Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate.
The UK has suffered one of the worst death rates, coupled with an economic crash that is greater than that in any of our international competitors. The Government’s covid approach has failed. I note the timing of the debate, just hours before the national lockdown regulations expire, in a clear tactic to pressurise MPs. It is the Government’s responsibility, with their substantial majority, to secure their own policy—the Conservative Government have a majority of 80—and I do not believe that MPs, in particular Labour MPs, should be placed under pressure to facilitate this Government’s agenda, when it is clearly failing our country.
Individuals, the excluded and businesses in my constituency cannot afford to pay the price for the Government’s mistakes on test, track and trace, and on a tier system that is clearly not fit for purpose. The levels of Government support are not sufficient. So I will vote against what is in effect a third lockdown, particularly in my region, in the north-east.
The Government have never had a clear and consistent strategy. The Prime Minister has swung between the scientific evidence and political pressures. We have had nine months of U-turn after U-turn, eroding public confidence and trust in Government. No doubt the Prime Minister’s wholehearted and uncritical defence of a special adviser breaking the covid rules has contributed to an undermining of public trust and of the public’s willingness to comply with covid restrictions. Today, we heard of a last-minute £40 million bailout for pubs. That was introduced not because the Government wanted to support the industry, but as a pay-off to secure the votes of Tory rebels.
The Government could have my vote tonight with a competent and comprehensive support package for individuals and businesses in my constituency. We need to fully compensate the hospitality sector. Bars and clubs have spent thousands of pounds to be covid-secure. It is reprehensible to turn on them now and say that that expenditure was for nothing. By and large, they are not multinational or franchised businesses; they are community businesses that responded to covid in our time of need and said, “How can we help?” They cooked and delivered meals and collected food throughout the first lockdown. They stood up tall and fed children during the school holidays when the Government abandoned them.
I would like the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister to tell the Horden Labour club, Flanders pub, Dempsey’s, working men’s clubs in Seaham, Murton, Shotton, Easington, Peterlee and many more that the Government will stand by them. Then I could vote for the restrictions. Can the Prime Minister tell me what the average pay-out from the £40 million announced will be? The Campaign for Pubs calculates that it is £32.26 a day to cover the catastrophic losses that pubs will suffer over the Christmas and new year period.
Until the Government change course, deliver a consistent strategy, prioritise businesses and the excluded in my constituency and my region, and support workers rather than penalising them, I cannot in good conscience vote for yet more pandemic measures based on the say-so of the Prime Minister and the Health and Social Care Secretary. I will vote against the measures in the hope that we can have more targeted measures and more trust in the Government and their approach to the pandemic.