Covid-19 Update

Peter Bone Excerpts
Thursday 13th January 2022

(1 week, 5 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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That is an important point. When the country first discovered omicron, the tests that were in stock were not designed for another huge wave. However, the people who run testing at UKHSA responded very quickly by ordering almost any lateral flow tests that meet our standards that they could find. As I said in my statement, in December, we had 300 million as opposed to the 100 million that was originally planned and, in January, there will be four times the pre-plan amount. In answer to the hon. Lady’s specific question, whether for a workplace, for visiting a care home or other reasons, people will be able to get access to the lateral flow tests now that millions more have arrived in the country. They have been distributed and people can get them online or from pharmacies.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I am very grateful to the excellent Secretary of State for coming to the Dispatch Box yet again to update the House and particularly for making an announcement first in the House rather than to the media.

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend agrees with Lord Frost, who said:

“I would like to see the Government ruling out lockdowns for the future, repealing the legislation, ending them…We can’t afford it, it doesn’t work, stop doing Covid theatre—vaccine passports, masks, stuff that doesn’t work”.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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I have huge respect for Lord Frost and for my hon. Friend, who has just shared some important points. No one wants to see this country go back into anything resembling a lockdown. As he will have heard earlier, while we have had to put some restrictions—the so-called plan B—in place over the past few weeks, I hope he will agree that, when we reflect on those restrictions and compare them with other countries in Europe, large or small, we are the freest country in Europe. The reason for that is the pharmaceutical defences that I talked about earlier: we are the most boosted large country in Europe, with the most antivirals per head and the most testing. That is what we should focus on for the future as we learn to live with covid.

Tobacco Control Plan

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair)
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Before we begin, I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when not speaking in the debate, in line with current Government and House of Commons Commission guidance. I remind Members that they are asked by the Commission to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. This can be done either at the testing centre in the House or at home. Please also give each other and members of staff space when seated, and when entering and leaving the room. That is particularly important today—it is so cold in this room that I do not blame you for huddling together. If any of you wish to put extra clothing on or to use a coat as a blanket, please do so.

Covid-19 Vaccinations

Peter Bone Excerpts
Thursday 4th November 2021

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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The hon. Lady makes a very good point. I find it really concerning that one in six people in hospital with covid are unvaccinated pregnant women and it is an issue that I wholeheartedly want to address. I encourage every lady who is either looking to become or is pregnant to talk to their midwife and their GP and get reassurance that vaccines are safe for that cohort of ladies. The best thing they can do is to protect themselves and their babies.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I got my jabs on time, I then managed to get covid—probably from this place—and I have also had my booster jab. I understand from the Minister that there is a new antiviral drug; how would that have been given to me when I was quite poorly with covid? When we have new drugs, can we give them easier names to pronounce?

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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My hon. Friend makes a good point: I do not know why the pharmaceutical companies come up with these tongue-tying names for their drugs. As I said earlier, we need to make sure that we roll out the new antiviral to the right people. The important and exciting thing is that the drug can be taken in people’s homes.

NHS England Funding: Announcement to Media

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 25th October 2021

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Edward Argar Portrait Edward Argar
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The hon. Lady is right that the waiting list is 5.7 million and growing. As she will have seen, the Secretary of State has made it clear that the number could grow to more than 13 million if all those who would normally have come forward in the previous year do come forward. That is exactly why we are taking these steps. Rather than expressing concern about the announcement, I would have thought she would welcome this investment, this new money, to help tackle those waiting lists. Of that 5.7 million, around 1.36 million—I may be slightly out—are waiting for diagnostic tests, which is why this is so crucial.

The hon. Lady asks where the money is coming from. She tempts me, but I am afraid she will have to wait until Wednesday’s Budget for the Chancellor to set out how he is funding each of the announcements.

The hon. Lady touched on the single most important element of our ability to tackle the pandemic and to respond to the consequences for the elective waiting list and, as I know she would, I put on record our thanks and gratitude to those staff. Radiologists and radiographers are the key people in this space, and since 2010 we have increased the clinical radiology workforce by 48% from 3,239 to 4,797 full-time-equivalent posts. The number of diagnostic radiographers is up by 33% since 2010.

Does that mean we need to continue to do more? Of course it does, and she is right to highlight the need for continued investment in our workforce. She will have seen last month’s announcement of £12 billion of funding, a significant part of which will help to build that workforce, on top of the commitments we made at the last election and on which we are delivering.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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The well-known journalist Michael Crick put out on Twitter:

“Tonight, in quick succession, I—& no doubt other reporters—received 6 Treasury press releases about what’s in next week’s budget—5 of them embargoed to various times over weekend… Whatever became of budget secrecy & announcing things to MPs first?”

