Gavin Williamson accused of ‘running down the clock’ to avoid questions during live interview

BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker (L) and education minister Gavin Williamson; Twitter, BBC

BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker (L) and education minister Gavin Williamson; Twitter, BBC - Credit: Archant

Gavin Williamson has been accused of deliberately 'talking down the time' to avoid questions on the government's latest U-turns on face coverings during a live interview on national TV.

The minister for education appeared on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday to answer questions on the government's latest update on advice concerning face coverings in schools across England.

The government announced face masks would become mandatory in schools under a local lockdown and is advising they be worn in other parts of country when pupils are in common areas outside the classroom.

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The change of advice comes a mere 72 hours after ministers and government officials ruled out making students wear masks at school, despite Holyrood introducing these regulations in classrooms and in school transport north of the border.

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'We want schools to be returning in every part of the country,' Williamson began during an interview with the BBC's Dan Walker. 'So, we are putting an extra level of precaution for students, parents and staff, which we felt was an important thing to do.

'There is a small number of areas in the country subject to local lockdown -'

Walker then interrupted, asking the MP: 'So it will not be extended beyond that?'

Williamson continued: 'No, because as Nick Gibb said, that is actually what is required but when you are seeing these lockdown areas we recognise the importance of maintaining education in every part of the country.'

Walker tried to move the conversation on but the minister continued to speak over him.

'The last thing we want to see closed is schools,' Williamson added.

'And we need to ensure all schools are open, so that children are able to access that world class education that we want to see them benefitting from and we have seen -'

Walker interrupted again, saying: 'Ok, I understand that,' but Williamson continued on.

Walker eventually became frustrated with the minister and cut him off to explain he didn't want to hear him repeat the same message over and over again.

'Mr Williamson, you have made that point a number of times,' the BBC host pointed out as he cut off the MP.

'I would like to ask you some questions today,' but Williamson went on to talk over Walker.

'Mr Williamson, I am going to ask you to stop talking about this world class education. You've mentioned that now

'I am going to ask you some questions now and then hopefully we can get some answers, now Labour -'

Williamson butted in: 'You wouldn't expect me not to be enthusiastic about delivering this.'

Walker added: 'I understand that but it feels like you are talking down the time so I don't get to ask you questions.'

Williamson then spoke over the host again while he was asked if he took 'responsibility' for the chaos caused by the recent U-turns on face masks and A-Level results.

Walker chimed in: 'I'll ask you one more time because you're obviously not keen on answering it. This is about trust I think - trust from teachers, parents and students about your department and your government getting these huge decision at these critical times right.

'You're being asked about your competency for the job and you're not answering that question.'

He added: 'I think it's got to the point where it's becoming a distraction from the job, so, do you take responsibility for the mistakes you've made?'

Williamson replied: 'At every stage, everyone takes responsibility for what they do and what we're focused on is delivering the best for children across the country.'

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