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Covid-19: Holiday and Caravan Parks - Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 3:15 pm, 23rd March 2020

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that residents in holiday or caravan parks who are self-isolating due to COVID-19 are not adversely impacted by the closure of such parks.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My Lords, the Government are doing absolutely everything they can to tackle the pandemic and mitigate its impact. We are mobilising every bit of government to defend our people and our country. The public, including residents in holiday or caravan parks, have a crucial role to play in delaying the spread of the virus, making sure that they stay at home if they have coronavirus symptoms. The Government have issued guidance to the public advising them against all non-essential travel. Under that advice, travelling to caravan parks for either leisure or self-isolation purposes is non-essential. The public should remain in their primary residences. Nobody should become homeless as a result of coronavirus, and the Government are committed to helping ensure that park-home residents have a safe place to live.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. I declare my interests as listed in the register. Does she not agree that this is a very complex issue? For many residents, the holiday park is their primary residence for 11 months of the year and it would be a major problem if they were asked to move, especially as some have their second home abroad. Will the Minister work closely with industry organisations, such as the BH&HPA, and the larger park owners, many of whom have offered their parks for essential workers and for looking after the children of essential workers, to move this forward?

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The noble Lord is quite right. We are aware that caravan and holiday parks are used in this way. As with everyone else, it is important that the residents of these parks stay in their accommodation and do not go out unless it is absolutely essential to do so. In that regard, it is helpful that the cafes, restaurants and pubs within the parks are now closed and offering only delivery and takeaway services. In response to the noble Lord’s second point, Ministers are already heavily involved with stakeholders across the industry. My honourable friend the Minister for Tourism and the Secretary of State have been actively engaged—they were on the phone with the industry this morning—and that work is being co-ordinated by VisitBritain’s Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group. I know that the BH&HPA has been in contact with officials and all those concerns are being actively considered.

Photo of Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Crossbench

My Lords, can the Minister consider giving clear advice to people who are leaving the cities that the number of hospital beds, and indeed their own GPs, are linked to population distribution, and point out the difficulties they might have in accessing healthcare if they leave their primary residence?

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As ever, the noble Baroness makes a very wise point. I hope that she agrees that the Government’s guidance on the matter this morning has been very clear. It says:

“Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays”,

and that people must not put

“additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”

We all have a part to play in that.

Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour

Does the Minister agree that, in that perfectly understandable and justifiable circumstance, some sort of simple identification system for those whose residence is in those parks might be made available? As the powers are strengthened, and greater enforcement is brought to bear, I fear that some of those people will find themselves at the end of enforcement measures to which they are not actually subject.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The noble Lord makes a helpful suggestion. He will also appreciate the extraordinary pressures that all our public services, many businesses, charities and the voluntary sector are under at the moment. I will feed the noble Lord’s suggestion back to officials.

Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Conservative

My Lords, sophisticated and continuous Covid-19 response is going to require the NHS to predict demand across the country so that we can ensure that each CCG area will have the staff and equipment it needs. If people travel unnecessarily, not only are they going to be spreading the virus, but they will undermine the NHS’s ability to respond and protect the most vulnerable. I am sure that the Minister agrees that we each have our part to play in listening to the latest advice, staying at home and saving lives. Does she also agree that, if we do not do that, more stringent measures may be necessary and that we will all be responsible for that?

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I agree with my noble friend that we all have a part to play. I also accept that, as human beings, all our lives have been turned upside down in the last few weeks. I am sure that some of the people whom we saw on the TV heading to the countryside perhaps did not appreciate quite how many people were going to be there with them. My noble friend puts her finger on the critical point that we must all be practising social distancing and that must include not undertaking any non-essential travel. However, that is only one part of the strategy. The Government are aiming to have an absolutely comprehensive strategy in this regard.

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, those who are temporarily resident fall under the points previously made; the Minister has carefully explained how that is happening. However, is there not also a danger that, for those who have more than just temporary residence in parks—which may not have sufficient local resources—that aspect of their lives may not be taken into account? Can the Minister confirm that detailed information about those residences is collected and shared with health providers in the area, to ensure that there is no gap in provision for those who think themselves covered in one area but turn out not to be?

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The noble Lord will be aware that there is a huge amount of mapping of exactly that sort of data, particularly in relation to the most vulnerable groups. An enormous amount of work on this has been going on for several weeks.

Sitting suspended.