15 June 2020
Sir Iain Duncan Smith backs calls to relax the 2 metre social distancing rule

Sir Iain Duncan Smith backs calls to relax the 2 metre social distancing rule as the economy is not just an economic tool, there's a danger unemployment, depression and increased illness will follow impacting the poorest in society the most.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) on securing this urgent question, because this is the most important and significant strategic decision the Government are going to have to make as they unlock the economy. The problem is that so much of this debate has been shaped around the idea of the economy as an economic tool, but it is not just economic. The reality is that, with our focus on covid, we are in danger of losing sight of what will happen, probably to the poorest in society, if people start to fall unemployed and suffer depression and increased illness. This will have a major effect on the ability of people to be able to manage their lives. So this is not just economic. It could be six weeks before we discover the outcome of a review, but I do not believe that a single fact is going to change in that six weeks. The reality is that the advisers are all divided; the Government must make a decision and get this one right.

Edward Argar

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I have huge respect for him and for his campaigning on this issue, particularly in the context of the extraordinary work he has done on social justice over many years. He highlights the importance of looking at the impact of covid-19, not just in the immediate context of health outcomes, but at its broader social and economic impact. He is absolutely right. He is also right to emphasise the need for urgency, and that is exactly how we will conduct this review.

On his final point, he is right: the science is mixed. There are different scientific opinions, and a balance must be struck between the best scientific advice and consideration of the impact on the economy. As a great former Prime Minister once said:

“Advisers advise, and Ministers decide.”