May 13, 2020

Transcript: Boris Johnson Answers Questions on Coronavirus at PMQ’s

Boris Johnson at PMQs May 13
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At the Prime Minister Questions on May 13, members of British Parliament & Prime Minister Boris Johnson answered questions. Read the full transcript of the PMQ’s here.

 

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The secretary of state will value the importance of lifeline [inaudible 00:00:05] services, and the news of potentially 1,000 job losses at P&O is devastating. What assessment has the secretary of state made regarding the impact of a reduction or loss of the P&O [inaudible 00:00:19] service? And what discussions has he had with P&O and the trade unions on safeguarding this vital link between Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Speaker 2: (00:23)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (00:28)
Well, I was pleased to announce just a week or two ago a 17 million pound package we’ve put in place to protect the five routes, the ferry routes that ensure that we keep connectivity for Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom. And I had conversations with P&O and other ferry operators just in the last few days.

Speaker 2: (00:46)
We head down to Buckinghamshire with Rob Butler. Rob Butler.

Rob Butler: (00:49)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just as in my constituency of Aylesbury small businesses, and the self employed are a vital part of the economy in Northern Ireland. As we move to the next stage of the coronavirus crisis, how would am I right on [inaudible 00:01:04] ensure that they have all the guidance and the support that they need to regain loss, trade and flourish once more.

Speaker 2: (01:10)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (01:12)
But I think [inaudible 00:01:12] makes a really good point, a really important point. Throughout the crisis, both myself and the minister of state have been in regular contact with businesses across Northern Ireland to ensure we understand the pressures that they are facing to make sure we can work with the Northern Ireland executive to continue to focus on the economic recovery in the format they need. He’s quite right. Where they are in the United Kingdom, including in Great Yarmouth, we have to make sure we’re focused on those small businesses who are often the heartbeat of our communities. And we’re also determined to make sure that we do that in partnership with the Northern Ireland executive.

Speaker 2: (01:43)
Go across to Louise Haigh who’s standing in as the temporary shadow secretary of state to wishing [inaudible 00:01:49] well. Louise Haigh.

Louise Haigh: (01:51)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And can I also send all our love and best wishes to my friend and predecessor, the [inaudible 00:01:57] members of Rochdale, as he continues to make a recovery from COVID-19. The secretary of state will regret, as I do, the disrespectful way in which the developed nations were cut out of the prime minister’s announcement on Sunday, and the confusion that ranged across the UK as a result. Will he commit to ensuring the Northern Ireland executive is fully consulted and informed on the next phase of lockdown and future changes to messaging?

Speaker 2: (02:21)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (02:23)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. And I would like to offer a warm welcome to the honorable lady in her new role. I look forward to working with her for the benefit of the people in Northern Ireland. And if you just indulge me briefly, Mr. speaker, I just want to pay tribute to the honorable member for [inaudible 00:02:35], who served in his post admirably for over two years and through three different secretaries of state. I was hugely pleased to hear of his recovery. I hope the honorable lady only deals with one secretary of state in her time in office. And I’m glad he has decided to continue to represent the people in Manchester as he recovers, as he has done over the last four decades. I would just say to the honorable lady that we are working with the devolved authorities. They are part of committees, and they have ministers sitting on all of the committees that are discussing issues around how we deal with coronavirus and all the devolved authorities were actually present and part of the decisions made at the COVID meeting on Sunday ahead of the prime minister’s announcement.

Speaker 2: (03:11)
And welcome in to a permanent position, Louise Haigh.

Louise Haigh: (03:15)
Okay, that was a very quick promotion, Mr. speaker. Well, as the secretary of states has said, not only is coordination across the UK important, but the unique situation in Northern Ireland means cooperation with the Republic of Ireland is equally as important. So, can he explain why those in Northern Ireland who hold an Irish passport, as is their rights under the Good Friday Agreement, are still unable to check their eligibility for the self employed support scheme? And can he commit to urgently rectifying this problem before it starts to pay out?

Speaker 2: (03:45)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (03:46)
Yes. This is an issue where I would hope to be able to give an outline of exactly how we did with this very, very soon. It’s something we’re aware of, and it is something we will be looking to rectify.

Speaker 2: (03:56)
Back over to Northern Ireland, with sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Sir Jeffery.

Jeffrey Donaldson: (04:01)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Further to the question from the honorable lady, it is also the case that in relation to the self-employed income support scheme, Northern Ireland citizens who hold a Northern Ireland driving license cannot use this document to verify their claim to support under the scheme. Clearly this is entirely wrong; it means that self employed people in my constituency are being disadvantaged, cannot make their claim or have it verified. And so will he liaise with HMRC and the treasury to ensure that Northern Ireland driving licenses are an acceptable document for the purposes of verification for the self-employed scheme?

Speaker 2: (04:43)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (04:45)
Yes, very happy to work with the honorable gentleman to see if we can find a logical, sensible, swift solution to that challenge.

Speaker 2: (04:52)
Second question from sir Jeffrey Donaldson,

Speaker 1: (04:56)
Can the secretary of state also advise us as to what additional funding he is seeking to support the Northern Ireland economy? As we hopefully emerge over the next few weeks and months from lockdown, he will be aware of the situation with our economy as it is across the United Kingdom, and we’re all anxious to know what additional support might be available from the treasury to support the recovery of our economy in Northern Ireland.

Speaker 2: (05:25)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (05:26)
Well, the honorable gent makes a very good point. It is hugely important that we are ready as we come out of lockdown to not just recover from the economic situation of coronavirus, but then able to turbocharge the economy across the United Kingdom, and obviously particularly in Northern Ireland to see the economy flourish and grow as we go forward. There is 1.2 billion pounds worth of money that we’ve put to the Northern Ireland executive under the Barnet Consequentials. That’s on top of the UK wide schemes, such as the job retention scheme. And the treasury and the chancellor I know continue to focus on looking at everything we need to do to support businesses, support people, support every part of the United Kingdom as we come through this virus and to ensure that we’re ready to come out of it in a way that will allow our economy to re-flourish and grow in the future.

Speaker 2: (06:08)
Move over to the SNP spokesperson Kristen Oswald.

Kristen Oswald: (06:12)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. With COVID-19 consuming so much effort internationally, does the secretary of state not agree that the EU simply won’t indulge further UK government brinkmanship on transition. The resulting [inaudible 00:06:26] will be a step too far for many Northern Irish businesses. So, why is his government pushing ahead with it’s reckless timetable despite widespread support across the political divide for an extension?

Speaker 2: (06:39)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (06:41)
Well, have to say I don’t recognize her reference to widespread support, where there’s a very clear position for the British public restated in just December last year to see things done so that we as a country can move forward. It’s in both our interest, in the the EU’s interest to be ready to move forward in January 2021. And the best certainty I think we can give business and we’re focused on giving business is that unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses with the rest of the UK, and we will do that through the Northern Ireland protocol.

Speaker 2: (07:09)
We’ve now got a substantive question from Steven [inaudible 00:07:11]; secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (07:14)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. We are working closely with the devolved administrations in our response to COVID-19. Representers, as I said, from each administration attend COVID meetings, as well as the many detailed implementation groups that sit underneath the Cobra and cabinet structure. The [inaudible 00:07:31], the first minister and deputy first minister and I also meet regularly, and I hope to do so again, later this week. We agreed that continued close contact and cooperation will likely remain essential in the weeks, and indeed the months ahead.

Speaker 2: (07:44)
We have a substantive… Sorry, we go back across to Steven [inaudible 00:07:49] substantive, no supplementary.

Steven: (07:53)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. The contact tracing app that the UK government is developing is apparently different to the one that the Irish government is advocating, which may create significant difficulties, not only on the island of Ireland, but also in relation to travel to and from the rest of the UK via for example, Welsh, Scottish and English ports. So, what discussions has the secretary of state had with the Northern Ireland executive and the Irish government on the proposed app, and what would he advise people in Northern Ireland to do?

Speaker 2: (08:18)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (08:20)
Well, the app, I think has got a real huge opportunity to be an important part of our work as we come through COVID-19 into the exiting from this in a sensible, logical way, that means we also aware of how this virus is and has spread across the UK. So, I think it’s important people take part, and a huge thank you to those who have been involved in the work on that app. I myself have been in conversations with the Irish government. In fact, I spoke to the [inaudible 00:08:41] on this particular issue just a few days ago, as well as with the Northern Ireland executive to ensure that all of our experts, our CMOs are working together to make sure that we have a joined up approach where practical, where sensible, where appropriate so that we get things working in a way that’s good for the health of all the people of Ireland, and obviously I’m very focused on ensuring the people of Northern Ireland get the best possible care.

Speaker 2: (09:02)
[inaudible 00:09:02] with a substantive question; secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (09:07)
Thank you, Mr. speaker, and I’ll be grouping questions 11 and 12 together. We are working and we’ll continue to work closely with all of the devolved administrations, who are fully committed to suppressing this virus across the UK. Our response to COVID-19 is a collective, national effort. The executive is following a science led path, doing what is best for the people of Northern Ireland, recognizing the overall approach that we’re taking across the UK to fight this pandemic.

Speaker 2: (09:34)
[inaudible 00:09:34] Mark [inaudible 00:09:35] with his supplementary. Mark [inaudible 00:09:37].

Mark: (09:39)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. So does my right honorable friend agree with me and most people in Dudley that we are stronger as one United Kingdom at responding to coronavirus? And can he let the house know if the devolved administration has improved outcomes for people there in ways that we can share across the United Kingdom?

Speaker 2: (09:58)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (10:00)
Yes. The short answer is yes, I think my honorable friend makes a good point that actually, this is a good example of where a United Kingdom has been stronger than any single one part of it, and therefore we are stronger together as a family. And as I’ve said, we are working and we’ll continue to work closely with all the devolved administrations. I’ve remained in continued very close contact with both the first and deputy first ministers of Northern Ireland to coordinate a response and to share information and insight. Now, that approach has been effective, allowing us to work together on issues of common concern, including the provision of PPE, and whilst allowing our players to be tailored to ensure that they address the particular local situations that we all face.

Speaker 2: (10:39)
[inaudible 00:10:39] to [inaudible 00:10:40].

Speaker 3: (10:43)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Does the secretary of state agree with me that Weller in Bolton or in Belfast are two timed tested institutions, the union and the NHS have exuded extraordinary heroism in the COVID cataclysm, which has swept the planet?

Speaker 2: (11:02)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (11:04)
Yeah, so I think my honorable friend’s language is absolutely spot on. We’ve all seen how the NHS has responded with heroism and agility. And I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those key workers across the United Kingdom for their professionalism and their dedication in looking after people. We have seen fantastic levels of cooperation between all political parties in Northern Ireland and across the UK. And I think that we’ve seen the devolved governments working together in a way that’s good for all parts of the United Kingdom as we tackle this crisis.

Speaker 2: (11:33)
We have a substantive question from Mark Harper; secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (11:39)
The joint committee met on the 30 of March, and the Northern Ireland Specialized Committee met on the 30 of April. The protocol has of course been part of these discussions. Our intention in implementing the protocol is to protect Northern Ireland’s place in our United Kingdom and cement the huge gains that we’ve all seen from the peace process. We do believe that it will be necessary to support businesses and the wider population in understanding the protocol before it comes into effect.

Speaker 2: (12:08)
Go across to Mark Harper. Mark Harper.

Mark Harper: (12:12)
Thank you very much, Mr. speaker. And I thank the secretary of state for that answer. Now he’ll know, and he confirmed earlier in these exchanges, that Northern Ireland businesses will continue to have unfettered access to the rest of the United Kingdom. The prime minister has also committed that we won’t be checking goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Can he set out a bit more detail for the house about the progress that’s been made in implementing both of those important commitments?

Speaker 2: (12:41)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (12:42)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. And look, the honorable gentleman is right. I want to put this in the clearest possible terms. Northern Ireland businesses will have unfettered access to the market of the United Kingdom and across GB. This is something, as my honorable friend rightly points out that both myself and many of my cabinet colleagues have not just commented on publicly, but we feel strongly about. We’re looking forward to delivering on that before the end of the year; we will deliver on that promise.

