Debates between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock during the 2019 Parliament

Covid-19: Government Handling and Preparedness

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Thursday 27th May 2021

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I think what the constituents we serve are looking for is a Government who are focused four-square on delivering for them, getting us out of this pandemic and building back better. Observations on ironies I will leave to my hon. Friend.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP) [V]
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Delaying a public inquiry until 2022 could lead to the rewriting of memories, the potential loss of key documents and a lack of full transparency on the decisions that were taken based on the evidence. Given the seriousness of the testimony of Mr Cummings, including that statement, the scale of the disaster is so big that people need to understand how the Government failed them and learn from it. Does the Secretary of State agree that we need a quicker start to a public inquiry than the Government currently plan?

Covid-19 Update

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I have always loved Rugby, and the idea that Rugby is going to deliver on everyone in categories 1 to 4 having an offer of a jab a week early is music to my ears. I am delighted to hear about it. I can absolutely confirm that we have confidence in the supplies of vaccine to ensure that everybody can get a second jab of the vaccination they had the first time, unless there is a specific clinical reason not to; that would happen only in very rare circumstances. The plan is that you get the same jab second time around as you got the first.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP) [V]
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According to the Global Institute, high-income countries representing 16% of the world’s population currently have about 60% of the vaccines purchased so far. So can the Secretary of State tell us what plans the Government have to start sharing supplies with low-income and middle-income countries? Can he share with us the Government’s plans on an international approach?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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This is a very important question. Although I am incredibly proud of the UK vaccine roll-out and very pleased that we bought early so that we have access to the supplies of 407 million doses, we are also deeply aware of our international obligations, with the provision of the Oxford vaccine to the world, but also the financial support essentially through COVAX and GAVI, to make sure that people across the world have access to this vaccine. It is not “either/or”; it is “and”. Although my first priority and responsibility as UK Health Secretary is to ensure that the UK has access to this vaccine, this disease has demonstrated that it does not respect international boundaries and it is important that everywhere gets access to the jab.

Covid-19 Update

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Thursday 17th December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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Yes. We are committed to setting out weekly updates on the vaccination programme—we released the first data yesterday, on the 137,000 number—and increasingly with the sorts of breakdowns that my right hon. Friend asks for, as more and more groups are reached. He asked for the calculus in terms of the proportion of the population that needs to be protected in order that we are able to bring down restrictions, and that is exactly how we are thinking about the next phase. We do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission, so we cannot yet have a concrete answer to his question, but it is precisely the question that we are asking. We should know much more within the next few weeks.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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Recent studies have shown that vaccine hesitancy is highest among the black, Asian and minority ethnic community and low-income groups, and there is a real fear that these groups are being deliberately targeted with misinformation. Will the Secretary of State tell us how his Department is going to counter that so that people can make informed choices, and to avoid covid health disparities going forward?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. In fact, I was talking about the vaccination programme to the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Health only this morning, because making sure that we reach all those who need vaccinations, according to clinical need, is critical, but we also need then to persuade them to take the vaccine. There is a huge amount of work on tackling misinformation. The most important thing is to have the positive information out there. I thank all those who have gone public about their vaccine so far—we all saw the wonderful photograph of Sir Ian McKellen, and I thank Prue Leith, who went public with her vaccination. It is absolutely terrific to see people celebrating the fact that they are getting vaccinated and therefore encouraging other people to do the same.

Covid-19: Winter Plan

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Monday 23rd November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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Yes, that is right. We publish unprecedented amounts of data, on which these judgments have to be made. I commit to my hon. Friend that we will look at the precise data—in Aylesbury, across Buckinghamshire and, of course, nationwide—as we make these difficult judgments.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP) [V]
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We do not often enough thank those public sector workers who have gone the extra mile during covid, particularly those processing furlough payments in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, those processing universal credit payments in the Department of Work and Pensions, and, as the Secretary of State will be aware, those who work in the national health service, for their heroic efforts. Will he thank those public sector workers for everything they are doing, and will he explain to them why this Government believe they should be subjected to a three-year pay freeze and whether he thinks that is appropriate?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I pay tribute to all those who have been working on the coronavirus response and, more broadly, all those who have been working together across the public and private sectors to make it happen. There are clear, significant economic consequences to the actions that we have had to take, and we as a country will have to get through those in the same way as we have pulled together to get through this coronavirus crisis so far. We are not there yet, but we are making significant progress.

