Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:53 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Dan Carden Dan Carden Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury) 5:53 pm, 14th October 2020

It is very difficult to convey the real strength of feeling across Liverpool at the utter failure of this Government on care homes, PPE, and test and trace. Constituent after constituent has come to my office with heartbreaking stories. One was sent to south Wales on a 70-mile journey, two-and-a-half hours in the car with an autistic child, only to find that the test and trace centre had closed for the day because it had run out of tests. The petrol cost them £40 that they simply did not have.

The anger and frustration are not just at the fact that the response is failing, but that it is failing because the Government refused to enable and invest in local authorities and public health teams, and instead chose to pump billions into scandal-ridden Government contractors that have a record of failure after failure. Under the cover of this pandemic, billions of pounds of public money has been handed to faceless corporations, including Tory-linked firms, without competition or transparency, and without democratic accountability—or any accountability to the public, for that matter. It is money that should have been invested in our national health service and that should have left a legacy for the British people by building up the properly funded public services we can all rely on in the future, but instead it was siphoned off.

The most egregious example is the eye-watering £12 billion of public money handed to private companies, including Serco, for this failing test and trace system. The failures of Serco are well documented so I will not repeat them, but when I asked the Government what penalties will apply to private sector companies that fail to meet the terms of their contract, the answer came back and it was clear: none whatsoever. In fact, Serco is being rewarded for its failure with more and more lucrative contracts. The cronyism is well documented as well. Conservative Baroness and business executive Baroness Harding was appointed as the head of Track and Trace. The Serco chief executive officer is the brother of a former Tory MP, and Tory MPs are on the boards of companies winning contracts. If we have a problem with any of this, why not take it up with the Government’s anti-corruption champion—Dido Harding’s husband and a Tory MP? The whole thing stinks. This Government’s incompetence, cronyism and ideological obsession with outsourcing and rip-off privatisation have undermined our NHS and put lives at risk.