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NHS warns of ‘significant reduction’ in vaccine supplies

“The UK’s coronavirus vaccine programme was thrown off course on Wednesday as the NHS warned of a “significant reduction” in supplies of jabs and ordered a freeze on new vaccination appointments for April. NHS staff were told that “volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained” and the start of inoculations for the under-50s would be delayed. One senior government figure blamed AstraZeneca for failing to meet its supply commitments. But the drugmaker said: “Our UK domestic supply chain is not experiencing any disruption and there is no impact on our delivery schedule.” The development is a significant setback for a programme that has been one of the few demonstrable successes of the UK government’s Covid-19 response.” – FT

  • UK holds secret talks with India to get AstraZeneca jab supply back on track – The Sun
  • Indian vaccine boss warned a month ago that supplies to rich countries would be cut short – Daily Mail
  • Retesting 1.7m vaccines and Indian delay blamed for UK shortage – FT

More:

  • Johnson reveals he’s getting the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine – The Sun
  • He stresses Covid vaccine safety ‘as tensions with NHS spill over’ – The Guardian
  • Health Service will get another £6.6billion this year to cover massive Covid costs – The Sun

>Today: Tracey Follows in Comment: Vaccine passports just the start of a digital identity revolution. Here’s what you need to know.

Hancock warns Von der Leyen there will be ‘very significant consequences’ if she goes through with export ban threat

“Matt Hancock today warned Ursula von der Leyen there will be ‘very significant consequences’ if she goes through with her threat of an EU vaccine export ban. The Health Secretary told MPs ‘it is vital that we all work together’ on fighting coronavirus as he stressed there is a ‘need for all countries to respect contract law’. His comments came after Cabinet colleague Robert Jenrick demanded Brussels ‘stick to their side of the bargain’ as the Government continued its condemnation of Ms von der Leyen for threatening to impose an export ban on jabs. The Housing Secretary said he was ‘surprised and disappointed’ by Ms von der Leyen’s stance as he suggested she was breaking her word after giving a ‘very clear commitment’ on the issue to Boris Johnson earlier this year.” – Daily Mail

  • Britons still keen for Covid vaccine despite EU suspensions, says Whitty – The Guardian
  • Experts condemn deaths caused by AstraZeneca jab ban… – Daily Mail
  • …as health chiefs confirm Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid jab safe to use – The Times
  • EU threat to vaccine exports exposes mutual risks to global supply chain – FT

Comment:

  • Vaccine row shows EU won’t respect the rules – James Forsyth, The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: People will die as a result of the EU’s Covid games. But don’t expect the media to criticise Saint Macron.

Sturgeon misled Holyrood over Salmond evidence, inquiry rules

“Nicola Sturgeon misled the Scottish parliament over the sexual harassment investigation into Alex Salmond, an inquiry found last night. A majority of the SNP-chaired committee agreed that the first minister gave inaccurate written evidence. She claimed to have made clear to Salmond, her predecessor, that she would not intervene in the Scottish government’s inquiry into the allegations against him. That was contradicted by Salmond and Duncan Hamilton, a former SNP MSP, now his solicitor, who said Sturgeon offered to step in during a meeting at her Glasgow home on April 2, 2018. The committee’s decision to rule that Sturgeon misled parliament over part of her evidence came after a split vote with all five opposition members outnumbering the four nationalists.” – The Times

  • First Minister facing mounting pressure to resign amid claims she was not ‘truthful’ to Scottish people – Daily Telegraph
  • Fuming Sturgeon rages as inquiry leak says she ‘misled’ Holyrood – Daily Express

More Union:

  • DUP will ‘vigorously oppose’ UK intervention to speed up NI abortion services – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: The Salmond allegations. Why MSPs need more rights, Scotland more localism – and Westminster should step in.

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: As the election looms, the tide seems finally to be turning against the Scottish Nationalists

Rees-Mogg under fire after calling journalist ‘either a knave or a fool’

“Jacob Rees-Mogg is facing criticism after he accused a journalist of being “either a knave or a fool” over a story about the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, the second time in recent weeks ministers have targeted individual reporters with claims of distorted coverage. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said Rees-Mogg was among ministers of “acting like playground bullies”, while Labour accused the government of routinely undermining journalists. HuffPost UK, the outlet targeted by Rees-Mogg, responded by accusing the leader of the Commons of using the legal privilege of speaking in parliament “to smear a journalist”, and demanded he produce evidence for the allegation or retract it. HuffPost was also the outlet involved in the earlier ministerial attack, at the end of January.” – The Guardian

Outcry after ‘sneering’ BBC presenters mock minister over Union flag

“The Culture Secretary has criticised the BBC’s “sneering” attitude after its breakfast television presenters appeared to mock Robert Jenrick for displaying the Union flag in his office. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty laughed as they pointed out that large flags have begun appearing regularly in the background of ministerial interviews. Ms Munchetty later received a “reminder” from bosses about inappropriate social media use after she liked a tweet which praised their comments and said: “The flag shaggers will be up in arms.” The BBC said the on-air exchange was “light-hearted” and not meant to offend.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Newsnight and Today to be presented outside London – The Times
  • BBC to shift £700m of spending from London as it revamps UK footprint – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Never mind a coal mine – housing is where Jenrick’s planning power really lies. And he can use it to build, build, build.

