Report finding Test and Trace ineffective is 'complete nonsense', says Shapps

10 March 2021, 09:42 | Updated: 10 March 2021, 09:59

By Fiona Jones

Nick Ferrari challenges Transport Secretary Grant Shapps over the Test and Trace 'failure', as a committee report finds "no clear evidence" that the £37 billion scheme has lowered Covid infection levels.

Test and Trace boss Baroness Dido Harding defended the scheme, branding it "an essential component in the fight against Covid."

She claimed the cost was "an awful lot less than £37 billion" but explained the hefty figure was necessary to maintain the mass testing regime in England, which she said accounted for around four-fifths of the budget.

Nick put it to Grant Shapps, questioning how this scheme could "waste" so much money yet be found ineffective by a panel of MPs: "It was a failure, a shambles, wasn't it Mr Shapps?"

In response the minister branded it "extraordinary" that chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Labour MP Meg Hillier, denigrated the scheme, insisting this finding was "complete nonsense."

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He admitted he "did not know" if the finding was politically motivated but merely sought to "point it out."

Mr Shapps said, "9.1 million people who would have otherwise been wandering around with the virus have been contacted by Test and Trace. Imagine if they hadn't been.

"93% of people even where contact details for the people they had been in contact with weren't given have been contacted by the service. Yesterday alone over 1.5 million people got a coronavirus test."

"The idea you come out and say contacting 9.1 million people and asking people to self-isolate, that none of that has made a difference, anyone puts their sensible head on knows that can't be true."

The cross-party group has urged the Government to justify the "staggering investment of taxpayers' money", questioning programme's effectiveness by noting that England is currently living under its third lockdown.

They also urged the scheme, led by Tory peer Dido Harding, to "wean itself off" reliance on thousands of "expensive" consultants and temporary staff, with some receiving £6,624 per day.