The speech made by Jane Stevenson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton North East, in the House of Commons on 14 December 2021.
I am grateful for the chance to speak in this debate. Let me start by saying that I absolutely support the Government’s aim of buying us a bit more time to increase the booster take-up and give us all more protection, and nothing that I am about to say makes light of covid in any way at all, but my issue with the regulations is the language and how we bring people together to get the most compliance.
Omicron certainly will not be the last variant that we have to deal with. A significant number of people in my constituency have grave concerns about civil liberties, data harvesting and all those things. Although I think their fears are unfounded, I have to listen to them, because we in this place have to take their concerns seriously. As the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) said, we do not allay the fears of over-regulation by passing more regulations. We need these people to come on board in a national effort to keep people safe, so I believe that we need a change of language—from telling people and mandating measures, to asking people to comply.
We already trust our constituents to take the tests correctly and to give us a correct reading of their test; there is nothing preventing them from declaring a negative test when they have tested positive, or not taking the test at all and just scanning the code. Compliance could be increased if they could trust that they were not facing these restrictions for no reason and their data was not being harvested. I respect that this is a major concern in my constituency. The vast majority of my constituents and the British people will do everything asked of them by the Government, without it needing to be mandated. They have been incredible throughout this pandemic; they have acted in the interests of themselves, their families, their communities, their cities and their towns.
I humbly ask the Government to get back to our Conservative principles of trusting the British people. They are the people who sent us to this place; they have common sense, know the risks and can act with supreme intelligence, and we must never underestimate their community-mindedness. That is my only comment on this evening’s votes. I will not support all of the motions, but I will support some of them. I make a last plea to the Government; in order to go forward together as a nation, we have to stop passing never-ending regulations and move forward in a voluntary, community, public-spirited way.