Sunday shows: Labour welcomes return of pre-departure testing for travellers

Trevor Phillips on Sunday

Jim McMahon, Labour’s new Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, welcomed the government decision to reintroduce compulsory pre-departure travel testing but said ministers have been “very late in making the calls that are required” throughout the pandemic.

  • Asked whether Labour will support the government on pre-departure testing: “It was the Labour Party that was calling for pre-departure testing to take place because we’re very concerned that the government, particularly in the pandemic, has been very late in making the calls that are required.”
  • On Christmas amid rising Covid cases: “We want to look forward to Christmas, and the only way to do that is for the government to have a very clear plan for them to get on with the booster vaccination roll-out and to make sure that throughout the course of that the messaging is really clear.”
  • On parties: “We do not believe that Christmas parties should be cancelled. We believe that hospitality has been through a very difficult period and it’s very important for hospitality that we continue in the way that we want to.”
  • On Storm Arwen and the government response: “Had this been the case where 20,000 properties were without power in Surrey or in London, the government would absolutely have treated it with more seriousness.”
  • On Labour’s prospects in light of the Bexley and Old Sidcup by-election: “We understand fully the challenge ahead of us, but also we reflect on the progress that we’ve made – you know, in 2019, the election was a disaster.”
  • He added: “Keir Starmer as our leader has earned us the right to be heard… Now what we need to do is convince people that we have a plan, an alternative plan for this country, and that is very much the framing of the new shadow cabinet.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the government has taken a “balanced approach” to the spread of Omicron in the UK and insisted that people can enjoy Christmas despite the spread of the new Covid variant.

“We are going into this Christmas. We can enjoy Christmas the way we couldn’t last year. It is a testament to vaccine. We have done right thing, we’ve taken a balanced response,” the Justice Secretary said.

Put to him that the government should have introduced travel restrictions earlier to combat the spread of Omicron, the minister said the UK responded to the variant quicker than other countries but that testing rules are a “burden for the travel industry”.

Amid reports that Downing Street hosted parties in the run-up to Christmas 2020, while London was under tight restrictions banning gatherings, Raab said there would be no “Ministry of Justice-wide Christmas party” this year.

The Andrew Marr Show

For a second successive week, there was no Labour representative on Marr. LabourList understands that this is a choice made by the programme, as the party has been offering up spokespeople.

Dominic Raab said of Christmas parties this year: “The parties are fine. Enjoy being with loved ones this Christmas. It is not the job of government to micromanage all of these different common sense judgments.”

Asked about reports of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street last Christmas, he said: “If anyone held a party contrary to the rules, of course that’s the wrong thing to do. But… it’s not the responsible thing to start answering hypothetical questions about anonymous sources in relation to unsubstantiated claims.”

The Justice Secretary added that the police “don’t normally look back and investigate things that have taken place a year ago”.

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