Thank you to the teachers and all the support staff whose hard work has facilitated a successful return to school this week. Of course, this has only been possible thanks to our collective effort to reduce transmissions and the success of the vaccine programme. Last Friday, I gratefully received my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. One of more than 22 million people that have now been vaccinated in the UK. The successful rollout both nationwide and here in Suffolk is continuing to have a hugely positive effect in reducing case rates and hospital admissions, which has allowed us to start easing restrictions this week. As well as my thanks to the doctors, nurses, surgery staff and volunteers for organising the outstanding vaccine effort, I also wanted to give a special thank you to our teachers who have been welcoming all pupils back to school this week. Anyone who is 56 and over who has not yet got an appointment to be vaccinated can now contact the NHS to receive one. This can be done through the National Booking Service online or by calling 119.
There was a big boost for our area in last week’s Budget as the Chancellor gave the green light to Freeport East. The collaboration between the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich, which will see the creation of a single customs zone alongside innovative plans for green energy, will create over 13,000 new jobs, many of which will also be highly skilled. My thanks go to Hutchison Ports and their partners for putting together such an impressive bid. As Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, I was also delighted with many of the other measures announced in the Budget to protect jobs and people’s livelihoods such as the extension to furlough and the self-employment scheme, new cash bonuses to encourage apprenticeships and tax boosts for greater business investment. My department has also extended the temporary uplift in Universal Credit for another six months, helping those on low incomes.
Finally, I met the Head of Commissioning for NHS England, David Barter recently to discuss NHS dentist provision in Suffolk Coastal, which is especially important following the forthcoming closure of (My)Dentist in Leiston. NHS England is developing a new Dental Strategy for the East of England to try and tackle the problem and I will keep pressing the case on behalf of constituents.