Sep 16, 2020
Boris Johnson Liaison Committee Transcript on Coronavirus, Brexit, the Economy, and Foreign Policy Sept. 16
Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared before parliament’s Liaison Committee on September 16 to talk about the UK’s COVID-19 response (particularly its effects on the economy), Brexit, and more. Reads the full transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Bernard Jenkin: (00:00)
Quiet we’ll begin. It’s the response to the pandemic.
Boris Johnson: (00:03)
Well, thank you very much, Mr. Riley. Of course, we will have a “lessons learned” inquiry. We will look at everything that has gone wrong or gone right. We will try to work out what we can do to do things better in future. Of course, that’s the right thing to do. I have to say. I don’t think that would be a good use of official time at the moment. We’ve just been having a long discussion about the very, very pressing need to ramp up our testing operation. Huge numbers of officials across government, across the country are involved in that right now.
Speaker 1: (00:41)
Well, establishing any of inquiry now would mean probably starting in the new year. What is the impediment to getting that background work underway?
Boris Johnson: (00:50)
Just the one I mentioned.
Speaker 1: (00:52)
Is there any further thoughts in terms of what rapid response lessons learned that you’ve learnt already? Could you give some key examples of those and how they’ve been implemented?
Boris Johnson: (01:01)
I wouldn’t want to anticipate the work of any such inquiry.
Speaker 1: (01:06)
Well, as you said, work must already have been done for rapid response and lessons learned already in the course of the pandemic.
Boris Johnson: (01:12)
Speaker 1: (01:12)
Could you give some specific examples of that?
Boris Johnson: (01:15)
Well, I think we’ve learned all sorts of things and I think it was Greg who said it earlier on that one of the things that we’ve, that’s really changed our thinking is the high level of transmission that is now asymptomatic and that’s changed the way we, we respond. There are all sorts of things that we’re learning the whole time.
Speaker 1: (01:35)
Okay. Can I just take you on to issues around the Civil Service more broadly, because clearly it’s ability to respond to the pandemic has been and will continue to be key. Could you outline why you think the Civil Service requires reform?
Boris Johnson: (01:51)
Well, I think that the Civil Service does an outstanding job. I guess the first and most important thing to say, I venerate our Civil Service and I think that they are fantastic public servants. I think that they deliver extraordinary things every day for the British public and every level of government. I do think that as I was saying, I think I said in a speech in Dudley, I do think perhaps that one of the lessons that we need to draw from this, and perhaps what Greg and others have been talking about in the case of testing, maybe there are some times when we need to be able to move faster. Project speed is of great value, I think, to the workings of our Civil Service, and we certainly won’t be shy of reform where it’s necessary.
Speaker 1: (02:41)
Of course, you are the minister for the Civil Service. How do you envisage that reform taking place and when?
Boris Johnson: (02:47)
Well, there are changes and what I hope are improvements going on the whole time, but I wish to stress to the committee that these are not being done in any spirit of disapproval of the ethic of service or the performance of our Civil Service. They do do an outstanding job. What we want to do is to try to make sure that they can perhaps respond faster, better to the needs of the public.
Speaker 1: (03:22)
Any such reform wouldn’t alter that fundamental established relationship between ministers and Civil Service?
Boris Johnson: (03:29)
No, I think that the Northcote Trevelyan Principles are extremely important.
Speaker 1: (03:35)
When should a minister resign, rather than their officials?
Boris Johnson: (03:38)
I believe that ministers should, of course, be responsible. Indeed I, as the minister for the Civil Service and Prime Minister, take full responsibility for everything the government does.
Speaker 1: (03:51)
Could you explain the difference perhaps between that responsibility and ministerial accountability?
Boris Johnson: (03:56)
Yes. I think ministerial accountability is really before Parliament and before the electorate.
Speaker 1: (04:03)
Can ministers, for example, dismiss civil servants?
Boris Johnson: (04:08)
I think a minister is entitled to make clear that he or she believes that the operation of the department would be better if things were different. Yes, I do think that I think it’s essential.
Speaker 1: (04:25)
For a minister to resign, does it require a failure of policy or a failure of its implementation?
Boris Johnson: (04:33)
I think the minister obviously is accountable for all the failures that government is, can be blamed for, of course. That’s right.
Speaker 1: (04:44)
Thank you so much.
Bernard Jenkin: (04:44)
Thank you. You were very efficient, Catherine McKinnell.
Catherine McKinnell: (04:46)
Thank you, Mr. [Bernard 00:04:48] and Prime Minister. Women attending anxious anti-natal scans alone, induced into labor without their partner, struggling to access advice and support, facing postnatal depression alone, why did the government reject almost every one of the 23 recommendations by the Petitions Committee on supporting new moms during this COVID-19 crisis?
Boris Johnson: (05:15)
Oh, well, Ms. McKinnell, to the best of my knowledge, that’s not what happened. My information is that there was a very active campaign led by, I think, conservative female MPs who felt very strongly that this was … The separation of mothers from birth partners was wrong. I totally agree with them. I said as much in the house this morning,
Catherine McKinnell: (05:41)
No Prime Minister, I’m talking about the Petitions Committee report that you personally pledged to Bethany Jade during Prime Minister’s people’s questions that you would read it, and look at it, and take on board the difficulties faced by many new moms during this COVID-19 crisis. The Petitions Committee made 23 recommendations, most of which, almost all the government rejected, even as basic as putting information in place for employers so they know how to respond and support pregnant and new moms. Why did the government reject them all, and could the Prime Minister today pledge to look at it again and genuinely commit to supporting new moms during this covid crisis?
Boris Johnson: (06:24)
I certainly am happy to look at what we can do to support new moms. I think actually, we’ve done a huge amount investing in postnatal care, in supporting the mental health of new moms.
Catherine McKinnell: (06:40)
Prime minister at the moment, it is easier for an expectant father to go to the pub or to go grouse shooting than to attend his own babies growth scans. The government needs to do much more. If the Prime Minister could personally commit to looking at that report, which he has already promised to do, and report back to my committee, I’d be very grateful.
Boris Johnson: (07:00)
Well, I’m very, very happy to write to the [crosstalk 00:07:04].
Catherine McKinnell: (07:05)
Thank you. In Scotland and Wales, children under 11 are excluded from the numbers when it comes to covid restrictions. It means that families can have the informal childcare that they rely on to get to work. It also avoids a situation in England where a mom and dad can go to the pub with multiple strangers, but cannot, if they have three children, see their grandparents at the same time. Would the Prime Minister commit to looking at this again, in light of the science and common sense, in England?
Boris Johnson: (07:36)
Obviously you’re making a point that many people are making across the country who want us to relax the rules. I’ve just got to tell you that alas, this disease is increasing again. We are seeing-
Speaker 1: (07:57)
Sorry, Prime Minister. It’s not necessarily a quest to relax the rules. It’s a request to look at them.
Boris Johnson: (08:03)
It is a quest. Sorry.
Speaker 1: (08:03)
In a very limited and specific way in relation to children under the age of 11.
Boris Johnson: (08:07)
I understand your point, but it is, I’m afraid, a request to relax the rules because it is, alas, a fact of the disease that it is readily transmissible between children and adults. What we are now seeing is unfortunately the progression of the disease from younger groups, who, as everybody knows, are much less prone to its worst effects, up into the older groups. The committee will be aware that the incidents amongst the 18 plus group is now at 12 per 100,000, where only a few days ago, it was about half that. It is growing. Alas as it, although the number of cases, symptomatic or asymptomatic is probably far smaller, which is obviously possible than it was in the spring, we must expect those infections proportionately to lead to mortality. That is the reality.
Catherine McKinnell: (09:15)
Sir, I’ll take that as a no, but it brings us back to the issue of testing, which I know you’ve already responded on, but it’s been reported that if you land in an Italian airport today, you can get tested for covid and have your results in 30 minutes. Meanwhile, constituents are reporting to all of us here in Parliament, that there is total chaos for them in the testing system, chaos that will lead to another lockdown. It will lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs being put at risk and lives. What is the Prime Minister practically going to do urgency to get a grip on the current testing situation?
Boris Johnson: (09:50)
We have massively increased our testing capacity, which is bigger than Italy’s. We’re testing more per, which he mentions.
Catherine McKinnell: (09:59)
The system is not working.
Boris Johnson: (10:02)
Actually, I know that many people have had infuriating experiences and I do sympathize with them and we are trying to get as many tests out as we possibly can, but 89% get their results within 24 hours, if you have an in person test. The distance that you have to travel to get a test has come down just in the last week, on average, from I think about six or seven miles to about five miles. We are putting out many, many more tests. As for the test at airports that she mentions, she will know, you’ll know, that alas, in the large majority of cases, instant tests at airports can produce false negative results, which give people a false sense of security.
Catherine McKinnell: (11:02)
I would say Prime Minister, that it’s not frustrating or infuriating for people. It gets deeply worrying and anxious for people who need a test and want to know whether they have covid and do not want to spread it.
Boris Johnson: (11:13)
I accept that. I accept that.
Catherine McKinnell: (11:15)
I have to say, the Prime Minister’s response that it all seems to be going well, is not the reality that’s reflected by our situation.
Boris Johnson: (11:20)
Mr. Bernard, I didn’t think that, with great respect to the young woman, I don’t think that was what I said.
Catherine McKinnell: (11:26)
Okay. Just one more question. What would the Prime Minister say to those who he’s asking to abide by COVID-19 restrictions for many at great personal cost, who may be feeling that the government, if the government can break the law in a limited and specific way, why can’t they?
