Politics latest news: Boris Johnson promises Covid inquiry will put state ‘under the microscope’


  • Boris Johnson: I’ll hold a full public independent inquiry into Covid

  • PM vows to harness ‘extraordinary spirit’ of UK’s Covid battle

  • Jeremy Warner: Boris risks backlash by throwing money at Scotland

  • Leading Tories back Brown’s plan to save the UK

  • Scale of Cameron’s lobbying revealed by Greensill

  • Coronavirus latest news: Covid hotspots mean local restrictions are not ruled out, says minister

Boris Johnson has promised the state will come “under the microscope” in the public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid.

The Prime Minister told MPs the inquiry will begin in Spring 2022, so as not to “weigh down the efforts of those engaged in protecting us every day”.

It will be put on a statutory footing, meaning it will be underpinned by the Inquiries Act of 2005 and have legal powers such as compelling people to give evidence, he told the Commons. The chair of the inquiry also has not been named, though the Inquiries Act states that whoever is chosen must be independent.

“No public inquiry could take place fast enough to assist in the very difficult judgements which will remain necessary throughout the rest of this year and the remainder of the pandemic,” he said. “We must not weigh down the efforts of those engaged in protecting us every day, thereby risk endangering further lives.

“Instead this inquiry must be able to look at the events of the last year in the cold light of day – and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

01:28 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 ‘looking into’ reports of Boris Johnson’s CCJ

Downing Street appeared to be unaware of details of the county court judgment against Boris Johnson (see 12:21pm and 12:23pm) although officials insisted it was not linked to the controversial refurbishment of the No 11 flat.

“I have seen that report, we are looking into this issue,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“I can confirm it is nothing to do with the refurbishment of the Downing Street estate, where all such bills have been duly paid either by the Government or the Prime Minister personally.”

Asked whether the Prime Minister could be trusted with the nation’s finances if he could not manage his own, the spokesman said: “I think our record on the economy is very clear.”

Asked whether there should be concerns about the Prime Minister’s personal finances, Mr Johnson’s press secretary said: “You should not be concerned, no.”

01:18 PM

Have your say: Are Tory planning rebels ‘Nimbys’?

Boris Johnson’s planning reforms threaten to make him a victim of his own success, as MPs in more traditional Tory seats fight against changes that are designed to appeal to some of the party’s newer support base (see 9:17am for more).

Those openly resisting the changes include Theresa May, Bob Seely (see 2:02pm and 2:08pm) and Theresa Villiers, but is said to number several backbenchers and even some ministers. But that has led some to label them “Nimbys” (see 12:09pm).

So, are they rightly defending the green and pleasant land – or standing in the way of progress? Have your say in the poll below.

01:15 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson will give evidence to Covid inquiry

Boris Johnson will to give evidence under oath to the public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic if asked, No 10 has said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will conform to what is required for the inquiry, yes.”

But, despite criticism of the delay in action, there is no a deadline for selecting a chair for the coronavirus inquiry.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No, we don’t have a set timeframe for that. We will come forward with terms of reference and name a chair in due course.”

01:14 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 refuses to comment on election speculation

Downing Street has declined to say whether the public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic will report back before the next general election (see 1:45pm for more).

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The timescale is down to the chairman, that is something that we will want to agree with the chairperson when they are appointed.

“Some inquiries have had timescales and, as is sadly the case, sometimes inquiries don’t stick to those timescales, but we will make clear when we set out terms of reference whether there’s a timescale, and obviously we will want to discuss timing with the chairperson as and when we pick them.”

01:12 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 defends delay to Covid inquiry

Downing Street has defended the timescale for starting the public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it requires a “great deal of Government time”.

Boris Johnson “understood there will be a number of bereaved families and others who will want this to be done as soon as possible”, his spokesman said, but it was “not possible” against the global backdrop and with “pressures” likely on the NHS this winter.

“Therefore it is right to wait until we are out of certainly winter time and hopefully due to the vaccine rollout globally… [when] we will be in a better position to take this forward because these sorts of inquiries do require a great deal of Government time with officials who are currently working on our Covid response,” he added.

01:08 PM

Planning proposals will give developers ‘carte blanche’, says Bob Seely

Bob Seely has further explained his concerns about the reforms as anticipated in the forthcoming planning bill, saying he fears they will “entrench the developer-led system even more, giving them carte blanche, as well as even less reason to listen to local residents”.

Instead, the Isle of Wight MP argues for “a new era of community-led, levelling-up led and green-led housing as part of regeneration”.

