Laura Farris MP answers questions about getting out of lockdown and support for local businesses

Laura Farris answers questions from Hungerford Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday 11 November and explains government policy on lockdown and financial support for businesses ( see summary below).

Here is a summary of Laura Farris’s talk:

It wasn’t the chancellor’s expectation that there would be another lockdown. The decision was made quickly so Treasury didn’t have time to do an impact assessment so they re-instated financial support packages from March.

The treasury will put in place measures to help specific sectors as required for example The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was designed to protect the low paid and young employees in hospitality. The priority is to end furlough and get everyone back into the workplace as soon as possible. The Kickstart scheme provides funding for businesses to offer jobs to 16 – 24 year olds on universal credit.

It is felt that retail in Tier 1 areas will be OK leading up to Christmas but other sectors might need to be supported by boosting consumer demand. Destinations like Hungerford should be OK up to Christmas but it will be more difficult for High Streets in January – March and I will look into that as a separate issue.

Fiscal discipline will be injected as soon as possible as already over £300 billion has been spent on coronavirus alone. So government spending will be cut and there might be tax rises without unduly penalising hard-working people.

I voted in favour of the second lockdown to protect our local hospitals which are currently in good shape. Cases of ordinary winter flu are lower at the moment so hospitals are able to work through the backlog of vital cancer care and other non-covid treatments.

Will 2 December end of lockdown date change? The PM is reassuring backbenchers that the date will not change. Unless there is an extraordinary event I think it is almost certain that date will hold.

Will families be able to gather in large groups at Christmas? What we can expect for Christmas is a limitation on numbers gathering together so that all the lockdown achievement is not undone.

Going into 2021 we have 3 weapons to return to normality with no further lockdowns:

  1. news of the vaccine is very important. Pfizer’s data of 90+%  effectiveness surprised the government (they would have rolled it out with a lower effectiveness). The government has bought enough doses for 15 milliion and there are 12.5 million who have been identified as extremely clinically vulnerable. There will be huge logistical challenges but the aim is innoculate all these people by Easter.
  2. Roll out of rapid lateral flow tests which take just 15 minutes and have gone out to NHS trusts, care homes and eventually to the public. These will help relax the 14 day quarantine regulations and help large gatherings re-start again as it will be a threshold test on entry.
  3. Test, track and trace working much better in 2021.

The 15 minute test will really help the event industry re-start and will replace the quarantine measures for travellers. 

Will the 15 minutes test be given to students to take before they return home for the Christmas holidays? Good question. I will find out.

I will also ask about the prognosis for the return of international travel.

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Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale