period of time count by complying with the new restrictions.

I will continue to work to ensure the necessary financial support is provided to protect jobs and businesses, and welcome the extension of the furlough scheme, the self-employment support scheme, the cash grants to businesses of up to £3,000 per month for businesses which are closed, the extension of loan schemes and the £1.1 billion for councils.

In really positive news, the Agriculture Bill has now passed, with the inclusion of an amendment to bolster parliamentary scrutiny of free trade agreements as well as extending the Trade and Agriculture Commission, placing it on a full statutory footing in the Trade Bill, and in doing so giving farmers a stronger voice in UK trade policy.

I have worked along with others extremely hard at Government level to ensure this scrutiny is included and I’ve represented the views of local farmers in particular.

I am also delighted that my representations have been heeded on the welfare front, in addition to the more than £9 billion that has gone into the welfare system since the onset of the pandemic, the Government has recently announced a new £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme to run until March 2021.

It will allow councils, who are best placed to help the hardest-hit families and individuals over the holidays, to provide food for those who need it.

I hope all those who have contacted me on this issue including within this paper, recognise the benefits of this wider package.

MP for Taunton Deane