WEST Dorset MP Chris Loder voted against the Conservative party line on Tuesday evening following a debate on the new tier system.
MPs were asked to vote on the tier system set out by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week, which places the whole of Dorset in Tier 2.
The measures, which came into force today (Wednesday), was passed in the House of Commons with 291 votes to 78, but 55 Tory MPs voted against the government plan – the largest rebellion of Boris Johnson’s premiership.
Mr Loder said he voted against the new system because it was “not right” that West Dorset towns such as Lyme Regis be grouped in the same tier with more urban areas of the county, such as Bournemouth, despite having much lower figures on COVID-19 cases.
The West Dorset MP made the decision after being contacted by a number of constituents and local businesses expressing concerns over the Tier 2 restrictions.
Among them, the Volunteer Inn in Lyme Regis – one of the town’s smallest pub – encouraged patrons to write to Mr Loder with their concerns on the restrictions, which mean pubs can only serve alcohol along with a substantial meal, and customers can only go to pubs and restaurants with their own household or support bubble.
Mr Loder said: “On Tuesday evening I spoke in the House of Commons during the debate on the new coronavirus regulations; specifically, the proposed tiered approach to tackling coronavirus as we moved out of the national lockdown on Wednesday.
“After much consideration, I decided not to support it, because it would put West Dorset into Tier 2 which was not right given where we are with COVID locally.
“The government has achieved much in terms of testing and reporting; it has also made enormous strides in respect of vaccines, and I support its regional tier approach. The fact that the Labour Party abstained was, in my opinion, a total dereliction of duty on this important decision that Parliament had to take.
“The government proposition is much better than national lockdown and a lot of shops and services will indeed now be reopened. However, in my view, the tiers should be more localised.
“Lyme Regis being in the same tier as Bournemouth is not right in my opinion, especially when we are at a much-reduced rate of infection here; lower now than when Tier 1 for Cornwall was assessed and with Bournemouth more than double our number of cases at the last count.
“We have just endured a month of national restriction, in the hope that this would get us ahead of the curve in tackling this pandemic; and I am confident that local people who have taken responsibility during this time is the reason why we have a considerable reduction in cases, and much more capacity at our hospitals.
“Rural Dorset should be in Tier 1 of these restrictions and, in the absence of a detailed explanation as to why we were placed in Tier 2 and how we are likely to get out of it, supporting the constraint of personal freedoms to the extent proposed was not something I was able to readily support.
“Ninety-seven per cent of our businesses here are small or micro-sized, with a high degree of self-employed. These businesses, and the thousands of jobs they provide, have been an important consideration to me also.
“They are taking the economic hit more than most and have done so throughout this crisis, whilst providing a lifeline for many and investing considerably to become COVID-secure. If we want them to be sustained, we must act now.
“I accept that restrictions are needed whilst we are still in the midst of a public health crisis. I have some reservations about the extent of relaxation over Christmas, and I think we still need to take consideration of that.
“My priority going forward, as I said in the House of Commons, is that with the scheduled review in mid-December, West Dorset should be moved down to Tier 1 and I shall continue to pursue that rigorously over the coming two weeks.”
For more information or to read Mr Loder’s speech in full visit www.chrisloder.co.uk/tiers