Tuesday 22 December 2020 / 10:30 PM Coronavirus / Keir Starmer

Government must not delay should SAGE recommend action – Starmer

Labour leader Keir Starmer today calls on the Government to act immediately should SAGE recommend tougher restrictions in the coming days and weeks.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Starmer says that any SAGE recommendation on restrictions should be published without delay and accompanied by a plan for rolling out vaccines “as quickly as possible.”

He admits that further national restrictions now seem “sadly inevitably” and announces that Labour would back plans to recall Parliament should a vote be required. Starmer confirms that “Labour is prepared to support you in the national effort in taking those decisions.”

Commenting on the current situation and the spread of the virus, Starmer says: “for some parts of the country, we appear to already be in a third wave. But areas of the midlands and the north have been in lockdown for months. The last thing the NHS and businesses there can afford is a third wave caused by a slow response to the latest scientific advice and data.”

 

Full text of the letter from Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, to Prime Minister Boris Johnson

 

Dear Prime Minister,

Urgent action to get control of the virus 

At the weekend, I renewed my commitment to work with you and the Government to get the virus back under control. The situation is clearly very serious.

Infection rates are rising, the pressure on our NHS is growing and the number of people who have tragically died is increasing. Since 2 December, 97 per cent of Tier 2 areas have seen an increase in infection rates – some by very significant amounts. Infection rates have also increased in over 70 per cent of Tier 3 areas. It is clear the tier system cannot cope and cannot keep control of the virus.

Given that, it is important the Government is now straight with the British people about the hard choices that are ahead and the steps that are necessary to get back control of the virus.

Sadly, it does now seem inevitable that further national restrictions will be necessary. The Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, said on Monday at the press conference: “It’s likely that measures will need to be increased in some places in due course and not reduced.”

It is essential that any future restrictions are introduced swiftly to save lives and protect the economy in the long-term. This is also the moment when we need maximum transparency to give the public confidence that the right decisions are being taken at the right time. Families need to plan ahead and to understand what the Government’s intentions are.

In mid-October, it was revealed that SAGE had recommended the immediate introduction of a circuit breaker on 21 September. You rejected that proposal only to implement a full national lockdown in England at the start of November. That decision to delay led to a longer, deeper lockdown that caused further damage to the economy. We cannot make the same mistake again.

No one wants to see further restrictions or another damaging national lockdown. However, we must be honest about the seriousness of the situation. For some parts of the country, we appear to already be in a third wave. But areas of the midlands and the north have been in lockdown for months. The last thing the NHS and businesses there can afford is a third wave caused by a slow response to the latest scientific advice and data.

That is why, should the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies recommend introducing further restrictions or another national lockdown in England, I am urging the Government to publish those proposals in full immediately and implement them as soon as possible.

At this moment of national crisis, we need strong, clear and decisive leadership from Government. Labour is prepared to support you in the national effort in taking those decisions. If Parliament must be recalled to vote for tougher restrictions, we are ready to back you – even if that means further restrictions before the end of the year.

The vaccine offers the only way out of the pandemic in the long-term. That’s why any further restrictions in England must be accompanied by a plan to get the vaccine rolled out as quickly as possible.

I hope you will give this request serious consideration and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you further.

I am making a copy of this available to the public.

Yours sincerely,

Keir Starmer MP

Leader of the Labour Party