In public statements I made on this matter earlier this year, I explained that I wanted to understand the full picture, pledging to comment further following the outcome of the Metropolitan Police investigation and the publication of Sue Gray’s report. In recent weeks, I have given considerable thought and taken stock of all the information available to me as well as the many and varied views of constituents, feeding back to my Party Whip on a regular basis.
I, like many constituents, remain angry with what happened in Downing Street and across Whitehall during the pandemic when others across the country, including myself, were following the range of varied rules throughout. As I have stated previously, I fully understand the deep sense of anger and upset felt by those who lost loved ones during the pandemic and were not able to be there with them when they wanted and needed to be.
The report highlighted a number of failings, both official and political. It highlighted inexcusable behaviour by advisors and officials, and I was frankly appalled to learn of reports about the mistreatment of security and cleaning staff in Downing Street. I understand the Prime Minister has apologised to those members of staff and made clear that he expects anyone who behaved in that way to apologise as well.
Following Sue Gray’s interim report, significant changes were made to the way No10 is run. It is right that the Prime Minister has taken full responsibility for everything that happened on his watch and has renewed his fulsome apology in recent weeks, including for the gathering in the Cabinet Room on the 19th June 2020 for which he received a Fixed Penalty Notice.
Now both the Metropolitan Police investigation has concluded and the Sue Gray report has been published, the Committee of Privileges will consider this matter and I will monitor this process closely.
So after taking stock, I am under no illusion at the scale of the challenge ahead and I know for some constituents the Prime Minister’s apology is not enough and they wish to see him go. I know some constituents feel differently too and see the wider positives the Government has achieved and are ready for the next stage. Notwithstanding, I am clear that this erosion of trust must be fixed and I know people will rightly expect to see this happening urgently.
I am, as I have said previously, hugely frustrated and disappointed with how these events have overshadowed much of the good and important work being carried out every day across Government. As well as learning the lessons from Sue Gray’s report, I know that the Prime Minister now feels an even greater weight of responsibility to deliver on the priorities of the British people: to ease the hardship caused by the rising cost of living, to protect our nation from the aftershocks of Covid, to stand firm against Putin’s aggression, and to unite and level up across our United Kingdom. I continue to support the Government in fulfilling these ambitions.
My staff and I will continue to do all we can on behalf of constituents right across Taunton Deane to help tackle the range of challenges that lie ahead. I shall also continue to work to deliver as much as possible for the constituency. I have been proud to have worked with stakeholders to see the Taunton Rail station upgrade completed; £14m of funding for Taunton which is contributing to the completion of Coal Orchard and work at Firepool including the junction from the station, positive progress on the Wellington Rail station project and progress on the long awaited A358 upgrade as well as new theatres at Musgrove Park Hospital and progress on the complete upgrade. These schemes have been possible working in conjunction with the key Government departments and I continue to work to facilitate outstanding schemes and to start work on some new ones for example a possible cycle way between Taunton and Wellington.
As ever please do get in touch if you need to.