There have been 85 exchanges between Lord Bethell and Department of Health and Social Care
|Wed 16th September 2020||Coronavirus (Lords Chamber)||17 interactions (797 words)|
|Tue 15th September 2020||Covid-19: NHS Long-term Plan (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (750 words)|
|Mon 14th September 2020||Anti-obesity Strategies (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (810 words)|
|Mon 14th September 2020||Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber)||52 interactions (3,466 words)|
|Thu 10th September 2020||Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber)||49 interactions (3,392 words)|
|Wed 9th September 2020||Covid-19: Rise of Positive Tests (Lords Chamber)||28 interactions (918 words)|
|Tue 8th September 2020||Suicide (Lords Chamber)||17 interactions (533 words)|
|Mon 7th September 2020||NHS Counter Fraud Authority (Establishment, Constitution, and Staff and Other Transfer Provisions) (Amendment) Order 2020 (Grand Committee)||6 interactions (2,138 words)|
|Thu 3rd September 2020||Folic Acid (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (666 words)|
|Thu 3rd September 2020||Covid-19 (Lords Chamber)||34 interactions (4,308 words)|
|Thu 3rd September 2020||Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber)||6 interactions (2,468 words)|
|Wed 2nd September 2020||Childhood Obesity (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (699 words)|
|Wed 2nd September 2020||Covid-19: Self-isolation Payment Scheme (Lords Chamber)||23 interactions (737 words)|
|Wed 2nd September 2020||Medicines and Medical Devices Bill (Lords Chamber)||6 interactions (4,823 words)|
|Wed 29th July 2020||Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber)||6 interactions (2,302 words)|
|Mon 20th July 2020||Pharmacies (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (651 words)|
|Mon 20th July 2020||Smoking (Lords Chamber)||23 interactions (659 words)|
|Thu 16th July 2020||Covid-19: Personal Protective Equipment (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (819 words)|
|Wed 15th July 2020||Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review (Lords Chamber)||29 interactions (1,754 words)|
|Tue 14th July 2020||Medical Teaching and Learning: Ethnic Diversity (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (694 words)|
|Thu 9th July 2020||Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review (Lords Chamber)||22 interactions (670 words)|
|Wed 8th July 2020||Social Care (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (745 words)|
|Wed 8th July 2020||Covid-19 (Lords Chamber)||17 interactions (694 words)|
|Tue 7th July 2020||Independent Residential Care (Lords Chamber)||24 interactions (1,117 words)|
|Mon 6th July 2020||Medicinal Cannabis (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (771 words)|
|Mon 6th July 2020||Food: Fruit and Vegetables (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (625 words)|
|Thu 2nd July 2020||Covid-19: Mental Health Services (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (757 words)|
|Thu 2nd July 2020||Ultra-processed Foods (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (654 words)|
|Wed 1st July 2020||Covid-19: Mental Health (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (679 words)|
|Wed 1st July 2020||Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber)||51 interactions (2,840 words)|
|Thu 25th June 2020||Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber)||9 interactions (2,432 words)|
|Wed 24th June 2020||Personal Protective Equipment (Lords Chamber)||17 interactions (627 words)|
|Mon 22nd June 2020||Covid-19: Test and Trace App (Lords Chamber)||31 interactions (1,034 words)|
|Mon 22nd June 2020||Coronavirus (Lords Chamber)||15 interactions (647 words)|
|Thu 18th June 2020||Covid-19: Track and Trace System (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (758 words)|
|Thu 18th June 2020||Nurses: Recruitment (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (678 words)|
|Tue 16th June 2020||Covid-19: Mental Health (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (693 words)|
|Tue 16th June 2020||Social Distancing: Two-metre Rule (Lords Chamber)||17 interactions (624 words)|
|Mon 15th June 2020||Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber)||6 interactions (2,988 words)|
|Thu 11th June 2020||Contact Tracing: Personal Privacy (Lords Chamber)||19 interactions (655 words)|
|Thu 11th June 2020||Covid-19: Masks (Lords Chamber)||2 interactions (1,796 words)|
|Wed 10th June 2020||Covid-19: Cancelled Medical Operations (Lords Chamber)||22 interactions (814 words)|
|Tue 9th June 2020||Exercise Cygnus (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (646 words)|
