House of Commons
Wednesday 21 October 2020
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Virtual participation in proceedings commenced (Order, 4 June).
[NB: [V] denotes a Member participating virtually.]
Order. I remind colleagues that deferred Divisions will take place today on two statutory instruments in the Members’ Library between 11.30 am and 3.30 pm. Members will cast their votes by placing the completed Division slip in one of the ballot boxes provided. I remind colleagues of the importance of social distancing during the deferred Divisions and ask them to pick up a Division slip from the Vote Office and fill it in before they reach the Library if possible. The result will be announced in the Chamber at a convenient moment after the Divisions are over.
Oral Answers to Questions
Women and Equalities
The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—
Equal Access to Opportunity
We know that the average hourly wages are more than 30% higher in London than in Northern Ireland and regions such as the east midlands and the north-east. That is why we are working to level up Britain.
We often see evidence that white working-class children have some of the worst educational outcomes—for example, in GCSE results and the numbers going on to higher education. Does my right hon. Friend agree that working-class children in communities such as Bishop Auckland who face poor outcomes deserve the full backing of the Government Equalities Office?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The attainment score at GCSE for white British children who receive free school meals is lower than the equivalent for black and Asian children who receive free school meals. That is why I have asked the Equality Hub to expand beyond protected characteristics and strengthen its focus on geography and social background to identify barriers to opportunity and success.
Female Entrepreneurs: Government Support
All the Government’s business support schemes are open to eligible businesses from all regions and backgrounds, including female entrepreneurs. The start-up loans programme has provided more than 30,000 loans worth over £239 million to female entrepreneurs as of June 2020. Additionally, we are working with the private sector to deliver the eight initiatives of the Rose review. Great progress has been made over the past year, with the joint NatWest and Be the Business female entrepreneurs mentoring programme to be launched soon.
I thank the Minister for the detailed measures he set out. More women work in sectors and industries that are hardest hit by the covid-19 crisis. Can he outline, with a particular view to childcare, the help that we can offer women with successful businesses and careers to get them through the difficult months ahead?
I thank my hon. Friend for her concern, especially about childcare. We have already introduced 30 hours of free childcare for eligible working parents of three and four-year-olds. We have ensured that wraparound childcare remains open, to support parents to continue to work under all three covid levels. As set out in our manifesto, the Department for Education will be investing £1 billion from 2021 to help create more high-quality wraparound and holiday childcare places, including before and after school and during the school holidays.
Covid-19: Support for Older People
This Government are determined to support older people during the pandemic, and my Department is working to support people of all ages to remain in and return to work. We have published guidance on working safely during the covid-19 pandemic and continue to work with national employer organisations on improving support for the over-50s. Our £30 billion plan for jobs provides back-to-work support for all ages, including doubling the number of work coaches, increasing sector-based work academy places and a new Department for Work and Pensions job finding support service.
In my Glenrothes and Central Fife constituency, over 2,000 pensioner households are losing out on £5.4 million in pension credit payments every year because they do not know that they are entitled to them. Fife Council launched an uptake campaign in the Glenrothes area, but it was curtailed because of the covid pandemic; I have to declare an interest, as I am married to the chair of the council’s Glenrothes area committee. The Scottish Government have published an uptake strategy for the benefits under their control. Will the Minister agree to urge her Cabinet colleagues to enshrine in law a duty for the UK Government to do the same for pension credits and other benefits that are controlled at Westminster?
I think somebody else might need to answer this question! It is estimated that there is more than £2 billion out there every year that is the legal right of older people on those islands. Pension credit does not make anybody wealthy, but it can make the difference between the loneliness and misery that poverty brings and the joy of simply being able to engage in life again. Will the Minister responsible for fighting for those older people agree to take this on as an equalities issue and put resources into ensuring that people have the knowledge and support—including support in using the online service she mentioned—to access what is, after all, a legal entitlement?
Apologies. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
In supporting our older people, pension credit is an absolute priority for this Government, as I mentioned earlier. In fact, about 1 million pensioners—close to that number—who are pension credit customers will receive a winter windfall of £140 off their fuel bills, thanks to the Government working with energy firms to cut costs. This Government are determined to do all we can to support pensioners, and the DWP cross-match these pension credit customers with the data held by pension suppliers. I am sure that we will continue to support pensioners as widely as we can through this pandemic and ongoing.[Official Report, 2 November 2020, Vol. 683, c. 2MC.]
Covid-19: Women Leaving the Workforce
The Government have taken significant steps to protect jobs for women with the coronavirus job retention scheme supporting 4.5 million jobs done by women. We continue to support women in the labour market through our job support and bonus schemes. We have also committed to extending redundancy protections for new mothers returning to work and to make flexible working the default.
Working mums have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, with a recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies finding that they are more likely to quit or lose their jobs and typically perform a larger share of childcare and household duties than men. One of my constituents spent lockdown home schooling her two children as well as caring for her elderly shielding mother. Excluded from most of the financial support packages, she now faces winding up the company she set up. I have heard what the Minister had to say, but it does not go far enough. What additional urgent measures will he take to ensure that progress in female employment is not set back by decades?
There are 1.8 million more women in work than in 2010, and it is important that we capture that. As I have said, on childcare responsibilities, which are so important, we have introduced 30 hours of free childcare, we have ensured that wraparound childcare remains available in each of the tiers and we will continue to invest to help create more high-quality, wraparound and holiday childcare places so that mothers are not disadvantaged.
