Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Chair, Conservative Party 1922 Committee 3:38 pm, 13th October 2020

It is a pleasure to follow John Spellar who closed on a critical point.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the good faith that is being shown today in fulfilling the promises given before about bringing these matters to the House. I hope that the same will be done in future if there are to be any measures to move areas between tiers in the three-tier system.

We all recognise that the Government have a difficult and unenviable balance to strike. We want to ensure the most effective response to the virus, while preserving vital treatment for other illnesses, such as cancer, and maintaining as far as possible normal family and social life as well as jobs and livelihoods.

In this context, I would argue that we need to work with the public, encouraging people to take sensible precautions for themselves. We all know the principal steps that need to be taken. We know that hand hygiene and distancing are key to protecting ourselves and others. We should encourage people to take that responsibility on themselves more and more. There should always be a presumption in doing so that we should protect as much of people’s freedom as possible. There are some simple steps that can mitigate some of the worst effects of these measures. Exempting young children from the rule of six is one that has been taken in other parts of the United Kingdom. Getting rid of the 10 pm curfew, or softening it, as others have suggested, is another. Introducing testing at airports to mitigate the hugely damaging quarantine arrangements is another, and I hope that we will see some movement on that in the next few weeks.

I make no bones about it: I would go further. As I said last week in the House, in my view, it is wrong to use public health legislation designed to control infected people to direct the lives of an entire population. But most immediately, I am concerned for my constituents in Greater Manchester, who have been in extra restrictions since late July. They were lifted for 12 hours, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State remembers very well, and I remember the tears that I heard cried by constituents when those restrictions were restored. In tier 2, we can at least meet friends and family outdoors, but after two and a half months of controls, we must be told how and when the restrictions will be lifted. This half-alive state that we have come to inhabit cannot be allowed to become permanent.