Excess Death Trends — [Sir Gary Streeter in the Chair]

– in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 16 January 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire 9:30, 16 January 2024

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered trends in excess deaths.

It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for scheduling this debate and my 17 colleagues from across the House who supported the application for a debate on the trends on excess deaths. This debate follows on from my Adjournment debate on 20 October on the same issue.

The eyes of history are upon us. Every generation looks back in wonder at the incredible mistakes of its forebears. They will ask questions such as, “How could they possibly not have realised how wrong they were?”, “What on earth happened to them?”, “Why did they ignore the evidence for so long, as well as their values and every opportunity to learn from the mistakes of yesteryear?” and “What madness captures men?”

From 2010 to 2019, annual death rates in England and Wales oscillated between 484,000 and 542,000. In 2020, there were 607,000 deaths, which is 65,000 more than the maximum figure in 2018. In 2021, there were 586,000 deaths, which is 44,000 more than the 2018 figure. After such a rise, there should be a significant deficit. In fact, our most vulnerable and elderly, who might have lived a while longer, were sadly taken from us early. In 2022, there were 577,000 deaths in England and Wales, and in 2023 there were 581,000. That is a huge rise when a significant deficit would, and should, have been expected. The deficit has been filled not with the extremely old and vulnerable, but has been filled—and then some—with many, many others who are often young or in the prime of their lives.

Some people might want to ascribe the excess deaths in 2022 and 2023 to the virus, but that would be a mistake; that is not what their death certificates say. Moreover, far too many young people are dying. Far from being below the recent rolling average, excess deaths in 2022 were above that average: 6% above. In 2023, when one might have expected deaths to finally fall below the average, the excess was also 6% above. Those numbers are higher in the younger age groups.

No one with integrity can fail to be troubled by those figures. What is actually going on? That is why we need to have this debate. This problem affects us all. It affects every community in every constituency across the country. I thank all right hon. and hon. Members attending this debate, and we need to thank the public for their interest, which has stirred the interest of colleagues. I am very encouraged by the turnout for today’s debate, which is considerably better than we have seen in the past.

Not everyone in this room will be comfortable with analysing scientific data and figures, but that is not my position. I was fortunate enough to take a degree in biological sciences from Nottingham University many years ago. I specialised in biochemistry, genetics, behaviour and virology.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

The hon. Gentleman has secured a very important debate. In 2022, we saw nearly as many excess deaths across the UK as during the blitz. In my region of Yorkshire, there have been excess deaths every year since the pandemic. My constituents are very concerned about that. They are also concerned about the almost deafening silence from the NHS about what is causing this, why this is happening and what it is doing to alleviate it. I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing this very important debate. Only by talking about this can we get to the root cause of the issue—and there clearly is an issue.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

That is the whole point of a representative democracy. We are here to raise issues on behalf of our constituents and to look after their best interests at all times. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his attendance. We had enough signatures for a three-hour debate in the Chamber, but we are having a 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall. I mentioned to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee that I felt that that was a bit of an insult, given the gravity that the issue we are debating has for those who have lost loved ones over the last few years.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

The hon. Gentleman is right that there is considerable concern about this issue. Does he agree that we should use the most accurate data available and the dataset of the age-standardised mortality rate, which takes into consideration a growing and ageing population?

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

Of course we should be using the most accurate figures that we have. Later in the speech, I will talk about the data we really want, which would settle this matter once and for all beyond reasonable doubt.

I thank the public for their pressure and interest in these statistics, the people who have attended in person today and the thousands who will be watching on television or online.

There is a burning question at the heart of this debate. After excess deaths, there should be a deficit: where is it? When will we have it? Worse, why is the deficit being not just filled but significantly exceeded? Why are the institutions, whose job it is to notice, record, publicise and call attention to such matters, apparently asleep at the wheel?

A second burning question is why no one is listening to those raising the alarm. The research and analysis done by two of Britain’s most trusted doctors provide us with alarming clarity. Only this week, Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, reviewed the causes of excess deaths and concluded that they are predominantly related to cardiovascular disease. He told the Sunday Express newspaper that this cannot be explained by covid, population growth or an ageing population. Yesterday, consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, who is a world-leading expert in the causes of heart disease, told TNT Radio that even though cardiovascular disease is multifactorial, top of the list in the hierarchy of causes behind excess cardiac-related deaths has to be the experimental covid mRNA vaccine until proven otherwise. This is not speculative.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

No—let me finish the point and I will then give way.

Dr Malhotra’s point is not speculative but based on the highest level of data that combines plausible biological mechanism, randomised control trials, high-quality observational data, pharmacovigilance data, autopsy data and clinical data. Those who choose not to acknowledge these cold, hard facts are either unaware of the evidence, wilfully blind or lacking in conscience.

Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for shining a spotlight on the important issue of excess deaths, but I am keen to understand the difference between correlation and causation. There is a correlation between eating ice cream and sunburn, but we do not necessarily assume the two go together; they could be caused by sunny weather. The same goes in this case. Is the cause to do with lockdown, late presentation or access to the NHS? Understanding causation and correlation are key to understanding why the numbers are so high.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is a medical doctor, so he clearly has some knowledge. Correlation is not causation, but it is an alarm bell. Alarm bells are going off all over the building, but no one wants to open the door to see whether there is a fire.

Future generations will ridicule us for what we have done in response to a seasonal airborne virus. We have apparently lost our collective minds. We have imposed a brand-new type of quarantine on a healthy population, in breach of all previous public health advice and our own carefully crafted expert pandemic plan, and in flagrant breach of the sensible and experienced advice of many professionals.

The noble dissenters are inevitably being vindicated, one by one, as the suppressed, shaming, real-world evidence finally emerges. I will not mention those who harass, discredit and ridicule the dissenters; they loudly parade their egotistical virtue on social media, in the press and on television. I know exactly how harassment feels.

We inflicted social distancing, masking and school closures on healthy children who were at no risk from the virus. We did that to protect adults, at the expense of our children’s social and mental health. People raised the alarm, but nobody listened. A society that consciously and knowingly sacrifices perfectly healthy children for adults is sick. This time will not be looked on well by future generations. That will be our legacy, and I call on this House and those in authority to right that grievous wrong quickly. With unbearable cruelty, we isolated even those who would gladly have made the individual choice to see their grandchildren.

Worst of all, we bypassed the procedures, protocols and science to inflict on a healthy population a brand new and untested product that had never before been used outside clinical trials, never mind approved. There was no long-term safety data. The safety analysis in the trials was eight weeks, and then the control group was vaccinated. There was no age stratification for recipients of an experimental medication for an illness with an average mortality age of 82. There was no liability under any circumstances for the manufacturers of those experimental treatments. Furthermore, there were good reasons, based on the science known at the time, for thinking that those products might be harmful. Rather than ridicule us, future generations may come to loathe us. We will forever be the poster boys and girls of a society that collectively lost its mind and its moral compass. They will hang that millstone around our necks for eternity.

What is the flaw in human nature that latches on to things and destroys all before it? It has been dubbed by some as the madness of crowds or a kind of mass formation psychosis. It is the sort of thing that allowed China to commit population Armageddon with the one-child policy for decades. It is the sort of thing that allowed us to slaughter millions of cattle during the apparent foot and mouth outbreak, when we were persuaded not by the science but by the plausible patter of provable idiots such as Professor Neil Ferguson—yes, the very same. His advice led to the bankruptcy, immiseration and utter despair of countless farmers who were forced to destroy their livelihoods in a futile attempt to prevent the spread of an airborne virus, which had already managed to pass in the air all the way from France to the Isle of Wight. How many times must the so-called experts be caught with their pants down as their models fail yet again? How long must we be subjected to debunked drivel dumped in our political discourse? How long must decision makers deal with discredited modelling and moribund and captured institutions? Why will no one listen to reason when they have been proved wrong so many times?

