Just yesterday the Prime Minister and the Government unleashed a new package of restrictions and tiers in order to tackle the transmission of the coronavirus. Yesterday afternoon, in a meeting with west midlands MPs, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care told the MPs present that all bar two areas—Dudley and Coventry—will be placed on tier 2 restrictions. When I asked him whether he could let me know the scientific basis for Coventry and Dudley being on tier 1 restrictions, and what could trigger a move to tier 2, my question was ignored and unanswered. When I asked how soon after a governmental decision has been made to move a constituency from one tier to another Members and community leaders would be alerted, I received no answer.
This is utterly unacceptable. My constituents in Coventry North West deserve better. They are doing everything they can to hold up their end of the bargain to ensure that transmission is low and stays that way. They deserve more clarity on the evidence behind the Government’s decisions. Clarity ensures adherence. Without it we are flailing in the wind, and people are suffering. Right now, the Government risk losing confidence in their ability to see us through this crisis. They have wasted months of precious time and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, and are still not getting it right. Will the Minister let us know just how much notice each local area will be given if a change in its restriction level occurs, and how local communities and local leaders will be told of these decisions?
To borrow a phrase that we are all too familiar with, winter is coming. It is imperative for the Government to be better prepared to tackle the virus, and equip our hospitals and care sectors with the resources they need to handle the second wave. I fear that the Government have not learnt lessons from spring, and that our care sector will be under-protected. I fear that our hospitals will be ill prepared to cope, and that non-covid patients will once again be relegated to the back burner, because the right precautions and planning are not in place to deal with what may come.
Will the Minister let the House know what the Government are doing to prepare for the pressures on our NHS that winter will bring, in particular for cancer patients? What plans will be in place clearly to address sprawling waiting lists for cancer services, and what additional support have the Government given to the many thousands of people who have had their cancer treatment disrupted over the course of the pandemic? These are pertinent question that we have asked the Government time and again, but yet again they are providing us with little clarity and no answer—on the back foot, as usual.
This is an opportunity for the Government to do better, and, in the interests of the country, I really hope they do.