title="Baldons Parish Council in Oxfordshire">

From your MP July 2022

From John Howell MP

When I wrote last month we were anticipating the Jubilee Weekend and the celebrations that were planned. Whilst the weather wasn’t quite what we might have hoped, from what I hear celebrations around the constituency went well. The national celebrations were certainly a credit to all of the planning, and it was lovely to see the Her Majesty the Queen at her public appearances. I think tea with Paddington Bear was one of the favourite events and shows that even in her 90th decade Her Majesty still has a great sense of humour. The Jubilee weekend was a great opportunity for community events and a chance to get together after so much separation in recent times.

Sometimes it is good to do something different and in May I did something else that I have not done before - I joined thousands of other people across the country in the Big Plastic Count. It was an interesting exercise where you have to count the single use plastic you throw away over a 7-day period. Some of the time I was at home at others I was in the office or away. Overall I was quite shocked at just how much single-use plastic I get through in the different settings. The office is pretty good with glass replacing plastic water bottles and corn-starch wrapping use for many documents that are sent to me. But I was quite taken aback at just how much single use plastic there still for food products. Clearly some of this is avoidable and the exercise certainly raised the profile of the need for us to cut back further. The Government Resources and Waste Strategy set out plans to reduce, reuse and recycle and was a step in the right direction. A promising start on which we are now building. 

For some people the half term break was an opportunity to get away and I know that many people have been caught up in the backlog of passport applications. During the pandemic, around five million people delayed applying for or renewing their passports which has led to huge demand now that international travel has opened up. My team has been helping as best we are able and where the need to travel cannot have been anticipated, or where the delay in an application being processed has been longer than the advertised time, we have been able to assist some people. The Home Office has been doing all that it can to increase output and it does seem that the situation is beginning to ease. Staff have been working 7 days a week and additional staff have been recruited. I understand that between January and March 2022, over 90 per cent of cases were completed within six weeks. However it you are planning to travel and need to apply for or renew a passport please do so as soon as possible and do not rely on being able to get a fast-track appointment as these are like gold dust. The official guidance is still to allow up to 10 weeks to get a passport. There is little that my team can do with late applications.

Another thing to watch out for are the new barcoded postage stamps. Royal Mail has introduced these new stamps as part of their drive to improve operational efficiencies and security. If you have bought stamps recently you may have noticed the change with the addition of a barcode alongside the image of the Queen’s head. If you have a stock of stamps you can still use them until the end of January 2023. If you cannot use your stock before the you can swap then for new ones. Full details are available on the Royal Mail website under the heading ‘Reinventing stamps for the next generations.’ The change only applies to the regular stamps with the profile of the Queen’s head on and not the special stamps such as Christmas stamps. 

In any month a wide range of issues are raised with me from things in the general media to specialist issues. With the help of my team I do my best to respond to all polite correspondence but sometimes it may take a while, especially if an issue needs research. If there is an issue that concerns you please do share your thoughts. Email is the easiest way in you have access to that. My email address is  john.howell.mp@parliament.uk. Alternatively, you can write to me at the House of Commons (House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA) or my constituency office (PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD). Please note that correspondence sent through the post takes longer to reach me as it has to go through offsite security scanning before being delivered.

If you would like to know more about my work on behalf of the Government and the Constituency please do look at my website which is regularly updated. The address is www.johnhowellmp.com. Further details of the work of Parliament is available on the parliament website at www.parliament.uk.