|Tue 9th June 2020||Covid-19: R Rate and Lockdown Measures (Lords Chamber)||15 interactions (684 words)|
|Mon 8th June 2020||National Health Service Commissioning Board and Clinical Commissioning Groups (Responsibilities and Standing Rules) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (1,682 words)|
|Thu 4th June 2020||Covid-19: Obese and Overweight People (Lords Chamber)||18 interactions (634 words)|
|Wed 3rd June 2020||Covid-19: Response (Lords Chamber)||37 interactions (4,431 words)|
|Thu 21st May 2020||Hospitals: Patient Safety (Lords Chamber)||22 interactions (663 words)|
|Wed 20th May 2020||Dental Care (Lords Chamber)||22 interactions (743 words)|
|Wed 20th May 2020||Covid-19: Care Homes (Lords Chamber)||21 interactions (1,004 words)|
|Tue 19th May 2020||Covid-19: BAME NHS Staff (Lords Chamber)||20 interactions (729 words)|
|Tue 19th May 2020||Mental Health Services (Lords Chamber)||27 interactions (873 words)|
|Tue 19th May 2020||Covid-19: Response (Lords Chamber)||48 interactions (3,613 words)|
|Mon 18th May 2020||Covid-19: NHS Contact Tracing App (Lords Chamber)||22 interactions (765 words)|
|Mon 18th May 2020||Draft Human Tissue (Permitted Material: Exceptions) (England) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber)||7 interactions (3,161 words)|
|Thu 14th May 2020||Covid-19: Testing (Lords Chamber)||22 interactions (849 words)|
|Thu 14th May 2020||Care Homes: Covid-19 Testing (Lords Chamber)||18 interactions (723 words)|
|Tue 12th May 2020||Covid-19: Vulnerable Populations (Lords Chamber)||20 interactions (682 words)|
|Tue 12th May 2020||Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber)||7 interactions (2,929 words)|
|Wed 6th May 2020||Covid-19: Contact-tracing App (Lords Chamber)||20 interactions (763 words)|
|Wed 6th May 2020||Covid-19: Government Response (Lords Chamber)||18 interactions (978 words)|
|Thu 23rd April 2020||Covid-19: Personal Protective Equipment (Lords Chamber)||18 interactions (773 words)|
|Thu 23rd April 2020||Covid-19: Personal Protective Equipment (Lords Chamber)||17 interactions (599 words)|
|Thu 23rd April 2020||Covid-19: Social Care Services (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (2,925 words)|
|Thu 23rd April 2020||Covid-19 (Lords Chamber)||52 interactions (4,351 words)|
|Wed 22nd April 2020||Covid-19: Medically Vulnerable People (Lords Chamber)||16 interactions (657 words)|
|Wed 22nd April 2020||Covid-19: Extent of Infection (Lords Chamber)||18 interactions (616 words)|
|Wed 22nd April 2020||Covid-19: Care Home Deaths (Lords Chamber)||15 interactions (678 words)|
|Tue 21st April 2020||Covid-19: Removal of Restrictions (Lords Chamber)||17 interactions (878 words)|
|Wed 25th March 2020||Coronavirus Bill (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (130 words)|
|Tue 24th March 2020||Coronavirus Bill (Lords Chamber)||4 interactions (2,044 words)|
|Tue 24th March 2020||Coronavirus Bill (Lords Chamber)||4 interactions (3,002 words)|
|Mon 23rd March 2020||Covid-19: Critical Care Capacity (Lords Chamber)||14 interactions (658 words)|
|Thu 19th March 2020||Covid-19: Helplines (Lords Chamber)||10 interactions (719 words)|
|Thu 19th March 2020||Covid-19: Vaccine (Lords Chamber)||8 interactions (412 words)|
|Wed 18th March 2020||Contraceptives and Hormone Replacement Therapy Drugs (Lords Chamber)||10 interactions (514 words)|
|Mon 16th March 2020||Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber)||51 interactions (4,136 words)|
|Thu 12th March 2020||Coronavirus (Lords Chamber)||31 interactions (3,545 words)|
|Wed 11th March 2020||Dementia: Accident and Emergency (Lords Chamber)||14 interactions (466 words)|
|Wed 11th March 2020||Covid-19: Deep Cleaning (Lords Chamber)||16 interactions (811 words)|
|Mon 9th March 2020||Coronavirus (Lords Chamber)||15 interactions (1,265 words)|
|Mon 9th March 2020||Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (Grand Committee)||17 interactions (2,364 words)|
|Thu 28th February 2019||Safety of Medicines and Medical Devices (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (964 words)|
|Tue 5th February 2019||Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (904 words)|
|Thu 6th September 2018||NHS: Healthcare Data (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (1,038 words)|
My Lords, the Prime Minister claimed again today that the UK does more Covid tests than anywhere else in Europe. This is not true. Denmark does almost twice as many per 1,000 people, and the UK figure includes antibody tests, which others do not do, and is based on when tests are sent out and not on results. So it is more hyperbole.
