THE UK’s Covid vaccination drive continues to protect the nation as fears over the Indian Covid variant and a third wave start to circulate.

We are right to be cautious about these emerging threats but we are not the same place as we were when the second wave struck.

The vaccines work and now 25 million have had both jabs and so are fully protected; the over 30s have been called forward for their first jab and the Government is looking to have all over 50s given their second jab by 21st June. This should mean the final part of the Road Map can be activated.

The UK as a whole is also on course to have everyone given at least one jab by 31st July. This is a tremendous achievement and the real-world data shows these jabs break the link between infection and serious illness and hospitalisation.

Of course, things can change but this vaccine programme and the high numbers of people taking up the vaccine puts us in a good place. It needs to be said that the vast majority in hospitals in Indian variant hotspots like Bolton were offered the jab but declined it. I need to say no more.

The Environment Bill took centre stage in parliament last week and I will be supporting it. It is a good piece of legislation with wide-ranging targets, new bodies and schemes to help our wildlife, biodiversity and improve air and water quality.

I spoke in parliament to make the case for more in the bill to be about soil. Nationally over 80% of our soil is dead. If we are to protect our environment and be agriculturally productive, more needs to be done to protect soil like our chalkland downland here in Hampshire.

The government’s £2 billion Kickstart initiative is now coming online. Already 200,000 kickstart placements have been approved in England and Wales. It will help young people aged 16-24 on Universal Credit in danger of long-term unemployment and already 20,000 are in a job. This number will grow over the summer. Young people have been hit hard by the pandemic and this scheme is offering support to them and to employers to give them work placements. It means a wage and work experience and it is the right way to help this age group.

I did not watch Dominic Cummings’ performance last week in parliament. I was dealing with correspondence and preparing my Environment Bill speech at the time. I know the joint committee he attended will be holding other hearings before it produces its report and I will wait for the full picture to become clearer.

There will also be a full independent inquiry into the response to Covid starting early next year. That important lessons need to be learnt is very clear to everyone. However, that will be achieved by a thorough examination of the facts, not by the opinions of one man.

Finally, I was very proud to see HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail at the head of a Carrier Strike Group on a six-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific region that will visit 40 countries.

This is a great way for the UK to project its power and influence in an important part of the world. I wish all personnel a safe journey.

Flick Drummond

MP for Meon Valley