Boris Johnson: (11:45)
I want to make it very clear to everybody that the reason we’ve tightened up the rule of six and, buttressed it with the force of law is because we do think that the disease is at risk of gaining ground, is gaining ground. We have a very clear means to suppress it. That is social distancing, the rule of six. I urge people to obey. As you know, there are sanctions in place. Hold the law, then
Bernard Jenkin: (12:21)
Mel Stride? Thank you. Mel Stride?
Mel Stride: (12:25)
Thank you, chair. Good afternoon, Prime minister. One of the biggest economic challenges facing the country now is going to be jobs, unemployment, and of course, furlough is coming to an end at the end of October. There will be hundreds of thousands of jobs, Prime Minister, which are perfectly viable in the post covid world, but that need support from government in order to get through the coming months of this crisis. Why is it the government doesn’t seem to be prepared to provide targeted support, to support those jobs, to make sure that they continue in future?
Boris Johnson: (13:01)
Well, first of all, Sir Bernard, now I just point out that this government has done more than virtually any other government in around the world to support people at risk of losing their jobs because of covid. The coronavirus job retention scheme, the furlough, the furlough money is 80% of people’s incomes compared with, I think 70% in France, 70% in Spain, only 60% in Germany. Going forward, Mel, to get to your question, we will continue to show a great creativity and flexibility, which the chancellor has shown in trying to look after every, every sector of the economy. We’re not just fighting for one sector of the economy. We’re going to fight for every sector of the economy.
Bernard Jenkin: (13:57)
Mel Stride: (13:59)
I take that Prime Minister as a yes, that the treasury will be seriously looking at this category of businesses and employees who might make it, if they give him more support and will have a longterm future, because they’re in the economy.
Boris Johnson: (14:15)
Yes, and we’re supporting training. We’ve got the kickstart funds and the all, end up support for apprenticeships. We will continue to be intensely creative and flexible. I don’t believe that anybody on this committee seriously imagined that the government of this country would come up with something as imaginative as the furlough scheme, six months ago, Mel. We will continue to apply the same levels of imagination.
Bernard Jenkin: (14:41)
Mel Stride: (14:44)
The committee has recognized the progress that’s been made, but there does need to be more in that area. Can I just ask you, Prime Minister, corporate indebtedness, the business bounce back scheme, but largely for small or medium sized companies, has been very successful. Over a million loans have gone out the door, but these companies are now going to come through this crisis, loaded up with debt at the very time that we’re expecting them or hoping that they will be investing in growing the jobs to the future. The treasury seems to be remarkably silent on this whole issue of how to address that point, and I wonder what your thoughts were on that.
Boris Johnson: (15:19)
Well, Mel, I think you’re making a very important point and we are talking about what can be done to help SMEs particularly with their debts and to keep them going.
Bernard Jenkin: (15:31)
Okay, thank you, Prime Minister.
Mel Stride: (15:33)
Can I just now to the issue of spending, we’ve got a comprehensive spending review at the moment. Part of, a large part of the government’s economic policy is predicated on low interest rates persisting for some time. In the short term, that looks quite realistic, but three or four years down the line, it’s not inconceivable that interest rates may have to be raised, and that could have a very, very powerful and detrimental impact on the economy and the public finances. Is that something that you are taking into account when you consider the issue of spending? It seems to many from outside of number 10, that the impetus inside number 10 is to spend, spend, spend, and then spend even more, rather than prudently looking at this issue and making sure that we’re in a good position to go forward if we do end up in the circumstances I’ve described.
Boris Johnson: (16:22)
Well, that’s also a very good point, Mel, if I may say it’s slightly incoherent with your previous two questions, which seem to be asking for more government spending and more government borrowing. You’re entirely right that the threat of future interest rate rises is something that we have to bear in mind.
Mel Stride: (16:44)
Well, sure. Support for jobs in the short term is very distinct, I think, from a profligate public spending in the longer term. I think they are two different things. Can I ask you one final question, which is that the government generally did, I think a pretty good job in supporting jobs in the early stages of this crisis. However, there were over a million people who fell through the gaps and didn’t repeat their received support. Many of them are company owners, self employed, et cetera, new starters, freelancers, and so on. The treasury has said they’ve drawn a line under any further support for that group, or rather making up the support for that group. Is that a position that you also adopt, Prime Minister?
Boris Johnson: (17:25)
Well, Mel you’ve raised this with me a couple of times and not least in the chamber and you’re right. I have real, real sympathy for the self-employed, others who’ve been unable to qualify for some of the schemes that we have. On the other hand, huge … There are conceptual dizzying variety of scheme, bounce back loans, grants, C bills, you name it. Most people should have been able to qualify for something, even if it’s only cuts in VAT and business rates. A huge amount has been done. The overall bill for that is, as you know, Mel, is about 160 billion pounds so far. We’re determined, as I said to you, to put our arms around the workforce of this country to support this country, to bounce back strongly.
Boris Johnson: (18:22)
To go back to, I think your third point, there must be some, I think you said, “Are you committed to spend, spend, spend?” Well, we will do what it takes, but there is, there must be, of course, limits. What we also want to do is rather than support people to stay out of work, keep them on schemes that prevent them actually from getting onto the labor market. We’re going to do everything in our power to support them, to get back in to work and to encourage in work training, apprenticeships, kickstart scheme, and so on.
Bernard Jenkin: (19:01)
Prime Minister. Can I just raise a point that Philip Dunne, the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee wanted me to raise. He pointed out that we have the largest peace time investment in economic recovery by this government. He wanted to ask with 40 months to go before cop 26, how are we ensuring net zero on target and showing true global leadership on environmental policy?
Boris Johnson: (19:28)
Thank you, Sir Bernard and thanks to Philip for his question. We are doing a huge amount and the carbon budget four is going to be reached, carbon budget three, carbon budget four is trickier to achieve. We will be setting out steps to achieve carbon budget five and to get to net zero by 2050. Though there is a huge panoply of measures that we’ll be using, from clean power from greener power, investing in green energy solutions, to retrofitting homes. I will be making a thoroughgoing announcement in the course of the next few weeks about how we propose to do that.
Bernard Jenkin: (20:18)
That’s extremely good news. We look forward to that. Julian Knight.
Julian Knight: (20:22)
Thank you, chair. Prime Minister. Thank you for appearing today. I’m going to press you further on furlough just for a moment as the DCS sectors are very much in the firing line of COVID-19. Over 40% of workers in arts and entertainment are still furloughed, while 70% fear to work as a freelancers. Is it morally right, Prime Minister, that these people face losing everything come the end of the furlough scheme in October, particularly as is it the government’s own restrictions that makes it impossible for them to work and makes their businesses un-viable?
Boris Johnson: (20:55)
Well, I know how maddening it is and how difficult it is for everybody in the arts. The culture sector, sporting world, local football teams. What we’ve done is, as you know, there’s a big investment in the arts and culture sector, 1.57 billion, but we’re also, we’ve also got specific funds to help everybody through a very, very tough time. The best answer to all of this is to get these businesses going again and to get the theaters lit again, by having the virus down and having a testing regime that allows us to do that, and that’s what we’re working for.
Julian Knight: (21:52)
Okay. Prime Minister, just on that point, then. You said that only a week ago that you indicated theaters could be an, I quote “much closer to normal by Christmas,” but by your own admission, true mass testing will not be widespread before the spring of next year. Do you recognize that we need to find smart ways to ensure that the likes of theaters and live music venues can open at a very specific dating times, where you’ll have some certainty without strict social distancing?
Boris Johnson: (22:18)
Yes, I do. You’re right to try to stress smart solutions. Julian, to get people to, as it were, to break the rules on social distancing, to sit cheek by jowl in the theater again, you’re going to need some, you’re going to need lateral flow testing of a kind that were on the brink of getting right, pregnancy style testing. I can’t sit here today. I wish I could. I can’t sit here today and tell you, in spite of what Catherine says about tests at Italian airports, which I have to check out. We are a long way off, I’m afraid, or still some way off, having those instant pregnancy style, liberating tests that tell you whether you are infectious or not. That’s what we’re working for. The science is almost there. As soon as we can do that, then you do have the possibility of theaters, of football clubs, all these sectors that are currently finding unsuitable, able to open again.
Julian Knight: (23:30)
Okay, well, the 1.57 billion package that you referenced earlier of course, is very welcome, but it will only keep some venues going for the relatively short term. These sectors, which are world-leading and bring in huge value to the UK economy, will need a longterm plan of recovery, sector specific. Are you aware of that reality, and what are you going to do about it?
Boris Johnson: (23:53)
Of course, I’m aware of that reality because I used to represent those interests directly in my capacity as mayor of this city.
Boris Johnson: (24:02)
In my capacity as mayor of this city in which we now sit and because I know vividly their importance to our country and its prosperity. It’s absolutely a vital visa, this is a sector that generates probably 16 billion pounds a year, huge quantities in taxation and employment, and they’re vital for our prosperity.
Henry Baton: (24:26)
Are you committing, Prime Minister, to a sector-specific recovery plan for the arts and culture?
Boris Johnson: (24:29)
Yes, as you know, there already is such a plan underway.
Henry Baton: (24:35)
Okay. Now, in terms of national debt right now, I’ve just got a final question. We’re currently at levels not seen since 1961, when we were still paying off a war. In all honesty, Prime Minister, can this country afford a second national lockdown?
Boris Johnson: (24:53)
I don’t want a second national lockdown. [inaudible 00:24:56] and I think it would be a completely wrong move for this country.
