April 2020 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

As we work together to fight COVID-19, I know that it is so very worrying for many people. I have been inundated with emails raising many different questions on the situation and, with the help of my dedicated team – all of whom are working remotely – we are trying to answer as best we are able. COVID-19 queries are dominating our work and due to the urgency of most of these we are giving them priority. If you have emailed on another issue, please bear with us. We are dealing first with urgent COVID-19 casework.

In Westminster, Ministers have been working flat out to bring forward measures to try to keep us all safe and help people in so many different situations. If you still have a question please feel free to email me but please do look at the Government advice first (https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus) to see if your question has already been answered. This will help me and my team to respond as quickly as we can on outstanding concerns and individual problems.

Although Parliament is now in recess, mechanisms have been put in place for MPs to question the Government on COVID-19 issues and concerns on a daily basis and feedback is circulated. Along with everyone else we are also using social media to talk to colleagues on issues we might normally have done when we met in the lobby or Members room. Within the House a great deal of work is underway to allow Members to continue to scrutinise the Government remotely now and after recess – should the guidance remain that people should stay at home where possible. I have already taken part in Justice Select Committee evidence sessions online and they worked very well.

More locally other public bodies have made provision to keep MPs updated on their work in relation to COVID-19 and to question them. I took part in a conference call between MPs and the Thames Valley Police Chief Constable in which we were briefed on operational issues and were able to raise questions. From my emails I know that the police use of their new public health powers is a concern to some. The Chief Constable reassured MPs that the overriding approach was to use common sense. The powers will only be used by officers if someone fails to comply after the officer has engaged with them, explained the risks to public health and encouraged voluntary compliance.

The police are also concerned that some people are taking it upon themselves to report people who they believe are flouting the ‘stay at home’ rules. This is creating an unnecessary workload for the police as they have to triage all calls. Most of the reports are not helpful and simply hinder police their operations.

Despite the dominance of COVID-19 I remain interested to know the views of constituents on the various topics. Whether on a topic due to come before the House or something else, if you have an issue that you would like to raise with me please email me at john.howell.mp@parliament.uk or write to me at the House of Commons (House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA) or my constituency office (PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD) to share your views.

If you would like to receive my periodic electronic newsletters, and briefings on specific issues, please visit my website http://www.johnhowell.org.uk and subscribe at the link on the home page. You will also find more about my work on my website which is regularly updated.