June 19, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Russians tried to interfere in 2019 election by promoting document touted by Jeremy Corbyn

Russians tried to influence the UK’s General Election in December, by amplifying the leaked US trade deal documents touted by Jeremy Corbyn during the campaign, the Government believes. 

“Extensive analysis” has led the Government to conclude that “it is almost certain” Russians tried to meddle in the 2019 vote, Dominic Raab has said in a written ministerial statement.

Documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were “illicitly acquired” before the election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit, the Foreign Secretary explained.  The Telegraph revealed such concerns back in December.

“When these gained no traction, further attempts were made to promote the illicitly acquired material online in the run up to the General Election,” he said.  “Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the General Election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable. It is, and will always be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections.”

The matter is now subject to a criminal investigation and the Intelligence and Security Committee has been made aware of the matter. 

“The Government reserves the right to respond with appropriate measures in the future,” Mr Raab added. 

The statement was made shortly after an independent committee said it would publish the long-awaited report into alleged Russian interference in the 2017 general election and the 2016 Brexit vote.

The Intelligence and Security Committee voted unanimously for it to be released before Parliament’s summer break next week.

Separately,  Russia has been accused by the Government of trying to steal Britain’s research into a Covid-19 vaccine in a state-sponsored cyber attack.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) told Boris Johnson it had the “highest level of confidence” the Kremlin was behind the “ongoing” attack, which was also verified by the US and Canada.

Follow the latest updates below.

Table of Contents

01:41 PM

Sir Patrick Vallance masks up for MPs

Sir Patrick Vallance has started giving evidence to MPs of the Science and Technology Committee – initially with a face mask. 

He takes it off after establishing they are all two metres apart. Strong signal, after a few days of mixed ones from ministers. 

01:36 PM

UK Parliament restoration project is not time ‘to create second Versailles’, says Rees-Mogg

The project to restore the UK Parliament must not be treated as an opportunity to “create a second Versailles”, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.

The Commons Leader told MPs there can be “no blank cheque” for the project.

He said: “No-one here today will forget for a moment that we are discussing this matter in the midst of a global pandemic which is placing great strain on the nation’s purse-strings.

“Today’s debate is a chance to set out our expectations in this context and this should be a limited project to replace failing mechanical and engineering equipment, not an opportunity to create a second Versailles.

“There can be no blank cheque for this work which is why it is so important that the outlined business case will be fully costed.”T

01:32 PM

Labour condemns Russian interference in 2019 election

Labour has condemned alleged attempts by Russia to influence the 2019 election – but failed to acknowledge its own role in the matter. 

The Government is “almost certain” that Russian actors “amplified” leaked US trade deal documents touted by Jeremy Corbyn during the campaign, according to a statement issued by Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, earlier today.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We condemn any attempt by Russia, or any foreign power, to interfere in our country’s democratic processes.

“Labour stands ready to work cross-party to protect our nation’s security.

“That includes in our response to the publication of the long-awaited report by the Intelligence Security Committee on the Russian threat to the UK.”

Jeremy Corbyn brandishes documents talks during the campaign which were "amplified" by Russian actors
Jeremy Corbyn brandishes documents talks during the campaign which were “amplified” by Russian actors

01:25 PM

Shamima Begum ruling serves as ‘lightning rod’ for terrorists, warns Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid has warned that allowing Shamima Begum back into the UK would “create a national security risk that cannot be fully mitigated”. 

The former Chancellor and Home Secretary, who revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds last year, said the ruling serves as a “lightning rod for both Islamist and far-right extremists”. 

01:17 PM

Government may be trying to ‘pre-empt’ Russia report with two statements, says Grieve

Dominic Grieve has said it is “certainly possible” that the Government it trying to “preempt” the publication of the delayed Russia report next week by making two back-to-back statements about Russian interference today. 

Dominic Raab has published a statement saying the Government is “almost certain” that Russia tried to influence the 2019 election, while the National Cyber Security Council said it believes Russia tried to hack vaccine research centres. 

But the former attorney general told Sky News there was “nothing new about this”, saying Russia has been seeking information and to spread disinformation “for a considerable time”. 

It was in keeping with “Russia’s strategy”, he added. 