I hope today we can look at facts. There is now a backlog of 185,000 swabs and tests are being dispatched abroad. Can the Minister advise the House how many tests have been sent abroad, to which countries, the processing time and the void rates? If the Minister does not have that information at his fingertips today, can he please to write to me and put the answer in the Library?
Secondly, Coronavirus infection rates among middle-aged people have reached the same level now as rates among those in their 20s two weeks ago, and Professor Neil Ferguson has warned us that infections are back where they were in late February. So what discussions have the Government had with the Joint Biosecurity Centre and the CMO about raising the alert level from three to four?
My Lords, we know that the Minister is an avid listener of Radio 4’s “More or Less.” In today’s episode, Professor Alastair Grant of the University of East Anglia pointed out that 70% of coronavirus test results were completed within 48 hours at the start of August. Looking at official figures and analyses, he pointed out that by Monday, it was just 11.8%. The Minister may dispute the exact figures, but the trend clearly is down, which is worrying when we need an effective trace and isolate system to trace and isolate people as fast as possible. Can he tell the House and the country by what date all results of coronavirus testing will be turned around within a maximum of 24 hours?
I want to talk about care homes and hospital in-patients, many of whom have been marooned for literally months. One of the problems is the testing regime. Could I ask the Minister, first, to give priority to relatives of people in care, so that they can be tested and go in and see their loved ones? Secondly, there is clearly a problem with a lot of the staff, because they are moved around a lot. Can the Minister undertake that his department will consult UNISON, the main trade union for those staff, and see what it can do to open things up so that people in care homes and hospitals are able to be visited again?
My Lords, can the Minister clarify one or two issues? Does the rule of six mean that it will no longer be possible to have any public marking of Remembrance Sunday outdoors this year? Will he also clarify whether this effectively means that all public protests and demonstrations are now illegal?
My Lords, Professor William Hanage of the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University has said of the lack of mass testing that:
“By the time you become aware of the problem it is likely to already be much larger. You are not going to detect outbreaks if you don’t look for them.”
He also said that you need
“very good diagnostic tests as well as tests that may be less sensitive but can be used more frequently.”
I am totally with the Government in their aim for mass testing, but would the Minister agree with Professor Alan McNally of the University of Birmingham that the £500 million already announced
“could have funded around 33 million standard swab PCR tests that could have been run in well-equipped university labs”?
Why is that not happening? On rapid saliva tests, the Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW $5, 20-minute test has been FDA approved, with 10 million tests produced this month and 50 million to be produced next month. Why are we not getting on with it? We need to do this really urgently. Does the Minister agree?
My Lords, in the course of the pandemic, a significant number of contracts with private companies have been signed without tender and a number of these have been in areas such as PPE and test and trace. Most appear to have failed to deliver essential services and equipment—
Break in Debate
I do not think I can get much closer to the microphone without eating it.
In the course of the pandemic, a significant number of contracts have been issued to private companies without tender. What is the value of the contracts that have been signed without competitive tender? Will the Minister place in the Library a list of all such contracts, their value, the companies involved and their ultimate beneficial owners?
My Lords, one of the big risks this autumn is from students going to university and, perhaps more particularly, returning from university in the run-up to Christmas. How has the guidance been prepared with universities to try to mitigate that risk? I know that Cambridge University is looking even at the possibility of testing all its students on a weekly basis.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, what plans they have for changes to the NHS long-term plan.
My Lords, I thank the Minister and echo his tribute to the magnificent efforts of health service staff. I remind the House of my membership of the GMC board. He will know that the NHS entered this crisis underpeopled and under-resourced, and that a huge backlog of work has built up. There have been estimates that as many as 10 million people will be waiting for treatment at the end of the year. There is an issue with cancer patients waiting for tests and treatment. Can he give an indication of the work being done, despite the pandemic, to get the NHS back on track? Surely he agrees that the NHS five-year plan will have to be recalibrated to take account of this.
My Lords, given that the health protection remit of Public Health England is to be subsumed into the new national institute for health protection, can the Minister tell us what steps Her Majesty’s Government will take to ensure that health inequalities are robustly addressed through programmes of health education and promotion, as envisaged in chapter 2 of the NHS Long Term Plan?
My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the long-term plan has set an ambitious target for 2028 of 75% of cancers being diagnosed at stages 1 and 2. Does he agree that this must involve GPs, and that GPs having face-to-face consultations with patients is the only way that this target will be achieved?
My Lords, is the Minister aware that late diagnosis causes many disasters in many health specialties? Does he agree that the respiratory programme is vital and has been highlighted by Covid-19? Should we not be training and employing more doctors, nurses and physiotherapists as respiratory specialists across the country in the long-term NHS plan?
My Lords, it is not good enough just to praise NHS staff. Will the Government commit to spending a certain percentage of GDP on health as soon as possible? I suggest that 12% of GDP should be spent on health; then we would not have a repetition of this disaster.
My Lords, the long-term plan cannot be delivered without effective community nursing support. Community nurses get people out of hospital and prevent others from being admitted. Currently, the service is short of several thousand nurses. What changes does the Minister expect to be made to get these nurses recruited, trained and operational?
My Lords, in light of the experiences of people relying on social care during the current pandemic, might the NHS long-term plan make some adjustments to account for the need for integration between NHS and social care? When can we look forward to the proposals for radical social care reform, to ensure parity of esteem for the NHS?
Following on from the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, I must try to pin the Minister down. Can he commit to publishing a plan for the future funding and provision of social care by the end of this year, as the Prime Minister promised in January? My honourable friend Liz Kendall MP has today written to the Secretary of State about the need for a clear social care winter plan. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that no one with Covid-19 is discharged from a hospital to a care home, to prevent a repeat of the terrible impact that this had in the first months of this crisis?
My Lords, despite additional Covid funding, many NHS trusts are having to cut back on crucial capital investment programmes because of increased financial pressure. For example, some hospitals are having to replace obsolete and ineffective scanners with slightly newer but far from up-to-date models. Does the Minister agree that when the NHS long-term plan is revised, it will need to include a recovery schedule from these perhaps inevitable but nevertheless damaging short-term responses?
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of anti-obesity strategies on people suffering, or recovering, from eating disorders.
My Lords, as the Minister says, eating disorders are indeed serious mental health issues, but their relationship with obesity is complex. Many obese people also live with eating disorders, which means treatment is not always as simple as rebalancing calories in and out. Does the Minister accept the expert advice that elements of the new strategy, like food labelling and calorie counting, are dangerous triggers for eating disorders, and that slogans emphasising personal responsibility stigmatise people whose obesity has more complex roots than a failure to get a grip? Will he agree to meet with me and eating disorder specialists to discuss how this important strategy can be more effective for its intended audience and avoid collateral damage for those people for whom “Eat less, exercise more” is a dangerous message?
My Lords, following on from the noble Baroness’s question, do the Government have eating disorder experts, including those with lived experience, advising them as part of their anti-obesity strategy? It seems to me that is one way of making sure that the messages do not disadvantage those who have eating disorders. There is a reason why advocates for those with eating disorders have been very critical of the language being used. Could the Minister commit to reviewing the campaign in light of this?
My Lords, what action are Her Majesty’s Government taking to tackle eating disorders, especially among the young, whose mental health may have been severely impacted by the current Covid-19 pandemic?
My Lords, I welcome the Government’s recent announcement of additional funding for community-based mental health initiatives and ask my noble friend whether the Government can ensure that their latest obesity strategy is mindful of and responsive to the underlying emotional issues, as detailed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. The causes are often far more complex than the Government’s current approach.
The National Audit Office’s report last week on tackling obesity confirmed that there is limited evidence that calorie labelling in restaurants reduces total calories consumed. How will the success or otherwise of the Government’s proposed calorie labelling in restaurants be evaluated? Will it take into account the potential harm caused, given that the ability to track calories can be highly triggering for those with or vulnerable to developing an eating disorder?
My Lords, will my noble friend take into account that in the south Asian community there are larger numbers of people with diabetes, heart disease and a lack of vitamin D? Through his campaigning and communications—he has been really mindful of this—will he try to ensure that we are also reaching communities in which exercise and sport do not always come as a first priority? Is he willing to meet with me and a team of people working on this?
My Lords, children and adolescent adults with eating disorders battle multiple debilitating physical and mental effects. Eating disorders have one of the highest morbidity rates among psychiatric conditions, causing untold helplessness and grief for families and professionals constantly struggling with a lack of adequate financial resources and services, as evidenced by Ignoring the alarms: How NHS eating disorder services are failing patients, a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. In light of this report and a significant body of evidence known to health services and experts in the field, can the Minister assure the House that sufficient advice has been sought and a thorough, evidence-based risk analysis undertaken to mitigate the potential harmful, detrimental impact of the public anti-obesity campaign on those suffering and recovering from disorders?
My Lords, the need for psychological support for people with such eating disorders is often identified through face-to-face meetings with GPs. Is the Minister satisfied that it is possible, in safe conditions, for people to obtain such meetings at the moment and that, if such a need is identified, sufficient psychological support is available for them?
