Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:12 pm on 11th November 2020.

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Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Conservative, Bracknell 7:12 pm, 11th November 2020

Broadly speaking, I recognise the hard truth that lockdown 2 was necessary to keep our NHS and emergency services from being overrun. Although I would have wanted to see the tier system endure a bit longer, I recognise that it took strong leadership from the Government to make the strong calls that they have done, and I commend them for that. It is also hugely welcome to hear the news of the vaccine developments, and I recognise the huge human cost that has been spoken about a great deal this evening.

I want to focus if I may on the economy. We are now past the point of no return with regard to the economy. If we choose to go back to the tiered system, it cannot come soon enough, given the lives and livelihoods put at risk by the restrictions. We need to see the UK open for business. Yes, we must take the virus seriously, but we cannot let it prevent us from living our lives. Therefore, if a new normal is necessary, we need to learn to live alongside the virus, not to hide from it.

There are certain areas that the Government would wish to focus on right now and it is really important that we do that. First of all, aviation is a particular concern to me. It concerns 330,000 jobs worth more than £28 billion. It is a desperate position for aviation.

The leisure industry has also been hit harder than most. Despite reports of very low infection rates at fitness centres and outdoor sports providers, not to mention the ever-growing body of evidence of mental health benefits, they are yet to be recognised as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. We have 600,000 signatures on a petition against gym closures, and I urge the Government to please look very closely at that.

Turning now to entertainment, although it is great to see elite sport back on TV, we cannot forget those grassroots sports providers—league 1 and league 2 clubs for example—and also the Football Association redundancies, plus the whole raft of sports all across the UK. Exhibitions employ 600,000 people. The UK currently exports £2 billion-worth of exhibition services every year. We are a top 10 global exporter, so we must put that right as soon as we can.

Lastly, I have a few words to say on my constituency of Bracknell, if I may. These points have come directly from my constituents via correspondence over the last couple of weeks. First, the infringement of civil liberties needs to be balanced against the need to restrict the spread of the virus, so I urge the Government please to perhaps look at that balance more carefully. Some 100,000 people currently make up the cancer backlog, and we must do some work there as well. On flu jabs, I believe there is a shortage of flu jabs. People are asking locally about getting flu jabs at local pharmacies and surgeries, and I again urge the Government to look at that. Finally, I would like to see a permanent Test and Trace site in Berkshire.