Statement on Covid Regulations 14 December 2021

I am setting out my reasons for voting for the Covid Regulations laid by the Government on 14 December 2021. I appreciate hearing from my constituents and the strong views both for and against the measures.

Omicron is a clear threat, and it has always been my view that the Government must act swiftly to limit its spread. Throughout the pandemic I have always put public health before first and I will continue to do so. I supported the measures on their merits.

The actions of the Prime Minister have undermined public trust and distracted from key public health messaging at a critical time. Serious times call for serious leadership and he is not up to the job. The Government should never have scrapped guidance on mask wearing and people should have flexibility to work from home where they can. Our best defence against Omicron is urgently ramping up the booster programme, but this Government have been too slow.

I also want to see action to keep children in school. Infections are high, too few children have had their vaccination and failures on ventilation are leaving children learning in freezing classrooms. And we still need to see improved sick pay for workers so that nobody must choose between feeding their family and doing the right thing and isolating.

Mandatory Vaccination of NHS Staff
Everyone working in the NHS should take up the vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective, and Ministers should be focused on driving up vaccination rates through persuasion, education, and support to the vaccine hesitant. Public health officials said Omicron is now a clear threat and it is important that the elderly and vulnerable, who are being cared for in healthcare settings, are protected. Vaccination also protects staff from severe disease.

This is not a new precedent – NHS staff are already required to have certain vaccinations as a condition of their contracts. But ahead of any roll out the government must ensure this change does not make the staffing crisis in the NHS any worse and must urgently meet with the Royal Colleges, NHS providers and Unions to agree a framework for how this change will be rolled out.

The Labour Government in Wales has delivered higher vaccination rates among health and social care staff than the Westminster Government, so they have not had to make vaccinations mandatory. I want the Government to see what lessons they can learn from Wales to increase vaccination rates through staff engagement and persuasion before April 2022.

Covid-19 Status Certification as a Condition of Entry (Vaccine Passports) to Mass Gatherings
HM Labour Opposition called on the Government to include an option to present a negative test as an alternative to vaccination status, and to ensure covid-19 status certification is not required for access to essential services. The Government recently conducted a review into the use of “COVID-status certification”. While the review concluded that the domestic use of certification would not be mandated, the Prime Minister said on 19 July 2021 that it is the Government’s intention to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other large capacity venues from September. The use of Covid vaccination status alone would be costly and impractical. And being double jabbed does not prove you are not carrying the virus.

That is why the Labour Party called on the Government to include an option to present a negative test as an alternation to vaccination status, which is what was used at Labour Party conference.

I want people to enjoy Christmas safely. People should follow the rules, exercise their own judgment, and take sensible precautions. I would encourage everyone to test before they go to a party, wear a mask where necessary and get a booster.

I want a balance to be struck between measures that help reduce the spread of the new variant, while safeguarding social interaction at a time of year when it really matters to people to be able to see their family and friends. I want to see sensible, common-sense measures to stay on top of the Omicron variant, protect our NHS and enable people to enjoy Christmas safely.

1 That the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI, 2021, No. 1400), dated 9 December 2021, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9 December 2021 be approved.

The House divided: Ayes 441 Noes 41

2 That the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2021 (SI, 2021, No. 1415), dated 13 December 2021, a copy of which was laid before this House on 13 December, be approved.

3 That the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Entry to Venues and Events) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI, 2021, No. 1416), dated 13 December 2021, a copy of which was laid before this House on 13 December 2021, be approved.

The House divided: Ayes 369 Noes 126

4 That the draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2021, which were laid before this House on 9 November 2021 , be approved

The House divided: Ayes 385 : Noes: 100

I wish you and your families a Happy and safe Christmas and New Year.