Devon MPs split on need for Lockdown 2

“Jumping Jupp Flash” digs himself into a bit of a hole:

Simon Jupp, the Conservative MP for East Devon, two weeks ago said that another full national lockdown ‘simply isn’t necessary in the South West and I would vote against any push by Labour to force a national lockdown. This would divide the country, harm our economy and punish people across the South West.’…..

Mr Jupp had not yet responded to the questions posed around how he would vote in Parliament….

While Neil Parish plays the part of Father Christmas: 

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, is another who reluctantly feels he has to vote for a second lockdown…..

Mr Parish added that the lockdown will be time-limited, and that the mass testing – which will see everyone living or working in Liverpool will be offered tests, whether or not they have symptoms, which if successful, could be rolled out to “millions” by Christmas – was a huge boost.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

“It’s an absolute tragedy for lives and livelihoods and Boris Johnson’ dither and delay and inability to deliver has led to this.”

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, cannot hide his anger over the chain of events that have led to a second national lockdown set to be imposed later this week.

“On this, there has been no trade-off between public health and economy – we have one of the worst death rates and one of the worst economic hits due to their serial incompetence and the continued scandalous failure of the test track and trace system,” he said.

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that stringent action across the country was ‘vital’ in combating the spread of coronavirus.

Subject to MPs on Wednesday voting in favour of the second lockdown, non-essential services and businesses close, including pubs and restaurants, will once again be closed to close.

The government has also returned to its message of ‘stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives’, although unlike the first lockdown, educational settings will remain open, household ‘bubbles’ remain and you can meet with one person not from your household outside.

Mr Bradshaw, as the Labour Party have said they will, be voting in favour of the measures, although he said any final decision would not be made until the wording of the legislation is proposed.

But he said that had the Prime Minister listened to the calls of SAGE and of Sir Keir Starmer for a two-week lockdown, then the measures needed to be taken now wouldn’t be so long or so intense.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that we have to do this,” he said. “But the Prime Minister ignored the advice, and we are now in a much worse situation as a result, and this is an absolutely tragedy for those who lives are affected, for business who face further uncertainly, for those whose jobs are on the line, and those in the front line dealing with a very different situation.

“I will wait to see exactly what is proposed but I will probably voting in favour of the measures in general because it is better late than never. The lessons of covid have been swift and decisive action saves lives and protects the economy and the clear advice from science is that if we don’t act now, then the NHS would be overwhelmed and the death toll far worse than the spring, so with a heavy heart, I will be voting in favour of the measures

“But the Government must publish clear criteria for an exit route to the lockdown and on what basis a decision to extend or end it will be taken. Sir Keir Starmer asked for this weeks ago at Prime Ministers’ Questions as to whether getting R Rate below 1 was the objective, and this is important but is it sufficient? People need something to plan and to something to aim at as if it is just a vague lockdown with no obvious exit, it will increase frustrating and desperation and damage the level of compliance

“People are really fed up and fed up with the serial incompetence of Boris Johnson and his government. Compliance was shot very badly by the Dominic Cummings scandal and has never recovered as people took the view of it is one rule for them and another for the rest of us. A huge amount of damage done to trust and levels of compliance, but I would urge people to stick to the rules and advice as one person’s behaviour has a big impact on other people and we all have a responsibility to get through the crisis.”

Mr Bradshaw was also called for the Government to immediate publish the modelling that they produced in the charts that were shown as part of Saturday’s press conference, saying they have to be completely transparent.

His call emerged before experts today questioned the legitimacy of those graphs which were based on an estimate R Rate of 1.3-1.5, when the Government’s own figures show the R Rate is between 1.1-1.3, and the doomsday scenario of 4,000 deaths a day by December was based on data that was weeks out of date, using a model based on the projection that there would be 1,000 deaths per day by now, when the average is less than 300.

The Exeter MP said: “Clearly the rate of increase is very serious and it would eventually impact on the hospitals, even in a region like ours when infection rates lower, but it is vital that the government publishes the modelling and is completely transparent about the information on which these decision are being made, and does it quickly and doesn’t wait several weeks.

“The problem we had was that Keir Starmer’s call was based on advice that was three weeks old, so they must publish SAGE advice immediately and stop treating the public like children who cannot be privy to the information.

“They need to publish the full impacts and modelling as they have continued to overpromise and under deliver on everything

“The lesson I hope we learn that dither and delay, which we have had is lethal for lost lives and for the economy. There has been no trade-off between public health and economy as we have among the worst death rates and the worst economic hits due to their serial incompetence and the continued scandalous failure of the test, track and trace system.

