My contribution to the debate on Public Health, 1 December 2020

Sir John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Many of my constituents are very angry that west Berkshire and Wokingham have been placed in tier 2 when we were in tier 1 before the national lockdown and we still have very low figures. On all the evidence that the Government say they look at—case numbers, trends in cases and available hospital capacity—there seems a very clear case that we should not be worse off as we come out of national lockdown than we were when we went in, and my constituents will expect me to reflect their anger in the way that I vote tonight.

I would far rather work with the Government, and I think that on the whole they are doing a very good job in a very difficult circumstance, but they could make life easier for themselves if they identified more policies that both bear down on the virus problem and allow the much-needed economic recovery so that we rescue and encourage more livelihoods.

The first policy is this: why can we not have expanded isolation capacity in the NHS to deal with covid-19, with volunteers properly backed up with all the equipment and safety protocols they need so that we free up many more of the district generals to do the general work that they need to do and free up their staff from the possibility of cross-infection and cross-contamination? One of the problems in the NHS at the moment is that there are too many staff who have had to self-isolate. Can we not do better on infection control, isolation, and specialisation? Money is no longer a problem, I am pleased to see. I am very happy for more money to go into the health service, but it must buy the staff and make sure that the staff are properly looked after, so that we have that extra capacity.

The second issue is the capacity of our hospitality industry. I encouraged the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department of Health and Social Care to do work some time ago on safer methods of extracting air quickly from hospitality venues, so that more people can use a hospitality venue safely. I believe that some of that work has shown some fruit, and that experts agree that we can create much safer environments if we reverse overflows and extract air quickly. We are now told by the experts that the main transmission threat is aerial transmission by being in an enclosed space with people with the disease. Can we not have more public prominence for that work? Perhaps we could have some grant systems for small businesses and proper technical assistance from the Government and from those the Government retain so that more venues can trade sensibly and profitably without being threatening in any way.

Can we please also have a proper package for all the self-employed and the small business people? Why do some groups of the self-employed get omitted from the packages every time? These are the people who go the extra distance, provide the flexible service, work all the hours God made, and do not often get much reward for it. These are also the people who have suffered the most from these compulsory closures. If a person works for a large company, they are, in many cases, paid their salary, even if that company cannot operate properly, but if they work for their own business, there is no income coming in. They cannot put food on the table unless they get public support or can trade profitably. I urge the Government to look again at their totally inadequate packages for the self-employed and small businesses and understand just how much we are going to need them when we get into recovery mode proper.

My final point in the brief time allotted is that we desperately need to give people hope about livelihoods and economic growth again. We desperately need to have a full recovery programme sector by sector, including for small businesses and the self-employed, and understand that some people will need to retrain and some will need to go from the employment they have lost into self-employment. Can we not hear a lot more about this and be positive? We need to cheer up the country up as well as control the virus.

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38 Comments

  1. formula57
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear!

  2. Peter
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you for voting against these insane tiers.
    Our pub in Wokingham is now forced to serve a substantial meal in order to reopen. The Council officials are appearing to be very helpful over this but we do not know the “covid testing” regime which will be employed to check substantial meal definition and time allowed to eat all courses. When pubs reopened last time the figures that were released showed very low infections traced back there compared to most other outlets, partly due no doubt to the tracking requirements laid on us. It seems vindictive in the extreme to now further penalise us based on no evidence.
    The real test of whether the Government are following the science will be the distribution order of the vaccine. Odds on no age/sex differential as the science shows, since this is not politically acceptable. We await with only partly bated breath!

    • Peter
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      For transparency, not posted by me.

      (Poster who normally posts as ‘Peter’ without namesakes.)

  3. Know-Dice
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Slightly off topic…

    With the rollout of vaccinations maybe starting next week, we need to be able to sue the manufacturers and/or Government if we suffer ongoing health issues related to this vaccination.

    I know of people that have had concerning on-going side effects from the winter flu vaccination, so would expect the same to some extent from this new vaccine…

    • JoolsB
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Not much point in suing the Government Know-Dice. By the time Johnson has finished there won’t be any money left – we’ll be bankrupt!

