Archives for posts with tag: vaccine

Sir Keir Starmer: So what is Labour going to do? You know, we keep being told that we are world-class in this and that, and probably the only thing that we can think of that fits that description is the vaccine programme. We have brilliant scientists who have developed the vaccine and our super-efficient NHS is distributing it faster than anyone else.

But you don’t need me to tell you that not much else is world-class at the moment. The number of people who have died in the UK is the highest in Europe and our economy is doing worst among the developed nations. 

Literally millions of people are having to go to food banks, and thousands are homeless on the streets, even in winter time. Universal Credit, to pay everything for a family of four, comes to less than a typical middle-class family will spend just on groceries in the supermarket. 

At the same time some people are getting massively richer through their private contacts with the Conservative party, making contracts to supply things which they know nothing about and which they fail to do, trousering billions in the process.

You know all that. What did you vote for in connection with Brexit? I can’t believe that you really wanted our farmers and fishermen to be unable to export to the EU, or our performing artists, actors, musicians, opera singers, orchestral players or dancers to be unable to go on tour anywhere in Europe, or for none of the stars that we used to welcome from Europe to be able to come here. The Brexit deal leaves out not only the performers but also our financial services industry – together that means half our economic output is effectively subject to a no-deal Brexit. Is that really what people wanted?

Let’s start thinking about what we in Labour could do, if we were in government. People liked the idea of an extra £350 million per week for the NHS as a result of our leaving the EU. Leaving the EU has actually cost us far more than this each week so far. But let’s stay with the idea that the NHS does need more money. Because it does! 

So people were right to vote for more money for the NHS; and Labour will give the NHS the funding that it needs, which is much more than £350 million per week. There needs to be enough investment to ensure that we have sufficient hospital beds – at the moment we have the lowest number per head of population in Europe – enough doctors – we have a shortage of several thousand – enough nurses – we have a shortage of 40,000 nurses – and all the necessary equipment and facilities that the NHS needs. The NHS needs massive extra investment, and Labour will provide it. 

Just remember the Nightingale hospitals. The army came in and very efficiently did what they are very good at, creating instant buildings, and the government managed to cobble together enough ventilators – but we didn’t have any doctors or nurses to staff these new hospitals. It was an illusion. Labour is not in the business of illusions. We want to give you the real thing, something solid and reliable.

What about our housing? When did you last meet someone who lives in a council house? We need to build hundreds of thousands of council houses. Yes, council houses, not so-called ‘affordable’ houses. Because current housing is not affordable. For somebody on an ordinary income even the deposit for a private rented flat may be out of reach. To buy an ‘affordable’ house, as it is defined, in parts of the south-east, costs half a million pounds. 

The government needs to invest in things which provide solid, lasting benefits for society and at the same time provide real jobs. If we built another half million council houses, as they did at the end of the Second World War, this would employ thousands of people and provide work for many subcontractors and manufacturers all over the country. Labour will provide the necessary finance to local authorities so that they can afford to do this.  

And local authorities need the proper funding – which they used to have – in order to do all the things which they can do to make our lives more civilised. We need to make sure that they have enough funds to pay properly for social care which can work closely with the National Health Service, so that old people are not just dumped.

We need children to be properly catered for. The Sure Start scheme needs to be reinstated and properly funded. Our schools and their teachers must have proper funding. It’s interesting that if you send a kid to a private school (or what is called a ‘public school’), it’s going to cost over £30,000 per year, whereas in the state system the budget for each pupil is around £4,000. 

Nearly eight times less! We need to invest in our schools, so that our teachers can take their proper place in society – and indeed so that we can attract the best and most talented people to become teachers – and so that those schools can have all the facilities to educate our children to the highest standard. It’s no good when Dame Louise Casey, the Children’s Commissioner, says in her leaving report that a fifth of children leaving school cannot read and write. We are the sixth richest country in the world, and that is disgraceful. Teachers need to be in the same league as other professionals.Every child should have a proper amount spent on them. We should rejoin the Erasmus educational exchange scheme. Labour will do this.

