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Free school meals 1) Partial climbdown expected from the Government…

“Boris Johnson will increase funding for the poorest families during the Christmas holidays as he seeks to close down the damaging row over free school meals, allies have said. Downing Street figures said that work was under way on additional support for eligible pupils outside term time. It is a partial climbdown for the government in the fight with Marcus Rashford, the England footballer who is leading calls for free school meals to continue during holidays. The prime minister was urged to act by cabinet ministers before the dispute came to a head this weekend. George Eustice, the environment secretary, called at Tuesday’s meeting of the political cabinet for the expansion of a £63 million scheme for the most vulnerable.” – The Times

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Free school meals 2) … as former ministers lead a Tory revolt against Johnson

“Former ministers are leading a growing Tory revolt on free school meals as they told Boris Johnson to come up with “something better” or they would vote against the Government. Up to 100 Tory MPs were said to be sharing furious texts over the Government’s handling of England footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals in the holidays, and the way it handed a political coup to Labour. MPs described it as “shockingly inept”, a “political disaster”, and “hopeless communication” as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer took advantage of the Tory disarray to pledge a second vote on Rashford’s appeal for free meals for children in need to be funded over the school holidays until Easter 2021.” – Daily Telegraph

Free school meals 3) Pub becomes latest venue to ban Cornish MP Steve Double over vote

“A Cornish pub has become the third venue to bar Conservative MP Steve Double after he voted against the extension of free school meals over the half-term period. CornwallLive reported on Saturday how Whiskers and Coffee on the Corner, both in Newquay, have told Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, that he is no longer welcome in their venues. It comes after Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford led a campaign to improve access to free school meals for children. Rashford himself relied on free school meals while growing up and has been urging the Government to extend the offer during school holidays, particularly with families being hit financially by the coronavirus crisis.” – CornwallLive

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Free school meals 4) Stephen Glover – Do the right thing… and see off Labour

“Are the Tories again the ‘nasty party’, as critics of the Government’s refusal to extend provision for free school lunches over this week’s half-term and the Christmas holidays contend? Or is No 10 being perfectly reasonable, having provided extra welfare giveaways during the pandemic of some £9billion? Are the Tories being wrongly depicted as mean-minded by a devious Labour Party, which said yesterday that it intends to force a second vote on the issue this week? The Government’s position is that it offered free school meals for around 1.3million children in England – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own arrangements – during the summer holidays. That was an exceptional concession after a spirited campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford.” – Daily Mail

Isle of Wight tanker: Special Forces take control of ship after ‘hijackers’ threaten the crew

“Special forces on Sunday night ended a ten-hour standoff in the Channel after a group of violent Nigerian “hijackers” threatened to kill the crew of an oil tanker bound for the UK. Troops from the Special Boat Service stormed the Nave Andromeda under cover of darkness and in a nine minute raid detained seven suspected migrants after they forced the giant vessel to drop anchor five miles off the Isle of Wight. On Sunday night Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel praised the police and armed forces for bringing the situation under control. Mr Wallace said: “I commend the hard work of the Armed Forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship.”” – Daily Telegraph

Explainer:
  • How a ten-hour standoff on an oil tanker near the Isle of Wight ended in just nine minutes – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 1) Plans for ‘Tier 4’ restrictions if current rules don’t work to tackle second wave

“Discussions are underway in Whitehall and local authorities for a Plan B to tackle the second wave of Covid-19 if the three-tier system in England has not made a difference by mid-November, it has emerged. Options being discussed include dialling up the already tough tier three restrictions to “tier three-plus” or tier four, as well as the possibility of short-term local circuit breaker lockdowns to bring the R value of transmission below 1. Boris Johnson made clear in his latest Downing Street press conference on Thursday that he was wedded to the local and regional approach and that a full lockdown “from John O’Groats to Land’s End” was not an option, due to the impact on the economy, society and mental health – particularly in areas with low levels of infection.” – The I Paper

  • Rule of six and curfews likely to have ‘zero effect’ on reducing contacts – Daily Telegraph
  • Circuit-breaker ‘not worth hit to economy’ – The Times
  • Spain imposes Coronavirus state of emergency that will last until May – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Quarantine could be cut to week amid doubts over test and trace

“Reducing the coronavirus isolation period will depend in part on the ability of NHS Test and Trace to provide extra diagnostics, it has emerged. As pressure grows on Boris Johnson to replace Baroness Harding of Winscombe, the programme’s chief, the prime minister has ordered a review of the two-week period during which contacts of people tested positive for coronavirus must self-isolate. Ministers cited evidence suggesting that many people fail to complete the full period. The main options are reducing the period to ten days — as required of those with a positive test — or seven days, dependent on a negative test. The latter would place additional burdens on NHS Test and Trace, however.” – The Times

  • 12-minute Covid test to be available at Boots – Daily Mail

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Coronavirus 3) Oxford coronavirus vaccine is to get approval ahead of Christmas, says professor leading the project

“Medics and high-risk patients are likely to receive Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine before the end of the year, the professor leading the project said. Adrian Hill said emergency approval would allow those most in need to receive the jab while the final trials are still under way. Full authorisation would then follow, meaning the rest of the population could receive the vaccine from early 2021. Professor Hill, founder and director of the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, admitted timing was tight to begin vaccinations before Christmas – but insisted it was indeed possible. ‘Billions of doses’ are already being produced at ten factories across the globe by a consortium led by British drugs firms AstraZeneca, he said.” – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 4) Government struck £119m Covid advertising deal weeks before first lockdown

“Ministers struck a  deal worth up to £119m with one of the world’s biggest marketing companies for a Covid campaign three weeks before the country went into a national lockdown, official filings show. The Cabinet Office signed the contract with London-based OMD Group, a subsidiary of US ad titan Omnicom, on March 2  – the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended his first pandemic-related Cobra meeting – as the Government began to gear up its response to the crisis.  Although the UK did not go into lockdown until March 23, the outline of its communications strategy appears to have been agreed weeks in advance.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 5) Only six in ten pupils are getting full education despite schools reopening, report finds

“Only six in ten pupils are getting a full education despite schools going back, a London School of Economics study has found as researchers warn of “permanent scarring” to the Covid generation. During late September and early October, just 59 per cent of pupils benefitted from “full schooling”, a new report by the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance has found. This compared to around four in ten (38 per cent) who had full schooling – defined as spending at least five hours on work or receiving at least four lessons per day – during lockdown. The research comes amid growing concern that despite schools being open in theory, large swathes of children are being sent home to self-isolate with variable quality of remote education in place for them.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 6) Tory MPs want a pandemic equivalent of the European Research Group

“Tory MPs are moving to set up the coronavirus equivalent of the European Research Group (ERG) if the Government fails to come up with a “plan B” to tackle the pandemic. Steve Baker, a former chair of the ERG, which led the Brexit backbench rebellions, is being urged by as many as 90 Tory MPs to adopt the same approach to put the case for an alternative strategy to perpetual lockdowns. It is understood there are businesses and groups outside Parliament willing to fund a “proper operation” to act as a counterweight to the scientific and medical advisers seen as holding sway over large sections of the Government.” – Daily Telegraph

Hopes of EU trade deal rise as Barnier stays on for more talks

“Michel Barnier has remained in London for intensive talks, prompting hopes that a trade deal with the EU will be concluded. Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, said the decision by the EU’s chief negotiator to keep talking was a “very good sign”. Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, also voiced cautious optimism. “It’s by no means guaranteed but I think on the balance of probabilities it will be possible to agree a free-trade agreement with the UK which means there will be no quotas and no tariffs,” Mr Varadkar told RTE radio. The talks had been expected to switch to Brussels next week but Mr Barnier will now remain in the UK until Wednesday.” – The Times

  • Brexit talks could see Merkel intervene after France refused fishing compromise – Daily Telegraph
  • Last minute Brexit risks supermarket turmoil – Daily Telegraph
  • UK-US trade deal cannot happen if Brexit talks fail, ex-official says – Daily Telegraph

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