“This is not a one-issue-fits-all issue,” he adds. “The system needs to be flexible and locally-led. Conservatives have a powerful electoral coalition. Let’s not start unpicking that by damaging our support in the South and South West. Let’s improve the current system, not rip it up.”

Mr Seely urges ministers to “work with all colleagues and to listen to us and the different needs for different local communities”.

He adds: “Let’s work together, and not slag each other off in private briefings.”

01:02 PM

Bob Seely hits out at ‘sarky remark’ over planning row

Bob Seely added: "Let’s listen to each other, please. - UK Parliament
Bob Seely added: “Let’s listen to each other, please. – UK Parliament

While the Prime Minister was speaking, Tory MP Bob Seely has been in touch to push back against the “the sarky remark from an alleged colleague” over the forthcoming planning bill (see 12:09pm).

“But since someone seems to be taking a swipe, let’s outline the arguments,” he says.

“First, as with everything I do, I would like to support government to make better laws to help more people in more communities. But scrapping local democracy and giving even more rein to developers is not the way ahead. We need to work with communities for development. Like everything else, we want to help Gov’t get this right and to contribute to better laws.

“To equate ‘more housing with ‘more affordable housing’ is flawed. In many areas cash buyers distort the market and prevent locals from buying – that’s especially true in places like the Isle of Wight. “

12:45 PM

Does today’s announcement pave the way for a snap election?

Today’s announcement that the Covid inquiry will begin in Spring 2022 has prompted some speculation that Boris Johnson has an eye on another possibility – an early election.

At the very least, it seems unlikely that the findings will be made public before hand, as The Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith notes:

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Here’s what the Scotsman’s Alexander Brown has to say:

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12:39 PM

Delaying Covid inquiry to 2022 ‘prolongs the pain’, say MPs

Layla Moran said "there is no time to waste" - Shutterstock
Layla Moran said “there is no time to waste” – Shutterstock

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus said delaying an inquiry until 2022 would “prolong the pain being felt by grieving families and means vital lessons will go unlearned”.

Layla Moran, chair of the APPG, said: “There is no time to waste in ensuring the NHS and social care sector are better prepared against Covid variants and a potential third wave.

“Our cross-party inquiry will continue to hold the Government to account and ensure mistakes of the past are not repeated as we enter the next critical stage of the pandemic.”

12:31 PM

Boris Johnson dodges guarantee on winter lockdowns

Mark Harper, the chair of the Covid Recovery Group and MP for Forest of Dean, welcomes the plan to say more about relaxing all restrictions in June.

But he asks about the winter plan as it appears “inevitable” that there will be a resurgence of Covid. Will we “learn to live with the consequences of Covid, as we do with flu,” he asks, so that we won’t need to shut down the country again?

Boris Johnson says there is a “plainly difference as my right hon friend understands very well” between flu and Covid.

“We need to be absolutely certain that we are right in thinking that we have broken the connection between Covid transmission and hospitalisation or serious illness and death… I am optimistic, but that is the key issue.”

12:27 PM

Boris Johnson rejects suggestion of long-term vaccine passports

Sir Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough, asks whether passports could be used longer term for future pandemics.

Boris Johnson notes he is “a long-standing fan of the liberation school of thought more generally associated with my friend but he has making an interesting point about data”.

He adds: “Perhaps the idea of ID cards is a slightly different one… we are still some way off that solution.”

12:24 PM

Boris Johnson ‘on the issue’ to restart travel with US

Boris Johnson has told MPs he is “on that issue” in terms of agreeing a travel corridor with the US.

Huw Merriman, chair of the transport select committee, asked the Prime Minister to “warmly encourage” Joe Biden to restart travel between the two countries.

Mr Johnson replied: “He makes a very good point about the USA, and we are on that issue with our American friends.

“But people have to recognise we are still are at risk of importing new variants into this country… and we must be cautious.

“On that basis, the green list… is going to be subject to review every three weeks.”

12:17 PM

Boris Johnson takes sideswipe at ‘mayors who winge’

Dan Jarvis, Labour’s MP for Barnsley Central and Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, calls on Boris Johnson for better engagement and collaboration “as we emerge from the pandemic”.

The Prime Minister says he “certainly can” do that, but adds: “My observation is that.. there are two types of mayor..

It tends to produce mayors who champion their area, who get on and take responsibility for their area, or people who winge.

“I much prefer Type A to Type B.”

12:10 PM

Government considering surge vaccinations to deal with Covid outbreaks, PM reveals

Boris Johnson has said the Government is considering “all potential solutions” to deal with a surge in parts of the country, thought to be caused by the Indian variant.

The Prime Minister says there are “860 or so” cases in England “but there may be more” because the variant “may be considerably more transmissible”, he says.

Asked by Tory MP Mark Logan whether locals in affected areas can jump the queue for a vaccine, he says: “We are looking at all potential solutions for the surges we are seeing in Bolton and elsewhere including that, although that is not top of the list right now.”

11:59 AM

Boris Johnson confirms public inquiry will have statutory powers

Boris Johnson speaks to the Commons - PA
Boris Johnson speaks to the Commons – PA

Andrew Gwynne, the Labour MP who has spoken of his brush with long Covid many times, asks of the inquiry will be a statutory public inquiry “with the power to compel witnesses under oath”.

He repeats the question about bereaved families’ involvement.

Boris Johnson says “of course” it will b e a full public inquiry and the bereaved along with “many other groups”, will be involved.

11:57 AM

Boris Johnson right to avoid ‘crazy’ immediate inquiry, Jeremy Hunt says

Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the health committee, welcomes the timing of the inquiry, noting that one his committee is conducting will help when it reports back this summer.

“It would be crazy to ask ministers and officials to spend time with lawyers, going through emails and texts and WhatsApps when we want their entire focus to be on the pandemic,” he adds.

He asks for changes to the workforce planning system to ensure there are more doctors available.

Boris Johnson says work is underway but “we are going to get even more”.

11:54 AM

Boris Johnson urges return to ‘common sense’ after full reopening of country

Boris Johnson during today's statement to the House
Boris Johnson during today’s statement to the House

Andrew Mitchell says “the whole House” will welcome Boris Johnson’s tone and commitment to transparency.

The Conservative MP asks the Prime Minister to emphasis “the increasing role of common sense and personal judgement rather than Government fiat, as greater normality returns”.

Mr Johnson says he “can’t see any evidence” to suggest that the full reopening won’t go ahead on June 21, but urges “common sense” when it does.

11:50 AM

Boris Johnson: Country deserves transparent and timely inquiry

Boris Johnson says the Labour leader’s “entirely justifiable questions” about the engagement of grieving families will “no doubt” be dealt with when the inquiry is set up.

He says the country has been through a “trauma like no other”, and that is why we must understand what happened.

“We owe it to the country to have as much transparency as we possibly can… and have answers within a reasonable time scale.,” he says. “It is my strong, strong view that the country wants to see a proper, full and above all independent inquiry into the pandemic.

11:47 AM

Sir Keir Starmer suggests support for inquiry relies on who will chair it

Sir Keir Starmer gave the announcement a qualified welcome - PA
Sir Keir Starmer gave the announcement a qualified welcome – PA

Sir Keir Starmer presses the Prime Minister on the timing of the inquiry, asking why it cannot begin this year.

He notes that if evidence is not taken before Spring 2022, that will push the whole process back.

The Labour leader says the Commons must be included because the inquiry “has to have the confidence of all in the Chamber”.

Some questions will include issues such as why the pandemic hit those in crowded accommodation hardest, and who chairs the inquiry, suggesting that support will be contingent on this point.

11:45 AM

Government must consult grieving families before Covid inquiry, says Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer says he “clearly welcomes” the inquiry and the commission on commemoration, saying “both are necessary”.

He agrees the Covid memorial wall “is moving”, but says he has also met with grieving families “no a number of occasions”.

The Labour leader says the meetings are “among the most difficult I have had in my life”.

The hardest bit was “the details of not being able to say goodbye.. and not being able to have a funeral in the way they wanted”.

The families have “searing questions” about what happened and why. The Government should consult them as well as frontline workers, he says.

11:42 AM

Boris Johnson announces Covid commemoration commission

Boris Johnson has announced a ‘Covid commemoration commission’ will be formed to consider a national memorial to honour those who have died from Covid-19.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons he was “deeply moved” by the memorial wall opposite Parliament and he said he “wholeheartedly” backed the idea of a permanent memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral “which will provide a fitting place for reflection”.

He said the UK commission for Covid commemorating would be a “national endeavour above party politics” and look to remember those who have saved lives working on the frontline, the “genius ” of the vaccines developers and the sacrifices of those who stayed home.

11:37 AM

Covid inquiry to begin in Spring 2022, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson notes that there could be another surge in Covid, and there is a “high likelihood” of that happening in the winter.

“So I expect for the right moment for this inquiry to begin is at the end of this period,” he told MPs.