The Women’s Budget Group last week highlighted that working-class women specifically face the biggest cuts to working hours since the beginning of the pandemic, with 43% reporting having had their hours cut to zero since April. Could the Minister set out what specific support he is putting in place to stop these women falling into poverty, because clearly it cannot be right that working-class women are so adversely affected by the pandemic?
This is important, and we know that certain sectors are the worst affected. It is important that we actually do everything we can with “Hands, face, space” to make sure that our economy can start to open again and create opportunities, but we have also put in support with universal credit, the coronavirus job retention scheme, the self-employed income support scheme and the wider winter economy to help everybody, but especially the disadvantaged women that the hon. Gentleman describes.
Women make up a significant proportion of those employed in the fitness, leisure and wellbeing industry. Can my hon. Friend tell me what work he is doing with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to recognise that physical, mental and financial wellbeing go hand in hand? The sector is now having to manage variable lockdowns, and there will be a knock-on impact if businesses cannot recover financially and resume their role of contributing more than £2 billion annually to the nation’s economy.
We know that physical activity is absolutely crucial to the wellbeing of our nation as well as to our economy. We have been working closely with the national sports council, Sport England, to continue promoting health and fitness during lockdown. This includes the Join the Movement campaign that it has launched, which provides tips, advice and guidance to tell people how they can keep or get active in and around the home. As I have said, it is so important that we keep as many gyms open as possible, where possible, but ultimately, this is about getting the economy up and running again. Lives are first in our priorities, but the economy and livelihoods must be absolutely up there.
The Work Foundation has reported that 58% of workers in the retail sector are women and these are some of our lowest-paid workers, but due to most of them working on part-time or temporary contracts, hundreds of thousands of women working in retail will not even be eligible for redundancy pay. What plans does the Minister have in mind to mitigate the likelihood of disproportionate numbers of women being made redundant with no financial support available to them?
As I say, it is so important that we get the economy up and running again, and we can do that only by people joining us and working with us on hands, face, space, to ensure that we reduce the transmission rate and save as many jobs as possible. We have launched a job support scheme, and that, plus universal credit, means that the lowest paid employees can have around 80% of their salary covered between those two schemes.
Education: Equality of Opportunity
As our Prime Minister often says, talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. This Government have made it our mission to rectify that, and equality of opportunity lies at the heart of the work by the Department for Education, including opportunity areas, access to higher education work and reforms of further education such as the flagship T-levels. We recognise that education has an unparalleled ability to create and unlock opportunities across the nation.
In North West Durham, we see lower educational outcomes, especially among white working class pupils, who are getting disproportionately poor results. What measures are the Government taking to ensure better attainment at the ages of 16 and 18 and in later life, and not only to deliver greater opportunities for individuals, but to level up all our communities?
It is vital that we raise school standards and outcomes across the education sector and that we raise and level up our country. That is why we established Opportunity North East, and tomorrow I will chair a board meeting to discuss that work. My hon. Friend is a tremendous advocate for his constituency, and I and other Education Ministers will continue to work with him to ensure that the young people of North West Durham get the chances and choices they deserve.
Equal Rights for LGBT People: International Promotion
The UK continues to be recognised as one of the most progressive countries globally for LGBT rights. The Government recently announced £3.2 million of new funding to help Commonwealth Governments and civil society to repeal outdated discriminatory laws against LGBT people. We work closely with the Council of Europe and the UN, in additional to co-chairing the Equal Rights Coalition, and we remain committed to delivering an ambitious international LGBT conference.
My hon. Friend will understand that the decision not to amend the Gender Recognition Act 2004 will inevitably see the United Kingdom fall significantly in the tables of those countries that are seen to be committed to the delivery of equality for LGBT+ people. Will she and her Department do something to address that, by committing to the delivery of an 18-week waiting time for gender identity clinics and development services for children, as an outcome of the review by Dr Hilary Cass?
We have noted my hon. Friend’s concerns about the Government’s decision, and we assure him that the UK has a strong record on LGBT rights. The wait for gender identity clinics has been very long, and the Government are looking at that issue. I will not make a specific commitment at the Dispatch Box, but I recognise the concern that has been raised. We will continue to do what we can to speed things up.
Covid-19: Risk and Outcome Disparities
In June, the Prime Minister asked me to lead cross-Government work on this issue, with a particular focus on ethnicity. I will update the House on the findings of my work in full tomorrow. The work involved extensive engagement by the Race Disparity Unit and me, with colleagues and external stakeholders, including academics and experts from University College London, the London School of Economics, Oxford University, medical experts from the British Medical Association and many ministerial colleagues. We will continue to redouble our efforts, and it is crucial that we make evidence-based decisions on this important work.
One unfortunate impact of covid-19 has been the impact on attainment in our communities, particularly white working class communities where educational attainment gaps have struggled during this crisis. I represent Princes End, which has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the west midlands. Will my hon. Friend assure me that, as part of that work across government, she will look particularly at ensuring that opportunity gaps as a result of covid-19 are not widened?
My hon. Friend is right to raise the importance of children of all backgrounds being in school and their educational attainment and wellbeing more broadly. The Government have been clear that limiting attendance at schools should be a last resort. We are providing laptops for the most disadvantaged pupils and 4G routers for families who do not already have mobile or broadband, for example. More broadly, on disparities in attainment, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities is looking at outcomes for the whole population. That means ethnic minorities and white British people as well. The commission will set out a new positive agenda for change and look at the issues that my hon. Friend has raised.
Science, Technology and Emerging Industries: Girls and Young Women
We are making good progress in getting more girls and women into science, technology, engineering and maths, with a 31% increase in girls studying STEM subjects since 2010 and 1 million women now working in core STEM occupations.
