- Scientific advisers to the government have warned that pub curfews and other new measures in England will fail to stop the exponential spread of Covid-19, as sources confirmed that ministers have departed from their “follow the science” mantra.
- Rishi Sunak has scrapped this autumn’s budget before the announcement of a revamped support package to protect jobs and the economy through a looming winter Covid-19 crisis.
- The UK has recorded 6,178 new coronavirus cases, which is close to the highest ever daily total, recorded in early May. (See 4.22pm.)
- A pledge to hit 500,000 coronavirus tests a day in the UK by the end of next month could be missed as vital chemicals and analysing machines needed to hit the target are “a few weeks” behind schedule, the body representing their manufacturers has said.
- Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of “pretending there isn’t a problem” with the test-and-trace system, as he claimed the prime minister had lost control of the coronavirus crisis.
- HSBC and Goldman Sachs have postponed plans to bring staff back to the office in England after the government’s U-turn on its back-to-work drive.
- A de-facto Brexit border is to be introduced for lorry drivers entering Kent to travel on to the EU, Michael Gove has confirmed.
- Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed that, if the SNP win a majority in the Holyrood elections next year, he would accept that they have a mandate for another independence referendum. He said this in January, before he was Labour leader, but recently he has refused to commit himself on this point in interviews, just stressing his opposition to a second referendum. But Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby eventually got an answer from him after persisting in an interview. Starmer has been anxious to avoid addressing this point now because many in the Scottish Labour party think the party should oppose a second referendum on principle, regardless of what happens in the election next year.
- The economic cost of a no-deal Brexit could be two or three times as bad as the impact of Covid, a report has concluded.
That’s all from me for today. But our coverage continue on our global coronavirus live blog. It’s here.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace says Labour's 'illegal wars' created army prosecutions problem
Eyebrows were raised in the Commons when Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, testily intervened towards the end of a lengthy speech by his opposite number Labour’s John Healey during the second reading debate in the overseas operations bill. The bill is designed to limit the prospect of soldiers being prosecuted for alleged war crimes in the past.
“Much of the mess we are having to come and clean up today is because of your illegal wars,” the senior Conservative said accusingly, prompting questions about whether a defence secretary has previously described the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts in such stark terms.
“That is not worthy of the office,” a surprised Healey responded.
According to the Evening Standard, the proportion of people who say the government has handled the coronavirus crisis well has fallen from 42% to just 32% in the last month. The Ipsos Mori poll also found that the proportion of people saying the government has handled it badly has risen from 40% to 50%.
The Scottish government will redraft controversial hate crime legislation after the justice secretary Humza Yousaf admitted to the Holyrood chamber today that they could curb freedom of speech.
The original proposal caused a storm of objection, in particular over plans to criminalise the act of “stirring up hated”, which opponents said was an attack on freedom of expression and which drew a record number of responses to the consultation and criticism both from the police and writers and artists, including comic Rowan Atkinson, writer Val McDermid and actress Elaine C Smith.
Today Yousaf said the legislation will now make it clear there has to be “intent” to stir up hatred against any group. He said:
I recognise that there is a real risk that if the offences don’t require intent to stir up hatred, people may self-censor their activities through a perception that the operation of this aspect of the offences may be used to prosecute what are entirely legitimate acts of expression.
But Scottish Conservative and Liberal Democrat critics argued that this will not solve the fundamental problem with the legislation.
Reactions were mixed, to say the least, when the prime minister yesterday told MPs that chief constables would soon be able to “draw on military support where required”.
Although his spokesperson later assured reporters that this did not mean troops on the streets to enforce new guidelines, but rather backfilling posts to free up more officers, it’s looking unlikely to be an issue north of the border.
While defence is reserved, policing is devolved, and Police Scotland calmly but firmly squashed the offer today, stating: “At the moment no military involvement is necessary, nor do we anticipate it will be needed.”
Hospital numbers, and ventilation cases, rising in England, Scotland and Wales, latest figures show
The UK coronavirus dashboard also covers hospital figure.
- There were 275 hospital admissions for coronavirus patients in England on Monday, the most recent day for which figures are available. That is up from 237 the previous day, and the highest daily figure since late June.
- There are now 1,381 patients in hospital in England with coronavirus. A week ago the figure was 894.
- In Scotland there were 73 coronavirus patients in hospital on Tuesday (the most recent day for which figures are available on the dashboard). A week earlier was 48.
- In Wales there were 93 coronavirus patients in hospital on Tuesday (the most recent day for which figures are available on the dashboard). A week earlier was 53.
- There are 192 coronavirus patients on mechanical ventilation in hospitals in England. A week ago the figure was 107.
- In Scotland there were 10 patients on mechanical ventilation in hospital on Tuesday (the most recent figure for which figures are available on the dashboard). A week earlier the figure was six.
- In Wales there were 18 patients on mechanical ventilation in hospital on Tuesday (the most recent figure for which figures are available on the dashboard). A week earlier the figure was six.
- In Northern Ireland there were two patients on mechanical ventilation in hospital on Tuesday (the most recent figure for which figures are available on the dashboard). A week earlier the figure was two.
These are from 5 News’s Andy Bell.
Boris Johnson does not seem to be having much luck with budget. His government has only had one so far, and that was delayed three times before it was actually delivered in March.
The daily dashboard shows the UK has also recorded 37 new coronavirus deaths. This is highest daily recorded total since mid July, and it takes the headline total to 41,862. But this figure only covers people who have died within 28 days of testing positive. The total number of people in the UK who have died from confirmed or suspected coronavirus is more than 57,600.
