Virtual Parliament a surreal experience

The article below first appeared in Westminster Extra. Nickie writes a monthly column for the paper. 

I hope that as you are reading this both you and your family are safe and well. It’s been an interesting month since my last Extra column. I think I have finally adapted to the new normal that we all find ourselves in. Although it may be difficult, we all need to continue to follow government guidelines if we want to return to the old normal as soon as is safely possible. Nobody wants a second peak.

Responding to the issues that Covid-19 has thrown

up has remained the primary focus of both myself and my office’s attention. We have been inundated with emails, letters and phone calls from people requesting support. As a team, we have worked tirelessly to respond as quickly as possible.

At this stage, people who are getting in touch with Covid-19 related issues are increasingly those that have fallen through the cracks of Government support. From talking to local people, I know that the unprecedented steps that the Government has taken to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic have been vital for many.

The Government’s substantial relief for employers, their employees, the self-employed and businesses has shielded the majority from the virus’s full economic consequences. A minority have not been so fortunate, and I am making the case to Government to provide extra support.

In Central London the rateable value qualification for businesses applying for grants in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors: currently businesses must have a rateable value of below £51,000 to qualify for a grant. Many small businesses exceed the limit in our area, exempting them from support. The £51,000 limit is simply too low for our part of London. I have raised with both Secretaries of State responsible, calling on them to reassess the limit. I hope they will recognise the need for greater flexibility to reflect the unique nature of Central London. I promised to be a strong local voice when elected in December and will continue to constructively push the Government on issues that disproportionally affect our area.

I’ve now spoken for the first time in the virtual Parliament. It was a surreal experience. I was honoured to speak in support of the Domestic Abuse Bill at its Second Reading. Given that one of consequences of lockdown has been a rise in domestic abuse, it is imperative that the Bill passes into law. I did though raise a concern with the Bill as it stands. I fear that the Bill risks a two-tier system developing where victims, including children, who remain at home or in the community will not be able to access support as those in care. It is vital that this anomaly is addressed. You can watch my full speech on my website.

I am delighted to have been promoted to a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government last week. Representing the people of the Cities of London and Westminster remains my top priority. As a PPS I will be able to make the case for our Two Cities as part of the Government’s wider programme.

Stay safe.