Labour calls for Government to scrap 'confusing and unsafe' amber list

29 June 2021, 14:26

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said securing the UK's borders against new variants is "the number one thing Ministers can do to protect the reopening"
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said securing the UK's borders against new variants is "the number one thing Ministers can do to protect the reopening". Picture:

By Daisy Stephens

Labour has called on the Government to scrap the amber list to secure the UK's borders and prevent a further delay to the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the amber designation has caused confusion and led to people travelling to unsafe countries.

He also used his urgent question in the Commons to call for an international vaccine passport and demand all available data behind the traffic light system be published, to instil confidence in foreign holidays and support the struggling aviation sector.

The Government has added popular destinations in the Balearics and Malta to the green list - but the travel industry has called for more help.

Ministers are anxious about importing new Covid cases and variants from abroad and limited travel overseas.

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Speaking in the Commons, Mr McMahon said to transport secretary Grant Shapps that "international coordination is key to getting travel back up and running again".

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"Passengers and the industry want to see a clear plan of action, supported by transparent data, with measured interventions to balance the urgent need to keep our boarders safe with the desire to see aviation and tourism supported," he said.

"Can I urge him (Mr Shapps) to publish both the decision making criteria on the traffic light system, but importantly the analysis that underpins it.

"We have been pushing for the government to show international leadership but so far they have failed to step up, so can I ask him why the Government won’t bring forward concrete plans for an international vaccine passport which will be accepted by key destination countries?"

He said that Labour's position was "clear", calling for a "simplified" red and green list "supported by clear country by country assessment showing the clear direction of travel".

He added: "In the early days of this pandemic the public were willing to support the Government as it learned on the job.

"But frankly, patience has run out.

"It’s important that action is taken and it’s taken now.”

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Mr Shapps responded by saying the data on country classification was already published on the Government website, and accused Mr McMahon of contradicting himself.

“He calls for a passport which could be used for people who are double vaccined and yet at the same his policy is actually to put every single country in the red list," said Mr Shapps.

“He calls for this red and green list, he wants to scrap the amber list, he wants to simplify it… but it simply doesn’t make sense.

"He cannot stand up and call for further support for airlines and the aviation sector whilst deliberately trying to ensure that every person who comes to this country, pretty much, has to go to government quarantine hotels.

"It simply does not stack up.”

Ahead of the Commons session, Mr McMahon said: “Securing our borders against new variants is the number one thing Ministers can do to protect the reopening.

“Labour wants to see travel reopen and backs an international vaccine passport and a limited and safe green list.

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“But Ministers must learn the lessons of the Delta variant.

“They should scrap the amber list which is still causing confusion and causing too many people travelling to countries not deemed safe.

“And they must publish the criteria surrounding how they are making decisions on which countries are added to which lists.”

He also said it will take “a long time” for the aviation industry to recover from the impacts of the pandemic – a sector he said the Government have “turned their backs on”.

“It’s clear that it will take a long time for the aviation industry to recover from the fallout of the pandemic,” he said.

“Ministers have presided over shambolic management of our borders and have chosen to turn their backs on the sector and the thousands of livelihoods that depend on it when support was most needed."

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