Gove says lorries heading abroad will need permit to enter Kent
Michael Gove has confirmed a de facto internal border for international truckers in the UK post Brexit.
Any lorry heading to Dover for onward travel to Calais will have to have a special “Kent access permit” with police and and automatic number plate recognition cameras ensuring they don’t get into the county unless they have the right paperwork for the ferry or Eurotunnel train.
In reply to Ashford MP Damian Green, Gove told the Common while making his statement earlier:
People [will] use a relatively simple process in order to get what will become known as a Kent access permit, which means that they can then proceed smoothly through Kent.
This is the first time the Brexit passport or KAP has been confirmed by the government.
One transport industry leader said:
This is why people have been talking about an internal border in Kent. But the question we cannot get answered from the government is how it will work unless there are police checking electronically or physically every vehicle going into the county.
The same point was made by Labour MP Angela Eagle at the Treasury select committee on Tuesday. “Who’s going to be patrolling the Kent borders to make sure that no lorry goes into Kent if it hasn’t got that passport?” she asked. “Where are the border posts for going into Kent going to be? It’s all very well saying we are going to need it, but are we going to have Kent border police or border guards?”
UK records 6,178 new coronavirus cases - close to record from early May
The UK has recorded 6,178 new coronavirus cases, according to today’s daily update to the coronavirus dashboard. That is a big increase on yesterday’s figure (4,926) and close to the highest daily figure ever recorded (6,201 on 1 May).
But comparisons with the spring are misleading. There more than twice as many tests taking place every day now as there were in then, and so even though the case numbers are now similar, that does not mean the spread of the virus is the same as it was then because in the spring more positive cases were being missed.
Rishi Sunak’s statement to MPs tomorrow (see 3.57pm) will cover support for jobs, he has confirmed.
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is going to make a statement to MPs tomorrow, Labour has revealed. (The opposition gets advance warning, so the Treasury team will be available.) This is likely to cover new measures to support businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus restrictions.
In Northern Ireland 220 new cases have been recorded, but no new deaths, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health for Northern Ireland.
This chart show the trend.
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has struck a slightly more optimistic note than Boris Johnson, making clear that Wales will continue to review its regulations every three weeks and stressing that freedoms can be restored as well as being taken away.
Asked about the prime minister’s warning that restrictions may be in place for six months, Drakeford told the Guardian:
We review our regulations every three weeks. They moved away from that in England quite early on. We have stuck that three-week rhythm, which means we have been able to fine tune things, either restoring freedoms or having to restrict things further. Six months is a very long time in this business. We are trying to be flexible and swift.
Drakeford pointed out that public health officials were “cautiously optimistic” that a corner had been turned in one of the Welsh local lockdown areas – Caerphilly. He said:
For the last three or four days the daily reports we have are showing a very steady reduction. We need to see more days. We need to see that happen for the rest of the week. Then I think we will feel confident that we’ve got a sustainable pattern of improvement.
Drakeford repeated his call for people in Wales to think carefully before they travelled at al and he said he had tried to persuade Johnson to echo the same message in England. But, Drakeford said: “For whatever reason the prime minister never seems to have been attracted to that stay local mantra in England.”
Public Health Wales has recorded 389 new cases and two further deaths.
And here is the most recent chart on the Public Health Wales dashboard (from yesterday) showing how case numbers have been going up.
Scotland has recorded two more coronavirus deaths, and 486 more cases. That is the highest number of cases ever recorded in a single day in Scotland, although of course there is far more testing taking place now than there was in the spring, and so that does not mean the spread of the virus is at an all-time high.
Today’s figure also show that 7.8% of people being tested were positive. This time last week the figure was just 3.6%.
This is from the UK Covid-19 Statistics website.
Chauffeur-driven cars will be exempt from new laws forcing passengers to wear masks in taxis to slow the spread of coronavirus, Downing Street has said. As PA Media report, Boris Johnson announced that passengers in licensed vehicles would have to wear coverings under new restrictions in England aimed at preventing a resurgence of Covid-19. But No 10 said the measure, to come into force on Thursday, would not include passengers in chauffeur-driven cars, though the driver’s employer would have to ensure they could work safely.
No 10 rejects complaints from scientists saying restrictions don't go far enough
Asked about criticism of the new coronavirus restrictions from scientists who think they are too lenient (see 9.07am and 3.19pm), Downing Street said other scientist thought they were too tough. At the No 10 lobby briefing the prime minister’s official spokesman said:
There are also scientists on the other side of the argument saying that we have gone too far.
There will always be a range of scientific opinion. The prime minister has canvassed the full range of scientific opinion in the formulation of this package and we believe that it has a significant role to play in driving down the rate of infection.
Another leading scientist has said that the coronavirus restrictions announced for England yesterday did not go far enough. Prof Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College, told Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett Show today that he thought a ban on households mixing in could be coming “very soon”.
Asked if the PM had gone far enough with the new measures, Openshaw, who advises government as a member of a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said:
I think looking from the lens of somebody who is concerned about health, probably not.
This morning Prof John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the latest measures did not go “anywhere near far enough”. (See 9.07am.)
NHS England has recorded 23 more coronavirus hospital deaths. The people who died were aged between 69 and 96 years and NHS England says they all had known underlying health conditions. The details are here.
Labour accuses Gove of planning failure after he admits risk of post-Brexit 7,000-truck queues in Kent
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, has confirmed that there could be queues of up to 7,000 lorries in Kent in January if hauliers are not ready for Brexit.
