MP's Column

The general expectation is that everyone takes part in the recovery now that restrictions are eased. The irony is that some are chomping at the bit but are not permitted to do so yet. This includes owners of beauty salons and live performers to name just a few. Having looked at the measures local therapists are proposing I am personally convinced that it can be safe to open salons. I also believe open air performances can be made safe and should be encouraged. Entertainment is much-needed therapy after months of community lockdown! In Northern Ireland salons opened this week and I’m sure the situation in England will soon follow suit.

Our town centres face a very precarious future and, in reducing coronavirus risks, we must strike the right balance between cars and pedestrians. Temporary measures are being implemented in St Ives, Penzance and Helston and there is no perfect solution. My instinct leans towards greater pedestrian access and reduced vehicular access. However, there are a number of people who cannot easily access the shops and services they need by foot at the moment and I’m hopeful that the situation is constantly monitored and is allowed to evolve to accommodate everyone where needed. It is no help to high street shops if their customers can’t get to them. One sensible solution would be an electric land train. These exist and there is no greater opportunity or excuse to accelerate this transport service. 

On the subject of town centre shops, there is a sustained campaign to shelve Sunday trading laws. The argument suggesting that the economic recovery requires it. I disagree and have personally written to the Business Secretary and the Prime Minister on this issue in the past three months. There are a surprising number of local shop owners who agree with me, as does the shopworkers trade union, USDAW, whose own research shows that 92% of retail staff oppose the relaxation of Sunday trading rules. Small shops (up to 280 square metres of retail space) are permitted to open when they choose to. Most choose not to open for long periods on Sundays, but this choice will largely be taken away from them if we allow their large out-of-town competitors to open 24/7. Relaxing the Sunday trading laws will harm our town centres, infringe further on retail staff’s family time and add very little, if anything, to our economy. At the moment the Government has held firm against this lobby but I’m disappointed that there are those that will use the pandemic as a means to revive this long-running campaign.

We are at a key stage of our fight against Covid-19 and it would help to provide some figures relating to Cornwall. Sadly, 204 people are recorded to have died of, or with, coronavirus across Cornwall. 72 died whilst being cared for within the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust. 67 died in a care home setting and 18 at home. The remaining people died at other hospitals including University Hospitals Plymouth Trust. Every one represents a family who is now grieving and who will always feel the keenness of this pandemic.