I HAVE been lobbying Government and championing the cause of West Dorset’s hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses for many weeks now. With these sectors being critical to our local economy, and thousands of jobs potentially at risk, the Prime Minister’s statement on Tuesday was most welcome.

Hotels, B&Bs, holiday apartments, caravan parks, campsites, pubs, restaurants and cafés across West Dorset can now reopen for business from 4th July, if they can do so safely - just in time for a desperately needed summer season in Bridport and all along the Jurassic Coast. I am supporting this with a new campaign ‘Destination West Dorset’, to promote all that we have to offer.

Now is the time, not only for us to warmly welcome visitors back to West Dorset, but also to enjoy our favourite local places to eat and drink. Breweries, like Palmers which experienced an unprecedented break in its 225-year history, will be eagerly anticipating re-stocking local pubs and restaurants. While distillers, like Black Cow in Childhay, must be commended for helping me during the crisis by making hand sanitiser, most recently with 40 litres delivered to The Samaritans last week.

Reassuringly, the most recent update on the ‘R’ number shows the South West to have a rate of 0.6-0.9. However, as restrictions ease on social distancing, we must not become complacent, rather taking individual responsibility; staying alert and adhering to all the sensible precautions that Government advises.

I end with extending my deepest sympathies to those bereaved following the shocking terrorist attack in Reading last Saturday. I paid tribute to one of my own Parliamentary team in the House this week; he was in Forbury Gardens when the incident took place and selflessly ran to give first aid to victims, without concern for his own safety, and I am very proud of him.