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  • Sep 25, 2020:
    • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions on Gatherings) (North of England) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve | Lords debates

      My Lords, with coronavirus cases doubling every week in a rapidly changing situation, there is sometimes a need to take urgent action but, despite assurances, the Government are still ignoring opportunities to bring new regulations to Parliament in a timely way. For example, all this morning's regulations have been overtaken by the so-called rule of six, yet, despite having yesterday's planned business cancelled because the Agriculture Bill was finished on Tuesday, the Government failed to put the new regulations before the House yesterday so we now find ourselves discussing old regulations that have been superseded. Little wonder that noble Lords have taken the opportunity today to ask the Minister questions about the new rules and other matters related to the virus.

      Before I come to those, I want to say something about the new app. All these ever-changing local lockdowns have created such confusion among the population about the rules that now apply to them that many people have given up trying to follow them. That is dangerous. I downloaded the app yesterday and at long last, as well as being able to learn if I have been near someone who has tested positive, which is crucial, I am now able to find out the rules that apply in my area at a click. I hope this will help the residents of Pendle, Bolton and all the areas affected by local lockdowns. This is what we have needed for many months, especially since the national lockdown was lifted and local lockdowns imposed. I very much welcome the app, but I regret that it has taken so long to be available following the withdrawal of the first abortive attempt. Other countries have had a working app for months. Why not England and Wales?

      Before I leave the subject of the app, will it help local authorities to track back to the source of new clusters of infection? Do they have the powers to enforce closures or whatever else is needed? I echo the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, in asking how lessons have been learned from whether or not the local lockdowns have worked in reducing the incidence of the virus. As my noble friend Lord Greaves pointed out, local lockdowns have been very stressful for local government.

      I turn to related matters. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others asked about clarifying the rule of six. It seems that people could have several sets of contact with five others during a single day, as my noble friend Lord Newby pointed out yesterday. Would it not be better to advise people about a maximum total number of contacts that they could have in any one day other than their own family?

      Many noble Lords have asked about the test and trace system. As my noble friend Lord Greaves pointed out, unless the system is working properly, Pendle and other areas will be stuck in local lockdowns for ever. Are the local lockdown areas now getting appropriate access to tests?

      Vulnerable groups have particular needs. I welcome the £500 payments for quarantine, but how do the Government determine low income? Is someone monitoring how quickly people are getting the money? They need it right away if they cannot go to work. Are local authorities getting the resources needed to support people who feel they need to shield in areas of high incidence of the virus? Is any extra work being done in the local lockdown areas to ensure the safety of children in households where social services are aware that their home circumstances may be either neglectful or violent?

      Several noble Lords have raised the plight of care homes. My noble friend Lord Willis asked about the availability of tests for staff in care homes. I echo his demand for a guarantee of timely tests for staff in care homes. I also echo the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, about why inspectors are visiting care homes without being tested. If family members cannot visit their loved ones, why allow inspectors in without being sure that they are not importing infection?

      The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked about students and young people. They have been hit hard. My noble friend Lady Bowles asked questions about childcare that I hope the Minister can answer.

      This week the Science and Technology Select Committee heard about the increase in mental health issues during lockdown, especially among the young, where incidence was rising anyway. Witnesses were concerned about the lack of research into the extent and effects of this. Are the Government doing any additional research? Are any additional resources for mental health support being provided in areas of local lockdown, where not only have they had many months of national lockdown but they now have extra restrictions on their freedom to socialise? Many have lost access to their usual therapies. This is bound to have had an effect on people's mental health problems, especially those who had existing problems.

      As we have heard, there are many questions to ask about these regulations but I share the view of many noble Lords, such as my noble friend Lord Beith, that it would have been much better if Parliament could have asked them before they were six weeks old and had been overtaken by others.

  • Sep 23, 2020:
    • Covid-19 - Statement | Lords debates

      My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that there has been a considerable rise in mental and emotional ill health since the pandemic began? Many people are fearful, anxious and depressed. In the Government's messaging on the virus, does she agree that there needs to be a balance between frightening people about the seriousness of the disease so that they will obey the rules and reassuring people that, if they do obey the rules, they will probably be okay? Does she think the Prime Minister got that balance right yesterday? I am afraid I do not.

