Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset 6:00 pm, 1st December 2020

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

We are faced with another difficult decision to make in this House today. As a Member of Parliament, I am here to be the voice of my constituents and, in the current situation, to defend their civil liberties as well.

In rural West Dorset, where the western tip is 55 miles from the key decision driver of Bournemouth, which has more than double the number of cases of covid, we, in our hospital in Dorchester, had just four covid patients at the end of last week. The case rate in Dorchester is now falling fast because of the diligent self-responsibility of local people. On 18 November, the case rate was 84.3 per 100,000, yet just a week later it was 45.2 and now it is 44.6. It is now at the lowest it has been since early October, and these numbers are lower than those in the Isle of Wight when the tier 1 decision was made. While I was greatly worried that, when we voted on 4 November for a national lockdown, this would be the case, our hospitals in Dorset are not overrun.

In West Dorset, 97% of our businesses are small or micro-sized. We have a high degree of self-employed. These people and businesses are taking the hit, and have done so willingly throughout this period. These businesses have spent considerable amounts to become covid-secure, and to restrict them to the extent proposed cannot continue any longer, in my view.

It cannot be expected of any Member of Parliament to lightly vote in support of removing these civil liberties. It is incredibly difficult to ever consider continuing support to keep small numbers of family away from their terminally ill parents, and as much as I am pleased that Christmas has some relaxations, I am concerned that the extent we are planning to do so can also cause unnecessary pain in the new year to our small businesses.

The Government have achieved much in terms of testing and reporting. They have achieved enormous amounts in terms of vaccines too. While I was deeply uncomfortable at the start of November to see the Government return to a blanket national approach, I do support the Government’s approach in returning to a more regional arrangement, but it should be going further and it should be more localised. Dorset should be in tier 1 of the restrictions, and in the absence of a detailed explanation as to why and how we are likely to get out of these restrictions, I shall struggle to support the regulations tonight.