Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:20 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Independent, Leicester East 6:20 pm, 18th November 2020

Amid a deadly second wave and record-breaking numbers of covid-19 infections, it is important to act for change. The virus is continuing to rise. The measures put in place are not working. Time is running out. My constituency of Leicester East knows this only too well as our city has been under enhanced restrictions and/or lockdown longer than any other area in the UK, yet our numbers are continuing to rise.

People in Leicester East and across the country cannot afford to live below the minimum wage. Even before this crisis, more than half of the 40 million people in poverty in the UK were part of the working poor—suffering in-work poverty. Child poverty is off the scale due to a decade of austerity, extortionate rents and declining living standards. The Conservatives have overseen an unacceptable breakdown in our social contract in which a job no longer provides a route out of destitution. Yet now, during an unprecedented crisis, the Government are handing out poverty payslips and driving our residents into hardship. Will the Government today commit to ensure that no one receives less than a living wage throughout the remainder of this crisis? We are only as safe as the most vulnerable in our society, so, yes, local and regional authorities need funding to use their discretion to fully support undocumented workers and those on no recourse to public funds. Will this Government relax the barriers and grant status now to all undocumented workers, so that they can access much-needed social security benefit and not be destitute or desperate?

What makes this lack of support even more disgraceful is the billions that the Government have been willing to pay to private companies to oversee the disastrous test, track and trace system. The recent National Audit Office investigation into Government procurement has highlighted cronyism at the heart of Government. That has had a devastating impact on the spread of the virus in Leicester. In one week this month, the success rate of Leicester’s privatised contact system was just 55.5% and this has decreased by more than 5% on the previous month. That means that, in one week alone, nearly 700 Leicester residents who may have been exposed to the virus were not informed and therefore did not self-isolate. This is a Government who are frivolous when it comes to handing out public money to Tory donors or private companies, but penny-pinching when it comes to bailing out communities and the 3 million excluded, including the self-employed across the country.

As the representative of one of the most diverse areas of the UK, I am also especially concerned about the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on African, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Recently published research by the universities of Leicester and Nottingham found that black people were twice as likely, and Asian people 1.5 times more likely, to be infected with covid-19 compared with white—