Covid-19: Aligning UK and Foreign Entry and Return Requirements

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Monday 19th July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Lord’s question has behind it a genuine dilemma. The amount of genomic sequencing in countries around the world is limited. No other country has the degree of genomic sequencing that we have here in the UK, and we do not have perfect vision of what variants of concern are present in other countries, including even in France. We work very closely with Governments, including that of France, to have access to whatever data they have—but, to an extent, we are operating with imperfect data.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, clearly, as international travel restrictions ease, co-ordination of travel rules will become imperative. In that regard, will the Minister impress on colleagues in government the good sense of Britain leading the way internationally in ensuring that vaccination records are carried in passports, to demonstrate the vaccine histories of those travelling? This will speed checks, make them secure and promote an international approach to vaccine-secure travel.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend that co-ordination of vaccine certification is a massive priority. We are working extremely closely, particularly with our close friends in America and the EU, to have mutual recognition of certification. Whether that certification is tied to the passport is up to the tastes of local countries. In the UK we are putting certification in the NHS app, and it feels right that that should be contained and limited to health records rather than national identity documents. However, each country will have its own approach.

Coronavirus Act 2020 (Early Expiry) Regulations 2021

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Monday 5th July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. I thank my noble friend for setting out the early expiry regulations, which I support. As we have heard, these regulations provide for the early expiry of 12 temporary provisions. I note that nine of them are devolved matters and that the Secretary of State has obtained the necessary consent on behalf of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These regulations are multifaceted, applying to matters as diverse as the retention of DNA and fingerprints, food safety, emergency volunteering and General Synod elections. As we note the lack of need for emergency volunteers in these expiring regulations, I note the great resilience of our NHS and its staff as we mark its 73-year anniversary and its merited award of the George Cross by Her Majesty yesterday. Like many others, I hope that the efforts of NHS and care staff are recognised by the pay review process.

The varied nature of these regulations also illustrates the broad canvas that my noble friend is expected to cover—indeed, does cover—every day in this House. I commend him for his Trojan work effort. On that subject, I wish to stretch his reach and possibly his patience a little further. These regulations do not renew the provisions relating to tenancies, so there are limited opportunities to raise these matters. I have given my noble friend advance notice that I would raise this issue, but if he does not have all the detail to hand, I would appreciate a response in writing.

Until the end of May 2021, there were restrictions, quite justifiably, on the eviction of tenants unable to pay their rent because of the Covid pandemic. This meant that for many tenants housing rent arrears were piling up. The debt was still due but could not be enforced in that period, quite understandably. That came to an end at the end of May. Thus, from the start of June, the possibility of eviction arises again. This will not mean that the tenant has the money to pay the rent, so the landlord enforcing the provision will not necessarily—probably will not—get the rent. It prejudices the tenant in a dreadful way, and it undermines the landlord/tenant market in general. This is only going to get worse as we enter the summer now that evictions can happen again.

This problem has been highlighted on many occasions in your Lordships’ House, as well as in the other place. I have done so, and many others have too, including, outside your Lordships’ House, the National Residential Landlords Association, which has pressed for interest-free hardship loans for tenants to pay-off their Covid-related rent arrears. This would help landlords and tenants and would help preserve the important landlord and tenant market so essential to the country’s housing needs. I press this upon my noble friend.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps and Other Provisions) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler of Enfield. I very much agree with her concluding comments about the fact that there is no freedom day: we will not go back to normal, certainly not in the short term. It is, as my noble friend Lord Lansley also said, a matter of accommodating our processes and adjusting to the new realities. I also thank my noble friend the Minister for setting out so clearly and concisely, as he always does, the effect of these regulations and for updating the Committee on the four tests or factors affecting the lifting of regulations.

I support the regulations but I regret that we are not seeing them in advance of their coming into force. I hope my noble friend can say something about a future scenario where we can perhaps expect that, as we move to a position where the regulations will not be so restrictive. It would be good to hear my noble friend’s views on that.

I support the regulations and the policy of stepped moves out of lockdown. That seems the right way forward. The easing of restrictions on outside gatherings and those attending funerals is absolutely appropriate. It is right that this phased approach is taken towards restrictions and that they are relaxed as the evidence demonstrates that a letting up on restrictions is appropriate. That is the right approach.