Henry Baton: (25:01)
Can we afford it, Prime Minister?
Boris Johnson: (25:04)
We are going to do everything in our power to prevent it. Can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous, but we have to make sure that we defeat the disease by the means that we’ve set out. When I see the people saying, arguing against the rule of six or saying that the government is coming in too hard on individual liberties and so on, I totally understand that. I sympathize with that, but we must, we must, must beat this disease.
Henry Baton: (25:44)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. Can we just remind ourselves, Prime Minister, that musicians, singers, and performers, they are part of a very large group that have fallen through the cracks of the support schemes available. They’re economically very distressed, and emotionally very distressed, because they can’t fulfill their vocation. If this is going to go on for much longer, what can we do for them?
Boris Johnson: (26:08)
Well, thank you, Sir Bernard. I just really, at the risk of repeating what I said to Julian, what we need to do is to get back to a world where everybody meeting together to sing, to perform in a traditional way, has a ticket to ride, as it were, the knowledge that you are not infectious. That you have a green light on your head saying, “I can’t transmit it to you” so both the performers and the audience have that confidence.
Prime Minister, already 11% of pupils are missing school, even though most are back. What are you going to do to support schools to make sure those pupils don’t slip further behind?
Boris Johnson: (26:55)
Well, Meg, what we’re doing is, just to clarify your figures. It’s absolutely correct to say that we’ve got I think roughly 11% of kids not yet in school.
Yes, I’ve said that.
Boris Johnson: (27:13)
That is not because of problems in the classroom with COVID. There’s only 1% of schools that have got impacted by-
But Chair, I was only asking, what are you going to do to support the children who are not in school, Prime Minister?
Boris Johnson: (27:21)
What we’re doing is a record investment in schools of 14 billion at about another billion pounds to help schools catch up with-
Prime Minister, your figures are a bit out. Actually, the per pupil funding has gone down by over 6% in the last decade. The record funding’s only in the last year on the top of cuts. But so what do you actually practice at the end of the goo? And are you going to learn the lessons of the failure of testing trace, and make sure that local schools and local councils can be in the driving seat to make sure that people don’t lose out?
Boris Johnson: (27:53)
Well great. Respect to I’m surprised that you’ve taken quite such a hostile time, but as we are, we are, we are, we are, we aren’t increasing the per pupil funding to 4,000 pounds for primary school, 5,000 pounds in secondary school.
Prime Minister, can I just ask, though, is that a long term plan?
Boris Johnson: (28:14)
It’s happening. It’s happened just now.
But the pupils–
Boris Johnson: (28:17)
And that’s something that’s happened, just not. And if I can on you, on your point about what you call the failure of, of tests and tracing, I’m respectfully going to reject that characterization, because I think that although it has huge problems, and although many people who are deeply frustrated, as several colleagues have pointed out, actually I think that they have done a quite remarkable job in expanding that operation from a standing start. And yes, there’s a long way to go, and we’re going to, and we will, we will work night and day to ensure that we get that. But I would not want the many, many, many thousands of people who are working now to deliver test results, to think that this house of come people in this House of Commons is seriously accusing them of being failures.
Henry Baton: (29:05)
Prime Minister, you yourself have set the target so long with the health secretary. You’ve now set the moonshot target of ramping it up to 10 million pounds. Who’s going to be leading that charge to make it get to 10 million a day?
Boris Johnson: (29:17)
Well, I don’t recognize the figure that you’ve, you’ve just, you’ve just given him, but what I can–
You’ve said that in public.
Boris Johnson: (29:25)
What I can, what I can tell you is that, you know, this is the point I was making to, to Greg and to others. There is, there is, there is an opportunity to do something that is wholly separate from the expansion of NHS tests and trace. And that’s to see if we can get to a world in which there is a test and release system, as it were.
And so when will that technology be ready? Cause you highlighted that in the answer to Mr. Clark. When will that technology be ready? You promised doctors by Christmas. How do you know that that’s going to be the case?
Boris Johnson: (30:01)
You’re being optimistic, but have you got any evidence to back up that?
Boris Johnson: (30:04)
There are people who make all sorts of claims already about this technology. I’m going to be cautious and say that I don’t, I can’t sit here today and say that we have such a pregnancy start test.
You promised the moonshots.
Boris Johnson: (30:20)
I think, I think, I think the committee would agree that given the stakes and given the opportunity, it was, it is right for government to invest in such a project. Wouldn’t you?
Well, Prime Minister, can we just go now then into lab building for new labs? When will they be built? Because the lab testing capacity hasn’t gone up much since June.
Boris Johnson: (30:40)
Oh, well, that, actually it’s, it’s gone up 10%, just the last two weeks.
Well, but it’s still in though. It’s in the 300 thousands. When will the labs to be built, the four labs that you’re building? Are you looking at here?
Boris Johnson: (30:48)
You know, as I said, that we will be up at 500,000 deaths per day by the end of October. And I think one, one of the labs will be capable of doing 100,000 tests a day. The other of them have 45.
Are you thinking of any easing any university laboratories as well as the one we will be using?
Boris Johnson: (31:05)
Not only that, we will be using facilities across the country and, and indeed buying we’re really buying lab spaces. As you know, Meg we’re buying labs based in other countries as well.
Neil Parish: (31:19)
Thank you, Neil Parish. Good afternoon, Prime Minister. The search committee, Afro, we looked into COVID-19 and the food supply area this year, a huge amount of work has been put into it, both by government and all of those, you know, producing food and processing it. And what we found is that the food chain is a just in time food chain. And it works all that well, if you can get through things through the border. So my sort of question to you very much is that if we have an Australian type deal in January with a basic, no deal, our key supply routes across the channel will be disrupted at the time of year
Neil Parish: (31:58)
when we heavily rely on imports. About 90% of letters, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of our soft fruit comes through at that time. So given the best estimate by government, the reduction by one third and imports across the channel could be due to border check. So are you confident that we can get food through the border in January, whatever happens with the EU? And will you wave tariffs if that can’t be got through? Because I know that Europe has been very difficult over third country status at the moment.
Boris Johnson: (32:31)
Thanks very much. I’m confident that we will be able to keep things flowing smoothly at the border as smoothly as we possibly can. A huge amount of work is being done by Johnson, Dr. Lancaster, the XO Committee and others to prepare for, for the smooth as possible
Boris Johnson: (32:56)
shipments at the border, no matter what the, the arrangements that we have. But one of the most, one of the reasons we were bringing in the provisions under the, the, you can’t tell him the market, but which I imagine will come to in a minute is to ensure that tariff barriers within the UK, for instance, could not be imposed. And as for terrified, the possibility of, of tired barriers on either side, I don’t think that our friends and partners would want to see them go up, us putting tighter barriers up against that produce any more than we want to put a tire barriers up against that for the very good, for the very good reason that they have a considerable net selfless in, in food products.
Neil Parish: (33:50)
Yeah, but that leaves me very, very neatly prime minister. So if we aren’t, if we are not going to levy tariffs on their goods coming in, then are we just going to give our trade away to the EU? Surely if they’re playing very hard ball at the moment, we should actually put tariffs on absolutely everything that comes in, because that will bring us, then, will it not, to a negotiating position where we can actually get a tariff free deal? At the moment, we seem to be very blocked and we’ll just trade away, farming our food processing industry, and so much of it relies on having a true level playing building with the EU.
Boris Johnson: (34:32)
As I said, I mean, we are Terri regime, our external tired of regime word to come in would be, it would be quite formidable for some of their, for some of their products. And I think you have more reason why everybody should want to agree a zero tariff, zero equator arrangement.
Neil Parish: (34:53)
So will you commit to putting reciprocal tariffs on EU imports if we don’t reach a free trade agreement with EU? Because it’s essential, if we’re going to maintain production in this country and also deal with the Europeans.
Boris Johnson: (35:08)
Neil, you’re quite right.
Neil Parish: (35:10)
So you, you will, you will commit.
Boris Johnson: (35:13)
We certainly will, of course. And the terrorist schedule has been published and it will be, you’ll be familiar with it.
Neil Parish: (35:17)
And it will be reciprocal?
Boris Johnson: (35:19)
Neil Parish: (35:20)
Okay. Thank you.
Very good. We’re moving on to the Brexit section. Henry Baton.
Henry Baton: (35:28)
Thank you very much. Good afternoon. Prime Minister, can you could tell us whether the Advocate General for Scotland is still in post?
Boris Johnson: (35:36)
I am afraid Mr. Ben, I can tell you all I can tell you really, as far as I know, the conversations on my matter is still pending
Henry Baton: (35:45)
Right now. Last week, the government confirmed that the internal market bill does break international law, and we heard your justification in the debate on Monday, so you don’t need to repeat it in front of us today. Why are you not prepared to rely on Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which you negotiated, and with deals with how you resolve any disagreements, rather than engage in lawbreaking? What’s wrong with Article 16?
Boris Johnson: (36:12)
Cause it’s about, can I just take it and be moved on from COVID and we’re now on?
Henry Baton: (36:16)
We have that.
Boris Johnson: (36:17)
Thank you. What we’re trying to do here. And, and on the legal position on why we need to do is I kind of direct you to what the Attorney General said. She’s tried to summarize her, the legal position. What we’re trying to do here is really provide a belt braces protection against extreme interpretations of the, of the protocol of what I think my learned friends who called an [foreign language 00:36:57] And the way to do it was a watertight bulkhead, as it were, to avoid–
Henry Baton: (37:06)
Article 16 gives you–
Boris Johnson: (37:08)
And we thank–
Henry Baton: (37:09)
Gives you that protection.