There are many other examples in medicine, from bloodletting with leeches to pointless lobotomies to not washing hands between the mortuary and the labour ward. Doctors and scientists are far from immune from groupthink, and the current batch are living proof.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

This will not be the first, or I suspect the last, Government in history not to follow the evidence when it comes to difficult issues. When Governments make mistakes, protect themselves and do not look at the evidence, we as a democratic society should expect there to be an inquiry that establishes what happened, what should have happened and what should happen in the future. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the inquiry that we set up is failing to do that job, and is assuming that lockdown was right from the beginning?

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

I agree wholeheartedly. This is not a political issue; it is a public health issue that affects every constituency. The so-called covid inquiry has already set out the answers it wants to get. It has all the appearance of a whitewash. It was deeply disappointing that it announced this week that the module on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines has been put off indefinitely—certainly until after the general election, which is extremely disappointing.

I contacted every public and media body I could think of in 2014 to tell them again and again that the sub-postmasters were innocent, but no one listened. I knew the sub-postmasters in my constituency were completely honest; anybody who knew those pillars of society knew it. The innocent were falsely accused of dishonesty over the Horizon scandal and were relentlessly pursued by a merciless, mendacious and malicious bureaucracy. It is the coldness that shocks most—the imperious arrogance and the mercilessness that capture institutions and cowards in authority when a single narrative closes our collective minds to nuance, to experience and to the inconvenient truths. No one listened to the sub-postmasters; no one cared. No one in power moved a muscle to help, but now, all of a sudden, one media programme has shifted the narrative to reveal that the experts were wrong, our institutions were wrong, those in authority were wrong and an infallible computer system was, in fact, fallible. Even our justice system got it so tragically wrong, with thousands of court hearings and judges making wrong judgments. Will the Post Office lessons be learned regarding the covid insanity?

Who is actually dying now? It is not the old and frail, as it was with covid; in fact, deaths from dementia, a key benchmark of elderly deaths, have been in deficit ever since covid, as we would expect after a period of high mortality. Instead, particularly for cardiovascular deaths, there has been incessant week-on-week excess mortality for months and months in the young and middle-aged. Every age group is affected, but the 50 to 64 age group has had it worst—I declare an interest. They were struck with 12% more deaths than usual in 2022 and 13% more in 2023, and at least five in six of those deaths this year had nothing to do with covid whatever.

My constituent, Steven Miller, was a healthy IT engineer in his 40s. He had two doses of AstraZeneca jabs in the summer of 2021 and was ill shortly afterwards. His side effects were so bad that he lost his job, and in November 2021 he was rushed into hospital. He now has cardio- myopathy and ventricular failure with a maximum of five years to live, taking him to 2026, unless he has a heart transplant. When I saw him last, he had a resting heart rate of 145 beats per minute. He has subsequently lost his partner and access to his child, and he is at risk of losing his house. He now has a diagnosis from Glenfield Hospital in Leicester of vaccine-induced cardio- myopathy, and I want to help him to try to get his compensation. However, he is just one example among my constituents who will probably have 30 years of his life stolen from him. His child will lose his father. How is £120,000 of compensation possibly adequate for that?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for introducing the debate so coherently. Can he explain why module 4 of the public inquiry into the safety of the vaccines has been arbitrarily postponed from next July? Surely the case that he mentioned highlights the need for urgent inquiry.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that issue. Why would they put back any investigation in the public inquiry, which I think costs some hundreds of millions of pounds and therefore should be in the public interest, indefinitely? I fear that political pressure has been placed on the inquiry. Clearly, a lot of political capital in the run-up to the next election has been placed on the fact that the Government, with support from the Opposition parties, did the right thing in our pandemic response, including the roll-out of the vaccines. The very fact that they have done that indicates that there is something to hide, and it should make the public extremely suspicious. I will come on to that shortly.

For two years we have turned society upside down so as not to “kill granny”. Now that mum and dad are dying, it appears that no one cares. This is “Alice in Wonderland” thinking. People in their 50s and 60s— I declare an interest again—would normally, I hope, have many more years of active contribution and deeply fulfilling lives left to live, and they are the people being hit hardest.

Furthermore, the raw number of lives lost is not the only measure that we can look at. We have better methods, and the most famous is known as quality-adjusted life years—those who understand public health generally refer to them as QALYs. They measure healthy years of life lost and are the most sensible metric for properly assessing the impacts of deaths and lost life on families and society. QALYs were ignored at the outset. They were ignored in July 2020 when the Government’s own assessment was that lockdowns would reduce QALYs by about 1 million years in the UK—I repeat, 1 million years. They were ignored when deciding to inject the young with experimental vaccines despite the refusal of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to recommend jabbing under-15s in September 2021.

Even at the covid inquiry when the Prime Minister tried to raise the issue of quality-adjusted life years, he was shouted down by Hugo Keith KC, the lead lawyer at the inquiry. He then revealed his unbelievable, unforgivable negligence and ignorance by saying:

“I don’t want to get into quality life assurance models.”

This, I repeat, is the most senior lawyer at the so-called covid inquiry, so when I say that future generations will ridicule us, it is not hard to see reasons why. The pandemic—a term that some of our best academics from around the globe questioned from the outset in published and peer-reviewed papers—is over. The crisis has passed. Yet still, empty vessels continue to drown out intelligent, reasoned, expert discourse. Not knowing what QALY means is one thing, but parading his ignorance with arrogant disdain ought to disqualify Mr Keith from any further part in that inquiry. Sadly, his condescending disdain for open inquiry epitomises what many of us have encountered time and time again when raising these issues.

A smorgasbord of fanciful excuses has been proffered for the rise in heart attacks. Sir Chris Whitty laughably claimed that it was from a reduction in statin prescriptions, even though prescribing levels were exactly the same, and it would take years or even decades for changes on that issue to take effect and be seen in population mortality data. The media have tried to persuade us—persuade the people—that eating eggs or the wrong kind of breakfast or climate change is to blame. People are sick of being patronised with these lies. Some have claimed that the excess deaths are due to covid. The literature is littered with studies claiming that covid causes heart disease. Almost all include covid cases from spring 2020, when it was almost impossible for someone to be tested and become an official case unless they were sick and in hospital. Proving that sick people get heart disease more than healthy people does not mean that covid causes heart disease. Indeed, the claims can be easily debunked. There has been a steep rise in cardiac deaths in both Australia and Singapore, as well as the UK. Those countries did not have any significant covid until 2022, but they did roll out the jabs at exactly the same time as we did in the UK. Correlation does not prove causation—we have already heard that in this debate—but correlation with and without covid can rule out causation. The excess cardiac deaths were certainly not caused by covid.

Some have claimed that the excess deaths were caused by lockdowns. It is well known that psychological stress increases the risk of heart disease. The Government subjected people to a massive propaganda campaign of fear—well documented by Laura Dodsworth in her book, “A State of Fear”. We were cut off from our usual support networks. For many, there were immense financial pressures. Such policies could contribute to heart disease in a minor way. However, the sharpest rise came later, entirely coincident with the jab roll-out, so we have a clear temporal link between increased deaths and vaccination.

