Published:

‘Back to school on March 8’ as Johnson starts lifting lockdown

“All schoolchildren will return to the classroom on March 8 under plans to start lifting the lockdown, Boris Johnson will announce in a national address next week. Under the government’s blueprint to reopen society, adults will initially have only small new freedoms so as to prioritise the return of schools — a move ministers know will raise the coronavirus R number for infections. Adults will be allowed to sit down outdoors for a coffee or on a park bench with one friend, or with members of their own family — a slight relaxation of the current rule, which permits outdoor meetings only while standing up. The decision to reopen both primary and secondary schools goes against the advice of some government scientists. But the prime minister was swayed by faster than expected reductions in hospital admissions and infections.” – Sunday Times

  • Video of militant teachers fuels fears that unions are plotting to block March 8 return – Mail on Sunday
  • No catch-up school, say ‘red wall’ mums, just let kids see their friends – Sunday Times

More:

  • Picnics and coffee in the park as lockdown to lift, Government confirms – Sunday Telegraph
  • Pubs and restaurants ‘set for al fresco reopening in April’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Rebel MPs warn there ‘no justification’ for Covid restrictions to still be in place at start of May – Sun on Sunday
  • The key metrics Johnson will want to hit before easing lockdown – Sunday Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Conservative MPs on when lockdown should end. “We should start on March 8.”

Quarantine hotels ‘could become Covid infection hubs because of ventilation flaws’

“Quarantine hotels could become hubs for infection with flaws in ventilation, the head of a hotel group used by the NHS has warned, amid fears more airport accommodation does not have windows that open. UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries will be required to spend 10 days in government-designated accommodation from Monday, with adults paying £1,750 for the quarantine package. But Meher Nawab, chief executive of the London Hotel Group, which cares for homeless Covid-positive patients for the NHS, said airport hotels – many of which don’t have windows that open – rely on central air flow systems. This raised the risk of cross-contamination between guests and with hotel staff, he said, allowing any airborne virus to circulate between rooms and corridors.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • UK cannot afford a second year with empty skies, warns airline chief – Mail on Sunday
  • Tourists could be heading to Spain for summer holidays after plans for ‘vaccine passport’ revealed – Sun on Sunday

Comment:

  • The world needs to agree a form of Covid passport, and Britain should lead the way – Tony Blair, Mail on Sunday

>Yesterday: David Gauke’s column: Ten years for lying on a form. Disproportionate – and characteristic of our cavalier approach to sentencing.

Johnson set to announce UK has passed 15 million jabs target

“Boris Johnson raised the nation’s hopes of loosening the lockdown yesterday as the NHS was poised to hit its jabs target. The PM is expected to announce today that 15million people have been vaccinated — 24 hours ahead of schedule. He declared: “I’m optimistic. I won’t hide it from you.” Mr Johnson is now preparing to give Brits some of their freedoms back when he unveils his “roadmap” on February 22. Outdoor socialising will be among a host of banned activities that will be allowed from next month. Getting kids back to school is still his top priority but he will also lift curbs on people meeting for a coffee in the park. The only interaction allowed under current rules is for two adults to exercise together.” – Sun on Sunday

  • British scientists are developing ‘universal Covid jab’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Lifelong immunity hope for Covid-19 vaccine – Sunday Times
  • Hancock hopes Covid will become treatable disease by end of 2021 – The Observer
  • Davis calls for Vitamin D therapy to be rolled out ‘immediately’ – Mail on Sunday

Comment:

  • In the vaccination war, UK must be able to make its own ammunition – Robin Shattock, Sunday Telegraph
  • Hancock should learn from the Covid crisis before dictating to the NHS – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer
  • Health Secretary may be ready to ‘live with the virus’, but is Britain? – Ross Clark, Sunday Telegraph

Editorial:

  • The news gets better every day: the end is in sight – Sunday Times

Ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in England extended to end of March

