Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:22 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Labour, Pontypridd 6:22 pm, 14th October 2020

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Mr Deputy Speaker. I simply must use this opportunity to echo the sentiments of my constituency neighbours and hon. Friends the Members for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) about the Welsh Labour Government’s approach to contact tracing. In Wales, contact tracing is managed by local authorities and health boards and allows for a more cohesive approach to contacting those at risk of contracting the virus.

I truly feel sorry for my colleagues who represent areas across England, both in this place and at local authority level. Shockingly, councils across England are rapidly losing faith in the Government’s shambolic track and trace system and are being forced to take action themselves. By contrast, the Welsh Labour Government have taken a cautious yet clear approach to the coronavirus, with local contact tracing at the very heart of their policy. I have said it many, many times and I am happy to keep saying it: where Wales leads, England should follow. I sincerely hope that after this debate the Minister will be able to convince England’s Health Secretary to follow the localised approach of track and trace, which is clearly the best option if we are ever to get a grip on this virus.

Sadly, even with our fantastic Welsh Labour Government, this Government’s chaotic handling of the coronavirus has still had a significant impact on people in Wales. Colleagues will have heard that the First Minister of Wales has now had to announce that he has been forced to introduce new regulations to protect the health of the people in Wales, after this Government have yet again stood back. The Prime Minister fails to engage with the Welsh Labour Government, and in doing so he has failed the people across Wales. Hundreds of people in my constituency of Pontypridd have been pushing for restrictions on travel into Wales for people who are living in coronavirus hotspots in England, yet the Prime Minister ignores them.

The UK Government are cherry-picking what they want and when they want to support the devolved nations, but on coronavirus testing, tracking and tracing, they are causing more delays, damage and destruction. It simply is not fair to the people in Wales, and we deserve better. The Minister may also be aware that there are a number of coronavirus testing sites in Rhondda Cynon Taf, including one in Treforest in my constituency. I do not believe that any of us in this place are in a position to refuse help for local authorities with coronavirus testing, but I am flabbergasted that the UK Government have gone ahead and launched the site without consulting the Welsh Government. I could get over this if I had faith in the UK Government’s system in the first place. Thankfully, in Wales we have the Welsh Government, who have been able to step in where possible, but this simply should not be the case.

I fully support the collaborative approach to tackling the virus, but this can only work when the UK Government can admit, acknowledge and act on their own mistakes and failings. I hope that ultimately the Minister sees sense and acknowledges that the system for track and trace across England is on its knees. Only when we have a robust, local authority-led track and trace system in place across the UK will we ever have any hope of seeing coronavirus rates reduce across all our nations.