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Delegated Legislation Committee - Oral evidence: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place)

The minister is Nadine Dorries…
Nadine Dorries: regs came into force on July 24th. Face masks to be worn in shops, transport, etc.

"The regulations.. comply with all the government's obligations in relation to human rights-"
Minister is asked to give way. A question:

"... in paragraph 3.1 of the explanatory memorandum, it says that this order was laid on the 23rd by reason of urgency. What was the urgency then when this matter had been under debate for at least 3 months?"
Dorries: "I will look further into what the urgency was but I would um, imagine that the evidence that we were getting at the time was that face coverings could protect those who may be asymptomatic with the virus from spreading the virus or contracting the virus, and therefore..
".. any measure that could prevent the increase of incidence in the rate of coronavirus would have been deemed as necessary to halt coronavirus stop it increasing in the community and to save lives. But I will come back to my Honourable Friend with further information on that"
Dorries continued: "This debate will only focus on the regs. as they were made in July.."

(asked to give way)
Questioner: "on [her] comment about the regs' being debated at a later time in the House, I just want to clarify is that what my Hon Friend is saying, that we would eventually debate within the House, I am gonna vote for [this] so my Rt Hon Friend doesn't need to worry (laughs)..
"we are, but I do think that this whole subject of face coverings there is a LOT of um debate about whether they're necessary or not does need to take place on the floor of the House..."
Dorries: "these regulations are up for debate every 6 months anyway... but I can't answer him when they come before the House but certainly they will do at some stage, particularly as we have an obligation in law to bring them to the House for debate"
Dorries: "We introduce these regulations to give members of the public the confidence to visit public indoor spaces safely and enhance safety protections for those working in these settings... There has been support for this policy in the retail sector, for example..
".. the Chief Exec. of BRC said face coverings can make shoppers feel even more confident about returning to the high street"
Dorries asked to give way to a question:

"Would she be good enough to point the Committee to what evidence she is actually referring to?"
Dorries: says she will explain further in the speech (?) we take the evidence on face coverings from a variety of sources.
Dorries: "Regulations do not apply to employees... as more settings have reopened they have been amended to include more settings and provide more clarity..."
Dorries: "we recognise that some people are not able to wear a face covering for a variety of reasons, the regulations exempt children <11.. there is no general exception on health or disability grounds.." (?!)
Dorries: the lists the relevant exemptions for disability etc (bizarre wording from her in the previous tweet)
Gives way to a questioner with 'impaired hearing':

Says he can't hear someone if he can't see their lips moving, and that he wants to emphasise that even those who aren't registered deaf do rely on lip movement to hear people in a crowded room.
Dorries: "we are also clear that people do need to prove that they are exempt or have a reasonable excuse.. and they should not be challenged about this"

(assume she meant DON'T then)
Dorries: review required at 6 months. There is a sunset clause so that the regs expire after 12 months.

"We will continue to monitor the impact and effectiveness of this policy in the weeks and months ahead"
(BRB - life stuff, will return)
Questioner suggests face coverings legislation came in the day before the House adjourned for summer, was not adequately debated etc.

(asked to give way)
A different questioner:

"These [decisions] were taken in response to a serious and imminent threat to public health. The peak of this was on the 11th of April"
Original speaker (sorry not idea who it is):

"The way these regulations were being introduced no longer applies. We've had over 6 months now of dealing with this virus... we really should be able to deal with legislation before it comes into force"
More discussion v similar to the earlier meeting about MPs on both sides of the House concerned about lack of parliamentary scrutiny.
Some debate about why face covering legislation wasn't intro'd earlier, when WHO guidance was there.

Another questioner comes in: says that this was a 'moving feast along the way' and that he personally "questions the use of face masks in the way they're being used"
(Guys this meeting goes on FOREVER so I'm gonna be brief with the rest)
There's discussion about abuse by members of the public towards shop staff when they are asked to distance or to wear a mask. Also many people being abused by others when they cannot wear a mask.

"I think people misunderstand the capabilities of science.. the science surrounding this pandemic is not exact, and can't be exact.. i suspect it will surprise members.. in terms of real situations in the public.. NO experiments have taken place on COVID-19...
".. and what is being relied on are experiments on other germs, bugs, viruses, bacteria, and other kinds of experiments.. there should have been much more scrutiny of this bill.. one of the problems ministers have, is most of them don't have a scientific background..
".. and therefore have not challenged the scientific advice, which can't be that precise so when the deputy chief medical officer in early April said masks shouldn't be worn they may even have a negative effect, I can understand why ministers followed it, a few days later..
".. the secretary for state for Transport on the 16th of April said wearing masks could have a negative effect, and then the next month masks were introduced on public transport.. challenging the advice may have led to ministers coming to a different decision..
".. most of the evidence on masks has come from experiments with mannequins, its very difficult to do, and in lab settings not real settings, so when scientists.. say there is no evidence that masks work, they're right partly because there's been no experiments done.. but also..
".. the experiments that have been done.. we have not had the scientific gold standard [he means RCTs]"

He goes on to say there is some evidence a face covering may help, so we said put a mask over your face etc, but this sin't in line with WHO guidance (they say use 3 layers)
He says the work of Prof Melinda Mills, Director of the Leverhulme Centre at Oxford showed that lots of other countries were mandating mask wearing and so we would have been "behind the curve"

He also rolls out "lack of evidence doesn't mean to say that the evidence isn't there"
He says there is no support for COVID marshals for local authorities.

"the last thing we want are busy body marshals upsetting members of the public by being over officious"
Another questioner:

"We're extending quite draconian powers to people who shouldn't have them, in my opinion" (he's referring to persons other than police constables issuing fines etc)
Nadine Dorries keeps quoting 96% of people reporting wearing a face mask recently (ONS data) - Yeah that's because it's the law Nadine 🙄
Nadine Dorries just interrupted a questioner mid flow when he said 'I've nothing against wearing masks' with 'well I'd never have guessed!' and then clapped her paperwork to her mouth (you're not supposed to interrupt in the chamber). Really professional there Nadine.
He continues: " well no I'm sorry it's my job.. to look at a piece of legislation and scrutinise it.. I don't believe in putting forward legislation if you don't actually need to.. but I'm sorry but she's actually wrong in what she just said...
" is down to politicians to make the ultimate decision and being a minister myself there are occasions where you can actually ignore- that is a political decision it's no good hiding behind the scientists, which is what the government has done all the way through this crisis"
(There's a bit of a row now between him and Dorries - she's getting very shouty, seems a bit unnecessary)
Questioner asks again - what was the evidence?
Dorries says she'll give an accurate statement in the morning...
Dorries on Universities

Says many unis 'very enthusiastic' to develop their own policies, getting back to normal in the context of social distancing..
.. She says she thinks the 'don't kill your nan' messaging was "a bit extreme" from own university (mate that was from @MattHancock)

"Keeping everybody safe is the only objective of the government... none of this is political, this is about keeping people safe"
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