Nadhim Zahawi debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

There have been 38 exchanges involving Nadhim Zahawi and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Thu 4th March 2021 Covid-19 Update (Written Statements) 1 interactions (431 words)
Thu 4th February 2021 Covid-19 Vaccine Update 64 interactions (5,784 words)
Wed 20th January 2021 National Security and Investment Bill 19 interactions (2,269 words)
Mon 11th January 2021 Covid-19: Vaccinations 65 interactions (5,513 words)
Mon 11th January 2021 Covid-19 Vaccination Roll-out (Westminster Hall) 7 interactions (1,347 words)
Tue 15th December 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 23 interactions (616 words)
Mon 14th December 2020 Covid-19: Vaccination (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,727 words)
Thu 10th December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Eleventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 63 interactions (3,417 words)
Thu 10th December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Twelfth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 30 interactions (2,886 words)
Tue 8th December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Ninth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 52 interactions (4,289 words)
Tue 8th December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Tenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 59 interactions (6,267 words)
Thu 3rd December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 27 interactions (3,211 words)
Thu 3rd December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 53 interactions (5,629 words)
Tue 1st December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Fifth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 13 interactions (2,794 words)
Tue 1st December 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 67 interactions (7,636 words)
Thu 26th November 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 11 interactions (879 words)
Thu 26th November 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 14 interactions (1,313 words)
Tue 24th November 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 9 interactions (1,361 words)
Tue 24th November 2020 National Security and Investment Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 14 interactions (1,708 words)
Tue 17th November 2020 National Security and Investment Bill 4 interactions (1,962 words)
Thu 12th November 2020 Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Ministerial Corrections) 2 interactions (200 words)
Tue 10th November 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 25 interactions (754 words)
Thu 5th November 2020 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme 3 interactions (1,285 words)
Tue 6th October 2020 Alternative Fuelled Vehicles: Energy Provision (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,439 words)
Tue 29th September 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 34 interactions (655 words)
Mon 14th September 2020 UK Steel Industry 16 interactions (1,921 words)
Tue 21st July 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 20 interactions (671 words)
Thu 25th June 2020 De La Rue: Gateshead 8 interactions (2,021 words)
Tue 16th June 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (356 words)
Mon 15th June 2020 Caravan Industry: Hull and East Riding 8 interactions (2,163 words)
Wed 10th June 2020 Rolls-Royce (Redundancies) 25 interactions (2,334 words)
Mon 4th May 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 10 interactions (329 words)
Tue 3rd March 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 28 interactions (739 words)
Thu 27th February 2020 Construction Industry: Cash Retentions (Westminster Hall) 24 interactions (1,752 words)
Wed 26th February 2020 Government Support for Business (Westminster Hall) 4 interactions (1,498 words)
Wed 5th February 2020 Nuclear Energy Policy: Climate Change 8 interactions (2,105 words)
Tue 21st January 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 21 interactions (371 words)
Tue 22nd October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 38 interactions (786 words)

Covid-19 Update

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Thursday 4th March 2021

(3 days, 12 hours ago)

Written Statements

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment (Nadhim Zahawi)
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The lockdown has reduced social contact and, as such, the numbers of covid-19 cases, hospital admissions and death rates have reduced significantly but continue to remain high across the country. As of 25 February, the weekly case rate for all ages in England is on average 97.1 per 100,000, and 65.2 per 100,000 for people aged 60 and over. Overall positivity for England is 4.3%, with rates continuing to remain higher than desired across the whole country. These figures remain high indicating that we are not yet ready to ease further restrictions immediately from an epidemiological perspective.

Data indicates that the number of patients in hospital with covid-19 across England has reduced to 10,765 and mechanical ventilation bed occupancy is 1,658 (as of 1 March). Sadly, between 15 February and 21 February there have been a total of 2,421 covid-19 related deaths in England, within 28 days of a positive covid-19 test. The number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test has fallen and now reflect levels seen at the end of October. The coronavirus England briefing, 4 March 2021, is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-england-briefing-4-march-2021

The vaccine rollout continues to be a success for the UK. As of 2 March, over 20.4 million people across the UK have now received their first dose of a covid vaccine—equal to over a third of the adult population, and over 840,000 people have now received their second dose of a covid vaccine. Daily updates on vaccines doses are available here:

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/vaccinations

On 22 February, the Prime Minister announced a four-step roadmap to move England out of the current national lockdown. The Government will take a cautious approach to easing restrictions which is guided by data. The measures set out for 8 March prioritise the return of face-to-face education in schools and colleges.

The full roadmap publication can be found at the following link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/963491/COVID-19_Response_-_Spring_2021.pdf

Progression to the next step of the roadmap will be guided by data, and not dates. There will be at least five weeks between the steps in the roadmap: four weeks for the data to show the impact of the previous easing; and one week’s notice for the public and businesses ahead of future changes.

Before taking each step, the Government will review the latest data on the impact of the previous step against four tests.

1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully

2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.

3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

4. Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

[HCWS825]

Covid-19 Vaccine Update

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Nadhim Zahawi)
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With permission, I would like to make a statement on coronavirus, but before I do that I wish my shadow opposite number, the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), a happy birthday.

Our nation is getting safer every day as more and more people get protected by the biggest immunisation programme in the history of our health service. More than 10 million people have now received their first dose of one of our coronavirus vaccines. That is almost one in five adults in the United Kingdom. We are vaccinating at scale, while at the same time retaining a close focus on the most vulnerable in our society to make sure those at greater need are at the front of the queue.

I am pleased to inform the House that in the UK we have now vaccinated almost nine in 10 over-80s, almost nine in 10 over-75s and more than half of people in their 70s. We have also visited every eligible care home possible with older residents in England and offered vaccinations to all their residents and staff. That means we are currently on track to meet our target of offering a vaccine to the four most vulnerable groups by mid-February.

That is an incredible effort that has drawn on the hard work of so many, and I want to just take a moment to thank every single person who has made this happen: the hundreds of thousands of volunteers up and down the country, the scientists, our colleagues in the NHS—the GPs, the doctors, the nurses and the vaccinators—those in social care, the manufacturers, the local authorities, the armed forces, the civil servants who work night and day to make this deployment possible, and anyone else who has played a part in this hugely logistical endeavour. It really is a combination of the best of the United Kingdom. At our time of national need, you have given us a big boost in our fight against this deadly virus, which remains a big threat to us all.

There are still more than 32,000 covid patients in hospital, and the level of infection is still alarmingly high, so we must all stay vigilant and keep our resolve while we keep expanding our vaccination programme, so that we can get more people protected even more quickly. We have an ambitious plan to do that. We are boosting our supply of vaccines and our portfolio now stands at more than 400 million doses, some of which will be manufactured in the United Kingdom, and we are opening more vaccination sites, too. I am pleased to inform the House that 39 new sites have opened their doors this week, along with 62 more pharmacy-led sites. That includes a church in Worcester, Selhurst Park—the home of Crystal Palace football club—and a fire station in Basingstoke, supported by firefighters and support staff from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

One of the greatest pleasures for me over the past few months has been seeing the wide range of vaccination sites that have been set up right in the heart of our local communities. Cinemas, mosques, food courts and so many other institutions have now been transformed into life-saving facilities, giving hope to people every day. Thanks to that rapid expansion, we have now established major national infrastructure. There are now 89 large vaccination centres and 194 sites run by high street pharmacies, along with 1,000 GP-led services and more than 250 hospital hubs. Today’s announcement will mean that even more people will live close to a major vaccination site, so we can make vaccinating the most vulnerable even quicker and even simpler.

We have always believed in the power of science and ingenuity to get us through this crisis, and I was pleased earlier this week to see compelling findings in The Lancet medical journal, reinforcing the effectiveness of our Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It showed that the vaccine provides sustained protection of 76% during the 12-week interval between the first and second dose, and that the vaccine seems likely to reduce transmission to others by two thirds. That is really great news for us all, but we will not rest on our laurels.

No one is really safe until the whole world is safe. Our scientific pioneers will keep innovating, so that we can help the whole world in our collective fight against this virus. I saw how wonderful and powerful this ingenuity could be when I was one of thousands of volunteers who took part in the Novavax clinical trial, which published very promising results a few days ago. Today, I am pleased to announce another clinical trial—a world-first study that will help to cement the UK’s position as a global hub for vaccination research. This trial will look at whether different vaccines can be safely used for a two-dose regime in the future to support a more flexible programme of immunisation. I want to reinforce that this is a year-long study, and there are no current plans to change our existing vaccination programme, which will continue to use the same doses. But it will perform a vital role, helping the world to understand whether different vaccines can be safely used. Our scientists have played a pivotal part in our response to this deadly virus, and once again they are leading the way, helping us to learn more about this virus and how we should respond.

It has been heart-warming to see how excited so many people have been to get their vaccine and to see the work taking place in local communities to encourage people to come forward to get their jab. Hon. Members have an important role to play too. I was heartened to see colleagues from both sides of the House coming together to encourage take-up within minority ethnic communities through two joint videos posted on social media last week. As the video rightly says, “MPs don’t agree all the time, but on taking the vaccination, we do.” I could not agree more, and I am grateful to every single Member who has come forward to support this national effort. We want to make it as easy as possible for colleagues to do so. This week, we published a new resource for Members that provides more information on the vaccine roll-out and what colleagues can do to increase the take-up of the vaccine in their constituencies. That is an extremely valuable resource, and I urge all Members to take a look at it and think about what they can do in their constituencies.

Our vaccination programme is our way out of this pandemic. Even though the programme is accelerating rapidly and, as the chief medical officer said yesterday, we appear to be past the peak, this remains a deadly virus, and it will take time for the impact of vaccinations to be felt. So for now, we must all stand firm and keep following the steps that we know make a big difference until the science can make us safe. I commend this statement to the House.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Happy birthday to the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris).

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to the Minister for advance sight of his statement and for his kind words about my birthday. Of course, the gladdest tidings is the news that more than 10 million people have received their first dose. Once again, our incredible national health service has delivered for us. I visited a site in Nottingham earlier in the week, and that team of the NHS, armed forces, local councils, volunteers and many more coming together was an uplifting and incredible sight.

We welcome today’s announcement about the new clinical trial. It is clear that we will live with covid-19 and its mutations for a long time, so this is the best way to get out in front of it. We were glad also to hear the study results regarding the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reducing transmission and maintaining protection over 12 weeks. As the Minister said, it is clear that vaccines are the way out of this pandemic. Daily cases are beginning to fall, but it is vital that the Government do not repeat previous mistakes and take their foot off the gas just as things look to be getting better. Could the Minister update us on whether he expects similar trial data to be published for the Pfizer vaccine?

The Government seem to be on track to deliver on their promise of vaccinating the top four Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation priority groups by the middle of this month. We really welcome that, and I commend the Minister’s work in that regard, but in a spirit of co-operation, I need to press him on a couple of points about what comes next.

First, regarding data, we are all concerned about the reports of lagging take-up among black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, as well as poorer communities, and I associate myself with the comments about the brilliant work done by our colleagues to fight that. We know that these groups have been worst affected by the pandemic, and we need them to take up the vaccine, but I am conscious that much of what we hear is based on anecdotal stories, rather than hard data at a community level, split by ethnicity. Can the Minister say what data he has on that and when colleagues can get council ward-level data, so that we can all be part of the effort to drive up take-up? As the first phase is coming to an end, can the Minister update us on the number of care home staff who have received their first dose and perhaps what the plan is to encourage those who have not done so to take it up on reflection?

When we get to the beginning of April, those who have had their first dose will be expecting and needing their second one. Can the Minister give an assurance that there will be enough supply to ensure that everyone who is due their second dose gets it, as well as, obviously, to manage those who are due their first? The Foreign Secretary would not offer that commitment on behalf of the Government recently. I hope the Vaccine Minister will be able to.

Colleagues have raised with me the fact that constituents who have received a national letter and called 119 to book are not routinely being offered local primary care network-based options. Can the Minister confirm that that should not be the case and that he would welcome hearing examples of where that is happening so that we can change it?

The Opposition fully supported the Government in prioritising those at greatest risk of dying—those in the first four categories—but as we move to categories 5 to 9, it is reasonable to ask the JCVI about including key workers. Data has shown that those who work closely with others and are regularly exposed to covid-19 have higher death rates than the rest of the population. By prioritising those workers alongside the over-50s and 60s, and people with underlying health conditions, we can reduce transmission further, protect more people and keep the vital services that they provide running smoothly, which includes reopening schools. Putting the politics of this to one side, we raised this suggestion over a week ago now. Will the Minister say whether he has had those conversations with the JCVI, or whether he will at least commit to asking it to look at how that suggestion might work?

It is HIV Testing Week. Those living with HIV are in category 6. If their doctor knows their HIV status, they will have their opportunity as planned. However, some choose, perfectly legitimately and for some profoundly important reasons, to access their healthcare through other means, such as an HIV clinic. Their doctor might therefore not know their status and they may well be missed. In this specific case, will the Minister commit to looking at a possible workaround? Allowing HIV clinics to connect those individuals directly would be one way, but we would support any effective way of doing that.

Finally, given that it is World Cancer Day, what consideration has the Minister given to vaccinating household members of the clinically extremely vulnerable, to give another layer of protection to blood cancer patients and other CEV people, an argument strongly supported by the reports that transmission is reduced by these vaccinations?

To conclude, this programme really is the light at the end of the tunnel. Our NHS has delivered, and we must support it to continue to do so by making the right policy decisions.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his constructive way of engaging with the vaccination deployment programme. On trials, we have two running currently, both with Public Health England. The Vivaldi trial is testing residents of care homes, who were in category 1 of the JCVI categories. The second is Siren, which is testing frontline health workers, who are in category 2. As Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, has said, we will know the infection and transmission data from those trials in the next few weeks. Of course, the Oxford data is very promising—it needs to be peer reviewed—but those trials will also capture the Oxford vaccine, because obviously that came on site in January.

On the priority list, the JCVI looked very closely at both black, Asian and minority ethnic and, of course, other considerations, including by profession, and came down clearly on the side of age as the deciding factor in people’s risk of dying from covid. This is a race against death, hence the nine categories, which we are going through, and we will continue to do so. A number of professions will be captured in those categories. Of course, those with extremely severe illness will be captured in the category for the severely extremely vulnerable, and others will be captured in further categories down the phase 1 list.

I certainly think it would be wrong to change the JCVI recommendation, because categories 1 to 9 account for 99% of mortality. When we get into phase 2, we would welcome a debate and, of course, will ask the JCVI about including professions such as teachers, shop workers and police officers, who through their work come into contact with much greater volumes of the virus than others do, and it will advise us accordingly.

On BAME and ethnicity, the NHS now collects such data, and we are publishing it. We are doing an enormous amount of work not only across Government, but with the NHS, to ensure that we bring in local government so that we can begin to share data. I would welcome us working much closer with local government and the NHS so that we can identify, to the individual level, the people we need to protect as soon as possible.

I put it on the record that I want clinical commissioning groups to share data with MPs. Several colleagues—[Interruption.] Including you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I can see you nodding away vigorously. CCGs should and must engage with local politicians, because MPs get a lot of emails and telephone calls from concerned constituents in the top four most vulnerable categories. Of course, the NHS has plans to publish CCG-level data very soon.

As for care home staff, we had a fantastic response through the care home vaccination programme, which is category 1, and we continue to do more with staff to encourage them to be vaccinated, because we make four visits into care homes. Visit one is for the first dose, visit two is to try to vaccinate those who may have been infected the first time, because people cannot be vaccinated until after 28 days, visit three will be for second doses, and so on. We are getting greater traction with care home staff, but the hon. Gentleman is right to mention that. There is a big focus on helping them to go to hospital hubs and, of course, their primary care networks.

On the second dose, everyone who has had a first dose of Pfizer will get a second dose of Pfizer within that 12-week dosing period. That will begin in March in the usual way that the NHS does vaccinations. Everyone who has had a first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca will get a second dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca within 12 weeks as well.

The hg is right to ask about people wanting the option of going either to a national vaccination centre or to the PCN. If right hon. and hon. Members have particular cases, please point them to us and we will do everything we can to ensure that that is facilitated.

The hon. Gentleman rightly highlighted HIV clinics. I will take that matter away and see whether there is a workaround for those who want to have that information remain private from their GP. We will see what we can do.

This is World Cancer Day, and there is now real excitement in the scientific community in the UK about the messenger RNA vaccine, because people can begin to think about vaccines for cancers as well. However, the hon. Gentleman raises an important point about those who care for the clinically extremely vulnerable, and we want to ensure that we deliver the JCVI phase 1 and then very quickly reach the rest of the population.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey) (Con) [V]
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I congratulate the Minister on his leadership of the vaccine roll-out programme, which really is one of the most impressive anywhere in the world. Indeed, I also commend the Health Secretary for the foundations that he laid last year.

Now that we know that mutations and variants are the name of the game, I want to ask the Minister about a worst-case scenario: a variant that is wholly immune to the vaccines that we are currently distributing. How possible is it that we could see that in the next few months in the UK? Has the Manaus variant, which people are particularly worried about, arrived here from Brazil? If we did see such a variant, what is the timescale not just to develop a new vaccine that works against it, but to manufacture it and get it approved by regulators so that it is ready to go?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee for his question, and he is absolutely right. The manufacturers are already working on variants to their vaccine to take into account the mutation of the virus. Viruses will mutate to survive and this virus is no different. There are about 4,000 mutations now around the world, some more concerning than others. We have, in the United Kingdom, a genome sequencing industry that is a world leader—about 50%, or just under, of the sequencing has taken place in the United Kingdom. Not only are we working with the current manufacturers—Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna —that have been approved, but we are also looking at how we can make sure that we make the most of the new messenger RNA technology, which allows the rapid development of vaccine variants that will then deal with the virus variants as rapidly as possible. When I spoke to the Science and Technology Committee a few weeks ago, I said that we were planning to have in place the ability to go from the moment that we can sequence a variant that we are really concerned about to the moment that we can have a vaccine ready in between 30 to 40 days, with then, of course, the manufacturing time.

We have invested in Oxfordshire, in the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, and in the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Braintree—£127 million there and just shy of £100 million in Oxfordshire—to be ready to manufacture any vaccine that we would need. The Prime Minister, of course, also visited those making what I refer to as our seventh vaccine, the Valneva vaccine. That is a whole inactivated virus, so it does not just work on the spikes in the way that the two current vaccines that we are deploying work. It works on the whole of the virus, which is much more likely to capture any mutations from the spikes and therefore be incredibly effective. We have invested in that production facility in Scotland so that we can have that vaccine as a future-proofing of annual vaccination strategies or a booster in the autumn, if necessary.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP) [V]
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I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. I am glad to hear his recognition of the importance of adherence to the clinical categories of the JCVI, and I also give my thanks to vaccination teams in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, across Scotland and, indeed, these islands.

