Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Wearing face masks to shop is ‘good manners’, says Gove

Sunday shows round-up: Wearing face masks to shop is 'good manners', says Gove
Picture credit: BBC The Andrew Marr Show
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Michael Gove - We want to see more people back on the shop floor

It was Michael Gove's turn to lead the government's broadcast rounds this morning. Sophy Ridge began by seeking clarification from the Cabinet Office Minister about the government's message on returning to the workplace:

MG: We want to see more people back at work, on the shop floor, in the office, wherever they can be. Of course, in some cases it's appropriate and convenient for some people to work from home, but we want to make sure that... the economic engines of this country are fired up again.

Wearing face masks while shopping is 'good manners'

Andrew Marr asked Gove if wearing face masks should be required while in shops. Gove encouraged the idea, but was not keen on the idea of any legal compulsion to wear them:

MG: I don't think [masks should be] mandatory, no, but... it is basic good manners, courtesy, consideration, to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.

There will be little 'impediment to trade' across the Irish Sea

Marr challenged Gove on Boris Johnson’s previous comments in December, when he said that there would be no checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland after the end of the Brexit transition period. Gove did not refute that there would be some checks, arguing instead that the checks would not be an inconvenience:

AM: When the Prime Minister said 'no checks', was he correct?

MG: It's certainly not going to be the case that you will have customs officers saying 'Halt', and so on. [There will be] vetters who will be suitably equipped in order to carry out surveillance, and in most cases... there won't be any impediment to trade.

'Chunks' of civil service to move outside London

Gove also told Marr that a significant proportion of the civil service would be transferred out of London under the current government, a plan which may include moving the House of Lords to York. Gove outlined the rationale for doing so:

MG: I think it's vitally important that decision makers are close to people. I think it's vitally important that the strength of the UK government is displayed right across the United Kingdom... It's good for the union, it's good for equal opportunity, it's good for what's been called 'levelling up'.

'I certainly haven't misled anyone'

Ridge pressed Gove on a Sky News report showing that, in the heat of the pandemic, the government overstated the number of people receiving Covid-19 tests by over 200,000. Gove claimed that he was unaware of the discrepancy, promising to take a closer look:

SR: Will you apologise for misleading the public?

MG: No. I certainly haven't misled anyone... I'm completely unfamiliar with this story. I'm very happy to investigate... and then of course come back to you.

Lucy Powell - Starmer has begun to make his mark

Ridge also spoke to the Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell. With Sir Keir Starmer now having been at the helm of the Labour party for 100 days, Ridge asked Powell what he had achieved in that time:

SR: I can't think of a single policy he's announced in that time...

LP: I think he's got off to a fantastic start as leader... I think he's really begun to make his mark...

SR: But not a single policy in 100 days?

LP: ...On the economic crisis... we would be doing a lot more now to protect the jobs of today with real support for key sectors... and we would spend some of that money more wisely as well.

'Real clarity' needed on face masks

As Powell is in favour of mandatory face coverings in shops, Ridge asked why she had not decided to set an example by wearing one when she and Keir Starmer conducted a recent photo opportunity featuring Starmer pulling pints at a bar:

LP: We need real clarity on this issue from the government.

SR: ...Wouldn't it be helpful to actually wear the face coverings?

LP: We followed the guidance... In bars and restaurants, there are different issues there.

Robin Shattock - UK probably going to be in an 'opening up, closing down scenario'

Ridge also spoke to Robin Shattock, the professor overseeing the development of a Covid-19 vaccine at Imperial College London. Shattock discounted the government's earlier hopes of finding a vaccine by September and gave his perspective on what the UK was likely to see before that feat was achieved:

RS: What I suspect we'll see is that there will be several cycles of virus coming back in different parts of the UK, and events like you've seen in Leicester... I think we're going to be living with an opening up, closing down scenario, probably until a vaccine is available.

Richard Dearlove - Huawei should be excluded from 5G network

And finally, Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, told Ridge that he was pushing for the government to u-turn on the decision to integrate Huawei into parts of the UK's 5G network, but that it would take time to implement:

RD: The problem is that we've had a close relationship with Huawei dating back to nearly the year 2000. So getting Huawei out of the systems can't be done rapidly. It'll have to be done cumulatively over time.