Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley Chair, Procedure Committee, Chair, Procedure Committee 3:33 pm, 13th October 2020

I have three quick points. First, I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcements on the tier system and, in particular, the granularity that has been allowed. In my neighbouring borough of High Peak, we are seeing ward-based restrictions, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Robert Largan for his work on ensuring that that happens. I urge that there should be more granularity in what we do, led by local health professionals.

On the matter of hospitality, this is where I have to declare an interest. My family has run a pub for 53 years, from my grandfather to my father and now my brother, and they have never faced anything like this in all that time. I recognise why my right hon. Friend is doing what he is doing, and I agree with him that schools and workplaces have to be our priority, but we also have to think about the businesses that have spent thousands on making themselves covid-ready and now face a very uncertain future. Shift workers and those who work in hospitality are now completely excluded from any socialising with their friends, because the bars are simply not open at the time when they can go and enjoy themselves.

Also, people do not understand why there are differences around the country. Why is Wales allowing a drinking-up time? Why does Northern Ireland have an 11 o’clock closing time? I say to my right hon. Friend that I will support the Government’s measures today, but please can we look at having some more flexibility? I would be very happy to talk to him about some of the suggestions that my brothers have put to me during this debate, including on off-licence sales, drinking-up time and perhaps more flexibility on Friday and Saturday nights, which are the lifeblood of hospitality industries around the country, particularly in areas outside the big cities.

My final point is about this place, which is leading the way. We are sitting here in a socially distanced way. We are the most visible workplace in the country and we are abiding fully by the rules. However, if we have a Division this evening, we are putting ourselves at risk, and we are putting the staff of the House at risk. As the Clerk said in evidence to the Procedure Committee yesterday, if we do not have enough security staff able to come into this place, we cannot open. I want to see this place open. I want to see us scrutinising what the Government are doing and to be able to have these debates. We will be able to do that a lot better and a lot more safely if we vote in a safe way, and that means allowing the House to make a decision about whether we return to remote voting.