Debates between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell during the 2019 Parliament

Covid-19 Update

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, SIREN is one of the most thought-provoking and interesting of all the many studies that we have done. It is a sad fact that we do not understand many of the aspects of the body’s immune system, and that is why we are so committed to that study. It suggests that once you have had the virus, your body’s immune system is extremely strong. The proportion of people who catch it a second time round is incredibly small. That is good news for those who have caught it and for those who have had the vaccine, because if the immune system works well after catching the virus, it probably works well after the vaccine. However, we continue to publish from the SIREN study. On the health impacts of wearing face masks, I am not fully across that, but I will be glad to write to my noble friend with any details that I may have.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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The Government have been concerned for some time that even though someone is symptom-free and has had both vaccine jabs, there is still some risk that they might pass it on to others. But surely the risk must be minuscule. Have the Government ascertained how minscule the risk is compared with other much more major kinds of risk, and has there been a danger of the Government overcompensating here, particularly with respect to those in that position wanting to enter this country?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, what a perceptive question from the noble and right reverend Lord—he absolutely hits the nail on the head. The honest truth is that we do not have the precise figures on this but the indications are that he is right: the vaccine does not stop you being infected or transmitting it, but it reduces the chances of both those things dramatically. That is one of the reasons why we have kept our foreign travel arrangements under review. It is possible that the effect that he describes may mean that we can look very thoroughly at foreign travel—I think all noble Lords would welcome that.

Social Care

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell
Wednesday 28th October 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My noble friend is entirely right. One of the experiences of Covid has been the mobilisation of technology to help those in social care. That has ranged from very basic implementation, such as sending iPads to people in social care so that they can message and video their loved ones when in some form of lockdown, to the work done with broadband providers to ensure that those without it can have access to it, all the way through to the use of the most complex artificial intelligence and big data, to help with diagnosis in social care, and the management of care itself. That commitment to technology will continue and will form an important part of improving the commitment to social care as part of the new regime.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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The Royal Commission on long-term social care, chaired by the late lamented Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, reported in 1999. Only two years later, the Scottish Government adopted its main proposal of state support for personal and/or nursing care. How is it that, some 20 years later, successive Governments in the UK have failed to address the issue properly, in the way that the Scottish Government appear to be able to do?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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The noble and right reverend Lord is entirely right. There has been a large number of reports on social care, but they have not in themselves brought us closer to a new deal. That is why the Government’s commitment is not necessarily to launch new reviews but to engage in consensus building across the political parties. That consensus building has been lacking in the past and has continually proved to be the stumbling block to reform. The commitment of both the Government and other Benches to those talks is the essential building block of any major reform. I completely pay tribute to the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister for their commitment to those talks.

Covid-19: Rise of Positive Tests

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell
Wednesday 9th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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Moving on from the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, about care homes, and the Minister’s response, are the Government publishing the number of cases and deaths due to Covid in care homes? If not, why not?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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I advise the noble and right reverend Lord that those figures are published on the PHE website. I would be glad to send him an email with the link.

Suicide

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking in response to the reported rise in the number of people committing suicide.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
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My Lords, one suicide is too many suicides. That is why we published a cross-government suicide prevention workplan in 2019, are investing £57 million in suicide prevention in the NHS, are rolling out suicide prevention plans across the country and are committed to working with charities such as the Samaritans and the Zero Suicide Alliance.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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I thank the Minister for his reply and what the Government are doing. Unfortunately, male suicides are the worst they have been for two decades. There is particular concern among men between the ages of 45 and 49, and suicide is the highest form of death for those under 50. It is a particular concern in areas of Yorkshire and Humber. In his latest book, Professor Michael Sandel argues that this is part of a wider malaise in society. In a highly competitive society such as ours, there are those left behind without any sense of value, dignity or self-esteem. Will the Minister encourage the suicide strategy advisory group to look at what Michael Sandel has said and its implications for government policy?

Childhood Obesity

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, the report from Professor Sally Davies has not been lost; the July obesity strategy leans extremely heavily on the insight and advice of Sally Davies, who continues to have a strong presence in the department and informs all our decisions, as does the public health team at PHE. Professor John Newton had an extremely high profile during the launch of the obesity strategy in July and continues to have an important voice at all levels of the department.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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In her 2019 report, the Chief Medical Officer pointed out that, when we leave the European Union, it will be open to the Government to alter VAT rates. She recommended that healthy foods should remain without VAT, as they are at the moment, but that there should be a tiered approach to unhealthy foods and drinks as far as VAT is concerned. What is the Government’s response to this recommendation?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are not planning a review of VAT at present.

Independent Residential Care

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
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My noble friend asks the question extremely well. The Lords Economic Affairs Committee report is an extremely thoughtful and respected piece of work. Under normal circumstances we would certainly have had that debate and moved forward on this incredibly important issue, which was flagged both in the election and in the manifesto as a major government priority. However, I cannot hide from my noble friend that the Covid epidemic has disrupted progress, particularly on this delicate issue, which requires a huge amount of management time by senior healthcare officials, who are utterly consumed by Covid at the moment. Please be under no illusion that this is a major priority for the Government. Once the preparations for winter are in place, it will be at the top of the list.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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The Covid crisis has revealed the crucial role that care homes and care workers play in our national life. Does the Minister agree that it is high time to take a radical look at the role of care homes and of social care more generally, especially the status and the pay of care workers, who have revealed their worth so wonderfully over these last few months?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
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The noble and right reverend Lord is entirely right: the value and contribution of care home workers to society and to the communities that they work in go way beyond the actual monetary value of their salary. We completely respect and pay tribute to the contribution that they have made, particularly during this epidemic. We have sought during the epidemic to run recruitment campaigns to bring in new workers and to help plug any skills gaps, but this is the kind of issue that needs to be addressed in a long-term plan. We have already started work on that plan and look forward to bringing it to Parliament when the kind of cross-party support that is needed is in place.

Exercise Cygnus

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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The Secretary of State for Health, Mr Hancock, said on 7 May that he had consulted officials and had been assured that all the recommendations had been implemented. However, Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, is reported as saying:

“It beggars belief. This is a report that made some really clear recommendations that haven’t been implemented.”


How does the Minister reconcile these two totally contradictory stories about whether or not the recommendations were implemented?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
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I assure the noble and right reverend Lord that operation Cygnus happened in 2016 and the recommendations were completed by spring 2018. However, it is possible that nothing could have prepared us for the ferocity of Covid. Operation Cygnus prepared us for a flu pandemic and not for something with the savagery of Covid-19.