Black Country MP John Spellar yesterday accused the Government of “criminal negligence”, echoing public concerns over whether they “really know what they are doing.”
In a debate on the Coronavirus restrictions, Spellar blasted the Government’s pandemic management strategy. Saying that, “Ministers are surprised by predictable events. The Prime Minister seemed to be astonished to find out that viruses mutate”, attacking the Government’s overspending on “management consultants and middlemen” at great cost to the taxpayer.
He mocked the Prime Minister, comparing him to “a Soviet planning Minister, setting a target of 13.5 million people to be vaccinated by Valentine’s day, but with no clear indication of how that will be achieved.” He urged ministers to urgently identify blockages causing delays in the vaccine distribution and supply chain and to deal with the apparent problems of capacity which the Government had not dealt with up until now.
John Spellar: In my experience, the Tories have never won elections because the public thought they cared but rather because they believed them to be competent. Black Wednesday did for John Major and I suspect that the covid crisis will deal with the Johnson regime.
No one believes that Governments get it right first time or indeed all of the time, but that does not excuse the criminal negligence of not dealing with pandemic planning, which seems to have gone by the board. It is the speed of reaction and the lessons learned that are important. The question is why do this Government keep making the same mistakes time and again. Who is in charge? Who is minding the shop? Who is dealing with the detail?
Ministers are surprised by predictable events. The Prime Minister seemed to be astonished to find out that viruses mutate. There is a timescale to when they mutate, but they very certainly do mutate. Every year, for example we have a different variant of influenza. We had already experienced a lack of capacity with personal protective equipment. At the time the crisis started, 1% of PPE used in the British health service came from this country. Stock handling was also appalling. When the crisis hit, British firms tried to make contact with the Department of Health and Social Care, but they just ran into a brick wall. They got no response and no help and yet the Government then poured money into grossly overpaid management consultants, middle men and pals at a huge cost to the public purse, causing a real crisis in the health service.
The vaccine programme has seen a magnificent effort from the scientists and their international partners, but, once again, we seem to be short of capacity. The Prime Minister’s response is to act almost like a Soviet planning Minister, setting a target of 13.5 million people to be vaccinated by Valentine’s day, but with no clear indication of how that will be achieved. The Secretary of State very helpfully told us today that filling the glass vials was not the problem, so is it manufacturing capacity? If it is, why have we not dealt with that in the past 12 months? We may ask whether it is MHRA testing, but the MHRA has a great record in validating the vaccines and of moving things along. Where is the problem in the system? What happens when we get a flow, as we will with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine because that will be much easier to handle as it does not require the same degree of refrigeration? Why are we not talking to pharmacists and to retired doctors and nurses and getting them lined up now? Why force folk, especially older folk, to travel so far? What the public are asking is whether this lot really know what they are doing.