Exceptionally, I have agreed to the Minister for Health making a statement with a shorter notice period. Members should understand that it is better to have it than not to have it, so please accept my apologies for the late notice.
With permission, I would like to make a statement on coronavirus, further to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care last night.
This virus remains a serious threat, and over a million people have tested positive for coronavirus in Europe over the past week. Here in the UK, we recorded 21,331 positive cases yesterday—one of the highest recorded daily figures. Average daily hospital admissions in the UK have doubled in the past 14 days, and yesterday we recorded the highest number of daily deaths, 241, since early June.
We must keep working hard, together, to keep this virus under control. We have been vigilant in monitoring the data and putting in place targeted local measures so that we can bear down hard on the virus wherever we see it emerging. We have seen how local action can help flatten the curve, for example in Leicester and Bolton. This targeted local approach, supported by our local covid alert level system, means we can have different rules in places like Cornwall, where transmission is low, from those in places where transmission is high and rising.
I would like to update the House specifically on the discussions we have been having with local leaders in South Yorkshire. The situation in South Yorkshire remains serious. There have been more cases in South Yorkshire so far in October—over 12,000—than in July, August and September combined. The number of patients with covid-19 in intensive care beds has reached over half the number seen at the height of the pandemic earlier this year, and the latest data suggests that the numbers of patients on mechanical ventilation will soon be comparable to the first peak in March. We need to act now to prevent the epidemic in South Yorkshire from continuing to grow.
I am pleased to inform the House that, following discussions this week, the Government have reached an agreement with South Yorkshire on a package of measures to drive down transmission. That means that South Yorkshire—so the city of Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster—will be moving to the local covid alert level “very high”, taking effect at one minute past midnight on Saturday morning. That includes the baseline measures to the very high alert level which were agreed by the House earlier this month.
As well as this, and as agreed with local leaders, unfortunately, casinos, betting shops, adult gaming centres and soft play centres will also have to close, and while gyms will remain open classes will not be allowed. On that point, the Liverpool city region and my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Damien Moore) have also requested to bring their region into line with those measures. So gyms will be open and soft play centres will close in the Liverpool city region.
We know that some of the measures I have announced today are challenging and will have a real impact on people and businesses in South Yorkshire, so we will be putting in place substantial support. That includes the job support scheme, which ensures those affected by business closures are still paid. Once topped up with universal credit, those on low incomes will receive at least 80% of their normal income. The agreement also includes additional funding of £11.2 million for the local area for local enforcement and contract tracing activity. As well as that, we are putting in place extra funding so that local authorities in South Yorkshire can continue to support businesses through this period.
From the Dispatch Box, I would like to thank all the local leaders in South Yorkshire for the collegiate and constructive way in which they have approached the negotiations. I would like to thank all hon. Members representing constituencies in the region as well. We have worked across party lines to reach an agreement that will protect public health and the NHS in South Yorkshire, while also supporting those who need it most. I know those local measures will be hard and entail further sacrifice, but through bearing down hard on the virus, wherever and whenever we see it emerge, we can help to slow the spread of this virus and protect our loved ones and our local communities. The agreement will help us to protect lives and livelihoods in South Yorkshire and I commend the statement to the House.
I thank the Minister of State for advance sight of his statement. Today, we have another great swathe of the north put into lockdown. Sheffield went into tier 2 restrictions last Wednesday, so did Ministers make the wrong judgment a week ago or has new evidence come to light that was not apparent last Wednesday? How many other areas in tier 2 today are facing the same fate as Sheffield, such as those areas in tier 2 that neighbour South Yorkshire, such as North East Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire?
The Secretary of State could not answer yesterday the question of how long Greater Manchester will be in lockdown, or what the criteria will be for leaving lockdown, so can the Minister of State today tell us how long South Yorkshire will be in lockdown? Does the nationwide R number need to fall below 1, as the Prime Minister suggested last week, or just the regional R number? Or, if an area such as Doncaster gets the R below 1, will it be able to leave lockdown?
The Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box earlier talked about hospital admissions, so could the Minister tell us what level hospital admissions need to come down to for an area to exit lockdown?
As I said yesterday, my dad worked in casinos in Salford and my mum worked in bars. I know people will want to do the right thing and will understand that further measures are necessary to contain the spread of the virus, but families should not face financial ruin. The Minister wants congratulations for the package he has allocated to South Yorkshire, but why is contact tracing funding subject to the negotiations and deals? The virus is out of control because of the failures of the £12 billion test and trace system. If local areas had been given the resources months ago to put in place effective contact tracing, we would not be in this situation now. Those failures on contact tracing are having a direct impact on people’s lives.
This afternoon, families across South Yorkshire who work in hospitality—whether in Doncaster, Sheffield, Penistone, Rother Valley or Don Valley—will be asking why, if it was fair to pay 80% of wages in March, they should now be expected to get by on just two thirds of their wages in the run-up to Christmas. This matters to families everywhere, because we know that further restrictions will be needed. Indeed, according to sources briefing Times Radio, plans are being developed for a three-week lockdown more widely next month. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that his officials are now working on plans for a three-week national lockdown next month.
The Communities Secretary said this morning that there was now a national formula for areas under local lockdown, but Ministers say they want a targeted local approach because circumstances vary. Yet when an area such as Greater Manchester, which has had restrictions since July, says, “Our circumstances are different,” the Prime Minister says, “Tough. Hard luck. You can’t be treated any differently,” and vindictively refuses Greater Manchester just £5 million extra to get a deal over the line. This is playing politics with people’s jobs and people’s livelihoods. We cannot defeat this virus on the cheap, nor should it be broken on the backs of the lowest paid. Public health restrictions must go hand in hand with economic support, because as night follows day, falls in employment lead to rises in chronic illness. The Chancellor must pay out to help out, and deliver a fair deal to support jobs and livelihoods under lockdown.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, my constituency neighbour up in Leicestershire. He was, as usual, typically reasonable and measured, until almost the last moment, when I am afraid the only person playing politics was him.
To address the hon. Gentleman’s points, we are taking these steps now, at the right time, as the infection rate has continued to go up. In respect of other tier 2 areas or neighbouring tier 2 areas, it is only this announcement that we are planning to make at this point. It is the only move that has been announced and that is currently being considered.
The hon. Gentleman asked about criteria, essentially— a number of his questions were, “How long for?” and, “How will it be judged?”, which are fair questions. Areas will remain in tier 3 or tier 2 for as long as necessary to protect the health of the local people and the NHS in that region. He asked about the sort of things that will be relevant to when an area enters and comes out. These include infection rates per 100,000, the impact on the NHS in terms of hospital capacity and how full hospitals are, and hospitalisation rates, as well as relying on local knowledge and listening to local public health officials, as he would expect us to.
The hon. Gentleman touched on contact tracing and how that is working. What we have in this country is a blended system, which brings together the scale of a national approach with the local knowledge provided by local public health teams. He has seen in his own city of Leicester how effective that can be and how both parts are absolutely vital.
The hon. Gentleman finished by talking, I think reasonably, about the need for economic support for those affected by this. As I set out in the statement, the job support scheme, coupled with universal credit for those eligible, will ensure that people receive at least 80% of their wages. On his broader point about the big picture of economic support, I would remind him that this Government and the Chancellor have provided an unprecedented package of economic support over recent months to businesses and individuals. The Government are very clear in our commitment to protect the health of this nation and the economic health of this nation.
I thank my hon. Friend for making this statement. I have had many productive meetings with him and his colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care during the pandemic, and I know how hard such decisions are to make. While I understand the necessity for South Yorkshire to go into tier 3 to reduce the infection rate, businesses and employees are worried about the future. Can he confirm to the people of Doncaster that if they play their part, they will be able to move down to tier 2 independently of Sheffield city region?
My hon. Friend is a consistently strong voice for his constituents in this House and in conversations with Ministers. I am clear, as are the Government, that no area should remain in a tier longer than is absolutely necessary to address the infection rate and protect the health of local people, so I can give him the reassurance that his area will stay in that tier no longer than is necessary to address the current rise in hospitalisations and infections.
I am grateful to the Minister for advance sight of his statement, and I agree with him when he says that we must keep working hard together to keep this virus under control. However, I cannot help but notice that regional leaders in England have been expressing frustrations with Downing Street that are very similar to Scotland’s. Why is there an insistence on announcing measures to Westminster journalists before speaking to devolved and regional Governments? Does he not see that changing that approach could greatly improve working relationships?
Tens of millions of pounds of financial support are being announced this week. Will the Minister speak with his colleague the Chancellor and confirm that that money will be fully Barnettised, ensuring that the devolved Governments are being fully funded to take their own covid mitigation measures?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I should say that in my experience, albeit as a junior Minister, I have enjoyed a positive and constructive working relationship on this issue with the devolved Administrations and Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to that relationship and the work that those leaders in the devolved Administrations have done.