Like others, I congratulate the Government and my noble friend on the success of the vaccination programme. It has been outstanding. It is only fair that that should be acknowledged. It is at the centre of the Government’s success in this area and a tribute to the National Health Service, volunteers and all those concerned.

What remains a major challenge, as identified by others speaking in the debate, is international travel. This area of activity is relaxed by these regulations too. I will press my noble friend on this. A potential weakness identified previously is represented by travellers coming into the country from high-risk countries, who might pass on the infection before they are quarantined. This presents a challenge principally, though not exclusively, at Heathrow. I am pleased with the red country terminal arrangements at Heathrow. Could my noble friend update the Committee on their success and how they are working? Are we ensuring that special arrangements are made to split passengers from red list countries from other destinations at other airports too, where there is unlikely to be more than one terminal? It would be good to hear that these sensible arrangements are being applied across the country.

What arrangements are being made to ensure co-ordination with the devolved Administrations, particularly in this important area of travel and the operation of our UK airports, where a consistent approach is clearly needed? Could my noble friend comment on the recent summit between the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of the devolved Administrations, and any discussion that there was on co-ordination on coronavirus actions and policy?

Lastly, I make a plea for continued efforts to ensure that COVAX is working successfully to help countries across the world, particularly those unable to act as speedily and effectively as we have done. I know that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has this very much at the centre of his approach and is making it a central plank of the G7 summit coming up in Cornwall. It would be good to hear my noble friend’s thoughts on this. With those comments, I am very pleased to support the regulations.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps and Local Authority Enforcement Powers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Monday 17th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, who has made some extremely important points. I thank my noble friend for setting out the purport of these regulations, applaud his work ethic and say that what I shall say, just as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said, is no personal reflection on him.

These regulations are part of the road map setting the way out of lockdown, which I support; the approach is correct. I would like some reassurance from my noble friend. As we are out of the eye of the hurricane, it is about time we saw these regulations in advance of them becoming law. We are looking at these some 37 days after they became effective. Frankly, it is just not good enough. It is about time that we started to see these ahead of their becoming law rather than in the rear-view mirror, as has become the case. There may have been a time when that was justifiable, but that time has now passed.

I will take my noble friend up on some of what he said about the Indian variant. I am sure that we will look at this whole issue of why action seemed slow in relation to India when it was not so slow in relation to Pakistan and Bangladesh. It seems strange. Are flights still arriving from India in any way, as I have heard is the case? That might not be true. Could my noble friend also provide some reassurance about our border controls, which seem all too porous? People from countries where there is a known risk mingling with other travellers when they arrive is, frankly, amazing and needs to be stopped forthwith. I cannot understand why that is happening.

My noble friend the Minister spoke about action at the weekend in Bolton, which I certainly welcome. Could he tell us whether similar action has been taken elsewhere, in other communities where there is clearly a threat from this variant, such as Blackburn, Bedford and so on? Could he indicate where that is the case? If he is unable to provide a detailed list—there might be many areas that this applies to—perhaps he could undertake to write and put a copy in the Library.

In short, while the vaccine programme has been highly successful and the Government certainly deserve praise for it, it is not the sum total of what is happening. We have to look at the whole position. The position at our borders is worrying. The Minister himself said that one of the four tests, quite rightly, is whether there are variants of concern. He said that this test was being satisfied. He said later in his speech that new variants are a risk. Frankly, one of those statements has to be right; I suspect it is the latter. I would welcome the Minister taking that point up as well. I have these concerns and look forward to hearing from my noble friend on these points.

Body Mass Index

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, who spoke cogently on this subject, as she always does. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on securing this important debate.

The past year has highlighted the importance of health and, specifically, of weight as a determinant of health. Just yesterday, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, reminded us, the Minister stressed the importance of combating obesity and the historic challenge we have in our country in tackling obesity. Apart from age, it is the single most important factor in tackling Covid-19, for example.

I also welcome the broader message that the Minister has given out on more than one occasion about the importance of preventive healthcare and the accent we should all place on a healthy diet, an exercise regime, such as walking and cycling, and maintaining a healthy weight in so far as one can. I welcome any rebalancing of our approach to health in this way for the future. I think that is important and welcome.

