Public Services

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 28th April 2020.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 12:40 pm, 28th April 2020

Thank you very much indeed, Mr Speaker.

May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for prior sight of his statement, albeit at the last possible moment, and gently encourage him to do more to engage with all Opposition parties throughout this pandemic? We have had no communication with him for weeks.

May I join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to all those who work in our public services? They go way above and beyond in their duty of care for all nations. I also, of course, welcome Rachel Reeves to her new place on the Labour Front Bench. I, too, look forward very much to working with her.

Those in our public services should expect our full support and to be given the very best equipment to carry out their heroic and difficult tasks. Last night the nation watched with horror the BBC’s “Panorama” report on a timetable of inaction and unpreparedness. It reported that those working in public services were being sent out to the frontline without the necessary protection, and that the Government were told years ago to stockpile certain PPE to cope with a pandemic but failed to do so.

May I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman some gentle questions? First, why were we so unprepared? Why were gowns, visors, swabs and body bags left out of the stockpile when it was set up in 2009? Surely cleaning products are not counted as PPE, and there should be no question at all that individual gloves are counted as single PPE items. I also want the right hon. Gentleman to convince me that paper towels are not counted as PPE. The Royal College of Physicians has found that 27% of doctors are reusing, or have used, their PPE. Why are they having to reuse PPE?

The Health Secretary said that 11 million PPE items had been sent to Scotland, which is our responsibility, from the UK pandemic stockpile, but that has now been downgraded to only “committed”. How many items from that 11 million have actually been delivered?

We all want to get behind this Government and to cheer them on when they are doing their best, but we also want them to admit when mistakes are made and to acknowledge shortcomings. Is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster now prepared to acknowledge his shortcomings and admit to some of those mistakes?