Today I voted against the 10pm curfew being applied at the national level and it applying in places such as Ipswich which have a very large hospitality sector and comparatively low levels of COVID-19. This is the first time I have ever voted against the Government in Parliament and it wasn’t something I took lightly. I was elected as a Conservative MP however I have always said that I will always make decisions based on what I believe to be in the best interests of my constituents and the Town and therefore its likely that from time to time, on occasions like today, that I may take a different position to that of my Party. In Ipswich we are in the position of having a very large hospitality sector and great pubs, restaurants and bars that employ thousands of my constituents whilst at the same time having very low levels of COVID-19 compared to other areas of the country. In addition to this I’m not convinced that the 10pm even makes a positive difference to tackling the spread of the virus. Often what we’ve seen is crowds of people all leaving hospitality venues at the same time and crowding together. All the time when I vote on big items as your MP I ask myself the question, “how does this impact my constituents, on balance positive or on balance negative?”. Having carefully considered the 10pm curfew and discussed with the hospitality sector here in Ipswich I decided to vote the way I did. The reality is that the 10pm is hurting our pubs, restaurants and bars just when they are looking to recover from the first national lockdown. Many of the jobs and livelihoods of my constituents are likely to be lost because of it. I fear it could be the difference to your local making it through this or not. The negatives it brings in my view at this moment in time far outweigh any public health benefits it brings. I was one of 82 MPs voting against the 10pm curfew today but it ended up comfortably passing so it continues but I made my stand. As you will likely already know Ipswich is in tier 1 meaning that things continue as they have been for the past few weeks with the 10pm curfew and the rule of 6 but other than that whilst be careful (hands, face, space) we can largely go about our business as usual. I must say I was a little surprised at quite how many other areas were in this category. Within this tier we have Ipswich and other areas with very low levels of COVID-19 but also areas with much higher rates that are teetering on being moved up to tier 2 such as London for example. It’s a shame that there couldn’t be a tier specifically for low Covid-19 areas where we could look at replacing the 10PM curfew, even an 11PM curfew would be a big improvement allowing restaurants and pubs that serve food a second sitting (this is what they’ve done in Northern Ireland). I am not cavalier about the threat posed by COVID-19 to public health and the lives of some of the most vulnerable within our Town. We need to do everything we all can to contain the spread of the virus. We also need to be alive to the fact that the level of COVID-19 is increasing in Ipswich and Suffolk and neighbouring counties. However, as I’ve previously stated, its critically important we get the balance right between protecting “lives, livelihoods and liberties” and it is my view that at this current time the 10pm for Ipswich doesn’t do this. Just this week we’ve seen the number of those out of work in Ipswich jump and jump at a higher rate that other surrounding areas and I think it would be fair to assume that at least some of this is to do with the size of our hospitality sector and how hard its already been hit by COVID-19.
With regard to the Labour Party’s position and the position of Sir Keir Starmer? They now want a second national lockdown and to close the entire hospitality sector nationwide for up to 3 weeks. Could someone please tell me how closing all the pubs, restaurants and bars in Ipswich will help those COVID-19 hot spots tackle the spread of the virus? The reality is that if we were to shut down all of the pubs, restaurants and bars in Ipswich right now many simply wouldn’t reopen and we should unemployment in the Town rocket to a degree never seen before. This Labour position would be terrible for our Town. There are difficult times ahead and as I’ve said before we need to be vigilant in playing our part as we have all already done to stop the spread of the virus.
This is a very challenging period for the Government and I have every sympathy for the Prime Minister who is desperately trying his best to balance the need to protect lives and livelihoods at the same time. He won’t get everything right and either will I however rest assured that whenever I take a decision its always in what I believe to be the best interests of the people I have the honour of representing, my constituents.
Our local pubs are at the centre of Ipswich’s economy and cultural life. Like many across our town I’ve had many great experiences in them and I feel personally connected to many of them. It was therefore very hard to hear from the landlord of the Belstead Arms in Chantry last weekend about how he had to watch his loyal customers leave the pub at the 10pm curfew and go and spend their money at the off licence across the road instead.
Ipswich has comparatively low levels of Covid-19 compared to the rest of the country and had the blanket national curfew come up for a vote in Parliament, I would have on balance likely voted against it. I support MPs taking more responsibility for these decisions which affect our constituencies and yesterday we secured a commitment from the Government to hold a vote on future measures wherever possible. The curfew won’t come into this though and that’s why I asked the Health Secretary today to keep it under continuous review with a view to lifting it as soon as possible.
Good to hear the Health Secretary commit to this today. Everything must be done to get the balance right between lives, livelihoods and liberties and I’ll keep doing everything I can to make sure Ipswich’s local interests are heard loud and clear when these difficult decisions are made.
Brought up the excellent Combat2Coffee project in the Commons today which does vital charity and community work supporting local veterans in Ipswich. When I visited the new coffee shop on Princes Street in February, I was clear to the founder, Nigel Seaman, that the project and the people it helps have my full support in Parliament.
One of the things Nigel has raised with me since then is the bureaucratic health assessments veterans often have to go through to get the pensions and benefits they’re entitled to. This can be a distressing process for those who are living with physical and mental injuries they got serving on our behalf and it risks putting veterans off accessing the support they’re entitled to. I urged the Minister for Veterans today to ensure the process is streamlined to protect against this as much as possible, and I’ll be monitoring the roll out of the Government’s plans to move parts of the process online very closely.
