UK Covid live news: minister says decision to keep masks compulsory on London transport ‘makes sense’ | Politics

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Good morning. On Monday the government is lifting the legal requirement for people in England to wear masks on public transport. Domestic train operators and bus companies have also said that they will not enforce mask-wearing from next week. But Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has broken ranks with his fellow transport chiefs (he runs Transport for London) and said that in the capital face coverings will remain compulsory on buses, the tube and other TfL services. His press release about the announcement is here and here is my colleague Gwyn Topham’s story.

Khan’s approach is in obvious contrast to the policy of the UK government (although it is in line with the approach of the Scottish and Welsh governments, and the Northern Ireland assembly). And so perhaps you might expect Westminister ministers to be critical? But, no, this morning, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said that Khan’s policy “makes sense”. He told Times Radio.

We expect carriers to provide rules or what we call conditions of carriage appropriate to their own circumstances. And obviously, London Underground is a particularly crowded network. And, of course, we said people should wear masks in crowded areas. So just in the same way as the airlines have made it a stipulation – an ongoing stipulation – we expected – indeed invited TfL – to do the same thing. So no surprises there. And if you think about it, it makes sense.

We’ve moved from the point in the crisis where everything is set in law to a point where we put in place a degree of a personal responsibility and also ask the carriers in this case – the transport carriers – to make clear the conditions of travel on their particular network.

This does rather beg the question, if mandating mask wearing on public transport is such a good idea, why did the government refuse to carry on legislating for this? On the Today programme Khan was asked by Nick Robinson if he thought that Boris Johnson always knew that TfL would keep masks compulsory but “wants the credit with his own supporters for crying freedom, while relying on [Khan] and some others to enforce mask wearing”. Khan responded diplomatically:

I wish anybody luck who can read Boris Johnson’s mind. I certainly can’t.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, gives evidence to the Lords constitution committee on the future of the UK.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

12.30pm: A Home Office minister responds to a Labour urgent question about racist abuse on social media.

Around 1.30pm: Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, makes a statement to MPs about plans to introduce a statute of limitations to end all prosecutions related to the Troubles before 1998.

Around 2.30pm: Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, makes a statement to MPs about plans to decarbonise transport.

3.15pm: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, gives evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee about having a gender-sensitive parliament.

4pm: Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, gives evidence to a Lords sub-committee about the Northern Ireland protocol.

5.15pm: Drakeford holds a press conference on changes to Covid rules in Wales.

Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that will probably be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.

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