A Labour plan to scrap the amber list and move all countries in this category on to the red list has been defeated in the House of Commons.
The motion put forward in parliament by shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds on Tuesday (15 June) would have reformed the current traffic light system to include just two categories: a red list alongside a “tightly managed” green list.
But the plan was eventually defeated by MPs by 363 to 256 votes – a majority of 107.
Thomas-Symonds said: “As an island, our border protections should have been one of our strengths. Instead, they have been an Achilles heel.
“Time and again, I have warned that the UK government’s border measures are far too weak, yet from the very outset of the pandemic, government actions at the border have been too little, too late.”
Thomas-Symonds also argued there “should be a growing green list now” and blamed the “ambiguous” amber list for spreading confusion among the British public.
“The reason we are unable to grow the green list to the extent we want is the danger created by the ambiguous amber list, by people mixing at airports, and by the mixed messaging from the government about whether people can actually travel,” he said.
“It is not the fault of the people who are travelling.”
But Conservative MP Huw Merriman, who also chairs the Commons’ Transport Committee, questioned how long moving so many countries to the red list would last. Arrivals from red list countries must quarantine in government-arranged hotels for 10 days.
“He [Thomas-Symonds] says it is to deal with the risk of new variants being introduced into the UK,” said Merriman. “That risk could last indefinitely, so does that mean that his border closure would, by its very nature, also be indefinite?
“Normally I am very critical of my government’s approach for being too cautious, but here I find that the opposition motion is even more cautious and, in my view, would finish off the international travel industry, which is already on its knees.”
Aviation minister Robert Courts said: “We are taking a cautious, robust, sustainable approach to opening up international travel at a time when the vaccine rollout is ongoing and infection rates are low.
“Everyone in this house wants to see international travel reopen fully as soon as it is safe for it to do so.
“This is about far more than holidays, important though the travel business of course is.
“It is important, too, for people to do business and, yes, for people to go abroad and see the wonders of the world. That is something that, when it is safe, we all want to do.”