Jim McMahon calls on the Government to publish assessments of exempting ‘high-value’ travellers from Covid quarantine restrictions
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon has called on the Government to publish assessments of the potential impact of its decision to exempt ‘high-value’ travellers from Covid quarantine restrictions.
In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, he asks for a regional breakdown of the effects the policy could have on both the economy and public health, as well as the full criteria used to determine who falls into the so-called ‘high value’ category.
He also asks the Transport Secretary to press Chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver the aviation sector deal he promised nine months ago to protect nearly 250,000 jobs. In the letter, McMahon said:
“What message does the Government feel it is sending, at a time when following Covid rules is critical, when there are one set of rules for those it considers ‘high-value’ and another for everyone else?
“If the Government is serious about supporting businesses and saving jobs, it must set out a proper plan to support everyone through this crisis. Labour has been clear we must protect jobs in every part of the country and rebuild business with a support package that reflects the level of need and severity of restrictions in different areas.”
Notes to Editors
-Grant Shapps announced on December 3 that from 4am on Saturday, December 5, ‘high-value’ business travellers would no longer need to self-isolate when returning to England from a country not in a Covid travel corridor https://twitter.com/grantshapps?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
[Full Text of the Letter below]
The Rt. Hon Grant Shapps MP
Secretary of State
Department for Transport
33 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 4DR
6 December 2020
I am writing to you regarding the Government’s exemption for so-called ‘high-value’ business travellers from the current international travel quarantine measures.
Can I begin by raising my disappointment that neither of your department’s two major announcements last week – on this issue and plans around Christmas travel – were the subject of a Commons statement. While I am grateful for the cordial relationship we share, I feel strongly Parliament should be afforded the opportunity to scrutinise and challenge Government decision-making, which hasn’t happened in either of these cases.
We all want to see our economy get back on its feet and businesses properly supported. But this announcement raises several questions:
- Has the Government undertaken full assessments on the impact this announcement will have on both the economy and public health? If so, have these been carried out on a regional basis?
- Will your department publish the scientific evidence supporting this announcement, particularly around continuing to drive down cases of Covid-19?
- How did the department decide which travellers would be classed as ‘high-value’? Will you publish the full criteria?
- What assessment was made of the impact of previous quarantine rules – which applied equally to ‘high-value’ travellers and any other visitors – on investment and business?
- The Government has promised to roll out airport testing, months after Labour called for it, on 15 December. Is this an indication airport testing won’t be ready, or have the capacity to meet demand?
- The Government press release notes that the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England have made the decision not to add or remove any countries from the travel corridor list this week. Is this new announcement a political decision, not taken in conjunction with those two public bodies?
There may well be very practical reasons for this decision, which a statement to the House could have helped clarify. But what message does the Government feel it is sending, at a time when following Covid rules is critical, when there are one set of rules for those it considers ‘high-value’ and another for everyone else?
If the Government is serious about supporting businesses and saving jobs, it must set out a proper plan to support everyone through this crisis. Labour has been clear we must protect jobs in every part of the country and rebuild business with a support package that reflects the level of need and severity of restrictions in different areas.
As you’ll know, it’s been nearly nine months since the Chancellor promised an aviation deal. It has still not materialised. The Government must deliver on its promise for the aviation sector and its supply chain that supports almost a quarter of a million jobs and protects the environment. I hope you’ll be able to again urge the Chancellor to act.