In a statement to MPs he said just one in four businesses thought they were “fully ready” for the end of the post-Brexit transition after 31 December. He said the government was outlining its “reasonable worst-case scenario planning assumptions” to help to encourage firms to prepare. He went on:
The scenario builds on an estimate that only 50% to 70% of large businesses and just 20% to 40% of small and medium-size enterprises would be ready for the strict application of new EU requirements.
In those circumstances that could mean between only 30% and 60% of laden HGVs would arrive at the border with the necessary formalities completed for the goods on board.
They’d therefore be turned back by the French border authorities, clogging the Dover to Calais crossing.
Gove said this could lead to queues of “up to 7,000 HGVs in Kent”, adding:
These queues and associated disruption and delay would, of course, subside as unready businesses who had their goods turned back at the French border would not want to repeat the experience.
But it is clearly far better that everyone is aware now of what is needed to prepare rather than to face additional disruption next year.
For Labour Rachel Reeves, Gove’s shadow, said the government should have made adequate preparations. She said:
The news today that there could soon be tailbacks of 7,000 lorries is quite extraordinary.
I know the government has said that they are committed to building new infrastructure, but I didn’t realise it meant concreting over the Garden of England.
Today’s warnings are based on a reasonable worst-case scenario, but given we have a reasonable worst-case government, we have to assume that these scenarios will play out quite soon.
Why aren’t the essential prerequisites for a smooth transition not already here? It is all well and good to tell businesses to act now, but without the systems in place, frankly, it is like telling me to bake a cake but forgetting to turn the oven on.
'Clear upward curve' in Covid cases in Wales, says first minister
At a press conference in Cardiff Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, said the coronavirus rate in Wales was now 46.8 cases per 100,000 people and there was a “clear upward curve”.
He restated his call for people in Wales to limit their travel, saying:
If you can visit a pub or restaurant close to home, where you don’t need to make a journey, that is preferable than getting in your car and going for the same experience further away from home. It is a common sense piece of advice.
He also said that although pubs and restaurants would have to stop serving alcohol after 10pm, that did not mean people would be “out on the pavement” at that time.
It’s no further alcohol and people who are there will be finishing up and when they’ve had a sensible interval to do that then they will be on their way home again.
Boris Johnson’s TV address last night on the coronavirus restrictions was watched more than 15m times, PA Media reports. His address on 23 March announcing the hard lockdown was watched by more than 25m viewers, with a second address in May, where he offered the first sketch of a road map for restarting the economy, attracting almost 30m.
At PMQs the Green MP Caroline Lucas asked the PM about whether the UK will protect at least 30% of land and sea for nature as part of the government’s commitment to a major new UN agreement protecting biodiversity ahead of a summit next week.
Officially, the UK government’s self-assessment said it failed to meet 14 of 20 targets. Collectively, the world failed to meet a single target for the previous decade.
The prime minister said the government was leading international efforts to get governments to agree to the 30% target, which is currently being negotiated as part of the ‘Paris agreement for nature’ that will be signed off next year in Kunming, China.
Johnson said the 30% target was pioneered by the UK. However calls to protect large parts of the earth date back to the 1970s and are spearheaded by the Nature Needs Half campaign, which aims to protect half of the planet by 2030 to slow mass extinctions and protect biodiversity.
One of Theresa May’s former advisers has said the government’s internal market bill has “seriously undermined” the Brexit talks which may now stall until the intervention of EU political leaders.
Raoul Ruparel told MPs on the Northern Ireland affairs committee this morning that his “understanding” was that “good progress” had been made in the joint committee discussions on the details of checks down the Irish sea post Brexit. He said:
I think the introduction of the internal market bill, and the approach government set out has set that back significantly and significantly undermines that progress in the committee.
He said he also found it strange that “the UK government has conceded the interpretation of certain parts of the [Northern Ireland] protocol to the EU” through the publication of the bill in relation to state aid.
It would have been better for the UK to privately negotiate its own position that the protocol was designed to apply state aid exclusively in Northern Ireland, he said.
I think the lack of trust between the two sides, in my view, means any breakthrough coming at the negotiating level between David Frost and Michel Barnier is very, very unlikely now. I think if there is to be a breakthrough in negotiations, it will most likely only come to the prime minister and other EU leaders or the leaders of the new institutions.
In an interview on the World at One Julian Metcalfe, who founded the food companies Pret a Manger and Itsu, said the restrictions announced by Boris Johnson yesterday would be “devastating” if they went on for six months. He said:
The repercussions of these six months, it’s going to be devastating to so many people, to local councils, to industry, to people all over our country - just devastating. We’ve just not begun to touch the seriousness of it.
People in the hospitality industry, people in work in hotels and restaurants and takeaways and coffee shops - a great many are closing down. We’re losing thousands upon thousands of jobs here. How long can this continue this, this vague work from home?
He also criticised Johnson for his TV broadcast last night, saying that for the PM to “spout off some Churchillian nonsense that we’ll make it through” was “terribly unhelpful”.
Starmer accuses Johnson of 'pretending there isn't a problem' with Covid testing
Here is the PA Media story on PMQs.
Sir Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of “pretending there isn’t a problem” with the government’s Covid-19 testing regime.
During PMQs, Boris Johnson defended the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding, and said the UK is testing “more people than any other European country”.
Opening their Commons exchange, Starmer questioned why the prime minister said yesterday the Test and Trace system has “very little or nothing” to do with the spread or the transmission of Covid-19, after previously hailing it as a game-changer.
The Labour leader added: “Both positions cannot be right - which one is it, prime minister?”
Responding, Johnson said: “It is an obvious fact of biology and epidemiology that alas this disease is transmitted by human contact or aerosol contact.
