Labour leader Keir Starmer has accused prime minister Boris Johnson of persisting with a traffic light system that “doesn’t work and won’t stop other variants coming in”.
During prime minister’s questions, Starmer attacked Johnson for making “so many mistakes” with the UK’s border policy in recent months, including the government’s slowness in putting India on the red list in April, which could have helped to stop the spread of the Delta variant.
Starmer told the House of Commons: “After so many mistakes and with the stakes so high, why doesn’t the prime minister do what Labour is calling for: drop the traffic light system, get rid of the amber list, secure the borders and do everything possible to save the British summer?”
But Johnson responded: “We have the toughest border measures anywhere in the world. We have 50 countries on the red list. If he’s now saying he wants to stop all travel to and from this country, then it’s yet another flip-flop from the leader of the opposition.”
Starmer also said travel and tourism were among the sectors “paying the price for the prime minister’s failure”. It came after a Labour motion for the government to scrap the amber list was defeated on Tuesday evening.
The Labour leader appealed to the government to do more to support industries such as travel that continue to be hit hard by the existing Covid-19 restrictions.
“All they ask is if they have to keep their businesses closed, they get the support that they need,” said Starmer. “But where is it? Business rate relief is being withdrawn from the end of this month, affecting 750,000 businesses, and furlough is being phased out.”
Johnson replied that the government was “proud of the support we’ve given to business up and down the country”, including the furlough scheme, business rates relief and grants of up to £18,000.
“We are seeing businesses slowly recovering, and growth in the economy in April was 2.3%,” he added. “I know how tough things have been and we will look after businesses throughout this pandemic.”