When I first responded to the Government’s announcement on the new tier system, I said that I would think long and hard about whether I would support the measures. Tonight, after much thought, I voted against the Government’s proposal for Covid-19 restrictions as I believed the financial support offered was inadequate and that there was a lack of clarity on how the North East could emerge from tier 3 restrictions. As I know that this was a vote on which there was significant constituent interest, I wanted to explain my decision to my constituents.
First of all, I did not vote against the Government’s proposals because I object to Covid-19 restrictions; I opposed them because I object to restrictions without the necessary support. Had the Government came to the House of Commons with sensible restrictions and the financial support for businesses and workers necessary to protect the North East economy, I would not have opposed it.

However, I could not support restrictions that will be so harmful to businesses in the North East and our local economy without significant economic support from Government. I am of course aware that Covid-19 poses a significant threat to public health. However, if businesses in the region are allowed to fail then thousands of workers will lose their jobs and families will be pushed into poverty. We know that the leading cause of ill health is poverty, and I cannot support protecting the public from one threat to public health in Covid-19, only to expose them to further deprivation as a result of these measures without economic support. Under the Government’s proposals, poverty in the North East will likely rise, and the life chances of my constituents will suffer. To support this would be to abandon my responsibility to the people of Durham.

I was also extremely concerned by the fact that our local authorities still have not been informed at what level infection rates must at before we move into tier 2. It is difficult to support restrictions if the Government do not properly show the path to them being lifted. On top of this, it is frustrating that the Government are still refusing to fund the more successful and cost-effective local contact tracing system, instead favouring a failing centralised system ran by private companies. If Boris Johnson wants to pursue a regionalised response to this pandemic, then he must give regions the resources they need.
Unfortunately, the Government presented MPs with a choice between inadequate restrictions and no restrictions at all. While we know how damaging coronavirus can be unchecked, the measures proposed by Government will be deeply damaging to Durham, and the financial support needed to mitigate this has not been offered. I therefore decided to vote against the motion as it is not the job of Opposition MPs to vote for bad legislation from the Government’s business.

In my speech earlier tonight, I urged the Government to give businesses and workers the support they desperately need; to finally fix track and trace; and to start treating the North fairly. The Prime Minister’s incompetence is damaging this country every day he bumbles along. It’s time he got a grip of this crisis.

In the meantime, I will continue to do my best to represent the people of Durham in everything that I do, while holding the Government to account in their response to this pandemic.

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