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)|
(3 days, 12 hours ago)Written Statements
(1 month ago)Commons Chamber
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
(1 month, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
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.
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.
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?
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?
Break in Debate
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.
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.
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.
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.
(1 month, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
(1 month, 3 weeks ago)Westminster Hall
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.
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?
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.
That this House has considered e-petition 554316 relating to roll-out of covid-19 vaccinations.
(2 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
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?
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?
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?
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?
Break in Debate
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?
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?
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?
(2 months, 3 weeks ago)Westminster Hall
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.
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.
That this House has considered e-petition 323442, relating to vaccination for Covid-19.
(2 months, 3 weeks ago)Public Bill Committees
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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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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?
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
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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?
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.
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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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.
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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