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Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

Debated on Monday 21 September 2020

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mrs Sheryll Murray

† Bacon, Gareth (Orpington) (Con)

Byrne, Ian (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab)

† Dorries, Ms Nadine (Minister for Patient Safety, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention)

Eagle, Ms Angela (Wallasey) (Lab)

Elliott, Julie (Sunderland Central) (Lab)

† Harris, Rebecca (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Keeley, Barbara (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)

† Kendall, Liz (Leicester West) (Lab)

† Largan, Robert (High Peak) (Con)

Lewis, Clive (Norwich South) (Lab)

† Longhi, Marco (Dudley North) (Con)

† Morden, Jessica (Newport East) (Lab)

† O'Brien, Neil (Harborough) (Con)

† Roberts, Rob (Delyn) (Con)

† Russell, Dean (Watford) (Con)

† Smith, Greg (Buckingham) (Con)

† Sunderland, James (Bracknell) (Con)

Ian Bradshaw, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 21 September 2020

[Mrs Sheryll Murray in the Chair]

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020, No. 824).

With this it will be convenient to consider the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020, No. 875).

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Murray. The regulations came into force on 3 August and 19 August respectively. On each occasion, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced that the latest epidemiological data allowed a relaxation of some of the measures imposed on those living and working within the protected area of Leicester.

The regulations were preceded by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020, brought into force on 3 July, which imposed the first interventions in Leicester and the surrounding wards. They required the closure of all non-essential businesses, restricted indoor gatherings to no more than two people and outdoor gatherings to no more than six people from different households, and prohibited residents from staying away from their homes and visitors from staying within the protected area. They were debated by the House on 29 July.

Since those measures were introduced, and by the first review date, the number of positive cases in Leicester decreased and the rapid increases prior to the lockdown were arrested. It was clear that our co-ordinated national and local effort, particularly by the people of Leicester, was working. Amendments to those regulations came into force on Saturday 18 July, removing the boroughs of Blaby and Charnwood from the protected area. Then, on 24 July, a further amendment to the regulations allowed specific businesses and out-of-school childcare and educational establishments to reopen in Leicester. The amendments that came into force on 1 August removed Oadby and Wigston from the protected area.

The first of the regulations that we are debating today repealed the previous Leicester regulations. That is why we are not debating statutory instruments 2020 No. 754, No. 787 or No. 823, which have all been revoked. I hope that that summary sets the context of the present set of regulations. Given the urgency of the situation in Leicester, we used the emergency procedure to make them as soon as we could. They give effect to the decision set out by my right hon. Friend of State responding to the latest epidemiological evidence and local insights.

It is as important to remove restrictions as soon as possible as it is to impose them when transmission rates are unacceptably high, so that the people whom the restrictions impact hardest are not subject to them for any longer than necessary. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 allowed more businesses to reopen across the city of Leicester. Residents were allowed to stay overnight away from their homes, and the restrictions on how many people gather in homes or outdoors were replaced by a restriction preventing different households from meeting up with each other in homes and gardens.

At that stage, the only businesses that remained closed were those where the transmission risk remained unacceptably high in the light of the incidence rates of coronavirus in Leicester—for example, nightclubs and casinos; nail bars, salons, spas, tattoo parlours and skin piercing services; sports venues such as indoor ice skating rinks, swimming pools, bowling alleys, and fitness and dance studios; outdoor swimming pools; conference centres and exhibition halls. There were various exemptions to the list—for example, to let blood donations take place at those locations, and for elite sportspersons and professional dancers to continue training.

The revised restriction on household gatherings in private homes was also subject to several exceptions to mitigate the impact of the measure. For example, those who were part of a support bubble arrangement were allowed to continue to meet, a person could attend a birth or visit someone who was dying, and gatherings necessary for work, education, childcare or charitable work could take place. Gatherings were also permitted in emergencies, to avoid injury or illness, or to escape risk of harm, to move to a new house, and to provide caring assistance to a vulnerable person.

The regulations include provisions that make it a criminal offence to breach any of the restrictions or requirements. As with the national regulations, those who breach the provisions may be issued with a fixed penalty notice fining them £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days, with repeated breaches attracting increasingly greater amounts. Offenders may also be fined following conviction.

On 19 August, the regulations were amended, considering the more stable incidence of the virus of 70 per 100,000 people. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agreed that it was safe to allow more businesses to reopen in accordance with covid-secure guidance, but not to relax the restriction on households meeting one another in private homes. From that date, nail bars, hair salons, tanning booths, spas, beauty salons, massage parlours, tattoo parlours, body and skin piercing businesses, and outdoor swimming pools could reopen. We also published guidance for people living in Leicester, to help them to understand what they can and cannot do under the restrictions. That was updated each time there was a change.

