On Wednesday 26th May the House of Lords questioned Government on the local travel arrangement plans and the lack of consultation that had caused some confusion. The Bishop of Blackburn spoke from the experience of this in his diocese.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I declare an interest as resident in the area of Blackburn. After the advice last Friday, I was unsure whether I would be entitled to travel to London for duty this week and allowed to return if I did. There might have been people in both places who would have been equally delighted. There is real uncertainty, disquiet and disappointment at the unclear and mixed messages that have been received, especially among communities that are struggling with very high rates of infection. The point is not so much about information being given but about consultation. What will the Minister do to make sure that this debacle does not happen again and that, to hear the local voice, there will be proper consultation with directors of public health, not just information?
Lord Bethell (Con): My Lords, as I sought to explain to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, there is a huge amount of consultation with directors of public health. There are meetings on these matters on a daily basis through the chief medical officer, the silver/gold process and the local outbreak teams. However, the right reverend Prelate refers to a serious issue. We are seeking to avoid the kind of legal lockdowns that the public are quite understandably exhausted by and naturally quite resistant to. Therefore our message to the public is that we are asking them to behave in a responsible fashion, to act with caution and to use their common sense, as he had to in his decision about whether to come to London. We are not seeking to legislate on that, and we are asking people to make those decisions for themselves. I completely sympathise with those who find that challenging and who in some cases would prefer to have some certainty. However, that is what people have asked for and it is the right approach to keep the British public on side during this difficult period.