Speaker 2: (13:08)
We now go down to the Southwest with Karen Smith. Karen Smith.

Karen Smith: (13:13)
I heard what the secretary of state has said about the one way of unfettered access, but in 33 weeks, Norther Ireland businesses will have to comply with the EU customs and regulatory rules and two VAT systems. When is the government going to let these businesses know what exactly they need to do to comply with the protocol in order to keep trading?

Speaker 2: (13:35)
Secretary of state.

Karen Smith: (13:37)
Well, we will make sure that businesses have got plenty of time to be able to be ready for January next year. One of the key parts of that is to ensure that we have that unfettered access. We’re not going to be putting borders down the Irish Sea or anywhere else, and respecting the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the New Decade, New Approach Deal. Unfettered access is a hugely important part of that, and the best way for businesses to have fluidity of access to the market is to have unfettered access, and that’s what we are determined to deliver, and it’s what we will do.

Speaker 2: (14:04)
Substantive question, secretary of state, from Sarah Jones.

Brandon Lewis: (14:09)
I recently published a written ministerial statement setting out the way forward on the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. We have begun engagement with the Northern Ireland parties, the Irish government and other key stakeholders with a firm focus on finding consensus on the detail of the proposals, which will then allow us to move forward.

Speaker 2: (14:26)
Go across to Sarah Jones. Sarah Jones.

Sarah Jones: (14:29)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. The victim’s commissioner said the aim of addressing the legacy of the past must be to build a better future. So, why did the secretary of state, in that spirit, not consult with those key organizations like the victim and survivors commission before publishing his statement on the 18 of March? And does he agree that victims must be at the heart of this proposal and that any proposals must have therefore support?

Speaker 2: (14:57)
Secretary of state.

Brandon Lewis: (15:00)
Also, the [inaudible 00:15:01] statement. I think colleagues would appreciate it. I think it was appropriate to lay before parliament first. That’s the process of how we work in this house. What I would say to the honorable lady is, I have been engaging with victims groups, will continue to do so, as has my minister of state, but I have myself directly spoken to victims groups. They were an important part of this process, and I would just generally say to the honorable lady, if she looks at the WMS itself, it very clearly references the importance of making sure we do the right thing for victims as well. They’re absolutely at the heart of this and important that they are.

Speaker 2: (15:30)
I will now call Minister Robin Walker to answer the substantive question tabled by Ian Lavery. Will come over to minister Robin Walker with a substantial question.

Robin Walker: (15:40)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. I’m grouping questions 16 and 17 together. The UK government and executive have committed to ensure those on the frontline in responding to COVID-19 are provided with the critical PPE they need to do their job safely. As part of our UK wide approach, the government has allocated around five and a half million items of PPE to Northern Ireland, who in turn have sent to 250,000 gowns to the rest of the UK.

Speaker 2: (16:02)
And up to the Northeast with Ian Lavery.

Ian Lavery: (16:05)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Earlier this week, Moy Park, that’s the largest manufacturing employer in Northern Ireland, suddenly experienced a tragic COVID-19 related death of a valuable worker, [inaudible 00:16:19] unite member and human being. Everyone should expect to return home safely, after repairs work. Given what the minister has just said, is he happy with the adequacy of the supply of PPE from the UK to Northern Ireland? Because perhaps people in Northern Ireland aren’t. And also, when resources will be provided to ensure all frontline workers in high-risk sectors, such as pull rate and [inaudible 00:16:46] processing will finally be safe at work.

Speaker 2: (16:50)
Mr. Walker

Robin Walker: (16:51)
Well, first of all, every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy for the individual and their families. And so let me pass on my condolences to the family involved in this particular case. But of course, PPE is an important part of the equation, as is proper social distancing guidelines. And it’s important for businesses like Moy Park that they follow the social distancing guidelines, as I’m assured that they have been.

Speaker 2: (17:15)
Going down to [inaudible 00:17:16] with Steven Morgan. Steven Morgan.

Steven Morgan: (17:19)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Like other parts of the UK, including my own constituency, care homes in Northern Ireland have been overlooked with PPE not sufficiently reaching them. What discussions has he had with the Northern Ireland executive on the distribution of PPE to ensure our most vulnerable and frontline workers are protected in this crisis?

Robin Walker: (17:41)
The gentleman raises an important point. The Northern Ireland executive has been distributing PPE to the care home sector. And part of the 5.5 Million items of PPE government has been making available to Northern Ireland have been deployed in that sector. But it is an absolute priority that we continue to get a grip on the issue of care homes. And that is something I know, which is a priority for the executive as well as the UK government.

Speaker 2: (18:04)
Can I welcome back the chair of the select committee, Simon Hoare.

Simon Hoare: (18:07)
Thank you very much, Mr. speaker. The recent events of COVID-19 have, I think underscored the frigidity of international supply chains, certainly with regards to PPE when international demand is very high. What my honorable friend undertake at the appropriate time to discuss with his counterparts in Scotland, in Wales and in Westminster, the opportunity to grow this important area of our economy, creating future jobs to produce enough PPE produced in this country with a UK badge.

Speaker 2: (18:39)
Minister.

Robin Walker: (18:39)
Well, my honorable friend [inaudible 00:18:40] makes a very important point. And of course it’s vital that we work on the international procurement effort with the devolved administrations as we have been. But it’s also essential that we maintain our domestic supply. And actually, I’d like to pay tribute to businesses in Northern Ireland like Denroy Plastics, who the secretary of state spoke to yesterday, and O’Neill’s, who the secretary of state visited just before this outbreak, who have switched over their production lines to producing vitally needed PPE and are making a huge contribution already.

Speaker 2: (19:10)
We go to Gareth Davis. Gareth Davis.

Gareth Davis: (19:14)
Thank you Mr. speaker…

Robin Walker: (19:16)
Oh, sorry. Sorry speaker. I’m grouping questions 19 and 20 together. The government is committed to maintaining air connectivity between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during these unprecedented times. This is why we’ve worked with the executive to provide a 5.7 million pound financial support package to the city of Derry and Belfast city airports to ensure that services to and from London will continue.

Speaker 2: (19:38)
Gareth Davis.

Gareth Davis: (19:39)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Does the minister agree that the government’s 5.7 million pound investment into maintaining air passenger flights is an important step in ensuring that the vital support link is maintained, so that post COVID we can continue to strengthen our economic links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom?

Robin Walker: (20:01)
My honorable friend is absolutely right. This support package is key to safeguarding vital connectivity, providing key links to Northern Ireland’s key economic zones. As he knows, Northern Ireland benefits enormously from the union with Great Britain, which is Northern Ireland’s main market for sales and tourism. We want to further strengthen these ties in order to support the movement of medical supplies, key workers, and to assist with Northern Ireland’s economic recovery from this crisis.

Speaker 2: (20:24)
We go across to Sammy Wilson in Northern Ireland. Sammy Wilson.

Sammy Wilson: (20:28)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Given the integration between the Northern Ireland economy and the GP economy, air connectivity is of vital importance to any recovery plan out of this health crisis. And air connectivity is practically stopped at present. Will the minister gave a commitment, first of all, to continued support for airports, including Belfast International? Secondly, to work towards the evolution of air passenger duty, which adds substantive costs? And thirdly, to give every encouragement to present airlines and prospective carriers to open routes quickly again?

Speaker 2: (21:08)
Minister.

Robin Walker: (21:08)
Well, the honorable gentleman makes some excellent points, and it is absolutely vital that we continue to prioritize connectivity. As he knows, we’ve we stepped in where necessary to protect connectivity that might otherwise have been lost. Ministers agree that at this stage, Belfast International is currently financially stable, but it’s something we will certainly keep under review and keep working closely with the executive on all of those issues.

Speaker 2: (21:30)
We now go across with a substantive question, Sarah [inaudible 00:21:33].

Robin Walker: (21:32)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. I’m grouping questions 21, 22 and 23 together. The government has together, with the Northern Ireland executive, made a financial package of up to 17 million pounds to keep critical freight routes open between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This reflects the huge importance of these connections and ensures essential goods like food and medicines will continue to flow.

Speaker 2: (21:55)
Sarah [inaudible 00:21:56].

Sarah: (21:55)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. The Belfast Liverpool ferry is vital to businesses in Wrexham. Does my honorable friend agree that free flowing trade between Northern Ireland and great Britain is of great benefit to the union, and that is why this government’s success in keeping Northern Ireland part of the UK customs union is beneficial to us all?

Speaker 2: (22:17)
Minister.

Robin Walker: (22:18)
I totally agree with my honorable friend. This package helps ensure that we can keep freight capacity between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The funding will help maintain the flow of critical goods across the IRC and throughout this union. And yes, this underlines the importance of keeping Northern Ireland part of the UK customs union, so that goods needed in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain can continue to flow freely.

Speaker 2: (22:38)
We’ll go across to Virginia Crosby. Virginia Crosby.

Virginia Crosby: (22:42)
Mr. speaker, can I thank the minister for their answer? And the government has acted swiftly to protect ferry services between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and I welcome the measures that they have put in place. Many businesses here on my constituency of [inaudible 00:22:57] rely on goods coming to and from Northern Ireland and Liverpool. Will he continue to monitor the wider economic impact of services on North Wales, given his close proximity to Liverpool?

Speaker 2: (23:09)
Minister.

Robin Walker: (23:11)
Each route is integral to the supply of critical goods within the United Kingdom. Public service obligations are an established mechanism for supporting routes and are being used here to temporarily support routes effected by COVID-19. The government continues to engage closely with operators and ports on the IRC, and we will continue to listen and take appropriate steps at the right time to protect critical supply routes, wherever they are.

Speaker 2: (23:32)
We’ll go across to Dr. James Davis. Dr. James Davis.

Dr. James Davis: (23:37)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Can the minister confirm that keeping these ferry routes open is sustaining the supply chain of food and medical supplies that are so vitally needed on both sides of the crossing, including in the vale of [inaudible 00:23:49]?

Speaker 2: (23:51)
Minister.

Robin Walker: (23:51)
Absolutely, yes. And I think the exchange of PPE that was referred to in earlier answers questions is a good example of that, where both GB has benefited from those connections to Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland has benefited from those connections to Great Britain.

Speaker 2: (24:06)
We now come to questions for the prime minister; I will call the prime minister to answer the engagement’s questions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson: (24:19)
Thank you very much, Mr. speaker. Yesterday was international nurses day, and I know that the whole house would want to thank the nurses and also the care staff and key workers for their tireless work in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. speaker, sadly 144 NHS workers and 131 social care workers deaths have been reported as involved in COVID-19; our thoughts are with their families and friends. And yesterday, Mr. speaker, this house learned of the tragic death of Bailey Majinga. The fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling. My thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of the whole house are with her family. Mr. speaker, this morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, in addition to my duties in this house, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Speaker 2: (25:21)
We now go across to Ruth Abbott. Ruth Abbott.

Ruth Abbott: (25:26)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Green investments generated the highest returns in the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. As we restart our economy, will my right honorable friend commit to prioritizing investment in low carbon infrastructure, such as the electric vehicle charge point network and renewable energy production, which will also help the UK meet its net zero target by 2050?

Speaker 2: (25:52)
Prime minister.

Boris Johnson: (25:53)
Yes, Mr. speaker, and to encourage the take up of electric vehicles, we are putting a further one billion pounds into EV infrastructure across the country to prevent range anxiety for those who use EVs.

Speaker 2: (26:09)
I now call the leader of the oppositions, Sir Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir Starmer: (26:14)
Thank you, Mr. speaker. Can I join the prime minister in thanking our nurses and all those on the front line, and send my condolences to all of the families of those that have died of coronavirus, including Bailey Majinga as the prime minister referenced, a ticket officer who we learned this week had died from COVID-19 in awful circumstances. Mr. speaker, in his speech on Sunday, the prime minister said that we need to rapidly reverse the awful epidemic in our care homes. But earlier this year, and until the 12 of March, the government’s own official advice was, and I’m quoting from it, “It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected.” Yesterday’s ONS figures showed that at least 40% of all deaths from COVID-19 were in care homes. Does the prime minister accept that the government was too slow to protect people in care homes.

