May 12, 2021
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Announces COVID-19 Public Inquiry Speech Transcript May 12
Boris Johnson announced a public inquiry into how the U.K handled the COVID-19 pandemic during remarks on May 12, 2021. Read the full transcript of his speech briefing with COVID-19 updates here.
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Boris Johnson: (00:00)
… your permission, I will update the highest on our response to COVID. The patience and hard work of the British people have combined with the success of the vaccination program to reduce deaths and hospitalizations to their lowest levels since last July. From Monday, England will ease lockdown restrictions in line with Step Three of our road map.
Boris Johnson: (00:22)
This will amount to the single biggest step of our journey back to normality. But after everything we’ve endured, we must be vigilant because the threat of this virus remains real. New variants pose a potentially lethal danger, including the one first identified in India, which is of increasing concern here in the UK. So caution has to be our watch word.
Boris Johnson: (00:47)
Our country, like every country, has found itself in the teeth of the greatest pandemic for a century, imposing heartbreaking sorrow on families across the world with more than a 127,000 lives lost in the United Kingdom alone. Our grief would have been still greater without the daily heroism of the men and women of our National Health Service, the protection of our vaccines already in the arms of over two-thirds of adults across the UK and the dedication of everyone who has followed the rules and sacrificed so much that we cherish.
Boris Johnson: (01:24)
Amid such tragedy, the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible and to learn every lesson for the future, which is why I’ve always said that when the time is right, there should be a full and independent inquiry.
Boris Johnson: (01:43)
So Mr. Speaker, I can confirm today that the government will establish an independent public inquiry on a statutory basis with full powers under the inquiries act of 2005, including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take all our evidence in public under oath.
Boris Johnson: (02:04)
In establishing the inquiry, we will work closely with the devolved administrations as we have done throughout our pandemic response. My humble friend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has this morning spoken to the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland to begin those conversations.
Boris Johnson: (02:26)
Every part of our United Kingdom has suffered the ravages as part of this virus, and every part of the state has pulled together to do battle against it. If we are to recover as one team UK, as we must, then we should also learn lessons together in the same spirit. So we will consult the devolved administrations before finalizing the scope and detailed arrangements so that this inquiry can consider all key aspects of the UK response. Mr. Speaker, this process will place the state’s actions under the microscope, and we should be mindful of the scale of that undertaking and the resources required to do it properly. The exercise of identifying and disclosing all relevant information, the months of preparation and retrospective analysis, and the time that people will have to spend testifying in public, in some cases for days, will place a significant burden on our NHS, on the whole of government, on our scientific advisors and on many others.
Boris Johnson: (03:36)
We must not inadvertently divert or distract the very people on whom we all depend in the heat of our struggle against this disease. The end of the lockdown is not the end of the pandemic. The Word Heath Organization has said that the pandemic has now reached its global peak and will last throughout this year. Our own scientific advisors judge that, although more positive data is coming in and the outlook is improving, there could still be another resurgence in hospitalizations and deaths.
Boris Johnson: (04:13)
We also face the persistent threat of new variants, and should these prove highly transmissible and it allude the protection of our vaccines, they would have the potential to cause even greater suffering than we endured in January. There is, in any case, a high likelihood of a surge this winter when the weather assists the transmission of all respiratory diseases and when the pressure on our NHS is most acute.
Boris Johnson: (04:46)
So I expect that the right moment for the inquiry to begin is at the end of this period in the spring of next year, spring 2022. Mr. Speaker, I know that there will be some in this chamber and many bereaved families will be anxious for this inquiry to begin sooner. So let me reassure the House that we are fully committed to learning the lessons at every stage of this crisis. We’ve already subjected our response to independent scrutiny, including 17 reports by the Independent National Orders Office and 50 Parliamentary inquiries already. We will continue to do so. We will continue to learn lessons as you have done throughout the pandemic.
Boris Johnson: (05:33)
No public inquiry could take place fast enough to assist in the very difficult judgements, which will remain necessary throughout the rest of the year and the remainder of the pandemic. We must not weigh down the efforts of those engaged in protecting us every day, and thereby risk endangering further lives.
Boris Johnson: (05:57)
Instead, this inquiry must be able to look at the events of the last year in the cold light of day and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future, free to scrutinize every document, to hear from all the key players and analyze and learn from the breadth of our response. That’s the right way, I think, to get the answers that the people of this country deserve and to ensure that our United Kingdom is better prepared for any future pandemic. Mr. Speaker, entirely separately from the inquiry, there is a solemn duty on our whole United Kingdom to come together and cherish the memories of those who’ve been lost. Like many across this chamber, I was deeply moved when I visited the COVID Memorial Wall opposite Parliament. I wholeheartedly support the plan for a memorial in St. Paul’s Cathedral, which will provide a fitting place of reflection in the heart of our capital. I also know that communities across the whole country will want to find ways of commemorating what we have all been through.
Boris Johnson: (07:12)
The government will support their efforts by establishing a UK Commission on COVID Commemoration. This national endeavor above party politics will remember the loved ones we have lost, honor the heroism of those who have saved lives and the courage of frontline workers who have kept our country going, celebrate the genius of those who created the vaccines and commemorate the small acts of kindness and the daily sacrifice of millions who stayed at home, buying time for our scientists to come to our rescue.
Boris Johnson: (07:53)
We will set out the commission membership in terms of reference in due course. In telling the whole story of this era in our history, we will work, again, across our United Kingdom together with the devolved administrations to preserve the spirit, which has sustained us in the greatest crisis since the second World War, resolving to go forwards together, Mr. Speaker, and to build back better. I commend this statement to the House.
Mr. Speaker: (08:23)
I now call the leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer.
Keir Starmer: (08:28)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement? Can I clearly welcome the independent inquiry into the pandemic and the establishing of a UK Commission on COVID Commemoration? Both are necessary. Both will play an important part in learning the lessons and commemorating those we have lost.
Keir Starmer: (08:52)
Mr. Speaker, let me speak first for the families grieving the loss of a loved one. I too attended the COVID Memorial Wall that the Prime Minister spoke of opposite Parliament. It is moving. Every body who’s been there knows it’s moving. Hearts on the wall, thousands of hearts stretching from one bridge to the next and rightly facing this place. I’ve also taken time to meet the grieving and bereaved families on a number of occasions and talk to them and with them about their experience.
Keir Starmer: (09:27)
Mr. Speaker, those meetings have been amongst the most difficult I’ve ever had in my life, and the same goes for the staff that came with me and the other members of my team that were in those meetings. What those families described was not just the loved one they have lost, the dad, the mom, the sister, the brother, and tell me something about the individuals. It was not just the fact that they had passed away. The hardest bit was the details they told me about not being able to say goodbye in the way they wanted, whether that was a hospital or elsewhere, and not being able to have a funeral in the way that they wanted. It was very hard to hear some of those stories. Lots of those families have searing questions about what happened, the decisions, what went wrong, why what happened happened to their families.
Keir Starmer: (10:23)
It is good that the government is consulting the devolved authorities, of course it is. But the government must also consult the families, because this inquiry will only work if it has the support and confidence of the families. I urge the Prime Minister and the government to consult the families at the earliest possible moment. The government should also consult those on the frontline who have done so much, whether they’re in the NHS, social care or other frontlines that we’ve seen. They too deserve answers to the very many questions that they have. They have done so much in this pandemic. Mr. Speaker, the next question is timing. The principle is that the inquiry should be as soon as possible, as soon as possible. Now, I understand a statuary inquiry will take time to set up. Of course it will. But why can it not be later this year? Why can it not start earlier? I want to press the Prime Minister just on one particular point. The Prime Minister says the inquiry will start in spring 2022. Is that, Prime Minister, the opening of the inquiry, of the beginning of taking of evidence, spring 2022, or is that starting work and setting up the inquiry? They’re two very different things. If it’s the latter, the inquiry won’t then be for many months afterwards. So if it is to formally open, start taking evidence in the spring of 2022, I’d be really grateful if the Prime Minister could make that clear.
Keir Starmer: (11:53)
Then there’s the question of the terms of reference. Obviously that will take time. There will have to be consultation with the devolved administrations, again, with the families and those on the frontline, but crucially with this Parliament. This House needs to be involved in the question of what the terms of reference should be. There will be different views across the House, and they need to be heard because this has to have the confidence of all in this chamber. All relevant questions must be asked and answered. That must, of course, include the decisions made in the last 14 or 15 months, all of the decisions made.
Keir Starmer: (12:29)
There are wider questions of preparedness and resilience, particularly about topics that need to be asked. Mr. Speaker, there are reasons why the pandemic hit those in overcrowded houses and insecure work hardest. They need to be addressed as well. No inquiry that doesn’t address those questions will get the answers that many deserve. Finally, Mr. Speaker, there’s the question of who chairs the inquiry. Again, this is too early, but I would say this, that the wider the engagement on that question, the wider the likely support for the inquiry. What we need is an independent inquiry, which has the full support of everybody so those conclusions bear real authority. That will be achieved with the widest embracing at the terms of reference and the chair of the inquiry.
Keir Starmer: (13:29)
Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, I do welcome this inquiry. We will play whatever part we can to make sure that this works well and gets the answers to the questions. Again, we do support the Commemoration Commission and will work on a cross-party basis to ensure that that is fully the sort of commemoration that the families and others who’ve lost through this pandemic feel is appropriate. That should, of course, be on a cross-party basis. It is above politics, and rightly so. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Boris Johnson: (14:06)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the right honorable gentleman for his support for both the measures announced today for the Commemoration Commission and also for the inquiry. He asked some entirely justifiable questions about engagement with the bereaved, with those who’ve been on the frontline, about the areas in which the inquiry will want to be focusing all the background to the growth of the pandemic. I have no doubt that when I do set up the inquiry, we’ll certainly be looking at all of those and we’ll be making sure to have the widest possible consultation and engagement.
Boris Johnson: (14:46)
I just think the House should understand that I feel personally very, very strongly that this country has been through a trauma like no other. It is absolutely vital for the sake of the bereaved, for the sake of the whole country that we should understand exactly what happened. We should learn lessons. Obviously we’ve been learning lessons throughout, but we need to have a very clear understanding of what took place over the last 40 months. I think we owe it to the country to have as much transparency as we possibly can.
Boris Johnson: (15:20)
I think we owe it to the country to produce answers within a reasonable timescale, Mr. Speaker. I’m sure that the House will want to see that as well. Clearly, that will be a matter for the chair of the inquiry and the terms of reference when they are set up. It is my strong, strong view that the country wants to see a proper full, and above all, an independent inquiry into the pandemic of the last year.
Boris Johnson: (15:52)
I must repeat my points to him, that I do think that the timing that we set out is the right timing. I think that it would be wrong to devote, deconsecrate huge amounts of official time, of public health workers’ time to an inquiry when they may very well be still in the middle of the pandemic. Clearly just to clarify the point the right honorable gentleman raises, the steps taken to set out the terms of reference, to establish the chair of the inquiry, all that will happen before the spring of next year. So we’ll be getting it on the way. We’ll be taking some key decisions. I think that the House will agree that it would not be right to devote the time and people who are looking after us, who are saving lives to an inquiry before we can be much more certain than we are now that the pandemic is behind us. I hope that carries the approval of the House.
Mr. Speaker: (16:52)
Let’s go to Caroline Nodes. Caroline.
Caroline Nodes: (16:56)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Primary care networks have done an incredible job rolling out the vaccine, but GPs and practice nurses need to return to their surgeries and their patients. As my right honorable friend has said, we have to anticipate a difficult autumn and winter. What reassurance can he give that there will be capacity in the system for second jabs, potentially to boost the jabs in the autumn, and the annual rollout of the flu jab?
Boris Johnson: (17:24)
My honorable friend raises a very important point, particularly about the flu jab, because as she will know, there wasn’t much of a flu pandemic over the last winter period. We’re worried about people’s levels of resistance to flu, but we have the capacity and we will also have the capacity for the booster jabs as well.
Mr. Speaker: (17:45)
Now we’ll go to [inaudible 00:17:46].
Speaker 1: (17:48)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me begin my thanking the Prime Minister for advanced copy of his statement. I was interested to hear the Prime Minister committing to an inquiry. He will be aware the first minister already committed to this. Of course, the devolved administrations have tailored their decisions to their needs.
Speaker 1: (18:04)
I do think all of us can feel a sense of optimism, a feeling that after such a difficult year, things are edging towards some normality. The simplest things, hugging a loved one, have never felt so important after a year of restrictions and have never, as you said, am seeing people suffer so much. The vaccines have generated hope people are feeling now, and that hope is within touching distance.
Speaker 1: (18:28)
Mr. Speaker, just as the hope is fragile, so is the economic recovery. The Prime Minister has just spoken of lessons and answers and timing. This morning’s NOS figures demonstrate the depth of the plummet that’s been experienced by the economy, and equal issue, the scale of the recovery needed. That’s why the glaring omission of an employment bill from yesterday’s Queen’s speech was so shocking, a clear signal of a UK Government with no recovery plan.
Speaker 1: (18:53)
So today, let me ask the Prime Minister three specific questions on concrete measures that would help kickstart the economy and help those still in need. Firstly, will his government reverse its rigid plan to suddenly end the Furlough scheme in September, which will result in a damaging cliff edge for billions of workers. Secondly, there’s another damaging due in September with the plans totally cut to the lifeline of 20 pounds universal COVID uplift. Is he really still planning to rip that lifeline away from the most vulnerable when they most need it?
Speaker 1: (19:23)
Finally, as people reenter the workplace, will the Prime Minister commit to supporting legislation laid by my colleague, [inaudible 00:19:29], that would finally ban the disgraceful practice of fire and rehire of workers?
Mr. Speaker: (19:36)
Boris Johnson: (19:38)
Mr. Speaker, the entire program of this government is dedicated to ensuring that we go from jabs, jabs, jabs to jobs, jobs, jobs, as I said yesterday in the chamber. She talked about kick starting an employment recovery. Actually, we have, as she knows, for young people, the two billion plan kickstart program to get 18 to 24-year olds into work. The restart program for those who …
Boris Johnson: (20:03)
…these 24 year-olds into work, the Restart Program for those who are long-term unemployed. Our campaign, our mission, Mr. Speaker, is to use the resources of the state, as we have done throughout the pandemic to get people into work. We had to, because of the amazing, the unusual circumstances, the extraordinary circumstances that we faced, Mr. Speaker, we had to use the resources of the state to keep people out of work. We’re now going through a massive program of investment in infrastructure across the whole of the United Kingdom to get people into work, and I hope that you will support that.
Mr. Speaker: (20:37)
[Duncan Mitchell 00:20:37].
Duncan Mitchell: (20:37)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The whole house will welcome the tone and the content of what the Prime Minister has said today, and in particular, his proper commitment to the transparency of the inquiry, learning everything we can from the past. If I may just make this point to him, there are 3,500 people across my constituency who are involved in the hospitality sector, and many businesses have invested their own money in making COVID adaptations to ensure the safety of their customers when they return. Given the very sensible roadmap that he has outlined, would he emphasize the increasing role of personal judgment and common sense, rather than government fear, as greater normality returns and with it of course, are hugely valued and much cherish civil liberties.
Boris Johnson: (21:31)
I thank him very much. And as he knows, the hospitality sector in [inaudible 00:21:36] which I know for my own, I hope to be wonderful, will like the rest of the whole [inaudible 00:21:42] across the country, be able to open up in full on Monday, including indoors. And as we go forward, we hope, and I can’t see any evidence, Mr. Speaker, to contradict this, we hope that we’ll be able to open up from June the 21st. Though people will still clearly need to exercise caution and common sense in the way they go about their lives, because the virus I’m afraid is still going to be present in our lives for a long time to come.
Mr. Speaker: (22:15)
Speaker 2: (22:15)
Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, the public inquiry is very welcome and desperately needed so that the public can understand why the UK has suffered one of the highest death tolls in the world. So it is critically important that this inquiry is properly independent and has the confidence of the public, including the bereaved families of the over 127,000 people who so tragically lost their lives. Consulting with those families once the inquiry is started is too late. So will the Prime Minister today commit to urgently meeting with a COVID-19 bereaved families for justice to consult with them based on the chair and the terms of reference for the inquiry.
Boris Johnson: (22:57)
Mr. Speaker, I can certainly reassure the honorable lady that the inquiry will be fully independent and the bereaved and the other groups will be consulted on the way it’s set up and I meet representatives of the bereaved and indeed, bereaved families regularly and will continue to do so.
Mr. Speaker: (23:20)
Speaker 3: (23:20)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I welcome the announcement on the public inquiry and the timings, the Prime Minister will know that the science and technology and health and social care select committees are doing their own inquiry, which is hoping to report in July. So the government will have an early chance to learn immediate lessons, but it will be crazy to ask ministers and officials to spend time with lawyers and going through emails and texts and WhatsApp’s, when we want their entire focus to be on the pandemic. As we seek to support the NHS going forward, the additional 50,000 nurses pledges are very welcome, but does the Prime Minister know, we also have shortages in nearly every single specialty for doctors, and is this not now the moment overhaul our long-term workforce planning for the NHS so that we can give the public confidence that we really are training enough doctors for the future?
Boris Johnson: (24:13)
Yes, absolutely, Mr. Speaker, and the distinguished former health secretary will I’m sure know that there are not 50,000 more people working in the NHS this year than there were at the same time last year, including I think about 11,000 more nurses already and 6, 700 more doctors, but we’re going to get even more, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: (24:35)
Speaker 3: (24:35)
Mr. Speaker, can I think the Prime Minister for his statement and particularly for those who have lost family members. I’m very conscious of my wife losing her mom and we all grieve for her, especially. So the involvement of the Northern Ireland assembly in this to have the inquiry and look back on it very, very important and I welcomed that Prime Minister. Could the Prime Minister outline what discussion has taken place between the devolved regions to ensure a party of travel restrictions, but then ensure that every area of the UK can safely be accessed and would the Prime Minister confirm that help will be made available to make travel affordable and encourage people to go to Northern Ireland over the summer to make the most of the Great British summers vacation through every area of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mr. Speaker: (25:23)
Boris Johnson: (25:24)
I thank him for his excellent question and we of course consult regularly with all the DAs about making sure that travel can continue to flow freely through our United Kingdom. And he makes a superb point about the attractions of Northern Ireland as a holiday destination. I hope people take him up on his point.
Mr. Speaker: (25:42)
Let’s go to [Susan Webb 00:25:43]. Susan.
Susan Webb: (25:46)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Prime Minister, may I start with thanking you for coming to visit the good residents of Starbridge last week. Cars stopped, horns were honked and people came out in the droves to say thank you for success of the vaccine rollout. Last week, voters made it clear right here in Starbridge that they want the focus to be on their priorities, not political games. Demonstrated by the fact that I now have conservative councilors and traditional labor bastions of Quarry Bank, Lyth and Cradley, more voters coming out then ever before to say this. Does the Prime Minister share my hope that the members opposite will now act constructively with this government so it can deliver on their priorities as we build back better.
Mr. Speaker: (26:26)
Boris Johnson: (26:30)
I am very grateful to [inaudible 00:26:32] and I much enjoyed my trip to Starbridge and she’s entirely right in what she says, and to get back to the point I was making on a rule, a lady from the Scottish National Party. I think that the agenda that we have is right for the country. This is the right time to build back better with the colossal program that we have, the investments that we’re making, but we’ve also got to learn the lessons from the pandemic, Mr. Speaker. That’s why we’re setting up the inquiry in the way that we are.
Mr. Speaker: (27:08)
Let’s go to Andrew Glenn, Andrew.
Andrew Glenn: (27:11)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I welcome the Prime Minister’s statements and particularly his commitment to an inquiry at the appropriate time. On that, terminology really does count, so can the Prime Minister confirm that it’s not just going to be independent and judge led, but it will be a statutory public inquiry under the public inquiries act with the powers to compel witnesses under oath. And most importantly of all, will bereaved families have a role in setting the terms of the inquiry and be given the full opportunity to give evidence at the inquiry?
Mr. Speaker: (27:48)
Boris Johnson: (27:53)
I wouldn’t like to accuse the honorable [inaudible 00:27:53] for missing my opening statement, but of course it will be a full public independent inquiry, under the terms of the 2005 Act. And of course, it’s right, that the bereaved along with many other groups should be consulted about the terms of reference.
Mr. Speaker: (28:12)
Speaker 4: (28:12)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I welcome the Prime Minister statement, especially that the inquiry will be independent. In fare of already judging the inquiry, I am anxious about institutions such as Public Health England, and how they responded early on to key workers. And I hope the inquiry will also congratulate the fantastic doctors, nurses, and volunteers, who helped rollout over one and a half million vaccines in Sussex. And I’m incredibly grateful for all the staff in Upfield, Crowborough and Hailsham, but the Prime Minister can do two things immediately for my care homes and my constituency. One is at the moment, if you want to reside in a care home, you have to spend 14 days isolated in your room. Can the Prime Minister look again at that isolation period, because it is so impactful on the physical and mental health of residents. And the second is this, the care homes have taken such a big hit, can we consider a short financial package to support them, so they can support our loved ones throughout this period? Thank you.
Mr. Speaker: (29:07)
Boris Johnson: (29:10)
My old friend is totally right to raise the work of care homes. We’ve put repeated investments into it and I think another billion pounds went into supporting care homes throughout the pandemic, but she’s also right to raise the very painful questions of visiting and the ability of care home residents to leave their care home safely. And, Mr. Speaker, there we have to balance the risks to them as well. We tried to, as you know, to increase the number of visitors they can have, and we hope very soon that greater freedoms will be possible.
Mr. Speaker: (29:51)
[Cat Smith 00:29:51].
Cat Smith: (29:52)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can the Prime Minister reassure the house that the terms and reference of this inquiry would include those suffering from long COVID, including diagnosis and treatment and support for those that will be no doubt suffering for a foreseeable future.
Boris Johnson: (30:11)
She makes an excellent point and I’m sure the chairman of the inquiry will want to consider that as we set up the inquiry in due course. But I certainly don’t exclude that long COVID could be something that the inquiry would look at.
Mr. Speaker: (30:27)
[Dr. Kira Millen 00:30:27].
Kira Millen: (30:28)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister has talked half about the importance of economic recovery now. For those of us that supported the lockdown, I think it’s incumbent on us to get behind that however we can, if we get it wrong, we’ll pay the cost of the pandemic twice over. But tomorrow, a report will be released describing the opportunities of geothermal investment for our economy, potentially creating over 1,000 new jobs and 100 million pounds of investment by 2025. New jobs, new technologies, that’s the key to getting our economic recovery on track. Will the Prime Minister give the report his personal attention and agree to meet with me and other MPs that are getting behind this important new industry.
Boris Johnson: (31:02)
Mr. Speaker, I’m very excited, interested by his geothermal plans and they sound good to me. And we are certainly investing in that kind of technology. 22 billion into just pure R and D. We’re putting in record sums for this country, and I’m sure that geothermal could be part of the mix of our green industrial revolution, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: (31:25)
Alan Bluff: (31:27)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Does the Prime Minister agree that the inquiry is going to have to look at the [inaudible 00:31:32] decision-making course which failed to control boarders, delayed the lockdown without talking about herd immunity, look at appointment of course for Dido Harding, to head up the [inaudible 00:31:41] and also look at the billions of pounds worth of PPE [inaudible 00:31:47] awarded the [inaudible 00:31:48] chums, and friends, and while it can fund [inaudible 00:31:51] we’ll have the powers to call all electronic communications between government ministers and the [inaudible 00:31:58] that got contracts.
Boris Johnson: (32:01)
Speaker, without in any way accepting the premises of his questions, I can certainly confirm that it will be a full public inquiry under the 2005 act with full powers to compel evidence.
Mr. Speaker: (32:14)
[Jonathan Goals 00:32:14]
Jonathan Goals: (32:15)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I congratulate the Prime Minister on his statement and the announcements that might want to [inaudible 00:32:21] announce the steps. Three of our roadmap to recovery will go ahead and schedule on the 17th of May. Like many across Stoke-on-Trent North, in case we ever talk, I enjoyed a pint from the Mill Race in Milton and another at the Bulls Head in Burslam as pubs were able to open outdoors under step two of our roadmap. However, not every publican has been able to open their doors yet and both they and the excellent local brewers, such as Titanic Brewery in Burslam, have faced a very hard time throughout this pandemic. So will my right onboard friend create a new draft beer duty rate to provide targeted support for breweries and pups throughout the UK, which is only possible since leaving the European Union, recognizing the importance pups play in our local communities.
Boris Johnson: (32:59)
I thank him for pointing out another of the advantages of leaving the European Union, although we’ve consulted publicans and brewers on the potential for a differential GT rate on draft, we’re awaiting the responses from the treasury and the treasury will reply in due course.
Speaker 5: (33:21)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. An 11 year old girl called Mary caught COVID in December 2020. Her family used to describe her as bouncing off the walls and full of energy. She loved sports and was excited about starting secondary school in September. Now she is fatigued, lethargic, she walks with a stick and she can only attend school part-time. The doctors are baffled because she had no underlying health conditions, and she seems unable to recover. Please can the Prime Minister help me find the family the expert advice and support that Mary needs and provide urgent resources for children suffering with lung COVID in [Holinese 00:33:59] Riding.
Boris Johnson: (34:01)
I thank her for raising the case of Mary. I’m very sorry to hear about her suffering. If she would be kind enough to write to me about her, I will see what I can do to make sure that we get the right answers from government and see what we can do to get her the medical help she needs.
Mr. Speaker: (34:22)
Let’s go to [Elliot Pillbern 00:34:23]. Elliot.
Elliot Pillbern: (34:25)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement today. I know from speaking to Carshell and the Wallington residents that they are particularly concerned as we emerge from the pandemic about backlogs in elective surgery, council treatments, and looking after the mental health of those who have struggled in lockdown. So can my [inaudible 00:34:41] friend assure me that these will be front and center of our plans for the NHS as we emerge from the pandemic.
Mr. Speaker: (34:46)
Boris Johnson: (34:50)
He’s quite right to raise that issue and I can tell him that we’ve already invested considerably in mental health, in mental health support, mental health youth ambassador, but we will continue to do more. And I think I said in the press conference on Monday, this is mental health awareness week, and people who have been struggling during the pandemic really should not hesitate to seek help.
Mr. Speaker: (35:18)
Let’s go to Steve McKay. Steve.
Steve McKay: (35:21)
Thank you. When does the Prime Minister expect pregnant women and others advised to seek an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab, to be able to book one without being passed from pillar to post?
Mr. Speaker: (35:40)
Boris Johnson: (35:41)
Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, everybody is getting the jabs when they’re asked to come forward. If he has a particular cases where people are worried about the time when they’re going to get a jab, whether it’s AstraZeneca or Pfizer or Moderna, or another one, I’d be very grateful if he would send me the details and we’ll see what we can do to sort it out.
Mr. Speaker: (36:06)
Let’s wonder up to [Mark Logan 00:36:07]. Mark.
Mark Logan: (36:07)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and a high prevalence of the Indian variants. Amongst the highest infection rates in the UK at 150 plus per 100,000. Can the Prime Minister join me in pushing for most of Bolton to be vaccinated ASAP?
Boris Johnson: (36:27)
He’s making a very good point about the rates of infection amongst the B-161-7.2 variant, as I think we should probably call it. At the moment, the cases are looking as though they’re about 860 or so, but there may be more, it may be more transmissible, Mr. Speaker, may be considerably more transmissible. We’re looking at all the potential solutions for the surgeries we’re seeing in Bolton and elsewhere, including the one he describes there. That’s not top of the list at the moment.
Mr. Speaker: (37:11)
Speaker 6: (37:11)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Ministers statement that the public inquiry, which I certainly welcome, hoping to put the state’s actions under the microscope now. The Prime Minister was of course, the lot of the treasury, and he has said many things before that this government has put its arms on people financially, can you tell us why you therefore, people in legacy benefits did not get the extension of the [inaudible 00:37:33].
Mr. Speaker: (37:33)
Boris Johnson: (37:38)
Mr. Speaker, this country has done everything it can to support people throughout the pandemic and with increasing universal credit with a fellow scheme, with loans and credits and grants. And I think most people around the world would consider amongst the most, if not the single most generous regime that any country put in place, and I think it was the right thing to do, and we will continue to support people for as long as the pandemic endures.
Mr. Speaker: (38:10)
Let’s go to Sir Robert Neil. Sir Robert.
Sir Robert Neil: (38:14)
Thank you. Mr. Speaker. A reference has already been made of the unfortunate impact that the lockdown had upon treatment for other medical conditions. As the Prime Minister has seen, the Stroke Association reports stroke recoveries at risk, that demonstrates starkly how unhappily every aspect of stroke after care and rehabilitation has been impacted by the lockdown. As we emerge and build back, will he undertake that not only will we make it a priority to ensure that stroke and related therapies are restored to pre-pandemic levels as a matter of urgency but also that we invest to make sure that we are able to consistently meet the clinical guidelines for the amounts of therapy given, which we have been struggling to do so up until now in any event.
Boris Johnson: (39:08)
My [inaudible 00:39:09] is absolutely right to stress the backlog that we now face in the NHS, the stroke care [inaudible 00:39:21] that need to be addressed. The weight of work is enormous, but we will make sure that we fund it and we get it done. And it’s actually vital for the people who do have conditions, we do need treatment, stroke patients and others, do come forward now to get the treatment they need.
Mr. Speaker: (39:42)
Let’s go to [Clive Effort 00:39:45]. Clive.
Clive Effort: (39:45)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The government’s own figures suggest that since March we have built up a stockpile of about 12 million vaccines. During this period of time, we in London were told that the supplies were down and that the vaccine rate would not be as…
Speaker 7: (40:03)
… supplies were down, and that the vaccine rate would not be as fast as it had been. So can the Prime Minister explain this and say what he can do to ensure that we get these vaccines into people’s arms, and that this stockpile doesn’t continue to grow?
Boris Johnson: (40:16)
Now, Mr. Speaker, that’s a misunderstanding, I believe. And we’ve been vaccinating, continue to vaccinate at a steady rate and as fast as we possibly can. And we’re secure in our supply, but obviously we don’t want to get to the state, Mr. Speaker, where we run out. And we’re confident that we’ll be able to offer everybody in this country a vaccination before the end of July. Every adult in this country.
Mr. Speaker: (40:48)
To Ben [inaudible 00:40:49].
Speaker 8: (40:49)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I congratulate and thank my right honorable friend for the success of the vaccination program and the roadmap, which has provided certainty and stability, especially to those planning for the easing of restrictions. My constituents often ask me, “What will the new normal be like beyond the 21st of June?” And of course, much depends on the outcome of the reviews, those into social distancing and others, which will have far ranging impacts on what our society would be like for months to come. While we eagerly await to hear their conclusions, can my right honorable friend assure me that we’ll have chance to debate the recommendations before they’re implemented?
Boris Johnson: (41:30)
Yes indeed I can, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: (41:33)
Speaker 9: (41:34)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If this inquiry is to achieve everything that we would want of it, then it must be the preeminent vehicle by which the voice of those who have lost loved ones in this pandemic will be heard. I’m pretty certain that ministers, officials, health professionals, business interests, and others will all have good quality legal representation, and that many of them payed out of the public purse. Can the Prime Minister give me some commitment today that bereaved families will also get the necessary support to ensure that they have the same level of quality of representation so that their voices will be properly heard?
Boris Johnson: (42:20)
Yes. And I believe that is not only vital for the inquiry, because I think that the inquiry must learn from the direct experiences of the bereaved who have suffered so much. And I think that they will provide invaluable evidence for the inquiry. But it’s also plainly a matter of justice and fairness, and I fully accept the point he makes.
Mr. Speaker: (42:49)
Speaker 10: (42:49)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to start by thanking everyone across Ratcliffe, Prestwich, and Whitefield for the work they’ve been doing in regards to the vaccine rollout, it is allowing us to go through the roadmap and reopen the economy. For those who are still asking a few questions, and I think in regards in particular to those going through marriage, obviously this should be the best day of their lives. However, they’re still worried about what the actual guidance will be saying from when they can get married from next week. So will my right honorable friend commit to publishing that so we know what social guidance will look like moving forward so they can fully enjoy that best day of our lives?
Boris Johnson: (43:28)
Right. Yes. I mean, so from Monday it’s the rule of 30, 30 applies to marriages. And we will set out all the details about the marriage world post June the 21st, as I said, before the end of this month.
Mr. Speaker: (43:45)
Let’s go to Dan Jarvis. Dan.
Clive Effort: (43:51)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m sure the Prime Minister will want to warmly welcome the newly elected Metro mayors, Nick Johnson, Dan Norris, and of course Tracy [Breeman 00:44:02]. As the Prime Minister well knows, serving as a mayor is an immense privilege. But as COVID has proved, it is not without its frustrations. So, can I urge the Prime Minister to use this moment to reset the relationship with the English mayors and work more collaboratively and closely with us as we emerge from the pandemic?
Mr. Speaker: (44:29)
Boris Johnson: (44:30)
Yes, I certainly can, Mr. Speaker. Though my observation, and I believe that the mayors and the metropolitan… The mayoral authorities should also have their say, Mr. Speaker. In my experience there are two types of mayor. I think the mayoral project is a great one, but it tends to produce mayors who champion their area, who get on and take responsibility for their area, or people who whinge and blame central government for things. I much prefer type A to type B, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: (45:02)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Whilst across the country people have retreated to the safety of their own homes, our retail workers have had to roll up their sleeves and get on with it, ensuring we had what we needed and that our shopping spaces were safe. Unfortunately, in fact, disgustingly and shockingly, the number of assaults on our retail workers is through the roof. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking our retail workers for their exceptional service to our communities, and ensure that we’re doing everything we can to protect them and tackle those that would do them harm? [crosstalk 00:45:34].
Boris Johnson: (45:36)
I totally share my honorable friend’s discuss at attacks on retail workers, anybody doing their job. And it is very, very important that we work with the retail sector to drive down this type of crime, we show zero tolerance for it. And also, of course, when in the case of serious violence and assault, that we have appropriate penalties, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: (46:05)
Speaker 11: (46:06)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my father-in-law died at the beginning of the pandemic, our children not able to go to their grandfather’s funeral. Our grief remains more, so let me welcome the commitment to those families and memorial. But can I promise his attention to the scope of inquiry? Because we do know, don’t we, that the fracturing of social care, running the NHS at 90% capacity, the lessons warned in the flu pandemic strategy in 2014, and the lessons from operation sickness all forewarned much of what has happened. And for those of us who have worked in emergency planning, we were shocked at the initial responses. So can the Prime Minister assure us that the scope of the inquiry will go beyond the 14 months I think he has alluded to in one of his previous statements?
Boris Johnson: (46:53)
I’m so sorry to hear about her own loss, Mr. Speaker. And I want to assure her that, of course, I can’t imagine there’d be any chair of inquiry or any terms of reference that we could devise that wouldn’t include looking back at the state of preparedness before COVID actually struck this country.
Speaker 12: (47:15)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Cleethorpes, like other resorts who’s heavily reliant on the coach industry to bring tourists into the resort. And though the support for the industry has been very welcome, there have been one or two anomalies. And some coach operators in my constituency and elsewhere have been designated as tourism operators rather than coach operators, which meant they didn’t qualify for some of the financial support. Could my right honorable friend look again at this and perhaps arrange for a meeting with me and representatives from my industry and constituency to meet with the transport secretary so that we can see whether any additional help is available?
Boris Johnson: (47:57)
As ever, my honorable friend makes what sounds like an excellent point about coach operators and tourist operators, I’ll make sure he sees a relevant transport minister as soon as possible.
Speaker 13: (48:09)
Nurseries are a vital part of community infrastructure, helping our youngest get a better chance at a good start to life, and making it easier for parents to go to work. Given that over 300 shut their doors for good in February and March, will the Prime Minister publish a COVID recovery plan for nurseries and early years providers to help them get them back on their feet?
Boris Johnson: (48:34)
Mr. Speaker, we’ll be publishing a very comprehensive plan for educational recovery very shortly.
Mr. Speaker: (48:42)
Stephen Metcalfe: (48:43)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And can I welcome today’s announcements of both an inquiry and the memorial, but can I also welcome the extraordinary progress that has been made that has allowed us to further lift restrictions? However, there are still many individuals, charities, organizations, and businesses that are still not confident to commit to further public events. Will my right honorable friend therefore consider a COVID indemnity scheme that will cover the costs of any last minute cancellations that may occur due to ongoing restrictions, to allow the planning of events to continue to avoid a second year of cancellations?
Mr. Speaker: (49:19)
Boris Johnson: (49:20)
I thank my honorable friend for raising this now, I understand exactly why he says it. I think the best thing I can tell him is that we want to proceed with the caution and the certainty that we have done so far. And I believe that all the evidence I’ve seen at the moment suggests that we will be able to continue our reopenings, and that the businesses that have done so much to get ready should be able to plan on that basis.
Mr. Speaker: (49:47)
Speaker 14: (49:48)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can I welcome much of the Prime Minister’s statement? While I concur with my right honorable friend the leader of the opposition, that the sooner we can get the terms of reference and invite evidence from those who are able to give it, the better. Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that the end of the lockdown is not the end of the pandemic. And he’s absolutely right, there are some sectors of the economy which will suffer from a longer time lag , travel and tourism, aviation, and therefore aerospace manufacturing. Can I urge the government to give support in the longer term to these sectors because they will be affected long after the rest of us are trying to get back to normal?
Boris Johnson: (50:23)
He’s making an important point, but my strong view is that the best thing possible for all those sectors, including aviation, is to try to, cautiously, to make sure that we get through the roadmap and allow their businesses to grow again. And that is, I think, the single best solution, the best long-term, the best medium-term solution.
Mr. Speaker: (50:47)
Speaker 15: (50:49)
Mr. Speaker, thank you. And I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and this inquiry. As our fantastic vaccination program continues to be rolled out, and as our vaccination continues to be effective against all mutant strains, of other countries catch up, will the Prime Minister look at widening the green list of countries that travel is permitted to? Will he also ensure that the airports have the resources from border control and digitization to deal with more passengers? And can he also warmly encourage President Biden, when he sees him next month in Cornwall, that other Americans would like to come over to this great country, and indeed we’d like to go over to theirs?
Mr. Speaker: (51:26)
[inaudible 00:51:26] Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (51:26)
Yeah, well, he’s making very good point about the United States of America, and we’re on that issue with our American friends. But I think people have to recognize, Mr. Speaker, that we still are at risk of importing new variants into this country. We’ve seen the arrival of B1.617.2, Mr. Speaker. And we must be cautious. And I can tell him that on that basis the green list, and there’s already some countries on the green list as he knows, very attractive looking destinations as far as I can see. But that list is going to be subject to review every three weeks.
Speaker 16: (52:06)
They’re doing it. Many thanks, Mr. Speaker. Last summer COVID was almost fully suppressed in Scotland, and on current trends it looks like we’re heading in that direction cautiously again. However, as international travel reopens, I know that many in my constituency are very concerned about new strains entering the country. So while our first minister has welcomed the UK government’s very cautious approach to travel, she won’t sign up to any plans that make Scotland’s progress arrest. Will the Prime Minister confront today what happens in the event that devolved nations strategic ambitions that are at odds with the UK governments, have us compromised in that scenario reach that isn’t simply England’s way or the highway?
Boris Johnson: (52:46)
Actually, I think the, if I may say, I think that the levels of cooperation, in spite of the differences which are sometimes accentuated or emphasized for whatever reason, has been amazing. And if you look at what’s happening in Scotland today, it’s very close to what’s happening in the rest of the UK. That’s the level of cooperation that we’re showing together.
Mr. Speaker: (53:11)
Sir [inaudible 00:53:12].
Speaker 17: (53:11)
Right at the end of his statement, the Prime Minister echoed the words of his predecessor, Sir Winston Churchill in saying, let us go forwards together. Of course, 80 years ago precisely, on the 12th of May, 1941, his predecessor was standing right there in this devastated chamber and committed ourselves to freedoms in the future. But in that spirit, may I ask a practical question about the future? Just as we had compulsory ID cards in the war, and they worked so successfully, would the Prime Minister acknowledge that if we were to have them now the whole test and trace system would have worked superbly. They could be made to work in future. For instance, on your smartphone it’d be clear that you’d been vaccinated or whether you’d been in touch with infections. All this is very interesting for the future. Now, my right honorable friend can’t give a definitive answer now, but would he at least have an open mind about how we can deal with these pandemics in the future?
Mr. Speaker: (54:09)
[inaudible 00:54:09] Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (54:10)
Well, I’m a longstanding admirer of the libertarian school of thought that I’ve generally associated with my right honorable friend. But he’s making an interesting point about data, Mr. Speaker, and the importance of being able to access data fast and to help people. I think perhaps the idea of ID cards is a slightly different one, if I may respectfully suggest to him. And I think that we’re still some way off that solution.
Mr. Speaker: (54:46)
Let’s head to Tim Farrow. Tim.
Time Farrow: (54:50)
Thank you. Mr. Speaker. As has been acknowledged already, it is mental health awareness week. And it’s right that we note the huge impact of the COVID pandemic on the mental health, especially of our young people and on their education. Will the Prime Minister then reconsider whether imposing a summer of cramming is really the wisest thing to force on students and teachers? And would he instead look at our outdoor education centers, many of which are based in Cumbria of course, and who have been hit worse than pretty much any other part of the entire economy? And would he therefore agree to not just save outdoor education centers, but to deploy outdoor education by commissioning professionals from that sector to run an ambitious program in schools and in outdoor settings to re-engage young people with a love of learning and to help to tackle the mental health crisis?
Boris Johnson: (55:43)
Mr. Speaker, I don’t think a summer of cramming is exactly how I would describe the program for educational recovery that we have. It’s very generous. It’s more basis intended to help students, pupils, kids across the whole spectrum of abilities, and to help them to make up the detriment to their learning. But can I say how warmly I welcome Cumbria’s outdoor education approach, the Alfresco Learning that he supports. It sounds magnificent to me, Mr. Speaker. And I think it should be replicated across the entire country, and I look forward to hearing more about it.
Mr. Speaker: (56:19)
Speaker 18: (56:20)
[inaudible 00:56:20], Mr. Speaker. I can just say to the Prime Minister that other venues are available, and the Forest of Dean would be fantastically keen to join in offering itself outdoor education for children across the United Kingdom. I welcome what the Prime Minister said about being able to say more at the end of this month about relaxing all restrictions by the 21st of June. And he’ll know I’ll welcome that. But can I just take into what he said in his statement about the winter? It’s inevitable, I think, that we’ll see an increase in COVID as with other respiratory viruses, and there will be some increase in hospitalizations and deaths. Although, because of our incredible vaccination rollouts and the effectiveness of our vaccines, that will be at a much lower level than one that will not overwhelm the national health service. So can he confirm that work is underway in government to make sure that even with that small increase, because of the successful vaccinations, that we’ll learn to live with the consequences of COVID as we do with flu, and we won’t need to shut down the country again in the winter?
Mr. Speaker: (57:24)
Boris Johnson: (57:27)
Mr. Speaker, there is plainly a difference, as my right honorable friend understands very well, between a disease such as flu, which sadly causes every year a number of hospitalizations and death, perhaps in the thousands. And a disease which has the potential to replicate, to spread exponentially, and to overwhelm the NHS. And what we need to be absolutely certain of, Mr. Speaker, is that we’re right in thinking that we’ve broken the connection between COVID transmission and hospitalization, or serious illness and death. And that’s still the question that we really need to establish in the weeks and months. I’m optimistic about it, Mr. Speaker, but that is the, I think, the key issue. And I just want to make one point I should have said earlier to my old friend behind me about weddings. Mr. Speaker, it’s very important that, for the purposes of the bands, we will be making an announcement within 28 days, as it were, of June the 21st. If you follow me, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: (58:30)
Let’s go to [inaudible 00:58:31]. [inaudible 00:58:31].
Speaker 19: (58:33)
Mr. Speaker, the Israeli government made the decision not to vaccinate more than 4.5 Palestinian citizens in Gaza and the West Bank, leaving this responsibility to the occupied territories and the resource healthcare system. Only several thousand Palestinians have been vaccinated in contrast to the 4.2 million Israelis. In light of the shocking and appalling scenes in Jerusalem, where Israeli forces attacked worshipers, the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the healthcare units, will the Prime Minister outline what steps the government is taking to provide assistance to the Palestinians in this difficult time? And will he condemn the actions of the Israeli forces and accept that the only way forward is a two-state solution to ensure peace, health equality, and protection of human rights?
Mr. Speaker: (59:31)
It is a statement that the Prime Minister made, but I’m sure he would like to answer the question.
Boris Johnson: (59:35)
Yes, Mr. Speaker. Well, he makes a fair point about the situation in Israel. And I must say that I’m deeply concerned by what we’re seeing, and everybody is deeply concerned in this house by the scenes that we’re seeing. I think we all want to see urgent deescalation by both sides. And let me tell him that-
Boris Johnson: (01:00:03)
… by both sides. And let me tell him that the position of this government is firmly behind his in that we continue to believe that a two state solution is the best way forward.
Mr. Speaker: (01:00:13)
Simon Fell: (01:00:14)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I welcome the prime minister’s announcements about a public inquiry. Mr. Speaker, when COVID first rolled into Barrow and Furness, we had a disproportionate impact from it due to a toxic mix of underlying health conditions. With that in mind, could the prime minister confirm that the inquiry will take a look at not just the actions the government did or didn’t take, but also what we need to do to make sure we can build back healthier after this pandemic?
Boris Johnson: (01:00:43)
Actually, I think he makes an extremely good point, [inaudible 01:00:46] it’s a very important point. And I hope that this is what they call a big teachable moment for the entire country about our obesity, about our fitness levels, about disparities across public provision, not just between affluent areas, but within regions of the country that leveling up, needs to take place, Mr. Speaker. That’s why that is the ambition of this government.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:01:13)
Sammy Wilson: (01:01:14)
Thank you, speaker. Can I welcome the prime minister’s announcement of inquiry as well? It is important because of the number of people who had died, but also because of the millions of people who will live with the consequences of the policies adopted by ministers on the advice of their chief medical officers, many people who have lost their lives because hospitals and surgeries were closed. People whose businesses were wrecked because of stop go lock downs, children whose education has been disrupted, affecting their life chances. And at the same time, there were many credible experts who questioned the modeling on which those policies were based, the impact that it had on the poor and also the appropriateness of the actions and the consistency of the actions. Can the prime minister assure us that the inquiry will include listening to the views and examining the views of those experts and the issues which they have raised?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:02:14)
Boris Johnson: (01:02:14)
I think he’s only serving to underline, with his excellent points, the extreme difficulty of the decisions that governments in this country and around the world were forced to make. And the terrible balances that we had to strike. I’m sure that the considerations that he raises will be looked at by the inquiry.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:02:35)
Felicity Buchan: (01:02:36)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I’d like to congratulate my right honorable friend on the huge success of the vaccine rollout. The economy in central London is hurting partly because of the lack of commuters and partly because of the lack of international visitors. Can my right honorable friend confirm that the plan is to lift the work at home guidance as of June the 21st, providing we stay on track?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:03:06)
Boris Johnson: (01:03:07)
Mrs. Speaker, that is certainly our intention provided we stay on track, but I want to be sure that people will wait until we’re able to say that with more clarity a bit later on, because we must be guided by what’s happening with the pandemic. And she’s so right about London and the dynamism of London. Indeed, any other of our great, great cities. They do depend on people to be able to have confidence to go to work. I think it will come back. I think it could come back remarkably quickly, but it does depend on keeping the virus down. [inaudible 01:03:41] speakers, forgive me.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:03:43)
We now go to Debbie Abrahams.
Debbie Abrahams: (01:03:48)
Madam Deputy Speaker, on the 22nd of February, the prime minister told the house that the PPE contracts are there on the record for everybody to see and all the details are on the record. But what the prime minister told parliament was not true. A large number of contracts were neither there for everybody to see, or on the record, including a £23 million contract to Bunzl, which was not published until the 8th of March. The ministerial code states, “It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to parliament correcting any inadvertent errors.” So will the prime minister finally apologize to the House and the country for this misleading statement and ensure that the government’s procurement practices during the pandemic are in the scope of the COVID inquiry?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:04:42)
I’m sure the honorable lady means inadvertently misleading. Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (01:04:50)
I’m sure she does Mrs. Speaker. Who have I missed?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:04:55)
James Davies: (01:04:57)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. As life continues to return towards normality and attention turns to how we can learn lessons from the pandemic, there remains an urgent need to tackle this country’s problem with obesity. Following the Queen’s speech, what reassurances can my right honorable friend give me that the government will continue to pursue this agenda with vigor?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:05:19)
Boris Johnson: (01:05:21)
I can give you my own [inaudible 01:05:24] as a doctor, every possible assurance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think that this is a struggle that many of us face, but we are, I’m afraid, one of the fattest countries in Europe, if not the fattest and that has medical consequences and it is extremely costly, both medically and financially.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:05:46)
We now go to Rachael Maskell.
Rachael Maskell: (01:05:50)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. In November, the prime minister in response to my question on funding for charities through COVID-19, said in this chamber, and I quote, ” We will be doing much more over the winter to support the voluntary sector.” He has delivered nothing, absolutely nothing, over the winter. Now, 10 billion in debt, tens of thousands of jobs have gone. Charities are scaling back and closing and our communities are suffering. So will he tell the House why he made that empty promise and what he will not just say, but do, to support our charities now at this critical time?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:06:30)
Boris Johnson: (01:06:30)
Well, Madam Deputy Speaker, we’ve had huge support for businesses of all kinds, premises, cuts in business rates, Madam Deputy Speaker, cuts in VAT furloughing. And the single best thing we can do for charities is getting non-essential retail opened again as we did and allowing our economy to come back. And I think that the British people give huge amounts to charity, we’re one of the most generous countries in the world. And I’ve no doubt that instinct has been there throughout this pandemic and will continue.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:07:06)
Now go to Jason McCartney.
Jason McCartney: (01:07:12)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The NHS in Kirklees has now given over 50% of people who have been vaccinated their second dose. Will the prime minister join me in thanking our local NHS, GPs, community pharmacies, and the wonderful volunteers at my local Honley vaccination center, who’ve all played a magnificent part in this superb effort, which now means we can proceed to the next step of the roadmap on Monday?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:07:45)
Boris Johnson: (01:07:45)
Yes, Madam Deputy Speaker. I want to thank everybody who’s been involved in the vaccine rollout and particularly those at the Honley vaccination center.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:07:56)
Rachel Hopkins: (01:07:58)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee published a report last September that recommended the government should announce inquiry into the response to the coronavirus immediately to allow time to set up the secretariat and other administrative functions, which could mean it could start taking evidence early next year. So that was eight months ago. So I wish to support the comments made by my honorable friend, the leader of the opposition, that the statute of public inquiry should be set up as soon as possible, before Spring 2022.
Rachel Hopkins: (01:08:29)
So may I also seek the assurances from the prime minister? That a key element of the terms of reference will be to investigate why there was a disproportionate impact on our Black, Asian and other ethnic [inaudible 01:08:41] communities, and that any chair of the inquiry has an expert reference panel that is diverse and has community leaders involved?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:08:49)
Boris Johnson: (01:08:51)
I agree with her totally about the need to establish those facts and the impact on the Black and minority ethnic groups. And what was [inaudible 01:09:03] what could have been done to mitigate that and I’m sure that the inquiry will be suitably set up so as to address that amongst many, many other issues.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:09:13)
We now go to Bob Blackman.
Bob Blackman: (01:09:17)
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. My right honorable friend will be well aware of the tremendous success of vaccine program in Harrow. Indeed, he visited the [inaudible 01:09:28] vaccination center very early on during the vaccination program. What message does my right honorable friend have now for younger people who will be approaching the position whereby they’ll be called for their vaccination so that we can ensure that all adults are vaccinated by the end of July?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:09:48)
Boris Johnson: (01:09:49)
I thank my honorable friend because he’s totally right. That’s, I think, one of the key messages all of us in this house should be transmitting to adults and they’re getting younger and younger now, the groups that we’re reaching. Come forward when you’re asked, get your vaccine, you won’t feel a thing, it’s absolutely vital. It’s not as good for you, it’s good for the whole country. So get it done.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:10:10)
We now go to Peter Grant.
Peter Grant: (01:10:17)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier on the right honorable member of the chair of the health select committee raised a question of recruitment and retention of medical staff. But throughout the entire health and social care sectors, we could be about to see a big increase in the numbers of staff leaving, either because they delayed their retirement in order to stay on and help until the worst of the crisis was over, or in some cases because they’re simply burnt out with the stress they’ve been working under for so long. So what specific plans does the government have to increase recruitment and retention of staff across the entire spectrum of health and social care professions?
Boris Johnson: (01:10:55)
Well, we’ve actually [inaudible 01:10:58] got 60,000 nurses in training and I’m reading every day about enthusiasm with which people now want to go into that wonderful profession. We’ve got, I think, 11,000 more nurses this year than last year. And we’re investing massively in social care to make sure that our older people are looked after properly and there’s much more… One of the reasons that we’ll be bringing forward plans for reform of social care is I want to see proper join up between health and social care. And at the moment we don’t have that as a country and we need it.
Speaker 20: (01:11:36)
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:11:37)
We now go to Duncan Baker.
Duncan Baker: (01:11:41)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Times reported at the weekend that there are 120 [inaudible 01:11:48] people who are immunocompromised. For instance, those having treatment for cancer. For them, the effect of the vaccines still aren’t known. What safety and reassurances can my right honorable friend give to those worrying and anxious, clinically extremely vulnerable, as we continue to unlock?
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:12:05)
Boris Johnson: (01:12:06)
He’s totally right. My friend’s totally right to raise the immunocompromised and their continuing anxiety. The risks continue to diminish, but as he knows, I think today one in 1,340 are estimated to have the virus. It’s going down at the moment. It’s deeply, as I said to the House, Madam, excuse me, is much lower than at any time since last summer or even before. But plainly, those who are anxious, who are immunocompromised, they should continue to exercise, as I said, caution and common sense in the way they go about their lives for some time to come.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:12:49)
Chris Bryant: (01:12:51)
COVID has left tens of thousands of people in this country with problems which are remarkably similar to a brain injury. They’re going to need long-term neuro rehabilitation. When you add them in to the 1.4 million people who before COVID came along, had suffered from a brain injury, either from carbon monoxide poisoning or concussion in sports or stroke or a traumatic brain injury or fetal alcohol syndrome, that’s a phenomenal financial and medical need. Can I urge the prime minister there still isn’t anybody in this country who takes sole charge of this area of brain injury. It’s a hidden pandemic because you can’t often see it in the person across the other side of the room that they’re affected. Can you please… I mean, maybe he should meet with a group of us to talk about it because it affects every single department of government. And I really want him to take it on so that all these people get the support that they need.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:13:49)
Boris Johnson: (01:13:49)
I’m really grateful to him. And then I know that he was going to races with me yesterday. I hope he forgives me for not allowing him to intervene but [inaudible 01:14:02], but he’s raised an extremely important point. I believe that a brain anomaly, brain injury he’s right to raise [inaudible 01:14:10], but also a brain cancer is an area that is too often neglected in our system, may fall through the cracks. And I certainly undertake to get him the meeting that he needs, whether it’s with me or the relevant minister, I cannot currently promise. He will get the meeting he needs.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:14:30)
Final question from Dr. Liam Fox.
Dr. Liam Fox: (01:14:32)
Finally, Madam Deputy Speaker, almost every human crisis produces advances in human innovation and the COVID crisis has been no exception. We’ve seen in the UK what collaboration between academia and the private sector has done in terms of vaccine production. mRNA vaccines may turn not to be as important as antibiotics in dealing with global disease outbreaks. As soon as we were able to identify the genome [inaudible 01:14:58] we will be able to move to rapid vaccine production, something we were unable to do before. What can we in the UK do with our leadership of the G7 and our membership of the G20 and other international organizations do to determine global protocols, to enable us to be able to move forward in any future pandemic in a less chaotic way than we did on this occasion and be able to develop global capacity for vaccine productions? Surely if anything is a long-term and valuable legacy for global Britain, it would be this.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:15:28)
Boris Johnson: (01:15:31)
My right honorable friend, who’s also a doctor, is completely right about necessity is the mother of invention, Madam Deputy Speaker. We’ve been driven by the pandemic to great, great feats of scientific genius. Producing, as he rightly says, the mRNA vaccines at incredible speed, the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that has meant, the pandemic has meant that the abilities of this country alone to cope have hugely increased. We are now capable of producing vaccines, the film finishing plants, the new [inaudible 01:16:08] that we have, invested in bioreactors across the country.
Boris Johnson: (01:16:12)
We’re much, much more resilient than we were, but we’re also leading across the world in making sure that countries coordinate and work together on spotting a zoonotic diseases earlier with the research hubs and making sure that they we coordinate data and we share data much earlier, but also making sure there aren’t the barriers that sadly sprung up between countries to the sharing of supplies and of vaccines, so that we have secure supply chains around the world.
Boris Johnson: (01:16:47)
So what the UK is doing is not only spending £548 million on COVAX, Madam Deputy Speaker, investing in vaccines around the world. I think we’ve given, I think 40 million vaccine doses to 117 countries, the UK has so far given. But we’re also working on a global response to pandemics. And that will be one of the things that we do together at the G7 and it’s supported by all the partner countries. So that’s what we’ll be doing.
Madam Deputy Speaker: (01:17:23)
I thank the prime minister for his statement, and I’m suspending the House for three minutes to make necessary arrangements for the next business.