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Boris Johnson clashes with three First Ministers and Sadiq Khan on keeping building sites open over coronavirus

Boris Johnson has clashed with Sadiq Khan

3 min read

Boris Johnson has clashed with the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as London mayor Sadiq Khan, by insisting building sites should stay open despite the coronavirus crisis.

The Prime Minister has insisted the sites are safe so long as workers stay at least two metres apart from one another at all times.

But that has led to Tube trains becoming overcrowded as they travel to construction sites across London in the morning.

Mr Khan has said he was "overruled" by Mr Johnson at the latest meeting of the Government emergency Cobra committee.

PoliticsHome understands that the London mayor was backed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh leader Mark Drakeford and Northern Ireland's Arlene Foster and her deputy, Michelle O'Neill.

Speaking LBC radio, Mr Khan said: "I was overruled by the Prime Minister who doesn’t believe that construction workers should be at home.

"The Prime Minister believes construction workers should be going to work and they can do it safely. I’ll tell you this, I’ve worked on a building site, I’ve been a labourer, but also I visit building sites.

"The idea that construction workers can stay two metres apart during the course of a busy day, but also the idea we can’t put on hold certain construction work in light of this public health crisis, I find astonishing."

In the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said construction sites should only remain open if they are building hospitals.

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister defended the Government's position, and said both Mr Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had called on Mr Khan to lay on more Tube trains to ease overcrowding.

He said: "The Prime Minister raised with the mayor the issue of reduced services on the Tube and its impact on people trying to get to work.

“The Transport Secretary has also spoken to the mayor of London on this issue, where they discussed looking at ways to make sure appropriate timetabling is in place to ensure it is safe for those who need to get to work because they cannot do this from home.”

But hitting back, Mr Khan said: "We have currently on TFL (Transport for London), 30% of our staff who are either sick because of the coronavirus or are self-isolating.

"So actually it is very difficult for us to ramp up even if we wanted to, the amount of Tubes we are providing. So I’ve got to be honest with your listeners about our capacity to do so.

"I am looking into whether we can provide additional buses to replace some of these lines, but actually people shouldn’t be using public transport, people should be at home unless there is a very good reason why they’ve got to go into work."

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