Boris Johnson: (37:09)
Thank you, our legal advice is that we need to go further than Article 16–
Henry Baton: (37:14)
Boris Johnson: (37:15)
And to put in the protections described in the book.
Henry Baton: (37:18)
Why do we, why does the government think it needs to go further than Article 16?
Boris Johnson: (37:21)
Because we believe that that is the only way, notwithstanding clauses that we have,two currently in the bill, to provide the certainty and the protections that were talking about it.
Henry Baton: (37:36)
Is that because Article 16 is defective, or is it because you think you would lose in an arbitration case?
Boris Johnson: (37:42)
It’s because we think that in order to provide the protections that are unnecessary in the, in the very limited range of circumstances, in which it might be necessary because of an extreme interpretation of the protocol, we think it would be necessary to have a, the notwithstanding courses on the, on the face of the digital.
Henry Baton: (38:06)
Did you not realize this when you negotiated Article 16?
Boris Johnson: (38:11)
Well, I mean, that’s a fair question, but on the other hand, I think we’ve we also–
Henry Baton: (38:17)
Did this at the time.
Boris Johnson: (38:19)
Henry Baton: (38:20)
When you’re signed it off.
Boris Johnson: (38:21)
We, I believe, and still believe, that the, our friends and partners in the EU will negotiate in good faith, and will apply common sense and reasonableness. And the reason for the, the clauses in the bill is, as I say, as a, as a, as a belt and braces as a safety net.
Henry Baton: (38:44)
Okay. Now, do you think that the EU is negotiating in good faith?
Boris Johnson: (38:48)
Well, alas, they, they began months ago to get to question the new ways. We had an opportunity for them to lift this issue of a third pantry, third country listings. And they could have said, of course, under no circumstances, will we blockade, stop agricultural products going from, from you to us. That’s clearly absurd. And yet they have singly failed to do that.
Henry Baton: (39:21)
So are they negotiating in good faith?
Boris Johnson: (39:23)
And so I’m afraid–
Henry Baton: (39:24)
You don’t think so?
Boris Johnson: (39:26)
I did believe that.
Henry Baton: (39:26)
Okay. So why didn’t the Northern Ireland secretary tell them Northern Ireland, the first select committee that in his opinion, the EU isn’t negotiating in good faith?
Boris Johnson: (39:33)
Well, I, there is always possible that it is always possible that I am mistaken and perhaps they will perhaps mrs. Men, perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong. And perhaps they will agree in the joint committee to withdrawal some of the extreme suggestions that I’ve heard, and all will be well. But in until such time, I prefer to have protections guarantee the integrity of this country and protect against the potential rupture of the United Kingdom.
Henry Baton: (40:11)
When you decided to announce that the government would break the law, did you anticipate that your five predecessors, two former leaders of the Conservative Party and the Attorney General who helped you negotiate the Northern Ireland protocol and signed it off legally, would all say to you, “Don’t do that?”
Boris Johnson: (40:27)
Well, I have the utmost respect for all the gentlemen and ladies, the question, but I got to tell you, I think that it’s the duty of a UK Prime Minister to protect the identity of the UK against any extreme and irrational, unreasonable interpretations of it.
Henry Baton: (40:47)
Right. Neatly onto irrationality. Can I turn to what happens at the end of this year? Now, you said recently that leaving the transition period without an agreement would be a good outcome for the United Kingdom. Can you explain how, to go back to Neil Parish’s point, tariffs on UK exports to the EU, which could be as high as 90% by value on beef, more than 61% on land, those are the figures used in my House on Monday, and of course, 10% on cars, represents a good outcome for those sectors of the British economy? What’s good about that for them?
Boris Johnson: (41:24)
Well, it was it’s of course it’s not what this country wants. And nor, as Neil, I think, got to the right answer. It’s not what our EU friends and partners want from us. And therefore I have every hope and expectation that that won’t be the outcome.
You’re running out of your time, Mr. Ben. You’re running over your time.
Henry Baton: (41:49)
Yes or no answer. So will the Goods Vehicle Movement Service be ready by January?
Boris Johnson: (41:55)
Well, as I said, we’re doing everything in our power to get ready. There’s a massive amount of work going on to get business ready. We’re investing in border preparedness about 705,000,000 going into that. Anybody who needs advice, needs to know what to do, we have government websites set up for the purpose. A huge program of engagement is going on.
Henry Baton: (42:19)
But will it be ready?
Boris Johnson: (42:20)
I believe that we’ll, we will get through it. And then of course there may be, there may be difficulties, but we will get through it very well.
Henry Baton: (42:28)
Okay. So William Cash.
William Cash: (42:30)
Prime Minister, this intern market bill, and indeed the Section 38, and the Withdrawal Agreement Tax of 2020, deliver the promises that were made to the British people on the crest of lawfully leaving the European Union, which we’ve done. And in addition to that, the fact is that the referendum itself and the general election results endorsed those decisions. So, that is, that’s the actual position, as I said in the debate a couple of days ago. Amendments are being proposed, which many people may think would jeopardize the very comprehensive manner in which the promises are being delivered. I just want to ask you a couple of questions, releasing two issues, one of which is on sovereignty and treaty override. And the other one is on the misleading allegations that have been generated, which come to this, which is that the government is,
William Cash: (43:34)
And I say, unlike other member States and the EU itself, both of whom have been agreed justly in breach of international law, on the, on very, very massive questions without any sanctions or any infringement whatsoever being brought against them. And I just start by saying this. I ask it on the question of sovereignty, do you agree with the fact that the, as the German Constitutional Court said in 2015, international law leaves it to each state to give precedence to national law? International law does not preclude legal acts that violate international law from being effective at the domestic level? Sounds sensible to me. That’s what they said in 2015.
Boris Johnson: (44:27)
Well, if I may just–
William Cash: (44:29)
You’ve been asked that question.
Boris Johnson: (44:30)
Yes, of course, but I’ve won two examples.
William Cash: (44:33)
Indeed, Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (44:37)
I, look, I think that you’re right in what you say. I think that the, it is essential that we, we upheld the people in the way that we are, and it is also right that we should have a system that allows us to protect Parliamentary sovereignty, but also to protect the economic, the political geographic integrity of the UK. And that’s what this does.
William Cash: (45:16)
On the question of the, some of the examples that I have here in the first place, just to get this by now of the way on the question of the treaty overrides, I have something of the order of 20 examples of overrides in UK statute of international EU law, just for a starter. And I’m sure that these masses will be brought to your attention that this is by no means an unusual situation. It’s just that they didn’t like it, which may be another way of putting it. The second thing, which is in a way, more substantial in terms of the current heated debate that’s going on about the breach of international law, Chair of event just mentioned. Could I perhaps just mention to you, Charles Smith actually said in a debate that we breached applicable international treaty law, the IMF Treaty, in multiple ways, but now the complied with all the rules, the procedural rules of the treaty normally comply with the substantive provisions? Or take Chancellor Schroder.
William Cash: (46:29)
In 1999, we sent our war plans, et cetera. We bombed a sovereign state that was a decision of the security council in violation of international law. Or for example, the manner in which Angela Merkel unilaterally suspended, straight torn up, tore up the Dublin regulation with respect to the Syrian refugees, which raised a lot of questions about potential terrorism, for example? I do not agree that all these examples demonstrate the fact that there is some double standards going on here. And that in fact, we’re not only supporting our sovereignty, but we are consistent with international law and the practice of other member States and the EU itself.
One minute to go on this.
Boris Johnson: (47:22)
Thank you. Well I did, but I didn’t really want to repeat what I’ve already said, except to say, look, I think on this vexed issue, you’ve got a committee has a water’s at what the AG has has said about this. I repose my confidence in that. And I just tell the committee that I think this is really about us as a country. Being able to ensure that our friends and partners don’t do something that, I mean, I think people would think it was unreasonable or extreme in the, in the interpretation of the protocol. It’s about belt embracing and, and, and.
Boris Johnson: (48:01)
It’s about belt and bracing, and there are various situations that you could imagine that it would be important for us to protect the integrity of the UK, tariff barriers, blockades on food, unnecessary checks, and so on. We can readily identify those. What we’re trying to do is prevent that happening.
Bernard Jenkin: (48:27)
Thank you, Sir William. Brilliantly on time. Angus Brendan MacNeil, please.
Angus B. MacN.: (48:37)
Thank you very much, Chair. Good afternoon, Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (48:37)
Angus B. MacN.: (48:38)
Indeed, how things have changed. I mean, it seems just quite recently I was at the Liaison Committee here questioning your predecessor when you were resigning in the chamber, you were leaving the government, and here you are in front of us this afternoon, and it’s good to see you. Now, Prime Minister, the Japanese trade deal is worth about 0.07% of GDP, 1/70th of the cost of Brexit. Basically, simple question, how many Japanese trade deals do we need to make up the damage that Brexit is giving us?
Boris Johnson: (49:05)
Well, Mr. Brendan, I don’t accept for one minute the characterization that you make of Brexit, and actually [crosstalk 00:49:18]-
Angus B. MacN.: (49:15)
It’s your own government that says it will cost 5% of GDP.
