When I went to Kiev in September 2019 on my first overseas visit as Europe Minister, two things struck me. First, I saw the deep pride that the Ukrainian people have in their national identity. They had fought long and hard to be recognised as a free people. Second, I met an ex-comedian called Volodymyr Zelenskyy who had recently been elected President. Many had mocked his unusual route to the top, but I saw bravery, integrity, and determination in that man. I made a speech during that visit promising that Britain would defend Ukraine against Russian aggression.
Fast forward three years and we have made good on that promise. We have sent thousands of anti-tank and anti-air missiles to the Ukrainian army while spearheading a global effort to bankrupt the Russian war machine and create political pressure on Putin through the most severe financial sanctions in history. Ukraine has not fallen, as many predicted, and Ukrainian politicians have pointed to Britain’s crucial role in the country’s continued resistance.
Britain has also stood up with its humanitarian response. We are the largest European aid donor to Ukraine. The Health Secretary placed his Department and the NHS at President Zelensky’s service, flying in almost two million life-saving medical supplies. Our expert trauma doctors have been conducting 12-hour-long Zoom calls to teach Ukrainian doctors to treat war injuries. The British People have shown extraordinary compassion, demonstrated by the welcome they gave 21 Ukrainian children with cancer when they arrived in Birmingham. We have launched the Ukraine Family and Homes for Ukraine schemes. These will ensure that Ukrainian refugees are welcome in the United Kingdom and we have passed legislation to make sure that Ukrainians have full access to public services, including doctors, schools and full local authority support.
The people of Tamworth have been extraordinarily generous too, donating £23,000 worth of aid in the first week of collections. I would like to congratulate our local councillors Danny Cook and Dan Maycock for driving out to Ukraine to deliver these donations directly to front line where they are most urgently needed. This is Tamworth at its finest and the town always comes together, be it for COVID, Syria, or now again with Ukraine.
The last few months have also seen sharp rises in the cost of living. This is a problem caused by the end of the pandemic. There has been a spike in demand for fuel, energy, and other products as we recover. This has been worsened by the Russian invasion and China’s zero tolerance approach to COVID, which keeps disrupting the supply of goods. Faced with this combination of global events, I know that it is our job in Westminster to help people deal with rising prices. The Government has stepped in to help people with energy bills through a £9.1 billion energy bill and council tax rebate. The Chancellor has cut fuel duty to the tune of £5 billion in his Spring Statement and offered an extra £500 million to local authorities to support the most vulnerable households. As the global situation improves, prices should stabilise again but, in the meantime, I will continue to closely monitor the effects of price rises on people in Tamworth and discuss any next steps with Government ministers.
My work championing local causes this month has led me to into the world of railways. The Government is planning to sort out the fragmentation of railway services with the creation of a new public body called Great British Railways. This will own the infrastructure of our railways, collect fare revenue, run and plan the network, and set most fares and timetables. I am supporting a Tamworth Borough Council bid to be Great British Railways’ new headquarters. Our town has a rich railway history and strong railway network at present. We have a strong business care, transport links and community to make our town the best choice. I met the Rail Minister to understand more about the national competition and how Tamworth can submit the strongest possible bid.
My other campaign at present is a long-running effort to re-open the George Bryan Centre and keep inpatient beds in the community. I have been in regular contact with the representatives from the Midlands Foundation Partnership Trust to make the case for the George Bryan Centre. I will fight against any attempt to centralise beds to St George’s Stafford and push for all options and proposals to be considered
I hope everyone has a good build-up to Easter. As always, my team and I are here to help and represent you, so please do get in contact with us if you feel we are able to. Please do this by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.