The government’s lack of “basic competence” is “holding Britain back”, Sir Keir Starmer has told Boris Johnson.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour leader lambasted the government over problems with test and trace, saying some people who have requested coronavirus tests have been told they couldn’t get one.
Some have been told to travel far away for a test, Starmer said, adding: “The government can’t even get the basics right.”
He went on: “The government is lurching from crisis to crisis. It still lacks even basic (competence).
“It lacks competence. This is what’s holding Britain back.”
Watch as Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson argue over Covid-19 testing
Johnson told Starmer the government is “working flat-out to address all the issues confronting us today, including trying to get the infection rate down”.
“We’re taking the tough decisions,” the PM said.
On Tuesday, NHS Test and Trace’s director of testing Sarah-Jane Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but that laboratories processing the tests are at a “critical pinch-point”, and apologised to those who were unable to be tested.
It comes in a torrid week for the government, in which COVID-19 cases began to spike dramatically and it came under fire for a minister’s comment that a plan to override parts of the Brexit deal would breach international law.
The government has played down its changes to the Internal Market Bill, saying they are “limited clarifications” to protect the Northern Ireland peace process.
But when asked on Tuesday if the changes were consistent with the UK’s international legal obligations, Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons: “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.”
Former prime minister Theresa May warned that the government could lose other countries’ trust and Labour called his admission “absolutely astonishing”.
Tuesday also saw the announcement that the head of the government legal department Sir Jonathan Jones had become the latest senior civil servant to quit his post.
Elsewhere, the government’s ban on more than six people meeting in England will come into force from Monday following a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases.
A total of 2,460 new cases were reported on Tuesday, 2,948 on Monday and 2,988 on Sunday.
Health secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty said the rise in infections appeared to be driven by young people.
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