Starmer says Tories ‘out of touch’ after senior figures call for Covid amnesty

Sir Keir Starmer has accused the Tories of being “out of touch” after senior party figures proposed an amnesty for people convicted over Covid rule-breaking.

The Labour leader said many people had paid a “very high price” in the pandemic, during which Rishi Sunak was fined while chancellor alongside then-prime minister Boris Johnson for lockdown breaches.

It comes after former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland told the Telegraph that 29,383 people with Covid convictions should have their “slates wiped clean” rather than have their career prospects hampered.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the proposals on Wednesday (James Manning/PA)

Asked by journalists during a visit to Wiltshire whether he would support such an amnesty, Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, said: “Sorry, let me understand that. Does Rishi Sunak want his fine removed?”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves added: “What about the one he got for not having his seatbelt on? Does he want that one to be quashed too?”

The Labour leader said: “I mean, seriously, they want Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s convictions to be removed in some great amnesty. Come on. Many, many people paid a very high price in that pandemic.

“The now Prime Minister and his predecessor bar one were convicted of breaking the rules that they put in place and if they don’t understand how deep that goes for people, it just reinforces how out of touch they are.”

Sir Robert’s call has been backed by former ministers Sir David Davis and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, as well as justice campaigners who say the Covid laws were enacted too hastily and were poorly drafted.

His appeal came four years to the day after Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson attended a pandemic-era birthday gathering for the then-prime minister in Number 10, for which they were later hit with fixed-penalty notices.

The Prime Minister was asked by journalists during a campaign visit in East Anglia whether he agreed with the proposal, but said he had not “seen the details of that”.

“I’m not actually familiar with what Robert has said,” Mr Sunak said.

He added: “This election is about the future. Covid was a very difficult time for our country, right? And that was followed by a war in Ukraine … this election is about how do we build going forward.

“When it comes to Covid, it’s important we learn all the lessons of Covid and that’s why we have a full public inquiry.”