Asked about the statement regarding the 2019, he said it “seems to exactly show Russia’s strategy”, which is to “put people off balance… It is classic Russian tactics and I am not surprised.”

The Russian report will “shed some light on Russian activity in earlier elections” he said. 

He says he has never understood why the report was delayed, and would by now be “outdated”. It would have been useful to be published before the 2019 election, Mr Grieve said.

“The explanation they offered at the time was simply not credible… I don’t know what their motive was.

“it may just have been a fit of pique by individuals in Number 10,” he added, suggesting they may not have wanted his name on the report, suggesting it was “very shallow” if so. 

01:01 PM

Breaking: Russians attacked British vaccine research centres, NCSC says

Russia has been accused by the Government of trying to steal Britain’s research into a Covid-19 vaccine in a state-sponsored cyber attack.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) told Boris Johnson it had the “highest level of confidence” the Kremlin was behind the “ongoing” attack, which was also verified by the US and Canada.

Both Oxford University and Imperial College London, the two British teams trying to develop a vaccine, are understood to have been targeted. Security sources refused to say whether any attempts to steal information had been successful.

The NCSC said the hack was part of an ongoing campaign of “malicious activity” that began in around February or March when coronavirus became an international pandemic.  

Read the full story here.

12:51 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street defends race disparity appointment 

Downing Street defended the appointed of Tony Sewell to lead the racial disparity work, despite his previous claim that evidence of the existence of institutional racism was “flimsy”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The PM’s view is that he has asked the commission to examine inequality in the UK across the whole population and he is very pleased to have assembled a group of talented and diverse commissioners who each bring a wealth of experience from across a range of important sectors.

“In terms of Dr Sewell CBE, he has supported many young people from diverse backgrounds into Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.

“The PM knows very well his work and how it has improved access to education across London.

“The PM is confident that he shares his commitment to maximising opportunity for all.”

12:47 PM

Government ‘riding roughshod over Scottish powers’ claims Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP’s opposition to a UK-wide regulatory framework is about preventing central Government from “riding roughshod over the powers of the Scottish Parliament,” Nicola Sturgeon has said. 

The subject was debated in Westminster today, leading to Ian Blackford being rebuked for shouting at Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary (12:38pm).

Speaking during her daily press conference, Ms Sturgeon said the proposals “effectively would allow the UK Government to decide issues of food standards or consumer standards, environmental standards that right now are decisions for the Scottish Parliament”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Retrospectively that could have meant the Scottish Parliament not being able to legislate for minimum pricing for alcohol, and not being able to stop GM crops.

“These are important issues of principle and it is about the ability of democratically elected Parliament of Scotland to take decisions in the powers we have, based on what we consider to be right for Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that Scotland had seen its first coronavirus-related death in eight days. 

12:43 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street defens Test and Trace

Downing Street has defended the NHS Test and Trace programme following the release of new data that suggests it is not reaching the minimum level required to be effective. 

This morning it emerged that only three-quarters of people are being reached through the Government’s Test and Trace system. The threshold for the system to be effective is 80 per cent, Government advisers on Sage have previously said. 

But speaking today the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Fewer people have been testing positive as the infection rate comes down, so we are naturally seeing less contacts being identified.”

Boris Johnson claimed on Wednesday that the system was “as good as or better” than any other in the world.

The PM’s spokesman said: “We set up a test and trace service from scratch and you can expect it to continue to improve in coming weeks.”

12:24 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street ‘bitterly disappointed’ by Shamima Begum ruling

The Government is “bitterly disappointed” by the court’s ruling in the Shamima Begum case, Downing Street said.

This morning senior judges ruled that Ms Begum – one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) – should be allowed to return to the UK to challenge the deprivation of her British citizenship.

Now 20, she travelled to Syria in February 2015 and lived under IS rule for more than three years before she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.

Then-home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds later that month.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Government’s priority is maintaining our national security, and decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are not taken lightly.

“We will always ensure the safety and security of the UK and will not allow anything to jeopardise this.”

The Home Office has said it will apply for permission to appeal.

12:11 PM

Russian report to be published next week, says newly-formed Intelligence and Security Committee

The Intelligence and Security Committee has unanimously agreed to publish the long-delayed report into Russian interference in British democracy before summer recess next week. 

This morning was the first meeting of the committee since before last winter’s election, after veteran MP Julian Lewis orchestrated a coup to block Number 10’s preferred candidate Chris Grayling from becoming chair.

The report, into Russian interference in British democracy, was compiled under former chair Dominic Grieve last spring. The House of Commons rises for recess next Wednesday (July 22).

While there have been calls for the Government to publish the report for many months, multiple backbenchers said this was more of an opportunity to “give No 10 a bloody nose”.

One senior MP told Politics Live it was proof of Parliament “fighting back against an overpowering executive” at Number 10, with Downing Street responding by expelling the veteran MP from the party. 

A former minister said it was a critical turning point in scrutiny, although stressed the infamous Russia report was “a red herring”. 

Another said: “Personally I think [removing the whip] is a brave move. No 10 is disliked by rank and file… Julian is in the ERG and they are tribal, and have all worked with Labour to stop EU measures in the past. I think No 10 may come to regret it.”

A third high-ranking backbencher said: “Folk are mostly just laughing at Grayling and the incompetence of of No 10”.

Another said the coup “shows that No 10 can’t have their own way on everything. It shows up the weakness in this administration”, although insisted Mr Grayling was “well-liked” among colleagues. 

11:52 AM

Business Secretary insists there will be no change to UK’s food standards because of trade deals

Alok Sharma has stressed the Government “will not be signing up for trade deals that will compromise” the UK’s food standards.

Asked by Labour MP Clive Efford about chlorine washed chicken, the Business Secretary says this practice is illegal and says ministers will do nothing that might affect “our high animal protection, our animal welfare and food safety standards”.

Mr Sharma added: “We are a world leader in these areas and that is not going to change”.

11:38 AM

Ian Blackford told to ‘desist’ after shouting at Business Secretary

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, has been told to “desist” from shouting at the Business Secretary. 

During a debate on on the post-Brexit shape of the UK’s internal market, Mr Blackford accused the Government of seeking a “race to the bottom on standards” which would “destroy Scotland’s world class food and drink” reputation. 

Alok Sharma responded to Mr Blackford saying he “certainly does not understand business in Scotland and certainly does not understand the people of Scotland in this issue”. 

At this point deputy speaker Nigel Evans was forced to intervene, telling Mr Blackford “I can hear what you’re shouting – please, desist”.

 I can’t work out what he is saying – answers on a postcode (or better yet, in the comments section below).

11:27 AM

Tony Sewell to chair race disparity commission

Tony Sewell has been named as the chair of a government commission looking into race disparity in the UK. 

The formation of the new body was announced in June by Boris Johnson in wake of anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd.

The commission is expected to report back to the government by Christmas with its findings.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Tony has supported many young people from diverse backgrounds into STEM careers. I know well how his work has improved access to education across London, and I am confident that he shares my commitment to maximising opportunity for all.

“The Commission will be inclusive, undertaking research and inviting submissions where necessary. It will set a positive agenda for change.”

Dr Sewell added: “I have spent my entire career in education striving to help all students achieve their full potential. I know however that inequality exists, and I am committed to working with my fellow commissioners to understand why. “

11:22 AM

Alok Sharma rules out devolved subsidy controls

Alok Sharma has said the UK will adopt a single state aid regime after leaving the EU, saying subsidy control has “never been a devolved matter”.

The Business Secretary said the Government would “clarify in law” the fact that internal markets are not a matter for devolved administrations.

He told the Commons: “The Government has been clear that after the end of transition, the UK will have its own domestic subsidy control regime,” adding ministers would “consult widely”. 

Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon claimed withholding post-Brexit state aid powers would represent a “full scale assault on devolution”, warning the Prime Minister it would increase support for Scottish independence.  

The UK has had to adhere to European Union rules on state aid during its membership of the bloc. But once the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of this year Britain will be free to set its own policy on subsidising private companies. 

Regaining the ability to act unilaterally on state aid is viewed by many in the Government as one of the leading benefits of splitting from Brussels. 

Number 10 wants to keep the powers for the UK Government to exercise but the Scottish and Welsh administrations believe they must be devolved. 

11:11 AM

Julian Lewis ‘playing ducks and drakes’ with Labour over Intelligence committee

Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused Julian Lewis is “playing ducks and drakes” with opposition MPs – and failed to reject rumours that Downing Street is still planning to have the new Intelligence and Security Committee chair ejected from the role. 

Conservative Peter Bone accused Downing Street of having a “huge hissy fit” over Julian Lewis becoming Intelligence and Security Committee chairman.

The MP for Wellingborough said Mr Lewis was “exceptionally well qualified” and will do an “excellent job”.

He told the Commons: “However, some in Number 10 seem to be having a huge hissy fit about the decision. Will the Leader of the House confirm that he will not bring forward a motion to remove [Mr Lewis] from the ISC?”

But Commons Leader Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “[Mr Lewis] was playing ducks and drakes with the Labour Party and that is why the whip has been withdrawn.”

Julian Lewis was playing "ducks and drakes" with Labour, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
Julian Lewis was playing “ducks and drakes” with Labour, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

11:05 AM

Act more quickly and share more data in future local lockdowns, Starmer says

Keir Starmer has claimed the Government had failed to act quickly enough in imposing Leicester’s local lockdown, and urged ministers to share data with “people on the ground”.

The lack of data has been repeatedly criticised by city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, who said information was only available now showing that 90 per cent of the population needn’t have suffered the ongoing restrictions.

Asked what lessons could be learned from Leicester, the Labour leader responded: “Two big lessons. Act more quickly – the Government delayed 11 days between first announcing that there was a problem in Leicester and actually going into lockdown.

“The second thing is – share the data. People on the ground… weren’t getting the data shared with them in a timely manner.

“Both of those things need to improve for Leicester and for anywhere else that might go into a local lockdown.

“This is impacting on people’s lives. We owe it to them to act more quickly and to share the data so we can properly identify where the real problems are.

“That’s a lesson for Leicester and it’s a lesson for every other area that might go into lockdown.”

Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, wears a face visor during a visit in Nottingham
Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, wears a face visor during a visit in Nottingham

11:00 AM

Starmer ‘didn’t know’ about Intelligence Committee coup

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he had no idea about Julian Lewis’ plans to out-maneuvere Chris Grayling as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, despite the coup involving opposition MPs. 

Dr Lewis has been expelled from the party for having worked with Labour and SNP MPs to secure their votes in yesterday’s committee election. 

Speaking during a visit to Nottinghamshire today Sir Keir said he “didn’t know what was going to happen”.

“It’s an independent committee, they choose their own chair and they obviously chose to reject the imposition by the Prime Minister of his preferred chair on them.

“That’s a matter for them. We should respect the decision they came to.”

Sir Keir added: “It’s a very important committee looking at issues of national security and intelligence – key issues.

“It’s for them to choose their chair. We should respect that, not complain about it.”

10:38 AM

Government criticised over ‘lack of transparency’ on spending claims

Paul Johnson, the well-respected boss of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has crunched the numbers from last week’s mini-Budget and says it is “not quite what it seems”.

The economist says “all that extra money…. represents an increase of precisely zero this year on Budget plans”. 

It is in fact “a reallocation from one set of projects to another”, he claims.

“This is not a complaint about policy,” Mr Johnson adds. “It is sensible to reallocate money especially at present time. It is a complaint about lack of clarity and transparency. It should not take us [at the IFS] a week to work out what is going on. In part mea culpa, but really more transparency please.”

The details are linked to below. 

10:32 AM

Test and Trace failing to meet threshold for effectiveness, official data reveals

Three-quarters of people are being reached through the Government’s Test and Trace system, according to data published moments ago, falling below the threshold for it to be effective. 

A total of 34,990 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England had their cases transferred to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system since launch,  with 76.4 per cent reached while 7,124 20.4 per cent were not reached.

A further 1,124 people (3.2 per cent) could not be reached because their communication details had not been provided.

But Sage has said that at least 80 per cent of the close contacts of anyone infected with Covid-19 must be traced and isolated for the system to be effective. 

Since the launch of Test and Trace, 155,889 close contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have been reached through the tracing system and asked to self-isolate.

This is 84.1 per cent out of a total of 185,401 people identified as close contacts. The remaining 29,512 people (15.9 per cent) were identified as close contacts, but were not reached.

