Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Conservative, Redcar 5:33 pm, 1st December 2020

Much has already been said in this debate, so I will keep my points short. I am incredibly disappointed that Redcar and Cleveland is in tier 3 on the back of the national lockdown, but seeing that London was placed in tier 2 and shielded from the harshest restrictions made that consideration worse. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State could say why when he responds. My constituents were rightly confused by the implication that they were more likely to catch covid on Redcar beach than on the tube in London, or that they were more vulnerable on Marske High Street than those who will flock to Oxford Street tomorrow.

That said, there is hope for us. I want us to move down the tiers at the review on the 16th. In Redcar and Cleveland, cases are now down to 140 per 100,000, which means that the number of cases has more than halved since the original tiering decision last week. So provided our numbers remain comparatively low, there is no clear justification for keeping areas such as mine under these high restrictions beyond 16 December. What I fear these tiers fail to represent is the differences between our communities. I represent two towns, Redcar and Eston, and a number of villages, and our decisions on tiering must reflect that, particularly when population density is much lower and people do not travel nearly as much.

Behind the tiering system lie the support measures we have put in place. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done an amazing job in what he has achieved so far, and today’s announcement for hospitality is certainly welcome. But for our pubs, particularly our wet pubs, which are not likely to open in many parts of the country until February, we need to consider the real societal impact of losing these community hubs if we do not provide the right level of support to help them reopen when the fog lifts. I urge the Government to look at what further measures they can introduce to help those pubs get through this difficult period, such as cutting alcohol duty, VAT exemptions and re-examining thresholds once the national restrictions lift.

Finally, although some of my hon. Friends may walk through a different Lobby from me later tonight, at least we are making decisions. It is incredibly shameful that, once again, the Leader of the Opposition has chosen to sit on his hands and abstain on such an important decision. Far from new leadership this Christmas, we see this is another version of the silent knight.

This is the last haul, the final stretch before we reach the vaccine, which, combined with rapid mass testing, means we will finally able to get our lives back to normal. I will vote for the restrictions tonight, but we have to demonstrate that areas can move down the tiers. I look forward to discussions with the Secretary of State on how we can achieve that for Redcar and Cleveland.