  4. oldtimer
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Your words demonstrate the inadequacy of the government’s response to C-19. Its objective is focussed entirely on “protecting the NHS” not on the wider economy and the millions who depend on it functioning as it must to support business activity and the jobs that depend on it. It is likely there will be lasting damage for which Johnson must be held accountable. The latest tier areas and definitions do not withstand serious scrutiny. The argument that boroughs cannot be treated differently from surrounding areas is garbage. That is precisely the situation for Slough (in tier 3) and adjacent areas (Windsor and Maidenhead to its South and South Bucks to its north both in tier 2). Why could not this approach have been adopted elsewhere?

  5. ChrisS
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    This morning I see that the Express is reporting that Macron is pushing for Brexit talks to end without a deal and for them to be reconvened in 2021 without any time constraints.

    Obviously he expects this to happen with present arrangements over fishing remaining in place. That would be a de-facto extension of the transition period which we have always rejected and, I assume Macron would also expect us to continue to pay the EU £1bn a month !

    We are leaving on the 31st December. If there is no deal, all payments to the EU must end and access to our fishing waters will be terminated or continue on terms set by our government alone.

    We should immediately impose a ban on factory trawlers fishing in our waters,
    and, as a gesture of good will, issue new quotas on a gradually reducing amount annually over three years down to an 80%/20% split in favour of British owned, crewed and registered boats.

    This to be followed by annual renegotiation of the overall tonnage caught of individual species but keeping to the same percentages.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      The UK left months ago Chris.

      This is about post-exit arrangements.

      These issues will dominate the news for many years.

      You will hear vastly more about the European Union than you ever did when the UK was a member.

      • Fred H
        Posted December 2, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        did you mean ghastly more not vastly more?
        I’d have thought such readership would cancel support!

      • a-tracy
        Posted December 3, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        How do you know this Martin, are your bosses in the EU telling you this? You are certainly here to pass on the message every day.

  6. Nigl
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Re the transmission threat, time is also a key indicator, it is nonsense to suggest popping in for a quick pint in a socially distanced pub is the same as sitting down to eat in a group for two hours.

    Equally it is claimed the pub sector is only responsible for 2 per cent of transmissions.

    Are these true. If so why is your government insistent on trashing the industry?

  7. Jack Falstaff
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I am pleased that you mentioned the self-employed.

    You will have shocked a number of your colleagues by revealing the very existence of such a category of person to them.

    But then the majority of MPs require the jarring of a cattle-prod from those more able to band together and express their grievances more vocally before they are sufficiently roused from their armchaired slumber in the drawing rooms of privilege to act to good effect on anyone’s behalf.

  8. Peter
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    ‘We need to cheer up the country up as well as control the virus.’

    We need to free up the country.

    People should be allowed to go about their business again without hindrance, unless there is clear evidence that this is a great danger.

    The vulnerable should be helped. The old should not just be shunted off and left to die.

  9. Everhopeful
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Great speech.
    Unfortunately the bought muppets have got their fingers stuck in their ears and are singing…
    “Lalala. Lalala aaaaa.”
    “Can’t hear ya…’cos you’re talking sense.”

  10. Nigl
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Adjacent to this, no doubt moving away from the E U regulator to our own world class institution, albeit using same standards, has enabled us to more far more quickly to approve and roll out the vaccine.

    I guess Remainers would want us to suffer to preserve the greater good.

  11. Caterpillar
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Sir John,

    I appreciate that you are not my MP, and are obviously very busy, but if you do find the time I would be interested to know what data / evidence driven decision leads to the conclusion,

    “I think that on the whole they are doing a very good job”.

    Reply I support the following for example
    Stamp Duty cut to get the housing market going again
    Policies to promote home ownership
    Generous support for those who have lost their jobs from anti pandemic policies
    Sending foreign criminals out of the country
    Refusing to give way on fish, borders, laws and courts in the EU talks
    Taking action to stop illegal migration
    Pledging not to increase Income Tax, VAT and NI

    • Caterpillar
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for response.

      (43% agreed, 29% not agreed, 29% mixed)

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Home ownership would most effectively be promoted by a long-overdue sharp correction in the ridiculous property prices presently being charged.

      All these help-to-sell measures only worsen the central problem.

      • Edward2
        Posted December 2, 2020 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        Thousands of houses for sale in Wales well under 100k
        Check it out on many property web sites.

    • Hope
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Sending foreign criminals out the country… please JR. Have you read the papers yesterday or today? 2,500 let out on the streets over the last year. 5 out 30 on the plane back to Jamaica! Your manifesto, not a year old, has been broken. What do you mean exactly?

