In times of global and national crisis those in government must be open to scrutiny and held to account by Parliament, the media, the public, and opposition parties. This collaborative approach of checks and balances is also fundamental to our democracy. As we progress through the coronavirus pandemic, we are shocked to note a deterioration in public access to politicians, including yourself.
We therefore ask you to respect the democratic process of scrutiny by
- responding to emails,
- agreeing to be interviewed by the press and other media, such as Newsnight
- re-establishing your Facebook page,
- unblocking comments on your twitter posts, and
- unblocking constituents on twitter, unless they have been abusive
We also ask that the Government stop barring journalists, such as the Times, from press briefings, for asking the ‘wrong’ questions that raised ‘inconvenient facts’.
No one from the government has appeared on Channel 4 News for three weeks, and for the entire week they have not been given the opportunity to ask a question at the press conference.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, was right when he said “Ministers have a duty to report first to this House when major changes of policy are announced,”, while reprimanding Rishi Sunak for announcing his plans to the media, before telling MPs.
Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals must not be avoided by the government simply deciding not to bring a vote on them to parliament.
We ask: why won’t you and your Government open yourselves up to constructive scrutiny? What are you trying to hide?
The public must have confidence and trust in the information, guidance, and instruction provided by the government. Approval of the government’s handling of coronavirus has sunk to its lowest level, with 56% of Britain’s now assessing the government to have been doing a bad job, and only 41% believing it has done a good job. Yet Boris Johnson says he is “very proud” of his governments coronavirus response.
We are deeply concerned about this disconnect and loss of trust in the government. Polling indicates 2 out of 3 people believe Cummings should be sacked, yet he has received the backing of the vast majority of Conservative MPs, including yourself. Even Durham Police contradicted Downing Street’s claim about Cummings. The only response you have is that people should “move on”, but the matter is not resolved, and the indefensible decision not to sack Cummings has had a demoralizing, divisive and dangerous effect throughout the country. A member of SPI-B (advisors to SAGE), Professor Robert West, said:
“When people see something like the Cummings affair… that’s not a recipe for trust…. Put all this together and you have a huge risk, (and it’s not just me saying that) that there will be an increase in infection rates. The government is not taking its responsibilities for political leadership seriously…. This should not be treated as a political crisis but as a health crisis: if you treat it as a political crisis it’s all about managing your reputation; if you treat it as a health crisis it’s about saving lives.”
We ask: Why is the job of one man, who has set a terrible example by breaking his own rules, being placed above the lives and livelihoods of UK citizens? Why has he not been removed from his position?
Policy must be supported by the science. Consultation and communication with relevant bodies and the public should be clear and consistent. Without this, we are in danger of entering a second wave, even before we have fully emerged from the first. In response to lockdown being lifted, the governments Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advisors said “That’s clearly a political decision. It’s not a scientific decision”. The British Medical Association (BMA) said “the ‘road map out of lockdown’ is too fast, too confusing and too risky”.
The government needs to give consistent messaging. The Prime Minister says we are still at Covid alert level 4 (indications are that all 4 chief medical officers vetoed the governments desire to lower it), yet the government has advised people who were shielding that it is now safe to go out.
Government advice said this would only happen when we reached alert level 1. Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK has challenged the Government’s approach, saying: “The way it has announced this on a Saturday night, with no warning or consultation with charities and clinicians, has created confusion, and this adds to the impression already created that the shielding group isn’t high enough on its list of priorities.”. This is alarming and damning.
The evidence with regards the government’s preparation and handling of the pandemic is damning. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) believe the UK’s response to covid-19 was “too little, too late, too flawed”. The timeline of events since the pandemic first hit is truly appalling. Most recently the announcement that face masks and coverings should be compulsory for all NHS hospitals by 15th June has been met with widespread criticism. Leaders within the NHS had not been consulted on this announcement. A report exposed that Boris Johnson skipped five Cobra meetings on the virus; calls to order protective gear were ignored; and scientists’ warnings fell on deaf ears. The failure of Conservative governments to respond to the findings and recommendations of operation Cygnus in 2016 have resulted in the devasting effects associated with the handling of the crisis within our care homes.
We ask: Why has the government pressed ahead with relaxations of lockdown despite medical advice to the contrary? Why is the government not keeping in close communication with essential service providers – such as the NHS and local government – and ensuring robust consultation has taken place before decisions are announced?
Something has gone tragically wrong in the UK. We have recently recorded the worst recorded Coronavirus death rate in the world, despite the Government’s “Our Plan to rebuild” acknowledging “So far people have adhered to the [lockdown] measures well…” Since the pandemic hit, 70% (at least) fewer people have been diagnosed with cancer. This means there is an estimated backlog of 100,000 undiagnosed or untreated cancer cases, a figure which grows by around 5,000 a week. Children and those suffering domestic violence have been particularly badly affected. We can’t change the past, but we must change the future. There are tens of thousands of lives at stake as well as an economy to rebuild. Proper scrutiny of government, trust, and good communication are needed now more than ever.
Chair, Shrewsbury and Atcham Constituency Labour Party
Office Address: Morris Hall, Belmont, Shrewsbury, SY1 1JB
Wynn Davies received this email reply from a Dominic Lissak
Dear Mr Davies,
Thank you very much for your email and the attached letter, which Daniel Kawczynski MP read with great interest. He would also like to thank you for sharing your views, suggestions and questions with him.
You have addressed your letter to both Daniel and Her Majesty’s Government. Daniel is not a member of the government and cannot speak on behalf of Ministers or the Prime Minister. Therefore, the below is a response to the questions you addressed specifically to Daniel.
Your letter touched upon the important question of scrutiny and responding to enquiries. I am sure that you are aware that Daniel frequently appears on media programmes and gives interviews on almost a weekly basis. He can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org and constituents can also contact him through the form on his website (https://www.daniel4shrewsbury.co.uk/contact) at all times. Daniel aims to respond to all enquiries as soon as possible, however, due to the amount of written correspondence he has received during the pandemic, the response time might currently be longer than usual. Urgent cases are always prioritised.
With regards to the case of the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Daniel has released a statement on this matter previously. I have attached it to this email for your reference.
Finally, Daniel would like to reassure you that the decisions the government is making, as the country is emerging from lockdown, will continue to be driven by the science. As you know, thanks to the collective effort of the nation, and the hard work and sacrifices of all key workers, both the death rate and hospital admissions are falling rapidly. Together with other crucial steps, the new Covid Alert System will enable decision makers to chart our progress and adjust social distancing measures accordingly. The government has also released a detailed recovery strategy, which sets out the next steps in detail. Please find it attached. Please rest assured that the government will not hesitate to put restrictions back in place if the number of cases and the infection rate starts to increase again.
Thank you very much for contacting us again. If we can be of any more help, please do not hesitate to contact us.