Some have claimed that the excess cannot be down to the jabs, because Sweden has not had as many excess deaths as elsewhere despite having a very similar number of doses, per million, of the experimental vaccines, but it is important to understand that heart disease is a cumulative risk. In the UK, we already had a serious problem with heart disease before the pandemic, and it has got much worse following the vaccine roll-out. By contrast, Sweden has the longest healthy life expectancy in Europe. It is no wonder that it is a statistical outlier on excess deaths now. If someone is under 50 and lives in Sweden, their chances of dying from heart disease were already half that of a resident of the UK of the same age.

Some have admitted to the problem but claimed it was worth it. Science journalist Tom Chivers even said regarding jabbing children: “It sounds cruel—but a small number of deaths would be worth it”. As I pointed out earlier, from China through to the UK, any culture willing to openly sacrifice children for adults is rotten, in my view, to its very core.

Look at what is happening now. Yet again we are seeing a peak in covid hospitalisations, as we should be expecting from a coronavirus in January. The number of people infected and the number of intensive care admissions were about the same every six months before and after the vaccinations. The number of covid intensive care admissions in the January to June 2020 wave was about the same as the number in the July to December 2020 covid wave, and the figure remained similar in the January to June 2021 and July to December 2021 covid waves. The jab therefore had no impact whatsoever. Those interested may wish to consult a recent paper in the Journal of Clinical Medicine that demonstrates exactly this point.

The next important factor is that omicron is far less deadly. The reason why there are fewer covid deaths now is because of omicron’s arrival at the beginning of 2022, but viral waves will continue to come and go until almost everyone has post-infection immunity. We are not there yet.

It is clear that viral waves were not impacted by lockdowns, and it is increasingly clear that they were not impacted by the jabs either. People have denied that viral waves peak naturally at predictable times of year, but how much longer can that be denied? The lockdowns did not cause deaths to decline from their peak in April 2020, because they also peaked and fell in April 2022 and March 2023 without lockdowns. Indeed, in 2020 infections were already falling before the lockdowns were even started.

The problem with excess deaths started in spring 2021 with the jab roll-out, and there was a stepwise rise in ambulance calls for life-threatening emergencies at exactly the same time. Hospitals started to be overwhelmed for the first time, and the number of people unable to work because of long-term sickness started to rise. Even the number of mayday calls from aircraft rose. Are we meant to think that this was all a coincidence, when we know that these injections cause a range of serious adverse events, especially cardiac events?

The excess deaths are the tip of a very ugly iceberg, and we have not even mentioned the world-shaking scandal of jabbing people who had already had covid, which, at a stroke, almost entirely demolishes the credibility of our public health policies during this period. We completely ignored natural immunity. That one fact ought to be a red flag of gigantic proportions, but no one is listening. I do not have time to discuss the fact that the jab was not pulled when it became clear that an incredible one in 800 doses administered led to serious adverse events and consequences. The rotavirus vaccine was pulled entirely after causing an adverse event rate of one in 10,000. For the 2009 swine flu vaccine, one in 35,000 was harmed, and it was then pulled from the market. The covid jab is still being pushed and it is seriously harming people, inevitably at a much higher rate than one in 800, because most people are being exposed to multiple doses of the vaccine, with the same adverse event risk at each dose.

Thalidomide, syphilis treatment and all the other infamous, appalling and shattering medical scandals are dwarfed by the iceberg under the water that is the medical scandal we are currently living through: the experimental, so-called vaccines for covid-19. It took 11 years after the drug was withdrawn in 1961 for the thalidomide scandal to be first raised in Parliament—11 years before the word “thalidomide” could even be mentioned in the Chamber of the House of Commons. I am not going to let that happen this time, which is why I fought so hard to raise this issue in Parliament, at a cost to my reputation, my career and the financial security of my family.

The public inquiry should urgently be looking at this issue. Instead, it is wasting taxpayers’ money on obsessing over WhatsApp messages while people are dying. As if that is not bad enough, we learned this week that the vaccine module has been postponed indefinitely, for no good reason. It is as if the inquiry is so desperate not to find fault that it cannot even look at what has happened with the vaccines. We need transparency.

Dr Clare Craig, co-chair of the Health Advisory and Recovery Team, has been doggedly pursuing the UK Health Security Agency for its record-level data on dosage, dates and deaths for a year. That data could sort out this issue once and for all. The UKHSA admits that it has it. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency admits that all this data has been released to Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, yet claims that it cannot anonymise it for release to the public. A failure to release the data makes it look like there is definitely something to hide.

A recent poll in the USA shows that more than half of the public thinks the vaccines are responsible for a significant number of deaths. If there was nothing to hide, the anonymised data would certainly be released for analysis to stop the upswell of legitimate concern. The latest response from the Information Commissioner’s Office is that Dr Clare Craig has to wait at least another six months before a case officer will be assigned to this issue. That is not acceptable. They have released our health data to big pharma, but they will not release it to us. The record-level data must be released. Is it really too much to ask that the British public be given the same level of access to the relevant data given to big pharma companies actually responsible for the debacle? Those are corporations that carefully secured immunity from all legal liability—or, in this country, indemnity—from the Government before dangerously and negligibly experimenting on the health of our nation and the world. We are witnesses to the greatest medical scandal in living memory. The consequential fallout in trust, public opinion and public confidence is only just beginning. Continued attempts to shut down debate, flatten dissent and obstruct independent analysis can only delay the eventual collective shame. There will be a reckoning and we will have to try and rebuild trust in our health services, our media and our politics. We have not even started on that journey.

Before I was expelled from the Conservative party for voicing my concerns over the experimental vaccines and the harms I believe they caused, I met a senior member of the party who, after listening to my concerns about the vaccines and NG163—the midazolam and morphine scandal—told me quite calmly, “Andrew, there is currently no political appetite for your views on the vaccines. There may well be in 20 years’ time and you will probably be proven right, but in the meantime, you need to bear in mind that you are taking on the most powerful vested interest in the world, with all the personal risk for you that that will entail.”

I refused to bow to that threat and as they say, the rest is history. People have alleged that I am spouting conspiracy theories. I think it is a conspiracy; a conspiracy against the science, a conspiracy of silence and a conspiracy against the people—and I will have none of it.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Colleagues, more than nine of you wish to be called. Wind-ups will begin at 10.38 am, so I impose a voluntary time limit of three minutes each and I will try and get everybody in if I possibly can.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley 10:02, 16 January 2024

I am afraid that the evidence Andrew Bridgen is basing his arguments on is highly controversial and strongly contested as to its reliability. I will shortly explain what I mean by that assertion.

I attended two meetings on the issue that the hon. Gentleman chaired, the latter of which, late last year, included a panel of “experts” who made presentations. I attended both meetings on the basis that I am aware that there are cases in which some people with underlying or pre-existing medical conditions were vaccinated inappropriately, in some cases with lethal consequences. I support the case for some form of restitution for them and their surviving families.

At the second meeting, I was alarmed that some of the evidence given was polemical rather than scientific. The nature of some of the expert presentations alarmed me—specifically, the misleading and inaccurate assertions, similar to those made, for example, by Andrew Wakefield on the measles, mumps and rubella scandal, which tried to make the link between vaccination and autism. That was thoroughly discredited subsequently, but the consequence of that, which is still being felt, is that children are not being vaccinated and there is now an upturn in the incidence of measles, in some cases with serious consequences.

