Top minister fails to answer simple Bibby Stockholm Legionella questions

Steve Barclay struggles to explain barge Legionella delay

Steve Barclay struggled to justify a reported three-day delay in removing migrants from the Bibby Stockholm barge following the discovery of Legionella in the water supply.

It’s reported that council officials told the Home Office about the Legionella discovery last Tuesday, but migrants weren’t removed from the barge until the following Friday.

Tests were carried out on July 25 by Dorset Council, with initial results coming back last Monday – the same day the first migrants boarded the barge.

The council now says it informed the contractors operating the barge that same day, adding it “verbally” told a Home Office official on Tuesday, a day later.

A spokesman for the council says it was the responsibility of the barge contractors to “keep the Home Office informed of such matters”, adding “decisions about who is on board the vessel are the responsibility of the barge operator and the Home Office”.

READ MORE: Migrants moved off Bibby Stockholm after Legionella bacteria found in water

A meeting was then held on Thursday and the evacuation of the boat was ordered, at which point the Home Office’s officials told ministers.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay struggled to justify the delay in an interview this morning, leaving a Sky News presenter struggling for words.

Mr Barclay confirmed that Home Office ministers only found out on “Thursday night”, at which point they “took action as a precautionary measure”.

Asked whether Dorset Council was “fibbing” when they said the Home Office was informed on the Tuesday, Mr Barclay said: “It may be the council notified the Home Office, that’s an issue for those in the Home Office to respond to.”

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Mr Barclay repeated “this was a precautionary decision, I think there was an isolated incident that raised a concern. No one has been injured”.

The top Tory couldn’t explain the Tuesday-Thursday gap between the Home Office becoming aware and ministers being informed.

Government sources have denied being told on Tuesday evening, with no record of such a report reaching the Home Office.

The UK Health and Security Agency was informed on the evening of Wednesday 9, with a meeting convened for Thursday.

A decision was then taken on Thursday evening to disembark the migrants.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The health and welfare of asylum seekers remains of the utmost priority”.

“All asylum seekers accommodated on the Bibby Stockholm have now been disembarked as a precaution and moved to alternative accommodation.

“The Home Office and our contractors are following all protocol and advice from Dorset Council’s Environmental Health team, UK Health Security Agency and Dorset NHS who we are working closely with.”

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