Diary - follow up on forest fire

Following yesterday's fire at Sugar Hill, near Bere Regis, I was keen to return to the incident control point (ICP) and see how the firefighters were getting on. On the way there I stopped at the Bere Regis garage and bought as many Coca Colas that I could manage to carry in my motorcycle paniers. I got some very strange looks. Down the road to the ICP, where I met up again with Craig Baker, who was in command of the operation. Keen to try and get some food to the firefighters, who had working flat out in shifts, I asked my home team to find a mobile food van, which they did. And my thanks goes to the lovely Sarah Gale and her husband, who run Kingsbere Kitchen. Out they came and served fish and chips to about 80 hungry firefighters. I had to leave Craig to head to Corfe Castle railway station to meet Gavin Johns, the Trust's chairman, where a film crew were making a short presentation on why the heritage railway is so important to the area, which it is. Essential, even. I was more than happy to contribute. Afterwards, I returned to the ICP , buying some more Mars bars on the way. Two police officers on duty at road blocks were the first to benefit from this latest purchase. A final chat with Craig, gleaning as much information as I could in order to brief my parliamentary colleague and friend Mike Tomlinson, in whose constituency the fire was. Just across the border from mine. Mike was stuck in London on Whips' duty. Having been to the fire last night, it was only in the daylight that one could get some sense of scale. The firefighters had done a superb job in stopping the fire from heading south to Wareham through the forestry block. All this took time, so I was unable to attend the NFU conference call at 1230 and instead was soon dialling in to the Defence Select Committee, which held a Zoom session in private. Meanwhile, the Chancellor had warned that it was not immediately obvious that the economy would "bounce back" from the lock-down once restrictions were eased. Rishi Sunak said he hoped for a swift recovery, but it could take time for the UK economy to get back to normal. His warning came as figures showed the number of people claiming unemployment benefit soared to 2.1 million in April. The jump of 856,500 claims in April reflected the impact of the first full month of lock-down. On the education front, the row about schools going back on the 1st of June has intensified, with more councils saying they won't be ready by the deadline. Unions don't want them to go back either. Councils joining those already in opposition included Birmingham, Calderdale council in Yorkshire, and Conservative-controlled Solihull. Ending the day on a happy note, Captain Tom Moore is to be knighted for his fundraising efforts after a special nomination from the Prime Minister. The war veteran raised more than £32 million for NHS charities by completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in April.