Bernard Jenkin: (49:15)
Boris Johnson: (49:19)
Thank you. We had a fantastic presentation in cabinet the other day from Liz Truss of the list of trade deals that she’s now able to do, that weren’t [crosstalk 00:49:35] country before, that she’s engaged on now, that will not just help to open markets, stimulate trade, help citizens and consumers in Japan, in the UK, but we can be at the heart of a great cat’s cradle of deals across the world. For 20 years now, world trade has been in the doldrums. The UK [crosstalk 00:50:00]-
Angus B. MacN.: (50:00)
It’s a simple question. You’re going off piste [crosstalk 00:00:50:01]-
Boris Johnson: (50:01)
… in getting off the ground again.
Angus B. MacN.: (50:02)
The answer is 70. You need 70 trade deals to make up the damage that Brexit will… Japan [crosstalk 00:02:11]-
Boris Johnson: (50:08)
Angus B. MacN.: (50:09)
Well, it’s your own government’s numbers. It’s 0.07% of GDP is your gain, 5% is your loss. So therefore divide one by the other and you get 70. You’re accused of intending to break international law, and as Hilary Benn mentioned, the Advocate General for Scotland has resigned. Can your government find somebody else who’s not quite sharing his honor or principles to replace him and take the job? [crosstalk 00:00:50:32]-
Boris Johnson: (50:32)
As I said to Hilary, I can’t comment on that matter because it’s still, as I understand it, to be resolved.
Angus B. MacN.: (50:40)
Okay. You’re accused also by the Congressional Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Congressional chairpersons Eliot Engel, Richard Neal, Peter King, William Keating, of efforts to, and I quote, “Undermine the Northern Ireland Protocol of the withdrawal agreement. And as a result, you will have no UK-US trade deal.” Is that a price worth paying for breaking international law?
Boris Johnson: (50:59)
I have the utmost respect for Nancy, for all the people that you… the distinguished Congressman, Senators, that you mentioned. But I think that when they understand, they see what we’re trying to do, I think they will share our ambition and our concern, which is to protect the balance [crosstalk 00:00:51:22]-
Angus B. MacN.: (51:24)
So does Nancy Pelosi not understand that situation?
Boris Johnson: (51:27)
… of the protocol-
Angus B. MacN.: (51:27)
Do Nancy Pelosi and the chairpersons misunderstand?
Boris Johnson: (51:30)
… and to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland. That’s where I think we are at one.
Angus B. MacN.: (51:37)
Does Nancy Pelosi have it wrong? Is she wrong?
Boris Johnson: (51:38)
Does she have?
Angus B. MacN.: (51:39)
Is Nancy Pelosi wrong in her assertion with the four chairpersons [crosstalk 00:51:40]-
Boris Johnson: (51:44)
I think possibly the vital importance of protecting the symmetry of the Good Friday agreement is something that may have been lost so far in the presentation of this matter. I have no doubt that it’s something that will be readily appreciated by our friends in the United States.
Angus B. MacN.: (51:59)
Okay. I’m sure they’re watching it in Washington. You’re accused also, Prime Minister, of having a centralizing state, and clearly, independent Ireland has more autonomy in the European Union that Scotland does in the United Kingdom. Now the reality is that the European Union you demonized is a lot more flexible than the UK you preside over, isn’t it? Are you proud of such a centralizing state?
Boris Johnson: (52:19)
Well, I really have to disagree very, very strongly with that. [crosstalk 00:52:26]-
Angus B. MacN.: (52:25)
But Ireland’s got less independence than Scotland?
Bernard Jenkin: (52:28)
Order. Let him answer.
Boris Johnson: (52:29)
I would point out that if you look at actually what is happening as a result of…
Angus B. MacN.: (52:37)
Boris Johnson: (52:38)
… Brexit underpinned by this UK internal market bill, powers are being handed directly back down from Brussels to Scotland, 70 or more. And if the Scottish Nationalists really want to [crosstalk 00:52:52]-
Angus B. MacN.: (53:00)
It seems the Scottish government misunderstand your [crosstalk 00:53:00] policy now.
Boris Johnson: (53:00)
They probably do. If the Scottish Nationalists really want to reverse that process, go back into the EU, you’d be giving back control of energy, of agriculture-
Angus B. MacN.: (53:07)
Boris Johnson: (53:10)
… of a huge number of policy areas, and above all, you’d be giving back control of your [crosstalk 00:05:13]-
Angus B. MacN.: (53:13)
Just moving on, Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (53:14)
… and that point cannot be… And I know you’re trying to interrupt me from saying this, but that cannot be repeated often enough.
Angus B. MacN.: (53:21)
[crosstalk 00:53:20]. You’re not respecting-
Bernard Jenkin: (53:23)
Less interrupting, please.
Angus B. MacN.: (53:24)
… you’re not respecting democracy in Scotland, Prime Minister, but the good news is, and the happy reading is that poll after poll shows that Scotland wants to be independent, like Ireland, I mentioned earlier. When will you agree to the Scottish government’s request for a Section 30? Will you ever agree to the Scottish government’s request for Section 30, to hold an independence referendum?
Boris Johnson: (53:41)
The Scottish Nationalist Party fought the-
Angus B. MacN.: (53:46)
Boris Johnson: (53:47)
… fought the referendum in 2014 very clearly on the understanding that this was a once in a generation event [crosstalk 00:05:55]-
Angus B. MacN.: (53:53)
Not at all, and that was not written in the Edinburgh Agreement.
Bernard Jenkin: (53:54)
Order. Order. Let him answer the question.
Boris Johnson: (53:58)
… that was something that I believe both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond said at the time in persuading people to cast their votes. They voted-
Angus B. MacN.: (54:06)
You said you’d die in a ditch.
Boris Johnson: (54:09)
… overwhelmingly or very substantially to stay in the union. I believe the union-
Angus B. MacN.: (54:18)
So are you [crosstalk 00:54:15]-
Bernard Jenkin: (54:18)
Boris Johnson: (54:18)
… is a great and a beautiful thing, and I think-
Angus B. MacN.: (54:22)
Yes or no?
Boris Johnson: (54:22)
… yes, I think we should keep it. And I don’t think that a generation has elapsed since 2014, in my understanding of human biology.
Angus B. MacN.: (54:32)
So is that-
Bernard Jenkin: (54:33)
About 15 seconds left.
Angus B. MacN.: (54:34)
… is that a no?
Boris Johnson: (54:35)
I don’t think a generation has elapsed.
Angus B. MacN.: (54:36)
Is that a yes or a no?
Boris Johnson: (54:37)
It is a statement of the obvious, that I don’t think a generation has elapsed.
Angus B. MacN.: (54:41)
So it’s a no to a Section 30, regardless of the wishes of the Scottish people? [crosstalk 00:54:46] independence.
Boris Johnson: (54:48)
It was said very clearly in 2014 that this was a once in a generation event.
Angus B. MacN.: (54:52)
Well, that was not said. That was not said. Clearly, that’s not in the Edinburgh Agreement.
Bernard Jenkin: (54:55)
Right. Moving on.
Boris Johnson: (55:00)
Was that not said, about the Scottish [crosstalk 00:54:58]-
Angus B. MacN.: (55:00)
[crosstalk 00:55:00] Edinburgh Agreement
Bernard Jenkin: (55:00)
Order. Next time, I think I’ll sit you further away from each other. A bit more social distancing [crosstalk 00:00:55:04]. Sir Bob Neill.
Sir Bob Neill: (55:05)
Thank you very much, Chair. Good afternoon, Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (55:07)
Sir Bob Neill: (55:09)
Legal questions, but of a different kind. The government’s committed to maintaining practical criminal justice cooperation, as the words of the minister, with the EU, after the 31st of December. We leave at the moment and lose access to the European Arrest Warrant, the Europol and Eurojust systems, and in particular, the criminal justice information systems, ECRIS, the criminal records information sharing system, and the databases on the Schengen information system too. What practical steps are we taking to ensure that we continue to have access to those critically important matters?
Boris Johnson: (55:48)
All those bothers you, and you’re quite right that there will be changes, but the safety, security of UK citizens will continue to be our number one priority, and we still believe there’s ample scope for cooperation with our European friends and partners. I won’t go into the detail of the negotiations now, but a huge amount of work is being done to ensure that the priorities of the British people are achieved.
Sir Bob Neill: (56:23)
On extradition, for example, the 1957 Convention has been described as slower and more awkward and cumbersome than the current European Arrest Warrant. You and I remember that Hussain Osman, the failed London bomber, he was brought back under the EAW in eight weeks. It could be months or years. Are we prepared to seek to negotiate our way back into the EAW, once we’ve left?
Boris Johnson: (56:47)
As I say, Bob, we certainly want to have arrangements that protect British citizens and ensure speedy justice, including under extradition.
Sir Bob Neill: (57:01)
The National Crime Agency said that loss of access to CISC2 would seriously inhibit our ability to identify and arrest people who are a threat to our public safety. To get into the information systems we need to have an agreement on data adequacy and equipments. What is the state of progress on seeking a data adequacy agreement with the EU?
Boris Johnson: (57:21)
Well, Bob, you’re quite right. We do need to be able to exchange information in real time, on DNA, on identity, on all sorts of things, and that’s part of the negotiations right now.
Sir Bob Neill: (57:34)
What’s the timeframe for concluding that? Because of course, you have a gap.
Boris Johnson: (57:38)
We hope that we will be able to reach an agreement, and above all, we want to protect the UK public.
Sir Bob Neill: (57:46)
Do you want to do that by the 31st of December, is that the objective?
Boris Johnson: (57:48)
We were very hopeful that our friends and partners will see the logic of reaching an agreement, because after all they have symmetrical concerns.
Sir Bob Neill: (57:58)
Precisely. Is it possible, do you think, to decouple some of those issues from the controversy around some trading matters?