The meeting I attended involved a number of “experts” who gave presentations that included data that I am frankly sceptical about. At that meeting, I undertook to raise my concerns about the accuracy of the data with the Office of National Statistics, and I have done so. In his response, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the national statistician, said that he has undertaken to

“consider and investigate any possible misrepresentation of the data.”

I am grateful to Sir Ian for that undertaking.

In a report in The Times today, reference is made to a study published in The Lancet that said:

“Missed vaccines ‘caused 7,000 Covid hospitalisations and deaths’”— that is missed covid vaccines.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I am drawing to a close. By the way, that evidence involved 67 million people. The hon. Member for North West Leicestershire quoted some research based on unreliable data, but that is a major undertaking published in The Lancet, and it makes completely the opposite point to his.

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 10:06, 16 January 2024

This is a very important debate and I will try to make my speech as short as possible. I congratulate the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire on raising this issue and on his determination to highlight the challenges that we are facing. On the one hand, we might have expected that the pandemic would shorten the lives of a number of our more frail citizens and thus have expected a fall in deaths post-pandemic, and we saw that. The ONS reported roughly 608,000 deaths in England and Wales in 2020, 586,000 in 2021, and 577,000 in 2022—that was higher than 2019 when there were about 531,000 deaths, so that does warrant further inspection. We expect a fluctuation year on year, and we also expect the total number of deaths to increase year on year as the population increases and ages. We therefore look at the five-year average, and currently we are using 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022 because of the outliers in 2020. Even then, it is unlikely that we will be exactly at the average, and we would expect some years to be higher or lower.

The ONS monthly mortality analysis shows that, in 2022, there were 32,000 more deaths than the five-year average, and in January to July 2023, there were 21,809 more. That equates to an annualised figure of around 37,000, but the figures appear to stop in July 2023. Would the Minister advise as to why the data series has been discontinued? It would be helpful if it were not. However, those are raw numbers and we must be cautious because, as the population ages and increases, so will the number of deaths. The ONS therefore uses the age-standard mortality rate, which has fluctuated month on month but is actually down for both 2022 and 2023 when compared with the five-year average. Overall, when adjusted for age and population size, the number of deaths is not excessive, given what we would expect.

We need to look further at the trends on age and the causes of death to see a fuller picture. Others will no doubt speak of rising cardiovascular disease in men, the late presentation of cancers or the rise in liver disease, but as a consultant paediatrician, I would like to focus on children. The National Child Mortality Database collates data on children’s deaths from nought to 18. Its latest bulletin from March 2023 shows that there were sadly 3,743 deaths to the end of that month, which is an increase of 8% on the previous year. Would the Minister comment on what investigation she is doing into the cause of that increased mortality and what is being done to prevent further deaths? The purpose of the child death overview panel is to investigate those deaths, but the average investigation is taking 392 days, with less than half completed in 12 months and a significant fall in the number being completed in 12 months. What is the Minister doing to improve that process?

One particularly distressing feature of child death data is that suicide or deliberate self-harm was a primary cause of death of children between 10 and 17 years, and looking at the data, it is getting much worse with children between 10 and 14. I understand that the Government are aware of those figures and are investing in mental health for children and improving online safety. I would be grateful if the Minister elaborated further on the steps they are taking to support children and prevent further tragedies.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Order. The hon. Member is running out of time.

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I will finish on this point. One reason why I get exasperated with the covid inquiry is that there seems to be too much focus on who said what to whom—did someone swear, did the actors like each other? I am not that interested. I want to know what lessons can be learned. Was lockdown useful? Was getting children out of school useful? Was the vaccine a suitable thing to give to children or not, particularly if they had had covid before? Those are the answers that we need.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 10:10, 16 January 2024

Time is tight, so I will cut to the chase. I pay tribute to Andrew Bridgen for his courage and determination on this important matter. I also challenge Sir George Howarth on his assertion that these were so-called experts at that meeting. They are world-renowned experts in their field; that is just a matter of observable fact.

I want to focus on the safe use of novel mRNA agents and on concerns over their alleged role in driving excess deaths. I repeat a point that I have made previously in this place and directly with the Minister: any agent has the potential to cause harm or injury to the subject. For the avoidance of doubt, the position I have taken is based on decades of involvement in the management and delivery of clinical trials. Politicians who dismiss the data and emerging clinical evidence are acting in a wholly irresponsible manner, and posing a real threat to the duties of honesty and candour at the heart of good clinical practice. If substantiated, the concerns surfacing around falsified or concealed data are the most serious that I can imagine.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

The hon. Member is defending the “experts”, but has he actually checked their backgrounds? Has he checked the criticisms and the fact that, in some cases, they have had their medical practitioner status withdrawn?

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I am not going to get into the detail of that; I have far too little time and too many important points to make. I have worked in the same institution as Professor Dalgleish, and his credentials are impeccable.

Addressing this matter is necessary because we are talking about the standards on which good clinical practice, or GCP, is based. GCP is not about a nice bedside manner or knowing what treatment to prescribe; it is a set of internationally recognised ethical and scientific requirements, which must be followed when designing, conducting, recording and reporting on clinical trials that involve people, and have their origin in the declaration of Helsinki.

The rights, safety and wellbeing of trial subjects are the most important consideration, which should prevail over interests of science and society, including commercial or political interests, and I will conclude with a reflection on that important principle. The foundation of good clinical practice is under threat. In their December 2023 pathology research and practice paper on gene-based covid-19 vaccines, Rhodes and Parry gave the following warning:

“Pandemic management requires societal coordination, global orchestration, respect for human rights and defence of ethical principles. Yet some approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by socioeconomic, corporate, and political interests, have undermined key pillars of ethical medical science.”

None of these clinical experts are quacks or conspiracy theorists. As the Government said so often during the pandemic, we must follow the science.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Colleagues have three minutes.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 10:14, 16 January 2024

As we have seen in data published by the ONS, non-covid excess deaths continue to run higher than they should. People are dying unexpectedly across all age groups, particularly at home. Since the restrictions in March 2020, there have been 110,000 excess deaths in people’s own homes. In the week ending 22 December 2023, deaths at home were 11% higher than the five-year average. In the first 11 months of 2023, over 21,000 excess deaths took place at home, which is roughly one every 25 minutes.

Last month an article in The Lancet, co-authored by the head of mortality analysis at the ONS, stated that although

“the causes of these excess deaths are likely to be multiple”,

ONS data did show some clear trends—in particular, the “largest relative excess deaths” since the pandemic occurred in young and middle-aged adults, with the number of cardiac deaths happening outside hospitals the most elevated. In other words, young and previously healthy people are dying at home from cardiac-related events, and we do not know why. The article concludes:

“Timely and granular analyses are needed to…inform prevention and disease management efforts.”

Let us be clear: this is not a new phenomenon. Experts have been raising concerns about excess deaths since as early as 2021. I remember seeing an interview with Professor Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, where he called for an investigation into the 75,000 excess deaths at home between March 2020 and October 2021. Some 90% of those excess deaths were not covid-related, but related to things such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Many of those deaths could have been prevented had people not been dissuaded from seeking care, because they were told by the media and the Government to stay at home and protect the NHS. Perhaps they tried to get help but were dismissed by a health service concerned with only one disease.

