Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards writes her monthly update for March 2021.
For just over a year, we have all faced restrictions on our freedom. From international travel to closed shops, gyms and swimming pools, the last year has been tough in many ways. But last Monday, the 29th, was Freedom Monday, the start of a slow but deliberate process to unlock our economy and return to normality.
Our world-leading vaccination programme has made that possible, with more than 30 million people having now received their first dose.
The next few months will still be tough as we are all eager to return fully to normal life, but if we can keep our discipline, that day is fast approaching.
Despite COVID, the last month has been a busy one in Parliament with many announcements, bills and debates. As usual, I’ll give you just a snapshot of some of what has been happening in Westminster, starting with the Budget.
As many of you will have heard, the headline announcements from the Budget include the extension of the furlough and self-employment support schemes, as well as the temporary uplift to Universal Credit, to support people over the next several months while we cautiously begin to ease lockdown.
Relief measures on business rates and VAT have been continued alongside the creation of new recovery loans and restart grants to help those businesses that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.
Having heard first-hand from constituents over the winter months, I know just how important these measures are for them, their families and their businesses.
Impressively, the Chancellor managed to work several pragmatic and welcomed measures for our economic recovery, with 45 new Towns Deals, green finance initiatives and the UK-wide Levelling Up Fund, which will all bring much needed investment across every corner of the UK – including ours. The Help to Grow scheme will boost the productivity of our small businesses, delivering certainty for many people as they begin to go back to work.
Beyond the Budget, we had some great successes earlier this month, with several projects all coming to fruition around the same time. I am extremely grateful for the support I have received from local businesses and constituents in getting these projects over the line in Parliament.
Firstly, our campaign to add threats to share intimate images to the upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill was a success. This offence will now be written into law and carries a two-year maximum prison sentence. This would not have been possible without the brilliant leadership of Natasha Saunders and her campaign to protect people from this vile and manipulative offence, which I spoke about in the House last year.
Next, the Budget announcement saw the green light given to the East Midlands Freeport. This is brilliant news for our area, and something I’ve been campaigning for alongside regional MPs, local enterprise partnerships and local businesses leaders.
This Freeport will cover three sites across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire – with one located here in Rushcliffe at Ratcliffe-on-Soar – bringing 60,000 additional jobs to the East Midlands. I addressed some of the arguments against freeports and outlined what this news will mean for Rushcliffe in a recent piece for House Magazine, which you can read here.
Finally, we heard the news that exports of our cherished Stilton cheese will, at long last, be released from the protracted US-EU Boeing / Airbus tariff dispute. Tariffs are now going to be suspended on many UK food and drink exports, including on Stilton, which is great news for the sector.
This was something that I had spoken about with Minister for Trade Policy, Greg Hands, during the most recent meeting of the APPG on Geographically Protected Foods, which I co-chair with MP for Rutland and Melton, Alicia Kearns.
We hope to have an APPG website up and running in the near future, so keep an eye out for more updates. In the meantime, you can sign up to my newsletter to hear the latest (on more than just cheese!) from me.
MP for Rushcliffe