“But it is one of the great advantages of NHS Test and Trace, which we did not have working earlier in the pandemic, that we now have the ability to see in granular detail where the epidemic is breaking out, exactly which groups are being infected.
“That’s why we’ve been able to deliver the local lockdowns and that’s why we’re able to tell at this stage that it is necessary to take the decisive action we are ... to drive the virus down, keep kids in school and keep our economy moving.”
Starmer replied: “Pretending there isn’t a problem is part of the problem, prime minister.”
He added: “Is the explanation from the PM that we haven’t got enough capacity because nobody could have expected the rise in demand? That’s the Dido Harding defence - or is it we’ve got all the capacity we need, it is just that people are being unreasonable in asking for tests? That’s the [Matt] Hancock defence. So which is it?”
Johnson replied: “I must say that the continual attacks by the opposition on Dido Harding in particular are unseemly and unjustified.”
He added: “Testing more people than any other European country ... we’re going to go up to 500,000 tests by the end of October.”
The latest edition of the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast is out. Heather Stewart and Josh Halliday discuss the latest restrictions announced by the prime minister. James Schneider and Anna Turley talk about Keir Starmer’s performance at the Labour party’s virtual conference, Connected. Plus Libby Brooks examines how Scotland’s response to Covid has influenced voters’ opinions on Scottish independence.
Three former cabinet secretaries condemn internal market bill
Three former cabinet secretaries have condemned the government’s internal market bill and its threat to break international law as “dishonourable”, “unwise” and “an act of bad faith”.
Giving evidence to the House of Lords, Lords Butler, Wilson and O’Donnell warned that the UK’s unwritten constitution was being subjected to unprecedented strains.
Lord Butler of Brockwell, who was cabinet secretary between 1988 and 1998, told the Lords constitution select committee that “no justification has been produced for departing from the [withdrawal] agreement with the EU. The threat itself [to override international law] is both dishonourable and unwise.”
Lord Wilson of Dinton, who was cabinet secretary between 1998 and 2002, described the bill as “unacceptable and an act of bad faith”, adding that “at a time when we are testing our unwritten constitution to its limits it is putting more stress on it than before” The legislation, he said, was causing “damage to the country”.
Lord O’Donnell, who was cabinet secretary between 2005 and 2011, concurred, saying that he hoped parliament would play a part in deciding the issue. All three peers declared that they would oppose the bill.
Their unanimous disapproval and determination to vote against the internal market bill suggests the government will face severe problems when it comes to the House of Lords.
Lord Faulks, a former Conservative justice minister who is a member of the committee, also said that he “failed to see how [the legislation] was not a breach of the ministerial code [which urges ministers to respect the rule of law]”. He added:
Parliament is being asked to pass a bill which is in breach of international law and promoted by ministers in breach of the ministerial code.
Liverpool Hope University has announced it is to cut back on face-to-face teaching to improve Covid safety, in response to rising infection rates in the city.
The announcement was made as UK universities deal with growing numbers of cases on campus. Liverpool University reported 87 confirmed cases before term had even begun and the University of Exeter today became the latest to report “a small number” of cases.
Liverpool Hope students are due to arrive on campus this weekend for “welcome week” starting on Monday. The university has said it will move teaching online – including seminars, tutorials and lectures – for all students, apart from those requiring lab, workshop and studio space.
Dr Penny Haughan, Hope’s pro vice-chancellor for student life and learning, wrote to students:
This is not how we wanted to start the academic year, but we are making these changes in the interests of the public good.
I want to be absolutely clear that this is a temporary, short-term change and as soon as we are certain that it is safe to do so we will reinstate more face-to-face sessions for all cohorts.
According to the University and College Union, which represents university staff and is calling for a ban on face-to-face teaching to protect staff and students, around 15 universities are now dealing with Covid cases.
'Wet' pubs open in Northern Ireland
The UK is facing new coronavirus restrictions but Northern Ireland on Wednesday is getting the chance to enjoy an old, familiar sanctuary: the pub.
About 600 drink-only bars across the region were able to reopen for the first time since March after one of the longest lockdowns of its kind.
Previously only pubs that sold food with alcohol could operate while so-called wet pubs stayed shuttered, with the Stormont executive twice delaying their reopening due to rising infection levels.
Despite a continued surge in infections and the imposition of fresh restrictions on Tuesday authorities decided to let the pubs reopen today.
Most infections happened in or between households, not shops, restaurants or other public setting, the region’s chief scientific adviser, Ian Young, told the BBC. He said:
There is some risk associated with virus transmission in pubs – that’s unavoidable – there will be some very strict mitigations in place which the sector will have to follow and I hope strong enforcement for anyone who is not following those mitigations.
Authorities are considering copying England and Wales and imposing a 10pm closing time. However they worry some drinkers in search of a nightcap may nip across the border to the Republic of Ireland where pubs serve until 11.30pm.
“We don’t want to encourage unnecessary movements across the border which will again just give a risk of bringing the virus both ways,” said Young.
PMQs - Snap verdict
Politicians, like poker players, have their tells, and one of Boris Johnson’s is that, when he knows he’s arguing a weak case, his delivery speeds up notably and his tone sounds even more rehearsed than usual. Today he must have known that he would be asked about his test and trace gaffe yesterday and, as Sir Keir Starmer duly raised it in his first question, Johnson was off at tape recorder setting X1.5. (God help the Hansard shorthand writers.) And after that – in a performance which was by no means his worst, but was typically underwhelming – it didn’t get any better.