Professor Sarah Gilbert in vaccine research; Kate Bingham in vaccine operations; Baroness Harding in testing; Dr Jenny Harries in medicine—all fantastic examples of highly qualified professionals leading the UK’s response to this once-in-a-century pandemic, and they all happen to be women in STEM. Does my right hon. Friend agree that they are setting a wonderful example for future generations of girls and boys in South Ribble, Lancashire and beyond?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. They are a huge asset to our country, but having more women in STEM is also helping to close the wage gap and helping our economy to recover post covid. Around 35% of the wage gap can be overcome if we get more women working in high-paid occupations and sectors such as engineering and technology.
International Trade: Business Opportunities for Women
As much as £250 billion could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men. I am determined that trade should play its part in opening up greater opportunities for women, both in the UK and across the world.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Can she tell me what the UK will do to build on our close ties with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to expand trading opportunities, especially for women, particularly given Vietnam’s membership of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership?
First, we have appointed a splendid trade envoy for those three countries, who is going to do a brilliant job promoting opportunities for women and everyone through free trade agreements. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: CPTPP contains important provisions to open up trade for women, and of course Vietnam is a key part of that agreement.
Abortion Clinics: Protection from Intimidation or Protest
The Government are clear that it is unacceptable that women seeking or staff providing healthcare advice should feel intimidated or harassed. The Home Office has been keeping this important matter under review. We are now considering again whether more should be done to protect those accessing or providing abortion services, and we have reached out to service providers and the police to understand their experiences of these protests, but the impact on women is of course at the centre of our considerations.
That is a very encouraging reply. Right now, up and down the country, women are being intimidated and police are having their time taken up by 40 Days for Life, an anti-choice group that is running a 40-day protest outside clinics. France, Australia and Canada have legislation on this. I am encouraged by what the Minister says. Will she please follow suit and take heed of the Demonstrations (Abortion Clinics) Bill, which I introduced in June? There is overwhelming support in the House for us to do the same here.
I have the pleasure of meeting the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin) later today to discuss this topic. The hon. Lady will know the meticulous approach that we have applied to this important issue. There is a balance to be struck with the right to express and to have freedom of speech, but clearly the impact on women and staff working in these centres is really important. I am pleased that public spaces protection orders are working in her area and two others—Manchester, I understand, has just received an order, or is implementing an order, as well. We very much have to balance those matters in mind, but I look forward to continuing this discussion in only a few hours’ time.
Alongside sex, race and sexual orientation, geography and social economic status can affect opportunity. I want to widen the focus of our understanding of equality to include outcomes for white working-class children, so we can ensure we are levelling up our country. I have therefore asked the Equality Hub to consider the importance of geography and background alongside factors such as sex, ethnicity and disability. That will make sure we truly level up Britain.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am delighted that we have been able to put forward Baroness Kishwer Falkner as our preferred candidate to chair the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I know she is committed to making sure the commission’s focus is on enforcing our important equality laws.
The Equality Act 2010 sets out that the Government must seek to advance equality of opportunity in relation to its functions, yet throughout the pandemic Ministers have repeatedly failed to do so. It is vital that the Government take proactive steps to prevent the disproportionate impact of covid on disabled, black, Asian and minority ethnic people. Failure to do so is neglect. It is discriminatory, and it is unlawful. What evidence does the Minister have that her Government are fulfilling their public sector equality duty as set out in the Equality Act?
It is completely false to say that the Government have not acted and to deliberately ignore the significant measures we have put in place to reduce the spread of the virus in all communities across the United Kingdom, which we have repeatedly stated in this House. As I mentioned earlier, I will be making a full oral statement tomorrow, but it is known that we have taken many key measures to ensure that NHS frontline staff—in particular, those from ethnic minority backgrounds—are best protected and to ensure we fully understand the links between the virus and ethnicity.
Two and a half thousand deaths could have been avoided during the first wave of the pandemic had people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities been adequately protected. Last month, I wrote to the Minister asking what steps her Government had taken to address the disproportionate impact of covid, but I have yet to receive a reply and we are now in a second wave. The Minister says she will be giving a statement tomorrow, but I ask her as it is oral questions today. She still has not given an update on progress in implementing the recommendations of the Public Health England report. It has been over four months, so will she give us an update on the seven recommendations and when they will be fully implemented?
The shadow Minister has written many letters to me over the past four months, and I have replied to them. It is simply untrue to say that she has not received a reply. She knows the work we are doing is progressing the recommendations throughout government. The oral statement tomorrow will give ample time for me to fully address and explain all the work the Government have been doing and what the evidence has shown us. I encourage her to attend the oral statement tomorrow, because there is very much that she could learn on this topic.
We have been looking at the disproportionate impact the virus has had on very many groups. That is not a group where we have seen a disproportionate impact in terms of the effects of the virus. What has impacted that community is their inability, like the rest of the population, to access healthcare services. We hope that will be addressed through how we are managing local lockdowns and being able to keep pressure off the NHS.
The Government are taking a range of actions to ensure that everyone can access affordable period products. We are providing fully funded access to free period products in schools and colleges across England. The scheme remained in operation during partial school closures, and we expect uptake to have significantly increased as schools have fully opened. The scheme provides a wide range of products, including environmentally friendly tampons and pads, alongside reusable products such as menstrual cups and reusable pads.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I know the thoughts of the whole House will be with the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi). I am sure Members from across the House will want to join me in wishing her a speedy recovery.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I associate myself with those kind remarks about my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi).
