May 21, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Industry hits back over ‘ludicrous’ lockdown changes

The Prime Minister’s plans for keeping gyms, beauty parlours and theatres shut while pubs and hairdressers can reopen have been branded “ludicrous” and “completely illogical”. 

Today the Government published further details of the rules that hospitality firms must abide by, including keeping “a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days… and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed”.

Venues must stop customers from dancing, singing or even raising their voices for fear of coronavirus transmission, and customers are banned from sheltering inside if it rains. 

Music must be turned down low, ketchup sachets will replace bottles, and pints should be ordered on your smartphone in a bid to avoid coronavirus rates rising. 

The decision to allow pubs to reopen while keeping theatres, gyms and pools shut has been branded “ludicrous”.

A spokesman for the open-air Minack Theatre, near Land’s End in Cornwall, said: “We have shows ready to come back to our stage. It is ludicrous not to be allowed to perform in a Covid-safe environment to socially-distanced audiences.”

Glenn Earlam, chief executive of David Lloyd Clubs, told the PA news agency it was a “completely illogical” move.

Meanwhile businessman Duncan Bannatyne told Sky News there had been “no engagement” from Government, warning: “There is only so long we can make losses of £2.5m a month.”

Paul Warner, who runs a personal training facility in Sudbury, Suffolk, said it was “100 per cent safer” than many other types of business that have already opened their doors.

Alicia Haynes, who runs a facial clinic in Fareham, Hampshire, added: “I am unsure why the Government think it’s safer to have your hair washed and cut by someone just wearing a visor and yet we can’t follow our own strict hygiene protocols.”

Read more below. 

Table of Contents

04:42 PM

And that’s it for another day…

It’s the first day that hasn’t been book-ended with a ministerial appearance, which has left us feeling a bit flat.

But it was another busy day, with all the guidelines for businesses who can reopen being published, provoking some hilarity (and concern) at the Oliver Cromwell-esque banning of singing and dancing.  Those businesses still unable to open are now desperately calling on ministers to revise that decision or risk widespread job losses. 

Our daily poll suggests you’re torn between missing a game of cricket and the chance to get back in the gym/pool, with those options getting 40 per cent of the vote each. Just 20 per cent of you are hankering for the theatre. 

In the Commons, Boris Johnson saw off efforts from Sir Keir Starmer to actually answer some questions, telling the Labour leader no country in the world has a fully functioning app yet. Sir Keir tried to fact-check him live in the Chamber but to no avail. When challenged on this point during our later lobby briefing, Number 10 was not for turning. 

Robert Jenrick faced a bruising session in which he admitted he had been shown a promotional video of the development he later approved. The Housing Secretary has promised to publish documentation relating to the decision, and Labour will continue to press him over it, but nothing is likely to change. 

The blog will be back at 8am tomorrow – until then, enjoy the rest of the scorching day. 

04:12 PM

Michel Barnier accuses the UK of ‘backtracking’ 

The EU’s chief negotiator has accused the UK of “backtracking” on commitments, and said “the ball is in the UK’s court” ahead of another round of talks next week.

Michel Barnier said the “moment of truth” would come in October – well after the July date earmarked by Boris Johnson. October is the last point a deal can be ratified by the European Parliament before the end of the year when the current arrangements expire.

At an event hosted by the Brussels-based European Policy Centre think tank, Mr Barnier said “the UK keeps on backtracking (on) its commitments in the Political Declaration”, the document agreed by Mr Johnson and the 27 EU member states.

Mr Barnier, who will hold a further round of talks with Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost next week, said: “We now need clear signals that the UK is ready to work on an agreement that respects this document, both in the spirit and in the letter.

“If we get that signal next week and make concrete progress in July, all the better. But this will require progress on all topics.Whether this happens or not, the ball is in the UK’s court.”

Mr Barnier said the UK was “requesting a special status” very close to single market membership.

But he added “We will never sacrifice the EU’s long-term economic and political interests for the sole benefits of the UK… the level playing field is not for sale”.

03:47 PM

Former sports minister reveals she has breast cancer

Conservative former minister Tracey Crouch has announced that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The former sports minister said the cancer “has been caught early” and that she intends to remain positive.

She added that as an “incredibly competitive” person she intends to face the challenge ahead “with my studs up”.

“It came as a bit of a surprise but it has been caught early and I’m now being treated and supported by the excellent team at the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

“It does mean that it looks unlikely I will physically be in Parliament before summer recess, but I have organised for a proxy vote in my absence and applied to be able to participate virtually as from next week.

“I shall be doing casework and emails, supported by my brilliant team, which I hope reassures constituents that I shall be working hard for them while I undergo treatment.”

03:22 PM

The new normal: The litany of rules that are the price of freedom 

On July 4, England will see the biggest lifting of lockdown restrictions yet, with pubs, restaurants, hotels and other businesses opening to customers for the first time for months. 

Yet despite the restoration of so many of our freedoms, there will be no cuppas for the plumber, no standing at the bar and no screaming on rollercoasters, to say the least. 

This is the litany of rules that are the price of freedom.

If you haven’t voted already, have your say in today’s poll below

03:09 PM

Further 154 people die across UK

A further 154 people have died across the UK in all settings after testing positive for coronavirus, Government figures show. 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 43,081 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Tuesday.

These figures do not include all deaths involving Covid-19 across the UK, which are thought to have passed 54,000.

The DHSC also said in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Wednesday, 232,086 tests were carried out or dispatched, with 653 positive results. Overall, a total of 8,542,186 tests
have been carried out and 306,862 cases have been confirmed positive.

The figure for the number of people tested has been “temporarily paused to ensure consistent reporting” across all methods of testing.

03:06 PM

Robert Jenrick asks Labour MP to withdraw corruption comments

Robert Jenrick called on a Labour MP to withdraw her comments “immediately” after he was indirectly accused of corruption.

Labour’s Nadia Whittome said: “Reducing the ratio of affordable dwellings from one in three to one in five saved billionaire developer and Tory donor Richard Desmond another £40 million by selling these units on the premium property market instead.

“Transparency International defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

The Nottingham East MP continued: “Transparency International has said of corruption in the UK ‘although corruption is not endemic in the UK, it is correct to say that in some areas of UK society and institutions corruption is a much greater problem than recognised’ and that there is an inadequate response.”

Intervening from his position on the front bench, Mr Jenrick asked: “Is she accusing me of corruption?”

The housing secretary then called on Ms Whittome to “withdraw that immediately”, which she did not do.

02:43 PM

Mrs Paterson’s death treated as ‘unexplained’, police say

West Mercia Police have said the death of Rose Paterson, the wife of former minister Owen Paterson, is being treated as “unexplained” although it was not thought that any third party was involved.

Police said her body was discovered in nearby woodland.

“We can confirm the body of a woman has been found in woodland near Pant Lane in Sodylt in Ellesmere,” the statement said.

“The death is currently being treated as unexplained however at this stage there is believed to be no third party involvement.”

Mrs Paterson, the daughter of the fourth Viscount Ridley, was the chairman of Aintree Racecourse.

02:40 PM

Trade Secretary pledges to never lower standards to strike a trade deal

The Government will “never lower our standards” to strike a trade deal with another country, the International Trade Secretary has told MPs, insisting a ban on importing chlorinating chicken was “already in UK law”.

Speaking to the International Trade committee, Liz Truss said: “Contrary to claims in the press, these standards – the ban on chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef – are already in UK law through the Withdrawal Act.

“Not only that but we will not sign a trade deal that leaves our farming industry, with its high animal welfare standards, worse off.

“In fact, the opposite is true. My officials and I are working round the clock to ensure any trade deal we strike has British farmers at its heart and one that British shoppers have confidence in.”

02:26 PM

Liz Truss promises to be ‘tough’ on trade talks

Trade Secretary Liz Truss has promised to be “tough” during the negotiations with the US.

Speaking to MPs on the International Trade Committee, Ms Truss said: “We’re not going to rush into a deal and there is no deadline.

“We will be tough in pressing our interests. The US talks a good game about free trade and low tariffs but the reality is that many UK products are being kept unfairly out of their market.

“UK steel has been hit by 25% tariffs due to claims of security issues and our cars have also been threatened, despite the fact we are a close security ally.”

The Cabinet minister said trade restrictions, including a “buy American” procurement policy and “onerous testing regimes”, meant British companies could not access two-thirds of the US market.

“Let me be clear, I am not going to strike a trade deal with the US unless all these points are dealt with,” she said.

02:12 PM

Lobby latest: No need for privacy fears under new pub rules, says No 10

Downing Street dismissed privacy fears over English pubs and restaurants being required to keep customers’ details for three weeks in case they need to be traced following a coronavirus outbreak.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think people are very familiar with giving their contact details to … restaurants, pubs, hairdressers and others in order to make appointments, so that’s not new.

“We have said we will work with businesses to make sure that they can implement this in a secure way.”

Similar systems were already in place in other countries which were subject to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provisions.

02:11 PM

Lobby latest: Number 10 defends Boris Johnson’s claim about apps

Boris Johnson’s claim that no country had a functioning contact-tracing app was defended by Number 10.

During PMQs today, Sir Keir Starmer countered this claim, pointing to an existing app in Germany which has been downloaded 12m times. There are also apps in countries such as South Korea.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “A number of countries in the world do have apps, but not ones that fully and reliably record everybody’s contacts in a way that allows for comprehensive test and trace, and not in a way that we would reliably be able to take decision on telling people to self-isolate or not.”

Challenged on this, he added: “Multiple countries have launched apps, however uptake has been fairly low and too early to say whether they will be effective.”

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”.

02:08 PM

Lobby latest: Nightingale Hospitals may be needed in future, Number 10 says

The collection of coronavirus-specialist hospitals created at speed at the start of the pandemic are being kept “on standby” in case they are needed for any potential spikes. 

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said work was being undertaken to ensure the NHS is prepared for the winter more generally, pointing to the Nightingale Hospitals as offering “surge capacity if needed”.  

The hospitals, including ones in London, Bristol and Manchester, will be kept available for as long as is needed, he added. 

“We may still need Nightingale Hospitals in future and will maintain extra capacity,” he added. “I don’t think any of them are treating patients but all on standby if needed.”

01:39 PM

Lobby latest: Prime Minister has written to Owen Paterson after wife dies

Boris Johnson has written to Conservative MP and former minister Owen Paterson, after discovering his wife of 40 years had passed away.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said he had heard the news this morning, and written to his colleague immediately.

“His thoughts and every sympathies are with Owen, his children and grandchildren at this difficult time,” the press secretary added.

01:36 PM

Lobby latest: Police can break up ‘large and irresponsible’ gatherings

Police will retain the powers to break up “large and irresponsible” gatherings in England following the latest easing of the lockdown regulations, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said while many of the rules and regulations will now become guidance, some powers will remain.

“What the police will be able to do is break up large and irresponsible gatherings of over 30 people,” the spokesman said.

“Police can als
o continue to enforce the wearing of face coverings on public transport. Other regulations that remain are to help enforce that people arriving in the UK quarantine for 14 days and also the powers the authorities have to detain someone considered a public health risk.

“If you have a very big gathering taking place in a park or the sort of raves we have seen taking place in parts of the country in recent weeks, police would have the power to break those up.”

The spokesman said that if businesses failed to follow health and safety regulations, then local authorities would have powers to temporarily close them or impose unlimited fines, while there was also the possibility of jail sentences.

01:34 PM

Robert Jenrick admits Richard Desmond played video on phone

Robert Jenrick has admitted Westferry developer Richard Desmond did “bring out his iPhone and show me some images of the development” at a Tory Party fundraising dinner.

When pressed by the SNP’s communities spokesman David Linden about Mr Desmond’s claim he showed the Housing Secretary a promotional video, Mr Jenrick said: “He said he showed me a part of the video and I don’t recall exactly what happened, but he did bring out his iPhone and show me some images of the development, and I was very clear the last time I came to the House I informed the developer it was not appropriate to discuss the matter and I couldn’t comment on it.

“I believe Mr Desmond has confirmed that.”

He told MPs he had not “planned to have any contact with Mr Desmond prior to the event,” adding: “This was the first time I had ever met him.

“He raised the development and invited me on a site visit. I informed him that it would not be appropriate to discuss the matter and the conversation moved onto other topics. After the event, we exchanged messages again, as the record will show I advised him that I was unable to discuss the application or to pass comment.

“I informed my officials of my contact with Mr Desmond and I will publish these messages for transparency. On advice from my officials, I declined the site visit.”

01:26 PM

Further 51 people die with coronavirus

A further 51 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, NHS England has confirmed.

That brings the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 28,435.

Patients were aged between 48 and 96 years old, and all of them had known underlying health conditions. 

London has seen a rise in the numbers, with six recorded deaths, while the Midlands was the worst-affected region with 19 deaths.  There were no deaths in the South West, and three in the South East, making them the least affected regions. 

01:23 PM

Have your say: What do you wish could be added to the new freedoms?

The newly restored freedoms certainly come with a lot of red tape – but it’s better than nothing.

Still, there are plenty of things we are missing which show no sign of being opened in July. Which activities are you missing? Have your say in the poll below.

01:12 PM

Robert Jenrick defends decision to overturn planning decision

Robert Jenrick said it is “not unusual” for ministers to reach different conclusions than that of local authorities.

He told MPs: “As honourable members will be aware, the Secretary of State’s role in deciding called-in planning applications and recovered appeals is very long established.

“The vast majority of planning decisions are rightly determined at a local level by local planning authorities. However, Parliament has created provision where a small proportion of cases are determined by ministers.

“The cases that fall to ministers are, by their nature, highly contentious, frequently very complex and sometimes very subjective. There’s no escaping that reality.

“It’s not unusual for ministers to come to a different conclusion to that of a local authority, neither is it unusual, as has been said, for ministers to disagree with the recommendations of planning inspectors.

“I say that with no disrespect to the brilliant men and women who work in the Planning Inspectorate.”

01:11 PM

Robert Jenrick accuses Labour of ‘peddling innuendo’ over Desmond development

Robert Jenrick said that he does not want to be the subject of “innuendo” and “false allegations”.

Responding to an intervention by Labour MP Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) asking why he hadn’t released the documents relating to the Westferry development earlier, the Housing Secretary told the Commons: “Firstly there’s already a lot of documents in the public domain and I’ll come on to discuss that.

“The reason for my decision are set out clearly in the decision letter.”

Mr Jenrick added: “Transparency matters, openness matters and settling this matter matters because I certainly don’t want to be the subject of the innuendo and the false accusations that the Opposition are choosing to peddle.”

12:54 PM

Robert Jenrick will release Westferry development documents today

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed he will release “all relevant information” relating to the Westferry Printworks planning decision later today.

Mr Jenrick told MPs: “I will write to the chair of the select committee outlining the timeline of events and the rationale for my decision-making pertaining to the Westferry Printworks planning decision.

“Alongside this letter, and after a comprehensive review of what documents might be in scope of this motion, and of the letter that he sent me on behalf of his select committee, I will be releasing later today all relevant information relating to this planning matter using the Freedom of Information Act as a benchmark.

“I recognise that there are higher standards of transparency expected in the quasi-judicial planning process, which is why I will also release discussions and correspondence which the Government would not normally release.

“These documents show that contrary to the wild accusations and the baseless innuendo propagated by the honourable gentleman (Steve Reed) opposite, and restated today in a series of totally inaccurate statements and comments, this was a decision taken with an open mind on the merits of the case after a thorough decision-making process.”

12:42 PM

Labour accuses PM of giving ‘dodgy answer’ during PMQs

Labour has accused the Prime Minister of giving a “dodgy answer” when he suggested in the Commons that no other country in the world had a functioning coronavirus tracing app.

Asked whether Boris Johnson had misled MPs, a spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters on Wednesday: “I think it was another example of a dodgy answer from a Prime Minister who wasn’t on top of the detail.”

The spokesman listed Germany, South Korea and Singapore as countries “far ahead of us in terms of having a nationwide app rolled out”.

He added: “The fact that £12 million has been spent on an app which isn’t going to be launched is undoubtedly a waste of money.

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

12:37 PM

Jenrick’s role in Westferry development ‘blown apart confidence in planning system’

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s role in the Westferry Printworks development has “blown apart confidence in the planning system”, Labour has warned.

Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed told the Commons: “The only way to put that right is for the Secretary of State to publish the evidence about what really happened.

“If he’s done nothing wrong then he’s got nothing to fear.

“So I hope he will welcome this opportunity to restore trust in a sector that will be so critical in rebuilding Britain after the lockdown.”

12:32 PM

Coronavirus testing
needs to be done in ‘matter of hours’

Coronavirus testing needs to be done in a “matter of hours” in order to prevent a second wave, an expert has said.

Infectious disease specialist Professor David Heymann said that a second wave, or a resurgence of the virus, is not “inevitable” and could be mitigated with certain requirements.

Rapid diagnostics and contact tracing, quarantining of contacts and isolation of sick people – including isolation in health facilities – will interrupt the chain of transmission of the virus, according to Prof Heymann, who helped shut down the Sars outbreak in 2003.

Another way is to closely monitor different sectors or localities for infection rates followed by swift lockdowns, he told a Chatham House briefing on Covid-19.

“A second wave is not inevitable if countries, such as the UK, begin to contact tracing which is necessary to detect patients and to evaluate their contacts,” he said.

“In other words, there needs to be systems that detect cases wherever they occur. They need to then be rapidly diagnosed – and that means within hours rather than in days – and then contacts of those patients need to be identified and they need to be asked to self-quarantine.” 

He also called for “circuit breakers” to be introduced to lock down areas or sectors, as has worked in South Korean nightclubs and schools in Singapore.  

12:27 PM

Tories set to rally round Robert Jenrick in ‘cash for favours’ row

Labour’s Steve Reed is opening the opposition day debate on Robert Jenrick, which he has claimed is a “cash for favours situation”. 

But Conservative MPs are not expected to join those calling for the document to be published. You can read the full details here. 

12:09 PM

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother to use human rights defence in protest trial

Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, will cite his human rights when he goes on trial for protesting about lockdown restrictions, a court has been told today.

The 73-year-old denied two counts of contravening coronavirus rules to attend protests at London’s Hyde Park on May 16 and 30.

The climate change denier and antivaxxer admits he was at the mass gatherings, but said he was exercising freedom of expression and his right to protest.

He pleaded not guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday afternoon to two charges of participating in a gathering in public of more than two people in England during the coronavirus emergency period.

He will go on trial on October 23.

Corbyn’s defence counsel, Richard Parry, said there were inconsistencies between police forces in England about how they dealt with protesters, and alleged further inconsistencies by the Metropolitan Police in action taken against different protests.

Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, arrives at Westminster Magistrates
Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, arrives at Westminster Magistrates

11:50 AM

Scotland to open pub beer gardens, shops and relax household rules, Sturgeon says

Scotland’s beer gardens will reopen, as part of an updated version of the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown in a statement to MSPs.

Non essential shops within indoor shopping centres to re-open from July 13, and households will be able to meet indoors with people from up to two other households from July 15, Nicola Sturgeon explained. Pubs and restaurants will be able to open on the same date, subject to physical distancing measures along with “a number of conditions” being followed.

And travel distance restrictions – which see people forced to stay within five miles of their home for recreation – will be relaxed on July 3, along with the opening of self-catering accommodation.

Phase three will begin on July 9, after the regular review.

The First Minister also said that barbes and hairdressers will also be able to open from July 15.

11:44 AM

PMQs: We will act on any lessons from Reading attack, says Boris Johnson 

The Chamber falls silent as MPs listen to Matt Rodda, the MP for Reading East, talking about last weekend’s attack and the impact on his constituency. 

Boris Johnson pays tribute to those who helped, saying it was “a really extraordinary moment, but it was an appalling crime and appalling tragedy”. 

The case will be properly proceeded with, he adds. The Prime Minister commits to learning “any lessons” from the incident “and act in this parliament, by this Government”. 

“We will not let this kind of attack, this senseless murder distract us or in any way be intimidated or change our way of life,” he adds. 

11:40 AM

PMQs: ‘I take responsibility for everything that has happened in this crisis’, says Boris Johnson

Emma Lewell-Buck asks about the Government’s policy of discharging people from hospital into care homes. 

She asks if the PM accepts responsibility for deaths cause by this policy. 

Boris Johnson says he accepts responsibility “for everything that has happened during this crisis”, but says the decision was based on clinical judgements. 

“What we are seeing now is a massive reduction, thanks to the efforts of care workers, to get the numbers of deaths down to the levels you would expect to find this year,” he adds. 

