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Coronavirus 1) Imprisonment threatened for those who lie about holiday destination to evade quarantine

“Families who lie about going on holiday to destinations such as Portugal face up to 10 years in prison – longer than the maximum sentence for sex offences with children or violent firearms crimes. On Tuesday, Matt Hancock announced that anyone seeking to conceal their trip to a “red list” country – from which arrivals have to spend ten days in a quarantine hotel – would face a £10,000 fine or prosecution and a maximum 10-year prison sentence. It puts failure to declare travel on the Government’s quarantine locator form on a par with making threats to kill, indecent assault and carrying a firearm, which have 10-year maximum sentences. The announcement sparked anger from senior Tories, the travel industry and critics of draconian Covid restrictions led by former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Harper warns the change would need a vote in Parliament to go through – The Times
  • Extend travel ban to stop new coronavirus strains arriving, ministers told – The Times
  • Does Hancock really think a non-disclosed Portugal visit is worse than a sexual offence? – Jonathan Sumption, Daily Telegraph
  • Britain faces a second summer write off – Daily Mail
  • The Tories’ shameful treatment of hoteliers shows a growing contempt for business – Matthew Lynn, Daily Telegraph
  • Long haul – Leader, The Times
  • A ten-year jail term for dodging quarantine is dangerously draconian – Leader, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Bordering on impossible

>Yesterday: Tony Smith on Comment: Covid and border control. As a former Head of the UK Border Force, here are my urgent recommendations.

Coronavirus 2) Official data to show single jab “offers two thirds protection”

“Just one Covid jab offers two-thirds protection against the virus, first official data from the vaccine blitz reveals. Findings — due out in days — will show the Pfizer vaccine starts to work in as little as two weeks and is equally effective in OAPs as younger adults. The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab offers similar protection. The good news — as Sir Michael Caine backed the jabs drive and the number vaccinated rose to 12.65 million — raises hopes of an earlier exit from lockdown. A Government source called the findings “hugely positive”. The dose reduced the symptomatic infection risk by 65 per cent in younger adults, and 64 per cent in over-80s. Experts found Brits given two shots of the jab saw protection rise to between 79 and 84 per cent, depending on age.” – The Sun

  • Ignore the doom-mongers – Leader, The Sun
  • Covid may become just ‘sniffles’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Calls for teachers and police officers to be bumped up the queue – Daily Mail
  • It’s time to free us from lockdown, we have suffered enough – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • Hancock should admit that we cannot eradicate Covid-19 – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Gibb “open” to longer school day

“The government has refused to rule out lengthening the school day and shortening summer holidays in England to help pupils catch up on lost learning, despite fierce opposition from school leaders who warned against attempts to “grind out more hours of learning from tired children”. The schools standards minister, Nick Gibb, told MPs on the Commons education committee he was “open to all ideas” on how to help pupils make up for lost lessons. Headteachers responded that speculation about longer school days and shorter holidays was “misconceived and unhelpful”. Gibb told the committee many academies had already used their additional freedoms to lengthen the school day to drive up standards.” – The Guardian

>Today: Columnist Robert Halfon: Let’s extend the school day to help children catch up after Covid – and civil society can step in

Coronavirus 4) Khan calls for extension of Business Rates holiday

“Sadiq Khan has begged Rishi Sunak to extend the business rates holiday beyond April in a desperate bid to save London’s West End. The Mayor of London has warned that 73,000 firms face a business rates bombshell that few will be able to afford – which will force more venues and firms to close completely. He urged him not to wait until the Budget to confirm extra help was on the way, saying: “Until footfall on our high streets and tourism levels return in the future, ministers need unequivocally to rule out the business rates bombshell planned for April, and announce the decision today.” The Chancellor is deciding on his economic package ahead of March 3, where he is preparing to extend the tax break for shops and other firms.” – The Sun

  • Extra tax on London drivers will hit firms, say MPs – The Times

>Today:

Coronavirus 5) Think tank critical of NHS “has links to Hancock” (shock, horror)

