For the latest update following the Government's tier review on 17th December 2020, visit: www.chrisloder.co.uk/tier2
I support the Government’s approach to regional tiers as we continue to tackle coronavirus; but I believe it needs to be more localised and that West Dorset should not be in Tier 2. I voted accordingly in the House of Commons on 1st December and if you’d like to read my view on this, along with my speech, please see below:
My statement on the new tiered regulations
On the evening of 1st December, I spoke in the House of Commons during the debate on the new regulations to continue tackling coronavirus as we move out of the national lockdown. After much consideration, I decided not to support these regulations. Not because of the move from national to regional approach; but because I do not agree with the evaluation of rural West Dorset, which puts us into Tier 2 with its accompanying restrictions and economic effects.
Given where we are with Covid-19 locally I believe that West Dorset should be in Tier 1 and, it is with regret, that the Government was not able to convince me otherwise.
The Government’s approach to regional tiers is much better than national lockdown. Some shops and services have indeed now reopened. However, in my view, the tiers should be more localised. For our West Dorset towns and villages, some of them 55 miles away from Bournemouth – the key driver of our tier here in West Dorset; to be in that same tier is not right in my opinion, especially when we are at a much-reduced rate of infection here and when the economic effect continues to be so intense for our local economy. The most recent reported rate for Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch (BCP) per 100,000 was 85.8, almost double that of Dorset Council at 43.3 per 100,000.
On 20th November, the case rate for Dorset Council was 80.3 per 100,000 yet, just a week later, it had fallen to 43.3 per 100,000 – the lowest level we’ve seen in Dorset since early October. Our current rate is lower than those reported for the Isle of Wight (56.4 per 100,000) and Cornwall (58.5 per 100,000) when the Tier 1 decision was announced on 23rd November.
We have just endured a month of national restriction in the hope that this would get us ahead of the curve in tackling this pandemic; and I am confident that local people who have taken responsibility during this time are the reason why we have a considerable reduction in cases, and much more capacity at our hospitals. Indeed, Dorset County Hospital had just four Covid-19 patients at the most recent count last week and the Nightingale Hospital in Exeter is now open, which it was not previously.
With 97% of our businesses being small or micro-sized and a high degree of self-employed, these businesses, and the thousands of jobs they provide, have been an important consideration to me also. They are taking the economic hit more than most throughout this crisis, whilst providing a lifeline for many and investing considerably to become Covid-secure.
Being your Member of Parliament is a role that I take very seriously. It is my duty to represent you in the way that I believe is best and for which I am accountable. I know not everyone will agree with my decision: but our freedoms and civil liberties; our high streets and the jobs that give young people a lifeline; seeing our loved ones and protecting our own mental and physical wellbeing are all to be cherished - as well as managing the very real and current risk of Coronavirus.
I accept that restrictions are needed whilst we are still in the midst of a public health crisis. I have some reservations about the extent of relaxation over Christmas, and I think we still need to take consideration of that. But my priority going forward, as I said in the House of Commons, is that with the scheduled review in mid-December, West Dorset should be moved down to Tier 1 and I shall continue to pursue that rigorously over the coming two weeks – starting immediately in the House of Commons.
CHRIS LODER MP
2nd December 2020
The House of Commons: Debate and vote
1st December 2020: That The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 1374), dated 30 November 2020, be approved.
We are faced with another difficult decision to make in this House today. As a Member of Parliament, I am here to be the voice of my constituents and, in the current situation, to defend their civil liberties as well.
In rural West Dorset, where the western tip is 55 miles from the key decision driver of Bournemouth, which has more than double the number of cases of covid, we, in our hospital in Dorchester, had just four covid patients at the end of last week. The case rate in Dorset is now falling fast because of the diligent self-responsibility of local people. On 18 November, the case rate was 84.3 per 100,000, yet just a week later it was 45.2 and now it is 44.6. It is now at the lowest it has been since early October, and these numbers are lower than those in the Isle of Wight when the tier 1 decision was made. While I was greatly worried that, when we voted on 4 November for a national lockdown, this would be the case, our hospitals in Dorset are not overrun.
In West Dorset, 97% of our businesses are small or micro-sized. We have a high degree of self-employed. These people and businesses are taking the hit, and have done so willingly throughout this period. These businesses have spent considerable amounts to become covid-secure, and to restrict them to the extent proposed cannot continue any longer, in my view.
It cannot be expected of any Member of Parliament to lightly vote in support of removing these civil liberties. It is incredibly difficult to ever consider continuing support to keep small numbers of family away from their terminally ill parents, and as much as I am pleased that Christmas has some relaxations, I am concerned that the extent we are planning to do so can also cause unnecessary pain in the new year to our small businesses.
The Government have achieved much in terms of testing and reporting. They have achieved enormous amounts in terms of vaccines too. While I was deeply uncomfortable at the start of November to see the Government return to a blanket national approach, I do support the Government’s approach in returning to a more regional arrangement, but it should be going further and it should be more localised. Dorset should be in tier 1 of the restrictions, and in the absence of a detailed explanation as to why and how we are likely to get out of these restrictions, I shall struggle to support the regulations tonight.