Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, South West Wiltshire 3:07 pm, 13th October 2020

I support these restrictions with a heavy heart. On balance, I will be supporting the Government this evening, but I want to make just a few quick points.

I would be very careful about subscribing to the Vallance/Whitty orthodoxy that informed these regulations, while not at all examining very carefully respectable bodies of medical opinion to the contrary. I would cite particularly the Heneghan/Sikora/Gupta line. It is important that the Secretary of State and his ministerial team address those things head-on and treat them with the respect that they deserve.

The Secretary of State has my utmost sympathy. When coming into office, he opened a box marked “public health” and found tools for doing all sorts of things, such as sorting out lifestyle problems—obesity, smoking, diet and all of that. I suspect that he found very few that were geared towards dealing with infectious diseases, particularly this infectious disease. He has done some good things to try to remedy that in a very short space of time. May I suggest to him, to sort out the shadow Secretary of State’s obsession with Serco, that he looks again at the Public Health Laboratory Service, which was in its second incarnation as the Health Protection Agency when it was abolished in 2012. He might find in such a thing the means to deal with infectious diseases of this sort in the future.

We need to be careful about groupthink, confirmation bias, a thin evidential basis and uncertainty masquerading as certainty. There is a huge margin of uncertainty with all this, and we all need to develop a level of humility in our attitudes towards dealing with this crisis. That is why I shall be supporting the Government this evening.