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

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 12:40 pm, 28th April 2020

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions. On the subject of communication between the Government and parties, in nearly all of the 30 meetings that my ministerial implementation group has held, there have been representatives of the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. I have had the opportunity to discuss how we can co-ordinate our response with Scottish Government Ministers including Mike Russell, Aileen Campbell and John Swinney, and it has been a pleasure to do so. They have operated in a collaborative fashion, as have the Labour members of the Welsh Government, and the Democratic Unionist party, Sinn Féin, Ulster Unionist party, Alliance, and Social Democratic and Labour party Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Indeed, I noted that on Radio 4’s “Westminster Hour” just the other night, Kirsty Blackman, the deputy leader of the SNP group in Westminster, paid tribute to the extent of collaborative work. I am sorry that Pete Wishart does not agree with the deputy leader of his parliamentary delegation and has such little faith in Scottish Government Ministers making sure that priorities are addressed in the daily meetings we have.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the stockpile of personal protective equipment. The stockpile that we had before this pandemic was explicitly designed in accordance with advice from the Government’s scientific advisers on the new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group, and of course it was explicitly for a flu pandemic. The nature of coronavirus is different from that of a flu pandemic, as we all know, and we, like every Government across the world, have had to respond to this new virus by ensuring, not just with personal protective equipment but in every respect, that we are in a position to retool, refit and upgrade our response.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the support that the UK Government are giving to Scotland. I am pleased to confirm that the UK pandemic stockpile has been responsible for transferring millions of items to the NHS in Scotland. It is also the case that the new testing centres in Scotland have been set up with the assistance of the British Army, and that our RAF has been responsible for supporting the Scottish national health service in making sure that individuals in remote island communities can receive the care they need. And, of course, it is the strength of the UK Exchequer that has allowed business support to be provided to Scottish businesses.

One of the truly impressive things about the response across these islands has been the way in which people have put aside their ideological and political differences to work in the interests of one United Kingdom. Even at a time of test and trial for our nations, we should take pride in the efforts of the Northern Ireland, Scottish, Welsh and English people.