Failures in planning hampered UK's virus response, says MP John Spellar
Black Country MP John Spellar has said the coronavirus pandemic had exposed "serial inadequacies" at the heart of the British state which must be addressed to avoid future catastrophes.
The Labour MP for Warley launched a scathing attack on the Government's handling of the crisis, blaming ministers for failing to properly plan for "emergency scenarios".
He said that while some mistakes were "inevitable", it was clear by the response to the pandemic that government institutions were blighted by a lack of competence and capacity.
Mr Spellar has called for a comprehensive review of public bodies to take place in the near future.
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He said: "The coronavirus pandemic has completely exposed serial inadequacies, improper planning and lack of competence and capacity within the institutions of the British state."
The MP was highly critical of efforts to repatriate British citizens who were stranded abroad due to lockdown, accusing ministers of failing to "act decisively" to bring people home as other countries had done.
He criticised the decision to rely solely on commercial airlines for repatriation flights, arguing that the Ministry of Defence had the ability to "charter planes, pilots and get airborne".
Mr Spellar also slammed the "circus" that surrounded Dominic Cummings lockdown trips, saying ministers had projected an "aura of feebleness and incompetence" when being questioned on the matter.
"Their excuse-making muddies the Government’s own messaging and is the last thing which we, as a country, need at this time of crisis," he added.
Mr Spellar said some of the issues with capacity that the Government had encountered were the direct result of budget cuts "encountering reality".
He went on: "I do not expect ministers to have all the answers. However, I expect them to ask proper and detailed questions of the official and specialist experts they have in their departments.
"I expect them to act rapidly and decisively – make a decision, then, if things aren’t working, change course rapidly and be open about why they have done so.
"Proper planning for emergency scenarios isn’t a layer of 'red tape' to be slashed in the name of political dogma, it should be in the back of every minister’s mind – informing how to react to situations they hope never to face."
Meanwhile, the easing of lockdown restrictions has been welcomed by Mr Spellar, who said Britain "needs to get our economy rebooted in order to save our people's jobs and everyone wants to safely socialise with their friends and family".
He said: "The country needs this to succeed. Ministers and Whitehall had better up their game – and fast. The country can ill-afford any more of their incompetence."