THURROCK MP Jackie Doyle Price rose on the floor of the House of Commons to make a speech on the subject of Government Transparency and Accountability.
Ms Doyle-Price said:
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the nation has lived through a quite unprecedented period that would have tested all Governments of any colour. It is also the case that, for a long time, we did not know exactly what we were dealing with. As my hon. Friend Mr Wragg outlined, from a standing start, the Government had to move in a fleet-of-foot manner without being entirely certain and in that respect the leadership and speed with which the Government acted deserves commendation.
The Committee heard from a number of witnesses who acknowledged that, from a standing start, the speed with which the Government compiled a bigger picture of data that enabled us to understand what was happening was impressive. The way in which the Government illustrated how the data informed their decision-making process was equally impressive. What has been lacking, as our inquiry shows, is transparent data that illustrates the efficacy of the measures taken and whether they were delivering their stated outcomes, which were of course to save lives and protect our NHS. There has been rather less of that.
The Government have taken incredible freedoms and liberties away from the public. We in this House are the guardians of the liberties of the people in this country and it is our job to satisfy ourselves that the sacrifices we are asking people to make are proportionate and delivering those outcomes. However, I genuinely fear that over the last year we have come to a situation in which, far from the Government asking us to sacrifice liberties for the greater good, we now have a culture where the Government feel that those liberties are in their gift to give back to us. Nothing is more clear about that than the road map, because having heard the rhetoric from Ministers that we will be driven by data, not dates, we are sticking to the timetable. I got the figures from my borough this morning, where we have 9.2 cases per 100,000. My reaction to that is: let the blooming restaurants open, for heaven’s sake. We are doing unparalleled economic harm by not being so fleet of foot to enable our economy to reawaken. From the perspective of doing the best for the citizens of our country, we really should be doing that, because, with every day that goes by without us letting businesses reopen, we are making their long-term sustainability even more difficult.
I went out for dinner on Saturday night—it was so exciting. I was sitting outside my local restaurant. It was six o’clock in the evening, so the sun was going down, and it started to get very cold. I spoke to the owner who, bless him, was very pleased to see us. How can it be sustainable to expect people to eat outside in the current climate? It is not July. I have the utmost respect for everybody who is trying really hard at this moment to sustain a living—we will be dependent on the taxes they will pay to get us out of this—but, for heaven’s sake, I cannot believe how out-of-touch I feel we have got with us taking it for granted that these businesses can resurrect themselves on an arbitrary date.
We know that these restrictions have not demonstrated any positive benefit in respect of covid. My local area went into the November lockdown with one of the lowest case rates in the country and came out with the highest. There is a simple reason for that: we restricted legitimate businesses from being able to engage in economic activity while keeping the schools open, so there was social transmission. Lockdowns are effective only if everything is locked down, yet we seem to have locked down the most productive areas of our economy, which, frankly, for a Conservative Government, I find utterly bizarre.
My final point—recognising your strictures on time, Madam Deputy Speaker—is that we need to ensure that when we are asking the public to restrict their freedoms, it must deliver a positive outcome in saving lives and reducing pressure on our hospitals. So why is it that in palliative care wards, people are allowed only one visitor? What risk is there to the people in those wards of dying from covid when they are already dying? What we are doing is being very cruel to people at the end of their lives, because they cannot get comfort from their loved ones. Equally, what positive outcome is there right now when residents in our care homes, who have all been vaccinated—and, as my hon. Friend said, are protected from this disease—still cannot see their loved ones? My grandmother is 95 years old, with dementia. She is in permanent distress because she thinks no one cares about her. She has been vaccinated. I would love to be able to go and see her. She thinks I do not care. I think what we are doing is cruel and delivers no positive benefit to public health.