Celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day were a reminder of what the wartime generation went through. The threat of death from bombing was faced by everyone and the whole country united and accepted limitations on their lives in order to defeat a common enemy. Before the coronavirus lockdown started, I met one of the survivors of the concentration camps who lives quietly near Chepstow. Her remarkable story is available to watch on my website at www.david-davies.org.uk. There are others who have amazing tales of their experiences of the Second World War. They may not be with us for much longer, so it is vitally important that we hear their testimonies.
Back to the present and many people who are worried about the economy would like to see the Welsh Government do more to ease lockdown restrictions. Others are concerned that even the small steps taken by the Welsh and UK governments so far will trigger a further peak of Covid-19. Leaders of all the devolved nations are listening carefully to the science on this. We want restrictions lifted but not if it risks more deaths and a situation which the NHS could not cope with. The Welsh Government has the legal right to end restrictions now or keep them in place indefinitely, but I am pleased that ministers in London and Cardiff Bay have expressed a preference to work together and come out of this at the same time.
Although overall the four UK nations have been working together, there are some notable differences in support packages. Soft pay areas have been ordered to close across the UK. In England, many have been awarded support funding in the same way as cafes, which is reasonable since they offer refreshments. But in Wales there is no flexibility and soft play areas face going to the wall. I have already written to the Welsh Government and suggest that any parents wanting to support their local soft play area might want to email the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd: Correspondence.Rebecca.Evans@gov.wales
Working and socialising from home has been much easier for those with a good broadband connection. Unfortunately, there are still many people who lack what has now become an essential service. Last week, I had a meeting (online obviously) with the Director of Openreach in Wales to discuss the ongoing programme to connect more properties. In Monmouthshire, approximately three per cent of properties still have speeds of less than 2Mbps. Effectively they have no broadband. The UK Government has announced £5bn will be spent on supporting the roll-out of full-fibre, 5G and other gigabit-capable networks to the hardest to reach areas of the country. I made clear my view that the priority should be those who have no broadband at all, or less than 2Mbps. I will continue to provide updates on this.
Key workers have rightly had our gratitude throughout the coronavirus crisis, but I have been contacted by a constituent representing a forgotten group - so a round of applause for staff at the Office for National Statistics in Newport who are providing vital analysis on the disease for decision makers. Thank you for what you are doing.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 13 May 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 14 May 2020*