Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:49 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton 2:49 pm, 1st December 2020

Mr Harper is absolutely right to say that this Government have not provided the information the House requires to make a balanced judgment about the right thing to do on these regulations. I cannot vote for these regulations. My constituents are sick and tired of how they are being treated by the Prime Minister and the Government. The Government’s strategy seems to be all over the place; by all accounts, it depends on who the Prime Minister last spoke to.

Friends of the Government have made millions, while some of my constituents have had no help whatsoever and have lost their jobs, or their jobs are hanging on by a thread. Just last night, two constituents told me that they had been made redundant and another told me about their son who had lost his apprenticeship.

Of course, forgotten and excluded by this Government are the sole traders who are limited companies, self-employed people, who are getting little or no help, and hospitality, which has been sacrificed by this Government. I do not know whether it is the same in the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ constituencies, but many pubs in my constituency are very much part of the community and the culture. They and restaurants have done everything possible to make themselves covid-safe, spending many thousands of pounds. There is still no evidence to suggest that any sizeable outbreaks occur in hospitality.

Many of my constituents have gone into debt with their rent, mortgages and bills, and they have no idea how they will pay for this. Of course, that also has unintended health consequences. Children are petrified about the exams next year, because they have been in and out of school for months now.

A question that has never been properly addressed, which I have spoken about on a number of occasions in this House, is that of the unintended health consequences. I put in a freedom of information request to my local clinical commissioning group about referrals from GPs, and the information I got back was staggering: GP referrals for first out-patient appointments for cardio dropped by 66% between September 2019 and September 2020, with gastro referrals dropping by 64%, renal medicine referrals dropping by 57% and ophthalmology referrals dropping by 68%. Those drops are just in referrals, never mind what has happened to the waiting times, where targets are being missed time and again. I have also asked the CCG for figures to let me know whether there have been excess non-covid deaths at home.

I wish briefly to mention councils, which are not getting enough support. Halton Borough Council is doing a really good job, but it will have a deficit of about £8.6 million. It needs more support, and it is important that we give more support and financial aid to councils to do more locally. Local is better and it proves to be more effective.

I wish briefly to mention the vaccines. If, as we are hearing, these vaccines are going to be very effective, it is even more crucial that the Government get their strategy right for delivery and that we do not see a repeat of the incompetence we saw over personal protective equipment and test and trace. We need to make sure we all work together for effective take-up. Retaining people’s confidence will be crucial to that, and we do not need Government incoherence. On 16 October, the Secretary of State said that a new, simpler system of alert levels would be in place, but three weeks later we went into a national lockdown. Today, we see that the Government want to put in place new regulations and restrictions, which will be reviewed again later this month.

My constituents deserve to be treated with respect and not patronised; being granted a few days of normality over Christmas by the Government as some sort of reward for their sacrifice is not on. In the real world, many people will not have an enjoyable Christmas, as they have lost their jobs and are desperately worried about their finances. I am not against restrictions in total. There have to be some restrictions, but there has to be a balance involving the economic and health consequences as well. I will be voting against these restrictions tonight.