Published:

40m people in England live in areas almost free from Covid

“More than 38 million people in England live in areas that are recording virtually no new cases of Covid, an analysis by The Times has shown. Seven in ten people live in areas where a maximum of two infections were reported during the most recent week for which data is available. Scientific advisers to the government said the figures signalled that the schedule for lifting lockdown measures remained on track. Ministers are expected to meet next week to decide whether the next step will go ahead as planned on May 17. Cinemas and indoor soft-play centres are expected to reopen, along with the largest outdoor venues, though attendances would be capped. The rule of six people or two households would apply for people meeting inside homes.” – The Times

  • Vaccine cuts the risk of passing on Coronavirus by half – The Times
  • Covid passports: Spain expects to be on green list by June and promises a warm welcome – The Times

Analysis:

  • Covid in India: maps and charts track record cases and deaths – The Times

>Today:

Learn from home working to make savings, ministers told

“Boris Johnson has told ministers to use the lessons of remote working in the pandemic to find efficiency savings in public services. Economical ways of working such as virtual court appearances and online GP appointments should be used to find savings that can be reinvested in frontline services, government department have been told. Getting rid of government buildings that are no longer needed because of a shift towards home working is also on the table, it is understood. The prime minister and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, have written to ministers to launch a “savings and efficiency review” in preparation for a spending review due at the end of summer.” – The Times

  • Civil servants could work from home after pandemic as Rishi Sunak looks to cut costs – Daily Telegraph

Sir James Dyson 1) Exclusive: BBC twisted the truth over my links to the Tories

“Sir James Dyson has accused the BBC of a “grotesque mischaracterisation” of his links to the Conservative Party as he denied acting inappropriately over his texts with Boris Johnson. Speaking for the first time since the row over his messages broke last week, the British inventor and businessman said it was untrue he tried to “extract favours from the Prime Minister”. The messages, revealed by the BBC last Wednesday, showed Sir James sought clarification from Mr Johnson on UK tax matters related to building ventilators during the pandemic. It thrust a spotlight on how figures in the private sector communicate with the Prime Minister and raised questions about how such requests are handled inside government.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No 10 flat: Alistair Darling rejected approach to join Downing St trust – The Times
  • Public ‘misled’ about who paid for PM’s Downing Street flat refurbishment – The Times
  • Johnson’s new chief of staff warned it was ‘crazy’ to ask wealthy donors to fund lavish Downing Street renovation – Daily Mail
  • ‘The sword of Dom-ocles hangs over Downing Street’: No10 insiders ‘fear Dominic Cummings will publish WhatsApp messages at the heart of the Government’s who-said-what Covid lockdown row – Daily Mail
  • Senior Tories urge PM to come clean on funding of Downing Street refurb – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • Tories could regret picking a fight with the regulator over Downing Street flat – The Times

Sir James Dyson 2) Comment – The truth about my contact with Johnson

“When the Prime Minister rang on March 13 2020 to request urgent help developing ventilators for the NHS, my immediate instinct was to do all we could to assist. This was an emergency, a time of fear and uncertainty for everyone and a period of extreme volatility for businesses. Nevertheless, we put commercial projects on hold and engaged 450 Dyson people from around the globe to begin the huge task of developing a ventilator from scratch. There were myriad questions, from the technical to medical and compliance. It was in this context that we wrote formally to the Chancellor on March 15 for clarification on how UK tax rules would apply during this period of unprecedented upheaval. This was to ensure no one was inadvertently penalised and that we, and others, could attack the task with the right team. We did not wait for a response and started work immediately.” – Daily Telegraph

Legal 1) Strip ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells of her CBE, say MPs

“MPs have demanded that the former boss of the Post Office is stripped of her CBE following the IT scandal that led to one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history. The Court of Appeal decision last week to quash the convictions of 39 former subpostmasters had shown a “devastating failure” during Paula Vennells’s leadership, they said. Marion Fellows, chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on the Post Office, told a parliamentary debate: “She [Vennells] should absolutely be stripped of any titles and any additional compensation received as a result of her inexplicable decisions to continue legal proceedings in spite of what was known about Horizon at the time.”” – The Times

Comment:

Political sketch:

>Today:

Legal 2) Trans ruling over Maya Forstater was Orwellian, tribunal told

“A tax consultant who lost her job for saying that men cannot transition to become women has insisted that her views stemmed from “material reality”. Maya Forstater, a successful researcher on tax avoidance, was dismissed from the London office of the Centre for Global Development two years ago after she was said to have invoked “offensive and exclusionary” language on social media. Forstater, 47, was accused of “fear-mongering” for tweeting her concerns about government proposals to allow people to legally self-identify as the opposite sex. JK Rowling was branded transphobic for supporting Forstater when an employment tribunal rejected her claim for discrimination on the grounds of her views.” – The Times

>Today:

