Good morning. The Commons public accounts committee has published a report on the government’s NHS test and trace (which, of course, is not run by the NHS) that says there is no proof that it is worth the £37bn that has been allocated for it (£22bn in this financial year, and £15bn in 2021-22). Here is my colleague Rajeev Syal’s story.
Here is the report itself (pdf). And here is a comment on the report’s findings from Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the committee.
The £23 billion test and trace has cost us so far is about the annual budget of the Department for Transport. Test and trace still continues to pay for consultants at £1,000 a day.
Yet despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project test and trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic, and the promise on which this huge expense was justified – avoiding another lockdown – has been broken, twice.
DHSC and NHST&T must rapidly turn around these fortunes and begin to demonstrate the worth and value of this staggering investment of taxpayers’ money. Not only is it essential it delivers an effective system as pupils return to school and more people return to their workplace, but for the billions spent we need to see a top class legacy system. British taxpayers cannot be treated by government like an ATM machine. We need to see a clear plan and costs better controlled.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, was speaking for the government on the morning broadcast interview round. Mostly he was talking about a government plan to improve transport connectivity between the whole of the UK, but he was asked about the PAC report, and he defended test and trace. He told Sky News:
9.1 million people have been contacted by test and trace. These are people who otherwise would be wandering round often unaware that they had coronavirus and spreading it around further.
Whatever the coronavirus experience we have had as a nation, good or bad, it would have been one heck of a lot worse if we didn’t have a test and trace system which has contacted so many people and prevented the disease spreading further.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Sir Alex Allan, who resigned as the PM’s independent adviser on ministerial standards after his conclusions on Priti Patel were ignored, gives evidence to the committee on standards in public life.
9.30am: The ONS publishes reports on the impact of coronavirus on men and women, and on Covid and students.
11am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, gives ev evidence to the Scottish parliament’s Covid-19 committee.
11.30am: Peter Weir, the education minister in the Northern Ireland executive, gives evidence to a Stormont scrutiny committee about schools reopening.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
12.15pm: The Welsh government is expected to hold a coronavirus briefing.
12.30pm: Labour asks a Commons urgent question about the government’s unilateral action on Northern Ireland protocol.
1.30pm: Downing Street lobby briefing.
2.30pm: Kemi Badenoch, the minister for equalities, and Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, give evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee about vaccine take-up in BAME communities.
4pm: Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, gives evidence on levelling up to the Lords public services committee.
5pm: Downing Street may hold a press conference.
Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.