Some of this can be explained by the fact that Johnson is a performer, rather than a debater, but some of his habitual second-rateness is just baffling. For example, it was obvious today that he would face a barrage of questions from the opposition about support for business, and what will replace the furlough scheme. It is also obvious that the Treasury is close to making a big announcement on this. Johnson did not need to say what it would be, but it would have been quite easy to craft a form of words to serve as pre-announcement pitch-rolling that would have blunted the Labour and SNP attacks he was getting. Towards the end he came quite close to doing this. (See 12.24pm.) But that was after he took two hits from Starmer on the issue.
And it would not have been hard to draft a better response to questions about the test and trace mistake yesterday. A reminder, this is what Johnson said during the coronavirus statement:
[Labour] are talking absolute nonsense. Testing and tracing has very little or nothing to do with the spread or the transmission of the disease.
The Tory MP Andrew Percy made a half-decent stab at defending Johnson yesterday, saying that sometimes words don’t come out quite as intended, and that of course the PM knew test and trace was vital. But this would have involved Johnson admitting that he was not perfect, and instead he launched into a convoluted justification involving wordy and rhetorical phraseology (another tell for when Johnson is up to no good). He said:
It is an obvious fact of biology and epidemiology that alas this disease is transmitted by human contact or aerosol contact.
Starmer skewered Johnson effectively on this, pointing out that the PM was contradicting what he said yesterday. He also skewered him over the alternative explanations given for the shortage of tests (see 12.08pm), and over schools, and what really matters to parents. “The point ... isn’t whether the children have got Covid, it’s that they’ve got Covid symptoms and then they’re off school.”
But Starmer’s best moment came when responded to the suggestion that Labour have been talking down the NHS with the reference to his wife and family members who have worked for it. (See 12.11pm.) Given that no one in the Johnson family (at least, as far as we know) has ever had a job in the NHS, as putdowns go, this did the trick very well.
Sturgeon announces 486 new coronavirus cases – Scotland's highest daily total
Nicola Sturgeon has warned there is a danger that devolved governments are prevented from making essential public health decisions because of financial limitations.
As she announced 486 positive cases of Covid yesterday, the highest number ever recorded in Scotland, she said she would be writing to Boris Johnson later to ask for more economic powers and flexibility for devolved governments.
She said: “We mustn’t be hamstrung in essential public health decisions for the lack of necessary economic mitigations,” while revealing that it was “very possible, even likely” that the Scottish government would have imposed stricter restrictions if it had more powers to extend the furlough scheme.
There is an argument – and I’ve heard some experts make it this morning – that all of us across the UK should actually be doing even more and there is a danger that what holds us back is not the public health analysis but financial limitation.
She said she was asking the prime minister for “reasonable but necessary fiscal flexibility for devolved governments”.
With a number of clusters identified at Scottish universities, Sturgeon also said that discussions were taking place about strengthening guidance around higher education, appealing to students to do the right thing. “We appreciate the sacrifices you are making at this important stage of your lives,” she said.
Sammy Wilson (DUP) say only time will tell whether the claims made by scientists about the risks from a second wave are true. But there is no doubt that the scare tactics will have an impact on the economy. He asks the government to suspend air passenger duty.
Johnson say Wilson is making a powerful point of scepticism. But people should look at what happened last time, and realise it could happen again. A stitch in time saves nine, he says.
He says the advantage of his approach is that it will keep the virus down, and enable the economy to go forward.
PMQs is now finished.
Anthony Browne (Con) asks whether the government’s long-term Covid strategy is to eradicate the virus, gain herd immunity or suppress the virus and reduce the deaths until a vaccine or highly effective treatment arrives?
Johnson says it’s the third one.
Asked about the gambling review, Johnson says he is “not an enthusiast for encouraging the spread of gambling in this country”.
Giles Watling (Con), a former actor, asks what can be done to help freelances in the theatre sector.
Johnson says the government will do whatever it can to support freelances. He says theatres are the jewel in the crown of London’s arts economy.
Siobhain McDonagh (Lab) asks if the government will support her bill to give children on free school meal access to the internet at home.
Johnson says this is an important point. He says he agrees with McDonagh about the digital divide. He says he wants every school in the country to have access to gigabyte broadband.
Johnson say he hopes that the work on the A38 upgrade in Cornwall will begin as soon as possible.
Florence Eshalomi (Lab) asks what the government is doing to help tenants who have unsafe cladding on their buildings.
Johnson says the situation is “disgraceful”. This cladding should come off as soon as possible, he says.
Johnson says the government’s housing targets will focus on brownfield land.
Johnson says of course the government is going to come forward with further measures to support businesses. But he says he does not think it would be sensible to just extend the furlough scheme.
Johnson says he really wishes the government was not having to impose the restrictions it is.
Patrick Grady (SNP) asks what Johnson’s vision is for building back better.
Johnson says space ports will help Scotland, but he quotes the Barnett figure for overall funding going to Scotland.
Neil Parish (Con) asks the PM to support plans for a new school in Tiverton.
Johnson says the education secretary will have heard the request.
Grahame Morris (Lab) says even the Bank of England is calling for a targeted expansion of the furlough scheme. Will the PM listen?
Johnson says Morris is right about the gravity of the situation. He says the job retention bonus is in place. He says the government is looking at a “massive package” of measures to help people over the short, medium and long term.
Johnson says he wants to find a replacement for the Dublin convention, the EU rule on the return of refugees.
The Green MP Caroline Lucas asks the PM to support a biodiversity target for 30% of land and sea to be set aside for nature.
Johnson say it was the UK government that pioneered this idea and came up with this target. It will support it, he says.