Concern about the outbreak in Leicester has been significant. Engagement with local leaders has been extensive, repeated and productive throughout the period. I thank the local authorities, the local resilience forum, Public Health England, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and the local director of public health, to whom I have spoken a number of times and to whom we refer repeatedly. Ivan Browne of Leicester City Council, who has done an amazing job, is the director of public health.

On each occasion, the decision to take action was driven not by one number but by a judgment about the overall situation. When we imposed the first lot of restrictions at the beginning of July, however, one number stood out: the seven-day infection rate, which in Leicester was 135 cases per 100,000, which I know the Opposition Front Bencher, the hon. Member for Leicester West, understands fully is an extremely high rate—three times higher than in the next highest area at that time. On the clinical front, admissions to hospitals were between six and 10 per day in Leicester, rather than one per day in other hospital trusts. Actions had already been taken to protect people in Leicester, including increases in testing and public health capacity. We hoped that those interventions and the work of the local public health teams would get the infection rate down without us having to take more drastic action but, sadly, that was not to be.

As required by the regulations, we have reviewed the situation at least once every 14 days since then, and we revised the geographical extent and the nature of the restrictions as and when it was safe to do so. We also published guidance for people living in Leicester, to help them to understand what they can and cannot do under the restrictions. I emphasise that point again. I think the hon. Lady would agree that the guidance and information produced have been extensive, thanks to people such as Ivan Browne.

We always knew that the path out of lockdown would not be entirely smooth. It was always likely that infections would rise in particular areas or workplaces, and we would need to be able to respond quickly and flexibly to such outbreaks. As the Committee has heard, the protected area covered by the regulations is due to be extended from tomorrow to include the Borough of Oadby and Wigston. Unfortunately, following a drop in the incidence rate in that area earlier this summer, rates have now risen to an unacceptably high level. We decided that restrictions on households meeting each other in their homes need to be put in place. As I said, there are ongoing reviews of the Leicester regulations. The next review is due on or before 25 September. We will of course make public the outcome of that review in due course.

I am grateful to all Members for their continued engagement in this challenging process and for their scrutiny of the regulations. In particular, I thank people in the protected area in Leicestershire, who have responded well to the measures put in place. It is thanks to their continued efforts that we were able to reopen non-essential retail, childcare and educational establishments. We hope to ease measures further if the improvements continue. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Murray. The Labour party will not oppose the regulations, which lift many, although not all, of the additional restrictions Leicester was put under as the first area to go into local lockdown.

I hope that the Committee will forgive me, however, for raising questions on behalf of my constituents and of people across the city about why some restrictions remain in place, and for raising a number of serious concerns about how this whole process has been handled and the lessons that we might learn for local lockdowns in the rest of the country; about the impact Leicester’s extended lockdown has had on the lives of people in our city; and about the support that we need to minimise that impact, ensuring the best possible recovery. That is something that now applies to other areas in local lockdown. Finally, I will touch on the very real problems that we in Leicester are experiencing with test and trace—problems that are mirrored across the country—and the lessons that we can learn to put that right. Sorting out test and trace is essential to getting on top of the virus and avoiding even worse harm to our economy. Those issues are incredibly pertinent to announcements made today.

I will start by asking why some restrictions are still in place. One of the most important questions, and one that my constituents ask repeatedly, is why they are still not allowed to meet their families in their gardens. I cannot stress how horrible it has been for people to be separated from their families for months on end. They understand why being indoors causes difficulties, but why can they not be outdoors in their gardens? The Minister for Care told me in person that the reason is that reaching the garden would involve going through the house, and there are concerns that the infection might spread indoors; people might be less careful in the private atmosphere of a house than in the garden. In response, I asked, “Can you publish that? Can you put that description of why you are doing it with the evidence that underpins it online?” I have had many emails from constituents about it, but I am not a scientist; I cannot speak for the science, but I do want my constituents to know. Ivan Browne, Leicester’s brilliant director of public health, has also asked for that evidence, but it still has not appeared.

Why there would be a problem with outlining that reasoning online for my constituents? As the Minister will know, if we want people to comply with rules, there has to be trust, and for there to be trust, we have to be open with people about those reasons. I believe that the vast majority of people are completely reasonable and will listen to the reasons and follow the rules.

