Christopher Chope debates involving the Department of Health and Social Care during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 30th November 2021
7 interactions (1,404 words)
Fri 26th November 2021
3 interactions (67 words)
Thu 21st October 2021
3 interactions (123 words)
Fri 10th September 2021
19 interactions (2,524 words)
Tue 13th July 2021
25 interactions (1,075 words)
Mon 12th July 2021
10 interactions (354 words)
Thu 25th March 2021
7 interactions (554 words)
Tue 2nd March 2021
3 interactions (85 words)
Wed 30th December 2020
11 interactions (134 words)
Thu 19th November 2020
4 interactions (232 words)
Wed 18th November 2020
3 interactions (686 words)
Thu 22nd October 2020
7 interactions (512 words)
Tue 6th October 2020
15 interactions (879 words)
Mon 28th September 2020
6 interactions (754 words)
Tue 5th May 2020
3 interactions (62 words)

Public Health

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 30th November 2021

(4 days, 14 hours ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper
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I disagree with some of those points. As a liberal, I believe fundamentally in giving people the most personal freedom they can have up to the point at which it interferes with the personal freedom of others. We hear a lot in this House about personal freedom, particularly from those on the Conservative Benches, but there is very little discussion about our broader responsibilities to others. That is the challenge that we as legislators have in this House: it is about getting the balance right. I do not think this is about putting restrictions on businesses because of the failures of our health service. GPs in particular are struggling with their workloads and with the abuse resulting from campaigns against them that are being led by national newspapers. If we had a stronger workforce to deal with these issues, and if the NHS had not been run into the ground, we would have more frontline health workers to deal with these problems right now. However, I am mindful of the Deputy Speaker’s entreaty to stick to the regulations, to which I now want to return.

As I said at the start, we will support these regulations. I agree with other Members that it is vital we have full scrutiny of any decision to repeal, extend or renew the regulations in any shape or form in the coming weeks. I implore the Government to take action and consider these restrictions in the light not only of this new variant but of the overall pressures across our NHS, whether on GPs, ambulance services or elsewhere.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper). I absolutely agree with her when she says she wants to maximise personal freedom. Unfortunately, most of her speech seemed to be about quite the reverse. I do not understand the lack of consistency, or perhaps I do, because I have been familiar with the Liberal Democrats over so many years.

There is a fundamental fallacy in the hon. Lady’s argument about masks, which is brought out in paragraph 7.4 of the explanatory memorandum:

“Evidence demonstrates that face coverings are effective, when worn correctly, at reducing virus transmission.”

Very few people wear their face mask correctly. The World Health Organisation’s advice says that people should wash their hands as soon as they take off their face mask, that they should discard temporary face masks and that they should wash their hands again when they put on a fresh face mask.

I had a discussion with Mr Speaker on this subject some months ago and, while we were having that discussion, one of our colleagues came into the Tea Room wearing a mask, took it off and put it on the breakfast table. I said to Mr Speaker that it really makes my point. Frankly, if we are talking about public hygiene and public health, the Government should be saying, “If you think you want to wear a mask, go and wear a mask but, for crying out loud, make sure you don’t contaminate yourself and others by not wearing it correctly.”

I cannot support these oppressive, authoritarian and dictatorial regulations, which are neither necessary nor desirable. They will have an adverse effect on lives, livelihoods and the mental health of our constituents. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care considers that

“the requirements imposed by these Regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve, which is a public health response to the threat.”

Where is the evidence? The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup), adduced no evidence whatsoever, and there is no regulatory impact assessment—the excuse is that the regulations will be in force for less than a year. Why is there no regulatory impact assessment? Why are we being asked to support a policy for which there is no evidence?

If there had been a regulatory impact assessment, there would be a requirement on the Government under the regulation rules of the Cabinet Office to put forward the possible alternatives to these regulations. We need goal-setting requirements, rather than prescription. More and more prescription seems to be the Government’s recipe.

To take an example, why is a shopkeeper not allowed to permit people to shop without wearing a face covering, provided those people have had a proper vaccination? Why is the keeper of a small shop not allowed to keep their front door open and allow people to go in and out without the need to wear a face covering—there would be adequate ventilation—or perhaps, as some small shops in my constituency do, have a one-in, one-out rule so that there is only one person in the shop with them? Why are we not allowing shops to have that freedom?

If we want to have a consistent policy, why are we treating those who have been fully vaccinated in the same way as those who have not been fully vaccinated? That seems to be wholly inconsistent with the regulations introduced by the Government in relation to people who work in care homes, and they propose to bring in similar restrictions for those working in the health service. If, having required those people to be double-vaccinated, we are saying that they are not in a privileged position when it comes to going into their local shop, what is the point of depriving those who have not been double-vaccinated of their right to work? There does not seem to be any consistency.

Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper
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Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the major incentive for people to be vaccinated is to reduce their own chances of hospitalisation and death, not just so they can go to the local pub, shop or anywhere else?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I hope the hon. Lady accepts that people should be free to make their own decision on whether they wish to be vaccinated. I am therefore extremely nervous about backdoor proposals to require vaccine passports. I do not believe people’s freedom should be conditional on taking compulsory medication, which is why I am against the provisions in the Health and Care Bill on compulsory fluoridation. To that extent, I am probably on the same side of the argument as she is.

A mood of increasing intolerance is being engendered towards those who have a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering. Paragraph 7.8 of the explanatory memorandum makes it clear

“people do not need to show proof of this reasonable excuse”

but that is not being promoted by the Government. Regulation 5 says:

“For the purposes of regulations 3(1) and 4(1), the circumstances in which a person (“P”) has a reasonable excuse include”—

this is the important point—

“those where P cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of any physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability…or without severe distress”.

That is one reasonable excuse, but there are many others. The Government seem to be rather conflicted or muddled, because paragraph 7.8 of the explanatory memorandum says:

“Nobody who has a reasonable excuse and is therefore not wearing a face covering should be prevented from visiting any setting because of the requirements in these Regulations. Furthermore, people do not need to show proof of this reasonable excuse under the Regulations.”

In other words, people do not have to show a face covering exemption certificate, such as this one from Hidden Disabilities. I see quite a lot of people wearing these certificates but, as soon as people have to wear them, they are asked questions, “Well, what are your disabilities?” Most of my disabilities are well hidden, and I intend to keep them hidden. It is unreasonable that we should be creating an environment in which people are being challenged, and being encouraged to be challenged, on their personal and private health.

That brings me to the conflicting content of paragraph 12.3 of the explanatory memorandum. It may just be a misprint, but it says:

“The Department has also included a range of exemptions to ensure that this policy does not unfairly discriminate against those with protected characteristics. Furthermore, the policy will be supported by a communications campaign that will make clear that some people are exempt from these regulations and people should be challenged by members of the public for not wearing a face covering.”

Surely it should say “should not be challenged”. I do not understand it, because paragraph 15.3 says:

“Maggie Throup, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State”—

she is sitting on the Front Bench—

“can confirm that this Explanatory Memorandum meets the required standard.”

If it was indeed a misprint, the explanatory memorandum does not meet the required standard. If it is not a misprint, it is a serious contradiction within the explanatory memorandum and seriously undermines people’s freedom to go about their business without having impertinent remarks and questions put to them by busybodies acting on behalf of enforcement authorities.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Alec Shelbrooke
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My hon. Friend has been a Member of this House far longer than I have. Is there a mechanism where that could be clarified before today’s vote?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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The mechanism is for the Minister to intervene on me, and I am happy to give way to her, to say that it is a misprint, or it is a deliberate confusion—it is to confuse the punters, so we can have it both ways. That might be the response of a Liberal Democrat, were there one on the Front Bench. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to that serious point.

Obviously, people out there will be wondering about exemptions and reasonable excuses. The hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), who chairs the Select Committee on Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, drew attention in his intervention to the fact that young people are going around in shopping centres saying that they have a reasonable excuse for not complying with the regulations and for not wearing face masks. What is the problem with that? If people have a reasonable excuse for not wearing face coverings, let us not get too fussed about it. That is why these regulations are part of a scaremongering propaganda campaign on the part of the Government that is designed to try to stop or restrict social interaction between social animals who happen to be living in the United Kingdom. That is potentially the most damaging aspect of the regulations before us today: they are designed to suppress freedom of the individual and to suppress social contact and they are doing that through unreasonable fearmongering.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
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Yesterday, I intervened on the Secretary of State and during his statement he repeated to me:

“we will not keep measures in place for a day longer than necessary.”—[Official Report, 29 November 2021; Vol. 704, c. 679.]

With that assurance in mind, I thought I would come to listen to this debate and speak on behalf of the transport sector, which relates to my Select Committee, willing to support these measures as proportionate measures in circumstances where we do not know whether the new variant will have an impact on transmissibility and on our vaccine effectiveness. On regulations 1340, on face coverings, I can get there in that regard because they expire on 20 December and they are well set out. I have concerns about the way the transport sector is somewhat singled out, albeit with retail, as perhaps being an unsafe setting, whereas hospitality is marked differently. If we put £10 billion into the rail network alone just to keep it going, sending out a message that it is a less safe setting than a pub or restaurant will not be the way to give people confidence to get back on to that network which we need to survive.

I also have concerns about what happens on the buses, given what I witnessed today. That may well have been because people had not tuned into this debate and did not realise that these regulations had already come into force. People are still getting on board without a face covering. Despite the powers given to drivers to ensure that they do not do so, there is no questioning and on they go. Not only does that wind people up, but it leaves others thinking, “What’s the point in bothering? If not everyone is wearing a mask, what’s the purpose of anyone wearing one?” However, I can get there on those regulations because of the unknowns that we need to deal with.

One of the wonderful things about coming into this Chamber is to be educated. I might make the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) has made: perhaps more of us can come here and be educated. I have grave concerns about the issues around regulation 1338, on self-isolation. If the aim is for us to be covered for no longer than is necessary, why do they have no end date and default to 24 March? The impact of these regulations is even greater than our having to wear a face covering for longer periods because, as has been mentioned, we could well be back to “pingdemic” territory.

I emphasise that the regulations mean that, regardless of a vaccination having been given, one has to self-isolate for a period of time if there is a suspicion that one has been in contact with someone who has the omicron variant. Right now, and perhaps for the period up to 20 December, I can understand that the suspicion would perhaps be linked, as the transmission rates are slower to build—one would hope that would be so for the next few weeks—to whether one had been in contact with someone who had been in South Africa, or something on those lines. If, however, we move to 24 March and the variant has spread fast but, as we hope, it has not had a negative impact on the vaccine, we could see the default option being, “I have come into contact with somebody who has covid. I did not know whether they had omicron or not, because that does not tell me that. Therefore, I must be cautious, as we are always told to be. Therefore, I must self-isolate.” Then we could see the whole country being pinged again, as it has been before.

The situation could even be worse than that. If it turns out, as is currently being discussed in South Africa, that although the strain may transmit quickly it may not have the same impact as even the delta variant, stopping people being out and about may make things worse, because they will not get the antibodies that we want them to get. Surely those on our Front Bench are aware of that. The beta variant was a variant of concern, and the amber-plus regulations were brought in, as there was a concern that beta would have been worse against the vaccine than delta. It turned out that one dose of AstraZeneca was more effective against the beta strain than two doses of it were against delta. So variants of concern can quickly turn out not to be a concern at all.

That is why we must make sure that our legislation stops and is flexible and nimble, yet these regulations will roll on until 24 March. That is what our job in this place is about; I can agree in principle that there is a need to take measures, but I cannot vote for legislation that does not actually do what I believe the Government intended it to do. There are options, and they can be used right now. The Minister could stand at the Dispatch Box and find a way to reassure those of us who have the same concern. Alternatively, the default option for me is to vote against this legislation, not because I disagree with the principle, but because I disagree with voting for legislation that I know to be poor, badly drafted and not to meet the intention. Surely we should not be stubborn and pig-headed when legislation does not work; we should fix it or we should vote against it.

I have one last point to make in relation to a motion that I thought would be before us but is not—one that deals with the restrictions on travel and the introduction of PCR testing. Yesterday, the Secretary of State also reassured me that PCR testing would not be expensive and that we would not be at the mercy of unscrupulous providers, as we saw happen during the summer. A wise person just told me about an incidence of a three-hour PCR test, which many will need to take in order not to have to self-isolate—that is good for the economy—costing more than £200. Why are these regulations being laid under the negative procedure? We need to be discussing that legislation and finding the pitfalls, as we have with the regulations before us—I applaud my colleagues for doing so this afternoon—yet they are not even being brought forward.

Covid-19 Update

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Friday 26th November 2021

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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I want to ensure that all the support that is needed for our vaccination programme is there, across England. The hon. Lady rightly asked what we were doing to reach out to those who, for whatever reason, have so far been a bit hesitant. We have been working actively for months with many community leaders. We have added many more venues and ways in which to receive the vaccine, so access has been improved. Significant work is also being done on communications and ensuring that the right messages are there, and that people, including clinicians, are available to answer questions. However, the hon. Lady was right to point to the importance of this issue, and I am pleased to hear that she will be getting boosted this weekend.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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Ivermectin has shown promising results as a potential treatment for covid-19 in places including South Africa. More than five months ago it was added to the Oxford University trial, which is called PRINCIPLE. When will the results of that trial be available, and what are the Government doing to expedite the process? Ivermectin may not be a magic bullet, but on the other hand, it may be.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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My hon. Friend has made an important point. One reason for the difference between dealing with this pandemic today and dealing with it even a year ago is that we already have more treatments, and my hon. Friend has just mentioned another potential new treatment. I am afraid that I cannot give him any exact date for when we think the trials will be over, but I am pleased that they are taking place. He is right to point to the potential of that treatment, but I can reassure him that whether the UK’s engagement is with ivermectin or with other potential new treatments, it could not be more engaged.

Covid-19 Update

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Thursday 21st October 2021

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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We have a mature vaccines programme with a lot of supply. The MHRA is globally recognised as a good regulator. We need to take reference from that and from what we are doing elsewhere with other vaccine companies.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for seeing me on Monday to discuss my Covid-19 Vaccine Damage Bill. I thank her for telling me that responsibility for vaccine damage is being transferred from the Department for Work and Pensions to her Department with effect from 1 November and that there will be an eightfold increase in the staff dealing with those claims for vaccine damage payments, which shows that the Government are taking this issue seriously. Does she also accept that one way of reducing the number of 4.7 million people who have not had a vaccine is to increase vaccine confidence—this is what has happened in other jurisdictions, such as Australia—by ensuring that vaccine damage payments are available on a no-fault liability basis?

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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As my hon. Friend said, we had constructive discussions on Monday. I am taking the issue seriously and looking into it further.

Covid-19 Vaccine Damage Bill

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Friday 10th September 2021

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Bill addresses a very hot topic and I am not sure that we will be able to do it justice in 23 minutes. I start with the proposition that those of us who have been double jabbed with a vaccine against covid-19 must count our blessings if we have not suffered any adverse consequences, and I am happy to include myself in that category. This Bill is about all those who have suffered injury or even death as a result of enlisting in the war against covid by being vaccinated. The numbers affected are relatively low, which is all the more reason why the Government should not be playing hard to get in relation to the compensation scheme for those who suffer adverse consequences as a result of having done the right thing.

The Government have produced quite a lot of information about the extent of vaccine damage. Some of that is set out in the documents that the Government produce on those who have applied for compensation or have notified under the yellow card scheme. Essentially, what the yellow card scheme shows—from the most recent report, which came out on 9 September and covers the period from 9 December to 1 December—is that there have been 435 reports of major blood clots and low platelet counts, including 74 deaths. It shows that there have been 767 cases of inflammation of the heart, a condition that is almost unheard of in medicine on a normal day-to-day basis. It shows that there have been some 35,000 reports of menstrual disorder, and there are all sorts of other effects set out in the comprehensive report. Very worryingly, it says that there are 1,632 reports of deaths having taken place shortly after vaccination.

If we are trying to build vaccine confidence, we need to ensure that we are open with the public about the facts. That is why I was very disappointed when I asked the Secretary of State on 7 July

“what information his Department holds on the number of deaths that have been reported of people who have died within (a) one month, (b) two months and (c) three months of having received a covid-19 vaccination since 1 January”.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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Will my hon. Friend give way?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Yes, but perhaps it would be more convenient if I actually read out the answer that we received from the Minister. He said:

“Data on the number of deaths reported of people who have died within one, two and three months of having received a COVID-19 vaccination since 1 January 2021 is not available in the format requested.

Public Health England (PHE) monitors the number of people who have been admitted to hospital and died from COVID-19 who have received one or two doses of the vaccine and will publish this data in due course.”

