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 4:53 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 4:53 pm, 14th October 2020

My Lords, the three-tier system is very seductive and most people could support the general principle; it is the operation that is the problem. As my noble friend Lord Hunt said, Birmingham being in tier 2 will have a devastating impact on local businesses already on their knees following the 10 pm curfew, which is unexplained and has been imposed despite the lack of any scientific evidence to justify it. We have scientific evidence that most of the transmission in Birmingham is due to socialising in private and home settings, not in other areas. The city council and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce have written again to the Chancellor seeking an informed approach to the implementation of restrictions and for restrictions to be tailored accordingly.

There is a very small rate of infection emanating from bars and restaurants in the city of Birmingham—we have already been given figures for the numbers of jobs involved. Such a move could, of course, save businesses and jobs: the opportunity was missed with these regulations. The city council and the chambers of commerce were supported by the mostly invisible Mayor of the West Midlands, who does not seem to have much clout with the Government. It is his party and we want him to have clout with the Government. I certainly hope that, in this case, the chambers of commerce have more clout.

What we need, above all, is to know what the criteria are for exit from tier 2, either to tier 1 or to tier 3. It looks as though, and the Minister carefully explained this, it is a make-it-up-as-you-go system by central government and Ministers, and that is not good enough. People need to know what is to be done. Where is the package of support? Many businesses, according to Birmingham City Council and the Chambers of Commerce, will not see 2021.

I have a question for the Minister, and if he cannot answer it now, perhaps he can answer it in the next debate. In the previous debate—or in this one, I forget now—he said that there were 310,000 swabs a day. My question is: how many people were swabbed to get the 310,000 swabs? The number of people being tested in England per day is 84,000—that figure is from his own department. He needs to explain the difference between these two figures and how it arises. I would be grateful to hear from him, either now or in the next debate.