Labour accuse ministers of wasting money on failed £12m tracing app

Labour has accused ministers of wasting taxpayers’ money after spending almost £12 million on its abandoned coronavirus tracing app.

The Government has ditched plans to develop its own NHSX app and instead is looking to software created by Apple and Google to build it.

The decision came despite the in-house app costing £11.8 million to design and being piloted for weeks on the Isle of Wight.

A spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters on Wednesday that ministers had adopted the incorrect approach “from the outset”.

“The fact that £12 million has been spent on an app which isn’t going to be launched is undoubtedly a waste of money,” said the spokesman.

“What the Government should have been doing weeks ago is working with companies, looking at other international examples and trying to find a way – the fact that other countries have a nationwide app launched shows that this Government’s approach was wrong from the outset.”

He went on to list Germany, South Korea and Singapore as countries “far ahead of us in terms of having a nationwide app rolled out”.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson said that no other country in the world had a functioning coronavirus tracing app as he defended the UK’s failure to produce a tracing aid.

PMQs Starmer
PMQs Starmer

Sir Keir replied to the PM’s remark in Commons, telling him that the German app had been downloaded 12 million times.

When asked whether Mr Johnson had misled MPs with his comment, Sir Keir’s spokesman said: “I think it was another example of a dodgy answer from a Prime Minister who wasn’t on top of the detail.”

Labour is also calling on Downing Street to commit to making its scientific and medical experts available to the public after choosing to cancel the daily Covid-19 press briefing.

The opposition party said it understood the “rationale” behind the decision but Sir Keir’s spokesman added: “We would say to the Government you do need to ensure there is a mechanism to allow the public to continue to hear from scientists.”

Sir Keir is looking forward to having a pint at his local north London pub, The Pineapple in Kentish Town, when the lockdown restrictions are eased on July 4, his spokesman confirmed.