The UK has confirmed that we will participate in the current joint EU procurement scheme on therapeutics for covid-19 that is soon to launch. Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK did not receive an invitation in time to join the previous four EU joint procurements. However, participating in those four initial joint procurement schemes would not have allowed us to do anything that we have not already been able to do for ourselves. We will consider participating in all other future schemes on a case-by-case basis and on the basis of public health requirements and needs.
Whatever mistakes were made or opportunities missed in the past, on the day that the UK has overtaken Italy as the country with the worst death toll in Europe, what reassurance can the Minister give the public that decisions taken now and in the future will be driven entirely by the public interest and not distorted by anti-European dogma?
I gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that there is no suggestion of any decision having been influenced in the way that he suggests. Indeed, the permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office made it clear in his clarification to the Foreign Affairs Committee that this was not a political decision. I reiterate that we are open to participating in future schemes on the basis of public health requirements and on a case-by-case basis.
Operation Cygnus in October 2016 showed that the UK would struggle in a pandemic due to a lack of both ventilators and personal protective equipment for staff. Why did the Secretary of State not act on it?
The Government did act in looking at all previous modelling and all previous exercises. That is why the UK was well prepared. Let me take the example of ventilators, which she mentioned. The UK has massively increased the number of ventilators available to our NHS, meaning that at no point thus far in this pandemic has there been a shortage of ventilators. I reiterate, returning to the original question, that participating in those four initial joint procurement schemes with the EU would not have allowed us to do anything we have not already been able to do for ourselves.