      • Hope
        Posted December 2, 2020 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        Caving in on ECHR, is not taking back control or having sovereignty is it? Illegal migration, you mean housing in four star hotels!!

    • Simeon
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      This is tinkering around the edges of the problem government created for itself in overreacting, and continuing to overreact, to the virus. The very essence of government’s policy is wrong, making a nonsense of what you say. I won’t embarrass you by going through the policies you cite. No, actually I will.

      A) The housing market has already been perverted by government interference, but leaving that aside, it didn’t need any more ‘help’. The lockdown was the sole reason the market paused. Tinkering with Stamp Duty was unnecessary.

      B) Again, government interference in the housing market is part of the problem, not the solution. Didn’t you used to be in favour of free markets?

      C) When it is made illegal for people to trade, government has a moral obligation to compensate them. The idiocy is in stopping the trading in the first place!

      D) Sending foreign criminals out of the country? What has that got to do with Covid?! And why wasn’t it happening anyway? And why is it still not being done peoperly? Simply risible!

      E) The Brexit stuff now? You truly are desparate!

      F) See D.

      G) Ooooh. A pledge! Now there’s something to take to the bank! But just assuming that it’s the one promise you don’t break, how are you paying for all the spending? Is it that phenomenal economic growth that is hiding behind the Magic Money Tree? Presumably you think we’re in for another ‘Roaring Twenties’. I’m sure the debt mountain, zero interest rates, and all the greening sets us up perfectly…

      It seems your ambition is undimmed. Having seen a circus act become Tory leader, perhaps you are hoping the same trick works twice. Good luck! But do remember, it’s not the jokes you tell but how you tell ’em 😉

  12. Stred
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    The problem from the NHS point of view with putting covid patients into isolation hospitals is that they know that patients coming into hospital with other diseases are tested on entry using PCR and that nine out ten will test positive but not actually be suffering from the virus. They would be certain to really pick up infection in a covid ward and die. Even if they escaped the initial test and were in a ward for other treatments, a second and third test would be likely to put some into covid false positive and they would by sent to the covid colony. And worst of all, those patients coming in with other diseases and who test positive and are recorded as dying with covid would no longer be available if isolation were to be successful.

    • a-tracy
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Now you’ve made me wonder Stred of the total number of patients in English hospitals today, how many of them as a % had a covid positive test result in the last 28 days?

      How many came in just because of covid?

  13. Fred H
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    A good use of the limited time you had, points well made, and mixed criticism with praise.
    Thank you for pointing out very serious views of the electorate, I may not be convinced sufficient notice will be taken, but you state your case!

  14. Lynn Atkinson
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    The Doomsters and Gloomsters are in charge.

  15. Roy Grainger
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    “We need to cheer up the country” – good luck with that request John, they will rely on scaremongering and fear to promote the vaccine.

  16. Derek Henry
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    It’s a tricky balance pleasing everybody John.

    Very difficult and shouldn’t take the eye off brexut.

    “understand that some people will need to retrain and some will need to go from the employment they have lost into self-employment. Can we not hear a lot more about this and be positive? We need to cheer up the country up as well as control the virus.”

    Why not offer them a job? There’s a million things to be getting on with. Makes them transition between the sectors much more easily. Transition from public to private sector so much easily. Keeps aggregate demand up for business.

    That’s the problem with interest rate targeting. Creates.employment just to control inflation.
    Which is both cruel and immoral and why the supply side approach is deeply flawed. If we can people to sit and do nothing we can pay them to work.

    Training does not equal jobs been proven for years just recycled the unemployed.

    Imagine a small community comprising 100 dogs. Each morning they set off into the field to dig for bones. If there enough bones for all buried in the field then all the dogs would succeed in their search no matter how fast or dexterous they were.

    Now imagine that one day the 100 dogs set off for the field as usual but this time they find there are only 95 bones buried.

    Some dogs who were always very sharp dig up two bones as usual and others dig up the usual one bone. But, as a matter of accounting, at least 5 dogs will return home bone-less.

    Now imagine that the government decides that this is unsustainable and decides that it is the skills and motivation of the bone-less dogs that is the problem. They are not “boneable” enough.

    So a range of dog psychologists and dog-trainers are called into to work on the attitudes and skills of the bone-less dogs. The dogs undergo assessment and are assigned case managers. They are told that unless they train they will miss out on their nightly bowl of food that the government provides to them while bone-less. They feel despondent.