My Lords, I have spoken to GPs about this issue. Particularly in cases of obesity—which they all agree is more common for people living in deprived areas—they say the difficulty now is that patients do not come in person to a surgery. Therefore, if someone tells you their obesity is still well under control, you have no way of assessing that. They suggested that I put it to the Government that there should be better liaison between schools and GPs, because schools see families all the time and become good judges of whether people are putting on weight. They can also provide exercise and advice on diet. GPs are willing to look after these people but say that if you cannot actually see them, how do you know that what they are telling you is the truth? What will the Government do to encourage liaison between schools and GPs?
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.
My Lords, these Benches welcome anything from the Government that is based on rational evidence and can prove to be effective in this public health crisis to keep people safe and reduce the spread of the virus. So does this Statement live up to that? Unfortunately, yet again the sales pitch from the Secretary of State last week fell short of what is required to be effective. It has to be based on fact and scientific evidence that the public have confidence in and understand.
I have some simple questions for the Minister. Now that the scientific evidence has been produced, members of the public are asking why children under 12 and 11 are included as part of the six. Why can they be in a school in a class of 30 but from 3.30 pm they cannot be in a house with seven people, including their two grandparents? What scientific evidence exists to suggest that that causes more harm than 30 children in a classroom?
There is something else that people have asked me. Why is it that I can go to the office and be there with 20 people until 4 pm, but at 4.15 pm, if I go to the pub, I have to be in a bubble of no more than six? The evidence may be there, but it has to be explained in a way that those questions can be answered and the public have confidence in those answers. Inconsistency, rather than the public not having confidence, is one of the issues that the virus breeds on.
The public health message has to be clear and consistent. The regulations do not just bring in a power of six; there are quite a number of exemptions, including a legal definition of “mingle”: for the first time since 1393 it becomes illegal to “mingle”. Can the Minister give a legal definition of “mingling”? I can go to an event with six people but I cannot mingle beyond those six if it is an event run by a charity, a public body, a philanthropic organisation or a business. If I open the door for somebody and speak to them to thank them, am I mingling? If I stop somebody who I know and speak to them, am I mingling? What is the legal definition? That is going to cause confusion and not be consistent.
These regulations and rules have to be developed in a collaborative manner with local areas to be effective. Why was the Local Government Association informed of the Covid-secure marshals only one hour before? If the rate is rising so fast and we need to be effective today to monitor six people and no more, where are those marshals’ powers as of today and in which legislation?
It is quite clear that action needs to be taken to stop this virus, but it is time for the Government to stop and be much more strategic and considered and to implement legislation and systems in a more collaborative way. People’s lives and livelihoods depend on the Government getting this right, but unfortunately this Statement is not a complete and right answer.
My Lords, we now come to the 30 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief, so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.
My Lords, last week I pursued the question as to whether there were precedents for using emergency powers under an old Act—this is an Act from 1984—and also whether the Government had any plans to change the procedure to one that is more like what we have come to expect over many years, so that we debate these regulations before they came into force. Many of the questions that are asked would be much sharper if the debate was before the regulations came into force. It would be better, because the future is more interesting than the past—and doubly so in these hybrid days, when debate is not as easy as it is in normal circumstances. Indeed, one reason for thinking that we should change is that there must be an impression that the Executive are riding roughshod over us, when what is actually needed is consensus—as has been indicated by the two Front-Bench speeches today—and I think that consensus is available. Will the Government have another think, decide it is better to be in front and implement some changes that will make Parliament’s job easier?
My Lords, the Office for National Statistics records over 52,000 deaths of people whose death certificates have Covid-19 as a contributory cause. More than 42,000 of these deaths were of people over the age of 65. As the numbers of infections increase, which they are, more older and vulnerable people will be infected—as has happened in France—leading to a rise in hospital admissions and deaths. What plans do the Government have as the rate of infection increases in our country to protect the elderly and more vulnerable?
My Lords, in answer to my noble friend Lady Thornton’s question about the alert level, the Minister said that to his knowledge it had not changed, although it was subject to weekly review. However, these are the Government’s own levels. How can the level stay at number 3, which means “virus contained”, when number 4 means “virus not contained”? Does the Minister really think that an average travel requirement of 6.4 miles to a testing centre, with 10% of people having to travel up to 22 miles, is acceptable after all these months?
My Lords, why is it safer to allow six individuals from different households to meet together indoors, rather than limiting it to members of two families?
