Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:26 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses) 6:26 pm, 18th November 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Dr Spencer. I appreciate that time is short, but let me start by offering my heartfelt thanks to NHS staff, care staff, key workers, volunteers and, indeed, our whole community. There has been the most terrific national effort at a time of great crisis that is, indeed, unprecedented in peacetime.

I would like to correct—or to set the record straight—what the hon. Gentleman said about the economy. It is quite clear from international evidence, including from the OECD and other economic sources, that we are not facing an either/or choice between a short lockdown and protecting the economy. A shorter lockdown—a quicker lockdown—protects the economy. Indeed, SAGE recommended that the Government should take action earlier this autumn, and it is such a tragedy that they did not. They are now, once again belatedly, following advice. I urge the Prime Minister to try to react much more quickly to these pressing matters.

I would like to make two key points based on casework from my constituency. I am sure that the Minister will want to consider them, but I urge her and her colleagues to take them on board. The first is about the expansion of testing, and it relates to the importance of testing home care staff—care staff who visit vulnerable people at home. I had a fascinating but worrying discussion with an elderly resident who pointed out to me that she is visited by her home carer, who has to see 14 other people each day yet has no testing.

Surely, the Government should be prioritising that form of testing—it is absolutely common sense—in the same way that they are now belatedly tackling the need to test care home staff on a much more regular basis. I am grateful to the Minister, and I appreciate that she is in a difficult position with the short supply of testing, but I urge her to consider these sorts of cases. It was a very difficult conversation that I had to have with that elderly woman, who is vulnerable, yet her carer is unable to get a test. I hope that the Government can address that soon.

My other point picks up on something that other Members have already spoken about eloquently. There are many groups of people who have been missed by the Government’s attempts to support the economically vulnerable, but following a conversation I had with a constituent, I want to draw the Minister’s attention to one particular group: people with small businesses who have had no support whatsoever. There is quite a large group of them—3 million people. In a country of 65 million, that is a really large proportion.

I wish that the Chancellor, for all his eloquent rhetoric in the House, would look at that practical problem. He has had six months to address it, and it has not been addressed. The case of my constituent is really telling. She set up a new small business in a thriving sector of the economy just before the pandemic started. She had no idea, but she was completely vulnerable to this terrible pandemic. Please will Ministers address the problem of these 3 million people? They are in desperate need.