10:23 AM

Michael Gove blasts SNP ‘myth-making’ over power grab claims

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has denied the Government’s “internal market” plan represented a power grab by Westminster from the Scottish Government.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford yesterday warned a new oversight body for Scotland “will not be accepted”. He said that decisions made in the Scottish Parliament must be upheld and accused the government of “ignoring the wishes of the Scottish people”.

But today Mr Gove said: “No single SNP MP, MSP, councillor or activist can point to a single power currently exercised by the Scottish Parliament which is being taken away.

“There is no power grab, there’s simply an example of SNP myth-making which this Internal Market Bill finally puts to bed.”

10:19 AM

Gove dodges question about Julian Lewis – and is picture in a mask

Michael Gove has dodged questions about why Julian Lewis was expelled from the Conservative party yesterday, after he won the nomination for the Intelligence and Security Committee. 

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves asked her counterpart to “explain or justify” the move which she described as a punishment “for the crime of being elected as a chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee”.

Ms Reeves added: “”Losing the whip used to be the result of serious misdemeanour, not independent thought. What does this say about the Government’s approach to expertise and scrutiny?”

Mr Gove said: “The Intelligence and Security Committee’s membership is chosen by this House, an election was appropriately taken place, but whipping matters are quite properly matters for the respective whips’ offices of our parties and not for those like myself who exercise a different constitutional role.”

Mr Gove was pictured wearing a face mask for the first time this morning, after he was at the centre of a row over mixed messages ahead of new measures making them mandatory. 

Michael Gove wearing a face mask this morning
Michael Gove wearing a face mask this morning

09:51 AM

Breaking: Russia report to be published before summer recess

The Intelligence and Security Committee has unanimously agreed this morning that it will publish the Report on Russia prepared by its predecessor before the house rises for the summer recess. 

This morning was the first meeting of the committee since before last winter’s election, after veteran MP Julian Lewis orchestrated a coup to block Number 10’s preferred candidate Chris Grayling from becoming chair.

The report, into Russian interference in British democracy, was compiled under former chair Dominic Grieve last spring. 

While there have been calls for the Government to publish the report for many months, multiple backbenchers have suggested it is a “red herring” when it comes to Dr Lewis’ coup, which they see as more of an opportunity to “give No 10 a bloody nose”.

09:45 AM

Listen:  Why are Conservative voters more likely to oppose mandatory face masks?

The move to make face covering compulsory in shops has caused anger – online, at least. And a YouGov poll suggests that those who oppose the move are more likely to be Conservative voters and Brexiteers.

The Telegraph’s Parliamentary Sketchwriter, Michael Deacon joins Theodora Louloudis to discuss why decision goes against Boris Johnson’s own libertarian principles and what leaving the EU might have to do with wearing a face mask.

Coronavirus podcast 15/07/20 - Why are Conservative voters more likely to oppose mandatory face covering? (doesn't autoupdate)
Coronavirus podcast 15/07/20 – Why are Conservative voters more likely to oppose mandatory face covering? (doesn’t autoupdate)

09:40 AM

Julian Lewis coup ‘amplifies’ already weakening discipline

Reaction from the Tory benches is coming in thick and fast this morning, after Julian Lewis orchestrated a coup against Number 10. 

Dr Lewis nominated himself as chair of the Intelligence and Select Committee at the last minute, winning the contest five votes to four, thanks to support from Labour and the SNP. He was expelled from the party in response, a move he has described as “strange”. 

One Tory MP has told Politics Live the affair “leaves the chief whip looking like an ineffectual bully”. He noted the same goes for Dominic Cummings and the Number 10 operation as a whole. 

Another warned: “Discipline was already weakening – this amplifies it.”

What do you think? Have your say in the poll below

09:25 AM

Sturgeon will not ‘shy away’ from border controls to control coronavirus

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not “shy away” from imposing a quarantine on the border between England and Scotland if required to keep coronavirus cases out of the nation. 

The First Minister told ITV last night that forcing travellers from the rest of the UK to self-isolate was “not something I want to do if we can avoid that”. 

