Public Health: Coronavirus Regulations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Naseem Shah Naseem Shah Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 4:17 pm, 13th October 2020

My constituency has been under what are now known as tier 2 restrictions for 75 days. Yesterday evening, public health authorities and the local authority were told that we should now enter into talks to consider going into the highest tier. That quite shocked me, because it was not what I was told in the calls with the Secretary of State yesterday or in any other calls. It has also come as a surprise to people in Bradford.

Just as other Members have made cases for their constituencies, I will be no different in making the case for mine. Bradford West is a special case in that in 2017-18 child poverty was at 50.9% when we take into account children’s deprivation and housing costs. We have the seventh highest rates of unemployment in the country. Under the current support package, minimum wage workers on £8.72 will have to pay rent and live off £5.84 if the businesses they work for are forced to close. Those excluded from any financial support from the Government during the pandemic face another £20 cut in their universal credit claims as the Government drive on with their roll-back of vital support.

I ask the Minister directly: how does he expect people to survive in a constituency such as Bradford West, which has rising rates of child deprivation and is currently under additional restrictions, if their places of work were to close? Do not he and the Government see how the lack of adequate support alongside these restrictions will, rather than preventing a rise in child poverty, lead to an increase in child poverty in constituencies such as mine? If these measures are to be effective, the support needs to be adequate. I therefore ask him to speak to the Chancellor and consider additional funding support for constituencies such as mine. I know this Government may not have the political will to try to reduce child deprivation in constituencies such as mine, but I sincerely hope that they have the moral will to do so.

When history judges how we responded to this pandemic, social media has plenty of memes that give really good outlines of what the Government’s U-turns have been—from “whack-a-mole” to “world-beating” and all these “moonshot” theories. But actually the real test will be: how will our next generation make their way? Will their education be right? Will they be the next generation of poverty, even after 10 years of austerity and 10 years of this Government? What will life look like for my children and the children beyond? That will be the real test, so that is the responsibility the Government need to step up to today.