I appreciate, as others do, that BMI is not a perfect guide to a healthy weight—far from it. For example, as we know, muscle is denser than fat, so somebody who has a muscular build will be heavier than somebody who does not, and different people may be susceptible to some diseases and so on. BMI clearly needs to be used alongside other factors—that is crucial.

However, from the perspective of getting the basic message across, there is no doubt in my mind that in tackling obesity the use of BMI is the right call to arms, although I accept we need to be very much alive to the mental challenge of the eating disorders that confront many people. It is undoubtedly the case, as the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, has just said, that pressure from Covid-19 has increased problems in relation to finding treatment for eating disorders. I would welcome the Minister saying something on this when he sums up.

I also look forward to hearing from the Minister about what specific actions Her Majesty’s Government are looking at around whether to nudge people with incentives, or at least opportunities, to exercise across the country; whether to take action to influence diet, for example, through school meals, hospital meals and meals in other institutions; how we are going to control excess sugar and salt in our diets, possibly through restrictions; and how we are going to control the advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks. These are important issues that we need to confront for the future and one of the lessons that we can clearly learn from the Covid pandemic.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 7) Regulations 2021

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Monday 22nd March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Empey, who has characteristically made some important points. I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman of Darlington, on an excellent maiden speech. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to many more such speeches from her. I also thank the Minister for his considerable efforts on coronavirus and many other health issues over the last year or so. He has been a truly diligent Minister.

We can all take great comfort from the success of the vaccination programme. It is a tribute to the Government, the NHS and the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have made such a great effort and continue to do so. That said, these regulations cause concern. I share the concerns of many Members who have spoken about the lack of notice, which we should have been able to deal with by now. We have heard routinely how this will be dealt with but we are still seeing these things in the rear-view mirror. Frankly, I cannot see a reason why that should be happening now, and certainly not in relation to these regulations. I do, and will, support them, but there are inconsistencies in the approach. Those coming directly from a red-list country will quarantine in a hotel; those coming indirectly—no matter how short the stopover somewhere else—will not be required to do so. I cannot see the reason for the distinction but I look forward to hearing from the Minister on this.

Meanwhile, we should take great comfort internationally from the scientific response—including, I hope, to the variants—from those who have worked incredibly hard on the vaccine programme and, as I said, from the vaccine rollout in our own country, which has been extraordinarily successful. I would also like to hear from the Minister on the vaccine passport and, indeed, a vaccine certificate to enable people to attend galleries, concerts, football matches and so on. What are the Government doing about that?

Women’s Health Strategy

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Tuesday 9th March 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we are of course drafting the national strategy, and we are collecting evidence on what its priorities should be. Undoubtedly, FGM should be in there; it is the most horrific crime, and it still touches far too many girls’ and women’s lives. I would like to see this country rid of it forever as soon as possible, and I encourage the noble Baroness to submit evidence on that point so that we can move clearly on it.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Statement rightly identifies the concern of mental health. Given the particular challenges experienced by women in the pandemic, from domestic abuse and disproportionate job losses to increased caring responsibilities, I ask my noble friend to give special focus to this area of research. I also applaud addressing the need for proper representation in the research programme of women from ethnic minorities, including from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities .

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, my noble friend touches on two very important points. He is entirely right that mental health has previously been underrepresented in the strategies of our healthcare. I hear loud and clear noble Lords who repeatedly make the case for a greater focus on mental health, and I take that message back to the department as much as I can. I reassure him that mental health will be very much a priority in this area. The two facts—that it is often women who are connected with mental health issues and that it is women who are often overlooked—are probably connected. It is extremely challenging for us to get women from ethnic minorities, for instance those from a Gypsy or Roma background—that is such a good example—fully engaged in our healthcare strategy. If the noble Lord has any suggestions or recommendations for how we can better engage with them, I invite him to submit evidence to the consultation.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Monday 1st March 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, who reminds us quite rightly of the important part that faith and faith communities play in tackling this pandemic. I thank my noble friend for outlining the purpose of these regulations and pay tribute to his incredible hard work and good humour throughout this pandemic and in serving our House.

