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Cabinet minister Sharma criticises ‘gotcha’ questions about coronavirus rules

Business Secretary Alok Sharma hit out at ‘quiz show’ questioning about the rules put in place by his Government.

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Business Secretary Alok Sharma (Leon Neal/PA)

Business Secretary Alok Sharma (Leon Neal/PA)

Business Secretary Alok Sharma (Leon Neal/PA)

A Cabinet minister has hit out at “gotcha” style questioning after Boris Johnson was left floundering when asked to explain new coronavirus rules.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said people should look up official websites from the Government and councils to find out which regulations applied in their areas.

Mr Sharma said news interviews should not be used as a “quiz show” but Labour said it was an issue of “basic Government competence” to know the rules put in place by ministers.

The Prime Minister apologised on Tuesday after a gaffe in response to questions about the rules in north-east England, where households have been banned from mixing.

Mr Johnson swiftly issued a correction with details about the North East restrictions.

Earlier on Tuesday, skills minister Gillian Keegan had been unable to answer questions about the measures, which came into force on Wednesday.

Mr Sharma accused the media of engaging in a “gotcha” style of journalism.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sharma said: “There is an element of slightly ‘gotcha’ about this in terms of this line of questioning. You are a flagship programme when it comes to serious news and it is not a quiz show.”

Asked whether he thought that calling on ministers to explain what their coronavirus regulations were was as “trivial as a quiz question”, he said: “No, absolutely not.

“But what I’m saying to you is that what is important is if people want to understand the precise restrictions that they have in areas which are more restricted, then they should go on to the (Government and council) websites.

“I’ve set out clearly to you, I hope, what the overall message is – which is this rule of six indoors and outdoors, wash your hands, cover your face, make sure you maintain social distancing – and I think people understand that.

“The issue always comes with what happens in my local area and the best way you can find that out is go on to those websites and find out.”

Shadow health minister Alex Norris said: “The Prime Minister should understand the rules he is asking huge numbers of people to follow.

“That’s not a gotcha, that’s just basic Government competence.”

PA