Will the Minister publish evidence or an explanation of why the Government are lifting the requirement for people in Leicester to shield from October 5th? Lots of people who are shielding are really pleased about that, but others are really concerned about why we are doing it, particularly in the context of the news that we have heard today about infections rising exponentially. Will the Government stick to that policy or change, it and can we have some information, because it is really important for people who have been shielding to know why?

I will turn now to the handling—or, rather, mishandling—of the additional Leicester lockdown and subsequent reviews. I will not go over what happened when the lockdown was first announced—as the Minister knows, I went through that last time we debated similar regulations—but I have never seen anything like the mishandling of that lockdown and the subsequent reviews, and I have worked, for my sins, in and around Parliament and Government for 23 years, including in the Department of Health. I understand that these are unprecedented times, but that could have been handled better.

Let me tell the Committee what happened when the results of the second review of the restrictions came out on 30 July. People were desperate; they were absolutely clinging on to the news for answers. “Am I going to be able to see my mum and dad and my brother and sister?”, “Am I going to be able to go back to work?”, or, “Is my business going to be able to open?” We were told by the city council that we would get the results of this review by mid-day; then just after lunch; and then by 5 pm. We waited and we waited, but by 8 pm there was still nothing. Finally, at 8.30 pm, I received a message from my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), the shadow Health Secretary, asking, “Are you on this call?” It turned out that an email had been sent after 8 pm, not by this Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary but by the social care Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary. I got on the call and I discovered that it was not about an announcement regarding Leicester; it was a call that included all the other MPs in the midlands and the north whose areas were going into an extra lockdown. People can imagine just how agitated many of them were. And even after that call, nothing was properly communicated to the public, so it was left to me and the other Leicester MPs to tweet what we had very briefly been told in that call, because our constituents were desperate to know what was happening.

I say all that not because I give a monkey’s about how I am told, but because I care about how my constituents are told and how they are treated, and because if we want people to abide by the rules, they have to know what the rules are, rather than being left to scrabble around to try and make sense of a tweet by the Health Secretary at 9.15 pm. And just for the record, I do not think that it is ever good to tweet at that time of night; that is true in general, but particularly on an issue such as this. I think the vast majority of people are prepared to do the right thing and make sacrifices, but they expect fairness from the Government and at the bare minimum to be treated with respect, and as if their lives and livelihoods matter. That is what my constituents told me; they said they felt that they did not matter and had just been left hanging on for news that completely affects their lives.

That is not good enough. The Government need to change how future local lockdowns are announced. They need to set clear dates and times for announcements, and say how they will be made. My constituents think that the Government have to provide concise and readily available information to the public. The Government must not ever send a tweet to make this kind of announcement.

I turn now to the impact that the extra lockdown has had on our city and the need for more support. I should say in advance that I know these issues are way beyond the Minister’s direct remit, but she will understand why I want to put this on the record.

All of us in this room know the terrible toll that the virus has taken on people’s lives and livelihoods, and the situation has been even worse in areas with local lockdowns. Leicester, which was the first place to go into local lockdown, has suffered the longest. People are still not able to meet up with the people they love the most—their mums, dads, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, nephews and nieces. As I have already said, it is vital that the Government explain why such meetings are not allowed, even in people’s gardens.

The pressures on unpaid family carers are perhaps even more severe. Many tell me that they have been pushed to absolute breaking point, providing many more hours of care a week or being forced to shield with the people they care for, so as not to risk infecting their loved ones. They have received no extra help or support, let alone any desperately needed breaks. As one woman told me in a recent surgery: “I have nothing left. You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Will the Minister explain why the Government’s winter plan for social care contains nothing on improving support for family carers, beyond saying that they will get guidance, a phoneline and a free flu vaccine? How will that help the people upon whom the whole health and care system relies?

People with relatives in care homes also feel pushed to the limit, as they have been unable to see their relatives for nearly six months. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Claudia Webbe) told me about a constituent who had contacted her about this issue, describing the anguish that her family was experiencing. Her constituent said:

“As someone who has a family member in a care home”—

that is, in a care home in a ward that was particularly affected—

“I’m seeing and hearing (via Skype) my family member becoming very distressed, withdrawn and their condition deteriorating due to the lack of physical and visual contact with their family members...My family are absolutely distraught by the fact that we are not being allowed to see our family member but are having to hear them sobbing on the telephone and being told by staff how agitated they are and how lockdown is affecting them and causing their condition to deteriorate. We can’t get this time back with our family member and time is precious.”