I urge the Minister, however, to think more lightly of himself and deeply of the world. Over recent weeks, the UK Government and their allies in Scotland have quite disgracefully been attempting to sow fear in the minds of our vulnerable communities that vaccine deployment is too slow. That narrative was completely debunked yesterday, yet the Prime Minister still claimed that we have today passed the milestone of 10 million vaccines in the United Kingdom, including almost 90% of those aged 75 and over in England, and every eligible person in a care home. Today, however, on “Good Morning Scotland”, the Minister was further pressed on how many vaccines had been given—not offered, but given to people in care homes in England. Even with 24 hours’ warning and following a detailed probing, he was not able to offer more than a vague 91% of those eligible in an ill-defined subset, before settling on “a very high number”, and suggesting that care home staff’s vaccination may not yet have begun in England. Can he tell us today what percentage of all care home residents and all care home staff have had their jab in England and, if not, why not?

To return to the JCVI clinical prioritisation, in a recent written parliamentary question to the Minister regarding the clinically extremely vulnerable, he chose to regurgitate JCVI guidance rather than answering the question. With the encouraging news that the Oxford vaccine and potentially others have a measurable impact on transmission, can he update the House on what steps he has taken to ask the JCVI to review current guidance for household members of the clinically extremely vulnerable, such as people with blood cancer or organ transplantation, and thus provide a vital layer of protection to those who may not be able to receive the vaccine themselves?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful for the hon. Member’s question, albeit, dare I say, I do not recognise his description of our collaboration. We have, over the past two weeks, been working solidly. The British Army—the armed forces—have been working to deliver 80 vaccination sites in Scotland and to hand them over to NHS Scotland within 28 days, and that work began a couple of weeks ago. So I hope he recognises the effort the United Kingdom is putting in not just in supplying the vaccines for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, but in the way we are trying to support the vaccine deployment in Scotland.

Of course, last weekend was our target to make sure that every eligible care home in England was visited, and over 10,000 care homes have actually been visited and received the vaccine. Only a handful of care homes, which were deemed to have an outbreak, were not visited. The NHS, quite rightly, celebrated achieving that target last weekend, so I am slightly saddened, in a way, that there is this politicking between ourselves about this issue.

We continue—as the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), asked me—to work very hard to make sure that staff in care homes are also offered the vaccine on those visits, and they also have an opportunity to be vaccinated in their primary care networks and, of course, in hospitals.

On the JCVI, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are in category 4, and we will vaccinate them by mid-February.

Holly Mumby-Croft Portrait Holly Mumby-Croft (Scunthorpe) (Con) [V]
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Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking local health teams and volunteers for the incredible vaccination efforts we have seen in North Lincolnshire? I know they are keen to deliver even more. Can he give an update on the progress he is making on increasing weekly vaccine supplies?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. I certainly join her in thanking the teams that have been working and delivering in North Lincolnshire. These are extraordinary people doing really incredible work, and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.

We try as hard as we can in the team to make sure we give as much notice as possible to local teams about when they are getting their delivery. This week, yesterday—Wednesday—everyone would have had notice of their deliveries for next week. We want to give as much notice as possible. Our limiting factor remains vaccine supply. It is becoming more stable, and we have greater visibility of vaccines all the way through to March, hence our confidence about meeting our targets. I can reassure my hon. Friend that her local teams will get the vaccines they need to meet the mid-February target of vaccinating the top four cohorts and protecting them before that date.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD) [V]
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It was an immense privilege this morning to visit the Stoop in Twickenham, home to Harlequins rugby, which opens today as a local mass vaccination hub. The NHS, Quins and the council have done an incredible job to be in a position to start vaccinating 500 people a day.

The Minister has spoken quite a lot about care home staff and some of the challenges in driving uptake among those staff, but we know that domiciliary care staff are also lagging behind in the vaccination rates. One industry survey has suggested that only 32% have been vaccinated so far. Could I press the Minister again: what are the latest vaccination rates for both care home staff and home care staff, what are the reasons for this lag and how can we best work together to address this problem?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question. It is great to hear about the Harlequins joining the fight, as they always do, when it comes to the United Kingdom actually getting people protected and vaccinated.

Care home and domiciliary staff are both on our priority list, as the hon. Lady knows. We are working with local government, and David Pearson, who is of course a champion of the social care sector, has been working with local government to identify them. The best way to identify domiciliary staff is through local government, because a lot of people will be with agencies and, as the hon. Lady quite rightly pointed out, are hard to reach. They are in our target: they are part of the top four categories, with those who are caring for the elderly in residential care homes, and we will meet our target of offering them a vaccine by mid-February.

Sarah Atherton Portrait Sarah Atherton (Wrexham) (Con) [V]
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British-based pharmaceutical companies have been pivotal in the global fight against this pandemic. Plants in Teesside, Livingston and Oxford, and Wockhardt in my constituency, are central to vaccine manufacture. So what conversations has my hon. Friend had with his Home Office counterparts to provide sufficient security to these vital pieces of national vaccine infrastructure?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I want to reassure my hon. Friend that, through the vaccines taskforce, we have been liaising extensively with the vaccines’ developers and the related organisations to ensure that the highest level of security exists through the whole vaccine deployment chain. That has, of course, included working directly with the manufacturers, and we have a senior responsible officer seconded to the team to make sure that security is at the forefront of everything we do to deliver this programme. We cannot allow a lapse of security to get in the way of the largest vaccination programme in the history of this country.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister for his concerted strategy and for the overall roll-out of covid vaccines. We are deeply indebted to him for the focus he has given. Does he intend there to be a route by which those who are younger and still attending front-facing work are able to access their vaccine? Furthermore, what co-ordination has there been with GPs’ surgeries to assist them in categorising need when assessing those who are vulnerable but who did not have shielding CEV letters?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. It is a priority for us and we will be saying more on it very soon, because the groups who have not received the letters but are shielding remain incredibly important. He is absolutely right to raise the issue, which is a priority for us.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con) [V]
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Getting to 10 million vaccines is a major milestone and a serious achievement, and I am pleased to report to my hon. Friend that, thanks to the dedication of many local people, the roll-out in Eastbourne has got off to a very strong start. However, as access and options have increased with new sites coming on stream, there has been some initial public confusion over the different routes and communications. The concern is that the “did not attend” rate, which has to date been insignificant, could now increase. Will my hon. Friend, who is doing such sterling work, assure me that as we march forward the structure of this brave new vaccine campaign is being reviewed and that we can have confidence?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. I am delighted to see that in her constituency the vaccination programme has rolled out so efficiently and well. She is right to point out the issue of choice; we deliberately wanted people to have the choice to be able to go to a vaccination centre or to go through their primary care networks or hospital hub. I will make sure that each and every person in those four categories is offered a vaccine. We have a strategy, which we are now implementing because we are so close to that deadline, of reaching out to the granular level—to GPs—to go through exactly the population in each of those four categories, in order to make sure we know that everybody has been reached and offered that vaccine. I just give her that reassurance.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Pharmacies cannot contribute in the vaccine programme unless they commit to deliver at least 1,000 vaccines a week. That precludes many community pharmacies embedded within those communities where some residents cannot access the vaccination centres. So will the Minister allow local pharmacies to work together to deliver smaller volumes, so that they can reach more residents who would not otherwise get a vaccine?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question. Community and independent pharmacies have a significant role to play; she may have heard me refer earlier to the hundreds that are already in the programme, delivering vaccines. The reason for the 1,000 vaccinations a week minimum is that, when vaccine supply is finite and every dose matters, we cannot afford for vaccines to just sit in a fridge in a smaller pharmacy. As vaccine supply begins to improve, we can look at bringing in more pharmacies. At the moment, 98% of the country is within 10 miles of a vaccination site; for the 2%, we will go to them with a pop-up site. I want us to get to a stage, once we have done phase 1, where we are maybe able to be more convenient and where people can pop into their local pharmacy once supply allows.

Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The data concerning the Pfizer vaccination recommended that the second jab be given within three weeks. As the Minister has said today, the interval is currently 12 weeks. I am hearing of concerns from the medical world about this gap, which it is claimed risks reducing the vaccine’s efficacy. Could he update the House on this matter?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. Pfizer itself says that it is up to the national regulatory authority to advise on the dosing interval. Not only the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency—which is our regulator—but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the four chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all agreed that the up to 12-week interval for Pfizer-BioNTech is exactly the right thing to do to make sure we protect as many people as possible. They cited Pfizer’s own data that, after 15 days, up to 21 days, protection is up to 89% with the first dose.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of my main primary care centres only has enough vaccine supply to open for half the week. Whether this is because vaccines are being directed to other types of centre—like the major centres that we do not yet have—or are bypassing London, or because there are simply not enough vaccines full stop, targets are being missed. Only 70% of over-80s and 55% of all priority groups had been vaccinated by this week. Can the Minister look at supply to Hammersmith and Fulham, and to London generally?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s question, and I will certainly look at that specific example, if he is able to give me the details. The data that will be published at 2 pm for his sustainability and transformation partnership will show that vaccination levels for the over-80s are now over 75%, which is an improvement, but they need to go even further, so I will happily take a look at that. Of course, the recent large vaccination site opened at Network House, Wembley will also help with that.

Mark Eastwood Portrait Mark Eastwood (Dewsbury) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Frontline nurses, doctors and care staff in Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale have done an amazing job during this pandemic, working long hours under immense pressure, and it is only right that they have been included in the first phase of the vaccinations. Could my hon. Friend confirm the percentage take-up rate of vaccinations for NHS and care home staff?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I agree with my hon. Friend. The fantastic NHS staff have stepped up in the most challenging of circumstances, and it is imperative that they are part of this first phase of the vaccination programme.

A significant milestone was achieved last week, as my hon. Friend will have heard me say earlier: we have now gone into every eligible care home of older adults to offer their staff and residents their first dose of the vaccine. This is testament to our remarkable care home staff and NHS workers. I urge all social care and front- line health care workers to take up the vaccine when it is offered to them. The recent large vaccination centre for my hon. Friend’s constituency is the Spectrum Community Health CIC in Wakefield, which staff can also access. We continue to make progress with staff, and our aim is to offer to each and every member of staff that vaccination by the middle of February.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The news that a mutated form of the new, more infectious Kent variant has been found in Bristol has worried a lot of people. I appreciate what the Minister said earlier about developing new vaccine variants as we go along, but where does that leave people who have already been vaccinated or who will be vaccinated before the new vaccines come on stream? What reassurance can the Minister offer?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady raises an important point. The vaccines that we are currently deploying will work on the variants that are in the United Kingdom. Both the deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, and the chief scientific adviser have said that they would be very surprised if the current vaccines have no impact on the variants of the virus, so we continue to vaccinate at speed, at the same time, of course, as being vigilant by sequencing the new variants. Of course, we are able to react, with the manufacturers, to any future need in respect of the vaccination programme. At the moment, the vaccines are exactly the right thing to do, including because of the protection against severe infection and hospitalisation that they offer, which remains incredibly high with both vaccines.

Rehman Chishti Portrait Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con) [V]
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Further to my question to the Prime Minister last week in which I called for a mass vaccination centre in Medway—also called for by fellow Medway Members of Parliament—I welcome the proposals by Kent and Medway CCG to increase capacity at Medway Maritime Hospital, which now needs to be added to the national booking programme. However, the Minister knows from conversations with Members of Parliament from Medway that we urgently need a mass vaccination centre in Medway. We have a population of 280,000 and are one of the areas hardest hit by covid in the country. I need the Minister to ensure, now, urgently and swiftly, that we get a mass vaccination centre in Medway, in line with our needs. Linked to that, will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the fantastic NHS staff throughout Medway and at Medway Maritime Hospital, and to the great work that the CCG is doing in Kent?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend and I have had conversations about this matter because he is a great champion of his constituents. He will be aware that there has been a huge amount of work to step up vaccination services in Medway in recent weeks. Each primary care network site receives its own supply, and work has been carried out with the local CCG to ensure that the vaccine supply aligns with the number of registered patients in the priority cohort groups—groups 1 to 4. When some sites progress through their supply more quickly than others, we work with them to ensure that supplies are replenished as quickly as possible so that they can continue to vaccinate the most vulnerable. We are keeping a close watch on my hon. Friend’s area because, as he quite rightly points out, it has gone through some difficulties. I reassure him that the latest numbers I have for the Kent and Medway STP show that 86.3% of over-80s have had the first dose.

Marion Fellows Portrait Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Leader of the House and the Minister talk of the beneficence of this Government. Yesterday, soon-to-be Baroness Davidson asked Scotland’s First Minister whether she would accept armed forces help with vaccine deployment, in spite of huge increases in the roll-out in Scotland. As Scotland contributes to the UK armed forces—as do all parts of the UK—is it not time to stop using this dreadful pandemic to portray the deployment of our armed services in such a cynical and divisive way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s question, although I am slightly surprised because it is the United Kingdom’s armed forces and the United Kingdom’s vaccine that are being deployed, and I hope we can celebrate that. [Interruption.] I see the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) nodding across the Dispatch Box—and I think he is smiling underneath that mask as well.

Tracey Crouch Portrait Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I join others in congratulating the Minister on the incredible, world-leading roll-out of the vaccine—I would have expected nothing less from my brilliant friend and colleague. May I reinforce the plea from my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) for a Medway vaccination centre, for all the reasons he gave? Perhaps it would be helpful if we could meet the Minister to discuss that in more detail. My PCNs are doing a phenomenal job in racing through the top four priority groups, but at present they do not have access to IT systems, such as Outcomes4Health and Foundry, that would enable them to analyse and plan properly. My understanding is that access was promised but might not have happened universally, so could the Minister reassure the House that this is being rectified urgently to support the next and larger phase of vaccine roll-out?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I add my thanks to those of my hon. Friend for the relentless determination of her excellent local PCNs to vaccinate the most vulnerable. I would be very happy to meet colleagues to go through in detail the plan up to mid-February, which is our target, and beyond. I am also happy to take away her PCNs’ specific concern about data sharing. Our mantra in the team is to make as much data available as quickly as possible, when we know that it is robust and actionable, so we will look at her point about Foundry and Outcomes4Health to ensure that we can share that. I want to get to a stage where every PCN can track its order, in the way we track an order from Amazon. We have reached basecamp, but we have a big climb ahead of us to vaccinate the whole nation.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I start by thanking all the staff in our primary care networks and in our NHS for the magnificent work they have done to ensure that as many people in the priority groups in the north-east are vaccinated? In any call and recall system for vaccines, some people will inevitably be missed, so when will directors of public health get the data they need, in sufficient detail, to be able to address those inequalities and contact those who have not responded?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that incredibly important question. Her region has done phenomenally well. I want to praise it because it has 91.8% of first doses for the over-80s in the STP. The NHS is already sharing data with local government. We need to make it more granular. We have brought into the deployment campaign Eleanor Kelly, the former chief executive of Southwark Council, so we are totally in line and integrated with local government, because they know exactly where those hard-to-reach groups are. The hon. Lady raises an incredibly important point and that is a big focus for me.

Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government have done brilliantly well in securing more than 350 million jabs, which is enough, all being well, to vaccinate the at-risk population several times over. Given the UK’s relatively enlightened and co-operative approach to vaccine roll-out internationally—in sharp contrast to the narrow and vindictive nationalism of certain quarters of the European Union, which really ought to know better—what trigger points and timetable does my hon. Friend envisage for the disbursement of our inventory of surplus jabs, and the infrastructure necessary to deliver them to countries that are less advantaged than our own?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his excellent question. My absolutely priority is to ensure that we have the inventory—as he quite rightly describes it—to allow us to offer the vaccine to all adults in the United Kingdom, and at the moment we are nowhere near that. Supply remains the limiting factor in our first target, which is to vaccinate groups 1 to 4 by mid-February, and then groups 5 to 9 as soon as we can after that, with phase 2, which we have been discussing today, after that. He is absolutely right that we have now ordered or optioned 407 million doses of vaccine. Once we are in a position to secure enough vaccine for the United Kingdom’s population, we will be able to look at where else we can help with our vaccine supply. We have also put £1.3 billion into a combination of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and COVAX. Of that £1.3 billion, approximately £480 million is going to COVAX, which is helping low and middle-income countries with their vaccination programmes as we speak.

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was grateful for the Minister’s support for the video that I and colleagues across the House with south Asian heritage produced to encourage take-up of the vaccine throughout the UK’s south Asian communities. He knows that there is real concern about the impact of the disinformation being spread online and offline in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Worryingly, much of the disinformation appears to play on people’s faith or race. What work is he and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport colleagues undertaking to tackle the spread of vaccine disinformation online?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful and incredibly encouraged by the hon. Gentleman’s brilliant initiative, taken with many colleagues across the House, to deliver that brilliant video of south Asian MPs from different political backgrounds and traditions all recommending that, when people’s turn comes, they should take the vaccine.

We have been working across Government. In the Cabinet Office, the covid disinformation unit was set up in March. It works online with the digital platforms to ensure that we identify disinformation and misinformation to them. They should be taking that down immediately. My message to all of them, whether Twitter, Facebook or any of them is this: “You must, must be responsible and play your part in taking this disinformation down as soon as we flag it up to you.”

