2020 has been a year of unprecedented peacetime challenge for our country. And coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on our society and on our economy, including in Reading. My thoughts are very much with the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives, which is a reminder to us as to why the Government is taking action to stop the spread of this virus and save lives.
The emergence of a new, more transmissible strain of COVID-19 shows us that we still have to be vigilant and continue to do all we can to control the virus. Sadly, this has meant stricter rules for the Christmas period and smaller festivities, in order to protect those at highest risk in the coming months.
But as we enter 2021, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome coronavirus and reboot our economy, building back better and levelling up the country.
On 30 December the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the UK developed Oxford University/Astra Zeneca vaccine which will help to turbocharge the on-going vaccination programme.
The Vaccine Taskforce, based in my Business Department, has secured access to 357 million doses of the most promising vaccine candidates, including the Oxford/AZ and Pfizer Biontech vaccines.
And the Government is investing in manufacturing facilities to ensure our country has the capabilities in place to produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for the UK, and for those around the world.
All this brings hope that normal life will resume during 2021.
To stimulate our economic recovery, the Government has committed billions of pounds to continue supporting businesses and protecting jobs and livelihood through the pandemic.
The UK’s overall economic response, including through the furlough scheme and loans and grants for businesses, now totals over £280 billion. And all this support has also very much benefitted businesses and workers in Reading.
Very positively we end 2020 with a trade deal negotiated with the EU, and indeed deals with a range of countries across the world, giving certainty to business and reinforcing the UK’s position as a beacon for inward investment.
2021 will also see us make strides in creating jobs, whilst cleaning up our contribution to climate change. The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution will mobilise £12 billion of taxpayer money, whilst leveraging in three times that amount from the private sector.
This will enable the UK to forge ahead on the road to achieving net zero carbon emissions, while spurring a green industrial revolution that will create and support up to 250,000 green jobs by 2030. The UK has clearly demonstrated that green growth is possible – over the past 30 years we have grown our economy by 75% whilst cutting emissions by 43%.
The Government will also continue to deliver on the promises we made at the General Election last December. More funding for our public services. Maintaining a strong economy. Levelling up investment and opportunity across the country. And continuing to demonstrate that the UK is a confident, outward-looking country playing a full role on the international stage.
During 2020 my office has responded to an enormous volume of correspondence and I have continued to hold surgeries for constituents, as well as meetings with local businesses, charities, schools and voluntary groups. Most of these have been held virtually and I am looking forward to the time next year when we can, once again, hold physical meetings and events. Like so many people, I have very much missed that interaction.
There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful for 2021. So as we end 2020, we must not lose our nerve. This is the beginning of the final push to defeat this virus.
My best wishes to everyone for a happy and successful 2021 and, as over the past decade, my door will always be open for all my constituents.
As ever, if you would like my assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch.