Matt Hancock came under fire from Tory MPs over the Government’s travel restrictions on Monday after the health secretary told people not to go on holiday to “amber list” countries like France, Spain and Greece.
After the health secretary warned against such travel unless there is “exceptional” reason, one MP asked him “what’s the point of having a passport”.
Conservative MP Greg Clark, who chairs the Science and Technology Committee, criticised the “rather strange advice” while party colleague Huw Merriman also questioned the directive.
Mr Merriman, who chairs the Transport Select Committee, said: “Given that he’s just effectively turned the amber list into red, can I ask him what the point of me having my passport is anymore?
“Covid will always mutate, the vaccine will always have to keep up. We managed to vaccinate 99 per cent of the mortality risk. When will this Government actually take a little bit of risk and allow people to get on with their lives again?”
Mr Hancock replied: “The red, amber and green lists are there reflecting risks that there are in other places around the world.
“The amber list of course means that you have to quarantine at home, the red list means quarantine in a hotel, the green list means that we think that it is safe to travel.
“So of course he should get his passport out, he can get on a plane to Portugal or one of the other countries.
“It allows for some careful foreign travel, but my first duty is to protect the lives of people here in the UK and the best way to do that right now is to make sure we are cautious on international travel to protect the opening up here at home.”
Earlier, the boss of British Airways Sean Doyle said there are “many reasons why people need to travel” and labelled official advice as “not clear”.
The chief executive said: “I worry that despite being well ahead in vaccinations compared to other countries all over the world, we’ll fall behind on economic recovery because we won’t seize the opportunities to simplify the framework.”
Meanwhile, Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked for “absolute clarity” on the amber list.
He asked: “Should all of our constituents go on holiday to countries on that amber list even when it is no longer illegal?”
Mr Hancock replied: “The answer is no. The official Government advice is very clear that people should not travel to amber or red list countries or territories. People should not travel to amber list countries for a holiday.”
He added the lists are kept under review, noting: “If it isn’t on the green list, then unless you have an exceptional reason you shouldn’t be travelling there.”