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Navy is big winner in Johnson’s £16bn defence spending spree

“Boris Johnson has pledged to restore Britain’s status as the “foremost naval power in Europe” and promised significant investment in new warships. In a speech on his vision for the armed forces, the prime minister announced a four-year funding deal, which he said was worth an extra £16.5 billion, for the Ministry of Defence yesterday that will facilitate a generational upgrade of the military. The government also highlighted offensive cyber-capabilities, now structured within a National Cyber Force that includes personnel from the military, GCHQ, MI6 and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The force, which reports to the foreign and defence secretaries, is intended to disrupt terrorist communications and degrade hostile states’ infrastructure. Other features of the deal include a Space Command, an artificial intelligence agency and investment in combat drones, Mr Johnson said.” – The Times

  • Spending splurge to make Britain the ‘naval superpower of Europe’ once again – The Sun
  • Johnson reveals plans for his hi-tech New Model Army – Daily Telegraph
  • Military still faces hard choices despite spending boost – FT

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: The Prime Minister – “I’ve decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end and it ends now”

Armed Forces must hire specialists for hi-tech future wars, says Defence Secretary

“The Armed Forces must recruit “specialists” in fields such as cyber technology rather than concentrating on personnel numbers if they are to win future wars, the Defence Secretary has said. Ben Wallace said Britain must also become a world-beater in military satellites, lasers and drones as well as on traditional battlefields as he detailed how the Government would use a £24 billion increase in defence spending which is expected to create 40,000 jobs. Boris Johnson announced that GCHQ, MI6 and the Ministry of Defence would pool their resources to create a new National Cyber Force to protect the UK from online attacks. It would be tasked with protecting military hardware from being hacked by hostile states, as well as disrupting terrorist cells or destroying servers hosting material threatening national security. Announcing the new military spending to Parliament, the Prime Minister said the money was needed because “the international situation is now more perilous and intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • National Cyber Force will target UK adversaries online – FT
  • RAF and French air force strike deal to strengthen military cooperation post-Brexit – Daily Express
  • Plans for ‘luxury’ GCHQ condemned – The Times
  • Wallace:  ‘We must invest in defence now – our enemies aren’t waiting’ – Interview, Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • It’s guns and hard power that guarantee Britain’s global role – Colonel Richard Kemp, Daily Telegraph
  • Billions extra for defence? This is Johnson showing off his power – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • A substantial multi-year financial settlement for the Armed Forces was the right move – The Times

Take test to earn freedom pass, says ex-Health Secretary

“Everyone should be tested for coronavirus every month to give people “freedom passes” to resume everyday activities, Jeremy Hunt says. The former health secretary today urges Boris Johnson to set an Easter deadline to return to more normal life through mass testing with rapid home testing kits, even if vaccines have not come through by then. Pilot schemes in Liverpool are offering tests to anyone who wants one but Mr Hunt, who chairs the Commons health select committee, urges the government to go further and give people an incentive to be tested by allowing them “to go out, shop and go to work” if they test negative. Mr Hunt has long been an advocate of testing and has persuaded ministers to introduce weekly testing for all frontline NHS staff. He says that the same approach should be extended by using new lateral flow kits to test everyone in the country, an idea that ministers have considered but have been reluctant to speak publicly about.” – The Times

  • UK just ‘weeks away’ from mass Covid vaccine programme, Hancock claims – The Sun
  • Government plan to innocculate one million Brits a day – Daily Mail
  • Make Tier 3 the new normal to avoid disaster, say hospital chiefs – The Times
  • Van Tam slams Guardian for ‘misleading and sensationalist’ claims Brits may get ‘inferior’ vaccines – The Sun
  • Scientists warn against opening Britain up for Christmas – Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • The Government needs a dedicated minister to oversee its most urgent task – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: The Coronavirus – and the mysterious affair of the Treasury’s economic analysis

Jeremy Hunt: Plan B should be monthly checks for all

“Critics of testing programmes often argue that you end up with thousands of people wrongly required to isolate but these can be reduced by giving a PCR test to everyone who gets a positive result from a lateral flow test. A bigger challenge will be to overcome the serious problems in our contact-tracing system where only 20 per cent of those asked to isolate are complying. There is no point testing if nothing happens after a positive result. We need to localise our contact tracing and we need to make sure there are proper incentives to comply by paying any wages lost by those self-isolating. But we should go further, offering people who comply with testing and isolation requirements a “freedom pass” that removes the requirement to follow lockdown regulations. In Slovakia they gave those with negative results a certificate that released them from curfew and allowed them to go out, shop, and go to work. This meant 97 per cent of the eligible population was tested. We should do the same in the UK, using the NHS Covid app to record who has been tested and who has received the vaccine.” – The Times

  • There will be no Boris reset until he breaks the endless lockdown cycle – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • How Johnson can keep all Tory tribes happy – James Forsyth, The Times

Millions of public sector workers are expected to face a pay freeze next year

“Millions of public sector workers are expected to face a pay freeze next year as Rishi Sunak attempts to pay down the spiralling costs of the coronavirus pandemic. The Chancellor is understood to be preparing to announce in next week’s comprehensive spending review that there must be pay restraint across the public sector. He is expected to argue that a freeze on wages, which is likely to apply to police officers, teachers, soldiers and civil servants, is only fair given the significant hit to workers in the private sector. However, NHS doctors and nurses are likely to be exempted from the cap, which is expected to sit at or below inflation, in recognition of their crucial role in the nation’s response to the crisis. The Centre for Policy Studies think tank has estimated that a three-year freeze could save the Exchequer up to £23bn.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor to announce pay restraints ‘despite huge boost being unveiled for Armed Forces’ – The Guardian
  • Only fair ‘when many in the private sector face pay cuts or job losses’ – The Times
  • Tax rises and spending cuts to come – The Sun
  • British public borrowing soars to record high – FT

Aid:

  • Johnson sidesteps calls to recommit to aid spending target – The Guardian
  • Charities urge the Prime Minister to protect development budget – FT

Patel ‘guilty of bullying staff’, leaked report finds

“Boris Johnson will defend his embattled home secretary today after an official inquiry concluded that she breached the ministerial code by bullying civil servants. Priti Patel is expected to apologise after a Whitehall investigation found that she had “not always met the high standards” required of ministers. The prime minister intends to reject calls for her resignation. He will point to the report’s conclusion that her actions may have been “unintentional” and its criticism of senior civil servants for not raising their concerns directly with her before they became public. He will also refuse to publish the full Cabinet Office investigation into Ms Patel’s behaviour that led to the report by Sir Alex Allan, his adviser on ministerial standards. Sir Alex was asked to investigate after The Times revealed in February details of the home secretary’s behaviour towards senior staff in the Home Office and previous departments in which she had worked.” – The Times

  • Home Secretary breached bullying rules ‘unintentionally’ – Daily Telegraph
  • She is set to be given ‘formal warning’ by the Prime Minister – The Sun

Pressure grows on Jacob Rees-Mogg over MPs’ remote access

“Jacob Rees-Mogg is facing intense pressure to widen virtual participation in House of Commons proceedings after senior Conservative MPs joined calls for a change in the rules, with one saying the the system was “farcical”. The former Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley said the current situation was “utterly farcical,” as she urged the Commons leader to allow any MP to join debates by video link during the pandemic, if they needed to. Bradley was launching a report by the cross-party procedure committee, which she chairs, urging Rees-Mogg to make the rules “uniform” for all parliamentary procedures. MPs can participate virtually in “scrutiny” proceedings, such as urgent questions, but not in “substantive” proceedings such as debates on legislation. Any MP can request a proxy vote… Boris Johnson is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who later tested positive for coronavirus.” – The Guardian

