There have been 7 exchanges between Mary Kelly Foy and Cabinet Office
|Tue 1st December 2020||Public Health||3 interactions (476 words)|
|Mon 23rd November 2020||Covid-19: Winter Plan||3 interactions (75 words)|
|Thu 19th November 2020||Integrated Review||6 interactions (84 words)|
|Wed 4th November 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (68 words)|
|Wed 17th June 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (114 words)|
|Tue 16th June 2020||Global Britain||3 interactions (56 words)|
|Wed 10th June 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (123 words)|
Absolutely not. This has brought out the number of lunatics in the country, quite frankly.
Non-essential retail is to reopen. Why on earth was it closed in the first place? A Secretary of State beamed at us from the pages of The Daily Telegraph yesterday to say, “Rejoice! You can go out and shop around the clock.” We express surprise that so many of our high street retailers are going into administration. I was not particularly aware that the clothes rail at Dorothy Perkins was ever a particular vector of disease. This all links into the proportionality of the proposed measures.
Leaving aside my levity in opening, I have always believed the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 would have been a far better vehicle for implementing measures. We have talked about this huge statutory instrument before us and some of us have said that we are going to withhold our votes or vote against on the basis that we wish we could amend it. Well, we could amend it if it was done under the Civil Contingencies Act. Perhaps that is the reason why it was not used. That Act, of course, contains a 30-day review period, as opposed to a six-month period under the Coronavirus Act 2020. The Government have nothing to fear from greater scrutiny. Greater scrutiny leads to better government, and it should be accepted as it is proposed.
To come on to parochial matters relating to my own constituency and tiering decisions—to sound like a broken record, from what we have heard this afternoon so far—I strongly contend that Stockport should not be re-entering tier 3. It was in tier 3 before the lockdown, but it should more charitably be placed in tier 2, because its levels of covid per 100,000 population are now below that of Cheshire to its south, which was put into tier 2 last week.
Briefly, I am concerned about decision making and the so-called gold command. If one believes what one reads in The Sunday Times—sometimes a leap of faith in itself, but on this occasion I am minded to believe it—the decision on tiering for London was taken on the basis of 50,000 jobs being under threat if it was placed into tier 2, as opposed to 500,000 jobs if it was placed into tier 3. My constituents deserve exactly that consideration as well. I do not believe entirely in the north-south divide—a conspiracy theory that abounds in this House—but when we have such decisions, one cannot but help wonder if it might be true.
The Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs, which I have the pleasure of chairing, wrote to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster last week to ask for further evidence on the five tests. My concern is that the fifth of those tests—that is to say pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy—will trump all other considerations. The data and information on that are not freely available, however, and no answer has yet been received to that letter.
If the measures are arbitrary and there is no exact science behind them, I would sooner that the Government admitted that, because at least it would be an honest approach. As they have not done so, I cannot support these measures this evening.
It is rather apposite that we are having this debate on World AIDS Day; many hon. Members are wearing its symbol. We should consider what we did in the 1980s, when AIDS was the pandemic and the risks were very much there: we told people to change their behaviour and we had very strict messaging, but we did not take away liberties, fine people or close down the pubs that were obviously a place where future infections may have started.
Today, Thanet District Council in my constituency has a very high level of covid-19 of 448 per 100,000, which is in the top five in the country. I understand that the Government are having to make some tough decisions to buy time to bridge to a vaccine, but we need some honesty about how rapidly it will come. The Daily Telegraph is chirruping away that it is coming, but it is not quite in sight yet.
We are waiting for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to approve the vaccines. It will then be a large logistical exercise to roll out 66 million vaccines, times two, in a period of time when, currently, the NHS manages to roll out 15 million seasonal flu vaccines every year over four months. It will be a major undertaking and it will take time. The Government need to lay out very honestly that we will be living with this virus for some time to come.
It is to the great credit of the Government that we have a massive amount of testing and that we have granular regional data on the level of infection per 100,000. That is the most powerful tool that the Government have. That is the driver of good behaviour—when people see that their infection levels are higher, they innately do something more sensible. We are, however, subject to short-termism and to the precautionary principle, which has perhaps infested our lives too much.