That data has not yet been published. It is very important that we are able to put this issue into context. There is a lot more damage being done to our citizens as a result of covid-19 vaccinations than in any other vaccination programme in history. That does not mean to say that it is not worth while, and I am certainly not an anti-vaxxer or anything like that, but what is important is that, if people do the right thing, they should not be denied access to compensation.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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My hon. Friend is making a very strong case. Does he agree that we do not want to send a message from this House that vaccines are a bad thing? Vaccines are right and we should be vaccinated. Equally, on the rare occasion when it goes wrong, is it not right that compensation is made available—on those very rare occasions?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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That is exactly my point and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for summarising it so succinctly and accurately. That is where the Government come into this. Unfortunately, I know that the Minister will not have much time, if any, in which to expand on this issue today. I hope that he will be willing to arrange for me to be able to come along with one or two colleagues to talk to Ministers about this very important issues.

Edward Argar Portrait The Minister for Health (Edward Argar)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope I can give my hon. Friend the reassurance that I, or perhaps more appropriately the relevant Minister, will be happy to meet him to discuss this legislation.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I am most grateful for that. There is some doubt as to who the relevant Minister is. When I put down questions on this subject, I am told that it is the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions to deal with the vaccine damage Act. From that Department I have received information about the number of applications that have been made up until the middle of July. Up until 23 June, there had been 154 applications—obviously, there are many, many more now—but there are only four people in that Department dealing with all vaccine damage applications, so no decisions have been made and there is no indication as to when any decisions will be forthcoming.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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I am just looking at the Government website. The Government published a press release on 3 December last year, saying that covid-19 would be added to the vaccine damage payment scheme. Are you saying that it has not been yet, or that it has?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I do not think that Madam Deputy Speaker is saying anything. I am saying that it was added to the scheme, but, to all intents and purposes, it was just a gesture. In the substance of it, people have now started applying under the Act for compensation and none of those cases has been dealt with. No decisions have been made in any of those cases. No decisions have been made in any of those cases. There is now a worrying Government response to a petition that reflects what is in my Bill, calling for reform to the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979

“to improve support for those harmed by covid-19 vaccines”.

You may remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the Pearson commission found that those injured as a result of vaccination should have access to financial support and that that was the background to the 1979 Act. However, the Act makes provision of a maximum payment of £120,000 together with a threshold of 60% disablement. As a result, fewer than 2% of applications are successful. My Bill calls for the Government to set up a judge-led inquiry into the issues raised.

The petition says:

“Reforming the VDPA will maintain vaccine confidence and provide urgent support for those injured/bereaved through covid-19 vaccination.”

What did the Department say in response to the petition? As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, when a petition has gathered more than 10,000, signatures, that triggers a Government response—we do not get a debate in the House until there are 100,000 signatures. The response, dated 5 August, says:

“The Government has a robust system to monitor potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine and has added the vaccine to the VDPS. We will consider further action as more evidence becomes available.”

It goes on to tell us what we already know about the 1979 Act. It then says:

“Whilst understanding the desire and need to move forward rapidly with processing these claims, it is important to have an established evidence base around causational links between the vaccine and potential side effects. Not doing so risks claims being declined in error based on a lack of evidence, disadvantaging applicants.”

However, we already have a lot of evidence that people have suffered damage, if not death, as a result of these vaccinations. A recent coroner’s report on somebody—I think in the north of England—came to the verdict was that they had died as a direct result of receiving the covid-19 vaccine. The response continues:

“More widely, the Government is currently looking at how it can improve the operational aspects of the VDPS to better meet the additional demand created by the inclusion of the COVID-19 vaccine and improve the customer experience. Once more is known about the possible links between the vaccine and potential side effects, it will be considered whether a wider review of the VDPS is needed.”

My Bill answers that question by saying that we need such a review now.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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Fridays are a wonderful thing in this place. The hon. Member calls for a judge-led inquiry. I quite understand the importance of the issue, but many believe there should be a judge-led inquiry into many aspects of what has happened on covid and will wonder why this issue should get preference over others. Will he give his thoughts on how he would explain to care workers in care homes, for instance, why their concerns should not be considered at the same time as these important concerns?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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On the requirement that this House has made that all care workers in care homes should be vaccinated even if they have a genuine desire not to be—they may be fearful of the consequences, although consequences are seen in only a minority of cases—it should surely be for the judgment of each individual whether they will take the risk of having a vaccination or not. Obviously we know that, even if people are vaccinated, it does not mean that they are immune from covid-19, and it certainly does not mean that they are incapable of transmitting it to somebody else. Those issues need to be weighed up.

To go back to the hon. Gentleman’s challenge, he seems to be suggesting that those hapless families—10,000 of them, or maybe more—who have suffered real, serious damage as a result of doing the right thing should be left hanging around for years wondering whether they will be eligible for any compensation. That is totally the wrong message. The Government should be sending the message that, “If you do the right thing, you will be looked after by the Government if something goes wrong.” In a sense, that is what we do with the military covenant. People enter the armed forces of our country and, if something goes wrong, they expect the Government to look after them, and we do. We should be doing exactly the same for those who have suffered vaccine damage, instead of talking around the subject in the way that the Minister’s reply to the petition suggests is Government policy.

Shaun Bailey Portrait Shaun Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is being generous with his time. I have been listening intently to what he has to say, but I am conscious of the narrative. How do we ensure that, on the one hand, people who suffer severe disablement as a result of the vaccines get that support and payment, but on the other hand, we do not create a culture of hesitancy where people do not uptake vaccines or, equally, do not produce vaccines because of the fear that they might cause mass severe side effects? I am conscious of hearing his views on that.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I am trying to address that point. We cannot ignore the fact that there is fear out there about vaccination. We cannot suppress reports of coroners saying that somebody has died as a result of having a vaccination. I know from my own personal knowledge of people who have suffered—people who were in really good health and then had their first vaccine. I know of one person in particular who then had a stroke and was in hospital for some time with that, and then had severe heart problems and even had to be referred to Harefield Hospital. Those are not just anecdotes; those are facts known by people across the country.

The Government may not be too keen to promote that information, but failing to do that is actually counterproductive. Those facts are out there—we know that—so we need to say to people that if they are in that small minority of people who suffer those adverse consequences, we will look after them 100% without expecting them to get lawyers engaged and all the rest, which is agonising for their families and loved ones. That is what I think we owe them. We do that in a number of other fields for people who serve our country, and I would like to equate them to people who get vaccinated, do the right thing and act in the public interest.

By being vaccinated, we are collectively able to contribute to better public health for all. It is because people are doing it for the benefit of the state that the other side of the coin should be a guarantee that, if something goes wrong, the state will help them. It is the Government’s reluctance to deal with that part of the equation that is so distressing, because it feeds into people being vaccine-hesitant. If somebody comes to my surgery and says that they are nervous about having a vaccine for themselves or their children, I cannot say, “Well, don’t worry. If, in the most unlikely event, something goes wrong, you’ll be fully recompensed.” I cannot say that to them, but if I could, they might be more likely to take the risk. That is the issue.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
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Could my hon. Friend clarify the application of his Bill to the devolved Administrations, where obviously the vaccination process and the health services have been devolved?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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My Bill applies to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In so far as legislative consent would be required, I am sure that it would be forthcoming.

The problem with this Bill is that in order to get it on to the statute book, it would have to go through all it stages. It probably would not get on to the statute book until, say, next summer at the earliest, if everything went right. What I really want is action now, which is why I am grateful to the Minister for having agreed that I will be able to discuss this matter with the Minister responsible. This is urgent. Even if the Bill were accepted across the House, some legislation would not resolve the issue, because the Bill, once enacted, would only trigger the judge-led inquiry; it might be years before we had any action. We need action now to help challenge vaccine hesitancy and, most importantly of all, to give some assurance to the people who are already suffering.

Our hospitals have a large number of in-patients who are there only because they took the vaccine. It is causing a lot of angst for consultants across the country. That is why the Government should say now that they are going to look at these issues off their own bat without being required to by Parliament, and that they will carry out a review, which could also include assessing costs and benefits.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am eating into the time for my own Bill, but I wonder if the hon. Gentleman would agree that his Bill would not be required if his own Government agreed a date for an investigation into the Government’s handling of the pandemic, just as the Government in Scotland have agreed to do?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - -

I disagree. How long does the hon. Gentleman think the inquiry into the handling of the pandemic is going to take? I suspect that it will take two, three or four years. I am talking about people who are suffering in hospital or at home now because they did the right thing in getting themselves vaccinated but have had adverse reactions as a result. He may think that he is making a clever political point by talking about the delay in starting a mammoth public inquiry, but this matter does not need a public inquiry into the causes of covid; it needs a judge-led inquiry into how we should best and most fairly compensate those who have suffered the adverse consequences of doing the right thing.

Angela Richardson Portrait Angela Richardson (Guildford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is talking about the independent review that he wants actioned and the timescale for that. Does he not agree that over that period of time, the evidence that we need actually to ascertain vaccine damage will probably be found and that those payments will be made?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - -

I do not agree. There is no evidence yet that the Government are really getting to grips with this issue. As I have said with reference to the yellow reporting card system, we know that there is causation between vaccinations and damage caused by those vaccines, yet the Government seem to be denying that in a lot of their literature.

If we can establish and agree that, as a result of people being vaccinated, some are suffering adverse consequences, severe injury or even death, the issues around causation are probably secondary. In those circumstances, the best solution would be to provide a no-fault compensation scheme, meaning that people would not have to prove fault and would automatically qualify for compensation. Ironically, that is the condition which the Government have signed through the international COVAX scheme. Under the World Health Organisation COVAX scheme, the Government have to agree—and are indeed paying into the scheme—to indemnify any claims made for vaccine damage arising from the deployment of the vaccines. If it is good enough for the third world and the COVAX scheme, why are we not doing something similar in our own country for our own people? That is why I am quite passionate about this; not only do I know people who have been adversely affected, but it is fundamental that if we are going to encourage more people to be vaccinated, they should be given the assurance that if they do the right thing, they will receive compensation.

I am glad that the purpose of private Members’ Bills is not always to ensure that they get on the statute book but to give us an opportunity to raise a subject in debate. Because I am still on my feet, when this Bill comes back to be debated later—

National Health Service

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 13th July 2021

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Helen Whately Portrait The Minister for Care (Helen Whately)
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I beg to move,

That the draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021, which were laid before this House on 22 June, be approved.

As we head towards a winter where care homes may have to battle with covid and flu, the question we should ask ourselves is this: what more can we do? Over the last year and a half, covid-19 has sadly taken many thousands of lives, particularly the lives of older people and those with underlying health conditions, and particularly the lives of those who need the kind of care received in a care home. There have been more than 40,000 deaths among care home residents. They were mothers and fathers, grans and grandads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Sadly, we have lost some of our dedicated care workers, too: despite all the efforts that have been made by care homes and their staff, local authorities and by us in Government to keep covid out, despite personal protective equipment, despite testing, despite isolation. Throughout the second wave, care homes used 26 million tests and—

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I raised a point of order earlier this afternoon about the lack of an impact assessment before the House, despite it having been referred to on 22 June as having been made available. I was informed during the course of that point of order that pressure was going to be put on the Government to explain why there was no impact assessment. It is therefore a source of great disappointment that the Minister has not started off her speech with such an apology and explanation.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you for that point of order, Sir Christopher. The Minister is on her feet and she looks as if she may respond to that point of order herself, as it is not a point for the Chair.

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Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I may well answer many of my hon. Friends’ questions as I proceed, so I ask my right hon. Friend to let me make a little progress and I assure him I will take interventions.

As I was saying, throughout the second wave care homes used 26 million tests and 1.2 billion items of personal protective equipment, yet still we saw outbreaks in many care homes during the winter and 14,000 deaths from covid among care home residents. But there is one thing now making a huge and crucial difference, a major advance that is unequivocally saving the lives of care home residents and staff from this cruel and pernicious virus, and that is vaccination. I have spoken to residents who were in tears of joy and relief as they were vaccinated, as they at last had their own defence against this virus. So far, the vaccine roll-out to residents and staff in care homes has been a big success story. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation made residents and staff in older age care homes the highest priority as soon as vaccines were available, and the NHS hit its target of offering the first dose to all care homes by the end of January, which was a fantastic effort.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Will the Minister give way?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In one moment. Vaccination teams have made multiple visits to care homes since then and as a result 96% of those living in older age care homes have had their first dose and 93% have had their second dose. Some 92% of residents living in working age care homes have had their first dose and 87% have had their second dose. Take-up among staff has also been strong, with 86% of staff in older age care homes having had their first dose and 75% having had their second dose, and 83% of staff in working age care homes having had their first dose and 72% having had their second dose. Our vaccination teams have gone to great lengths to support and encourage those who have been worried about the vaccination, along with care home managers and care colleagues. I am sure that Members will join me in thanking everyone in the NHS, local authorities and care homes who have worked so hard together to achieve such levels of vaccination.

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William Wragg Portrait Mr Wragg
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Will the Minister give way?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Will the Minister give way?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I will make some progress. As the Prime Minister and our chief medical officer have said, even when we are no longer in a pandemic, the virus will remain in some shape or form and we will have to learn to live with it. It will continue to circulate and potentially evolve into new variants, and there is a serious risk of a resurgence of flu and other seasonal infections. A combination of covid and flu may be unpleasant for many of us, but it will be life threatening for those who are most vulnerable.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Will the Minister give way on that point?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We must ask ourselves: what more can we do to protect those who will be most vulnerable?

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Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. There is not a great deal more that I can say on that point. As I have said, the impact assessment is being worked on and we will share it with colleagues as soon as we can. That is all I can say on that particular point.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Yesterday, I asked the House of Commons Library to inquire of the Department where this impact assessment was, and the Department informed the Library that it was about to present the impact assessment. It did not say that the assessment was still under preparation. The implication was that it was ready to be given to the House and it was just a matter of time—they said they would do it as soon as possible.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, I can only say what I have heard during the debate and apparently the impact assessment is simply not available. This is clearly not the best situation. We can see exactly what it is, but it is what it is.

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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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This debate finishes at 7.19 pm and I need to bring the Minister in at the end. That means that if colleagues speak for between four and five minutes, everybody will get in. If colleagues do not speak for between four and five minutes, everybody will not get in.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan). I am delighted that the Official Opposition share my view and that of many of my colleagues that these are bad regulations and that they should be opposed this evening.

Both the Welsh and Scottish Governments, as I understand it, are against this type of regulation. The Minister told us that other Administrations were watching, but this Administration should be watching what the other Administrations are doing and following their lead. I must say that this was probably the most depressing performance from a Minister that I have listened to in this House. She showed a cavalier disregard for the conventions and courtesies of this House, and, as she has admitted to, she completely breached the rules under the Government’s better regulation framework, which is designed to inform decision making for regulations that affect businesses and individuals in this country. When criticised, the Minister’s response is best described as dumb insolence, and that is just not good enough. One question that I would have liked to ask in an intervention was: what is the Government’s rationale for not requiring care home residents to be vaccinated?

These regulations were laid on 22 June. There was an accompanying explanatory memorandum that expressly referenced a full impact assessment. It said:

“A full impact assessment of the costs and benefits of this instrument is available from the Department of Health and Social Care…and is published alongside this instrument and its Explanatory Memorandum”.

The Minister has not explained what has happened to it, whether it ever existed, and whether it contained information that she found embarrassing and has therefore been suppressed.

An impact assessment is not an optional extra. As the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee made clear in its report of 6 July: “An impact assessment is a fundamental tool for those who wish to scrutinise legislation before nodding it through”. Indeed, an impact assessment should be cleared by the Minister before the proposals are brought forward. The Government’s better regulation framework principles, set out in March 2020, says:

“Where government intervention requires a legislative or policy change to be made, departments are expected to analyse and assess the impact of the change on the different groups affected – which should generally take the form of an impact assessment.”

That has not happened. Why has it not happened? I put down some parliamentary questions about this, because I feared that we would not get the impact assessment, and those questions have received holding answers rather than substantive answers. One asked what estimate he has made

“of the number of employees in…England who will face dismissal from their employment as a result of the enactment of regulations …and whether those staff will be eligible for compensation”.

There was not an answer to that, and there has not been one so far today. I then asked what estimate has been made

“of the number of staff employed in care homes in England who have not been vaccinated against covid-19 for (a) clinical reasons and (b) reasons of personal choice including religion, belief and conscience”.

Again, no answers—not even to parliamentary questions. How can we hold the Government to account if they will not even answer our questions?

My constituents are absolutely livid about what is being proposed. I will not quote extensively from a letter that I received from Mr Davis from Ferndown, but he says that it is completely wrong and unethical and that it makes no sense. An NHS consultant in Christchurch says that, “Mandatory vaccination would be crossing the Rubicon on medical choice, medical confidentiality and bodily autonomy.” These are vital elements of the right to privacy. A Christchurch care home manager to whom I have spoken has said that the whole proposal “undermines” the need for parity of esteem between care workers and NHS workers.

You may have seen, Madam Deputy Speaker, the article in the British Medical Journal on 8 July, which says that, while it may reduce the risk of transmission, vaccination

“is not a panacea for safety”.