That will be Spring 2022, he says. Acknowledging some would like it to begin earlier, he says scrutiny has already begun and will continue.

“But no public inquiry could take place fast enough to assist in the very difficult judgements that will remain necessary throughout the rest of the year and the remainder of the pandemic,

“We must not weigh down the efforts of those engaged in protecting us every day.”

11:34 AM

Covid inquiry will place state ‘under the microscope’, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has confirmed the public inquiry will include the devolved administrations, saying “every part” of the UK has “suffered the ravages of this virus”.

“If we are to recover as one team UK, as we must, then we should also learn lessons together in the same spirit”, he tells MPs.

The inquiry will consider “all key aspects of the UK response”.

It will “place the state’s actions under the microscope,” he adds.

11:30 AM

Boris Johnson confirms independent public inquiry

Boris Johnson begins by confirming the plans for the next step of restrictions being eased, as part of the roadmap.

He says the country must remain vigilant, particularly for new variants, with the Indian variant causing particular caution he says.

The pandemic has caused “grief and sorrow” around the country, which would have been worse without the NHS, vaccine programme and the country’s sacrifices he says.

11:23 AM

Boris Johnson’s CCJ ‘deeply concerning’, says Labour

Never one to miss an opportunity to cry Tory sleaze, Angela Rayner has said the reports that a county court judgement for unpaid debt was issued in October 2020 against Boris Johnson (see post below) are “deeply concerning”.

She said: “This is not about Boris Johnson’s personal finances. The record speaks for itself that he has already broken the rules on declaring his financial interests, and he is already under investigation regarding potentially illegal wrongdoing.

“The issue of debt when it comes to the Prime Minister is whatever debt of gratitude Boris Johnson owes to the Tory donor who paid to renovate his flat, and what this donor or donors were promised or expected in return for their generosity.”

11:21 AM

‘The god of irony is alive’: Labour reacts to reports of PM’s CCJ

Labour has seized on reports that Boris Johnson was issued with a court judgement over an unpaid debt of £535.

Listings of county court judgements for last October include a finding against “Boris Johnson, 10 Downing Street”.

The record, uncovered by Private Eye magazine, showed that the debt is still “unsatisfied” more than six months later. Labour MP Clive Lewis has said the reports show “the god of irony is alive and well”.

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11:14 AM

Boris Johnson heads into Parliament for his Covid statement

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street today - AFP
Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street today – AFP

Boris Johnson is about to give a statement to the House on Covid.

Details remain shrouded in secrecy, the buzz certainly suggests it will contain further details on the public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

11:09 AM

Boris Johnson faces battle as planning reforms leave ministers ‘very unhappy’

Boris Johnson is facing a major row with his backbenchers and even some ministers over planned reforms to planning.

The new planning bill, confirmed in the Queen’s Speech, will remove power from local authorities to turn down developments and see the introduction of building ‘zones’ – prompting Tories to “kick off”, one MP said.

A former minister told the Telegraph: “Planning, as some of us have been saying for 10 years, is the only issue in some seats…. there are loads of very unhappy ministers. It’s a ****show and ivory towered ministers in MHCLG just don’t get it – local people elect local councillors to decide these things.”

But another Conservative MP accused his colleagues of being “Nimbys”, saying they “will oppose any housing in their leafy shires”.

He added: “More affordable houses equals appreciative voters. Is housing policy run by Boris or Bob Seely?”

11:04 AM

Gordon Brown pays tribute to ‘friend, mentor’ John Smith

Gordon Brown has paid tribute to former Labour leader John Smith, on the anniversary of his death in 1994.

Mr Smith is still regarded as the prime minister the country never had, tipped to be in line to take over before his death from two serious heart attacks.

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10:52 AM

‘Cycle of violence must stop’, says Foreign Office minister

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine is “deeply concerning”, telling the House of Commons: “This cycle of violence must stop and every effort must be made to avoid the loss of life – especially that of children.”

Responding to an urgent question, Mr Cleverly also said: “We urge all sides to refrain from any kind of provocation so that calm is restored as quickly as possible.

“As we enter the final days of the holy month of Ramadan, restoration of peace and security is in everyone’s interest. The UK will continue to support that goal.”

10:38 AM

Sister of murdered MP Jo Cox could stand in Batley and Spen

Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, could stand in the Batley and Spen by-election - PA
Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, could stand in the Batley and Spen by-election – PA

The sister of the murdered MP Jo Cox is considering standing for Labour in the Batley and Spen by-election, the Guardian reports.

