Sunderland reluctantly backs the Government on coronavirus roadmap delay

James Sunderland reluctantly backs the Government’s decision for a four-week delay in the easing of coronavirus restrictions but calls for all the UK’s flagship global events to be included in the list of pilot schemes for bigger crowds and for the Government to accept a level of risk as we learn to tolerate coronavirus in the future.


James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

Over the past few months, I have repeatedly called for an end to restrictions at the earliest opportunity and I believe that the success of our vaccination programme gives us that opportunity. We are all aware of the pain that has been inflicted on so many: leisure, tourism, hospitality, aviation—the list goes on. This has manifested itself in the loss of jobs and livelihoods, and although the Government have done much to mitigate the fallout through their generous support schemes, they have just scratched the surface when what people really want to do is to return to normal.

When we walk down the voting Lobby, it is never a binary choice; no decision is clear-cut and there are bits of every motion that we agree with and bits that we do not like. Any self-respecting politician with the best interests of constituency, country and party at heart just hopes that the stars do align. I have mixed feelings about the extension to the current lockdown rules. On the one hand, creating a wall of immunity among all in the adult demographics seems sensible so that we can move forward, but by the same token the ongoing restrictions on how we live our lives is killing businesses and people all over the UK. Not only is the cost to the taxpayer immense; there is also a cost to our hopes, dreams and mental health. The sooner that we can smash through lockdown, the better.

However, I have also been unequivocal that any policy decision needs to be driven by the science and it remains a fact that the delta variant is causing real concern, with infections, hospitalisations and deaths spiking alarmingly. Aside from all the disappointment, the Prime Minister could not have been clearer in his stated position at the weekend.

It may just be that our younger generation have an expectation of being vaccinated against the killer disease before all restrictions are lifted. It may be that cases are growing by 65% a week, and that hospitalisations are increasing by 50% a week across the UK. It may be that the NHS needs and deserves four more weeks to complete its job. Therefore, in the light of the evidence presented to me and the decisions that have been made in good faith, I will be supporting all Government motions this evening.

I would like to raise two final points. First, my central plea is that, when the list of authorised pilots is released, it must include flagship global events such as the Euros, Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix, the Chelsea Flower Show and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I am afraid that the alternative would be cataclysmic.

Lastly, I am increasingly concerned by the dichotomy between the unprecedented success of our vaccination programme and the ongoing risk aversion of the Government. As a military man, I am comfortable with risk and feel that we all now need to live with covid in a way that has not been achieved so far. Using military parlance, given that we cannot transfer or terminate it—and lord knows we have tried to treat it—it is now time to robustly tolerate covid. I have a feeling that all good will will be exhausted if the Government do not honour their promise of 19 July.