None of us wants to risk bringing the virus back into care homes, but instead of banning family visits in high-risk local lockdown areas, why do the Minister and the Government not make it their top priority to get visits happening again by guaranteeing at least one family member a weekly covid test, so that they can see the person they love and, crucially, that person’s health does not get even worse?

As I said in our last discussion on the regulations, families are under massive financial pressure, too. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people on universal credit in Leicester has doubled and unemployment is rising month on month. More and more people are struggling to make ends meet, pay their mortgage or rent, keep the gas and electricity on, and even put food on the table. As chair of the “Feeding Leicester” programme to tackle food poverty in the city, I see the brutal impact of the virus on a city where 40% of children were already living in poverty even before it struck. Our emergency food partnership of 16 local food banks has seen a 300% increase in demand since the pandemic began. Christ the King food bank in Beaumont Leys, which I visited the other week, went from supporting about 80 families a week to 400, through the unbelievable, amazing efforts of its volunteers. The volunteers told me that, whereas at the start of the lockdown they were helping many people who were shielding, they now see more and more people who have been made redundant. With one in three employees furloughed in Leicester, they are worried about what will happen when the furlough and self-employed schemes finish next month. As winter is fast approaching, many people face the awful choice of heating or eating.

I know that those issues are beyond the Minister’s direct responsibility, but why will her Government not consider the approach taken in countries such as Germany and France? Those countries have extended their employment schemes until 2021 and made them much more flexible, so that people can work part time, or a few hours, to keep contact with the world of work and keep their business going, but still get enough support to pay the bills, or people can have support tied to training to develop new skills in areas of the economy that are likely to grow in future. Ministers must end their one-size-fits-all approach and continue to support the hardest hit sectors of our economy, where people still cannot go back to business as usual, as well as parts of the country such as Leicester that are still subject to local restrictions.

Leicester’s businesses have been subject to the longest lockdown in the country. While some additional—and hugely welcome—support has been made available, it will not be enough to help many of them survive, even though they were completely viable before the pandemic and have done the right thing. After lobbying from me and other MPs from the city and the county, the Government agreed to provide an additional £2.6 million for Leicester’s businesses to help them to cope with having to stay shut for longer, but I am afraid that, as the East Midlands chamber of commerce has said, Government support for businesses in areas of extra lockdown “only scratches the surface”. What we really need is

“a comprehensive package of support from Government for firms affected by local restrictions, which are sadly becoming more frequent each week.”

I hope the Government will fully acknowledge the additional funding that our local councils need to keep on top of the covid crisis. Leicester City Council’s response to the pandemic is already set to cost more than £40 million, and that figure is likely to get even greater as cases rise and additional lockdown measures come into place.

Finally, I turn to test and trace, the problems we see in Leicester, and what the Government could do to get it right. I pay tribute, as the Minister has done, to the amazing work of our local director of public health, Ivan Browne, his team and all the other Leicester City Council staff who have been working around the clock to get tests to the people who need them. As part of that, the adult social care team under the fantastic directorship of Martin Samuels is working really hard to prevent infections in care homes. In the past 11 weeks they have been ringing each care home at least twice a week and collecting data directly, as little information has been available from the national test and trace system. I do not understand that. Why can we not get the information on care home test results from the national test and trace service back to our local system? Perhaps the Minister can explain that. We have consistently found that staff are being tested about once a fortnight, not once a week—only half as often as recommended.

My own calls with local care homes show that some are having real problems getting test results back and sometime having to wait up to seven days. That means they have to do the next test before getting the results back from the last, with all the risks that that brings from having potentially asymptomatic staff at work for a whole week. The Government first promised weekly testing in care homes with a 24-hour turnaround of results in July, but that is still not happening, even in a high-risk area such as Leicester, where it should have been an absolute priority.

The problems with testing are not confined to care homes, as I am sure hon. Members know from their own experience. Schools in my constituency are also reporting serious issues with testing, particularly for children. Previously, we had lots of walk-in centres in Leicester because of our outbreak. People could simply walk in and get tested, but now parents are being told they must book an appointment first. Not only has that caused confusion, but there are no appointments available to book, so pupils are missing out on yet more time in the classroom. They have to go home and self-isolate because they cannot get a test at all.

The Children’s Commissioner was absolutely right to say today that the Government “risks failing a generation” of children if they do not sort out the testing fiasco, and that the progress made by reopening schools just weeks ago risks being “thrown away” unless the tests are available to keep children in class. That must be an absolute priority. Two things need to happen. First, there has to be much closer working—

Order. I gently remind the shadow Minister not to stray from the scope of the regulations.

