Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:02 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey 4:02 pm, 13th October 2020

I believe that the Government should have brought all these measures to Parliament from the beginning, and it should not have taken a revolt on the Tory Back Benches for us to debate these statutory instruments. Why? Because through debates in Parliament we can persuade the public that the Government are making the right decisions, and we can challenge the Government and make them explain why they are making certain decisions.

From the beginning of the pandemic there was widespread support for what the Government were doing, but since Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham, where his rule breaking was met with impunity by the Prime Minister, we have seen an increase in confusion and the rules get more complex. We have also seen people’s good will turn into cynicism. The advice over the summer about eating out to help out, or people being told to go back to work, then to work from home and not go out or even go to the pub, caused confusion and ill will. That is making it much harder to persuade our constituents that this is what they should be doing, and that the Government have a plan. We need transparency and honesty, and to be able to trust what the Government are doing.

Yesterday, my local authority was put into tier 3. We know that the Government have decided to keep universities and workplaces open, against the advice of SAGE. That leaves them with only socialising to try to press down on the virus. All they can do is restrict socialising in private or public. Given that there were 41 deaths in the past week in the north-west, I understand the need to do it, but we cannot just have local lockdowns on the cheap. The current furlough-lite is just not a good enough system to ensure that hospitality and jobs are properly protected, and 67% of wages is just not enough. We are abandoning many hundreds of thousands of jobs and many fantastic businesses in hospitality and entertainment to go to the wall without support.

I want to support the Government, but the Government also need to share their thinking and be much more transparent and open about the scientific advice and what works. They also need to be far more generous, especially in tier 3 areas, with the support they are willing to put in to keep local economies, local jobs and local businesses alive, so that we can all fight to get this virus down.