Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 5:48 pm, 1st December 2020

It is a pleasure to follow the impassioned and measured speech of Tim Loughton.

This Government have asked the British people to make immense personal and financial sacrifices over the past eight months, and they are now asking the vast majority to continue doing so for many weeks and probably months to come. As a Liberal, I strongly believe in and champion the importance of personal freedom, which is why I have struggled so much with the measures taken to date, but as a Liberal, John Stuart Mill’s principle of do no harm is critical, which is why I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues are very clear that, sadly, ongoing restrictions on our personal freedoms are needed to keep the virus under control.

We support the overarching principles of a localised approach, which crucially involves local leaders in decision making, but this Government are stubbornly refusing to do that. The execution of the approach, like so many aspects of the Government’s response to this pandemic, is deeply flawed. The British people have shown an enormous amount of good will and the vast majority have done the right thing, but that can be maintained only if the Government make sure that their decisions are transparent and evidence-based, fair and backed up with proper support. I want to focus in particular on transparency in evidence and, briefly, on support.

No evidence has been provided for the rationale behind the various contradictory and perverse changes in the new tier system. Why in tier 2 is it deemed safe for 1,000 people to attend an indoor event, yet two friends cannot meet for a drink in one of Twickenham’s pubs that have spent thousands on ensuring they are covid-secure? If we want to build trust and compliance among the public and provide motivation to stick to the rules to do the right thing, they need to understand what they are working towards, yet the Government have so far refused to publish details of how their five indicators are being applied or weighted. For a party that is supposed to believe in personal responsibility and encouraging people to do the right thing, the Conservatives seem very hesitant to equip people to be able to do so.

I have long argued, along with Government Members, for a full impact assessment that details not just the economic impact, but the non-covid health harms. The flimsy document published yesterday was, frankly, not worth the paper it was written on and it has left me none the wiser about the impact of the restrictions on my constituents. How does that help to build trust and buy-in to these measures?

On support, briefly, those of us making these difficult decisions do not need to worry about how we will pay for our children’s shoes, yet many of our constituents whose livelihoods are being destroyed do need to worry. They need far greater support—particularly the hospitality sector and the 3 million who have been overlooked to date. It is simply not good enough. That is why I cannot and will not vote for these measures.