We will all be acutely aware that Warwickshire now finds itself in the highest Tier 3 level of COVID 19 restrictions. Since the decision to place Warwickshire at this level I have been working with fellow MPs who represent other parts of the county and local government colleagues to lobby in the strongest possible terms for Warwickshire to be removed from this designation as soon as possible.
At it currently stands, a review will take place on 16th December and so long as the infection rate continues to fall across Warwickshire, we must hope that review results in a lessening of restrictions on us. I support the move away from uniform national restrictions towards a tiered structure, as it should allow restrictions more appropriate to local circumstances, but I remain of the view that the areas being assessed should be the smallest possible where accurate virus data is available.
A more localised approach would mean restrictions are no greater than they need to be to reflect local circumstances. I could not accept that the assessment made so far, which places my constituency, with relatively low rates of virus infection, in the highest tier of restrictions, was soundly based and voted against the regulations accordingly.
I was particularly concerned about hospitality businesses in the parts of South Warwickshire I represent which are facing closure throughout the majority of the pre-Christmas period. This is a hugely important period which many of these businesses were hoping would bring in revenue to compensate to some degree for the dreadful year they have had, and for some the loss of this revenue will be disastrous. Whilst I welcome the further support promised to some of these businesses, it will not fully compensate them.
I have supported all previous restrictions, painful as they have been, because I recognised they have been necessary to control the virus. I could not do so this time because the case for doing so was not strong enough to justify the economic damage which will be done in the process.
The motion was however carried and so we must now focus on 2 things. The first is to ensure we are doing everything possible to ensure that, as our allocation to tier 3 is reviewed, the evidence is clear that infection rates are on the way down. That means complying with all the guidance designed to restrict the spread of the virus with which we are all now familiar and, during the Christmas period, making sure we make sensible use of the partial lifting of constraints to see those we love while not storing up a third wave of infection in January. The second is to try to support those parts of our economy, like retail, that are able to open in the run up to Christmas. There has never been a more important year to make my annual call to everyone to buy at least one present locally if you can.