Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:18 pm on 11th November 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Shaun Bailey Shaun Bailey Conservative, West Bromwich West 7:18 pm, 11th November 2020

I promise I will keep this brief. As is often the case in these debates, we come in having written one speech and end up giving another. I think we have heard some great contributions today. I want to start by paying tribute to the voluntary and community groups in my communities in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton, who have absolutely risen to the challenge during these unprecedented times to support some of the most vulnerable in our community. Whether it has been delivering food, being on the end of the phone or just galvanising people together, they have been absolutely amazing. Let us face it: this is completely unprecedented. For many of us, if you had told us 12 months ago that this was going to happen, we would have looked at you with amazement. To be honest, if you had told me 12 months ago I was going to be here, I would have looked at you with amazement, but that is another story altogether.

The fact is that this is a difficult one. Last week was probably the first time in this House that I have been really torn, because we are having to find that balance with people’s liberties. Yes, the public health crisis is absolutely there; we can see it in the news and we can see it in the data. Every single person impacted by covid-19 is an individual and it is a tragedy when we see those deaths happen, but it is getting to a point where constituents come to me and say, “I haven’t seen my relatives in months,” “There is a choice as to whether I can go to my loved one’s funeral,” “I cannot go because the capacity is not there,” and “I cannot see my loved ones get married.” It is difficult. We have seen this technological renaissance through things like Zoom and Teams and people have been able to connect, but that does not replace physical human interaction at all.

The fact is that the Government’s economic response has been great, and that is what my constituents say to me. The Government have stepped up and given support to some of our most vulnerable communities through their economic response. I do not envy my colleagues on the Front Bench at all given the task ahead of them.

I am conscious of the need to keep my comments brief so that other colleagues can speak, so I shall just say this. Ultimately, as my hon. Friend James Sunderland said, we are going to have to get to a point at which we live through a new normal, because when it comes to life, we can exist or we can live. The fact is that at the moment many of my constituents feel like they are just existing, and they want to start living again.