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure my hon. Friend would like to join me in paying huge tribute to the NHS colleagues and volunteers who have rolled out the vaccine with such speed in Gloucestershire. However, is he able to tell the House whether there will be any clarity about when the nine priority categories are likely to be completed? Will that inform the Government on how they can produce a road map for a roll-out of the wider economy, as my businesses in the Cotswolds are desperate for clarity on that matter?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I will certainly join him in thanking the NHS family and army of volunteers. They have done phenomenally well. I can tell him that in his STP in Gloucestershire, 94% of the over-80s have received their first dose—that is pretty good going. He will know that we have built a deployment infrastructure than can deploy as much vaccine supply as we are able to bring in. A couple of Saturdays ago, we reached a record of just shy of 600,000 doses in a single day. That is, I guess, a demonstration of the capability of the infrastructure. We continue to grow it, as I announced today. It is very much dependent on vaccine supply. We have good visibility from here to the end of March, with more volume coming through beyond that. My focus should—I hope he agrees—be on the mid-February deadline to vaccinate those top four cohorts of the most vulnerable. That is 88% of mortality and, if we can get them done by mid-February, we will have achieved a real milestone in our fight against this virus.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The vaccination centre in Chesterfield, the largest town in Derbyshire, is open for only two days this week and for a maximum of two days next week, because NHS England apparently imposed much smaller vaccination numbers on the primary care network hubs than the national centres get. The Derbyshire primary care network states that it could achieve the Minister’s targets if it had the same access to vaccines and the national booking system as the national hubs service. Will he explain why the national centres are prioritised over the local primary care network hubs in towns such as Chesterfield?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. The primary care networks have done a fantastic job in delivering the vaccine roll-out and will continue do so as we go beyond the first four cohorts into cohorts 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 and then the next phase. Of course we want to make sure that people have choice. He will know by 2 pm, I think—when the next set of data is published—that his STP has reached 89% of the over-80s, which is an incredible achievement, the bulk of which has been done by the primary care networks. We will continue to support those networks. Through him, I send my thanks and appreciation to them and say that we will redouble our efforts to make sure that they get the vaccine doses that they need to get through not just the first four cohorts, but beyond that to the deployment programme for groups 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very pleased that the Government have agreed that, once the vaccines have become effective for the first four cohorts from 8 March, we can start unlocking the economy. Does the Minister agree that, once the first nine groups have been vaccinated, accounting for 99% of deaths and about 80% of hospitalisations, that would be the right time for all restrictions to be relaxed so that we can get back to living as normal, with our children back at school and the economy fully open?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

There is no one who wants to see the economy open and functioning as soon as possible more than my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) rightly points out, the deadline for the top four cohorts is the middle of February. If we go forward three weeks from there, that is when the protection of the two vaccines really kicks in. The plan is to reopen schools on 8 March, after which we will gradually reopen the economy. It is important also to wait for the evidence. As I said earlier, the Vivaldi study and the SIREN study will enable us to see the impact of the vaccines on infection rates and on transmission. We are getting some really positive data from Israel and, of course, from the Oxford team. That will be our own robust evidence and, as the Prime Minister said, we will then share with the House on 22 February the roadmap of how we intend very gradually to reopen the economy.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UK Government have pre-purchased 300 million doses for a population of 66 million. Guinea, a low-income country, has received only 55 doses for its entire population. Given that COVAX will cover only about 20% of the population in low and middle-income countries, can the Minister explain how the UK will step up and take part as global Britain, ensuring that those people in low and middle-income countries and developing countries are able to access the vaccine?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. We will do so in a couple of ways. First, once we have enough vaccine supply to be able to offer the vaccine to every adult in the United Kingdom—every eligible group from 1 to 9 and then phase 2—we will then look at our vaccine supply strategy. At the moment, we are nowhere near having enough supply to be able to make that offer. That has to be our priority. She mentions COVAX, but that is only part of the story for us in the United Kingdom. We have put about £450 million-plus into COVAX, but a total of £1.3 billion into the vaccine initiative of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. We are, I think, the largest donor, not only in money but per capita. We are making a big, big impact globally in both research and development, and vaccinations to low and middle-income countries.

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

I appreciate that colleagues have complicated questions to ask the Minister and that the answers are therefore also complicated, but I must ask for a bit more speed now, because we have taken an hour. I should stop proceedings on this item of business, but I will not do so because I appreciate that there are important questions to be asked. I urge Members to go just a little faster.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) [V]
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First, let me offer my congratulations to the Minister on achieving more than 10 million vaccinations. I wonder whether he will comment on how soon I will be able to wander down to my local chemist to get a jab, as I did for flu.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s congratulations. I stand on the shoulders of heroes; it is the army of the NHS family, volunteers and our armed forces that is doing the real heavy lifting in this deployment.

I visited Cullimore chemist in Edgware, a brilliant independent chemist that is delivering the vaccination programme. At the moment, the limiting factor is the ability to do 1,000 vaccine doses a week because of the finite amount of vaccine. However, as we get more volume through, I, like my hon. Friend, want to see convenience, so that someone can walk down the road to their local chemist. I look forward to doing that with him, I hope, one day.

Mark Hendrick Portrait Sir Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We know that all vaccinations are captured in real time and populate GP records within 24 hours. However, only the aggregated data is provided to local vaccination leads. It is absolutely necessary that they receive line-by-line data at citizen level to enable them to respond immediately to low uptake—for example from BAME communities—or accessibility issues in identified cohorts. When will the Minister provide local vaccination leads with the detailed line-by-line vaccination data that is required to level up the fight against this deadly disease, and can he explain why it is not already being shared?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we need to share as much granular data as possible with local public health officials and, of course, make sure that local government can target home by home, individual by individual, as soon as possible. I want to see the CCG-level data published, and the NHS will be doing that very soon. We continue to make sure that we work closely with local government to understand what additional data is needed, and I mentioned Eleanor Kelly joining the team from local government. That is exactly my intention, and the hon. Gentleman raises a really important question, because if we are going to target and reach the hard-to-reach groups in the BAME community, we need that information.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wholeheartedly congratulate my hon. Friend and all those involved in delivering over 10 million vaccines to the most vulnerable in our communities right across the UK, including at the vaccination hub opened on Tuesday at Ludlow racecourse with support to the local NHS from Royal Air Force medics, volunteers from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service and Shropshire Council, and many community volunteers. May I ask my hon. Friend to consider most carefully, for those areas where deployment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine proved especially difficult —for example, primary care networks covering remote rural areas, with small GP practices and a sparse population, and lacking suitable premises to host large numbers per day, such as in south-west Shropshire—whether deliveries of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be prioritised to ensure that the priority group targets are met?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend will appreciate the importance of maximising the vaccine available to GPs by using both the Pfizer vaccine and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, but in recent weeks the volume of Oxford-AstraZeneca going to GP sites has been higher than that of Pfizer, allowing the flex to visit the housebound and care homes and to deploy at individual practices in rural areas, as he rightly points out. Any site that wishes to discuss its vaccine allocations should do so with its local system in the first instance, and thereafter with the NHS regional team, but I am very happy to look at any specific examples.

Angela Eagle Portrait Dame Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister was uncharacteristically coy in answer to the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) about how we will kick on after the top four priority groups have been vaccinated. Will he give us a bit more detail about when he believes all adults over 50 will have received their vaccination? Clearly there are members of his own party who wish to open up faster than that, and with more than 1,000 people a day still dying, we have to ensure that we make the right decisions.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I will keep it short, Madam Deputy Speaker. My target is mid-February for the top four cohorts. Either I or the Secretary of State will then come to the Dispatch Box to share with the House the plan beyond category 4, into categories 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Robin Millar Portrait Robin Millar (Aberconwy) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister join me in thanking the staff of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, our GP practices and the many volunteers who have worked so hard in recent weeks to deliver more than 100,000 doses of vaccine across Aberconwy and the beautiful but rural north Wales? Can he confirm that Public Health Wales has received enough vaccine doses to vaccinate the first four priority groups in Wales by mid-February?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I will certainly join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, the GPs and their teams and the many volunteers. I can confirm that Wales and the Welsh NHS will have received the allocation for groups 1 to 4 by mid-February for them to be able to do that, and I commend them for the work they are doing.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Unpaid carers provide a huge service to our community in South Lakeland, especially for the people they care for directly. If they get ill, that is a huge welfare risk for the people they care for. There has been confusion over whether unpaid carers will be prioritised for the vaccine, because although the Government said that they would be in priority group 6, they are missing from other communications, including the summary list in the vaccine delivery plan. Will the Minister clarify once and for all that unpaid carers rightly will be on the priority list?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

We are absolutely looking to make sure that unpaid carers are on the priority list.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Lockdown has affected the mental wellbeing of almost everyone in this country. The vaccine programme will mean that the NHS comes into contact with almost every adult in the country. With that in mind, will the Minister consider having a mental health worker at all the national vaccine centres, to provide opportunistic mental health interventions should people need it?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s excellent, thoughtful suggestion. I will certainly take that away and discuss it with the Minister responsible in the Department.

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

Thank you. We have covered a lot of ground. I will now suspend the House for three minutes, so that the Chamber can be prepared for the next item of business.

National Security and Investment Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

May I add my congratulations to President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, and their national security team?

I thank all hon. Members who have tabled amendments and new clauses and have spoken to them so eloquently: the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie); my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis); the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah); my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat); the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock); the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), who spoke so pithily; my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher); the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones); the hon. Member for Ilford South (Sam Tarry); my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith); the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon); my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely); the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson); my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart); the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western), my neighbour; and of course my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes), who reminded us of the words of the great Edmund Burke.

National security is an area of utmost importance, and that has been reflected in a sober and considered debate, with the excellent contributions that we have heard today, and, indeed, over the past few months. I will take this opportunity to respond to some of the points raised this afternoon.

New clauses 4 and 5 create a non-exhaustive list of factors that the Secretary of State must have regard to when assessing national security risks arising from trigger events. In fact, the Secretary of State has joined us to demonstrate how important this Bill is to him. I congratulate him on his elevation to being my new boss at BEIS.

As currently drafted, the Bill does not seek to define national security or include factors that the Secretary of State must or may take into account when assessing national security risks. Instead, factors that the Secretary of State expects to take into account when deciding whether to exercise the call-in power are proposed to be set out in the statement provided for by clause 3, a draft of which was published alongside the Bill. The Secretary of State is unable to call in an acquisition of control until that statement has been laid before both Houses. It is clear from the debate today, and also from conversations with colleagues, that these are the amendments on which there is strongest feeling in the House, and in the Foreign Affairs and Development Committee, so I will take care to set out the Government’s case.

The Bill’s approach reflects the long-standing policy of Governments of different hues to ensure that powers relating to national security are sufficiently flexible to address the myriad risks that may arise. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham, national security risks are multi-faceted and constantly evolving, and what may constitute a risk today may not be a risk in the future. Indeed, the Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling, said in its own excellent report that

“an overly specific definition of national security could serve to limit the Government’s ability to protect UK businesses from unforeseen security risks.”

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister accept that what is being proposed is not a limiting arena of what constitutes national security but a baseline of what constitutes national security, and that there may be a reason to adapt it over time? Indeed, paragraph (h) of new clause 4 makes an assumption that it can be expanded.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I mentioned, the statement that the Secretary of State has laid with the Bill takes in much of the direction of travel of this amendment from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

I acknowledge that the Foreign Affairs Committee is pushing for more detail rather than less, but I would reassure them that the Government agree with their main conclusion that the Secretary of State should provide as much detail as possible on the factors that will be taken into account when considering national security. Importantly, however, that is only up until the point that the detail risks the protection of national security itself. That is why the Government have taken this approach in the draft statement provided for by clause 3. In that statement, we identify three types of risk that are proposed to form the basis of the call-in national security assessment. These are: the target risk, which considers the nature of the acquisition and where it lies in the economy; the trigger event risk, which considers the level of control and how it might be used; and the acquirer risk, which covers the extent to which the acquirer raises national security concerns.

I would like to address each of the arguments made in the report, so that I can ease the concerns of hon. Members across the House. First, there are concerns that without a narrow definition of national security, the investment screening unit would be inundated by notifications, hampering its ability to deliver its crucial role. I acknowledge that, for business confidence in the regime, it is essential that we deliver on our statutory timeframes for decisions, which is why it is so essential that we do not allow any broadening of the assessment done by officials as part of the regime to occur, whether by inexhaustive lists, as my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight has just said, or by any other form. To include modern slavery, genocide and tax evasion as factors that the Secretary of State must take into account as part of national security assessments, as these amendments propose, would not reduce the demands on the investment security unit but potentially increase them.

Secondly, there is concern that ambiguity could hinder the success of the regime. Let me be clear that this regime is about protecting national security—nothing more, nothing less—hence its real focus. Thirdly, the Foreign Affairs Committee report suggests that the staff responsible for screening transactions may lack sufficient clarity on what kinds of transactions represent legitimate national security risks, leading to important transactions being missed or to a large volume of benign transactions overwhelming the investment security unit. I want to assure hon. Members, and my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, that the investment security unit will be staffed by the brightest and best, with many of them being recruited on the basis that they have essentially written the book on national security.

Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting this point. May I assure him that I have absolute confidence that the people he will recruit into the unit will be the best and brightest? I pay huge tribute and send many congratulations to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who is sitting next to him. He is a friend of long standing, and I am delighted to see him serving Cabinet; that is well earned and somewhat overdue. I am sure that they are both going to have the best judgment possible. However—I am afraid there is a “however”—there are other people who are going to have to decide whether or not to file, and there is therefore a danger that people will over-file, even though the judgments will have been very cautiously made.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

That is something I have been watching carefully as we introduced this legislation, obviously. We have had around 36 inquiries to the team already, so it feels to me that where we have landed is proportionate and right.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have no doubt that the Minister will aim to recruit the brightest and best. However, what assurance can he give that those individuals will have not only the necessary security clearance but the culture of thinking about security, as opposed to business and regulation?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

They will be able to draw on all the experience, culture and, of course, resources of Government to be able to do their job properly, I assure the right hon. Member of that.

The report sets out a fear, as we have heard elsewhere, that without a definition of national security in the Bill, interventions under the NSI regime will be politicised. I wholeheartedly agree that it is crucial for the success of the regime that decisions made are not political but rather technocratic, dispassionate and well judged. I repeat the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma), the former Business Secretary, who on Second Reading assured the House that:

“The Government will not be able to use these powers to intervene in business transactions for broader economic or public interest reasons, and we will not seek to interfere in deals on political grounds.”—[Official Report, 17 November 2020; Vol. 684, c. 210.]

Indeed, if the Secretary of State took into account political factors outside the remit of national security, the decision could not be upheld on judicial review. It is with this in mind, and our focus on protecting foreign direct investment, which so many colleagues are concerned about, especially as we come out of the covid challenge, that politicised decisions will not be possible under the NSI regime. I hope right hon. and hon. Members feel I have sufficiently explained the Government’s approach. We have sought to deliver what the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Opposition recommend.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not labour the point beyond this. The Minister says that tax evasion will not be a bar. I accept that the Government made that statement. Does he accept that, in Australia, tax evasion is one of those significant elements? He rather implies that tax evasion and tax evaders will not be opposed in buying UK companies, so how high will the bar be set on criminality or on unsavoury characters—maybe people close to Russian Presidents and oligarchs and questionable companies?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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As colleagues have said, the Bill has been a long time in gestation, from 2017 to the 2018 consultation and White Paper and now today. We look at what other countries do, and I think we have reached a proportionate position. Of course, as I say, the Secretary of State’s statement sets out exactly how he would assess the risks to national security. I hope I have addressed that.

My final point of reassurance is that there will be further scrutiny on this point. As I explained in Committee, the statement provided for by clause 3 will go out to full public consultation prior to being laid before Parliament, and the Government will listen carefully to any proposals for further detail.

Amendments 1, 2, 3 and 6 broadly seek to ensure that the scope of the regime as a whole is right, that mandatory notification covers the right sectors and that both the statement and the notifiable acquisition regulations are reviewed within a year. Amendment 1 would require notifiable acquisition regulations to be reviewed within a year of having been made, and once every five years thereafter. It is right that the Secretary of State keeps a constant watch on these regulations. Indeed, it is vital that he has the flexibility to reassess and, if needed, seek to update the regulations at any time. The nature of his responsibilities under the regime creates sufficient incentive for this regular review.

Amendment 2 would, in effect, introduce two further trigger events to the regime. It would mean that a person becoming a major debt holder would count as a person gaining control of a qualifying entity. The amendment would also mean that a person becoming a major supplier to an entity counted as a person gaining control of a qualifying entity.

We on the Government Benches believe that access to finance is crucial for so many small businesses and large businesses to grow and succeed. They will often take out loans secured against the very businesses and assets that they have fought so hard to build; I did just that when I started YouGov. That is why the Bill allows the Secretary of State to scrutinise acquisitions of control that take place where lenders exercise rights over such collateral, but the Government do not consider that the provision of loans and finance is automatically a national security issue. Indeed, it is part of a healthy business ecosystem that enables businesses to flourish in this country.

Break in Debate

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

For the sake of clarity, the annual report that will be supplied to Parliament will not have any security-sensitive information in it. The Minister says that we could request further information. The only information we want to request is the information of a security-sensitive nature that will routinely have played a part in leading to these decisions. I do not want to tell any tales out of school. All I can say is that the Minister seemed very receptive when I put forward the idea of an annexe to the report, which would come to the Committee, or alternatively there could be an unredacted or redacted version of the report. Is he saying that the Cabinet Office is declining to do that? If so, it would appear that the malign influence of one Mr Cummings is not entirely eliminated from that Department.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s intervention. What I was saying is that there are no restrictions. His Committee will be able to invite the Secretary of State to give evidence to it, and it will also be able to ask for further information, which the unit will be able to provide.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is wrong when he talks about asking the Secretary of State, because his is not one of the Departments that we overlook, but it is already there that this information be provided. I do not know why he and the Government are resisting this, because it will give certain confidence in terms of ensuring that decisions are taken on national security grounds. If he thinks for one minute that the Cabinet Office will divulge information easily to us, I can assure him that it will not. It does not do so. We have to drag it out of them kicking and screaming every time. I am sorry, but this is very disappointing.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Let me repeat again: there are no restrictions on the Committee requesting further information from the unit or from the Secretary of State.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is this what the Minister wants? Every year, the Committee will request to have a comprehensive explanation of the security sensitive information that has underlain the different decisions that the unit has taken. All he is saying is that we can request this ad hoc every year and we will get it—I will believe that when I see it. If that were to be the case, there could be no possible objection to incorporating this in the legislation now so that it is not at the whim of a future Minister to either give us what we need or deny us what we need.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention and his powerful argument, but I just repeat that there are no restrictions on his Committee requesting that information.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I will not give way. There is a lot to get through and time is short.

The Government will more generally monitor the operation of the regime and regularly review the contents of the annual reports, including in relation to academic research, spin-off enterprise or SMEs, and we will pay close attention to the resourcing and the timelines of the regime.

If, during any financial year, the assistance given under clause 30 totals £100 million or more, the Bill requires the Secretary of State to lay a report of the amount before the House. Requiring him to lay what would likely be a very similar report for every calendar year as well as for every financial year, which is in amendment 4, appears to be excessive in our view. He would likely have to give Parliament two very similar reports only a few months apart.

