Debates between Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 6th Jan 2022
Mon 12th Jul 2021
Mon 23rd Nov 2020
Wed 14th Oct 2020

Covid-19

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Thursday 6th January 2022

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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My noble friend is right. It is something that I know noble Lords and our colleagues in the other place have raised. Work is going on to try to take action in this area. When the omicron variant was first identified we introduced the travel restrictions to try to slow its arrival, but now that it is so prevalent these measures are having a limited impact but are obviously having a significant impact on the travel industry. I think these are welcome measures that will, I hope, be welcomed by the public. However, there are no changes for unvaccinated adults.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, in the period before Christmas, the Government gave a high priority to keeping schools open, which was welcome. However, does the Minister agree that it is not just a matter of keeping schools open but a matter of encouraging all parents to send their children to school? With that in mind, will the Government consider making exclusion zones around schools to prevent anti-vaxxers providing parents, pupils and teachers with a lot of misinformation about vaccination? Does she also agree that it is extremely important that parents do not think that their children are going to have to sit in classrooms in the kind of weather that we are having now with windows open because adequate funds have not been provided for proper ventilation schemes for schools?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I certainly agree with the noble Baroness about the appalling behaviour of some people around schools, and we have provided guidance to all schools on how to manage vaccination-related protests in liaison with the police, the NHS and the local authorities. Should a protest contravene the law, the police have comprehensive powers to deal with activities that spread hate or deliberately raise tensions. But she is right: it is an unsatisfactory situation and we are working with schools to try to help and support them in any way we can.

On the noble Baroness’s second point, more than 350,000 CO2 monitors have been rolled out to schools across the country and 8,000 air purifiers are being distributed to schools with particular ventilation difficulties. However, in the areas where CO2 monitors have been rolled out to schools to identify poorly ventilated areas, feedback shows that in most of those settings existing ventilation measures are sufficient. So a lot of work is being done, but we have added 7,000 to the 1,000 purifiers that we were planning for SEN and alternative provision settings to add to the broader school estate.

Afghanistan

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Monday 12th July 2021

(3 years ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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There has been significant progress in human rights in Afghanistan since 2001, as I said, in connection to women’s rights, the rights of minority groups, freedom of expression and access to education. We will continue to work with the Afghan Government and international allies to protect this.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, what recent discussions have the Government had with the relevant authorities in Pakistan? It is acknowledged that Pakistan can play a crucial role in influencing the Taliban and securing the peace process, that could avoid another decent into civil war in Afghanistan. If there have been no such discussions with Pakistan, would the Leader of the House say why?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I am afraid that I do not have a running list of every negotiation happening, but I am very happy to go back to colleagues and write to the noble Baroness with recent contacts.

G7 and NATO Summits

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Thursday 17th June 2021

(3 years ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his comments. He is right that this is a huge global challenge and we all need to work together to deliver on it. However, I point out that the Oxford vaccine is a very important way of helping tackle this pandemic. Of course, we part-funded it, and it is being produced at cost to low and middle-income countries and at scale through manufacturing partnerships across the world. This is already ensuring that more than half a billion doses of the vaccine are available across the world. Of course, we have to ensure that we continue to roll it out, but it is also worth remembering the huge contribution that we have already made through the Oxford vaccine.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I am not sure which specific question my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition wanted the Minister to answer, but there is one that she put to her that I would like to repeat, to give the Leader of the House the opportunity to answer it at the Dispatch Box today. From the beginning of discussions on global corporation tax, other countries in the G7 indicated support for an initial rate of 21%, so why do the Government seek to weaken it? Could the noble Baroness please answer that question? At the same time, can she make clear what the Government will do to strengthen global tax systems as a matter of urgency to stop the continuing tax dodging of firms such as Amazon and Google?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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As I said, this was a major breakthrough, and different countries of course have different views on what the minimum rate will be. Compromise is necessary to reach the final agreement among the 130 members of the OECD inclusive framework, but we think that the position agreed at the G7 is one that the OECD and G20 can coalesce around.

