From Caroline Lucas <[email protected]>
Subject Latest Newsletter
Date April 27, 2020 11:44 AM
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Green Party mailing
I had my first real taste of being a "virtual MP" last week, when I
questioned Matt Hancock during health questions in the Commons. I have been
pushing for a recall of Parliament since the beginning of this month, so
was very glad when the Speaker and the parliamentary digital teams managed
to facilitate this, with dozens of MPs joining via video link. I wrote
about the experience in the i-paper [1].

There were plenty of questions I wanted to put to Matt Hancock, including
the continuing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health
workers and social care staff, and the shambolic testing regime which has
seen a failure to test key frontline staff, missed targets, a privately-run
test centre losing results and the Government-run website for key workers
to book tests crashing hours after it launched. The Government's record on
this has been terrible and the case for a public inquiry in due course is
growing. Meantime it's essential that ministers learn from their mistakes
and change course now. For example, one of the weaknesses of the testing
regime has been its over-centralisation. It's vital that this mistake is
not repeated when it comes to the long overdue resumption of contact


But in my question to Matt Hancock I focused on [2] what's missing from the
Government's five pre-conditions for lifting the lockdown - namely, the
capacity to test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact, as
the WHO advises. I also tabled an Early Day Motion [3] calling for this.
And I and Green Party colleague Molly Scott Cato produced a report earlier
in the week on the need for a community-led response to achieve this (you
can read about it here [4]) - building on existing local public health
bodies like GP surgeries, Public Health England and local authority health
teams, together with properly trained volunteers. They could create
"community shields" which would carry out the critical but very
labour-intensive task of contact tracing so that when - inevitably -
Covid-19 re-emerges in pockets around the country, there is a rapid,
locally-led response which would stop it getting out of control. I am glad
the health secretary agreed with me, and that later in the week, the
Government announced that thousands of volunteers would be trained in
contact tracing.

I continue to lobby the Government on other Covid-19 issues. I wrote to the
Chancellor about support for the childcare sector during the lockdown. And
I signed an EDM [5] on extending the cut-off date for the furlough scheme
as too many employees were finding they weren't eligible.


For several weeks, I've been raising concerns about the risk to residents
in our care homes - particularly when it emerged that patients were being
discharged from hospital into care homes without being tested. I'm pleased
the Government has now addressed this. But it has been slow to implement
and the current testing arrangements in the city still make it difficult
for some staff to access a test, and slow to get PPE to where it's needed.

I have been having regular video-link meetings with the leadership team on
Brighton & Hove Council including the executive director for adult social
care, to get a clear sense of some of the challenges the local authority
faces and any additional support they might need from central government so
that vital care services are maintained.


The economic impacts of coronavirus in our city are of major concern, and I
continue to urge ministers to broaden the eligibility for support of a
number of its schemes. In particular, the exclusion from the Self Employed
Income Support Scheme of small business owners who take their income as
dividends is a huge loophole which is harming many small businesses in
Brighton and I'm doing all I can to get it changed.

The exclusion of SMES from grants on the grounds of having a rateable value
of more than £51,000 is also causing huge damage. These grants need to be
processed fast, and I've urged Council leaders to do what they can to
accelerate payments. A roundtable organised by city's Economic Partnership
was a valuable way of getting an even clearer view of business priorities,
and raised further questions about the furlough scheme, bank loans, and the
particular challenges facing the leisure and retail industry which I will
continue to take up with ministers.


Covid-19 has shone a harsh light on the deep inequalities in our society,
not least the precarious nature of too many people's lives. I was glad to
add my name to a cross-party letter, published in the Financial Times [6]
(apologies: it's behind a paywall), calling on the Government to prepare
for a universal basic income which would provide economic security for
people. When we emerge from the lockdown, we need to do so with a fairer
and more resilient society and economy.

That doesn't only mean a fairer society. Our recovery from Covid-19 must
also be a green recovery, with cleaner air, less polluted streets, the
right to green space and an end to fuel poverty. I wrote about some of
these ideas in the Independent [7].


I was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's PM programme about the lessons we should
be learning from the coronavirus crisis, particularly over our response to
the climate and biodiversity crises. We have seen how important and valued
green open space is to people, and how unequal access is, and how the
Government can find the money to address an emergency when it's required.
We are learning fast what is politically possible. You can hear the
interview here [8].


I was pleased and honoured to be given an MP of the Year award by the
Patchwork Foundation, a non-partisan charity which supports the
participation of young people in democracy and civil society. I received
the Other Party People's Choice award which is given to the most popular MP
outside the two main political parties and, gratifyingly, is voted on by
members of the public. So thank you to the Patchwork Foundation and
everyone who voted for me, and congratulations to the other winners.

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Contacting Me

If you are a local resident and need help with case work or to find out more about my activities locally please do contact me at the office of: Caroline Lucas MP, Brighton Media Centre 15-17 Middle Street, Brighton BN1 1AL.
Tel: 01273 201 130. Email: [email protected]

I hold regular surgeries across the constituency. If you would like to book an appointment at a forthcoming surgery please call Liz Collis on 01273 201130.
She coordinates my constituency office and is able to help with most local enquiries.

If you would like to know about my parliamentary work please get in touch at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
Tel: 020 7219 7025. Email: [email protected]

You can also keep up to date with my news on:

Twitter: @carolinelucas

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