1 Penny Mordaunt debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Monday 4th May 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Angus Brendan MacNeil Portrait Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
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What role his Department played in the decision to restrict covid-19 testing to hospital admissions at the beginning of March 2020.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt) [V]
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The Prime Minister established new implementation committees to co-ordinate the covid response. The committees are supported by the Cabinet Office secretariat and meet regularly on all issues, including testing.

Angus Brendan MacNeil Portrait Angus Brendan MacNeil [V]
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Tapadh leibh, Mr Speaker. May I first say how sorry we are in Na h-Eileanan an Iar to hear the concerning news from our neighbours in the Isle of Skye about the covid outbreak in Portree? Over to the western—with ourselves, Na h-Eileanan an Iar—we are an ideal area really, with the lowest R rate, to conduct a “test, trace, isolate” pilot, and even more so with the kind offers of help from the world leaders in population testing: namely, our neighbours in the Faroe Islands. Given that, and if and when the Scottish Government give the green light to this sensible pilot, will the UK Government also assist, perhaps by using RAF training flights to take test samples on the half-hour flight from either Stornaway or Benbecula to the Faroe Islands?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman and all colleagues who have put forward ideas and solutions, and shared good practice in the early weeks of this crisis. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s request will have been heard by our joint Minister, the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer). Of course, Defence has stepped up in every case where it has been asked to do so, and I am sure that it will support testing wherever it is taking place, as well as the pilots.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
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What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on large-scale testing and tracing for covid-19.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt) [V]
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Both the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Health Secretary attend a daily meeting with the Prime Minister. Testing and tracing are a part of the issues that are considered in detail at that meeting.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson [V]
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It is clear that testing, tracing and tracking will be an essential part of our battle against coronavirus, and tech and IT will be required to support that. There have been concerns in the past few days about the allocation of these contracts, and perhaps about a bit of cronyism in Downing Street. What safeguards will the Minister put in place to ensure that applications, and the data that those applications use, will be safeguarded and used solely for the purpose of defeating coronavirus?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Clearly there are very strict protocols that surround any kind of procurement or pilot that might take place across any Government Department. Those protocols have given us confidence in the past, and there is no reason why they should not in the future. If the hon. Gentleman has concerns, he should raise them with the relevant Minister and certainly with the Cabinet Office, but those protocols are strong and have stood us in good stead; we have transparency around these issues.

Catherine McKinnell Portrait Catherine McKinnell [V]
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I am pleased that the Government recognise the importance of testing and tracing to contain the virus. It is just one of the issues that we need to get right before we can safely reopen schools. Headteachers in my constituency are really struggling to support vulnerable pupils, particularly with free school meal vouchers, because the system used by the Government’s chosen provider, Edenred, is not fit for purpose. Will the Government get a grip on this urgently, to ensure that our children at least are fed?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt [V]
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The hon. Lady is right that ensuring that we have the right testing and the right volume of testing in place is one of the five criteria for our being able to reopen society and ease lockdown measures. I know that there have been issues with the voucher system, and the Department for Education has been looking at that. If there any remaining issues in her constituency that she would like to flag up with me, I will take them up with the Department for Education.