>Today: Mark Lehain in Comment: The Government can’t afford to surrender in the war on woke

Ross warns that BBC risks distorting Holyrood election with daily Sturgeon coverage

“BBC Scotland risks distorting the outcome of May’s Holyrood election if it continues broadcasting Nicola Sturgeon’s daily Covid-19 briefing, Douglas Ross has warned. The Scottish Tory leader warned there is a “crucial point coming” when the BBC may be in breach of its Charter commitment to impartiality if its coverage of the briefings continued as present. While he said the Corporation should cover Ms Sturgeon’s major announcements on the virus, he argued she could make these to the Scottish Parliament where she can be challenged by opposition MSPs. With the election campaign expected to ramp up in the new year, Mr Ross told the Telegraph the BBC’s current practice of broadcasting her hour-long daily press conferences with relatively little input from the other parties was not balanced or fair. His intervention, on the eve of today’s virtual Scottish Tory conference, came as a BBC Scotland poll found 74 of per cent of Scots think Ms Sturgeon has handled the pandemic well compared to only 19 per cent for Boris Johnson.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prospect of Brexit stokes fires of Scottish independence – FT
  • Entering Scotland from the rest of the UK is banned despite claims law goes beyond Sturgeon’s powers – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Scottish Unionists get much-needed boost from surge in defence spending – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson blames devolution, but in truth he’s long been hostile to Scotland – Gordon Brown, The Guardian

>Today: Shona Haslam in Local Government: English “tiers”? Scottish “levels”? We need a national response to the pandemic. Not this confusion.

>Yesterday:

EU ‘fury’ as David Frost refuses to budge on fishing red lines

“The row over post-Brexit fishing rights still threatens to collapse the trade and security talks after another week of wrangling ended in deadlock. European sources said the Brexit trade talks had failed to produce a breakthrough because of disagreements over access to Britain’s coastal waters, state aid rules and policing any final agreement. Details of the impasse emerged after EU member states were briefed by the European Commission’s secretary-general. Michel Barnier was due to update the bloc’s 27 ambassadors but was forced into isolation after a member of his team tested positive for coronavirus. Both sides have agreed to continue the talks online as time runs out to strike a deal before the end of Britain’s transition from the bloc in December. One EU insider said UK negotiator Lord Frost was still refusing to budge in order to pave the way to a compromise on fisheries.” – Daily Express

  • Talks halted after Covid-19 hits Barnier’s team – The Times

Corbyn ally Lavery threatens to challenge Starmer for Labour leadership

“Sir Keir Starmer faces the prospect of a leadership challenge if he continues to block Jeremy Corbyn from sitting as a Labour MP, a senior ally of the former leader has warned. Ian Lavery, who was party chairman under Mr Corbyn, spoke last night of “the opportunity of a leadership challenge” if Sir Keir continued to alienate the left. Mr Lavery is seen by allies as a prime candidate to lead it. He accused Sir Keir of pursuing a “a personal and political vendetta” against his predecessor and turning the party into a “tinpot dictatorship”, in comments to the news website Huffpost. The Times understands that Mr Corbyn instructed solicitors to begin pursuing a case against his party yesterday after he did not have the whip returned. Last night Mr Corbyn was told by Nick Brown, the chief whip, that he was suspended for a reviewable period of three months, pending an investigation.” – The Times

  • Ex-leader ‘will have Labour whip suspended for at least three months’ – The Sun

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: “The sun is incomparably more powerful than any work of man.” When Johnson’s guru on global warming was Corbyn’s brother.

News in Brief:

  • Johnson should heed Ross’s warning about the Union – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • If Sunak is planning a future tax raid he must support the self-employed now – Sam Robinson, CapX
  • Social media’s ridiculous denial of partisan editing and publishing – Bruce Newsome, The Critic
  • Covid-19 and the environment should spur lifestyle switches – Alex Game, 1828
  • Why we need populism – Matthew Goodwin, UnHerd

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