Robert Buckland warns Christmas in its 'fullest sense' may not be achievable due to rise in Covid infections

Credit: ITV Peston

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said that Christmas in its "fullest sense" may not be possible due to the rise in Covid-19 infections throughout the UK.

Speaking on the ITV Peston programme, the Lord Chancellor said it is clear that coronavirus will continue towards the Spring.

"All of us have a growing realisation that this is with us for the winter season and that it will take us right through to when the clocks go forward in March," Mr Buckland said.

"We’ve got to be realistic that if we seeing these trends continuing right through to December then Christmas in its fullest sense won’t be possible for any of us this year and perhaps coming to terms with that now is the right approach to take."

"It doesn’t mean we can’t have Christmas but extended gatherings may not well be possible from the picture that is emerging," he added. "I do think we’re in this for the long haul."

Buckland said the UK should not be 'blindly' following lockdown measures in other countries. Credit: ITV Peston

But he said that the government has put in place the largest flu immunisation in Britain's history to tackle the winter spread of the virus.

"We have the knowledge now than we did in the Spring and that does give us more of an advantage," he added.

He defended the government's approach of regional lockdowns rather than tighter national restrictions like that of France and Germany.

He said: "I don’t think any country in Europe should be blindly copying each other. We have different factors, different demographics and different experiences."

"Those extra local measures that can be taken are absolutely the right approach to take," he said. "It is a more calibrated approach than opting for a circuit breaker that delays the issue and doesn't really deal with it."However, he did not rule a national lockdown out, adding: "Using that break, pulling the handbrake, is something the government could do."

Gavin Barwell said the row over free school meals was a 'communications disaster' for the government. Credit: ITV Peston

Also on the programme was the former chief of staff to the Prime Minister under Theresa May, Gavin Barwell, who described the government's handling of footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign to extend free school meals as a "communications disaster".

He said it has caused the government "grave damage", adding that he has spoken to Conservative MPs who are upset at the "abuse" they were getting over the vote.

"I have every sympathy with the PM, this is an incredibly difficult time to do his job," he said. "All I would say, you got caught on this over the summer and its happened again.

"This is not an argument the government needed to have with everything on its plate. The sums of money are very small."

Labour MP Rosie Duffield added: "The messaging is all very well but there are real, poor people out there who don’t care about that. Not one person is going to say don’t use my taxes to feed children.

"We don't need to talk about it forever, Marcus Rashford is right.

"We’ve got the chance to do something about it, just do it. It is a minuscule amount of money."

When asked about the campaign, which would have cost the amount of the Eat Out to Help Out campaign for just half a day, Mr Buckland said that the government is looking at the "bigger picture"."The devil is in the detail, we have got to make sure the response we make is one that has to be sustained so we don’t leave families at a cliff edge," he said.

He added: "This is not a government that is closing its ears, it does listen. But we need something that is sustainable that really makes a lasting difference to the poorest families in society that we care about just as much as anybody else."