FIRST of all, I hope all my constituents have had a Merry Christmas and I hope you all have a Happy New Year too.

It has been another difficult year although thankfully a far better one than 2020 - and although the shadow of coronavirus still lies over the nation, all the evidence shows that the Omicron variant is far milder than previous variants.

The massive booster vaccination programme has seen more than a million people per day obtain protection from the virus - a massive achievement - and I would like to thank everyone involved in the rollout of this programme.

Why is this important? Well, as the prime minister recently said, more than 90 per cent of people in intensive care units in our hospitals are unvaccinated.

Not only does this place pressure on the NHS, it also prevents people in need of other vital operations from having them, as hospital beds are filled with unvaccinated coronavirus patients.

However, the work done already has enabled us to enjoy Christmas and New Year celebrations without them being cancelled as happened last year, and I should like to thank every single member of the public who has done their bit to enable this by getting vaccinated.

Fingers crossed, the next few months will see us finally return fully to normal and the greatest public health crisis since the Spanish Flu, just after the end of the First World War more than a hundred years ago now, will be over.

I hope the New Year will enable us to all have a fresh start as a nation, especially given that the work we have done as a nation puts us in perhaps the best position in the world to recover from this crisis.

There are a number of both challenges and achievements to build on in the coming New Year, whether that is regeneration locally, or dealing with the small boats crossing the channel nationally.

Locally, we have seen the funding of Golborne Railway Station delivered by the Government - a key plank of the local regeneration agenda and a blueprint for a future Leigh Railway Station.

Nationally, we have seen legal immigration restricted by the Australian-style points based immigration systemcut from over 300,000 to just over 30,000, a massive achievement, but we now need to finish tackling the illegal component of immigration, driven by evil people traffickers based across the channel in France, dealers in modern slavery.

For now though, let’s raise a glass to the coming of the New Year, and let us all work together to ensure that this year is again a better one than the last. Happy New Year everyone.

All the best and hope you have a great New Year!