Imran contributed to the debate on the new tiered local lockdown system, and the 10PM curfew. He was unable to support the new measures.
Imran Ahmad Khan MP: In March, we adhered to lockdown measures to protect one another’s lives and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. Evidence indicates that the virus is on the increase across the nation. The analysis of what that means, however, is contested, and I remain to be convinced that the imposition of further measures in Wakefield at this time is the right thing to do. The measures before the House, which seek to arrest the spread of covid-19, will cripple Wakefield’s economic recovery and sound the death knell for many businesses. There is no silver bullet, and without one, although it is difficult, we must learn to live with the virus. The continued peaks and troughs are unsustainable and offer false hope.
Last week I visited Ossett brewery, which employs close to 400 people in my constituency. Having spent tens of thousands of pounds on becoming a covid-secure business, the incomprehensible 10 pm curfew—at best grounded in questionable science—has left the business in jeopardy. This afternoon I received an email from the managing director, who said that the imposition of tier 2 measures would merit the brewery’s closure.
I have similar stories to tell from restaurateurs and businesses from across my constituency. My inbox is swamped with people asking me—imploring me—to help the Government to realise that their businesses will be damned. I have not received one letter or email asking me to commend the Government on their proposals.
Throughout the pandemic, the people of Wakefield behaved responsibly, adhering to the Government’s guidelines. When my constituency was marked as an area of concern, my constituents diligently followed social distancing advice and were rewarded. Wakefield now has a lower number of covid cases than neighbouring Kirklees and Calderdale—indeed, lower than the Chancellor’s constituency of Richmond, which has been categorised as tier 1. As a consequence of this new tier system, Wakefield will be unfairly characterised as tier 2, along with the rest of West Yorkshire. As Wakefield is placed in stricter measures— [gives way to Naz Shah MP]
Naz Shah MP (intervenes): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we should thank local health officials, particularly the directors of public health such as in Bradford West, and that they have the real answers? That expertise is very local and this needs to be led locally, as opposed to nationally with “one size fits all” in cases such as his?
Imran Ahmad Khan MP: The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. Certainly, if we used a model such as Germany, that would be the case, but Germany has a strong federal system with the Länder while the United Kingdom is far more centralised, so I do not think there is a fair comparison. It would be best if all our citizens co-operated entirely with test, track and trace, downloaded the app and used it, and behaved responsibly. In the end, with the covid virus, the human variable is key to limiting and controlling the disease. We have to get individuals to understand their responsibility and their key use in sorting this problem out themselves.
As I was saying, under this new tier system, Wakefield will be placed under stricter measures while other areas in West Yorkshire with a far higher incidence, such as the hon. Lady’s, will enjoy eased measures. Wakefield’s infection rate merits the disaggregation of the Wakefield Metropolitan District Council area from West Yorkshire and its placement in tier 1. The Secretary of State has already said that this is possible in High Peak and parts of North Yorkshire, so, if he would commit to so doing for Wakefield, I would reconsider and vote with the Government. Without such assurances, I fear these measures would, for Wakefield, be death by a thousand cuts. I could not look my constituents in the eye if I had voted for measures that break them.