Wera Hobhouse – 2021 Speech on Covid-19 Restrictions

The speech made by Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, in the House of Commons on 14 December 2021.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I might even stick to the four-minute limit.

No doubt we are at a pivotal point in the fight against covid, and my constituents in Bath, like many across the country, are doing their best to keep covid levels low in their community. I thank everyone for their efforts.

I am glad for the consensus in this place that getting vaccinated is the most important thing. What we are debating is the most effective way of getting the most people vaccinated, and I hope this debate does not distract from the fact that we all believe vaccines are the best way to beat covid. We will beat all the conspiracy theories about vaccines and about covid being an invention. I am glad there is consensus on the importance of us all getting vaccinated.

The Liberal Democrats have always supported mask wearing, which reduces but does not entirely eliminate the risk. It is important to wear a mask, and we deplored the fact that the requirement, which is not difficult, had been dropped, including in this House. Mask wearing is not just about keeping ourselves safe or even about keeping our loved ones safe; it is about keeping everyone safe. Yes, we enjoy our civil liberties and we should protect them, but they do not include the liberty to harm others. That is an important principle, and it is why we support these public safety measures.

Many of my constituents have been in touch with me to share their concern about the logistical difficulties of following Government advice. They want to do the right thing, but they often find it difficult. I met one of my constituents last week, and he has recently returned from Zambia, where his work is based. As Zambia is a red-list country, he was required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. He continually tried to book a quarantine hotel, but he was unable to do so because the hotels were fully booked. When he was finally able to book one, he received an email from Corporate Travel Management saying his booking had been cancelled due to an error on its part. Upon speaking to the call centre, a member of staff told him there was no problem.

The red-list system has now been dropped, but the stress and cost to people who tried to do the right thing has been considerable and needs to be addressed urgently. Will there be compensation for those who faced considerable cost and, as has already been asked, will those who are still in quarantine be released immediately?

Another constituent is housebound. Her son lives in Southampton and her multiple health conditions make it impossible for her to get to a vaccination centre on her own, which means she has not yet had a booster. Her story is all too common. The local clinical commissioning group says it is in the process of contacting people who are housebound, but many are still waiting to be contacted. Obviously they are very worried, so I hope the Minister is able to outline the steps being taken to ensure the housebound are able to receive their booster as a priority.

Lastly, another constituent was vaccinated abroad, yet is still unable to receive confirmation of his double-vaccinated status, because his vaccines are not recognised on the NHS app—a problem that has been noted since the summer. To make matters worse, my constituent and many others like him are not able to get their booster, because the system will not recognise them as having been doubly vaccinated.

The Government must address these issues as a matter of urgency. It should not be this difficult for those who are trying to do the right thing to follow the Government’s own guidelines. My constituents and many across the country want to do the right thing, but the Government must do their bit or people will lose further confidence at this already highly volatile time, when we need as many people as possible to have confidence in the system and the Government.