Why are we not saying that people who have had previous infection and got immunity from that are exempt from these regulations? I think that this is an unnecessary, disproportionate and misguided proposal. I hope that, given what has happened in Scotland and Wales, we reject these regulations and put the Minister out of her misery.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP) [V]
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I do not usually speak in the debates about statutory instruments on covid regulations as they apply only in England, but I feel I have to make a couple of points on the plan to make covid vaccination mandatory for all care home staff—the first mandatory vaccination legislation in the UK for well over a century.

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on vaccinations for all, I totally support vaccination and I draw attention to our recent report, published in May, on how to improve the uptake of all vaccines. Virtually all our expert contributors highlighted the dangers of making vaccination legally mandatory because while it may force uptake among some, it tends to increase distrust and suspicion of vaccines and drive those who are hesitant to become vaccine refusers.

In Scotland, virtually 100% of care home staff are fully vaccinated with both doses, without mandating it. That has been achieved through three key policy approaches. First, as part of developing caring as a profession, care home staff in Scotland are now registered, which means we have information on who we are trying to reach. Secondly, when the Scottish Government became aware that care home staff were being deliberately targeted with disinformation on covid vaccines, they arranged expert webinars for staff with our chief medical officers and NHS director. Thirdly, as soon as the Pfizer vaccine became available in December, care home staff were vaccinated at the same visit as residents. That not only improved convenience, but created a strong sense of solidarity between colleagues and with the vulnerable people they care for.

The Scottish Government faced considerable criticism at the start of the year for spending so much time and effort on care homes rather than pushing ahead with mass vaccination centres, but it has paid off. We hear that in England, 86% of care home staff have received a first dose and 75% are fully vaccinated, although I understand that that hides a wide variation in uptake. While repeat visits have now been provided to care homes in England, that was not national policy at the start of the programme when many providers reported difficulty in accessing vaccine appointments for their staff.

The UK Government have never taken forward the principle of care staff registration and professionalisation in the care sector. As has been highlighted, staff in England are not even paid the real living wage. Care home staff have faced a very difficult time in the last 18 months and we all owe them a great debt of thanks. I still believe that locally targeted support, information and persuasion would be more successful in convincing care home staff than heavy-handed legislation, which threatens their jobs.

We all agree about the need to get the highest rate of vaccination possible to protect care home residents. The difference is in how to get there. Our APPG report makes it clear that the most important approach when dealing with communities with hesitancy is not to make assumptions about the cause but to listen to them and then act on what they are seeking.

Apart from my concerns about the principle of mandating vaccination, I call on the Minister to clarify that the legislation applies to England only. The Scottish Government do not accept the principle of making vaccines mandatory, nor do they see the need for such an approach after the fantastic uptake by our care home staff.

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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. As I said earlier, it is a totally unsatisfactory situation, irrespective of whether anybody has been misled by the statement in one of the official documents. Those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the point of order and will make absolutely certain that it gets through to the Department. I will, as the hon. Gentleman has asked, raise it with Mr Speaker at the prayer meeting tomorrow morning.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It always used to be the convention in this place that if a Minister was unable to answer all the questions raised in a debate, they would offer to write to hon. and right hon. Members whose questions had not been answered in the time available. Bearing in mind the cavalier way in which Ministers seem to be treating the conventions of the House, I wonder whether it is within your offices to be able to put pressure on the Government to restore that convention as a matter of courtesy.

I look particularly at my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady), who had a pertinent question that could have been answered in two words. It was not answered and I am sure his constituents, on behalf of whom he speaks, will feel aggrieved about that. Why cannot this place restore some sense of reasonableness and good manners?

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I have been a Member of Parliament for 29 years and many times, at the end of a debate, Ministers have said they cannot deal with each point that has been raised. We were under time pressure today, as has been pointed out by a number of Members, and therefore a number of questions have gone unanswered. Again, those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the point of order and will bring it to the attention of the Minister in order that she is able to answer the questions that went unanswered in her summing up.

Covid-19 Update

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Monday 12th July 2021

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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The Government are speaking with one voice, and I believe our view is very clear.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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Tomorrow, my right hon. Friend will be asking the House to approve regulations that will put thousands of care workers in England out of a job. Two weeks ago, we were promised that a regulatory impact assessment was available. As of midday today, it is still not available. When will it be available, and why has it not been made available so far?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I believe my hon. Friend is referring to the measures that the Government have already announced around vaccinations and people who work in care homes. Ideally, I would like to make sure that the impact assessment is available. I do not know the full detail as to why it has not been completed, but at the same time, I think it is important to get on with this part of building our vaccine wall. We will have more to say about it tomorrow.

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Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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The guidance that we will publish today will be very clear on that.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It arises directly out of the response that the Secretary of State gave to me. Tomorrow this House is being asked to approve the Draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021. When that instrument was laid on 22 June, the explanatory memorandum said:

“A full impact assessment of the costs and benefits of this instrument is”—

I emphasise “is”—

“available from the Department of Health and Social Care…and is published alongside this instrument”.

As of 12 o’clock today, I have been trying, through the good offices of our excellent colleagues in the Library, to get an answer from the Department as to when we are going to get that impact assessment. The officials at the DHSC are quoted by the Library as having said, “The impact assessment has not been laid yet”—we knew that—and, “We will be laying it at the earliest opportunity.” This is very serious, because on 6 July the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee referred to the impossibility of being able to scrutinise the legislation properly without the impact assessment. Despite the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee recommending that the debate be deferred, nothing has happened and all that the Secretary of State said in response to me was, “Well, we don’t know where it is but don’t worry about it—we’ll carry on tomorrow anyway.” That is just not good enough. I would be grateful for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, as to what we can do to ensure that we have an informed debate with the impact assessment before us.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In intending to be helpful to those on the Treasury Bench, I have noticed, looking at the said regulations, that they do not actually come into force until 16 weeks after they are approved by the House. It seems to me that in four months there is plenty of time for the Government to produce the relevant information for the House and for the House to take a decision, with no detriment at all to the health and safety of anyone in our care homes.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank both hon. and right hon. Gentlemen for their points of order. I am sure the House is well aware that it is not a matter for the Chair. I will not spring it on the Secretary of State for him to give an answer on this operational matter, but Mr Speaker usually observes that it is helpful to the House for Members to have as much information as possible before them when a matter of importance is to be considered.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The explanatory memorandum falsely asserted that the full impact assessment is available. Why was the House misled in that way?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Once again, the hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot answer that question, because what is said by Ministers and their Departments is not a matter for the Chair. However, if it were to be the case that a spokesman for a Minister had suggested that something had happened that had not happened, and on which Members were trying to rely and could not rely, Mr Speaker would take a very dim view of that. It is better if Ministers make sure that their Departments give as much information as possible to Members ahead of discussions.

Coronavirus

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Thursday 25th March 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, the data on the impact of the vaccine—including side effects from the vaccine and the rare occasions when, sadly, people die after having had the vaccine—are published by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. If there are any data in this area that are not published but my hon. Friend would like to be published, he can write to me and I would be very happy to look into publishing them. Essentially, we take an attitude of being as transparent as possible, because there are side effects to the vaccine as there are to all pharmaceutical drugs and we want to be completely open and transparent about those side effects—essentially to reassure people that the risks are extremely low.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend answered a question from me on this very subject by saying that the data was not available. I cannot understand why crucial data—such as the number of people who have been vaccinated for more than three weeks, who are then admitted to hospital and subsequently die—is not collected. Why is that?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This data has been collated recently; it is in the so-called SIREN study from Public Health England. I am very happy to look into exactly the data that my hon. Friends are looking for and, if we have it, to publish it. I think we have what has been asked for, but let us try to do this by correspondence to ensure that we get exactly what is being looked for. On the face of it, my hon. Friend is absolutely right; it is exactly the sort of thing that we are looking at, but I want to make sure that we get the details right.

As I was just saying, each step of the road map is guided by the data and the progress against the four tests. We were able to take the first step on 8 March, when we allowed the return of face-to-face education in schools, relaxed the rules on two people gathering outside for recreation and allowed care home residents to nominate a single regular visitor, supported by regular testing and personal protective equipment.

The regulations before the House today ease restrictions further—again, in a careful and controlled way. First, they allow us to put in place the remaining measures of step 1, which will come into force on Monday. That means that the “stay at home” rule will end and six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors, and outdoor sports can resume. The regulations also commit the remaining steps of our road map into law, so that we can gradually ease restrictions at the right time before eventually removing them all together, which we hope to be able to do on 21 June.

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Graham Brady Portrait Sir Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West) (Con)
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I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, and delighted to follow the wise words of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael). I am the 31st Member to speak in this debate. I have been here throughout, and I think I am right in saying that only two Members have given their unqualified support to what the Government propose. The Government would be wise to reflect on that, considering the gap that is opening up between our rulers—the Executive and the Government—and those of us who represent the liberties of the British people. I am particularly pleased to be the fourth Greater Manchester Member to speak against what is being proposed, because we come from a city with a fine and long history of standing up for liberty, and I am glad that is continuing.

The danger in what is being proposed is that we risk normalising an extreme policy response. It was put in place during the emergency a year ago with very little thought or debate, and draconian powers were given to the Government, who initially expected a three-week lockdown, which then became a three-month lockdown. My constituents, like those of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green), were released for three weeks, and then they were again put under heavy new restrictions.

I have asked before in this Chamber a question about whose rights we are dealing with. Do the Government have the right to tell people whether they can see their children or grandchildren, or whether they can start a relationship with someone? My answer is an emphatic “no”. Even those who are less certain should reflect on whether extreme control over people’s right to family life, intimate relationships, and freedom of association should be introduced just briefly by the Government in an emergency, or for more than a year.

On 6 January—the last time we had an opportunity to assert some control on the Government exercising these powers—the Prime Minister told me, when I intervened on him, that it would be very surprising if the House did not get a vote to get rid of any of these restrictions before the end of March. Well, okay, it is 25 March, so perhaps we should prepare to be surprised. I stand with Members in all parts of the House who have said we should expect that, if the Government are given these extreme powers and allowed them for longer, they will retain them and are likely to seek to extend them. That is why the House should say no to extending the Coronavirus Act—it would have been in force for a year and a half at least.

The danger is that Government start to believe that these fundamental civil liberties belong to Ministers to grant to us or withhold. They do not—they belong, as of right, to British citizens. It is this habit of control that leads to coercive laws that have no sense. Government have, for example, a legitimate interest in people who entered the United Kingdom from high-risk countries, but there is no public health argument for fining people £5,000 for leaving the country, and the Government should think again about that. This habit of coercion and control has gone too far, and it has gone on for too long. It is time for this House to trust the British people and return their rights to them.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady). I thank him for his leadership in the campaign that so many of us support, trying to ensure that some common sense and proportionality are brought to this debate and that we have our freedoms back, because we should not have them taken away from us unless there is the most compelling justification.

As my hon. Friend said, this is also an issue of trust. The Government are using the slogan “data not dates”, but the data is either being withheld or ignored. I have been regularly looking at the so-called coronavirus dashboard. Suddenly, when the data got rather good from my perspective but bad from the Government’s perspective, it disappeared. The latest data on the dashboard for hospital admissions in Dorset goes back to 11 March, so I had to make my own inquiries, and I found out that within the last week, there have only been three hospital admissions in all the hospitals throughout Dorset. We have 1,200 beds in our hospitals, and we have a population of over three quarters of a million people. That data does not tell me that it is reasonable that we should continue to have a lockdown and that people should be deprived of their social and economic liberty. One of my constituents who is very good on these things wrote to me saying that 5,000 cases from 1.9 million tests shows that 99.993% of the population were unaffected. That is what we are talking about in terms of proportionality.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 extend to 94 pages. How do the Government believe that we can support the regulations when there is not even an impact assessment for them? If there was an impact assessment, it would point out that every day those regulations remain in place is costing the economy about £1 billion—£1 billion a day. We can get a lot of for £1 billion, and if a cost of £1 billion a day is being incurred, there certainly needs to be a lot more justification than the Government have so far adduced during this debate.

I expect that people will increasingly take the law into their own hands as they see that there is no risk in going out and meeting in the open, as was confirmed in evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, and that there are very few risks associated with social mixing with people who are already vaccinated. The Government have got it completely wrong on risk assessment. My advice to the Minister would be to go and get some risk assessment therapy during the Easter break and then come back with some new ideas in April. He should reflect on the adage that the welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants. That, in essence, is what this debate is about, and that is why I shall be voting against these measures.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

After Greg Clark’s four-minute contribution, there are seven Members left to speak. To get everybody in, we will reduce the time limit to three minutes, and the winding-up speeches will start no later than 4.44 pm.

Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill

(Report stage)
Christopher Chope Excerpts
Friday 12th March 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department of Health and Social Care
Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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I beg to move amendment 1, page 3, line 29, leave out clause 5.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 2, in clause 6, page 3, line 38, leave out from “force” to end of subsection and insert “on 1 October 2021”.

This amendment will incorporate into the Bill the guidance for policy makers issued in August 2010 that there should be two common commencement dates each year, one of which is 1st October, for the introduction of changes to regulations affecting businesses.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - -

Amendment 1 stands in my name and the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Shipley (Philip Davies).

The purpose of amendments 1 and 2 is to try to address the quality of the legislation that we produce in this House. Using clauses as a means of giving the power to change a whole mass of other legislation has long been a bugbear of mine and is exactly what clause 5 does, which is why the Bill would be better without it. I know that, inevitably, the response from the Government on these issues is always, “Oh, well, this is belt and braces and it will save time in the future because we won’t have to bring forward fresh legislation or statutory instruments in order to cover scenarios that we have not yet thought about.” It seems to me that the case has not been made, which is why I have moved amendment 1.

Amendment 2 is a similar provision to the one on which I was briefly trying to engage the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), when we were discussing the Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Bill. The Minister would not engage with me because she felt that that Bill was a deregulatory Bill—she was probably right—and that, therefore, this provision did not really apply. None the less, the purpose of this is to try to ensure that there should be two common commencement dates each year for regulations that impact on businesses, and that one of those should be 1 October, because that seems to be closest to the time when this Bill will be implemented, so that is the date that I have chosen. Perhaps the Minister will be able to give me an assurance that it is indeed the Government’s policy to deregulate and reduce the regulatory burden on businesses and individuals, and to reassert that the Government accept the virtue of having two days each year that might be described as regulatory days, because that will not only facilitate the effectiveness of our legislative process, but make it much easier for those who are impacted on by our legislation to respond and prepare for it. That is why I moved amendment 1 and have spoken to amendment 2.

Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott (Sevenoaks) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to have reached this point today. This is an important Bill that will protect young people. We are short on time, so I will cover the substance of the amendments quickly. On amendment 1, consequential provisions are essential to ensure consistency with other legislation. On amendment 2, six months will enable the necessary changes to be made to the human medicines regulations under the consequential provisions that were just discussed.

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Nadine Dorries Portrait The Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health (Ms Nadine Dorries) [V]
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) on the outstanding work that she has done in introducing the Bill, and I reiterate the Government’s support for the legislation. I believe that everyone has the right to make informed decisions about their bodies, but our role in Government is to support young people in making safe, informed choices where necessary to protect them from the potential harm that cosmetic procedures can do to their health. The increasing popularity of cosmetic procedures and the pressures on our young people to achieve this aesthetic ideal are well documented, and I believe that the Bill is an important step in putting those necessary safeguards in place.

I acknowledge the intentions behind the amendment tabled in the Public Bill Committee by the hon. Members for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) to introduce a medical necessity test on the face of the Bill, and I hope that they have taken assurances from the explanation by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks of the work that she has done to explore this. The standards set by the General Medical Council already require doctors to consider the best interests of the patient to cover the ethical treatment of under-18s.

It has been an absolute pleasure to work with my hon. Friend to take this step towards greater regulation of the cosmetic procedure industry. I look forward to the Bill’s successful passage through the Lords.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Because time is running short, I thank those who have contributed to this short debate, and so that we can move on to Third Reading, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As discussed, time is short, so I will keep my remarks to a minimum. I thank everyone who has been involved in this Bill. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa), the hon. Members for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), and the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), all of whom have raised the profile of this very important issue over a number of years. I also pay tribute to the work of Save Face, a campaigning organisation that has done brilliant work to safeguard many, many young people over many years. Lastly, I also thank the Minister, whose support throughout this has been absolute, and I am very grateful.

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Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris [V]
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I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott). I know that this has been no mean feat, especially during the current challenging times, and there has had to be a lot of patience, but it has been rewarded today. It is important that we act to protect our young people, especially with the pressures that they face. This is one of those great bits of legislation where I think if we stopped our constituents in the street and asked them about it, they would think it was already like this. This is a common-sense, practical and proportionate way to protect our young people, and we give it our full support.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I, too, support this Bill. I notice that it was first canvassed as a possibility in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, which contained a commitment to ensure the

“effective registration and regulation of those performing cosmetic interventions.”

I had not realised the extent to which children had been able to access botulinum toxin and cosmetic filler procedures without a medical or psychological assessment; nor had I realised that practitioners did not need to be medically qualified to perform the procedures and that there are no mandatory competency or qualification frameworks related to their administration. Obviously, this Bill will help to avoid the potential health risks of such procedures, which include blindness, tissue necrosis, infection, scarring and psychological impacts.

It seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott), so early on in her obviously very promising political career, has been able to identify an issue on which there is a lot of enthusiastic support. I congratulate and thank her for bringing the Bill forward, and I hope that it makes successful progress in the other place after its passage here.

Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) for his remarks, and to the Opposition and the Government for their support.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Covid-19 Update

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd March 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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We obviously had a tiered system over the autumn and one of the challenges we found was of people travelling from a part of the country where rates are higher to those where rates are lower. Therefore, while we do not rule out a localised approach to outbreaks, we will move down the road map as a nation across England.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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People understand figures more than percentages, so I ask my right hon. Friend: how many people in England have been admitted to hospital having already had a vaccine for at least three weeks? That figure will illustrate the risk assessments that people would like to be able to make in respect of this set of vaccines. In the same way that I have been told that flu vaccines are only 40% efficient, these seem to be at least 80% efficient, which is really good news.

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I do not have those specific figures to hand, but the MHRA—the regulator—regularly publishes what are called adverse events when somebody still has a problem with coronavirus having had the vaccine or has a response to the vaccine, and I will ensure that the appropriate body, whether it is MHRA or Public Health England, publishes both the number and the percentage.

Public Health

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Wednesday 30th December 2020

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I hear my hon. Friend’s point, and I share his view that throughout this pandemic the vast majority of people have behaved with great responsibility. I know that people in tiers other than tier 4 thought very hard about whether they should gather with relatives, even within the easing that was allowed during the Christmas period, and rightly so. We must all play our part in controlling the virus and stopping its spread.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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Will the Minister give way?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will make some progress.

At the time of these provisions we were seeing an exponential rise in cases in London, Kent, and some other parts of the south-east, and it was clear that the tier 3 restrictions were not sufficient. We identified the existence of a new variant in those areas, and further analysis showed us that the new variant was driving the steep trajectory of infections. The new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group—NERVTAG—tells us that the new variant demonstrates a substantial increase in transmissibility, compared with other variants, and that the R value appears to be significantly higher, with initial estimates suggesting an increase of between 0.4 and 0.9.

There is no evidence to suggest that the new variant of the virus is more likely to cause more serious disease, but increased infections lead to increased hospital admissions and, sadly, increased loss of life. These winter months already pose great challenges for our NHS. That is why we had to take the action that we took before Christmas, and the further steps announced today to control the relentless spread of the virus. However, it is not all bad news.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I am making some progress and I am mindful that many Members want to speak this evening.

The roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine is happening at pace, with more than 600,000 people receiving it between 8 and 20 December. Vaccinations in care homes started on 16 December, and the NHS has already been getting the vaccine to those who are most vulnerable, and the care workers who look after them. Now, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved, and it is much easier to get out to people and into arms. There is every reason for optimism, but we are not there yet. We must suppress the virus now and in the weeks ahead.

On the specific measures in these regulations, in response to the greatly increased risk, the addition of tier 4 stay-at-home measures will be familiar to people from the November national restrictions. Tier 4 involves minor changes to those national restrictions. As of November, people in tier 4 areas must stay at home and not travel out of tier 4. They may only leave for a limited number of reasons such as work, education, or caring purposes. We are advising that clinically extremely vulnerable people in tier 4 areas should do as they did in November and stay at home as much as possible, except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend health appointments. The regulations contain the same exemptions as other tiers for childcare and support bubbles. We advise that people elsewhere avoid travelling into a tier 4 area, unless they need to do so for work, education or health purposes.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Can my hon. Friend help me? Statutory instrument 1572 required the people of Christchurch to move from tier 1 to tier 2, and it came into effect on 19 December. Today, the Secretary of State has announced that the people of Christchurch should be moving into tier 4, with effect from midnight tonight. What has happened between 19 December and today to force the people of Christchurch to lose all that liberty?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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One thing that I will do when I have finished speaking is see whether I can look up the specific data for the hon. Member’s constituency. In general, however, the announcements made today, just as with previous announcements, are based on the data that we are seeing, which includes rapidly rising rates of infection in certain areas, the level of new infections, the trajectory and hospital pressures.

The tier 4 regulations require all non-essential retail, indoor entertainment, hairdressers and other personal care services to close. International travel is also restricted to business trips only. However, we have listened to hon. Members and the public about what is most important to people in their daily lives so, unlike in the November restrictions, communal worship and a wider range of outdoor recreation are still permitted. We also recognise the restrictions’ impact on businesses and continue to provide them with ongoing support to help get through the crisis.

We know that these measures are hard. We know that they keep families and friends apart, yet we also know that they are necessary for us to get through this situation and to prevent the loss of lives as we do so. This virus thrives on the things that make life worth living, such as social contact, but that means we can all play our part in stopping the spread—as I said, if not for ourselves, then for others. The end is in sight, but for now it is our duty here in Parliament to put in place these restrictions—onerous though they are—to control this virus. I commend the regulations to the House.

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Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
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This House legislated explicitly for specific arrangements to govern the celebration of Christmas, and no sooner than the House had risen itself for Christmas, the Government, by ministerial fiat, changed those arrangements. We are asked this evening to give retrospective legislative approval to the changes that they made. We are in the absurd position of being asked to vote for the ghost of Christmas past.

Sometimes in a democracy, process has an importance. I am constantly—daily— confronted by individuals and businesses facing ruin, notwithstanding the huge investment that they made in covid-secure premises and procedures. What we have never had, and what we have always been asking for, is the cost-benefit analysis that the Government made on each of the restrictive measures that make up the menu of their tier system. I do not for one moment question the motives of Ministers. I do, however, question their ability, in exactly the way that I question my own ability.

When the House rose, the lobby of Government scientific advisers—a lobby, we should remember, that had already publicly expressed their frustration that their earlier strictures on how Christmas should be celebrated had not been fully taken on board by the Government—announced that they had discovered a new strain of the disease so much more transmissible than the earlier one. They bounced the Government. I have to accept, of course, the possibility that they may be absolutely right, but I know this: were I presented by such a lobby of eminent scientists—eminent people leading in their field—and told that they had discovered this new emergency, and that so many more people were going to die, and unless I did what they said, I would be responsible for their deaths, I would find great difficulty in having the wherewithal to identify and ask the right questions to be sure that they were on the money, or 100 miles from it.

What I would certainly want, and what I believe the Government need, is an alternative source of expertise—a competitive source of expertise—particularly statisticians leading in their fields, who would be able to furnish me, to arm me, to arm Ministers, with the right questions to ask about the validity of the modelling and the data. It can only improve the decision-making process. But what is really galling in all this is then to hear on the airwaves Professor Ferguson being interviewed, giving his wisdom to the nation once again, to all intents and purposes as if he were still a key Government adviser. I do hope that the Minister winding up the debate will be able to assure us that that is most certainly not the case.

I was always rather jealous of Poole, Christchurch and Bournemouth, because our infection rate in the New Forest was substantially lower than theirs, but they turned out to be in tier 2 and we were in tier 3. Now we are all together in tier 4.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we are now in tier 4, but in statutory instrument No. 1646, which was laid before this House on 29 December, we were in tier 2. Today—one day later—we are in tier 4. Is that not a mockery?

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne
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The reality is this. These are the questions that my constituents put to me, and I am reduced to saying, “It’s one of life’s great mysteries.” The decision-making process is entirely opaque. That is why I voted against it when I had the chance.

Healthcare Support Services: Conception to Age Two

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department of Health and Social Care
Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher, and a great pleasure to be speaking in a debate secured by my very old, wise and aged colleague, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom)—the high priestess of early years. As she said, I speak as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the first 1,001 days. I also recently stood down as chair of the Parent-Infant Foundation, the charity that she founded and that is having such an important effect on the whole movement for 1,001 days. I have been very proud to chair that charity for the past six years.

It is great to see this subject coming into the mainstream. We have had a number of Westminster Hall debates, including on the impact of covid on maternity, families and children in lockdown. Before the general election, I held a debate on health visitors. Since “The 1001 Critical Days” manifesto, the important document produced about eight years ago by my right hon. Friend, we have had various reports, including “Babies in Lockdown”, “Rare Jewels” by the Parent-Infant Foundation, “Building Great Britons”, and several Select Committee reports, including by the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, all of which were serious, heavyweight studies of the first 1,001 days.

This is, at last, not a new subject. I come to this debate much in the mode of Elizabeth Taylor’s sixth husband: knowing what was expected of him, but struggling to make it new and fresh. But we will give it a go.

Children, particularly very young children, have been the forgotten element in the whole pandemic lockdown; so too have parents of very young children. The lockdown, the regulations, and the alienation from or unavailability of family member support networks—which many of us, as early parents, took for granted—have had mental health impacts on new parents and single parents in particular. We should not underestimate that. It will be a long time before we can get back to a degree of normality and start to see the impact that missing out on those important contacts and support mechanisms in those crucial early months has had and will have for many years to come.

Early years has for too long been forgotten when it comes to Government spending. Many of us have been going on about that for a long time, and it is worth repeating. Work done a few years ago estimated that the cost of perinatal mental illness is £8.1 billion each and every year. The cost of child neglect in this country is £15 billion each and every year. That means that we are spending more than £23 billion on getting it wrong for parents and very young children in those crucial early years. If we were to spend a fraction of that amount on greater preventative intervention measures for those who most need it in those crucial early years from conception to age two, that bill would be reduced significantly and it is a false economy not to be doing that.

It was disappointing to see just £300 million in additional funds being given to the social care sector—that is, the adult and children’s social care sector—in the spending review, even though there is a shortfall of some £3 billion in local authority children’s social care alone, not to mention all the problems with public health and the shrinking numbers of health visitors, which I will come back to in a moment.

Why is that important? My right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire has given us some of the figures. Up to 20% of women experience mental health problems in pregnancy or the first 12 months after birth, and 50% of all maltreatment is related to children under the age of one. It has been estimated that 122,000 babies under the age of one live with a parent who has a mental health problem. One third of domestic violence begins during pregnancy—a figure I could not believe when I first came across it. The Government are doing good work with domestic abuse legislation, but we need to be addressing the problem at source. If domestic violence is happening in a household, what sort of physical and psychological message is that sending to the newborn child? The same applies to even before it is born as well: there are signs that communication within the womb itself is a factor. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death during the period of pregnancy to one year after the birth of a child. That is a deeply tragic figure, but it preventable if proper systems and checks are in in place.

About 40% of children in the UK have an insecure attachment to a parent or carer by the age of 12 months. The figure that I have always used—this is, I think, the killer point—is that for a child at the age of 15 or 16 who is suffering from some form of depression or low-level mental illness while at school, there is a 99% likelihood that his or her mother suffered from some form of depression or mental illness during or after pregnancy. It is as direct a correlation as that. If we do not do something within those first 1,001 days, we will reap the consequences, as will children, not just during childhood but into adulthood as well.

Child obesity rates are all connected to what happens in the first 1,001 days. Last year we also had worrying figures—this is particularly topical now—about the dwindling vaccination rates in England. In particular, only 86.5% of children had received the full dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. We have effectively lost our immunity status, because the World Health Organisation target to protect a population from a disease is 95%. One hopes that parents in particular will take up the covid vaccination as it is rolled out, because we have seen the effects on the children’s population of not having vaccinations in recent years.

The Children’s Commissioner estimates that 2.3 million children are living with risk because of a vulnerable family background and that more than one third within that group are invisible—they are not known to services and are therefore not getting any support. That is why it is crucial, particularly before those children present at school and come on the radar, that health professionals at various levels are having contact with those children and families to ensure that everything is all right. They can give that help and support and that tender affection and empathy, but they are also an early warning system for when things are going wrong, right up to safeguarding issues. The one thing that all those ailments have in common—there are a lot more that I have not mentioned—is that they come under the remit of the health visitor to a varying extent. I will come back to the importance of health visitors.

The impact of covid is great, as I have said, and I will not go over that again, but more families with babies and young children under five have been tipped into vulnerability due to the secondary impacts of the lockdown. At a time when families, and particularly families from deprived communities and single-parent families, need face-to-face contact with people like health visitors the most—I also refer to health visitors as the trusted uniform services who are usually welcomed over the threshold, whereas with social workers and others a barrier goes up instantly—more than 70% of health visitors have been repurposed to other aspects of the health service to deal with covid. That really is a false economy.

I pay tribute to Cheryll Adams, the chief executive of the Institute of Health Visiting, who is standing down from the outstanding role she has played for the cause of health visitors and their importance in the first 1,001 days. She will be greatly missed, but I am sure she will not quit the scene altogether, because of her dedication to the cause. Her report showed that 82% of health visitors reported an increase in domestic violence and abuse; 81% an increase in perinatal mental illness and poverty; 76% an increase in the use of food banks and speech and communication delay among children; 61% an increase in neglect; and 45% an increase in substance abuse. Finally, 65% of health visitors have a case load of more than 300 children under the age of five.

Is that sustainable? My worry is that even in the good times without a pandemic, health visiting was greatly stretched. One of the great achievements of the coalition Government was the delivery of a promise to institute 4,200 additional health visitors, based on the Kraamzorg system in Holland, which we visited and saw. It was a huge achievement—I think we were just a few dozen short of 4,200 by the time we got to 2015—and yet I fear that those numbers have dwindled back almost to the level that was inherited. That is such a false economy. Health visitors are a critical part of a universal offer to all families in the first 1,001 days. The report by the First 1001 Days Movement says:

“It is essential that governments invest in the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme and that this programme supports babies’ emotional wellbeing and development. We believe that all families should be able to access care from a named health visitor who offers them a high-quality service that is proportionate to their needs.”

I wholeheartedly concur.

What should be done? Many suggestions have been made. The LGA recently brought out a report saying that the Government should

“properly resource councils to enable investment in preventative universal and early help services to ensure that children, young people and their families receive the practical, emotional, education and mental health support they need”.

That is absolutely right. The Parent-Infant Foundation, in its “Babies in Lockdown” report, recommended funding for a

“Baby Boost to enable local services to support families who have had a baby during or close to lockdown.”

As my right hon. Friend said, more than half a million babies were born in that period. The report also said we should have a

“new Parent-Infant Premium providing new funding for local commissioners, targeted at improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children.”

I obviously agree with that.

Finally, I will go back to the “Building Great Britons” report, which was produced back in 2015 and made nine main recommendations: that a 1,001 critical days policy should be a mainstream undertaking by central Government; that all local authorities should be required to produce and implement a 1,001 days strategy within the next five years; that national Government must establish a 1,001 days strategy blueprint; that local health and wellbeing boards should demonstrate delivery of a sound primary prevention approach; that the early help recommendations from the Munro review, which I commissioned back in 2010, should be picked up and carried; that we should have a Minister for families, either close to or at Cabinet level, to carry the banner for the importance of the early years and family contexts, which are so important to the social policy of any Government; that we should have more inter-agency training on the importance of the early years; that children’s centres should be repurposed to be these family hubs, which this Government have committed to and which should be a Piccadilly Circus of these services available to all families; and that we should have the research evidence to go with all of that.

In short, we need a full “team around the family” approach; we need to invest in health visitors and other health professionals, including GPs and mental health specialists, particularly around attachment issues. We need them to work with all of those in the early years setting, alongside social workers and others with safeguarding responsibilities—supporting, not supplanting parents, but signposting them to the most appropriate services and ensuring that they are accessible when needed. We need a national roll-out, national guidance and national scrutiny to ensure that it is being delivered, but it should be implemented locally and governed by local circumstances. To not do that is a false economy, and children in future generations will pay the price.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Before calling the next speaker, I will just say that the wind-ups will start at half past 10. There are four more speakers, so if each of them speaks for a maximum of five minutes, we should cover everybody.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Sir Christopher. I thank the right hon. Lady for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) for setting the scene so well, and to all those hon. Members who have made contributions.

As the grandfather of five grandchildren, this is an issue that is close to my heart. There is little that brings me as much joy as seeing my grandchildren—though that has not happened as often over the past few weeks because of the lockdown—and knowing that they are healthy and happy. Katie, Mia, Austin, Rhea, and Max, who is just eight weeks old, are bright and happy and in these dark days. That brings so much joy and I thank God daily for them.

I thank the Duchess of Cambridge, to whom the right the hon. Lady referred in her introduction, for the wonderful work she has done. She came to my constituency but unfortunately I was unable to be there. She visited the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards, and the results of what was done that day are clear.

