Boris Johnson will this morning set out the roadmap for the next few months, including a £3bn plan to get the NHS “battle ready” for winter.
The Prime Minister will hold a press conference at 11am, where he is also expected to update guidance on whether people should work from home if they can. He has previously signalled a shift back towards going into offices where possible, in a bid to shore up the economy with city centres still resembling ghost towns many months into lockdown. However yesterday Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, said there was no need to change the official advice.
Mr Johnson is also expected to unveil new powers for local authorities to be able to respond to localised surges in cases, as part of the “whack-a-mole” strategy to avoid another national lockdown being imposed.
Follow the latest updates below.
Response to Russia attack ‘under review’, says security minister
The Government will keep its response to the Russian attack on vaccine research centres “under review”, the security minister said today, as he confirmed it was “an ongoing incident”.
James Brokenshire told Sky News there was “no evidence of damage or harm” as a result of the hack but said it was “still completely unacceptable” for Russian actors to have penetrated the UK’s systems in this way, at a time when international partners should be “pulling together” to stop coronavirus.
Mr Brokenshire said insisted the UK was “one of the best protected countries” against these kinds of attacks, but said the Government was hoping to encourage people to “raise their guard” by “taking some very simple steps in terms of their own systems.”
The minister then told BBC Breakfast there was “no evidence” Russia had succeeded in stealing any information from pharmaceutical companies developing a Covid-19 vaccine in a series of co-ordinated cyber attacks.
“Obviously we know these groups have been able to penetrate systems and to look around and assess what information is there,” he added. “This is an ongoing incident, which is why we have put this alert out there, why there is mitigation that has been put in place.”
The separate allegation of Russian interference with the December general election is not being attributed to the Russian state, but rather “actors”.
There is an “ongoing criminal investigation” into how a document relating to a planned UK-US trade deal was obtained and leaked online.
Britain will pay a high price for the Government’s lockdown confusion
How many people would you have to pass in a supermarket to run a serious risk of bumping into someone with Covid? It depends where you are in the country but the best estimate is about 4,000. So yes, there is still a risk – but it’s a manageable one.
As Fraser Nelson sets out contradiction and confusion has marked every stage of this crisis. It’s time for the Prime Minister to get his message straight.
Friday Q&A: I hope lockdown hasn’t killed off entrepreneurial drive, says Simon Hoare MP
The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee chair and North Dorset MP Simon Hoare.
North Dorset is incredibly rural with a large dairy sector. So, the early stage of lockdown saw a lot of work with DEFRA and the NFU establishing a dairy support fund.
It is also a constituency of micro and small businesses. The furlough scheme was brilliant if you were a PAYE 9-5 employee. Economic shutdown has thrown into sharp relief the complex mosaic of employment across North Dorset, with people working from home, working as a part freelancer / part company director etc.
I just hope that the entrepreneurial drive is not lost in North Dorset or across the country as a whole.
What has been amazing is seeing local government really come into its own. Dorset went unitary last year and it has made a real difference just dealing with one Council and getting quick responses and actions.
Our town and parish councils have been amazing as has been the army of volunteers, our very own ‘little platoons’ who have helped, shopped, chatted, supported etc to keep people going in our wide spread sparsely populated area.
I think the self-sufficiency and community focus, that I believe is very much the golden thread in our rural tapestry, has shone through and there’s a real opportunity to harness a new generation of volunteers and community activists that will really see communities flourish in ‘peacetime’.
Friday Q&A: Lockdown has been strange – but family time has been lovely, says Simon Hoare MP
The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee chair and North Dorset MP Simon Hoare.
How are you finding lockdown personally – are you getting to spend quality time with family or are you sick of them all? What are you doing to keep sane?
To say lockdown has been strange would be an understatement. It has been incredibly busy trying to support constituents, help them and answer their questions and my Parliamentary team has been fantastic.
I have been at home with Kate, my wife, and our three girls plus two dogs. I don’t think we have spent this much time together ever and I must confess it has been lovely. I’ve even enjoyed the home schooling element but it has served to remind me how much I hate maths and why algebra remains an unintelligible language to me.
My youngest daughter Laura (7 going on 17) has also taught me all sorts of things my phone can do which previously I had no idea about!
To keep sane, I garden with the expert oversight of my eldest daughter Imogen (and the garden has never looked better), read avidly and I have become slightly hooked on eBay as well as my youngest daughter Jessica’s homebaking.
I’ve started to sculpt the outline of a political biography as well but something tells me that is as far as it will get.
The Telegraph weekly news quiz: Have you been paying attention?
In the week that Downing Street tightened its rules on face masks, it’s time test your knowledge on the last seven days of current affairs.
Can you get full marks – or do you need to a catch-up premium?
Have your say on: Getting back to work
We are expecting to hear from the Prime Minister at 11am this morning, where he will set out the next steps for easing lockdown and the future roadmap taking us into autumn and winter.
It’s a daunting task, particularly following the publication of a report this week estimating a further 120,000 deaths under a “reasonable worst-case scenario”.
Boris Johnson has already hinted that he wants to flip “work from home if you can” to “go to work if you can” – with one eye clearly on the devastation lockdown is causing our city centres. But Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday cautioned against such a move. James Brokenshire, the security minister, this morning said it would be down to employers to decide.
But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below:
Labour demands review of Chancellor’s ‘poorly targeted’ furlough bonus
In further evidence of the topsy-turvy land that politics has become Labour is calling for the UK’s public spending watchdog to review the Chancellor ‘s furlough bonus scheme amid claims it won’t provide value for money.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson has written to Comptroller and Auditor General Gareth Davies, raising questions about the costs involved in the recovery project which will pay employers £1,000 for every worker they take off furlough and keep on the books until January.
