Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright Conservative, Kenilworth and Southam 3:50 pm, 1st December 2020

For the first time in 10 years on a matter of policy, I will be voting against my Government tonight. That is not because I am unwilling to share responsibility for difficult decisions—I took my share in Government and I have voted for every set of covid restrictions that the Government have proposed so far—and not because I oppose a move away from nationwide restrictions towards a localised tiered structure. I do support that, but the logic of that approach is that we make the restrictions as local as we can, consistent with accurate and reliable virus data. We have that data at borough and district level, so why do we not consistently impose our restrictions at that level?

I am afraid that the Government have been heading in the opposite direction. My county of Warwickshire was assessed alone the last time tiered restrictions were imposed, but this time it has been assessed as part of a much wider area that includes Coventry and Solihull. That means that the restrictions soon to be faced by the people of Warwickshire, and even more so in south Warwickshire, are bound to be based on data less relevant to where they live. My Warwickshire colleagues, including the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi, and the Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household, my hon. Friend Mr Jones, as members of the Government, and I have been working together to have Warwickshire considered separately again and to ensure that everything possible, including new testing, is done to control the virus. However, it is difficult to explain to our constituents why they will be waking up to tier 3 restrictions tomorrow morning. The case rate in Warwickshire was higher when we went into the November lockdown in tier 1 than it is as we come out of it into tier 3, and in my constituency in south Warwickshire it is even lower.

This is not just an inconvenience; it is profoundly damaging to hospitality businesses in particular, which will be obliged to close during the most lucrative part of the year. Let us be clear: a decision to relax restrictions at a review on 16 December would take effect only from 19 December, meaning that most, if not all, of the crucial pre-Christmas season would be lost in an area where the visitor economy is crucial. Some of the businesses I am talking about will not survive further economic damage inflicted by these tiered restrictions, which are a blunter instrument than they need or ought to be. I am being asked to support them for my constituents based either on data that is out of date or on data that applies to different places. This is not just a parochial point. In the management of this pandemic, it really matters that we can be sure that the Government are restricting only where they have to. If they impose restrictions when they are not justified, people are less likely to obey them when they are justified. That will make the Government’s already difficult job harder and do much wider and more lasting damage.