However, she added: “But I am not going to shy away from doing anything that I think is necessary and appropriate and effective in protecting people in Scotland from a virus that we know now to our painful cost can take life and also as we are increasingly learning can do a lot of long-term health damage to people.”

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly refused to rule out imposing quarantine restrictions on English arrivals, despite opposition from tourism businesses that are heavily reliant on visitors from south of the border.

09:11 AM

 DfT buys 27-acre site in Kent for post-Brexit ‘lorry park’

The Government has purchased a 27-acre site in Kent which opponents fear will be turned into a post-Brexit “lorry park” to deal with major tailbacks caused by border checks.

In a letter to residents, transport minister Rachel Maclean said it could be used “as a permanent site for facilities related to future border processes” as well as “a contingency lorry holding area for the particular, foreseeable risk of significant disruption at the end of the transition period.”

Ms Maclean said there was “no intention” to develop the site as a permanent lorry park in the event of “cross-Channel disruption”.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “At the end of this year the UK will become a fully independent country and take back control of our borders.

“This site will form part of our ongoing plans to help ensure the free flow of freight at the border as we make our new start at the end of the transition period.”

09:02 AM

Number 10 made ‘improper’ attempt to name ISC chair, says Julian Lewis

Julian Lewis has said it is “strange” that Number 10 expelled him from the Conservative party after he out-maneuvered Number 10’s “improper” attempt to make Chris Grayling chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. 

In a statement to the PA news agency, the veteran MP  noted that the 2013 Justice and Security Act “explicitly removed the right of the Prime Minister to choose the ISC chairman and gave it to the committee members”.

However yesterday afternoon he received a text “asking me to confirm that I would be voting for the Prime Minister’s preferred candidate for the ISC chair,” Dr Lewis said.

“I did not reply as I considered it an improper request. At no earlier stage did I give any undertaking to vote for any particular candidate.”

The former Defence Committee chair added: “In recent days, the official No 10 spokesman explicitly denied that the Government was seeking to ‘parachute’ a preferred candidate in to the chair, stating that it was a matter for the senior parliamentarians on the committee to decide.

“It is therefore strange to have the whip removed for failing to vote for the Government’s preferred candidate.”

Julian Lewis, the MP at the centre of a political row
Julian Lewis, the MP at the centre of a political row

08:41 AM

Leicester mayor warns of anger if lockdown not lifted from bulk of city

Leicester’s mayor has urged the Government to lift its local lockdown in 90 per cent of the city – and warned that a further two-week extension would leave residents “very angry indeed”.

Speaking ahead of a decision about whether the city’s lockdown will continue, mayor Sir Peter Soulsby told BBC Radio Leicester, the Government had got local people into a “messy situation” by its handling of the restrictions.

“It was quite clear that it was a political decision taken without the advice of Public Health England (PHE) to take us into this lockdown in the first place,” he said. “It’ll be a political decision to let us out and the sooner that political decision is taken, the better.”

Sir Peter said Government data had “finally” told city officials which areas of Leicester were worst affected by coronavirus.

He added: “If only we’d had this information in advance, we’d have been able to do what they’re now doing in Blackburn, which is actually working closely with the communities and avoiding having to be locked down.

“I very much regret the fact that the Government didn’t trust us with this data earlier but I think now we’ve got it, we are the ones well-placed here in the city to make sure that we use it effectively.”

Asked what he hoped Mr Hancock would announce, Sir Peter said: “I hope that he will allow us and trust us at a local level to work with the people of the city – and to recognise that the other 90 per cent of the city that has been locked down, along with the area that is of concern, should be allowed to go free with the rest of the country.”

08:29 AM

Allister Heath: The death of the commuter is an extinction-level event for London

This week, the penny has dropped: we are not returning to our old, carefree ways for the foreseeable future.

Unless something is done and fast, the death of commuting will have immense, permanent consequences for our economy and way of life.

As Allister Heath writes today, its most devastating impact will be on central London, which is facing an extinction-level event.  Britain’s only hope is a suburban renaissance.

08:27 AM

Have your say on: Julian Lewis and the Intelligence and Security Committee

Backbenchers this morning are full of applause for Julian Lewis, after he engineered a coup against Number 10 and Chris Grayling. 