    Anyway, after running and digging skills are imparted to the bone-less dogs things start to change. Each day as the 100 dogs go in search of 95 bones, we start to observe different dogs coming back bone-less. The bone-less queue seems to become shuffled by the training programs.

    However, on any particular day, there are still 100 dogs running into the field and only 95 bones are buried there.

    The current automatic stabilisers of £75 per week does not work.

  17. rb
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    We need to cheer up the country up as well as control the virus.

    ….
    open the pub and i’ll buy you a pint

  18. Hank Rearden
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your vote yesterday Sir John.

  19. ian@Barkham
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Sir

    We would have and will be further ahead if this Government instead of asserting its will on the people, worked with the people.

    As you rightly point out there is an anomaly on who this government supports. It is the self-employed, the small business that are the UK’s future, as they are the seed corn of UK PLC.

    We have an equal system in the UK in that the start-up’s, the bedrock, are the ones funding and supporting those that contribute mostly to foreign domains while avoiding any contribution to the UK’s security, wealth and infrastructure.

    Covid has highlighted the inequality in the UK, not so much some are more deserving than others – at a personal level everyone is equal. But, that those that actually contribute to society are penalised by supporting those that are wealthy enough to avoid playing their part.

    • ian@Barkham
      Posted December 2, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Correction – We have an un-equal system in the UK

    • a-tracy
      Posted December 3, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      A quick check on how much tax and NI contribution all these people have made in the last three years whatever their company structure would set a line and give the government the gross earnings figure for the previous three years, then they should get the same 70% with a max of £2500 per month others were allowed, no more and no less. If they haven’t declared any earnings at all and paid no taxes what are their losses?

  20. a-tracy
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    1/Chris Hopson @ChrisCEOHopson on twitter the CEO of NHS Providers has stated, in a 21 tweet link to set out the NHS hospital trust perspective, that 2/ it is not just NHS hospitals that are struggling it is community health; mental health; ambulance trusts all under pressure. 3/ Running a hospital at the moment is much more complex and difficult than normal.

    Reasons 4/ demand:supply mismatch. Insufficient hospital beds. 100,000 staff vacancies….[me – why exactly have we got 100,000 staff vacancies, there are 30 HR Directors Chris Hopson speaks about why can’t they manage this? Why aren’t our universities and hospitals training sufficient staff when nearly 50% of kids go to higher education, where can we see all the vacancies, the people out of work right now looking to retrain should be able to find this information quickly and easily]

    5/ three sets of patients now: Covid19; Planned Care; urgent/important backlog from 1st phase of virus: plus emergency patients. 6/ Infection control requirements [me – perhaps if the NHS improved infection control all around every day we’d end up with less MRSA and less spread of other infectious conditions!] 7/ Red=Covid, Amber=Patients wait for test results, Green=none covid. Lost capacity vary by trust – loss 5% to some trusts 20%.

  21. a-tracy
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Further to my post at 1227 from Chris Hopson CEO of NHS Providers.

    Other stand out comments in a 21 tweet link:

    Some trusts in areas of high CV19 infection are having to leave some beds unoccupied as they don’t have sufficient staff.

    Large Numbers of staff absent due to covid/self-isolation/looking after family. If a Key Worker like an anaesthetist is off the other staff’s work can’t continue.

    Large regional variations in the number of covid patients in hospital [me- do staff get transferred to high peak areas and put up in hotels to cover?]

    Read it, it’s eye opening.

  22. fedupsoutherner
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    A US study has dealt a killer blow to claims that the coronavirus emerged from a livestock market in Wuhan last winter, as global evidence proves the virus had spread across the world before then. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week published research showing antibodies specific to Covid-19 in blood samples taken in California, Oregon and Washington as early as December 13. It adds to research from Italy, Brazil, France, Spain and the UK that all proves the SARS-CoV-2 virus had already spread far across the Western world before Chinese officials told the World Health Organization it had found the disease on December 31.

    Strange how when Trump tried to point this out everyone ignored him.

  23. peace
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Many in public life are reluctant to stand up in case they are ridiculed.
    As this plays out to its planned conclusion the 1% who did stand up will be remembered as heroes. The silent majority who have no voice are watching with contempt.

  24. Ian
    Posted December 3, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I Would ask everyone to read today Conservative Women
    This insane and destructive Government must be sacked

    By Daniel Miller
    We could have said this ourselves
    Spot on

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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