Sunak 1) Foreign aid billions to be spent on British spies

“Rishi Sunak is seeking to divert billions of pounds from foreign aid to pay for upgrades to Britain’s intelligence and defence capabilities. The chancellor has told cabinet colleagues that increased spending on items such as enhanced cyberweapons and AI-enabled drones must come from the aid budget. The Treasury is gearing up for a fight over the pledge that commits Britain to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on development projects. An overhaul of foreign, defence and security policy is due to conclude in November. A desire to develop cutting-edge military technologies risks being compromised by a multibillion-pound deficit in the Ministry of Defence’s funding plans for existing kit programmes.” – The Times

Sunak 2) Chancellor “faces Tory fury over plans for £200 tax whack on self-employed”

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak faces more Tory fury over plans for a £200 tax whack on Britain’s army of self-employed. He is thinking of the move in November’s Budget as he tries to pay huge coronavirus bills. Today, The Sun revealed he was considering raising fuel duty by 5p, angering drivers and his own backbenchers. The latest idea is bringing the nine per cent Class 4 National Insurance Contributions rate paid by the self-employed into line with the 12 per cent rate for employees. When Mr Sunak bailed out White Van men, plumbers, electricians and builders in March he warned: ‘If we all want to benefit from state support, we must all pay equally in future.'” – The Sun

  • Any Treasury attempt to bring in a big fuel duty rise will be blocked by Johnson, says No 10 source – Daily Mail

UK will lead world on tackling famine and Covid with new department, says Raab

“Dominic Raab pledged Britain will take the global lead in tackling coronavirus and the growing risk of famine in developing countries by combining diplomatic strength with “world-leading” aid expertise, as the newly merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) prepared to launch on Wednesday. In his first appointment as head of the FCDO, the foreign secretary appointed Nick Dyer, acting permanent secretary of the former Department for International Development (DfID), as the UK’s first special envoy for famine prevention and humanitarian affairs. The merger of DfID and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to form the FCDO, announced by Boris Johnson in June, has been widely criticised, including by three former prime ministers.” – The Guardian

Cummings and his team move to the Cabinet Office as part of Government shake-up

“He is more suited to wearing his T-shirts inside out with combat trousers but as Dominic Cummings launched a new “mission control” at 70 Whitehall on Tuesday he dressed for the occasion. The Prime Minister’s chief adviser donned a dark suit with a pink shirt (but no tie) as No 10’s top team was relocated to the Cabinet Office as part of a major overhaul. The former Vote Leave supremo and around 20 political officials, including Munira Mirza, director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, have moved to the new open-plan office in a shake up of the machinery of Government. It came as Simon Case, The Duke of Cambridge’s former private secretary, was announced as the new head of the civil service”. – Daily Telegraph

  • Digital ‘ID cards’ lead the Cummings data revolution – The Times
  • New civil service chief Simon Case had been forced out over Brexit – The Times

Williamson: Tests to be rolled out at schools to see how far children have fallen behind during lockdown

“Tests are to be rolled out at schools in England to see how far children have fallen behind during lockdown, the education secretary has said. Assessing the current Year 11 and Year 13 students on their abilities is seen as a top priority for ministers because it will inform their decision on how much to postpone the 2021 GCSE and A-level exams. Officials at the Department for Education (DfE) are drawing up plans on how schools can test pupils on their knowledge in a “non-burdensome” way. Gavin Williamson told the Commons that benchmarking pupils will be “absolutely vital” for informing the Government’s policies over the next year.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Heads put Education Secretary to test on delays for next year’s exams – The Times
  • Williamson “told about flaws in A-level model two weeks before results” – The Guardian

Michael Deacon: Boris Johnson chose not to sack Gavin Williamson… and perhaps there’s a very simple reason

“After the fiasco over exam results, Boris Johnson came under serious pressure to sack Gavin Williamson. Yet the Prime Minister kept him on. Many observers were puzzled. But I think I understand. In my view, Mr Williamson may yet have a crucial role to play for this Government. After all: he’ll make the perfect readymade scapegoat if the return to schools somehow goes wrong. Far preferable to sack an Education Secretary who was already unpopular anyway, rather than let the blame fall on a shiny new Education Secretary the PM had only just appointed. The Government could of course try forcing out a senior civil servant instead, but unfortunately they seem to be running a little low on those.” – Daily Telegraph


