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Covid-19: UK-wide Response

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2020

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on co-ordinating a UK-wide response to the covid-19 outbreak. (909538)

The Government and the devolved Administrations continue to work closely together to ensure a co-ordinated approach across the United Kingdom. As set out in our joint statement of 25 September, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations hold a

“shared commitment to suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there”.

Today’s news about a vaccine will be welcomed across every part of the United Kingdom. I was pleased we could agree a united approach to Christmas planning last week. Although each devolved Administration control their public health policy, we have been co-ordinating positively on our response to covid throughout the year.

Coronavirus knows no boundaries, and it is absolutely vital that the UK Government, the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly work together to deal with it. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely crucial that we have effective co-operation—north-south and east-west—and a co-ordinated approach to dealing with this pandemic?

I strongly endorse the words of my hon. Friend. This Government are determined to work together with the Northern Irish Executive and the Irish Government to ensure that measures safeguard the health and wellbeing of UK and Irish citizens. There is an existing memorandum of understanding between the chief medical officers for Northern Ireland and for Ireland, which formalises co-ordination and co-operation between the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to covid-19. The Secretary of State continues to hold regular discussions with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, as well as the Irish Government, to co-operate on covid issues.

With the positive news that the UK will commence covid-19 vaccinations from 14 December, will the Secretary of State commit that if logistical support from Her Majesty’s armed forces is required in Northern Ireland, it will be provided speedily and with the same resources as the rest of our nation?

I would just like to take a little bit of a liberty, Mr Speaker, and take this opportunity to express my deep disappointment that once again the six-time world superbike champion and South Antrim native Jonathan Rea MBE was overlooked for the shortlist of the BBC’s sports personality of the year. I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree with me on that.

I fear to tread in such a contentious area. The hon. Gentleman is right that the news on a vaccine is good news for the whole United Kingdom. We want to ensure that it is rolled out effectively across the whole United Kingdom, and we shall certainly make representations to ensure that that includes Northern Ireland.