“The tracing is non-existent and they need to immediately to hand it down to local public health officials, and GPs and take it out of the completely useless private hire companies that have made a complete pig ears of the system, and if we had an effective system then we wouldn’t be where we are, and the repeated failures to deliver on promises on this has been one of the biggest scandals of the affair.

“There needs to be provided support to people, and businesses and local authority needs to be given proper support and to improve people self-isolating, as if by self-isolating you impoverish yourself then people are just not doing it and compliance will be less.”

He added: “A combination of Boris’ dither and delay and inability to deliver led to this. He has been over optimistic on everything and it would be a foolish politician to predict anything that will happen.

“The great hope is that a vaccine comes online and works, along with a combination of treatment, testing, as well as a test, track and trace and isolate that works, and if we get some of them then we can live with the virus better and open more of the economy, but we need two of the three in place.”

And he said that it was vital that as far as possible that school and university’s do stay open, if safe to do so, as the level of risk to young people and children is far less severe, and the least well off suffer the most when their education is interrupted and been disrupted enough.

He continued: “When it is all over, there needs to be a fair and just reckoning between the ages as young people have paid a huge price and have been far more economically and socially impacted and affected by this and will have to the devastating fiscal effects to deal with for the rest of their lives.”

Conservative MP for Newton Abbot, Anne Marie Morris, doesn’t often have a lot in common with Ben Bradshaw, but she is equally angry with how the crisis has been handled – but from a different perspective.

Having spoken against the ‘circuit-breaker’, she said that she remains unconvinced that a second national lockdown would have a positive and effective impact in stopping the virus and believe instead that it would have a number of wide-ranging negative impacts on the population.

She said: “While I fully understand the desire to get spread of disease under control, the Government is yet to offer any kind of roadmap as to how we get out of this situation or provide any substantial (and needed) analysis of the impact that a second national lockdown will have on the non-covid related health conditions.

“My worry is that a lockdown strategy is based on the assumption that a vaccine is just around the corner – something of which there is currently no concrete evidence. Having a continuous rolling lockdown without an ending in sight will cause more harm than good longer term.

“If we end up in a situation similar to the first lockdown, people with other health conditions will be unable to access treatment and operations will be delayed. In delaying treatments, we are causing longer lasting problems for the NHS and the health of the population. Cancers that would usually be detected earlier are being diagnosed later, a reduction in postnatal support is having an impact on new parents and babies and mental health support has been impacted at a time when it is perhaps needed more than ever. The reality is that the non-Covid health impact will far outweigh that of Covid itself.”

And on the economic impact, Ms Morris added: “The evidence shows that the South West has been and will be the hardest hit economically by Covid-19 due to our focus on not only tourism and hospitality but also our large number of small and medium sized businesses. Our businesses have already taken a massive kicking and it would be utterly irresponsible to let this happen again. Put another way – businesses in Devon cannot afford a second lockdown without increased levels of support.

“Fundamentally, we are where we are, and now it is vital that we are able to support those across the community who need help. Things will get worse before they get better, and it is critical that we all continue to support each other, as has been the case so far this year.”

Mel Stride, the Conservative MP for Central Devon, called for a balanced debate about lockdown between scientists and economists to take place when speaking in Parliament, although he didn’t directly respond to questions asked.

He said: “This lockdown will inevitably have very serious consequences for our economy, and for the livelihoods of millions of people up and down the country, for many years to come. We do not wish to see the NHS overwhelmed, but, equally, we do not wish to see the UK economy overwhelmed.”

Speaking in Parliament, he asked the Prime Minister: “Do you agree that perhaps we need a more balanced debate about lockdown, involving both scientists and economists more prominently? With that in mind, would he consider the Government’s chief economic adviser—or similar economic expert—joining the Government’s scientific experts for the No. 10 press briefings?”

In response, he said: “I am grateful to for that point. I am not sure that I want to put the Government’s chief economic adviser through the experience of the press briefings, but we are always aware of the economic consequences and the downsides of what, alas, we are forced to do at the moment.

“That is why it is vital that we work together and get the R down below 1 again; it is only just above 1, and I do believe that we can do it by December 2. We can then open up the economy again in the way that I know both he and I would like to see.”

Anthony Mangnall, the Conservative MP for Totnes, was another who wanted reassurance over the economic impact of the lockdown when speaking in Parliament, although he didn’t directly respond to questions asked.