Integrated Review

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Monday 23rd November 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I reassure the right reverend Prelate that this settlement puts the defence programme on a sustainable footing and will make sure that our Armed Forces can meet today’s threats at the same time as delivering on a once-in-a-generation modernisation. This £16.5 billion increase over four years is the biggest uplift in 30 years, and, as I mentioned, it cements the UK’s position as the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I am sure that I do not need to remind the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that the Conservative Party manifesto contained a commitment to spend 0.75% of GNI on development aid. She failed to answer the direct question put by my noble friend Lady Smith and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, about whether this would be maintained. How, in the circumstances, can abandoning an election manifesto commitment of this kind even be considered—it is enshrined in law? Can she tell the House what the effect of doing so will have on the lives of millions of poor people living in dire poverty around the world, quite apart from the damage it will do to our international reputation?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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As I have already said, we are, and should be, proud of our international development work. I have also already said that the spending review will be on Wednesday and announcements will be made there. I will not say anything further on that today, but I can certainly say that we are absolutely committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people. We will remain a world leader in this area through, as I have said, hosting COP 26, our G7 presidency and hosting a major girls’ education summit next year.

Covid-19 Update

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Wednesday 14th October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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As I mentioned in reference to a comment by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, CT scanners have been made available—for instance, in Harrogate and Exeter—to provide safer, faster access for people with a range of conditions, including cancer, so that we can continue to try to ensure that routine appointments and operations can still take place. As I also mentioned, three other hospitals are now on alert in areas of high prevalence in order that they can come on stream. Obviously work is going on between the Department of Health and NHS England, but they will be staffed from the local area. We will of course keep all of this under review because we know that capacity is important, and the Nightingale hospitals will, I am sure, once again play an important part in our response as we go forward.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, given the threat to jobs from measures set out in the Statement, can the Leader of the House say what the Government intend to do to prevent higher levels of unemployment? In replying, can she tell the House what proportion of jobs will be supported by the Job Support Scheme, and who will still miss out in the extension of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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First of all, our Job Support Scheme is in line with those of other major European countries, including France, Germany, Ireland and Italy, in its proportion of wage support. We very much believe that this scheme can help the lowest paid in particular, who can benefit from the responsiveness of our welfare system. The dovetailing of those two things should actually mean that some of the poorest workers—or those on the lowest pay, I should say—could end up on around 88% of their original income, and so more than the two-thirds on which the scheme itself is based. Obviously, businesses are able to top up the two-thirds as they wish, as they did for the furlough scheme.

However, I think the Chancellor has been quite clear: unfortunately, we are not going to be able to save every job. We will do all we can to support businesses and individuals. That is why we are trying to look to the future with, for instance, the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, which will create thousands of subsidised jobs for young people; paying employers to hire apprentices; and doubling the number of work coaches. We are very cognisant of the issues in this area, and have a range of things—both trying to protect jobs at the moment and looking to the future—to make sure that everyone has an opportunity for employment going forward.

Covid-19: Strategy

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Tuesday 12th May 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
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I am very sorry to hear about the friends of my noble friend Lord Sheikh and I am glad to hear about their recovery. I too pay tribute to the fantastic work done by all those in our NHS and care homes who keeping us safe. As I mentioned in a previous answer, Public Health England is undertaking a rapid review of how different factors, including ethnicity, are disproportionately impacting people. The review is being led by Professor Kevin Fenton, the London regional director of public health at Public Health England, and his findings will be published at the end of the month.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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The Secretary of State for Education has said that nothing can replace being in the classroom. Can the Leader of the House confirm that all primary school pupils will be able to return to school by the end of June and that further reassurances about this will be given to parents? If the R rate allows, will the Government also reconsider their plans for secondary schools so that all these pupils, whose mental well-being is also at stake, can return to school, even if only briefly, before the summer holidays? That will help to mitigate the growing inequality among children in this age group.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
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I am afraid that, as with everything, I cannot give categorical promises or guarantees. Everything is being done in a cautious way on the basis of the science, the data and public health. However, I can certainly say to the noble Baroness that it is our ambition, if it is feasible, for all primary school-age children to return to school for a month before the summer, and this will be kept under review. At this point, I am afraid that only secondary school pupils with exams next year will be able to have face-to-face contact with their teachers in order to support their remote learning. There are no plans for other secondary school pupils to return to school before the summer.