No, I absolutely will not. You will be relieved to hear, Mrs Murray, that I do not have much more to say. Forgive me for trying to get this on the record but, as a local MP, the lockdown is the most important thing that has happened to our city, and I want to make sure I reflect on that.

We have to work much more closely with local public health teams to share information and build their capacity on test and trace, rather than have a centrally driven approach. We know that our teams get much better results when they call people, because people recognise a local number. That is a basic, simple thing. The teams tell me that when the person they get hold of on the phone gives them all the contacts that they have had in the last 10 days, they have to give that information to the national test and trace system. How on earth does that make sense?

We also have to build lab capacity, which we desperately need to grow to help to bring the testing backlog down and speed up turnaround time for results. Many universities and research facilities stand ready to help, but the Government have again insisted on national contracts with private sector organisations instead of also having a really good local approach. I hope the Minister will say what steps she will take to shift the focus to a more locally led approach to test and trace in Leicester and across the country. That is relevant to these regulations. I do not want the Minister to come back here to put them all in place again because we cannot get the test and trace system working. I want the Minister and the Government to succeed on test and trace, on keeping our kids at school, and on opening our economy, because that is what is best for my constituents.

In conclusion, many lessons need to be learnt from Leicester’s experience. There must be much better handling of local lockdowns in terms of how decisions are taken and information shared, both with residents and those responsible for making the lockdowns work. We must get to get to grips with test and trace, with a more locally led approach that builds on the knowledge, resources and capacity of local public health teams who know their communities, rather than a centrally managed and controlled system, and we must have a much more tailored and flexible approach to supporting local economies that have faced extra restrictions.

People do not want handouts and they do not expect Government schemes to carry on forever—that is not something that I have ever argued for—but they do expect support to help them get back on their feet when they do the right thing. Above all, we need to understand that the failure to sort out testing is making our economic recovery even harder. We cannot deal with the economic crisis unless we effectively deal with the health crisis, and I am afraid the Government have been sadly lacking on both. I thank the Committee for its forbearance.

I thank the hon. Lady for her impassioned speech. Nobody would ever doubt her commitment to Leicester. As a Minister who has now been responsible for restrictions being put in place in a number of areas across the country, I know how upsetting that is for everybody and especially MPs, who really care about their constituencies and the lives of their constituents. It is distressing. The hon. Member for Leicester West raised many points today. I will hopefully address all of them and will do so as best I can. She did go out of scope in bringing up testing and tracing, but I will, with the tolerance of the Chair, address some of those points.

First, I thank hon. Members for being here today for what is an important debate. The restrictions that we have debated today are necessary in these unprecedented times, and they are important for three reasons, the first and foremost of which is to protect the people of Leicester and the surrounding areas from this terrible, dreadful virus. The lockdown that we have had to impose has been difficult, but I think that the people of Leicester recognise that letting the virus spread unchecked would be far worse.

Secondly, the restrictions are important because they protect those of us who do not live in Leicester. As a result of these ongoing restrictions, there is less risk of the unacceptably high infection rates in that city spreading elsewhere. We should recognise that the restrictions and difficulties faced by the people of Leicester will benefit the whole country.

Thirdly, the restrictions show our absolute determination to respond to the outbreak of the virus in a focused and effective way. We are learning from what has happened in Leicester as we work with local authorities and others in order to respond to future localised outbreaks. We have seen that recently in parts of the north-west and north-east of England, as well as in the midlands.

I am pleased that, since 3 July, when the original restrictions came into force, the area of Leicestershire subject to the restrictions has been reduced and we have been able gradually to allow businesses to reopen and residents to meet up with each other. That recognises the reductions in the incidence rate and shows that Leicester is on the path to realigning with the rest of England’s measures. The next review will take place this Friday, 25 September.

I would like now to deal with some of the points that the hon. Member for Leicester West raised. She spoke about the issue of gardens and asked why people could not go into back gardens. My hon. Friend the Minister responsible for social care was absolutely right in her answer previously. It is because not all homes have access to gardens without going through houses, and winter is coming—to quote a far better phrase from a better source than me. Winter is indeed coming and people will not be so inclined to stay in the gardens and not go into the houses. We do not want people not to be able to mix in their gardens. We want families to be together. We want people to mix. But as always, we are guided by the science.

