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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 16th March 2020.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston 4:07 pm, 16th March 2020

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I think it shows the spirit of this place at the moment that we are all coming up with very important suggestions. No stone should be left unturned in using all the resources at our disposal to tackle this virus.

As we move to the later stages of the Government’s plan, do we expect to see the cancellation of elective surgery, which will only make those record waiting lists grow further? It is fair to say that that would not be a surprise, but a reduction in elective surgery will have a knock-on impact on trust finances in the longer term. I would be grateful for some clarity about what contingencies will be put in place to help trusts financially in these difficult times, especially when they are collectively in deficit to the tune of almost £1 billion already. Is there also a case to defer loan repayments that are currently made by trusts back to the Department for a period of time?

There was a great deal of surprise and disappointment at seeing no mention of public health in the Budget. Public health directors are currently preparing local responses to covid-19. They need to expend significant sums of money on that, yet they do not know what the public health allocation will be for the next financial year, which starts in just over two weeks. I am sure the Government understand what an invidious position that puts them in, and we urgently need those allocations to be published. Will the Minister say when that will happen? Will he assure the House that the funds will be sufficient to help local authorities deal with these issues?

Has any assessment been made of the extra demands placed on public health budgets regarding preparatory work? It is likely that the knock-on economic effect will severely impact on council finances. Fewer people will use services that they currently pay for, such as leisure facilities, and it is likely that council tax collection rates will drop. There will almost certainly be unanticipated expenditure from covering staff sickness, and that is before we get to social care.