Covid-19: Large-scale Testing and Tracing

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 4th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

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.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Chair, Petitions Committee, Chair, Petitions Committee

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.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

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.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

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?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

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.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Chair, Petitions Committee, Chair, Petitions Committee

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?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General

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.