Sunday shows: “I would do anything to protect low-paid workers,” says Burnham

The Andrew Marr Show

Labour mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham explained why he and other leaders in the area are resisting Tier 3 restrictions and pledged to “do anything to protect low-paid workers” who would be hit hard financially by the rules without further support.

  • Asked whether he plans to speak to the Prime Minister today: “That’s not been suggested to me, but of course I would.”
  • On the call he has scheduled: “I was due to speak to Sir Ed Lister today… Obviously I’m ready to speak to ministers.”
  • On his opposition to Tier 3 for Greater Manchester: “This is all about the health of the people of Greater Manchester… Protecting health is about more than controlling the virus. We’ve been under those restrictions for three months. People’s mental health now is pretty low.”
  • He added: “This isn’t about politics or about money, this is about people’s health… A punishing lockdown without support, trapping people in Tier 3 all winter, will cause real harm to health in the broadest possible sense.”
  • On when local intensive care units will be full: “There are currently around 62 people in intensive car in Greater Manchester. Back in April there were 220… It’s a serious situation but I don’t think it’s the situation described by the Prime Minister on Friday evening.
  • On next steps: “I’ll be writing to the main parties in Westminster to ask them to intervene, to ask parliament to intervene. What we need here is a fair financial framework if the government is going to insist on Tier 3.”
  • On whether the government can impose Tier 3: “The government is the government and they of course can impose these restrictions. I’m glad they haven’t and obviously I think it would be a mistake to do it.”
  • On whether he is still considering a legal challenge: “I would do anything to protect low-paid workers who I think now are very close to the edge. I don’t think they can survive on two-thirds wages. The legal challenge applies to that.”
  • On the letter from Tory MPs opposing Burnham’s stance: “I’m not sure a ‘we’re alright Jack’ letter from a group of Southern Conservative MPs is going to cut much ice here… I would say to them: anywhere could end up in Tier 3 this winter, in fact places are likely to end up in Tier 3 this winter. It’s everyone’s concern that we protect the lowest paid.”

Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, defended Labour’s call for a two- or three-week national circuit break. She accepted that repeated circuit breaks may be necessary, saying: “If that is what is needed, then that is the approach that has to be taken.”

  • On whether it is fair to lock down areas in the country with low Covid levels: “The difference between what we’re proposing and what the government is doing is our circuit break would be backed up by an economic package of support.”
  • She added: “The virus is on the rise in every part of the country… The R rate is above one everywhere in the country.”
  • On the economic impact of not implementing a circuit break: “People are already, of their own volition, not going out and not using businesses… If you get on top of the health problem, you solve the economic problem.”
  • On the government approach: “The tiered approach isn’t working. Tier 2 is just a holding ground before you go into Tier 3. 19 of the 20 areas that have been under restrictions, the virus has got worse and the restrictions have got greater.”
  • Urging the government to use a circuit break to sort out test and trace: “The Serco test and trace model is failing. Sack Serco and give those responsibilities to local communities.”
  • On whether the circuit break would have to be longer than 2-3 weeks: “SAGE and Labour are not suggesting that you come out of that two/three week period and go back to life as before… It’s important that the time is used to fix the test and trace system.”
  • On whether it would be the first of many circuit breaks: “If that is what is needed, then that is the approach that has to be taken. Because we’ve got to get a grip of this virus. At the moment, it feels like you’re going into a tunnel and you have no idea where the end of that tunnel is.”
  • On what must be done: “The government is pursuing a strategy now that we know isn’t working and is having a devastating impact on business. Try something different. Stop being wedded to this model that isn’t working – instead, follow the science.”

Reeves’ opposite number, Michael Gove, confirmed that the government would consider forcibly imposing restrictions on Greater Manchester if no agreement is reached.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said of Andy Burnham: “If he were being truly concerned about public health, he would say ‘let’s have these restrictions now’.”

He also falsely claimed: “Labour has not spelt out what is wrong with the level of economic support that we’re providing.”

Gove also stated that paying management consultants day rates of £7,000 – equivalent to an annual salary of around £1.5m – to work on Test and Trace is a good use of public money.

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green told viewers that Manchester should only go into Tier 3 restrictions with an “extra package of support” and stressed that Labour’s preference is for a national ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown.

  • On a circuit breaker lockdown: “A circuit breaker for two to three weeks would mean that we could halt and reverse the spread of the infection right across the country.”
  • On the benefits of taking the measure: “We would have that breathing space… It would really give us a chance to reset and take a step back before this virus really spirals out of control.”
  • On its possible effectiveness: “It will take time to feed through, but the risk of doing nothing is even greater frankly. If we do nothing at all, we know inevitably that we are going to see this virus and the rate of spread increase.”
  • On expert advice behind a national circuit break measure: “It’s not me who is saying, alone, we should do this. This was the advice of SAGE [the scientific advisory group on emergencies] scientists to the government a month ago.”
  • On Manchester and a potential deal between local and central government on a Tier 3 lockdown: “We must have measures here that address what is an absolute public health emergency… We do need that deal to include proper support for people’s jobs, for their businesses, for their livelihoods.”
  • She added: “We definitely need additional measures here. Tier 3 restrictions with support – with an extra package of support so that the restrictions have the best chance of actually being effective.”
  • But she insisted: “It’s a yes but my preference, Labour’s preference… is for a national circuit breaker because we think in the long term that will be more effective, more quickly.”
  • On free school meals for children during holidays as seen over the summer: “Labour is calling for that to be continued during this academic year, while we’re in the depth of this crisis, right through all the school holidays.”

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove also appeared on the show this morning. He said there no national circuit break lockdown will be introduced and insisted that a local approach is best.

He told viewers that the government wants to reach a deal with local leaders in Manchester on Covid restrictions and urged them to “put aside for the moment some of the political positioning that they have indulged in”.

But asked if the government would provide further economic support to ensure that people can afford to self-isolate, Gove said only that the government is “always keeping under review the support package that we need”.

SAGE member Jeremy Farrar told Sophy Ridge this morning that it is “never too late” to bring in a national lockdown and argued that it is “better to do it now than in a month’s time”.

He explained: “The best time to do this would have been around the 20th September as SAGE advised – that wasn’t decided upon then. The second best time to do this is now. And the worst time to do this is the end of November…

“It’s never too late. It’s better to do it now than in a month’s time, and yes I believe it would have been better to do it three or four weeks ago.”

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