I am sure that the hon. Lady heard the announcement by the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser today. If we said, “Can people mix in gardens; can they do that?”, and they said that it was safe to allow them to do so, we would. We want people and families to be in contact. It is heartbreaking that families are not. But I am afraid it is as it is. We cannot make one rule for families who have direct access to a garden and another rule for families who do not. That just is not fair.

I will mention businesses in a moment; I will deal now with the test-and-trace aspect that the hon. Lady mentioned and the testing. I have to say—with your forbearance, Mrs Murray—that we have one of the best testing rates in the world; it is equivalent to at least one test for every five people in the country, outpacing Germany, Spain and France. I never miss an opportunity to say that at the moment, because we are one of the best testers out there. We had the capacity for over 250,000 antigen tests on 18 September, from just 2,000 a day in March, and over 2 million testing kits are delivered to almost 9,000 care homes—I will not go on with the rest of the list, Mrs Murray, because I know that you would pull me up.

On test and trace, where do I start? We have reached 86.6% of people who have been contacted; that is over 13,000 positive people who have been reached via contacting. This system did not start on day one; it was not up to speed on day one. We agree with that. The virus blindsided us—for want of a better word—but we are in a much better place now with test and trace, and I have to thank Baroness Harding for her extraordinary efforts.

Grants are now in place for businesses that are required to shut due to the new measures. They can claim up to £1,500 per property every three weeks, because we recognise the impact of localised restrictions on local businesses. That is why we allowed the opening of non-essential retail as soon as the data showed that it was safe to do so. Leicester businesses have access to a large number of support schemes that are in place to help businesses through what is a very difficult time. They include discretionary grants, tax breaks and more. The only way to protect our people and economy is to prevent a second wave of the virus, which is why measures such as those that we have taken in Leicester are necessary and proportionate.

The hon. Lady spoke about shielding. As incidence rates are starting to fall, we continue to review the position. People who are clinically extremely vulnerable and living in the city have been advised to continue to shield. That advice is being reviewed as part of the wider reviews of the measures, and it will be changed as soon as it is safe to do so. Support for shielding has been extended to allow the advice to be followed.

The hon. Lady made a point about communications and having information about the lockdown in Leicester—the words communicated to people. She spoke about coming on to the MP engagement call, and she said that the decision was suddenly arrived at and no one knew. I have to correct her. We had discussions with the Mayor of Leicester, Ivan Browne, and with Mike Sandees from the county side of Oadby and Wigston, who has provided two mobile testing centres in Oadby and Wigston and done a fantastic job. Everybody in Leicester wants this nightmare to end. I know, because I was involved in the calls and meetings. We had the Mayor of Leicester, the leaders of both the county council and Leicester City Council, the chief executives of both the county council and the city council, the directors of health from both councils, and the chief constable. Almost all the people who were responsible for the implementation of the local management outbreak plan were in discussions about the reviews and what was happening in Leicester all the way along.

As the hon. Lady knows, we cannot manage what happens in 10 Acacia Avenue in Leicester from Westminster. That is why we introduced local managements outbreak plans across the country. Every local authority stepped up to the plate. They did their bit, and we provided them with £400 million-worth of funding to do it. Leicester has received a considerable sum of money.

As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, we have also now introduced consensus meetings, where hon. Members can discuss the incidence rates in their constituencies with their directors of public health and their chief executives. The meetings are normally held on Tuesday afternoons for representation to JBC—joint biodiversity centre—Silver on a Wednesday, and we take the decisions in JBC Gold on a Thursday. The Secretary of State introduced that four or five weeks ago so that MPs can be actively involved in the decisions that are taken in their local areas.

I urge the hon. Lady to be part of the consensus meetings with those individuals on a Tuesday afternoon. If she thinks that some wards should not be in lockdown, or that parts of the regulations should be relaxed, she can make those representations. If they are not listened to by her local authority, she can come to the Ministers at the Department of Health and Social Care and give us the evidence and data to show why she thinks that the wrong path is being taken in Leicester and why she thinks that the local authority is locking down or suggesting the imposition of restrictions where they should not be doing so. I urge her to do that. We do not make any decisions in the Department of Health and Social Care without full consultation with everybody on the ground, particularly those who are responsible for designing and delivering the local outbreak management plan.

Let me conclude by recording on behalf of the Government our thanks to all the people of Leicester, particularly the NHS and care workers in the city. They put themselves on the frontline on a daily basis with their ongoing hard work to keep our vital services running and to save lives throughout this crisis.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Committee has considered the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020, No. 824).



That the Committee has considered the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020, No. 875).—(Ms Dorries.)

Committee rose.