Rob Butler MP today spoke in the House of Commons in support of the Government's coronavirus plan. You can view the full speech or alternatively read the text below:
Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker, as with so many Honourable members here today I face an extraordinarily difficult decision.
The national restrictions were supposed to get a grip of the virus, a short, sharp shock of sacrifice so that we could start to return to a normal way of life in the run-up to Christmas. Instead, my constituents in Aylesbury are now being asked to come out of the national lockdown into a stronger set of local restrictions than they faced before.
It is a very tough ask and it's not made any easier by the inadequacy of robust data to support the proposals in front of us, and what data there is frequently inconsistent. The arguments on both sides of the debate have been well rehearsed here this afternoon, there is no perfect answer, there is nuance, there is doubt, there are ‘what-ifs’, but the vote is binary, yes or no, and we are paid to decide.
Last week, I met local entrepreneurs who've recently set up restaurants in the town. Exactly the business people we need to make Aylesbury a place where people want to live, work, visit, and invest. They are haemorrhaging money, despite the very generous support schemes set up by the Chancellor because they do not meet the right criteria. I want to help these people, but Tier One wasn't enough to stop the spread of the virus.
My local hospital is close to capacity, only now able to catch up with the missed operations from the lockdown earlier in the year. I receive emails from constituents who are desperate for operations that have been delayed, and whose physical and mental health is in peril because of the wait, and that's before the emergency cases - heart attacks, strokes, diagnoses of cancer, car crashes or other accidents.
So I've looked at the conflicting evidence. I've listened very carefully to the arguments here in this House today. I've carefully considered the views of constituents who have written with passionately held opinions and I've spoken to doctors I know and trust.
I don't have enough information to make a perfect decision, and in that position, I have to err on the side of caution. I have to ask myself a brutal question. In a month's time do I look in the eye of someone who's lost their job and maybe even their home because of the decision I've made, the vote I've cast tonight? Or do I look in the eye of someone who's lost their parent, or who now has a terminal diagnosis because of the decision I've made, the vote I've cast tonight? and so I will vote with the Government but never did I expect to utter those words with such a heavy heart, and such reluctance, because these restrictions do go against my every instinct.
I realise many in Aylesbury will not thank me for my vote tonight, and I appeal to the Prime Minister and others making the decisions to keep our time in Tier 2 to an absolute minimum, to assess incredibly carefully whether the restrictions in each tier really are justifiable and proportionate, and to talk to local leaders. So that next time we are asked to vote, we can all look all our constituents in the eye and assure them that then we did the right thing.