Speaker 2: (27:15)
Prime minister.

Boris Johnson: (27:19)
No, Mr. speaker, it wasn’t true that the advice said that. And actually, we brought the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown. And what we’ve seen is a concerted action plan to tackle what has unquestionably been an appalling epidemic in care homes. And a huge exercise in testing is going on to further 600 million pounds, I can announce today, for infection control in care homes. And yes, it is absolutely true that the number of casualties has been too high, but I can tell the house, as I told you the honorable gentleman last week and indeed this week, the number of outbreaks is down and the number of fatalities in care homes is now well down. There is much more to do, but we are making progress Mr. speaker.

Speaker 2: (28:12)
Kier Starmer.

Sir Keir Starmer: (28:14)
Mr. speaker, I’m surprised the prime minister queries the advice of his own government up until the 12 of March. I do of course welcome any fall in the recorded numbers, and he’s right to reference that. But the prime minister must still recognize the numbers are still very high. The Daily Terragraph this week carried following quote from a cardiologist, “We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes, which were unprepared with no formal warning that patients were infected, no testing available and no PPE to prevent transmission. We actively seeded this into the very population that was most vulnerable.” Does the prime minister accept that the cardiologist is right about this?

Speaker 2: (29:02)
Prime minister.

Boris Johnson: (29:03)
Well, Mr. speaker, I have the utmost respect for all our medical professionals. They’re doing an extraordinary job in very difficult circumstances. But I can tell the house is that actually the number of discharges from hospitals into care homes went down in March and April, and we had a system of testing people going into care homes. And that testing is now being ramped up across all the 15,000 care homes in this country.

Speaker 2: (29:33)
Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir Starmer: (29:36)
Mr. speaker, I want to probe the figures the prime minister has given us a little bit further. The ONS records the average number of deaths in care homes each month. For the last five years, the average for April has been just over 8,000. This year, the number of deaths in care homes for April was a staggering 26,000. That’s three times the average; 18,000 additional deaths this April. Using the government’s figures, only 8,000 are recorded as COVID deaths. That leaves 10,000 additional and unexplained care home deaths this April. Now I know the government must have looked into this; so, can the prime minister give us the government’s views on these unexplained deaths?

Speaker 2: (30:27)
Prime minister.

Boris Johnson: (30:29)
Well, Mr. speaker, coronavirus is an appalling disease which afflicts some groups far more than others, I think the whole country understands, and in particular, the elderly. And he’s right to draw attention, as I said, to the tragedy that has been taking place in care homes. The office of national statistics is responsible for producing the data that they have. The government has also produced data, which not only shows that there has been, as I say, a terrible epidemic in care homes, but since the COVID, since the care homes action plan began, we are seeing an appreciable and substantial reduction, not just in the number of outbreaks, but also in the number of deaths. And I want to stress to the house and also to the country that solving the problem in care homes is going to be absolutely critical, getting the [inaudible 00:31:24] down, not just in care homes, but across country, is going to be absolutely critical to our ability to move forward as a nation with the stepped program that I announced on Sunday. We must fix it, and we will.

Speaker 2: (31:37)
Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir Starmer: (31:39)
The prime minister says that solving the problem with care homes is crucial, but that can only happen if the numbers are understood. And therefore, I was disappointed that the prime minister doesn’t have an answer to the pretty obvious question as to what are those 10,000 unexplained deaths? Mr. speaker, yesterday the overall figures given by the government at the press conference for those that have died from COVID-19 was 32,692. Each one, a tragedy. For many weeks, the government has compared the UK number against other countries. Last week, I showed the prime minister his own slide showing that the UK now has the highest death total in Europe and second highest in the world. A version of this slide has been shown at the number 10 press conference every day since the 30 of March; that’s seven weeks. Yesterday, the government stopped publishing the international comparison, and the slide is gone. Why?

Speaker 2: (32:40)
Prime minister.

Boris Johnson: (32:42)
Mr. speaker, as he knows very well, the UK has been going through an unprecedented, once in a century, epidemic. And he seeks to make comparisons with other countries, which I’m advised are premature because the correct and final way of making these comparisons will be when we have all the excess death totals for all the relevant countries. We do not yet have that data. Now Mr. speaker, I’m not going to try to pretend to the house that the figures when they are finally confirmed are anything other than stark and deeply, deeply horrifying. This has been an appalling epidemic.

Boris Johnson: (33:31)
What I can tell that house is that we are getting those numbers down; the numbers of deaths are coming down, the numbers of hospital admissions are coming down, thanks to the hard work of the British people in reducing the AR, Mr. speaker, and reducing those numbers of fatalities. We are now in a position to make some small, modest steps to begin to come out of some of the very restrictive measures that we’ve had. I think people do understand what we’re trying to do as a country. And as for the international comparisons that he seeks to draw now, I think he will-

Boris Johnson: (34:03)
… international comparisons that he seeks to draw now. I think he will have to contain his impatience.

Speaker 4: (34:07)
Kiersta.

Kiersta: (34:07)
Well I’m baffled. It’s not me seeking to draw the comparisons. These are the government slides that have been used for seven weeks to reassure the public. And the problem with the prime minister’s answer is, it’s pretty obvious that for seven weeks, when we weren’t the highest number in Europe, they were used for comparison purposes. As soon as we hit that unenviable place, they’ve been dropped. And last week, he quoted, in defense, Professor Speaker Holter. What Professor Speaker Holter said at the weekend was this, and we need to think about it, “We should use other countries to try and learn why our numbers are so high.” And so dropping the comparisons means dropping the learning. And that’s the real risk. I want to ask the prime minister now about the changes that have come into effect today. A real concern for many people is childcare.

Kiersta: (34:58)
I want to quote a mother of a young child. I apologize for it’s a little lengthy, but it reflects the queries that all members of this house will have been getting. She says this, “As Boris said in his speech, people are encouraged to go back to work, meaning my partner, as he works in construction. My partner has explained to his boss this can’t happen because we’ve got no childcare. He also rang the nursery, but they’re not open. I work as well, but my boss is having none of it. I hope I can get some advice. Me and my partner have been so stressed all day.” What advice would the prime minister give her?

Speaker 4: (35:38)
Prime minister.

Boris Johnson: (35:39)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Just on his earlier point about not learning from other countries, nothing could be further from the truth. We are watching intently what is happening in other countries. And it is very notable that in some other countries where relaxations have been introduced, there is signs of VR going up again. And that’s a very clear warning to us not to proceed too fast or too reckless. I hope that people, hope the country does understand that.

Boris Johnson: (36:07)
On the specific point that he rightly raises about people’s anxieties about going back to work when they don’t have adequate childcare, I think I was very clear both with him and with the house earlier in the week, that insofar as people may not be able to go back to work because they don’t have the childcare that they need, then their employers must be understanding. And it is clearly, as I said, an impediment. It’s a barrier to your ability to go back to work if you don’t have childcare. I’d be very happy to look at the specific case that he raises, if there’s anything more that we can do to shed light on the matter.

Speaker 4: (36:47)
Kiersta.

Kiersta: (36:48)
I’m grateful to the prime minister for indicating he’ll look into that particular case. It’s one I think of very many. The prime minister is asking the country to support decisions that will affect millions of lives. These are not easy decisions. I recognize that. They’re very difficult, balanced decisions that the prime minister and the government has to make. After the confusion of the last few days, gaining public confidence in them is crucial. Crucial. The prime minister says his decisions were, and I quote, “driven by the science, the data and public health.” So to give the public confidence in the decisions, can the prime minister commit to publishing the scientific advice that the decisions were based on?

Speaker 4: (37:30)
Prime minister.

Boris Johnson: (37:33)
Mr. Speaker, all Sage advice is published in due courses as the right honorable gentlemen knows. And let me be absolutely clear with the house that Sage has been involved in every stage, and our scientists and our medical officers have been involved in every stage of preparing this strategy. And I want to remind the house that what we are doing is entirely conditional and provisional. The UK has made a huge amount of progress. The people of this country have worked incredibly hard to get VR down. We cannot now go back to square one. We can’t risk a second outbreak, and we will do everything to avoid that. I think that actually when they look at what we’re advocating as the way forward, the stepped process that we have set out, I think people can see exactly what we’re trying to do as a country. And they can see that everybody is still required to obey the social distancing laws, the social distancing rules. And the common sense of the British people got us through that first phase of this disease. I’m absolutely confident they will get us through the next as well.

Speaker 4: (38:44)
We’re going across to Ludlow to Phillip Dunn. Phillip Dunn.

Phillip Dunn: (38:50)
[inaudible 00:38:50] the prime minister is well aware of the impact of air pollution on health outcomes, particularly affecting those with respiratory diseases like COVID-19. Will he therefore reaffirm his commitment to tackling global emissions and the COP 26 global climate conference to help protect our people and our planet in the future?

Speaker 4: (39:11)
Minister.

Boris Johnson: (39:11)
Yes. And I thank my right honorable friend for what he does to champion the environment and the cause of reducing CO2 emissions. Alas, we’ve had to postpone the COP 26 summit that was to have taken place as he knows in Glasgow at the end of this year, but our enthusiasm, our determination to get to net zero by 2050 remains undiminished.

Speaker 4: (39:33)
We now go across to the leader of the SMP, Ian Blackford. Ian Blackford.

Ian Blackford: (39:39)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can I begin by thanking all our nurses for their efforts in keeping us safe and looking after us and applaud yesterday as the International Nurses Day? Mr. Speaker, last week, the prime minister, in response to my questioning, noted the ability of the governments of all four nations to come together and to deliver a very clear message for our people. Events on Sunday could not have been more disastrous from this government. The prime minister has made confusion costly, devolved administration shutout, widespread confusion amongst the public and a total disregard from this government for worker safety. Many sadly have seen the images of London buses being packed this morning. Mr. Speaker, will the Prime Minister accept that the clear message in Scotland is stay home to protect the NHS, to save lives?

Speaker 4: (40:37)
Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson: (40:38)
And Mr. Speaker, indeed the message throughout the country is, of course, that you should stay at home if you can, unless the specific circumstances that we’ve outlined apply. But I must say I don’t accept the characterization of the corporation that we’ve had across all nations that the leader of the SMP makes. In my experience, it’s been intense. It’s been going on for days and days and weeks and weeks. And actually I think if you look at the totality of the measures that we’re taking as a country, there is much more that unites us than divides us, and we will go forward together.

Speaker 4: (41:19)
Going back across to Ian Blackford. Ian Blackford.

Ian Blackford: (41:23)
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the Prime Minister has failed to deliver a clear message, and he didn’t address the point about London buses being packed this morning. The Prime Minister is threatening progress made against the spread of this virus by the general public who are following the advice to stay at home. The Prime Minister is putting worker safety at risk by calling on those who can’t work at home to go to their jobs without any guidance on health and safety. Only last Monday, the health secretary launched a test trace app trial. On Sunday, the Prime Minister appeared to leapfrog any success with that by announcing easing of restrictions. Before any lockdown easing and to avoid undermining the progress made so far, the Prime Minister must make sure that there are sufficient levels of testing available, and the ability to test, trace, isolate is fully in operation. Why is the Prime Minister throwing weeks of progress against this virus into jeopardy, undermining the work of our outstanding NHS?

Speaker 4: (42:28)
Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson: (42:31)
Well, Mr. Speaker, he raises a point about London buses, which is quite right, and I don’t want to see crowding on mass transit or public transport in our capital or anywhere else. And we’re working very actively with TFL to ensure that what we do is we have more capacity. We discourage people from going to work during the peak. And that the operators, in particular TFL, lay on particularly more tubes, more tube trains, when those are necessary throughout the day. And a huge amount of work is being done. We also want to see proper marshaling at stations to prevent crowding of trains.

Boris Johnson: (43:11)
I must say that on his point about test, track and trace, test, track and trace is going to be a huge operation for this entire country. And I think actually he should pay tribute to the work of all those. There’s hundreds of thousands of people who are now responsible massively for escalating our test, track and tracing operation. We now test, I think, more than virtually any other country in Europe. And the rate of acceleration, rate of increase has been very, very sharp indeed. And we will go up to 200,000 by the end of the month. But he’s absolutely right, that this should be entirely… The success of this program is absolutely vital if we’re to be able to move on to the third step, to the second and third steps of our roadmap.

Speaker 4: (43:59)
We now go over to Yorkshire to Julian Smith. Julian Smith.

Julian Smith: (44:03)
Mr. Speaker, over 5,000 rough sleepers, 90% of the homeless population in the UK are now in temporary accommodation as a result of action taken by the government at the start of this crisis. Will the prime minister commit to providing all funds necessary and all action needed to ensure that this positive dealing with the homelessness crisis can be made permanent and each of these individuals can be given a longterm home?

Speaker 4: (44:32)
Minister.

Boris Johnson: (44:33)
Well, I thank my right honorable friend. As he knows it is this government’s ambition to end rough sleeping by 2024. And it’s great to see the progress that has been made even in this very, very difficult time. As he says, 90% of rough sleepers are now in accommodation or been offered accommodation, Mr. Speaker, and we will be investing considerable sums to make sure that we build the housing and we address the social issues that tackle that problem for good.

Speaker 4: (44:59)
We go over to Sir Edward Davey. Sir Edward Davey.

Sir Edward Davey: (45:03)
Can I thank the government for listening to representations from the liberal Democrats and others to protect jobs by extending the furlough scheme yesterday, but will the government now do the same for the self-employed? People like cleaners, childminders, taxi drivers, and hairdressers have all seen that incomes devastated, and are only now able to apply for help for the past three months. Millions of these families now have no help in the future. So surely self-employed people must have their support extended too.

Boris Johnson: (45:40)
I admire the right honorable gentlemen. Brilliant attempt to take the credit for my [crosstalk 00:45:50] the chancellor for his extension of the current advised job retention scheme, which I do believe has been one of the most extraordinary features of this country is our collective response to the crisis. We are looking after, he’s right to draw attention to the position of the self employed. We are making sure that they do get payments over three months of up to 7,500 pounds as well.

Speaker 4: (46:15)
We are down to Wales to Dr. Jeremy Wallace. Dr. Jeremy Wallace.

Dr. Jeremy Wallace: (46:21)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. May I congratulate the Prime Minister on being straight with British people and spelling out a clear and cautious roadmap to lift the lockdown measures in England? Unfortunately, for my constituents in Bridgend, the Welsh government has not set out any such plan or vision. Does he agree with me that the people of Wales deserve a government that is honest and clear with them about the road ahead?

Speaker 4: (46:46)
Prime Minister.

Dr. Jeremy Wallace: (46:47)
I thank my honorable friend very much. I would agree with him, but whatever the defects of the labor government in Wales, my experience is that actually be working very well together across all four nations. We’ll continue to do so. And my honesty is all those who talk about confusion or mixed messages are grossly overstating the position. The common sense of the British people is shining through this argument. They can see where we want to go. They can see where we need to go.

Speaker 4: (47:20)
We go to John Speller. John Speller.

John Speller: (47:23)
Prime Minister, at the end of March, I asked you to help the thousands of our people stranded abroad, notably in South Asia and especially in the Punjab. Grudgingly and much slower than other countries, the foreign office organized flights back, but there are many still stranded. Furthermore, the FCO now seems to be washing its hands of those indefinitely to remain, even though they may have lived and worked here for years and are husbands and wives, parents and grandparents of British citizens. Indeed, some have described this as another windrush waiting to happen. So Prime Minister, will you sort this out?

Boris Johnson: (48:01)
I think the right honorable gentleman. He actually nabbed me behind the speaker’s chair after he last put it to me. I can tell him that we estimate that 1.3 million British nationals have now been returned. I know he would like the REF to be more involved, but I can also tell him that we’ve put in 75 million pounds to a charter arrangement and a whole range of airlines have signed up to it. And we are doing everything we can to bring people back as fast as we can.

Speaker 4: (48:25)
[inaudible 00:14:27].

David Linda: (48:28)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last week, the arrogant, incompetent and vindictive electoral commission suffered its final humiliation. For four long years, it has investigated and hounded four people from four different leave organizations, making their lives and their family’s lives hell. Last week, the police said they were totally innocent and had done nothing wrong. Prime Minister, for the sake of democracy, will you ensure that that politically corrupt, totally biased and morally bankrupt [inaudible 00:49:11] is a bullish?

Speaker 4: (49:13)
Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson: (49:15)
Mr. Speaker, I hear what my honorable friend says about the electoral commission. I think what I can say is that, and so for those who investigated, I hope that all those who spent so much time and energy and effort drawing attention to their supposed guilt will now spend as much time and energy and ink and air time drawing attention to their genuine innocence, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 4: (49:41)
Go across to David Linda, North of the border. David Linda.

David Linda: (49:47)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As we moved into lock down, some of Glasgow’s vulnerable asylum seekers were moved from seek accommodation into hotels where social distancing is harder to enforce. So it’s clear that the home office is not currently doing enough to protect and look after those who seek refuge in our city. Will the prime minister urgently charter a full home office review of the support being provided to asylum seekers and ensure that the key partners on the council to make sure they’re not left destitute once the lockdown is lifted?

Boris Johnson: (50:13)
Well, the honorable gentleman draws attention to a very, very important issue. We will make sure that to nobody let alone asylum seekers in these countries is ill treated and I will certainly be investigating the matter that he refers to. Be happy to write to him.

Speaker 4: (50:28)
Down to Wales to Fay Jones. Fay Jones.

Fay Jones: (50:31)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Next week should have seen the beginning of the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, but as we are currently closed to visitors, Hay has shown true Welsh innovation by moving its festival online this year. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking those tourist businesses who have acted in the national interest to protect public health and remind our visitors that once the Welsh government publishes its exit plan, [inaudible 00:50:57] will be able to welcome you back again very soon?

Boris Johnson: (51:01)
Mrs. Speaker, I’m sorry that the wonderful festival Hay-on-Wye has had to be postponed this year. I thank my honorable friend for what she’s doing to promote it tonight. Congratulate them as she says on their typical Welsh ingenuity in making it online, turning it into Hay-on-Wifi, if I may say.

Speaker 4: (51:21)
Stuart Hosey. We go across. Stuart Hosey.

Stuart Hosey: (51:23)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And both COVID and Brexit is suppressing trade, damaging jobs and the economy. And while we hope as COVID ends, global trade will bounce back, there’s no guarantee that will happen quickly. The prime minister though could mitigate some of this damage by seeking an extension to the Brexit transitional period. Can you explain to the house why he’s being so negligent and not seeking that transitional extension now?

Speaker 4: (51:55)
Minister.

Boris Johnson: (51:56)
Mr. Speaker, I think one of the most remarkable things about, as I said, actually to the right honorable gentleman, one of the most remarkable things about this crisis has been the way the whole country has come together to deal with it. And there’s been a spirit of unity and sharing I don’t think we’ve seen for a very, very long time. I think a lot of people in this country don’t want to see the Brexit argument reopened. They want to see it settled. They wanted to see it done. And that’s what this government intends to do.

Speaker 4: (52:20)
Simon Baves. Going across, Simon Baves.

Simon Baves: (52:24)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The hospitality and tourism businesses of my constituency of Cluid South are vital for the health of its local economy, of which a very good example is the Klangoflin steam railway. Would the prime minister join me in congratulating them on the current restructuring and fundraising campaign designed to see them through the coronavirus crisis? And after the crisis is over, would he please hop on board one of their steam trains when he is next in Klangoflin?

Speaker 4: (52:52)
Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson: (52:55)
Mr. Speaker, I have a picture at home of myself and William Hague aboard the Klangoflin steam railway, I’m proud to say, and I congratulate them on what they’re doing to raise funds. And I’ve no doubt that they have a glorious future ahead, with his support.

Speaker 4: (53:14)
We go up to Neil Gray, North of the border. Neil Gray.

Neil Gray: (53:19)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a number of cases where employers are refusing to furlough staff, either because they do not understand or aren’t willing to follow the guidance. 17 year old Bane Edgar has now found himself without a job or furlough support and is being cast as ineligible for social security because of his age. The employer is refusing to engage with my correspondence. So for cases like this, will the Prime Minister consider a furlough appeals process to assist employees, ex-employees and employers to ensure people are treated fairly according to the guidance to save unnecessary redundancies or hardship?

Speaker 4: (53:55)
Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson: (53:55)
I think you make an excellent point. I’d be very happy. If you could send me details, we’ll be very happy to take up the case that he describes.

Speaker 4: (54:04)
We go to Kate Griffith. Kate Griffith.

Kate Griffith: (54:13)
[inaudible 00:54:13] in dealing with COVID-19, dedication that’s tragically cost them their lives. Can I ask the Prime Minister what steps he’s taking to ensure that the NHS [inaudible 00:20:31]?

Boris Johnson: (54:40)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I thank my honorable friend. I think I understood very clearly what she was saying. It’s obvious from the data that coronavirus, as I said earlier, is falling disproportionately on certain groups, not just the elderly. We need to examine exactly what is happening. We need to protect all the most vulnerable groups, and we will take steps to ensure that NHS staff and others are properly protected and advised and screened.

Speaker 4: (55:14)
Go down to Brighton with Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas: (55:18)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last week, climate experts reported that green economic recovery packages deliver far higher returns than conventional stimulus spending. And they also warned that how we emerge from this coronavirus crisis mustn’t be in a way that deepens the climate and nature emergencies. Does the Prime Minister agree? And will he commit to action that will help us to build back better and start by committing at any airline, queuing up for a taxpayer handout must be required to meet robust climate goals?

Speaker 4: (55:49)
Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson: (55:52)
I think probably the best and shortest answer I can give to her is that we totally understand that aviation clearly… Inadvertently the planet this year will have greatly reduced its CO2 emissions. But she’s absolutely right that we need to entrench those gains. I don’t want us to see us going back to an era of the same type of emissions as we’ve had in the past. Aviation like every other sector must keep its carbon low, and we’re certainly working on technological solutions to ensure that we can do that.

Speaker 4: (56:24)
We’ve come to the final question. William Reich.

William Reich: (56:26)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Will my right and honorable friend, the Prime Minister, join me in paying fullsome tributes to all the staff at Stepping Hill Hospital, particularly those caring for patients with COVID-19? Would he recognize that many people have not been attending hospital as usual? So how will he be assisting hospitals like Stepping Hill to ensure that my constituents can access healthcare as usual?

Speaker 4: (56:50)
Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson: (56:51)
Well, Mr. Speaker, I think it’s one of the most important features of the way this country, I thank my honorable friend, one of the most important features of the way this country responded to the epidemic that we did protect the NHS. We maintained capacity in the NHS throughout. Nobody went without a ventilator. There was space in the ICU throughout the crisis. But we have a situation now, as he rightly says, when too many people are not going to hospital, to the doctor to seek the treatment they need and deserve. And I would certainly encourage people with conditions that need medical treatment to go and get that treatment now. And that will help us to reduce deaths this year and throughout the crisis.

Speaker 4: (57:34)
We now come to the urgent questions, the secretary of state for education. I call the secretary of state [inaudible 00:57:44] to answer the urgent question from Layla Moran as on the audit paper. The secretary of state should speak for no more than three minutes. Secretary of state.

Gavin Williamson: (57:54)
Mr. Speaker, I’m grateful to you for granting this urgent question. We had requested to make a statement this week, but members will understand there are restrictions on the number of statements. So I’m therefore grateful to the honorable member for the opportunity to answer questions today. It is over seven weeks since we asked schools, colleges and childcare settings to close to all but vulnerable children and those critical workers. This has been a huge ask of teachers and parents, but the greatest impact of all has fallen on children themselves. An immensely grateful response for all those working in education, childcare and children’s social care. But we all know the best ways for children to be educated and to learn is in school. And it’s always been my intention to get more of them back there, as soon as the scientific advice allows. As the Prime Minister confirmed, we are now past the peak of the virus, and he has set out a roadmap for the next phases of our recovery.

Gavin Williamson: (59:03)
If progress continues to be made, we expect that from the 1st of June at the earliest, we’ll be able to begin a phased return to school, college, and childcare for children in key transition years alongside our priority groups. Primary schools will be asked to welcome back reception year one and year six children in smaller class sizes. Nurseries and other early year providers, including childminders, will be able to begin welcoming back children of all ages. And secondary schools and colleges will be asked to provide face-to-face support for years 10 and 12, who are due to take key exams in the next year.

Gavin Williamson: (59:47)
On Monday, my department published initial guidance for settings on how to begin to prepare, and we’ll work with the sector leaders to develop this further in the coming weeks. This guidance sets out protective measures to minimize for risk of infection, including restricting class sizes and limiting mixing between groups. Crucially, all children and staff will have access to testing if they develop symptoms of coronavirus. This will enable a track and trace approach to be taken to any confirmed cases. We continue to follow the best medical and scientific advice and believe that this phased return is the most sensible course of action to take. I know that this will be challenging, but I know that nursery, school and college staff will do everything in their power to start welcoming our children back to continue their education.

Speaker 4: (01:00:44)
We now call Layla Moran, who is asked to speak for no more than two minutes. Layla Moran.

Layla Moran: (01:00:50)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We need to get our children back to school at the earliest opportunity. Every day that schools remain shut, the disadvantage gap widens and vulnerable children risk falling through the cracks. However, we should only reopen schools when we know it’s safe. Given we still don’t know about transmissibility between children, can the secretary of state reassure us that these decisions are based solely on public health? And to what extent has getting parents back to work been the main driver? And what of teacher safety? The chief medical officer said that there still needs to be a debate on this. So does the secretary of state not think that you’re responsible to publish plans and suggest timetables without disclosing all scientific advice, and will he commit to publishing it today? And why weren’t all major teaching unions consulted on the specifics of this decision to make sure it’s workable?

Layla Moran: (01:01:46)
The guidance says that risk assessment should be carried out before schools open, and I welcome this. Will these be made public as with businesses? And when can we expect further guidance on travel? If a school leader decides it’s not safe to reopen, will the secretary of state respect that? And he also says that reasonable endeavors must be made to deliver the curriculum, but will he now set out his expectations given how varied this has been between schools so far? And can he clarify what does some face to face contact for year 10 and 12 actually mean? And will he guarantee that every child in all of year groups who need access to devices or the internet will get it? And when will we know about future exams? Finally, it’s obvious to anyone that children in reception and year one can’t socially distance. He says that the safety of children and staff is our utmost priority. So can the secretary of state tell us in plain English, what does he think safe actually means? Thank you.

Speaker 4: (01:02:53)
Secretary.

Gavin Williamson: (01:02:56)
Well I thank the honorable lady for her questions, and I’m glad she recognizes the importance and the need to make sure that children are getting their education back in schools at the earliest possible moment. When you have medical and scientific advice that is saying this is the right time to start bringing schools back in a phased and controlled manner, it seems only the right thing to do and only the responsible thing to do for many of the reasons that she herself highlighted. And in terms of pulling our guidance together, we’ve actually worked very closely with all of the teaching unions and the head teacher’s unions. We’ve worked very closely with the sector. Every week, we have been having the opportunity to meet with them. And I’ve made sure that my officials have made time in order to sit down with them, talk about their issues and concerns.

Gavin Williamson: (01:03:55)
And this is what has informed and developed the guidance that we have shared with schools. But in terms of the hierarchy of controls that we have developed in terms of making sure that the risk of transmission of coronavirus is absolutely minimized within schools, we understand that the advice that we needed to seek was not within the department for education, but was within public health England, and also working with the scientific and medical advisors, as every step of the way have been informing what the government does. And that is why when we created the hierarchy of controls about creating for safe bubbles for children and teachers and support staff to work, this was informed by them. So why are we bringing schools back? The reason that we’re bringing schools back is that we know that children benefit from being educated by their brilliant teachers in front of them.

Gavin Williamson: (01:04:54)
We recognize that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are the ones who are going to suffer the most if we do not bring schools back when we are able to do so. I’m more than happy to share all the advice that we have received from Sage. Sage regularly publish their advice, and when they’re ready to do so, they’ll be sharing that again. And we’ve also made sure that we’ve asked the scientific advisors to give briefings for the sector to make sure that they understand that the decisions that we are making to bring back children are based on the best interests of the children, including making sure that they do not miss out on something that is so precious, which is their education.

Speaker 4: (01:05:37)
We now go across to Robert Hullford. Robert Hullford.

Robert Hullford: (01:05:42)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I strongly welcome the approach that the secretary of state is taking in getting children back to school in a phased way. Could I ask him, given that we know that close to 90% of vulnerable children are not in education and that figures from the Sutton Trust suggested that at least 50% of pupils have not communicated with their teachers in the first week of April, will my right and honorable friend, whilst understanding schools won’t officially be open in the summer, support instead the opening of summer schools over the holidays to be staffed by volunteers, graduates, an army of retired teachers to provide catch up to these children who have been left behind?

Gavin Williamson: (01:06:29)
My right and honorable friend is absolutely right about what we need to be doing in terms of everything we can help children who will not necessarily be having the benefits of returning to school before the summer holidays, but how we can support them to give them that extra boost, to make sure that they’re learning all the things that they want to do. And he’s right to highlight the many volunteers, many thousands of volunteers that want to reach out, help our children in order to be able to have the knowledge to succeed in the future. And we’re very closely looking at such schemes, working with schools, working with the sector to how we can make that available to them. And I very much value my right and honorable friend’s advice and insights and thoughts on this. And we’re very much looking at how we can mobilize that.

Speaker 4: (01:07:18)
I now call Rebecca Long-Bailey, who is asked to speak for no more than two minutes. Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Rebecca: (01:07:23)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We all desperately want schools to reopen for the sake of children’s education and wellbeing. But the secretary must appreciate that the guidance provided so far does not yet provide the clear reassurances over safety that are needed. Shielding families anxious, worried grandparents and teaching staff in fear sadly sums up the theme of the last 48 hours. So to a lady’s concerns, I hope he can address the following issues today. Will the secretary consider changing the focus of the plan so that instead of asking schools to scramble to implement an unrealistic plan by a specific date, we ask schools-

Rebecca: (01:08:03)
… an unrealistic plan by a specific date, we asked schools to plan to meet certain conditions that, when met, would signal it was safe to open. A subtle, but very important distinction. Does he acknowledge that due to the availability of staff and space, splitting classes whilst simultaneously providing remote learning is incredibly difficult? And will he work with schools to develop a realistic plan for social distancing? Has he modeled the impact of reopening schools on the infection rate, and will he publish it? Will he acknowledge that, for younger year groups, social distancing will be virtually impossible and that the current guidance sadly gives the impression that those pupils and staff should just accept being exposed? With this in mind, will he rethink the position on PPE? And finally, Mr. Speaker, most schools breakup for summer in mid-July. If the ambition is to get pupils back for a month, that means the whole school would need to be back less than two weeks after the prior two years.

Rebecca: (01:09:05)
So how does the Secretary expect schools to implement social distancing for the whole school when many heads say this is just impossible? But if they don’t, then what is the point of schools planning strict health and safety measures for two weeks only to abandon them? The Secretary repeatedly states that schools will only open when it’s safe, and he referred to the scientific advice, which requires a return in a controlled manner. I don’t see much of a controlled manner at the moment, Mr. Speaker. So please can the Secretary work with the sector to get this right?

Mr. Speaker: (01:09:40)
Secretary of State?

Gavin Williamson: (01:09:41)
Of course. The Honorable Lady points out the importance of working with a sector, and that is what we’ll do at every step of the way. And that is what we have been doing. And we recognize the importance of supporting them to make sure that as children returned to school in a controlled and phased manner that we offer them the maximum amount of support and recognizing this in every school. Every school is individual and unique. And how we support them and give them elements of flexibility in order to be able to make sure that the transition from just providing the education settings available for those who are vulnerable children and children of critical workers and expanding this in the limited way that we’re proposing will require some elements of flexibility that they will need within the sector. And we’ll work with them to do that.

Brandon Lewis: (01:10:35)
But I have always been clear that we would give the sector as much notice as possible. And we have said that if we are allowed, which it seems likely that we will be able to, we would like to see schools opening from the 1st of June, giving schools as much forward notice as possible in order for them to get ready. We think this is responsible and sensible approach in terms of a phased return. I slightly fear that the Honorable Lady, if we we’re asking her to pin her down as to what would be the date, it would end up being as to what would be the year as against what would be the actual start date. But we do want to work with her. We do want to work with the whole sector to make sure that this is a phased, sensible and controlled return to schools because the people who suffer most from schools not being open are those children who are so desperate to attend.

Mr. Speaker: (01:11:34)
We now go over to Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown. Sir Geoffrey.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: (01:11:39)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The guidance on returning of schools in the primary sector is very clear. Can I ask my Right Honorable friend to be very clear about the guidance for the secondary sector? For example, what does face-to-face support mean? Which year groups precisely will be able to return? Will it be a voluntary basis? And would he agree that we need to provide maximum support for those who are taking GCSE and A Level exams both this year and next year as well?

Mr. Speaker: (01:12:15)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:12:16)
My Honorable friend is absolutely right of the importance to support those youngsters and children who are going to be facing GCSEs next year as well as A Levels B Techs and other qualifications and years 10 and 12. And we’re working with the sector because what we want all children in those year groups is to have the opportunity to go into school, to speak with their teachers, their teachers make an assessment of what learning and support that they need to have over the following weeks as we approach the summer holidays but also making sure that they are set for work at the right level. So through the summer holidays, children can benefit from learning through those six weeks as well as those weeks as we approach the summer holidays. But it is important to get these transition years back into schools even if it is for not a full timetable, but this is a first step in the right direction.

Mr. Speaker: (01:13:19)
We now go to northern border to Carol Monahan, who was asked to speak for no more than one minute. Carol Monaghan.

Carol Monaghan: (01:13:26)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. While some children do seem to be less susceptible to COVID-19, Professor [K. Medly has 00:05:32] has told the Science and Technology Select Committee it is still not clear what the role of children is in transmission. So what new evidence does the Secretary of State have on the ability of children to transmit, and will he publish this? When the Scottish government recently published detailed proposals for reopening of school with a mixture of home and school learning, his colleague, the First Secretary of State said this would cause hospitals to be overwhelmed. So why, then, is England considering this reckless fully opening of primary schools? And finally, if it is the ambition to bring all primary year groups back before the summer holidays with a maximum of 15 pupils per class, where are they extra teachers going to come from? As most schools don’t have rooms lying empty, where are the additional classrooms coming from? And will he reassure teachers and school staff that they will not be expected to make or provide their own PPE?

Mr. Speaker: (01:14:34)
State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:14:38)
Well, if I can take the opportunity to thank the Scottish Deputy First Minister for the close work and collaboration that we’ve had between ourselves over the last few months as we have had to deal with this pandemic right across the United Kingdom. I think that the Honorable Lady would be asking very searching questions of me if when I’m given the scientific and medical advice as it is the right time to be opening up schools in a limited manner [inaudible 01:15:10] I wasn’t taking up that opportunity. And quite understandably, SAGE does publish its advice. I have no doubt that it will be publishing the advice it has offered us in terms of what we’re doing. And we would obviously be more than happy to make that as freely available as possible.

Mr. Speaker: (01:15:29)
Prissy Crouch.

Prissy Crouch: (01:15:30)
Mr. Speaker, can I have my honorable friend not only confirm that our approach to reopening school is very much in line with other European countries, but, Mr, Speaker, you might expect a former sports [inaudible 01:15:40] to ask this, I haven’t seen much about how we can ensure that schools can conduct their PE duty. So will you be issuing specific guidance to ensure that schools can still put on PE classes but in a safe way?

Mr. Speaker: (01:15:55)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:15:56)
My Right Honorable friend is absolutely right. The importance of PE for all children, whether they’re at school or at home. And I think that we’ve been seeing some brilliant examples of children really being engaged in physical activity. We have issued some guidance in terms of how PE can be conducted in terms of the safe use of equipment and non-contact sports at this initial stage. We’re very keen to work with the sector to see how we engage all young people in as much physical activity as possible.

Mr. Speaker: (01:16:32)
We go to [Emans 01:16:33] in the Northeast. Emans.

Emans: (01:16:36)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We know from the NAHT that head teachers have not been consulted about the proposed date of return. So when you say you’re working with the sector, that that is partially but not completely true. And also having 12 to 15 children socially distance in a classroom is really largely unrealistic. We know children are more likely to be asymptomatic than adults if they contract COVID-19. So what public health medical evidence does the Secretary of State have that children will not spread the virus to other children, teachers, teaching assistants, cleaning and catering and caring staff when they return the schools? And will he publish that evidence?

Mr. Speaker: (01:17:22)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:17:23)
So as I’ve repeatedly said, and I’m not sure if Your Honorable gentlemen was listening to my earlier responses, but we said that obviously SAGE does publish this evidence and be advice that we get. So, of course, [inaudible 01:17:37] in the public domain. But as every stage, every single week I’ve been meeting with union leaders as well as other sector leaders, whether that is Ofsted, whether that is the Confederation of School Trusts, and I’ll continue to do so. And we’ve shared our thinking very widely as to what we’re hoping to do. We recognize this is a challenging situation for everyone, and there are lots of concerns. And we want to work with all organizations, whether they be representative bodies of schools or unions in order to get the best guidance to the workforce but also to children and parents as well.

Mr. Speaker: (01:18:16)
Staying in the Northeast, Richard Holden. Richard Holden.

Richard Holden: (01:18:20)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The vast majority of schools in Northwestern have remained open looking after the most vulnerable children. [inaudible 01:18:27] join me in thanking the staff of these schools for their selfless actions throughout the global coronavirus pandemic. But as we look to the future, can my Right Honorable friend reassure parents, teachers and the House that despite the claims [inaudible 01:18:37] that safety of pupils are the government’s top priority? Can he confirm that in reaching this decision he’s worked closely with unions and school leaders but also that any children going back to school will be fully eligible for testing and tracing as their teachers are already?

Mr. Speaker: (01:18:53)
State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:18:54)
I’d very much liked to join him in thanking those teachers and support staff who’ve done so much to keep schools open all the way through this period. And it’s important to remember the schools have remained open all through this coronavirus pandemic. And my Honorable friend raises an important point about testing. We already have priority testing for all teachers and those who work in schools if they have symptoms of coronavirus. This priority testing will be extended to all children who attend school and if they’re displaying symptoms as well as their families. We recognize how important tests and traces in terms of beating this pandemic.

Mr. Speaker: (01:19:39)
We remained in the Northeast with Mary Kelly Foy. Mary Kelly Foy.

Mary Kelly Foy: (01:19:45)
Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Firstly, my thanks to all the school staff in the city of Durham and across the country for their dedication throughout the pandemic. Education unions are clear. There can be no compromise on health and safety. These proposals are ill thought out and reckless. They will, at best, create a sterile learning environment for young children who won’t understand why they’re unable to interact with their friends. At worst, the proposals will set off a chain of new infections back into the households of work and people. How can it be right that without any scientific evidence, school staff and their pupils have to accept lower safety standards than you’d expect [inaudible 00:12:30].

Mr. Speaker: (01:20:31)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:20:33)
The only consideration behind this decision is what is in the best interest and for welfare of children and those who work in schools. We all recognize the importance of children being able to return to schools. And sometimes scaremongering and making people fear is really unfair and not a welcome pressure that is to be placed on families, children and teachers alike.

Mr. Speaker: (01:21:01)
We go to [Damien Heinz 00:13:02]. Damien Heinz.

Damien Heinz: (01:21:05)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can I commend this approach to minimize and mitigate the risk from this virus while simultaneously recognizing that, as well as the educational harm, there are also significantly negative health and well-being effects the children the longer they’re away from school? And can my Right Honorable friend assure me that within the clear guidelines head teachers will also be afforded maximum flexibility to make this work for each school’s unique circumstances?

Mr. Speaker: (01:21:36)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:21:37)
My Right Honorable friend is absolutely correct. The impacts on children isn’t just an educational impact by them not being in school, but it’s a health and welfare impact as well. And he is equally right in the sense that we need to make sure that schools have the flexibility in order to be able to work within these guidelines to make the proposals work for both staff and for children.

Mr. Speaker: (01:22:02)
Go to Lily [Greemund 00:14:04]. Lily Greemund.

Lily Greemund: (01:22:05)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the government guidance for education and childcare settings, the section on what the latest science tells us states that children have less severe symptoms than adults and are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus. Is there a danger that children could be infected but asymptomatic, be in school and pose a serious risk to the health and safety of school staff, other children and their families? I welcome his agreement to publish the scientific advice, but he must hear loud and clear that heads and teachers and support staff and parents are really worried. How’s he going to win their confidence that it is time for schools to reopen?

Mr. Speaker: (01:22:48)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:22:49)
Well, every step that we take in terms of returning schools, at the heart of it is this the safety, the security of those who are in that school, whether this is for child, whether it’s a teacher, a teaching assistant or any other support staff. That is why we’re doing this in a phased return. We’re making sure that we take small steps forward, making sure that we minimize the risk to all those who are attending school and working within schools.

Emans: (01:23:20)
Go over to James Cartlidge. James Cartlidge.

James Cartlidge: (01:23:24)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I very much welcome my right Honorable friend’s approach. Of course, Denmark reopened its primary school on April 15th. It has not seen a huge surge in infection. And in fact, the country is moving to a new phase where they are reopening restaurants. Is my Right Honorable friend aware that, yesterday, the BBC spoke to Dr. Langer, who is the Vice President of the Danish Union [inaudible 01:23:45] was very positive about their experience? And does he agree with me that, therefore, perhaps our own teaching unions should speak to and engage with their Danish counterparts to learn from their experience so that, when we get to the beginning of June, we can reopen our schools but safely and successful?

Mr. Speaker: (01:24:01)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:24:02)
My Honorable friend raises an important points about where are the international benchmarks that we can look towards and in reaching the conclusions as how to bring about a phased return to schools. Understandably, we looked at countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands and many others as to how they’ve done it. And what you’ll see is a mirroring in approach as to what happened in Denmark as to what we’re doing here in the United Kingdom. And I think that is the right approach because what you’ve seen is you’ve seen that schools have started to return in Denmark, and you have not seen a negative impact as result of that. And I think this goes to reconfirm that our approach is the right approach. And I would certainly hope that a trade unions in this country would speak to trade unions in Denmark as well.

Mr. Speaker: (01:24:52)
We go over to Stephen Doughty. Stephen Doughty.

Stephen Doughty: (01:24:55)
Mr. Speaker, my constituents in [inaudible 01:24:57] are repeatedly expressing frustration to me that the UK government press conferences and their briefing in the media does not make clear the distinction in policy on this between England and Wales, and that’s causing confusion and anxiety. So will the Secretary of State therefore make clear for UK media and for Welsh teachers and parents that he agrees the decision to reopen schools is for the Welsh government, the schools won’t reopen in Wales on the 1st of June and that they rightly won’t do so until it’s safe for children and teachers?

Mr. Speaker: (01:25:23)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:25:25)
I very much agree that this is a decision for the Welsh government.

Mr. Speaker: (01:25:29)
We now go over to Selaine Saxby. Selaine Saxby.

Selaine Saxby: (01:25:33)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. How can my Right Honorable friend reassure nervous parents and staff that June the 1st is not too early but a phased return to school?

Mr. Speaker: (01:25:44)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:25:45)
We would not have been making this decision to do a phased return to school if a scientific and medical advice had not been absolutely explicit that this is, some think, in the right time to be able to sort of do this. But we have stated that the 1st of June is the earliest date. If a situation changes, if a scientific or medical advice changes, obviously we will change the program of that phased return. But we want to give schools as well as parents and children the opportunity in time in order to adjust and get ready to return to school.

Mr. Speaker: (01:26:20)
We go over to Brendan O’Hara. Brendan O’Hara.

Brendan O’Hara: (01:26:25)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister’s recent promise that England school would be COVID secure prompted [inaudible 01:26:32] Chief Medical Officer to say that there needs to be a proper debate about teacher safety as schools reopen. When will this proper debate take place? And what steps will be taken to ensure the safety of teachers and the pupils?

Mr. Speaker: (01:26:49)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:26:50)
We recognized right from the start the importance of ensuring the safety of all those in schools, not just for children, but also those who are teaching and supporting the education of children. And that’s why we put forward a whole set of guidance about how you minimize risk in terms of reduction, in terms of the number of children in that classroom, minimizing contact between children, staggering in terms of times as to when schools will open. And I’ll be very happy to share this with the Scottish government in terms of our thinking. So when you’re in a position where the Scottish government wishes to return schools back into education, they can hopefully benefit from the work that we’ve been doing.

Mr. Speaker: (01:27:33)
We now come to [inaudible 01:27:34] Steve Baker. Steve Baker.

Steve Baker: (01:27:36)
Mr. Speaker, Wycombe and Buckinghamshire enjoy a diverse school system, including grammar schools. What consideration has my Right Honorable friend given to the special situation of those grammar schools?

Mr. Speaker: (01:27:48)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:27:49)
Well, I know this does present some additional challenges, especially with the consideration of 11 Plus in September. And I know that it is a concern of his, and I’ve actually received a representation from conservative members in Kent about concerns on this. And we’re going to be looking at working with local authorities who have grammar school systems in their area as to how best we can ensure that children from the least, well, children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are not disadvantaged as they look at taking the 11 Plus in the future.

Mr. Speaker: (01:28:32)
We now go over to Slough to Tan Singh Dhesi. Tan Singh Dhesi.

Tan Singh Dhesi: (01:28:38)
Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, we all, including my Slough constituents, want our schools to reopen and for our children’s education to continue. But government guidance around the reopening of schools raises more questions than it actually answers. As a parent of two young children, I can attest to the fact of how difficult it is to explain social distancing, let alone get the kids from practice it. And that’s why so many parents actually fear sending their children to school. So will the Secretary of State revisit the guidance and commit to actually working with education unions and others to create a working plan for reopening our schools when both the science indicates that it’s safe to do so and when it has the confidence of all those affected?

Mr. Speaker: (01:29:25)
Secretary of State.

Gavin Williamson: (01:29:27)
We will continue to work with the whole sector in terms of making sure that any changes that we have to make or modifications in order to work for children and teachers and schools. We rapidly adopt any changes that are required, but we recognize the importance of creating a safe bubble for children and teachers to operate in. That’s why we’ve put out extensive guidance as how this is done. And this is been done very much working with Public Health England the and scientific community as to how best to approach in the best possible way the return of schools because children benefit from being in schools. And they are losing out as a result of not being in schools.

Mr. Speaker: (01:30:17)
Right. I will now call the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, Local Government, Robert Jenrick, who should speak for no more than ten minutes. Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:30:28)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Moving home can be a life changing moment for many amongst us, for young families spreading their wings after a new arrival, for young people leaving their parents’ home for the first time or for working people changing towns or cities to start a new job. Moving home means planting your roots, laying your foundations. A home is more than four walls and a roof. It is a sanctuary, a form of protection and a link to your community. We know that people’s homes are the heart of their own personal stories. And throughout the course of this emergency, we have, by necessity, put many of those stories on hold to protect our communities and to save lives.

Robert Jenrick: (01:31:21)
When the essential stay-at-home message was announced, we changed the rules so that people could only move home if they thought it was reasonably necessary. For many people, this has put life on hold. With this most relevant and essential industry in a state of suspended animation, there are over 450,000 sales which have been stuck in the system, unable to be progressed. This is not to mention the substantial number of rentals, which have not gone ahead. Every month, 300,000 tenancies come up for renewal, a proportion of which result in people moving home. The pressure to move for some has become acute with profound legal and financial and health implications. We made this decision in order to keep the country safe, but as we move into the next phase of our COVID response and embark on our path to reopen, to restart and to renew the economy, we recognize the need to let people get back to living their lives, which is why, today, Mr. Speaker, I’m announcing a comprehensive, clear and coherent plan to reopen the housing market and to restart the construction industry.

Robert Jenrick: (01:32:52)
With immediate effect, we are lifting the temporary freeze on home moving, meaning that, so long as they are not shielding or self-isolating, anyone can move any time and for any reason. This industry is broad and has many moving parts, so we want to be clear. Each of the building blocks of the buying and the selling process are now back in business as long as they can be done safely. So here, Mr. Speaker, is our plan for the reopening, the restarting and the renewing of the housing market and the construction industry. Estate agents’ offices are now able to reopen. Removal companies can get moving again. Surveyors, conveyances and valuers can go back to work, and show homes on sites can reopen. It is crucial that these changes happen safely.

Robert Jenrick: (01:33:53)
And we continue to tread with caution to control the virus and to protect the public. This means that as these businesses reopen, they will need to adapt to new practices, for instance, with virtual viewings where possible and cleaning thoroughly after viewings and when moving house. I’ve published detailed guidance informed by public health advice to explain how this can be achieved building on the existing safer working guidance with all parties observing hygiene measures and social distancing guidelines. For each of the other elements that make up the wider construction industry, a sector that employs over two million people, the same applies.

Robert Jenrick: (01:34:42)
If you’re self-isolating or have coronavirus, you should, of course, not be moving house or going back to work. All parties involved in home buying and selling should prioritize agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group. This, Mr. Speaker, is the most radical restarting of an industry in the first phase of our national recovery roadmap. This was not an easy decision to make. With few, if any, transactions there is no visibility and no precedent with which to accurately judge the state of the housing market. But I do know that in every economic recovery in modern British history, the housing market has been key. So let me be clear to all who work in the sector, have started a business in it, have invested in it or rely upon it. I’m doing everything I can to help the industry bounce back. And a healthy housing market means more than buying and selling houses. It requires building them too, but COVID-19 has had a profound impact on house building with activity on sites down by around 90% since this time last year.

Robert Jenrick: (01:36:05)
I’m delighted to see so many construction companies back at work already and pleased to be supporting their efforts by, today, announcing the launch of a safe working charter with the Home Builders Federation. Those working onsite should feel confident that their essential jobs are also safe jobs. And I’m also taking further steps to support safe house building by allowing more flexible working hours on construction sites where appropriate and with local checks and balances. I’m allowing sites to apply to extend their working hours, again, with immediate effect. Varied start and finish times will make it much easier for sites to observe social distancing and will take pressure of public transport, particularly in our core cities, and we’ll keep Britain building. The planning system, too, must be able to operate safely and efficiently during this time, which means, as with many other sectors, making more use of digital technology, I want the planning inspectorate to be at the forefront of this work. And it’s good to see the inspectorate now undertaking its first virtual hearings, and I’m also asking them to make all hearings virtual within weeks. We’re going to get the planning system going again and bring it into the digital age at the same time.

Robert Jenrick: (01:37:40)
And, Mr. Speaker, as we look to the future, we must remember that the prospect of Britain’s housing market is key to our economy. When this sector succeeds, we all succeed. And this is what shapes our vision of the housing market: more homes, safer homes, homes of higher quality, more beautiful homes, homes of all types and tenures for all people rooted in and at the heart of our communities. Today, Mr. Speaker, we reopen, we restart and we renew the housing market and the construction industry to protect lives, save jobs and to refresh and renew our economy. I commend this statement to the House.

Mr. Speaker: (01:38:25)
I welcome Thangam Debbonaire to her new job, who has five minutes to speak, up to five minutes. Thangam Debbonaire.

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:38:32)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I thank the Secretary of State for advanced copy of his statement. The government said they would do whatever it takes to get the country through this COVID crisis and protect the most vulnerable [inaudible 01:38:43]. We want the government to succeed. Lives, livelihoods and homes are on the line. In a spirit of constructive cooperation, we scrutinize plans carefully, offer suggestions and challenge, when appropriate, to try to help bring down the numbers of people infected or tragically dying and to help people manage financially. Sometimes the government has headed our calls, sometimes not. I’d like them to consider these. Today’s announcement provides welcome new for some. And, of course, we all want new homes building, but it leaves more unanswered housing questions. These urgently need government attention to keep people safe at work and at home as we don’t have community testing, a cure or a vaccine, and there are still problems with PPE.

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:39:20)
So I ask the Secretary of State, what protection will there be for people renting if a landlord or a state agent wants to show a prospective buyer or new tenant around? What will the government do to help those trapped by the cladding and leasehold scandals at this time? What discussions has the government had with the trade unions? There was no mention in his statement. What advice does the government have for anyone who feels their workplace or construction site is not safe? This crisis has taught us if anyone is struggling, we’re all affected. The announcement focused on those who want to move home, but it ignored those who are at risk of being forced. The Secretary of State talked to show homes but not about people with no homes. And we’ve shown that when we work together, we can virtually eliminate street homelessness in days. There must be no going back, but people in emergency for accommodation face that. Will the government work with councils and homeless organizations about how to provide and pay for a housing first approach so we can end street homelessness for good this year?

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:40:15)
The Secretary of State says he knows that homes are a sanctuary, but there’s no plan for what happens when the temporary ban on eviction ends. We need to prevent people from getting into arrears, so will the government heed [Laber’s 01:40:26] calls to fill the gaps in the financial support schemes? Will he guarantee local housing allowance stays at 30% of market rents? Would he consider raising it further until this crisis eases? People struggling with their rent are worried about will happen when this ban lifts. And the government says it’s working with the Master of the Rolls to widen the existing pre-action protocol on possession proceedings for social landlords to include private renters and to strengthen its remit, but that’s not enough. So will he consider Laber’s proposal to halt section eight evictions on the grounds of arrears caused by the lockdown? Mr. Speaker, in March, Minister said they’d provide whatever funding is needed for councils to get through this and come out the other side. And that’s a pledge repeated by the Secretary of State, but this week, he told the Select Committee that councils should not labor under a false impression that all costs will be reimbursed. Which is it? Will the Secretary of State please honor his original commitment to councils. The Minister for Homelessness appeared to require local authorities to accommodate people with no recourse to public funds but without the funding, which has led to confusion and people being left out. So will the Secretary of State ensure that there is specific funding for housing people with no recourse to public funds? Mr. Speaker, councils cannot borrow for revenue spending. They cannot run deficits. If they can’t balance the books, they have to stop spending, and they’re currently 10 billion pounds short, a fifth of council spending. They could close every library, leisure center, children’s center, turn off all the street lights, lock the gates to parks, and they’d still be billions of pounds short. They would have to make cuts to social care and public health.

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:42:03)
In short, they would have to make cuts to social care public health at this time. Will the [inaudible 01:42:06] state please ensure that councils are fully recompensed for housing and other costs of this crisis.

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:42:12)
Finally, Mr. Speaker, during this crisis, we’ve all become acutely aware of people in overcrowded, unsafe homes, unable to self isolate, worried about rent, how bad it is for mental and physical health when families have no outside space. The secretary of state says he wants more homes, safer homes, higher quality, more beautiful homes, but doesn’t say how he will ensure that they are higher quality or safe or beautiful.

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:42:37)
He could have decided to invest in high quality, safe, beautiful, socially owned, zero carbon, truly, truly affordable housing that would capture the national spirit and turn it into really building our future.

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:42:51)
Instead, the government has focused on private house sales and even today ask councils to allow developers to defer Section 106 and community infrastructure levy, likely to reduce the numbers of new social and affordable homes. So will the secretary of state please work with treasury, housing associations and local authorities and the building industry to invest in high quality, truly affordable social housing.

Thangam Debbonaire: (01:43:15)
Mr. Speaker, our broken housing system has been brutally exposed. Key workers we applaud each week live in poor housing. They’ve been left behind too long. We must not go back to business as usual. We must solve the housing crisis for all our heroes, for our country. Thank you, Mr. Speaker

Mr. Speaker: (01:43:30)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:43:31)
Well, thank you Mr. Speaker, and I welcome the honorable lady to her new role and look forward to working with her constructively in the weeks and months ahead.

Robert Jenrick: (01:43:40)
I’m pleased that she supports the overwhelming direction of our statement today and the importance of the housing industry and construction within this country. She has a number of questions, which I will endeavor to answer as many as I can.

Robert Jenrick: (01:43:54)
With respect to the important question about building safety, while I have been clear from the onset of this crisis, that that work should continue. That was opposed to fact by many on the benches opposite, who said it was too risky, but it was the right decision to encourage ACM clouding and other essential building safety works to continue. I’m pleased to say it is now gradually starting to begin again. And I welcome the mayors coming together, like the mayor of London and greater Manchester and Birmingham to support that in our combined pledge.

Robert Jenrick: (01:44:26)
With respect to rough sleeping. Well, I pay tribute to everybody who has been involved in the tremendous national efforts so far, bringing 90% of those people who were sleeping rough on our streets, out of the onset of the crisis into safer accommodation. But now we are in the next phase of that challenge, I don’t underestimate how difficult that will be protecting those individuals whilst they remain in that accommodation during the lockdown. And then preparing for them to move into more suitable, longterm with the wraparound care that they need and deserve. And that will be a true national effort involving charities, councils and businesses across the country.

Robert Jenrick: (01:45:10)
With respect to renters. Well today’s announcement is very much about renters. Every month, 300,000 tenancies come up for renewal and many of those individuals need to, or want to move house. And so today we’ll enable them to do just that and to do it safely, which is the most important consideration.

Robert Jenrick: (01:45:32)
In terms of the guidance that I’ve published today. It sets out that physical viewings of homes, whether that’s for sale or for rent, can go ahead, but those will need to be done in accordance with social distancing guidelines. And in most cases that will mean that the tenant or the homeowner will not be present in the property. They’ll be in the garden or have gone out for their daily exercise. Or if they are in the home, for whatever reason, they’ll be in a different room and ensuring that there’s two meters apart from the individuals who are looking around the property. And that’s the right thing to do.

Robert Jenrick: (01:46:04)
With respect to the concern about people being evicted from their properties. While as she knows, we’ve changed the law to have a moratorium on evictions so that no possession proceedings can continue. And that will go up until June, at which point I, as secretary of state, have the ability to extend that if we need to, and we’ll be taking that decision very carefully.

Robert Jenrick: (01:46:25)
We’ll also be proceeding with the pre action protocol, working with the master of the roles to ensure that provides an added degree of protection for those individuals.

Robert Jenrick: (01:46:34)
I don’t support the labor proposal, which is to encourage people not to pay rent and to build up potentially unmanageable degrees of debt so that in six, nine months, 12 months time, their credit rating would be shredded. And they’d be in a very difficult financial position. We are developing a much more credible plan to protect renters and to help to shield them through this crisis.

Robert Jenrick: (01:46:56)
Finally, Mr. Speaker, with respect to counsel’s finances, I said we would stand behind councils and give them funding that they need. We’re doing exactly that. Today, the prime minister has announced an extra 600 million pounds, bringing the total investment in our councils to 3.8 billion pounds in just two months.

Mr. Speaker: (01:47:14)
We now go to father of the house, Sir Peter Bottom [inaudible 00:01:47:18]. Sir Peter.

Sir Peter: (01:47:19)
The secretary of state is right to talk about people living their lives. Can I say to him that most of the people going to new homes, will be going to lease hold ones. When will he and we act to ban the sale of [inaudible 01:47:33] houses? When can you announce actions for justice lease holders, lease renters stuck with excessive ground rents? And can he advise residential landlords and smart developers, the financial games are over and the leasehold mortgage campaign and the all party group are going to make sure there is the justice for lease holders?

Robert Jenrick: (01:47:49)
Thank you to the father of house for that question and pay tribute, once again, to his campaigning over many years against the rip off practices that we’ve seen in the leasehold sector. We are committed to bringing an end to those practices, to legislating, to bring ground rents down to a peppercorn, and to ensure that no new homes are built as leasehold property, except in the most exceptional circumstances. And we’re going to bringing forward draft legislation to be scrutinized on that shortly.

Robert Jenrick: (01:48:19)
I’m pleased that, in general, those practices have reduced enormously as a result of the government’s firms stance and those of campaigners, including many members across the house. And I want to see that continue.

Mr. Speaker: (01:48:32)
We now go over to the SMP spokesperson, David Lyndon.

David Lyndon: (01:48:37)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, I to thank the Secretary of State in advance. So you have a statement [inaudible 01:48:41] I think I had a read most of it in the morning papers.

David Lyndon: (01:48:44)
And I want to focus on the point part that he makes and the statement [inaudible 01:48:48] noticing a clear coherent plan. Because that is part of the issue that many of us are fighting and in this statement of the statement below it before on education, because the possession in Scotland remains unchanged. That people should protect any [strong accent inaudible 01:49:01], their home and save lives. And what we’re seeing Swarthmoor with the government is that announcing these [strong accent inaudible 01:49:06] sessions, but they’re actually getting clear that it does not apply to people in Scotland. And we in Scotland will think the session [strong accent inaudible 00:07:12] left lockdown based on science and when it’s right to do stuff for people. So it appreciates the FUP government it would explicit and making clear [inaudible 01:49:20] for England.

David Lyndon: (01:49:23)
[inaudible 01:49:23] I am quite puzzled by particularly some of the distractions that are being used, because what we’re seeing to people is that they can’t see both their parents at the same time, but they can welcome two complete strangers into the house. Nor does it make sense to those who have seen that [inaudible 01:49:36] friends and the next garden, but if the removal men come into the house and potentially passing the virus about, that’s just two examples of how this doesn’t necessarily stack up.

David Lyndon: (01:49:48)
And so from a messaging point of view, we’ve gone from [inaudible 00:07:51]saying stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. To four days later seeing you can trapes around anybody, any random stranger. So will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to make clear to people in Scotland, the message remains the same that you should stay at home, protect [inaudible 01:50:07] and save lives.

Mr. Speaker: (01:50:09)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:50:10)
Well, I’ve made clear repeatedly in my own statement that this applies to England. The Scottish government will have to come to their own decision and be held accountable for that.

Robert Jenrick: (01:50:18)
With respect to social distancing, the guidelines are extremely clear so I’d be grateful if the honorable gentlemen and others didn’t purposefully mislead in that respect, removal men and women and agents and those visiting other people’s homes need to respect the social distancing guidelines. That means staying two meters apart. That means using protective equipment as we set out in the guidance where it’s appropriate and for those residents of the properties, it means either being out of the home at the time of the viewing, in the garden or in another room so that you don’t come into contact with those visiting the property. And that’s been fully signed off by public health, England, and all the medical and scientific experts.

Mr. Speaker: (01:50:54)
[inaudible 01:50:54] Clark.

Clark: (01:50:55)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And can I thank my right honorable friends for today’s welcome housing announcements that our state agents and staffers can now reopen and viewings can resume. As many of my constituents were in the house buying process when COVID-19 hit and will very much welcomed their certainty.

Clark: (01:51:13)
But can I ask him what steps will be taken to ensure that my constituents can undertake viewing safely and how estate agents can ensure that they are in line with this new government guidance?

Mr. Speaker: (01:51:25)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:51:27)
Well, I’m grateful to my honorable friend for that question. I’m sure in Stafford, as across the country, there will be thousands of people who were in a state of limbo, not being able to move home. And this announcement today will make a big difference to their lives, as well as to the local economy in Staffordshire.

Robert Jenrick: (01:51:43)
With respect to the guidelines, they’re clear, as I’ve already said, that you need to respect social distancing guidelines when you’re in other people’s properties. We’re encouraging virtual viewings, which can be the more sophisticated ones, but they come at a cost or it could be as simple as the agent or the homeowner producing a video on their smartphone and making that available to anybody who’s interested in the property before they come and visit.

Robert Jenrick: (01:52:07)
And with respect to show homes, we’re strongly encouraging people to do so by appointment only to avoid speculative visits, which aren’t necessary.

Mr. Speaker: (01:52:15)
We go to the chair of the Slack committee over in Sheffield, Clive [inaudible 01:52:19] .

Clive: (01:52:20)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Clive: (01:52:23)
I welcome much of what the government has proposed the help, particularly for private tenants, but we should recognize that the renter is of many tenants will grow over time, causing problems not merely for them, but for small private landlords as well.

Clive: (01:52:39)
So would the Secretary of State, consider the Spanish government scheme of giving low interest loans for tenants to help both them pay the rent and the landlords to receive them?

Clive: (01:52:47)
In terms of the new housing market, if demand falls for new homes, where he consider increasing grants to housing associations and councils, so that they can actually help the construction industry keep going by building more social homes for rent?

Mr. Speaker: (01:53:02)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:53:03)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Robert Jenrick: (01:53:05)
Well, with respect to supporting the industry, I think it’s too soon today to judge with confidence, the state of the housing market, because there’s been so few transactions in recent weeks, but we stand ready to work with the industry and to help to guide them through undoubtedly an extremely challenging period.

Robert Jenrick: (01:53:22)
We’ve announced some measures today, for example, enabling councils to defer sill and Section 106 payments, which does not mean that there’s an impact in the longer term upon social infrastructure or affordable homes. But it does mean that SME builders, in particular, can have a bit of breathing space in the weeks and months ahead, which is absolutely critical and is a lesson learnt from the last downturn in the market.

Robert Jenrick: (01:53:48)
With respect to the question around renters, while we’re thinking very carefully about what more we can do to protect them. Of course, there are other government schemes like the furlough scheme, which is now paying a proportion of millions of working people’s wages and helping to support them through this difficult period. The moratorium on evictions prevents possession proceedings proceeding at court at the present time. But we’ll need to think carefully about what to do when that comes to an end in June.

Mr. Speaker: (01:54:16)
We’re over to Peter Gibson. Peter Gibson.

Peter Gibson: (01:54:20)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Peter Gibson: (01:54:22)
My right honorable friend knows that the construction industry is core to our economy’s success. Could he outline what steps the government are taking to ensure this important sector has the flexibility it needs to operate safely and restart.

Mr. Speaker: (01:54:39)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:54:40)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Robert Jenrick: (01:54:41)
Well, across the country, millions of people are employed in the construction industry. That’s absolutely essential we get them back to work, but we have to do so safely. Today’s charter working with the house builders will set out ways in which we believe that can be done. And many of the country’s house builders have been working with us in recent weeks to put in place the protocols and the site working practices that we will need to protect those working people.

Robert Jenrick: (01:55:08)
Today’s written ministerial statement that I’ve lain, extending the working hours of sites will also play its part because that will enable sites to stay open during the summer months, potentially to 9:00 PM at night in residential areas, and longer than that in areas where there are no neighboring properties, to help the industry to catch up if they want to, but above all, to help them to put in place the social distancing rules that they’ll need to operate site safely and to reduce pressure on public transport. And I hope all of us across the country, and our councils, will support that and make sure it’s implemented smoothly.

Mr. Speaker: (01:55:47)
Go over to Catherine West. Catherine West.

Catherine West: (01:55:50)
Mr. Speaker, could I press the Secretary of State on the cliff edge facing many in the privately rented sector? What action will the government take to avoid mass homelessness as the moratorium on evictions lifts and we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis?

Mr. Speaker: (01:56:09)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:56:09)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Robert Jenrick: (01:56:10)
Well, as I’ve already said, we’ve legislated to have a moratorium on evictions, which comes up for review in June. At that point, the Secretary of State has the power to extend it. If necessary, we’ll take that judgment at the time on the basis of the market. The evidence we see is in respect of how many individuals might be coming before courts with eviction proceedings and consider what further steps might be necessary at the time.

Mr. Speaker: (01:56:34)
Over to Robert Courts [inaudible 01:56:35]. Robert Courts.

Robert Courts: (01:56:38)
Thank you Mr. Speaker. And I thank my right honorable friend for his statement. To provide the reassurance and the clarity that my constituents in West [inaudible 01:56:45] would like, could he confirm that whilst people can move whenever they like and that removal firms are able to help, the government does still ask and require that that is carried out safely?

Robert Jenrick: (01:56:58)
Well, it’s extremely important that removal firms across the country, many of which are small and medium sized businesses get back to work. And so we have worked with them to produce guidelines, which we believe will enable them to do so safely. And there may be more work that we do in the weeks and months ahead to learn from that. But they play an absolutely critical role in the industry.

Mr. Speaker: (01:57:20)
Go over to Alex Norris. Alex Norris.

Alex Norris: (01:57:24)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Secretary of State, at the beginning of this crisis, you said everybody in and that you would fund councils to end homelessness. Since then, it’s been suggested that this might not apply to those with no recourse of public funds. This is nonsense. Of course, the virus couldn’t care less about someone’s migration status. To such a state where you take the opportunity today to clarify that when you said everybody, you meant absolutely everybody and that you would be providing the funding to make sure this happened.

Mr. Speaker: (01:57:52)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:57:53)
Well, I’m extremely grateful for the work of local councils and charities in places like Knotting, who did an amazing job at bringing at least 90% of those individuals who were sleeping rough at the onset of the crisis, into safer accommodation. In some parts of the country, the numbers of rough sleepers have now fallen to as low as one or two or three individuals. We believe it could even be as much as a 98% success rate so far. But the challenge is by no means complete. There’s more work to do.

Robert Jenrick: (01:58:22)
We’ve said that the government’s policy on no recourse to public funds has not changed, but councils do have flexibility as they know to support those individuals where there’s a risk to life and serious concern. They should behave humanely and compassionately.

Mr. Speaker: (01:58:36)
We now go over to Dr. James Davies. Dr. James Davies.

Dr. James Davies: (01:58:41)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I welcome this statement and I would ask my right honorable friend, what advice the new guidance offers for those following chief medical officer advice to shield in their home?

Mr. Speaker: (01:58:52)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (01:58:55)
Well, my honorable friend raised a very important point that we can’t emphasize enough today. There will be individuals who are not advised to move home, except in the most unusual circumstances. Those people who we’ve asked to shield, those people who have extremely high levels of vulnerability to the virus, as identified by the chief medical officer, should continue to do so. Stay at home, have as little face to face contact as possible, and now would not be the right time for them to move house. If they absolutely have to, they should take medical advice before doing so.

Mr. Speaker: (01:59:31)
We head to the north of the border with Marianne Fellows. Marianne Fellows.

Marianne Fellows: (01:59:35)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning, I saw the Secretary of State’s social media posts on the seizing of instructions. And every comment and reply I saw from members of the public highlighted contradictions and inconsistencies. This, plus the shocking [inaudible 01:59:52] poll, which finds that only 30% of respondents believe the UK government’s instructions to stale out or clear. This suggests that this government has a major problem with communication. Does the Secretary of State think that this government’s recent communications with the public have been clear and will he, yet again, confirm that this easing only applies in England?

Mr. Speaker: (02:00:16)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (02:00:17)
Well, this is one of the most comprehensive, coherent and clear plans for any sectors of the economy. We have worked with every part of the industry from the removal companies, the estate agent, the letting agents, the surveyors, the conveyances, the builders, you name it, to put in place the guidance that is needed, all published today on gov.uk. And it’s been hugely welcomed by people across the industry and the millions of people in England who want to move house and get on with their lives as well as the 2.3 million people whose jobs depend on this critical industry.

Mr. Speaker: (02:00:50)
Our final question from Steve Brian. Steve Brian,

Steve Brian: (02:00:55)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My right honorable friend is dead right to say in his statement that we need to build homes as well as, and before we can buy and sell them. So what can he do to unlock the market in Hampshire where a standoff between natural England and local authorities over nitrates in the Solent, a subject I know he knows about, has tied planners, developers, architects, and investors in nuts, long before COVID-19 hits us and perversely is encouraging Greenfield development over Brown field.

Mr. Speaker: (02:01:25)
Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (02:01:26)
Well, my honorable friend and I have discussed this at length on a number of occasions and he has been very assiduous in campaigning to break this deadlock. It is extremely unfortunate before the present Coronavirus crisis, house building within the Solent was essentially paused because of this issue.

Robert Jenrick: (02:01:45)
I have been working with the department of the environment and with natural England to bring forward guidelines and to bring the parties together because too many people’s livelihoods depend on this and we need to move this forward. I hope that those guidelines are now available. I will ensure that we continue to work with his local council and others to get the industry moving in the Solent.

Mr. Speaker: (02:02:08)
That’s all for now folks. I will suspend the house for 15 minutes until 1:53 PM.