PMQs: Sir Keir Starmer says PM's indecision at the borders has 'blown' chances of easing Covid restrictions

Sir Keir Starmer has told the prime minister that his defence for not putting India on the red list is "as bad as his border policy" and his indecision at the borders has "blown" the chance of easing lockdown restrictions.

The Delta variant, which originated in India, has spread quickly in the UK making up over 90% of new cases and leading to a four-week delay to the roadmap for lockdown easing.

The Leader of the Opposition quizzed the PM on why the Delta variant has spread in the UK and urged him to drop the traffic light system, secure the borders and save the British summer.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “We all want these restrictions to be over, for our economy to be open, for businesses to thrive – but the Prime Minister’s indecision at the borders has blown it.” Boris Johnson could be heard shouting “rubbish” before Sir Keir added: “And the problem with everything the Prime Minister says today, both at the despatch box and what he’s muttered, is that we’ve heard it all before so many times.

“Last March he said we could turn the tide in 12 weeks, remember that? Then he said it’d all be over by Christmas. Then we were told June 21 would be ‘freedom day’. Now we’re told July 19 is ‘terminus day’. “The British people don’t expect miracles but they do expect basic competence and honesty, and when it comes to care homes, protective equipment or borders, we see the same pattern from this Prime Minister – too slow, too indecisive, over-promising, under-delivering. “After all these failures and mistakes, why should anyone believe the Prime Minister now?”

Sir Keir Starmer accuses the PM over 'overpromising and underdelivering'

Mr Johnson replied: “Why should anybody believe the leader of the Opposition when he can’t decide what he thinks one week to the next? He says he has a tough position on borders, actually he was attacking quarantine only recently and saying it was a blunt instrument that should be lessened.”

But Boris Johnson said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer “needs to adjust his retrospectoscope” when asked about the borders policy. Sir Keir asked: “Does the Prime Minister recognise that his decision to keep our borders open contributed to the spread of the Delta variant in this country?”

Responding Mr Johnson said: “No. I think that Captain Hindsight needs to adjust his retrospectoscope because he’s completely wrong. “We put India on the red list on April 23 and the Delta variant was not so identified until April 28 and was only identified as a variant of concern on May 7. “When he criticises this Government for wanting to keep our borders open just remember that he voted 43 times in the last five years to ensure that our border controls were kept in the hands of Brussels.”

The prime minister previously told ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston "we will look back at all the decisions we made but that was done on the best scientific advice at the time."

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At Wednesday's PMQs, Sir Keir urged Mr Johnson for his explanation as to why Britain has such high rates of the Delta variation. Responding, Boris Johnson said: “There’s a very simple reason why the UK generally has a better understanding of the variants in this country, that’s because we do 47% of the genomic testing anywhere in the world.” He later added: “The Delta variant as it happens is seeded around the world in 74 countries and sadly it is growing, but there’s a difference between those countries and this country, in this country we have vaccinated almost 79% of the adult population and given two vaccinations to 56%, a programme that he would have stopped by keeping us in the European Medicines Agency.”

Moments before this week's questions, the PM's former adviser Dominic Cummings posted a series of screenshots of messages with a contact purporting to be the prime minister.

They showed that Mr Johnson called Matt Hancock "f*****g hopeless" in WhatsApp messages with Dominic Cummings.