Unions and business leaders clash over Sharma’s leaked “back to work” plans

“Trade unions and business leaders were at loggerheads on Monday night over Boris Johnson’s “back to work” strategy, following claims that employees’ lives could be put at risk as the British prime minister tries to restart the economy. Labour leader Keir Starmer joined unions in demanding that businesses should be required to publish coronavirus risk assessments, with tough enforcement against reckless employers. But business leaders say that publishing workplace risk assessments would be overly bureaucratic for small companies that already adhere to high standards of health and safety regulation. They also want Alok Sharma, business secretary, to set out a clear legal framework for the reopening of workplaces, in an effort to allay fears of massive lawsuits if a staff member were to fall ill or die from coronavirus. The tension came as Mr Sharma finalised seven documents intended to show how Britons could safely return to work, and Mr Johnson prepared to publish a “road map” charting a gradual route out of the lockdown.” – Financial Times

  • Some trade unionists need to show the same positivity as health and care workers – Leader, The Times
  • UK’s back to work blueprint – Daily Mail


>Yesterday: Columnist Howard Flight: There’s reason to believe that the recovery will proceed better and accelerate faster than many anticipate

Social distancing “to last a year”

“Radical measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in workplaces will be in place for up to a year, The Sun has been told. Screens between desks, staff sitting back-to-back and a ban on hot desking and sharing of equipment are among moves employers must introduce when lockdown is lifted. The new measures — proposed in draft documents on a return to workplaces — also require staggered shift times to avoid crowding on public transport. Handwashing kit must be at entry and exit points, with regular cleaning of worktops. Yellow and black tape will tell people where to stand in lifts. One-way systems will be the norm in offices and on train platforms and at bus stops.” – The Sun

  • Hope for coronavirus antibody tests to ease social distance rules – The Times

Everyone will be asked to download a “test and trace” app…

“Everyone in Britain will be told to download an NHS app to save lives and get the country back to work. Ministers plan a nationwide campaign to persuade most of the country to use a track-and-trace smartphone app, which people on the Isle of Wight began to use in a trial last night. In echoes of the “stay at home” campaign, the public will be told that it is their duty to download the app to protect their health and that of their family and friends. Officials say that the more people who use it, the more lockdown rules can be eased because the technology will allow Britain to “get ahead of the epidemic” by identifying and testing people with the virus before they are even symptomatic. Some MPs and academics have expressed privacy concerns about the amount of information that could be collected from phones and questioned whether the government could have designed a less intrusive system.” – The Times

  • Isle of Wight trial gets under way – BBC
  • We have protected privacy, says spy who developed tracing app – The Times
  • How it will work and should I be worried – The Times
  • Appy Island – Leader, The Times

….but there are questions on cyber security and privacy

“The Government’s coronavirus tracing app will start rolling out on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, as a row erupted over whether it has passed key cyber security and privacy tests…the rollout was overshadowed as it emerged on Monday that the product has reportedly failed all the standards which would allow it to be included in the NHS’s own app library. The app uses the Bluetooth signals on smartphones to log when users come into close contact with each other. When one user reports symptoms in the app that are deemed likely to be Covid-19 an alert is sent to all those logged as being in contact within 21 days, advising them to self-isolate. Any healthcare app needs to meet certain standards before it is kitemarked in the library. But senior NHS sources told Health Service Journal it had so far  failed all of the tests required for inclusion in the app library, including cyber security, performance and clinical safety.” – Daily Telegraph


Sunak “warns costs are not sustainable”

“More than half of Britain’s adult population is now being bankrolled by the state amid warnings from the Chancellor that the furlough scheme could soon cost as much as the NHS. Analysis of official figures shows that 27 million people are now being funded by the Government amid growing concern over the devastating toll to the economy wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. The figure includes people being paid through the furlough scheme and those now claiming benefits after being made unemployed because of the virus. The remainder are public sector workers and pensioners. On Monday night Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, said that the cost was “clearly not a sustainable situation” as he said that Britain must get back to work.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Nearly two million claim universal credit – BBC
  • We must ease Britain’s lockdown imminently, our formerly thriving economy is on its knees – Leader, The Sun

>Today: Nicholas Boys Smith on Comment: Let’s allow eating out to mean eating out

Tory MPs call for restrictions on funerals to be eased

“A group of Tory MPs are calling on the Church of England to ease restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak to allow small-scale funerals in churches. A letter signed by 36 MPs suggests clergy be allowed to enter their churches to officiate at funerals while observing safety measures. Churches closed in March, with funerals only permitted to take place at the graveside or the crematorium. The Church of England said its advice came after safety concerns. It comes as a virtual meeting of the House of Bishops is due to take place.” – BBC

