Watch: Huw in the Liaison Committee

As Chairman of the Transport Select Committee I am also part of the Liaison Committee, which considers the overall work of select committees and scrutinises the Government. The Prime Minister is asked to attend about 3 times a year. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared in front of the Committee for the first time and I asked him why quarantine for those coming in to the country was only being applied now and when airbridges can be introduced so that those who travel abroad this year do not have to quarantine when they return.

 

 

I then asked him whether the Government is able to assist British Airway's loyal staff. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that he is actively looking at what to do for them.

 

 

Huw Merriman

Good afternoon, Prime Minister. With regard to quarantine for those coming into the UK from 8 June, can I ask you this? Why now, when we are easing the lockdown and other countries are ending quarantine, and why not when we entered into lockdown?

The Prime Minister

Second point first. The reason we did not do it then is that the scientific advice was very clear that it would make no difference, or vanishingly little difference, to the arrival of the epidemic. It might delay it by a bit, but it would still come. The reason for doing it now is that, across the world, we are seeing infection rates come down. They are coming down here in this country, and what we do not want to see is reinfection from abroad. We think that a sensible quarantine scheme can help to prevent that, and that is what we are going to do from 8 June.

Huw Merriman

Prime Minister, many have commented that a sensible regime would look at the countries and their R rate. If it is below ours, there should be no need for quarantine. While that may not be possible for 8 June, will it be possible for the next three-week period—29 June—to allow those buying cheaper flights for their summer holidays, which have gone on sale today, to be removed from the threat of quarantine?

The Prime Minister

Yes, absolutely, Huw. We want to make sure we use the three-week reviews to be sensible. We want to drive the R down as fast as we can in this country, and have as sensible a quarantine scheme as possible to keep flows as generous as we can.

Huw Merriman

What will have to change between now and 29 June for these air bridges to be accepted?

The Prime Minister

We will have to agree them with the other countries concerned, and we will also have to make progress in tackling the disease. We will have to have evidence that the other countries are in at least a good a position as we are.

 

Huw Merriman

That looks positive. What looks negative are those workers in the aviation sector. British Airways workers, many of whom will be in your constituency, are under threat not only of losing their jobs, but if they retain them having their terms and conditions slashed. Prime Minister, why is the furlough scheme called the job retention scheme when companies like BA can put their employees on furlough and then put them under threat of redundancy at the same time? Can this be changed?

The Prime Minister

To be perfectly frank—I will not go into individual companies—I am concerned about the way some companies are treating their workforce. You are raising a very important point, Huw. This country is nothing without its workforce—its labour. We have to look after people properly, and I am well aware of some of the issues that are starting to arise. People should not be using furlough cynically to keep people on their books and then get rid of them. We want people back in jobs. We want this country back on its feet. That is the whole point of the furlough scheme.

Huw Merriman

You will be aware that Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, has tried for years to slash the terms and conditions of his staff and has failed because the staff have had enough power. They do not have the power now. Is there something that Government or Parliament can do to step in and stop this action before it occurs?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of this issue, and we are actively looking at what we can do.

Huw Merriman

I am grateful; thank you.