Coronavirus 1) ‘Too soon’ to lift northern lockdowns

“Leaders in Greater Manchester have said it is too soon to lift local lockdowns as coronavirus cases continue to soar, saying that government plans to relax restrictions have caused “chaos and confusion”. Council bosses in Bolton and Trafford expressed concern that the government was pressing for local lockdown measures to end today, despite rising infection rates in both areas. Andrew Western, the leader of Trafford council, has written to Matt Hancock, the health secretary, to “urgently request clarity on the government’s position and plan of action” regarding restrictions in his area. In a letter shared yesterday, he cited “the near 100 per cent increase in cases” and the increased percentage of positive tests in the week to August 28.” – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Record number of young people on benefits

“Record numbers of young people are claiming benefits because of the coronavirus pandemic, official figures show, as ministers launch a £2 billion employment scheme for school leavers in a “national effort” to restore the UK’s economy on Wednesday. Official statistics published by the Government show the number of under-25s on Universal Credit nearly doubled during lockdown, rising by 250,000 young people to 538,000. The figures emerged amid increasing concern over the economy, with the Government’s drive to get people back to work appearing to fall flat on Tuesday with data suggesting fewer than half of employees returned to the office.” – Daily Telegraph

  • City expects vast majority of workers to stay at home this week – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) NHS patient backlog could undermine restoring pre-pandemic service

“Rob Harwood, an anaesthetist at a hospital in the East of England, laments that even the simplest medical procedures have become laborious in the age of Covid-19. For example, “you can have fewer people in the waiting areas [for X-rays] because you have to be physically distanced, it takes longer to turn somebody over on the X-ray scanner because of all the cleaning that has to be done between cases”, said Dr Harwood, who represents consultants, or senior doctors, at the British Medical Association. “Productivity is really impacted by the way we have to work [now],” he added. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, England’s NHS found beds for everyone who was admitted who needed them, defying grim predictions that a wave of Covid-19 patients would overwhelm its wards.” – FT

Immigration officers ‘fearful’ of complaints in the aftermath of Windrush

“Windrush sensitivities are making immigration and border force officers “fearful” of complaints if they arrest and try to deport illegal migrants, a former head of the border force has warned. Tony Smith, a former director general of the Border Force, also criticised the ditching of targets for removals after Amber Rudd’s resignation over the Windrush affair, which meant officers “don’t know what good looks like”. In an interview with the Telegraph, he said morale was at an all-time low because immigration enforcement did not feel supported by public or civil servants in tackling illegal immigration.” – Daily Telegraph

  • 1,500 migrants cross Channel in a month – The Times

Nicola Sturgeon announces independence referendum Bill plan in the ‘middle of a pandemic’

“Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of living in a “bubble” after unveiling plans in the middle of a pandemic for another independence referendum while doing little more to stem a wave of imminent job losses. Unveiling her Programme for Government for the coming year, Holyrood’s version of Westminster’s Queen’s Speech, the First Minister said she would publish a draft Referendum Bill with a ballot paper question and timetable. She said she would then seek a “clear endorsement” for another separation vote in next May’s Holyrood election, with polls suggesting she is on course for a landslide victory.” – Daily Telegraph


UK warns Brexit trade agreement will ‘not be easy to achieve’ before no deal deadline

“Downing Street has said that it will be difficult to finalise a free trade agreement with the European Union before the no deal deadline at the end of this year.  France and Germany also warned that time was running out to avoid no deal, which would mean the UK and EU trading on less lucrative WTO terms and with tariffs from January 1. The Prime Minister’s spokesman blamed Brussels for the deadlocked negotiations, accusing the EU of blocking talks until the UK made concessions on fishing rights and level playing field guarantees for state aid, which govern subsidies and bailouts.  “We would instead like to settle the simplest issues first in order to build momentum in the talks as time is short on both sides,” he said after describing last week’s round of talks as yielding “little progress”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • More than 80 per cent of all English Channel cod is caught by French boats (yes, really). So as we wrangle over fishing rights in the latest talks, we have the upper hand, Daniel Hannan – Daily Mail

More politically diverse comedy on cards as new BBC director-general Tim Davie seeks reform

“The BBC needs reforming to keep it “relevant and indispensable”, its new director-general has said, as it was revealed that he plans to tackle accusations of left-wing bias in the corporation’s comedy shows. Tim Davie arrived wearing trainers, jeans, a blazer and an open-necked shirt at the headquarters of BBC Scotland in Glasgow yesterday, for his first day as director-general. He is understood to have chosen to spend his first day in the BBC’s Scottish office to emphasise his commitment, shared with staff in an internal memo yesterday, to ensuring that the BBC “serves and represents every part of this country”. He will be making a speech to staff in Cardiff tomorrow to set out his vision for the corporation.” – The Times

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