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On Tuesday 2nd June, during a debate on the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, Fay Jones (Con) argued that it is important to consider the ‘stretched’ and ‘different’ needs of rural communities when designing the Bill.
On Thursday 4th June, during the second sitting of the Domestic Abuse Bill, Liz Saville Roberts (PC) raised the issue of funding for devolved nations, to which Sara Kirkpatrick (Con) reiterated the importance of taking into account the fact that rural communities have smaller populations, and that it also takes longer for individuals to get from one place to another, meaning that a single service provider, such as Women’s Aid, cannot provide the same service and get everybody to a single site in the way that they can in metropolitan environments.
On Friday 5th June, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a revised version of the Countryside Code, which includes the instruction to follow advice and local signs and obey social distancing measures.
On Monday 1st June, England continued to cautiously reopen as the next phase of lockdown got underway with the reopening of most primary schools’ early years, reception, year 1 and year 6 classes, and a change in regulations allowing groups of up to six people to meet outdoors — while socially distancing — in parks and private gardens.
On Tuesday 2nd June, during a debate on COVID-19 and schools, Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (Crossbench) asked about what plans the Government has to ensure digital interconnections for pupils over the summer, particularly those who live in poverty in rural areas, where there is real difficulty with some broadband connections.
On Wednesday 3rd June, during Prime Minister’s Question Time, Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer (Lab) asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Con) if he was worried about the loss of trust in the Government. Starmer said that two weeks ago, Johnson said there would be a ‘world beating’ track and trace system by 1st June, which has not arrived in time, meaning that local authorities cannot respond to ‘local spikes’.. Also on Wednesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel (Con) made a statement to the House on the Government’s 14 day quarantine policy, for those entering the UK. The Home Secretary described the quarantine period as a ‘cross-government measure’ to prevent a second wave of the disease. She confirmed that those arriving into the UK will have to self-isolate for 14 days, the incubation period for COVID-19. Also on Wednesday, during a debate on COVID-19 and UK Border Health Measures, Drew Hendry (SNP) said that regardless of the merits or otherwise of the measure, it will ‘disproportionately hit tourist economies’, especially in rural areas.
On Thursday 4th June, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (Con) announced that face coverings on public transport will be compulsory from 15th June in England to help stop the transmission of COVID-19. The Government will require people to wear face coverings on buses, trains, tubes and other modes of public transport from that date, when non-essential shops are likely to reopen. Also on Thursday, during a debate on COVID-19 and the economy, Baroness Doocey (LD) argued that the combined £34 billion spent every year in poorer, rural and seaside areas is a significant transfer of wealth from better-off, urban areas. The £20 billion that tourism contributes to rural economies is only slightly less than the £24 billion contribution from agriculture. In the same debate, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) argued that it is important to support communities and services that are the worst impacted to ensure that no part of the UK is left behind, especially seaside and rural areas. He argued that one of the ‘persistent failures’ of governments so far is to deliver on plans to provide gigabit-capable broadband to rural businesses and residents by 2025, as promised in the last general election manifesto.
On Friday 5th June, Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Con) was asked about regional disparities in the R level and whether this could lead to regional restrictions. Hancock replied that there is increasingly better regional data and it is true that the R is closer to one in the south-west and north-west. However, he argued for an approach of tackling local lockdown where they spot a flare-up, explaining that the new joint bio-security centre has been tasked with looking into each area where there is a flare-up to find the source and deal with it. Hancock also confirmed that the infrastructure is in place should a local lockdown be required, and there is communication between national and local leaders. Also on Friday, the Government announced that it has extended the suspension of new evictions from social or private rented accommodation until 23rd August to ensure vulnerable renters will be protected when the suspension of evictions ends. The Department for Education has also announced a £7 million funding package for targeted help to young people and their families most affected by COVID-19.
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