May I return to the issue of political gatherings, which my noble friend and I discussed last Thursday? He mentioned that protests such as those we have seen recently from Extinction Rebellion might not be outlawed quite yet, but it is not really a matter of outlawing political protest—I did not ask for that. However, can he understand how deeply outraged many would feel while spending their Christmases abiding by the very difficult rule of six if, out their window, they were watching political protesters who do not give a monkey’s about the rules? Will he confirm that political protesters are subject right now to precisely the same rules as the rest of us?
My Lords, will the Minister please accept that while there may be good reason for the Government to ratchet up further the restrictions on social distancing, it is surely unreasonable to at the same time pressure people to return to their offices? These two objectives are incompatible, as was shown by government officers last week. Surely the Government should accept that they can press either greater social distancing or a return to offices, but not both?
My Lords, the Statement makes it clear that the numbers of cases are rising. Will the Health Minister give the House his personal assurance that sufficient personal protective equipment will be available, unlike during the first wave?
My Lords, in the past week, over 700 schools have reported Covid cases among teachers and pupils, but getting a test is difficult for many. I declare an interest: my seven year-old grandson went back to school last Monday and got a high temperature. He was told to stay at home and his parents tried all week to get a test for him. They were sent to Brighton and eventually managed to get one 10 miles away, but that is because they have a car. What happens to families who do not have a car but want their children to go back to school and not lose out? Why are test kits not being made available to schools or local authorities, maybe in clusters, to enable equal access for all children and teachers to such kits so that they do not have to self-isolate unnecessarily for 14 days and can—like my grandson, whose test was thankfully negative—go back to school?
My Lords, this virus has shown it is extremely difficult to eradicate or keep under control until a vaccine is produced. I ask the Minister about people being asked to isolate because data has shown that some are facing real hardship. We are told that this is a central reason for people sometimes ignoring advice. Are Ministers looking at the possibility of helping with extra financial support?
My Lords, picking up on one of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, what arrangements have been made to enable compliance with the rule of six for asylum seekers living in reception centres or hostels that have communal facilities for eating, sleeping, washing, cooking and leisure time? This could be a national issue, not just in Hammersmith. Also, why is there no link on the National Asylum Support Service website to any Covid information or advice in languages other than English and Welsh?
My Lords, why insist on a mask-wearing policy totally at variance with international practice? Surely, by now the Government can admit to the major benefits: they alert others to danger, signal an element of risk and, when worn without valves, protect both users and those in the immediate vicinity. Therefore, why not revisit the whole policy and promote the enforcement of wider and appropriate usage—a very, very much needed U-turn?
Since the Minister wants to keep things simple, could he explain to families that are separated what the rules now are? In my case, I am a single father of three young boys who live with me every other week. They live in a household of six on the other weeks, and it includes another child who also lives in another household part of the time. Which of us are allowed to get together when?
[Inaudible]—simple rule and the long overdue emphasis on better and stricter enforcement. Does my noble friend not agree that when a law is systematically and routinely broken and not enforced, it brings the rest of the law into disrepute? Therefore, will he encourage the police, in the strongest possible measures, to stop turning a blind eye to massive house parties, raves and woke demonstrations and tell them to get off their knees and enforce the law?
My Lords, following on from the previous question, effective policing requires the consent of those being policed, and those enforcing it need good training and interpersonal skills. Covid marshals—when they are actually implemented—could well face some resistance from those who have had enough of being told what to do. Will marshals have the power to issue fixed penalties, and does the noble Lord agree that friction with them could cause breaches of the peace and place even more demands on the police themselves?
My Lords, the WHO’s watchword has been “test, test, test” to isolate the disease, so I am in favour of the Prime Minister’s stated ambition of mass testing. With regard to Operation Moonshot, have the Government a date in mind for testing audience members at theatres and sports venues? Secondly, does the Minister agree that we should now be testing at airports, as British Airways is asking for?
My Lords, we have heard a lot from the Minister today about the importance of obeying the law, yet a Bill has been introduced in the other place today that essentially sees the Government seeking to break the law. I refer him to what Geoffrey Cox, the former Attorney-General, said this morning:
“When the Queen’s minister gives his word, on her behalf, it should be axiomatic that he will keep it, even if the consequences are unpalatable. By doing so he pledges the faith, honour and credit of this nation and it diminishes the standing and reputation of Britain in the world if it should be seen to be otherwise.”
He went on to say:
“It is unconscionable that this country, justly famous for its regard for the rule of law around the world, should act in such a way”.
Does the Minister think this a good example to the public, and does he not fear that the appeal to the rule of law regarding the rule of six might just fall on rather stony ground?