On amendment 5, I can reassure the House that, under clause 54, the Secretary of State would be subject to public law duties when deciding whether to share information with an overseas public authority. That includes a requirement to take all relevant considerations into account in making decisions. These are therefore considerations that the Secretary of State would already need to take into account in order to comply with public law duties.

Moving on to new clause 6, I want to be clear that we do not expect the regime to disproportionately affect SMEs, although we will of course closely monitor its impact. The Government have been happy to provide support to businesses both large and small through the contact address available on gov.uk. Furthermore, the factsheets make it clear what the measures in the proposed legislation are and to whom they apply, so there is real clarity on this. It would therefore not be necessary to provide the grace period for SMEs proposed under new clause 3 and neither would it be appropriate. Notifiable acquisitions by SMEs may well present national security concerns and this proposed new clause would, I am afraid, create a substantial loophole.

To conclude, although I am very grateful for the constructive and collegiate engagement from hon. and right hon. Members across the House, for the reasons that I have mentioned I cannot accept the amendments and new clauses tabled for this debate and therefore hope that they will agree to withdraw them.

Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This has been a detailed and considered debate. I thought there were some particularly thoughtful contributions from the Chair of the ISC and from the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) in relation to the oversight of sensitive and confidential information that should fall within the remit of the ISC. It was disappointing to hear the Minister’s response in his last contribution. My main concern, however, was to ensure that the scope of the Bill was appropriate and that the impact of the measures was proportionate, particularly for smaller businesses and for academia. Given what the Minister has just said about the regulations and procedures being under constant watch, with the Secretary of State having the flexibility to update them at any time, I am satisfied that, should we identify an overly burdensome course of action being taken in relation to small businesses or academia in the future, the Minister would respond swiftly. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 4

Framework for understanding national security

“When assessing a risk to national security for the purposes of this Act, the Secretary of State must have regard to factors including, but not restricted to—

(a) the potential impact of the trigger event on the UK’s defence capabilities and interests;

(b) whether the trigger event risks enabling a hostile actor to—

(i) gain control or significant influence of a part of a critical supply chain, critical national infrastructure, or natural resource;

(ii) conduct espionage via or exert undue leverage over the target entity;

(iii) obtain access to sensitive sites or to corrupt processes or systems;

(c) the characteristics of the acquirer, including whether it is effectively directly or indirectly under the control, or subject to the direction, of a foreign government;

(d) whether the trigger event adversely impacts the UK’s capability and capacity to maintain security of supply or strategic capability in sectors critical to the UK’s economy or creates a situation of significant economic dependency;

(e) the potential impact of the trigger event on the transfer of sensitive data, technology or potentially sensitive intellectual property in strategically important sectors, outside of the UK;

(f) the potential impact of the trigger event on the UK’s international interests and obligations, including compliance with UK legislation on modern slavery and compliance with the UN Genocide Convention;

(g) the potential of the trigger event to involve or facilitate significant illicit or subversive activities, including terrorism, organised crime, money laundering and tax evasion; and

(h) whether the trigger event may adversely impact the safety and security of UK citizens or the UK.”—(Tom Tugendhat.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Covid-19: Vaccinations

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 11th January 2021

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the covid-19 vaccine delivery plan. The plan, published today, sets out the strategies that underpin the development, manufacture and deployment of our vaccines against covid-19. It represents a staging post in our national mission to vaccinate against the coronavirus, and a culmination of many months of hard work from the NHS, our armed forces, Public Health England, and every level of local government in our Union. There are many miles to go on this journey, but, armed with this plan, our direction of travel is clear.

We should be buoyed by the progress that we are already making. As of today, in England, 2.33 million vaccinations have been given, with 1.96 million receiving their first dose and 374,613 having already received both doses. We are on track to deliver our commitment of offering a first vaccine to everyone in the most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month. These are groups, it is worth reminding ourselves, that account for more than four out of every five fatalities from the covid virus, or some 88% of deaths. But of course this is a delivery plan for everyone—a plan that will see us vaccinate all adults by the autumn in what is the largest programme of vaccination of its kind in British history.

The UK vaccines delivery plan sets out how we can achieve that noble, necessary and urgent goal. The plan rests on four key pillars: supply, prioritisation, places and people. On supply, our approach to vaccines has been to move fast and to move early. We had already been heavily investing in the development of new vaccines since 2016, including funding a vaccine against another coronavirus: middle east respiratory syndrome. At the start of this year, this technology was rapidly repurposed to develop a vaccine for covid-19, and in April we provided £20 million of further funding so that the Oxford clinical trials could commence immediately. Today, we are the first country to buy, authorise and use that vaccine.

Also in April, we established the UK Government’s Vaccine Task Force, or VTF for short, and since then it has worked relentlessly to build a wide portfolio of different types of vaccine, signing early deals with the most promising prospects. It is a strategy that has really paid off. As of today, we have secured access to 367 million doses from seven vaccine developers with four different vaccine types, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which we were also the first in the world to buy, authorise and use. The VTF has also worked on our homegrown manufacturing capability, including what is referred to as the “fill and finish” process, in collaboration with Wockhardt in Wrexham. Anticipating a potential global shortage early on, we reserved manufacturing capacity to allow for the supply of multiple vaccines to the United Kingdom. Like many capabilities in this pandemic, it is one that we have never had before, but one that we can draw on today. So much of that critical work undertaken early has placed us in a strong position for the weeks and months ahead.

The second pillar of our plan is prioritisation. As I set out earlier, essential work to protect those at the greatest clinical risk is already well under way. The basic principle that sits behind all of this is to save as many lives as possible as quickly as possible. In addition, we are working at speed to protect staff in our health and social care system. All four UK chief medical officers agree with the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to prioritise the first doses for as many people on the priority list as possible and administer second doses towards the end of the recommended vaccine dosing schedule of 12 weeks. That step will ensure the protection of the greatest number of at-risk people in the shortest possible time.

The third pillar of our plan is places. As of yesterday, across the United Kingdom, we have more than 2,700 vaccination sites up and running. There are three types of site. First, we have large vaccination centres that use big venues such as football stadiums; we saw many of those launched today. At these, people will be able to get appointments using our national booking service. The second type is our hospital hubs, working with NHS trusts across the country. The third is our local vaccination services, which are made up of sites led by GPs working in partnership with primary care trusts and, importantly, with community pharmacists.

This mix of different types of site offers the flexibility that we need to reach many different and diverse groups and, importantly, to be able to target as accurately as we can. By the end of January, everyone will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site. In a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccination centre will be a mobile unit. It bears repeating that, when it is their turn, we want as many people as possible to take up the offer of a vaccine against covid-19.

The fourth and final pillar is, of course, our people. I am grateful to the many thousands who have joined this mission—this national mission. We now have a workforce of some 80,000 people ready to be deployed across the country. This includes staff currently working within the NHS of course, but also volunteers through the NHS Bring Back Staff scheme, such as St John Ambulance personnel, independent nurses and occupational health service providers. There are similar schemes across the devolved Administrations.

Trained vaccinators, non-clinical support staff such as stewards, first aiders, administrators and logistics support will also play their part. We are also drawing on the expertise of our UK armed forces, whose operational techniques—brought to life by Brigadier Phil Prosser at the press conference with the Prime Minister a few days ago—have been tried and tested in some of the toughest conditions imaginable. I am sure the whole House will join me in thanking everyone who has played their part in getting us to this point, and all those who will play an important role in the weeks and months ahead.

We recognise that transparency about our vaccine plan will be central to maintaining public trust, and we are committed to publishing clear and simple updates. Since 24 December, we have published weekly UK-wide data on the total number of vaccinations and the breakdown of over and under-80s for England. From today, we are publishing daily data for England showing the total number vaccinated to date. The first daily publication was this afternoon. From Thursday, and then weekly, NHS England will publish a more detailed breakdown of vaccinations in England, including by region.

This continues to be a difficult time for our country, for our NHS and for everyone as we continue to live under tough restrictions, but we have always known that a vaccine would be our best way out of this evil pandemic, and that is the road we are now taking. We are under no illusion as to the scale of the challenge ahead and the distance we still have to travel. In more normal times, the largest vaccination programme in British history would be an epic feat, but against the backdrop of a global pandemic and a new, more transmissible variant, it is a huge challenge. With this House and indeed the whole nation behind this national mission, I have every confidence that it will be a national success. I commend this statement to the House.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for advance sight of his statement.

We meet today at a challenging moment in the handling of the pandemic. We have growing infection rates, we are in lockdown, businesses are shut and schools are closed, and tragically more than 80,000 people have already lost their lives to this awful virus. The vaccine provides us with a light, a glimmer of hope, and a way to beat the virus, saving lives and getting us back to normal.

The Government succeeded in the development of a vaccine—investing in multiple candidates has paid off handsomely—but a vaccine alone does not make a vaccination programme. Given the Government’s failures with the test and trace system and the procurement of personal protective equipment, it is right that we scrutinise the plans carefully.

The plan is quite conventional: aside from the new big vaccination centres, it uses traditional delivery mechanisms operating within traditional opening and access times. The Opposition have some concerns about that, as we believe that exceptional circumstances call for an exceptional response. At the No. 10 briefing earlier today, 24/7 access was said to be something that people would not be interested in, which surprised me; I would like to hear from the Minister the basis for that view.

Similarly, there is the mass deployment of community spaces and volunteer mobilisation unprecedented in peacetime. It is the Government’s prerogative to choose their approach, but I am keen to hear from the Minister assurance that the plan as written and set out today will deliver on what has been promised: the top four priority categories covered by the middle of next month. On a recent call, the Minister said that the only limiting factor on the immunisation programme would be the speed of supply. Will he publicly reaffirm that and confirm that this plan will make maximum use of the supply as he expects to get it?

I think we would all agree that our frontline NHS and social care heroes deserve to be protected. At the beginning of the pandemic, our staff were left for too long without adequate personal protective equipment, and we must not repeat that with the vaccine. Protecting them is the right thing to do, reflecting the risks that they face, but it is also pragmatically a point of emphasis for us, because we need them to be well in order to keep doing the incredible job that they are doing.

We are currently missing about 46,000 NHS staff for covid reasons. The health and social care workforce are in category 2 in the plan, but there does not seem to be a national-level emphasis on inoculating them immediately. There seems to be significant variation between trust areas. Will the Minister commit today to meeting our demand that they all get their vaccines within the next fortnight? We very much welcome the clear and simple metrics that he is going to publish each day so that we can follow the successes of the programme, but as part of that, will he commit to publicising the daily total of health and care staff vaccinated, so that we can see the progress being made against that vital metric, too?

It was reassuring to see pharmacies included in the plan. They are at the heart of all the communities in our country, they are trusted and they already deliver mass vaccinations. It was disappointing and surprising to see them having to take to the front pages of national newspapers last week to get the Government’s attention, but now, with them in the plan, will the Minister reassure the House that he is fully engaged with their representative bodies and that they are satisfied that they are being used properly? The number that has been trailed publicly is of 200 participating pharmacies, but given that there are 11,500 community pharmacies in England, can that really be right? Why are there not more involved, or is that number wrong? If so, could the Minister share with us what the number is? On social care, 23% of elderly care home residents have been vaccinated, compared with 40% of the over-80s more generally. Given their top prioritisation, is there a reason for this lag? What plans are there to close the gap? Is the Minister confident that all care home residents will be vaccinated by the end of the month, as promised?

Finally, there has been a high level of consensus across this place, and certainly between the Minister and me, on misinformation, and we will support the Government in whatever they think they need to do to tackle it. We will have a real sense of the impacts of misinformation as the programme rolls along, particularly as we look at who is and is not declining the vaccine. Will the Minister tell us what he will be monitoring in that regard, and what the early feedback is, perhaps from our own care staff, on who has been saying yes and who has been saying no and what that might mean for the future?

We welcome the fact that the Government have published this plan. We will back them when we think they are right but we will continue to offer constructive ways to improve the process, as I hope I have just done. I hope that the Minister can address the points that I have raised.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s backing and support. He asks a number of important questions, and I will attempt to answer them now. Suffice it to say that it would be sensible for us to recognise that test and trace now delivers 85% of those who are tested positive in terms of identifying their direct contacts and the indirect contacts at between 92% and 96%. Over 5 million people have been tested and isolated and are therefore not transmitting or spreading this virus, and 55 million people have been tested. That is a pretty major undertaking, with capacity now touching 770,000 and tests running at about 600,000 a day. From a standing start of about 2,000 a day back in March, that is a pretty remarkable achievement for NHS test and trace.

The hon. Gentleman asked about 24-hour provision. There are two priorities for the NHS, and we have looked really long and hard at this. Priority No. 1 is obviously to target very closely those four most vulnerable categories. Priority No. 2 is to try to get a vaccination to them as quickly as possible, which is about throughput. This is linked because if we were to go to a 24-hour regime, it would be much harder to target the vaccine at those four cohorts. Obviously, when we have limited vaccine volume, we do not want staff standing around waiting for people in centres that are open 24 hours. Also, many of those people are over 80, and we are going into care homes to vaccinate the residents of those homes. The decision to go from 8 to 8 was made because we want to ensure that there is an even spread and very close targeting.

That is linked to throughput—how many vaccinations can we get into people’s arms as quickly as possible? We do not want vaccines sitting in fridges or on shelves. That goes to the hon. Gentleman’s question on the 24 hours, but also the pharmacy question. All the 200 pharmacies that we are operationalising can do 1,000-plus vaccinations a week, so the focus in phase 1, certainly with the first four categories—and, I think, with the total nine categories—is very much on targeting and throughput. The 2,700 sites are the best way that we can target that. Obviously, primary care is very good at identifying those who are most vulnerable or over 80 and, of course, getting into care homes, hence why the NHS plan and the plan we have published today are very much based around those priorities.

As we enter phase 2, where we begin to want to vaccinate as many adults as quickly as possible, we want convenience of course. We want to be able to go into many more pharmacies, so people can walk to their local pharmacy, or GP, and get their jab, when we have limitless volumes of vaccines. We have clearly now got that optioned and it will come through in the weeks and months ahead. That is the reason for that. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the limiting factor continues at this stage to be vaccine volumes. The NHS has built an infrastructure that can deploy the vaccine as quickly as possible, but it is vaccine volumes that will change. With any new manufacturing process, especially one where we are dealing with quite a complex process—it is a biological compound that we are producing—it tends to be lumpy at the start, but it very quickly stabilises and becomes much more even. We are beginning to see that, which is good news.

We are absolutely committed to making sure the health and social care workforce are vaccinated as quickly as possible, and of course we are committed to making sure the residents of care homes are vaccinated by the end of this month—January. I reaffirm that commitment to the hon. Gentleman.

I think the hon. Gentleman’s final question was on data. I am glad that he agrees that it is important, because the Prime Minister’s absolute instruction to us as a team is that we have to make sure we publish as much data as possible as quickly as possible, hence why we have moved to a rhythm of daily data and on the Thursday more detailed publication, which will have regional breakdowns. The NHS is committed as it builds up more data to publish more and more. The nation expects, and rightly wants to see, the speed and the targeting that we are delivering, but I am confident that the NHS has a solid plan. We have the volunteers and the Army—two great institutions of this country—delivering this campaign and with the support of Her Majesty’s Opposition I am sure we will do this.

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

We now go to the Chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey) (Con) [V]
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I congratulate the Minister on getting this programme off to a flying start: to vaccinate 2 million people, including a third of over-80s, six weeks after the first dose was approved is an extraordinary achievement unmatched by any similar country. May I ask him about the speed of the roll-out? Many people want teachers to be jabbed as quickly as possible, but is it the case that all those in groups 1 to 4 will need their second jabs before we can make real inroads into other key groups? And will he publish the breakdown of numbers vaccinated not just by region but by local authority area, because a lot of people would like to know just how many people have been vaccinated in their local area?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s compliment and this is only the start. I hope that, as we progress in the weeks and months to come, the focus and the rate of output will continue to rise.

My right hon. Friend raises an important point around the critical workforce for the economy, like teachers. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation looked at all these issues and has come out very clearly in favour of us vaccinating the nine cohorts that are most vulnerable to dying from covid-19, hence why that is absolutely our focus.

We are absolutely committed to making sure that people get two doses, so if they have received their Pfizer first dose, they will get their Pfizer second dose within 12 weeks of the first dose. Similarly, if they have had their AstraZeneca first dose, they will get their AstraZeneca second dose within 12 weeks. So those people whom we will begin to reach in March, where we have to deliver their second dose, will absolutely get their second dose. But to my right hon. Friend’s point, the more vaccine volumes that will come, and we have tens of millions that will come through beyond February and into March, the faster we can begin to protect those nine categories in phase 1. The moment we have done that, then it is absolutely right that we should begin to look at categories like teachers and police officers—those who may be exposed in their workplace to the risks of this virus.

Of course, it is worth reminding the House that it is two weeks after the first dose, and three weeks after the first dose with AstraZeneca, that people begin to get that protection, not the moment they are jabbed, so there is that lag time as well. But my right hon. Friend’s point is well made: we need to make sure, as we protect greater and greater numbers of people in those nine categories, that we then move very quickly to the next dose.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP) [V]
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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation was very clear that those who live in care homes were the top priority for vaccination against covid-19. Due to integration of health and social care, Scottish health boards were able to deliver the Pfizer vaccine into care homes in December, and well over 70% of such residents have already been vaccinated across Scotland. In my own health board, the phase is almost complete. So can the Minister explain why in England care home residents were not the first cohort to receive the Pfizer vaccine in December, and as only a quarter have received their first dose, when does he expect all such residents to have been vaccinated?

People over 80 years are now being offered vaccination, but there are only 1,200 sites to cover the whole of England—a similar number to Scotland, which has less than 10% of the population. This means elderly people are being asked to travel long distances, despite their age and the fact that many will be also shielding. As the letter does not offer the option to wait and have their vaccine at a local GP surgery, does the Minister recognise that many are now feeling pressurised into travelling, despite the current dangers? So will he take this opportunity to clarify that the vaccines will gradually be made available through all GP surgeries and that elderly patients who cannot travel long distances will be offered a further opportunity closer to home?

The Minister will be well aware of the public concern about the decision to delay the second dose of each vaccine so as to ensure more people receive the first dose more quickly. With the current surge in covid cases, I totally understand the rationale for this approach. So can he explain why there have been more than 300,000 additional second doses given over the last week, despite the JCVI announcement on 31 December, and can he guarantee that sufficient quantities of the Pfizer vaccine will be available by the end of February to ensure those given their first dose in early December will receive their booster on time?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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There is a lot to unpack there; let me try to take the points in reverse. We can guarantee that those who have had their Pfizer vaccine will get their booster within the prescribed period of up to 12 weeks. The hon. Lady asked about those who have had a second jab already. Information went out to primary care networks and hospital hubs, saying that those who have an appointment up to 4 January should be able to have their appointment honoured. Beyond that, they have been working very closely with the NHS England team centrally, which we have been supporting with resources and actually phoning to postpone those appointments further; hence why we have protected many more people.

