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am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), who gave a very good defence of the vaccine programme and of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. I respect that, but I regret his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope), who raised the point about medical expertise that casts some doubt on the vaccines. My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington chose to smear all opponents of the vaccine programme. Of course there are lunatics out there who make absurd and outrageous claims, but there are many reasonable and respectable people who have anxieties about the vaccine programme, particularly people who have suffered as a result of the programme and their families.
I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on COVID-19 vaccine damage, which my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch chairs. The APPG looks at vaccine injuries, and we had what I think was our first meeting last week in a Committee room in Portcullis House. I am afraid there were only a tiny handful of colleagues there, but well over a hundred members of the public attended, which is not the usual story for an APPG. I felt somewhat ashamed, on behalf of Parliament, that that was the first time that those members of the public – including families of the bereaved, who are themselves injured citizens – had had the opportunity to be in a room with members of this House, but I am very pleased that we are having this debate, and particularly pleased that there is an opportunity for members of the public to hear from the Minister on this topic.
I should say to members of the public who are watching that we have in Westminster Hall today a very good Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr. Johnson), who is genuinely committed to health, including public health, and she showed a real interest in this topic and in the effect of Covid policies when she was a back-bench MP.
Although many questions about our Covid response need to be answered, the U.K. is by no means the worst offender. We are not Canada, New Zealand or China – places where Governments think they can exterminate Covid by depriving their population of the most basic civil liberties. However, I am afraid that we still have many questions to ask ourselves, and even much to be ashamed of. I put on record that in hindsight I am particularly ashamed of my vote to dismiss care workers who did not want to receive the vaccine. I very much hope that the 40,000 care workers who lost their jobs can be reinstated, and indeed compensated. A group of us – including, I think, the Minister – held out against compulsory vaccination of health workers when that was proposed by the Government last winter. I think that resistance turned the tide, to a degree, on Government policy, and we emerged from the lockdowns more quickly than we might otherwise have done, yet we still have a policy of mass vaccination, which I want to query on behalf of constituents who have written to me about it.