Public Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey 4:15 pm, 1st December 2020

In this pandemic, the Government have always been behind the curve—too slow to take the necessary decisions, too slow into lockdowns and not making the right decisions in a timely way—which has led to this terrible double whammy of one of the highest per capita death rates in the world and the largest recession in Europe. There seems to be no forward-looking strategy to get ahead of the virus and the kind of issues that we know from the modelling are going to come up. Inadequate support has been provided to those who need to be supported. Instead, we have heard vainglorious announcements about moonshots and world-beating systems, and then a failure to deliver on that kind of boosterist language; there has been hyperbole and not enough delivery.

There has been a lack of trust in the rules, not least because they keep being changed; there are eight different iterations of the furlough scheme. There is no certainty with Government support, because they cannot stop fiddling and changing it, sometimes within weeks of announcing it. That has caused uncertainty and cynicism, and it is hard not to come to the conclusion that in the Prime Minister we have the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. This Government need to lead by example, so Dominic Cummings should have been sacked immediately for ignoring the lockdown rules, and that would avoided an awful lot of cynicism that came in the aftermath of that terrible decision.

The Government need to reward good behaviour, not punish bad, so they need to enable isolation by paying proper sick pay and supporting those who have to isolate. The £500 payments are not adequate, and they are running out in some areas of the country, with no guarantee that they will be increased. They are barely reaching one in eight of those who have to isolate. This gives people who cannot afford to self-isolate an incentive not to download the app, not to take the tests and to hope it will be okay. The Government need to work with the grain of public requirements, necessities and behaviour, not against it.

The Government need to tell the truth, not to keep the truth from us in this assessment we have had, which is full of weasel words. The Government also need to show moral leadership: stop setting up VIP lanes for Tory donors and their mates and spending £18 billion of public procurement on this. The Government need to help the 3 million excluded people, who do not want to hear that £200 billion has been spent on the economy when they have not seen any of it and are in desperate need. The Government need to be honest and up front, and then they will get support.