Health Measures at UK Borders

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:52 pm on 27th January 2021.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 2:52 pm, 27th January 2021

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of it. My Scottish Government colleagues are concerned, as she knows, that her proposals do not go far enough; I would be grateful if she would confirm that she will listen to their representations.

It is, of course, the Home Secretary’s Department’s responsibility to control the United Kingdom’s external borders. Her Department holds the passenger data and the UK Border Force reports to her, so it is right that the Home Secretary should be the one to address the risks raised by the transmission of the virus by arrivals from abroad. I am going to repeat the questions that I asked during the exchanges on yesterday’s urgent question on this same topic, which the Home Secretary did not answer. I hope that, having had 24 hours’ notice to think about my questions and discuss them with her colleagues and advisers, she will now answer them.

In April and May of last year, I wrote to the Home Secretary asking for comprehensive health protections at the UK’s external borders, and I referred to the measures that were being introduced in other countries in Europe and around the world. Other Home Affairs Committee members were making similar requests, backed up by evidence. Last week, the Home Secretary admitted that we were right, and said that she thought that the United Kingdom should have closed its borders earlier, so why did she fail to take precautions that she knew were needed at the start of the pandemic? What stopped her from closing the borders? Was it her Cabinet colleagues? If so, why did she not resign and speak out, given the risk of increased transmission from people entering the country?

Finally, have the Government commissioned an assessment of what contribution the failure to close the borders earlier has made to the dreadful death toll across the United Kingdom? Will the Home Secretary put the results in the public domain? These questions concern not just my constituents and those of my SNP colleagues, but people throughout the four nations, so will she please answer them?