The following is a statement given by Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis in the Commons on 11 May 2020.
Mr Speaker, coronavirus has infected more than 4,500 people across the Sheffield City Region where I am mayor, and killed 576.
My thoughts are with all of those who have suffered and lost, and those who are doing so much to keep our people safe and our society functioning.
I will always seek to work constructively with the government, but we have a duty to test their policies and hold them to account.
One of their most critical tasks is to keep the confidence of the British people.
Without clarity and credibility, we will not have the cooperation of the public.
And without that we will fail.
I have four immediate concerns.
First, ‘Stay Alert’ is vague compared to ‘Stay at Home.’
I am glad the Prime Minister provided more detail today, but many people will still be confused. And confusion risks contagion.
Second, you cannot ask people back to work if they cannot get there safely.
Social distancing means much lower capacity on public transport, and a switch to cars would mean instant gridlock.
That means getting people to walk and cycle is central to easing the lockdown. The government, commendably, seems to understand this: but we urgently need to translate that into action together.
Third, you cannot force people back to an unsafe workplace.
The government must monitor and support businesses to implement rigorous protective measures, in close collaboration with employees and unions – but until they do those workers should remain on furlough.
Fourth, the government must be careful not to create suspicion, justified or not, that they are motivated by any concern other than fighting the disease.
Things like testing targets that are met just on the one day needed to avoid negative headlines, inevitably undermine that vital public trust.
This is no time for politics as usual.
The government must be utterly transparent about the data, about the advice they are getting, and about the compromises they are choosing –
there must be a clear line between the science, and the political decisions based on it.
Mr Speaker, this crisis has proven the value of UK devolved governments across the UK.
SCR has led in supporting and informing local communities and businesses,
in getting them the help they need, and championing their concerns at Westminster.
We’ve kept our buses and light rail system running.
We’ve lined up our local industries to supply PPE for the NHS.
And we’re developing a recovery plan which truly reflects local needs.
But the government must bring us into the heart of their response – and fund and empower us accordingly.
Finally, that response must also serve a wider purpose.
We clearly need massive public investment.
It would be a national travesty if that investment did not help address the fundamental weaknesses and injustices in our economy and society.
This is the moment for a green new deal, for fixing our crumbling infrastructure, for addressing the unacceptable inequality between our regions and nations.
History will not forgive us if – as after 2008 – we make such sacrifices, only to see inequality grow and the planet burn ever warmer.
For all our sakes, the legacy we aim for now must not be a return to the status quo: it must be a national renewal.