Moved by Baroness Thornton
At end to insert “but that this House regrets that Her Majesty’s Government have failed to implement an effective test, trace and isolate regime for COVID-19 and calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to give all local authorities the resources they need to operate an effective contact tracing system in their areas; furthermore notes that these measures may not be sufficient to address the impact of the COVID-19 virus; and calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to provide the support local businesses and communities need to have confidence in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
I start by congratulating our new arrival, the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. I did get confused by all the “Moy”s and so on, but I now identify the noble Lord. Frankly, that was a very disciplined maiden speech, and the noble Lord will be very popular in this House, particularly with his own Whips, if he continues to exercise such discipline in his remarks to the House.
We will not be voting against this or any statutory instrument today. We on these Benches would not actually support the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, in his amendment. I am clear to the noble Lord that I do not regard him as being the least bit wet. I thank my noble friends Lord Hain, Lady Massey, Lord Dubs and Lord Desai—my noble friend Lord Desai being my former economics tutor at the LSE many years ago. I always listen to his remarks with interest and respect.
We are grappling with a virus that spreads with speed and severity. Worldwide, in nine months, we have seen well over 1 million deaths. Here, in the United Kingdom, more than 42,000 people have died. Throughout this crisis, we on these Benches have urged the Government to adopt an approach with a strategic aim, suppressing the virus and bringing the R rate below one in order to save lives, minimise harm and keep our children safe. That has been our priority, and that is the right approach. We have supported the Government throughout on the restrictions they have brought forward. In the case of this statutory instrument, these are very heavy restrictions, but we accept that restrictions are needed. Nobody in any of the areas where the infection rates are going up is calling for no restrictions. It is in the national interest that we have a circuit break now, and we will not be voting against restrictions in the meantime.
I note that the Prime Minister chaired COBRA yesterday or the day before, and that was attended by the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram. COBRA confirmed the new restrictions and the ones the Prime Minister announced and were discussed in the Commons yesterday. I was encouraged that the metro mayor was at the COBRA meeting, and I wonder if the Minister could tell us how many of our mayors and leaders have been invited to COBRA, because that seems very important indeed.
That meeting followed a briefing earlier in the day from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam; the medical director of NHS England, Stephen Powis; and Dr Jane Eddleston, the medical lead for the north-west. They set out the latest data on the rising infection rates across the country. The latest infection rates show that the north-west has 40% of all Covid-19 cases, with an eightfold increase in patients being admitted to hospital. Currently, 30% of the north-west’s intensive care capacity is taken up with Covid-19 patients. They warned that in four weeks’ time, the north-west could see more patients in intensive care than at the peak of the first wave unless action is taken. That is one of the reasons my honourable friend Sir Keir Starmer made the statement last night about the need for a circuit-breaker. I listened carefully to what the Minister said in answer to this debate and to the issue about the nationwide local programme.
In March, I asked the Minister what would happen if I had a positive Covid test. This was right at the beginning. I asked: who would be notified? Would it be the GP? Would it be the local public health people? Would they contact my contacts? I did not get a very satisfactory answer. It emerged, within a few days, that testing regimes stopped completely in the UK, and six months later, we are crawling slowly towards an effective local testing, contact tracing and supporting system—six months later. Given that this House cannot make a meaningful intervention in these statutory instruments except by expressing an opinion—and I am glad it is the day after and the day they are coming into force, not three weeks later—after much thought, I am going to move this amendment. I think we need to regret that we do not have a satisfactory system of testing, tracing, isolating and support for our businesses and local communities. So I beg to move and to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 256, Noes 250.