Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2021 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:30 am on 15th December 2021.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 11:30 am, 15th December 2021

My Lords, I make two preliminary points before my main point. First, it would be quite contrary to the way in which this House works and to the conventions under which we operate to throw out secondary legislation. This is just not on. We do not do it, and it would be quite wrong to attempt to do so. Secondly, I follow up on what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, who spoke for the Liberal Democrats said. As many other people have done, I tried to order lateral flow tests this morning. They are not available; you cannot order them. Every week for the past two months, I have succeeded in ordering them and the pack has arrived within a couple of days. The Minister must have an answer to this fundamental issue. Now, you cannot just walk into the chemist and collect them, or order them via a QR code, as you could do months ago—at 8.30 am today, it was not possible.

The Minister said that we are doing all this to protect people—which is true—and also to protect the NHS. I make no apology for asking why is it that we need to protect the NHS? It seems self-evident: we need to protect the NHS because it is incredibly vulnerable compared with how it was. In recent years, we have lost 17,000 beds, systematically and deliberately. Why?

I cite two or three examples from the recent NAO report on NHS backlogs pre pandemic. The OECD is the rich countries—or rather, the richer countries— of the world. In the context of the health systems within the OECD, the UK has fewer resources than many of the other rich countries. The UK has 2.4 hospital beds per 1,000 of the population. France has 5.8 and Belgium 5.5—and they are not the highest. Sweden has 2.1, which is less than the UK but, at 2.4, we are way down the list. With 8.5 nurses per 1,000 of the population, the UK is 11th on that list, whichever way you look at it. Ireland has 12.9; Germany 14; and France 11.1. This is all before the pandemic. The UK has three doctors per 1,000 of the population. Sweden has 4.3 and Spain has 4.4. They are not the highest; the highest is much greater. Finally, in 2019, we did 175 CT, MRI and PET examinations per 1,000 of the population. France did 332; Austria 349, and Belgium 313. In other words, the NHS has been deliberately run down since 2010. The other thing that has happened since 2010 is that life expectancy has stalled—read the Marmot reports. Why has life expectancy stalled since 2010? More people are dying earlier as a result of life expectancy stalling. There is something systematically wrong.

Of course, we need to carry these orders for public health reasons. I have no problem with that. I am 100% with the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. When it comes to protecting the NHS, we have to ask ourselves why it is so vulnerable. It is because we have lost out on doctors and nurses and because of the other issues that I have raised. It has been done systematically. I do not know why—a national policy has never been announced on that. We always talk about protecting the NHS. We need to ask why.

I hope that the noble Lord will not push this to a vote. He would be breaching the conventions of the way in which this House is run. I presume he is only pushing for a vote because he wants to win—you do not push for a vote if you do not want to win. Throwing out the regulations would breach the conventions and the elected House would be after us pretty damn quick—and rightly so.