  • Sep 21, 2020:
    • Covid-19 Update - Statement | Lords debates

      My Lords, I welcome the further £2.7 billion for the NHS to prepare for winter and the further £150 million to expand emergency departments in England. However, as a resident of Wales, where health is devolved, I ask the Minister whether the Government have provided a proportionate sum to the devolved Administrations, to ensure that their residents can benefit from these improvements too? Furthermore, will the changes to NHS 111 be available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

    • Health Care: Guidance - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, young people have been hit hard by Covid-19, if not physically, then mentally and emotionally. They may be caring for someone who is either sick or vulnerable and therefore isolating. What is being done to ensure that young carers continue to get support during the pandemic-especially in the light of further restrictions-both for their caring duties and for their own mental health and well-being?

  • Sep 18, 2020:
    • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve | Lords debates

      My Lords, yet again the Government are using this House as a rubber stamp. This is not what should be happening in a democracy. Despite repeated insistence from government Ministers that this will not become routine practice, it has become precisely that. All these regulations remove citizens' rights and freedoms, so it is essential that parliamentarians can question them. For example, how many fines have been imposed on organisers of peaceful protests of more than 30? What criteria are used to determine whether the organising body is a political one and therefore exempt?

      These regulations were laid only one or two days before they came into force, giving the public and business owners little chance to understand and prepare for them, and they have now been superseded. Is it any wonder that people are confused?

      I want to ask the Minister about an aspect of the messaging that came up in evidence to the Lords Science and Technology Select Committee on Tuesday. It is clear that a proportion of people who have had the virus continue to have serious health issues long after the initial infection is over. These include chronic fatigue, damage to lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and central nervous system, as well as mental health issues. Yet the impression has been given, especially to young people, that patients might feel unwell for a couple of days or weeks, or maybe not at all, and then they will become immune. That is not the end of it for many people. Will the Government change their messaging to emphasise that this virus can have serious long-term effects with which the NHS will struggle to cope? What preparation is being made to allow the NHS to cope with long Covid?

  • Sep 16, 2020:
    • Biodiversity - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, the RSPB report emphasises that biodiversity is strongly linked to climate change. To meet our targets, we must take action on all fronts, including farming. In order to produce low-carbon British food, a company wants to build greenhouses in Wrexham using waste heat and emissions from the sewage works next to the site. Will the Minister support this enterprise in the interests of climate action and biodiversity protection?

  • Sep 10, 2020:
    • Covid-19 Update - Statement | Lords debates

      My Lords, the Secretary of State has blamed the recent failure of laboratories to process tests in a timely way on members of the public who are not eligible-as he calls it-seeking to take a test. Is this not another example of Ministers blaming someone else for their failures? How do people know if they are not eligible? If they are concerned about something, what system is in place to enable testing centres to know who is eligible, so that they can refuse to test those who are not?

    • Gambling Legislation - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, when the Government banned tobacco advertising on television, at that point they were convinced of the efficacy of advertising in persuading people to undertake certain activities. Eighty per cent of gambling marketing spend is now online. In 2017, about £1.2 billion was spent, and it is probably more now. Given the harm that gambling can cause to health, as well as society, will the Government ban online gambling advertising in the same way as they so successfully banned tobacco advertising on television?

  • Sep 7, 2020:
    • Highway Layouts - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, to improve air quality around areas of sensitive ecology, we must encourage green transport. According to a Department for Transport survey, only 1% of households own an electric car, and 2% own a hybrid. The main barriers to increasing these numbers are access to charging points and the cost of purchase. Therefore, why are the Government spending £2 on unrestricted fossil fuel subsidies for every £1 promoting clean energy, such as the EV charging infrastructure?

  • Sep 3, 2020:
    • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve | Lords debates

      My Lords, often during the recent series of local lockdowns the voice of the local authorities has not been heard. When eventually it is heard, such as in the recent case of Bolton and Trafford, changes have been at such short notice as to confuse local people and make them much less likely to abide by the new restrictions. Local authorities must give reasonable notice to the public and businesses about closures. How can they do that if the Government change their mind with 12 hours' notice?

