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tv   British Prime Minister Johnson Testifies Before Parliamentary Committee  CSPAN  April 4, 2021 8:58pm-10:50pm EDT

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johnson testified on the uk's global leadership and his response to the coronavirus pandemic. he appeared before the pre-election liaison committee, made up of the chairs of the house of commons committee. >> it very good to see you here again. the first up at 2021 meetings. we are very grateful for that. our main session today is about three topics, covid, and the uk's place in the world. [indiscernible] then we will come to covid, then we will do the economy. if we please have time, to ask the government's views about lifting restrictions on parliament.
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first, can i go to the chairman. >> thank you. [indiscernible] they would not be providing a copy with more resources before they arrive. p.m. johnson: the summit is one of the single biggest priorities that any government could have. it's a massive job and we are throwing everything added, every department in whitehall is thinking about how we can reduce our emissions, deliver on our ndc. the president and his team are
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well staffed at the moment, but we will be looking to be that up as we go forward through the year. i hope that will be of some reassurance you. i agree that they need to be properly staffed. so far, and terms of our international reach, you should know that after the u.k. became the first major country to go for a net zero target, so far, before november, we have china, the united states, korea, spain, austria, chili, norway, hungary, [rattling off country names] are all committed to net zero targets, something thought to be wildly ambitious by the u.k. when we did it, but now you are seeing country after country across the world coming into line. >> thank you, prime minister.
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in the past few weeks we have had the argument about a new coal mine. the factory wants to make it cheaper to fly within the u.k., pay has gone up by a million pounds, presumably cutting climate aids. to you think countries will listen to us when we asked them to be better on climate actions? p.m. johnson: the uk's ndc is a 60% reduction, a huge commitment, people can see how big that is. also no that we have an incredible record of doing it. that u.k. has already delivered very considerable cuts in co2, just in my political lifetime, we have done a colossal amount to de-carbonized our country.
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in 1970 when i was six years old, i. you were even born, anti-percent of our admissions, of our energy came from coal. that's now down to less than 1%. >> i am afraid i am limited on time. it has been reported that you personally brokered the deal for the u.k. to spend 400 million pounds by the satellite company, and personally had to sign the check. are those facts correct? p.m. johnson: certainly the government was involved at all levels in doing the deal. i shouldn't comment exactly on who did what, but i think that
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the ambition for the u.k., to have a presence in space and low-level orbit market is a notable one, an important one, i think for too long the u.k. has been left behind in the space race. this is an area of commercial importance. >> i just want to say whether you in the chancellor were personally involved. which part of the government to the 400 million pounds come from? p.m. johnson: the commitment, as you all know, is of the whole of government. if you are asking which department is responsible for space strategy, the responsibility lies with the secretary of state. >> thank you, prime minister. leslie, my artist -- lastly --
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[indiscernible] -- is that correct? p.m. johnson: that is news for to make -- that is news to me. any such contacts or whatever would of course be registered in the proper way. >> in response to my question whether you personally brokered the deal, whether the chancellor personally signed the check, you have not provided an answer to those questions. p.m. johnson: great restraint to you. on your point about contact between david cameron, the former prime minister, entity what in my office, i think we have no knowledge of that. that is news to me. on the deal with -- that was a
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deal done by the government. >> i am afraid we have run out of time. >> unless the committee wants to comment i will move straight on. >> thank you very much, welcome to the integrative review. just putting aside how we might respond, would you agree with this picture as drawn up? the security environment is deteriorating, democracy will continue to decline, with strains of our national interests issues -- national institutions. russia will continue to be a threat to european security. threats of terrorism remain. climate change will progressively impact security.
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do you agree with that summary, simply yes or no? p.m. johnson: [indiscernible] >> as we concur, defense spending was 4% gdp. today's threats are more complex and dangerous, yet we remain on a peacetime defense budget at 2.2%. we welcome the shakeup, space was billions is welcomed, but it is coming at a huge price, a sweeping cut to our conventional defense posture, exposing us to the very threats you and i both agree are there. is it not time to move britain, race defense spending to at least 3%, not just to defend our interests, but to play a role to counter global instability. p.m. johnson: you have a high regard for your expert is in this area and you and i have discussed this many times.
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i know that you care passionately about the subject. i just wish to be clear, 2.2% is an increase. we have gone up to 2.2% as a result of the biggest investment in our armed forces since the end of the cold war. 24 billion pounds investment, and it is a full-spectrum investment. it covers everything from cyber, to modernizing and protecting tanks, to enabling us to go ahead in future combat, air systems defending our skies. the u.k. is one of the few countries in the world able to protect 8000 miles or more, in this integrated defense security allows us to continue to do just that. >> there are some concerns i
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have. we are cutting our marines to just 400. in order to pay for that in the future, we are having to cut back on the f-35's and indeed our typhoons. special forces are going to lose aircraft. i would be very grateful if you could look at these details. i am concerned that the wider picture, and we are not gazing -- gauging ourselves for what is coming on the others of the hill, and we are in denial as to the scale of threats we face. another subject, the office of veterans affairs. is today has come out there will be a 40% cut in the support here, with a reduction of its budget from 59 pounds to 3 million pounds. either you are passionate about supporting our armed forces, we have come a long way providing that support. can i ask you to revisit that decision. p.m. johnson: there is no decision that has been taken
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about the office of veterans affairs, and the spending on veterans is not primarily through that office. that team doesn't outstanding job -- that team does an outstanding job. we have spent pounds through nhs on specific mental health services targeted to veterans, 10 million pounds spent to support mental health charities, national insurance, rebates for those, subsidized for those higher veterans, free transport for veterans. something i remember pioneering when i was mayor of london, and i'm very proud to be taking that into government as well. >> thank you, my final question has to do with where we might be putting troops, in yemen, the
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cease-fire could be secured, we are the pen holder, you and i work on the subject for some time. would we be willing to supply troops if requested for you and stabilization? p.m. johnson: we have indeed work on it, and i remember some of your very creative plans that you suggested to me, for instance a mission to consolidate projects. i know how much you care about the peace and security of yemen. we of course back to you and approach -- u.n. approach, i do believe that is the best way forward. it is encouraging that there is a cease-fire now.
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we must hope that that leads to serious political progress. i think it was not realistic to say that the houthis could not be negotiated or talked to in any way. i do not think that's going to work, that was a previous approach. we now do have an opportunity to go further. there has been a specific request or suggestion for u.k. engagement, but it is certainly is something we are prepared to look at if the conditions are right. yemen -- the commissions -- conditions would have to be very different than they are now. >> can i just interject -- the decision and integration review to raise the caps on number of
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[indiscernible] came as something of a surprise. it's always been a bipartisan policy. what measures is the government going to take to build the same kind of consensus around this more controversial decision around the number of warheads? p.m. johnson: you obviously have a great deal of expertise in this field, you're absolutely right to raise it. is crucial to stress that the number in question that is in the integrated review is a ceiling, not a target. we remain as a government committed to the minimum, credible deterrent. it's good for everyone to understand that, as well.
