Boris Johnson accuses Sir Keir Starmer of 'sniping from sidelines' over Covid-19

30 September 2020, 13:08 | Updated: 1 October 2020, 05:17

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has accused Sir Keir Starmer of 'sniping from the sidelines" after the Labour leader criticised him for not knowing his own Covid-19 restrictions.

The two leaders went head-to-head in the Commons the day after the Prime Minister was forced to issue an apology after giving the incorrect information when asked to clarify his 'rule of six.

Mr Johnson had wrongly suggested that people in the North East could gather in groups larger than six in outdoor settings.

However, this was wrong as current rules in England state gatherings of more than six people - whether it be indoors or outdoors - are banned.

Speaking from the Commons on Wednesday, Sir Keir said: "One of the major problems, as we've seen in the last 24 hours, is widespread confusion about the local restrictions and I don't just mean the Prime Minister not knowing his own rules - having sat opposite the Prime Minister at PMQs every week that didn't come as a surprise to me.

"Let me quote to him the Conservative council leader in Bolton, a Conservative leader. He said this about the Government's handling of restrictions: 'it's breeding resentment, it's become too complex, too complicated, people feel very let down and very frustrated and very forgotten'."

Boris Johnson accused Sir Keir of 'sniping from the sidelines'
Boris Johnson accused Sir Keir of 'sniping from the sidelines'. Picture: PA

Sir Keir then went on to ask why if the Prime Minister didn't know the rules, then why should the rest of country be expected to know?

In response, Mr Johnson said: "In spite of the efforts of the Leader of the Opposition continually trying to snipe from the sidelines to undermine what we are trying to do."

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He then said he had tried to clear up his mistake "as fast as I could".

Much of the country - around 16 million people - are currently under stricter coronavirus lockdown measures

But asked to clarify the rules in the North East, Mr Johnson said: "On the rule of six, outside the areas such as the North East where extra measures have been brought in, it's six inside, six outside, and in the North East or other areas where extra tight measures have been brought in you should follow the guidance of local authorities.

"But it is six in a home, six in hospitality, but as I understand it, not six outside. That is the situation here."

Sir Keir asked how the rest of the country could be expected to know what the rules are when Boris didnt
Sir Keir asked how the rest of the country could be expected to know what the rules are when Boris didnt. Picture: PA

However current rules in England state gatherings of more than six people - whether it be indoors or outdoors - are banned.

The only exemptions for this rule are for households which are already larger than six, bubbles of more than six, or gathering for education or work.

First-time offenders who break this rule will be fined £200, which will double with every subsequent offence up to £3,200.

But the PM quickly apologised for the mistake.

He tweeted: "In the North East, new rules mean you cannot meet people from different households in social settings indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and your home. You should also avoid socialising with other households outside.

"This is vital to control the spread of coronavirus and keep everyone safe. If you are in a high risk area, please continue to follow the guidelines from local authorities. "

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