We must get away from this idea that public is bad and private is good. Think where you would rather live, if you couldn’t live where you do now. Which country? I expect quite a lot of people would say Italy, France, Germany, or Spain, where every town has an elegant square and fine buildings around it; fine public facilities – in Germany even modest sized towns have their own opera house – whereas our whole country has only three major opera houses.

We have to get through this pandemic. It seems wrong to us in Labour that there are still hundreds of thousands of people who have fallen through the net and are not receiving any kind of state benefits even though they are prevented from working, perhaps because they have just changed their job or they have gone self-employed – and by the way, being self-employed, we think, is often a scam, so their employers can cheat the tax-man. 

We are very pleased to see the judgement in the Uber case which is, we hope, going to outlaw much of the ‘gig economy’ so that everyone who works hard can have paid holidays and sick leave when they need it. Good work by the trades unions got this result, and Labour will legislate to make sure of it.

But, you will say, Labour is always very good at spending other people’s money. We need government to be prudent. Frankly, you need to know, that is an over-simplification. As Mr Sunak has proved, when the money is needed, money can be easily found. If you compare our situation now with that at the end of World War II, we were far worse off then and borrowing was much higher – and yet the Labour government successfully started the NHS, built half a million council houses and created the modern welfare state. Margaret Thatcher and her handbag are not a good economic model!

And what about our relations with Europe? We don’t think that people voted to leave the Customs Union and Single Market. Indeed the Brexit campaigners constantly assured us that there would be no question of this happening. 

Again, people wanting to stop immigration have perhaps forgotten how many immigrants keep the NHS going. How many doctors and nurses there are from other countries all around the world. How many teachers and researchers in our leading universities – and indeed how many plumbers and fruit pickers – there are from our friends and neighbours in other countries.

Immigrants, as a group, contribute over 10% more in tax than people who were born in this country. We should welcome them. Freedom of movement would actually be a very good thing for our country, so long as we have proper resources in place. 

If there is a competition for public services, it is because those services have been cut to the bone. If we had properly funded public services, then everybody would be able to benefit, wherever they have come from. 

Labour wants this country to be really world-class, not just world-class for the spivs. A Labour government would lead the country, all the country, into a better place. We know that it will cost money, at least in the short run, and we need to look again at the taxation of the giant multinational companies who use our public facilities but contribute hardly anything in tax.

There is a reason why it is cheaper to shop online than to visit a shop on the High Street. It is because the likes of Amazon and Apple and Google play the market in international tax and pay little or nothing in this country. Labour will put a stop to this and will tax the multinational companies not on profits but on turnover from sales in this country. 

And yes, we will introduce higher rates of income tax for the wealthy. It’s true that the wealthy already pay a lot of tax. But frankly if you earn several hundred thousand pounds a year you can afford to pay some more.

We will look sympathetically at the idea of universal basic income. It is frankly wrong that anyone in work should have to go to a food bank, as many nurses do. It is wrong that people who are disabled or unable to work for whatever reason should have less to cover all their living expenses than what many people spend every week just on groceries in Sainsbury’s or Waitrose.

Mention those shop names; what’s happening on the High Street is something which Labour wants to address too. The great department shops can’t survive if people can buy everything online at a cheaper price. Your local bookshop won’t survive if Amazon can sell books for less than the local book shop can buy them wholesale. Labour will ensure that online retailers have to bear the same costs as physical shops who employ local people and provide real service face-to-face.

Labour will invest in our justice system. We will actively seek to rejoin the European criminal intelligence network; we will reopen courts and provide properly resourced Legal Aid, including for family cases, so that justice is no longer open only to the rich, and people charged in criminal cases do not have to wait for up to a year to be tried. Justice delayed is justice denied, and Labour agrees. Labour will uphold the Human Rights Act.