Covid-19 Update

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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My hon. Friend is exactly right—we are going as fast as we can. I recognise the importance of this. There was spare capacity earlier in the summer. We have maintained the turnaround times—they are very rapid—but there have been challenges in the last couple of weeks because of that increase in demand and some of the operational issues that we have discussed. He is right to raise this, and he has raised it with me privately before. There is no one more assiduous in putting forward the needs of their constituents than my hon. Friend, and I will keep him posted on how much we can expand testing in Buckinghamshire.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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On a similar point to the one raised by the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), can the Secretary of State tell us what advice and guidance his Department is issuing to employers that are trying to use covid-related absence to trigger points for absence management interviews and to remove occupational sick pay? We saw recent such attempts by IKEA, which then dismissed the trade union representative who had the temerity to tell trade union members what their employer was up to. Will he condemn those employers that are trying to use covid-related absences to remove occupational sick pay and the like?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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The hon. Gentleman raises a point that I know the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking at. Of course, returning to a covid-secure setting is safe and the right thing to do, and that is a matter between the employer and employee, but people must follow employment law. After all, as an employer, that is their statutory duty.

Covid-19

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Monday 16th March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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My hon. Friend is an expert in this area. So far, the social media companies have acted with great responsibility in this area and have responded to all the asks we have had of them.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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The Government are trying to regulate behaviour, so to avoid some of the scenes we have seen at the weekend would he encourage supermarkets to allow the elderly to have one hour a day when only they can shop to get their essentials?

Coronavirus

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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Absolutely—in fact, there was a very big conference in London today on precisely this issue. We are working with dozens of companies on it. We will work with anybody and scour the world for a solution, as my right hon. Friend describes. I just add one thing: he talked about how I had described what people should do if they feel ill—they should call 111—but also, going to the 111 website is really, really important, because that takes pressure off the call centres and many people can get the answers they need without talking to someone.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I bring the Secretary of State back to his discussions and liaison with supermarkets. I am aware of at least one supermarket chain that has already said to local food banks that they are cutting their orders and limiting what they provide to food banks. Will he raise this with supermarket chains to make sure that those who need food aid provision in the country—the most vulnerable and needy—get what they need?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is leading the work with the supermarkets now, so I will ensure that it gets that message and takes that up.

Wuhan Coronavirus

Debate between Chris Stephens and Matt Hancock
Monday 3rd February 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I join my hon. Friend in thanking all those who are doing important work. We are of course working with the Chinese Government and we offer all support that they need. This is best done at a global level; hence it is going through the coalition, the World Health Organisation and the GHSI. With G7 partners, we are happy to respond to any demands or requests from countries around the world, not just from China, should that be needed. That includes countries whose health systems may not be as advanced as those of others, but which need support to make sure that they can tackle the virus.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families affected in what is truly a global health emergency. I have three quick questions for him. First, can he tell us what discussions he has had with the devolved Administrations, and will he commit to ensuring that they are updated in real time on any developments in order for them to react immediately in advance of any new announcements? Secondly, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued an urgent request for medical masks, protective suits and safety goggles. Is this something the Government will be looking to provide? Finally, what assessment has he made of the conflicting advice on closing borders—some voices are saying that this could inadvertently lead to an increase in the number of affected persons—and how has that impacted on any advice that he and his departmental officials have chosen to give?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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The engagement with the devolved Administrations has been incredibly important in this so far, and will continue to be. Each of the devolved nations has a chief medical officer, and the team of the four CMOs is an incredibly important forum for making sure that the advice going to all four nations is clinically justified and correct. That has been working very well. Personally, I have spoken to the Ministers involved as well. We have a principle that we share information and publications before they go public, and thus far that has worked well. The hon. Member is right about the requests for equipment. We have sent out equipment to China, and we of course stand ready to respond to any further requests it has.