"We have heard some passionate speeches this afternoon opposing the Government’s measures, but I have to say that on this occasion I feel they are wrong. We have had much quoting of local infection rates, which of course is an important measure, but equally important is hospital capacity, and hospitals are not necessarily in the same constituency or council area as the relevant infection rates. Earlier I listened to the passionate and powerful speech from my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh, who referred to his Market Rasen ward. Market Rasen is about 15 miles outside the boundary of my constituency, and people in Market Rasen go to Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Lincoln hospitals if they need treatment. None of those hospitals is in the same council area as Market Rasen.
We need to take note of what Peter Reading, the chief executive of Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, said in a statement this morning: “In common with all trust chief executives, I am concerned that some media reports in recent days have suggested that hospitals are under less pressure than last winter. We believe these reports misunderstood and grossly underestimated what is actually happening and the huge impact that covid has had on operations and capacity in our hospitals”. It is irresponsible not to take note of such comments.
Locally, my infection rate in the constituency has roughly halved over the past two or three weeks, so it is difficult to argue that the lockdown has not had some impact. We had a low infection rate in the spring, and people wanted to put up the shutters and prevent people from coming to our area. They also wanted strict enforcement. Now, they want equally strict enforcement because we have a significantly higher rate. Those who argue that the Government are taking too much notice of a small group of experts in SAGE and so on also have to explain why most major European countries are deploying similar policies. Are all their experts equally wrong?
We do need more support, particularly for coastal areas. Where the Government decree that businesses should cease going about their legal business, they need more support from the Government. I and my immediate neighbours will certainly be pressing the Minister for additional support. Like other hon. Members, I have doubts about the five days of relaxation for Christmas. We should be mindful of what could happen in the new year."