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Three stabbed to death in knife attack

“Horror struck the home counties on Saturday night after three people were stabbed to death and two others were left in a critical condition following a frenzied broad daylight attack at a park in Reading town centre. Sources told The Sunday Telegraph it was understood a suspect arrested at the scene was Libyan. Boris Johnson said: “My thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene.” According to eyewitnesses, a man began screaming and then produced a knife and embarked on a frenzied stabbing spree shortly after 7pm in Forbury Gardens, a park in the centre of Reading, Berks. Lawrence Wort, 20, a personal trainer from Chippenham, watched the horror unfold from a distance of no more than 30 feet away.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Counter-terrorism police storm flat after frenzied spree by “Libyan” man – Mail on Sunday
  • Reading stabbings: everything we know so far – Daily Telegraph

Johnson poised to announce “one metre plus” rule on Tuesday

“Boris Johnson is poised to announce a new “one metre plus” rule for all venues, including shops, restaurants, schools, offices, and parks, in an overhaul designed to unlock swathes of the economy. The move, which would take effect from July 4, is understood to entail allowing people to remain a metre away from others if they take additional measures to protect themselves, such as wearing a mask or meeting outdoors. In restaurants, pubs and bars, firms will be expected to introduce measures such as partitions between tables that are less than two metres apart. It comes after Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, said that No 10’s review of the current rule would  “make an enormous difference” to businesses “who are keen to see a change”, in a major hint of the planned relaxation.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Holidays and haircuts from July 4 – Mail on Sunday
  • Mysterious Covid-linked disease “no longer expected to be fatal” in children – Sunday Telegraph
  • Rival vaccines from Oxford and Imperial “may be combined” – Mail on Sunday
  • Birthrate expected to decline as a result of pandemic – Sunday Telegraph
  • Spain reopens it borders to British travellers today – Sunday Times
  • Portugal hoping to be among first countries to create “air-bridge” with UK – The Guardian

Ministers 1) The Government will bring in new laws to protect war memorials, says Buckland

“The Justice Secretary has said that laws preventing the desecration of war memorials, religious headstones and statues such as Winston Churchill’s appear “inadequate”, as he pledges to ensure that acts of vandalism that cause “widespread disgust” are adequately punished. Writing for The Telegraph, Robert Buckland, confirms that the Government will legislate to enable more severe punishments of those who damage monuments, in the face of a campaign by more than 120 Conservative MPs. Backbenchers will present a proposed Desecration of War Memorials Bill this week. Last week the Telegraph disclosed that ministers were considering changing the law to leave those who desecrate war memorials facing prison sentences of up to ten years.”

  • Academics fear being “mobbed” if they stand up for British Empire – Daily Telegraph
  • Leicester mayor refuses to tear down the statue of Mahatma Gandhi – Mail on Sunday
>Today:

Ministers 2) As he writes: “Vandalising memorials is truly beyond the pale”

“Like most people, I have been appalled to see pictures in the newspapers and on television of violence and vandalism at recent protests. However noble a cause, there can be no justification for assaulting police officers, daubing political slogans on the statue of Churchill or clambering on top of the Cenotaph to burn the Union Jack. Those who do so debase their cause and fill people who may otherwise sympathise with a sense of revulsion.The fact that people feel able to do this with impunity, even in the presence of cameras, suggests the law as it stands is inadequate. As promised in the 2019 Conservative Manifesto, the Ministry of Justice will shortly consult on doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting workers in emergency services such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics.” – Sunday Telegraph

Ministers 3) Sunak plans emergency cut in VAT…

Rishi Sunak is ready to slash VAT and pump billions into the economy as the government prepares to ease social-distancing rules. The chancellor has ordered officials in the Treasury and HMRC to prepare options to reduce the sales tax, including a cut in the headline rate, and zero rating more products for a fixed period. In private briefings last week, Treasury officials pointed out that Sunak could lower VAT and business rates at the stroke of a pen when he makes a planned speech on the economy in early July. There is a precedent for cutting VAT in a crisis. Alistair Darling, the then Labour chancellor, reduced it from 17.5% to 15% for 13 months after the 2008 crash.” – Sunday Times

Ministers 4) … and will “issue a warning” for departments to get a grip on spending

“Rishi Sunak is to issue a warning to government departments over their grip on spending, amid frustration at Gavin Williamson and Matt Hancock’s handling of several schemes costing tens of millions of pounds. Sources said the Chancellor had become “increasingly irritated” with “certain parts of Whitehall”  failing to work up sufficiently detailed spending proposals or presiding over poor delivery of projects. Ahead of a government-wide spending review in the autumn, Mr Sunak is expected to write to Cabinet ministers to warn that they will be held to a “higher standard” as the country emerges from the height of the coronavirus epidemic. The Treasury will also conduct an audit of each department’s finances. The move follows frustration over the slow roll-out of a £100 million scheme, announced by Mr Williamson in April, to deliver laptops to disadvantaged children stuck at home because of school closures.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Labour and Lib Dem MPs urge Chancellor to consider four-day working week – Mail on Sunday