My constituents are reeling from the 9% contraction of the economy since March this year. Unemployment has sky-rocketed and joblessness in Haringey is the highest in the capital. Unfortunately, we are at the same time facing the idea that there could be a congestion tax forced on an extra 4 million Londoners by this Government. These Londoners are already facing the double whammy of covid and financial ruin. Will the Prime Minister please immediately stop the imposition of this dreadful plan? I look forward to his answer.
I must respectfully inform the hon. Lady that the current Mayor of London had effectively bankrupted TfL before coronavirus had even hit and left a massive black hole in its finances. Any need to make up that deficit is entirely down to him. It is entirely his responsibility. Any expansion of the congestion charge or any other measure taken to improve the finances of TfL are entirely the responsibility of the bankrupt current Labour Mayor of London.
I hope I can reassure my hon. Friend by telling him that the incidence in the Vale of Aylesbury is in fact less than half the England average. The way forward for constituents in the Vale of Aylesbury and everywhere else is to keep following the guidance, observing the new restrictions and, obviously, washing hands, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and keeping a sensible distance.
The simplest and most effective way for areas to get out of those restrictions is, of course, to get the R down to 1 or below, and I am very pleased to say that some areas are already having a considerable effect with the measures that they are taking.
Obviously, the R is one of the measures that we look at. We take a decision based on a number of things including the R—also, of course, rates of infection, rates of admission to hospital and other data. But the most important thing is for areas that do go into tier 3—and I am very grateful to local leadership in the areas that have gone into tier 3, because it is the right thing for them to do, the right thing for their constituents, the right thing to save lives —when they are able to make progress, then, of course, they will come out of tier 3. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows full well, the measures that are put in place are reviewed every 28 days.
I am now confused by the Prime Minister’s answer. If it is not the R rate under 1, what is it? Millions of people want to know the answer to that question. Millions of them are in tier 3 and millions more are likely to go into tier 3. They really need to know. On Friday, the chief scientific officer said that tier 3 on its own certainly is not enough to get the R rate below 1. On the same day, the Prime Minister himself said that there was only a chance of getting infection rates down.
That goes to the heart of the issue in Greater Manchester and elsewhere. The widespread fear is that tier 3 is the worst of all worlds: it brings significant economic harm without getting the virus sufficiently under control to exit tier 3. So instead of being a solution, tier 3 is a gateway to weeks and weeks, or more likely months and months, of agony from which there is no likely exit. Can the Prime Minister not see the problem if there is not a clear exit?
I am sorry, but I have made it absolutely clear that a part of the country going into tier 3 is in there only for 28 days; we will review it after 28 days. Areas that have gone into tier 3 are, I believe, already making progress, and areas where there are restrictions in place are also showing signs of progress. We are pursuing a local—a regional—approach, which is the sensible approach for this country. That is what the epidemiology supports. It is what the deputy chief medical officer supported last night.
Again, I want to thank local leadership in Merseyside, in Lancashire, actually in London, in the west midlands and elsewhere for what they are doing. It is a bit incoherent of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to attack local lockdowns when he wants to plunge the whole country back into a damaging lockdown for weeks on end, and he has no clue about how he would propose to get the country out of that—does he?
I appreciate that there will be a review every 28 days, but if the R rate has not come below 1, then the infection rate is still going up, the numbers are going up, the admissions are going up, the numbers in hospital are going up and the deaths are going up. Is the Prime Minister seriously saying that he would take a tier 3 area out of tier 3 with the R above 1? I do not think so.
Let me spell out what that means. On Friday, thousands of people in Greater Manchester—taxi drivers, pub and hospitality workers, people working in betting shops, the self-employed and freelancers—will either be out of work or face significant pay cuts. That is the reality on Friday in Greater Manchester. But their rent and their mortgage will not be lower; their food and their heating bills will not be lower—and that could last for months.
Why can the Prime Minister and the Chancellor not understand that? They should stop bargaining with people’s lives, stop dividing communities and provide the support that is needed in Manchester.
I am very proud that this Government have already given Greater Manchester £1.1 billion in support for business, £200 million in extra un-ring-fenced funding, £50 million to tackle infections in care homes, £20 million for Test and Trace, and another £22 million for the local response that we announced yesterday. Yesterday, the Mayor of Greater Manchester was offered a further £60 million, which he turned down, having had no encouragement to support it, I may say, from the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
I can tell the House today that that cash will be distributed to the boroughs of Greater Manchester. I thank right hon. and hon. Members across the House, including my hon. Friends the Members for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), for Bolton West (Chris Green), for Bolton North East (Mark Logan), for Bury South (Christian Wakeford), for Bury North (James Daly), for Cheadle (Mary Robinson), for Leigh (James Grundy), for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) and for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg) for the support that they have given in this matter.
This is a Prime Minister who can pay £7,000 a day for consultants on Track and Trace, which is not working; who can find £43 million for a garden bridge that was never built; but who cannot find £5 million for the people of Greater Manchester. I really think the Prime Minister has crossed a Rubicon here, not just in the miserly way that he has treated Greater Manchester, but in the grubby take-it-or-leave-it way that these local deals are being done. It is corrosive to public trust to pit region against region, mayor against mayor, council against council and ask them to trade away their businesses and jobs. We need a one nation approach to replace these endless local battles with clear national criteria and proper support for jobs. Labour’s motion this afternoon would do that. Why will the Prime Minister not support it?