Boris Johnson: (58:05)
I think that’s not something that’s favored by the EU.
Sir Bob Neill: (58:08)
Right. Would it be by the UK government, do you believe?
Boris Johnson: (58:10)
We want to get on and just settle the whole thing.
Sir Bob Neill: (58:15)
The other issue that’s important about data is of course it’s important to financial services, both the financial services sector as such, and also to the British legal sector, which on its own is worth 60 billion to the economy. Are you prepared to take personal charge in driving forward this, given it’s important that both to the legal sector as a whole, UK is a jurisdiction of international choice, and also access for many trades, derivatives and many other things, which take place in the City of London?
Boris Johnson: (58:42)
Well, I’m in personal charge of the whole negotiations, as you can imagine.
Sir Bob Neill: (58:45)
That’s my point. It may need your personal intervention.
Boris Johnson: (58:48)
I’m following each dossier very carefully, and I have high hopes that we’ll make progress.
Sir Bob Neill: (58:54)
Final topic I wanted to turn to, we will also be leaving the Brussels II arrangements, which enable the mutual enforcement of judgments, including in civil cases and in things like maintenance cases or child access cases, where one of the partners is in the EU and one in the UK, but also things like commercial contracts, very important issues to us. The Lugano Convention is not as good. We have sought to accede to Lugano. At the moment, EFTA members of Lugano convention accept our rejoining it, but the EU members are not, and the commission is not as yet prepared to accept our joining. That’s unsatisfactory.
Sir Bob Neill: (59:38)
Are you prepared, if need be, to go to the member states as well, to put pressure on the commission in the EU to say, “This is in the interest of your nationals and your businesses that we must join?” I’m concerned that the atmosphere that we have around some other matters will prejudice what are basic things which will affect people’s lives and the flow of business.
Boris Johnson: (59:56)
Yeah, you’re making a good point. I know that Hilary Benn’s also raised the issue of the Lugano Convention in the House. I think the fundamental advantage we have in this is that we’ve all got skin in this game. Our friends and partners also want to see judgements upheld. I hope very much that commonsense will prevail.
Sir Bob Neill: (01:00:25)
Final thing. Can we perhaps ensure that these important issues are not lost? Do you understand? There is a real concern, both in the criminal justice community and in the legal fraternity that these things get lost amongst all the other voices.
Boris Johnson: (01:00:42)
You’re right to worry about that, Bob, but I can tell you that we are keeping an eagle eye on every aspect of the negotiations. You’re right. There’s a lot of plates being spun at once, but I’ve got great faith in our team.
Sir Bob Neill: (01:01:02)
[crosstalk 01:01:02] perhaps continued updates on these aspects in the negotiations will give comfort to British firms and businesses.
Bernard Jenkin: (01:01:07)
Okay. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (01:01:07)
Well, Bernard, if I could just say, pursuant to my earlier commitment to scrutinize my diary, I think we should be able to come back to this, I hope, before the end of the year.
Bernard Jenkin: (01:01:20)
Thank you, Sir Bob.
Sir Bob Neill: (01:01:20)
Bernard Jenkin: (01:01:21)
Briefly, Meg Hillier.
Meg Hillier: (01:01:23)
Thank you, Chairman. Prime minister, your Justice Secretary says that the internal market spill only breaks international law if the powers are used. Your minister, Brandon Lewis, says it breaks the laws just by granting the powers. Which of those two is correct? Who’s right?
Boris Johnson: (01:01:42)
Meg, I want to thank you. I want to go back to what I said, I think, to Bill, to Hilary, and others. I think that we look at what the AG says in her summary. My position is that her position-
Meg Hillier: (01:02:03)
So who is right? Just for clarity. Who’s right, your Justice Secretary or Brandon Lewis?
Boris Johnson: (01:02:04)
My position is the AG’s position, and the objective of these measures is to protect this country against accidental or unreasonable measures that serve to break up our UK.
Meg Hillier: (01:02:18)
So you say it’s the AG’s… Which is those two ministers then is right? Because they can’t both be.
Boris Johnson: (01:02:22)
I’ve given you my answer.
Bernard Jenkin: (01:02:26)
Right. Can I just ask very briefly about the future relationship? The white paper in February said, and I quote, “Whatever happens, we will not agree to any obligations for our laws to be aligned with the EU’s, or the EU’s institutions, including the Court Of Justice, to have any jurisdiction in the UK.” Can you assure voters that is still your objective?
Boris Johnson: (01:02:47)
Bernard Jenkin: (01:02:48)
And can you explain, you’ve highlighted the food blockade issue as one of the cassus belli for this bill, but then you told the House of Commons, “We’re not taking powers in this bill to neutralize this threat. We obviously reserve the right if threats persist.” So why aren’t you just putting it in this bill, like you are putting it [crosstalk 01:03:13]-
Boris Johnson: (01:03:13)
It’s a very good question, because there are important issues, problems that we do address in this bill; excessive checks, misconstruction of state aid rules so as to govern the whole of the UK rather than… and so on and so forth. The finance bill will deal with the tariffs issue. On the third country listings, although the EU have not yet taken that revolver off the table, as I said in the House, I think it would be so extreme, so unreasonable to keep it on the table, to deploy it, that we don’t yet propose to bring forward legislation to deal with that point. We will wait and see what they do, but we do need to fortify ourselves in the way described. But if this continues-
Bernard Jenkin: (01:04:08)
So it might have to be emergency legislation.
Boris Johnson: (01:04:10)
… we may very well.
Bernard Jenkin: (01:04:11)
Okay. Moving on. Tom. We’re going to move on to the integrated review now, with Tom Tugendhat.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:04:20)
Prime Minister, who does the Sino-British Joint Declaration protect?
Boris Johnson: (01:04:26)
Thank you, Tom. Above all, it protects the rights and the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:04:36)
So it protects some British nationals overseas as well.
Boris Johnson: (01:04:39)
It does, yeah.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:04:40)
And has China broken the Sino-British Joint Declaration?
Boris Johnson: (01:04:43)
As you will have heard the Foreign Secretary say in the house, alas, we believe that the security measures that have been brought in by Beijing do sadly amount to a breach of the letter and the force of the spirit of the Sino-British Declaration.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:05:05)
So the breach of the treaty puts at risk the freedoms of British nationals. Correct?
Boris Johnson: (01:05:10)
We think so. Not only that, but I’m afraid to see that already. You’re starting to see a chilling of free speech. You’re starting to see the effect of that security rule. The Chinese legislation already starting to bite on the people of Hong Kong.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:05:33)
Forgive me, just to be clear. International law does protect British nationals, as a simple yes/no.
Boris Johnson: (01:05:39)
Tom Tugendhat: (01:05:39)
Thank you. Do you agree that the persecution of Uighur Muslims amounts to genocide?
Boris Johnson: (01:05:47)
I certainly think that what’s happening in Xinjiang is objectionable, and the UK government has continued to protest and taken a leading role in holding China to account. [crosstalk 01:06:04] specific on the specific term genocide. That is an important term in international law. With great respect to the committee. I would have to get… But I don’t believe that we’re at the position so far of characterizing [crosstalk 01:06:18]-
Tom Tugendhat: (01:06:20)
The eminent human rights lawyer, Ben Emerson, uses the word genocide, and other members of the United Nations [crosstalk 01:06:25] have done so.
Boris Johnson: (01:06:25)
Well, it’s not, as far as I know, something that the UK government has so far endorsed.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:06:29)
It’d be great to have clarity on that. But in the light of the abuses that you’ve listed, both to British nationals and to minority communities within China, will you allow ministers to attend the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022, and will you ask members of the royal family to boycott the event?
Boris Johnson: (01:06:47)
We will review that matter as and when we need to make a decision, but generally speaking, I think it’s important, if you can, to protect international sporting events, and indeed members of the royal family, from political ramifications.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:07:12)
You were very clear, about 18 months before the Russian World Cup, when you were Foreign Secretary and came before the committee that I’m privileged to chair, that you would not encourage ministers or members of the royal family to go to Moscow. Why will you not do the same for Beijing?
Boris Johnson: (01:07:28)
I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. All I’m saying is that that’s not something we’ve taken a decision on yet.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:07:34)
Okay. You certainly wouldn’t suggest, I’m sure, that British nationals overseas or Uighur Muslims have fewer rights or are less appropriate for boycott than Russian citizens in the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson: (01:07:45)
No. All I’m saying, Mr. Tugendhat, you’re asking us to take a decision some way out. We haven’t yet reached that decision.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:07:53)
Okay. What representations have you personally made to China’s communist leaders about the persecution of both Uighur Muslims and British nationals?
Boris Johnson: (01:08:01)
Well, I’ve raised many times, both in my position as Foreign Secretary, and indeed before human rights in China and the issues of Tibet, Falun Gong, and all kinds of issues where we in the UK wish to be very clear with our Chinese friends that we do not… Hong Kong being the most recent and the most notable. On Hong Kong, I think that the UK can be very proud of what we did in deciding that the BNOs and their dependents should be able to come to this country, and I think that was the right thing to do.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:08:50)
As part of Britain’s support for the international rules based system, would you agree with your friend, and indeed mine, Minister [ inaudible 01:09:00], former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan and former Defence Minister.
Boris Johnson: (01:09:04)
Tom Tugendhat: (01:09:05)
Surname first, if he’s Japanese, presumably, so [inaudible 01:09:08], but yes.
Boris Johnson: (01:09:08)
Tom Tugendhat: (01:09:12)
Would you agree with him that Japan should be looking to be the sixth member of the Five Eyes community?