With the Intelligence and Security Committee packed with a Tory majority for the first time in recent history, Number 10 thought their candidate was a shoo-in. But at the last moment, Dr Lewis nominated himself – and won the contest five votes to four, thanks to support from Labour and the SNP.

Tory MPs have told Politics Live that it is the start of parliament “fighting back” against an executive that has been overreaching, suggesting that the decision to remove the whip from Dr Lewis could come back to bite them in the long-run. 

A senior government source said the punishment was for “working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage”. 

But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below:

08:05 AM

Empty plinth ‘best expression’ of country’s state of mind after Black Lives Matter statue removed

The plinth left empty by the removal of two statues in Bristol is “one of the best expressions” of the country’s current state of mind, the city’s mayor has said, saying it is time to “pause and stop to reflect”. 

Bristol City Council this morning removed the sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester which replaced the statue of slave trader Edward Colston after it was put up in the early hours of Wednesday without official permission. 

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees told Radio 4’s Today programme there was no rush to replace either monument.

 “An empty plinth at this moment in time is one of the best expressions of here we are,” he said. “We are a city and country that is searching for answers and doesn’t quite know what the answer is.

It is right that people “pause and stop to reflect who we are and what we stand for,” he added, saying: “We shouldn’t be scared of pausing.”

Mr Rees said: “My job is to hold that space… no individual can just come in and claim to express the will of the people without speaking to the people.”

07:42 AM

Black Lives Matter statue removed by Bristol Council

The sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester which replaced the statue of slave trader Edward Colston has been removed.

Pictures from the scene appeared to show workers at the site at around 5.20am on Thursday. The statue, by Alison Lapper Pregnant artist Marc Quinn, was put up in the early hours of Wednesday.

The sculpture, entitled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid), was installed without the knowledge or consent of Bristol City Council.

Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, told BBC Radio 5 Live that the city was going through an “incredibly delicate time”.

“This is not about taking down a statue of Jen, who is a very impressive woman,” Mr Rees said.

“This is about taking down a statue of a London-based artist who came and put it up without permission.”

Mr Rees said when he spoke to sculptor Marc Quinn, the artist was unaware that the toppling of the Colston statue also caused damage to the grave of Scipio Africanus – a memorial to an enslaved African man.

“If you’re going to do something, you need to do it with awareness and a full knowledge of the context in which you’re doing it,” Mr Rees said.

A Surge of Power was removed early this morning
A Surge of Power was removed early this morning

07:39 AM

Britain must ‘get back to work’, says Business Secretary

Alok Sharma has said “we need to get Britain back to work” in order to stave off further redundancies. 

The number of UK workers on payrolls fell by 649,000 between March and June as the coronavirus crisis claimed another 74,000 jobs last month, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics this morning.

Fending off calls for the Government to offer further support, including sector-specific furlough extensions, the Business Secretary told BBC Breakfast “the best thing the Government can do” is to reopen the economy. 

“We need to get Britain back to work”, he added, later telling Radio 4’s Today programme: “The best thing we can do is continue to open up the economy in a phased manner, a cautious manner, and get businesses up and running again.”

Mr Sharma was speaking ahead of a press conference scheduled for tomorrow, in which Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, is expected to call on office workers to start commuting again. 

It comes after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey warned that while city and town centres remain deserted, the country will be “in a recession for a long time”.

07:32 AM

Business Secretary refuses to be drawn on sacking of Julian Lewis

The Business Secretary has refused to be drawn on the sacking of Julian Lewis after he was nominated as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee yesterday, stressing it is “a matter for the whips”. 

Alok Sharma told the Today programme the chairmanship was “obviously a matter for the committee itself” – despite Number 10’s own admission that Dr Lewis was punished for having worked with Labour MPs against the party. 

Mr Sharma added: “The whole point of that committre is to provide oversight, scrutiny and that will continue. With reference to individuals of the parliamentary party, I can only repeat that is a matter for the whips rather than me.”

Asked if Dr Lewis – a former defence committee chair and Naval reservist – was more qualified than the former Transport Secretary often referred to as “Failing Grayling”, Mr Sharma said: “I am not going to get into a discussion about individuals. There are lots of very good people who have huge experience who are sitting on this committee.

“Now it has been formed, it can move forward with its work.”

07:19 AM

Leicester mayor blasts ‘political’ decison over city lockdown

The Mayor of Leicester has blasted the Government’s “blanket political-led lockdown” of the whole of the city, arguing that more detailed data had clarified where the outbreak was centred.

The Government is analysing “14 days of data” on Covid-19 cases and will make an announcement this afternoon about whether the measures will be eased.

Speaking ahead of the decision Sir Peter Soulsby told Sky News: “Some streets have no issue at all and in other streets nearby you’ve got a major issue, and we needed to know that at the time so we could intervene with pinpoint accuracy.

“Further advice needs to be given, support needs to be given, and we needed to know where that advice and support was needed.”

Asked when he expected to learn whether the local lockdown was being lifted, Sir Peter added: “I expect to hear when the rest of the city, and indeed the rest of the country hears – because frankly we have not been involved in any of the decision-making about this.

“We have been told what the political decisions will be, and we will be told again what the political decision will be – whether or not we come out of it.”

Speaking yesterday Matt Hancock said: “We will look at that on Thursday of this week and make a public announcement as soon as is reasonably possible about whether and if any changes can be made to the situation in Leicester.”

07:13 AM

Boris Johnson ‘author of his own misfortune’ on intelligence coup, says Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has said Boris Johnson had no business interfering in the election of the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

Sir Malcolm, a former ISC chairman, said the Prime Minister had only himself to blame after his favoured candidate Chris Grayling was defeated.

“The Prime Minister is the author of his own misfortune. The Prime Minister has no role in the choice of the chairman of the committee. I think the Prime Minister or his advisers have handled this in an extremely incompetent way,” Sir Malcolm told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme

“If they had succeeded, that destroys the whole purpose of the Intelligence and Security Committee. It is a unique committee. They are the only people who have access to the highest levels of intelligence.

“They need the confidence of the intelligence agencies and of Parliament. If they are thought to be creatures of government they have no authority to do the job that the law requires them to do.

“The Prime Minister either should have known that or should have been advised of that, and whoever is advising him deserves to be stripped of their responsibility at this very moment.”

07:11 AM

Downing Street attacked for ‘trying to manipulate’ intelligence watchdog

A former Cabinet minister has attacked Downing Street for “trying to manipulate”  the chairmanship of Parliament’s intelligence watchdog and branded the expulsion of the man who beat Chris Grayling to the role as “an utter absurdity”.

Julian Lewis managed to out-manoeuvre Mr Grayling and Number 10 to be named chair of the Conservative-dominated Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). But Downing Street removed the whip from Dr Lewis, saying he had “acted with the opposition for his own advantage”.

Former Tory Cabinet minister and chairman of the ISC, Dominic Grieve, told the BBC: “What troubles me about this episode, quite apart from its utter absurdity, and now withdrawing the whip from Julian, who is indeed highly respected, is the mindset it gives about what on earth is going on in Downing Street.

“Why did they try to manipulate this process? They shouldn’t have done.

“The committee can only exist, the committee can only be respected… if it is seen to be non-partisan, and independent.”

A senior Government source said the removal of the whip was because the MP was “working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage”.

Former national security adviser Lord Ricketts warned that Mr Grayling – who earned the nickname “Failing Grayling” during a chequered ministerial career – does not “match up” to the authority and reputation of former chairs.

Following Dr Lewis’s success, Lord Ricketts said the body was now in the “hands of someone with much wider experience of defence and security”.

06:45 AM

Boris Johnson to tell nation to get back to work

Boris Johnson will on Friday tell the nation it is time to get back to work after the Governor of the Bank of England said people’s “fear” of commuting was “holding back the recovery”.

The Prime Minister is concerned that the economy is recovering more slowly than had been hoped after most lockdown restrictions were lifted and wants people to return to their workplaces wherever it is safe to do so.

His worries were echoed by Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, who told Tory MPs on Wednesday that he was shocked by deserted city centres such as London’s.

Mr Bailey set out a three-point plan for saving city centre economies, saying ministers must restore confidence in using public transport, lift all remaining restrictions and get people back to work. He warned that, if the Government did not follow his advice, the country will be “in a recession for a long time”.

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