I turn to the hon. Gentleman’s final two points. In respect of his comments about briefings, all I would say is that I am here at the Dispatch Box announcing this to the House, and that is how I do business. On his final point, the Chancellor will, I know, have heard exactly what he said about Barnett consequentials.
None of us in South Yorkshire wanted to be in this position and, as hon. Members have already said, this is going to hit families, businesses and communities hard at a time when we are already weary of months of not seeing family and friends. But it is important that we take swift action to protect the NHS and prevent local NHS services from becoming overwhelmed. I really do want to pay tribute to our Mayor Dan Jarvis, local leaders, No. 10 and the Department of Health, who have taken a really calm, constructive and collaborative approach over the past few days. That shows that we do not all hate each other in Yorkshire, despite the common perception.
I am also pleased that the restrictions are not open ended and that there is the 28-day review. I appreciate that the Minister cannot give exact metrics about what will be used to determine whether or not we come out of this, but it is very important to my constituents in Penistone and Stocksbridge that we know what we are aiming for. Can he guarantee that he will have regular, ongoing discussions with local leaders and local people about whether we are heading in the right direction, to make sure that people know that we are on the right track?
I should have done this in responding to the shadow Secretary of State, actually: I also pay tribute to the Mayor of Sheffield City Region—a Member of this House—for his approach and to the constructive approach that we have seen on all sides in this. I put that on the record.
My hon. Friend talks about local engagement and what hope there is of reviews. The 28-day period is the sunset point at which these measures fall, unless they are renewed or altered. There are actually reviews within 14 days; the Secretary of State continues to monitor data so will be reviewing progress at more frequent intervals. I happily give my hon. Friend the assurance that she seeks: throughout this process there will be open lines of communication—not only with her and other colleagues, but with local leaders in the region.
Although I am horrified that we are at this position, I completely understand the need for the introduction of these measures; I hope that everyone in South Yorkshire will follow them constructively. However, we need a level of support across the country to ensure that these local measures work. Although I am pleased that we have had constructive conversations throughout this period, I am still concerned that too many people will be left behind.
I have already heard from one employer about their employees falling through the cracks of the support scheme. They are unable to access funding for childcare on the basis of this as well. The lowest paid also use universal credit as an in-work benefit. Will the Minister agree, accept and make representations to the Treasury that perhaps 80% of an income topped up by universal credit is not enough in these scenarios?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the tone of her initial remarks—she is clearly putting the health interests of her constituents first—and her perfectly reasonable question. As I set out in my statement, the job support scheme, coupled with universal credit, will give those on low incomes at least 80% of their normal income, but if there is a specific sector or case that she wants to raise, I would be delighted for her to write to me, and I will look into it.
None of us in South Yorkshire wanted to be in the higher tiers, but we completely understand the need to save lives and protect the NHS; that is the overarching thing that we need to take away and encourage all our population to do. However, this increased tier will have an increased impact on people’s mental health. I have already been contacted today by constituents who are seriously worried about their mental health, especially when they do not have anyone to form a support bubble with. What assurances can the Minister give to me and people across Rother Valley that mental health is a key part of the system and will be looked after and helped?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have known him for many years, and he has long taken an interest in and campaigned on this issue. I can reassure him that additional investment has gone into the NHS at all levels, which includes mental health, but he is right: the impact of lockdown and these restrictions on people’s mental health should never be underestimated, so it is right that support and advice are available to people. I know that his local NHS is working very hard to ensure that that package is in place. If he wishes to talk to me subsequently, I am happy to do that.
Clearly we have to take the measures necessary to combat the virus, and we have tried to work together on them across South Yorkshire, but the Minister knows that this deal does not meet all the concerns of local leaders, nor does it provide the support that businesses need. The ban on household mixing is clearly necessary, but it makes many cafés, restaurants and pubs with food unviable. It impacts on the music, events and creative sectors, but because they are not being required to close, they will not get the support they need. They are simply being hung out to dry. Will the Government think again and provide the support that those businesses need, to save thousands of jobs across South Yorkshire?