      Recently, many businesses have gone to enormous trouble to protect their clients with cleaning and distancing arrangements and PPE, which have cost them time and money, and yet sometimes they must close because of the behaviour of others or virus spikes at the far side of a large local authority area. I want to ask about their rights in those situations. According to these regulations, they can appeal to the magistrates' court. How many such appeals have there been, and how long have they taken to be considered? What training have magistrates been given in considering these cases? Have any closure notices been overturned by a magistrate because of the rigorous safety measures being taken on the premises? Proprietors can also appeal to the Secretary of State. How many such appeals have there been, and how long have they taken to be considered? What steps have been taken to inform those running premises of their rights in this matter?

      The enforcement section of this regulation contains an increasing list of fixed penalties, depending on the number of offences. What discretion do magistrates have to consider the case of an organiser or a participant in a peaceful protest where all possible precautions have been taken to protect public safety?

  • Sep 2, 2020:
    • Medicines and Medical Devices Bill - Second Reading | Lords debates

      My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. The Bill covers a multitude of issues, but apart from giving massive powers to Ministers it provides very little detail. It is an empty bucket. Henry VIII would have been proud of it.

      Like others, I have read the Delegated Powers Committee's report on the Bill. I have rarely read a report from this respected committee that is so trenchant in its criticism of a Bill and of the government memorandum, which failed miserably to justify those elements that the DPRRC finds to be "inappropriate". The powers given to Ministers are not just for transferring EU regulations into UK law; they are extensive-almost unfettered-powers to amend, extend or disapply regulations, breaking many of which would be a criminal offence carrying a two-year prison sentence.

      Many of these regulations would be laid by the negative procedure, with the excuse that they might be urgent. Even those that carry the affirmative procedure do not allow Parliament to scrutinise them or amend them in the same way as we would if they were done by primary legislation. Ministers claim that there is no alternative other than putting all the detail of all the regulatory changes into primary legislation. This is nonsense and the Government know it.

      I have to agree that it is not always possible or even desirable to use primary legislation for technical changes, but there is no detail at all in the Bill about what changes the Government intend about human and veterinary medicine and very little about medical devices regulations. The Government even plan to disapply some regulations simply by introducing a protocol, thereby completely bypassing any parliamentary scrutiny at all. It is rightly described by the DPRRC as "camouflaging legislation". Its overall conclusion is that the Bill transfers powers from the European Union directly to Ministers, completely bypassing Parliament.

      If this is what the Government mean by taking back control, it is exactly what remainers feared when the EU referendum was put to the people. Control is going to Ministers, not Parliament. In a parliamentary democracy, that is unacceptable. Under the Bill, Ministers could completely rewrite the regulatory frameworks for medicines and medical devices, so it is not surprising that noble Lords have received so many very concerned briefings from the field.

      Having in mind the fact that patient safety must be at the heart of the legislation, what constraints do we find on Ministers in the Bill? In making regulations, Ministers must have in mind three issues: patient safety; the availability of medicines and medical devices; and the attractiveness of the UK for clinical trials and the supply of medicines and medical devices. I was surprised when I first read the Bill to find the word "attractiveness". I have never seen it in a health Bill before-a trade Bill, yes, but not a health Bill. My primary question to the Minister is: is this a hierarchy of issues and is patient safety paramount? I would not want rigorous regulation of the safety of medicines to be subservient in any way to the ability to attract producers or researchers to come to the UK to take advantage of a more lenient regulatory regime.

      Frankly, if the Government want to attract people here to do research and clinical trials, I can think of no better way than to remain as closely aligned as possible to the EMA and set up the safest, fairest, most rigorous and transparent regulatory regime in the world. This Bill does not do that. I ask for detail, transparency, appropriate parliamentary oversight and the whole package of recommendations from the report by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege.

