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Coronavirus: Labour’s Lisa Nandy says UK needs ‘interim Foreign Secretary’ while Dominic Raab stands in for Boris Johnson

Coronavirus: Labour’s Lisa Nandy says UK needs ‘interim Foreign Secretary’ while Dominic Raab stands in for Boris Johnson

The Shadow Foreign Secretary was appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

4 min read

The Government should appoint an “interim” Foreign Secretary to fill in for Dominic Raab while he leads the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, Labour’s Lisa Nandy has said.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said a stand-in for Mr Raab was needed to “make sure that we’re in the room” while global decisions about the pandemic are being taken.

Mr Raab is currently deputising for Boris Johnson while the Prime Minister recovers from coronavirus, and has been chairing daily meetings of the Covid-19 committee on the Government’s response.

But Ms Nandy, who was appointed to the foreign affairs brief last week by new Labour leader Sir Keir Stamer, called on ministers not to let the department’s work slip down the agenda.

She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “I think it’s fairly clear that Dominic Raab is currently deputising for the Prime Minister and is making decisions on behalf of the country with the support of the Cabinet.

“Now, I can see why the Government has taken that approach. I don’t know how ill the Prime Minister was but it sounds like he was very hard-hit by this virus and there has to be somebody who can make decisions.”

But the Shadow Foreign Secretary said she had two “big” concerns about Mr Raab stepping in for the Prime Minister.

She said the ongoing absence of Parliament meant MPs had “very little ability to scrutinise the Government” on foreign affairs.

“There’s a daily press conference where journalists can ask questions but actually MPs from all over the country have been in touch with the new Shadow Cabinet in the last days about issues like the repatriation of the many British citizens stranded abroad and the inability to get answers,” she said.

“So there are real outstanding issues that need to be addressed and Parliament needs to be addressed as soon as possible in order to deal with that.

“But secondly: this is a global crisis and we need a foreign secretary and we need to make sure that we’re in the room when we’re formulating a global response to it.

“And one of the things I want to see the government do is to name an interim replacement for Dominic Raab as Foreign Secretary while this is going on to make sure that those very many issues are dealt with and that Britain plays its part in helping to end this.”

'It would be smart of the government to acknowledge that their ambition for the equipment to be where it should be, in the right quantity at the right time, isn’t being matched' - Keir Starmer

Ms Nandy’s call came as Sir Keir, the new Labour leader, vowed to lead a “constructive” opposition as the Government battles to contain the spread of the virus.

But he urged ministers to apologise amid reports of shortages of perosnal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS and care workers.

The Royal College of Nursing has said its members may have to refuse to treat patients if their safety cannot be guaranteed, while amost a third (32.5%) of UK surgeons surveyed by the Royal College of Surgeons said they did not have access to adequate protective equipment.

Home Secretary Priti Patel on Saturday said she was sorry “if people feel that there have been failings” in the supply of PPE to the frontline.

But she said it was "inevitable" that demand for such equipment would be high during a global pandemic.

Sir Keir told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “I think it would be smart of the government to acknowledge that their ambition for the equipment to be where it should be, in the right quantity at the right time, isn’t being matched and probably just to apologise for that and get on with it.

“But I think the whole nation wants this fixed and wants to move foward. 

“So I’m trying to resist calls for apologies or criticising past decisions. 

“What we need is [to ask]: what’s the problem? Where are the real issues and what can we do to fix it? 

“And as I said last week when I became leader of the Labour Party, I will work with the Government on this. We will support them in trying to get this right.”

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