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UK coronavirus live: Boris Johnson admits country does not have enough testing capacity UK coronavirus live: PM admits there is not enough testing capacity but warns second lockdown would be 'disastrous'
(32 minutes later)
PM tells Commons liaison committee capacity will be up to 500,000 tests per day by end of October; Rhondda Valley outbreak linked to Doncaster races PM says testing capacity will be 500,000 per day by end of October but warns of financial consequences of a new lockdown; Rhondda Valley outbreak linked to trip to Doncaster races
Sir Bill Cash, the Conservative chair of the European scrutiny committee, goes next.
Cash says other governments have been in breach of international law without facing any sanctions.
Q: On sovereignty, do you agree that international law allows each state to give precedence to domestic law? “Sounds sensible to me,” says Cash.
Johnson says he agrees. He wants a system that will protect parliamentary sovereignty, but also the integrity of the UK.
Cash says he has 20 examples of EU overrides in UK law already.
Q: Aren’t these examples of double standards?
Johnson says he thinks this is about the UK as a country ensuring that its “friends and partners” do not do something extreme or unreasonable in terms of implementing the Northern Ireland protocol.
Johnson says he does not think the EU is negotiating in good faith.
Hilary Benn, the Labour chair of the Brexit committee, goes next.
Q: Is Lord Keen of Elie still in post?
Johnson says negotiations are still continuing, so he cannot give a clear answer.
Neil Parish (Con), chair of the environment committee, goes next.
Q: Are you confident that goods will be able to flow easily over the border from January?
Johnson says a huge amount of work on this is going on.
He says the internal market bill will help in this regard.
Q: If they play hardball, shouldn’t we threaten to put tariffs on all EU goods if there is no deal?
Johnson says the UK’s tariff regime would be “quite formidable” for some EU goods if there were no tariffs.
Q: So will you commit to reciprocal tariffs?
Of course, says Johnson. There will be tariffs. The schedule has been published.
Q: Reciprocal tariffs?
Yes, says Johnson.
Johnson says the UK will impose reciprocal tariffs on EU goods in the event of there being no trade deal. At one point the UK said it would not impose tariffs, regardless of what the EU did.
Labour’s Meg Hillier, the chair of the public accounts committee, goes next.
Q: Some 11% of pupils are missing school. What will you do to support them?
Johnson say there is a £1bn catch-up fund.
Q: School funding has gone down.
Johnson says he is surprised by Hillier’s hostile tone.
He says he does not accept her claim that test and trace has failed. It has done a “quite remarkable job” in expanding from a standing start.
He would not want people working in the system to think that MPs think they are failure.
Q: Who will lead the charge to get the moonshot working, with up to 10m tests per day?
Johnson says he does not recognise the figure.
(In fact, it comes from an official document.)
Julian Knight, the Conservative chair of the culture committee, goes next.
Q: Is it right that people in the arts and theatre community will lose help once the furlough scheme runs out?
Johnson says he wants them to be able to get back to normal.
Q: Can we have a specific date for theatre opening?
Johnson says he would like to be able to do that. But he says for people to go back to theatres with no physical distancing, you will need instant, mass testing. We are not there yet, he says.
Q: These sectors will need a long-term recovery plan. Are you aware of that, and what are you going to do about it?
Johnson says, from his time as London mayor, he knows how important this sector is.
Q: So will you commit to a long-term recovery plan for this sector?
Johnson says there is one already.
Q: Can we afford another national lockdown?
Johnson says he does not want on. It would be “disastrous”. But we must beat this disease by the plan set out.
Johnson says he has “real, real sympathy” for the self-employed who do not qualify for the Treasury support schemes available.
In response to another question from Stride, Johnson says he is right to say the threat of interest rates rising in the future is a real one.In response to another question from Stride, Johnson says he is right to say the threat of interest rates rising in the future is a real one.
Mel Stride, the Tory chair of the Treasury committee, goes next.Mel Stride, the Tory chair of the Treasury committee, goes next.
Q: Will the Treasury consider what it can to do support businesses that will be viable when this is over?Q: Will the Treasury consider what it can to do support businesses that will be viable when this is over?
Johnson says the government will be intensely creative to help. People would not have expected it to produce something as imaginative as the furlough scheme. It will continue like that, he says.Johnson says the government will be intensely creative to help. People would not have expected it to produce something as imaginative as the furlough scheme. It will continue like that, he says.
Q: If you land at an Italian airport, you can be tested and get a result in 30 minutes. But our constituents cannot get tested. What are you going to do about it?Q: If you land at an Italian airport, you can be tested and get a result in 30 minutes. But our constituents cannot get tested. What are you going to do about it?
Johnson says he knows people have had infuriating experiences. He sympathises with them. But 89% of people get a result within 24 hours.Johnson says he knows people have had infuriating experiences. He sympathises with them. But 89% of people get a result within 24 hours.
As for airport tests, they can produce false results giving people a false sense of security.As for airport tests, they can produce false results giving people a false sense of security.