I am proud of the one nation Conservative support that we have given to the entire country: £200 billion in support for jobs and livelihoods across the whole of the country already, and a further £9.9 billion now for the job support scheme. It is this Government who have cut VAT for business and deferred business rates. There is no other country in Europe where so much support and so much help has been given to the population to get through this crisis, and we will continue to do that. It is the height of absurdity that the right hon. and learned Gentleman stands up and attacks the economic consequences of the measures we are obliged to take across some parts of the country when he wants to turn the lights out with a full national lockdown, taking kids—[Interruption.] That was his policy last week anyway, wasn’t it? Perhaps he could confirm that that is still his policy. Is that what he wants to do?
At his press conference yesterday, the Prime Minister produced heat maps across the country showing that the infection rate was up in all ages and across all regions, and particularly showing regions that have been in the equivalent of tier 2 restrictions for weeks, if not months, moving into tier 3. If they are moving into tier 3, tier 2 has not worked, because if tier 2 had worked, they should be going into tier 1.
So tier 2 goes to tier 3, and tier 3 has no end, because there is no prospect of or confidence in the R rate coming below 1—and I do not believe that a tier 3 region will come out of those restrictions unless R is below 1 and while the numbers are still going up. So we now have a stark choice.
By the way, Prime Minister, Cornwall is the only place—possibly with the Isle of Wight—where the infection rate today is less than it was in Greater Manchester when it went into local restrictions, so this idea that some areas are immune is wrong.
So there is a stark choice: carry on with the Prime Minister’s approach, which will lead to weeks and weeks and months and months of prolonged agony in everyone’s constituencies for millions of people in tiers 2 and 3, with no exit; or put in place a two to three week time- limited circuit break to break the cycle and bring the virus back under control.
Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland—in part—have chosen that path. With half term starting this Friday, this may be the last opportunity for the Prime Minister to put in place an effective circuit break. The Prime Minister was too slow in the first phase of the pandemic; he is being too slow again. We cannot repeat this mistake. Will he act in the public interest and take the opportunity to put in place a circuit break this Friday?
We will do whatever it takes to get this country through the crisis, with or without the support of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I have explained why I do not believe that his policy is the right one for the country, because it would involve closing schools and shuttering businesses, with all the psychological and emotional damage that a lockdown of that kind brings. He cannot say how many circuit breakers he thinks would be necessary. He cannot say how long they would go on. He cannot say how much damage they would do to the UK economy and to people’s mental health.
We, on the other hand, want to go on with our common-sensical approach, which is a local and regional approach, keeping kids in school and keeping our economy moving, because that is the way to get the whole of our country through this crisis together so that all the regions of the country, particularly those regions that are now, alas, under tier 3 restrictions, bounce back strongly together.
My thoughts are very much with the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi). I hope she makes a speedy recovery.
Next week, just as the pandemic is worsening, the Tory Government will scrap the furlough scheme in a move that will cause a wave of mass redundancies across the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, behind closed doors the Prime Minister is complaining that he cannot get by on his £150,000 salary. If the Prime Minister is finding life such a struggle, how on earth does he expect many workers to get by on just £5.84 an hour when the Tory cuts to furlough sink in?
Actually, I am proud of what we have done to support people on low incomes throughout this period and, indeed, before. It was this Government who raised the living wage by record amounts, and we have just increased universal credit by around £1,000 a year. The right hon. Gentleman makes the point about furlough; as he knows, if universal credit is combined with the job support scheme that we have just announced, workers will be getting 80% of their existing salary. We will get this country through this crisis and we will continue to support people on low incomes throughout the period.
I am afraid the Prime Minister just does not get it. Yesterday, we saw his total disregard for the people of Greater Manchester—a Tory attitude that people in Scotland are all too familiar with. Millions of families are struggling to get by and this Tory Government want to cut their incomes in the middle of a pandemic. It is clear that the Prime Minister has made a deliberate decision to let unemployment soar, just like Thatcher did in the 1980s. Time is running out. With one week left, will the Prime Minister finally U-turn on his cuts to the furlough scheme and invest in our communities? Or will he leave millions of people on the scrap heap?
I really must reject what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, because it bears no relation to the facts or the reality of what the Government are doing to support people throughout the country. It is not just the £200 billion investment in jobs and livelihoods; we are also engaged in and will continue to deliver a colossal investment in education, health, housing and infrastructure that will deliver jobs and growth throughout this United Kingdom for a generation.
Whatever the effect of the withdrawal agreement, I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that the UK’s internal market, which I think everybody on both sides of the House values, is protected and upheld by the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, which is currently going through the other place. It also, of course, protects the Good Friday agreement.
Mikey is severely disabled. He turned 18 last month, so he is one of the first to see his child trust fund mature, but Mikey’s disabilities mean that he cannot manage his own finances, so he cannot access the savings. Government rules on child trust funds mean that his parents cannot access them either without paying expensive legal fees. This is Mikey’s own money. He wants to use it to buy a specially adapted tricycle. Will the Prime Minister look at the proposals that Mikey’s father has shown me to end this injustice for disabled young people and let Mikey buy this trike?
Of course I will do whatever I can to help in the particular case that the right hon. Gentleman raises. I do not know whether the tricycle he mentions is eligible for a number of the schemes that I can immediately call to mind, but if he cares to write to me, I will of course answer immediately.
What I can certainly confirm, as I said in my answer to the first question, is that the black hole in the finances of TfL, the bankruptcy of TfL, which, by the way, was left in robust financial health by the previous Mayor—it certainly was—is entirely the fault of the current Labour Mayor of London, with his grossly irresponsible demagogic fare policies, which, I may say, were never pursued by the previous Mayor of London, and the fault lies entirely with him. I trust that my hon. Friend will make that clear.
