Valerie responds to the Business Statement

In response to the Business Statement on Thursday 8 October 2020, I raised the inconsistent application of local lockdown measures and called on the Government to publish the evidence behind its 10pm curfew. You can read my full speech below: 

“I thank the Leader of the House for both the Opposition days, but I am concerned about the consequences. Last time the Opposition voted on an amendment to the Trade Bill, the House Twitter account was suspended and I am not sure why, because all it does is present the facts, the explanatory memorandum and the votes. I do not know why that has been stopped—unless, of course, he is afraid of the competition to his own Twitter account, but he just talks about teddy bears, whereas what the House Twitter account has done since 2012 is to inform the public about the procedures and policies of the House and the votes, in a non-political way. It just presents the facts. Could he please ensure that it is restored and given back to the House?

Something is missing: the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care throwing himself down on the green Benches when he has to come and answer questions. We are still entitled to ask questions, are we not? I am just checking, because I would like to ask the Leader of the House where the evidence is for why large parts of the north and the midlands are under lockdown when other areas with higher rates of infection are not.

Let me give the facts: Richmond in North Yorkshire has 73 new cases for every 100,0000—no lockdown. Newark and Sherwood District Council has 84 cases—no lockdown. Wolverhampton has 56 cases, a lower figure than the others, but is in lockdown. Barrow and Furness, 112—no lockdown; Darlington, 110—no lockdown; Wakefield, 73—no lockdown, so can we have an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Health on these inconsistent, chaotic decisions? We need an explanation.

The Leader of the House will know that good public law is based on making a decision and giving reasons, and it is also based on giving the evidence. Otherwise, I am afraid the lefty lawyers and the do-gooders will have to hold the Government to account, as democracy wants us to do. We are quite happy being the do-gooders, although I am not sure what that makes the Government: the no-gooders—a Government up to no good?

I am pleased that the Leader of the House has provided time for the debate on the 10 pm curfew. Let us try again, as the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday: can we have the evidence published before the debate? That will inform the debate.

We have a series of Departments that are spending £56 million on consultancy fees. Apparently contracts have been given without competition—nobody else has been allowed to compete; they have just been handed out. The Government’s own Minister, Lord Agnew, said:

“Aside from providing poor value for money, this infantilises the civil service by depriving our brightest people of opportunities to work on some of the most challenging, fulfilling and crunchy issues.”

There is chaos and waste of public money. It is a problem of the Government’s own making because they downsized the civil service. They have lost five senior civil servants, including the Cabinet Secretary, from Whitehall this year. Will the Leader of the House therefore ensure, ahead of the Opposition day debate, that all the contracts that the Government have outsourced are in the public domain, with the amounts and the connections with the Government? We would also like to see the measurable outcomes. It is no good giving out the contracts only for people to turn around and say, “It doesn’t work,” and then the Government have to foot the bill again.

We have silence from the Twitter account, silence on the evidence for lockdown, silence on Government contracts. It is as if the Government were sailing adrift at sea with no radio contact. There is also silence on when fans can return to football stadiums. I saw Walsall prepare their ground, taking three weeks to ensure that it is covid-safe so that all our fans can return. Staff have already taken a reduction in wages. Now the Government are holding those businesses with their hands tied behind their backs. They cannot raise income from fans returning, which helps fans’ health and wellbeing. I do not know whether any Cabinet members go to football matches, but there were some fantastic results last weekend. Fans would have wanted to see them. [Interruption.] I meant that I wonder whether Cabinet members had been to football matches previously. There have been dramatic results. We want to go to our local matches at Walsall. There are dramatic matches there, too. May we have a statement on when football stadiums can open safely? There has not been clarity from the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

I know that the Leader of the House will say that Foreign Office questions is next Tuesday, but will he ensure that the Foreign Secretary gives the House an update on Nazanin and Anousheh and the meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister? If he does not give it to the House, will he please give it to the families?

I ask again for a statement on the EU Council meeting on 15 October. It can be given on the Friday or the following Monday.

Mr Speaker, he did it. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) jumped from a plane. He fundraised for Florence and came out unscathed. Today is Gift Aid Awareness Day and I suggest that all hon. Members use that tick and ensure that the charities get their money. Well done to my hon. Friend and all the best to Florence.”