My Lords, the noble Lord has previously congratulated people in my part of Lancashire on how well we are doing, which I do not quite agree with; we are working hard. Why are people, whether in our borough or the surrounding ones, still not able to book tests locally when we usually have three testing stations going? Some are being told to ration the number of tests they do each day, which involves gaps of perhaps two hours when they will not accept any bookings, even though the testing kit and the people are there, and the tests could be carried out. However, people are not being allowed to use them.
My Lords, can my noble friend tell me what the Government have identified in English children under 12, including babies, that makes them, to use his phrase, “a vector of infection and a Covid hazard”, that does not apply to children in Scotland, who have been back at school for weeks? And on the subject of making things easier to understand—simplifying matters—why is it okay in England to meet one’s grandchildren in the pub but not in their family home if the household consists of six people?
My Lords, it is clear that face masks are a critical component of slowing the virus. Following on from the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and other noble Lords, how self-sufficient is the UK expected to become in the supply of PPE, and are there targets for the supply of face masks in particular?
My Lords, given the intrusive and damaging effects, especially on family life, of the decision to limit social contacts to six people, can the Minister say why it was decided to apply this both inside and outside, rather than to follow the Welsh Government’s position of applying the new ruling only to meetings inside? Does he agree that medical evidence suggests that the chance of contracting the virus outside is tiny in comparison with inside, and that, with regard to his quest for simplicity, nobody is so simple that they cannot tell the difference between inside and outside.
My Lords, in the US 513,000 children have been infected as of 3 September, with 70,630 cases reported in the past two weeks. Only this morning in my locality, all reception classes bar one were shut down due to the Covid infection of a teacher. As a father, the Minister will understand that many parents remain fearful and are seeking assurance and evidence of safety. Holding the Government to account after a tragedy has occurred would be meaningless. What lessons can we learn from our friends in the US and elsewhere about minimising the spread of infection among teachers and children in the UK, with the inevitable consequence of transmission to their homes and vulnerable loved ones in their families?
I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, who I should call now.
Thank you, Deputy Lord Speaker. My noble friend has talked about Covid, but I think it is important in the same debate to talk about the flu injections that are available to help people reduce their ability to catch Covid. Will my noble friend ask the pharmacies that are distributing flu injections to step up their communications, in particular to people with south Asian backgrounds, who are slightly resistant to going into pharmacies to get flu jabs? I know from my experience of having to persuade my mother that this is an issue, and it would be helpful to get the communications about getting flu injections out as quickly as possible, so that people build up their immunity as quickly as possible.
My Lords, when we had questions on the Statement last Thursday, I asked the Minister two questions that he did not answer. I have another opportunity now. Can the Minister say what evaluation the Government have made of the economic and societal impact of alternative responses to the spike that we are seeing in infection rates? Secondly, will they publish that evaluation?
Most of the Covid measures made under the Public Health Act 1984 have major adverse effects on the economy and on the treatment of other fatal diseases. We cannot go on like this indefinitely until we have a vaccine. We need a new strategy that offers a degree of protection where it is needed, for example in care homes and for the very elderly, and that restores economic and social life. Are the Government now developing such a strategy, and when will we hear about it?
My Lords, this is a Statement made two days ago in the other place, but it has been largely overshadowed by yesterday’s deluge of hyperbole and hokum. The Prime Minister said yesterday:
“We know, thanks to NHS Test and Trace, in granular detail, in a way that we did not earlier this year, about what is happening with this pandemic. We know the groups that are suffering, the extent of the infection rates, and we have been able, thanks to NHS Test and Trace, to do the local lockdowns that have been working.”—[Official Report, Commons, 9/9/20; col. 609.]
If that is true—and given the record of the Prime Minister and Health Secretary, one is always entitled to ask whether it is—how come local authorities and directors of public health are given only limited access to the test and trace case management system and not given full access to the contact system? Why are the Government sitting on data or passing it to companies run by their mates, instead of passing it to local authorities, which, for weeks, have been trying to predict and manage the inevitable spike in infections that follows people starting to travel and going to school and university. Why are they not getting that data in a timely manner?
From the start of this pandemic, experts advised the Secretary of State to invest in public health teams and NHS labs that are numerous and easily reached by many communities, including in rural areas. Instead, he gave the money to outsourcing firms such as Serco and G4S, which have no expertise and have not had to compete for the contracts. He could have invested in local public services; instead he has built a system on a foundation not fit for purpose. On Tuesday, in the Statement, the Secretary of State for Health said of care homes that
“we have met our target to provide testing kits to all the care homes for older people and people with dementia that have registered to get tests.”—[Official Report, Commons, 8/9/20; col. 517.]