11:37 AM

PMQs: Government stamping out racism, says Boris Johnson

Asked about racial inequality and various reviews, Boris Johnson says the Government is “getting on with implementing” some recommendations, including 16 from the Lammy Review. 

“We will go on with our cross governmental commission to make sure we stamp out racism and discrimination across the country,” he says. 

11:36 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson dismisses Northern Ireland ‘border control post’ claim 

DUP MP Sammy Wilson asks about a firm that has been asked to make preparations for a “border control post”, with 14 acres of land being used for car parking. 

There is a sense of urgency, he adds. How can Northern Ireland remain a full part of the UK if people have to pass through a border control post?

Boris Johnson says “absolutely categorically” there will be no new customs infrastructure because the protocol says in black and white that “Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the whole of the UK”.

11:31 AM

PMQs: I want UK to ‘bounce forwards’ from coronavirus

Asked if the PM will commit to protecting aerospace jobs, and focus on green technology, Boris Johnson says he is hoping to use coronavirus as an opportunity to “bounce forwards” in this area. 

Asked if there will be support for people to learn new skills, Mr Johnson says “yes indeed”. 

There will be “difficult times”, and the Government will invest in skills and training as well as encouraging “as many in-work placements to get people the live experience they need,” he adds. 

11:25 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson hints
at local furlough support

Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader, asks about the outbreak in the Welsh meat packing plants, and asks the Prime Minister to commit to “local furlough-like schemes” for affected workers. 

Boris Johnson points to existing support, which have been “massive commitments”, saying “we will continue to make those commitments”. 

He adds: “If we have to move back to local or indeed national lockdowns, nobody should be penalised, so there is your answer.”

11:23 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson praises SNP’s ‘U-turn’ on schools

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, asks about the economic crisis and an accelerated review of the devolved funding agreement. 

Boris Johnson says Scotland has so far received £3.8bn to fight coronavirus, and we will continue to invest massively in Scotland, which “benefits from being part of the oldest and most successful political partnership in the world”. 

He then congratulates the SNP for its schools “U-turn”. 

11:20 AM

PMQs: Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson clash on child poverty 

Boris Johnson then turns the tables, as he did last week, and asks Sir Keir Starmer to confirm whether he wants all children to get back to school.

Sir Keir says “the only u-turn here was the Education Secretary”.

The Labour leader then says that The Office of the Children’s Commissioner claims the PM made a “mostly false” statement about child poverty last week. “He has been found out, he either dodges the question or give dodgy answers” then asks the PM to correct the record. 

Mr Johnson says  there are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty, and says the Government is “massively” increasing Universal Credit. 

He adds the “single biggest determinent of a child’s success is if they go to school”. 

11:15 AM

PMQs: Starmer and Johnson clash over NHS app

Sir Keir Starmer then turns to the app, which was at one point described as “critical”, before being “downplayed”. 

Boris Johnson asks if he can name a single country in the world that has a functioning app. 

The Prime Minister says “I left the opposition slightly floundering” by his points about the test and trace system, and claims Labour “needs to get behind test and trace and support it” so we can “take the country together”. 

Sir Keir then points to Germany, which has had 12m downloads of an app. He then points back to various claims that ministers have made and asks when it will be released. 

Mr Johnson repeats his claim that “no country in the world has a working contact tracing app”, saying the Labour leader is “completely wrong”.

He claims “we have always been clear that it would be the icing on the cake”.

11:11 AM

PMQs: Starmer and Johnson clash on local lockdowns

Sir Keir Starmer says he does “support the next stage of the operation” but says the Prime Minister should “welcome challenge that could save lives”. 

He claims that local authorities do not have the powers or resources to tackle local outbreaks. Some are also confused as to what local lockdown means because of a lack of guidance.

But the Prime Minister says “everyone understands” that when there are local outbreaks – in Western Super Mare – we have “a very effective cluster busting operation” which is designed to keep outbreaks under control. 

Local councils understand how to do it, he claims. 

“I am not going to pretend to him or the House this thing is beaten, or the virus has gone away,” he adds. Local councils will be supported, however. 

11:08 AM

PMQs: Keir Starmer challenges Prime Minister over ‘big problem’ with track and trace

Sir Keir Starmer says he “wasn’t asking about those who have gone into the system” but about the two-thirds of people with Covid-19 who haven’t been contacted. 

He claims the Prime Minister has been making “big promises” and repeats his claim that there is a “big problem” and asks what the Government’s strategy is for closing the gap. 

Boris Johnson says he is “misleading on the key point” – although is challenged on this phrase by the Speaker. The number of people with Covid is “an estimate”. 

He says the system is contacting “the vast majority” and attacks the Labour leader for “yo-yoing back into a position of opposition”, having supported them yesterday.

Sir Keir says the two figures come from the slides used at press conferences.  

11:05 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson defends track and trace system

Boris Johnson is making his second Commons appearance in two days with PMQs.

Sir Keir Starmer starts by asking about the promised “world beating” track and trace system. “I do recognise the hard work has gone into this, but if two-thirds of people are not being reached there is a bog problem,” he says. 

Mr Johnson says the Labour leader must have been “stunned” by the success of the system, which has so far contacted 87,000 people. 

“I don’t think he would have predicted that a few weeks ago,” Mr Johnson says. 

10:59 AM

Liaison Committee chair Bernard Jenkin calls for coronavirus inquiry ‘now’

Bernard Jenkin, the chair of the Liaison Committee, has called for an urgent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus. 