Johnson says it is “totally baffling” that the SNP is not supporting the internal market bill. And they would hand Scotland’s fisheries straight back to Brussels.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminter, says 1m jobs are at risk when furlough ends. He say the PM is leading us into another winter of discontent. Nicola Sturgeon has shown leadership, he says. He calls for an immediate announcement about the extension of the furlough scheme.
Johnson says the SNP and Labour are now calling for an indefinite extension of the furlough scheme.
He says the government will continue to adopt a creative approach.
Blackford says nobody is asking for an indefinite extension of the furlough scheme.
Even the Bank of England governor is saying it needs to be extended, he says.
He says 61,000 jobs in Scotland are at risk. Those workers do not want a hug from Johnson.
Johnson says the government will continue to support workers.
He says he knows Blackford does not want a hug from him. But he says “throwing an arm around workers” is a metaphor.
Starmer says he is asking about new support for business.
This is not theoretical. At Whitebread 6,000 job lossess were announced yesterday. He quotes leading business figures saying the government needs to act.
Johnson say the government will get through this.
He quotes the shadow education secretary as saying “don’t let a good crisis go to waste”. That shows Labour wants to exploit the crisis. Labour should support what the government is doing, he says.
Starmer says Johnson does not understand the problems caused by children being ill but not having Covid.
Why has the government not announced support for business?
Johnson says his plans will keep the economy moving.
He wants to suppress the virus, he says.
Starmer says he is not complaining about the NHS. It is the government. His wife works for the NHS, his mother worked for the NHS, his sister works for it. So he won’t take criticism on that front.
He says pupils are having to miss school because of the lack of testing.
Johnson says there is an exceptionally small risk to children. And the government is doing its level best to get tests to children. He says 99.9% of schools are back.
Starmer says Johnson said the opposite yesterday. Everyone can read it in Hansard. He says a week ago the PM acknowledged that there was a problem. Is the PM saying capacity is the problem, as Dido Harding says? Or he is saying that too many healthy people are requesting tests, as Matt Hancock says?
Johnson says the attacks on Harding from Labour are unseeming. He says the government is going to get testing up to 500,000 per day. He says he wants to hear “more of the spirit of togetherness” that was on display yesterday.
So why did Johnson say yesterday it had “very little” to do with the spread of the disease, Starmer asks.
Johnson says it is an “epidemiological fact” that transmission takes place human to human. And capacity today is at a record high, he says.
Sir Keir Starmer says three months ago Johnson said test and trace would be a real positive. Yesterday he said it had little impact on the spread of the disease. Which is right?
Johnson says it is fact that test and trace does not have an impact on biological spread. But it can tell you where the disease is.
Lee Rowley (Con) asks for an assurance that saving lives is the government’s priority.
It is, says Johnson.
Jamie Stone (Lib Dem) asks about a satellite launch facility in his constituency. Boris Johnson wishes it success.
PMQs is starting.
Yesterday Ipsos Mori published its latest political monitor. Here is what the polling says about Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer.
Here are the satisfaction ratings. (This is not the same as ‘who would be the best PM’.)
And this chart shows how the two leaders are rated on particular qualities. Starmer is ahead or tied with Johnson on all attributes apart from patriotism and having lots of personality.
Internal market bill 'doesn't stand a prayer of getting through Lords', says Ken Clarke
Ken Clarke, the Conservative former chancellor who has just joined the House of Lords as a peer, told Adam Boulton on Sky’s All Out Politics a few minutes ago that he would be “astonished” if the internal market bill – the legislation enabling the government to break its Brexit withdrawal treaty obligations – passed the upper house. He said:
I’d be astonished if it doesn’t get thrown out in the House of Lords ... The breaking of a treaty only ratified a few months ago, by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the clause which says the government can disregard domestic and international law doesn’t stand a prayer of getting straight through the House of Lords.
Last night YouGov published some snap polling suggesting strong support for the new restrictions announced by Boris Johnson yesterday - although 45% of people said they did not go far enough.
The Academy of Medical Sciences, which produced a 79-page report commissioned by the UK government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, on what needed to be done to prepare for a second wave of Covid-19 over the winter, has reacted to the latest measures by the prime minister to prevent spread of the virus.
The academy’s president, Prof Robert Lechler, said public messaging was key. He explained:
I very much welcome the government taking action in response to the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.
One of the biggest challenges the government faces now is how to bring the public with them. Our winter report asked for an effective public health campaign to help the public play their part in stopping the spread of the virus. The announcements must be backed up with clear, consistent and accessible messaging developed with the people and communities they are intended to reach.
These public health messages must reach all parts of society, regardless of age, socio-economic background, class, ethnicity or language. The best way to do this is work hand in hand with different communities to co-produce effective messages and understand the best ways to share them. This is particularly important with black, Asian and minority ethnic groups who have been disproportionately hit by this pandemic and with young people who are currently experiencing the biggest increase in infection rates – something that must be an urgent priority to address.
The SNP is also saying the government should extend the furlough scheme. This is from the SNP MP Drew Hendry, its business spokesman.
With the infection rate worsening and further restrictions coming into effect, it would be completely reckless for the Tories to scrap the furlough scheme next month. The chancellor must rethink this decision and extend the scheme to protect jobs and businesses.
The SNP has been warning for months that ending the scheme in October would be premature - given the likelihood of a second wave of the virus which we are now seeing - and result in thousands of people losing their jobs and good businesses going under at the worst possible time.
More than half of working adults were travelling into work by the end of August, ONS data shows.
This proportion had increased from just 36% in late May. However, the number of commuters is likely to fall again, as Boris Johnson encouraged workers to stay at home where possible in a public statement yesterday.
