Ministers urged to warn people that vaccination is not a licence to ignore lockdown restrictions

“Ministers have been warned that millions of people are likely to begin ignoring Covid restrictions once they have been vaccinated. Government scientists are concerned that those who receive jabs are likely to relax their attitude towards social distancing and lockdown rules, according to papers seen by The Telegraph. Minutes of meetings held by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) cite a survey which says that 29 per cent of people will adhere to restrictions less strictly once they have had a vaccine, while 11 per cent will “probably no longer follow the rules”. Papers released by Sage reveal concerns that changes in the behaviour of those who get the jab could more than “offset” the benefits of the vaccination programme over the next few months.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scientists want ministers to threaten more lockdowns – Daily Mail
  • Hancock reveals UK vaccinating more than double the rate of anywhere else in Europe – The Sun
  • Zahawi: Half a million police officers and teachers could jump the queue – Daily Mail

Health Secretary says vaccination drive is ‘a full seven-day’ service

“Matt Hancock has insisted the UK’s ambitious vaccination drive is a ‘full seven-day service’ – despite an apparent drop in the number of people receiving jabs at the weekend. This week’s figures showed a total of 321,951 people received a dose of the Oxford or Pfizer vaccine on Thursday – followed by a further 328,260 on Friday. The figures – which include both first and second doses – then drop to 280,390 on Saturday, followed by another dip to 227,972 on Sunday. Public Health England today blamed the lower weekend figures on reporting delays, as the Health Secretary insisted the roll-out was a ‘full seven-day service’ with the Government ‘prepared to go 24/7’. When asked about the drop in figures at today’s daily Downing Street press briefing, Mr Hancock urged Britons to look at weekly averages rather than data from an individual day. ” – Daily Mail

  • Covid jabs diverted to over-80s in vaccination blackspots – The Times
  • Pensioners tell of fears they have been overlooked for Covid jab – Daily Mail
  • Harding defends use of £1,000-a-day consultants – FT
  • Our readers smash 50,000 ‘Jabs Army’ target – The Sun

Drakeford told ‘people will die’ after he slows Wales vaccine rollout

“Welsh leader Mark Drakeford has been told that more people will die after slowing DOWN their Covid vaccination programme so staff aren’t “standing around” with nothing to do. The First minister was blasted after he said Wales’ doses have to last until February and blamed supply issues. Speaking to Radio 4 today, Mark Drakeford said it would be “damaging” to try and get it all out now, and instead the pace would be slowed down until more doses were available. He said a huge batch had failed a safety test and had to be held back… Around 150,000 people will have been vaccinated in Wales by the end of Monday. But he promised that the four priority groups would still be vaccinated by the end of February – as the Government has promised across the UK.” – The Sun

  • Chaos at Heathrow arrivals as officers inspect coronavirus tests – The Times
  • Sturgeon under pressure over far faster English vaccination – Daily Telegraph


Schools could be closed until after Easter

“Schools could remain closed until the Easter holidays, with children facing another three months away from the classrooms, educations chiefs now fear. Despite the UK recording another drop in Covid cases, school bosses believe millions of pupils now face the prospect of being home schooled until the start of April. It means students will have faced almost a year of on-and-off disruption to their education. Fears of an April return were further compounded as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned at the weekend that it would not be possible to start to lift lockdown restrictions in England until March. And yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock cast more doubt on a March re-opening for schools when he declined to say that a loosening of lockdown rules meant a return for students.” – Daily Mail

  • Free school meals voucher scheme reopens to help millions of children – The Sun
  • One in four UK young people have felt ‘unable to cope’ in pandemic – The Guardian


  • Tory MPs demand a route out of lockdown – Daily Mail
  • Johnson vows lifting lockdown won’t be ‘open sesame moment’ after February – The Sun


>Today: Stuart Coster in Local Government: Is Lib Dem election campaigning “essential activity”? A “reasonable excuse” for someone to leave home?

