Mary Kelly Foy debates with Cabinet Office

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)

Public Health

Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Tuesday 1st December 2020

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
William Wragg Portrait Mr Wragg
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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.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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My constituency has been placed in tier 3 restrictions along with the rest of the north-east. Although I was disappointed by that decision, I can accept the need for the measures to protect public health. However, I cannot accept the lack of support from the Government, the regional inequality of the restrictions and the complete lack of an exit plan.

The support currently offered to businesses is simply nowhere near enough to protect our local economies: £20 a head in business support for the duration of tier 3 will be of little comfort to businesses in the north-east which have been under increased measures longer than most other areas. Without genuine support, businesses will go under, jobs will be lost and people will be pushed further into poverty. Covid-19 is a great threat to public health, but there is no greater cause of illness than poverty. To place the north-east in tier 3 without genuine support for workers and businesses is to condemn thousands to poorer health and worse life chances. To support that would be to abandon my responsibility to my constituents.

In addition, the Government have repeatedly refused to fund local contact tracing properly. It is far more successful and cost-effective than the Government’s shambolic centralised system, which has mainly served to help to line the pockets of the Government’s friends in the City. Without a functioning test and trace system, a cycle of lockdowns is inevitable until a vaccine can be properly rolled out. The Government have had eight months to sort that and they have failed. They desperately need to step up.

The Government advocate a regionalised approach to covid-19 restrictions, yet insist on dictating restrictions to local authorities, ignoring their advice on contact tracing and withholding the necessary funding. If the Prime Minister wants a regionalised system, he needs actually to support our regions.

My constituents want to know how we can reach tier 2. Local authorities need to know what the infection rate targets are and how the Government will support them to bring them down. Currently, that is as clear as mud. Unfortunately, as the Government do not have a plan B, hon. Members must choose between inadequate restrictions and no restrictions at all. These measures will hurt our communities, yet we also know the damage that the virus will cause if left unchecked. In their current state, the restrictions would be deeply damaging to Durham, and the financial support is not there to mitigate that.

If the Prime Minister had wanted Labour Members to vote for the measures, he should have presented something that we could actually vote for. It is not the Opposition’s job to vote for bad legislation or to pass the Government’s business. I urge the Government to give businesses and workers the support that they desperately need, to fix track and trace, and to start treating the north fairly.

Craig Mackinlay Portrait Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) (Con)
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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.

Covid-19: Winter Plan

Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Monday 23rd November 2020

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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23 Nov 2020, 5:28 p.m.

Yes. The criteria are as I have set out a couple of times now. The areas will be reviewed every 14 days.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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23 Nov 2020, 5:29 p.m.

While the Prime Minister might hope that coronavirus will take the day off this Christmas, key workers in prisons, local authorities and emergency services will be working hard to keep vital services running. Despite that, the Chancellor is apparently set to freeze their pay. Will the Prime Minister order the Chancellor to reverse that decision, or do key workers need to set up unproven personal protective equipment companies if they want to receive Government money?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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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.

Integrated Review

Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Thursday 19th November 2020

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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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.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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In June this year, the Prime Minister abolished the Department for International Development, telling me and the House that there had been

“massive consultation over a long period”—[Official Report, 16 June 2020; Vol. 677, c. 678]—

with aid organisations prior to making the decision. Since then, around 200 aid organisations and his own Secretary of State have contradicted that. Can the Prime Minister provide evidence that this consultation took place prior to making the decision, or will he finally apologise for misleading the House?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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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.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I am sure the hon. Lady meant “inadvertently” misleading the House.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy
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indicated assent.

Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con) [V]
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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?

Oral Answers to Questions

Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Wednesday 4th November 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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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.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy  (City of Durham) (Lab)
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  In my short time as MP for the City of Durham, Dominic Cummings has fatally undermined public health messaging, has had historical planning violations exposed, and has short-changed us with an unpaid council tax bill of up to £50,000. Will the Prime Minister condemn this continued flouting of the rules, or does he have a blind spot that even a trip to Barnard Castle cannot fix? [908166]

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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17 Jun 2020, midnight

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.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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What assessment she has made of the potential effect on the gender pay gap of the suspension of gender pay gap reporting during the covid-19 outbreak. [903377]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Minister for Women and Equalities (Elizabeth Truss)
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17 Jun 2020, midnight

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.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy
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Gender pay gap reporting was removed in March, yet even then, just two weeks before the deadline, only around half the businesses expected to report had done so. This cannot become a lost year for narrowing the gender pay gap. Eliminating pay inequality, especially for those women in low-paid, insecure work, must be at the heart of the recovery. Will the Minister tell me exactly when gender pay gap reporting will be restored and how the information will be used as part of the coronavirus recovery?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss
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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.

Global Britain

Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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Yes, indeed. The UK leads the world in tackling corruption and money laundering, and once again that agenda will have far more heft after the integration of the two Departments.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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It is hard to see this decision as anything but a populist stunt that flies in the face of what the coronavirus pandemic tells us: that we are all interconnected in this world. What consultation did the Government carry out with humanitarian and development experts, as well as leading aid organisations, before the decision was made?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Wednesday 10th June 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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What discussions she has had with her international counterparts on requiring private creditors to cancel debt owed by developing countries during the covid-19 pandemic. [903052]

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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What discussions she has had with her international counterparts on requiring private creditors to cancel debt owed by developing countries during the covid-19 pandemic. [903057]

Kim Johnson Portrait Kim Johnson (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab)
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What discussions she has had with her international counterparts on requiring private creditors to cancel debt owed by developing countries during the covid-19 pandemic. [903059]

Break in Debate

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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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.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy
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I welcome the Government’s role in the G20’s suspension of bilateral debt payments due in 2020 from the world’s poorest countries, as well as their donation of £150 million to an IMF debt relief scheme used for covid-19. However, the World Bank is yet to take action on debt relief, despite that being one of the most important things we can do to support developing countries in this global pandemic. Can the Minister tell me what actions the Government will take to ensure that the World Bank moves to cancel debt payments, to support the world’s poorest?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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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.