Ministers 5) Patel to mount crackdown on foreign criminals after loopholes let 2,000 dodge deportation

“The number of serious offenders deported from Britain has dropped by almost 40 per cent in the past four years. Now Home Secretary Priti Patel is to mount a crackdown on foreign criminals whose lawyers use loopholes in the legal system to block their removal. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Mail on Sunday show the number of deportation orders served has dropped by nearly 2,000 – from 5,218 in 2015 to 3,225 last year. The new crackdown comes in the wake of the notorious case of Yaqub Ahmed, a Somalian rapist whose deportation was blocked by a mutiny among plane passengers at Heathrow. Ahmed was convicted with three other men and jailed for nine years for the sickening gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in 2007.” Mail on Sunday

  • Smugglers charging migrants £500 for surf board – while hundreds of victims vanish – Sunday Times

Ministers 6) Raab “warns officials” of £3bn cut in foreign aid budget

“Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned overseas aid officials to expect their budget to be slashed by £3 billion, The Mail on Sunday understands. Mr Raab, set to take over responsibility for aid in a controversial Government shake-up, issued the budget warning in a private conversation last week. Government sources last night blamed the pandemic for the forecast cut, pointing out that the aid budget was automatically linked to the size of the economy. But the move comes amid anger from some leading Tories at Boris Johnson’s surprise announcement last week that he was merging the Department for International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.” – Mail on Sunday

Ministers 7) New laws ushered in to protect UK firms from foreign predators

“Laws to protect struggling British firms from takeovers by foreign companies are to be introduced by Ministers following a series of political rows over the expansionist ambitions of Chinese business. The legislation will give Business Secretary Alok Sharma extra powers to impose conditions on deals to protect key UK firms that have been left vulnerable by the Covid-19 economic crash. The move is initially designed to protect businesses which are on the front line in the battle against the virus, but will be expanded to protect all companies deemed important to national security.” – Mail on Sunday

Ministers 8) September reshuffle expected to improve Tory poll ratings

“Ministers are expecting a wide-ranging government reshuffle in September in which Boris Johnson will sack key figures who are judged to have underperformed in the Covid-19 crisis. Cabinet sources said the move was now seen as inevitable. They believe sweeping changes will be made in an attempt to defuse mounting discontent on the Tory backbenches following a stream of U-turns and a fall in the party’s poll ratings. Among those seen as vulnerable are education secretary Gavin Williamson, communities secretary Robert Jenrick and work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey. Senior backbenchers and former ministers have become increasingly frustrated after a week in which Johnson’s government performed two further U-turns over free school meals for children from poorer families, and the much vaunted Covid-19 tracing app.” – The Observer

Frustrated test and trace volunteers “on the verge of quitting”

“The Government’s test-and-trace programme is still beset by chaos as couriers are arriving to pick up tests at wrong times and tracers have told The Telegraph they are “on the verge of quitting”. Volunteers who joined the 27,000-strong “army” recruited to call confirmed Covid-19 cases and those they may have infected, have said they have still not made a single call more than three weeks after the service’s launch. The revelations come as it emerged last week that the system is failing to reach around one third of people who have tested positive for coronavirus. The Government’s test and trace programme was dealt a further blow this week when it announced it is ditching an £11-million project to build its own contact tracing app after running into technical difficulties.” – Daily Telegraph

  • NHSX tried to block rival contact-tracing software – Daily Mail
>Yesterday:

Virus has hit Johnson’s “blue wall” seats hardest

“Champagne corks popped across the country last December as Conservative candidates stormed across the Labour Party’s crumbling “red wall” of northern and Midlands constituencies en route to a historic election victory. Six months later, Boris Johnson’s hopes of cementing his hold on parts of the country that rarely, if ever, elected Conservative candidates before last year are in danger of being complicated by a striking shift in the impact of coronavirus infection. While the virus threat is receding in London and other urban centres, our research shows many of the 44 parliamentary seats in the north and the Midlands that switched from Labour to Conservative last year are suffering an above-average mortality rate.” – Sunday Times

>Yesterday:

Police “dumb down” entry standards to meet Johnson’s pledge of 20,000 new officers