The Government have put up a good Minister, so we cannot have a go at him for that, but why does he not go back and tell his friends in the Treasury, at the very least, to provide Members with copies of these embargoed press releases? If it is good enough for the media, it is good enough for us in this House.

Edward Argar Portrait Edward Argar
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, indeed my friend, and I understand and entirely appreciate where he is coming from. He is an assiduous parliamentarian and quite rightly, as Mr Speaker alluded to, he takes the role of this House extremely seriously, as do I. I suspect that what he says, just as what Mr Speaker said, has been heard loud and clear both in the Department of Health and Social Care and across the Government, including in the Treasury.

Health Incentives Scheme

Peter Bone Excerpts
Friday 22nd October 2021

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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My hon. Friend has a lot of knowledge as a former GP.

The pilot will tell us so much. It will be fascinating and I am sure that there will be lots of learning points that we can take forward into different disease areas such as type 2 diabetes.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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It is always good to have a Minister at the Dispatch Box making a statement. However, precedent says that on a private Members’ Bill day, statements are put on only if they are extremely urgent. It seems to me that this is about something for next year. There are 17 Bills to be debated today. Why was it urgent to have this statement in private Members’ time rather than Government time?

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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Obesity is a top priority for the Government and covid-19 has shown us the necessity of levelling up disparities in health. We know how important it is to update the House first and to allow it a chance to have its say, so I wanted to update it as soon as possible on this important issue.

Covid-19: Government Response

Peter Bone Excerpts
Thursday 21st October 2021

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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I am disappointed in the hon. Lady’s approach, because we have led the way not only in vaccines, sourcing them very early on, but in antivirals. It is fantastic news that we were first with vaccines and that, through the Prime Minister’s setting up the antivirals taskforce, we now have the opportunity of some antiviral tablets as well, which will make a huge, huge difference. We are continuing to lead the world.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Mr Speaker was right to blow a gasket this morning about the Government yet again announcing major policy in a press conference and not coming to this House. The excellent Minister at the Dispatch Box has been sent in on a sticky wicket without a bat. Would it be possible for her to tell us what bright spark in Downing Street thought it right that this House should be held in contempt so that they can get their communications strategy right? If she cannot tell me that now, perhaps she can tell me when she comes back later.

Covid-19 Update

Peter Bone Excerpts
Thursday 21st October 2021

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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The UK is a global leader in delivering covid vaccines to the most vulnerable countries around the world, including through the Prime Minister’s pledge to donate 100 million vaccine doses overseas by June next year. As of the middle of September, we had donated 10.3 million doses. Some 4.1 million were donated bilaterally to 16 countries and 6.2 million were distributed via COVAX.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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My GP has been excellent at promoting vaccinations. I had my second vaccination on 17 April. Five weeks ago, I got covid and I was pretty poorly, but thank God I had had the vaccinations. Last week, the GP chased me up to get my booster injection, which I had on 15 October, followed by the flu vaccination the next day. Other people who would like to have the booster have not yet got to the six-month limit. Does the Minister have a view about reducing that limit so that more people could get vaccinated more quickly?

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup
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My hon. Friend makes a good point. The data shows that although there is a drop-off in immunity, it does not drop off a cliff, so people who had their second vaccine five months ago still have plenty of immunity. I am delighted that he got his booster and his flu jab, and I encourage everyone else to get theirs too.

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 19th October 2021

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
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I am sure that the Chancellor will be setting out what will happen with the Barnett consequentials. Yes, this issue is important. The most important thing to say is that this is the start—we have £5.4 billion over the next three years for us to embed some of the changes we need in the system, but this levy will continue, and social care will be a big part of and a big beneficiary from that levy in the future.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Will the Minister recommend what North Northamptonshire Council has just done, which is to pay its social care workers as a minimum the real living wage and to backdate that to April this year? That would be a small step in helping with this situation.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
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Yes, I completely agree. Some 95% of the jobs are with private providers, so it is important that they take care of their workforce. There is a lot of competition for labour and a lot of skills shortages in our country. Most workers are on just above the national living wage, but it worries me that a third are on zero-hours contracts, so there is a lot we can do to improve the terms and conditions of the social care workforce. My hon. Friend raises a good leadership example.

