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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:05 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 3:05 pm, 7th October 2020

My Lords, I am tempted to say to Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull: “Welcome to the party.” They are just behind a lot of the north of England in what is happening. I endorse the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that the lockdowns are, at best, only partially effective.

I want to look at the questions of where the transmission is coming from and where the primary sources of the transmission are. It is being said that the main source of transition is within households—the noble Lord just mentioned 83%—and that is not surprising. If a couple is living together, or with children, and one of them gets infected, it is not surprising that the infection spreads within that household. But that is not the primary source of infection; a household that is completely isolated will not be infected at all. The infections are coming from other places where people meet together outside. It seems that the evidence for households and families being specifically targeted by the Government is not as strong as people think.

There are essentially three elements to this: there is the economy, and the Government say the economy has to go on; there is education, and the Government say education has to go on; and there is normal society—ordinary families living their normal lives in normal ways. They are the people who, right from the beginning, way back in spring of this year, seem to have been hit hardest. It hits individual people—single people, relatives, grandparents, aunties and so on—and it hits the way in which families operate. Where a couple of friends or sisters share the shopping or the collection of kids from school, they are being told they cannot do this anymore unless they are a specific linked household. That is very restrictive, because one of the households has to be a single adult household.

Some people are saying that household parties are the problem, and I suspect that that is a far greater problem than the ordinary life of ordinary households. But I have been trying to find out where the evidence is for all this, and it is very difficult to find. The leader of Birmingham City Council says that households are the problem and the Government say that households are the problem. I am not brilliant at searching the internet, but I have been looking for all the evidence—I have been looking at the Joint Biosecurity Centre evidence—and I do not find anything. I have been looking at the GOV.UK testing data that comes out every week; it is very thorough, but it does not tell me that households and ordinary families are the real problem. While infection within households is inevitably going to take place, infection between households, and among the slightly wider family, may not be the cause of what is going on to anything like the extent being made out.

Meanwhile, members of families of different generations, or sisters and brothers of the same generation and their families, are unable to mix in a normal way —people say that it is socially, but it is not just socially; it also relates to the normal way that families operate and work. The inability of people who are strictly obeying the rules—I have to say that a lot of people are not—to do this, is causing a huge amount of distress, illness, isolation and unhappiness, which cannot be in the interests of the children in these families. I challenge that families and households are the fundamental problem.