“The ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in England is to be extended until the end of March, the government has announced. The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, said the ban – introduced at the start of the pandemic last March to protect private renters – will remain in place for all but the most serious cases for another six weeks. The latest extension came after ministers announced last month that it would continue until 22 February, having been due to expire on 11 January… The National Residential Landlords Association chief executive, Ben Beadle, warned the announcement was storing up future problems. He said 800,000 private renters have built up arrears since the ban came into force, which they would struggle to ever pay off.” – The Observer

Stop Beijing buying our defence firms, MPs urge

“Aerospace companies struggling because of the pandemic could be snapped up by Beijing to gain access to their technology and boost its military buildup, MPs are warning. Chinese attempts to gain control of “financially fragile” aerospace companies hit by the downturn in civil air travel should be investigated by the Ministry of Defence, the Commons defence committee says in a report published today. Nine British companies that supply the defence ministry, or allied forces, with military kit and components have already been bought by Beijing, the report says. These include companies supplying parts for the RAF’s F-35B Lightning stealth fighters and the A400M Atlas transport planes, as well as companies involved in space technology and the manufacture of drones.” – Sunday Times

  • China and Russia must be barred from supplying vital Army tech – Sun on Sunday

Government set to appoint a ‘woke warden’ to fine universities who ‘cancel’ people

“Universities and colleges will be fined for suffocating free speech on campuses, ministers have warned. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will this week unveil a ‘free speech champion’ who will have the power to defend students and academics. Institutions which try to cancel people due to their views will be penalised as part of the government’s ‘war on woke’. Ministers have also told heritage groups ‘public funds must never be used for political purposes’ as they try to defend the attempted rewriting of Britain’s history. It comes after a December report claimed more than a third of universities are imposing ‘severe’ restrictions on freedom of speech.” – Mail on Sunday

‘Boris’ Burrow’ tunnel to Northern Ireland set to get green light

“An undersea tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland could get the green light as early next month and help unblock trade which has been hit by Brexit tensions by creating the first ever fixed link between all four nations of the United Kingdom. Any new connection – possibly dubbed “Boris’ burrow” – would also delight unionists in Northern Ireland who have been outraged at the way the Government has allowed the European Union to impose new checks on ferry cargo heading to the Province. A study by Sir Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, will say whether a link between Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland is workable. It would be the same length as the tunnel under the Channel between England and France.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Johnson dreamt of a crossing over the Irish Sea to bolster the Union – Sunday Times

More:

  • HS2 tunnel protest will be first of many, says activist – The Observer

Editorial:

Tim Shipman: Finn and Gove’s three musketeers complete new-look No 10

“Announcing a shake-up of his Downing Street team at 2pm on Friday, Boris Johnson praised his new senior adviser, Henry Newman, and two other aides he had already poached from Michael Gove as his “three musketeers”, ready to do battle with the coronavirus and prepare a blueprint for the future of Britain. The prime minister’s main announcement to those assembled in the cabinet room in Downing Street, or watching the video call, was that Simone Finn — Baroness Finn since 2015 — was joining No 10 as deputy chief of staff. Johnson was careful not to compare her to any characters from the Dumas novel, but if he had, he might have said she combined the allure of Milady de Winter with the political cunning of Cardinal Richelieu. One longstanding ally calls her simply “Silk and Steel”.”  – Sunday Times

  • Lister ‘still on payroll of two developers’ – Sunday Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Downing Street’s reshuffle sees Symonds’ grip tighten

Banks ‘may spill savings secrets to fill taxman’s £5bn black hole’

“How can the taxman raise money after the pandemic without increasing taxes? By ferreting out all the juicy earnings that people do not tell them about. HM Revenue & Customs wants to get hold of about £5.5 billion a year that it believes it is owed from earnings that taxpayers carelessly — or perhaps deliberately — do not mention on their tax returns, typically interest on savings or profits on investments. To avoid the problem of people forgetting or wilfully withholding the information, officials want banks and wealth managers to pass sensitive information directly to the tax authorities. This information, such as how much money you have earned from investments, would automatically be filled in on your self-assessment form, in a process known as “pre-populating”. This already happens with some of personal details, such as how much you earned last year and how much tax you paid via PAYE.” – Sunday Times