The hon. Gentleman is always diligent and measured in representing his constituents and businesses in the House. The deal that has been reached is both fair and proportionate and reflective of the fairness across other areas that are in tier 3, and it should be taken in the context of being coupled with the broader national programme. I would not characterise the approach being taken towards hospitality in the way that he did. I pay tribute to our hospitality industry in this country, which I think is what he was seeking to do, and as I say, the support package is there to support businesses across all sectors in this country.
Test and trace activity is rightly focused on areas of the country where there is relatively high transmission of the virus. To what extent will the Minister prioritise tier 3 areas over tier 1 areas in the protocols that the Department is drawing up for vaccination?
The protocols for the distribution of any vaccine, when it becomes available, are being worked on intensively. My right hon. Friend makes a good point, which I am sure will have been heard by the Secretary of State.
Let’s head up to South Yorkshire, to visit the Mayor, no less—Dan Jarvis.
As Mayor, I think that this is the right course of action for South Yorkshire. The financial support will provide some help for our people and our economy, but we all understand that it will also mean sacrifice. Families will be separated, workers will suffer, and businesses will face uncertainty, so we need the Minister and the Government to repay that sacrifice by working closely with us, with our local authorities and with our NHS. Together, we need to do everything we can to get a grip of this disease, so that our region can move out of these restrictions as soon as possible.
I reiterate the tribute I paid to the hon. Gentleman for his approach throughout this. It is abundantly clear that he and all of his colleagues have the best interests of his region at heart and have worked constructively throughout this process to get the right health and economic outcome for his area. I can absolutely give him that commitment. I and my colleagues look forward to continued close working and co-operation with him as we move forward to beat this disease in his area.
The three-tiered local approach has to be right, and I pay tribute, as the Minister just did, to the cool heads of some local leaders for working with Ministers so sensibly. Surely people in South Yorkshire and elsewhere need to know where they are at and be confident that the goalposts will not move, so can the Minister please comment on stories this morning that plans are being worked up by the chief medical officer for local—not national, but local—three-week circuit breaker lockdowns in tier 2 and tier 3 areas?
I can reassure my hon. Friend that that is not something I have been involved in or had sight of.
Public trust in the midst of a public health emergency is absolutely critical. People need to know what they are working towards when they are making these immense sacrifices, so may I press the Minister once again on the criteria that he has agreed with the Mayor of Sheffield city region for South Yorkshire going into tier 3 and to come out? Will those same criteria be applied to other tier 2 areas such as London, York, Essex and parts of the midlands, or will they all be subject to a series of negotiations at local level behind closed doors? The public need and want to know.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who is her party’s spokesperson on this issue. I entirely understand where she is coming from and the importance of trust and transparency. I set out in the statement why the move has been made to increase the tier level—the infection rates and the hospitalisation rates—and why that development needed to be arrested by these measures. I set out in response to the shadow Secretary of State the considerations that would play a part in determining the review periods when an area could start to move back down those tiers. Those things include infection rates, the impact on the NHS and hospital capacity in the area and other local factors. It is reasonable that we set out that broad approach, but also that we recognise that in some areas very specific local considerations will be driving growth of the disease and infection rates, and they may need to be taken into consideration as well.
If someone lives in Gainsborough and they want to take a test, they can go to the Lincolnshire showground, but equally they might go to Doncaster airport, if their work takes them up there and it is not much further. There is a mystery about infection rates in West Lindsey, because they are higher than all the surrounding areas, despite the fact that we have no university, we are a rural area and we have no large hospital. I suspect the figures are being corrupted because the large local testing site is at the Lincolnshire showground. Cases are probably coming in from outside and featuring in West Lindsey figures. That is important, not just for South Yorkshire but for everywhere else, because if those figures are wrong, how can we rely on them? How can we lock down areas and put businesses out of business if the figures simply do not add up?
I am not aware of any systemic issue that is seeing false data entered, but if my right hon. Friend is happy to give me more information, I am happy to look into it for him. There can, though, be other factors beyond universities or a young population. There can be a range of things in a particular area that drive a particular spike, but I am happy to look at the information he has got.
I completely understand the reasons for this statement. Government action for Yorkshire is similar to the action we have taken in Northern Ireland with the circuit breaker. Simon Hamilton, chair of the Belfast chamber of trade and commerce, has stated, in tandem with 23 other organisations that “fewer and fewer” will survive each lockdown and
“more jobs will be lost”.
The Department for the Economy accurately estimates that those job losses could be 100,000. With the prospect of longer dole queues and poor prospects for re-employment, what discussions have taken place and what assistance can the Minister give to the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland?
