Grant Shapps: 'Red list' rule breakers must face tough penalties to save lives

10 February 2021, 08:55 | Updated: 10 February 2021, 10:33

By Maddie Goodfellow

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended jail sentences of up to ten years for red list rule breakers to LBC, saying it is necessary to save lives and stop new variants "we can't deal with" entering the UK.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC, Mr Shapps said: "It is the case that if you deliberately mislead and bring in a mutation of the virus that for whatever reason couldn't be stopped by vaccines then you would be putting a lot of people's lives at risk."

Questioned by Nick over the length of the sentence compared to other crimes such as firearms offences, the Secretary of State said: "When you bring in a new variation of coronavirus and run the risk of hundreds or even thousands of people being ill or even dying, we think it is right to have a ten year maximum tariff and to do this.

"Although given the length of the tariff now in place, I don't believe many people will be breaking these rules - people really shouldn't be travelling anyway."

He continued: "We do think there need to be very clear penalties in place because the consequences of your behaviour is going to be a lot of people die."

Mr Shapps also cast doubt on holidays either at home or abroad, telling LBC: "Nobody should be going on holiday or travelling round the UK except for specific purposes".

Mr Shapps said the new travel quarantine rules announced yesterday are "a very tough regime" but said people must bear in mind "no one should be going on holiday, no one should be leaving this country, no one should be travelling around the UK except for specific reasons and certainly not going abroad."

On Tuesday, Matt Hancock announced that anyone trying to get round coronavirus travel quarantine by hiding details of a visit to a 'red list' country faces a jail term of up to 10 years.

The Health Secretary set out a significant strengthening of measures at the UK's borders in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

People who have to stay in quarantine hotels will also be charged £1,750 for their stay, he revealed.

The new measures apply to UK and Irish residents arriving in England, Mr Hancock said, with the hotel quarantine programme beginning for 'red list' countries on Monday.

But some senior Conservatives have criticised the jail terms. Mark Harper, who leads the Coronavirus Recovery Group of backbenchers, has questioned whether the sentences are appropriate.

Asked by Nick why the sentencing is so "disproportionate", Mr Shapps said: "We want to send a very clear message and make it very straightforward - it is not acceptable to 'forget' that you travelled from a red list country.

"It's for situations where people are trying to deliberately mislead authorities and put other people's lives at risk."

Pushed by Nick over the "oppressive" nature of the rules, Mr Shapps said: "We want to release people from the restrictions as soon as possible, and we don't want to trip at the last hurdle and import a mutation that we are unable to deal with.

"We have variants here already, we don't want to make this harder for ourselves."