March 2020 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

When constituents approach me with individual issues and concerns, I always try to get information for them, and when appropriate I raise things directly with Ministers. With the turmoil of last year and ongoing uncertainty it seemed to become increasingly difficult to get responses. Now that the long-anticipated Government reshuffle has been done, and Ministers either confirmed in their posts or new appointments made it seemed we were in for a more stable period with greater opportunity to discuss issues with Ministers. Then Coronavirus hit. It is in the midst of concern over the virus in early March that I write.

There is a fine balance in deciding what best to do in these situations and I am pleased that there has been cross-party support for the ways in which the Government has been handling the issue. By the time my newsletter is published the situation will have changed again. I share the concern of many at fake news which adds to unnecessary fear. The panic buying by some has also triggered a concerned response. I can understand that people worry about the virus but, whilst those who can afford to fill their cupboards do so, they add to the vulnerability of those who are unable to shop other than little and often. This is a time for testing our shared compassion.

It was good to hear the Chancellor open his Budget Statement addressing the issue of Coronavirus bringing forward measures to help with economic security and stability. Readers will be familiar with the key funding announcements, so I will not repeat them. I was particularly pleased that the Chancellor offered financial support to encourage people to take the necessary time off work should they be advised to stay at home. I also welcome the support for small businesses to enable them to pay people for time off due to the virus without having to meet the direct cost themselves. This is especially so in a constituency where small business is the heart of our economy. I do appreciate that there are other issues that our local businesses, and indeed all of us will have to face, but I am sure that working together and accepting some short-term limitations on our usual lifestyle will help us get through this difficult time.

On a more positive note, and for the longer-term, I believe that the overall budget is one which will bring benefit across our national life and I look forward to seeing how the budget announcements are developed in different government departments over the coming months.

More generally, and as always, I am interested to know the views of constituents on the various topics as they come up for debate. Whether on a topic before the House or something else, if you have an issue that you would like to raise with me please do 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.