Boris Johnson may have done enough to placate rebel Tories with a return to the tiered system that allows for shops, churches and leisure centres to reopen – but he is not out of the woods yet.
Steve Baker, one of the leaders of the new Covid Recovery Group, said his colleagues would listen to what the Prime Minister has to say today before deciding whether they will back the new tiered measures.
But he was “reassured” by the reports that many businesses, and places of worship, will be reopened and the 10pm curfew tweaked or thrown out completely.
However many Conservative MPs are still concerned about some Government plans, he added, not least the freedom pass because the “implied coercion to force people into asymptomatic testing is very problematic.” As revealed by the Sunday Telegraph, the pass could be granted to those who obtain a negative test twice a week.
Mr Baker noted that there were some MPs, including Sir Charles Walker, for whom the CRG letter was “too moderate to sign”, suggesting there could be a significant minority to challenge the PM on principle of civil liberties.
Follow all the latest news below.
Have your say on: The return of the three tiers
Boris Johnson is to set out his plans for the return of the three-tiered system after England’s national lockdown is lifted next week.
Much of the detail has already surfaced, with church services resuming, shops reopening and the pub curfew being tweaked. However a ban on household mixing is still expected for much of the country.
This morning rebel co-founder of the Covid Recovery Group Steve Baker said he was “reassured” by the restarting of the economy – but raised the alarm over the “coercive” nature of the freedom passes. However he noted that others, like Sir Charles Walker, were unlikely to feel any more enthusiastic about restrictions – something Sir John Redwood echoed.
But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below.
Chinese authorities urged to ‘reach out and heal divisions’ over Hong Kong
Dominic Raab has urged the Chinese authorities to change course over Hong Kong and “reach out and start to heal divisions”, as pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong and two other activists were taken into custody.
The Foreign Secretary said the controversial national security law imposed by Beijing and a move to disqualify pro-democracy legislators contributed to the “most concerning period in Hong Kong’s post-handover history”.
In a foreword to a regular report on the situation in Hong Kong, he indicated that the participation of British judges in Hong Kong’s highest court could be reviewed if judicial independence is undermined.
Consultations with UK Supreme Court president Lord Reed have begun about “when to review whether it continues to be appropriate” for British judges to sit on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal.
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam can appoint judges to hear cases brought under the national security law and these can also be transferred to the Chinese mainland.
Tory MP welcomes reports about Biden’s Brexit-bashing new SoS
Overnight the US media has reported that President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Tony Blinken as his secretary of state.
Mr Blinken, who was deputy to the role in the Obama administration, is said to have once called Brexit a “total mess” and compared it to Marine Le Pen’s rise in France. He also shares his new boss’ view on the controversial UK Internal Market Bill, tweeting earlier this year that “any arrangements must protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent the return of a hard border”.
Despite this, Conservative MP and chair of the Defence Committee has responded enthusiastically.
What’s on the agenda today?
Monday always takes a little longer to get going as MPs return to Westminster from their constituencies (or not, as lockdown keeps many of them away).
But, be that as it may, the afternoon is shaping up to be busy. Here is what to expect today:
12.15pm: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will hold her regular coronavirus briefing. Will she spill the beans about the four-nations plan for Christmas? The Welsh government holds its own one at the same time.
1pm: Sir Keir Starmer hold an online ‘Call Keir’ meeting for people in Basildon.
1.30pm: Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, gives evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, amid concerns about how the pandemic is altering the economy.
2pm: Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, gives a speech ahead of Rishi Sunak’s spending review on Wednesday.
2:30pm: Education questions in the Commons.
3.30pm: Boris Johnson to set out his post-lockdown plan for England, with ‘tougher’ tiers.
TBC: It may well not happen at the usual 5pm slot, but the Prime Minister is tipped to give a press conference today too.
Norman Tebbit: No wonder Priti Patel has had trouble in the Home Office
What an extraordinary row there has been over the alleged bullying of Home Office officials.
Writing in today’s Telegraph, Norman Tebbit admits his bias as a friend of Priti Patel. But despite this, he argues that it sounds as though those officials may not like being given orders by a woman.
Even worse she ordered them to deal more firmly with the criminals on the streets and the trade in illegal immigration into the United Kingdom.
As a working class Thatcherite, the Tory grandee believes he would have been treated in the same way as the Home Secretary.
Huge PR drive to be launched in Scotland to counter anti-vaccination conspiracies
With the great news about yet another vaccine breakthrough, it is tempting to think the worst is over.
But governments around the world could be facing an uphill struggle fighting against disinformation which has paved the way for the anti-vaxxer movement.