Early years matter a great deal and the overarching response to the questionnaire undertaken is that more support must be given to young mums and families. Over the pandemic, many of us have realised how much we underestimated the support and help provided by the mums and toddlers groups in the local church or community centre. We had not understood that talking to another mum about their horrific day with their wee toddler—even if it was never really all that horrific—and exchanging viewpoints about how they felt made coping that little bit better. We have learned, more than ever, that it takes a village to raise a child, and so it does. It is little wonder that dedication and christening services highlight that a mum and dad cannot and should not do it alone.

When my parliamentary aide was pregnant with her daughter, one of the first signs I noticed was that her 10 cups of coffee per day were reduced to zero. She had read that caffeine would make her baby’s heart beat up to six times as fast; she loved her coffee, but she loved that unborn child even more. Mothers all through this nation make changes before a baby arrives, including eating more healthily, taking vitamins, stopping drinking. There are no laws that say they must do these things, but the mother knows to do it. Prenatal support for mum at this time is essential, and I believe that we need to give more advice, more listening ears and more communication for those who worry at this stage.

Together for Short Lives contacted me and asked me to briefly highlight a number of issues, as not all pregnancies end in the dream photo-op at the end of labour. Some have a much sadder story to tell—that is a fact of life. The majority of child death occurs in the first 28 days of life—the neonatal period. Every year, over 100,000 babies are admitted to neonatal intensive care in the UK. While many of these babies will only need to receive treatment for a few days or weeks before being discharged home, a minority will need more intensive care. The “Make Every Child Count” study, published this year, found that the prevalence of life-limiting conditions is highest in the under-one-year age group, at 226.5 per 10,000. That is the point that the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire is making, and the very point of this debate. On average, there are 1,267 neonatal deaths each year from causes likely to require palliative care.

With this in mind, Together for Short Lives has highlighted the importance of the specific challenges faced by babies and children with life-limiting conditions and their families; they are not forgotten. The NHS England children’s hospice grant will increase to £25 million per year by 2023-24. It will be reallocated equitably to children’s hospices and there will be £7 million funding for children’s palliative care.

In conclusion, Sir Christopher, I briefly highlight the phenomenal work done by the WAVE Trust and Alex Williamson, and their 70/30 Campaign, which is about reducing the number of children who experience maltreatment by at least 70% by 2030. It is difficult to argue against their proposals or those of Together for Short Lives.

I look to the Minister, as I always do, to confirm that pregnancy and early years matter; if we want to see a generation of well-adjusted and happy youth it must be not simply because their parents have invested time and love. It has to be more than that. Our Government have to understand that funding for early years is not a grant of money, but an investment in our future—one certain to return a great yield. As the good book says, as you diligently sow, so you will reap. We must sow good for our children to get good from them as adults, and that must begin today.

Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 1st December 2020

(1 year ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department of Health and Social Care
Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain
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I agree that is arguably one of the opportunities of a more cashless society. If people are making a payment, the gift aid opportunities are potentially easier to access than with putting money in a box.

I appreciate that healthcare is a devolved matter, but I am still looking forward to hearing the Minister’s response because I am sure these challenges exist throughout the UK. Indeed, that is why the hon. Member for Strangford is the person who has secured this debate. We can also achieve much by pooling our healthcare expertise across the four nations. We should be making sure that in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England that we are following the best possible practice, which means raising awareness of symptoms, enabling swift diagnosis and ensuring that children, young people and their families are properly supported.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

As the next person on the call list has withdrawn, I call David Linden.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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It is, as always, a pleasure to see you in the chair, Sir Christopher. I very much miss serving on the Procedure Committee with you all those years ago, but it is a pleasure none the less to see you this morning.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on securing and opening the debate, and to see him back in his place after his period of self-isolation last week. He was very much missed last week in the debate that he had secured on the persecution of religious minorities. It is good to see him back in that seat—which I am sure he has probably got title deeds for now given that he is there so often.

This has been a very short but very enjoyable debate. The hon. Member for Strangford opened with a very passionate speech, as we would always expect from him, but in particular he spoke about that very poignant testimony from Alex. The hon. Member for Wakefield (Imran Ahmad Khan) spoke about young Daniel and that relationship that was struck by his father in hospital. I think hearing about three-year-old Ellis really moved us all. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be for Ellis’s family as they work through losing a loved one. The hon. Gentleman has spoken very eloquently on behalf of his constituents and they should be incredibly proud to have him in here to be raising those issues, as he sits alongside the Minister.

Finally, the hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) talked about Toby’s Magical Journey in Cupar. I, too, pay tribute to Richie, Alison and Toby for that remarkable figure of raising £50,000 pounds, and it was great to hear that Toby got the all-clear in 2018. She raised an important point about the impact that the transition to a cashless society will have on charities. I hope that is something that we can tease out in the debate in Westminster Hall on Thursday afternoon about transitioning to a cashless society, particularly in the light of the covid pandemic.

On that point, covid-19 has dominated so many aspects of our lives. Much of the discussion around public health shows that it is still so vital to look after other aspects of our health and wellbeing during this time. That very much includes checking for symptoms and signs of cancer.

With your forbearance, Sir Christopher, I want to pay tribute to my colleague and my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Amy Callaghan), who has been a tireless campaigner on the subject of cancer and young people. She is not just one of my colleagues in this place and my constituency; she is one of my closest friends. I congratulate her on her election as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on children, teenagers and young adults with cancer. I also pay tribute to this young woman who has survived cancer twice. As has been well documented this year, she has also been through other health challenges. This House is stronger for having the experience of people like her. I look forward to her coming back and, arguably, making a much better speech than I could ever do. I hope to do this justice on her behalf.

I also want to pay tribute more broadly to the work of the APPG. It has done fantastic work in raising awareness of the issues affecting young people with cancer and their families. The 2018 report published by the APPG, “Listen Up! What Matters to Young Cancer Patients”, looked into cancer patient experience for children and young people across the UK. That report found that 64% of respondents did not think enough was being done to create a positive experience for children, teenagers and young adults with cancer. It also discovered that 82% of young people and parents responding to the survey did not think that Government listened enough to the experiences of young people with cancer and their families.

The report offered several recommendations for helping teenagers and young people understand the symptoms of cancer, as well as for those facing cancer treatment. Those include compulsory lessons in secondary school on spotting the signs of cancer; designated hospital parking for children and young people with cancer; an agreement by the Government to meet yearly with young cancer patients to discuss their experiences; and offering access to free fertility treatment to survivors of childhood cancer, who are not offered fertility preservation before receiving cancer treatment. That report highlights that not enough has been done to support young people and their families through a challenging diagnosis.

It is important that young people know the signs and symptoms of cancer, although they may differ from person to person. The common symptoms are lumps, unexplained tiredness, mole changes, pain and significant weight change. For more information about the different symptoms and where to seek help, I advise people to go the NHS website, the CLIC Sargent website and that of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

A lot of young people have expressed worry that they are wasting doctors’ and nurses’ time, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. I get incredibly frustrated, as a constituency MP, when people say, “I don’t want to bother the NHS or go to my GP, because they are really busy.” One of our privileges in this place is to have the voice to get this message out to our constituents: “If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, please do not worry about bothering your GP or the health service, but go and get it checked out.”

I want to reassure young people that if they have any of those symptoms or if they are worried about their health, they will be listened to and taken seriously. The NHS, in whatever part of the United Kingdom, is and always will be there for everyone. That is something we have certainly learned during the course of the pandemic. Despite the pandemic, the NHS continues actively to encourage people to contact their GP if they are worried about possible cancer symptoms. If the symptoms lead to a diagnosis, early diagnosis and treatment are really important and can improve the outcome for many young people.

I want to highlight the fantastic work of CLIC Sargent and the Teenage Cancer Trust, both of whom act jointly as the APPG’s secretariat. Understandably, for many families, when a young person receives a cancer diagnosis, it can be a very scary and confusing time. From doctor’s appointments to new treatments, the process can be overwhelming for young people. Those organisations offer advice to help young people and families to adjust to the cancer diagnosis and the treatment that follows. The Teenage Cancer Trust offers people advice on how to speak to doctors if they are feeling nervous, details of the different symptoms and case studies of teenagers and young people who have experienced treatment during the pandemic. CLIC Sargent is also a great resource, providing guidance for navigating clinical care, granting financial support and helping young people with the emotional impact of illness. Both organisations have new information around how to manage cancer during the covid-19 pandemic. Clearly, the public health crisis creates new challenges for patients, but there is still support available to help young people through this challenging time.

This year, the covid-19 pandemic has thrown unprecedented challenges at us all. From facing the virus itself to the huge financial insecurity that many people have experienced, to the restrictions and lockdowns taking us away from our loved ones, it has undoubtedly been a tough year for many of us. I say that after my grandfather was cremated yesterday. One of the hardest things that I have experienced during this pandemic was limiting the number of people at his funeral to 20. It has been incredibly, incredibly cruel from a public health point of view, and I think we would all agree that this has been such a difficult year for us.

This debate has highlighted that the teenagers and young people facing a cancer diagnosis and treatment during this time are facing even more challenges, but support is out there. Whether it be from the APPG, the NHS, CLIC Sargent or the Teenage Cancer Trust, there are people out there to offer information and guidance. It is vital that all young people check for the signs and symptoms of cancer. To reiterate, they are: lumps, unexplained tiredness, mole changes, pain and significant weight change. If a young person is experiencing these symptoms, I urge them to contact their GP. An early diagnosis will lead to the best outcome. Facing cancer as a young person can be incredibly scary and overwhelming and I pay tribute, above all, to all the young people undergoing treatment for cancer diagnoses. I thank their families, their carers and the NHS, who are working so hard to support them.

DHSC Answers to Written Questions

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Thursday 19th November 2020

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care if he will make a statement on his Department’s performance in answering written questions from right hon. and hon. Members.

Edward Argar Portrait The Minister for Health (Edward Argar)
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Parliamentary questions are a key element of Parliament’s ability to scrutinise Government on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom. As the House would expect, we take them very seriously, and as you, Mr Speaker, and hon. Members will know, I take seriously all aspects of my and the Government’s accountability to this House. Prior to the pandemic, my Department had an exemplary record of providing accurate and timely answers. In the last full parliamentary Session, despite receiving more PQs than any other Department, we had the highest response rate in Whitehall. However, as hon. Members will be aware, DHSC, its Ministers and officials have been at the forefront of responding to this pandemic, with the attendant additional workload that has brought.

As such, it is a matter of regret that we have been unable to sustain previous PQ performance, for which I rightly apologise to you and the House. However, it is explicable in the face of a trio of concurrent challenges. The first is volume: between March and October this year, we received over 8,000 written parliamentary questions across both Houses. This compares with 4,000 for the equivalent period last year. The second challenge is timeliness: we have met a rapidly, almost daily, changing situation, and answers drafted by officials are sometimes out of date shortly after they are drafted. We have been prioritising accuracy of response to Members over speed, but this can mean that responses have to be redrafted, with attendant delays.

The third challenge is policy input: despite increasing the administrative resources to respond to parliamentary questions, it remains the same policy officials who are responding to the pandemic operationally and drafting regulations and are the only people with the requisite policy expertise to input into parliamentary questions and responses.

That said, Mr Speaker, although we continue to field exceptional volumes of parliamentary questions, I want to reassure you and the House that we are not making excuses in providing these explanations, and are taking every possible step to recover our performance. We have instituted a parliamentary questions performance recovery plan and are delivering against it by increasing resource where we can and clearing the backlog, focusing on the oldest parliamentary questions first.

More broadly, throughout this challenging time the Secretary of State and Ministers have sought to make themselves regularly available in the House to be questioned and held to account. Between March and October, the Secretary of State made 18 statements and answered seven urgent questions. We have also seen seven general debates on covid since March, and that is not including junior Ministers’ appearances in the Chamber. This is not an alternative to written parliamentary questions, but it is an important reflection of our accountability to this House.

To conclude, written parliamentary questions will continue to be a top priority on which I am briefed weekly. I thank you, Mr Speaker, and hon. Members for your and their patience and recognition of the exceptional circumstances of recent months. In the weeks and months ahead, we will work hard to restore our leading performance, which hon. Members have a right to expect.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question, which was born of extreme exasperation. I thank my hon. Friend for his response, his contrition and his apology, and for his offer to do better in the future.

If other Departments can answer 90% of named day questions on time, why cannot the Minister’s? Will he set a date for the clearance of the backlog to which he referred and guarantee future compliance with the rules and the spirit of the rules? This is not just about timeliness; it is about the quality of the answers. Since this is the week of resets, will the Minister now tell his ministerial colleagues and officials to abandon their tactic of, basically, dumb insolence towards those of us who ask challenging questions?

Does my hon. Friend accept that these questions and answers increase public trust in our democracy, and should be a catalyst for improving public policy? If his Department is in the lead in suppressing liberty in this country, is it surprising that there are more questions to his Department than to others? Because issues of liberty are at stake, surely it is all the more important that these questions are answered quickly.

Edward Argar Portrait Edward Argar
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he will be aware, other Departments, while they have heavy workloads, are not leading the response to the pandemic. In response to his final point, he will not be surprised that I do not characterise it in that way. Instead, I would characterise it as the Department of Health being in the lead in saving lives and protecting the NHS in this country.

My hon. Friend asked two other substantive questions. I think his language was a little intemperate in respect of the serious efforts that officials undertake every day to try to provide accurate and timely answers. There is no suggestion that they seek to stonewall or to avoid responding. They do their best, but it is difficult and the situation changes day by day. Where answers are deemed to be inadequate, hon. Members often revert to me directly or table their questions again, and we endeavour to fulfil our obligation to provide accurate answers.

On my hon. Friend’s question about recovery, we have set a trajectory for each month in order to recover performance over the coming months. Of course, that depends to a degree on the workload of officials in responding to the pandemic, as well as in providing answers, but I do not see it as an either/or; we intend to recover performance in parallel with tackling the pandemic.

Covid-19

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Wednesday 18th November 2020

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab)
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18 Nov 2020, 5:40 p.m.

I am delighted to start my contribution to this debate by paying tribute to the key workers on the frontline of this pandemic. Their commitment to public service and their selflessness in the face of the most severe of circumstances set an example to us all.

I am deeply concerned by the dangerous polarisation on public health measures that have been implemented to save lives, and that is what I want to focus on. I am sure that Members across this House have been inundated with correspondence from constituents sharing very legitimate concerns about restrictions that have been imposed in order to protect the NHS, keeping us agile enough to deal with covid, while thousands of elective care patients have had procedures and treatments delayed. This suffering is real. The diversity of the issues raised is phenomenal, spanning mental ill-health, business support, attendance at funerals, redundancies, access to universal credit, and care home closures. We also receive correspondence from constituents reasonably seeking to clarify the rules in respect of their own actions.

On the other side of the coin, we have all received correspondence from angry constituents—on occasion aggressive, even abusive—about the restrictions that this Parliament has collectively implemented, under great duress and with an increasingly heavy heart. Aggression and abuse are never acceptable, but the anger is justified, and it is not taken lightly; neither is it dismissed by anyone in this place, especially coming from those many constituents who have fallen on hard times.

However, I want to shine a spotlight on some of the more sinister and fringe drivers of that anger. A cause for growing apprehension is the misinformation, the fake news and the dismissal of science in the post-truth world that a small number of hardened minds occupy. Assertions are made, social media lies are repeated, and distrust in our institutions, our scientists and our elected representatives is sown in reference to their motives. That translates into real-world consequences. This ugly underbelly has seen a small number of aggressions against those in Liverpool waiting patiently in line to be tested. There have been megaphones outside school gates screaming at parents and pupils about testing, confrontation sometimes of those wearing masks, and the outright dismissal of the growing prospect of a vaccine—a prospect that is giving so much hope to a beleaguered population who yearn to return to some normality.

It is apparent that much responsibility for such behaviour lies with social media platforms: most people receive their information through that medium. People currently have many insecurities, both health and economic, and the misinformation plays into these deeply held fears and is easily shared at the click of a button. My colleagues on the Front Bench are right: the producers of such material should be denied a stage to peddle these lies and myths that have no basis in truth. Ahead of the delivery of a vaccine, we cannot let the naysayers spread further mistrust when so much is at stake for all our people.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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18 Nov 2020, 5:43 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Paula Barker), although I do not agree with her obsession with trying to restrict free speech and information for the general public. Surely it should be for the general public to discuss and determine these things themselves.

The Minister referred to evidence, data and scientific advice as being the watchwords of the Government. Those words ring rather hollow with my constituents, because they regard that as spin rather than substance. Earlier today, I suggested to the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions that the million-plus people who had tested positive for covid-19 and had recovered should be exempt from the regulations because their T cells would give them immunity for at least six months. That is the evidence provided by and published in The BMJ, and yet the Prime Minister seemed to cast doubt on it, despite the fact that that evidence was produced in collaboration with Public Health England and has won plaudits from the Medical Research Council.

