Question Time: David Lammy confronts Tory minister over coronavirus measures in heated debate

PUBLISHED: 09:59 05 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:59 05 June 2020

Junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi (L) and the shadow minister for justice, David Lammy, during a firey debate on Question Time; Twitter

Junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi (L) and the shadow minister for justice, David Lammy, during a firey debate on Question Time; Twitter

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Labour politician David Lammy has told a minister the UK is a “laughing stock” because of its coronavirus response on BBC Question Time.

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Lammy told junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi his government needed to “get a grip” of its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’ve got the worst rate, in fact we’ve got a higher rate than all of Europe combined - and now we’re quarantining [those arriving in Britain from abroad]?” the shadow justice minister said.

“This feels like...late. We were late on the lockdown, late on the testing, late on the PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], and we’re late again on quarantining. That is a fact.

“As Keir said, get a grip! We are languishing globally. We are a laughing stock. People have died. It’s horrendous.”

The Labour politician went on to say that “people” could not believe that Britain had been so “slow” and “dithering” in its reaction.

Zahawi accused the shadow minister of making a “partisan point”, arguing statistics surrounding global Covid-19 death rates were inaccurate and that if the UK had used the same measuring system as Spain it would have reported “only 20 cases of death” yesterday.

He said: “Every death is a terrible situation, every death is regrettable. I am not sitting here and saying to you that everything we’ve done we’ve done well.

“But it’s wrong to quote figures that are completely spurious.”

Lammy denied the accusation, saying: “I want you to succeed because I don’t want more people to die.”

“On quoted figures, we are amongst the one, two and three in the world for global deaths - there’s no doubt about it.

“Even if the figures come out to say it’s slightly higher in other countries, we will still be an outlier.”

When Zahawi admitted he was not “proud” of how many people had died from the virus, presenter Fiona Bruce highlighted that prime minister Boris Johnson was pleased, adding: “but you’re not?”

He replied: “I’m not proud of the deaths, nobody can be proud of deaths, I’m proud of our record to stand up a testing system from a few thousand deaths a day to 200,000 tests a day today.

“I’m proud of the record of the NHS and the amazing doctors and nurses and the frontline workers who made sure the NHS never failed, never broke and continued to treat people with Covid-19.”

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