Sunak vows to balance the books as Government breaks another borrowing record

“Rishi Sunak renewed his vow to balance the books today as the government broke another borrowing record. The £19.1billion figure for last month was the highest February figure since comparable records began in 1993. It means that net debt has risen by £333billion since coronavirus chaos kicked in last April, with the UK’s debt mountain reaching £2.131trillion – equivalent to 97.5 per cent of GDP. Responding to the ONS figures, the Chancellor said: ‘Coronavirus has caused one of the largest economic shocks this country has ever faced, which is why we responded with our £352billion package of support to protect lives and livelihoods. This was the fiscally responsible thing to do and the best way to support the public finances in the medium-term.'” – Daily Mail

  • Grants to encourage people to switch from diesel to electric cars slashed – The Sun

Johnson defends asylum seeker plan

“Boris Johnson said that sending asylum seekers abroad for processing was a humane policy that would save lives. Amid a furious backlash, the prime minister insisted his plan would help to discourage people from making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel and combat “traffickers and gangsters” who profit from people smuggling. “The objective here is to save life and avert human misery because people are crossing the Channel who are being fooled, who are being conned, by gangsters, into paying huge sums of money, risking their lives,” he said last night… The plans caused a row with Gibraltar and the Isle of Man after The Times revealed that both had been discussed as potential locations to send asylum seekers for processing.” – The Times

  • Critics round on UK’s ‘firm but fair’ asylum shake-up – FT

More:

  • Patel eyes US-style immigration crackdown by screening every traveller heading for Britain – Daily Mail
  • Foreign criminals and asylum seekers will only get one chance to appeal against deportation – Daily Telegraph

English courts face reduced judicial review powers under new proposals

“Courts in England and Wales would have their ability to review ministerial decision-making curtailed if government proposals unveiled on Thursday are enacted. Robert Buckland, Lord Chancellor, launched a public consultation based on the recommendations of an independent panel led by former justice minister Lord Edward Faulks, who examined judicial review — the process which allows the lawfulness of government decisions to be challenged through the courts.  It will focus most conspicuously on the use of “ouster clauses” in primary legislation, which deny the courts the right to review a government policy or decisions of certain bodies. These have been included in parliamentary statues for more than 70 years and seek to “oust” the jurisdiction of the High Court to review a policy or body.” – FT

  • Supreme Court to hear challenge to UK’s voter ID trial in 2019 election – The Guardian

>Today: Matthew Barber in Local Government: After clearing the court backlog, we need to reform the criminal justice system

Armed Forces shake-up could cut pay of senior officers to reward low-ranking troops

“Senior members of the Armed Forces face future pay cuts as part of a comprehensive review into giving lower ranks more money, The Telegraph can disclose. The review, which will be conducted by external consultants, is expected to report back in 18 months on how to address imbalances between officers and rank and file troops. It will be announced on Monday as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Command Paper, which was drawn up in tandem with the recently published Integrated Review. The Telegraph also understands that the review will look into awarding all military personnel who serve overseas Operational Service Medals (OSM), which are currently only given to troops engaged in combat.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Russia ‘jamming signals’ at RAF Cyprus base – The Times
  • Britain will ‘exact a price’ from enemies who dare attack us including Russia and China – The Sun
  • UK spy agencies push for curbs on Chinese ‘smart cities’ technology – FT

Comment:

  • China may need Britain more than it cares to admit – Jeevan Vasagar, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s column: The Integrated Review’s tilt to Asia could leave us vulnerable closer to home – and Putin

Britain wants Musk satellite network to help fix broadband for remote areas

“Britain wants Elon Musk to help fix broadband for remote areas. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden revealed that his team are in talks about using the SpaceX guru’s satellite network. They are also looking at floating air balloon aerials to connect 100,000 homes to new lightning-fast infrastructure. Properties in remote parts of Scotland and Wales plus English National Parks cannot be reached conventionally, so extreme solutions are needed. Experts will look into how low-orbit satellites or “high- altitude platforms” such as balloons and drones could “beam faster connections to far-flung homes and businesses”. Mr Dowden believes cultural barriers to working from home have “permanently fallen away”.” – The Sun

  • Ofcom paves way for UK’s rapid upgrade to fibre broadband – FT

News in Brief:

  • Is this the moment the SNP starts to lose its grip? – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Sturgeon’s future now hangs in the balance – Alex Massie, The Spectator
  • How Labour could lose Hartlepool – Paul Embery, UnHerd
  • Cancel culture comes for Dr Seuss – Paul du Quenoy, The Critic