One of the advantages of providing such an exemption is that it would deal with the people who are suffering from long covid, to whom the Minister also referred. In Sweden, they apply such an exemption. I know that any references to Sweden are anathema to the Government. Last time I mentioned Sweden, the Minister tried to pour cold water on my statistics. She was wrong, and I questioned her and have not had an answer. Again, I make no apology for referring to the comparable statistics.

In the past week, ending 17 November, there have been 85 deaths from covid-19 in Sweden. In the similar period in the United Kingdom, there have been 2,975 deaths. Taking into account the population difference, there are six times as many deaths per capita in this country as in Sweden, and that takes no account of all the collateral damage that we are causing to our people who cannot get access to healthcare, including 5,000 excess deaths from heart disease alone.

The Minister was saying that we talk about evidence. In answer to parliamentary question 111413, asking about the public health justification for refusing to allow the giving and receiving of the sacrament in places of worship, this is the answer I received:

“Public Health England had not been requested to research and publish detailed specific data on the numbers of COVID-19 cases related to place of worship and allied settings on outbreak investigation. This is now being performed.”

That answer came in 10 days after it should have done, but why was that work not done before? Why are we refusing to allow people to receive the sacrament in places of worship without any evidence in justification? Similarly, I asked about the difference between two people playing golf on a public golf course and two people walking a dog on a public footpath. There was no satisfactory response from the Government.

On another issue, while the Government say that people are at great risk if they go to play golf together, the greatest risk, it seems, is to have the misfortune to go to hospital and then contract covid-19. In answer to a question yesterday, I have been told by the Minister that in October alone there were 3,934 cases of people who went to hospital without covid but got covid while they were there, as a result of hospital transmission of infection. In October, in Poole hospital, which serves many of my constituents, 120 people were in hospital, and some 73 of them contracted covid as a result of infection within the hospital.

The question I ask of the Minister, therefore, is: when we get the vaccination, will someone getting a vaccination automatically be exempt from the lockdown rules? If not, why not? Also, when we get into discussing criteria for moving out of the lockdown, what will we do about false positive tests? If there are 500,000 tests a day and 5% are false positives, we will have 25,000 false positives. That is number enough to justify a continuation of lockdown—based on false tests. Surely that cannot be sensible policy for the Government.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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18 Nov 2020, 5:48 p.m.

Order. It will be obvious from the Order Paper that I have to reduce the time limit. I will do so to four minutes, but after the next speaker.

Covid-19

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson
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22 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman, as ever, makes a valid point. That is why I have been calling for additional support, whether signposting or helplines. We actually need a cross-Government strategy on mental health going forward.

On those who have been excluded from financial support, as the Chancellor remains intransigent on that point, I urge the Minister first to speak to her Treasury colleagues and ask them yet again to think again. Will she also step up mental health support for those who have been excluded? The mental health impacts will cost us a lot down the line.

The other very important group is the more than 9 million unpaid carers who are the forgotten heroes in our society. I hope the Minister agrees when I say that our health and care systems would be overwhelmed if it were not for the work of unpaid carers in our society. The Exchequer saves billions thanks to their work. Four out of five unpaid carers have taken on more caring responsibilities during lockdown, and almost two thirds have seen their mental health worsen during the pandemic. Many have lost their access to respite care, which has affected their ability to earn money. She will be aware that carer’s allowance is pitifully low at £67 a week.

One thing that would help respite care and day care centres to reopen—Homelink in my constituency is taking all sorts of safety measures and is desperate to reopen—is access to regular testing. I raised that in the Chamber with the Secretary of State for Health on 7 July. He told me that a plan was in place and he would write to me about it. He never wrote to me, but I did not chase him about it because I heard that testing had been made available to day centres—briefly; I have now heard that it is no longer available. My council has spoken to colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care, who say that they cannot offer tests to respite care day centres. Those officials say that they are following SAGE priorities, and that suggests to me that there never was a plan. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify that point. This is an issue for the Department, and I urge her to address it urgently, because respite care is a lifeline to so many unpaid carers. I also ask the Minister to speak to her colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions about addressing the woeful level of carer’s allowance. How can anyone be expected to survive on the equivalent of £1.91 an hour?

The Chancellor previously said to the public,

“you will not face this alone”.

Can we say, hand on heart, that unpaid carers and those whom the Chancellor has excluded from financial support have not been left alone? They feel abandoned and their mental health is suffering, so I urge the Minister to address these injustices.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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22 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I have said it before and I say it again: lockdowns, whether they are partial or total, are the wrong strategy. They are oppressive and profoundly unconservative. As a Conservative, I have always believed that the role of the state is to provide a safety net for those who cannot help themselves. Now we have a Conservative Government who are preventing people from helping themselves by engaging in economic activity, and, having prevented those people from engaging in economic activity, the Government are not providing a safety net to all of them. As the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) has just said, people are missing out because they are not allowed to engage in economic activity. In my constituency, people who work on cruise ships, people who work in the events industry and people who run luxury coaches are but three examples of the terrible cases that have come to my notice in recent days.

In their actions, the Government are treating citizens not as individuals but as part of a collective, and that is depersonalising. It is most obvious in the Government’s refusal to differentiate between those who have had covid-19 and are therefore immune, whether in the short or long term, and those who have not. If the state wanted to maximise liberty, it would remove the restrictions on freedom wherever it was possible so to do. What threat is there to public health from allowing those who are immune to covid-19 to go about their normal business? That is what happens in Sweden.

I asked the Secretary of State about that in a written question, but I have not had a reply, even though I referred in the debate on 13 October to that failure to respond. I am afraid that that is indicative of the Government’s arrogance in this respect. In that debate, I also mentioned the number of deaths in Sweden. I have looked up the latest figures, and there have been two deaths in Sweden from covid-19 in the last five days. Sweden allows much more social activity than we in this country have done, and its Government rely on individual citizens to trust each other. Sweden’s citizens trust the Government, because the Government trust them. Why can we not do something similar?

We have heard the scaremongering, and the Department refuses to justify some of its most alarmist rhetoric. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said on 1 October that

“hundreds of thousands of deaths…would follow”

if the Government

“just let the virus rip”.—[Official Report, 1 October 2020; Vol. 681, c. 503.]

I asked if he would publish the evidence in support of that statement. He has failed to do that—because, I suspect, there is no evidence in support of that statement. That was gross scaremongering. Instead of trying to build people’s confidence to engage in economic and social activity, the Government are actively frightening them. All this talk about long covid is also designed to try to frighten people, rather than addressing the collateral damage that the Government’s oppressive measures are causing.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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22 Oct 2020, midnight

I draw Members’ attention to my membership of trade unions and to donations from Unite the union, as outlined in my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I welcome this debate on covid-19. Stockport and Greater Manchester have been hard hit by this pandemic. I pay tribute to the leader of Stockport Council, Elise Wilson, and to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, for all they have done. Stockport Council has much to be proud of in its response to date. The transfer of many council functions to home working has gone well, which is a credit to all the staff involved. Stockport was one of the most effective authorities in Greater Manchester in distributing covid grants to local businesses. Our council workers do a very important job in difficult circumstances, and I speak on behalf of my constituents when I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

I believe that Members on both sides of this House will agree that the hospitality sector has been particularly hard hit in recent times. My trade union Unite has published a hospitality and tourism rescue plan this week. The hospitality and tourism sector is the third-largest employer in the UK and Northern Ireland, creating one in six of all jobs and employing 6 million people, 3.2 million directly. The hospitality industry has lagged behind many other sectors in terms of good working practices, with average pay of just £8.84 per hour and more workers employed on zero-hours contracts than in any other sector. I urge all Members to look up Unite’s hospitality and tourism rescue plan, as it is an important document. The recommendations include extending the sector-specific job retention scheme for six months, adequate sick pay and routine testing for hospitality workers, and a call for the Government to work with Unite’s proposed hospitality commission to retrain workers who lose their jobs.

The Test and Trace system has been a national disgrace. The Labour party’s analysis shows that the Government’s contact tracing is going backwards across England, with just over half of contacts—57.7%— reached last week. In my region of the north-west, more than 26,000 people were not contacted. I urge the Government to give local communities additional resources to carry out door-to-door testing and contact tracing and to check in on people to ensure that they are able to self-isolate in areas such as mine that face additional restrictions.

In the absence of any form of effective test and trace, frontline staff, including all key workers at hospitals, schools and local authorities, must be provided with access to personal protective equipment. I used to work as an industrial organiser for Unison North West and often went into hospitals and care homes to recruit union members. Sadly, care home residents and staff have suffered badly due to the mismanagement by the Department of Health and Social Care. Weekly testing of care home residents and staff is critical to saving lives, yet there have been repeated delays to the rolling out of testing, and care homes have waited days for their results. There are also serious concerns about vacancies in the care sector during the months ahead.

The Government must provide an immediate plan to better support care workers in all settings, including the 9 million unpaid carers across our country. That includes covid-19 test centres, which is why I have recently highlighted concerns that my constituents have raised about the lack of PPE at Tiviot Dale church test centre in my constituency. I have received a letter from a secondary school teacher, who informed me that the only protective measures in place were disposable face masks for staff and visitors, and that the manager had informed them that they did not need them. This is deeply concerning, given that a large number of staff were from an ethnic minority, who, as we know from the first wave of the pandemic, suffered disproportionately. Our test centres should be the first step towards controlling this disease, not hotbeds for its spread. I have written directly to the Health and Social Care Secretary on this issue, but I have yet to receive a response. It is simply not good enough, with Stockport and Greater Manchester facing sharp spikes in infection rates and cases rapidly spiralling out of control.

We are reaching a crisis point with the virus, and we badly need the Test and Trace system fixed and adequate support for all workers and businesses.

--- Later in debate ---
Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
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Possibly; the hon. Gentleman is in a very difficult position now. I say well done to him for taking apart the Great Barrington declaration. I will now not go into it, as he did an excellent job.

Turning to herd immunity, without a vaccine how do we attain herd immunity? With no knowledge of immunity from coronavirus, how do we obtain herd immunity? I will share with the House that I was diagnosed with coronavirus on 7 March, I had a severe dose and my antibodies had disappeared 12 weeks later. I am no longer immune to coronavirus. That is not just my story; it is the story of many, many people. Many people who were donating their plasma post-coronavirus for convalescent therapy were told quite quickly, “We no longer need your plasma because you do not have any antibodies left.” Work is going on into immunity, and we have not reached a conclusive position yet, but I can speak from my own experience and from the experiences that we are hearing about, and if people do not have long-term antibodies and we have no vaccine, there is no such thing as herd immunity. I say that again because it is the truth.

On the comments about the measures we are putting in place, how restrictive they are and social distancing, all I can say—and this relates to the number of deaths in hospitals—is that back in March no one was wearing face coverings and no social distancing was being complied with by the public, and the rate of infection was doubling every three to four days. Now, it is doubling every seven to 14 days, because the public are wearing masks, they are hand washing and they are socially distancing, and that means that when someone contracts coronavirus, they contract a smaller viral load, which is enabling doctors to treat those patients once they reach an intensive care unit. In ICUs, people are now living, not dying, but we still need the ICUs and we still need the ICU beds in which to treat those people in order that they can live. The fundamental purpose of every measure we take is to protect the NHS and to keep those beds in ICUs, so that they are there to treat people and to keep people alive.

I described this to someone today who argued with me that face masks and coverings are unnecessary. If people are in the space of someone with no facemask—I will use a scale of one to 100—they will breathe in 100 droplets and a full viral load, but when someone has a mask on it is much less. This is not a scientific experiment; it is my own analogy, but the figure is probably 10. The hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) knows this much better than I do, and can confirm or deny it. Therefore, with a mask, people’s viral load is lower and it is far easier to treat them once they arrive in hospital at A&E and are transferred to an ICU, and there is a huge chance of success. That is what we are seeing in action now in our hospitals. If we all abandon our face coverings, stop social distancing and stop hand washing, we will be back to where we were in March, when the virus was doubling every three to four days.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) mentioned Sweden, but an article in The BMJ—a research study—concluded that Sweden and the US are the only two countries that are failing to reduce their numbers of deaths. In fact, it is far more accurate to compare Sweden with its Nordic neighbours. Sweden has 586 deaths per 1 million people, while its neighbour Norway has 279, so I am not quite sure why Sweden would be cited as a country of success.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Will the Minister give way?

Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

No, there is no time—I am sorry—because I want to go on to what other Members have said.

I want to talk about mental health and just correct a few points, particularly on frontline workers. On the evidence we have at the moment, the two groups of people who are suffering with their mental health as a result of this pandemic are those people who had pre-existing mental health conditions and frontline workers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. For those frontline workers, a package was put in place straightaway by the NHS, which provided each frontline worker with three counselling sessions, numerous apps and the ability to have a contact and to receive immediate counselling, as well as a website where they could go through the tools used to work through their feelings. Almost every trust manager put in place a support package for frontline workers in their hospitals, and yesterday the NHS announced a further £15 million to support the mental health of frontline workers.

For those with pre-existing mental health conditions—and I would like to pay tribute to Claire Murdoch, who is responsible for mental health delivery in the NHS—trusts across the UK put in place 24-hour mental health crisis helplines in a matter of weeks, and they have had a huge impact. The Government have committed the £2.4 billion; we have accelerated the long-term plan; we have accelerated the trailblazer schemes in schools; we have introduced the wellbeing package in schools for children returning to school, and we have supported the third sector financially to deliver additional mental healthcare to almost every sector of society, including on eating disorders. I always say that is one of the worst mental health conditions because it has a high rate of morbidity, and it too has received additional funding. We have put a huge amount of work into mental health, and I know that Claire Murdoch and others are proud of what the NHS has done in terms of the mental health services that it has delivered.

I cannot answer anybody else, but I will write to people. This has been an important debate in the middle of one the greatest public health emergencies that this country has faced, and I would like to end by again thanking everyone across the country for playing their part to reduce the rate of transmission and to protect their loved ones and our local communities.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered covid-19.

Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 13th October 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab)
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13 Oct 2020, 4:42 p.m.

Just yesterday the Prime Minister and the Government unleashed a new package of restrictions and tiers in order to tackle the transmission of the coronavirus. Yesterday afternoon, in a meeting with west midlands MPs, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care told the MPs present that all bar two areas—Dudley and Coventry—will be placed on tier 2 restrictions. When I asked him whether he could let me know the scientific basis for Coventry and Dudley being on tier 1 restrictions, and what could trigger a move to tier 2, my question was ignored and unanswered. When I asked how soon after a governmental decision has been made to move a constituency from one tier to another Members and community leaders would be alerted, I received no answer.

This is utterly unacceptable. My constituents in Coventry North West deserve better. They are doing everything they can to hold up their end of the bargain to ensure that transmission is low and stays that way. They deserve more clarity on the evidence behind the Government’s decisions. Clarity ensures adherence. Without it we are flailing in the wind, and people are suffering. Right now, the Government risk losing confidence in their ability to see us through this crisis. They have wasted months of precious time and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, and are still not getting it right. Will the Minister let us know just how much notice each local area will be given if a change in its restriction level occurs, and how local communities and local leaders will be told of these decisions?

To borrow a phrase that we are all too familiar with, winter is coming. It is imperative for the Government to be better prepared to tackle the virus, and equip our hospitals and care sectors with the resources they need to handle the second wave. I fear that the Government have not learnt lessons from spring, and that our care sector will be under-protected. I fear that our hospitals will be ill prepared to cope, and that non-covid patients will once again be relegated to the back burner, because the right precautions and planning are not in place to deal with what may come.

Will the Minister let the House know what the Government are doing to prepare for the pressures on our NHS that winter will bring, in particular for cancer patients? What plans will be in place clearly to address sprawling waiting lists for cancer services, and what additional support have the Government given to the many thousands of people who have had their cancer treatment disrupted over the course of the pandemic? These are pertinent question that we have asked the Government time and again, but yet again they are providing us with little clarity and no answer—on the back foot, as usual.

This is an opportunity for the Government to do better, and, in the interests of the country, I really hope they do.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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13 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi), and I share very much her frustration at the impossibility of getting clear answers from the Government on so many of these important questions.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves”—

those words from William Pitt were included in an email from one of my constituents complaining about the way in which this Government are treating the constituents in Christchurch and so many other people in this country. What is the necessity for what the Government are bringing forward today? I asked on 8 October whether the Government would publish the evidence in support of the Secretary of State’s statement on 1 October that

“hundreds of thousands of deaths…would follow”—[Official Report, 1 October 2020; Vol. 681, c. 503.]—

if the Government just let the virus rip. There has been no answer to that question—no attempt to answer it—nor has there been any justification for the arbitrary introduction of a 10 o’clock curfew.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

13 Oct 2020, 12:01 a.m.

Does my hon. Friend trust the prognosis of Professor Ferguson, whose estimates have been proved wrong again and again and are wildly exaggerated?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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13 Oct 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I do not trust them at all. I shall refer to the evidence from Sweden, because the Prime Minister’s challenge to his critics was to put forward an alternative. The Swedish approach is clear and simple—it is to trust the people and make them responsible for their own health and welfare. I looked at the figures for Sweden for the first week of October. Only seven deaths were recorded in Sweden in the whole of that period and today, not a single death was recorded in Sweden. The Swedish Public Health Agency recommends that household isolation and quarantine should exclude those who have provisionally tested positive for covid-19 or have been confirmed to have antibodies in the last six months. I tabled a question asking why that category of people cannot be exempt from these regulations. Again, I have not had an answer, although the time when it should have been answered has long passed. This is intolerable—the arrogance with which the Government are treating us as elected Members of this place.

