Transport minister to be summoned before parliament over Spain quarantine row
PUBLISHED: 16:39 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:00 27 July 2020
A transport minister has been called before parliament to explain the sudden quarantine of Brits returning from Spain amid a growing row over financial support for those forced to self-isolate for 14 days.
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Transport minister Baroness Vere will front the House of Lords on Tuesday to answer an urgent question by Labour.
Vere’s summoning comes as thousands of Britons in Spain face a 14-day quarantine when they return to the UK.
The government announced the changes over the weekend, giving travellers little to no notice of its intention.
The minister’s boss, transport secretary Grant Shapps, is also caught up in Spain after taking his family there on holiday. It is expected the minister will be forced to self-isolate upon return.
Calls have been building for the government to provide returnees with financial assistance after reports that some employers may not cover workers having to self-isolate on return from Spain.
Downing Street recommended people apply for Universal Credit if they are forced out of work.
It also vowed to review the statutory sick pay entitlement, which pays £95.85 per week.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We always keep our response to the pandemic under review and we regularly assess the support available but there is support available for those in need.”
He said the government expects employers to be “flexible” and “understanding” in allowing staff to work from home while self-isolating.
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“Where this isn’t possible we would expect that many employers would have their own policies in place for quarantine and we know that some continue to offer full pay for all or some of the isolation period,” he said.
“But if there are people who need urgent support then they may be entitled to the new-style employment support allowance or Universal Credit.”
Anyone who was sacked for staying at home could appeal to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), he added.
Trade union chief Frances O’Grady accused the government of “passing the buck” for its new quarantine guidance.
O’Grady, who leads the Trades Union Congress, said: “Ministers must be crystal clear with employers that no one should lose their job or face financial hardship for following the government’s rules.
“And they should increase sick pay from £95 a week to at least the level of the ‘real living wage’ of £320 a week.
“It’s not holidaymakers’ fault that the official advice has changed. Workers need reassurance from ministers that their livelihoods won’t be affected.”
Downing Street came under fire after it told Britons that “no travel is risk-free” despite releasing guidelines advising travellers on “safe countries” they could visit without needing to quarantine.
“Decisions on border measures and travel advice can be changed rapidly if necessary to help stop the spread of the disease,” a spokesperson said.
“Unfortunately no travel is risk-free during this pandemic and disruption is possible and so anyone travelling abroad should be aware that our travel advice and exemption list is under constant review as we monitor the international situation.”
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