The Scottish Government is launching a major campaign to convince people of the safety of a new coronavirus vaccine, after opinion polls revealed as many as a third of people may refuse to take it.
Jeane Freeman, the SNP health secretary, said that a public information drive targeted at every home in Scotland would begin in the new year. Read the full details here.
Too early to tell how long Oxford vaccine will protect people, says chief investigator
It is too early to tell whether people who receive the Oxford vaccine can be protected from coronavirus for as long as a year, the chief investigator of the trial has said.
Professor Andrew Pollard told a briefing: “I’m afraid it’s just too early to say anything about that [how long it lasts].”
He explained: “We only started giving the second doses of vaccine in the UK in August. The increase in disease, as you know, started towards the end of September and so most of the cases have only relatively recently accumulated both in the UK and in Brazil.
“So that means we just have not had enough time yet to be able to say whether, a year later, people are still as protected as they were at the beginning. So I think this is a ‘watch this space’ question.”
Boris Johnson should break up ‘monopoly’ on scientific advice
Steve Baker has said the Government should break up the “monopoly” on scientific advice in favour of competing groups offering different advice.
The former minister and co-founder of the Covid Recovery Group said the blame for the current lockdown measures could not be lain at Boris Johnson’s feet, suggesting it was because Sage had been “put on a pedestal”, despite dissenting voices.
He told Talk Radio:”There is a really fundamental, structural problem with the way science is being handled… clearly anyone can see with access to social media that scientists disagree, particularly in the interpretation of data which is uncertain.”
The MP called for “competitive expert advice, multidisciplinary teams with what I would call devils advocate or red teams to challenge their advice, and the Prime Minister should have three teams of competing experts on this.
“What we’ve got instead is monopoly expert advice.”
There should be “no more bouncing Prime Minister with modelling that turns out to be wrong,” he said, adding: “You do have to ask how many times modelling has to be wrong before ministers say no more.”
Tory MP tells Government to drop ‘complex rules’ and let people decide for themselves
Not everyone is feeling the reassurance that Steve Baker spoke of this morning.
Sir John Redwood, MP for Wokingham and a lockdown sceptic, has called on the Government to stop “thinking up more complex rules for everyone” and instead spell out the risks of the virus and trust people to make more of their own decisions”.
He added: “Help those who want protection. Let others rescue the economy and get on with their lives, judging safety themselves.”
Top tier will be ‘tougher’ that before, Matt Hancock confirms
Matt Hancock has confirmed that the top tier in the new system after England’s lockdown is lifted will be “tougher” than before.
The Health Secretary said he was “very glad to see in the data that the number of cases across the UK is clearly starting to fall”.
“That is good news,” he added.
“Therefore, in England, when the lockdown measures come to an end on December 2 we can be confident that they can be replaced with a tiered system, but the top tier is going to have to be tougher than the previous top tier because before it managed to flatten the curve but not have it fall.”
Decide for yourself on Christmas mixing, says health expert
People should decide for themselves whether it is safe to meet relatives at Christmas even if governments allow it, a public health expert has said.
Professor Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that meeting people indoors would not come without risks.
She told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “If we come together with people from different households at the time of year when the windows are closed, the people you care about, physical distancing is difficult, it is an opportunity for the virus to spread, so this is really really tough.”
But Prof Bauld noted that mental health issues such as anxiety and depression were higher than usual because of the pandemic, and were another factor to bear in mind.
“Even if government says ‘OK, you can get together indoors with other people’, let’s all make our own risk assessment about the people we care about and ourselves and how are we going to apply that to our own personal circumstances,” she said. “As with everything throughout this pandemic, it has got to be a partnership between guidance and support that government gives and what people decide to do for themselves and for their families.”
Relaxing measures over Christmas ‘quite worrying’ idea, says Matt Hancock
People must not think they can throw caution to the wind at Christmas despite the latest vaccine breakthrough, Matt Hancock has said.
Authorities now have a “high confidence that from after Easter things can really start to get better,” the Health Secretary said this morning, following the news about the Oxford vaccine breakthrough.
“If this all goes well in the next couple of weeks we are looking at the potential of starting the vaccination programme for the Oxford vaccine next month… as well as Pfizer,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme. The bulk of the roll out will be in new year, he added.
“We have got to keep the virus suppressed using mass testing for the next few months.”
Asked if the prospect of a vaccine meant people could relax over Christmas, he said such thinking was “quite worrying” because of the speed coronavirus accelerates without measures.
“It is so important the measures in place continue until the vaccine can make us safe… when it comes to Christmas, that is a really special time of year. We hope to agree a cautious, balanced approach that can allow people to see their families but also make sure we keep the virus under control.”
