Covid-19: Lockdown Costs and Benefits

Debate between Lord Watts and Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Wednesday 13th March 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, the pandemic was an unprecedented event, and the UK Government came together very well to deliver an unprecedented response to save lives and livelihoods and keep people safe. It is for the inquiry, with the benefit of hindsight, to determine whether the decisions to lock down were appropriate and timely and to advise on lessons for the future, such as on cost-benefit. I cannot prejudge its conclusion while it remains ongoing, but we are all aware of the impact of the pandemic on individuals, society and the economy.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, may I suggest that the Minister takes no notice of the flat-earthers? The best estimate is that more than 17,000 lives were saved. That has had a massive effect on those 17,000 people and their families. I urge her to take no notice of those who do not want to accept scientific fact.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I note what the noble Lord says. It is important that these issues are considered fully from every angle. That is why the Government set up the Covid inquiry and why it is looking into many areas.

Ministers: Legal Costs

Debate between Lord Watts and Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Tuesday 12th March 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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The Secretary of State is responsible for the non-departmental public body UK Research and Innovation. She was operating in that context. Her intentions were always to do the right thing. It is very important that Ministers can do this. Of course, insurance is available to MPs, which is provided by the House at the taxpayers’ expense, in cases where professional indemnity insurance covers defamation. The House of Lords Commission is due this week to discuss the provision of professional indemnity insurance to Peers. Of course, there is indemnity insurance in the private sector because directors have to act in good faith and in the wider interest.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, might I suggest that the protection should last only while pub hours are in place, because it is quite clear what happened in this case?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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The truth is—as I know well—that as a Government Minister you do work late. Government officials often work late as well. This is a serious point about how to make sure that Ministers are properly advised on issues. That is what happened on this occasion.

Vetting Social Media Accounts

Debate between Lord Watts and Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Wednesday 21st June 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I very much agree with my noble friend; we need to do exactly that. Civil servants need the ability to listen to different points of view and to serve the Government, whatever their political persuasion, to the best of their ability and in a way that maintains political impartiality. I think that is agreed ground across the House.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, how can the Minister have had a review in her department if it does not keep the data required to do that review?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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The HR people group within the Cabinet Office produces different guidance on different things. It has a network in which people regularly discuss how things are operating. The guidance I referred to was considered as part of that process in February. It is available in the Library of the House, if noble Lords want to look at it, as the noble Baroness has obviously done. It is a good thing that it is publicly available.

Public Service Ombudsman for England

Debate between Lord Watts and Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Tuesday 10th January 2023

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I am tempted to say that I will write to the noble Baroness. Obviously, there are surveys and things that I do not have to hand today because I came to talk about the ombudsman, not public services in the round, but there have been considerable improvements in many public services for business and for citizens. Clearly, the Covid epidemic has caused enormous problems, which have led to difficulties with public services.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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What about the war in Ukraine?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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As the noble Lord says, the war in Ukraine has caused problems as well. We also face a challenging demography in this country. All these things have an effect, but this Government are determined to improve public services. That is a very important objective and I am trying to help with it from the Cabinet Office; I am trying not to make difficulties worse by, for example, inspiring changes that will potentially cause substantial difficulties for the flow of casework, which is so important. I come from a business background. Dealing with complaints well is very important.

Strike Action

Debate between Lord Watts and Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Wednesday 7th December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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Although I sympathise with the noble and gallant Lord’s points on the wider question of the Army, this is not something that I can comment on. However, I can say that, as he knows, the Government are able to utilise the military aid to the civil authorities protocol as a last resort to respond to major strikes. It is a tried and tested process that covers a range of risks, obviously including strike action. We are stepping up contingency measures, with around 2,000 military personnel, and some civil servants and volunteers, currently being trained to support a range of services if the need arises.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, it suits the Government to claim that these are union disputes but is it not the case that the members of those unions have voted unanimously for action because their living standards have been squashed so much by this Government? Instead of interfering in those negotiations, would it not have been better for the Government to have tried to find a solution to the rail and health service strikes rather than sitting back and claiming that they are nothing to do with them?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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The Government have done a great deal to try to move things forward. On rail, which the noble Lord referenced, a new and improved deal, backdated, at 4% this year and 4% next year, has been offered. But although we want pay deals to be fair and affordable, and want independent pay review bodies to help with that process, our number one priority must be tackling inflation, which currently stands at 11%.

Government Contracts: Bain & Company

Debate between Lord Watts and Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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On the subject of US relations, I can say that the Prime Minister met US President Biden at the G20 in Indonesia, and they agreed on the national and international importance of the UK-US relationship given the challenging economic times and all the difficulties we face together. The US Government have a suspension and debarment regime to which they devote a lot of resources, and contractors found not to be responsible are suspended or debarred, and the US will no doubt study very seriously the Zondo commission and the steps we have taken in the UK to lead the way on this matter.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not about time that directors were held accountable for such actions, and that some of them went to jail?