Ms Cox held the seat for just over a year before being shot and stabbed multiple times in the street in the village of Birstall by a far-right terrorist in June 2016.

Her sister, Kim Leadbeater, has told friends she is considering running as the Labour candidate, with the party facing an uphill battle to retain the seat after incumbent Tracy Brabin was made the Mayor of West Yorkshire.

Leadbeater, 44, is a campaigner who lives locally and is an ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation, which is dedicated to continuing her sister’s legacy.

10:26 AM

Sir Keir Starmer ‘lacks compelling message’, says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has said Sir Keir Starmer “lacks a compelling economic message” and must debate cultural issues “urgently and openly” to prevent them being damagingly defined by the right and ‘woke’ left”.

The former prime minister said the “old-fashioned economic message” of high taxation and a large state is “not particularly attractive” and criticised “voter-repellent” slogans such as “defund the police”.

Sir Keir is “struggling to break through with the public”, Mr Blair added: “But the Labour Party won’t revive simply by a change of leader. It needs total deconstruction and reconstruction. Nothing less will do.”

See Angela Rayner’s verdict at 8:13am, and that of former frontbencher Khalid Mahmood at 10:24am.

10:15 AM

Easy win as Government ‘swipes left on harmful content’

Boris Johnson might be facing an uphill battle to get his planning bill across the line (see 9:17am and 10:41am). But one area where there is cross-party consensus appears to be the online harms bill.

Announcing the details, Oliver Dowden today said the Government was “swiping left on harmful content”.

Tories including Dehenna Davison – and Labour MPs – have said they will back the new legislation.

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10:04 AM

Keir Starmer heads into Parliament for PM’s Covid update

Sir Keir Starmer will respond to Boris Johnson's' statement on Covid today - Getty
Sir Keir Starmer will respond to Boris Johnson’s’ statement on Covid today – Getty

Sir Keir Starmer will respond to Boris Johnson’s’ statement on Covid today, where the Prime Minister is expected to come under pressure to confirm details of the public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

This morning, George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, suggested there would be no further update after Mr Johnson’s surprise announcement yesterday (see 8:27am). However rumours are rife that he is wrong – and it wouldn’t be the first time.

However the Labour leader is under his own pressure, after his reshuffle row with Angela Rayner spilled out into the public (see 8:13am).

09:56 AM

Tony Blair: Truth and reconciliation commission could resolve Troubles-era crimes

Tony Blair has said a truth and reconciliation commission could address historical crimes on both sides of The Troubles.

“Obviously I sympathise with the government. We tried to deal with this ourselves when we were in government,” he told ITV News. “You’ve got agonising stories and terrible stories of distress, and people who’ve lost their loved ones, but you’ve got it on all sides.”

Of a South Africa-style commission, in which victims and perpetrators would both have their say with amnesties on offer, the former prime minister said: “We did try but there wasn’t the support for it at the time… it’s possible that you need to return to something like that. Sure I would back that.”

09:41 AM

Have your say: Are Tory planning rebels ‘Nimbys’?

Boris Johnson’s planning reforms threaten to make him a victim of his own success, as MPs in more traditional Tory seats fight against changes that are designed to appeal to some of the party’s newer support base (see 9:17am for more).

Those openly resisting the changes include Theresa May, Bob Seely and Theresa Villiers, but is said to number several backbenchers and even some ministers. But that has led some to label them “Nimbys”.

So, are they rightly defending the green and pleasant land – or standing in the way of progress? Have your say in the poll below.

09:24 AM

Chopper’s Politics: The big election dissection

Labour supporters trying to “erase history” need to understand the “heritage of the Labour party”, says former frontbencher Khalid Mahmood.

Speaking to today’s Chopper’s Politics podcast for the first time since he quit as shadow defence minister, Mr Mahmood said that the Labour would “never be surplus to requirement”, but had a warning for those who cling to identity politics.

“What happened happened as part of the evolution of our history,” he said. “You can’t erase that. You have to come to terms with it.”

Listen below – and see what Angela Rayner had to say about her reshuffle row with Sir Keir Starmer at 8:13am.

09:20 AM

Greensill evidence prompts more questions of David Cameron, Lord Myners says

Lex Greensill’s evidence has thrown up several questions that should be asked of David Cameron when he gives evidence to MPs tomorrow, Lord Myners has said.

Asked what questions he would ask Mr Cameron, the Labour peer said: “Did those committees to report to the board, are you trying to suggest you didn’t know as much you probably did?

“Was he aware the company was probably in great difficulties when he started lobbying…. and about the various flight he took to that well known financial centre, Newquay in Cornwall

“That’s probably where I’d start,” he told Sky News.

09:14 AM

Lord Myners hits out at Lex Greensill’s ‘hog wash’ after MP appearance

Lord Myners has hit back at Lex Greensill, after the financier quibbled with his account of their 2019 meeting.

The former City minister said Mr Greensill had given “a pretty poor showing” before MPs of the Treasury select committee yesterday, noting that he gave “inconsistent answers”.

The evidence suggested “prima facie, he said David Cameron was a shadow director”, meaning he has “quite a lot of liabilities as far as what went on at Greensill Capital”.

He added: “There was an awful lot of hog wash and trying to pull the wool over the committee’s eyes.”

David Cameron outside his London home today - Reuters
David Cameron outside his London home today – Reuters

09:11 AM

Scotland’s justice secretary fears for brother-in-law as it ‘rains rockets’ in Gaza

Scotland’s justice secretary has said he fears for his brother-in-law as it is “raining rockets” in Gaza.

Huma Yousaf said his wife had been in tears as violence erupts in the Middle East yet again.

This morning Boris Johnson called on both sides to “step back from the brink” (see 9:48am).

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08:56 AM

Brit Awards ‘a step towards normality’, says Matt Hancock’s former adviser

Last night’s Brit Awards was “a vindication of lots of hard work and a step towards normality”, a former adviser to Matt Hancock has said.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, the Health Secretary’s former spad and chief executive of UK Music, said “no one was grouchy” about having to show their digital vaccine passports, although admitted “some things were out of the ordinary”.

He told Sky News: “To do an event like last night in the middle of a pandemic… is a demonstration of how we can be doing things safely in the UK.

“Hopefully we will be seeing nights like last night across the country when we get to June 21.”

One awards singer used her acceptance speech to demand a pay rise for NHS workers – see 8:20am.

08:48 AM

Boris Johnson calls on Israel and Palestine to ‘step back from the brink’

Boris Johnson has called on both Israel and Palestine to “step back from the brink” amid growing violence.

Israel carried out hundreds of air strikes in Gaza into Wednesday morning as the Islamist group Hamas and other Palestinian militants fired multiple rocket barrages over the border at Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba.

At least 35 people have been killed in Gaza and five in Israel in the most intense exchanges for years.

The Prime Minister said he is “deeply concerned” and urged both sides to de-escalate.

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08:27 AM

Government thinks its voter ID plans ‘will benefit them’, says Ed Miliband

A Labour frontbencher has claimed that the Government’s voter ID pans are designed to “benefit them”.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband told LBC: “We have got a voter ID plan which the Conservative Party think will benefit them by putting people off from voting and absolutely shouldn’t be in the Queen’s speech.

“We have got desperately needed measures like dealing with the insecurity at work and dealing with social care which are not in this Queen’s Speech.

“I think it suggests the wrong priorities.”

08:25 AM

Covid surge could affect younger people, warns public health director

A director of public health has warned of another surge in coronavirus cases affecting younger people, after further lockdown restrictions are eased.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire director of public health, told Radio 4’s Today programme it was likely that we would see “cases going up again, but hopefully that will be it”, although stressed there was “real uncertainty in terms of the variants and how severe they are going to be.”

Asked about the worst-case scenario, he said: “The most likely worst-case scenario will be there’s a surge in the younger population that is not vaccinated and they are going to be affected with much more symptoms.”

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance said the evidence from vaccine efficacy “points to a lower increase than we might otherwise have expected with another wave.”

08:19 AM

Boris Johnson’s legacy could be losing Scotland, warns Gordon Brown

If Scotland becomes independent during Boris Johnson’s premiership, that will be his lasting legacy, Gordon Brown has said.

“The problem for Boris Johnson is, I think he had one sentence in his speech yesterday, the Queen’s Speech, about the union itself,” the former prime minister told Times Rado.

“I don’t think he’s thought about it, I don’t think he understands it, I think he’s got to start beginning to understand it.

“He’s a historian, he must remember that Lord North was the prime minister who lost America and that’s all he’s remembered for, if Boris Johnson becomes the Prime Minister who loses Scotland and sees the end of the United Kingdom, that’s all he will be remembered for.

“We need to give some attention to this issue, and we need to do it pretty urgently.”

08:17 AM

Analysis: Resignations and rebellions loom without planning compromise

Last year Tory backbenchers successfully derailed plans to use (another) algorithm to set housing targets – but it is clear that the war is not over.

It’s a long-running source of tension which pits the two sides of the party against each other. Those who oppose the reforms, of which there are many, are dubbed Nimbys, and viewed as standing in the way of progress – and winning over younger voters.

No one denies the need for more housing. It is the key to solving the housing crisis. But, as with social care, no one can quite agree on where the pain should fall.

As a result, both of these issues have been kicked into the long grass. But in bringing forward the planning bill, Boris Johnson has put himself on a collision course with big hitters like Theresa May and Bob Seely – and, it is rumoured, ministers too.

The algorithm revolt was quelled with some furious meetings behind closed doors. If Downing Street is to save face again, urgent discussions will have to take place to find some compromise, or else resignations and rebellions loom.

08:00 AM

String of bills include new protections for children online

The Government will kick off its legislative agenda by presenting a string of new bills to Parliament today.

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, Animal Sentience Bill and National Insurance Contributions Bill are among 12 set to appear (including those carried over from the last session), while details about the draft online harms bill were published last night.

In an exclusive article for The Telegraph today, Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, warns tech companies that they will have “no excuses” and “must face the consequences” if they fail to remove illegal and harmful content under a draft duty of care Bill.

You can read more about that here.

07:56 AM

What’s on the agenda today?

There is no PMQs today as MPs continue to debate the Queen’s Speech, following the state opening of Parliament yesterday – but there is plenty of drama nonetheless. Here’s what’s on the agenda today:

11am: Jeremy Hunt appears at a Policy Exchange event to discuss what “Global Britain” means for international health governance.

From 11:30am – Foreign Office minister James Cleverly will respond to questions about the escalating situation in Israel and Palestine

From 12:20pm: Boris Johnson will give an update on Covid

From 1:40pm: MPs will begin day two of the Queen’s Speech. It will kick off with new shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who has her first clash with Rishi Sunak today – as the Chancellor celebrates his 41st birthday.

This evening, Boris Johnson is expected to attend Westminster Abbey’s annual Florence Nightingale service.

07:47 AM

Voter ID plans ‘nothing to do with party interests’, says minister

Voter ID plans have “nothing to do with party interests”, a Cabinet minister has insisted, after Labour accused the Government of disenfranchising millions of people.

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there would be a consultation, pilots and a debate in Parliament, saying “that’s how you iron out these sorts of points of detail.”

He added: “We are a Government that is bringing forward legislation to protect the integrity of our electoral system and to prevent electoral fraud.

“You mentioned earlier that older people allegedly potentially find it harder to have photo ID; well, in other fora you’ve put it to me that older people are more likely to vote Conservative so it is clearly nothing to do with party interests – it’s about integrity of the electoral system and protecting free speech in places like our universities.”

07:29 AM

Queen’s Speech ‘does not measure up’, says Ed Miliband

Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech “just does not measure up to the moment”, Ed Miliband has said.

The shadow business secretary told LBC: “They have been promising an Employment Bill for years to deal with the epidemic of insecurity in our economy and there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech about that.”

The former Labour leader also attacked the lack of plan on social care reform.

“As well as not having a financing system we have got to have a proper investment in social care going forward. We have got to start paying our social care workers decently,” he said.

“What we have seen in this pandemic is our key workers – who do some of the most important jobs in our country -often paid the least.

“Social care is the worst example. We should at least be paying them a living wage.”

07:27 AM

Boris Johnson not announcing details of Covid inquiry today, minister says

Boris Johnson is coming under pressure to set out exactly when the public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic will take place, after he told MPs it would happen during this Parliamentary session.

It is the first time the Prime Minister has put a date on it and there is some speculation he could set out further details during his update to the Commons today.

But George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, has poured cold water on those rumours.

He told Sky News: “There will be a time and a place for an inquiry of that sort, I’m not aware that anything is being announced on it today. For now, we’re not out of this yet, we’ve still got a huge amount to do.

“For now we’ve still got to focus on getting ourselves out of this situation, we’ve made some great progress with the vaccine programme but we’ve got to keep our focus on that.”

07:20 AM

Minister defends nurses pay after singer demands pay rise for NHS

A Cabinet minister has insisted the “difficult public finance environment” means the Government cannot increase NHS salaries, after singer Dua Lipa used her Brit Awards acceptance speech to demand action.

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told BBC Breakfast: “There’s been a pay rise, it was announced. There’s been a pay freeze for most of the public sector and it’s also important to recognise that in recent years that there have been some pay rises as well, particularly for nurses and the lower paid.

“We know that it is a difficult public finance environment as well, so we can’t always go as far as you’d like, but it’s also the case that there’s a pay review that’s going on into the NHS.”