Q: Your ‘it all seems to be going well’ response is not appropriate.Q: Your ‘it all seems to be going well’ response is not appropriate.
Johnson says that is not what he said.Johnson says that is not what he said.
Q: If the government can break the law in a limited and specific way, why shouldn’t people do the same with the rule of six?Q: If the government can break the law in a limited and specific way, why shouldn’t people do the same with the rule of six?
Johnson says he is urging people to obey this rule.Johnson says he is urging people to obey this rule.
Catherine McKinnell (Lab) goes next.Catherine McKinnell (Lab) goes next.
Q: Why did you reject the recommendations from a committee proposing measures to support pregnant women during the crisis?Q: Why did you reject the recommendations from a committee proposing measures to support pregnant women during the crisis?
Johnson says he does not think that is the case. He supports partners being allowed to be present when women are giving birth. He said so in the Commons at PMQs, he says.Johnson says he does not think that is the case. He supports partners being allowed to be present when women are giving birth. He said so in the Commons at PMQs, he says.
Q: But the petitions committee made a series of recommendations on this. Currently it is easier for a male partner to go to the pub than to be present at the birth. The government rejected almost all of them.Q: But the petitions committee made a series of recommendations on this. Currently it is easier for a male partner to go to the pub than to be present at the birth. The government rejected almost all of them.
Johnson says he is not aware of this, but will look into it.Johnson says he is not aware of this, but will look into it.
Q: Why do you think the civil service needs reform?
Johnson says he thinks the civil service is fantastic. But he thinks it could do some things faster.
He says he wants to stress that any reform will not be motivated by disapproval.
He is still committed to the Northcote-Trevelyan principles.
Q: So when will ministers take responsibility for things going wrong, not officials?
Johnson says as PM he takes responsibility for what the government does.
William Wragg (Con) goes next.
Q: When will you hold the inquiry you have promised?
Johnson says he does not think it would be sensible to start working on it now.
Q: You must have done some work already on lessons learnt. Can you give examples?
Johnson says they have learnt much more about asymptomatic transmission.
Jenkin says if schools can’t stay open, there will be huge problems. He says at a school in his constituency 97% of pupils went back. Now only 88% of them are in school.
Johnson says the government is trying to speed up the testing process.
Q: Why are so many people demanding tests now?
Johnson says people want tests so they can go about their normal lives.
But the guidance is that people should only seek tests when they have symptoms.
He says the government will shortly set out the criteria that will decide who gets priority for testing.
Greg Clark, the Tory chair of the science committee, goes first.
Q: Do we have enough testing capacity?
Johnson says the short answer is no.
But he says by the end of October capacity will be up to 500,000 tests per day.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, the committee chair, starts by asking Boris Johnson to commit to appearing three times before the committee in 2020 - which would mean one more appearance before Christmas.
Johnson says he will “look carefully at his diary” and do his utmost to comply.
Jenkin says he will take that as a yes.
(Based on previous experience, that may not be wise.)
Boris Johnson will start giving evidence to the Commons liaison committee in the next few minutes. It’s a committee made up of the chairs of Commons select committees, and it normally questions the PM about three times a year.
Greater Manchester will start using hundreds of police community support officers and fire safety staff to plug the holes of the struggling NHS Test and Trace system.Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, said the new locally-run contact-tracing unit would aim to quickly reach the 3,600 people falling through the gaps of the national system each week.The new unit will be staffed by more than 100 police and community support officers and 100 fire safety officers and aim to be established “in days rather than weeks”, Burnham said.Figures released by Burnham’s office today showed the government’s flagship NHS Test and Trace programme was still failing to reach 46% of the close contacts of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in Greater Manchester, equating to 519 people a day and 3,633 people a week.Burnham said instead of waiting for improvements to the privatised arm of Test and Trace, which is run by Serco and Sitel and is where most of the contacts are missed, Greater Manchester was taking matters into its own hands.“We are absolutely working flat-out to get this up and running as quickly as possible,” he said.The new command unit will mean staff are taken away from the already stretched Greater Manchester police and the region’s fire and rescue service. Burnham said the move “isn’t necessarily sustainable over the long term” but that it was being done in collaboration with the emergency services.The contact-tracing unit will also link into a new support service being launched to help people in Greater Manchester who will struggle to self-isolate for financial reasons.
Scotland has recorded 267 new coronavirus cases, amounting to 3.6% of people testing positive. And it has recorded one new death.
There have been no further deaths in Wales, but Public Health Wales has recorded 199 new cases.
And in Northern Ireland 129 new cases have been recorded, and two new deaths.
A new UK body to advocate for freedom of religion and belief has been launched with the backing of more than 50 organisations.
The first action of the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum was to urge the prime minister to act swiftly in appointing a new special envoy on religious freedom following the resignation on Monday of Rehman Chishti in protest at the government’s moves towards breaking international law through the internal market bill.
The forum is chaired by Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, who last year led an independent review commissioned by the Foreign Office on how the government should respond to Christian persecution around the world.