This week at the online Conservative Party conference the Home Secretary Priti Patel set out her priorities to reform the ‘broken’ asylum system in our country. Next year, we could see new legislation that would deliver safe routes to the UK for those in genuine need, faster processing of claims, and accelerating removals for those whose applications have failed. For some time before the COVID-19 crisis, we had an asylum system that was unable to deal effectively with the demands being placed upon it. The Government needs to work through the long list of cases waiting to be assessed, so that temporary accommodation facilities like Napier Barracks are no longer required. Action is also needed to stop the trafficking gangs which are bringing people across Europe in the hope of entering the UK by crossing the channel in small boats. These dangerous journeys are seeing criminal gangs exploiting asylum seekers for profit and putting lives at risk in the process. It is important that we stop these channel crossings by people seeking to claim asylum in the UK, and one of the best ways to do this is to establish clear alternative safe routes for those making legitimate claims.
Football clubs, like other cultural attractions, have been badly affected by the coronavirus restrictions, which have led to lost income from restricting or stopping altogether fans being able to watch matches in stadiums. We know that COVID-19 spreads less effectively in outdoor settings and I hope there can soon be an agreement that allows spectators back. Ultimately sports clubs will not have a future unless they can generate income from the games they put on. I believe it was right for the government to offer financial support to clubs like Dover Athletic who play in the National League, that otherwise faced insolvency. Similar support also needs to be offered to community clubs that play in the Football League, particularly those in Leagues 1 and 2. The Government has asked for the Premier League to help clubs in lower divisions, and I believe that they should, but it would be unrealistic to expect them to provide all of the financial support that is required out or their own resources. Not all of the Premier League clubs have the funds of a Manchester City or Chelsea, with their exceptionally wealthy owners, and much of their income is committed to contracts with their players which they are required to pay in full. I have been pleased to see though that the Premier League is already offering money to local non-league clubs to help them make the adjustments they need to facilitate the return of players and supporters to their grounds in a COVID safe way. In particular they have donated through the Premier League's Matchday Support Fund £10,000 to Folkestone Invicta FC, £7,000 to Hythe Town FC and £2,000 to Lydd Town F.C. All support is helpful in these difficult times.