  • Aug 20, 2020:
    • Obesity | Department of Health and Social Care | Written Answers

      To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to involve people with relevant lived experiences in (1) the campaign, and (2) the implementation of policies, associated with their strategy Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives, published on 27 July.

    • Obesity | Department of Health and Social Care | Written Answers

      To ask Her Majesty's Government what will be (1) the process, and (2) the timeline, for the expansion of weight management services available through the NHS announced in their strategy Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives, published on 27 July; and whether this will include expansion of (a) tier 3, and (b) tier 4, weight management services.

    • Obesity | Department of Health and Social Care | Written Answers

      To ask Her Majesty's Government which government departments will be accountable for the implementation of their strategy Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives, published on 27 July.

    • Obesity | Department of Health and Social Care | Written Answers

      To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will (1) measure, and (2) report on, the success of the policies outlined in their strategy Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives, published on 27 July.

  • Jul 29, 2020:
    • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve | Lords debates

      My Lords, while I appreciate the need for rapid action to contain new outbreaks of Covid-19, I too am very concerned that these regulations have come to Parliament for approval so long after they have been put into action and amended. How often will such measures be reviewed and what arrangements will be made to obtain parliamentary approval of such measures if they occur when Parliament is not sitting? These regulations, for example, are due for review tomorrow.

      What are the Government's criteria for creating further local lockdowns, and what is the role of local decision-makers in such decisions? Will workplace information be collected by test and trace, so that local officials can identify outbreaks in workplaces? How many local lockdowns would need to be in place before the Government considered a national lockdown necessary? What special measures will be put in place in local lockdown areas to protect care homes? As the Minister knows, patients in care homes have been very badly affected in the first wave. What is being put in place to ensure that these most vulnerable people are not put at risk again?

  • Jul 27, 2020:
    • Covid-19: Response - Statement | Lords debates

      My Lords, there are still issues about the length of time it takes for test results to be returned and contacts traced. Is the Minister aware that a four-week pilot scheme for the OptiGene saliva test in Southampton was completed a week ago? This test takes only 20 minutes to process. Since it does not rely on throat and nose swabs, there are less likely to be false negatives because of faulty swabbing. Can the Minister give the House the results of the pilot, which was referred to by a witness to the Science and Technology Committee as a potential game-changer? Are there plans to make the new test more widely available? In light of the latest news about travellers from Spain, will the test be given at the airport to all passengers returning from non-exempt countries so that they can be followed up quickly at the address they have given on the passenger locator form, and should they not have another test a few days later?

  • Jul 24, 2020:
    • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve | Lords debates

      My Lords, plenty of virus is still in circulation. At the Science and Technology Select Committee this week, witnesses emphasised that we have two months to prepare for winter, when we are likely to have a second wave alongside flu and other seasonal respiratory ailments. They recommended that, in preparation for winter pressure on the NHS and the Test and Trace programme, we must suppress the amount of virus circulating by September. The committee has written to the Prime Minister about this. How will the easing of restrictions in these regulations achieve that? Will government ensure that the planned walk-in test centres will be located in the vicinity of all these newly opened venues and every airport?

      I am also concerned about the criminalisation of peaceful protest. I would like to see peaceful protest exempted and protesters given access to a pop-up test centre.

  • Jul 20, 2020:
    • Smoking - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, the Government propose that pubs should aim at two metres between smokers and non-smokers when outside. However, the Minister should know that social distancing is already being flouted when alcohol is involved. Is he concerned that this so-called compromise is supported by FOREST, which is funded by the tobacco industry, and will he answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and ensure that the guidance will be issued by the Department of Health and Social Care rather than by MHCLG?

  • Jul 8, 2020:
    • Education Settings: Autumn Opening - Statement | Lords debates

      My Lords, a teacher told me yesterday about a boy in her class with ADHD who had been doing very well before the lockdown but is now showing distress and struggling at school. Today several children were very tearful; there will be many children like this across the country. Can the Minister say what training will be given to teachers to identify and deal with these situations and signpost the child to help? As the teacher said to me, sticking them on endless waiting lists for CAMHS is next to useless when they obviously need the help right now.