First day back in Parliament today and I asked the Health Minister to accelerate the delivery of Ipswich Hospital’s new £25 million A&E Department so it’s there to benefit local people as soon as possible. It’s important we build on the £1.6 million already secured for our A&E to increase capacity ahead of the winter period. Like many I still have a number of questions about the direction of our hospital and the status of the merger after the decision to move elective orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich Hospital to a centre in Colchester. And the new A&E won’t stop these questions being asked.
The delivery of the new A&E is just one of the tangible benefits we need to see at Ipswich Hospital before these concerns can start to be addressed. Glad the Minister has heard this message and I’ll continue to monitor the development of the A&E plans and the merger very closely in Parliament.
This is very bad news for Suffolk and Ipswich. The first I knew of this was reading the news story on the Ipswich Star website. I am currently looking into the matter will establish the full facts. I have just come off the phone with the Leader of Suffolk County Council and I am keen to ensure that as far as possible everyone who was receiving support from Age UK Suffolk doesn’t lose out here.
I knew there were challenges which is why I chose to fundraise for them but today’s development has come as a real shock. It’s been a difficult week for Ipswich.
Tom Hunt ‘disappointed’ government won’t formally intervene in Ipswich Hospital orthopaedic centre move
This week I again wrote about the campaign to prevent elective orthopaedic services being transferred from Ipswich Hospital to a new centre in Colchester. A decision will be made on Tuesday by the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and I have further meetings scheduled with some of those central to the decision making process. Operationally the local Hospitals Trust and CCG are very much in the driving seat when it comes to the way in which our local health services are organised and though Government intervention wouldn’t be without precedent it seems that on this occasion it won’t be forthcoming. It became clear during the adjournment debate last week that this has been something that has been in the pipeline for a number of years and though I have done everything within my power as the local MP to stop it I was coming to the party at a late stage. Over the past few weeks I have secured a Parliamentary debate on the topic, raised on two further occasions in the House of Commons Chamber, have tabled a number of written Parliamentary questions and have written a number of cross Party letters to the local CCG Chair with the leader of Ipswich Borough Council. As I say in my column, I’m really not sure what further steps I can take other than carry out the further meetings I have planned ahead of the decision being made on Tuesday. Public opposition could not have been any clearer with nearly 10,000 signing the petition opposing it and the public consultation demonstrating clear opposition to the plans.
I was hopeful that the local Hospitals Trust and the local CCG would listen to the public opposition and take into consideration the very strong arguments opposing the proposals and it still be that they might and I won’t be giving up before Tuesday but the honest answer is sadly that I’m not overly hopeful.
I will post again post the decision to outline clearly what steps I will take going forward. To date I haven’t been satisfied by how this has been handled by the local NHS management and I’m glad to see some news coverage that suggests there could be some reform to the system to ensure that the views of local people and local elected representatives is taken more into account than currently.
Yesterday evening was my adjournment debate on orthopaedic services at Ipswich Hospital. And I called on the Health Minister to carefully look into the plans to move elective orthopaedic surgery away from Ipswich Hospital to a new centre in Colchester and meet with me again to discuss my concerns ahead of the decision on the plans on July 14th.
Public opposition to what can only be described as a downgrade to our hospital is overwhelming, and frankly the local NHS management have had their head stuck in the sand when they haven’t been openly dismissing the public’s concerns. It was therefore only appropriate to raise as many of these concerns as I could in the House yesterday evening and bring them publicly to the Government’s attention.
I said when I stood for election that I would always fight with everything I had for Ipswich’s interests and the campaign to keep elective orthopaedic surgery at Ipswich Hospital doesn’t end here. Waiting times and cancellations to planned hip and knee replacement must be tackled, but in a way which keep services local to the people who need them. And I’ll continue to fight these plans at every opportunity locally and in Parliament, and make the case for new ones where neither Ipswich nor Colchester has to lose out.
Some good news! Yesterday I was informed that I’ve been successful in securing an adjournment debate on this issue for this coming Tuesday. This will be a special debate about orthopaedic services at Ipswich Hospital at the end of the days sitting in Parliament that will take place in the House of Commons Chamber. The relevant Government Minister will be in attendance throughout as well as other MPs. This is a significant development and will enable me to go into great detail about all the various reasons why the proposal to strip Ipswich Hospital of its elective Orthopaedic services should not go ahead. This represents the best opportunity head to outline our case. I will provide more details over the coming days.
I’ve been contacted by the leadership of the Hospitals Trust asking me to share with them some of the messages I’ve received from constituents opposing the removal of elective orthopaedics from Ipswich Hospital and the creation of a new orthopaedic centre in Colchester. I hope none of you mind but I printed off some of the comments that have been made on my page just to give them a flavour.
They say the reason they want to see these comments is so they can address my constituents concerns. As you will see from the letter below the only way these concerns can be addressed is by the plans being 100% taken off the table!! In a matter of days almost 7,000 of you have signed the petition opposing the plans, I think there is a high chance this could be over 10,000 come the weekend.
There was a debate in Parliament today on a petition about recognition for our NHS Staff and their exceptional efforts during Covid-19. Many have written into me calling for them to be recognised and it was a privilege to use this moment in the chamber to thank our local NHS and social care workers on behalf of our whole town.
As well as recognising our NHS and care staff I was also able to thank in the House the pupils and staff at Ipswich School and Northgate Highschool who made thousands of pieces of PPE for our local frontline NHS staff, and the landlord of the Lattice Bar Pub in Ipswich who opened his doors to NHS staff even when the pub faced significant challenges of its own due to Covid.
Many have also been in touch calling for frontline NHS and care staffs’ pay to be increased. I do think it is important that the Government recognises the strength of feeling around this issue in the country and gives this careful consideration at the earliest opportunity.