‘Stronger’ tiered system to replace lockdown, Matt Hancock says
The tiered system that England will return to once the second lockdown lifts will be “stronger” than it was before, Matt Hancock has confirmed.
The Health Secretary has declined to comment on the specifics – many of which are contained in our report this morning – saying we must wait for Boris Johnson to set them out in Parliament this afternoon.
But Mr Hancock said it would be a strengthened version of what we had seen before, noting that previously the system was only sufficient to “flatten” cases rather than get them down.
“The tiered system, whilst lighter than lockdown, will have to be stronger than the previous tiers that were in place.”
He pointed to Liverpool as an example of things to come, with mass testing and measures bringing cases down together.
Asked if there will be a fourth tier, Mr Hancock said: “No, three tiers, but the top tier, Tier 3, will have to be stronger than the previous Tier 3.”
Strengthened tiers before Christmas ‘too big a price to pay’ for hospitality sector, says Andy Burnham
Rebel Tory MPs might be feeling reassured by plans for the new tiered system, but Andy Burnham is yet to be convinced.
Speaking this morning the mayor of Greater Manchester said many hospitality businesses will not survive a toughened system of tiered controls in England.
“I am worried about what I am hearing this morning. It seems that a toughened Tier 3 could be devastating for the hospitality industry and will hit cities and the city economy very, very hard indeed,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“They seem to be going too far before Christmas to allow too much over Christmas and that will lead to a huge loss of hospitality businesses, which I would say is too big a price to pay.
“To close all hospitality businesses in Tier 3 areas – that will be large parts of the North – that will be devastating for many of those businesses. They will not survive that.”
Oxford vaccine paves return to normal ‘sometime after Easter’, says Matt Hancock
The Oxford vaccine breakthrough is paving the way for “things to be able to start to get back to normal” after Easter, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary praised the “really encouraging” breakthrough in the Oxford vaccine, saying the “bulk” of the roll out will be in the new year.
“It is subject to that regulatory approval and I really stress that because the medicines regulator, it’s called the MHRA, is independent, they’re rigorous, they’re one of the best regulators in the world,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“They will be very, very careful to ensure that they look at all the data to make sure that this is safe.
“Subject to that approval, we hope to be able to start vaccinating next month.
“The bulk of the vaccine rollout programme will be in January, February, March, and we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal.”
Boris Johnson hails ‘fantastic’ Oxford vaccine breakthrough
Boris Johnson has hailed the “fantastic” breakthrough in the Oxford vaccine, which has shown to be at least 70 per cent effective.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced that their jab is effective in preventing many people getting ill and it has been shown to work in different age groups, including the elderly.
But one of the dosing patterns used by the scientists suggested 90 per cent effectiveness if one half dose is given followed by a further full dose.
Here is what the Prime Minister had to say about this latest vaccine, which the UK has ordered 100m doses of.
Matt Hancock promises more ‘calibrated’ approach to tiers after lockdown is lifted
The Government will adopt a more “calibrated” approach to the tiered system of local coronavirus controls in England when the lockdown lifts on December 2, the Health Secretary has said.
Ahead of a Commons statement by Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock said the number of cases was beginning to fall and tiers would be “calibrated” to continue that process while having “as little impingement as is reasonably possible on our lives and on the economy”.
He told Times Radio: “Managing to open retail would have a big positive effect on the economy and we think we will still keep R below 1 and the number of cases coming down.
“So, it is a more calibrated approach to the tiers so they can be more closely aligned to what is going on in your area.”
Rishi Sunak to announce billions for new prisons, schools and police officers
Rishi Sunak has insisted there will be no “return to austerity” as he prepares to announce up to £2 billion to build new prisons and schools, and recruit thousands of additional police officers.
The Chancellor will confirm a number of multi-year settlements to deliver on Boris Johnson’s flagship manifesto pledges at Wednesday’s spending review, insisting that public services will remain “at the heart of our economic renewal”.
He will unveil a £1.25 billion cash injection to help fix Britain’s struggling penal system, as part of a £4 billion settlement over four years intended to deliver 18,000 additional prison places.
Hundreds of millions of pounds of additional funding will also be announced for the second round of police recruitment, on top of the £750 million released last year to hire the first 6,000 of 20,000 new officers.
He will also pledge to deliver 50 school building and repair projects annually over the course of this Parliament, after the Prime Minister announced £1.5 billion for the first year of the programme in June.
School spending will increase by £2.2 billion, up from £47.6 billion to £49.8 billion in the next financial year.