Brady warns against forcing over 70s to stay indoors

“A generation of over-70s face “tragedy” if the government decides to extend the lockdown for older people, a senior Conservative MP has warned. Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, said that ministers should give older people “the best information and advice” and let them “limit their risk themselves”…Sir Graham, the MP for Altrincham & Sale West, said in the Commons: “We have today the healthiest, most active elderly generation of all time and it would be tragic if the government threatened this by trying to extend a so-called lockdown for those judged to be most at risk based on age. Why don’t we just give them the best information and advice and let them limit their risk themselves?” – The Times

  • Healthy over-70s set to have restrictions eased in line with the rest of the population – Daily Telegraph
  • Urgent probe into obesity – Daily Mail

>Today: Tory Diary: Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Remote MPs cannot make their presence felt, so cannot hold ministers to account

Starmer calls for a “national consensus”

“Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for a “national consensus” on tackling coronavirus when the UK begins to move out of lockdown. Ahead of talks with the PM and other opposition leaders this week, Sir Keir set out his priorities for the next phase of the response to the virus. He is calling for more ambitious targets on testing and new safety standards in the workplace. Boris Johnson is expected to reveal a “road map” out of lockdown on Sunday. Ministers are required by law to review the UK’s lockdown restrictions every three weeks, with the next review due by Thursday. Mr Johnson has warned the UK must not lift restrictions too soon.” – BBC

  • The principles I will urge the PM to follow – Sir Keir Starmer, The Times

Peers being paid £162 “simply to turn on their computers”

“Members of the House of Lords are being paid £162 to simply turn on their computer while the chamber is shut due to coronavirus. The 780 peers usually receive an attendance allowance of £323 per day.They now get half of that for taking part in virtual proceedings — costing taxpayers up to £120,000 per day. They qualify for a daily allowance because they are not given a salary. There is no minimum time or requirement on participation. It means peers can log-on to a debate and not even have to speak to receive cash. The House of Lords Commission recommended new rules to prevent abuse of the system during the coronavirus pandemic.It suggested Lords will need to show “active participation” in proceedings either virtually or in person – for example through a Select Committee meeting or speaking in a debate.” – The Sun

Hague: Applaud the military for the skill and determination they have shown

“Like the vast majority of British people alive today, I have never served in our armed forces. However, I was privileged to get to know them at close quarters when I was foreign secretary, whether visiting bases in Helmand or being airlifted at high speed into the middle of Baghdad. After a few years of that, they became the arm of the British state that I admired the most. Yet as our forces have become numerically smaller, fewer people than ever are familiar with what they do. In the years to come, a safe, cohesive and well-protected country is going to need to put that right. VE Day is not a bad time to start, as we live through another dark period in which we cannot do without the military skills and dedication so often taken for granted.” – William Hague, Daily Telegraph

Other comment

  • Public opinion is no obstacle to lifting lockdown – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Ignore these siren calls to end the lockdown – Melanie Phillips, The Times
  • This ordeal makes us think again about our values – Leo McKinstry, Daily Express
  • The Government must assuage public fear by changing its messaging – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Our bond with the NHS is unbreakable – Matt Hancock, Daily Express

Burns resigns as Trade Minister after making ‘veiled threats’ in letter

“Conor Burns has resigned as a trade minister after a report found he used his position as an MP to intimidate a member of the public. The Commons standards watchdog said he made “veiled threats” to use parliamentary privilege to “further his family’s interests” in a financial dispute involving his father. It had called for him to be suspended from Parliament for seven days. Mr Burns said he accepted the sanction “unreservedly and without rancour”. In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson after his resignation, he said the recommendation for a suspension made his decision to quit his post “inevitable”. In February, Mr Burns wrote to a member of the public connected to a company with whom his father was in dispute over the repayment of a loan.” – BBC

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Conor Burns resigns

Formby resigns as Labour party general secretary

“Jennie Formby, the Labour general secretary who was a close ally of the former leader Jeremy Corbyn, has resigned from the post, the party has announced. The move gives the party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, an opportunity to anoint a new candidate to control the party machine, and is further illustration of a major political shift since December’s general election. A statement released on behalf of Formby on Monday said: “When I applied for the role of general secretary in 2018 it was because I wanted to support Jeremy Corbyn, who inspired so many people to get involved in politics with his message of hope, equality and peace…. I wish Keir and Angela the very best of luck in taking the party forward and leading Labour to victory at the next general election.”..Allies of Starmer had said privately her resignation would be key to allowing the new leader to control the direction of the party.” – The Guardian

  • Departure will help Starmer – BBC
  • Labour needs to woo the new working class – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

News in brief

  • Government’s draft plan to ease lockdown measures in the workplace – Alex Wickham, Buzzfeed
  • Public trust in the British government has now soared to record levels – Edelman
  • Sweden tames its ‘R number’ without lockdown – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • Covid is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – Peter Franklin, Unherd
  • Scottish Nationalists pushing their agenda mid-pandemic should think again – Ted Jeffery, Global Vision
  • Who would be a minister now? – Alistair Burt, The Article