The hon. Lady is quite right to call attention to the difficulties facing many families right now because of the crisis that we have been in. The most important thing—and I hope that this is common ground—is to keep kids in school if we possibly can. That would be vitiated by the series of lockdowns that are being proposed. I do not want to go down that route. What I want to do is to ensure that we continue to support families throughout the crisis so that they have the cash available to feed their kids as they need to do.
Kettering General Hospital
I am delighted that Kettering General Hospital is part of the biggest hospital building programme in a generation. I can tell my hon. Friend that the infrastructure delivery taskforce is already involved in delivering the health infrastructure programme, which includes Kettering General Hospital.
I thank the Prime Minister for visiting the night shift at Kettering General Hospital in February and seeing for himself at first hand the wonderful work being done by local medics and staff. The hospital could expedite at speed ambitious plans for its rebuild, but only if the time taken for regulatory clearances at NHS Improvement is dramatically shortened. Will the Prime Minister cut NHS red tape, so that local people can have the improvements that we need at our local hospital as quickly as possible?
Governments of all stripes have supplied free school meals since 1906, and I am proud that it was this Conservative Government who extended universal free school meals to five, six and seven-year-olds. The Labour party was in power for 30 of the past 100 years and never did anything like that. We support kids of low incomes in school, and we will continue to do so, but the most important thing is to keep them in school and not to tear off into another national lockdown, taking them out of school. We will continue to use the benefits system and all the systems of income support to support young people and children throughout the holidays as well.
Yes, indeed. I thank my hon. Friend for everything he does to lobby for that. Our local delivery partner in Devon and Somerset has provided connectivity of the kind that he describes to 300,000 premises across those two counties. We are going to be a world leader in connectivity as we build back better.
I know that the Prime Minister is committed to doubling down on levelling up. Will he join me for a virtual tour of Stoke-on-Trent Central and a roundtable with key partners focused on delivering for the left behind, not least to ensure that the transforming cities fund investment will revolutionise public transport in the city?
That is an easy commitment for me to make, and I am delighted to do so. I can tell my hon. Friend that we are investing nearly £20 million through our city deal in pioneering a new programme of sustainable low-carbon and low-cost heat energy to Stoke-on-Trent.
Yes, indeed. I thank the people of Luton for their hard and heroic work, as I thank people across the country for what they are doing. I want to support businesses in Luton, which is why we want to continue with the sensible, balanced, regional and local approach that we are taking. I hope that the hon. Member agrees with me that it would make no sense at all for hard-pressed businesses in Luton to have their lights turned off and their doors shuttered in a series of multiple lockdowns of the kind recommended by the Labour party.
The people of Aberconwy in north Wales are learning to live with covid-19, but we are frustrated by national Welsh Government policy that seeks to place restrictions on us that are the same in the village of Cwm Penmachno as they are in the capital, Cardiff. Last week, my right hon. Friend agreed that a shared responsibility is the way to tackle this pandemic. Does he see the future of this situation as a series of rolling national lockdowns, or can businesses and residents hope that they will be given more trust to look after their own health and those they care for?
My hon. Friend puts the distinction clearly and sharply, which is that we are following the common-sensical and balanced approach. Where local leaders step up to the plate—I am delighted that South Yorkshire came on board this morning; I had a great conversation with Dan Jarvis last night—and where local leadership is shown, we can really make huge progress in getting the R down. That is the right approach for the country.
As my right hon. Friend will know, part of my constituency has now been placed under tier 2 restrictions. Can he therefore reassure everyone that if they stick to the rules, observe the “hands, face, space” message, and self-isolate when required, accompanied by suitable enforcement for those who blatantly flout the law, we will come out of these restrictions all the sooner?
My hon. Friend puts his finger on it. That is exactly what we need to do. The areas that go into high levels of concern are reviewed every 14 days, and the restrictions, as I told the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), are reviewed every 28 days. The way to get through this is exactly as my hon. Friend says: to follow the guidance, particularly the “hands, face, space” basics.
As my right hon. Friend leads the country through Brexit and delivers global Britain, will he ensure that the values and policies of his Government to which he first gives consideration are those that will unite and bring our country together, and make all those who voted remain for what they thought were the internationalist values of the European Union proud again of their country in bringing those values to global Britain?
Indeed. That is why we are going to use the G7 presidency and the COP26 summit to champion our values across the world, particularly the one that my hon. Friend mentions—female education, which is the single policy that can really transform outcomes across the planet. Our global objective is to help 40 million girls across the world to get a decent education.
Of course I sympathise deeply with businesses that face difficulties because of the pandemic, although I remind the hon. Lady that the infection rate in her constituency is now running at 815 per 100,000, and we must get that down. I thank the people of Nottingham for what they are doing to get it down. We will of course continue to provide the full panoply of support that we have offered, and more, throughout this crisis.
Following the introduction of tier 2 restrictions in York, can the Prime Minister be more open in communicating the evidence base for York going into tier 2, outline a road map for the city’s return to tier 1, and urgently consider the creation of specific support for York’s hospitality industry, which is suffering losses from the limbo that tier 2 is creating?
Yes, I can tell my hon. Friend that the infection rate in York, alas, is now running at 279 per 100,000, and we must get it down. But we can get it down; we can get it down through the package of measures that we have described. You can see, in areas where people are complying with the guidance, that it is having an effect, because if it were not for the efforts and energies of the British people, the R would be running at 3 or more; it is now between 1.2 and 1.5. It will not take much—compliance in those areas that are hit at the moment—to get that R back down below 1. That is what we are aiming for, and that is the way to get businesses across the country, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), in my hon. Friend’s constituency, back on their feet as fast as possible. It would not be sensible, in my view, to plunge them all back into a sustained series of national lockdowns, particularly in areas where the virus is low.
