Calls to publish evidence and criteria used to decide on local lockdowns as restrictions set to be lifted

Matt Hancock has defended the process of lifting local lockdowns after he was accused of prioritising Tory backbench MP demands to free their areas from the rules.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: PA
Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: PA

Mr Hancock returned to the Commons today to warn of a second wave of coronavirus spreading across Europe, and the importance of continuing to be vigilant in controlling the virus.

But the Health Secretary has been accused of putting political posturing before public safety in lifting restrictions in just some West Yorkshire areas from tomorrow, despite Labour-led council leaders saying a piecemeal approach would be too confusing.

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Areas of Bradford, Calderdale, and Kirklees are due to be lifted out of restrictions aimed at quelling the spread of coronavirus tomorrow.

But Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the scientific evidence behind that decision to be published, as he said the recommendations of local directors of public health had been overridden in Leicester and he added “there was a similar story in Bradford”.

And the call was also made by Conservative MP for Wakefield Imran Ahmad Khan who said: “At this time throughout my constituency of Wakefield there exists growing concerns that lockdown measures to tackle localised spikes of Covid-19, which have been imposed on swathes of West Yorkshire, across the borders and beyond, across the Pennines and beyond, may well be imposed on Wakefield harming livelihoods.”

And he asked Mr Hancock to publish the criteria which informs the decisions “to help manage these fears and encourage adherence”.

But Mr Hancock insisted data was published, as well as the framework for local lockdowns, and said: “It is important that all elected officials are engaged in the process of making that decision. So as we set out the week before last, we are requiring councils to seek consensus with local elected officials, which includes colleagues in this house.”

Bradford’s Labour MPs and Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe have previously accused Mr Hancock of “playing politics” with the decision.

Speaking to The Guardian Calderdale leader Tim Swift said: “Looking at the proposals across the North it seems that this is a political decision to appease Tory MPs rather than something that is led by clear scientific evidence. I would now challenge the Government to publish the scientific advice which underpins the decision they have taken.”

But Colne Valley Tory MP Jason McCartney welcomed the lifting of some measures.

Speaking in the Commons he said: “Thanks to the use of localised, granular data, much of Kirklees is coming out of those local restrictions tomorrow.”

Mr Hancock said: “The restrictions should be targeted, and based on the data, our approach is to have objective local action where it is necessary but only where it’s necessary based on the data, and we’ve reached a good solution to this question in Kirklees.”

He added: “We must do everything in our power to protect against a second wave here in the UK.”