Angela Rayner has argued that the relaxation of quarantining rules for senior executives of large businesses to perform activities that are “likely to be of significant economic benefit” to the country “takes the pi**”.
Following an announcement this morning that business executives visiting England are to be allowed to leave quarantine temporarily, Rayner tweeted: “Yet again it is one rule for those at the top and another for everyone else.”
“Sorry for the unparliamentary language but this just takes the pi**. It is the lowest paid working people who have got our country through this crisis, risking their lives on the frontline. This is an offensive slap in the face for them and shows this government’s true colours,” the deputy Labour leader wrote.
“This makes a total mockery of the sacrifices of the British people during this pandemic and this double standard is an insult to frontline workers that the British people will rightly be disgusted by.”
Under new guidelines, the government will allow senior business workers to leave quarantine on arrival in England if the activity they are leaving for has a “greater than 50% chance of creating or preserving at least 500 UK-based jobs”.
The jobs must be in “either an existing UK-based business which has at least 500 employees a new UK business within two years of the date you arrive in the UK”. How the chance of creating jobs will be measured has not been specified.
The exemption is for activities that cannot take place remotely or be done by others. “Senior executives” are defined as those working for multinational corporations with a branch in England, or those who want to make an investment in the UK.
Other Labour figures have also criticised the exemption. Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham described the decision as the “wrong move at the wrong time” and said that it “can’t be one rule for the rich and another for the rest”.
Jim McMahon argued that “we can’t have one rule for senior executives and another for everyone else” and urged ministers to publish the data behind the announcement made this morning.
“We have always said there is a need for some limited exemptions for workers and have repeatedly called on the government to publish the criteria behind these,” the Shadow Transport Secretary said.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “This exemption is designed to enable activity that creates and preserves UK jobs and investment, while taking steps to ensure public health risks are minimised.”
When not working in England on business matters, the senior executives will need to continue to self-isolate, according to the guidance published this morning, and must carry out meetings in a Covid-compliant manner.
The guidance stated: “Any individual who leaves self-isolation when required to self-isolate and who is not lawfully exempt from those requirements will be committing a criminal offence.”
Under the current system, anyone who arrives in England from one of the ‘amber-list’ countries must quarantine at home or where they are staying for ten days and take a Covid test on or before day two and another on or after day eight.