Rishi Sunak had to provide a ministerial direction to push the scheme through after HM Revenue & Customs’ first permanent secretary Jim Harra said there was “uncertainty around the value for money of this proposal”.
Ms Phillipson said she feared the Government was “handing over billions to businesses that were already planning to bring their workers back from furlough”.
She added: “Labour accepts that no scheme can be perfect, but a poorly targeted and wasteful scheme is a missed opportunity. That’s why the NAO should investigate.
In her letter to the National Audit Office boss, she added: “It is exactly because we support the stated policy rationale of providing support and incentives to firms to keep employees during a period of continued uncertainty, that we believe a more targeted approach is required…
“Our concern is that this blanket approach is both ineffective, because in too many firms the extra money will not change business decision-making, and is inefficient, because the money could be being allocated in a way that better supported the sectors facing the greatest challenges in the months ahead.”
What’s on the agenda today?
There’s plenty on the agenda for Friday, kicking off with the weekly figures on coronavirus and social impacts being published by the ONS at 9:30am.
The focus of the day will be the Prime Minister’s press conference at 11am, in which he is expected to announce a £3bn bung for the NHS to prepare for whatever coronavirus brings this winter. He is also expected to set out a plan for easing the lockdown further, potentially putting him at odds with the Government advisers.
He is also expected to unveil new powers for councils to act quickly if cases start to surge.
Then at 11:30 the independent Sage group will hold their regular press conference, which is likely to respond to these measures. At 3pm, Sir Patrick Vallance returns alongside Professor Chris Whitty, with the pair giving evidence to the Lords Science and Technology Committee.
Employers to decide if people should return to workplaces, minister says
James Brokenshire has said it will be down to employers and their staff to decide whether workers should return to the office, ahead of a press conference from the Prime Minister this morning.
Boris Johnson is expected to set out the next steps of the recovery roadmap this morning, as the Government seeks to boost the economy after many months of enforced closure.
However there is some confusion over whether office workers should be told to return to their workplaces, after Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs yesterday there was no need to change current advice, which stipulates that people should work from home if they can.
Security minister James Brokenshire told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The advice actually says that employers should decide in consultation with their employees whether it’s viable for them to continue working from home.
“But, if they do, then obviously this needs to be based on risk assessment, public health guidance, and ensuring that it’s a Covid-safe space for them to do so.”
Pressed on whether people should return to workplaces if they can, Mr Brokenshire said: “It’s for employers to make that assessment.”
City centres will ‘not go back to what they were’ after coroanvirus, Ken Clarke warns
The country’s towns and city centres will not “go back to what they were” after the coronavirus-induced lockdown has come to an end, former chancellor Ken Clarke has said.
The long-time minister told the Today programme predicted unemployment will reach three million by the end of the year in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we are going to see the loss, the very sad loss, of a lot of businesses, particularly small, medium-sized businesses.
“There are sectors of the economy, the old economy, that are not going to recover.
“Our city centres are not going to go back to what they were. And these are all dreadful things.”
‘No change to emphasis’ on back to work, says minister
The Prime Minister is expected to set out further changes to the lockdown today, and Number 10 has been hinting all week that he will flip the emphasis from people working from home if they can to getting them back to offices.
Boris Johnson is due to give a press conference at 11am this morning, which will include new guidance on home working, as well as unveiling new powers for councils to shut down businesses if local cases start to surge.
But Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday said there was “absolutely no need” to change the the guidance for people who have been able to work from home.
This morning, james Brokenshire signalled a change in tone from Downing Street, telling Sky News: “If people can return to office environment or place of work, that’s a matter for employers and employees” .
He added: “I don’t think there is any change of emphasis on that way.”
Mr Brokenshire also claimed there had been “consistency in that advice”.
Minister says he ‘supports’ chief whip over move to expel Julian Lewis
The chief whip was right to expel Julian Lewis from the Conservative parliamentary party, security minister James Brokenshire has said.
Dr Lewis was sacked late on Wednesday after he worked with opposition MPs to secure the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, snatching it from Number 10’s preferred candidate Chris Grayling.
The matter has been criticised as proof that Downing Street was trying to influence what is meant to be an independent process, with the committee – a key body in terms of scrutiny – intended to be impartial.
While Mr Brokenshire would not comment specifically on the row, he stressed the importance of the ISC being able to carry out its work.
“Obviously decisions in terms of how the committee selects it chair – it is for the committee. But obviously party managers will make separate decisions.
“The chief whip that makes the decision around this has taken the whip away from [Dr Lewis] and I support the chief whip in his decision making.”
Russian government ‘hypocritical’ over cyber attacks, claims security minister
The Kremlin is being “hypocritical” in claiming it supports responsible behaviour online while “supporting” cyber attacks like the one carried out on vaccine research centres, the security minister has claimed.
James Brokenshire told the Today programme that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre was “95 per cent satisfied” that the attack was carried out by the Russian state.
He said: “We have to be very careful in terms of calling these things out, ensuring we can have that confidence in attribution.”
The group called Dukes or Cozy Bear was actually “Russian intelligence agencies”, he said.
“The Russian government is hypocritical in claiming to support responsible behaviour in cyber space while secretly supporting” this kind of activity.
PM to announce £3bn for NHS to fight coronavirus this winter
Boris Johnson will announce an extra £3 billion to keep Nightingale hospitals open until March next year, amid fears of a second wave of Covid-19 this winter.
The Prime Minister will Friday set out the funding boost to make the health service “battle ready” for the winter.
The announcement will come amid warnings of a further 120,000 deaths in hospitals if the virus rebounds later this year.
Downing Street said the extra money will allow hospitals to boost capacity in the health service while also allowing routine treatments and procedures to continue.