Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about the need for our ‘Test and Trace’ system to be run by local and regional public health teams. I sincerely apologise for the delay in responding to your email, but you can be assured that I wholeheartedly agree with your position.
As my Labour colleagues have been pointing out for months, the test, trace and isolate system we have in this country is not ‘NHS Test and Trace’. It is ‘Serco Test and Trace’. It is not right that Serco, a private company, has been able to profit from the pandemic whilst the rest of us have paid the price for their failure. In the Labour Party, we want the government to transfer control of contact tracing to local authorities.
If there had been an effective test, trace and isolate system in place last summer, we might not have been in the position we found ourselves in over winter. Of course, we will never know for sure, but we may have been able to avoid both a second and a third national lockdown if we had been able to effectively test, trace and isolate those carrying the Coronavirus, whilst also preventing thousands of preventable deaths and hospitalisations.
Last year, Labour implored the government to use the November lockdown to overhaul Test and Trace. But it didn’t.
Test and Trace remains ineffective. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has found that the system is going to cost taxpayers £37 billion over two years. This is extremely concerning, especially now that all restrictions have been lifted, with high case numbers across the country.
Secro’s contract with the Department for Health and Social Care was due to end on 17th May. Instead of transferring control for contract tracing to local authorities, I understand that the government awarded the outsourcing company with a new £322 million contract in June for a period of one year, with a possible six-month extension. This is wrong.
As if the incompetence of Secro wasn’t enough, this government’s culture of cronyism, which has allowed Coronavirus contracts to be handed out to Tory friends and donors, has cost us £2 billion. That is enough to provide free school meals to every one of the 1.4 million children who are eligible for the next 3 years.
Please be assured that the Labour Party will continue to hold the government to account on this very important issue.
Thank you again for your email. I hope you and your family are keeping safe and well. If you have any further points you would like to raise about this subject or any other, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade