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  • Evidence shown during Martin Reynold’s witness appearance at Covid Inquiry reveals that Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson rejected calls for masks in schools because they were in “no surrender mode” towards unions
  • TUC says ministers put “politics before people” at a time of national crisis

Responding to evidence in the Covid Public Inquiry today (Monday) - that Gavin Williamson ignored warnings over Covid safety in schools because he didn’t want to “give an inch” to education unions - TUC Assistant General Secretary Kate Bell said:  

“In a time of national crisis the Conservatives put politics before people. 

“Education leaders righty raised concerns about the need to protect staff and children in schools. But these warnings were dismissed out of hand due to vindictiveness towards unions. 

“Parents, pupils, school staff and the public will be horrified to learn that lives were put at  risk because ministers were pursuing a petty political vendetta. This can never happen again.” 

The evidence came to light in a WhatsApp exchange from 26 August 2020 where Simon Case said in response to a question on “Whats the true reason for the u-turn on masks?” from Dominic Cummings: 

“Weeks ago, we recommended to PM that we create permissive guidance around masks, because we could foresee it was going to be a drama in Sept. Gavin discussed at a Covid cttee mtg. Because at that stage it was Unions pressing for masks (no science back-up), Gavin was in “no surrender” mode and didn’t want to give an inch to the unions, so said we should hold firm. PM gave him full support in this approach” 

This is despite the government’s own guidance stating there was “some evidence” that supported the wearing of face coverings “particularly in poorly ventilated and crowded indoor spaces” such as schools in an update of 24 July 2020.  

Face coverings were also mandatory in numerous places in England such as public transport, shops, NHS hospitals, banks and post offices. 

Editors note

About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

Contacts: TUC press office 020 7467 1248  

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