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>> i hope there will be open discussion across the party divide. p.m. johnson: it certainly ought to be on council terms for members of this committee to receive a briefing about the nature of the decisions. >> thank you. >> thank, chair. prime minister, on monday you committed to spending 188 billion pounds on defense over the coming years, and increase of 14%. how is there enough money in the public purse to increase defense spending but not enough to maintain the uk's legal commitment? p.m. johnson: thank you, you asked me the same sorts of questions last time quite properly, because i think you certainly care about this issue greatly and so do i. to be a great a donor is one of the most important features of our country, global burden over
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the last few years. i want to try and reassure you that we still are, and 10 billion pounds in a year, which is what we are think this year in u.k. taxpayers money, is a huge sum. we remain one of the biggest, if not the single biggest honor yemen, which was just raised. how can we find the cash for this, the answer is times are very tight. we have had to spend 407 billion pounds supporting our public services through covid, and i think people do understand that these are the exceptional circumstances that are foretold in the 2015 act. it is reasonable for us to deviate from the act, under these extreme circumstances.
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>> thank you, prime minister. and the integrated review you argue that absolute poverty is to be eliminated in asia and latin america by the 20 30's, but 85 -- new map out the projections of global population growth intersecting with climate change, poverty, instability, while in africa. given this stark backdrop why have you decided to sharply cut development in africa? p.m. johnson: we are still one of the biggest aid donors in africa in the world, and we will continue to be so. we contribute for instance, to look at the immediate concerns of the planets and the african continent, we are one of the biggest donors to covax, i think
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we have given 548 million pounds in the global vexing alliance, 1.6 billion pounds, much of that funding goes to distributing vaccines to the poorest, particularly on the african continent. >> thank you, i know that education seems to be your personal priority. you are cutting funding to the international planned parenthood foundation, which would lead to 7.5 million unintended pregnancies, 27 million unsafe abortions, and 22,000 deaths. you're also cutting by 60% and international rescue committee family-planning program for sierra leone adolescents girls, a country were one in 17th die in childbirth, and you have cut
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a project in lebanon that would have provided child protection services to 107,000 women and girls. these are just examples we know of. how does that feel when your ambition and reality are in stark contrast? p.m. johnson: no prime minister, nobody who pricked cares about any of these issues can conceivably want to make these changes and discuss. i am simply asking you and people watching to understand the particular difficulties we face right now. our determination to get back to .7 when the fiscal position allows. i think people will also understand, i would have seen 40 million girls in education by 2025, that ambition is still there. we have the funding for that. we think we can do that.
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our campaign is for 12 years, and you mentioned some things we sadly can't do, there are plenty of things we are going to continue to do. our campaign for 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world, we will be leaving the girls education summit to try and promote that cause. we are spending a great deal of money on it. >> [indiscernible] p.m. johnson: it's a priority of the government and the program will continue to the best of our abilities, our target remains unchanged. we want another 40 million girls around the world to receive quality education by 2025. 40 million that would not otherwise without british intervention get that education they need. >> finally, [indiscernible]
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made it extremely difficult to discuss this change in the budget. can i ask you to intervene? p.m. johnson: i have intervened. to be clear i don't think he would have been reluctant to come. >> can i raise a point about the science component to the eight budget. -- eight budget. -- aid budget. the base allocation has reduced significantly as there have been cuts in the budget.
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can you address that too? that it's not an intention to have a dip in science funding. p.m. johnson: horizon is a wonderful pan-european project. it's extremely costly, in the way it operates at the moment is that that u.k. spends a lot of upfront and does not get much back for a while. we are looking at that. in the context of a huge increase in investment in science and r&d, there has never been anything like it under any previous government. >> a particular concern is the dip in funding creates discontinuity in existing funding programs, which would be most unfortunate. p.m. johnson: i am aware of that
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and i have discussed it with the chancellor. we want to make sure that scientists don't have that dip in continuity. >> i am most grateful. >> thank you very much. [indiscernible] will the u.k. be opting for longer summer nights?
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p.m. johnson: extremely good question. the roadmap that we have set out for taking our country on the path of freedom go so far to turn the 24th -- june the 21st. we have not looked at what is going to happen next when -- next spring. >> [indiscernible] p.m. johnson: i will have a look at the suggestion that you have made, but it seems unlikely to me. >> democracy is under threat in many places. china, russia, places like belarus. i think it is important that we assess a commitment to democracy, i know you are not in favor at the moment of scottish
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independence. i am not asking about that. i'm asking if the scottish people or the welsh people were to say at the ballot box that they wanted independence, which you respect the ballot box, and that decision if it were to come about? p.m. johnson: i am glad you talk about respecting the ballot box, because as you recollect, a vote on scottish separation -- >> [indiscernible] p.m. johnson: i am very keen to sue -- respect that vote. >> you said that the general election of 2019 was a once-in-a-lifetime general election. i hope that does not mean you believe in the end of democracy in the u.k.. [indiscernible]
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people in china, russia, belarus are watching you. would you respect what people said at the ballot box? p.m. johnson: i don't think even my worst enemies would say that i, at any stage, promised to abolish general elections. [laughter] there is a clear difference between the two things. when you asked people to vote on a highly controversial and divisive issue, an issue that -- family relationships -- toxic and divisive. you tell them that it's going to happen once in a generation, i think you should stick to it. >> i hope you would respect
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democracy. i will give you one more chance. do you respect democracy? p.m. johnson: i greatly respect the ballot box. what i would say about another referendum, and independence referendum, that the snp continually campaign for, i think it is striking and an opposite that now but we are trying to come together, to come through a pandemic, to build back better together, instead of talking about any other aspect of global britain, and l of the things that we do together, our armed forces, our security services. working together around the world, doing moving and extraordinary things. [indiscernible] >> order, order.
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p.m. johnson: thank you. >> [indiscernible] the transpacific partnership. do we have any figures on the gdp deal so far? [indiscernible] a 4.9% damage to gdp, so far with no trade deal signed. any idea what the trade deals gained would be? p.m. johnson: the overall benefits of trade deals are tested, and the ambition of this country is to continue.