Boris Johnson: (01:09:22)
I think there’s certainly a big opportunity here, Tom, for the UK to bring together like-minded democracies. The Five Eyes is a particular group, has a particular coherence. It’s not something that our Japanese friends have yet raised with me. It’s an idea that we’re thinking about. But we have a fantastic relationship with Japan, a very close defense and security partnership, as you know, and that might indeed be a very productive way to build on it, but we’d have to work with other [crosstalk 01:09:59]-
Tom Tugendhat: (01:09:59)
May I just ask? You’ve been very forward in pushing for a global vaccine alliance. Will you organize a G7 COVID conference as soon as possible after the US elections to bring in any new or existing administration into a vaccine alliance?
Boris Johnson: (01:10:14)
Yes. As you know, we had the GAVI Summit raised about $9 billion for global vaccines, particularly for COVID. One of the things the UK is going to do with the G7 is to try to bring the world back together after COVID, because it has been a disaster for… The fights at airports over PPE, the borders that have sprung up around the world, the sequestering of stocks of drugs, a national… You’ve seen a return to nationalist priorities in a way that I think has been very depressing for those who believe in globalism and believe in internationalism. We certainly want to use our G7 presidency. Organizations like the WHO, I profoundly think that they are of huge value to the world. In free trade, which we talked about earlier, in health matters and in the fight against climate change, [crosstalk 00:01:11:23]-
Bernard Jenkin: (01:11:25)
We must move on. [crosstalk 01:11:20]-
Tom Tugendhat: (01:11:25)
May I make one last question, if I may?
Bernard Jenkin: (01:11:26)
You’re over time.
Tom Tugendhat: (01:11:27)
In that case, you’ll agree of course that tariffs are a tax on the British people, but let’s just move on, very last point, and say-
Boris Johnson: (01:11:33)
I certainly agree with that [crosstalk 01:11:35]-
Tom Tugendhat: (01:11:34)
I thought you would. What advice did you get from the Foreign Office, and most particularly from Dame Karen Pierce, our ambassador in Washington, on the impact of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s statement would be on the Anglo-US relations now, and under a possible new Biden administration? Did you get Foreign Office advice?
Boris Johnson: (01:11:57)
If I did, I wouldn’t tell you, because it wouldn’t be right, Tom, to talk about the advice that-
Boris Johnson: (01:12:03)
Because it wouldn’t be right, Tom, to talk about the advice that good civil servants give to ministers. But since I’m not aware of such advice-
It would be odd.
Boris Johnson: (01:12:10)
… So far I can tell you that I’m not aware of such advice if [crosstalk 01:12:14].
But would it not be odd if the foreign office had not given advice on the change in an international treaty?
Boris Johnson: (01:12:18)
Look, I’m not aware of any such advice, but if I were aware of it, I wouldn’t tell you.
Thank you Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (01:12:24)
Will that do?
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:12:25)
Moving on to Sarah Champion.
Sarah Champion: (01:12:28)
Thank you chair. Prime Minister, are you looking to amend the 2002 International Development Act?
Boris Johnson: (01:12:35)
What we want to do is to… By that, do you mean do we want to move away from the 0.7? Is that what you’re saying?
Sarah Champion: (01:12:43)
No, I don’t. I mean, the act in itself. So the commitment, for example, to that DAC definition of what constitutes aid.
Boris Johnson: (01:12:50)
Oh, I see. Forgive me. What we want to do is to… I’m afraid I’ll have to reserve my position on amending the act and go and come back to you with further, better particulars on that.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:13:09)
We’ll follow that up.
Boris Johnson: (01:13:09)
But what we certainly want to do is to ensure that, and it may not be necessary to amend the act. And what we want to do is to ensure that ODA is better spent on serving the interest, 16 billion pounds worth of UK taxpayer’s money is better spent on serving the diplomatic, the political, the values of the UK. And indeed the commercial and employment, the jobs interests of the UK as well. And I see no contradiction.
Sarah Champion: (01:13:46)
[crosstalk 01:13:46] May I comment on some details then, please, of that? So the integrated review states that it has an Indo-Pacific focus. Which regions that we currently support will lose out, then. And who do you think will fill in the gaps?
Boris Johnson: (01:13:59)
Ah, well, it’s like asking a lion to choose between its cubs and we won’t.
Sarah Champion: (01:14:07)
But that’s what your bank is doing.
Boris Johnson: (01:14:08)
We aren’t going to get into the game of deprioritize. I can’t tell you now which area of the world must have or logically be subject to the subject of less UK, because I didn’t think I did accept that idea at all. If you look at what we’ve been doing, actually, when I was foreign secretary, we opened embassies around the world and that’s going to continue to be our approach. I think the global Britain has got to be more outward looking more engaged than ever before.
Sarah Champion: (01:14:39)
But the integrated review does say that Britain will have an Indo-Pacific focus. So therefore by logic, that means that it’s going to be shifting away from other countries. So which countries are they going to be?
Boris Johnson: (01:14:49)
No, but I’ve just rejected that logic. I don’t think that’s true.
Sarah Champion: (01:14:53)
Okay. Well, I look forward to that future then. The Prime Minister is clearly committed to girls’ education. So it was very shocking that the first project that was canceled by the summer cuts to ODA was a Rwandan girls project. It does beg the question, Prime Minister, who actually has oversight of ODA now. And why are your priorities being ignored?
Boris Johnson: (01:15:19)
Well, I wasn’t aware of the cut that she’s made, with changes she’s referred to. I’ll look into that 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world remains one of the most important things I think the UK can campaign for and will continue to do. So.
Sarah Champion: (01:15:37)
I agree. So why was that ignored by either the minister or the civil servant who decided to make those cuts?
Boris Johnson: (01:15:43)
Sarah, I’m going to have to go and look at that particular change and come back to you. I can’t give an explanation, but we are massively committed to supporting 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world. There is there’s scarcely, anything more beneficial for the future of the planet.
Sarah Champion: (01:16:04)
Thank you. It does concern me and I think many others that with such a serious shift in our policies internationally, that you don’t seem to know who has got strategic oversight.
Boris Johnson: (01:16:16)
The foreign secretary is in charge of the FCDO. He has accountability, but I, of course, have ultimate accountability. So I will get back to you about that particular program.
Sarah Champion: (01:16:30)
Thank you very much. Last question from me, Prime Minister, are you frightened parliamentary scrutiny of foreign aid?
Boris Johnson: (01:16:38)
No, not at all. In fact I relish it, because I think it’s extremely important. And, may I say that I know that there may be some suggestion that the FCDO scrutiny committee, the defense scrutiny or the formative committee committees should be bungled into the foreign affairs scrutiny. I perfectly understand why Parliamentarians should want to have a separate group that can look at development issues, even if you’re ultimately interrogating people from the same department, that’s often the way in life, anyway. It’s a matter for Parliament, so I’m not going to impose my own views on Parliament, but I simply view that with that approach.
Sarah Champion: (01:17:36)
Thank you.Thank you for your support.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:17:37)
Prime minister, we have strayed a little late, and we still have one select committee chair to go. If we can steal a bit more of your time, we’d be immensely grateful.
Boris Johnson: (01:17:49)
I could not leave without being interrogated by Tobias. It would be totally wrong.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:17:55)
Just for that last point, you’ll be aware when you say “There should be a separate group,” presumably you mean there might be a separate committee.
Boris Johnson: (01:18:02)
I did, indeed, mean that. But that is for you, that is for Parliament.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:18:07)
Can you guarantee that the payroll won’t be whipped against it? It will be a genuinely free vote for parliament to decide.
Boris Johnson: (01:18:14)
Yes I think Parliament should decide that. These are large budgets and it’s a very important matter. I want FCDO. I don’t want to take up too much time, but I want FCDO, everybody needed to be animated by the same idealism, the same spirit that I think that if it has, I see no reason why there shouldn’t be a separate…
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:18:42)
That very much reflects the of this committee thank you. Tobias Ellwood.
Tobias Ellwood: (01:18:46)
Chair, thank you very much, indeed. And, Prime Minister, thank you for agreeing for taking a few more minutes to turn to the [inaudible 01:18:53] from the perspective of the MOD. I have two short asks if I may, Chair, and three questions, it shouldn’t take too long. The first two asks, simply, Prime Minister, you need to know that will be fantastic. The first is-
Boris Johnson: (01:19:04)
Increase the defense budget.
Tobias Ellwood: (01:19:05)
We’ll get there in a second, that was my question. The service charity sector is suffering immensely due to the pandemic, unable to raise critical funds to look after our brave veterans. The support they receive has been significantly impacted. Please, could I meet with the Chancellor and some of the service charities in order to see what can be done to make sure that our great heroes are not forgotten. Secondly, relating going back to-
Boris Johnson: (01:19:35)
Yes, yes is the answer to that one.
Tobias Ellwood: (01:19:36)
Thank you. That’s a good start. We’ll continue in that vein for Prime Minister. Secondly, relating to the government’s response to COVID-19, please could we made greater use of our fine armed forces. It is not a mark of failure to lean on their versatile skills more so than we are currently doing when we are faced with such an enduring emergency and trying to move, perhaps, on to a war footing, the one department in White Hall that actually plans for and trains for crisis situations is the MOD. Please, would you consider taking more advantage of their incredible skill sets at the center here in Whitehall and assisting with strategic planning, operational delivery, command and control, and managing the narrative.
