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House of Commons Hansard
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Covid-19: Strengthening the Four-nation Approach
20 May 2020
Volume 676
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What recent discussions he has had with the Minister for the Cabinet Office on strengthening the four-nation approach to the covid-19 outbreak. [902834]

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What recent discussions he has had with the Minister for the Cabinet Office on strengthening the four-nation approach to the covid-19 outbreak. [902835]

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What recent discussions he has had with the Minister for the Cabinet Office on strengthening the four-nation approach to the covid-19 outbreak. [902857]

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I have regular discussions with the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Scotland Office is in regular dialogue with Scottish Government Minsters to ensure that the most effective measures are put in place in all parts of the United Kingdom. Throughout the covid-19 outbreak, we have been committed to a four-nations approach.

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From the Secretary of State’s comments earlier, we know that the Government accept that coronavirus will affect different places differently. What discussions has the Minister been having with other Ministers about getting an official, sub-regional transmission rate—a sub-regional R rate—for the whole United Kingdom to enable authorities in different parts of the country to respond in the way that helps them locally?

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There have been ongoing discussions about this. As the Secretary of State said—indeed, the Prime Minister included it in the UK Government document—not only will different nations of the United Kingdom come out of the pandemic at different rates, but different regions of England may also come out of the pandemic at different rates. It is right that this Government are committed to supporting everyone, no matter where they live, to have the best chances to come out of coronavirus and its effects. We will continue to do that as a Government, in dialogue and constructive discussion with the devolved Administrations.

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Is the Minister aware of a survey by the charity Radiotherapy4Life, which says that there may be between 2,500 and 7,000 avoidable cancer deaths in Scotland as a result of deferred treatments for cancer patients as a consequence of the NHS focusing on the covid-19 response? Will he work with his counterparts in the four nations to put the case to prioritise advanced radiotherapy by seeking to increase funding, and to remove bureaucratic barriers and restrictions to modernising radiotherapy and encouraging the use of advanced radiotherapy?

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The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point. We have to make it clear in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland that our NHS remains open. That message has been loud and clear. Cancer patients should be aware that we will do everything we can across the four nations of the United Kingdom to get the treatment they need and deserve, but the ultimate message is, yes, coronavirus has an impact on our NHS. Because of the actions of the Government and the public, we have been able to suppress the covid outbreak to ensure that we have not breached capacity, but we cannot allow important medical matters to go untreated for too much longer. That message is heard loud and clear throughout the Government.

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When the Prime Minister ditched “Stay at Home” for “Stay Alert”, he did not appear to have been too alert to the fact that the other three nations were not with him. Is it not time to re-establish the four-nation approach as soon as possible?

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I think we have seen a slight divergence in some areas, but together the four nations continue to work strongly in lockstep to ensure that we can beat coronavirus and save not only lives, but livelihoods. I am encouraged that Scotland will shortly announce similar measures to the rest of the United Kingdom to release some of the restrictions that are in place, but it is important that these decisions are taken in the devolved Administrations where public health is devolved to the respective Governments.