“Labour has demanded that Matt Hancock return donations from the chair of an influential conservative thinktank after it published a report saying there was “no reason to be grateful” for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. The report published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claims to debunk “myths” including that “the NHS is the star performer of the pandemic” and that it “has done the most amazing job under the most difficult of circumstances”. Written by Dr Kristian Niemietz, the IEA’s head of political economy, it says: “There is no rational basis for the adulation the NHS is currently receiving, and no reason to be ‘grateful’ for the fact that we have it. It should go without saying that if the UK did not have the NHS it would not have no healthcare system. It would have a different healthcare system.” – The Guardian

  • One-year waiting lists are here to stay, warn NHS bosses – The Times
  • NHS shake-up offers patients more private choice – The Times
  • PPE procurement errors put care workers in danger – The Times

>Yesterday: Kristian Niemietz on Think Tanks: What difference does the size of the state make to how it deals with Covid? None.

Government “to offer billions more” in funding to remove cladding

“Ministers will announce up to £5 billion worth of grants and loans today to strip cladding from hundreds of thousands of unsafe flats amid a mounting Tory revolt. Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, will introduce a fund that will include grants to remove cladding from tower blocks that are higher than 18 metres. The government, however, will offer only loans for smaller buildings, which could lead to opposition from Tory MPs because they have warned previously that freeholders will pass the costs on to leaseholders, leaving them facing “financial ruin”. More than 40 Tory MPs have indicated that they are prepared to rebel over the issue, including the former cabinet ministers Damian Green and Andrew Mitchell. There are an estimated 80,000 blocks of flats between 11 metres and 18 metres high, whose residents are unable to sell or mortgage their homes because of the risk posed by cladding.” – The Times

  • Funding expected to only cover replacement of cladding rather than other safety faults – The Guardian

Frost: EU relationship ‘more than bumpy’ since trade deal

“The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator has criticised the EU for its actions since the trade deal agreed by the two sides came into force six weeks ago. Lord David Frost said the relationship had been “more than bumpy” and more “problematic” than he had hoped. He told a committee the EU’s threat to increase controls on vaccine exports to Northern Ireland, as well as “niggling border issues”, were two examples. Lord Frost called for “a different spirit” from Brussels going forward. Asked about his thoughts on the situation, Cabinet Officer Minister Michael Gove compared it to a bumpy start to a flight, saying: “We all know that when an aeroplane takes off, that is the point where you sometime get an increased level of turbulence.” – BBC

  • French fishermen could suffer under retaliatory measures if EU fails to lift ban on UK shellfish – Daily Telegraph
  • The EU must play fair and allow our exports to flow – Tim Newark, Daily Express
  • EU laws are about control, we must ditch them and supercharge UK economy – Barnabus Reynolds, Daily Express
  • Northern Ireland ports to resume checks after security fears – Financial Times
  • England scores double success in India with cricket win and new trade deal – The Sun

Tory rebels fail in attempt to toughen UK’s stance on countries accused of genocide

“The British government was accused on Tuesday by Conservative backbenchers of using “arcane procedural games” to avoid a rebellion on its trade bill, as pressure grew to toughen its stance on China through the legislation. Backbenchers had expected to vote on an amendment passed by the Lords last week allowing the High Court to determine whether a country had committed genocide. However, ministers used a parliamentary procedure to ensure that if parliamentarians wanted to back the new measure they would also have to support a separate Labour-led amendment.” – Financial Times

Brittan’s widow denounces Metropolitan Police for “moral failure

“Leon Brittan’s widow speaks out today to attack a ‘culture of cover-up’ at Scotland Yard. In a bombshell Mail interview, Lady Brittan breaks her silence to accuse the leaders of Britain’s biggest police force of lacking a ‘moral spine’. She points out that no officers have been punished over the Yard’s shambolic VIP paedophile inquiry. And she describes the shattering impact of police raids on her home in the aftermath of the death of her husband. The former home secretary was among notable figures falsely accused of child sexual abuse and murder. Lady Brittan also says Tom Watson, the former Labour deputy leader, carried out ‘the most despicable thing a human being could do’ by joining the accusers. Her damning testimony is set to plunge Scotland Yard into its biggest crisis since the Stephen Lawrence case a quarter of a century ago.” – Daily Mail

