Robert's Weekly Column - 15th July 2020

Last week, the Government announced further major economic support measures, and already North Swindon MP, Justin Tomlinson and I are encouraging local businesses who are registering for the Government’s new ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme to get in touch, so that we can showcase and promote their involvement.

The scheme will provide a 50% reduction for sit-down meals across the UK from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August. This forms part of the Government’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ as we enter the second part of our three-phase plan to secure the UK’s economic recovery from coronavirus.

Businesses can register for the scheme via: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/register-your-establishment-for-the-eat-out-to-help-out-scheme?fbclid=IwAR0wx_9kiFp1qAZsgpSJjZv-MfWW7o6AmuCTN-IU_SZp5fgrXCNZ9xkZlxA#who-can-register.

Once you have registered, please get in touch with me via: robert.buckland.mp@parliament.uk.

I was extremely concerned to hear that the John Lewis store at Mannington will be closing permanently. Following the announcement, I spoke with Damian Drum, Senior Manager, Group Public Affairs at John Lewis Partnership, who said that the decision was based on the changing habits of customers.

I was told that before coronavirus struck, 40% of all John Lewis sales were made online and it is estimated that this will remain at between 60% and 70% following the end of the pandemic.

108 partners will be affected by the loss of the store and I have sought and received some assurances that the necessary support will be available for them to transfer to new jobs or to obtain training. I have also been assured that there will be no impact on the Waitrose store in Wichelstowe where grocery sales are performing well.

I am saddened by this decision, but I will work with the Council to help ensure a new future for the site.

In my capacity as Justice Secretary, I am pleased that anyone who assaults or attacks emergency workers could face longer jail terms, as a consultation on doubling the maximum penalty for the offence was launched on Monday.

Being punched, kicked or spat at should never be part of anybody’s job, let alone our valiant emergency workers who put their lives on the line to keep the public safe.

Now more than ever they must be able to do their extraordinary work without the fear or being attacked or assaulted, which is why we are determined to look at how our laws can protect them further.

We will continue to do everything in our power to protect our police, prison offices, firefighters and paramedics – and ensure those who seek to harm them feel the full force of the law.

Assault can cover acts such as a push, shove or being spat at. When an emergency worker is seriously injured, prosecutions will take place under more serious offences such as actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm, or attempted murder that come which much longer sentences.

As the Home Secretary rightly said, this consultation sends a clear and simple message to the vile thugs who assault our emergency workers – you will not get away with such appalling behaviour and you will be subject to the full force of the law.