I beg to move,
That this House
has considered e-petitions relating to the recognition and reward of health and social care workers.
The Petitions Committee is delighted to have been allocated this business time today. On behalf of more than 4.6 million people from across the country who have signed petitions relating to this pandemic and other issues, let me say that we hope this is now the first of many debates we will be able to have, as 29 petitions are waiting to be debated and more are heading toward the 100,000 signature threshold—the petitioners’ concerns must be heard.
I am honoured to be leading this debate today on recognising and rewarding our health and social care workers. Indeed, the first ever e-petition debate in Parliament was on contracts and conditions for NHS staff, back in September 2015. I also believe we could hold this debate 10 times over, to recognise the contribution of so many during what has been an incredibly challenging time for our country. I am thinking of those who have kept our public services going—those in the police, the fire service, local government and other government departments, who have been working tirelessly to ensure that the support that is needed gets to households and businesses—and those who have been working in our shops, ensuring that we can all get essential supplies. There are so many people to recognise and thank for their service.
It is absolutely right that every week for 10 weeks, we came together especially, as a country, on a Thursday evening at 8 o’clock to recognise and clap for our carers. It was incredibly moving every time. Taking a moment to stop and reflect on the lives lost to covid-19, but also on those many lives saved through the tremendous skill, care and sacrifice of health and social care workers right across our country, we must never forget a frontline on which more than 331 NHS and care workers across the UK died as a result of covid-19. Indeed, it is concerning that we do not know exactly how many health and care workers have sadly lost their lives, because the Government are not producing consistent figures. That is one of the things that I ask the Minister to update the House on in her response.
Yet, as so many people have contacted me to say, those same people have been saving lives and caring for us day after day, long before this horrendous virus presented itself. It is absolutely right that we should clap and thank them for their extraordinary service during this period, but we must also recognise that a clap and a thank you is not enough. It was not enough before this pandemic, and it certainly is not enough now.