THE Scottish Secretary would not reveal whether he had pushed for the Prime Minister to scrap the NHS fee for migrant healthcare workers during a Good Morning Scotland interview today.
Yesterday Boris Johnson was forced into a U-turn as he announced NHS staff and care workers from overseas would no longer need to pay the annual NHS fee of £400 – which is due to go up to £624 later in the year.
There had been controversy surrounding the policy when Home Secretary Priti Patel indicated she would review the charge for those working in the NHS, but weeks later it emerged no such review had happened or was planned to happen.
This week at PMQs Labour leader Keir Starmer raised the issue directly with Johnson, who stumbled as he tried to defend it – and a number of his own party members then told him it was “mean-spirited and immoral”.
READ MORE: Two U-turns in one day from Boris Johnson and Priti Patel
Last night the Tory leader announced he would scrap the charge for those working in the NHS during the coronavirus crisis.
This morning on GMS, Jack was asked about the U-turn. The host asked: “Are you embarrassed by the UK Government’s handling of this? Isn’t it a sign that the Tories are still the nasty party?”
The Scottish Secretary said he did not agree with that, but the presenter stressed that the new policy announcement was a U-turn for the Tories.
Jack said: “That, that’s how it works for all .. I mean in terms of immigration everyone who’s on those visas pays that but I think it’s a sign of strength from the Prime Minister to show he’s flexible –“
Jack was then asked if he had been one of the MPs criticising the policy.
The Tory MP responded: “Well there were many – you know, he was reflecting on it and had been reflecting on it –“
READ MORE: Alister Jack defends 700-mile trip despite lockdown
The presenter pushed again: “And did you recommend that he did?”
But Jack again avoiding answering the question, replying: “I know you’re challenging me on this but I’m just going to say these frontline workers he is thanking them he is recognising their importance but I would –“
The host then wrapped up the interview.
The exchange comes days after the Scottish Secretary faced questions over his decision to travel hundreds of miles to Westminster to speak in the Commons despite the Scottish Government’s Stay at Home guidelines.
He defended making the journey, arguing it was for essential work purposes.