It is a pleasure to speak in today’s important debate and to follow my hon. Friend Andy Carter.
Covid-19 has affected each and every part of our lives. We were all affected by the national restrictions in November, and now we are all living under the latest lockdown. There are a few of points that I would like to touch on, including, first, enforcement, particularly in the light of the lockdown announced by the Prime Minister last week. Given the new strain of the virus, the lockdown is necessary—that is why I voted for it—but all of us here in Westminster should not underestimate how weary the public are. We have all had nearly a year of disruption; a year of uncertainty for small businesses; a year of our young people not being able to socialise; and a year of being unable to give our closest friends and family a simple hug. Across Keighley and Ilkley, people tell me that they are sometimes confused by the rules, particularly the fact that they change so often, sometimes at short notice.
People across the country, even in lockdown, live busy lives. The truth is that, although we would love them to do so, they are not sitting watching Parliamentlive.tv at home or checking the gov.uk website every day; they are getting on with their lives. So, in my view, in enforcing the lockdown restrictions, the police should use the four Es: engage, explain, encourage, then enforce as the last resort.
Secondly, I want to talk about support for businesses and people. The Chancellor and the whole Treasury team have done an amazing job. There are, however, small but major issues for businesses accessing support, particularly business support grants and discretionary grants that are being provided by the Government but distributed by local councils. Dozens of my local businesses have contacted me to say that they are still yet to receive payments of grants from the local authority, Bradford Council. Our councils have a duty to make sure that this money is distributed as quickly as possible, and I urge them to do that. Where that is not happening, will the Government look at providing support directly to businesses themselves?
Finally, I want to touch on education. I would like to see our key workers, teachers and those providing support in our nurseries fall within the next category for the vaccine roll-out. I know that Ministers are looking at that, and I urge them to consider those people for the next batch. We are nearly there; we are nearly at the end of the tunnel and we have made a fantastic start so far with the vaccine roll-out.