Clearly, if we are going to live with this virus, which we obviously will at least until—if ever—a vaccine is found, we need to influence individuals to behave in a way that not only keeps them safe, but makes them discharge their responsibility to keep safe other people in society and in their families. There are many tools that Governments can use to do this. They include rules, regulations and restrictions on activity. They also include messaging. We must give positive incentives to do these things, as well as negative consequences if the rules are not followed. However, I have to say to the Government that more rules will just mean that the compliant, who are not engaging in risky behaviour, will continue to comply, but that those who are reckless will find ways round the rules.
There is no better example of that than the curfew. We know that there is no scientific basis for doing it to protect people’s wellbeing. We have penalised restaurants, which now have to close at 10 pm and cannot do two sittings in an evening, although they have made massive investments to make their premises covid-secure. We are punishing the compliant. Meanwhile, publicans in the high street can comply with the rules and close at 10, but they are offering take-outs at 9.45 to the massive crowds of people spilling out of the pubs. That is reckless behaviour, and I really think the Government need to take stock. It is clear that this is not a good measure to influence behaviour in any positive way. There are much better ways of doing it. Considering the powers that the Government have already taken, I think we should look at more enforcement of fewer rules and regulations, rather than creating new ones when there are issues.
In the time I have left, I want to pay tribute to my community and to the local authority officials and health officials in Thurrock for the fantastic effort they have made in tackling this virus. We are currently 134th out of 149 local authorities in terms of cases. We have a local contact tracing capability that has kept rates down, and we have had no deaths since July, so it has come as some surprise that Public Health England has been lobbying my local authority to move from tier 1 to tier 2. That makes an absolute nonsense of this tiering policy, because we should be asking for additional restrictions only where there will be a material benefit to public health. My director of public health advises me that further restrictions will actually jeopardise public health, and that there will be no benefits from them. We must not be complacent, given the current rise in cases, but please will the Minister resist any attempt to put Thurrock into tier 2?