MP challenges Boris Johnson on why York was put into Tier 2 – and how it can get out. This is what he said

Boris Johnson at PMQs on Wednesday. Photograph: PA Wire
21 Oct 2020 @ 5.29 pm
| Politics

Julian Sturdy took York’s situation to the top today (Wednesday) – asking the Prime Minister why York is now in Tier 2.

The Conservative MP for York Outer asked Boris Johnson why the city has been moved from Tier 1 (Medium) to Tier 2 (High), with all the extra restrictions this imposes.

He told the PM that the city’s hospitality industry was suffering because of the decision – and asked what criteria were required for York to go back down to Tier 1.

Mr Sturdy asked Mr Johnson:

“Following the introduction of tier 2 restrictions in York, can the Prime Minister be more open in communicating the evidence base for York going into tier 2, outline a roadmap for the city’s return to tier 1, and urgently consider creation of specific support for York’s hospitality industry suffering losses  from the limbo that tier 2 is creating?”

Mr Johnson’s reply in full

This is what the Prime Minister said in reply: “The infection rate in York alas is now running at 279 per 100,000, and we must get it down.

“But we can get it down, through the package of measures that we’ve described, and you can see in areas where people are complying with the guidance, that it is having an effect.

“And you can see that it’s having an effect, because the R [rate, at which the virus spreads ] if it weren’t for the efforts and energies of the British people, the R would be running at 3 or more, it’s now between 1.2 and 1.5.

“It won’t take much, with compliance in those areas that are hit at the moment, to get that R back down below 1. That’s what we’re aiming for, and that is the way to get businesses across the country… in his constituency, back on their feet as fast as possible.

“It would not be sensible, in my view, to plunge them all back into a sustained series of national lockdowns, particularly in areas where the virus is low.”

‘Disappointed’ by the response

Mr Sturdy at PMQs

Not surprisingly, Mr Sturdy didn’t feel that answer had fully clarified matters.

He said afterwards: “Although I am happy to support reasonable restrictions where supported by evidence, I was somewhat disappointed that Boris was not more forthcoming on the detail of why York went into tier 2, and how we can improve to get out of it.

“I have previously been promised a fuller explanation of the evidence base behind the decision, and having still not got this from the PM today I am following up with his office immediately, and will push until I get a clear answer.

“This information is important to sustain residents’ understanding and trust in the restrictions, and to give us hope that if we pull together and fulfil certain criteria, we can escape back to the relative normality of tier 1.”

He said he wants a commitment of financial support for York’s beleaguered businesses.

“I was also disappointed not to get a commitment to look again at creating targeted support for York’s hospitality and tourism sector suffering big loss of trade from tier 2’s household mixing ban, building on the Treasury’s existing general measures for all tiers like the Job Support Scheme, and I hope to hear something on this from the Chancellor in his economy update to the House of Commons tomorrow.

“As York residents we are doing everything we can to fight back against our local covid surge, and I will continue to be vocal in pushing for government to give us the information, tier 2 exit plan and financial support we need.”