It is worth reminding the House that for every 250 people from the most vulnerable cohorts that we protect, we save a life. For every 20 people in care homes that we vaccinate, we save a life. The focus is therefore now very much on care homes. We began with the Pfizer vaccine into care homes. Of course, last week—on 4 January—we started to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is much easier to administer into care homes, especially for the roving teams. It had to spend two days in hospitals before it was released to primary care networks, but the moment it was released, it went into care homes and now some areas in England. We have about 10,000 care homes where we have to vaccinate residents and, of course, those who look after them. Some have done their care homes already; others are beginning to do the same thing. All will be done by the end of the month.

The hon. Lady talked about people having to travel long distances. I mentioned in my opening statement about the strategy that there will be 2,700 vaccination sites. I think she may have been confused about the figure of 1,200, which is the number of primary care networks, hospital hubs and large vaccination centres, but there will be 2,700 vaccination sites. By the end of the month, no one will be more than 10 miles away from a vaccination site.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I thank the Minister for being so assiduous in giving very thorough answers to the long and complicated series of questions that have already been put to him, but I must say to the House that we now have half an hour more for the rest of this statement, so I insist on having questions, not statements, from everyone. I specifically mention this to people who are coming in virtually, because they seem to lose a sense of timing when they are not here in the Chamber. A question means a question—just one question. I say to the Minister, who has been most assiduous, that where he has already given an answer to the question, I will not insist that he has to give the answer again because the person who is now asking it has not listened to his first answer.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con)
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I will be as quick as I can, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Some of my Beckenham constituents have contacted me to say that they think they should have had the vaccination already; two of them are in their 90s, so I am slightly alarmed. I am told that GPs are not necessarily the people to go to in order to ask what is happening, so I wonder who my constituents and I should go to when the system—inadvertently, perhaps—does not actually give out an appointment that it might have done.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend’s constituents will be contacted, either by their primary care network or by letter from the national booking service. They do not have to go to the national vaccination centre if that is inconvenient; they will be able to get their vaccination through their primary care network or the hospital hubs. I am very happy to take those particular two cases offline, look into them and give him some more details.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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I would like to dig a bit deeper into the supply question. I had the privilege of visiting a GP surgery in my constituency on Friday, where I was told by the doctor in charge that they cannot book the next set of appointments because they do not know when they will get the next delivery of the vaccine. I have heard from other centres that they are not allowed to move on to the next cohort when they finish the under-80s, in order to ensure that there is equity across the country. The Minister has said that we cannot have 24/7 vaccinations because of supply. Is the supply issue the rate at which the product is being manufactured, the rate at which it is being packaged, the rate at which it is being batch tested, or the rate at which it is being distributed around the country?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady asks an important question. In any manufacturing process—especially a new one—it is always lumpier at the beginning, and there are more challenges. There are a number of tests done by both the manufacturer and the regulator; the batch testing at the end of the process is done by the regulator, to make sure that the batches meet the very high standards that we have in the United Kingdom. That will begin to become much smoother and stabilise, and we have a clear line of sight through to the end of February, hence why we are confident that we can meet the target of offering a vaccine to the top four most vulnerable cohorts on the list of nine from the JCVI by the middle of February.

We thank the hon. Lady’s local GPs, but it is important for them to remember that the central team that is doing the distribution is running at about 98.5% accuracy at the moment, which means that 1.5% of deliveries are not as we would like them to be. We will get better at that. As Brigadier Prosser said, this is like standing up a supermarket chain in a month and then growing it by 20% every couple of weeks. It will get better. The focus of the central team is to try to give primary care networks —GPs like hers—as much time and notice as possible, so that they can plan ahead and get the four cohorts in for their jabs. It is always difficult at the outset, but it gets better by the day and will do in the weeks ahead.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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Would the Minister like to join me in thanking NHS staff in Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire for having vaccinated more than 15,000 people already? Could he also reassure my constituents who have received a letter from NHS England inviting them to have a vaccination in Birmingham or even Manchester—an hour and 45 minutes away—that if they wait just a few more days, they can choose, if they wish, to have a vaccination very locally?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I absolutely join my hon. Friend in congratulating and thanking the heroes of the NHS and the volunteers in Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire for vaccinating 15,000 people—15,000 of the most vulnerable people to covid who, in a couple of weeks’ time, will have that protection. He is right, I can confirm, that anyone receiving a letter where it is inappropriate or not possible for them to travel that distance to a national vaccination centre does not have to do so. They will be able to be vaccinated in their primary care network at a time and place that is convenient to them. With the national vaccination centres—seven went live today, and there will be more next week, more the week after and 50 in total by the end of the month—we are trying to effectively add to the throughput that I described earlier.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I have some good news: my mother, who is 89 years young, had her vaccine at 9.40 this morning, so it is a happy day—I was going to sing it, but then it would start to rain, so it is not a good idea. What system is in place to ensure that if someone does not turn up for their vaccine, not one slot or vaccine goes to waste, and that a secondary list is immediately available with staff to substitute? At Dundonald hospital in Northern Ireland over the weekend, some people did not turn up, but they were able to call upon the midwives team to come forward. What policy is in place to make sure that the vaccine is not lost for use?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The people of Strangford will be pleased to hear that the hon. Member’s mother has got her first a dose of the vaccine. This is an important message to send to the whole country: if you are called up and have an appointment to get the vaccine, please turn up. This vaccine can protect your life. It can protect somebody else’s life. It is a shame to not turn up if you have booked an appointment. The NHS in England has made sure that the hospital hubs and primary care networks that have been vaccinating, and now the national vaccination centres, have on speed dial the care home workers and those on the frontline of the battle against covid who are in the JCVI’s top four cohorts, so that they can get them in as quickly as possible and not a single dose is wasted.

Maria Miller Portrait Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con) [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for his incredible tenacity on such an important project. Our local vaccine centre in Basingstoke serves six primary care networks across Hampshire, and under his plan, 20,000 over-75s should receive their first vaccination at this hub from our army of volunteers and local NHS staff in the next 35 days. Can my hon. Friend say how the large difference in patient numbers at each hub is factored in when vaccine supplies are dispatched? I reiterate the need for clinical commissioning group-level data to monitor progress. Can he more urgently reconsider the priority given to teachers, please?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I think I dealt with the question of teachers earlier, which is incredibly important. Phase one is to focus on those who are most vulnerable to dying from this disease. As soon as we get through that to phase two, teachers and other frontline services, including police officers and others, will be absolutely uppermost in our minds and those of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which helps us with that prioritisation.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of vaccine supply, and I know that her local vaccination service has done a tremendous job. There was a slight hiccup, if I can describe it as that, in making sure that they were recognised as six primary networks in the system. We rectified that, and I assure her that the volumes, certainly those of which I have line of sight, will mean that the service will receive plenty of vaccines to hit that target by mid-February of offering the top four cohorts the opportunity of the vaccine.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
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As of Friday, the staff in care homes in Walthamstow that serve a smaller community—those with fewer than 20 beds—tell me that not a single patient has had the vaccine or an invitation to get the vaccine. The Minister will be aware that the residents are very aware that they were promised the vaccine originally would come to them by the end of December. They feel like they are sitting ducks. With less than three weeks of January left, will the Minister pledge that all the residents in smaller care homes will at least get an invitation within the next week, so that they know when they will get the vaccine?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I think I shared the statistic with the House earlier that for every 20 residents of care homes that we vaccinate, we save a life. They are absolutely our priority. I give the hon. Lady this pledge: we will vaccinate or offer to vaccinate all residents of care homes by the end of the month. There are 10,000 care homes in England. Some areas of the country have already vaccinated all their care home residents. Others are beginning to. We will make sure that residents of care homes will by the end of this month be offered the opportunity of a vaccine.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con) [V]
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on the start to the vaccination programme. Local health leaders in Oxfordshire have made a great start, too, but they report a worrying trend of those from ethnic minorities not taking up the vaccine at the same rate as other groups. Can my hon. Friend set out his strategy to make sure that all our constituents take up this vital vaccine?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Information, information, information. I am working across Government to make sure that we communicate the benefits, both in terms of protecting the individual, but also in protecting the communities people come from. Working with black, Asian and minority ethnic communities is incredibly important as part of the overall strategy to focus our attention to make sure all those communities come forward, especially those who work in our care homes and care for residents. Many of those workers are from BAME communities. The more that they see people like themselves taking the vaccine and getting protected, the more effective our strategy is to deliver that protection to those communities.

Karen Buck Portrait Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab) [V]
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Following on very closely from the previous question, does the Minister agree that one of the key ways in which we can counter some of the very virulent anti-vax and covid denial messages on social media, which are impacting particularly in some communities, needs to be through not just a myth-busting approach, but through peer-to-peer positive example messaging within local communities—within faith groups, between neighbours and in local social media networks? Can he make sure that he advises local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and others to promote examples of where people have had the vaccine, so that they can be shared to counter some of those more damaging messages?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady makes a really important point. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who reached out to me with his concerns for his community. Sadly, I see among the community that my wife and I come from that there is a lot of disinformation, and not only on social media. There is the very clever and, I should say, evil use of platforms such as WhatsApp to share videos that scare people into not having the vaccine.

The hon. Lady is right that local government and local public health leaders have a central role to play. We are engaging with them and, of course, making sure that local leaders throughout the United Kingdom are telling the story. She is right that the most effective way is for people to see someone like them taking the vaccine and being protected. We are doing that as well.

Heather Wheeler Portrait Mrs Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con) [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for all his work in making sure that the vaccine gets to all parts of the UK. I ask him to look in particular at how the roll-out is being managed by the health services in South Derbyshire. Sadly, compared to our neighbours in Erewash and Burton, so far only a very limited number of people have been called to a local site run by our GPs in conjunction with the clinical commissioning group.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend raises an important point. I commit to looking specifically at the point she raises. The NHS in England has done an incredible job, but of course some teams have outperformed others. We have to learn from the best and make sure we share that knowledge. If some teams need additional resource and help, we will do that. That is why we have the additional 80,000 people in the programme who are ready to help and ready to make sure we get the jabs into the arms of the most vulnerable people.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab) [V]
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For parts of Lancashire, the closest mass vaccination centre is more than 60 miles away in Manchester. The Minister has said that there will be more mass vaccination centres, so can he reassure my constituents that we will get a centre on the Fylde coast and in north Lancashire?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady is right to highlight the issue of distance. No one in her constituency or anywhere else in England will be more than 10 miles away from a vaccination site.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con) [V]
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Like my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), I am starting to get queries about vaccinations from elderly residents. I am sure that this will expand as the roll-out progresses and people could be missed. What facilities is his Department putting in place to answer questions quickly from very worried constituents?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend will know that I have engaged with colleagues to dig deep into the issues their constituents may have with the vaccination programme. I am very happy to look at any cases she has. Through the combination of standing up hospitals, the primary care networks supported by community pharmacies and now the national vaccination centres, all residents within the four cohorts should be captured by the primary care services that know their communities really well. In case they are not, we are also engaging heavily with local government. One of the lessons of test and trace is to ensure that we engage with local government, because it knows its residents really well.

Marion Fellows Portrait Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP) [V]
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Before the recent spending review, the SNP called for an uplift in the NHS in England to bring per capita spending in line with Scotland, and thus provide billions to support the roll-out of the vaccine and build up capacity. The Treasury announced less than a third of what we had asked for. Does the Minister expect NHS England to be able to keep up with the vaccination demand, despite this lack of investment?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, was before the Public Accounts Committee today and I am sure that the hon. Lady will look at his answers. Suffice it to say that the Chancellor has made £6 billion available for the NHS family to make sure we deliver and deploy as fast as we can to the most vulnerable cohorts in our country.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con) [V]
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The national roll-out is undoubtedly extremely impressive, but unfortunately the benefits are not yet being felt in Aylesbury. Residents are increasingly concerned that they have been left behind, and it has been extraordinarily difficult for Buckinghamshire’s MPs and council to get definite information about where and when vaccines will be available. Can my hon. Friend therefore confirm that vaccines will start to be available in Aylesbury in days rather than weeks?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Absolutely. We must ensure that his residents are within 10 miles of a vaccination site at the end of this month and as early as possible to get vaccinating. He is a great champion of his constituents, and I am happy to look at any specifics he may have, take those offline and come back to him.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab) [V]
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The vaccination centre in Chesterfield—the largest town in Derbyshire—is opening only on Wednesday. It is clear from recent conversations with Derby and Derbyshire clinical commissioning group that we are not on target to have all vulnerable groups done by 15 February, and there is no centre at all in Staveley. What will happen between now and 15 February to get us from the current position to achieving the target the Minister has set, which we all so desperately want him to achieve? Will he also ensure that there is a centre in Staveley?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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It is great to see the hon. Member looking fit and well; I wish him all the very best. He is right to say that we must ensure that every part of the country meets that target, offering those four cohorts the opportunity of a vaccine. We are looking to ensure that we publish more granular data—regional data—so that we can see which areas are not keeping up the pace and therefore direct resources to them, so that by mid-February they have made that offer.

James Davies Portrait Dr James Davies (Vale of Clwyd) (Con) [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for his statement and for his hard work on vaccine deployment. Many of my constituents have raised their concerns over the speed of vaccination roll-out in north Wales. Will he confirm the quantity of vaccine delivered to Wales so far? Will he also undertake to publish regular updates on the delivery of future batches so that it can be clear where bottlenecks in the roll-out are occurring?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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We work closely with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Governments on the programme and ensure that we deliver the vaccine volumes to them. Although we do not publish the exact quantities of vaccine for a variety of reasons—including that the whole world is looking to get more volume of vaccines and we do not want to disadvantage ourselves in any way commercially—I reassure my hon. Friend that all the devolved Administrations will have enough to be able to offer those four JCVI cohorts the opportunity to be vaccinated and protected by mid-February, at least with a first dose.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
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Teachers in Vauxhall are working tirelessly to manage the delivery of classrooms online as well as teaching the most vulnerable key worker children in our schools. The Minister highlighted earlier that he will prioritise those most likely to die and that he will keep teachers at the forefront of his mind. Can I please ask him why teachers and school staff on the frontline of the pandemic are not being protected? What is the timeline for getting them vaccinated?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I thank all the teachers in Vauxhall and the rest of the country for the work they are doing on online education as well as teaching children from the most vulnerable families and the children of our NHS and social care staff on the frontline. The hon. Member is right to highlight the issue. Some teachers—those who are clinically vulnerable, for example—will be captured in the nine cohorts set out for us by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, as will those in the right age groups in categories one to nine. I give her the commitment that as soon as we are through phase one, the priority absolutely will be to ensure that those who are critical to the functioning of the future of our country—the future generations to come—are prioritised.

Laura Farris Portrait Laura Farris (Newbury) (Con) [V]
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent start. In Newbury, we are due to receive our first doses later this week. The issue is one of information. All my constituents want to know is when the doses will be received and when their loved ones can expect to be contacted. May I invite my hon. Friend to work with NHS England to ensure that timely local information is made readily available going forward?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s concern. I give her that commitment. The team at NHS England is working and focusing on giving as much time and notice as possible to primary care and hospitals on when they get deliveries, so they can make those appointments and keep vaccinating those who are most vulnerable. That is exactly its priority at the moment.

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab) [V]
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Throughout the pandemic, community pharmacies have never closed—they really have been some of our unsung heroes. The Shields Gazette, my local paper, has launched its “Shot in the Arm” campaign. We want to know why the Minister will not allow all those experienced and dedicated community pharmacies to deliver the vaccine.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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First of all, with respect, that is inaccurate. Community pharmacies are already part of the primary care networks that are delivering the vaccines. I have also made very clear in the strategy that there will be 200 community and independent pharmacies as part of the vaccination programme in phase one, where we need that volume and throughput. The community pharmacies that can do 1,000 vaccinations a week are very much part of the programme and we thank them for that. As we get to the next stage, where we have vaccines in limitless volumes, it is about convenience and ramping up the number of community pharmacies that can also join in the fight against covid.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con) [V]
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on a remarkable start. I can confirm that in Calderdale we have already vaccinated more than 50% of the over-80s. Can I just press him on communication channels with patients and the vaccination process? We see GP surgeries giving out very little information. We have already heard about letters going out for the larger hubs, but people just do not understand what the process is. Could he work with GP surgeries and others, so that the general population can understand the process?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who always asks very important practical questions. He is absolutely right to say that it has been challenging. Part of the challenge, which I think we have addressed today, is the amount of notice primary care networks and GPs have of a delivery. That will only get better as we stabilise deliveries to the warehouses and are then able to take them out into the primary care networks and hospitals. I will of course work with primary care networks and the whole of the NHS family to make sure our communications get better and better.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab) [V]
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In Salford, we receive little or no notice that a delivery of the vaccine from the Government is due. Some batches have not turned up at all. When they do arrive, we act quickly. It was therefore staggering when, late last night, our clinical commissioning group was instructed to cancel 924 pre-existing second dose Pfizer appointments, with little time to book new appointments before the batch expires at midday on Wednesday. Will the Minister now allow local CCGs to plan and order their own vaccine batches? Can he assure those whose time before their second Pfizer dose has been elongated that they will be 70% to 90% protected for up to 12 weeks?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I shall take the hon. Lady’s questions in reverse. The four chief medical officers have looked at the issue of the up-to-12-week dosing and all agree that it is the right thing to do. I apologise to the people Salford for that cancellation, if that is what happened yesterday. We have touched on this, but part of the issue has been the lumpiness in the deliveries in the early days, which will begin to become much smoother. The NHS central team, with Brigadier Prosser and the 101 Logistic Brigade, are absolutely focused on making sure that we give as much notice as possible to primary care networks so that they can plan ahead, and that will only get better and better as we smooth out the delivery process from manufacturer into warehouse.

Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham (Burnley) (Con)
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The local NHS is doing a fantastic job of rolling out the vaccine to priority groups in Burney and Padiham, but some residents have contacted me because they are confused about what process they need to follow, so will my hon. Friend set out whether residents need to contact the national booking centre or are better to wait for their GP to contact them?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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If people receive a letter from the national booking centre and it is more convenient for them to take up that appointment than to call and make an appointment, they should get their vaccination done through the national booking centre. If that is inconvenient, they can absolutely wait and the primary care network will contact them and give them an appointment to make sure that they are vaccinated. Our absolute pledge is to make sure that the four categories that are most vulnerable to coronavirus are offered a vaccine by mid-February.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In Scotland, care home residents have been tackled quicker than those in England, overall coverage in Scotland is similar to that in England, and pro rata Scotland has way more vaccination sites, yet the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has caused concern by stating that the Scottish Government are somehow sitting on supplies, and he did that by comparing coverage to actual allocation. As we tackle fake news, does the Minister agree that it is irresponsible to play politics with fudged figures on such an important subject?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Scottish care homes tend to be much larger in profile than the 10,000 homes in England. We are very much focused on making sure that we vaccinate all care home residents by the end of January. We are working with the four CMOs, who are working very closely together, to make sure that that particular cohort is protected. As I mentioned earlier, if we protect 20 residents, we save a life, and that is what we do.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Con)
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We should rightfully be proud of the huge national effort that is taking place to vaccinate the British people against covid. We have seen the incredible speed and efficiency of Israel’s vaccination drive, which is on track to vaccinate all over-16s by the end of March, so what discussions has my hon. Friend had with his Israeli counterpart about replicating Israel’s success, particularly in the areas of digitisation and accessibility?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I commend the Israeli Government and health service for a stellar job in vaccinating their most vulnerable communities. We have a lot to learn from other countries, including the throughput—the speed at which they manage to vaccinate—which is something from which we can all learn so that we can improve our output. NHS England and the teams on the frontline have been doing a tremendous job and is worth us all thinking about that: we stand on the shoulders of real heroes.

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

We are way over time, so I am going to take only four more questions and I would be grateful if they could be swift.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the progress made so far, but ask him for some reassurance about those whose appointments have been cancelled due to the vaccine unexpectedly not being available. Will he confirm that they will not be forgotten about, that they will not lose their place in the queue and that they will be reached swiftly?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. I can give him the reassurance that anyone who has had their appointment cancelled will get that appointment reinstated and will get their vaccine. Our absolute commitment is to make sure that those four most vulnerable cohorts have the offer of a vaccine by the middle of February.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I heard the Minister’s earlier comments about vaccinations for teachers and school support staff, but what about the position of special schools? Should their staff, who work with profoundly disabled young people, including those with serious neuro-disabilities, and who provide personal and intimate care, not be treated in the same way as frontline social care workers?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The Lady is absolutely right to highlight that cohort, some of whom will be picked up in category 4 and some of whom will be picked up in category 6—this will include the people who look after them.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Vaccinating those in care homes will ensure that some of society’s most vulnerable are protected against this awful virus. However, many people receive care at home, so does my hon. Friend agree that they should be treated in the same way as those in care homes, as they have no option but to interact with many different people?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right; the primary care networks are best suited to focusing on that and delivering that vaccination, which will protect those who are most vulnerable from dying from covid-19.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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All credit and our great thanks to the vaccine taskforce and to our scientists, who have been brilliant in developing the vaccine. In our history, it has often been production engineering that has let us down, so may we have some figures? How many doses are produced each day? What is our manufacturing capacity? Are there any hold-ups or capacity problems in testing the batches? How many doses are being filled in the vials each day? Again, what is the maximum capacity?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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It is not our capacity, but the manufacturers’; AstraZeneca produces the Oxford vaccine, and Pfizer-BioNTech produce their vaccine, and Moderna’s is now also approved and in process. There are a number of processes throughout the manufacturing process. When we go from the bulk vaccine into fill and finish, there is a period of time and a sterility test the vaccines have to go through. Then there is batch testing by both the manufacturer and the regulator. All of that gets better and better every single day. It is a new manufacturing process. Oxford-AstraZeneca are delivering 100 million vaccines, which is what we have bought from them, and we have bought 40 million from Pfizer. We will have millions of vaccines in the weeks and months to come. We will meet our target of mid February for delivering the opportunity of a vaccine to the four cohorts most vulnerable to covid.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I thank the Minister. I am sorry to the nine colleagues who have not been called to ask their questions. I hope they will encourage their colleagues to ask shorter questions in future, because that is how we will manage to be fairer in getting more people in.

Covid-19 Vaccination Roll-out

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 11th January 2021

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders
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Yes. I think we have to look at the actual work that they do and the risk on the ground, but clearly student teachers would be part of that process.

There are strong arguments for those in other essential services to be given additional priority. There has been much talk of the police and their role in enforcing covid rules; if 20,000 police officers had not been cut in the past decade, the police might not be in such a difficult place to do that. We should remember that when the police go about their duties, they engage with the public and so, by definition, they put themselves at risk of infection.

Similar arguments could be made for those involved in the vaccination process—not just NHS staff but those who are volunteering. In relation to that, can the Minister update us on how many retired NHS staff have now passed all the requirements in this regard, so that they can assist in the vaccination process? We have all heard the stories about the fire safety training modules that have to be taken; although such requirements are worthy in their own right, it cannot be mission-critical at the moment for those tests to be undertaken. I can put it no better than the retired consultant who contacted me and said:

“This is actually more than I was required to do when I was a full-time NHS consultant. It is grossly excessive, unnecessary and burdensome.”

On the vaccination of NHS staff, we know the unprecedented pressures they are facing at the moment; the latest estimate is that there are some 46,000 NHS staff off sick with covid, and that is before we even consider those who are required to self-isolate. The need for a full complement of NHS staff to be available to work cannot be clearer, so we want to see all NHS staff receiving their first dose of the vaccine as soon as possible. There is also a concern about whether those people who are not directly employed by the NHS and instead may be self-employed are being picked up by the system.

In conclusion, we know that at the moment the vaccine programme rightly prioritises the most vulnerable and is designed to protect life. However, as that group of people receives that protection, it is right that we consider where priorities lie next. The nation’s key workers have literally kept the country going in the last 12 months—those in education and in transport, council workers, and many, many others who have gone to work day in and day out, knowing that they risk contracting a deadly virus. They do not deserve to be thanked with a pay freeze. At the very least, they deserve serious consideration for prioritisation in the next phase of the roll-out. Proper recognition of their contribution and of the wider societal benefits of their work demand no less.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)
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It is slightly unfortunate, Sir David, that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), asked a lot of questions, because he took up a lot of time. Nevertheless, I will attempt to answer as many colleagues’ questions as possible.

Before setting out details of the plan for vaccination, I thank the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for the incredible passion with which she spoke. I apologise that I was not in the room for her speech—I was in the main Chamber, as she will know—but it has always been our strategy to suppress the coronavirus until a vaccine can make us all safe, because we know ultimately that vaccines are our way out of this terrible pandemic.

This afternoon we launched our complete vaccine deployment plan, the culmination of months of preparation and hard work by the NHS, the armed forces—the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) mentioned the armed forces, and they are embedded in the deployment programme—and, of course, local and regional government at every level. The sooner we can reduce mortality from this pernicious disease and bring an end to that human suffering, the better.

It is worth reminding ourselves of just what that suffering looks like. Sadly, yesterday, 563 deaths were reported. The average number of deaths per day over the past week has been 909, and behind every statistic is a person—a father, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a grandfather or a grandmother—with family and friends. We must never lose sight of that.

In the light of the petition that we are discussing and, of course, the time, I will reflect on the basic principles that sit behind our prioritisation and our strategy. Yes, we want to minimise disruption for pupils, parents and teachers; yes, we want to stop the NHS being overwhelmed, and yes, we want to protect UK jobs and businesses as much as we possibly can, but fundamentally it is about saving lives, and operationally it is about saving as many lives as possible, as quickly as possible.

I defy anyone to provide more powerful grounds for action in order to achieve that. We are following the science and we are vaccinating, according to the prioritisation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which recommended rapid immunisation of our most vulnerable groups. It is worth reminding colleagues, as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) did, about the first four categories, for whom we absolutely are focused on making sure they have the opportunity of a first dose to protect them by mid-February across all four nations.

I know the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) and others are concerned about supplies, and he has contacted me about that. I can reassure him that, having spoken to my counterparts in the devolved Administrations that, while the supply lines have been lumpy—in any manufacturing process, especially one so complex as a novel vaccine that is a biological compound, it is always difficult at the outset, but they very quickly stabilise—we have clear line of sight of deliveries all the way through until the end of February, hence we are able to make the pledge that we will be able to deploy.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
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Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am conscious of time, and I want to get through quite a lot; I will be happy to take the hon. Lady’s intervention if I can.

Obviously, if a teacher or a school or childcare worker falls within one of those cohorts, they will be contacted by the NHS at the appropriate time to receive the vaccine, but the importance of starting with our most vulnerable groups cannot be overstated. There is no evidence that teachers or school or childcare workers are at higher risk of mortality. That is the thing: we are protecting against death in this first phase, and our most vulnerable groups account for 88% of mortality; I think my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester gave us that figure earlier. We can safeguard against 88% of mortality if we vaccinate those top four groups, but of course I understand the sentiment behind this petition.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Teachers, and everybody involved in this petition, do not want to be prioritised beyond those four groups; but, if something is not going to be done, if the lateral flow tests are not going to be in place for all pupils going to school on a regular basis and the vaccination is not going to be available to teachers, is there a possibility that schools will not actually be returning at the end of February, and that this is going to be longer term?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Schools, as the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) reminded us, are open. Primary and secondary schools are open, delivering both online education and education in school for the most vulnerable children and the children of NHS and social care workers, who look after the people who are most vulnerable and whom we are trying to protect from dying. I understand the sentiment behind the petition and pay tribute to the vital work that teachers in schools and childcare workers do to see us through this difficult time. However, I believe that our strategy of putting the most vulnerable first is the right one, morally, ethically and practically, but I recognise that even with such brilliant work in full swing the next few weeks will be difficult, especially in education settings.

We have always sought to keep schools open, and said that they would be the very last things to close, but the challenges posed by the new variant and the more than doubling of transmissibility mean that we have had to take some difficult decisions. I am confident that as our vaccination programme bears fruit we can begin slowly to move out of lockdown. The Prime Minister has promised that schools will be the very first places to reopen, working on the principle of last in, first out. The hon. Member for Gower asked about testing, and it will continue to play a vital role in getting children back into the classroom as soon as possible.

In the time available to me, I want briefly to turn to some of the questions asked by colleagues. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) rightly reminded us that we do not yet know whether the vaccines have an impact on transmissibility—but they obviously offer protection, in terms of both immunity and protection from severe infection. That is why we are focusing on the most vulnerable people. Of course she was right to highlight the issue of young adults with special educational needs. Some of those will be picked up in category 4, but many will be picked up in category 6 of the top nine categories.

I was not in the Chamber when the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) rightly asked whether hospices are included. The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, also asked about that. Hospices are absolutely included in the cohorts, and we are focusing on making sure that they are protected. Many Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams) and for Winchester, and the hon. Members for Cardiff South and Penarth and for Westmorland and Lonsdale, asked about data. Data is our ally in this endeavour, in the Prime Minister’s view and in my view. That is why he has insisted on daily data release, so that the nation can see the progress that we are making in protecting the most vulnerable people from covid. We will continue to publish daily data. On Thursdays we will publish more detailed regional data, and my absolute commitment to the House is as much data as the NHS feel is robust that we can publish. We all reference our own experiences in life but the best way to learn, in my view, is to learn from different teams. Not everyone can give 1,000 vaccinations a day, as some primary care networks have, but we learn from them and we try to put support into other teams, to enable them to do that. [Interruption.]

I am conscious that the debate ends at 7.30 and I think I have to give the hon. Member for Gower at least a minute to respond, so I will wrap up there. I apologise to the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who wanted to intervene, and I would have loved to take his intervention, but I am happy to write to him if he emails me with any other queries. I shall give the hon. Lady the last word.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his response and I understand the time pressures that we are currently under and the reason he could not be here earlier, but I remind those watching online that the two debates are both live, and they can still add their names to the petition. Also, on 15 December, UNICEF called for teachers to be prioritised, and we must realise that there are difficult decisions that force difficult trade-offs. They were not asking to be in the top four vaccination priorities, but they need consideration. That begins with safeguarding those who are responsible for opening up the future—looking after the teachers who will give a future to our future generations, and to our children, who have missed so much. I accept all the debate today, and thank the Minister and everyone who took part, but we need to move forward and give the matter that consideration.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 554316 relating to roll-out of covid-19 vaccinations.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to support businesses during the covid-19 outbreak. (910317)

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

My Department continues to deliver a wide range of measures to support UK businesses. We have extended our loan schemes, which have already delivered more than £65 billion of finance, until the end of January.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That level of support is impressive, and I also thank the Minister for all he is doing on the vaccine roll-out. There are sections of the UK economy that are going to grow rapidly, not least the green industrial revolution, thanks to the energy White Paper announced yesterday. What steps is he taking to make sure that it is UK-based businesses that grow the workforce and benefit from the job creation as a result of the green industrial revolution?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her excellent question. The 10-point plan will build on the nearly half a million green jobs that already exist in the UK economy, supporting up to 250,000 further high-skilled jobs. The House will be interested to know that we are talking about 60,000 in offshore wind, 10,000 or more in nuclear, 50,000 in green and comfortable homes, 8,000 in hydrogen, 53,000 in carbon capture utilisation and storage and 40,000 in accelerating the shift to zero-emission vehicles.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes
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The weekend before last, I was pleased finally to start my Christmas shopping in Botley High Street, as part of Small Business Saturday, which included visiting Wardrobe at 24 and Mermaids deli. This crucial campaign highlights the important role that businesses and entrepreneurs play. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is more important than ever to support our high streets and shop local this Christmas? Will he assure me that this Government will continue to stand by our town centres and high streets as we recover from covid?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend; now more than ever it is vital that we continue to help our local economy by supporting our town centres and high streets. That is why we have delivered one of the most generous comprehensive packages of support, with a total financial package of £200 billion.

Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey
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Does my hon. Friend agree on what a success the recent Small Business Saturday events were and on how important small businesses are to local communities across my constituency in Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield and Marlow? Does he agree that we must continue to fight for small businesses during this pandemic, so that we do not risk undermining the economic foundation of our country?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The recent Small Business Saturday event meant that the spend from the Great British public rose to £1.1 billion this year, which is a 38% rise on last year. The Government will continue to champion small businesses, through our unprecedented support schemes, as they begin to recover from the impact of covid-19. As the Secretary of State has just reminded me, the spend is not £200 billion—it is £280 billion of support for small business.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab) [V]
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Of the £5 billion of new online spend because of the pandemic, 40% has gone to one website, Amazon. Many small businesses are afraid that they will not make it through the winter because of a lack of Government support, and they have Brexit and climate and technological change to deal with too. So I want to ask the Minister this: what is the plan for small businesses to survive covid and build back smarter and greener? I am talking not about vague promises, but about firm commitments to help businesses invest in new technologies, as Make UK has called for, or to target procurement to support net zero businesses, as the Institution of Civil Engineers proposes. Or are the Government just going to let business down again?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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As a fellow engineer, the hon. Lady will know that the Made Smarter initiative has been a tremendous pilot in the north-west. We recently announced a further expansion, with £300 million—£147 million coming from the Government and the balance coming from the private sector—to support the adoption of technology into manufacturing. I hope the hon. Lady will continue to support Government initiatives such as Made Smarter.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to ensure that the Green Homes Grant scheme delivers (a) value for money and (b) environmental benefits. (910302)

Break in Debate

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
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What assessment he has made of the availability of the local restrictions support grant (open) to businesses in areas under tier 2 covid-19 restrictions. (910321)

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)
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Businesses in tier 2 that are required to close can access payments of up to £1,500 per 14 days of closure. We are giving additional financial support of £1.1 billion to local authorities to support other businesses severely affected by restrictions even though open.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I gently suggest to the Minister that one of the best ways he will be able to support small businesses in my constituency of West Dorset is to use his influence in discussions within Government tomorrow to reduce West Dorset from tier 2 to tier 1? In the event of that not being possible, could he outline more specifically what the Government will be doing to support the 97% of businesses that are small or micro-sized?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I recognise that the winter months will continue to be extremely tough on many businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency, but I am confident that the grant programme that we have in place, alongside other measures like the job retention scheme and the support for the self-employed that have been so widely discussed this morning, will continue to deliver that support. An estimated 90% of small and medium-sized business premises in closed retail, hospitality and leisure sectors should, broadly, have their monthly rent covered by the business grant programme.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is essential that the local restrictions support grant is available promptly to businesses and is not subject to a prolonged application process. In anticipation of some areas—hopefully my own in the north-east—moving into tier 2 this week, will the Secretary of State ensure that grants are paid quickly to businesses, including the retrospective grants, particularly to pubs?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The local restrictions support grants, additional restriction grants and Christmas support payments are all available now for businesses through their local authority. I know that the Secretary of State takes these businesses very seriously. Throughout this whole process, since back in March, he made sure that all his Ministers talked to local government to make sure that we do get those payments out promptly.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to support the life sciences sector. (910318)

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)
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The Government have invested approximately £1 billion through two life sciences sector deals, helping to generate significant industry investment in the UK. Last year the industry had a turnover in the UK of £80.7 billion.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The life sciences sector is a truly international endeavour, as can be so clearly seen with the recent vaccine research efforts. With worries in the sector about our ongoing relationship with European countries and the European Union, would my hon. Friend confirm that the concerns of the life sciences sector are of paramount importance in the ongoing negotiations?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Clearly, the UK’s relationship with the EU is subject to ongoing negotiations, but as we leave the EU the life sciences sector will be supported through the life sciences sector deals that I mentioned, and a new, innovative regulatory framework. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has proven itself globally to be one of the finest regulators in the world, and new international regulatory collaborations are on the way too.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps his Department is taking to support people who were mis-sold a Green Deal loan more than six years ago. (910319)

Covid-19: Vaccination

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 14th December 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have not finished yet. The hon. Member concluded his speech that day with lots of references to Ronald Reagan, which sent me down a reading rabbit hole that I have not yet finished. I still cannot get the attraction, but the merits of Reagan are perhaps a debate for another day. However, I thought the hon. Member made a very strong case on both the pragmatic and the moral arguments. I will come back to some of the implied coercion points that he made.

