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PMQs LIVE: Keir Starmer breaks protocol to face Raab in historic virtual Commons showdown
April 22, 2020
In his first PMQs as Labour leader, Sir Keir is likely to question Boris Johnson’s stand-in about the Tory Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, with issues surrounding testing, safety equipment for frontline workers and an exit strategy from the lockdown. Usually the leader of the opposition would appoint a deputy to take on the stand in for the prime minister.
But in a break from protocol Sir Keir will be in the House of Commons chamber with Mr Raab, who is deputising for the Prime Minister as he recovers from a battle with the deadly COVID-19, and up to 50 MPs permitted to attend while obeying social distancing rules.
A Labour source told politics news site, Politico: “Dominic Raab is acting prime minister, so this isn’t a usual situation where the Prime Minister is absent for one week.”
Some 120 more can take part in the debate remotely through the Zoom video-conferencing platform in the first PMQs since Parliament rose early a month ago because of the crisis.
As the death toll exceeded 17,000, the Government came under fire with its commitment to reach 100,000 tests per day by the end of the month appearing an ambitious hope and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and care staff.
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But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government is “throwing everything” at developing a coronavirus vaccine as he announced that human trials led by the University of Oxford will begin on Thursday.
Mr Hancock said it was clear that the “best way to defeat coronavirus is through a vaccine” and that “rapid progress” was being made.
On the issue of COVID-19 testing, Mr Hancock said it was “terrific” that capacity was increasing across the UK, saying it was further ahead than the planned trajectory.
This is despite the fact less than half of the available coronavirus testing capacity has been used, with just 19,316 tests conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday against capacity for 39,250.
The Government is likely to face further questions about its participation in an EU scheme to secure vital equipment after the Foreign Office’s top civil servant, Sir Simon McDonald, made an extraordinary U-turn in withdrawing his own claim that the UK did not take part because of a “political decision”.
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