PM 'placed politics over our safety' when delaying India red listing, says Labour MP

18 May 2021, 20:25

By Fiona Jones

Labour MP Naz Shah told LBC's Iain Dale that Boris Johnson "prioritised friendships over the safety of our citizens" as he placed India on the travel red list only after his trade talks in Delhi were cancelled.

One hundred and ten direct flights from India have landed in the UK in the three and a half weeks since the country was placed on the travel Red List, LBC can reveal.

The Indian Covid variant is set to be the dominant strain in the UK "in the next few days", scientists have said, with the Government struggling to contain cases.

Those reported to have had this strain has has risen by over 75% since Thursday, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirming in the Commons that there are 2,323 cases in the UK, with over five cases in 86 local authority areas.

However, India was added to the to the red list on 23 April after Boris Johnson cancelled his trip to Delhi. This has led to the cross-party Covid inquiry chair insisting it must be investigated whether the PM delayed this decision due to his desire for trade talks.

Read more: Top clinician suspicious at timing of India red listing

Labour MP Naz Shah, who had been calling for the country to be red-listed as early as March, said the PM's delay was "absolutely" down to his prioritisation of "politics over science."

She rebuked Matt Hancock's defence of the delayed red listing, insisting that Bangladesh had more cases than India prior to its red listing, which Ms Shah said "wasn't the case."

"What the Prime Minister and this Government has done is put friendships before the safety of our citizens," she said. "they were placing politics above the science and friendships over the safety of our citizens."

She pointed out that if putting India in the red list earlier wouldn't have made a difference, "then why are we all of a sudden accelerating the programme?"

"I asked questions in mid-March about the [India Covid] numbers and they weren't transparent. I asked again in April, they weren't transparent again. Why all the secrecy? If this wasn't about a trade deal, if this wasn't about Boris Johnson's personal relationships, what was it actually about?"

Read more: PM's handling of Indian variant 'unsurprisingly dreadful,' says Independent SAGE member