Sheffield MP Miriam Cates says Commons motion backing weekly Covid tests for NHS staff was a 'stunt'

A Conservative MP in South Yorkshire has said she voted against a motion to carry out weekly coronavirus tests for NHS and care workers because it was a “stunt” to “attract social media headlines”.

Some 331 Tory MPs voted down a motion tabled by Labour which called for weekly testing of NHS staff in efforts to combat covid-19. The result was 344 votes to 198, with the Conservatives and DUP forming the majority against it.

Miriam Cates, who was elected to the Penistone and Stocksbridge seat in December 2019, said: “Motions of this sort do not change policy or the law, and passing it would have had no effect at all on testing policy.

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Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates. Pic: Dean Atkins

“I did not vote against regular testing for NHS staff – I voted to continue with our current evidence-based approach to keep staff and patients safe.”

Responding to Labour’s calls, Royal College of Nursing director of nursing Susan Masters said testing NHS staff for covid-19 was critical as discussions around resuming normal services increase.

“Testing of health and care workers and the people they are caring for – even if they have no symptoms – has to be a priority,” she said.

But Ms Cates said she does support regular testing and called some national reports on the voting “misleading”.

She added: “I’m disappointed that misleading reporting of the Opposition Day debate on Wednesday is being used to suggest that I don’t support regular coronavirus testing for NHS staff and other key workers.

“The government’s testing policy was devised by experts including the chief medical officer, and is targeted and extensive. Priority is already given to NHS and care workers, with regular testing of those who work on the front line. This is something that I fully support, and have been consistent in this.”