I felt it extremely important that I speak in this debate, and, as I can see from the call list, many Conservative Members feel the same. These are the toughest of times, and it is so important that our constituents know we are here representing them, even if they do not always agree with our thinking. Straight out of a full lockdown and then into tier 3 is not a message any MP wants to give their constituents, but I am afraid that for the residents of Don Valley and the wider Sheffield city region last Thursday, this was the news that they received.
Last Saturday night, I went for a walk into my own town of Bawtry, and seeing it locked down was not a good sight, with the bars and restaurants closed and the shops that have not been open for a month looking cold and bare. It saddened me, as I know it will sadden all Members in the House. The shops will open this week, but without the bars and restaurants, our high streets in tier 3 areas will only be half open.
Yet as much as I would like to be in a position where I could abstain from today’s proceedings and take no responsibility for these restrictions, I am here to do a job, and that is to vote. After much thought on the matter, I will be voting with the Government. I do not do this lightly, and I know that many of my constituents will be upset with me, yet I must do what I believe is right, not what I think will get me the most short-term praise. The Government’s strategy has always been to reduce the spread of the virus until a vaccine is available. Although I have privately questioned this and suggested different approaches, they have stuck with their plan, and after the news of many new effective vaccines being on the horizon, it looks as though it is just about to come good.
What about the restrictions that we are voting on today? As much as I dislike the situation, with the vaccine just around the corner, to water down the positive effects of the last four weeks would be foolhardy. Yet I believe the Government could better clarify the way in which an area’s tier is downgraded. Ideally, they will provide exact case rate numbers, which would determine which tier an area should lie in. This would strengthen people’s resolve in getting the rate down.
I also believe that pubs and restaurants should be allowed to open in tier 2 and 3 areas without the need for individuals to have a substantial meal. After all, this is not about food in the slightest. It is a way in which we can ensure that people remain at their tables and do not mingle with other households. However, if the Government do not agree, the best we can all do is unite together by following the guidance.
Finally, whether someone is on the side of opening or of continuing with restrictions, by coming together and respecting these new rules, we can reduce the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and open up our businesses once again.