The survey also found that the number of people socialising in public and private spaces had increased significantly. Around 2% of respondents said they were socialising in public or in private in mid-May, increasing to almost 30% by the end of August.
The ONS has produced an interactive based on its ongoing coronavirus lifestyle survey which can be viewed here.
Labour demands urgent government statement today on what will replace furlough scheme
Labour is calling for an urgent statement from the government today on what will be done to replace the furlough scheme when it ends in October. This is from Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary. He said:
Businesses are already having to contribute to the costs of furlough, putting jobs at risk, and we are now perilously close to the furlough cliff-edge. Labour has outlined an alternative - the job recovery scheme. This would enable businesses in key sectors to bring back staff on reduced hours with government backing wages for the rest of the working week, saving jobs and giving businesses the certainty they need.
The government must urgently outline today the measures they will take to prevent mass unemployment. They must not delay any further because businesses will be taking decisions in the coming days about what their response will be. They need to know that the government will stand behind them.
What the new restrictions are for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Here’s a very useful Guardian graphic explaining what the new restrictions are for the four nations of the UK.
In Wales, in addition to the formal restrictions that go beyond what applies in England, people are being urged to avoid unnecessary travel. Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, explained why. He said:
Well it’s advice to people, it won’t be policed in the conventional sense. We’re simply appealing to people to think very carefully about journeys they make ...
The more people we meet, the more journeys we make, the more risks we run to ourselves and others.
So it’s an appeal to people to think carefully about those journeys.
If they’re necessary you must make them. If they’re not necessary, please don’t travel unless you have to. That is the message here in Wales.
The Commons is due to debate the second reading of the overseas operations nill today, which will introduce a controversial presumption against prosecution for torture, war crimes and all almost other all offences for British soldiers serving abroad after five years.
Critics say in it effect legalises torture because it would allow the MoD to obfuscate when allegations surface until the five year limit passes, but the bill is popular in Conservative circles because it prevents what the party says are “vexatious claims” against British forces abroad.
Although some Tory grandees such as Malcolm Rifkind have raised concerns, no Tory rebellion is expected when the vote is taken towards the end of the day. But the Labour position looks a little more interesting ...
The BBC’s Nick Robinson says Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, was wrong when he said earlier that the table service rule would apply to fast-food chains like McDonalds. (See 10.15am.)
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the financial sector in the capital, said the corporation was “disappointed” by the new advice saying people should work from home if they can. She told the Today programme:
Clearly safety has to come first and we’re at a moment when measures need to be taken.
But we are disappointed at the blanket call for office workers to return to working from home where possible.
Firms have taken huge steps to make sure that their offices are Covid-secure. It’s clear that this virus isn’t going to go away quickly so we need to find a way of living with it that doesn’t cripple our economy.
She claimed other financial centres had people back in the office without apparent related increases in infection and called on the government to look “really closely” at coronavirus evidence.
Campaigners criticise DHSC for saying it's too busy to respond to legal challenge over care home access
Campaigners working to persuade the government to reinstate care home visits have attacked the government after it said it was too busy to respond to their legal challenge.
Julia Jones and Nicci Gerrard, the co-founders of John’s Campaign, sent a pre-action protocol letter to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, earlier this month, arguing the Department of Health and Social Care’s guidelines violates fundamental human rights and disability law.
The DHSC was required to reply by 23rd September but yesterday sent a letter to the campaign’s lawyers, Leigh Day, saying it was not feasible for them to comply because “they are extremely busy dealing with the pandemic.”
What does that mean? This is the pandemic. No other group of people needs such urgent attention or help. No other sector of society has been dealt with so badly.
People living in care homes are approaching their last days. Their time is precious. Spokespeople for the government say they understand how “difficult” it is for husbands and wives, parents and children, committed partners that they are kept separate: it’s not difficult, it is damaging, unethical, and can be lethal.
Age UK and the National Care Forum estimate there are hundreds of thousands of people affected. Some residents, say Jones, believe they have been abandoned by their family and give up the struggle to live. A few have attempted to take their own lives. She said:
This anguish is not confined to the residents: grief, anxiety and anger are taking a terrible toll on the mental well-being of their excluded family members, especially those who have been bereaved.
We find it incomprehensible that the government is, yet again, delaying any kind of positive action that might help the thousands of people whose liberties have been curtailed and whose lives have been blighted since March.
Raab hints furlough scheme could be extended beyond October for some sectors
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, was on duty for this government this morning in the broadcasting studios. Here are the main points he was making.
- Raab hinted that the furlough scheme could be extended in some form for some sectors beyond October. Speaking on Sky News, he said:
The chancellor keeps all this under constant review, not just economy wide, but specific sectors. I don’t think the chancellor is minded to wholesale extend the furlough scheme [but] we are looking at targeted measures.
In a separate interview on LBC, after Raab spoke about the need for targeted support, he was asking he he was saying there would be “targeted furlough assistance” after October. “I didn’t say that,” Raab replied. He went on:
I said there’d be targeted measures to make sure we keep the progress we’ve made with a bounce back for the economy in protecting jobs.
When it was put to him that that sounded like targeted furlough assistance, he replied:
There’s all sorts of targeted job support, fiscal regulatory measures that we can take, and I know that the chancellor keeps them under review.
- Raab refused to deny a report saying the government’s chief medical adviser think the restrictions announced for England do not go far enough. Asked if the government’s scientific advice was saying that the measures announced yesterday were enough, Raab did not say yes. Instead he replied:
The scientific advice that we’ve had presented by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer is that these measures can help us bear down again on the uptick we’ve seen in the virus if everyone complies with it.
