Coronavirus: Minister under fire for not knowing details of new restrictions in north east England

Labour accuses government of incompetence

Skills minister Gillian Keegan can't explain details of North East pubs ban

A government minister has come under fire after she admitted she did not know the details of new coronavirus restrictions due to come into force in the north east tonight.

Labour accused Gillian Keegan, an education minister, of “incompetence” and said her comments would do little to inspire public confidence.

Tory MPs have accused previously ministers of ruling by “dictat” and introducing a series of laws with little or no parliamentary scrutiny, leaving ordinary people confused.      

Ms Keegan had been quizzed about restrictions due to come into force in the north east tonight.  

Asked if people in the affected areas will be able to book an outside table at a restaurant or meet people from another household in a pub garden, Ms Keegan said: “I’m sorry I can’t clarify that...  I don’t know the answer to that question… I just don’t have the details of those seven areas”.

She went on: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question, I’m sure there are many people (in government) who could. I don’t represent the north east.”

She added that she “did not want to make a mistake” by answering the question when she was unsure of the specific restrictions.  

“I think it is most important that people are very clear about these restrictions,” she added.

The rules would be made clear to those affected, she said.

Alex Norris, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: “It speaks volumes that even the government’s own ministers don’t know what’s going on.  

“This will do little to inspire public confidence in the North East and across the country.

“The Conservatives’ incompetence is hampering our response to this pandemic.”

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