Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:08 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 4:08 pm, 1st December 2020

On a lighter note in a deeply serious debate, my wife had to come in for a bit of House of Commons work today and we sat down at the same table. We were immediately told by a member of your staff, Mr Deputy Speaker, to sit at separate tables. It seems that in covid Britain a person can sleep with a woman for 37 years but cannot have lunch with her.

That raises a more serious point. We do not want to return to the controls of wartime Britain. People romanticise it, but there is a deep attack on civil liberties throughout our country, and we are here to defend the civil liberties of our people. That is our primary duty.

People in West Lindsey are obviously aggravated and upset that they are now in tier 3 when they are right on the national average. Other areas in Lincolnshire have a far lower infection rate. As I said to the Prime Minister, Market Rasen, where I live, has only six per week while Newham has 40, so clearly there are injustices. There is no doubt about that and we all accept it.

I have a commitment from the Prime Minister that he wants to look at a more granular approach. With other Lincolnshire MPs, I went to see the Health Secretary yesterday. He wrote to me just now and said, “I understand the force of your arguments. I know that you made them in the best interests of your constituents, as you always have done. As I made clear in our meeting, we will formally review the data and tier allocations for all areas across England on 16 December.”

So what am I to do? The fact is that this virus does not care whether an area is represented by a Labour or a Conservative MP and it does not care how we vote—all it knows is that it attacks people, particularly the frail and the elderly when they congregate together.

I am a libertarian to the core. I hate, with an absolute passion, what is happening in our country, but those who want to vote against the Government must have an alternative plan. I put that question to the Leader of the Opposition. He cannot answer it, although I suspect that his alternative plan is a complete and total lock- down, which we had in April, when every school closed. That is the only way in which we are going to defeat this virus entirely, so we have a compromise, and it is not ideal.

My personal philosophy is human dignity. Every time I vote in this place, it is on the issues of right to life, whether it is abortion, euthanasia or unnecessary wars. How can I vote against this measure tonight when there is no alternative plan—when the result of my vote tonight is that frail and vulnerable people will die? That would be the effect. Although it is with deep reluctance, although I am a libertarian, and although I recognise that West Lindsey has been put in tier 3, having been given that commitment by the Prime Minister, I will vote, reluctantly, with the Government tonight.