The statement is about South Yorkshire. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have had a little bit of something about Yorkshire. Minister, see what you can pick out of that about Yorkshire.
I am pleased to reassure the hon. Gentleman that the same collegiate approach we have adopted for working with South Yorkshire characterises our approach across all of the devolved Administrations and devolved nations as well. May I say to the hon. Gentleman that we missed him while he was away self-isolating for a period, so it is good to have him back? He touches on the economic impact, and he is absolutely right to highlight that. There is a clear support package in place, and I continue to work closely with Robin Swann and others in Northern Ireland on these matters.
Last week, local politicians in Lancashire were able to put their politics aside and work constructively to agree a sensible way forward. I am delighted that politicians in South Yorkshire have now been able to replicate the same constructive cross-party approach. Will my hon. Friend commend those local politicians, including the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), for the way in which those negotiations have been conducted, which has of course been in stark contrast to the behaviour of some other elected Mayors?
I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to all local leaders and, indeed, all Members of this House who have been engaged in this process and more broadly. It is clear that when we all work together, we can achieve more to tackle this disease.
On Monday, I asked the Health Secretary about contact tracing. He answered by talking about testing, so perhaps this Minister will answer a question about contact tracing. Will the Government now give the Serco data to local public health teams, and will the Government provide the financial resources that those local teams need? That equates to roughly £300 million to the Liverpool city region, similar sums to Lancashire and to South Yorkshire, and about £500 million to Greater Manchester when compared with the £12 billion for Serco.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The data he refers to is, of course, Government data—NHS data. He talks about contact tracing, and as I said in response to his hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State, the approach we adopt on both testing but particularly on contact tracing quite rightly blends the scalability of a national approach with the local knowledge of working very closely hand in hand with local public health teams. A very good example of how that can work well is in my own local city and the shadow Secretary of State’s city of Leicester.
These really are tough choices, as nobody wants to see their lives restricted or their freedoms curtailed. All of my constituents in Keighley and Ilkley have had local restrictions since the end of July, and for now at least we are in tier 2. While many are adhering incredibly diligently to these restrictions, it is clear that a sense of disenfranchisement is kicking in, with some not adhering. How can we better address this so that we give ourselves the best chance of staying in tier 2 and not going up to tier 3 like our neighbouring friends in South Yorkshire?
It is very important that everyone continues to adhere to the rules put in place for the tier in which their area sits. Those rules are in place to protect public health and bring the infection rate down. I would, finally, comment—I think it was the Liberal Democrat spokesperson, the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson), who mentioned trust—that of course it is very important for building trust and consent that we work closely with local leaders and with local Members of Parliament, and I come to this House, as I have done today, to obtain that consent and provide that transparency so that people are more likely to comply.
I note the agreement reached in South Yorkshire, and I fear that York is rapidly heading in the same direction, with a sharp increase in infection. Does the Minister recognise that each local authority has different economies, different complexities and different vulnerabilities, and therefore it is really important to start dialogue early with local political leaders as well as ourselves to get the right deal to prevent an escalation in tiers, but also to ensure that we get on top of the Track and Trace system to make sure that that is done locally and is effective?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I think she actually made the case very well for the approach that the Government are adopting, which is local tiering, rather than a blanket national approach, because she is absolutely right that different areas of the country are different and have different circumstances. To her substantive point about early engagement and continued engagement, I am very happy to say that I am very happy to work with her. We can start that off, if she wants, with a conversation about the data and so on. I am very happy to ensure that those channels of communication are open.
Enforcement is important in South Yorkshire, as it is elsewhere, and I am pleased that on today’s Order Paper there is a statutory instrument putting the requirement to self-isolate in law. However, the Minister will be aware that I have grave concerns about the powers to use reasonable force that have been given to state officials other than police officers who simply are not trained to use those powers safely. As a former Home Office Minister, I think that risks the safety and lives of individuals. May I ask the Minister to give me an assurance from the Dispatch Box that, at the earliest opportunity, those powers will be limited only to police officers? I regret to say that if he cannot give me that assurance, I will be unable to support the measures on today’s Order Paper.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his question, and I am conscious of the context in which he speaks. As a former junior Minister handling prisons at the Ministry of Justice, I am conscious of the issues that he alludes to in that context and of the importance of proper training and restraint and similar. We appreciate concerns about the reasonable force allowances in the regulations. The powers to authorise persons other than the police and police community support officers to use reasonable force have not been used, and there are no intentions to use them. However, my right hon. Friend makes his point well, as always, and we are urgently reviewing those powers, given the concerns that he and others have raised around the proportionality of enforcement.