We have to ask: what about personal liberties? We have not heard that much about that this afternoon. Yesterday, I had an email that touched me particularly. In September, a chap had sent me a photo of his father in an old people’s home. He was not unwell, but frail—he looked bright and well, and had that sparkle in his eyes still. The son sent me another photo yesterday. There is nothing wrong with the man. Nothing has changed; there are no more health conditions, but he looked broken. That is the worry. We are breaking older people where there is nothing left to live for. Are we assessing all the health outcomes properly?
Obviously, we want to put more money towards those in hospitality, but surely it is better to get them covid-ready, so they can open again—they do not want the money. It is easy to give the Government the benefit of the doubt, but they need to be at a higher level than that. Tonight, I cannot support them.
I thank prison workers and all who have done an incredible job in fighting covid and helping the country to fight covid over the last few months. I think the public understand the need to keep the pressure down on public spending at the moment. We have had inflation-busting pay rises previously, but, as the Chancellor will be setting out, the economic situation is not easy as a result of what this country has been going through. We will ensure that prison workers are among the very first to be able to use the lateral flow testing system to help them get the virus down in their line of work.
My hon. Friend is completely right, and we never tire of telling other NATO colleagues that they need to increase their defence spending for the good of the whole alliance. We will continue to make that case, but we are doing the most powerful thing—that is, setting a fantastic example ourselves with 2.2%. This is something that will not only help to drive jobs and prosperity in the UK and protect the people of the UK, but help to make the world safer.
We are in daily contact and communication with the aid organisations that have benefited from the many billions of pounds that the UK contributes to international development—more than virtually any other country. We will continue to do that, and we will continue to work with those organisations on the ground.
I welcome this statement and the increased investment. The Prime Minister has rightly set out the importance of spending this money wisely and efficiently and buying as much from British suppliers as we can. Can he bring forward revised public sector procurement rules that apply right across public spending, so that we can achieve both those welcome objectives?
I thank my hon. Friend. He is right to lobby for the aviation industry. This country has the third biggest aviation industry in the world. It is currently having a terrible, terrible time, and my sympathies are very much with all the employees involved. One of the benefits of getting polymerase chain reaction testing up to 500,000 a day is that we have new possibilities for testing of all kinds across the country. We will be bringing forward further measures and proposals as soon they are finalised.
What has possibly undermined people’s confidence in, and understanding of, what the Government are trying to do is the constant party political point-scoring, and the attempts by the Labour party and the hon. Lady to obscure what we are trying to do. The best thing would be to advise her constituents on what to do: follow the guidance, and get the virus down—and let us all do it together.
I thank the hon. Lady for raising this point. We need to recognise that some people with disabilities face particular difficulty when it comes to social distancing and are impacted on by the reaction of others due to their inability to socially distance—I understand, particularly, the situation for young children. I reassure her that the Department for Transport has revised transport guidance for travellers and operators and considers the details needed for disabled travellers. I hope that that reassures her.
To ease the burdens on businesses due to coronavirus, we suspended enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting in March. Despite that, more than 5,500 companies have reported to date, and employers continue to do so.
We are in a serious economic situation due to covid-19, and my priority, as the Minister for Women and Equalities, is to make sure that women stay in employment where possible and are able to get jobs where possible. That is where I am putting all my efforts.
I can assure the hon. Lady that there has been massive consultation over a long period. It is my own personal and direct experience that the UK, although it does a fantastic job with development aid, could do even better with a powerful, single, integrated voice of the kind I am describing and which we will bring into existence in September.
Break in Debate
Last time, the allocation was split, and I am sure we would want it to be used by developing countries if special drawing rights were exercised. That could be part of the solution, but as the hon. Gentleman knows, 85% of the banks need to agree, and the US effectively has a blocking right, which means that this is perhaps not a short-term solution but one to work on over time with international partners.
I thank the hon. Lady for recognising the work that has already been done on suspension and relief. That will perhaps be looked at again, in terms of private sector relief and expanding either the data or the amounts of both those schemes, before looking at cancellation issues, which will have a longer-term impact. We need to focus on solutions that will help immediately and leave longer-term solutions for the longer term, but that is still very much on the table. I would not want to leave the House with the impression the World Bank is doing nothing. The international development banks overall are putting $200 billion into developing countries over the next 15 months as a result of the covid crisis.