Economy: Norman ‘raised the tantalising prospect of avoiding future hikes’…

“Britain could be spared a massive tax raid if the economy bounces back strongly as vaccines are rolled out, a Treasury minister has said. Jesse Norman raised hopes that the country can get back on its feet without the burden of crippling extra levies to pay for an unprecedented peacetime borrowing spree which has funded the fight against Covid. If households and businesses burst out of lockdown and unleash pent-up demand, it could mean the biggest recession in 300 years gives way to a major boom – boosting tax revenues and slashing Government borrowing automatically. It comes as hawks inside the Treasury reportedly wargame hikes including a possible wealth tax as part of a bid to restore stability to the public finances. Speaking to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, Mr Norman said that the £100bn savings pile built up by families during lockdowns is evidence that a sharp recovery could yet take hold.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Business leaders demand Government extends massive furlough bailout again – Daily Mail
  • Sunak risks clash with business over proposed corporation tax rise – FT
  • Shoppers face online sales tax to pay off Covid-19 debt – Daily Mail
  • Firms cannot wait until budget for more Covid help, Chancellor told – The Guardian


  • Kwarteng, the free marketeer learning benefits of state action – FT

>Yesterday: Robert Largan MP in Comment: Cutting Council Tax would do more to level up than cutting Corporation Tax

…as Johnson hints that emergency universal credit will stay

“Boris Johnson signalled yesterday that the government could extend emergency universal credit payments beyond March as he pledged to “look after people throughout the pandemic”. Amid growing evidence of a government climbdown the prime minister said he would “make sure people don’t suffer” as lockdown restrictions continued. Senior Conservative MPs and ministers have increased pressure on Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to extend the “temporary” £20-a-week payments despite fears in the Treasury that they will become harder to reverse. Mr Sunak had proposed an alternative one-off payment of £500 to eligible families but this has met significant opposition in Whitehall. Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, is leading cabinet calls to keep the present financial support, which is benefiting more than six million families at a cost of £6 billion a year.” – The Times

  • Six Tories revolt to back Labour demands to keep £20-a-week increase – Daily Mail
  • Chancellor warns fuel duty hike will be needed to pay for Universal Credit boost – The Sun


  • Ministers should resist calls to maintain emergency benefits indefinitely – The Times
  • It would be madness to raise fuel tax by 5p a litre – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Universal Credit, overseas aid, empowering judges, tax rises. There’s more to yesterday’s rebellion than six backbenchers.

>Yesterday: Frank Young in Comment: Today’s Commons debates, why measuring relative poverty doesn’t work – and what Ministers should do instead

Government unveils £23 million compensation fund for fishing industry

“Boris Johnson has unveiled a £23 million fund to compensate the fishing industry for losses caused by Brexit red tape as Scottish seafood hauliers descended on Downing Street to protest. The Prime Minister confirmed that any business experiencing difficulty exporting to the EU “through no fault of their own” would be compensated. However, he insisted the pandemic was responsible for some of the losses, citing reduced demand for Scottish seafood from restaurants on the Continent that have been forced to shut. His announcement came as more than 20 lorries drove up Whitehall, the majority from seafood exporters in Scotland, complaining they were being “tied in knots with paperwork” by the Brexit fishing deal.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tonnes of meat rotting at the border due to Brexit red tape – The Times
  • British ports demand help for British fish exporters – FT

Tory MPs threaten revolt on Brexit trade bill over China ‘genocide amendment’

“Conservative MPs have threatened a revolt against the UK Government’s post-Brexit trade bill unless a “genocide amendment” is added to tackle China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, as the legislation comes to Commons later today. Rebel Tories are looking to introduce a mechanism in the Brexit trade bill which allows British courts to determine whether a foreign country has committed genocide. The amendment, added in the House of Lords, was introduced specifically over allegations China has committed human rights abuses against its Uighur Muslim population. The trade bill will return to the House of Commons today, after passing in the Lords with a majority of 129 votes. According to reports, 30 Tories expected to vote for the amendment, and at least 15 set to abstain.” – Daily Express

  • Rebels aim to insert genocide amendment in UK-China trade bill – The Guardian
  • SNP MPs to support it – The Herald

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The China genocide amendment. Our politicians should decide our trade policy – not our judges.