This morning, Professor Edmunds told the Health and Social Care Committee and the Select Committee on Science and Technology that he would not follow the strategy of imposing tier 3 lockdowns on a succession of local areas. He said that would keep the R number around 1, meaning that the high rate of incidence we already have in those areas, with hospitals under strain, would just continue. Instead, a short circuit breaker, with tier 3 restrictions everywhere now, is what we were told would bring case rates down. If that is the advice being given to the Government, why are they pursuing damaging restrictions on areas such as South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, with inadequate financial support, that are unlikely to bring cases down?
I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me; I did not see the evidence to the Select Committees, as I was preparing to come to the House. However, as she will be aware, the SAGE paper that was published recently, in referring to so-called local circuit-breaker lockdowns, did not say it was a one-off and would solve the problem. We are confident that we are taking a proportionate and effective approach on a regional and local basis that will, assuming that compliance is there, continue to drive down infection rates effectively, coupled with an effective economic and financial support package agreed with local leaders.
Although my thoughts are with the people of South Yorkshire and businesses in South Yorkshire, my primary responsibility is to people in North Yorkshire. Will my hon. Friend help to scotch any rumours that are circulating that North Yorkshire is about to go into tier 2 when its rate of infection is well below the national average? If there is any need to put us in a higher tier, will he look to do that on a district-wide level, where there is significant variation across North Yorkshire, rather than purely at county-wide level?
If I recall correctly, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was able to offer my hon. Friend a reassurance relatively recently in the House in respect of the approach that he was looking to take in that context, and that still stands.
The Minister has, no doubt, given briefings to South Yorkshire colleagues, as he did with Greater Manchester MPs earlier this week, and I sincerely thank him for that engagement. It is being widely reported that the Communities Secretary is meeting Greater Manchester’s MPs about the next steps for our city region. Sadly, it seems that none of the 18 Labour MPs has received an invite. Is that an accidental oversight or further evidence of increasing ambivalence towards our city region?
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there is no ambivalence towards his city region. There is a deep respect and affection across this House for that region and the people who live there. I am grateful to him for his kind words about the briefing I led with colleagues across all parties relatively recently on this. I am happy to look into the specific question he raises about being briefed by the Local Government Secretary.
I pay tribute to the Mayor of South Yorkshire, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis). He has worked constructively with the Government to ensure proper northern leadership in the interests of public health. Will the Minister confirm that when other areas face changes to local restrictions, his Department will continue to work with local leaders and Members of Parliament? Will he also confirm that there are no plans to move the Tees Valley, and specifically Redcar and Cleveland where cases have recently dropped, into tier 3?
My hon. Friend is right to talk about the importance of local leadership and engagement. Local leaders and Members of Parliament know their areas best, and it is right to continue to engage closely with those people. I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the work that has recently been done in that respect. On his final point, I am not aware of any such proposition.
People in South Yorkshire, as well as in my constituency, struggle to make ends meet on the UK Government’s pretendy living wage, which falls far below the real living wage. How does the Minister expect people to live and pay their bills and rent on only two-thirds of that poverty pay?
As the hon. Lady will have heard me say, the combined support schemes, particularly where there is the UC top-up, will mean that people get at least 80% of their wages. I am afraid that I refute her point about the living wage in this country, as I believe it is a significant achievement by this Government and the previous Chancellor, George Osborne. It is a huge step forward, and rather than belittling it, we should recognise the impact it has had.
South Yorkshire is where many, perhaps most, visitors to Cleethorpes come from. They are very welcome and vital to the local hospitality sector, but many of them occupy caravans and chalets for weeks and months at a time. Again, that is welcome, but there are concerns among local people that people perhaps come and go during this period to and from an area in tier 3. What support can the Government offer to the local authority to monitor that?
My hon. Friend highlights an important point, and we have been clear that people in tier 3 areas should not undertake travel in and out of that area. They should abide by the rules of the area in which they live, rather than travelling to another area and applying the rules in that area. The rules apply on the basis of the area in which someone lives.
