Time certainly seems to have run faster than normal during the pandemic, and it is hard to believe we are already into the final run up to Christmas 2021. For MPs this time is not just about looking forward to being back in the constituency meeting up with people and trying to think about gifts and food. It is, as anyone who has tried to progress important things over the holiday period will attest, about getting important things done before people disappear.
It is also about trying to make sure we do not have unnecessary restrictions if, as seems increasingly likely, the Omicron variant of COVID is shown to be mild in effect and likely to displace more dangerous variants. On a related note, I am working with the care industry to highlight staffing issues and NHS / care performance risks to Secretary of State, Sajid Javid.
This week I met with Chris Philp, the Minister for Digital Policy, to discuss governance of Artificial Intelligence. It’s essential the Government sets the right ethical conditions for technology, which is innovating rapidly, to promote human freedom rather than control. I was heartened to hear it is focused on stopping China and Russia in their bid to control related international regulatory bodies. I intend to focus in the New Year on trying to ensure personal freedoms are built by design into all of the fundamental layers of digital innovation and social interaction.
Next week I will ask the Department of Work and Pensions what more we can do to help those who are transitioning between jobs to obtain skills and support, and to highlight the good work done in skills development and need for it to continue with employers and educators in our part of the world. I am also meeting James Cartlidge, a Minister at the Department for Justice, to talk to him about transparency of justice and access to the Courts and about how we can do more to make the experience better for victims.
This weekend I am meeting Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, along with other MPs, to talk with Local Authority representatives, Wessex Water, and local farmers and developers to try to knock heads together to accelerate fair solutions to the issue of development, farming and drainage practices raising phosphate levels in our waterways and consequent delaying development permissions due to legal action which is affecting our construction industry.
Finally, I have a meeting next week with Minister Jo Churchill to talk about ways we can improve our local environment and in particular how we can have less litter by roadsides. It is an issue a lot of people have contacted me about and I am keen to hear the Minister’s view. Please everyone clear up properly after festivities this year and help keep our countryside beautiful.
On that note I have had a prompt response from South Somerset District Council about dogs falling ill after visiting Ham Hill. They say they have not found any link between the reports but continue to look into it so if you have any concerns please do get in touch.