Boris Johnson: Liaison Committee grills PM on coronavirus, climate policy and devolution

Some heated exchanges took place between the MPs and the Prime Minister during the meeting.
Boris Johnson answered questions on policy areas from coronavirus rules to welfare.Boris Johnson answered questions on policy areas from coronavirus rules to welfare.
Boris Johnson answered questions on policy areas from coronavirus rules to welfare.

Prime Minister Boris Johnon faced questions on coronavirus, COP26 and universal credit from MPs in an appearance before the Liaison Committee today (July 7).

The Liaison Committee, made up of MPs who chair departmental select committees, grilled the PM today amid controversy over a three-week wait until self-isolation rules end for the double-jabbed.

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At a glance: 5 key points

- Chris Bryant MP accused the PM of rarely “correcting the record” on inaccurate comments and statements he’s made before repeatedly asking Johnson if he fired former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. The PM avoided answering the question directly but pointed out that a new Health Secretary was appointed within days of Matt Hancock’s affair hitting the headlines.

-MPs including Clive Betts and Caroline Nokes grilled the PM over the government’s implementation of policies to tackle climate change ahead of COP26, saying that “strategies are not in place” for many ambitions, including retrofitting homes and installing green boilers. Gesturing to his “10 point plan” for the climate, the PM denied the accusation and promised a decarbonisation plan for homes “long before” COP26.

-MPs asked several questions on the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on society, questioning the logic of double-jabbed people having to self-isolate until rules are relaxed in August. The PM said he understood “the frustration” among those with two vaccines but said “we have to do what we can to stop the spread”.

-MPs including Stephen Timms asked the PM about catch-up funding for schools, claiming that the promised £3bn is not reaching the most disadvantaged children in the country. Johnson promised action on helping schoolchildren catch up, and thanked teachers for their hard work.

-Post-Brexit impacts were also on the agenda, with Pete Wishart calling the PM an “unthinking unionist” and accusing him of making decisions on behalf of Scotland as well as being anti-devolution - claims denied by Johnson. Other MPs expressed concern over the potential loss of talented EU nationals in the entertainment and arts sectors following Brexit.

What’s been said?

Questioning the government’s strategy for delivering on climate ambitions, Philip Dunne MP said:

“The heat building strategy, understanding how we're going to cope with the energy efficiency of homes... At the moment there is a lacuna - we don't have these policies.”

Disagreeing with Dunne, Johnson said:

“The UK was the first country in the world, the first major developed economy, to set a net zero target by 2050.”

Stephen Timms MP said on the catch-up plan for schools:

“I support the catch up plan. Three billion is a significant sum of money, but catch up programmes are only reaching 44% of pupils on free school meals. It [also] doesn’t address the endemic absences [in schools].”

Johnson responded:

“There are plenty of other children who are losing school time for other reasons [aside from coronavirus]. We need to deal with that in a very very determined way and we will.”

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This is the third time Johnson has sat before the Liaison Committee this year, with similarly terse exchanges between the PM and some MPs.

The Liaison Committee is made up of the chairs of Select Committees, which check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs.

Three times a year, the Liaison Committee takes evidence from the PM on matters of public policy.