Swedish common sense is to the fore. They have restricted gatherings not to six, but to 50. They allow nursing homes to decide their own visiting policies. They regard the rules about face coverings as simplistic and irrelevant. Again, on face coverings, I tabled a parliamentary question on 25 September asking the Secretary of State

“whether the introduction of regulations requiring the use of face coverings was linked to an increase in infection rates of covid-19”.

It will not have escaped your notice, Mr Deputy Speaker, that since those regulations were brought in, there has been an exponential increase in the infection rate in this country. Have I had an answer to that question? Of course not, which suggests that the Government do not even want to face up to the evidence that face coverings are counterproductive and are leading to a false sense of security.

In Sweden, two thirds of all deaths from covid-19 have been in the over-80 age group. That is similar to the situation here, and all the United Kingdom restrictions have so far given the average member of this country—the UK citizen—an extra half-day of life. These new restrictions that are coming in will not even give that, because the collateral damage that is being caused will actually reduce life expectancy further.

Jackie Doyle-Price Portrait Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con)
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13 Oct 2020, 4:50 p.m.

Clearly, if we are going to live with this virus, which we obviously will at least until—if ever—a vaccine is found, we need to influence individuals to behave in a way that not only keeps them safe, but makes them discharge their responsibility to keep safe other people in society and in their families. There are many tools that Governments can use to do this. They include rules, regulations and restrictions on activity. They also include messaging. We must give positive incentives to do these things, as well as negative consequences if the rules are not followed. However, I have to say to the Government that more rules will just mean that the compliant, who are not engaging in risky behaviour, will continue to comply, but that those who are reckless will find ways round the rules.

There is no better example of that than the curfew. We know that there is no scientific basis for doing it to protect people’s wellbeing. We have penalised restaurants, which now have to close at 10 pm and cannot do two sittings in an evening, although they have made massive investments to make their premises covid-secure. We are punishing the compliant. Meanwhile, publicans in the high street can comply with the rules and close at 10, but they are offering take-outs at 9.45 to the massive crowds of people spilling out of the pubs. That is reckless behaviour, and I really think the Government need to take stock. It is clear that this is not a good measure to influence behaviour in any positive way. There are much better ways of doing it. Considering the powers that the Government have already taken, I think we should look at more enforcement of fewer rules and regulations, rather than creating new ones when there are issues.

In the time I have left, I want to pay tribute to my community and to the local authority officials and health officials in Thurrock for the fantastic effort they have made in tackling this virus. We are currently 134th out of 149 local authorities in terms of cases. We have a local contact tracing capability that has kept rates down, and we have had no deaths since July, so it has come as some surprise that Public Health England has been lobbying my local authority to move from tier 1 to tier 2. That makes an absolute nonsense of this tiering policy, because we should be asking for additional restrictions only where there will be a material benefit to public health. My director of public health advises me that further restrictions will actually jeopardise public health, and that there will be no benefits from them. We must not be complacent, given the current rise in cases, but please will the Minister resist any attempt to put Thurrock into tier 2?

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Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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13 Oct 2020, 12:01 a.m.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you may well think that over 37 years, you have heard enough from me, so let me read out a letter that happened to arrive this morning from a constituent. It says:

“I am 67 years old and for the first time in a long time I am scared. Not of the virus, which, let’s be honest, is proving to be no more deadly than the flu”—

that is his opinion; I do not necessarily share it.

“I am scared of the damage being deliberately caused to the economy and our freedoms by this Government in the name of covid-19. It isn’t the virus closing businesses and causing job losses, it’s the actions of the Government. It isn’t the virus stopping people getting treatment and operations, it’s the actions of the Government. It isn’t the virus preventing pupils and students getting the education they are entitled to, it’s the actions of the Government.”

So speaks my constituent in a letter that arrived this morning.

Another letter arrived this morning from a constituent telling me that they were having doorstep services very successfully over recent months attended by six to 16 people in place of going to church if that was not possible. That, of course, now breaks the rule of six, so they have had to stop.

I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) in posing some serious questions to Government that have to be answered. On positive test results—I ask the Government to write back to me if they cannot answer in the winding-up speech—what percentage do they estimate are false positives? Of covid hospitalisations, what is the breakdown between those in hospital who happen to have tested positive and those who are in hospital because of their covid symptoms? Given the disparity between the number of cases and the number of deaths, are we not wrong to react to the rate of infection, rather than hospitalisations and deaths? There are many, many other questions that need answering.

Following my hon. Friend, what is the evidence that we are saving lives by throwing people out of pubs at 10 o’clock into the street? They can go and buy lager in the shops. They can go back to their student digs.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way of bringing the Government to account would be to withhold our support until these important questions are answered?

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes his point. We are a Parliament and we are entitled to express our opinion and hold the Government to account, and that is what we are trying to do this afternoon.

The trouble with the Health Secretary’s arguments is that he is always raising up Aunt Sallies and pretending that some of us want to let this thing rip. We are simply trying to ask questions of the Government and hold them to account. No Member of Parliament wants to let this thing rip, but what we do say is that the real danger of the disease is to people over 80. The average age of death is 82, and the vast number of them are over 80. It is up to the older population and those who care for them to take self-responsibility—masked by all means, taking great care and shielding even in places of multiple occupation. We have to shield elderly people—they are the people at risk—but we have to get the country back to work. We simply cannot go on bailing out businesses. We are going bankrupt, as I said to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury earlier this afternoon.

With the economy, we are hoping to pull ourselves up by the hair. We cannot do it. We have to allow people to work, and therefore the whole approach needs to change. We need to emphasise the need to shield the elderly population and those who care for them and we need people to take back control of their own lives. I repeat—I will say it again and again—that if we go on cancelling cancer operations and heart operations, if we drive people into mental health difficulties and if we close down businesses, we are paying a terrible price, and there has to be a balance.

Public Health

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 6th October 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I feel I have taken quite a number of interventions, so it is time that I moved on, if that is all right.

Let me talk through some further changes that have come into effect since the regulations were made. On 21 September, following the advice of the four chief medical officers, the UK’s covid alert level was raised from 3 to 4, which is the second most serious stage, meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially. The Prime Minister outlined to Parliament on 22 September that we were at a “perilous turning point”, and needed to act to save lives, protect the NHS and the most vulnerable, and shelter the economy from far sterner and more costly measures that would inevitably become necessary.

As a result, further restrictions came into effect from 24 September. These included: rules on the closure of certain businesses selling food or drink between 10 pm and 5 am; measures to require hospitality venues to provide food and drink for consumption on the premises by table service only; the doubling of initial fines for individual breaches of the above measures; and new fines for businesses that do not adhere to the new requirements, starting at £1,000, up to a maximum of £10,000 for repeated breaches. The rules also change the exemptions to the six-person gathering limit to restrict attendance at wedding ceremonies, receptions and support groups to 15, and remove the exemption for stand-alone religious or belief-based lifecycle ceremonies and adult indoor sports apart from indoor disabled sports. We are working through the normal channels to schedule debates for these regulations as soon as possible.

I recognise that people have had to make significant sacrifices to suppress the first wave, and these restrictions are not measures that any Government would want to introduce, but the threat of the virus very much remains. With winter approaching, we must do whatever it takes to keep it under control and protect the NHS so that it can, in turn, look after us.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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6 Oct 2020, 5:12 p.m.

rose—

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry but I was closing my speech, not taking an intervention. That was the end of my speech. [Interruption.]

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Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders
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6 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I certainly do not think my constituents are stupid, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not either. A very important point has already been made about children, and I will return to that later. We have not yet had a convincing explanation why they are included in the six.

Even with the best of intentions, concerns and questions remain, not least about the way in which these regulations were introduced, how effective they are, how the Government communicated them and how they will be enforced. The timeline of these regulations is the perfect demonstration of the lack of transparency, strategy and accountably, which has been the hallmark of this Government. Following media briefings the night before, the Prime Minister made an announcement about the rule of six on 9 September, not to this place, as it should have been, even though he was in the House that day to answer Prime Minister’s questions. I call that a discourtesy to this place, and I hope we see and end of that. It shows not only a lack of respect to all Members and our constituents but a lack of confidence in what is being proposed and a lack of commitment to scrutiny. Most of all, the way that these regulations were introduced shows a lack of thought about the practicalities of enforcing them.

How can we expect anyone to adhere to the minutiae of these regulations if they appear for the first time only a quarter of an hour before they become law—at quarter to midnight on a Sunday evening? How were the police meant to enforce that? Are they supposed to google the regulations as they walk around on their beat? Brian Booth, the chair of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said:

“Everybody is in the dark, it shouldn’t be like that…If the government says they’re going to infringe on people’s lives, they have to tell them how.”

Once again, there is no impact assessment for these regulations. Surely some thought was given to the practicalities, so what discussions did the Minister have with her counterparts in the Home Office and with police forces around the country prior to the introduction of these regulations?

The way that regulations are introduced matters. They are too important not to be debated and given full and timely parliamentary scrutiny before they become law. Since March, more than 70 health protection statutory instruments have been introduced in this way, with no debate and no vote before they come into force. We recognise that, in the early stages, there was a need to act quickly under the emergency procedures, and we acknowledge that that may still be the case at times, but more and more of the regulations that are being introduced do not meet the test of urgency. The Government have slipped into bad habits. They treat this place as an afterthought—an inconvenience, an optional extra—and not as the cornerstone of the democratic process that it should be. Surely they can do better than that. Do they not realise that scrutiny, debate and challenge in the making of our laws means that, in the long run, laws are more robust, more effective and have greater public acceptance?

I repeat once again and for the record our offer to meet at short notice to debate and vote on regulations before they become law. I appreciate that that might be inconvenient for some, but, to be frank, we are in a pandemic so a bit of inconvenience should be the least that we have to put up with to ensure that democracy still functions.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - -

On that point, can the hon. Gentleman tell the House of the present state of negotiations with the official Opposition about a debate on the 10 o’clock curfew? The suggestion was that there would be a debate tomorrow on the 10 o’clock curfew, but it is not going to be about that—it is going to be about what is happening in the north. Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what progress there has been?

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Regrettably, I am not one of the business managers of the House, so I cannot advise on that, although I expect that we will have an answer during the business statement on Thursday. I note what Members have said about national regulations being debated on the Floor of the House before they become law, if possible—obviously, that will still be after the event, but we really need to start doing a lot better in that area.

There is rightly a concern across the House and among the population that we do not have control of the virus. A central part of regaining control is ensuring that there is robust scrutiny of the regulations and their effectiveness. The Government need to stop reacting to situations too late—that is how the virus has run out of control. They need to look ahead, plan, prepare and act now to get a grip on test and trace, to have a clear and consistent message on what the public need to do and to ensure that there is widespread compliance with the rules. The latter two go hand in hand and are very much connected to the regulations that we are debating today.

As we heard from the Minister, the regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations for the fourth time. The regulations restrict social gatherings to six people, unless an exemption applies. We have heard a little about some of those exemptions, so I will not list them all, but they are where the good intentions behind the regulations depart from the clear and consistent messaging that we need. For example, there is an exemption in the regulations for gatherings of up to 30 persons for a marriage or civil partnership; as Members will already be aware, that has been reduced to 15. Yet again, as with a whole host of other restrictions, we are debating regulations that are, in part at least, out of date.

The wedding industry has been decimated this year; I do not know what repeatedly inviting and uninviting people to a wedding does for family relations—maybe people could ask everyone to wear tweed to the wedding and combine it with a grouse shoot so that they could keep numbers at 30. However, this is a health debate, so I will focus on the health aspects. To that end, I would like the Minister to spell out very clearly the rationale for this decision. The limit of 30 at a wedding lasted for just two weeks before it was reduced to 15. Either a specific piece of evidence emerged during that fortnight that required the limit to be reduced for weddings but not for funerals, or the limit should never have been 30 in the first place. Which one is it?

The regulations also provide that the restrictions in private dwellings in the regional lockdown regulations remain in place; it is notable that the rules for the rule of six vary across the devolved nations, as we have already heard. Far from us having an easy-to-remember set of rules that apply to everyone, it seems that the rule of six is the baseline for around only half the UK.

In Wales, as we have heard, primary-age children are not counted in the six. The Welsh Assembly took that decision based on the evidence that it has, which shows that children are far less likely to have the most serious symptoms and are less likely to pass on the virus. The question, which has already been put today, is about how the Government have come to a different conclusion on that point. Why are younger children included in the rule of six in England, but not in Wales—or in Scotland, for that matter?

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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There are eight people on the call list, and I will get everyone in if it kills me. To do so, I am introducing a rule of six. It is not an arbitrary figure; I have divided the time left by how many people want to speak. The rule of six could become the rule of five or the rule of four if there are a lot of interventions.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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6 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

The logic of what the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) has just been saying is that the Opposition should be opposing the regulations and calling upon the Government to come back with a fresh set of regulations that overcome the shortcomings he has so articulately identified. I, for my part, certainly hope we will have an opportunity to test the will of the House on the regulations, because this is the first freedom we have been given on such regulations for months. I hope we can then get the Government to go back to the drawing board and come forward with regulations that are consistent with their other policies elsewhere in the country.

These are complex regulations. Big Brother Watch has quoted human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who said that these are

“the most complex and convoluted set of lockdown regulations on England yet.”

That is hardly simple regulation, is it? We know that the Home Secretary herself was caught out and unable to give a convincing answer to the question of what was defined as mingling.

In the time available, I am going to say that I agree absolutely with the criticisms that have been made about the definition of families and young people, but I want to concentrate on another big anomaly in these regulations, which is that they apply equally to gatherings inside and outside. Why do they do that, because that is completely inconsistent with the Government’s own advice to themselves? It is also inconsistent with the advice even coming from Professor Lockdown, who on the radio this morning was absolutely clear that the risks from the virus were much greater in an indoor setting than in an outdoor setting. So these regulations are arbitrary, unfair, unjustified by the evidence, unenforceable and counterproductive in undermining public confidence in Government and in the rule of law.

In the interview on the “Today” programme this morning with Professor Lockdown, he was asked about the contrast between what we are doing and what people are doing in Sweden. He said that, of course, there was not much difference in the issues about social distancing and compliance, but what was important was that in Sweden the people trusted the Government, and that is why they have been able to manage with far less in terms of regulation. If I had the chance to speak to Professor Lockdown, I would have said that actually what he should have been saying was that our Government should be trusting the people. I think the Swedish Government are trusting the people and the people of Sweden are responding positively, enabling Sweden to have a much more thriving economy than ours because they have not got so many arbitrary restrictions imposed upon them. I hope the message that the Minister will take back is that we should be looking at this in terms of trusting the people and applying common sense, and a lot of these regulations manifestly do not achieve that objective.

These regulations were brought in on a whim. They must have been drafted over a period of weeks, I would suggest, but after the Prime Minister made his statement to a press conference on the Wednesday and the Secretary of State made a statement on the Thursday, I raised a point of order on the Friday to ask, “Where are these regulations because they are coming into effect on Sunday evening?” In the end, they were not laid in this House until 10.30 am on the Monday morning. That is absolutely intolerable. The justification given in the letter that was sent, as all letters have to be sent by the Secretary of State if the Government are ignoring the rules of this House, by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care was that these amendments were so urgent that he had not got time to bring them in earlier, but he said in the last paragraph, “I hope you understand why we proceeded in this way, and I look forward to working with you to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of these measures in future.”

The Minister who has been charged with dealing with this debate, despite the fact that these regulations were brought in by the Home Office actually—the Home Secretary introduced these regulations—could not answer my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) as to whether there were going to be powers of entry, arrest and so on. I am sure a Home Office Minister would have been able to do that, but what that underlines is that we are talking about draconian powers that are restricting the liberty of the British citizen. We should not be introducing draconian powers without the strongest possible justification, and I do not think the Minister has set out any justification in her remarks.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure the Minister really appreciated that warm welcome from her colleagues—so different from those horrid breakfast-time interviews that she is occasionally trapped in.

I would like to make three very quick points. I want to ask, first, about this rule of six. If it is a purely arbitrary figure and it has no scientific basis at all, does the Minister accept that she is being quite unfair to those with larger extended families, and how does she justify that?