Mr Jenkin, who was nominated for the role by Number 10 in a highly contentious move earlier this year, told the BBC that the inquiry could be carried out by his committee or a purpose-created body like the Banking Standards Commission chaired by Andrew Tyrie, which looked into the financial crash of 2008. 

“It’ll be up to the Government to decide how they conduct it but we do need a public lessons learning exercise now in order to be better prepared for what’s in the future and for the public to have confidence that the Government will be better prepared,” he said. 

10:49 AM

After the hibernation, the contradictions as new rules come wrapped in red tape

It was the moment Britain had been waiting for almost as eagerly as a Prime Minister whose fledgling premiership has been infected by a pandemic that nearly cost him his life. 

Yet, as Camilla Tominey writes, Tuesday’s cumbersome new set of dos and don’ts only served to add a touch of the crazies to the UK’s supposed “new normal”. 

10:44 AM

Air bridges will require other countries to have track and trace, says Transport Secretary 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a key consideration in agreeing travel corridors with other countries is whether they have a test and trace system up to the standard of the UK’s.

He told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “Do they have something equivalent to our NHS Test and Trace system? The test and trace system is enormous here now. We’ve got the capacity to test far more than is immediately required but that would allow for any uplift anywhere.

“Does the country we’re talking to have that kind of capability?”

10:22 AM

Wife of former minister found dead at family home

The wife of Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Owen Paterson has been found dead at their family home, the MP has said.

In a statement, Mr Paterson, the MP for North Shropshire, said her death had come as a “terrible shock” to the family.

“It is with great sadness that I must inform you that my wife, Rose, has been found dead at our family home in Shropshire,” he said.

“Rose and I were married for 40 happy years. She was a wonderful, caring wife, mother and grandmother.

“Her death has come as a terrible shock to us all. I would ask the media to respect the privacy of myself and my family at this extremely difficult time.”

Mrs Paterson, the daughter of the fourth Viscount Ridley, was the chairman of Aintree Racecourse. The couple married in 1980 and had two sons and a daughter.

10:20 AM

Government considering Victoria station memorial to ticket controller

Grant Shapps has said he is look
ing into a permanent memorial to transport workers, which could be erected at Victoria station to commemorate the ticket controller Belly Mujinga. 

Ms Mujinga who died with Covid-19 on 5 April, was working at the London terminus when she was spat on by a man claiming to have coronavirus, although a subsequent antibody test suggested he did not. 

Transport workers have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus, with at least London bus workers, including 29 drivers, having died from Covid-19. 

This morning the Transport Secretary told MPs he had spoken with unions and others about creating something “longer term to commemorate transport workers’ extraordinary input and effort in assisting the country at this time of crisis”. 

He said it may be fitting for a “commemorative memorial” to be put up at the station where Ms Mujinga “worked and died”.

Belly Mujinga
Belly Mujinga

10:12 AM

Michael Vaughan: Crackers to call cricket ball a ‘vector of the disease’

Has grassroots cricket been neglected by the Government and the England & Wales Cricket Board? 

As former England captain Michael Vaughan writes in today’s Telegraph, it was crackers for Boris Johnson to say the cricket ball is a “vector of disease”.  

“After the Prime Minister’s announcement I had a very honest and open conversation with Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and he shares my frustration,” writes the batting giant. But there have to be hard questions asked of the ECB. 

10:07 AM

Transport Secretary urges councils to ‘reprioritise road space’ for cyclists and walkers

Grant Shapps has praised local authorities for having “immediately sprung into action” to make cycling easier during lockdown – but said more must be done to maintain that now. 

The Transport Secretary said there was “competition for road space” and the DfT was encouraging local authorities to reprioritise how they think about that space, which would lead to “walking and cycling as the first two, and possibly e-scooters as well… rather than just think about how we construct these things around the car”. 

10:00 AM

Traditional car’s ‘days are numbered’ says Transport Secretary

The Transport Secretary has said traditional cars are on their way out, as the country moves towards greener forms of travelling 

Grant Shaps told MPs of the Transport Committee: “I am sorry internal combustion fans… I think its days are overall likely to be numbered. There are better ways to propel cars.”

“This is no sacrifice… I am not in any way anti car,” he added, pointing to the £27bn work being carried out to improve roads. “I just think if we are going to drive, let’s make it clean. We don’t need to be pumping out the CO2, the nitrogen, we can just do this a lot better and still be able to get around as the country begins to move again and the economy restarts.”

09:51 AM

Birmingham shopping centre evacuated because of ‘man armed with machete’

The Bullring shopping centre had to be briefly evacuated as a man was arrested on suspicion of having a machete.

Workers and shoppers were ordered out of the complex in Birmingham city centre as police and other emergency services arrived at about 8.30am on Wednesday.

In a statement issued about an hour after the alert was first triggered, the centre’s owners said: “We can confirm that the centre has now fully reopened.

“Thank you for your patience.”

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: “The Bullring was evacuated briefly this morning after a 28-year-old man, armed with a machete, was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon.

“A bag left in the centre was initially thought to be suspicious, but found to contain toiletries, and the shopping centre has now reopened.”

09:09 AM

Sadiq Khan floats plan to relocate from City Hall in bid to fill £500m black hole

London’s government could move from City Hall as part of an effort to fill a £500m black hole in the capital’s finances.

