One concern that I share with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) is about the certainty and clarity of the tiering system and what can be seen as a slightly erratic aspect of that. I appreciate that from the Government’s perspective it is very difficult to judge the impact that tiering will have. As the spread of the virus evolves, it is difficult to have a cast-iron guaranteed view of it, so of course there will be uncertainty in this area, and I think we all appreciate that.
One area where we ought to have a bit more clarity, however—a point well made by many colleagues—is the overall impact assessments that we ought to have for the lockdown. What impact does the lockdown have on employment and business? What impact does it have on health, whether we are thinking about cancer and heart disease, or cataract surgeries and hip replacements? We must also think about the impact on education, which is particularly pertinent today, given the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education.
We ought to know more clearly about those issues, because we have the experience of the impact on people’s health and education, if they are excluded from education or they do not get their healthcare. We ought to have a greater sense of that, and the Government should have the ability to share that data so that we are better informed when we come to a vote. I also appreciate that when we are looking at tier 4—it was a little bit of a surprise, but not a complete surprise, when it was announced at the beginning of Christmas—we can see why the Government would feel that it had to come in, because of this mutant strain, or variation on a theme, of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.
We appreciate why tier 4 came in, but it was very disappointing, as someone who represents Bolton and can see the impact of having slightly harsher conditions than much of the rest of the country, to see the south-east of England being plunged into tier 4. It was disappointing today to see Bolton as well as Wigan borough—I represent both boroughs—being put into tier 4. It is disappointing that there has not been the opportunity to have a vote on that today, but there may be an opportunity for a vote on what has already been implemented and imposed this year. It would therefore be useful if we could vote in advance and have that data and information so that we can make an informed decision when we vote and get a sense of the impact. Yes, the data on the spread of the virus will not be perfect, but we should be better informed about the impact of the lockdown on our society.
How tiering is imposed is also concerning. For example, Wigan and Bolton boroughs—I represent both—have a lower transmission rate than all the boroughs in the Liverpool city region, yet Liverpool city region is in tier 3 while my constituents are in tier 4. Earlier in the pandemic, the Secretary of State for Health was very clear that individual areas—this is represented now by Slough, I think—can be taken out of a wider lockdown, such as that imposed on Greater Manchester. We would appreciate being withdrawn from tier 4 and perhaps going to tier 3 or lower as soon as possible.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Care might not have the information to hand, but I would like her to look into that and report back, perhaps working with colleagues in the Department for Education, as soon as possible. We know that there will be far more testing in tier 4. We know that the Government’s plan is to have far more testing in schools, and we know that with each positive test, a class or perhaps even a year will be sent home. That has a major impact on children’s education. For months children were excluded from schools and, in the term we have just had, many will have been excluded not once or twice but three times. That means for six weeks. We know that this is set to get worse in the coming year, because there will be far more testing and therefore far more positive tests, which will mean the exclusion of those children. Can we at least have an assessment of the impact of this tier 4 lockdown on those children?