Mark Harper grills Sajid Javid on Plan B measures
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Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper slammed the Prime Minister for “unquestionably” damaging the Governments credibility following reports of a December 18 party held at N.10 during the height of Tier 3 lockdown restrictions in London. He went on to question why the British people should therefore now follow the latest Covid rules laid down by the Government, following the spread of the Omicron variant, which will see the introduction of vaccine passports, working from home and mandatory mask-wearing from Friday.
During questions about the introduction of new rules, the Conservative launched a damning takedown of Health Secretary Sajid Javid as he claimed how “initial evidence” on the variant does not support the introduction of fresh restrictions.
He added how protection against serious disease “remains strong” through vaccination before sharing his concerns over how much longer Britons will have to endure Covid restrictions.
Mr Harper said: “If the Secretary of State’s fears are confirmed then there is no exit strategy from the measures he sets out, we will end up having to introduce them permanently.”
He then turned the crosshairs on the Government’s string of scandals from the alleged Downing Street Christmas party, as reported by The Mirror, as well as the Owen Paterson second jobs saga, as being responsible for “seriously damaging” the Government’s credibility and trust among the public.
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And in a comment which sparked cheers from the backbenches, Mr Harper questioned why Britons should follow the rules if those in power are not.
He said: “Why should people at home listening to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State do things that people working in N.10 Downing Street are not prepared to do?”
Responding, Mr Javid said it was “reasonable to assume” that the Plan B restrictions would buy more time for planned, third booster jabs to go into the arms of Britons to offer more protection against the virus.
In response to whether Britons should follow rules despite the Downing Street party, Mr Javid referred Mr Harper to comments made by the Prime Minister who claimed British citizens are aware of the “vital importance of the medical information” the Government are advising the public to follow.
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His comments follow footage obtained by ITV from December 20 of the Prime Minister’s former spokeswoman Allegra Stratton laughing off a question during a mock press conference about the Christmas party in question.
Ms Stratton was asked by adviser Ed Oldfield: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”
Laughing, Ms Stratton said “this fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced”.
She resigned from her role as COP26 spokeswoman on Wednesday following the emergence of the footage.
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Mr Harper’s reference to Owen Paterson comes off the back of attempts by the Prime Minister to change MP standards rules in order to save the North Shropshire MPs’ skin despite being found in “egregious” breach of MP standards.
Mr Paterson earned over £500,000 in fees for two consultancy jobs held at Randox Laboratories, a medical diagnostics company, and Lynn’s Country Foods, a food distributor.
The Government later U-turned on the plans to tear up the MP standards book and Mr Paterson resigned triggering a by-election which will take place on Tuesday, December 16.
Announcing the unveiling of Plan B, which comes into force on Friday, the Prime Minister was adamant that “it’s not a lockdown, it’s Plan B,” and that it was the “proportionate and responsible” thing to do.
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