The calls for an investigation went ignored then, just as they are ignored now. Perhaps the covid inquiry, as others have said, should make better use of Professor Heneghan’s time by asking about this topic rather than the tittle-tattle that it seems to revel in. The pertinent question is: why did we lock down at all? That is what I think did the biggest damage.

We can all speculate on the cause of excess deaths, which are clearly happening, from withdrawal of healthcare during lockdown, the increased risk of sedentary lifestyles and alcohol consumption, the impact of the pandemic and related restrictions on NHS staffing levels, increasing NHS waiting times, lack of access to emergency care, covid-19 vaccine adverse reactions or another unknown cause—perhaps a mix of all of the above. Until the Government commit to a robust and independent investigation, we will not know for sure and the speculation will keep going. That is why the Government need an investigation rapidly.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 10:17, 16 January 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I congratulate Andrew Bridgen on securing this debate. It is important that Parliament considers all the available evidence. As you might expect, Sir Gary, I have to declare an interest: I am vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for radiotherapy. I am a supporter of Action Radiotherapy and an advocate for the Catch Up With Cancer campaign. The two issues that I will highlight are delayed access to cancer treatment and health inequalities.

Inequitable access to and availability of radiotherapy services are leaving the UK lagging behind other countries in cancer outcomes. That was true before the pandemic and it was amplified by the delayed diagnosis and treatment caused by the pandemic. I hope the Minister is well versed in the arguments, but I am always happy to meet if it would help to advance the cause of the campaign and promote the idea of accessing this cost-effective life-saving treatment.

There is no doubt that covid-19 impacted routine access to healthcare. It is little comfort to those protected from covid through cancellations and delays to routine services and treatment if the outcome for them is delayed cancer diagnosis, with the inevitable impact on prognosis and delayed treatment. I do not always agree with the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire, but never again can the whole NHS be subverted to deal with a single illness or condition, no matter what challenges we face. As other Members have highlighted, cancer is not the only condition affected in this way.

Health inequalities are also an important issue, and I hope the Minister is aware of a recent report by Professor Peter Goldblatt of University College London entitled “Health Inequalities, Lives Cut Short”. The report considered the life expectancy of people across England and Wales, and it is clear that those in the poorest areas suffer the worst health inequalities. Economic inequalities affect health outcomes, and my constituency is on the frontline of health inequalities. We have the worst rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the UK, the highest levels of obesity and the third highest rates of epilepsy. We are well above the national average for diabetes, heart failure, depression and dementia.

For me, this is political. The hon. Member for North West Leicestershire said that this is not a political issue, but a public health issue—but public health is a political issue. In 2024, as in 1997, I expect it will once again fall to a Labour Government to begin the process of fixing the years of Tory neglect and mismanagement. For my constituents—the communities of east Durham—the general election cannot come quick enough.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

You were doing so well until that point. I call Miriam Cates.

Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge 10:20, 16 January 2024

I will be brief, because it is clear that there is far more demand to speak in the debate than there is time. That shows that we absolutely need a longer debate; we need a debate on the Floor of the House, because it is not just Members present who want to speak, and members of the public have shown enormous interest.

I will not go over the excellent points that have been made and the data that has been shared. We know we have a problem in this country with excess deaths, particularly among younger people and particularly from cardiovascular disease. That, in itself, is a huge challenge. We need medical experts and statisticians to address those issues—I am not qualified to do so.

What I will say is this: lockdown changed everything. Our response to covid changed everything. Just as we look back on different periods of history—before the war; before the industrial revolution—I believe we will look back at before and after lockdown. Lockdown has changed our economy and how we relate to each other. It has changed our health and our understanding of children’s development.

The conditions under which those decisions were made—decisions that were overwhelmingly wrong, in my opinion, although I do not blame any individuals, given the pressure they were under—have not changed. The conditions under which we suspended the precautionary principle, ignored the fact that interventions may cause harm, suspended the importance of children’s education, suspended the safeguarding of children, suspended the need for medical trials and suspended all sorts of safeguards that have stood society in good stead for a long time have not changed.

The conditions in Government, the media and wider society under which those decisions were made have not changed because, unfortunately, we have not yet got to the heart of the matter. Why did that pressure come from the media? Why did we have to follow what other countries were doing? Why were we obsessed with particular points of data, such as deaths from covid, rather than considering the wider impact on society?

My concern about the covid inquiry is that it is asking all the wrong questions. It is concerned with who swore at whom on WhatsApp, and not the wider conditions under which decisions were made. When, several Education Secretaries ago, the former, former, former Secretary of State for Education, my right hon. Friend Sir Gavin Williamson, stood up in the House of Commons and said that he would close schools, I remember, as a mother, shouting at the television, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!”. I could see the impact it would have—not just on my own children, but across all the wider components of society. Society is like a big machine; we cannot just take out one part and assume that the rest will continue to operate. We have seen that clearly over the past three years.

We must address the reasons why these decisions were made. We cannot do that in three minutes each—we must have a longer debate.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

I remind colleagues that they have three minutes. I call Jim Shannon.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 10:23, 16 January 2024

Thank you, Sir Gary, for giving me a chance to speak. I also thank Andrew Bridgen for setting the scene. The issue is clearly sensitive. I come from the angle of someone who wanted to be and who is fully vaccinated, and who accepted that and believed in the process. However, I am also one who advocated for those who did not want to take the vaccine and whose freedoms were curtailed. It was a strange balance for me, and perhaps others, to strike, and yet I was firm in that stance.

I found myself in a delicate position as I listened to the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire, as I do believe there are questions to be answered. With all due respect to the Minister—I respect her greatly, as she knows—despite hon. Members’ various attempts and different approaches, those questions have not been answered to their satisfaction, and there are many in my constituency with similar questions.

I lost my mother-in-law to covid two and a half years ago. It was well publicised. I miss her every day. I have lost other loved ones to complications of this disease, and I have seen more who are living with the long-term effects. I can understand the drive for a vaccine and the fact that, to achieve the vaccine, emergency legislation was enacted. This House and the Government happily allowed that to take place, as our medical professionals deemed it to be necessary.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as Grahame Morris said, we now need to focus on the fact that the approach of society and Government must never again be all-consuming, with them dealing with one particular public health issue almost to the total exclusion of others?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I agree.

I do not understand why the supposed links between donors and PPE provision are worthy of investigation, yet excess deaths demonstrably linked to vaccines have not been deemed important enough for investigation. For me, there is a question to be answered. It seems a natural follow-on that the unprecedented steps taken should be held to the scrutiny of an investigation and that the points that have been raised are seemingly supported by medical evidence.

I am not a doctor and I do not profess to be, but the facts raised by the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire do call for scrutiny. Therefore, I support calls for an investigation. I have seen young men in my constituency struck down with unexplained cardiomyopathy before covid, and seen the heartache that the families deal with as they wonder why. There are many families at this time with similar questions. It could well be that the increase has nothing to do with the vaccine, but we must look into why fit young men, or fit, non-smoking, healthy-weight women in their 50s, are having heart attacks, and their consultants are asking them, “Which injection did you take?”

To me as an unlearned man, those are signals that there are questions to be asked, and there is an onus on our Government and our Minister, with great respect, to see that the questions raised by medical professionals and voiced by Members of this House are taken seriously and addressed. Not for one second do I claim to see the correlation, but enough people have warranted it, so I support the calls for an investigation and ask for one to be carried out.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Thank you. The voice of Cornwall, Derek Thomas.

Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 10:26, 16 January 2024

I thank Andrew Bridgen for securing the debate and for his effort to bring it to the House. I have received a significant number of emails, and the consistent theme is a lack of trust. Trust is key, and constituents have a right to know that elected representatives take them seriously and work to find out why these excess deaths are occurring. Every death is a tragedy; in each home there is devastation. We see this in all our constituencies. I have sat with several families who have lost loved ones, and I am not satisfied with the answers they have been given. We owe it to them to restore trust and to be transparent about why death rates are higher than expected.

Ignoring the issue will only increase the anxiety and distress further. People deserve answers to why the numbers are high, what the cause is, whether deaths could have been avoided and who and what were responsible. We all know people who have died. No one could realistically deny that deaths are higher than expected. Too many families are left without answers. But what is the cause? That is what needs to be established. Are these deaths attributable to covid? Is it the vaccine? Is it misdiagnosis? Is it lack of access to treatment? Is it constituents choosing to stay at home?

I have two examples. One lady, who had had cancer and seemed completely clear of it, chose not to go back for a check-up and then died quickly after that. A gentleman who had a severe lung problem was denied drugs because of gaps in the assessment of the degradation of his lungs. He died very horribly and quickly at 56 years old. As has been said, a deafening silence will not reassure our constituents or ensure that we learn and respond effectively in future health pandemics.

Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP, Upper Bann

The hon. Member makes an important point about cancer. Operations were cancelled and treatments delayed. More and more stories are coming to the fore around vaccinations of cancer patients, how that triggered other complications and caused deaths. Does he agree that more needs to be done to investigate that?

Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives

I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention, and I was coming on to that. Whatever the Minister is minded to say today, a proper understanding is needed of what is behind these excess deaths and the examples that have just been given.

We seem incapable in this country of talking openly about death. It will come to all of us, but we lack the courage to discuss it openly, and the consequences are widespread. Addressing the issue openly and transparently can only help our effort to bring healing and some comfort to grieving families.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner 10:29, 16 January 2024

I am here because a number of my constituents—the people I work for; they are my employers—have asked me to be here. I congratulate Andrew Bridgen on securing this debate. He is right to ask the questions that he did, and right that the Post Office Horizon scandal has taught us that asking hard questions is really important.

This country generally does hard science well, and I am very proud of that. I do not think it is immodest to say that we are a science and technology superpower. However, science always needs to be evidence-based. We need to be unafraid to ask difficult questions, and we must never lack the professional curiosity to challenge and interpret data. That is really important for all of us. We have had references to lockdowns. I do not think that Parliament will ever agree to lockdowns again, because the situation is completely different now. We now have testing, vaccines and medicines, so I cannot ever see a future Parliament agreeing to lockdowns again.

I am one of the 93.6% who freely chose to be vaccinated against covid. That was my choice, but I support people who did not choose to be vaccinated. However, it is worth just mentioning that figure of 93.6%, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been vaccinated.

I will just look at the facts. Unlike the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire, I do not have a biotechnology degree, but it has been put to me that according to the Office for National Statistics, which is independent, the mortality rate in 2022 in England was significantly lower than it was in 2020, before the arrival of covid-19. Also, analysis from the ONS published in August last year shows that people who have received a covid vaccination have a lower mortality rate than those who have not been vaccinated against covid. I accept that there are other data sets, and I completely agree with him that if there is more information that should be in the public domain, it should be put there; I support him in that regard. However, I also support the independent ONS. We challenge it at our peril, because it is important that we politicians have reliable data that is genuinely independent.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I am afraid that I will not, because I have so little time in which to speak, and I do not want to knock other speakers out.

What is the NHS doing about people dying who should not be dying? There are such deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, dementia and musculoskeletal conditions, because people stayed away from their GPs or from hospitals for too long. To be fair to the Government, there is a major programme in place. We want an additional 9 million treatments and diagnostic procedures over 2023 and 2024, and 30% more elective activity. There is £8 billion extra put in by the Chancellor, and a big focus on pharmacy. However, I think there should also be a focus on diet, exercise, lifestyle and air quality, all of which are important issues.

Photo of Karl McCartney Karl McCartney Conservative, Lincoln 10:32, 16 January 2024

As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary, and I am grateful to Andrew Bridgen for securing and leading this debate.

Like many hon. Members, I have been concerned by the increasing trend in excess deaths in recent years, which includes deaths in the male population; indeed, there have been a higher number of excess deaths of men than of women, although all excess deaths are of course a tragedy.

According to the Government, from the start of the pandemic until 1 December 2023, there were 77,907 excess female deaths and 92,913 excess male deaths, the latter figure making up 54% of the total. However, once we delve into the data, we find that there are deeper differences. Between the ages of 25 and 64, the number of excess deaths for women was 12,579, while the number for men was 24,688, so nearly twice as many working-age men as working-age women have died unexpectedly since the pandemic.

Where is the research to find the underlying causes for these excess male deaths from conditions affecting the heart, diabetes and urinary disease? Where are the reports saying what we need to do to address these issues, both as a whole and in response to the nuances of particular figures? Who is looking into how this happened? In Government, which Minister, which Department, which corner of our expansive NHS, which think-tank and which Select Committee—either in the Commons or the Lords—is examining this issue?

The myriad external health and wellbeing-orientated bodies, whether they be quangos, non-governmental organisations or charities, have a plethora of experts, who are available across the state and in the various institutions that we have in this country. However, for some reason—maybe one that centres on an uncomfortable truth—no one who should be interested in the huge rise in excess deaths seems very interested in them at all. Is that a scandal? Perhaps; time will tell. However, the silence from the Secretary of State and the Ministers in her Department speak volumes, as does the silence from the civil servants at the Department. The silence from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities is similarly underwhelming, and the silence from the health community at large is echoed by the silence from the royal colleges, as is the silence from Sir Chris Whitty and his colleagues. That is worrying, not just because we all know that if the gender figures were the other way round, there would be huge publicity and research, but because it seems that these figures, in general, are purposely being ignored. Is it because men in this age group are more affected? Do men not count as much?

Overall, there have been huge number of excess deaths from covid, and we do not know what the underlying causes are for a range of conditions. It is as if the health authorities and the Government do not want to talk about it. Have they something to hide? Do they know something we do not? Back in the dark days of the pandemic, there was a debate in the Chamber about vaccinating young people, perhaps mandatorily. Only two Opposition Members turned up to support the Government, and more than 40 of the Minister’s Government colleagues did not support the Government’s approach. In my speech I said that, with regard to the health of the youngest in society, we should do no harm.

Similarly, I am not proud of the Government for ignoring the higher excess deaths. I hope the Minister will announce investigations to ascertain why the ultimate harm of excess death numbers is rising, and how excess deaths might be tackled, for women and men of all ages. As an aside, it is commendable that the Government recently ensured that all schools have defibrillators, but to my mind, that raises more questions than it answers. Is this the next Post Office Horizon-type scandal? Time will tell. One suspects that the truth will eventually out.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

I call Dean Russell, but please sit down at 10.38 am.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 10:35, 16 January 2024

I pay tribute to Andrew Bridgen for securing this debate. I will be brief, as I have a very specific point to make.

