This month we saw the first phase of the Prime Minister’s road map out of lockdown reached, as our schools and colleges returned on the 8th March. I know this step was welcomed by parents all wanting their children back to a proper education, by teachers who want to do their best by those pupils and importantly by the students themselves, who can study more effectively and see their friends. I was delighted to see Staffordshire topping the Midlands league table for vaccinations and I am sure it comes as no surprise as the hard work of our NHS staff and volunteers continues. I will continue to meet with local health groups and the Vaccine Minister to make sure we keep this rolling.
In Westminster this month, we listened to the Prime Minister’s vision for an international United Kingdom in his 2021 review of our defence, foreign policy and national security. Our Government has maintained its commitment to spending at least 2% of our GDP on national security – with a record high increase in spending this year (since the Cold War). Our aim is to ensure the most secure and efficient border system internationally by 2025, guarantee the safety of our trade networks and continue to protect ourselves and our allies. The world has changed a lot; it has become more complex and more dangerous in many ways and it is right that we should take proper modern precautions to defend ourselves from all forms of attack. And we are doing so a proud and independent member of the international community with our own seat at the table, not one shared by 27 other countries behind an unelected EU bureaucracy.
Many of us will have seen the unacceptable rioting, attacks on Police officers and destruction of Police vans and stations in Bristol. Everyone has the right to protest – but everyone has a duty to do so peacefully. The mob violence was disgraceful. The Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill that the rioters were, ironically, complaining about is designed to deliver tougher punishments to those who assault our emergency workers by doubling the maximum sentence and making sure our communities are kept safe from violent and serious offenders. It also prevents those anarchist groups like Extinction Rebellion from blockading roads near hospitals and stopping ambulances from saving lives. I believe the right to protest is an important part of our democracy, I voted in favour of this Bill to make sure people can be safe when they protest, whilst not harming themselves or others. Mindless damage to our memorials, buildings, businesses, culture should not be tolerated: I am certain the people in Tamworth would agree and I will make sure the heritage of our town is protected. I spoke in the House of Commons on this subject making clear the history deniers who want to tear down our history must be opposed and our history, in all its aspects, explained.
The last 12 months have taken a huge toll on us all, and my thoughts are with those that have lost loved ones to this dreadful virus. This week we marked 12 months since the beginning of the first restrictions, and with it an opportunity to reflect, remember and reminisce. It has been the strength of will of every Briton that has helped us to save lives, from our medical teams, to supermarket workers, to mums and dads who stayed home to home school their children, and indeed to all of us for following the rules on masks and social distancing. The famous Tamworth community spirit has inspired us all, and I know we will continue to help one another long after we defeat this unseen enemy.