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UK coronavirus live: testing shortage could lead to 'lockdown by default', says teaching union head UK coronavirus live: Boris Johnson faces Angela Rayner at PMQs as Keir Starmer comes out of self-isolation
(32 minutes later)
News updates: government facing escalating pressure over testing crisis ahead of PMQS, as hospitals plug holes in system News updates: Labour leader out of self-isolation but not in time for PMQs; testing shortage could lead to ‘lockdown by default’, says teaching union head
Rayner says the PM is saying it is the public’s fault. The next time someone drives from London to Durham it will be for a Covid test.
She turns to the issue of mothers having to give birth without their partners. Even worse, some have had to endure miscarriages. Will the PM meet to discuss this issue?
Johnson says Rayner is right to raise this. He understands the point, and agrees. He says health ministers will meet Rayner to discuss this.
Rayner says just yesterday the chief executive of Care England said weekly tests for care home staff were not being delivered. Matt Hancock said it would take weeks to sort this out. But we don’t have weeks, she says.
Johnson says the government has delivered on the most through-going system in Europe. The number of tests has gone up to 240,000 per day. He quotes figures showing testing numbers are higher than Germany, France and Spain.
What has happened is that there has been “a huge, huge surge in demand”, he says.
People should follow the guidance.
Rayner says she welcomes what the PM says, but “get some skates on it”. The PM has put his faith on the moonshot. But on planet earth tests are not available. Do all care homes get weekly tests?
Yes, says Johnson, to the best of his knowledge. They should get weekly tests for staff, and tests every 28 days for residents.
There has been a colossal spike in the number of people trying to get a test, he says. Capacity has been increased. Four new labs are being built. He says he wants to get up to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October. He says the UK is testing more than any other European country.
Rayner says people will see that Johnson did not know how much care workers are paid. It is just over £8 an hour. Will the PM commit to giving care homes the funds they need?
Johnson says a winter care home action plan will be announced tomorrow. The government wants to protect care homes. They will get the PPE they need, the guidance they need and the cash they need.
Angela Rayner says she has a message from someone called Keir. He cannot go to work today because his family needed a test. She says people who can’t get tests can’t go to work. Johnson once earned £2,300 an hour. How much does an average care worker get?
Johnson says the Starmer test came out negative. He says he does not know why Starmer is not here today. He says 89% of people get a test result the next day. He says the government has increased the national living wage.
James Daly (Con) asks for a progress report on the catch-up tuition programme for pupils.
Johnson says the first tutors will start in November.
Boris Johnson says today marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to America. Around 35 million Americans trace their ancestry to someone from the Mayflower.
This is my colleague Peter Walker’s take on what to expect from PMQs.
PMQs is about to start.
Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said schools should rely on their “unique” supply of testing kits to avoid situations where staff and students were unable to access tests. Speaking to the Commons education committee, he said:
Asked to guarantee that staff and pupils could access tests locally within 48 hours, Williamson said:
Williamson’s comments referred to the 10 testing kits that were sent to all schools in England at the start of term, with the Department for Education announcing yesterday that they could reorder a further 10 within 21 days. The set of 10 has been given to schools regardless of size, and heads with 1,000 or more pupils on their rolls have called the number inadequate.
Earlier this week a number of headteachers complained they had exhausted their supply of kits.
The DfE’s own guidance states that individuals should first try to be tested through other routes, and that school testing kits “should only be offered in the exceptional circumstance an individual becomes symptomatic and you believe they may have barriers to accessing testing elsewhere”.
Williamson said that “there is a recognition that [testing capacity] needs to continue to grow”, and added:
Robert Halfon, the education committee’s chair, asked Williamson: “You’ll obviously be aware that schools are expressing that they can’t get hold of tests for their staff, or they are being told to travel long distances, and that’s one of the reasons why they’re saying some schools are closing?”
Williamson replied:
Sir Keir Starmer is out of self-isolation. He has just posted these on Twitter.Sir Keir Starmer is out of self-isolation. He has just posted these on Twitter.
But he won’t be rushing to the Commons in a bid to make it in for PMQs, which starts in 25 minutes. Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, will still deputise for him, as arranged last night.But he won’t be rushing to the Commons in a bid to make it in for PMQs, which starts in 25 minutes. Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, will still deputise for him, as arranged last night.
Back in the Northern Ireland affairs committee, in response to a question about whether the EU would be able to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism under the withdrawal agreement in response to the UK’s decision to introduce the internal market bill, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, says he has not had that conversation with the attorney general.Back in the Northern Ireland affairs committee, in response to a question about whether the EU would be able to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism under the withdrawal agreement in response to the UK’s decision to introduce the internal market bill, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, says he has not had that conversation with the attorney general.