But on Monday, the Government were forced to apologise for continuing delays to Covid-19 testing for care home bosses and GPs, who are threatening that these will lead to more infections among vulnerable people.
The Secretary of State’s own department, the Department of Health, admitted to breaking its promise to provide test outcomes within 72 hours. Care managers have described the Government’s centralised testing service as “chaotic” and “not coping”, amid reports that whole batches of tests are coming back not only late but also void. Testing officials told care homes by email on Monday morning that
“immediate action has been taken at the highest levels of the programme to bring results times back”
within 24 hours.
“We apologise unreservedly to … you … and your staff.”
The ring of steel that the Secretary of State claimed to have put around care homes never was. With upwards of 40,000 deaths, when will the Government sit down with care home providers, local authorities and CCGs to develop a comprehensive system of testing and supply of PPE? It does not have to be world beating; it just has to work.
The Prime Minister’s Statement yesterday would have been risible were the consequences not so serious. Most ludicrous of all was the announcement of a team of Covid-secure marshals to enforce the new laws on public gatherings. The Government could have done any number of things. They could have announced resources to enable the rehiring of retired public and environmental health professionals, since there is a shortage. They could have given funding to local community and voluntary groups to communicate ongoing health risks and the law to communities. They could have given additional funding for trained police officers to work with health officials and businesses to improve adherence to infection control. But, no, instead we got another vacuous attempt to steal the headlines. Maybe these marshals, with no training, no resources, no local management and no authority could join up with the 750,000 volunteers for the NHS and the trackers, and like them they could sit and twiddle their thumbs, waiting for the phone to ring.
One thing we can be sure of is that this is another stunt which will be an utter waste of time, money and resources. Local authorities, police forces, health authorities and schools are using their professional expertise and local knowledge to plan effective public health interventions. They are not only following the science but also using it to actively protect people in their authorities. In stark contrast, this Government ignore advice, misrepresent the science and carry on winging it, but the data on infections and the lack of reliable testing are evidence that the Prime Minister’s bumbling bombast and the Health Secretary’s growing litany of half-truths are indicators of world-beating incompetence and, sadly, people in black and minority ethnic communities and poor communities will suffer the consequences. It is time for the Government to change.
We now come to the 30 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief, so that I can maximise the number of speakers.
My Lords, the consistency of messaging over time is immensely important to secure public support and adherence. Over the last six months, we have consistently explained that indoor and outdoor gatherings are significantly different, and that the scientific evidence has clearly shown much greater risk for indoor gatherings. Can my noble friend the Minister explain to the House why the Government appear to have abandoned this important distinction in their current guidance?
My Lords, sadly, Professor Spiegelhalter has seriously questioned the Prime Minister’s rather splendid Moonshot mass testing proposal. I understand his concerns. Nevertheless, can the Minister assure the House that he will press for a significant investment in saliva home-testing kits, to enable families with a parent in the former shielded group and with children at school to live a reasonably normal life? Children need to be at school, but the lives of these parents are now in grave danger—I am sure the Minister appreciates this—with the R number above one and, as yet, no daily testing capacity. Can the Minister say when daily testing will be available for these families and other top-priority groups in the country?
My Lords, will the Minister accept that the reason for scepticism about the Moonshot gimmick is that the Government have a consistent record of overpromising and underdelivering? The Minister will know that the latest test and trace stats are not good: they show that 69.2% of close contacts of people who have tested positive with Covid-19 in England were reached—that is the lowest percentage since the scheme was launched. What would he say to Bridget Phillipson, the MP for Houghton and Sunderland South? Because Sunderland has a rising number of cases, she checked online this morning the availability of tests: no home tests were available and no drive-through tests could be found. Later in the morning, the only test offered was a two-hour drive away in Scotland. Why should anyone believe the ideas that the Government float from week to week?
My Lords, the Secretary of State has blamed the recent failure of laboratories to process tests in a timely way on members of the public who are not eligible—as he calls it—seeking to take a test. Is this not another example of Ministers blaming someone else for their failures? How do people know if they are not eligible? If they are concerned about something, what system is in place to enable testing centres to know who is eligible, so that they can refuse to test those who are not?
My Lords, as a Conservative, it grieves me that the Government are pursuing policies, such as the rule of six and Covid-secure marshals, which belong in a police state. The Government have chosen a highly risk-averse approach, driven by guesstimates of hospitalisation and mortality rates, and doubtless derived from mutant algorithms. In the meantime, the economy is tanking. Can the Minister say what evaluation the Government have made of the economic and societal impacts of different responses to the small spike we have seen in infection rates? Will they publish that evaluation?