Welcome to our world – to the Labour world. Really world-class.

[Applause]

29th January 2021

A dispute has arisen between the UK and the EU concerning the distribution of Covid vaccines made by AstraZeneca. For what it’s worth I offer the following thoughts, as a long-retired English solicitor who once specialised in shipping and international trade.

There are two contracts involved: an ‘advance purchase agreement’ (the APA) between AstraZeneca (AZ) and the European Commission, (EC), acting as agent for the 27 states who are members of the European Union (EU), a redacted copy of which is available at https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/api/files/attachment/867990/APA%20-%20AstraZeneca.pdf; and a presumably similar contract between AZ and the British Government (UK govt). The terms of this second contact have not been disclosed.

UK govt are said to have ‘bought’ a certain quantity of Covid vaccine from AZ. Perhaps it is more accurate to say they have ‘agreed to buy’ a certain number of doses, when available. UK govt have bought and used some vaccines already.

In the recitals to the APA, AZ ‘has committed to use its Best Reasonable Efforts (as defined …) to build capacity to manufacture 300 million Doses of the Vaccine [defined terms], …. for distribution within the EU … with an option for .. [EC] .. to order an additional 100 million Doses …’

‘Best Reasonable Efforts’ is defined at clause 1.9.

The contract is subject to Belgian law.

Clause 5.4 specifies that AZ will use Best Reasonable Efforts to manufacture in the EU. This clause is to be understood so as to include the UK temporarily within the EU.

Clause 8.3(b) ‘In the event that … the number of Doses set forth in the Binding Allocation [as defined in 8.3(a)] does not equal 300 million, then … the .. allocation of the Initial Europe Doses shall be made on a pro-rata basis to reflect the respective populations of each of the Participating Member States …’

AZ’s obligations under the contract are to make ‘Best Reasonable Efforts’ to make and supply vaccines.

In the English law of contracts a distinction is made between an undertaking (a contractual promise) to do something, and an offer to ‘use best endeavours’ to do something, which is not an undertaking, or contractual promise – it is merely a promise to try.

What does Belgian law say about this? Is ‘Best Reasonable Efforts’ a legally-defined phrase, in the way that to ‘use best endeavours’ is in English law?

The reason why, in English law, a party may contract only to use best endeavours is because in the particular circumstances, they cannot control or guarantee the outcome. They will try to bring it about, but they cannot guarantee it.

I do not know whether there is a similar distinction in Belgian law.

Given the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 epidemic and the very rapid development of vaccines, it is understandable that any supplier of vaccines would not guarantee a particular level of supply, and indeed cl 8.3(b) sets out a mechanism for distribution in the event that targets are not met, despite ‘Best Reasonable Efforts’.

In cl 13, Representations and Warranties, AZ says, (e), ‘.. it is not under any obligation, contractual or otherwise, to any Person or third party in respect of the Initial Europe Doses or that conflicts with or is inconsistent… with the terms … or would impede the complete fulfilment of its obligations ….’

Cl 13 gives some assurance that the operation of the second contract, with the UK, does not interfere. Supplies of vaccine which would otherwise have gone to the EU are unaffected.

Vaccine nationalism does not help the human race. Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation has said that squabbles among the rich nations about how the cake should be divided are particularly repugnant to people who do not have even the crumbs.

Hugh Bryant

29th January 2021

PS – 31st January 2021 – In the light of various press reports.

In the AZ context, there are at least two contracts, the ‘Advance Purchase Agreement’ between AZ and the EU and (probably) a similar agreement between AZ and the UK. Nobody mentions the second agreement and nobody knows what it says. 

In that these ‘APAs’ are in effect contracts to contract, or agreements to agree, in English law they would most probably be construed as being of no binding effect. Only the eventual actual agreement to purchase vaccine would be contractually binding. But Belgian law may not agree …