Andrea Leadsom – 2021 Speech on Covid-19 Restrictions

The speech made by Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, in the House of Commons on 14 December 2021.

Our covid measures have, and continue to, hurt our citizens—from a man with late-stage dementia who is terrified of face masks to an 80-year-old constituent who got stuck in South Africa, not because of omicron, but because flights were suspended; and now, the news that non-urgent primary care will be diverted once again, with the huge risk of harm to babies and young children if face-to-face support is unavailable for long periods of time once again. And the creeping regulation is so hard to keep up with, resulting in teachers cancelling school plays, businesses stopping events and families staying away from happy occasions for fear of breaking a rule they did not know about. Surely the campaign against covid should now focus on two key fronts—more boosters and more education.

The action by Government on boosters is fantastic, but instead of criminalising people, why do we not start a hard-hitting public health campaign—“If you’re going out this Christmas, don’t forget to take a test” or, “If you’re seeing your granny, make sure you get a jab”? Let us persuade people, rather than criminalise them. And let us go much further to reassure those who have a fear of vaccines, whether because of a needle phobia, because of cultural sensitivities, or just because of fake news.

My specific concern about testing requirements for big events is the sheer challenge of enforceability in a commercial setting. It would be far better, in my view, to use the approach of a daily test or a vaccine exemption for NHS staff and carers instead. That would be a practical and fair solution for both carers and the cared-for, and it would be enforceable. It would also avoid the risk of losing NHS and care workers who were unwilling to accept compulsory vaccinations.

I have supported the Government throughout the pandemic when I could see the present danger that we faced, but this time around the measures proposed are precautionary—just in case—and I cannot see where this will end. Covid will be with us for many years to come and it is unthinkable that, every autumn from now on, we will be limiting the quality of life for all citizens, just to be on the safe side; and justifying our new illiberal rules on the basis that “They are less authoritarian than those of other countries” is truly appalling. That is not our culture; that is not our history.

This is a slippery slope, down which I do not want to slip, so I am afraid I will not be supporting these measures.