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Boris ducks question over grouse shooting after leaving it out of ‘rule of six’

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and PMQs on September 16, 2020
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner asked if restoring grouse shooting was a ‘top priority’ (Picture: PA)

The Prime Minister was grilled at PMQs today over whether exempting grouse shooting from the new ‘rule of six’ for social gatherings was really a ‘top priority’.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner asked Boris Johnson why the Government were so keen to make the exemption in the backdrop of rising case numbers and a struggling testing system.

She said the exemption would be ‘good news’ for the PM’s friend who ‘paid for a luxury Christmas getaway to a Caribbean island and funded his leadership campaign, and just so happens to own two grouse moor estates’.

Rayner said: ‘Mr Speaker, infections are rising, the testing system is collapsing, when you are the Prime Minister, you can’t keep trying to blame other people for your own incompetence.

‘We have the highest death toll in Europe and we’re on course for one of the worst recessions in the developed world. This winter we are staring down the barrel of a second wave with no plan for the looming crisis.

‘People can’t say goodbye to their loved ones, grandparents can’t see their grandchildren and frontline staff can’t get the tests that they need.

‘And what was the top priority for the Covid war cabinet this weekend? Restoring grouse shooting.

Photograph of a hunter with a dog
Grouse shooting and other hunting are exempt from the ban on gatherings of more than six (Picture: PA)

‘I suppose Mr Speaker, it’s good news for people like the Prime Minister’s friend who paid for a luxury Christmas getaway to a Caribbean island and funded his leadership campaign, and just so happens to own two grouse moor estates. So Prime Minister, is this really your top priority?’

Johnson responded: ‘While the Labour opposition has been consistently carping from the sidelines, throughout this crisis and raising, frankly, I think issues that are tangential if not scare stories about what is going on, we are getting on with delivering for the British public.’

Boasting about measures to stop the early release of violent and sexual offenders, building more homes and recruiting more doctors, Johnson added: ‘It’s with the common sense of the British people that we will succeed, build back better and stronger than ever before.’

The day before the Government published its guidelines for the new ‘rule of six’, senior minister Michael Gove scheduled a meeting with the single agenda ‘Exemption: hunting and shooting’, HuffPost UK reported.

Sources said the meeting was cancelled just a few hours before it was supposed to start and then the wording ‘outdoor activity’ was used when the regulations were published instead.

Some said they thought the meeting was cancelled so ministers could not raise any objections and one said the issue was what held up the publishing of the regulations until just before midnight.

Rayner was filling in for Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, who said he would not take part in today’s PMQs as he was still awaiting coronavirus test results for his child.

Opening up in the Commons, Rayner read a message from ‘a man called Keir’.

She said: ‘Keir wasn’t able to go to work today and his children couldn’t go to school because his family had to wait for their coronavirus test results despite the Prime Minister’s promise of results within 24 hours.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens to Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.
Johnson accused Labour of ‘carping from the sidelines’ and spreading ‘scare stories’ (Picture: PA)

‘Keir was able to do the right thing and self-isolate and work from home, but other people aren’t in this position – many of them are the very people getting us through this crisis.’

Claiming that Johnson once earned £2,300 an hour, Rayner then asked: ‘So can the Prime Minister tell us what is the average hourly rate for a care worker in this country?’

The PM said he understood a negative test had been returned for Sir Keir’s child, adding: ‘I don’t know why he is not here.’

Johnson defended the speed of testing but did not offer an answer on the average hourly rate.

Rayner said: ‘The whole country would have seen that the Prime Minister doesn’t know how much a care worker earns because that was my question – the shameful fact is the average wage in social care is barely more than £8 an hour.’

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