The Government have committed to taking a cautious approach to easing restrictions, guided by the data and not by dates. As I set out in my statement to Parliament yesterday, the decision to lift the remaining measures on 19 July and proceed to step 4 is based on an assessment of the four tests that were set out in the road map.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer and welcome him to his new post.
For me and most of my constituents, 19 July cannot come early enough. It is refreshing to see the Secretary of State’s new approach to the wider issues of health provision, and the huge success of our vaccine roll-out has surely ensured that there should and will not be any more lockdowns or restrictions on our civil liberties. Will he assure me that no matter what vested interests have held sway in his Department and across Government in the past 18 months, he is clear that lockdowns and state intervention in the lives of our constituents have gone far enough and need to be curbed?
First, I am pleased that my hon. Friend agrees with the decision we have made to proceed with step 4. It sounds like he agrees with the central decision to move from a system of regulation to one of guidance. As he knows, the pandemic is not over, so we are rightly moving forward in a measured way. I am pleased that he agrees with the approach.
I also welcome yesterday’s step 4 announcement. Does the Secretary of State agree that his Department should embrace a bit more risk by working with the Department for Transport to open up the international travel sector fully? Will he also ensure that GPs return to fully physical appointments and that we open up the full range of dental services?
I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that, now that we have begun the process of opening up, more work is being done between my Department and the Department for Transport on international travel. The announcements made by my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary last week will certainly help and be welcomed by the sector and travellers. On GP access, now that we have started to open up, working together with GPs we can see better direct access, and especially face-to-face access.