Government accused of backtracking on commitment to hold briefings for ‘significant announcements’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus - Credit: PA

Ministers have been accused of backtracking on a commitment to hold Downing Street briefings for 'significant announcements'.

Boris Johnson said at the time of scrapping the daily press conferences that ministers would keep the nation informed as there will be 'more outbreaks, certainly local outbreaks'.

But despite the introduction of a local lockdown in Leicester, Downing Street has said there are no plans for a press conference.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said people in Leicester are 'crying out for answers to perfectly legitimate questions' on the lockdown as he led calls for a media briefing.

He said: 'The government needs, I think, a press conference today to answer those questions. They said they would reconvene press conferences when important, significant things happen. This is important and this is significant.

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'We certainly want one today because people in Leicester are crying out for answers to perfectly legitimate questions.

'So, we are not arguing against the lockdown - that's the right thing to do, we support the government in that. But, there are serious questions that need answering, the best way to do that is a press conference this afternoon.'

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The prime minister's official spokesman said there are 'no current plans for that'.

The spokesman said health secretary Matt Hancock went to the Commons after the decision had been made and took questions then and during a media round, as had the PM at his speech in Dudley on Tuesday morning.

'So I do think both nationally and locally steps have been taken to ensure that people have all the information they need.'

The PM's spokesman was also asked about a lack of press access to Johnson's keynote speech in the West Midlands.

He said the restriction on the number of journalists invited was 'purely down to the fact that we all need to continue to observe social distancing'.

'I think we all look forward to a point in time when we have more journalists in the room in person but we're not there yet.'

He added: 'We followed social distancing guidance and we made sure that obviously it could be filmed and there could be journalists in the room to ask the PM questions, which I think six or so journalists did.'

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