AS 2022 draws to a close we focus on the wonderful time of Christmas; a time where we come together as families and communities and re-affirm those bonds that unite us.

At this time, people across the globe will reflect on the simple and everlasting story of 2000 years ago and what happened in Bethlehem–a story that will go on for ever giving us hope and reassurance.

But Christmas is a time where we can reflect and take stock. We know the pandemic shook us to the core and many thousands of families, here and around the world, will be continuing to feel the pain of losing loved ones especially at this festive time, and our hearts continue to go out to them.

Likewise, the war in Ukraine has dealt devastating consequences to many Ukrainian and Russian families, with so many families torn apart, loved ones separated from loved ones, often thousands of miles apart.

It is difficult to comprehend the heartache that our Ukrainian friends will bear as they spend their first Christmas apart. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them, and all affected by the terrible conflict. We can hope that sense will prevail and the war will end soon.

Here at home things are difficult for so many as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite and families are faced with huge challenges, bringing worry, fear and uncertainty.

Christmas for many won’t be as they would like and we hope their suffering will be relieved soon, too.

At this festive period, it’s also a time to say thank you to so many, thank you to all those who are helping others. Thanks to our key workers, those who keep us safe, those who produce our food, and those in every other walk of our lives that deliver day in, day out for us.

Yes, there are challenges, unrest and disagreements everyday as we see at the moment, but there is more that binds us all than separates us and life will move on.

The Christmas period is a time of goodwill and will hopefully bring us together as it does each year.

I would like to wish all my constituents, friends and colleagues a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.