I support these regulations. I believe that the overriding need to contain the spread of the disease means that, where self-isolation is required, it should be properly enforced. I enjoy the honour of serving on the Public Services Select Committee. During our recent inquiry, one very clear fact emerged, which was the frequent need to be more open to sharing data. We saw very clear evidence that bodies which chose to share data were able to rise to the challenges of the pandemic much more readily. So I very much endorse the approach of these regulations in this regard, although, like others, I look forward to the imminent—I hope—memorandum of understanding.

On the stricter control of gatherings of over 15 people, again this seems eminently sensible. Clearly, the larger the gathering, the greater the concern. I suspect that many people would strongly support these regulations and would perhaps even favour a tougher regime. I have a question in this regard for my noble friend. Clearly, the mischief which the regulations seek to address is large unauthorised gatherings. Why then do the regulations restrict themselves to private dwellings, educational establishments or indoor raves? Clearly, they are part of the problem that we need to tackle, but what happens if there is a large gathering on business premises or in a barn, on industrial or charitable premises, or perhaps there is unauthorised use of a public building? It seems that, as drawn, the regulations do not cover these types of activity. It may well be that I have missed something or that some other regulations deal with those situations, but if the problem is large unauthorised gatherings, why are we not tackling all indoor gatherings rather than just some of them? Subject to that caveat and concern, I give strong support to these regulations and once more thank the Minister for all he does for our House.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation and Linked Households) (England) Regulations 2020

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Thursday 7th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank our NHS and care home staff, who are now in the eye of this storm, for all that they do. I agree with other noble Lords about testing at ports and points of entry. Look at the experiences of Australia and New Zealand. It is extraordinary that we have not done this already. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, about the wearing of masks. We must err far closer to clamping down on this disease and further away from freedom in this regard, and do so very quickly.

Vaccinations are obviously key to all this, and I agree with others who pointed to the experience of Israel. If there is no shortage of supply, and I would encourage the Minister to make clear that there is not, why are we not making more progress than we are currently seeing? We certainly need to use community pharmacists and we should be welcoming volunteers, not making it more difficult for them with some of the extraordinary red tape in the training and questions about deradicalisation and so on. It is monstrous and makes no sense at all.

I hope that the Minister can provide some clarity, disregard his script and tell us why we are not having night clinics and why we are not working at inoculating every day of every week and using every conceivable site for inoculation now? That is what we must do. The nation is crying out for progress on this joint endeavour, standing ready to help in every conceivable way. The Government really need to step up the programme of vaccination, to do so at pace, and to do so now.

Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2020

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Excerpts
Thursday 10th December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, who is always incisive. I thank my noble friend the Minister for setting out the measures so clearly and I wish him and his family all the best in the difficult situation he finds himself in. His workload is massive and this added pressure is extraordinary.

There is a clear need for testing for Covid-19, as my noble friend has set out, and that will continue for some time, notwithstanding the very good news about vaccinations. I support the measures. It is important that there is an appropriate regime for accrediting those who are carrying out testing on a commercial basis, and I recognise that the existing Care Quality Commission system had gaps in it. But the regime that is applicable under the commission meant that some test providers were within the ambit of the commission and others were not, so that was difficult to navigate. The new system seems more streamlined and straight- forward. It is to be provided by a body that we know is effective, the UK Accreditation Service. It will reduce barriers but will ensure that testing is of high quality. We should all welcome that.

Notwithstanding that, I have some questions which may tie in with some that have already been asked. The first was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt: does the UKAS have the resources, expertise and capacity to handle this? I seek some reassurance from the Minister in that regard. My second point relates to liability. As is referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum, there is to be liability for failing to comply with the obligations in the instrument, and I understand that. I am not sure whether this will apply to companies or just to individuals. If it applies to companies, will it also apply to company directors? What if there are repeated breaches? Is there a scale of fines that are to apply? I believe that a fine is applicable on summary conviction. Is that a repeated fine and does it escalate? I would be grateful for some guidance from my noble friend on the matter.

Thirdly, I refer to a point made by my noble friend Lady Altmann about the cost of applications. I am not clear on how costly it was under the CQC system for applicants, and how costly it is going to be under the new system. I think that it will be cheaper, but perhaps my noble friend the Minister could give guidance on what those costs will be. With those considerations, I am otherwise supportive of what seems a very sensible move.