He said: “Given that there is an economic impact from this lockdown and that will have an impact on livelihoods, what can the Prime Minister do to reassure my constituents, who have striven so hard since the relaxation of the lockdown on July 4, that there is a brighter future and there will not be mission creep in terms of a lockdown beyond December 2?”

Mr Johnson said: “I cannot say often enough that this is a time-limited lockdown and it ends on December 2 unless this House decides to extend measures of one kind or another. Any further measures will be a matter for this House, and it is fully my intention that the lockdown should end on December 2.”

Simon Jupp, the Conservative MP for East Devon, two weeks ago said that another full national lockdown ‘simply isn’t necessary in the South West and I would vote against any push by Labour to force a national lockdown. This would divide the country, harm our economy and punish people across the South West.’

Mr Jupp had not yet responded to the questions posed around how he would vote in Parliament, but during Monday’s debate, he said: “Cases in the South West remain lower than in most of England, although the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. We are well prepared in Devon with the Nightingale hospital in Exeter. We must take steps to ensure that our NHS is not put under severe strain this winter and keep our hospitals open for non-covid admissions.

“We have a duty to protect lives and livelihoods, and our local economy is already incredibly fragile, so what assurances can the Prime Minister give East Devon that come December 2, without a shred of doubt, the return to a regional tiered approach will happen to reduce the spread and keep businesses going?”

Kevin Foster, the Conservative MP for Torbay, said while there are no easy options, simply ignoring things, hoping for the best and waiting until Torbay Hospital is under pressure it cannot manage from this and other conditions before doing something is not an option.

“In essence, no action being taken could see Hospitals in the South West run out of capacity or only able to deal with the most urgent cases by the end of this month

“I know these restrictions will be a blow to many businesses locally, although from speaking with several in recent days many were already seeing trade slow down and bookings fall off, especially in the tourism sector where the season normally would have ended this week. It is therefore very welcome the Furlough Scheme has been extended until December.

“I have had some ask why this cannot just be an issue where individuals decide to take their own risk, like they can do with other items like smoking which is banned in places where it would affect others, but despite the well-known health impacts you can still do it legally.

“Yet the problem with this theory is those deciding for themselves would almost certainly turn to the NHS for treatment if/when they fell ill, not just putting healthcare workers at extra risk, but using up the very resource we need to protect for not just Covid-19, but other conditions. They may also infect others working in essential retail and make it more likely their neighbours who are following the guidance are infected as well. Hence this cannot just be a matter of personal choice.

“I appreciate some will disagree, and I hope there can be some further tweeks to the rules if items like rapid testing become more available in coming weeks. Yet for now, with the situation at our local Hospital and nationally pointing to a need for action to prevent it escalating doing nothing or waiting to see what happens if we have to start cancelling even more NHS services or bring in restrictions which also involve closing vital services like Courts and Schools is not an option. There are no easy options.”

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, is another who reluctantly feels he has to vote for a second lockdown.

He said: “We need to reduce social contact and the transmission of the disease now so that we can buy time, save lives and hopefully have a decent Christmas together. The Prime Minister has been quite clear that on our current trajectory, hospitals even in the South West will be overwhelmed, within a matter of weeks.

“I support the measures taken backed up with proper financial support, including an extended furlough scheme, and I think the nation supports and understands why we need to do this. Nobody wants these restrictions, least of all the Prime Minister, but it is the best way to control the spread of the virus and put it into reverse.”

Mr Parish added that the lockdown will be time-limited, and that the mass testing – which will see everyone living or working in Liverpool will be offered tests, whether or not they have symptoms, which if successful, could be rolled out to “millions” by Christmas – was a huge boost.

He added: “I hope hospitals and teachers in our area will have access very soon. This lockdown is a time-limited lockdown and there is light at the end of the tunnel, with rapid testing, Christmas and a vaccine in the New Year.”

And giving more hope for the future, Mr Foster added: “The forthcoming restrictions is not a position anyone wants to be in. We all look forward to the day next year when we can get back to a more normal way of life and enjoying the things which make our bay the special place to live it is. As medical treatments advance, rapid testing becomes more developed and with the prospect of a vaccine tantalisingly close there are lots of reasons to be optimistic for the future.

“By this time next year Covid-19 is likely to be in the position where it is just one of the issues our NHS deals with each day and the pandemic will be a memory, not a daily reality. Yet for now our NHS and Social Care Teams are asking us to help them to help us by following the rules due to come in on Thursday.”

Geoffrey Cox, the MP for Torridge and West Devon, and Selaine Saxby, the MP for North Devon, neither responded to the request for comment, nor spoke in Parliament.

Sir Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, added: “I will be supporting the government because we have no choice.”

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