"Earlier this week, the Prime Minister confirmed the good news that step 4 on the roadmap to recovery will go ahead this coming Monday the 19th July. Whilst the Delta/Indian variant is still pushing up case rates, vaccinations are working – with hospital admissions and deaths still very low. The changes include the end of limits on gatherings, social contact and distancing. Face masks will also not be compulsory by law. I know some people have concerns about that, but Suffolk people tend to be sensitive to their neighbours and communities, so I’m sure many will still wish to continue wearing one in certain situations.
At the same time that physical restrictions are lifted, it’s important we continue to do all we can to support the economic recovery form Covid. It’s now been a year since the Chancellor announced our Plan for Jobs – and as Secretary of State for Work & Pensions I’ve been heavily involved in seeing that plan through. Thanks to government support, 2 million fewer people are out of work than predicted – with 11.6 million jobs funded through furlough and a further 2.9 million self-employed people receiving support. Meaning unemployment in the UK is lower than in the US, Canada, France, Italy, Spain and Australia. I’m also delighted that we have funded 240,000 new jobs for young people with 40,000 having already started under our ambitious Kickstart Scheme, making a huge difference to their lives.
Finally, the Planning Inspectorate’s examination into the proposal by Scottish Power Renewables to build a huge substation at Friston has now come to an end. I contributed to proceedings throughout the process, including making both written and verbal submissions against the proposed onshore infrastructure. Whilst the government are committed to facilitating more renewable energy, I’m firmly of the belief that we need a grid connection which offers the capacity to integrate multiple projects without having a devastating impact on local communities and our precious landscapes. The findings from the examination will be sent to the Secretary of State by the first week in October – and I’ll be keeping an eye on its conclusions."