This crisis has created unbearable pressure on our nurses, doctors and hospital leaders, and I want to thank them for all they do. Many NHS staff are effectively the walking wounded. They have been operational without a break, exhausted, stressed and traumatised, for so long. Today, I want assurances that when decisions are made about how and when to end this lockdown, Ministers will be guided only by science, resources and the trajectory of the virus.
When staff are so stretched, local decision making about resources is paramount. Last week, we learned that the Nightingale in Newham is to be open for patients as well as for vaccination, but there is suspicion in my patch that some decisions are not based on clinical need, because there have never been enough staff to run the Nightingale at a reasonable capacity. We are struggling to staff the facilities that we have got. Where are all these additional medics coming from? We need sensible local decisions. For heaven’s sake, we have the highest infection rate in London.
I know that we have absolutely no choice but to lock down hard to save lives, but that has to be matched with fair support for all. I am thinking especially about the hospitality, events and cultural sector, which is struggling. The wedding industry is huge in Newham. It has had to push back the time when it can take bookings again, and it is struggling. So is the supply chain and its employees, and wedding dress shops, caterers and jewellers too.
We pray that the vaccine programme works, and that it works rapidly, but vulnerable sectors in our economy will need support for months. Yesterday, however, the Chancellor offered no additional support—nothing new to protect struggling sectors of the economy, nothing for struggling families, and still absolutely nothing for those excluded from support time and again. Why did he bother to turn up?
Why are we seeing children living in poverty still with no IT devices or broadband, and why are they now being cheated out of food that the public purse paid for? Surely, every single Member has seen the paltry rations we are told 30 quid pays for. Seriously, where are they shopping? We knew for months that this moment was coming again. This ain’t our first lockdown—we knew what the implications would be. There are absolutely no excuses for constantly doing too little, too late.