In the Times (paywall) today Chris Smyth and Steven Swinford say Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser, thinks England will need a ban on visiting other people at home, like the one introduced in Scotland. Their story goes on:
Jonathan Van Tam and Jenny Harries, Professor Whitty’s deputies, are understood to have expressed concern in meetings that the measures did not go far enough.
All three, however, accepted that it was reasonable for Mr Johnson to try more limited measures first, given the importance of protecting the economy.
- Raab played down the suggestion that Boris Johnson thinks Britons find it hard obeying Covid rules because they are freedom loving. Johnson implied this twice yesterday. First in his Commons statement he suggested that the British love for freedom was somehow related to the fact that other countries had lower rates of infection and better test and trace systems. Then, in his TV broadcast, Johnson said:
We have to acknowledge this this is a great and freedom-loving country; and while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches – too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.
Asked what Johnson meant, Raab said:
I think what he was reflecting on was that any restrictions bristle. We all feel that. But the truth is that we all have a collective responsibility to bear down on this virus.
When the Today presenter Justin Webb asked if Johnson was saying that people who obeyed the rules were less freedom-loving than those who did not, Raab replied:
I think you can be freedom-loving and respect the rule of law and the guidance.
- Raab said further restrictions were not being ruled out. He told Sky News:
We’ve always said we’ve got a sort of repository of measures in the arsenal to take. I don’t think we would speculate about what further could be done.
But the reality is they will be more intrusive or we could end up in a national lockdown. That is what we want to avoid.
- He said the government was facing “Goldilocks criticism - too much or too little” from people who thought the PM had gone too far, and from those who thought he had not gone far enough. But the government was taking a “balanced, targeted and proportionate approach”, Raab said.
- He said the army might be able to help the police by being “there to backfill” - ie, doing non frontline tasks. But they would not be “patrolling the streets”, he said.
- He said the table service rule would apply to fast-food chains like MacDonalds. Asked if customers would be able to queue for food and then sit down, he replied: “My understanding is that you need to be able to order from the tables.”
Here is more from Prof John Edmunds’ interview on Today. (See 9.07am.) Explaining why he thought the measures announced by Boris Johnson did not go far enough, he said the March lockdown had been a “combination of many, many, many different measures”. He went on:
Each one of those individual measures, if you break it up, is going to have quite a small effect, actually, on the overall reproduction number, which is probably somewhere round about 2 at the moment.
And so in order to stop the epidemic from growing any further, we have to put a large range of measures in place.
Asked if there was a realistic chance the R number could be brought under 1 by Christmas, he said: “I suspect not. There’s a chance, of course there’s a chance.”
Speaking on Good Morning Britain this morning, Nicola Sturgeon said that the new household meeting ban for Scotland was “really tough” and not a decision she had taken lightly, but that she believed the action is necessary adding: “I’m looking at data that alarms me”.
Asked how often she spoke to the prime minister, she replied “not as often as we should” and added that “all the devolved nations have been pressing for more regular four nations discussions”.
One of the presenters, Piers Morgan, asked her about the fact that no government minister had appeared on GMB for 148 days, to which she responded:
I think that’s pretty disgraceful.
Particularly at a time like this, leaders have to be accountable. We’re asking people to do extraordinary things, and if we’re not prepared to explain the reasons, we can’t expect people to comply.
English rules don't go 'anywhere near far enough', says leading government Covid adviser
Good morning. It’s the day after Boris Johnson tightened coronavirus restrictions for England - with Scotland, Wales and Northern generally going further - and an intense debate is underway over whether the PM over-reacted, or under-reacted. Businesses are alarmed about the implications. But some scientists think Johnson ducked the need for tougher measures and one of them, Prof John Edmunds, was on the Today programme making this point within the last hour. Edmunds is head of the faculty of epidemiology and population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and his team, along with Imperial College, developed modelling that helped to persuade the government to impose a lockdown in March. He also sits on the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee for Emergencies, and so he is one of the leading experts in this field.
Edmunds told the Today programme that it was “welcome that we’ve done something” and that working from home was a good idea. But he said that asking pubs, bars and restaurants to close at 10pm was “fairly trivial” and something that would “have a very small impact on the epidemic”. He went on:
Overall, I don’t think the measures have gone anywhere near far enough. In fact, I don’t even think the measures in Scotland have gone far enough.
Edmunds said he feared that, for the second time, the government would end up clamping down too late. He explained:
I suspect we will see very stringent measures coming in place throughout the UK at some point, but it will be too late again.
We will have let the epidemic double and double and double again until we do take those measures.
And then we’ll have the worst of both worlds, because then to slow the epidemic and bring it back down again, all the way down to somewhere close to where it is now or where it was in the summer will mean putting the brakes on the epidemic for a very long time, very hard - which is what we had to do in March because we didn’t react quick enough in March, and so I think that we haven’t learned from our mistake back then and we’re unfortunately about to repeat it.
This is just one view, and scientists aren’t always right. But the Times (paywall) is reporting this morning that Prof Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser and the chief medical officer for England, thinks it is inevitable that England will have to ban people meeting in other people’s homes, as Scotland and Northern Ireland have done.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS is due to publish a report covering the lockdown.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
12.15pm: The Scottish government is expected to hold its coronavirus briefing.
12.30pm: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, holds a press conference.
12.30pm: A minister responds to an urgent question in the Commons about evictions.
Around 1.30pm: Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, makes a Commons statement about border arrangements at the end of the Brexit transition.
1.30pm: Downing Street is due to hold its lobby briefing.
Politics Live has been doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog for some time and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and where they seem more important and interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
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