Below is the text of the speech made by Andy Carter, the Conservative MP for Warrington South, in the House of Commons on 12 May 2020.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate this afternoon. May I associate myself with the comments made by the Paymaster General, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), at the opening of this debate yesterday? This virus has tested every part of our society, but it has also shown that, when united in a national effort, the British people are a powerful force. It is thanks to the massive collective effort to protect the NHS that we have avoided an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic, which could have overwhelmed our health services. That said, I want to offer my sympathies to the families of the 101 people who have sadly passed away in Warrington as a result of covid-19.
On International Nurses Day, may I pay tribute to those community nurses at the Bridgewater Trust in Warrington, who have worked so hard to support people in their own homes, and to the nurses and doctors at Warrington Hospital for the work that they have done throughout this period? It fills me with great pride to see the hospital make headline news for its pioneering work around black boxes. Let me remind Members of what these are: black boxes are normally used for sleep apnoea and doctors have modified them in such a way that they can treat covid-19 patients who are struggling to breathe. That has meant that there has been less need for the more intrusive and invasive ventilators, which has, in turn, led to a far quicker recovery rate, and this has been reflected in the data. Indeed, Warrington’s performance is one of the best in the north-west, and I know that clinicians from all over the world are now looking at this work.
As much as any of this news can be positive, it has been encouraging to see a hospital trust managing these challenging times so well. There are no problems with the availability of ICU beds and, to date, there has even been no significant issues with personal protective equipment. That is mainly due to the great collaboration that has taken place across a number of hospitals in the region to share stocks where necessary. From the conversations that I have had, I am really confident that this challenge is being well managed by the trust team.
I also want to thank those people working in care homes for their tireless efforts, and Warrington Borough Council staff. I pay tribute to locally co-ordinated volunteer groups in the villages across our constituency. I have been so impressed by the outstanding community spirit that has enabled armies of volunteers to deliver food and medicine to self-isolating, vulnerable and elderly members of the community. We even saw a new community radio station launched by volunteers in the village of Lymm to keep everyone in touch.
I welcome the Government’s gradual easing of the restrictions. Getting out of lockdown was always going to be much more difficult than getting into it. The past few weeks have been really tough for the small businesses here in Warrington that make up the majority of employment in my constituency. I have been heartened by their support for the measures the Government have taken to protect employees and the self-employed. I congratulate the Chancellor on his determined efforts, with a welcome extension and increased flexibility of the job retention scheme announced earlier today. If I have one anxiety, it relates to support for owners of small businesses who have taken professional advice and structured their companies to pay themselves through dividends, and those on short-term PAYE contracts.
Local economies are strengthened when we have strong local media—newspapers, commercial radio stations and news websites where advertisers can promote local business and journalists can deliver reliable local news. I therefore encourage the Government to continue to support this important sector as the economy bounces back.
As one constituent wrote to me by email last night, the next few weeks are about personal responsibility, with each one of us taking small, sensible steps to inch our cities, towns and villages back to a new normal, all within the broad guidelines that the Government have now set out.