Neil Parish MP: Brexit gifted us scrutiny over trade agreements, and we have to make the most of it

“The best trade deals are those which carry democratic support and are developed in partnership with MPs, who are able to represent the concerns of their constituents, including brilliant local businesses. The government shouldn’t be running scared. Instead, it should come forward and amend the Trade Bill to increase the level of parliamentary scrutiny afforded to MPs, with a guaranteed vote on all new agreements. For example, Parliament must have the final say on the UK’s trading relationship with China. We need to ensure that trade with regimes which commit human rights abuses, including genocide, is subject to thorough parliamentary scrutiny. The UK’s new trade policy can, and should, be a force for good around the world – promoting liberal values, better standards and boosting prosperity at the same time.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Global Britain must decide the ethical price of trade deals – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

£140m spent on HS2 line that faces axe

“More than £140 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent buying property to make way for the eastern leg of HS2 even though the route could be scrapped. The investment has been made in land, homes and businesses between Birmingham and Leeds via the East Midlands to allow the new line to be built. In some cases, householders have been subjected to compulsory purchase orders while others have opted to sell up and move in the face of disruption posed by the line. There is, however, mounting speculation that the government could shelve most of the 120-mile route in favour of other upgrades, including improvements to existing rail lines. Work has already started on the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham. The full Y-shaped network is supposed to be built by 2040, taking trains north to Manchester in one direction and northeast in the other towards the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds.” – The Times

  • Crossrail 2: more than £115m spent before project mothballed – The Guardian

Lawyers for Corbyn accuse Starmer of ‘disingenuous’ attack

“Lawyers for Jeremy Corbyn have accused the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, of making “inflammatory and disingenuous” attacks on his predecessor following a row over the party’s handling of antisemitism. At a high court hearing on Monday, Corbyn’s lawyers said documents would help prove there was a deal with Starmer’s office to readmit him to the party, and Corbyn’s suspension “went behind an agreement to reinstate” him to Labour “at all levels”. Corbyn’s barrister, Christopher Jacobs, told the hearing: “The disclosure will enable my client to plead that there was procedural unfairness, and breach of a duty to act in good faith.” He said Corbyn’s treatment by the party had been “grossly unfair”. Corbyn was initially suspended from Labour in October, when he said the scale of antisemitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated”, in the wake of a damning report by the equalities watchdog.” – The Guardian

Russia jails opposition activist Navalny for 30 days

“Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has been sent to prison a day after returning to his home country, triggering condemnation from western powers and calls for sanctions from several EU member states.  His detention came despite demands from the US and the EU that Moscow release Mr Navalny, and calls from two EU member states for the bloc to impose sanctions if the Russian dissident was not swiftly released. Mr Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, was detained by police at Moscow’s main airport on Sunday evening after returning from Germany, where he had recovered from an assassination attempt involving the Soviet-developed nerve agent novichok. The attempt on his life last August was blamed on the Kremlin and sparked widespread condemnation from western governments. Moscow denied any involvement and has suggested Mr Navalny could have been poisoned outside Russia.” – FT

FBI vets thousands of troops amid fears of insider attack on Biden inauguration

“Thousands of military personnel guarding Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president on Wednesday are being vetted by the FBI amid fears of an insider attack. The biggest ever security operation for a presidential transition has turned swaths of Washington into a fortress, barricades, razor wire and 7ft fences erected to prevent a repeat of the deadly 6 January attack on the US Capitol by a mob incited by Donald Trump. Christopher Miller, the acting defence secretary, said the Pentagon would vet National Guardsmen in Washington and thanked the FBI for its assistance: “This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events. However, in this case the scope of military participation is unique. The DC National Guard is also providing additional training to service members as they arrive in DC that if they see or hear something that is not appropriate, they should report it to their chain of command,” he said in a statement.” – The Guardian

  • Trump is the victim and did not incite riot – Alex Story, Daily Express

>Today: Jonathan Caine in Comment: My experience of Biden and his team suggests that we shouldn’t fear his presidency – but need to engage

>Yesterday: Richard Holden MP’s column: Biden’s inauguration this week boosts Britain’s new opportunity to pivot to the world

News in Brief:

  • Drakeford’s absurd vaccine plan is a symptom of a deeper devolutionary malaise – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • What the Protocol border inside the UK is doing – David Scullion, The Critic
  • MPs must vote with their conscience and back the Genocide Amendment – Benedict Rogers, CapX
  • The return of the cigar – Simon de Burton, The Spectator