Secondly, we need clarity on the question about police powers of entry. It is quite ridiculous for the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box and tell us that the police can level fines and that they can do this or that enforcement, only for us to discover that, if they are standing outside a property where there is a party of 40, 50 or 60 going wild, they have no room to enter. It would be useful, if we are being asked to renew these powers, to know what powers the police have.

Finally, is there a numerical point of reference—an R number, say, or a number of cases—for when these restrictions will be revised in either direction? If that is the case, surely we should know, and surely the public should know.

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William Wragg Portrait Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con)
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6 Oct 2020, 6:22 p.m.

rose—

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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6 Oct 2020, 6:22 p.m.

rose—

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Oct 2020, 6:22 p.m.

I have only three minutes left, so I am keen to cover a few more points that have been made in the debate.

Colleagues have spoken about children and the rule of six. As I have said, I am acutely mindful of this point as I have a family of five. I am well aware that Wales and Scotland, where health is devolved, have made their own decisions, including a slightly different decision on this issue. Of course, we will learn from the other parts of the United Kingdom. There are regular conversations between the devolved authorities and the UK Government.

On the matter of extended families and larger households, there is an exemption for larger households—clearly, they can gather—but in some areas there has been a particularly rapid spread when larger households of extended families come together. That can be a particular source of the spread, so it is much harder for larger households wanting to socialise. This is a difficult balance to strike, but we want to ensure that we are suppressing the virus because it is such a cruel thing.

Let me turn to policing. The police approach is one of engage, explain, encourage and enforce. I can confirm that they do not have power of entry, but my understanding of the feedback that we have received from the police is that they feel that they do not need further powers to enforce these measures.

I would like to reiterate the Government’s commitment to working with Parliament and to debating regulations such as these and others. I should say that we absolutely recognise the impact of these restrictions on people’s lives, and that it is with great reluctance that we bring them in. None the less, as I have said, the alternative is not suppressing the rate of the virus, and, as I have mentioned, it is not always a mild illness. We are seeing cases of long covid. There is also a health impact on our hospitals: if they become too full treating people with covid, they will struggle to treat people with other illnesses. That has its own health implications, and cannot be the right strategy. The strategy has to be to control this virus and to suppress it with the rule of six and all the other things that we as individuals can do, including our own compliance with the social distancing measures. We must take this approach, and I thank everybody for all that they are doing. I know that the public face the implications of these restrictions day in, day out, as we do ourselves, but we must do it, because it is the way that we get back to normal as soon as possible.

Question put.

Covid-19

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Monday 28th September 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Mike Hill Portrait Mike Hill (Hartlepool) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

28 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I have to admit that I have had to rewrite my speech in the light of the events that have occurred today in my area, Cleveland, with respect to covid-19.

I thank and pay tribute to all the NHS workers, care workers and key workers who keep the people of my constituency, Hartlepool, safe, well, protected and fed. I also pay tribute to all the local volunteers who have been relentless in their efforts to keep our communities going, to keep them together and to keep our citizens supported. I am very pleased—so pleased—that one of the national vaccine trials is taking place at our very own University Hospital of Hartlepool, which deserves much more Government investment to protect operational services. It is playing its part in this national crisis and I am proud of the people who work there.

I have changed my speech because of the Secretary of State’s announcement from the Dispatch Box of local restrictions for the Cleveland and Tees Valley area. On the letter written by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke), who is not present to hear this speech, and his fellow Conservative MPs in the area—they are known as the Cleveland Conservative collective of MPs—to all local authorities in the Tees Valley area to say that they feel the authorities should not proceed with voluntary local restrictions, it would have been much better for them to have spoken to all Tees Valley MPs, rather than construct what is little more than a local, party political and divisive missive at a time when we should all be working together for the greater good in the Tees Valley. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not present to hear me say that.

Local restrictions are the last thing we want—they hurt business and keep families and loved ones apart—but where the R rate is so high, protective measures and local restrictions are put in place to protect people and stop the spread of virus, as we have seen in other areas. I have often disagreed with my local council—for example, it has a bizarre plan to stop traffic going up and down a local high street known as the York Road but it cannot explain why; it just says that it is because of covid-19 reasons. I will disagree with bizarre local plans like that and be vocal about them, but I have spoken to the council today about local restrictions and I have listened to our local public health authorities, and I understand why they feel that more resources and more support is needed to get Hartlepool through this crisis.

Until now, Hartlepool has been given only ad hoc provision, yet we persistently sat at the bottom of the fatalities league in the north-east—something we should rightfully be proud of. Even so, we had been in the red zone—the watch zone—for more than two weeks before routine testing materialised. I am no apologist for my council, which is a Conservative-backed collective, but in order to get a grip of this virus, and with a distinct lack of direction and leadership from the other side, on balance taking local control appears to be the way forward. People in Hartlepool—or anywhere else, for that matter—should not be made to drive miles just to get a test. It is absolutely ridiculous and my constituents rightly feel outraged by it. We need Government leadership and positive direction from the Government; unless we get that, the local option is the better option.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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28 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill), and I am sorry to hear about the problems afflicting so many of his constituents in Hartlepool. 

It was great to be in the Chamber when my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) addressed us earlier. I am privileged to be one of his constituents, and I can tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that when he speaks in this Chamber in the way that he did today, he speaks for tens of thousands of his constituents, not to mention hundreds of thousands elsewhere in the country.

I welcome this debate, but I note that it has come almost as a panic measure by the Government because they suddenly looked at the promises that were made at the time they introduced the Coronavirus Bill six months ago. In their introduction to that, they said that there would be

“safeguards to ensure proper oversight and accountability”

by Parliament. There has not been that proper oversight and accountability, and now, two days before a crucial vote on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020, they come forward with this welcome debate.

I will support the amendment to the motion on Wednesday tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) if it is selected. If it is not, I still hope that the Government will respond positively to the spirit of that amendment. However, even if the amendment is carried, I am not yet persuaded that I need to support the continuation of the Coronavirus Act. Why am I not persuaded of that? Because the Government are guilty of covert mission creep.

You will recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, that when we were told six months ago that it was necessary to rush legislation through, it was on the basis that we wanted to prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed, with people dying from covid in hospital corridors and not being able to access the care that they needed. Fortunately, as a result of the emergency measures that were taken, that scenario never arose. People were taken to hospital, and they received the very best treatment in hospital and continue so to do.

The original objective of the legislation has been achieved, but, as so often happens with regulation brought in by Governments, they want to keep it. They say, “Oh, we need to keep it just in case.” That is why, in an Adjournment debate on 2 September, I demanded that if the Government were going to keep the regulations, it should be on the basis that there were proper regulatory impact assessments for them. We do not have those regulatory impact assessments. It is all most unsatisfactory.

I quote again from the introduction to the original notes on the Coronavirus Bill, which states:

“For many of the clauses, it is difficult to predict how a power would be used in a specific context, and therefore what the monetised costs would be. Thus, discussion of impacts is largely focussed on unmonetised considerations.”

However, it says that each individual case brought forward

“would require judgement on the specific impacts at that time.”

That has not been provided, and it means that we have had a whole lot of unintended consequences.

When I was at university in Scotland, closing time was 10 o’clock. I could have told somebody that if we returned to a 10 o’clock closing time in a Scottish university city or town, it was likely to result in the consequences we have seen. Why were the rules in relation to early closing in Scotland changed? Because that restriction was leading to people coming out on to the streets having got themselves totally drunk, and to a lot of violence. By extending the opening hours well beyond 10 o’clock, that violence was mitigated. That was common sense—but we are not allowed to look at that now.

I was much taken by the article in today’s Times by Clare Foges, who talks about the approach in Sweden—not just the technical side of it. In Sweden, they think of public health not just in terms of death and awful problems in hospitals but in terms of living life to the full. That is why I believe that the Government must now make it their strategy to enable us to live with the virus and without fear.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)
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Coronavirus presents a very real threat to the health of our constituents and must be controlled, but we must also recognise that measures to control its spread are having a huge impact on our constituents’ lives and those impacts are not evenly felt. They have a disproportionate impact on particular groups, particular places and particular sectors. There is only a short time available, so I intend to restrict my remarks to three matters.

The first is the system for test and trace. If this is not working effectively, there is a likelihood of further restrictions, which none of us wants to see, yet we know that, over the last few weeks, many of our constituents who are unwell and who suspect they have contracted the virus have faced huge problems in accessing a test. When they do get a test, results are too slow. Last week, fewer than one in three people tested in person got their results back within 24 hours, and that proportion was lower last week than the week before. Once positive cases were identified, only around three quarters of those they were in close contact with were asked to self-isolate—again, a smaller proportion than in previous weeks.

The Prime Minister might say that testing and tracing has “nothing to do” with the spread of the disease, but everybody else understands that rapid testing, effective contact tracing and self-isolation are absolutely vital to identifying and containing any outbreak. The Government must acknowledge that there are problems, identify the source of those problems and then take swift action to fix them. Please can we get the Department of Health and Social Care to start working with others that can help? Numerous universities, including the University of Nottingham, are undertaking asymptomatic testing to control outbreaks on university campuses and protect the wider community. Those universities are now working together to share information, but the Government have gone AWOL. Where is the strategy?

That brings me to the second issue I want to raise—the need for Government support for universities and their students. The Government of course have had to act fast on some issues, but when it comes to universities, their action has been glacial. I asked for a statement from the Universities Minister on 9 July, and we still have not had one. Tomorrow, I understand, we are going to have an urgent question, but only because there are serious problems. Young people who are starting university this autumn were promised a mixture of online and face-to-face learning, but an increasing number of students want or need to study remotely, and to do so they need access to the right equipment and connectivity. We know that students from disadvantaged backgrounds already face a digital divide, so what are the Government doing to bridge that divide and ensure that every student can access high-quality education, whether they are on campus or at home in self isolation?

Having seen some of the very worrying reports this weekend, what are the Government doing to ensure that students are properly supported at university, particularly if they are required to self-isolate? Many young people already experience anxiety and poor mental health. What are the Government doing, alongside universities, to ensure that young people—many away from home for the first time and now experiencing extra pressures as a result of restrictions—can access mental health support, and can the Minister assure us that there are systems in place to ensure their well-being? Will she also assure us that students will not be forced to remain in student accommodation, away from their families, when it comes to the end of term?

Thirdly, Nottingham does not just benefit from having two universities—it is a regional centre with a rich and diverse cultural sector and a thriving night-time economy, sectors that are vital to the city’s economy and provide employment for thousands of people. I am deeply concerned that the Chancellor’s economic plan simply ignores the disproportionate impact on these sectors. Pubs, bars and nightclubs are either still shut down or operating at reduced capacity, and the 10 pm curfew has made things even more difficult. Our theatres, arts venues and cinemas are reopening, but at far reduced capacities.

These businesses and the people who work in them need and deserve Government support, but the job support scheme simply does not provide it. If a business remains closed, it is impossible to access. For businesses that can access the scheme, it is cheaper to have a fewer number of full-time staff than to keep more people on in part-time work. My Labour colleagues have repeatedly called for a more targeted approach for a job recovery scheme that incentivises bringing more staff back part time and includes a training component. Of course it is welcome that the Chancellor has finally accepted the need to move away from the furlough cliff edge, but he is still letting down those sectors and those workers who most need support. Without a further change of direction, we can only see further job losses hitting my city hard.

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con)
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28 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I rise to do three things. The first is to praise the Government for everything they have achieved on PPE, on testing and on the track and trace app. In my libertarian soul, and in my instinct, my heart and my reason, I consider the Government’s track and trace app to be the very apotheosis of my worst fears. Yet over the weekend I studied what the Government have done. They have moved away from the first version, to the Apple and Google-distributed model, with all the private data remaining on the user’s phone. They have released a source code, both for the server side and for the client, which I very much welcome as a software engineer, although I doubt I shall be grinding through it. Against all my instincts—and in the knowledge that I am not the Member of Parliament for dogmatic libertarians across the country, with whom I generally agree, but in fact the MP for Wycombe—I have done the right thing: I have, against my expectations, installed the contact tracing app. I ran out of excuses, I have installed it, and I am allowing it to run even as we speak. I hope that will be of some reassurance, even to those libertarians who might condemn me for it.

Secondly, I want to say something about the science. I am not going to engage in amateur epidemiology, much as I have been enjoying picking it up, but I will praise my constituent and friend, Dr Raghib Ali, who is an epidemiologist. Unusually, he is an academic epidemiologist and also an acute medicine consultant who works in Oxford, so he is perhaps uniquely positioned to comment on the disease. He has been tweeting and writing about the disease. He is a very reasonable man. He has really helped me to keep my feet on the ground. I say to all Members who, like me, really hate and despise these restrictions on our freedom to look at what Dr Raghib Ali is writing. He has helped to keep me anchored in the truth that this is a very dangerous disease for people who are older and people who have pre-existing conditions, and we have just got to deal with it.

On the science, I wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State were present. As he framed the problem between either suppression or letting it rip, I thought that our friend Mr Osborne was back framing the issue in terms of what I think is a false dichotomy. I think we need to take another look at the scientific advice. There are professors out there telling us that this is an optimisation problem—we need to maximise the lives saved and minimise harm. There is, I think, going to turn out to be a third way that enables us to minimise harm. The Department’s own figures have shown, as reported in The Daily Telegraph, that the cost of lockdown in quality adjusted life years, adjusted for comorbidities, was greater than the cost of the disease thus far. So if we wish to maximise human flourishing and save lives, we have to look extremely carefully at the science.

I am working with my friend Professor Roger Koppl, from Syracuse University and author of a book titled, perhaps unfortunately, “Expert Failure”, looking at what actually happens with expertise. I wrote a brief for the Prime Minister, which I have also tweeted. My covering letter points out:

“Pandemic policy making has been asking the impossible of scientists, economists and politicians. There are solutions and they are fundamental to the success of a free society in an era of accelerating complexity and change.

There is a structural problem rooted in the division of labour which, when combined with bad incentives, causes inevitable failures of expert advice. The problems are acute, delicate, dangerous and long-standing. They do not arise from faulty expertise or bad actors.”

I am not going to call for anyone to be sacked.

So I hope people will look at the brief I have put out, which includes concrete suggestions. I will put on the record the Harold Macmillan quote with which the brief leads:

“We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts”,

however brilliant they may be.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Does my hon. Friend agree that what he has just said applies particularly to the university environment, where this year more university students will probably die from meningitis than from covid-19?

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker
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28 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I do not know the facts about meningitis, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his point. I particularly welcomed the debate between scientists on this Sunday’s Ridge programme. We have seen that the science actually involves a great deal of uncertainty and debate, as brilliant people, well versed in their lifetime’s work, try to make their way through uncertain knowledge, to predict the future. We must all proceed with great care if we are to be concerned for our constituents’ wellbeing.

In a sense, what I am saying to the Government today is that we need to fix two parts of this process. We need to change the structure within which expert advice is provided. I have provided a brief to the Minister. I have tweeted it out and would happily give it to the Minister. We also need to deal with the problem that has been the subject of so much news this week. We need to deal with the issue of this House voting on restrictions of the people’s liberty before it is taken away. That is surely the fundamental point about democracy. I can say, hand on heart, that all Members of this House appreciate that, in an emergency, it is necessary for Ministers to use the powers they have to protect life, liberty and property and I do not condemn anyone, but we are now into a different phase of the disease. It really is time to reach an agreement—I am happy to say that we have just had a constructive meeting with the Secretary of State, the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House—and to reach a constructive way forward. I know it is inconvenient for Ministers to come to the House before they take away people’s liberties, but I say to Ministers: it is supposed to be. It is what keeps us a free people.

Coronavirus and Care Homes

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now go to birthday boy Sir Christopher Chope.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con) [V]
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Will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the owners and managers of care homes who put the safety of their residents first and refused to admit any of the 15,000 hospital patients who had been exposed to covid-19, whom the Government were forcing to be discharged from hospitals at the end of March?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I say happy birthday to my hon. Friend and pass on the best wishes, no doubt, of the whole House. The question he raises is a difficult one, because in many cases, the best place for somebody is not in a hospital. Indeed, people can catch diseases in hospital, so it needs to be done on a clinical basis. That is why we have put in place the testing, isolation procedures and infection control of people who are leaving hospital to go into care homes.

Covid-19 Update

Christopher Chope Excerpts
Tuesday 5th May 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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One of the five tests that we have set out before the restrictions are eased is that the number of deaths should be falling consistently. Indeed, the Scottish Government’s document includes a similar proposal, and we are working to ensure that the UK is as aligned as possible.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con) [V]
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Does the Secretary of State agree with you, Mr Speaker, that changes to lockdown should be announced to Parliament first? He said earlier that transparency is the lodestar of Government policy. If that is correct, will he now release the findings of Exercise Cygnus and prove that that was not just a gesture, but is actually the real policy of the Government?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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Exercise Cygnus was undertaken under my predecessor, and there are specific rules in Government around decisions over papers that were produced before one’s time. I will take away that point.