“Like some of my hon. Friends, I rise to give qualified support to the Government. It is qualified inasmuch as we all have reservations about one or two of the decisions that have been taken but, overall, we recognise the enormous challenge presented over the past six months. For those such as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues, who are instinctively libertarian and freedom loving, the decisions to restrict the freedoms of the British people have been very difficult. The Government have, on the whole, acted rationally and proportionately in their decision making, and the public have clearly recognised that: only a few days ago, a YouGov poll showed that 78% of the British public supported the most recent restrictions. It is fair to say that in a constituency like mine, which has been fortunate to have a very low infection rate, another 5% could be added to that proportion, without any doubt.
If we are to move forward, we will have to retain the good will of our citizens, and to do that we have to be honest and straightforward with them. To some extent, that may involve admitting the occasional error in the past. We also have to take them forward by bringing them into the debate. We need to explain our policies, and when announcements are made, we need to give reasons. If we do not, we leave an open goal for our critics. Of course, there will always be anomalies in the various guidance that is provided, because guidance cannot cover every individual circumstance, but when we are talking about restricting people’s freedoms, we do need to bring them onside.
The availability of tests has been a great challenge. I urge Ministers to ensure that no one enters a care home unless they have been tested and cleared. The other particularly vulnerable group with which I have had dealings in my constituency are those who live with clinically vulnerable people. They have made additional sacrifices—perhaps they are not going out as much or enjoying even the limited leisure activities that are currently available—and we need to give them additional support.
My Cleethorpes constituency is, partly, a tourist destination. It is particularly important that we recognise that another lockdown would mean some businesses going under. We have to recognise that if, by Government decree, we prevent someone from carrying out their normal business, which is perfectly legal and successful, we need to take action to support them. That applies in particular to the self-employed and freelancers, whom we have heard about during this debate but who have fallen through the net in recent debates.
Let me turn to sporting activities. A couple of weeks ago, I met the chairman of and the majority shareholder in Grimsby Town, which is my local football team. Grimsby Town is a league two team with its home ground in Cleethorpes, and very much part of the local community—for example, it is involved in the delivery of the National Citizen Service. The club needs half a million pounds to survive this season, but it is realistic: although it is a financially sound club, it recognises that it should not be the taxpayer who supports it. We have only to look at the football sector, with the transfers in recent weeks, to realise that adequate resources are available in football to support the lower-league teams. If the Premier League is not prepared to take action—I know that negotiations are taking place—I urge the Government to force it to take action.
With some reservations, I have supported the Government’s approach up to now. I say to my colleagues that although this may be a time to give the Government a nudge in the right direction, it is not the time to defeat them. We need to hear from the Government a strategy for the coming months. We do not need to hear definite dates—we cannot give definite dates; it is no good saying that on we will do this or on this will happen—but we can lay the foundations and put in place markers so that we know that when we get to certain points, we can release of some of the restrictions we are placing on our citizens.”