Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Craig Mackinlay Craig Mackinlay Conservative, South Thanet 4:20 pm, 13th October 2020

Lockdowns do work if the desire is merely to flatten the curve, flatten the sombrero, reduce the R number, and covid is the only thing in town. But of course it is not the only thing in town. That ignores the corollary effects on other health issues, wellbeing and, of course, the economy.

The benefit of what the Government are proposing today, with tiers 1, 2 and 3—medium, high and very high—has the benefit of clarity, which I think has been lacking thus far. But I do have concerns and I would like clarity from the Minister before the end of today’s debate as to how he proposes to move areas in the future, as necessary, between the different tiers. My reading of the SIs is that that can be done without recourse back to Parliament. Areas can be moved between 2 and 3 or vice versa with no negative or affirmative procedure in this House. The worry has to be that there is an ability to recreate a national lockdown in piecemeal fashion, so I certainly hope the Minister will be able to answer that.

I have the same concerns this week as I did last week—raised by many hon. and right hon. Members—about the rule of six, and I was a Teller last week against that SI. There seems to be very little rationale today and there was none last week. If six is the magic golden number, surely four has got to be better and, if not, why not 10? Let us discuss that. I was particularly taken by the speech—he is not in his place—of my right hon. Friend Mr Harper, who made the very reasonable point that a mother and a newborn, never detached from each other, under these counting units count as a two. That has to be patently absurd when, under any reasonable measure, they have to be counted as a one, and that absurdity would continue into any close living family unit.

My real concern is, of course, about the 10 pm curfew. Just considering this great city of London, the restaurants close, the pubs close, there is no takeaway available at 10 o’clock, and guess what? The first train out of London or the next tube at 10.10 is going to be rocker-chocker solid—mixing and mingling with people at close proximity. For great clarity of any Whips listening to this debate, I will be voting against the, albeit superseded, negative procedure SI on the 10 pm curfew, which is in motion 9. I remain very concerned about the SI in motion 3 on the Order Paper about the lower level tier 1 —medium. Again, the 10 pm curfew has crept into all of these SIs and I see no rationale for it to be relevant for the lower level—the safer level. So I remain to be convinced, but I am currently concerned and may vote against.