‘Extremely disappointed’ Devon MPs react to Tier 2 news

Crocodile tears over tiers from Tory MPs as Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, puts her finger on it:

“If, as expected, this decision was made primarily based on healthcare capacity in the region then this is regrettable. We find ourselves in this situation due to historic underfunding of healthcare in the South West and a complete lack of understanding from Governments (of all colours) that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work, especially in rural areas. This pandemic should be a wake-up call as to how we provide rural healthcare in the future.” 

(“Marie Antoinette” Saxsby still on mute.)

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

Devon’s MPs have reacted with disappointment to the news that the county will be placed into Tier 2 when the national lockdown ends next week.

Despite Teignbridge having the lowest infection rate of any of England’s 315 lower tier authority regions, with the South Hams 3rd, and Torridge 9th, the county has been treated as a whole in determining restrictions, and only Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, and the Isle of Wight have been placed in Tier 1.

Explaining why Devon has been placed in Tier 2, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that the case rates are 121/100,000 overall, although there are higher rates in Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter. He added that the case rate in the over 60s is 85/100,000, though significantly higher in Exeter at 155.9/100,000), and there is pressure at the RD&E Hospital.

But MPs across the county have reacted to disappointment to the news, with Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, making it clear she is currently set to vote against the new tier system when voted on next Tuesday in the House of Commons.

She said: “I am disappointed to see Devon placed in Tier 2, especially given the fact that Teignbridge currently has the lowest cases per 100k in England, but appreciate that it would be impossible to divide us up further.

“If, as expected, this decision was made primarily based on healthcare capacity in the region then this is regrettable. We find ourselves in this situation due to historic underfunding of healthcare in the South West and a complete lack of understanding from Governments (of all colours) that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work, especially in rural areas. This pandemic should be a wake-up call as to how we provide rural healthcare in the future.”

Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, said that it was perhaps not a surprise given hardly areas were in Tier 1, but was extremely disappointing to many people.

He said: “It is not surprising, but it will be extremely disappointing to many people, given Boris Johnson stupidly raised expectations of a greater relaxation. Devon’s figures are among the lowest in England, less than half the English average and falling.

“I hope this decision has not been skewed by the current pressure on our hospitals because of a lack of staff and resources. I shall be asking the Health Secretary these questions in a Zoom meeting with him this afternoon. The Government must also publish the basis on which these decisions have been made and clear criteria for moving up or down tiers.

“The last tier system failed, which is why we had to go into another month’s national lockdown. The worst thing would be for this to fail again so we end up back in lockdown, especially when vaccines are now on the horizon.

“I will want to examine the detail and hear what Mr Hancock has to say before deciding how to vote. The problem with these votes, however, is they are on a take it or leave it basis and if the proposals are rejected, there would be no restrictions at all, which would be disastrous.”

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, confirmed he would be voting for the measure, saying: “I am glad that retail can reopen in our area ahead of Christmas, including our markets like in Tiverton Town Centre, and I am also glad our pubs serving meals and our restaurants can open too.

“The package of measures is also welcome so people can go back to church, play sport and do a lot more than under lockdown. I think everyone will be keen to review the tiers regularly and see if we can move down into tier 1.”

Sir Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, said that it was disappointing news but he also would be voting for the measures.

He said: “I see that only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are in tier 1 so we must accept tier 2 for Devon and Plymouth.

“Our rates are continuing to fall and there will be a review before Christmas and I will continue to push, if the data allows, for us to be in tier 1. I will certainly be supporting these regulations next week. We have got to grip this virus hard as we await the vaccine to be rolled out over the next 4 months.”

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, added: “I’m very disappointed that Devon will be in Tier 2 (High) from next Wednesday with a review two weeks after. I remain concerned by the pressure at the RD&E and I am in touch with the Chief Executive. Pubs, restaurants & the hospitality sector must receive enough support to survive.”

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said that she would comment following a meeting via Zoom with the Health Secretary around the rationale and exit plan from the measures, while Mel Stride, Kevin Foster, Anthony Mangnall and Geoffrey Cox have also been asked for comment.

In tier 2:

  • you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. You can socialise though in a pub beer garden.
  • you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Securemanner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
  • pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals

Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:

  • provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol
  • close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt) stop taking orders after 10pm

But up to 2,000 fans will be allowed inside St James Park and Sandy Park for Exeter City and Exeter Chiefs’ fixtures