Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (High) (England) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:36 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 4:36 pm, 14th October 2020

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister but I am afraid that, just as in the spring, it is a case of action taken by the Government being too little, too late.

I will return to the SAGE meeting of 21 September and the comment that the more rapidly interventions are put in place and the more stringent they are, the faster the reduction in incidence and prevalence and

“the greater the reduction in Covid-related deaths.”

Clearly, the Government have decided that they will not go down that course. I am afraid that the outcome will be more ill health and more deaths.

Why is the Minister so confident that this approach will work? We know that in 19 of the 20 areas that have been under local restrictions for over two months, infection rates have gone up, not down. It looks as if, caught between opposing forces in government, the Prime Minister has dithered once again and gone for this unsatisfactory compromise.

I would like again to ask the Minister about the Government’s relationship with local authorities. The Prime Minister said that he wants to reset it. Yet last night, the Government were again briefing the media that parts of the north-west are to be moved into the very high priority tier—again, without discussion with local leaders. How on earth is that a recasting of the relationship?

Given the Government’s decision to go down this route, there are inevitable inconsistences regarding where local authorities are placed in the system and the financial support they receive. Is the Minister aware of the criticism made by Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands Mayor, and Ian Ward, the Labour Birmingham City Council leader, of the impact of closing down the hospitality sector in the West Midlands? This decision has been made for the greater good, but the impact is devastating on that sector, which supports more than 135,000 jobs across the West Midlands. Surely, adequate financial support needs to be provided to protect jobs and livelihoods.

We need a combination of tough restrictions in the light of the SAGE discussions and decisions of 21 September, but we also have to support our businesses to ensure that they survive for the long term.