I welcome the Minister to his place. This is certainly the first time I have opposed him. We all enjoyed William Shakespeare being one of the first to get the vaccine, but no one made the Stratford connection to him as Minister. I thought that was a missed opportunity. I will make a few points, and hopefully draw him out on a couple of them. We know that many basic freedoms have been curtailed over the last year, and we all want that to end as soon as possible. We know that there is a strong desire for things to get back to normal, but these significant measures and restrictions on freedom are necessary, and we have seen yet another reminder of that today.

Vaccines are the most effective public health intervention, either in relation to coronavirus or health in general, so the progress that has been made should cheer us. It is therefore important that a significant proportion of people take up the vaccination, especially those with the greatest vulnerabilities. The last time we debated the covid-19 vaccine in this place was just over a month ago. It was the day after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had achieved success in phase 3 studies. Similarly, since then both the Moderna candidate and the University of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine have achieved similar success.

That is a remarkable story in terms of time. We saw wonderful pictures of people receiving their first dose last week, and I understand that this week the vaccination programme is being extended to GP surgeries. It has been a whirlwind month, and I commend the Government for what they have achieved. It is no small feat, and I know that the Minister will take my attempts to seek clarity in that spirit. I am not seeking to throw rocks at the success, but we want some answers.

I am particularly keen to know the Minister’s assessment of the take-up required for the programme to be effective. I submitted a written question on that and received a holding answer, but he might indulge me today. If the Government are not keen to be drawn on what the figure is, which I can understand, perhaps he could explain why they do not think sharing it is helpful. In my head, I would have a totaliser. When we are fixing the community centre roof, and we need to raise money, we colour it in every time we receive another hundred pounds, but that might well not be the right approach, and I would be keen to know why.

The vaccine is one thing; a vaccination programme is another. We have rightly been very critical of the big logistical challenges for the Government both in the roll-out of personal protective equipment and the implementation of test and trace. We cannot afford a situation where vaccines complete the set. I recognise that the early signs have been positive, but I wish to pick up on a couple of bits. We have been made aware of some care-home and hospital staff being at risk of missing out due to requirements of the IT system. Have those loopholes been closed yet? Has that been clarified?

Similarly, GPs have raised concerns with us about the new rules being brought in late in the day, so that vaccinations will take twice as long, as patients need to be observed for 15 minutes. Again, that might be on very good public health grounds, but I am keen to know from the Minister what they are. We know that general practice per designated site has to deliver at least 975 vaccinations over a seven-day period. I did not receive a convincing answer when I raised this last month with my opposite number, the Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care, but what is the assessed impact on other GP services and how will we ensure that practices can meet their normal case load? I would be very keen to hear those points addressed.

Turning to the substance of what these 300,000 people have asked us to discuss, at the root it is about vaccine hesitancy. It is very easy to talk about the anti-vax elements. I am glad that colleagues have not majored on that, because to an extent that is a straw man. Multiple hon. Members made contributions about just how thin the basis for those conspiracy theories or anti-vax sentiments are. We could spend all day deconstructing them and never lose the argument, but that concerns only a very small proportion of the British people.

We know from polling, and from our constituency mailbags, that those people are a very small group indeed. There is a much more significant and noticeable chunk of people—though far from a majority—who are vaccine-hesitant, and entirely reasonably. Some might simply not want to have it, as the hon. Member for Wycombe said, and we ought to respect that. Others might not want to do so because of safety concerns—something I have heard from lots of constituents. They want to know that any vaccination, be it for covid-19 or anything else, is safe, so we as political leaders have a really important role in giving constituents the confidence that they seek. That will hopefully come from people observing the debate, and from our public engagements in general.

I know people will be watching this debate. I do not always think that about the debates we have; I suspect my 30-minute Adjournment debates do not pull in the big numbers. My message to people watching is that if they are unconvinced by what we are saying, which is perfectly reasonable, they should ask, ask, ask. If they get a question answered and are still not happy, they should ask the next one. I would certainly say that to my constituents. We will seek to get them information through all the available channels, if that is what it takes for them to feel confident about receiving the vaccine.

I agree with a number of hon. Members that the sentiment of the petition slightly misses where we are at the moment. There is a pretty broad political consensus against compulsion, coercion or inconveniencing people into submission. I know what our position is as the Opposition, but no one studies what the Government say more closely than we do, and I have never detected a desire for mandatory vaccination in what they are saying. We all want to have confidence, and to know that the roll-out has been done through the proper process, rather than in any other way, and like other hon. Members who have spoken, I hope that business will take the same view. The Government might have a role in that, and I would be interested to know the Minister’s reflections on the contribution from the hon. Member for Wycombe. I would say gently to businesses that compulsory vaccination will almost certainly not do what they want it to do. It is therefore important to take some time and have a cool head on this issue.

People’s unwillingness to take the covid-19 vaccine has a knock-on effect on vaccine hesitancy more generally. In fact, this is probably the FA cup final of vaccine hesitancy. Last year, vaccine hesitancy was in the World Health Organisation’s top 10 threats to global health—it was up there with a future pandemic. It is something that we have to address, whether it is related to covid-19 or not. In Denmark in 2013, false claims in a documentary about the human papillomavirus vaccine led to a decline in uptake of around 90% among some cohorts. Similarly, between 2014 and 2017 in Ireland, vocal attacks on the HPV vaccine from the anti-vaccine lobby led to a drop in uptake from 70% to 50%. These things matter.

What we see through those developments, and through our experiences in this country, is that the best method of countering those views is through proactive, positive health-promoting campaigns. I know that is something the Government are doing, and it is very welcome—we will support them in that. It is almost certainly too early to have enough data to be able to talk about the efficiency of such things, but we want the Government to keep pushing hard on this issue. That is what our constituents want us to do—to explain and, as I say, make ourselves available to answer any questions that they have.

We have had an extraordinary year fighting the virus. There is now clearly a path for us to take—a light at the end of the tunnel, or however people want to characterise it. We need to pursue it with the same vigour with which we attacked the previous year. If we do, we might just get out of this thing.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) on his leadership of this important debate on e-petition 323442. Over 300,000 people have signed the petition, including 641 in his constituency.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for his very moving speech, and I am deeply saddened by the loss of his mother-in-law and the infection of his wife, other family members and friends. As the shadow Minister rightly pointed out, the hon. Member for Strangford brought home that each and every statistic is a person, with a family and people who love them very much.

I will hopefully address the excellent—as always—speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker). I am grateful to the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) both for her excellent speech and for her clear confirmation that neither the Scottish Government nor the United Kingdom Government will mandate vaccination at all. I congratulate her chief medical officer, as well as the chief medical officers in Northern Ireland and Wales, who worked together so that we could all start to vaccinate on the same day, last Tuesday. I am grateful, Sir David, for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Government this evening.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We in Northern Ireland were first.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I hear the hon. Gentleman; Northern Ireland was first by a few minutes.

Last week was a most important week across the United Kingdom, because we began vaccinating people against covid-19, and that, I hope, has started to turn the tide on this virus. The pandemic has forced the Government and our devolved Administrations to take steps that are truly unprecedented in peacetime. They are steps that no democratic Government would wish to take unless they were absolutely necessary. At each point in the pandemic, every decision we have taken has been with the utmost consideration for its impact on our personal freedoms. As hon. Members have brilliantly highlighted this evening, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe rightly reminded us, the petition that we are debating is a matter of great legal and ethical complexity.

Before I address some of those complexities, I will set out the facts. First, there are currently no plans to place restrictions on those who refuse to have a covid vaccination. As my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington reminded us, we have no plans to introduce so-called vaccine passporting. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe was slightly nervous about that, quite rightly, as when I did my first interview about the issue—with the BBC, I think—I was asked about some of the technological challenges and I may have mis-spoken. I was grateful to The Spectator and TalkRadio, which allowed me to explain myself.

Mandating vaccinations is discriminatory and completely wrong, and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe and others, I urge businesses listening to this debate to not even think about that. I will explain in further detail why that is the wrong thing to do. I put on record my thanks to Professor Karol Sikora, who has many hundreds of thousands of followers, who quoted me and said I eloquently dealt with the issue. We have absolutely no plans for vaccine passporting.

Secondly, cards that were issued after people got their first covid-19 vaccination have been mentioned on social media. Among other details, they contain the date of their second vaccination. That record does not constitute a so-called vaccine passport. It does mean anyone is immune. As we know, the vaccine is given as two injections, 21 days apart. The second dose is the booster dose. I am sure hon. Members will forgive me for repeating the message that patients must return as instructed for their second dose. Without the second dose, the vaccine will not be effective. That is a really important message, and I am grateful to all hon. Members who are repeating that to their constituents.

Thirdly, on completion of both vaccinations, patients will be issued with a vaccine record card, much as they are for other vaccination programmes, so there is nothing different in the way we are dealing with this vaccine. Again, that does not constitute a so-called vaccine passport; nor can it be used as a form of identification. That would be absolutely wrong. Colleagues will appreciate that the careful and accurate recording of vaccination status is an important part of a public health effort. It supports patient safety during probably the largest and most challenging vaccination programme in British history.

Fourthly, in addressing the many who signed the petition, I want to underline one key fact, which we have heard over and over again from hon. Members: vaccines work. It is really important that we send that message from this place. After clean water, they are the single greatest public health tool in the history of mankind. My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington reminded us of Edward Jenner. It fills me with great joy that the Jenner Institute was one of the first to stand up and say, “We can do this.” I hope that, after a rigorous study by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be in place as soon as approval comes through. Obviously it is up to the regulator to deliver that.

Vaccines, as we have heard, have ended untold suffering for millions, if not billions, of people around the world. When our turn comes and our GP gets in touch, we all have a duty to heed that call. It is how we will be able to protect ourselves and the people around us—our friends and family, the people we love. Months of trials, involving thousands of people, have shown that the vaccines we are using are effective. They work. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington, they have been tested on between 15,000 and 50,000 people. There were no shortcuts or quick fixes by the MHRA; it has followed exactly the same process as usual. The difference is that instead of waiting for phase 1 to finish before doing phase 2, and then phase 3, the studies were in parallel; hence we were able to develop the vaccines rapidly.

Fifthly, and equally importantly, each covid vaccine will be authorised only, as I have said, once it has met robust standards of effectiveness, safety and quality. As we have heard, vaccines authorised by our independent regulator, the MHRA, will be assessed for clinical safety and effectiveness through a robust review. The vaccine is free to everyone eligible across the UK. There is really no excuse for someone not to take it when their turn comes.

Sixthly, although we know the vaccine protects individuals, we do not yet know its precise impact on onward transmission. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe made that point brilliantly himself, and by quoting the Secretary of State. In answer to the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), we will not know where the point is that he mentioned until we scale up the vaccinations. We will continue to monitor the impact on transmission through the Test and Trace system. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe said, we do know that the vaccine protects people, which is the important thing. That is why I encourage everyone to read, read and read again—or to ask, ask and ask again, to quote the hon. Member for Nottingham North.

The full impact on infection rates will not become clear until we get to those large numbers, so we are monitoring that carefully. Hon. Members will understand that without our knowing that, it would be irresponsible for anyone to declare that they are immune. The Qantas question is therefore completely wrong, because it is impossible for anyone to say that. The science does not yet support that conclusion. Even if people are vaccinated, they must continue to follow the rules where they are, and keep taking the common-sense steps that are now so familiar to us—washing our hands, covering our face and making space.

Hon. Members have raised many questions about the World Health Organisation and the required international response. The United Kingdom Government have led the way. We could do even more. Next year, the UK will take up the presidency of the G7, as the hon. Member for Nottingham North mentioned; we will need to deal with anti-vaxxers nationally and internationally. We look forward to working with many nations on that challenge.

I will turn to some of the hon. Gentleman’s other questions. On GPs and the additional 15 minutes, that was the further guidance from the MHRA after two cases in which people with a history of severe allergies had an allergic reaction to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. That is why there was a change to the process. On the roll-out today to primary care networks and the question about caseloads, it is brilliant that GPs have come together with primary care networks. For example, in an area of 50,000 people and five practices, they have come together and agreed that one would lead on the vaccination while the other four continued to support the community and deal with caseloads. On his question about care home staff who continue to be prioritised, I am happy to take that offline with him if he has a particular case or details.

The petition that we have debated is of profound importance. I urge anyone who is considering refusing a covid-19 vaccination to ask and ask again. Not only is the vaccine effective and proven to be clinically safe, but the quicker we are able to vaccinate people, the quicker we can bring forward the date when we can begin to lift the oppressive restrictions that were put in place with a truly heavy heart. I came from a world of entrepreneurialism, of unleashing people’s ingenuity, energy and passion. I did not enter politics to restrict people’s freedoms, which I profoundly believe in. In the meantime, we all have our part to play. We must continue to respect the rules to ensure that the efforts succeed and can be our shared success, so that we can all have a more joyous 2021. If I do my job properly, we will all be back in this Chamber celebrating, I hope, without the restrictions that we have today.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for taking part in this e-petitions debate. The shadow Public Health Minister, the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), is right: people are watching. For Members who are interested, Petitions Committee debates attract higher ratings on average than even Prime Minister’s questions, so it is worth taking part.

To reiterate the main points that we have covered in today’s debate, the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) spoke of the privileged position that we are in today to be talking about a vaccine, and I could not agree more. It is excellent news at the end of an incredibly difficult year. The shadow Public Health Minister spoke about the pride that we should take in the UK’s history and involvement in vaccines, beginning with Edward Jenner in 1796, and going right up to now, with our contribution to Gavi.

I thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for reminding us of the very human cost of the virus. The shadow Minister and the Minister are right: behind every statistic there is a real person and a real family torn apart by the virus. We must remember that as we make decisions on how best to tackle it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) put the case for the petitioners very well indeed. We do not want, and will not see, as the Minister has confirmed, restrictions put in place, certainly not mandated by the UK Government—or indeed the Scottish Government, as the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran has confirmed. I hope that businesses and other organisations are watching and hearing that message. To repeat what we have all said, I urge everyone to get the vaccine when their time comes. They should ask questions if they have concerns, and should listen to the people who have the knowledge. Let us beat this thing and get back to normal.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 323442, relating to vaccination for Covid-19.

National Security and Investment Bill (Eleventh sitting)

(Committee Debate: 11th sitting: House of Commons)
Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Thursday 10th December 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We start today’s proceedings with the most innocuous amendment imaginable—it is so innocuous that it is in the realms of “barely noticeable”. It is particularly innocuous in terms of the debates the Committee has already had on the use of the word “may” and the words “shall” or “must”. On this occasion, the amendment merely suggests that in subsection (1)—

“The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the procedure which must be followed in giving a notice or serving an order under this Act”—

“shall” should be substituted for “may”.

What is interesting about making provision for procedure that must be followed in giving a notice or serving an order is that the impact assessment assumes that that will be done and analyses how those notice-giving arrangements might work. The impact assessment assumes that the Secretary of State will do that, but the Bill does not state that the Secretary of State must do it.

I cannot think of any good reason why that change should not be made. I can see virtually no circumstances in which the current wording will do anything either way in relation to the issuing of the notices and what those notices might consist of. A requirement that the Secretary of State “shall” do those things would be an unalloyed advance in assuring that they happened. It would not have any consequences for national security or for company considerations, other than that companies might consider it rather more comforting that the Bill requires those details, which are important to them, to actually be produced.

The Minister can perhaps enlighten us on the wider issue. I have been on the other side, constructing and putting a Bill together, years ago in my brief but glorious—or inglorious but brief—ministerial career.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think we can agree that it was brief. Bills would come to Ministers, fresh from the wells of construction and the pushing of pens to get them into good shape. I wonder whether there is a style guide, deep in the bowels of a building somewhere in Whitehall, that says, “Whenever the Minister is supposed to do something, write ‘may’ in small print.” It is such a long-serving style guide that people have forgotten why the word was ever put in the Bill in the first place.

The Minister would do a great service to the writing of Bills if he were able to say, “I don’t want to go along with the style guide. If someone is supposed to do something, I want to have that written in the Bill.” I appreciate that if the Minister were to say that when sitting around with a number of people who had a freshly minted copy of the proto-Bill in front of them, there would be much stroking of chins and suggestions of, “That is a rather brave method of proceeding, Minister.” But the Minister has the opportunity today, entirely divorced from all those influences, simply to say, “Yes, we will accept this amendment as a stake in the ground for the uprating of the style guide, wherever it happens to be.” That would be a great service to the Committee and to the nation, by getting us into a position where Bills are written to mean what they say and say what they mean.

Break in Debate

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If I went to my bank manager, who had called me in about my overdraft, and I said, “I don’t need to say anything other than, ‘I may pay it back,’ but don’t worry, because I will pay it back,” my bank manager might be a little upset and might have something to say about it.

It is curious that we have locutions in the putting together of Bills that fly in the face of common-sense parlance. I agree with my hon. Friend that it really is no great defence to say, “Don’t worry. We don’t need to change this, because we are going to do it.” It would be far better all round if we were straightforward, accurate and clear and put this wording in the legislation, so that everybody knows what we are doing for the future. If, by so doing, the Minister can banish that style guide from the bowels of the building forever, that would be a great service.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I beg you indulgence, Mr Twigg: I intend to speak first to clause stand part and then to amendment 29, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test. Clause 53 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations that set out the procedure that the Secretary of State must follow when giving a notice of, or serving, an order once the Bill becomes an Act. The level of detail that these provisions will involve is most appropriately dealt with in delegated legislation. That will also allow the provisions to be modified more easily if changes are deemed appropriate—in the light of operational experience, for example. I know all colleagues will share with me the wish for the unit’s operations to be as efficient and as slick as we can make them.

Examples of notices and orders include information notices, attendance notices, interim orders, final orders or penalty notices issued by the Secretary of State for non-compliance. The clause sets out what may be included in the regulations. For example, they may include the manner in which a document must be given or served and whether it is allowed to be served electronically—for example, by email.

Amendment 29 would require the Secretary of State to make these regulations, which returns, if I may say so, to the recurring theme raised by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, about the difference between “may” and “shall”. At the risk of becoming predictable, my thoughts here carry certain echoes of our previous discussions.

As hon. Members will know, clause 53 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations that will set out the procedure that must the Secretary of State must follow when giving a notice or serving an order once the Bill becomes an Act. It is an entirely laudable objective to ensure that the Secretary of State provides those affected by this regime with the right information on the operation of the regime, and it is one that I shall always support. In practice, though, the amendment is unnecessary.