NHS Track and Trace is now testing more people than any other country in Europe; it has tested, I think, 26 million people so far—or conducted 26 million tests. I am also proud, on the hon. Lady’s other point, that we have been able to support people across the country in the way that we have. She is not correct in what she says about the combined impact of the job support scheme and universal credit, because they work in tandem, and that lifts people’s incomes to 80%, and in some cases more than 90%, of their current incomes. That is the support that we are giving at the moment, but the best thing is to get our country through this crisis, without going back into the social, the psychological, the emotional and the economic disaster—and “disaster” was the word that the Labour party used only a week or so ago—the disaster of a series of national lockdowns.
Covid-19 Restrictions: South Yorkshire
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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).
Vehicle Registration Offences (Penalty Points)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make vehicle registration offences under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 attract driving record penalty points; and for connected purposes.
The Bill I present today aims to save lives and to relieve the stress on residents living near roads by improving the ability of the police to identify, and therefore prosecute, antisocial or reckless road users. I should like to be clear that the Bill is not in any way about targeting motorcyclists or, indeed, motorists in general. There are more than 1.25 million motorcyclists in the UK. It is a great sport and industry. I am proud that Destination Triumph has a fantastic dealership for that British-owned brand in Washington in my constituency.
The vast majority of motorcyclists use the roads responsibly and West Sussex welcomes careful riders and drivers alike. I arrived at the subject of the Bill, however, as a result of the misery inflicted on my constituents every summer, but which reached a new intensity during lockdown—misery because, on a day when the roads are dry, the residents of small towns and villages are woken by the sound of motorcycles and there is no respite until sunset. In places around Wisborough Green, Petworth, Bury Hill, Coldwaltham and Tillington, my constituents have to keep their windows closed, however warm the day. Pedestrians feel intimidated and this issue causes a great deal of mental stress.
This is not just about noise. My constituents travel on statistically the most dangerous roads in the whole of Sussex. In fact, the Chichester Observer reported last month that the Road Safety Federation identified the A285 between Petworth and Chichester as one of the worst in the whole UK, with 29 serious and fatal crashes between 2013 and 2018. Nearly two thirds of those involved motorcyclists. Similarly dangerous roads include the A272 from Tillington to Cowfold, the A283 between Fittleworth and Steyning and the A29 from Bury Hill to Adversane. These all carry a particularly dangerous mix of vehicle types, even before the addition of a speeding motorcycle or sports car. Even the shortest journey is likely to include an encounter with tractors and combines, a peloton of bicycles or the local bus service. Things will improve when the long-awaited A27 Arundel bypass is built and takes heavy goods vehicles away from the most dangerous A roads that I have mentioned, but the upgrade was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport only last week and will therefore take many years to arrive.
This issue is not confined to Arundel and South Downs. Members of this House who are supporting today’s Bill have told me of their concerns about the same issue on the A32 and the A272 in the Meon Valley, on the A27 at Sherfield English in Hampshire and in the Kingsnorth area of Ashford in Kent. Nationally, five people are killed and a further 68 receive life-changing injuries every day on our roads. That is one terrible family tragedy every 20 minutes. It falls to the police to do their best to address the twin impacts of antisocial noise and road safety, and I am grateful for all the efforts of my local police commissioner, Katy Bourne, and Chief Constable Jo Shiner.
This summer has seen a real effort by Sussex police under Operation Downsway, which I saw at first hand out on patrol with Chief Inspector Jon Carter and Police Constable Van Der Wee. However, despite an increase in police numbers—380 new officers this year in Sussex and more than 4,000 nationwide—the police simply cannot be everywhere all the time. Cameras play a vital role in extending their eyes, and that is where today’s Bill will help by closing a loophole in the law.
Currently, although speeding offences are endorseable—that is, they result in points on the offender’s driving licence—the offence of displaying a non-compliant number plate, or even of displaying no number plate at all, carries only a fine. That enables antisocial drivers on our roads, especially in rural areas, to defy both speed and number plate recognition cameras with relative impunity. That is particularly true for owners of high-performance bikes costing tens of thousands of pounds, where a £100 fine for infringing the law on public roads is far less than the cost of admission to a private and regulated track day.
While I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members have no first-hand familiarity with the matter, when it comes to driving, points definitely do not mean prizes. More points mean substantially higher insurance premiums, and multiple offences quickly make the loss of a licence a real consideration. Unlike a fine, penalty points are a real sanction and are more likely to change behaviour. Indeed, I believe that the Home Office Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s working group has made a similar plea for more robust penalties in this area.
Let me conclude by asking the Government and hon. Members from across the House to join me in supporting this Bill today. No novelty or innovation is required. It marries an existing offence with an existing sanction that is a tried and tested part of the motoring statute book. It is a measure that has support from the police and residents alike. It is clear and simple and does exactly what it says on the tin. I am therefore pleased to commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Andrew Griffith, Mr Andrew Mitchell, Bob Blackman, Caroline Nokes, Damian Green, Damian Hinds, Mrs Flick Drummond, Henry Smith, James Sunderland, Sir Mike Penning, Sir Peter Bottomley, and Tim Loughton present the Bill.
Andrew Griffith accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 November, and to be presented (Bill 201)
13th Allotted Day
Additional Covid-19 Restrictions: Fair Economic Support
I should inform the House that Mr Speaker has selected the manuscript amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. He has done this because the motion was tabled only shortly before the moment of interruption yesterday, and because one of his predecessors selected a manuscript amendment to an Opposition day motion in comparable circumstances on Monday 3 December 2001, thus creating a precedent.