One big concern about the local lockdowns in South Yorkshire and elsewhere is that if there is not enough money to support businesses to survive, there will be a longer-term impact on the economy and individual livelihoods if that is not put right. That will have a big impact on public health, and one of the biggest concerns is the loneliness of people living in single households, and the impact on their mental health. How is the Minister looking ahead—I hope that he will answer this point directly—to ensure that there is no long-term oncost to the health service from this misery for people who are left alone and are now unable to mix with households in South Yorkshire and other areas with hard lockdowns?
The hon. Lady makes an important point about loneliness and its impact on mental health. She will know that support bubbles still exist, but she alludes to a broader point about long-term mental health support. As I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford), we have invested heavily in the NHS, which includes funding for mental health support services. The hon. Lady is right: this is not just about funding during this pandemic; this is about being aware of people’s long-term needs and the impact on them. I am happy to commit to considering that issue carefully in the months and years ahead.
These tough measures will have a huge impact on the lives of local people. Can my hon. Friend assure me that the Government will do everything they can to provide an extensive package of support to local people, businesses and councils and that his Department will continue to do everything it can to avoid the need for such a lockdown in Stockton South?
I can give my hon. Friend exactly that assurance.
The hospitality and tourism industry in Cumbria is comfortably our biggest employer. It was very much looking forward to half-term next week, as a chance for businesses to pick up after the enormous damage they have sustained as a result of the virus. However, we are seeing cancellation after cancellation, because neighbouring economies in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and now, of course, other parts of the north England have been put into tier 3 and people are therefore not able to travel. Rather than quibbling over £5 million, people in Cumbria are getting nothing—no compensation for their businesses collapsing. Will the Minister commit to making sure there is support of the hospitality and tourism industry in tier 1 places such as Cumbria, where our market has dried up because our neighbours are in tier 3?
This is about Yorkshire, so if we could mention Yorkshire it would help.
I am sure the point the hon. Gentleman raises will be pertinent to areas in tier 1 nearby to South Yorkshire, too. He makes his point typically well. I recognise the impact on the hospitality industry and on other businesses, not just in the directly affected area but more broadly. As I say, he makes his point well, and I am sure the Chancellor will have heard what he says.
None of us wants to see restrictions like those announced for Yorkshire today, but we all recognise the need to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. However, I am increasingly concerned about the long-term health impact the pandemic is having on things like mental health and long-term serious health conditions. A good example is the recent commissioning decision by NHS England to withdraw breast cancer screening units from places such as New Mills, Buxton and Chapel-en-le-Frith, citing covid as the reason for the withdrawal. Will the Minister agree to meet me, so we can discuss how to reinstate breast cancer screening units to High Peak?
I, or a fellow Minister from the Department, will be very happy to meet my hon. Friend.
Local and regional authority leaders from South Yorkshire and right the way across the country will have heard the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister repeatedly say in the past 24 hours that they cannot exceed the items offered to Merseyside in their negotiations elsewhere. Will the Minister at least be honest and say that this is not a negotiation? It is a take-it-or-leave-it deal that other authorities can take. Those who lead authorities have to ask themselves the question: what is the point of negotiating?
The hon. Gentleman knows I have huge respect for him—indeed, a huge fondness for him —but I am afraid I cannot agree with what he says. We have been working very closely in a collegiate way with local authorities. It is absolutely right that, alongside that negotiation or discussion on the package and support they need, we recognise that we have to be fair and proportionate across other regions that are in the same tier. We have to ensure that the approach we are adopting, which we are, is both fair and proportionate.
North East Derbyshire sits on the outskirts of South Yorkshire and many towns and villages, such as Dronfield, Eckington, Killamarsh and Ridgeway, look towards Sheffield for work and education. For the benefit of those residents, will the Minister confirm that there has been no change to the tier level in North East Derbyshire, that the rules remain the same unless those residents are travelling to Sheffield and that North East Derbyshire will continue to be dealt with on an independent basis, while working closely with Sheffield when we review our tier status in future?
As my hon. Friend knows, I know Dronfield having spent a very happy day there with him in the course of his successful election campaign. I can reassure him that the situation, as I stand here, remains exactly as he sets out.
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.
Virtual participation in proceedings concluded (Order, 4 June).
Financial Services Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by the Prime Minister, Steve Barclay, Jesse Norman, John Glen, Kemi Badenoch and Wendy Morton, presented a Bill to make provision about financial services and markets; to make provision about debt respite schemes; to make provision about Help-to-Save accounts; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 200) with explanatory notes (Bill 200-EN).