'You're not prepared to answer': Nick Ferrari clashes with minister over lockdown power extension

22 March 2021, 09:26 | Updated: 22 March 2021, 11:47

By Patrick Grafton-Green

LBC’s Nick Ferrari clashed with care minister Helen Whatley over an expected six-month extension to "authoritarian" lockdown powers in England, telling her “you’re not prepared to answer” in a fiery exchange.

Despite fierce criticism, MPs are expected to approve an extension to the Coronavirus Act, which gives the Government emergency powers to tackle the pandemic, later this week.

Ms Whatley was asked by Nick about the “authoritarian approach of some of these restrictions" and why they are necessary until October when, according to the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, all restrictions should be lifted on June 21.

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Ms Whatley said the legislation includes the furlough scheme and sick pay provision for those who need to self-isolate.

She said restrictions are reviewed "every 35 days", but that Boris Johnson had been "quite clear" that June 21 was "the soonest that we can envisage we can lift all the restrictions".

"We are being driven by the data rather than the dates," she added.

A number of senior Tories, including former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and Mark Harper and Steve Baker of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), have raised concerns over how the plans are consistent with the PM’s pledge to restore the country's freedoms as the vaccine programme rolls out.

Nick said the Government had “enjoyed” Coronavirus Act powers “for the best part of a year”, and reiterated “why do we need to take that through to possibly October?”

Ms Whatley took issue with the word “enjoyed”, saying: “I wouldn’t say they are powers that the Government has enjoyed having."

She added they have been “put in place in order to save people’s lives from the virus and to control its spread".

Nick then asked for a third time, “why it’s necessary to keep this until October", and Ms Whatley again pointed to supporting people through “the furlough scheme and sick pay”.

Unsatisfied with her response, Nick said: “You’re not going to answer the question are you? I’ve asked three times minister, why it’s necessary for you to have these laws... you keep talking about furlough, clearly you’re not prepared to answer are you?”

When Ms Whatley said she believed she had answered, he responded: “You honestly think that’s an adequate answer do you minister?

“We’ll just park it there because I don’t think it is.”