I beg to move,
That this House calls on the Government to publish clear and fair national criteria for financial support for jobs and businesses in areas facing additional restrictions, to be voted on in Parliament; and calls on the Government to make good on its claim that workers faced with hardship who are subject to the Job Support Scheme extension will receive at least 80 percent of their previous incomes.
I start by placing on record my thanks to the staff at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport who recently cared for my aunt, who died of coronavirus last week. I speak today not just as a Member of this House, or just as a Mancunian, but as someone like the many others across our city and our country who have in the past few weeks lost loved ones to this terrible virus. That, more than anything, is why I come here wanting the Government not to fail but to succeed, because lives literally depend on it.
We know that a public health response will save lives only if it is supported by a fair economic settlement. The British people want to do the right thing, and they will do the right thing, but we need to support them in doing so. That is why I was so appalled by what I witnessed yesterday. I was with fellow Greater Manchester MPs on a Zoom call with the Health Secretary, who was handing us scraps from the Prime Minister, while our elected Mayor found out from Twitter. The Government then tried to blame it all on our Mayor for not doing what he was ordered to do from Whitehall. I have heard of power without accountability, but apparently the Government’s idea of devolution is accountability without the power.
We were offered £8 per head—or, to put it another way, 30 seconds of work for a consultant working on the collapsed test and trace system. Let me say this: £8 per person is an insult. And now the Government are attempting to play us off against each other across GM. Well, let me tell the Prime Minister: our Mayor stood up for Greater Manchester, but he spoke for Great Britain. Indeed, his call for Parliament to have a say and a vote on these measures is one that many Government Members have made.
On the point about votes in Parliament, many of us called for votes in this place on national restrictions a couple of weeks ago but, unfortunately, near enough all Opposition Members did not bother to turn up for those votes, including the one on the rule of six. If the Opposition get their way and have votes on localised restrictions, will they even turn up?
As the hon. Member has turned up today, I hope he will do the right thing and support people with an economic package so that they can do the right thing and we can save people’s lives across Greater Manchester and the whole of this country. I hope he will do the right thing and support us in the Lobby tonight.
The Government have not given us the chance to have our say, so today we are giving the House the chance to do so. Our motion calls for the Government to bring forward fair national criteria for financial support in areas facing additional restrictions, and it provides for Members to have a vote on the criteria.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on making some excellent points in her speech. Given that the Government’s strategy to deal with the pandemic is not working, does she agree that, rather than using divisive tactics and treating the regions of our nation with utter contempt, the Prime Minister needs to adopt a united, one nation approach? Does she also agree that, if we want to impose stricter measures, we need to provide support to individuals and businesses, and that we cannot have lockdown on the cheap?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Over the past 24 hours, the people of Greater Manchester, regardless of their political persuasions or colours, have been absolutely dismayed by the way in which our democratically elected Mayor has been treated, but this is about the treatment not just of our Mayor but of the people of Greater Manchester. This is not some spiteful little game; this is about people’s lives, people’s loved ones and people’s jobs. They have spent years building up our economy in Greater Manchester. This Government choosing the path that they have chosen has done one thing for Greater Manchester: it has completely brought us together in saying that this Government and Prime Minister must do the right thing by the whole of our nation and support everywhere, not pick us off one by one.
What advice would the hon. Lady offer my constituents in the Vale of Glamorgan, where the infection rates are exceptionally low, given that a one-size-fits-all approach has been taken across the whole of Wales? Retailers, hairdressers, personal service providers, beauticians and all those sorts of businesses have been closed, irrespective of the exceptionally low rate. Does that make sense? What does she have to say to those businesses that have invested all their time, effort, money and innovation in creating employment and wealth?
The right hon. Member makes a point about what the Welsh Government are doing. What they are doing is putting people, business and lives first. They are working with local government and with businesses to bring the R number down. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has said that the plan for Greater Manchester as it currently stands will not bring the R rate down and that it will lead us into poverty and destitution. When I speak to the experts, they tell me that poverty and destitution have a link to how deadly this virus is. In parts of areas such as Oldham in my constituency that have faced restrictions since July—I have not been able to see my granddaughter because of those restrictions—the rates have gone up. We do not want to plunge our businesses into destitution. I am proud of the Welsh Government’s defence of the people and their support for the people of Wales. I just wish we had a better Government here in Parliament.
Our motion calls on the Government to implement their own promise that workers on the job support scheme extension will receive at least 80% of their previous income. I remember the promises the Prime Minister made, not just in this crisis but before it. He offered levelling up for communities such as mine, but he is not levelling us up; he is letting us down. Under Thatcher, we were consigned to managed decline, but now it feels like mismanaged decline. And it is not just a conflict between the north and the south, or between London and the rest. The elected leaders of our nation’s cities, regions and countries have been treated with the same contempt, from Wales to Wigan.
I pass on the condolences of the Scottish National party to the hon. Lady and her family on the loss of her aunt.
We are not in a position to field a Front-Bench spokesperson today—that might have been easier if the Government had allowed us virtual participation—but I can confirm that we will support the official Opposition in the Lobby this evening, precisely because of the hon. Lady’s point about the need for support across the UK. Any enhanced package that is provided to Liverpool, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire must attract consequentials above what has already been guaranteed to Scotland. Scottish businesses are looking at the additional package of support that the Government have found for these English regions, and expect additional funding to be delivered to Scotland. Does she agree that that should happen for Scotland and the other devolved Administrations?