Losing a loved one can be a profoundly painful experience. In Hertfordshire, families are experiencing delays from the coroner due to the apparent increase in complicated deaths over a number of years. Although it is right to take time to do a full investigation, I am concerned about the lack of communication with families who have lost loved ones to update them about the reasons for the delays and set out what the timings will be. I am getting inquiries from families who are suffering and do not know what is happening and why there are delays, and that is feeding their concerns. Does the Minister agree that this only adds to families’ pain? They just want answers, and to know what is happening. Will the Minister please urge coroners, if they are not able to do the work, to at least communicate regularly, and provide updates, so that grieving families know what is happening and suffer less?

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

We now come to the Front Benchers. Will the Minister please give the mover of the motion at least two minutes to respond?

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health) 10:37, 16 January 2024

It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairship, Sir Gary. I congratulate Andrew Bridgen on securing this important debate on trends in excess mortality. I also congratulate all hon. Members who have spoken in this lively debate.

The phrase “excess deaths” refers to the difference between the actual registered number of deaths, and the expected number of deaths, based on data from previous years. Recording and understanding such trends is important for any Government of this country, because through that lens we discover areas of growing irregular activity, and we can use that information to tackle issues and improve the lives of our families, our constituents and everyone in this country.

It is sad that excess deaths appear to have increased in recent years. Although there is a range of estimates from different bodies, they all point to an increasing trend. Life expectancy in the UK has also fallen to its lowest level in a decade. Male life expectancy is down 38 weeks from its pre-pandemic peak, and female life expectancy is down 23 weeks. Those worrying trends reinforce the need for us to understand what is happening and what we can do to turn them around.

However, it is important to tackle the claim by the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire that there is a causal link between the covid-19 vaccines and excess deaths in this country.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

I am afraid I have limited time.

The Opposition have stated clearly, and I confirm again, that we believe vaccines are the most effective public health intervention in relation to coronavirus and health in general. It is clear from extensive independent research that the covid-19 vaccines have been and continue to be extremely successful at preventing deaths. Sadly, there have been extremely rare cases of people suffering side effects that are possibly linked to the vaccine, but the data does not suggest that there is a link between that and the large increase in excess mortality in recent years. However, when serious side effects do occur, it is right that individuals and their families should have access to the vaccine damage payment. I encourage anyone who has a side effect from any vaccine to use the yellow card system and to report the side effect to their general practitioner.

It is wrong, however, to consistently link the observed excess deaths to covid-19 vaccines. Like my right hon. Friend Sir George Howarth, I have concerns that making that link not only stokes fear and misinformation, but distracts the public conversation away from other health concerns of critical importance.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

I normally would, but I have limited time, and I really want to explain the Opposition’s thoughts. Although I disagree with hon. Members on this issue, I am pleased that we are discussing the topic today, because as I have mentioned, we face increased excess deaths and a wider health crisis across the country.

The primary cause of excess mortality has, of course, been covid-19. The pandemic was one of the most profound events of our lifetime, and in the UK, hundreds of thousands of people died, and millions were extremely ill. In fact, there are perhaps 2 million people still shielding because of their clinical vulnerability to the virus. I am sure that we all know who some of those individuals are.

The Opposition have made the case over many years that the Government and our health system were not fully prepared, and were far too slow to act throughout the crisis. It is vital that we learn lessons from the pandemic, and take steps to strengthen our resilience for the future. That is why it is so important that the covid-19 inquiry receives the support that it needs: to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.

The Government have named several other reasons, apart from the pandemic, for the increase in excess deaths in recent years.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

On a point of order, Sir Gary.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

These include high flu prevalence, a strep A outbreak, an increase—

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Abena, we have a point of order; I am so sorry. Philip, it had better be a point of order.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Sir Gary, your chairmanship is superb. Will you confirm that it is normal in these debates that the Opposition spokesperson has up to 10 minutes to make their case? Abena Oppong-Asare therefore has just under five minutes left, which is plenty of time for interventions.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

That is entirely a matter for the Opposition spokesman, but thank you for the point of order.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

There is an increase in conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. As a number of Members have mentioned, the Government say that they are attempting to reduce excess deaths through more health checks, as part of their major conditions strategy. We in the Opposition welcome all efforts to improve the health of our country and tackle these issues, but we must have a Government who will build an NHS and a healthcare system that is there for the public when they need it.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

I am afraid not; I really want to explain our concerns, and what the Opposition will do.

Unfortunately, through 14 years of Conservative mismanagement, the country has seen the Government do the exact opposite. On patients being seen on time, the situation continues to get worse; so many key NHS targets are being missed. The Prime Minister promised last year to get NHS waiting lists down by 2024, yet this month, waiting lists remain sky high at 7.6 million—400,000 higher than he promised. One year on, that is another pledge missed by the Prime Minister and this Government, and it leaves so many families waiting for urgent care across the country.

What is more, we are so far behind on critical health challenges. As Grahame Morris mentioned, on cancer mortality, thousands are needlessly dying because of slow and late diagnosis, combined with delays to urgently needed treatment. Cancer waiting time targets are consistently being missed, and some of them have not been met for over a decade—a leading cause of avoidable deaths in England. It is urgent that we swiftly tackle this crisis. That is why Labour has committed to improving cancer survival rates by hitting all NHS cancer waiting time targets, and to ensuring early diagnosis within five years, so that no patient waits longer than they should.

When it comes to the NHS and the health of our nation, Labour offers a different plan. We are fully committed to delivering a mission-driven Government who will cut NHS waiting times and build our NHS, so that it is there for the people when they need it. That includes measures such as delivering 2 million more appointments and operations a year at evenings and weekends.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

It means doubling the number of scanners, so that patients with conditions such as cancers are diagnosed early.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Order. The hon. Lady has indicated that she will not give way. Let us hear the end of this speech. Thank you.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

And it includes ensuring that ambulances get to people in time to save lives, not when it is too late. We will also tackle the wider health inequalities that mean that life expectancy is much worse in our country’s poorest regions, through our focus on intervention and a shift to community care.

Just last week, we announced our detailed child health action plan to reverse the plummeting health outcomes for our children. Through specific measures, targeting waiting lists, mental health, dentistry and more, we will ensure that that we have the healthiest generation of children ever. That area of concern has been echoed by a number of Members during this debate.

I will conclude by restating the Opposition’s concerns about increasing excess deaths in recent years. Covid-19 was the most significant threat that our public had faced in over 100 years. It is vital that we all learn lessons from that profound event and make sure that mistakes like this never happen again. It is critical that we understand other trends in the excess mortality seen across the country, and that we build our NHS as a healthcare system that invests in prevention—because prevention is key—and that is there for the public when it is needed.

I look forward to hearing from the Minister on the issues that have been raised, and about how we can tackle rising excess deaths across the country.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women) 10:47, 16 January 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I thank Andrew Bridgen for securing this important debate. We have had a number of debates; I responded very briefly to his Adjournment debate in October. I acknowledge that he is absolutely correct that there is an increase in excess deaths. We take that very seriously; I take that seriously as a Minister, and from the point of view of my clinical background.

To echo the thoughts of many hon. Members around lessons to be learned from the covid period, I too, as Minister with responsibility for pandemic preparedness, would like answers and advice on the impacts of lockdowns, face masks and the timings of vaccine roll-outs, so that those can be taken into consideration for any future pandemic. Although the inquiry is independent, a focus on those issues would be extremely helpful to me, as Minister.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

Not for the moment; let me respond to as many points from hon. Members as I can.

