On 14th June, the Prime Minister announced a delay to the roadmap for easing coronavirus restrictions that was announced on Monday 14th June. To be absolutely clear, I oppose the extension of restrictions and voted against the extended restrictions in Parliament on 16th June.
Keeping businesses shut and cancelling events, even just for a few additional weeks, will do untold harm to lives and livelihoods. Restrictions caught significant collateral harms, many of which go unseen. The economic, social and health reverberations of this decision will be felt for years to come. I made my position clear in a question to the Leader of the House of Commons before the extension was announced and will continue to speak my mind on this issue.
On 16th June, I also voted against the extension of the ‘hybrid’ proceedings and proxy voting in the House of Commons. At this critical time, Parliament should be fully functional and it is my view that MPs should be in Westminster personally voting on these issues of colossal importance.
At a time when those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus have now had the opportunity to be double vaccinated – who sadly account for 99% deaths and around 80% of hospitalisations – I cannot see why restrictions should remain. Vaccination has dramatically reduced the risk from coronavirus and now we must learn to live with it. There will always be new strains, there will also be a few cases, but we can’t keep our economy and society in lockdown indefinitely. To do so would be akin to imposing a 20 mph speed limit on every single road, with the logic that it will prevent a number of traffic accidents each year. We must balance public health against economic and social health, and our ability to get the most out of our lives.
I appreciate that you are disappointed – as indeed am I – that we were not able to progress to Step 4 of the Roadmap on 21st June and that this has been paused for up to four weeks until 19th July. There are some areas, however, where restrictions will still be eased such as for weddings and wakes.
’m glad that the 30-person limit on wedding guests has been lifted. We have some wonderful wedding venues here in Somerton and Frome, and so many couples have been in touch to say how anxious and frustrated they are that their wedding has been delayed or cancelled. Having made representations to Government, I’m delighted there is now greater scope for couples wishing to tie the knot, although I’m acutely aware that many of the things that couples would expect to do at their weddings are still not allowed. I will continue to push for greater freedoms here, both for couples and the wider wedding industry. It’s also good news that event pilots will continue, including some Euro 2020 matches, Wimbledon, and some arts and music performances; and that care home residents will no longer need to isolate if they leave their residence. These are silver linings to the cloud of continued restrictions. I would much prefer to see cloudless skies, and I shall continue to make this case to my colleagues in Government.
We now know that the vaccines remain highly effective against the delta variant, and with over 56% of adults double vaccinated, delaying progressing to Step 4 is highly regrettable. I welcome the commitment to accelerate the vaccination programme and I know that the Government has set a new target of ensuring second doses are given by 19th July to all over 50s, clinically vulnerable, frontline health and care workers and over 40s who received their first dose by mid-May. They have also brought forward the target of offering every single adult a first dose to the 19th July.
Difficult restrictions challenge our lives in many ways and it is for this reason that I voted against the restrictions last week. Despite me and a number of my colleagues voting against restrictions, the vote was passed by Parliament and therefore these restrictions are in law. It is, therefore, our duty as citizens to abide by them. I know the Prime Minister is confident that we will not need any more than four weeks of delay and I welcome the Government’s commitment to monitoring the position daily and to reviewing the data after two weeks, at which point they reserve the possibility of proceeding to Step 4 and ease remaining restrictions sooner. I will of course continue to monitor progress very carefully myself.