Although the Secretary of State may make regulations to that effect, in practice, for the regime to function effectively, he must do so. I assure hon. Members that the Secretary of State certainly does not propose to commence the regime without first making these procedural regulations. I therefore assure the hon. Member that the amendment is not required, as he and the Government seem to be in hearty agreement on the importance of such regulation. I ask him to do the honourable thing and withdraw the amendment.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is an honour to serve under your chairship again, Mr Twigg. I detect a slight rise in temperature, at least on this side of the Committee Room. I do not know whether that is due to the heated exchanges over “may” and “should”—

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Passionate exchanges.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Warm exchanges. It is certainly something to be welcomed.

I would like to say a few words to clause 53 stand part. As my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test observed, this is another example of a “may” rather than a “will”. The clause exists purely to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations—that is its function—and yet it places no requirement on the Secretary of State to do so.

While the Minister gave a warm response, saying that he and my hon. Friend are on exactly the same page and so on in our desires, I remind him that the Bill is not about our desires; it is about a legislative framework that protects our national security and gives, as much as possible, clarity and certainty to those impacted by it. It is because we recognise the importance of the clause that we wish it to have some effect in law, as opposed to being the gentle suggestion it seems to be at the moment.

Break in Debate

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

indicated assent.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope the Minister also agrees that we are moving to a much expanded national security screening regime. In 2002, Facebook was a year old or just being born. We are no longer in the place we were in 2002 when it comes to the issues of importance, volume, security and privacy associated with data and data sharing. I hope he will not rely on the 2002 Act as a justification, particularly as we are moving to an expanded national security screening issue and we are in a different data environment.

The strategy says that data is the economic engine, and we must be much better in assuring businesses and investors of their data protection. Instead of relying on appearances, the amendment holds up the standard of reason. Under it, the Secretary of State would have all the relevant powers of data sharing with relevant persons so long as the Secretary of State had reason, based “on a reasonable enquiry”, to think the person to be a relevant public authority.

It is critical that the UK has a national security regime that is grounded in national, competent exercise of state power to protect our security. The amendment would help to build success in that direction by removing a reliance on the use of appearance and instinct, by successive Secretaries of State, and grounding decisions in “reasonable enquiry” instead.

The expert evidence sessions provided support for that view. For example, Chris Cummings from the Investment Association said:

“There is so much around any investment process and the acquisition process that has to remain entirely confidential, that investors would require and would be looking for reassurance that these conversations could be held in the strictest of confidence and that nothing would appear until the right time.”––[Official Report, National Security and Investment Public Bill Committee, 24 November 2020; c. 66, Q78.]

I ask the Committee to consider whether sharing data on the basis of appearances gives that reassurance.

The clause will give information-sharing powers to the Secretary of State. We recognise the importance of that, and we do not want to hinder it unduly, but we expect that the Secretary of State should, and importantly, should be seen to, exercise those powers on the basis of evidence. It is only right that we have clear evidential requirements. Although the 2002 Act uses similar language, it is right that we in this Committee clean up that language based on 19 further years of experience.

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Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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With your permission, Mr Twigg, I will speak initially to clause 54 stand part and then address amendment 30, relating to clause 54. I will then turn to clause 55 stand part.

On clause 54, for this regime to function effectively, the Secretary of State needs access to the right information at the right time to make decisions with the fullest range of evidence available. All relevant information required by the Secretary of State to make a decision might not be obtainable from the parties to the acquisition, but rather might be stored by other public authorities, both in the UK and overseas. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central referred to the speed at which deals have changed; she mentioned Facebook and others. I agree that modern deals are structured in an increasingly complex manner and often across borders and continents. There is a need to work with allies at home and abroad to ensure that we are making well-aligned, timely and correct decisions.

Therefore, the clause provides that public authorities may disclose information to the Secretary of State for the purpose of facilitating the exercise of his functions under the Bill. Equally, it permits the Secretary of State to disclose information to UK and overseas public authorities for the purpose of facilitating his functions under the Bill, but also for a limited number of other purposes, including crime prevention and the protection of national security. I absolutely agree with those who say that businesses do not want slow decisions made by multiple public authorities working in silos. We all want to see an efficient regime in place. Businesses want public authorities that can talk to each other and give a quick and efficient answer that is right first time. Being able to share information is the first step in Government making fast and informed decisions without having to burden businesses unduly, which I know the hon. Lady cares about.

I of course recognise, though, that some hon. Members will feel uneasy about the Government being able to share potentially very sensitive information both within the UK and overseas. The clause includes a number of safeguards relating to the disclosure of information by the Secretary of State. First, the clause prohibits onward disclosure of information shared by the Secretary of State or use for an alternative purpose without his consent. Secondly, when disclosing information, the Secretary of State must consider whether the disclosure would prejudice, to an unreasonable degree, the commercial interests of any person concerned.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I fully support the principle that we should share this kind of information with friendly overseas authorities—subject to appropriate precautions to prevent it from being used for the wrong purposes. However, somebody in the UK who breaks this law will get prosecuted, but an overseas public authority cannot be prosecuted in the UK courts, so can the Minister explain why, under clause 54(7), which lists the factors that the Secretary of State has to consider before deciding whether to release information to an overseas public authority, there is no requirement to assess the rule of law in that other place and to consider whether it has equivalent legislation to prohibit the misuse of information? There is no requirement for the Secretary of State to consider whether they have been given guarantees or assurances by a Government whose word we would expect to be able to take. There is not even a requirement to consider whether the request for information itself might be an attempt to undermine national security.

If the Secretary of State is looking at a potential Chinese takeover of a sensitive undertaking in the UK and a public authority in China says, “We need this information for an inquiry that we are doing,” there is no requirement for the Secretary of State to take that into account. Can the Minister explain why none of those things is built into this clause now, and are the Government willing to consider amending the clause at a later stage to give the further protection that we may need?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the hon. Member. I hope that in my further remarks, if I can make some headway, I will be able to reassure him on those points.

Thirdly, when disclosing information to an overseas public authority, the Secretary of State must have particular regard to whether the law of the country or territory to whose authority the information is being disclosed provides protection against self-incrimination in criminal proceedings corresponding to the protection provided in the UK, and whether the matter is sufficiently serious to justify disclosure. I hope that addresses the hon. Member’s point.

Break in Debate

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to intervene again so quickly, but the precautions in subsection (7) do not address any of the matters that I raised. Subsection (7)(a) in particular is vital and necessary, but it is nowhere near sufficient and does not address any of the points that I raised.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful. If the drive of the hon. Member’s probing is to ensure that the Secretary of State, when he considers disclosing information to a foreign country, takes into account protecting people being caught in the regime who come from that country, I think I have just made it clear that the clause provides protection against self-incrimination in criminal proceedings corresponding to the protection provided in the United Kingdom. I hope that the hon. Member will be satisfied with that.

Finally, the disclosure is subject to data protection legislation, which provides additional safeguards in relation to the disclosure of personal data. I hope that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central will feel reassured that the Secretary of State may request only the information that he requires in order to exercise his function under the Bill, and that such information will be treated securely.

Amendment 30 aims to increase the scrutiny that the Secretary of State undertakes in deciding whether a person constitutes an overseas public authority for the purposes of disclosing information under clause 54. It is of course important to ensure that any person believed to be a public authority for the purposes of seeking information from, or disclosing information to, is a public authority. I am therefore pleased to reassure the hon. Lady that the Bill does that as it stands. The approach that we have taken mirrors that—I know that she does not like this—in section 243(11) of the Enterprise Act 2002, which includes a similar definition of an overseas public authority for the purposes of disclosure of specified information to overseas public authorities under the Act.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is generous in giving way. On his rebuttal of my argument on the CMA, it is not about whether I like it. The whole point of the amendment is to take it away from likes, preferences or appearances, and base it on evidence, and the evidence is that the environment has changed dramatically since 2002 in terms of data. Also, the Secretary of State is a political figure.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I remind her that the legislation requires the Secretary of State to act in a quasi-judicial way, not as a political figure. I appreciate that by a normal reading, “appears” may appear unduly casual, but that is merely a question of the form of legislative drafting, which is consistent, I remind her, with previous relevant legislation.

In addition, I reassure the hon. Lady that the principles of public law apply in any case. The Secretary of State therefore needs to act reasonably in fulfilling his functions under the Bill. That includes having a reasonable basis, supported by sufficient evidence, for coming to the conclusion that a person appears to be an overseas public authority prior to disclosing information. I hope I have provided the Committee with sufficient reassurances, and I therefore hope that the Opposition will withdraw the amendment.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I just want clarification from the Minister on the point of that being semi-judicial.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Quasi-judicial.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Quasi-judicial; sorry. How does that square with the responsibilities of the Minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

It is not a strange concept that a Minister acts in a quasi-judicial way in making such decisions.

I will now briefly turn to clause 55, which makes provision for specific restrictions in respect of information received under clause 54 from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. For the regime to function effectively, the Secretary of State needs access to the right information at the right time in order to make decisions with the fullest range of evidence available. One such source of information that might be invaluable to the Secretary of State is HMRC. Although the Government expect that the Secretary of State would seek first to secure the information he needs from the parties, it is important that such information can also be provided from elsewhere in Government, if it is held there.

Clause 55 provides that where information is received by the Secretary of State from HMRC or an onward recipient pursuant to clause 54, it may not be used for purposes other than the Secretary of State’s function under the Bill, and nor may it be further disclosed without HMRC’s consent. Clause 35 provides that disclosing information in contravention of clause 55(1) is an offence, as is appropriate.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am just finishing my point.

I hope that hon. Members will agree that clause 55 provides appropriately robust safeguards for the onward sharing or use of information received from HMRC for the purposes of the regime. I recommend that clauses 54 and 55 stand part of the Bill.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would like to address a question to the Minister. In his remarks on these clauses, he has highlighted a concern. I might have missed it, but I do not see where the Bill sets out the information gateway through which the Secretary of State will receive information from HMRC in order to exercise his functions under the Bill. Clauses 54 and 55 are grouped together under the title of “Information gateways”. They discuss information gateways from the Secretary of State to public authorities and others, but I would really appreciate it if the Minister could write to me to set out how HMRC will disclose information to BEIS for the functions of the Bill. I am sure I do not need to remind the Committee that information held by HMRC is generally considered very sensitive by businesses and individuals alike, and there are generally clear restrictions on its sharing.

To return to the clauses and amendment more generally, part of the Minister’s argument missed what our argument was. We recognise the importance of disclosing some information, and we also recognise that clause 55 sets out tests with regard to the purposes of disclosing the information, and even to how the information can be shared onwards and to what information should be disclosed. What it does not do is test the nature of the public authority. Although we have had an interesting and, indeed, lively debate about the difference between legal language and casual language, I think we can all agree that it is in the interests of our democracy that our legislation can be read and understood by ordinary people. If the term “appears” is to be understood as it is commonly understood, the clause requires the support of our amendment.

Break in Debate

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Clause 56 places a duty on the CMA to provide information and any other assistance to the Secretary of State to enable him to carry out his functions under the Bill. For this regime to function effectively, the Secretary of State needs access to the right information at the right time to make decisions with the fullest range of available evidence.

The Competition and Markets Authority, by virtue of its position as the market regulator, will naturally have access to information that could be relevant to the decisions made by the Secretary of State. Although in practice we would expect the CMA to be entirely willing to provide support to the regime, and we have worked closely with it in drafting the legislation, the clause ensures that there is no doubt in law about the duty placed on the CMA to provide any information in its possession or any other assistance in its power when directed to do so by the Secretary of State, so long as the information or assistance is reasonably required to facilitate the Secretary of State’s functions under the Bill.

I therefore anticipate that the power in the clause—mirroring section 105(5) of the Enterprise Act 2002—would, in practice, be used only rarely, given the Department’s good working relationship with the CMA. I hope the Committee will appreciate that the clause is quite simply about ensuring that the Secretary of State has access to pertinent information relevant to the decision-making process.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I note that the Minister has used precisely the opposite argument that he used for the last clause, relating to the word “must”. In clause 56, the CMA “must” give the Secretary of State information. [Interruption.]

Break in Debate

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I will say a few words to the clause—reflecting the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test, in particular—because there seems to be a theme in the Bill. I know that the Minister believes that the Bill is beyond improvement, and that he is reluctant even to contemplate any changes, as he said in response to the hon. Member for Glenrothes, but he must recognise that a consistent theme seems to be that requirements, or “musts”, are placed on others and the discretion—the “may”, if you like—is with the Business Secretary. The Minister himself observed that we are keen to allow the Business Secretary the necessary discretion to fully protect our national security, but does he see not that that would better achieved by clearly circumscribing the Business Secretary’s actions?

I also support my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington in his recent contribution. Throughout this Bill, we need to ensure that the resources are there when placing requirements on bodies. I hope that the Minister can give such reassurances. On that basis, we recognise that the clause should stand part.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 56 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 57

Data Protection

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Clause 57 provides that the provisions in parts 1 to 4 of the Bill containing a duty or power to disclose or use information do not authorise a contravention of data protection legislation, as set out in the Data Protection Act 2018. In addition, the clause provides that that information may be used or disclosed only if it does not contravene parts 1 to 7, or chapter 1 of part 9, of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which contains provisions about conducting interception, including restrictions on use and disclosure of intercepted information. These standard provisions are included where legislation concerns the use or disclosure of information. I hope that hon. Members will therefore be content to support this standard clause as part of the legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 57 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 58

Minor and Consequential Amendments and Revocations

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Break in Debate

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Clause 58 is purely technical in nature and inserts schedule 2 into the Bill. Schedule 2 provides for minor and consequential amendments and revocations. The Secretary of State currently has the power to intervene in qualifying mergers on national security grounds by issuing a public interest intervention notice, a special intervention notice or a European intervention notice under the Enterprise Act 2002, where the statutory requirements are met. It would clearly be unnecessary for the Secretary of State to retain these powers once the provisions of the Bill come into force. Schedule 2 therefore removes national security as a ground on which the Secretary of State may intervene under the Enterprise Act 2002. The Secretary of State will retain the powers in the Enterprise Act 2002 to intervene in qualifying mergers where these raise issues of media plurality, the stability of the UK financial system or maintaining in the UK the capability to combat and to mitigate the effects of public health emergencies.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 58 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 59

Overseas information disclosure

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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Clause 59 removes a restriction on the ability of the Competition and Markets Authority to co-operate with its international partners on merger cases. At the end of the transition period, the UK will no longer be part of the European Union’s competition system. The CMA will become responsible for investigating the effects on competition of larger international mergers, which were previously investigated by the European Commission. In a globalised economy, effective cross-border enforcement of competition law, which protects UK markets and consumers, relies increasingly on close international co-operation. The ability to disclose confidential information to assist an overseas authority with this enforcement activity, including in circumstances where parties have not provided their consent for the information to be disclosed, is a crucial ingredient of strong co-operation.

Moreover, the willingness of an overseas authority to disclose confidential information will often depend on whether the receiving authority can reciprocate. Any restrictions on the CMA’s ability to disclose such information could therefore inhibit the effectiveness of its international co-operation. The overseas disclosure gateway, which is set out in section 243 of the Enterprise Act 2002, provides an important mechanism for the CMA to disclose information to its overseas counterparts when consent has not been provided by relevant parties. The gateway permits disclosure for the purpose of helping an overseas authority’s enforcement activities.

However, the CMA is currently unable to use the overseas disclosure gateway to disclose information that comes to it in connection with a merger investigation. This means that the CMA is restricted from sharing certain information with its overseas counterparts that might be crucial to their investigation of a merger. This restriction presents two challenges for the UK’s competition authorities. First, it weakens the control of mergers with an international dimension that might adversely affect UK markets and consumers. Secondly, it inhibits the CMA’s ability to receive information that might be critical to its own merger investigations, because it has no ability to reciprocate. That, in turn, could also weaken its protection of UK markets and consumers. Clause 59 rectifies this by removing the restriction in the overseas disclosure gateway and allowing the CMA to use the gateway to disclose merger information to overseas public authorities.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I thank the Minister for setting out clause 59, because I had thought that it was inconsequential. I listened to what he said carefully, as I always do, but I did not hear him use the term “national security” once. The function of the Bill is national security. Although we have not defined it, we have debated that the Bill should be narrowly circumscribed to concerns of national security. Having listened carefully to the Minister, I get the impression that the clause has been added, and for very good reasons, to facilitate and enable the CMA’s competition and mergers powers.

We are putting the national security interest relating to mergers and acquisitions firmly here in the Bill, so the CMA is no longer concerned with and involved in that, yet this clause facilitates the CMA’s sharing of information with overseas public authorities. That information, by definition, will not be with regard to national security, because national security investigations will take place under the powers in the Bill that lie with the Secretary of State. I am somewhat confused as to what this clause is doing in the Bill. Would the Minister like to intervene to illuminate and clarify that the clause has something to do with national security?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady is quite right that it is to help the CMA.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I find it somewhat worrying, given our debates about keeping the Bill focused narrowly on national security, that the Government have added a clause to help the CMA in its functions. My hon. Friends and I have been thinking of a number of ways in which we would like to help the CMA in its functions and to improve the Enterprise Act, but we have been resolute in focusing on national security, because that is the matter before the Committee. Yet it seems that the clause, although very well meaning, is designed for an entirely different function.

You are not stopping the debate, Mr Twigg, so I presume it is in order to debate the functions of the CMA in relation to competitions and mergers generally, rather than to national security specifically.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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It is worth respectfully reminding the hon. Lady and the Committee that this is a separate topic in the Bill that is unrelated to the NSI regime, as set out in the explanatory notes.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I have the explanatory notes, and they do not state that the clause deals with a separate topic. Paragraph 173 states:

“Clause 59 amends the overseas disclosure gateway in section 243 of the Enterprise Act 2002, removing the restriction on UK public authorities disclosing information that comes to them in connection with a merger investigation under that gateway.”

The explanatory notes do not state that the functions of the CMA are separate from national security as clearly as the Minister just has. I do not want to detain the Committee, but I register the Labour party’s concern—

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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, because he is absolutely right that, rather than having a debate on the contents of the explanatory notes, line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill should focus on what the Bill says, and it does not mention general improvements to our competition and mergers regime, much as we feel that improvements could be made. Although we will not oppose the clause, I register our disappointment that we were not better informed of the Bill’s additional scope.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I think that is slightly unfair; it is included in page 4 of the explanatory notes.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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The Minister’s argument is to look at page 4 of the explanatory notes, but it does not say that the CMA’s functions are separate from national security.

Break in Debate

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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It says “interaction with” the CMA. but it does not say that that is separate from national security. In this afternoon’s sitting, when we discuss the additions that we would like to the remit and definition of “national security”, I hope that the Minister will recognise that the Bill is broader than n