Councils argue they should continue to provide social care

“Putting England’s councils “in the driving seat” to fix social care would save £1.6bn, a County Councils Network-commissioned report has said. The report argues social care should continue to be delivered by local councils, rather than giving more power to NHS and central government. It comes amid reports the government is planning to give ministers more control over health bodies in England. The government said it would set out its plans later this year. “Delivering a care system that is fit for the future, in which people are treated with dignity and respect, remains a top priority,” a spokesman said. The report – written by care consultancy group Newton – argues that councils, with their “deep roots in informal care networks” in the community are “uniquely placed” to deliver social care.” – BBC

Starmer “facing leadership coup”

“Corbynites in the Labour Party are organising a “ruthless” campaign to oust Sir Keir Starmer if his popularity continues to drop, the Express has learnt. At a virtual meeting of over 400 socialists and Labour members on Sunday, discussions were held on the need to prepare for a leadership challenge. Among those attending the “Stand Up For Labour Party Democracy” were former frontbencher Richard Burgon and a member of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee. The meeting also included a message of “solidarity” from Jeremy Corbyn. Left-wing party members voiced their anger and dissatisfaction at Sir Keir’s leadership and spoke of the need to prepare to seize at the opportunity to launch a challenge against him. Ronan Burtenshaw from the socialist magazine Tribune told the meeting Corbynites should “organise” and prepare “in expectation of a time that’s going to come when the leadership’s really hollow politics are going to be exposed, and we’re going to need a different voice” to lead the party.” – Daily Express

“Whitewash” claims over Salmond inquiry after the release of Sturgeon dossier blocked

“A Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair has been branded a whitewash after pro-independence MSPs blocked the release of a dossier of his allegations against Nicola Sturgeon. The former First Minister on Tuesday night appeared almost certain not to give evidence in person to the inquiry, after all four SNP MSPs and one former Green, now an independent, on the nine-person committee voted to block the publication of a document already largely in the public domain. Mr Salmond wanted to expand on his claims that Ms Sturgeon repeatedly broke the ministerial code over her handling of sexual harassment complaints against him, which if established, would see her expected to resign.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cherry hits out at ‘unprecedented turmoil’ in SNP – BBC
  • SNP infighting is growing more squalid by the day – but will voters care? – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Left Watch: As the SNP chief executive faces the threat of a perjury investigation, the Salmond fiasco goes from bad to worse

Senate votes to proceed with Trump impeachment trial

“A divided US Senate voted to proceed with the historic second impeachment trial of Donald Trump after an emotional opening day in which the prosecution argued that the former president was singularly responsible for inciting the deadly assault on the US Capitol while the defence warned that the proceedings would further cleave a divided nation. After nearly four hours of debate in the same chamber that was invaded by pro-Trump rioters on 6 January, the senators, now seated as jurors and sworn to deliver “impartial justice”, voted 56 to 44 on the question of whether there was a constitutional basis for putting an impeached former president on trial. Six Republicans joined all Democrats in an early victory for the prosecution that undermined one of the central pillars of Trump’s defence.” – The Guardian

  • Romney is the model for a new Republican party – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

Finkelstein: We need to meet in the middle

“Whenever I describe myself as having quite middle-of-the-road politics, people respond: ‘Well you know what happens to people who stand in the middle of the road, don’t you? They get run over.’ Well not if it’s a dual carriageway they don’t. I think the middle isn’t a bad place to be when people are driving too fast in opposite directions. The biggest problems associated with ‘the middle’ — that it involves endless compromises, that it means splitting the difference, that it means living with things that you don’t like for longer than you want to — are not ones we should run away from. Living with other people means bending a little towards what they think and want.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

News in brief

  • Is a vile tweet about Captain Tom really a matter for the police? – Tom Slater, The Spectator
  • Revenge of the Normies – is it time to take back control from the cognitive elite? – Helen Dale, CapX
  • Reform of the NHS – John Redwood
  • Why aren’t we taking these simple steps to help beat the virus? – Dr Laurence Villard, Conservative Woman
  • WHO’s investigation into the pandemic was little more than an appeasement of Beijing – Ian Birrell, Unherd