Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:56 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Voluntary Sector), Deputy Chairman of Committees 2:56 pm, 7th October 2020

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I am afraid that my knowledge of the greater Birmingham area is nowhere near as good as his, so I do not know whether he is among the people who were delighted when Aston Villa ignored the rule of six on Sunday—for those of your Lordships with a passing interest in football.

The noble Baroness, Lady Penn, was extremely helpful in her introduction of these regulations. She not only explained that the increase in infection rates was much more localised this time than in March and April of this year but was able to tell us that the principal transmission route in Birmingham is multiple households, rather than hospitality venues. These regulations therefore contain the rules about two households and linked households. My point to her is that this is not the first area where this has been the case. Like me, the noble Baroness will have listened to the debates on the instruments for Leicester, in which there were similar patterns of transmission. What has been learned from the authorities in Leicester, where I understand that the transmission rates have gone down, with regard to these areas?

The Minister said in her remarks that this measure was due to be reviewed on 8 October. I believe that paragraph 4(2) says that the first review was to be carried out by 29 September. Is that 29 September reporting on 8 October, or what? As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, will attest, we are now well into a number of these regulations, and there are more to come. With each one, every time we come into Parliament, we must build on the knowledge of what has happened in preceding areas. We now need to know what is happening. Why is there an increased rate of infection in these areas, but one which is lower than in other areas that are not subject to lockdown?

Finally, I ask two things. Given that this is about transmission between households rather than in the hospitality sector, is the use of fixed penalty notices an appropriate means of enforcing these regulations? Secondly, we need to get to the point where we are on the front foot with this virus. We need to pursue active strategies to knock it back. So what is being done to look at areas nearby, such as Dudley, Wolverhampton or Coventry, where there may be a similar demographic? What information is being exchanged by local authorities, environmental health officers, public health officers and the NHS? These are fairly draconian measures, taken for reasons that we all understand, but we must get to a point where we can refine these orders in the light of experience and better data to get to the point where individual citizens can take their own pre-emptive preventive action, rather than being subject to draconian laws like these.