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we have talked more than 60 trade deals already, and the countries we have secured deals with cover 80% of u.k. trade of next year. you are making a serious point about the detriment to exporters of some products, fishing products earlier this year. the problems continue, and i humbly accept that. it was in some ways regrettable that some of our friends did not make it as easy as they could have. we are doing what we can to address the matter. we have a 23 million pound fund to support the fishing industry, with its bureaucratic problems,
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but also 100 million pounds to fund and build up british fishing, in preparation for the time when we control access and the right to fish every fish in scottish waters. >> we know there is no trade deal. [indiscernible] we have lost 4.9% gdp, we have gained nothing so far. [indiscernible] p.m. johnson: global free trade is something that is of great
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value, and u.k. exports actually rose last year. i think we are now the fifth biggest exporter in the world, with less than 1% of the global population. that is a stunning achievement, and thanks to the u.k. working together with a great u.k. single market exporting to the rest of the world, with an uninterrupted supply chain, i think it would be full hearty for anybody to detach scotland from the rest of the u.k. and breakup our supply chain. >> order. moving on. >> good afternoon. so many parts of the pandemic response were fragmented,
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disjointed, and divisive. what went wrong? p.m. johnson: i am not sure i'm going to accept the premise. actually, it's very important that the messaging should be direct and local. that has been a good thing. we have worked together very closely, if you look for the roadmap that we have set out, it is actually very similar to those that are being followed around the whole of the u.k.. you dismiss the vaccination program, and did not show the benefits of the union. it's been incredible to go
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around the country. scottish scientists in livingston, scottish post grads in glasgow in university doing the testing that we depend upon to isolate the genomic sequence. british army people stripping vaccines across the whole country. it's been amazing. >> the point about the vaccination program is based on central government decision-making, particular on procurement, rather than a separate administration to make up their own schemes and rules. do you think it was a mistake not to deploy central measures to lead a genuine, k wide response? p.m. johnson: some people have
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argued that. i think time will come when we can look back and evaluate the way the messaging worked, in the impact of the weight we did it. that will be one of the things we look at in the inquiry. one of the things we are trying to you now -- do now with the new security agency, is not to take away powers, but make sure we can start our energies and our thinking more closely together. >> you have previously spoken about a developed administration. what do you think is the
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appropriate amount of time that a u.k. prime minister invests in sustaining relationships with members of the administration? p.m. johnson: i am certain that he gets enough time with me, and i will do what i can to -- i've had some very good meetings and conversations with him. clearly, the way it works, is the chancellor's and the duchess of lancaster has been sharing the meetings involved. that is how it has tended to work, and has been pretty effective. it's a system that has produced much more unity. >> do you think we would have a
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stronger union with a prime minister spending more direct time, or is it fine to develop that function? p.m. johnson: i think the role of the prime minister of the u.k. is to lead the whole of the u.k.. i am very much in favor of the chancellor of the aisles, for instant when we come together. across the whole of the british isles to talk about issues that matter to us. on the other hand, i don't think we ought to turn our deliberation into a kind of mini eu. >> very quickly, the scottish parliamentary elections.
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which you choose to spend more time in a relationship with them? p.m. johnson: i hope i have made my point the way i think this should work. i am the promised are of scotland -- i am the prime minister of scotland as well as the whole of the u.k.. obviously i need a good relationship with everybody, and i talked, many times to them. i continue to do so, that's the way it should be. what i don't think would necessarily be right to have a permanent council as it were. the kind that is taking place tomorrow in brussels. i do not think that is the model we are after. >> as we get to the end of this first section, how will develop
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governments be engaged in the cup 2026 preparations? p.m. johnson: they are already involved. it's one of the beauties of the union. that u.n. brings this summit to the u.k., to glasgow, and thanks to our collective membership of the union that we are able to host it in glascow. that is a great thing. they're all sorts of conversations going on about the look and feel of the summit, what it is going to involve, the fringe, all of that kind of stuff. >> moving on to our next section about covid.
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we start with the chairman of the health committee. >> there have been vaccine issues in the news today. you have been totally clear about your opposition to vaccine nationalism, vaccine protection. but if british alliance were at risk, would you take measures with appropriate retaliation to discover ceu from impeding illegally binding contracts? p.m. johnson: thank you very much for the question. you are right to follow this issue closely. the partnership we have with our european colleagues is very important. we continue to work with them. vaccines, as you know are the product of international operation. i don't think that blockades of
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either vaccines more medicines or ingredients are sensible, and i think that the long-term damage done by blockades can be very considerable. i would gently point out anybody considering a blockade, or interruption of supply chains, companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where arbitrary blockades are imposed. >> what clear this you are not take -- you are not taking anything off the table. p.m. johnson: our priority is to continue the rollout, to
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vaccinate the british people. we will do everything necessary to ensure that that happens. we are vaccinating groups one to nine by april the 15th. everybody over the age of 50. >> thank you, i have had my jab. i still got the virus three days after. p.m. johnson: three days after the jab? >> yes. i want to move on. one thing has become very clear is the vulnerability of the social class sector, 29,000 lives were lost in care homes. you did something different in your very first speech as prime
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minister. you said you were to fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan and make sure every older person was treated with dignity and respect. to those words still stand? p.m. johnson: they do, and you have heard the many times. we have been on about 58 platforms together and recited an identical script on that. the serious answer -- >> i am so sorry. the reason i ask is because last week the nhs cut 6.6 billion pounds to covid costs, no issue on social care in the budget at all. i want to understand if you understand the frustration of 1.6 million people were always treated as poor. will you be the first prime to say surgical care is equally
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important to the nhs? p.m. johnson: it was one of your achievements to turn it into the department of health and social care, and i think that was the right thing to do. one of the problems we have is the gulf between the nhs and social care, into which so many people fall, and that is the problem we need to fix. do we need a plan to do it, a long-term plan, a 10 year plan, the answer is yes. the government will be bringing forward proposals on social care and social care reform later this year. >> fantastic. final question. is social care going to get a mention in the upcoming speech? p.m. johnson: i think it likely, but i would not wish to anticipate. >> chairman of the pac. >> prime minister, you say
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regrets, you had a few. which mistake do you most regret? p.m. johnson: thank you. i think there are all sorts of things that i look back on and i wonder whether we could have done differently. i would not want to make a mistake about my biggest mistake and seek out the wrong one. there are all sorts of things, as i have said before, we did not initially understand about covid. we did not get the effect of the a symptom addict transmission, which fed into the care homes epidemic just talked about.
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you heard patrick and chris at the press conference yesterday talking about some of the things we still think about and discuss. we are learning the whole time, what we want to do, a proper inquiry. >> we recognize that science has changed. what is regarded as the most wasteful and spending program at all, your government committed 37 billion pounds. p.m. johnson: i think the test and trace has been an
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extraordinary achievement. >> it costed billions of pounds. do you think it is valued at that money? p.m. johnson: 80% of the spending goes on labs, testing, even people the results that they so desperately need. it's not just that individuals need those results, except massive operation that allows us to know what disease is prevalent, what type of the variant it may be, we do half of the sequencing everywhere in the world. it's thanks to test and trace that we know localities, and
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that gives us the tool to fight it. >> one of the tools is the tracing, prime minister. do you have any regrets about that program and the money you spent on it? do you think it could have been done better, or differently, and crucially, what do you think you are going to get in the future? p.m. johnson: let me repeat what it does. if you are arguing we are spending more money on the tracing as opposed to the testing, we can talk about that. we can get people the support, if they need to isolate, we have given tens of millions of pounds extra to people to help isolate.
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about 9 million people have been helped to isolate. that is a very valuable thing. what this does is enable us to know what is happening in a very granular weight, and that is absolutely crucial if you are going to fight it. >> do you think the test and trace is still worth the money? you're going to have a review and we will look at all of these questions. do you think, now we have the vaccine program rolling out, 37 billion pounds, is that a still good value for money? p.m. johnson: if you are asking me, should be spence -- i think it is 5 billion pounds up to november. you are right in the overall figure that you mentioned for the whole budget.
