Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:54 pm on 11th November 2020.

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Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley 6:54 pm, 11th November 2020

As we all know, on Friday 30 October, several Members of the Cabinet held a meeting to lock down the country for a second time—a decision that all participants knew would have huge consequences for the country, for the economy, for public health and for the nation’s morale. No one should be in any doubt about how difficult such a decision would have been to make. Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Government have come under criticism from many different sides. I believe that much of this has been unfair given these extraordinary circumstances. While hon. and right hon. Members have made valid points about what could have been done better, it is too easy for people to snipe from the sidelines after events have long since passed. It is far more challenging to lead.

The Government have also been accused of U-turns, but listening to MPs and the public to recognise where there have been policy mistakes and to act accordingly is an example of being a pragmatic Government. No doubt lessons have been learned, and I hope the Government are therefore developing ways in which they can deal with any future pandemic. By learning from our experience and from our partners across the world, we should be producing a “What to do in a pandemic” manual as we speak. That is what should be happening, and I do hope that it is.

I thank all who work in the NHS and social care sector, and all the key workers who have helped and continue to help us get through this period, but I also want to thank the Government. I thank them for protecting my constituents by providing the furlough scheme, the self-employed income support scheme, business grants, the uplift in universal credit, and the base floor rise. I thank the Health Secretary for all the work he has done to ensure that our hospitals remain open and covid patients receive the best possible care. Among the media flurry and the constant sniping, it is hard to remember the progress we have made since March, with the half a million tests that are being carried out daily, the thousands of ventilators that are now in operation, and the track and trace app, which has been downloaded by 20 million people. Meanwhile, while all this has been going on, Ministers have always taken the time to speak to me and to Members across the House about our concerns and those of our constituents.

I truly believe that it was courageous for the Prime Minister to inform me and fellow Conservative MPs of his regrets about the necessity to go into a second lockdown. He did this knowing that he would upset many on his own side and be harangued by some Members on the Opposition Benches. Yet he apologised and went through with what he thought was right. That is a true sign of leadership—going forward boldly for the good of the country, regardless of any potential political consequences.