Sunday shows: Dido Harding position “untenable”, says Rosena Allin-Khan

Andrew Kersley

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Shadow mental health minister Rosena Allin-Khan described the position of Test and Trace head Dido Harding as “untenable”. The Labour frontbencher also confirmed that Labour would force a fresh Commons vote on extending free school meals.

  • On the campaign for another Commons vote on free school meals: “The Labour Party are not going to give up on our young people, on the children who are going to bed hungry.”
  • On the Conservatives who voted against the motion last week: “The fact that 322 MPs made the morally reprehensible decision to vote against free school meals this week is deeply saddening.”
  • On recent community campaigns to provide food to children in need: “What has played out over the ensuing days is the very best of what it means to be British. Our communities have stood up to this government and said: ‘we don’t care what you have done – we are angry, and we are going to take matters into our own hands’.”
  • On the work of footballer Marcus Rashford: “It makes me so proud to be British and I know that Marcus Rashford and his campaign absolutely represents the best of our country.”
  • On hopes for a government U-turn on free school meals: “We are honestly hoping the Conservative government dig deep and look introspectively and perform a U-turn on this, but we certainly will be pushing for a vote before Christmas.”
  • On Tory dissent over Test and Trace: “I think the huge take-home message here is that the Tories are infighting because even they themselves can see just how catastrophic the handling of our test, trace and isolate system has been.”
  • On whether Dido Harding needs to stand down: “Her position is very difficult, it’s untenable really. But fundamentally this comes down to the responsibility of the government – they have failed people.”
  • On how long Labour’s proposed ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown would last: “It would last for a certain amount of time no matter what happens and then we would go back into the tiered system.”
  • On the need for a circuit breaker: “Fundamentally, this circuit breaker is needed to get on top of a shambolic test, trace and isolate system. If we are able to get on top of that, it will protect our economy.”
  • On rumoured government proposals to reduce the 14-day Covid self-isolation period: “It is essential that we only do what is safe and, fundamentally, it all comes back down to getting on top of test, trace and isolate because if the government were able to do that then people would have some certainty.”
  • On the impact of Covid on people’s mental health: “The government need to have a plan in place, a mental health and wellbeing strategy, going into this winter. That is what Labour is calling for.”
  • On her three breaches of parliamentary rules: “The rules are important and they are there to be followed. The first time I broke the rules was because on paper that I paid for myself I used a picture of a crown and portcullis. I made a mistake, I didn’t realise that that was an issue.”
  • She added: “I then declared my NHS payment for my shift a little bit late. And I used paper to respond to people who had written to me about Brexit. I did it in good faith.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis also appeared on the show this morning. Discussing the test and trace scheme, he acknowledged that the government “want to see it improve”, but defended the scheme as “the biggest in Europe”.

Asked about reports that private sector consultants in the testing system have been paid day rates of £7,000, he said it was “quite right” that the government used both the public and private sectors as it brought in “the very best expertise”.

He confirmed that the government was looking into reducing the 14-day Covid isolation period for those travelling from abroad or living with someone who has tested positive and said that ministers were “moving with the science” on the issue.

Lewis also defended the decision to vote against extending free school meals this week, arguing that Downing Street was trying to “deal with child poverty at the core” and that the country was “in a different place than we were during the summer”.

Backbench Tory MP and liaison committee chair Bernard Jenkin called for Dido Harding to stand down from her position as head of the test and trace system, saying: “It’s what leadership does, not who leadership is, that really matters”.

He recommended that control of the test and trace system should be handed over to a “very senior military person… who is used to dealing with a crisis situation, under stress, at scale, with very high degrees of complexity and organisation”.

The Andrew Marr Show

Labour’s Vaughan Gething, the Welsh government health minister, defended the non-essential items ban that has attracted criticism during the national ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales.

  • On whether banning the sale of non-essential products is being scrapped: “No, we are reviewing with supermarkets the understanding and the clarity of the policy because there has been different application in different parts.”
  • Asked about the “absurdity” of certain products being taped off in supermarkets, Gething pointed to the Welsh Conservatives saying it would be unfair to smaller retailers.
  • Gething added: “To have an effective firebreak, we do need to reduce opportunity for people to go out and mix. And that’s we have this clarity of what’s essential and what’s not.”
  • On why the firebreak is national: “If we decided to exclude Ceredigion, we’d have had different issues with a number of people who there who want to see national measures taken. It isn’t as simple as saying that everybody agrees one part of the country should be excluded. We also know from the local restrictions we did have, covering three quarters of Wales, that was getting more and more difficult to explain.”
  • Asked whether there will be a series of firebreaks, Gething reiterated that they do not expect “a dramatic reduction in hospital admissions or death rates” due to the lag.

Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, defended the government’s opposition to extending free school meals during holidays and said Eat Out to Help Out “kept more people in work” by helping the hospitality industry.

Explaining the stance on free school meals, he said: “We’re in a different position with Covid, particularly with schools being reopened, and we’ve put this £63m in to deliver for local authorities to help those in need.”

Lewis also criticised previous guest Vaughan Gething and the Welsh Labour government’s non-essential items ban by referring to a “test bed for left-wing, socialist authority, coming out with these crazy outcomes”.

On Brexit, which has seen UK-EU talks resume, the Northern Ireland spokesperson told Marr: “I think there’s a good chance we can get a deal, but the EU need to understand it’s for them to move as well.”

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