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should we be spending money on this scale to isolate where the disease is prevalent, where it isn't, to see what is happening in younger groups, older groups. every morning, i chair a meeting where i look at the data, the dashboard, and, every week, it has been getting better and better, and more and more detailed, and our understanding of what we are dealing with has grown. i think it has been of crucial importance to us in knowing when the disease is rising again and what we need to do to deal with it. >> so what you are saying is that it has really been a tool to map it. p.m. johnson: no, it has been a tool to fight it. >> well, in terms of decisions you have made, do you regret not making a decision to close down more quickly at christmas? p.m. johnson: that decision was made entirely in the light of what we discovered about the new
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variant, which again was made possible, as was the understanding of what was happening, thanks to test and trace. it was because we were able to see the b.1.1.7 variant, the so-called kent variant or english variant, moving so fast that the scientists were able to make their determination about the increased velocity of transmission. that is why we made that decision. >> was that test and trace? wasn't it specialist scientists who had to track down the epidemiological trend for that variant? p.m. johnson: both, it was both, because you can't do one without the other. p.m. johnson: >> do you have any regrets about your decision at christmas, which saw london railway stations and others crowded, with people crowding on to overcrowded trains, spreading the virus? p.m. johnson: of course i regret
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all the disruption to people's lives, the loss of education, the effects of lockdown, the loss of business, the loss of earnings. nobody in my position could conceivably have had to take the decisions that i have taken and not regret it. of course i do. >> but the christmas decision, that was very much your personal decision, just to be clear. p.m. johnson: i think it was the right thing do in the light of the evidence that we had. if i recall, we were given the data about the speed of transmission on the friday and we made the announcement on the saturday, i think, about what needed to be done. yes it was tough, but i think it was the right thing to do. chair: i have taken a close interest in the difficulties at test and trace and i very much welcome the remarks you made admitting that it would have
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been better if they had organized alongside local government and involved local government much more intensively earlier. what has been learned from that? as prevalence falls, the isolation of individual cases to suppress the virus becomes much more important and much more possible because there are far fewer cases. what is being learned from that period that will be implemented going forward? p.m. johnson: i think that if you talk to dido, as i am sure your committee has, and listen to the people she has been working with, she has had local government leaders with her from the beginning, and i have been talking to them as well from the beginning. could we have simply relied on local government health officials to do all the testing and all the tracing? i am not certain that that would have been sensible. you needed a combination, and i think that that is what dido would argue. chair: thank you. we will move forward to yvette cooper, chair of the home affairs committee.
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yvette cooper: thank you, chair, and good afternoon, prime minister. still on the lessons learned, last march an estimated 10,000 separate covid cases came into the country, mainly from france, spain and italy, with no uk border restrictions in place. do you accept now that that was a mistake, and what lessons have you learned from it? p.m. johnson: thanks, yvette. the uk, as you know, has very tough measures in place against people bringing the virus into this country from france or from anywhere else. if you come in from france in the normal way, suppose you are a british citizen returning from doing some lawful activity in france but you are not on the special list, you have to go through a huge amount, including self-isolation for 10 days; you have to take a test 72 hours
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beforehand and all the rest of it; you have to take two tests, and there are very considerable fines if you fail to quarantine. there is a group of people who are exempt, as you say. overwhelmingly they are people who are involved in bringing in medicines or food to the uk. typically, they turn around very rapidly and go back to france. there is an issue about whether we decide to apply more stringent measures to them, with the delays and knock-on effects that that would entail. we are certainly looking at that, but people should be under no illusions; it would have consequences.
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yvette cooper: okay. that is not an answer to my question, which was about whether you felt that last year's failure to put border restrictions in place was a mistake, at a time when 130 other countries did have restrictions in place and we did not. but let me turn to the current arrangements. france has 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of the south africa and brazil variants each day, so why have you not introduced additional measures or put france on the red list? p.m. johnson: first of all, by the way, we did introduce bans as soon as we knew about the new variants. i wasn't quite sure what you were referring to just now, -- if we are talking about the 23 december measures, as soon as we knew about the south african variant or the brazilian
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variant, we applied travel bans on those countries, and those continue to be in place. just for everybody's understanding, this is an issue about trying to keep out these variants, as i think you are driving at. at the moment in the u.k., those variants of concern, the effectiveness of the vaccines against them is still a matter of debate, are not rising. the numbers are low, they are stable, about 350 or so in the case of south africa, and maybe 50 or so in the case of the brazilian variant so much lower. , we are containing those as
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best we can with surge testing and door-to-door tracing, which is, i think, the right thing to do, and the situation seems to be stable. in terms of putting france on the red list, which is what you are talking about, and the consequences that would have for u.k. supplies and cross-channel movements, just remember, 75% of our medicines and 50% of our food come through the short straits, so there are consequences. it is something that we will have to look at. we will have to look at tougher measures. just because of this ambiguity about the effectiveness of the vexing. yvette cooper: that is a very long answer. p.m. johnson: you deserved a long answer, yvette. yvette cooper: you have got 20,000 people arriving from france in the uk every week. of those, two thirds are completely exempt from all the testing and quarantine arrangements.
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everyone understands that hauliers clearly cannot be covered by quarantine and carry on doing their vital job, but why are you not testing them? you have 2,000 to 3,000 new cases a day of the south africa and brazil variants in france; in some parts of france it is over 30% of the cases, and cases have been rising overall. so why are you not at least testing hauliers? hauliers going to france are tested. you know that system works. why are you not testing hauliers coming back into the uk? p.m. johnson: the number of people coming into the uk overall from france has massively diminished. yvette cooper: it is still 20,000 a week. p.m. johnson: it was colossal; it is now greatly reduced. the people who are coming in are, as you rightly say,
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overwhelmingly those whose business is deemed essential for the security of supply of our country. i have explained that tougher measures would cause very serious disruption to those trade flows. yvette cooper: we have tougher measures going in the other direction, with testing arrangements in place for hauliers going to france, and those arrangements work, so why do you not have them coming back in the other direction? p.m. johnson: that has to be balanced against the current ambiguity about the effectiveness of the vaccines on the variants. i agree with you, yvette, that this is an issue of concern. it was not until quite recently that the situation was the other way around, and we had a situation in france where things seemed more under control and, in the u.k., we had more of the virus prevalent. i think we now, in all seriousness, need to look at the situation at the channel.
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i am afraid we cannot rule out tougher measures and we will put them in if necessary. yes, if it is necessary to bring in testing, then we will do so, and the rest we are trying to address. >> top scientists have warned that the biggest threat to our vaccine programme and to our ability to come out of lockdown and to keep the road map on track is the potential arrival of new variants, particularly from south africa and brazil. we knew about the rising numbers of cases in the middle of february. the problem is that it is just one delay after another. when i asked you about brazil last time you came before the
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committee, there were still long delays in terms of getting those types of measures in place. there were long delays right back at the beginning. you said just this week, previous experience has taught us that when a wave it's our friends in europe, that is because we have no border restrictions in place. shouldn't that previous experience have taught us that what we need is effective border arrangements to stop cases spreading? isn't it true that your medical advisers have advised you that you need to bring in restrictions and testing on hauliers coming from france? the prime minister: no, that isn't true, but thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify that, yvette. there is a balance to be struck, and what we don't know is the exact state of the efficacy of the vaccines against the new
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variants and we have to balance that against the very serious disruption that is entailed by curtailing cross-channel trade. this country depends very largely, for the food in our shops, for the medicines that we need, on that trade flowing smoothly. now, we will take a decision, no matter how tough, to interrupt that trade and to interrupt those flows if we think that it is necessary to protect public health and to stop new variants coming in. it may be that we have to do that very soon. i would ask the committee to think about the logical position. when you are in a state of unknowing about the potential of any possible variant around the world coming into the country, on yvette's logic you would put the whole of the world into a red list and stop movement of any kind flowing freely for a very long time. i am not certain that that is something that the uk economy
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and the uk public would understand and accept, because you are doing something to prohibit movements or to stop movements when you don't actually know the risk that you are trying to mitigate. yvette cooper: prime minister, that is exactly what new zealand, australia, south korea and singapore did 12 months ago, and their economies are in a stronger position. chair: thank you, yvette. prime minister, have you finished? the prime minister: with great respect, those countries don't depend on other countries for 75% of their medicines and 50% of their food, and i hope that is a point that yvette will bear in mind. chair: we are going to go on to data now, because you have said it is data, not dates. i will bring in william wragg, chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, which is responsible for the government's data operation. mr wragg: thank you very much, sir bernard. good afternoon, prime minister. it is good to have you with us. tomorrow you will ask for the extension of the coronavirus act
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for six months, which goes past the 21st of step 4 of the road june map. why? the prime minister: thank you very much, will. there are number of reasons. obviously, with the road map provisions, the restrictions and the lockdowns and all that ends, so people shouldn't be confused between the two things. what we do need to do is to continue to be able to deal with the backlogs that we have built up, and to be able, for instance, to use remote hearings to clear the backlog in the courts, to make sure that people who have returned to the colors in the nhs, who are volunteering, can continue to practice and to serve. and there are various powers we
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need to ensure that education can continue to run. those are the reasons why there are powers and differences that will persist beyond the end of the road map on 21 june, but be in no doubt that after 21 june, all the restrictions that we have, we hope will be gone. remember this is a, these are not before dates. that is their status. mr wragg: thank you for that. there are a number of provisions in the act that the government have not used. prime minister, can you give an undertaking that those provisions will be dropped? there is no point in extending rules that you have not used to date. the prime minister: yes. i think we have already weeded out quite a few, but anything that is redundant will go.
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mr wragg: thank you. on sage and other advisory groups, at the weekend a member of a government advisory body said that there was not going to be any international travel this summer, that no doubt cheered the nation immensely. is that the policy of the government? the prime minister: who? sage said that, did they? mr wragg: a member of a government advisory committee. the prime minister: what we are going to do is this. on 5 april, we will get the findings of the global travel taskforce, and i will be setting out what i think may be possible from 17 may. as yvette was just saying, things are looking difficult on the continent, and we will have to look at the situation as it develops. mr wragg: but is it helpful to
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have members of those august bodies freelancing across the media before decisions have been made by ministers? the prime minister: i think it is one of those things that we just have to get used to. it has been a feature of life for quite some time. mr wragg: do you find that it helps, prime minister? the prime minister: well, i think it shows that there is a wide spectrum of scientific opinion. mr wragg: so advisers advise and ministers decide? the prime minister: yes. mr wragg: may i bring you on to covid vaccine certification? do you believe that covid vaccine certification for domestic use is compatible with a free society such as ours? the prime minister: i do think that the basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us because,
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after all, when you are entrusted with the care of a patient, as a surgeon, you are expected to have a vaccination against hepatitis b. the principle is there. this is a particularly contagious disease; it can be very nasty indeed. we have seen what happened in care homes, as we were discussing earlier. it does not seem to me to be irresponsible at all, far from it. it is wholly responsible, for care home companies to think of requiring vaccinations. mr wragg: you mentioned surgeons and the care sector, but that is very different from the ordinary citizen going to the pub. do you recognize that distinction for covid vaccine certification? the prime minister: i think that is the kind of thing that may be
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up to individual publicans and landlords, will. mr wragg: i am interested because in politics at the moment, there is not a great deal of time for thought and thinking. i am thinking back to your previous daily telegraph columns, i am not going to quote from them, don't worry. the prime minister: please do. mr wragg: they are all excellent and i have read many. i cannot imagine you, in a past life, writing in support of covid vaccine certification to go to the pub. the prime minister: you will appreciate, will, that there are other distinguished members of your committee, such as yvette, who take a passionately opposing view about the need for tougher
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measures. i find myself in this long national conversation, thinking very deeply about it, i think the public have been thinking very deeply about it, and my impression is that there is a huge wisdom in the public's feeling about this. human beings instinctively recognize when something is dangerous and nasty to them, and they can see, collectively, that covid is a threat. they want us, as their government, and me, as the prime minister, to take all the actions i can to protect them. that is what i have been doing for the last year or more. mr wragg: a quick final question from me, if i may, sir bernard. prime minister, have you thought about a gradated scheme of sanctions for infractions of the ministerial code? do you see the straightforward sacking or resignation of a minister to be too severe a sanction, and have you thought about introducing a range for them?
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the prime minister: yes. actually, no, i haven't thought about a range of disciplinary measures that one could take, but if you wanted to suggest lesser punishments, perhaps being asked to appear before this committee, it is an interesting idea. mr wragg: it is a pleasure, not sure, prime minister. the prime minister: it is a pleasure. by the way, i want to say what a pleasure it is for me to appear in front of this committee, and no punishment at all, sir bernard, pure, unalloyed pleasure, at least on my part. chair: i recently gave evidence to the committee on standards in public life about the ministerial code.
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i will send you my evidence, but this idea of having a less absolute, binary decision for a prime minister receiving advice from the independent advisor does seem to me to give the opportunity for the prime minister to sort things out and rectify matters, rather than to just get a resignation and then have the minister back 18 months later as though nothing had happened, which seems to be a rather unsatisfactory way of system learning. can we just now move on to the economy, although there are many other questions that i would love to have asked about covid. mel stride. mel stride: thank you. good afternoon, prime minister; welcome to the committee. prime minister, do you think that the spending assumptions in the forecast that the obr released alongside the budget are realistic? the prime minister: the spending assumptions released by the obr?
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mel stride: the assumptions implicit in the obr's forecast, which was released at the time of the budget. are those figures realistic? the prime minister: just remind me which particular figures you have in mind, mel. mel stride: the departmental capital expended the standard figures that go into the fiscal outlook forecast that the obr produces alongside every major fiscal event, and certainly alongside the budget. the prime minister: i certainly think that the obr is right to think that the public finances are under very considerable pressure as a result of covid. if you mean the 407 billion expenditure that the pandemic has necessitated, i was discussing that last night with the chancellor and i would certainly agree with that. mel stride: no, i am really referring to the forecast, which, as you know, forecasts out for the next five years.
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there are assumptions made as to what the government will be spending in each one of those years. the prime minister: on that point, i think what the obr has been suggesting is that, obviously, things are very tough, and spending has been necessarily very extensive, but the fiscal repair measures that rishi took in the budget, are set to work over the medium term. mel stride: when you say the obr's figures, prime minister, they are the obr's figures in the sense that they appear in the forecast, but they are, of course, figures provided by the treasury. i guess my are you comfortable with the government's assumptions as to the spending levels that are expected over the coming years?
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the prime minister: yes. am i comfortable with it? i wish we were not in this position. i wish we didn't have to firehose so much money at covid to put out the conflagration, but i think the chancellor's budget was extremely good and has put us back on a sustainable path. mel stride: the reason i raise that, prime minister, is that there are many economists who believe that the figures on spending within that forecast are quite unrealistic. for example, paul johnson of the ifs has offered 10 to one against the spending assumptions being met. that is because there are a lot of costs that one can anticipate coming down the line that are not captured within the figures that the treasury provided to the obr. we have touched on a number of those areas in the discussion this afternoon. one thinks of social care commitments, for example, that were not baked into the budget. there is no explicit provision for spending on annual vaccinations, beyond the current
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program. we have got test and trace, which we have discussed this afternoon. there is a huge backlog in our hospitals, nurses' pay and all the children who, one presumes, will need more resource if they are to catch up on lost learning. there could perhaps be pressure for yet further universal credit uplift. doesn't that leave you feeling slightly queasy about the assumptions on spending that the government are operating to, given the critical importance in terms of the actions that we take in support of the public finances? the prime minister: these were the figures that the treasury put out and the obr recorded. i am not going to make predictions now about future budgets and spending reviews. if we continue with the road map to freedom in the way that we are, and, as i said yesterday, there is no sign in the data that causes me at this stage to believe that we are going to have to deviate from that road
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map to freedom, i believe our chances of a strong recovery are very good. mel stride: how do you square that with saying, a little while ago, that you remain committed to resolving the social care crisis? we know there is no money in those forecasts to take that into account. those two things, it seems to me, don't really square. if we accept your statement that you do have confidence in those numbers, does that mean taxation, as a total level of the tax burden in the uk, will be expected not to rise? can you make a commitment this afternoon that we shouldn't expect the tax burden, already the highest since roy jenkins was chancellor in the 1960s, to
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rise, on the basis of your confidence in those figures at the moment? the prime minister: i strongly believe in a low-tax government, and i am a low-tax conservative. that is the best way forward for our country. as we go forward, we are going to want to be as dynamic and competitive as we can possibly be. having the right fiscal framework is vital for that. even the increase in corporation tax does not come in for two years, and the rate is still the lowest in the g7. it is preceded by a super deduction for capital investment for business investment, which is incredibly attractive, and i hope will give people confidence and get our economy moving. i don't think you should
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necessarily draw the conclusion from what is in the obr numbers about spending that we won't have the room to make the profound changes on social care that jeremy and i discussed earlier. mel stride: do you think those changes would not require any uplift in those numbers for spending? they are not captured in there at the moment, and that is quite a large bill. can i just ask one final question about the super deduction? chair: very briefly. mel stride: the super deduction lasts for two years, as we know. thereafter, companies that currently have chronically low levels of investment, not just because of the pandemic but because we have had an historical situation, will then go into a situation where that support is not there and corporation tax is rising quite significantly. what is it, after the super deduction has gone through in that couple of years, that will be there from the government to support corporates investing further?
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the prime minister: you have a world now in which business rates are unprecedentedly low. vat has been cut. as you know, mel, because you have been following this throughout, there is huge support through cbils, through furlough and through all the instruments that the government has used. plus you have now got a super deduction for investment, to say nothing of the kickstart funding for hiring people, a huge package to get the economy moving. the purpose is to trigger confidence, growth and investment, and a virtuous circle. mel stride: prime minister, thank you. chair: we now move to huw merriman, the chair of the transport committee.
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chair: we cannot hear huw merriman. the prime minister: huw, you need to unmute. chair: can we come back to you, huw? can we sort out his sound? the prime minister: by the looks of it, he is in portcullis house, just down the road. he could literally walk in here, bernard. we could do this incredible thing called actual propinquity. it's a revolutionary concept. in a covid-secure way, huw could come and sit here. chair: yes, i agree with that. huw, if you want to abandon your workstation and come down here, we will sort it out that way. the prime minister: brilliant! chair: we shall move to julian
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knight. i hope we can hear you, julian. julian knight: thank you, chair. it would take me a lot longer to walk from solihull to portcullis house. the digital, culture, media and sport sectors, as no doubt you are aware, prime minister, are worth nearly a quarter of the uk economy. yet post brexit, people in these sectors are being asked to pay uneconomic visa fees just to work overseas in the eu. they cannot transport their instruments or their gear, and they are already being overlooked for work in favour of those who have eu passports. why were these sectors allowed to suffer what is in effect a no-deal brexit? the prime minister: julian, first of all i want to say how strongly i share your frustration and the frustration of that sector. i totally share the frustration of the sector. this is a massively important
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part of our economy. it contributes many, many tens of billions of pounds in tax revenue and employment, to the general joy and productivity of the nation. it is hugely important. it is also a massive export industry, so we must fix this. the answer is, i am afraid, that in the course of the negotiations the eu as a whole did not give us the deal that we wanted on this issue, although of course we are not placing any restrictions on people coming to the uk. we are very happy to welcome performers from around the world. that will always be part of our global britain approach. we do have some time because, obviously, given what we have been discussing earlier, there is not a great hubbub of travelling musicians and theatre companies and so on doing gigs around the rest of europe. that has been on hold for a
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while. we are working flat out bilaterally with each individual government, and some of them, as i am sure you know, julian, because you know a lot about this, are much, much better and more forward-leaning than others. with some of them, it has been absolutely. with others, we still have progress to make. one of the reasons why i invited nick hytner to help us in this sector is so that we can get ready for a proper return to our cultural life in the autumn in the way that everybody would want. julian knight: thank you for those encouraging words, prime minister. what the dcms sectors would like to hear from you is a pledge to get this sorted. we are already a quarter of the way through the year and, as such, no bilateral talks have taken place. when will those talks take place, and who will lead them on our side?
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the prime minister: actually, there are plenty of conversations already happening at national capital levels between the uk and our partners. david frost, lord frost, is in overall charge of making this happen. one of the things we are looking at doing ins, we've got 1.50 7 billion pounds, as you know, that we have put into the sector to support it in all sorts of ways, and we will want to be helping in the meantime with some of that funding. julian knight: i am glad you mentioned lord frost, because he has now declined two invitations to appear before my committee. perhaps you could have a gentle word. the prime minister: i will. julian knight: as i understand it, it is the heads of mission who will be undertaking the first stage of the bilateral talks. that, i think, will take too long. will you consider
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short-circuiting this and getting our ministers negotiating with ministers from spain, italy and greece, which seem to be the most recalcitrant nations in terms of visa access? the prime minister: yes. i am passionate about this. i think it was in 1620 that the group called the english comedians performed hamlet in german, as far as i can remember. this is something that has been going on for hundreds of years, and we must get it properly ironed out. it is a two-way street, and we need to make sure that we get this thing totally sorted out and that our greatest cultural exports can continue to flourish. julian knight: thank you. one final question, chair, if i may, on covid insurance for festivals. every year there are 975 festivals in the uk, from glastonbury, of course, to the asparagus festival in worcestershire. but without limited government-backed covid cancellation insurance, we risk throwing away the economic
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advantages from our brilliant vaccine program. prime minister, will you back a covid-secure summer of fun rather than condemning us to a summer of none? the prime minister: i mentioned the work that nick hytner is leading for us. we are looking at ways in which we can make this happen. oliver dowden, the dcms secretary, is clearly leading on this, and he has done a huge amount of work on trying to get the sector ready. one thing that i do not want to see is people unwilling to take risks on productions, performances and events because they are thinking about what happened last year when, as we have discussed, we thought we could get things open and then, sadly, because of the way the pandemic went, we could not move forward. remember, we had a huge effort
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on lateral flow testing to try to move things forward. to get something ready for the autumn, or the christmas season, even, now, you have to do the rehearsals, get the scenery and all that stuff, and it takes a huge amount of time, preparation and expense. i totally get that. that is why we are looking at what we can do to top-slice some of the £1.57 billion to see if we can be useful in that way. there are difficulties with this whole business of indemnifying the entire sector, as i am sure you will appreciate, and as i am sure mel would appreciate, but that is what we are looking at. julian knight: i would not suggest indemnifying the whole sector, but a date in time limited only to the costs incurred. i think there is a way forward with this, prime minister, but at the moment i have to say we are not being listened to. we have really serious proposals on this. hopefully, you will take that back.
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the prime minister: okay. i would love to, love to. chair: i think that was a point and not a question. but may i, as a vicechairman of the all-party music group, reinforce a very strong feeling in music and the performing arts that we have been slow on the uptake of the seriousness of the impact of brexit on touring musicians and performers? it has looked as though we have not been prepared to listen. i have asked oliver dowden, the secretary of state, to host a zoom call of people who are practitioners on the frontline. can i invoke your support for this initiative of listening and gathering intelligence? the prime minister: yes. sir bernard, i can think of nothing finer than to make sure you can lead a choir of brexiteers on a tour of the continent. chair: no, they are not brexiteers! also, can i add portugal to the list? many of the issues are very much
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confined to certain countries of concern and it is not due to any malevolence of those countries. it is the bedding down of new procedures and practices that are unfamiliar to the officials in those countries. the prime minister: that is entirely right. chair: can i ask you to not only advise lord frost to attend the dcms select committee to address these matters, but ensure that a foreign office minister is going to take the fight through the embassies into campaigns in the individual countries? it needs to be addressed country by country, otherwise we will make very slow progress. the prime minister: it does. this is one of those opportunities for strong bilateral engagement. chair: thank you very much, prime minister, for those assurances. we now go to huw merriman, who has been allowed to join us in person for his questions about transport. huw merriman: prime minister, thank you for unlocking me and inviting me down to the room, technology broke down. i want to ask about international travel. you said to this committee, and indeed to the public yesterday,
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that on 5 april you will have more to say. is 5 april the day when the global travel taskforce framework will be known to the public? the prime minister: that is right. huw merriman: with that, are we likely to see a framework that just sets out the criteria, or will it be known which country goes into which criteria by 5 april? the prime minister: i think, huw, with great respect, you are probably going to have to wait until 5 april to see the details. the hope is that we can get people moving again by 17 may, by step three, in the way that i have set out on the roadmap. we will have to see where we get to, where other countries get to, and what the data is telling us. huw merriman: that is great news, because that is a week earlier than when we thought the taskforce would publish. can i push you, does that mean it might be a week earlier that people are able to start flying and travelling again?
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the prime minister: we are sticking to the road map. huw merriman: so i cannot push you earlier than 17 may? the prime minister: the reason for that, and i am sure the committee knows this backwards, is the simple epidemiological reason. a five-week interval is a sensible one, it gives you a chance to assess the impact of the previous changes. it will be five weeks on since the opening on april 12 of non-essential retail, coupled with the impact of schools, and everything else. we will need to see what that has done. huw merriman: i understand, and it is great news that we will hear a week earlier in terms of that news. can i ask you where we are on discussions with other international leaders? obviously, every plane that leaves the uk will need to land in another country. for example, have you had conversations with president biden as to our ability to restart uk-us flying again at
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the time when we are ready to fly? the prime minister: we are discussing the whole time, and i know that grant, the transport secretary, is discussing the whole time with colleagues around the world on when we can get things moving. all of us are looking at the pandemic and when it is sensible to do so. huw merriman: in terms of prioritising those conversations, and i am not asking you to give information, are you looking, as we are, at the countries that are ahead of the game with vaccination roll-out? again, the us is a country that seems to have marched forward in the way that the uk has, so, in terms of those conversations, have we some form of agreed standard on travelling? you have said before that vaccination certificates, or passports, may be an inevitability. have we had those conversations about what the framework would be in terms of rules? the prime minister: i don't think there has been an international concordat on vaccination passports, but there
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is no doubt that there is a growing global consensus that, for the purposes of aviation, evidence of vaccination, or immunity, that you have had the disease or that you have taken a negative test, will all be valuable. huw merriman: do you regard the vaccination certification as a commercial necessity and one that government would not stand in the way of if that was the way to unlock people's ability to fly again? the prime minister: there is a hierarchy between mandating something and permitting it, or forbidding it. i think some areas and particular sectors, as we were talking about earlier on, were vulnerable. elderly people are being cared for.
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there may be some need for mandation and some need for a more permissive approach. all that will be set out in due course. huw merriman: okay. can i just ask you another question? it may well be the case due to what is going on in europe and elsewhere that there are certain parts of the transportation system that cannot operate as other parts of the economy can by 22 june. would you be willing to look again, if there are governmentimposed barriers to travel, domestically and internationally, would you be willing to look again at a sector-based compensation scheme to ensure that those organisations can stay in business if they cannot do business? the prime minister: do you mean like aviation? huw merriman: aviation, for example, but we also had the coaches sector in this morning, and they have been particularly impacted as well. the prime minister: yes, they have. aviation we have supported with about £7 billion already. we are going to continue to have issues that we will have to deal with in the aviation sector for a long time to come. the coach industry we are supporting in all sorts of ways,
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not least in buying lots of green buses, although perhaps they are not so useful in the actual coach sector. but the best thing for all those sectors is to get us all moving again, and that depends on the roll-out of the vaccine and defeating the virus. huw merriman: one last question, if i may, chair. it almost seems to be the case now that the use of going abroad on holiday is a dirty word. that is an absolute tragedy, given that you yourself are a great internationalist and that we have always ruled the waves in terms of exploring abroad. how do we get this market opened up again, and how do we get people to look beyond these shores? the prime minister: do not underestimate the natural wanderlust, spirit of inquiry, general dynamism of the british people, that has served us for hundreds and hundreds of years. as soon as people feel it is safe, you will see a miraculous change in the mood and in what happens.
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that is what this is all about. we are getting there, as i say, step by step, jab by jab. we are not there yet, but i will be saying more on 5 april and then on 12 april. we will do what we can. huw merriman: you just unlocked me from my room so i could come down here. are you minded to unlock yourself and give yourself a foreign holiday over summer, as well as supporting domestic holidays? the prime minister: i think that, whatever i do, i will be making sure to tell the british public what i think is safe and sensible. i certainly won't be doing anything other than that. huw merriman: thank you. chair: thank you. if you can indulge us for just another 10 minutes, the chair of the procedure committee, karen bradley, would like to ask about lifting covid restrictions in parliament to restore the effectiveness of parliament.
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karen bradley: thank you very much, sir bernard. prime minister, we have just seen a real example of the hybrid parliament working, where we have had to have physical participation from mr merriman rather than virtual. one thing we can say about westminster is that the house of commons has been able to operate and has sat throughout the whole of the pandemic, unlike many other national parliaments around the world. that is thanks to the innovation of the digital team and the house staff, who have been able to make this happen. of course, compromises have been required of them. prime minister, i am curious what your view is of how parliament has operated in the last 12 months. the prime minister: i think it has been heroic, actually. the staff of the house of commons have done an absolutely unbelievable job. don't forget that many of them can work in professions, looking at how the pandemic works, that
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we would think of as quite high risk. they have to come into regular contact with large numbers of different people, in close proximity, and we have seen the effects on some professions of the disease. so i thank them very, very much for what they have done. they have kept going. my broad instinct is that the public would like us, as parliamentarians, to be returning to life pretty much as normal, pari passu, at the same pace as everybody else, and i think that is what we should go for. karen bradley: can i join you in thanking the staff of the commons? we know we have lost some very special members of staff over the last 12 months, and we should all remember that, and the work that they do. you talked about staying in step with the road map out of
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lockdown for parliament. some colleagues would like to go faster; some colleagues think that the house of commons should show leadership, and that perhaps things like social distancing shouldn't apply in the house of commons chamber when it does it apply to the rest of the country. what's your view? the prime minister: my instinct is the one i just mentioned, karen. i would be inclined to support an approach that is adopted everywhere. the house of commons should be like any other part of the uk. we should be meeting and mingling when it's safe to do so, and when the science says that that's okay. karen bradley: thank you. if i could bring us on to when we are back to some form of normality, the attrition rate for female mps serving in the house of commons is far worse than for male mps. we have got some figures from the house of commons library that indicate that women mps serve, on average, one parliamentary term less than
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their male counterparts. there may be many reasons for that, but one of them might well be the procedures of the house of commons. i wonder, based on our experiences and some of the things we have done over the last 12 months, and also on your experience as a parliamentarian: are there any procedural changes you would like to see that we could look at that might mean that more women were able to make a successful career in parliament? the prime minister: i do, actually, think that we need to harvest the best things; this has been a terrible pandemic, and it has been an appalling year, but we have learned to do some things quite well. i think that technology has definitely been our friend. this is something that the government doesn't dictate at all. it is for the commons, mps and the speaker to work out how to do it. but where there are improvements
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that can be made, particularly family-friendly improvements, i'd be on for that. i think the way the commons works has improved quite a lot even in my time here, and that's been to the good. i think it has helped us get more female mps, but we've got to realise that there are still very considerable barriers. some of the deterrent that female mps face is absolutely appalling. we have discussed the online trolling and the abuse. anything we can do to make things easier and more family-friendly is something that it would be sensible for the speaker and his team to look at. karen bradley: are there any particular innovations you would perhaps like to see continue that we have tried during the course of the pandemic?
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i am thinking about the way we are voting, or maybe some virtual participation. the prime minister: i wouldn't want to commit to any particular change, karen. i just think that generally the speaker and the commons together should be looking seriously at the general benefits of remote debate and the ways we have been able to do things differently. sometimes it's worked and sometimes it's been less successful, and i have no doubt at all, speaking entirely personally, that i want the chamber to be full again. i want people to have a sense that they can see the sentiment expressed in the room, understand where the debate is going by the sea anemone movement on the benches, see how the argument is working and hear
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the acclaim or abuse. i think that. -- that is very, very important. we need to learn directly from each other. i think that probably it's a good idea for colleagues to be able to mingle again in the lobbies. i know it's incredibly old-fashioned, but in so far as we possibly can, i think that voting as a communal act together has immense benefits. it is not just pressing a button, you really have to commit to and think about it. you have to be able to justify what you are doing to your friends, your colleagues and your whips as you go around these ancient buildings. i hope i do not sound like a
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crazed traditionalist when i say that i see merit in that. but there will be things that we can do differently and better. i really wouldn't want to be too prescriptive about that. a lot of people will have spent a lot of time looking at what has worked and at what hasn't worked, and i encourage them to harvest the best. karen bradley: one final point. you said, prime minister, that this is a matter for the house, but obviously it is for the government to provide time for debates on these matters and for the house then to be able to make a decision. can you commit to giving some time for that debate? the prime minister: i am sure that that is going to be a necessity. we are going to have to look at ways of improving our proceedings, making them more family-friendly. i have no doubt about that. karen bradley: thank you. chair: prime minister, this is my personal view, as someone who is also committed to a 50-50
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parliament, i very much welcome your open mind on these matters. may i press you, in particular, on the proxy voting issue, which has been a great help to people who have caring responsibilities, who are of course mostly women? if we went back to the pre-covid situation, we would in fact be re-invoking an indirectly discriminatory regime. i hope, perhaps you can just confirm this, that you have an open mind on the question as to whether additional proxy votes could be available for people with caring responsibilities. the prime minister: i certainly think we need to be looking at measures that are family-friendly. i have said what i have said about the value of voting together, but i am sure that all mps get that point. the point you make is also a very good one. chair: like you, i am a traditionalist, and the last thing i want is ministers to have proxy votes, so that they never see the rest of the members. that is very important. the prime minister: exactly. chair: may i very briefly return to the cop26 question?
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it is one of the top priorities of the government in this calendar year. we have arranged for alok sharma, the president-designate, to appear before the different select committees that have an interest in this, but our concern is that this does not yet look like the same consuming priority for the government as other policies. what can you do to ensure that all departments are engaged, that all efforts are being made to secure the agreement of 190 countries and that it engages domestic policy as well? the prime minister: unless i specifically tell you otherwise, i want you to know that i am engaged in some kind of cop conversation virtually every day. that probably goes for every other secretary of state;
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certainly, in many departments, there will be ministers who spend a lot of time every week now thinking about issues to do with our green industrial revolution, the 10-point plan, tackling climate change and the cop summit. it is a big, big cross-governmental effort. it is being led by alok, but it is certainly something that we are gripping across whitehall. chair: you chair the climate action strategy committee, a cabinet committee. how often should it be meeting? the prime minister: that is one forum. it hasn't, to be frank, met a great deal, because we have been doing a lot of ad hoc meetings. that is how it has been working out. i have been meeting colleagues pretty continuously over the last few months, and it will intensify. the question now, really, is to make sure that we can have a cop that is physical.
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to get back to the question that karen was talking about, it would be a wonderful thing if, by november, the uk can lead the world in all sorts of things and actually have a summit that is a big global summit where everyone turns up, and where everyone turns up without fear. chair: prime minister, thank you very much. you have given us a great deal of time, and we have covered a lot of ground. we are looking forward to seeing you towards the end of the summer term and then again in the autumn. i am very grateful for the time that you give this committee. it is of great help to the work of the select committees. the prime minister: thank you, sir bernard. >> monday start for derek chauvin, the former minneapolis police officer charged in the death of george floyd. watch live coverage of the trial monday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on
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c-span2, online at c-span.org, or listen live on the c-span radio app. you can watch at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2, and any time on demand at c-span.org. >> middle school and high school students participated in c-span's studentcam competition about issues that congress and president should address this year. all month, we are featuring the winners. our second prize high school east winners are aileen qi and kevin rha. they are 10th graders from montgomery blair high school in silver spring, maryland where c-span is available through comcast. their winning entry is titled "let science speak." aileen: how did america rise to be one of the world's most dominating superpowers? it is because we embraced science with open arms, allowing

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