There is an increase in excess deaths. A number of factors contribute to that. We take that seriously, and monitor it constantly. Looking at the past year, for example, there was a high flu prevalence last winter, when there were still ongoing challenges relating to instances of covid-19 and a strep A outbreak, particularly among children. Those had an impact. Statistics from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities showed that last year, there were almost 26,400 excess deaths in England, and of those excess deaths, 7,300 were due to acute respiratory infections, including flu and pneumonia.

Last winter, the number of positive tests for flu peaked at 31.8%—the highest figure in the last six years. There are schools of thought on that; one is that when people were locked down, they were not exposed to flu for a couple of years, so their immune systems struggle to cope. We have learned those lessons, and that is why, this year, we have brought forward our flu vaccination programme. We have successfully vaccinated over 17.6 million people since the campaign started in September. It is still early in the winter season, but—touch wood—we are seeing fewer admissions from flu and covid than we did last year. We are learning lessons from those excess deaths.

There are also excess deaths from cardiovascular diseases; that was pointed out during the debate. The figure is 6% higher than expected in England, with almost 13,500 excess deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease. Lockdown did have an impact on that. We know that people were not getting their cholesterol tested or their blood pressure checked, and were still smoking. Antihypertensives and statins were not being prescribed. Again, we have taken action. As my hon. Friend Andrew Selous pointed out, we are supporting local authorities to resume normal NHS healthcare checks; between April and June last year, the highest number of checks were offered since the programme began in 2013. We are investing £17 million in innovative new digital health checks, to be rolled out this spring, that will deliver an additional 1 million checks in the first four years. We have a £10 million pilot to deliver up to 150,000 cardiovascular disease checks in the workplace, with free blood pressure checks being rolled out in community pharmacies to people over 40, and we are investing £645 million to include blood pressure checks in our community pharmacy facilities. That is in addition to the work the Prime Minister announced on a smoke-free generation, which will be debated further, through which we want to see smoking rates further reduce.

I turn to the elephant in the room—covid vaccines—because the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire and other hon. Members have raised concerns about their safety. It is true that Office for National Statistics data, published only in August, shows that people who have had a covid-19 vaccine have a lower mortality rate than those who have not been vaccinated. My hon. Friend Dr Evans and the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire are absolutely correct that a high number of people who were vaccinated appear in the excess death population, but when 93.6% of the population have had at least one dose of a covid vaccine, there will be a high number of vaccinated people in the excess death numbers. That is prevalence, not causality. It is important that we look at the causes of excess deaths and tackle them.

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The Minister is saying that the number of people dying who are vaccinated is higher than the number of people who are not. That is to be expected because they are more likely to be older and frailer. Does she have any data that are adjusted for age and frailty—to say whether the vaccinated population are more or less likely to die?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

I do not have those figures on me, but I will be very happy to write to the hon. Lady with them. I am not saying that the rate is higher if people are vaccinated but that a high number of vaccinated people appear in the excess death figures because 93.6% of the population were vaccinated. That does not link to causality; it shows a high prevalence instead.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

On that very point, during the public inquiry, should greater importance not have been placed on investigating the excess deaths, as opposed to delaying that part of the inquiry?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

The public inquiry is independent, and the Government are under heavy scrutiny from it. It is not for me to say how the inquiry should be conducted. As a Government, we are looking at the causes of excess deaths and introducing, where we can, urgent measures to reverse that increase as quickly as possible.

No vaccine or medicine—even simple paracetamol—is completely risk free, but we have systems in place to continually monitor the safety of our medicines. For example, in April 2021, following concerns raised through the yellow card system or by GPs or clinicians, the MHRA reacted to rare cases of concurrent thrombosis and thrombocytopenia following the AZ vaccine. That resulted in actions, with adults under 30 not offered the vaccine any further. In May of that year, that was extended to adults under 40. Where there is concern, we will take action and take recommendations from bodies like the MHRA to make sure that those vaccines are as safe as they can be.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

The Minister knows as well as I do that the yellow card scheme sits at the heart of safe clinical care, but allegations are circulating that the MHRA is sitting on 50 times more yellow cards related to the covid-19 vaccine than those related to any other vaccine that have been reported to it. Will she commit to asking the MHRA to account for that and to taking urgent action if, indeed, it is sitting on the yellow card system reports?

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Minister, please leave some time for the Member in charge to wind up.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

Thank you, Sir Gary, for reminding me that I have two minutes left.

I absolutely take the hon. Gentleman’s point. If people have concerns, I am more than happy to raise them with organisations or to provide hon. and right hon. Members with answers. Although we have had over 8,000 claims to the vaccine damage payment scheme so far, 4,000 of them have been rejected on the grounds of causation or not meeting the severity threshold, and 159 have been awarded—156 for the AZ vaccine, two for Pfizer and one for Moderna. As well as the information that the MHRA is collecting, we are analysing the vaccine damage payment scheme to keep constantly reviewing the safety of the vaccines.

We must be careful with the language we use. We have a measles outbreak at the moment that is affecting young children, with particularly high outbreaks in London and the west midlands. Thankfully, it is mild in most cases, but children can die or have long-term side effects, and there is a danger if we are not careful with the language we use. We should absolutely scrutinise the safety of vaccines, but we need to make sure that we are not deterring parents from coming forward. We nearly eradicated measles, and we are now seeing outbreaks because of concerns about vaccinations. Although we have concerns, we also have responsibilities.

I do not have much time left, so I will make one quick point. If clinicians and experts have concerns, we should point them to the funding that we have made available for the National Institute for Health and Care Research. Some £110 million has been allocated for covid-19 vaccine research, and I encourage them to make use of that fund to develop our knowledge further.

I reassure colleagues that we absolutely acknowledge that there is a risk of excess deaths. We are working towards how we reduce that as quickly as possible, but the lockdowns have had a negative effect in many cases. We are also mindful of the safety of vaccinations, and have taken action when safety concerns have been raised.

My hon. Friend Dean Russell mentioned coronial delays. That is a matter for the Ministry of Justice, but if he wants to write to me with the details of his case, I would be happy to take it up with that Department.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire for bringing forward this issue. My door is open, and I am very happy to continue the discussion with him on it.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire 10:57, 16 January 2024

As it always should be, Sir Gary; your chairing of the debate has been excellent. I have been extremely impressed by the turnout, which is far in excess of my expectations. I congratulate all hon. and right hon. Members who have attended, especially those who have contributed, and I thank the Minister and the shadow Minister, Abena Oppong-Asare, for their participation. Respectfully, I advise the Front-Bench spokespeople that not taking interventions will not fill colleagues or the wider public with confidence that they are being open and transparent. If we want to reassure people, they need to have confidence in us.

Clearly, time has been in short supply; three minutes for Back-Bench contributions was insufficient, and I hope that everyone present today, and those who have not been able to attend but who wanted to speak, would support an immediate call for a three-hour debate in the main Chamber. That would treat the whole issue of trends in excess deaths with the reverence, time and respect that our constituents demand and that we need in order to get to the absolute truth. I am saddened that I do not believe that this trend in excess deaths will stop any time soon; in fact, I think it will continue and that the concern from our constituents will only escalate.

The Minister talked about the elephant in the room: the vaccine harms. It is that bad, and it is going to get that bad, that apparently even the elephant in the room has died suddenly. The Minister could sort all this out if her Department were to tell the data holders to release the record-level data: the vaccine records, the vaccination data, the age of the vaccinated, what they were vaccinated with, and whether they have died or had a severe adverse event. That level of data would sort out this argument once and for all, and if—

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

Order. We must move on to the next debate.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).