Covid-19: UK-wide Response

Scotland – in the House of Commons on 9th September 2020.

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Photo of Suzanne Webb Suzanne Webb Conservative, Stourbridge

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on co-ordinating a UK-wide response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on co-ordinating a UK-wide response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Government Whip

We can respond effectively to covid-19 only if we have a UK-wide approach. Pooling resources and using the strength of the UK economy enables the Government to support jobs and business and to provide the extra funding and other resources to the devolved Administrations to help them combat the virus.

Photo of Suzanne Webb Suzanne Webb Conservative, Stourbridge

The UK Government have delivered an extra £12.7 billion to the devolved Administrations throughout this pandemic, including £6.5 billion for the Scottish Government. Does my hon. Friend agree that the enormous level of financial support that has already been provided showcases the strength and value of this great and united Union?

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Government Whip

I very much agree with my hon. Friend; the strength of the UK economy and the Treasury’s international standing means that we have been able to fund the covid-19 response across all parts of the UK. Given those facts, it is worth considering the point made last week by Alex Salmond’s former adviser:

“Thirteen years in government and the SNP have yet to show their workings” on how a separate Scotland would manage financially.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

There is no doubt that some confusion is caused when the different Administrations come to different conclusions based on our advice about quarantine, numbers of people who can gather together and so on. The Minister has just spoken about a UK-wide approach. Would it not be better if some of these regulations were decisions for the UK Government?

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Government Whip

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. We have already had examples of collaboration during this period. For example, on 23 August, the chief medical officers for all parts of the UK issued a joint statement on the current evidence of the risks and benefits to health from schools and childcare settings reopening. UK and devolved Administration Ministers meet regularly to explore and discuss these issues. Although it is right that across the UK different authorities should be able to respond to specific circumstances, I hope that political considerations do not lead to this being difference just for the sake of it.

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

Will my hon. Friend expand on the success and the effectiveness of the Joint Biosecurity Centre in informing decision makers around the UK on our best way to combat coronavirus?

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Government Whip

My hon. Friend highlights just another example of where working together strengthens our response. I am delighted that legislation has been passed enabling the Scottish Government and the UK Government to allow the JBC to provide services to Ministers and officials in both Administrations.