Covid-19 Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 27th January 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party, The Prime Minister 1:37 pm, 27th January 2021

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asks about mistakes, and I have said that there will be a time to reflect, to analyse, to learn lessons and to prepare. However, I say to him that I think the biggest mistake he has made is in seeking continually to attack what the Government have been trying to do at every opportunity, supporting one week and then attacking the very same policy the next week. He complains about confusion of messages. How much has he actually done, as Leader of the Opposition, to reassure the public, for example, about NHS Test and Trace, which has done a very good job, I notice, of confining him for the third time? What has he done to reassure people about messaging, rather than attacking, causing confusion and trying to sow doubt about what the Government are doing? There was a very different path open to him at the beginning of this pandemic and it is a great pity he has not taken it.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that the problem is not that schools are unsafe. They are not unsafe. Schools are safe—he should say it, and his union paymasters should hear him say it loud and clear. The problem is that schools bring communities together, obviously, and large numbers of kids are a considerable vector of transmission. It is not that there is any particular extra risk to those involved in education.

I heard with interest what the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to say about his proposal for changing the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation priority list, and I really think he should reflect on what he is saying. The JCVI priority list, one to nine, is designed by experts and clinicians to prioritise those groups who are most likely to die or suffer from coronavirus. By trying to change that, and saying that he now wants to bring in other groups of public sector workers, to be decided by politicians, rather than the JCVI, he has to explain which vaccines he would take from which vulnerable groups, to make sense of his policy. That is what he is doing and that is what the Labour proposal would involve.

Indeed, by making it more difficult for us to vaccinate all those vulnerable groups in the fastest possible way, that Labour policy would delay our route out of lockdown and delay our ability to get kids back into school in the way they want. I urge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to think again, or at least to explain which members of those vulnerable groups would be deprived of vaccines in order to follow the Labour policy.

All I can say, having listened carefully to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to say, is that everybody will have to answer questions at the end of this and—let me put it this way—all politicians will be asked what they did, and what we did collaboratively, working together for the people of our country, to beat this virus. I am not sure that, on reflection, his choice was the right one for either his party or the country.