Baroness Chakrabarti scolded by Lords leader after shouting at health minister

The former Liberty director lost her cool after Lord Markham said he was proud of the UK’s record on distributing the Covid vaccine around the world.

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti
Baroness Shami Chakrabarti (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A Labour peer has been scolded by the Leader of the House of Lords after she lost her temper and shouted at a health minister.

Baroness Chakrabarti, former shadow attorney general, lost her cool after health minister Lord Markham said he was proud of the UK’s record on distributing the Covid vaccine around the world, including in less well-off countries.

Lady Chakrabarti shouted: “Why did we block the Trips waiver? Why did we block the Trips waiver?”

Lords leader Lord True stood up to reprimand the former Liberty director, and said: “The noble lady knows better than to shout at another member, when other members before her are also trying to get in to ask a question.”

The Trips waiver refers to the waiving of intellectual property for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, first proposed by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in October 2020.

The waiver would allow global south countries to produce Covid-19 vaccines patent-free.

Lord Browne of Ladyton said: “An international pandemic treaty, Government policy since 2021, and currently being negotiated by the World Health Assembly, aims to prepare for the next global health emergency and prevent a repeat of what South Africa called ‘vaccine apartheid’, where countries have vastly unequal access to Covid vaccines and drugs.

“Next month, the World Health Organisation member states are expected to vote on the final text. Where do we stand on the key issue of pathogen access and benefit sharing?

“On the side of the group for equity, or with those rich countries who have suggested that such an approach would undermine their sovereignty?”

Lord Markham responded: “I think our record on this speaks for itself, and I’m very proud of the action that we took as a Government to make sure that the AstraZeneca vaccine was prepared quickly, put in arms quickly, and offered all round the world on a not-for-profit basis very, very quickly.

Leader of the House of Lords Lord True
Leader of the House of Lords Lord True (Victoria Jones/PA)

“Actions speak louder than words and that’s something that we prepared very, very well on.

“I have been involved in some of these conversations about the world pandemic preparedness; there is action that we think we can take collectively as a world, but what we are not prepared to see happen is our sovereignty, in terms of the management of our health services, ceded to other countries.”

Former top diplomat Lord Hannay of Chiswick said: “Does the minister not accept that throwing in reference to the word ‘sovereignty’ is simply a kind of ‘get out of jail’ card to ensure that next time around, again, equitable distribution across the world will not be achieved?”

Lord Markham hit back: “Excuse me, I think we’ll find that Britain was a leader in the world in terms of developing a vaccine and making it available all round the world on a not-for-profit basis.

“If anyone can come up with examples where countries have done more than we have in this space, I’d be delighted to hear. I for one am proud of what we did in this space.”

His comments triggered Lady Chakrabarti’s angry response, as she stood up to shout at the minister, but she was cautioned by the House leader, and sat down to allow other questions.