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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education) 6:15 pm, 14th October 2020

I spent an early part of my career in the sales industry, selling in the IT sector. I just wish that at some point I had come across a customer with as much money as this Government, and one so easily impressed and willing to give money to suppliers and then to defend them when they let them down. I never came across a customer nearly as naive as this Government.

Occasionally, a story seems to demonstrate a much wider point. So it was today with the scoop revealed by Ed Conway of Sky News that the Government are paying £7,360 per day to the management consultants at Boston Consulting Group, who are in charge of test and trace. That is the equivalent of a £1.5 million salary to preside over this shambolic system that is letting down all the people in my constituency and so many others. We will not find dedicated public servants being paid £7,500 a day or £1.5 million a year, but we will find a basic competence, a knowledge of their area and a desire to ensure that systems work before they are implemented. That is what we need right now in our system.

It is telling that, in a debate of this importance, with every Back-Bench Member of Parliament invited to contribute, just three Conservative MPs wanted to put their name on the list and say, “I will go in and speak up for the Government, because I think they are doing a good job.” That is because people in their constituencies know what is happening, and Conservative Members do not want it to be on their record that they were the ones speaking up for the Government, so they leave it to us to come here and expose the reality. That is what is happening. There are 365 Tory MPs—where are they? They are off in their offices hiding, while people in my constituency are being let down. [Interruption.] I accept that three have turned up, and I thank them for that, but I am talking about the rest of them.

We all remember when Leicester first went into lockdown and everyone said, “Oh my God! The rate in Leicester is appalling—those poor people.” The infection rate was less than 100 per 100,000 then.