07:18 AM

Labour has ‘collective responsibility to show what we stand for’, says Ed Miliband

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has said the Labour Party had a mountain to climb and a “collective responsibility” to show what it stood for.

When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday about Angela Rayner’s claim that the public did not know what Sir Keir Starmer stood for (see 8:13am), Mr Miliband said: “I’ll tell you what my explanation is.

“We had our worst election results since 1935 in 2019, that we have a mountain to climb, that Keir Starmer has provided new leadership, he has put the Remain-Leave argument behind us, but we all have a collective responsibility to show exactly what we stand for going forward.

“Absolutely we do, leadership is a collective endeavour and we all have a job to do, and there are massive things to fight for in our country.”

07:16 AM

‘Promising sign of things to come’: Chancellor strikes upbeat tone on economy

Today’s GDP figures show “a difficult start to the year”, Rishi Sunak has said – but stressed there is a “promising sign of things to come”.

The UK’s economy contracted by 1.5 per cent between January and March as lockdown took its toll, but March saw a better-than-expected growth of 2.1 per cent month on month, despite restrictions remaining firmly in place.

The Chancellor said: “Despite a difficult start to this year, economic growth in March is a promising sign of things to come.

“As we cautiously reopen the economy, I will continue to take all the steps necessary to support our recovery.”

07:13 AM

Voters ‘didn’t know what Keir Starmer stood for’, says Angela Rayner

Voters “didn’t know what Keir Starmer stood for”, Labour’s deputy leader has said in one of her first interviews since the party’s dire election results – and the leader’s attempts to sack her.

Angela Rayner told the BBC the two had “robust conversations”. However, she also said she believed in him “100% because I wouldn’t still be working with him if I didn’t.”

“We have had a very frank relationship and I welcome that, actually, I think it’s really constructive,” she said.

“And we came to a decision over the weekend of where both of us felt I could make the best opportunity and the best of my skills in supporting his leadership, and that’s what I want to do in my new role.”

07:07 AM

Pandemic delayed Boris Johnson’s social care plan, minister insists

The Environment Secretary has defended the Prime Minister for failing to set out plans to address the social care crisis.

Asked about Boris Johnson’s comments two years ago that he had a “clear plan” to fix the system, George Eustice told BBC Breakfast: “When the Prime Minister said that he didn’t know what lay ahead and actually what we had was the difficulty at the end of the last parliament when we tried to get Brexit delivered, that’s all history now.

“But since the election we’ve also had the huge distraction of this pandemic, so it has set some of these things back. The Department for Health and Social Care, that’s responsible for this, has had its hands full.

“But we will be publishing our plans on this later this year, seeking to get cross-party consensus on how to approach this.”

07:04 AM

Covid flare ups could pose threat to roadmap, minister admits

George Eusitice has admitted authorities do not know what is causing the spikes in Covid in parts of the country.

“We are not sure what could be driving it, whether it’s particular variants that have taken hold, or people being a bit too lax about restrictions that are in place

“We are not sure about that but we are monitoring the situation closely.”

Asked if it meant restrictions could be imposed, he told Sky News “We can’t rule anything out. “We want this to be the last (lockdown) and want to avoid going back into a tiered system

“We know that in the end, we had to go for full lockdown.”

06:52 AM

No ministers did ‘any special favours’ for David Cameron

George Eustice has insisted that “no one did any special favours” for the former prime minister, after the excruciating series of text messages were published yesterday.

The Environment Secretary told Sky News: “You have to step back from this and say – yes the former prime minister did approach, but they didn’t do him special favours.

“On the face of it, no one did any special favours for David Cameron – he approached them but was ultimately unsuccessful.”

06:50 AM

Scale of Cameron’s lobbying revealed by Greensill

David Cameron bombarded ministers and officials with 68 messages about the collapsed lender Greensill, it has emerged, as the scale of his intense lobbying campaign has been laid bare.

The communications fired off by the former Conservative prime minister on behalf of the controversial finance firm – totalling up to 19 calls, text and emails in a single day – were published on Tuesday afternoon by a committee of MPs.

The Treasury committee, which is one of three Commons select committees conducting an inquiry into Greensill Capital and its collapse, released the messages supplied by Mr Cameron ahead of his appearance before its panel on Thursday.

Australian banker Lex Greensill, the eponymous founder of Greensill Capital, faced questions from MPs on Wednesday. He is expected to be quizzed about the 5,000 jobs put at risk by the collapse of the company.


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