Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 4:39 pm, 1st December 2020

It is a great privilege to speak in this debate and to follow Mike Amesbury, because this debate shows what a challenging, difficult decision many Members have to make tonight. I have listened to many of the contributions, and many have portrayed a choice between lives and livelihoods. As constituency MPs, however, we all know that behind that are stories of personal tragedy, sadness and death, and of people struggling to keep businesses running and of jobs being lost. We face a challenging decision this evening. My right hon. Friend Mr Ellwood said a few moments ago that—it is particularly the case when we get to the 50th speaker in the debate—much of what he would say had already been said. I apologise to friends and colleagues, because some of the things that I shall say have already been said.

Last time we debated this issue, I said to the Secretary of State that I hoped that if we gave the Government the chance to put national restrictions in place, the time would be used wisely. There have been some really impressive successes and I think the same applies tonight. If I use my vote tonight to ensure that the Government can put these tier restrictions in place, my ask of the Government is that they treat us as colleagues and make progress during that period.

These points have been reiterated several times, but they are my three key asks. First, the Government should trust us with the data. Yesterday, a cut-and-paste document was produced. Paragraph 3.20, on the economic impact, said that it is

“not possible to know with any degree of” certainty about forecasts, and yet we learn this morning from a leak that there is a document with better forecasts in it. Will the Minister give a guarantee to the House tonight that we will be able to see that data, so that in future we can make more informed decisions?

As my right hon. Friend Chris Grayling said, we need sensible decisions. I feel a bit like a pariah as a London Member in the House being told that there are regional inequalities and that London is getting the benefit of all of it. I can tell the House as a London MP that most of my constituents do not think that the decisions being made on tiering reflect either the economic or the health realities in their borough. I ask yet again that the Minister takes back to the Prime Minister that we want to see these decisions being made borough by borough, on a more localised basis, because mass testing will now allow that.

Finally, so that we do not have the Christmas docu-drama of “The Case of the Scotch Egg”, can we ensure that the hospitality industry is governed not by behavioural scientists, but by reality? We want it to be there to enjoy that drink when the vaccine kicks in next year.