Johnson faces questions amid travel confusion and spread of ‘Indian variant’

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Ministers were falling over themselves to hand out contradictory advice yesterday. Environment Secretary George Eustace kicked off by telling us that we can travel to ‘amber list’ countries to visit friends and family. Boris Johnson then corrected him and warned against travelling to such countries. And then Health minister James Bethell later told parliament that “travel is dangerous”, urging “travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country”. Smacks a bit of the ‘go to work/don’t go to work‘ 2020 confusion. Government communications during the pandemic had finally started to improve, with Johnson taking a more cautious tone in his Covid press conferences, but on international travel we’re back to messaging as clear as mud.

The PM is likely to face questions over travel at Prime Minister’s Questions today. In particular, the delay in placing India on the red list and the spread of the ‘Indian variant’ in the UK. Labour has been plugging away at government border policy throughout the pandemic, and has not shied away from we-told-you-so-style comments in the wake of the spread of the variant of concern in the country. Steve Reed said at the weekend that Covid border policy had put the UK at risk from the variant, while Jonathan Ashworth accused ministers of leaving the borders “about as secure as a sieve” on Monday. The Labour leader goes into PMQs well-armed this afternoon after LBC reported last night that 110 direct flights from India with around 8,500 travellers have landed in the UK since it was placed on the red list.

MPs voted down a Labour motion to make safe buildings affected by the cladding crisis last night. The amendment, defeated by a majority of 138, called on the government to force developers to complete remediation works by June 2022 and protect leaseholders from paying the costs. Commenting after the vote, Labour’s Lucy Powell said: “Nobody should pass the five-year anniversary of Grenfell still living in an unsafe home, but today the government voted against a cast-iron deadline.” MPs will enter the final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech today. Labour has tabled a ‘humble address’ in an attempt to force the government to publish its internal review of the handling of the pandemic to ensure that lessons can be learned to protect the wider lifting of restrictions on June 21st.

Also on LabourList today, Wes Streeting has argued that only a Labour government will end child poverty. In his piece, the Shadow Child Poverty Secretary told readers that “the fight against child poverty is a going to be a major front in our battle with Boris Johnson’s government and a central mission for the next Labour government under Keir Starmer”. He also thanked Labour members for all their messages of support, telling us: “You can rest assured that once I’ve beaten cancer, I’ll be back, fighting fit, to help Keir beat the Tories.” Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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