Mayor Sadiq Khan has set out plans to move to The Crystal building in the Royal Docks in east London, which is already owned by the Greater London Authority (GLA), with a lease break due in December 2021. 

The move could save £55m over five years, and help support “the regeneration” of the Royal Docks, he claims. 

The Crystal move could save £55m
The Crystal move could save £55m

Mr Khan said: “In normal times, it would be standard practice for any mayor to consider utilising the lease break-clause on the City Hall building that becomes possible this year, and to view it as an opportunity to ensure Londoners were getting the best value for money.

“In the current financial context, and with the looming black hole in London’s public finances, it would be negligent not to do so.” 

Notice to activate the break option has to be given this year and a decision is needed by September so there is time to plan and carry out the move.

Mr Khan has launched a formal six-week consultation on the proposal with the London Assembly, unions and officials.

City Hall was famously dubbed the "glass gonad" by Boris Johnson.
City Hall was famously dubbed the “glass gonad” by Boris Johnson.

08:54 AM

Jeremy Hunt calls on PM to ‘whack the Covid moles’ with weekly tests

Jeremy Hunt and Labour are calling for NHS staff to undergo weekly testing for coronavirus in order to ensure backlogs of waiting lists can be safely cleared.

Figures published by NHS England and shared by Labour revealed that of the 840,742 people currently waiting for diagnostic tests, more than half of those – 468,622 – have been waiting more than six weeks.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “It’s now urgent ministers bring forward a plan to tackle the backlog in non-Covid-19 care. A vital component would be the introduction of weekly routine testing of all NHS staff to keep them and patients safe from Covid-19 while receiving treatment.” 

Mr Hunt has backed this approach, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph that “mass routine testing helps the NHS to get back to its normal capacity by making it safer for patients and staff”.

He wrote: “The Prime Minister has described test and trace as ‘whack a mole’.  It is time to whack the Covid moles in our health and care system by committing to weekly testing of all staff to keep them and their patients safe.”

You can read his article here.

08:33 AM

One in 10 London firms permanently shut premises because of lockdown

The Prime Minister’s plan to restart the economy will have come too late for some, with new research suggesting one in 10 businesses in London have permanently closed their premises because of coronavirus. 

The London Chamber of Commerce said nine per cent of 500 business leaders polled revealed they have already permanently closed physical premises, while one in seven will keep working from home completely even after lockdown. 

This poses big questions for the future of the capital. 

London Chamber of Commerce chief executive Richard Burge said: “Covid-19 accelerated the realisation of many companies that their business can truly operate remotely.

“These results reflect that many are now recognising there may be a longer-term opportunity in either totally, or partially, reducing their need for an office base.

“If it transpires, it would raise future questions about land availability and usage in parts of the capital.”

One in four firms who have furloughed staff said that, unless their business’s conditions improve by the end of the scheme, they will have to make those people redundant. 

A worker cleans an empty street by newly built office buildings and commercial properties at the redeveloped Royal Albert Dock
A worker cleans an empty street by newly built office buildings and commercial properties at the redeveloped Royal Albert Dock

08:15 AM

Lift lockdown on entire city to trial mass testing, scientists suggest

Scientists have proposed lifting lockdown completely for a “medium-sized city” to see if coronavirus can be controlled through weekly testing of residents.

A paper published in the Royal Society Open Science journal argues that a demonstration study is needed to see if such regular testing, strict household quarantine, contact tracing and mobile phone apps could end the Covid-19 epidemic.

Researchers suggest large-scale testing of city residents could be done through examining saliva samples, like the test being trialled in Southampton.

The paper, authored by Julian Peto, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and 10 other experts, said 10 million tests per day are needed for weekly testing of the UK population.

“A facility with about 100 staff could probably do 50,000 tests per day. If so, a city of 350,000 people could be served by a single laboratory.”

Researchers said no government has considered this option as it was assumed it would not be technically possible, but they argued that the technology could be implemented “even in low resource rural settings”.

08:08 AM

Robert Jenrick acted ‘in all propriety’ over Westferry development, says Alok Sharma

Alok Sharma has said questions over Robert Jenrick’s involvement in the Westferry development have already been answered and “that should be the end of the matter”. 

Labour is seeking to force the Government to release all documents relating to the controversial approval by Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, for the major property development involving Tory Party donor and former media mogul Richard Desmond.

But the Business Secretary told the Today programme: “The key thing is how you act and that you act in all propriety. And that is precisely what the Housing Secretary has done.

“He has answered questions on this and I really do think that should be the end of the matter.”

Pressed on the issue, the Cabinet minister added: “I think the key issue is that you follow the rules and you ensure you do that in absolutely the right way.

“That is what the Housing Secretary has done – as I’ve said, he has answered questions on this and I am not sure I can really add any more to this discussion.”

08:00 AM

Dancing, singing and raising your voices ruled out under new guidance

Businesses have been told not to play loud music or broadcasts that might encourage customers to dance, sing, chant or raise their voices to “mitigate the risk of aerosol transmission”. 

As well as live performances including drama, comedy and music still be banned, the official guidance says people should “avoid environments that require you to raise your voice to communicate with anyone outside your household”. 

“All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other,” it adds. 

“You should take similar steps to prevent other close contact activities – such as communal dancing.”

The guidance recommends dance floors be “repurposed” for customer seating instead.  

07:55 AM

Socially distanced queues may pose ‘new security risks’, businesses warned

Guidance for hotels and tourist attractions has also stressed the need for safe queuing to combat the risk of potential terror attacks.

With the need for social distancing, the guidance suggests using outdoor premises or car parks for queuing.

“Whilst dense crowding is unlikely if social distancing is operating correctly, the revised layout of spaces may present new security risks, particularly where multiple queues are created,” the Government guidance states.

The document suggests routing queues behind street signs, bollards or bike racks to provide a “visual deterrent and delay” or installing “robust barriers”.

It also suggests “reducing the opportunities for vehicles (including potentially hostile vehicles) to interact with pedestrians”.

07:54 AM

Hotel guests encouraged to wear masks on corridors and not use lifts

Hotels and B&Bs are allowed to open shared toilets, but customers cannot used shared showers. They are also being asked to encourage guests to wear masks on communal corridors and “minimising lift usage”. 

Dormitory rooms will be closed, as will other indoor shared facilities such as kitchens or TV rooms.

Outdoor accommodation such as campsites will be allowed to reopen shared showering facilities. 

07:42 AM

Customers can’t shelter from rain indoors, pubs told 

Pubs and cafes have been told to implement contingency plans for Britain’s notoriously unpredictable weather, with official guidelines warning that customers will not be able to shelter from downpours inside unless they can keep two metres (or ‘one-metre-plus’) from other people. 

Hospitality should be “planning for maintaining social distancing … in the event of adverse weather conditions,” the guidance warns, “being clear that customers cannot seek shelter indoors unless social distancing can be maintained.”

Meanwhile toilets should be cleaned more frequently and kept “well ventilated”, with some venues advised to run a “one in, one out” system.

Staff will be told to keep “one metre plus” from customers when taking orders. Customer
s are not allowed to lean on counters and should remain at their tables, using contactless when ordering and paying. 

Businesses should provide disposable condiments or clean non-disposable condiment containers after each use.

And there will be no live music – not a surprise, given that theatres and concert halls are being allowed to open only on the basis that there are no live performances. 

07:38 AM

Government must act to avoid ‘cataclysm’ for gyms

Mark Sesnan, chief executive of Greenwich Leisure, said the Government needed to act soon to avoid “cataclysm” for public leisure facilities.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “I think there is a big danger that if this goes on much longer, the light at the end of the tunnel was to be able to open from July 6 – someone has just switched that light off.

“They need to turn it back on again fairly quickly if we are to avoid the kind of cataclysm because there is no money coming in and the expenses are still going out.

“The furlough scheme is great and we thank the Chancellor for that but staff is only half our costs.

“At the moment, it is still rescue-able but much longer and I think the country will have a problem nationwide with public facilities struggling to ever reopen.”

07:22 AM

Sharma: Businesses have legal duty to keep staff safe

Alok Sharma has said there is a “legal duty to keep staff safe” – but not explained what pubs and other hospitality firms should do if customers start breaking social distancing rules. 

Speaking to the Today programme this morning, the Business Secretary said employees can get in touch with the Health and Safety Executive or local authorities if they feel unsafe. He noted there would be spot checks to ensure people were following the rules, backed up with enforcement orders and a maximum two year prison sentence. 

He said people should still be trying to observe the two metre rule where possible. 

But neither during this interview, nor a similar one with BBC Breakfast, did he explain what should happen if (or when) customers start breaking the rules as they start to relax while drinking with friends or family. 

Asked what he was looking forward to, Mr Sharma told Breakfast he wanted “a pint of ale”, but said he wouldn’t name the brand as he didn’t want to “jinx it”.

07:15 AM

Health leaders warn of ‘real risk of second wave’ as PM hails end to ‘hibernation’

The Prime Minister’s plans to end the “hibernation” and bring the “bustle” back to the country were initially welcomed across the board – but there are questions being asked on both sides. 

In an open letter to the leaders of all the UK political parties published in the British Medical Journal, the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing have called for a “rapid and forward-looking assessment” of the state of national preparedness in the event of a renewed flare-up.

“While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk,” they said.

“Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain.

“The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide-ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase.”

They called for the creation of a cross-party commission with a “constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach,” to be established to develop practical recommendations for action based on what had been learned so far.

07:01 AM

Labour demands answers from Jenrick over ‘cash for favours’ row

Labour will demand that the Government publishes documents relating to the Housing Secretary’s controversial decision to approve a major property development involving a Tory Party donor.

The party is using an opposition day debate to stage a vote requiring the Government to release all correspondence involving ministers and their special advisers concerning the Westferry Printworks Development in east London.

Steve Reed, shadow housing secretary, told the Today programme there are “concerns the Secretary of State abused his powers” saying “it really does look like we have a cash for favours situation on our hands”.

He added: “We fear he [overturned his own decision] so he wouldn’t have to reveal the true reasons he took the decision”, saying the “integrity of the entire planning system is at risk”.

Although the Government is unlikely to be defeated there is concern that, so close to the Cummings row, the PM could be terminally damaged by keeping Mr Jenrick onside. The Cabinet minister – who denies any impropriety – drew fire earlier this year for his decision to travel to a second property after lockdown began.  

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