Coronavirus Act 2020 (Review of Temporary Provisions) (No. 3)

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 19th October 2021

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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Thank you for that intervention, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think that I have been very clear not only about the history of the Act, but about the importance of Ministers coming forward for regular scrutiny to set out which provisions can be expired or suspended, or if expiry or suspension are not possible, why the provisions are necessary. That is the purpose of our debate today.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I think the problem for the Secretary of State is how the Government acted in the past by not bringing things to the House for debate; I know that the chairman of the 1922 committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady), used a lot of force to try to get them to do so. We are being asked to take something on trust from the Government when their previous behaviour towards the Act has been—how can I say it? —not very good.

--- Later in debate ---
Jonathan Ashworth Portrait Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab/Co-op)
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We do not oppose the renewal of the Act and we will not oppose its renewal in the Division Lobby, but I do have huge sympathy with the Members who have raised concerns about the way in which the Act is scrutinised and asked questions about whether there are alternative means of putting this legislation on the statute book. The main reason we will not oppose the Act is the provision of statutory sick pay from day one and not day four, which was the case before the Act received Royal Assent. Given that we have a Chancellor who has been very keen to cut back universal credit, I am not convinced that if the Act fell today the Chancellor would carry on paying statutory sick pay from day one, and would find time to introduce an appropriate Bill. However, I urge Ministers to try to find a better way for the Act to be scrutinised.

Let us think back to March 2020—and I remember it well. A deathly silence was falling upon our streets, as we knew that a deadly pandemic was set to spread with ferocity. We knew that the House had to act with urgency and haste. Indeed, I, as shadow Health Secretary, was invited to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister, to meet Dominic Cummings and to meet various officials, to discuss in principle agreeing to this Act on a cross-party basis. The then Health Secretary invited me to the Department of Health and Social Care on numerous occasions to sit down with him and his officials to discuss the content of the Act. We proceeded on a cross-party basis because we understood the gravity of the crisis that we were facing.

Measures were put in the Act that we had asked for, such as the provision of statutory sick pay from day one, but other measures were put in the Act that we had not asked for, although in the circumstances we were prepared to go along with them. One of the things that we asked of the Government, working with the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and other Members, was a renewal of the Act every six months, on a regular basis. From memory, I think we may have asked for a renewal every three months, but we will have to double-check with Hansard on that front. We also asked for the ability for various aspects of the Act to be expired.

Perhaps I am naive, but I did not anticipate that 18 months later the Act would be renewed again on the basis of a 90-minute debate not allowing Members to scrutinise this properly—and given the way in which the House has decided to debate it, Members cannot even table amendments and have their point of view expressed on the Order Paper. I strongly encourage the Government —the Executive who control the business of the House—to try to find a more satisfactory way in which the Act can be properly scrutinised, particularly if the Government are minded to renew it again in six months’ time rather than expire it, as was originally intended.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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The right hon. Gentleman is making a powerful argument. Given what he has said, would it not be a good idea for the Opposition to vote against the motion and perhaps defeat the Government, so that the correct procedures could be in place tomorrow?

Jonathan Ashworth Portrait Jonathan Ashworth
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The hon. Gentleman tempts me. I can understand that if the Act fell, there would be time for alternative provisions to be put in place, but I am afraid I do not have confidence in the continuation of this particular Treasury, which is keen to find savings in the public finances, to provide statutory sick pay from day one. Voting down the Act today would be voting down statutory sick pay from day one, and I do not want to see the Government revert to providing it from day four. That is why, although I have sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s point, I am not prepared to vote down the Act.

Covid-19 Vaccine Damage Bill

Peter Bone Excerpts
Friday 10th September 2021

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Yes, but perhaps it would be more convenient if I actually read out the answer that we received from the Minister. He said:

“Data on the number of deaths reported of people who have died within one, two and three months of having received a COVID-19 vaccination since 1 January 2021 is not available in the format requested.

Public Health England (PHE) monitors the number of people who have been admitted to hospital and died from COVID-19 who have received one or two doses of the vaccine and will publish this data in due course.”

That data has not yet been published. It is very important that we are able to put this issue into context. There is a lot more damage being done to our citizens as a result of covid-19 vaccinations than in any other vaccination programme in history. That does not mean to say that it is not worth while, and I am certainly not an anti-vaxxer or anything like that, but what is important is that, if people do the right thing, they should not be denied access to compensation.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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My hon. Friend is making a very strong case. Does he agree that we do not want to send a message from this House that vaccines are a bad thing? Vaccines are right and we should be vaccinated. Equally, on the rare occasion when it goes wrong, is it not right that compensation is made available—on those very rare occasions?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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That is exactly my point and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for summarising it so succinctly and accurately. That is where the Government come into this. Unfortunately, I know that the Minister will not have much time, if any, in which to expand on this issue today. I hope that he will be willing to arrange for me to be able to come along with one or two colleagues to talk to Ministers about this very important issues.