February 2021 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

I know that many people are finding the lockdown harder and harder. I fully appreciate this and, indeed, I too find it difficult in many ways. There is hope in the vaccine rollout, but it is important not to ease up too soon and undo all the progress that has been made as a result of the majority of people observing the lockdown restrictions. Thank you all for your efforts.

The Government has made the re-opening of schools the first priority as we emerge from this situation and I wholly support that. I believe that young people have suffered hugely not only from the problems of learning but also in wider aspects of development. Young people discover who they are and develop their emotional and social skills through interaction with others of their age. This time of distancing has stunted this. Indeed, loneliness has been a problem in all age groups. We have learned to use technology as never before, but nothing can replace human contact. Now that we have been dealing with COVID for a year I am mindful too that so many other concerns have grown over time. At the time of writing we await news of the Government plan to move towards greater freedoms and must hold our nerve. While the vaccine rollout is going well the mission to reduce to a minimum the effect of COVID-19 is not on an individual basis but national and indeed international. As the rollout progresses there are different groups that have been put forward for higher prioritisation. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has indicated that occupational prioritisation could form a part of a second phase of the programme. The Vaccines Minister has indicated support for this.

In other news I was delighted that Thames Valley police is to receive an extra £1,160 million. This will go towards Violence Reduction Units, which are special units designed to tackle serous violence and prevent young people being drawn into it. It is part of £35.5 million announced across the country for these units.

There is also some good news on the horizon for those communities who have been troubled by illegal encampments. The Home Secretary is expected to announce new legislation that will make it a criminal offence to intentionally set up camp and trespass on private land. I know that there has been concern from organisations such as Ramblers who fear that people might find themselves inadvertently committing an offence. However, the Home Office is clear that measures can be applied in specific circumstances relating to trespass with intent to reside or cause damage. It is important that innocent people are not made into criminals but also to give the police the necessary powers to deal with the problems that we have seen across the constituency in the past year.

Despite the current limitations the work of parliament continues. If you have an issue that you would like to raise with me, if possible, please email me at john.howell.mp@parliament.uk. If you cannot email you can write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1 0AA or PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD.