Heather Wheeler – 2020 Speech on Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by Heather Wheeler, the Conservative MP for South Derbyshire, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me in this important debate. I also thank my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General for her tireless work in pulling together so many different strands of Government activity during the covid-19 crisis. We are very grateful.

I want to talk about the amazing community activity happening in South Derbyshire, as part of the local response to covid-19: our wonderful CVS, which has helped to co-ordinate volunteers across South Derbyshire, making sure that people do not run out of food or ​medicine and are not lonely; our wonderful individuals, such as Stephen Greaves and Andrew Astle; the teachers at Granville and Pingle Schools, who, as volunteers, have been making face visors with 3-D printers; and the Wood children of Melbourne, who made up and sold quizzes—all of whom have been raising funds for the local medical charities.

But against the good news of that great community spirit—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)

We can hear you. Please carry on.

Mrs Wheeler

But against the good news of that great community spirit, we have had the tragic news of over 19 people dying locally from covid-19. That number includes Eileen Landers of Swadlincote, a lady who worked tirelessly for decades at Burton Hospital on the housekeeping staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the South Derbyshire families who have lost loved ones to this dreadful virus.

That brings me to my ask of the Paymaster General, representing the Cabinet Office. I am asking for support from the Cabinet Office for my campaign to have a memorial placed at the National Arboretum, at the heart of the country, as a fitting way to commemorate the sad loss of essential key workers to covid-19. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has agreed to support the campaign. I am now looking at the Cabinet Office as another sponsor to help to co-ordinate all the different sectors of essential workers involved, whether in healthcare or transport, wherever they are across our nation. They carried on working when this virus was at the highest level. They gave their lives to keep our hospitals open, keep food in the shops and get people to work.

I am also calling on the relevant trade unions to get involved to help to raise public subscriptions to pay for the memorial. I am grateful to my local newspapers, the Burton Mail and the Derby Telegraph, for supporting the campaign, as well as the Daily Express, my colleagues in Parliament who are supporting the campaign and, finally, the good people of the South Derbyshire and Burton area who have contacted me with support. I also thank Brell Ewart of Whitehouse Construction Ltd of Derby, who, as part of a donation, has offered to install the memorial free of charge, an incredibly generous offer to help to kick-start the campaign.

As I know there are many MPs who wish to speak, I will wrap up my contribution by thanking Ministers, civil servants, local government officers, volunteers, shop workers, farmers and, of course, key workers for everything they have done for us at home here in South Derbyshire and nationally. The fight is not yet over, but this human endeavour is an excellent example of how when life is bad, good can come out of it. I, for one, am proud of the response from the Government and the country to this dreadful virus.