Tobias Ellwood: (01:20:20)
Prime Minister, turning to the actual integrative review itself, your first duty in government is the nation’s security. And as we’ve been discussing here, crudely put, this intake integrated review falls into two parts. Firstly, defining our place in the world, our ambitions and emerging threats. And secondly, the corresponding defense posture required. Could I ask you to share one of that with the Parliament and indeed with the nation, your own Federalist papers, if you like, a sober assessment of the great power competition we face?
Tobias Ellwood: (01:20:51)
We talked about some of the challenges, they seem to be tactical at the moment, not strategic. We’re helping those in Hong Kong, but not dealing with the wider China issue. We’re dealing with migrants in the channel, but Libya is the problem there. We’re dealing with-
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:21:05)
Should we let-
Tobias Ellwood: (01:21:07)
If I can share, this is my time, sir. So we’re defeating diaspora, but Syria is now still left. So tactical versus strategic, could I, therefore, ask that you set out what our vision is and then we can craft the necessary defense posture from that rather than what I see us doing at the moment, which is actually forcing the MOD to go through the savings from a spending review, rather than designing a defense architecture to fit in with your global vision.
Boris Johnson: (01:21:34)
Well, thanks very much, Tobias. I think it’s important to note that this country is not at war at present, but of course we are engaged in defending, protecting, supporting people around the world where UK has an interest. And I pay tribute to our armed services for their engagement around the world. And you’re right in what you say by the way about the medical officers of our armed services. They are outstanding. I’ve met many in the course of the last six months of handling this pandemic. They’re fantastic people. And I’ve been bowled over by the way our armed services have led the way in distributing tests around the whole of the UK. A fact that I hope is not lost on our distinguished friends from the Scottish nationalists, not lost my French and Scottish nationalist party. And I saw them actually in Orkney and elsewhere doing absolutely amazing job.
Tobias Ellwood: (01:22:30)
So focus more on the white tool piece, strategic thinking.
Boris Johnson: (01:22:33)
On the strategic thinking, Tobias, what I wanted to do, and we’re progressing with an integrated review, as you know, that will certainly… There’s bits and pieces that Sarah just said that we’re looking at the Asia-Pacific region, but we will be setting out a wholesale analysis of where the UK seizes opportunities, but also its its responsibilities. And I don’t want to summarize it or to caricature it now but it is an opportunity for the UK, for us to protect our values overseas, to change the world for the better, in a way that we’ve been describing to open up opportunities for the UK around the world as well. And the animating principle, we’re not just the need to project UK ideas, UK values, but also opportunities for jobs and growth here in the UK.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:23:42)
I hit it. I still make the case. Please express what global Britain, in detail, means so we can then craft the necessary defense posture from that rather than just forcing savings onto the three services so I can move on to the second question, which is to do with the defense budget. You said we’re not at war and absolutely that’s correct. But there’s far more activity beneath the threshold of normal conflict. The character conflict is changing. We are going through an era far more dangerous than any time since the Cold War. So I simply ask in recognizing that we want to play a role on the international stage that comes from our respected hard power. Will you commit to ignoring, now, the 2% GDP because means little because of the pandemic and the impact on the economy, but a real terms growth 0.5% increase in our defense budget as previously committed by the last government to make sure that we can invest in our armed forces to recognize the changing threats that we face?
Boris Johnson: (01:24:38)
Well, as you know, Tobias, we are increasing our defense budget by 2.6% above inflation in 2019, 2020, 2021. We’ve made the 0.5 commitment from which we do not resile, we’re increasing spending by $118 billion on defense equipment alone, $180 billion on medical care equivalent alone in the next few years, and it comes in 2029. And we’re one of the very few countries in NATO to spend 2% of our GDP on defense. So, look, I take the… You mentioned Libya earlier on, you mentioned all sorts of theaters where the UK could be doing more and will be doing more and we’ll be setting on a lot of that out in the course of the review.
Tobias Ellwood: (01:25:34)
I hope that is the case because there’s an absence of international leadership. And I think there’s a desire for Britain to play a greater role. My final question is on the equipment exactly-
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:25:41)
Tobias Ellwood: (01:25:43)
Yes, chair, but I think the Prime Minister is willing to stay. I welcome the increased investment in space and cyber security, absolutely. But this shouldn’t be at the cost or the expense of conventional deterrence. I simply ask that you recognize the importance of investment in our land warfare in Challenger, Warrior, Ajax, Boxer, for example, and also increasing the surface fleet too. You mentioned the trade deal with Japan. We have to make sure that our actual trade routes are protected as indeed the international cables. And finally, if we want to have that aircraft carrier operating, we’ll need a minimum of 80 F35s per aircraft carrier because of the training and equipment and redundancies that are required. I hope that you’re about to commit to those. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (01:26:28)
Oh, absolutely. And I can, well, I’m not going to commit to absolutely everything and all that because I have to go to all the programs that he’s mentioned. But on shipbuilding alone he should look at the ambitions of the Defense Secretary and what we’re doing with the solid support ships, the investments we’re making in frigates, in the Type 31s, in Type 36s. This is going to be a fantastic time for investment in ship building, which this country was once absolutely renowned around the world. And just to give the committee a sense of the three things in addition to projecting our values around the world, all the commitments we make with our armed services, which are massively admired. Just three things that we’re going to do the ways in which the UK is going to show and continue to show international leadership.
Boris Johnson: (01:27:23)
I’ve mentioned already bringing the world back together in public health, [gabby 01:27:27] vaccines, the quest for a cure for COVID. And the moment is totally vociferous. We need to unite the world. Number two trade, that’s already been discussed. The UK trade, world trades, totally in the [inaudible 01:27:38], the UK can lead on that. And the third and most obvious is climate change. The struggle that bringing the world together in the run up to COP 26, the three huge projects for global Britain. And you’ll be reading a lot more about that. And we’ll certainly be setting out at least some of that in the integrated review, but there’ll be a wealth of other detail that we will cover.
Tobias Ellwood: (01:28:01)
Prime Minister, thank you for your time. And Chair-
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:28:02)
Thank you. Well done. Prime Minister if you’ll be very generous with your time, there are actually two follow up questions. If you could bare it.
Boris Johnson: (01:28:09)
Absolute pleasure. I can’t tell you what joy it gives me.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:28:14)
The first from Angus Brendan MacNeil.
Agnus MacNeil: (01:28:16)
Thank you very much. Indeed-
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:28:17)
If you won’t interrupt the answer.
Agnus MacNeil: (01:28:20)
No, I’ll do my best not to. I’m sure the answer will be concise and to the point and accurate and brief. There have been presupposed in the last 48 hours of lorry queues of 7,000, because you’ve mentioned trade there of 7,000 lorries, 70 miles in length, two days to clear. If this happens and in Kent, it’ll make the COVID Louisville cases look like a walk in the park. Now, if it happens and the supermarket shelves are empty. And because of this, post-Brexit scenario, who’d be responsible for this stuff, not getting to the supermarkets for 7,000 long lorry queues. Would the buck stop with the Prime Minister?
Boris Johnson: (01:28:59)
I don’t think anybody will be under any illusions about who’s going to be held to account for that. And it’s certainly going to be me and the government.
Agnus MacNeil: (01:29:07)
Good. Thank you.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:29:08)
Thank you, Greg Clark.
Greg Clark: (01:29:10)
Thank you chairman. Going back to COVID for a final time. Are you aware, Prime Minister, of how frustrated many young people are feeling, who are having to make a huge sacrifice for the rest of us with laws like the “rule of six”, when a 20 year old is vastly more likely to die in a road traffic accident than they are from COVID. It seems to me to be only fair for them to understand when and how the restrictions will be lifted. So what test will govern how that happens?
Boris Johnson: (01:29:41)
Well, Greg, tje first thing I need to say is yes. We think about this every day and I don’t think there can be a government in modern history, as I said this morning, that has faced such painful dilemmas between having to restrict people’s everyday lives in the way that we’re having to do for the sake of protecting the public, protecting more vulnerable people.
Boris Johnson: (01:30:08)
And ultimately of course, in, in order to defeat them the disease. And you asked kind of what, what criteria are we going to apply? And the most I look at all the data. I look at what’s happening on hospital admissions. I look at what’s happening in care homes. I look at every single… Every day in the morning we have a COVID dashboard and we go over every single indicator and where the lights are flashing and single most important fact, as you know, Greg, is what is the R doing and where is the AR going? And at the moment, alas, the R having been under one for so many months after the fantastic efforts of the British people, the R is now above one. That’s the most important thing we have to look at.
Speaker 2: (01:31:04)
Now Sir Patrick Vallance, your chief scientific advisor, but he said, that R number was the right thing to measure early on in the epidemic, but it’s not the right thing to be using now. So what are you, Prime Minister, look again for what should it should trigger a change in the rules?
Boris Johnson: (01:31:21)
Well rate of spread of the epidemic above one, about R clearly expresses itself in all sorts of ways, do not just mention hospital admissions. They are crucial. And, alas, they are also going up now having been flat or going down for it for a long time. So we look at lots of ways in which the R expresses itself and that’s entirely right, but the R is or the rate of reproduction of the disease is still very important.
Speaker 2: (01:31:54)
Could you write us with the criteria?
Boris Johnson: (01:31:57)
Well, I’ve given you some of the most important.
Sir Bernard Jenkin: (01:32:01)
If we extend this too much, we will provide excuses for more reluctance from the Prime Minister in the future. So please, Prime Minister. Thank you very much for your time. You’ve been very generous. Order, Order.
Speaker 3: (01:32:23)
Portcullis House, the Boothroyd room.