Ben Lake – 2020 Speech on Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by Ben Lake, the Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.

Diolch, Mr Deputy Speaker. Let me begin by reflecting for a moment on those who have sadly lost their lives to covid-19. I extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends who have lost loved ones. One of the most moving scenes of ​the past few weeks has been the custom of standing on doorsteps to bid farewell to loved ones as the funeral procession progresses through towns and villages. I cannot think of a more solemn reminder of the importance of protecting people’s lives in this pandemic. I believe that this must, first and foremost, be the priority of any Government.

The impact that lockdown is having on the mental well-being of so many, especially those who live alone, should not be underestimated, but I do not think that anyone will disagree that it was necessary. In Wales, people are still asked to stay at home in order to save lives. These restrictions will remain in place for at least the next three weeks, but many constituents have contacted me overnight to convey their serious concerns about the impact that an easing of lockdown restrictions in other parts of the UK might have on Ceredigion. In particular, their concerns have centred on the suggestion made by the Prime Minister that, from this Wednesday, people in England may drive to outdoor open spaces, irrespective of distance.

Although the change applies to England alone, it is understandable that people are worried that this distinction will not be widely understood. After all, such concerns are well founded. During the UK-wide lockdown, we sadly witnessed a significant number of individuals attempting to travel to Ceredigion and other parts of west Wales, contrary to official advice. As such, the UK Government have a responsibility to emphasise, in all their public announcements and interviews to the press over the coming days, that travel restrictions remain in place in Wales for at least the next few weeks.

I would like to associate myself with the arguments made by other hon. Members that the Government should ensure that economic support measures are extended to cover the period of covid-19 restrictions and are adapted to be more flexible, particularly for sectors such as tourism and agriculture, which depend on such seasonal demand.

Others, including the hon. Member for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham), have made valuable contributions this evening about the importance of establishing an intensive testing, tracking and contact tracing regime, in the mould of that implemented in South Korea, so that we can detect, track, isolate and treat new cases quickly and effectively. I would like to end by associating myself with those arguments and paying tribute to the work conducted by Ceredigion County Council, in collaboration with Hywel Dda university health board and Aberystwyth University, on community testing and contact tracing. This work offers a solution by which lockdown restrictions can be lifted safely and in a way that gives our communities confidence. Until such a strategy is in place, however, we must act with caution, to protect lives as much as possible.