  • Firms face ruin once £71bn loan repayments start, says Labour – The Observer

>Yesterday: Anthony Browne MP in Comment: Why the UK’s fall in GDP is not the worst of the G7, but in the middle

West Cumbria coal mine fight leaves ‘green’ Prime Minister in a hole

“It was a project conceived long before Boris Johnson was running the country. But as he tries to make good on his promises to “level up” the north of England and take a global lead on climate change, a proposed new coal mine in Cumbria has become a thorn in the prime minister’s side. The project was approved three times by county councillors, most recently in October, and they had been expected to issue a formal decision notice, granting permission. But, facing threats of a legal challenge, it said in an 11th-hour U-turn last week that it wanted to look at the plans for a fourth time. The pit promises to bring £650m in investment and 500 jobs to an area desperately in need of “levelling up”. The project, from West Cumbria Mining, backed by Australian investors, had received the support of the local council and Tory MPs in the constituencies that stand most to benefit.” – Sunday Times

  • Javid: Factor nature into wealth of countries and focus less on GDP – Sunday Telegraph

>Today: Chris Skidmore MP in Comment: Global Britain must lift its gaze beyond the sunlit uplands to the stars – and beyond

Prisoners would get right to vote under Labour shake-up of election law

“Prisoners would win the right to vote under a shake-up of election law by the Labour Party. An official paper calls for voting rights to be extended to over-16s – including lags. It suggest prisoners should be granted the same entitlements as other UK citizens in local and national elections. The report, written last year by a Labour staffer, was published as Sir Keir Starmer prepares to launch his own constitutional commission. Furious Tories branded it an insult to millions of law-abiding citizens and urged the Labour leader to confirm he will block its implementation. Sir Keir’s allies tried to distance him from the report, which comes as MPs voice concerns at what they see as his lacklustre leadership.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Labour party report says UK should make woke reparations to former countries of the British Empire – Mail on Sunday

More:

  • Starmer calls in Mandelson to inject a dose of New Labour’s ‘winning mentality’ – Sunday Times
  • Labour facing pressure to end silence on Tory Brexit failures – The Observer
  • Watson has picked up an estimated £200,000 since leaving Westminster – Sun on Sunday

Sturgeon and SNP ‘hoarding’ UK funding for independence referendum ‘war chest’

“Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are “hoarding” the UK Government’s funding to build a “war chest” for a second independence referendum according to a Scottish Conservative councillor. Tony Miklinski told Express.co.uk that the SNP are determined to secure Scottish independence at all costs. The Scottish Tory added that issues around education, health and social care have taken a back-seat in Scotland as a result of the SNP’s independence push… The First Minister, however, appears to have been rewarded for her conduct during the pandemic as recent polls have placed the SNP on track for a comfortable majority in May’s Scottish elections. A SavantaComRes poll conducted between January 8 and 13 of 1,016 Scottish adults showed Ms Sturgeon’s party is projected to win 71 of the 129 seats available in the Scottish Parliament.” – Sunday Express

Trump acquitted of inciting Capitol riot

“Donald Trump was acquitted for the second time last night when his impeachment trial concluded in the US Senate. Seven Republicans joined 50 Democrats to vote for conviction, making it the most bipartisan impeachment result in American history. But the votes did not come close to the 67 required. Afterwards, the Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, rebuked Republicans for their loyalty to Trump. “This was about choosing country over Donald Trump, and 43 Republican members chose Trump,” he said. “They chose Trump. And it should be a weight on their conscience.” The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, criticised Trump for his “dereliction of duty” during the Capitol Hill riot on January 6. “There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said.” – Sunday Times