David Lammy 4pm - 7pm
Boris Johnson rejects Cummings' evidence to MPs that Covid response was 'disastrous'
26 May 2021, 13:25
Boris Johnson faced Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons today as his former aide Dominic Cummings gave evidence about the prime minister’s handling of the pandemic.
Sir Keir confronted the Prime Minister with his devastating apology to the nation that the government had failed when the nation needed it most.
Sir Kier asked Mr Johnson if he accepted the “central allegation” made by Mr Cummings that the government had fallen “disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government and that lives were lost as a result”.
Mr Johnson said: "No" and went on to accuse Sir Keir of being focussed on “the rear view mirror”, and emphasised the success of Britain’s vaccination programme.
However the PM conceded: “The handling of this pandemic has been one of the most difficult things this country has had to do for a very long time."
“We have, at every stage, tried to minimise loss of life, to save lives, protect the NHS, and we have followed the best scientific advice that we can.”
The prime minister has also defended the government against allegations that they failed to take the virus seriously in the early stages of the pandemic.
"I don’t think anybody could credibly accuse this government of being complacent about the threat that this virus posed, at any point,” said he said, and went on to criticise the Labour Party for “flip flopping” between supporting and opposing a number of the measures introduced by the government.
Sir Keir also put to Boris Johnson what Mr Cummings alleges he said in the lead up to the November lockdown – that the lockdown was put off because ‘covid was only killing 80 year olds’.
In response, Mr Johnson said he was “absolutely confident” that all decisions were made in the best interests of the British people, and that the inquiry would investigate that more closely.
Mr Cummings has been giving evidence to a joint meeting of both the Science and Technology Select Committee and the Health and Social Care Select Committee, titled ‘Coronavirus: lessons learnt’.
He has made a number of explosive allegations, including that there were worries Mr Johnson wanted to be injected with Covid live on TV and that the Health Secretary Mack Hancock should have been fired for lying on multiple occasions.
He has also told MPs that herd immunity was an official policy at the start, and that the government had “completely failed” to heed warnings about the pandemic.
Sir Keir Starmer called Mr Cummings' evidence "the latest chapter of a story of confusion, chaos and deadly misjudgements from this government".