Sir Keir Starmer has blamed Boris Johnson’s “pathetic border policy” for the delay in lifting lockdown restrictions in England until July 19.
The prime minister said the four week postponement follows concerns about the 60% more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, and fears a third wave could overwhelm the NHS.
“Absolutely pathetic,” said Starmer, castigating the decision to only start hotel quarantine in February, and even then for “only 1%” of travellers. He scorned the “ridiculous ‘red, amber, green’ traffic light system for confusing people and then the “inexplicable delay, from the 9th I think to the 23rd of April, in putting India on to the red list, with lots of people coming in.
“And then, on top of all of that, the mixing at Heathrow Airport of people on red lists and green lists. Pathetic.”
“That is why we are here and the Delta variant has got in because of the government’s pathetic control of the borders.”
One month delay will cost hospitality sector £3 billion sales
Johnson’s announcement means social distancing rules, mask wearing and limits on groups of six inside and 30 outside will continue. Unless you are having a wedding in which case the only limit to guest numbers will be the venue’s own Covid-secure and socially distanced capacity. Nightclubs will remain closed while Covid-secure caps on theatre numbers and other hospitality venues will persist, having caused anger and dismay across all parts of the industry and sector.
A four week delay will cost pubs £400 million according to the British Beer and Pub Association while UK Hospitality, which represents restaurants, bars and pubs, said it will cost the sector £3 billion in sales, and also” have a knock-on impact on bookings throughout the summer and into autumn.”
Speaker to dress down prime minister, ‘This House matter’ insists Hoyle
Speaker of the Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle vented his displeasure calling Johnson’s television announcement instead of a statement to MPs in the House, “totally unacceptable”.
Hoyle accused Downing Street of “running roughshod” over the Commons, and told MPs: “Can I just say, we weren’t going to get a statement until I got involved with Downing Street. The fact is this has been forced to actually get a statement today, it was going to be left to tomorrow, which would have been totally unacceptable.”
Conservative MPs Peter Bone and Sir Edward Leigh made points of order to voice their concern that the media was briefed before legislators, about an important policy announcement on changes to regulations restricting “the freedom of the British people”.
Hoyle said that he understood Johnson is at the Nato conference but added that “this house needs to know [the decisions], it needs to know first.
“I find it totally unacceptable that once again, once again, we see Downing Street running roughshod over members of parliament. We’re not accepting it and I’m at the stage where I’m beginning to look for other avenues if they’re not going to treat this house seriously.”
The speaker added: “It’s time for me to have a meeting with the prime minister to actually put on the record … with him that this house matters.”
PM’s action is ‘probably contempt of Parliament’ says Tory MP
Bone, the Tory MP for Wellingborough, told the Commons: “It’s a long-standing principle of this House that major changes to Government policy are announced to Parliament first.
“I can think of no more important policy announcement than changes to regulations that restrict the freedom of the British people.”
He added: “What makes this matter more concerning is that about 30 minutes ago the media were given an embargoed copy of the statement. So the media have the statement in advance, there will be a public press conference at 6pm and the last people to know about the changes to the Covid regulations will be members of Parliament.
“This is clearly very disrespectful to Parliament and probably a contempt of Parliament.”
The speaker’s anger follows last week’s warning from Hoyle to the government about allowing MPs a vote on the cut to the foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income.