Lewis says he does not see why the issue is relevant, because the UK is still trying to implement the agreement.Lewis says he does not see why the issue is relevant, because the UK is still trying to implement the agreement.
The Commons foreign affairs committee is launching an inquiry into camps in which at least a million Uighurs have been incarcerated by the Chinese authorities.The Commons foreign affairs committee is launching an inquiry into camps in which at least a million Uighurs have been incarcerated by the Chinese authorities.
Among the issues it will look at is ways the government can prevent UK companies from benefiting from the forced labour of members the Chinese Muslim minority detained in Xinjiang.Among the issues it will look at is ways the government can prevent UK companies from benefiting from the forced labour of members the Chinese Muslim minority detained in Xinjiang.
Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the committee, said:Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the committee, said:
The NASUWT teaching union has urged the government to prioritise the education sector for the allocation of coronavirus tests. In a letter to the Department for Education for England, Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the union had heard of approximately 600 pupils being told to self-isolate in one local authority area and he said the “number is growing”. Roach said:
Schoolchildren and their parents should be next in line for Covid-19 tests after NHS and social care, Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, has suggested. Buckland told Sky News this morning:
My colleague Simon Murphy has the full story here.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, tells the Northern Ireland affairs committee that he is “very optimistic” about the prospects of the UK and the EU being able to negotiate a trade deal.
Labour has renewed its call for the government to fix the coronavirus testing system. In a statement referring to the government’s plans to prioritise access to testing, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said:
In Northern Ireland committee Simon Hoare, the chair, asks Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, if it is still his view that the EU is acting “in good faith” in terms of implementing the withdrawal agreement, as he said in a statement to the committee published on Monday. Lewis says that is still his view.
This undermines the claim by Boris Johnson that the EU is trying to implement the withdrawal agreement in an extreme and unreasonable way.
This is from Neale Richmond, a Fine Gael member of the Irish parliament, on Brandon Lewis’s comment to the select committee a few minutes ago in which he would not commit to the UK abiding by the outcome of any withdrawal agreement arbitration process. (See 10.48am.)
Peter Foster, the Financial Times’ public policy editor and Brexit specialist, is even more critical.
The European commission president Ursula von der Leyen has warned the British government against reneging on the Brexit deal Boris Johnson signed last year.
In a speech to the European parliament, Von der Leyen said the Brexit withdrawal agreement had been ratified by MEPs and MPs and could not be “unilaterally changed, disregarded, disapplied”. She added: “This is a matter of law and trust and good faith.”
The government announced last week that it planned to break international law in “a very specific and limited” way, through its internal market bill that would give UK ministers the power to override some parts of the Brexit deal related to Northern Ireland.
The commission president invoked Margaret Thatcher to make plain her criticism. She quoted the former Conservative prime minister as saying: “Britain does not break treaties. It would be bad for Britain, bad for relations with the rest of the world and bad for any future treaty on trade.”
Von der Leyen said: “This was true then, and it is true today. Trust is the foundation of any strong partnership.”
She also dismissed the British government’s argument that the treaty had been agreed in a rush:
Her remarks were part of Von der Leyen’s first “state of the union” address, an annual speech on the commission’s legislative priorities, consciously modelled on the US equivalent. It was the first such speech without heckling by Nigel Farage and his MEPs, who often jeered (the commission president) or cheered (Brexit) on previous occasions. The last British MEPs quit the European parliament when the UK left the EU on 31 January.
Back in the Northern Ireland committee Simon Hoare, the chair, asks if the government will abide by the outcome of the arbitration process set out in the Northern Ireland protocol for the resolution of disputes between the UK and the EU.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, says he does not want to answer that because it is a hypothetical question.
Hoare says it is an important question. He says other countries that sign agreements with the UK will want to know that it sticks to agreements.
Lewis says the UK is a country that acts in good faith.
Hoare says that is not the way the UK is being seen at the moment.
Lewis says the UK’s history shows that it is a country that keeps its words.
Hoare says people are concerned about the present and the future. Countries will be judged by their deeds, he says.
He says he has no doubt about Lewis’ personal commitment to the rule of law. But it is “the wider group” that counts, he says.
Lewis refuses to commit the government to accepting the outcome of any dispute resolution process launched under the withdrawal agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol.
Tui UK has committed to paying any outstanding refunds for package holidays cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic by 30 September after the regulator received a deluge of complaints that the travel company was breaching consumer law, my colleague Jasper Jolly reports.