Legal 3) Police recorded polite letter in abortion debate as hate incident

“A retired teacher who wrote to a campaigner disagreeing with her stance on abortion was told by police that the “hate incident” would go on his record. Douglas Kedge, 85, who had defended parents’ rights to abort a foetus with Down’s syndrome, warned that such official intervention had a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech. A record of his involvement in a “non-crime hate incident” was made even though Thames Valley police concluded his correspondence was “very politely written”, was not malicious and did not breach the law. Kedge said his plans to voluntarily tutor English at his local school in Sonning Common, a village near Reading, had been jeopardised as the incident could be disclosed on the enhanced checks required to work with children.” – The Times

Scots benefit from an extra £2,500 of public spending each with the Welsh getting £4,412 – while the English receive just £91

“Britons living in Scotland each benefit from an extra £2,500 of public spending than the taxes they pay – while the English receive just £91. This is compared to £4,412 in Wales and £5,118 in Northern Ireland between 2018 and 2019, a leading think-tank found. However, in those years just 0.3 per cent of England’s GDP was deficit – compared to Scotland’s 7.7 per cent. Wales and Northern Ireland’s figures stood at 17.9 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. The new report by the Institute for Government (IfG) said all four nations took a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic. It said Scotland would face ‘difficult policy choices’ if it split from the UK because its financial position has worsened.” – Daily Mail

>Today:

Comment:

Foster fighting for political survival after claims of DUP revolt

“Arlene Foster appeared to be fighting for her survival as Northern Ireland’s First Minister on Tuesday night amid claims that dozens of DUP politicians had signed a letter of no confidence in her. The letter has not yet been made public but is said to contain the signatures of at least 21 Stormont Assembly members and four MPs, and comes 24 hours after 18 constituency associations submitted letters of concerns. It comes amid mounting frustration within the party over the leadership’s handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the post-Brexit trading arrangements which have caused significant disruption for traders moving goods across the Irish Sea.” – Daily Telegraph

Education 1) Ministers must ramp up protection for Jewish students facing ‘1930s Germany’-style anti-Semitism at Bristol University, MPs say

“The universities minister has faced calls to take tougher action to ensure Jewish students are protected from anti-Semitism on campus, with one senior MP comparing the situation to ‘1930s Germany’. MPs pressed Michelle Donelan to adopt a more heavy-handed approach – such as cutting off their funding or sacking university bosses – when the institutions fail to address reports of alleged anti-Semitism. Education Select Committee chairman Robert Halfon urged ministers not to ‘wash their hands’ of concerns from Jewish university students, including those at the University of Bristol. An investigation was launched by the University of Bristol last month after one of its academics, sociology Professor David Miller, received a barrage of criticism for comments he allegedly made about Israel.” – Daily Mail

Education 2) ‘Try before you buy’ offer for schools to join academies, Williamson to announce

“Schools will be offered a period of “try before you buy” on joining academy trusts in an effort to entice more of them to leave council control, Gavin Williamson will announce today. The education secretary will say that schools will be allowed to form partnerships with academy trusts for up to 18 months to experience what the organisation can offer, without making any commitment. The government eventually wants all schools to join multi-academy trusts. Academies were introduced 20 years ago by the Labour government but the programme accelerated under the Conservatives. Two years ago it was announced that half of all children were attending academies.” – The Times

Road pricing needed to plug tax deficit left by electric cars

“A pay-per-mile road-pricing system must be introduced by the end of the decade because the switch to electric cars risks leaving a £40 billion hole in the public finances every year, MPs have been told. Research to be submitted to the cross-party transport committee today said that charges based on emissions, vehicle weight and traffic levels should replace road taxes by 2030. It said drivers should be incentivised to opt into the system from 2023 to avoid a “big bang” switch at the end of the decade, which could be politically difficult to deliver. The report from Greener Transport Solutions, a not-for-profit group, overseen by academics, said that some form of road pricing “will be essential” as the country shifts towards electric vehicles. The Treasury collects just over £40 billion in vehicle taxes, with £28 billion from fuel duty, £6 billion on VAT from fuel and another £6.5 billion from vehicle excise duty (VED).” – The Times

  • ‘Self-driving’ cars could get green light for use on UK motorways this year – The Guardian
  • Self-driving cars to have 37mph speed limit on motorways – Daily Telegraph

Raab’s claim of 95 per cent aid cut to China doesn’t add up, watchdog says

“A watchdog has cast doubt on the government’s claim to be cutting aid to China by 95 per cent, pointing out that only a fraction of the budget is being reduced. It comes as details of cuts in the foreign aid budget emerge, which have been criticised by a leading charity. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, suggested last week that he was axing all but £900,000 of British donations to Beijing and that the remainder would be spent on civil liberties. The official watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), has discovered that Britain’s full assistance to China is running at £82 million a year, including a British Council partnership with the Premier League that trains coaches and referees to work with young footballers.” – The Times

News in brief: