What we learned from this week's PMQs

The Prime Minister may have misled the House over testing in Leicester, and the other things we learned at this week's Prime Minister's Questions.

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The Prime Minister may have misled the house over the sharing of testing information in Leicester

Keir Starmer highlighted a key issue in the government's coronavirus response and in the response to the local outbreak of the virus in Leicester: that "Pillar 2" testing data (from the community, not just in hospitals and among NHS staff) is not being shared with local authorities quickly enough. In Leicester, this meant that the local authority was only aware of 80 positive tests, when the real figure was 944. Starmer said the authority did not receive this information until last Thursday (25 June), resulting in a "lost week". The PM said this wasn't true; Starmer said the Mayor of Leicester had told him so on the phone yesterday. Both cannot be correct.

Indeed, the Mayor said on Twitter that they "finally got addresses of positive tests from government" on Thursday after "weeks of asking", while other health workers in Leicester have said the same.

The government has now reached an apparent settlement with local authorities on the sharing of Pillar 2 data, but it raises concerns about the government's response in Leicester, and about the accuracy of the Prime Minister's information at PMQs...

Border checks in Northern Ireland are an issue that won't go away...

This was the second week in a row that the issue of new checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK was raised at PMQs, this week by Alliance's Stephen Farry (last week it was by Sammy Wilson of the DUP). The parties, which differ greatly on many issues, expressed a concern that is shared across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland, as Northern Irish ports are told to introduce enhanced inspection posts. As with last week, the Prime Minister offered a vague answer on the Northern Ireland protocol, but it is an issue that looks set to recur.

...nor will the government's controversial Troubles legislation 

The SDLP MP Claire Hanna raised her concerns about the government's controversial plans for legislation to end "vexatious" investigations of veterans in the absence of new evidence, including those who served during the Troubles. This is a plan championed by Conservative backbenchers, including the veterans minister Johnny Mercer. Hanna argued that the plans threaten to undermine the principle that "all are equal before the law" and that it flies in the face of the Stormont House Agreement of 2014, which has yet to be implemented. The Prime Minister answered an entirely different question to the one posed, assuring the SDLP MP that victims payments had taken too long and would be made soon. 

The government is keeping an eye on Scottish independence 

A question from Andrew Bowie, the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, about Nicola Sturgeon's suggestion that Scotland might consider border controls with England if cases south of the border increase, gave the Prime Minister the opportunity to make a pro-Union message, to loud cheers in the house. "There is no border between Scotland and England," he bellowed, no doubt with an eye on polling that indicates increasing levels of support for Scottish independence.

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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