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Boris Johnson was ‘naive’ to give Nicola Sturgeon pandemic powers, cabinet colleagues say

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BORIS Johnson should have used broad civilian contingency powers to exclude Nicola Sturgeon from Covid’s response, Cabinet colleagues say.

And a year later, some around the top table say the Prime Minister regrets his decision not to do so.

Boris Johnson plots with his cabinet on Zoom in the early days of the pandemic

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Boris Johnson plots with his cabinet on Zoom in the early days of the pandemicCredit: Pippa Fowles / 10 Downing Street

Ahead of Tuesday’s anniversary of the first lockdown, The Sun may reveal a major disruption at the top of government last March on how to respond to the emerging pandemic.

The Prime Minister has been urged by some ministers and aides not to use the public health laws of the 1980s to answer – as health issues are delegated meaning Edinburgh and Cardiff have been given the opportunity to follow their own path in response.

Instead, they wanted Mr Johnson to build on the apocalyptic Civil Contingency Law of 2004 which gave Whitehall supreme authority in a catastrophic emergency.

Insiders say the issue has been raised several times at Cobra and around the Cabinet table.

In a tense first meeting, it is understood that Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg placed particular emphasis on using radical law rather than drafting a new law for Covid that coincided with the law on the 1984 Public Health.

However, Downing Street feared that extreme civil emergency powers would have to be approved by MPs every 30 days, as the drafting of a new law gave them emergency control for an entire year.

Mr Johnson instead opted for the special 2020 coronavirus law, which also gave the police massive powers, suspended elections and paved the way for the holiday program.

But insiders say they have been blinded by the fragmented response to the bug in the UK’s four countries.

UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES

Scotland and Wales were able to set their own lockdown measures and relax timetables accordingly – at times creating tensions with Westminster.

The Scottish Prime Minister has openly criticized the British government’s response to England, infuriating Whitehall.

Not only did the ruling lead to the different rules being confused for different parts of the country, but it also saw Nicola Sturgeon’s ratings skyrocket.

A former aide who has now left government told The Sun: At the time, I think everyone just thought there would be a common response across the country and we didn’t really think at the time that it would break.

“But obviously that turned out to be wrong and was pretty naïve.

I have no doubt it will be done differently next time. The Prime Minister knows it. “

Cabinet Minister

A cabinet minister said: I am sure it will be done differently next time. The Prime Minister knows it. “

Others around the cabinet table agree, but another added that “hindsight is a wonderful thing”.

They insisted, “It was crazy back then, so no one is to blame.”

When asked if Mr Johnson has any regrets, Downing Street insisted their personalized Covid law was necessary because their response to the crisis was so broad.

A government spokesperson said: Without the coronavirus law, the most crucial support and interventions such as the leave scheme and people claiming statutory sick pay and other benefits could not have happened. sue during the pandemic, as well as other public services, including virtual court hearings.

The added: It also provided important parliamentary oversight.



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