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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:41 pm on 7th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat 3:41 pm, 7th October 2020

My Lords, this has been a very fascinating debate that has been very educational for me, with perceptive comments from colleagues from all sides of the House. I address this issue from the perspective of someone living in the West Midlands—in Solihull, to be precise—just like the confirmed Brummies, the noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Hunt, who are from that region.

Like many people in Solihull, Sandwell and Birmingham, I greatly miss being able to visit my mum, my daughter, my grandchildren and my friends in their or my home. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, made a very good point: I can see my family outside, but there are many families in that area who do not have the ability to do so because of the financial cost, and they are suffering.

However, it is what it is. Some of the themes that we have covered today have really struck me, such as the inconsistencies between Covid rates and lockdown. The noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Vaizey, and my noble friends Lord Greaves and Lady Bowles have all raised that issue, and I am sure the Minister will enlighten us as to the logic behind some of these issues. Another theme was the question of why local leaders cannot be involved in lockdown decisions. That is really important when local knowledge is so vital in this area. The noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Vaizey—the latter gave us a lot of information about the cultural virtuosity of Birmingham, which was very welcome—talked about that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, talked about the effectiveness of test and trace and about locally based communications. Why is it that people get confused over what the actual lockdown rules are? Communication of information to our own people locally is vital and is better managed from the local area rather than centrally.

Local businesses have of course been impacted, and the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, made a plea to understand how a lot of businesses, particularly in the Birmingham area, are all going to be saved in this situation. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, made the case for masks and promised us that he is going to become the House bore until we all wear them. Well, the noble Lord is welcome to bore us to death; I think that that is a really good idea.

The noble Lord, Lord Mann, talked about football and crowds, what can be achieved when things are properly managed, and helping us with our morale, which is so important—not necessarily on my part though, when Aston Villa play Liverpool, but I am not going to go into that painful moment.

Earlier on today, I came in on a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, about the cost to the taxpayer of implementing food hygiene ratings in food premises. Here is a way to obviate those costs: empower inspectors to conduct dual inspections. While they are doing food hygiene inspections—and the Minister looked very positive at the idea of making food inspections mandatory—why not do a Covid compliance inspection at the same time? Given some of the hostelries I visited in my area, right now I would be more interested to know what their Covid rating was, rather than food hygiene, before I actually venture through their doors.

Finally, while I accept the logic of additional restrictions in particularly afflicted areas, I would like to make a plea on behalf of all families with small children. We have heard from several noble Lords today how much families are suffering. As there is no evidence that small children can spread the virus, could they not be exempt from the rule of six? Certainly, that would bring greater harmony between all the nations of the United Kingdom and bring greater happiness to families in England.