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PMQs: Boris Johnson says there’s ‘no magic wand’ to stop aviation job losses as Keir Starmer demands more help

Boris Johnson clashed with Keir Starmer over aviation at Prime Minister's Questions (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has said there is “no magic wand” to stop job losses in aviation after thousands of redundancies were announced in the sector.

He was quizzed by Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions over why the Government had not introduced “sector-specific deals” to deal with the impact of Covid 19 on the industry.

Around 50,000 layoffs have already been announced, including 25,000 at Heathrow Airport, with thousands more at risk as the travel industry suffers during the pandemic.

Mr Johnson said: “No one should underestimate the scale of the challenge that this country faces. And that is why the Chancellor has brought forward a range of measures which, by the way, he supported.”

And he claimed the Labour leader had changing his mind on policies introduced by Rishi Sunak to help business through the pandemic - saying Sir Keir had "more briefs than Calvin Klein".

But the Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of "rhetorical nonsense”.

"The problem with the Prime Minister's dismissal of this is that since the Chancellor set down last week around 10,000 people have lost their jobs,” he added.

“The Prime Minister should focus on them not the rhetoric.”

The Labour leader's questions focused on British Airways, who he said were “trying to force through” the rehiring of workers on worse terms and conditions

And he caled on the PM to “personally intervene and make clear” the airline’s actions “cannot be allowed to stand without consequences for landing slots”.

Mr Johnson said he had been clear companies must support their workers. 

“But let's be absolutely clear: British Airways, and many other companies are in severe difficulties, at the moment, and we cannot, I'm afraid, simply with a magic wand, ensure that every single job that was being done before the crisis is retained after the crisis," he said.

The PM added: “What we can do and what we are doing is encouraging companies to keep their workers on with the job retention scheme, with the job retention bonus, and with a massive £600billion pound investment programme in this country, to build, build, build and create jobs, jobs, jobs.”


Sir Keir also pressed the PM over whether the recommendations of a government-comissioned report, which this week warned there could be 120,000 more coronavirus deaths this winter, would be implemented in full.

"The report was clear July and August must be a period of intense preparation, ie now,” he said.

“Can the Prime Minister make clear he intends to implement the recommended actions in this report in full and at speed?"

Mr Johnson responded: "Not only are we getting on with implementing the preparations for a potential new spike, but he will know that the Government is engaged in record investments in the NHS.”

Pressed on whether he had read the full report, he replied: “I am of course aware of the report.”

And he hit back at the Labour leader, accusing him of having "more briefs than Calvin Klein” as they argued over the effectiveness of the Track and Trace programme.

Sir Keir said Mr Johnson’s claim the key Covid-19 scheme was a “stunning success” was “kidding no-one” and was “obviously not true”.

But the PM shot back: “What he has to decide is whether he wants to back that programme, or not.

“Because one day, he says it's safe to go back to school, the next day, he's taking the line of the unions.

“One day they're supporting our economic programme. The next day they're saying our stamp duty cut is an unacceptable bung.

“One day, they're saying they accept the result of the Brexit referendum. The next day, today, they're going to tell their troops to do the exact opposite.

“He needs to make up his mind, which brief he is going to take today. Because at the moment he's got more briefs than Calvin Klein.”

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