(Please find below a copy of the correspondence I have sent to constituents who have contacted me in the lead up to the Covid regulation votes on Tuesday 14 December)
Thank you for contacting me about the Covid regulation vote on Tuesday 14 December. I remain committed to tackling covid and fully support the vaccine and booster rollout as the best means to protect against covid and reduce hospitalisation.
There was significant uncertainty in the run-up to the vote about how the Government would bring forward the measures. I was opposed to an all in one vote, and I am pleased the Government listened and split the vote into the four, extending the use of face coverings, change to isolation rules, entry to venues, and mandatory vaccination for health staff.
On face coverings, I voted in favour – Face masks improve covid protection for minimal effort, their use should not have been rolled back by the government as they remain a sensible safety precaution in the fight against covid.
On changes to the isolation rules, these passed without division. There was cross-party support to change the requirements so the people pinged as being in close contact with a Covid-19 case can now take daily lateral flow tests instead of being required to self-isolate.
On the entry to venues, I abstained. I oppose the Government’s preferred policy of introducing an effective Covid Passport to enter venues and participate in civic life. I do not believe a Covid Passport would help to cut transmission and was an effort to effectively force people through pressure and coercion to get vaccinated. However, the Opposition worked to change the Government’s policy and in face of defeat, an alternative option of demonstrating a negative lateral flow test was introduced. This measure is much more effective at cutting transmission than mandating people to show proof of vaccination. Despite the changes, I could not vote in favour of the motion, as Covid Passport remained within the policy, however, acknowledging the change in position and the work of the Labour Shadow Health Team to move the Government’s position, I could not vote against the motion.
On mandatory vaccinations, I voted against the motion. I believe the vast majority of health professionals are vaccinated, and rather than adding additional pressure on the NHS by sacking staff, I believe the Government should engage with those concerned about vaccination to better understand their views. To be employed as a health professional in the NHS, there already exists a requirement to be vaccinated against certain conditions, and those entering the profession can determine whether they are willing to accept such a requirement. However, to retrospectively change the requirements and mandate existing staff take a vaccine is unfair and in my view a violation of an individual’s civil liberties. The Government are within their rights to add Covid vaccination to the list of requirements for new entrants, however, I cannot support the unilateral imposition of vaccines for existing staff, who are being forced to accept a change to their terms and conditions or face the sack. I believe if the Government spent more time talking to NHS staff rather than threatening them, they would encourage greater vaccine take-up amongst the minority of staff yet to be vaccinated.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me and for sharing your views. I hope the above information is helpful in outlining my position on each of the votes.