“Police forces are dumbing down education standards in a desperate bid to meet Boris Johnson’s pledge to recruit 20,000 extra officers, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. New schemes aimed at fast-tracking graduates and enrolling police officers in on-the-job degrees have been shelved in favour of a ‘blue collar first’ approach. By last January, all 43 police forces in England and Wales were supposed to ensure that applicants were either graduates or non-graduates who agreed to study for three years to obtain a degree in professional policing. But many have scrapped this to focus on recruitment programmes aimed at a wider pool of school- leavers. Just ten of the 43 forces have introduced the Degree Holder Entry Programme, while 22 have started the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship, where new officers juggle traditional training with academic theory.” – Mail on Sunday

Britain faces “huge surge” in people suffering mental illness

“The NHS faces a “huge surge” in Britons suffering anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the country’s top family doctor. Months of isolation, economic devastation and the loss of relatives, friends and colleagues to the disease is wreaking havoc on the nation’s mental health, said Dr Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). More than 50,000 family doctors are being issued with guidance to help them detect post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) triggered by the pandemic. Dr Jonathan Leach, a retired colonel who has supported thousands of veterans, helped draw it up.” – Sunday Times

BBC questions whether to end free TV licenses for over-75s

“The BBC is expected to grant a second reprieve to pensioners by delaying the scrapping of free TV licences for those aged 75 or over until at least October. The move, which would create a further £80m hole in the corporation’s finances, will be discussed at a board meeting next month, but senior BBC figures have privately signalled the intention to postpone the unpopular change by a further two months. Millions of pensioners received letters this year telling them they must start paying the £157.50 fee from June 1, but this was delayed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic. The concession is set to become means-tested and only about 1m over-75s who receive pension credit will be entitled to a free licence.” – Sunday Times

Brexit: Negotiators edge towards deal on easier extradition

“UK and EU negotiators are edging closer to a Brexit breakthrough that will make it easier to extradite criminals and catch terrorists after the transition period, the Telegraph has learnt. Britain has rejected EU demands that it commits to remaining part of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which has blocked progress in reaching agreements on intelligence sharing and a new treaty to replace the European Arrest Warrant system. Brussels argues that the commitment is legally necessary before EU countries can surrender wanted criminals or share data from criminal databases. The ECHR is an international agreement drafted by the Council of Europe and enforced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Council of Europe, which includes countries such as Russia and Turkey, is not an EU institution and the UK did not leave it when Brexit happened on January 31.” – Sunday Telegraph

Jenrick “viewed promo video for £1bn” before approving mogul’s scheme

“Robert Jenrick watched a promotional video for a £1bn housing development on media mogul Richard Desmond’s personal mobile phone weeks before overruling his officials and approving the scheme. The secretary of state for housing, communities and local government viewed the clip promising a “new urban oasis” in east London during a Conservative Party fund-raiser held at the Savoy Hotel last November. The disclosure came in a rare interview with Desmond, who said: “What I did was I showed him the video.” He said the minister watched it for “three or four minutes”, adding: “It’s quite long, so he got the gist.” The allegation is a challenge to Jenrick’s claim that he did not discuss the development in any way at the £900-a-head dinner”. – Sunday Times

  • Jenrick “breached planning propriety” over Holocaust memorial site – Sunday Times
  • Disgraced bank boss Bob Diamond gave £50,000 to the Tories – Sunday Times

Merging DfID with Foreign Office is an act of vandalism, says Mitchell

“The merger of the Department for International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a “quite extraordinary self-inflicted wound” that will do “huge damage” to Britain’s influence in the world, according to a former Dfid secretary of state. Andrew Mitchell spoke out against Boris Johnson’s decision as opposition to the merger grows. “I’ve had messages from all over the world. People shaking their heads in disbelief at this utterly self-inflicted act of vandalism,” said Mitchell, who ran Dfid between 2010 and 2012. “Senior figures will be poached – Geneva and New York’s gain will be Britain’s loss. We are destroying at a stroke a key aspect of global Britain.” Several petitions against the merger, including one organised by the online campaign group 38 Degrees and Bono’s development charity, One, have so far attracted more than 100,000 signatures.” – The Guardian

Labour left blasts Starmer for taking advice from Tony Blair

“Sir Keir Starmer was branded ‘Continuity Blair’ by Labour’s hard-Left last night for daring to talk to the ‘hated’ former Prime Minister. Left-wing MPs who detest Tony Blair reacted with fury after party sources confirmed that new leader Sir Keir has consulted his famous predecessor since replacing Jeremy Corbyn in April. Sources said yesterday that the two men had ‘spoken more than once’, but declined to say what the conversations were about. The admission came as Mr Blair, who won three General Elections as Labour leader, said Sir Keir had made ‘a very good start’ and that it was ‘such a relief to have a competent, serious voice holding the Government to account’.” – Mail on Sunday

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