The West Country Debate September: Social care, coronavirus rates and dress codes

  • Watch September's edition of The West Country Debate

MPs returned from their summer recess with a bump this week with a foreign crisis in Afghanistan, a controversial plan to fix social care and the ever looming threat of coronavirus.

On the panel for September's edition of The West Country Debate:

  • Anne Marie Morris, the Conservative MP for Newton Abbot,

  • Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat MP in Bath

  • Dan Norris, Mayor of the West of England

Social care

In a packed first week back at Westminster one topic has dominated - social care.

On Wednesday night MPs approved one of the biggest tax hikes in years to help pay to clear the NHS backlog and fix the care crisis. It meant Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke his election manifesto promise of not raising taxes. Something he blamed on the pandemic.

Seven West Country Conservative MPs abstained on the vote, including Anne Marie Morris, but nowhere near enough to block Boris Johnson's plans.

Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris said on the programme: "I don't think this is the right way of raising the money.

"I cannot see the proposal to deal with social care frankly fits the bill. The payments on social care come second after the money's gone on the NHS. But social care is in crisis as well. It's more of a priority to have good quality and enough social care - that is where the money should go first."

Covid Rates

87% of adults across the West Country have had both doses of their Covid jab, but the region still has one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the country.

Devon and Cornwall are a couple of weeks into special measures to bring down rates - including secondary school pupils wearing masks when not at their desks.

Hospitalisations have slowly been rising in the past couple of months and now we have rumours of an upcoming firebreak lockdown. Although that has been denied by the government.

The Mayor of the West of England Dan Norris said on the programme: "I want normality back as soon as possible but if we need another short lockdown to get back to true normality then so be it.

"I think we have to be cautious. One thing coronavirus has taught us is that there may be a new variant at any time. We need to keep wearing masks."

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse said: "Nobody wants another lockdown. But we must realise that this is still a very serious illness. It's important to wear face coverings. Why has this become such a culture war even in the House of Commons? Why can't they be made mandatory in certain settings?"

Dress code

MPs can now only turn up for a debate in person in the House of Commons ending months of video links and shaky internet connections.

But the Speaker did have to remind MPs to dress smartly in the Commons - jeans, T-shirts and jogging buttons all banned.

Wera Hobhouse MP said: "I totally agree we should show respect in the chamber and respect to our role. But having this sort of fashion police is a bit too far. No one sees what shoes you're wearing that doesn't mean you cannot wear nice shoes - but whether it is made of fabric or leather - I think it's all going far too far."