MP’s column: Police Bill, Covid vaccines and closed banks

In his regular fortnightly column, Sir Edward Leigh MP, reflects on local, regional and national issues.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Following a series of record-breaking days, more than half the adults in the United Kingdom have now received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

For the over-70s and at-risk categories these percentages are even higher.

And the vaccine is working: evidence has shown it has an 80 per cent protection against hospitalisation and 85 per cent against death.

Even just living with someone who has been vaccinated reduces your risk of catching the virus by nearly a third.

We are all looking forward to the reduction of the restrictions that have disrupted our daily life.

I was sad to visit the Lloyds branch for the last day that any bank was open in Market Rasen. But we have at least managed to secure a mobile banking service that will visit the town on Fridays.

I hope residents will make use of it or we will lose that too.

I am also keeping an eye on the old Co-op site in Caistor and I’m hopeful that we will soon see some action regarding it.

A number of constituents have written to me about the Police Bill and the very reasonable concerns they have regarding it.

I am passionate about free speech and freedom of expression and for years have campaigned to fight legislation that would threaten it.

I’ve worked with people from all across the political spectrum in parliament and more broadly in pursuit of this common and important objective.

I am also very much against making new laws when existing laws will do. But the reason this Bill has been introduced is because judges’ rulings have frustrated police efforts to use existing legislation to prevent or break up disruptive and sometimes even violent demonstrations.

The right to protest and speak is sacrosanct, but radicals like Extinction Rebellion are extremists who disrupt the commutes of hard-working people and disrupt our economy. They must be stopped.

Nonetheless, I am seeking reassurance from ministers that while disruptive actions by extremists can be broken up, free speech must be protected.

Animal welfare is another thing we must support and do our best to improve.

Sometimes efforts in this regard can be counter-productive, however.

In the Commons recently, I spoke against a proposal to ban farrowing crates for pigs.

None of us like the idea of restricting sows movements, but it is clear that banning crates outright will lead to more piglet deaths.

This strikes me as robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Pig farmers need more time to develop better alternatives that will protect piglet lives but improve conditions for sows.