Coronavirus 1) ‘Pensions raid to pay for Covid pandemic’

“Treasury officials are drawing up plans for a pensions tax raid in the autumn to help pay for heightened public spending during the Covid pandemic, The Telegraph understands. Three different reforms to the way in which pension contributions are taxed are being considered amid pressure on the public finances, according to well-placed Whitehall sources. One of the ideas being examined is reducing the pensions lifetime allowance from a little above £1 million to £800,000 or £900,000, lowering the point above which extra tax charges kick in. Another would see individuals contributing to pensions getting the same rate of tax relief, meaning higher-rate taxpayers lose out, while a third is new taxation on employer contributions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sunak’s push to slam brakes on Johnson’s spending spree: £200m for new Royal Yacht is last straw in fight over huge bills for Covid recovery and green pledges – Daily Mail
  • Johnson rules out slapping two pence in the pound on income tax to fix crumbling social care system – The Sun

Coronavirus 2) All kids aged 16 & 17 to be offered vaccine before school starts in September

“YOUNGSTERS aged 16 and 17 are to be offered a ­vaccine before they head back to school in September, The Sun can reveal. Ministers want to roll out jabs to children for the first time — subject to approval from top medics, which insiders say could come within weeks. The move emerged as the nation was today meant to be celebrating Freedom Day, when Covid restrictions were finally lifted. With that postponed, Downing Street is now desperate to meet the new Freedom Day target of July 19 — which coincides with the date when all adults are due to be jabbed. They also want to offer all A-Level and college students aged 16 and 17 a vaccine in August, before they head back to education in the autumn.” – The Sun

  • US offers Covid vaccine to millions of children – The Times


Coronavirus 3) Just 1 in 200 amber list travellers have virus

“Fewer than one in 200 travellers from amber list countries are testing positive on their return, data has revealed, as pressure increases on ministers to relax rules on foreign holidays. An analysis of the latest figures from NHS Test and Trace, which are updated every three weeks, also shows no “variants of concern” were detected from any passenger returning from one of the 167 countries on the amber list. Only 89 of 23,465 passengers who travelled to the UK from these destinations between May 20 and June 9 tested positive for the coronavirus — a rate of 0.4 per cent. There were no positive cases from 151 of these countries.” – The Times

  • Hopes grow for family holidays to Europe by end of July – Daily Telegraph
  • Lockdown lifting ‘cannot be accelerated to July 5’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Lift Covid restrictions when 70 per cent are double-jabbed, Susan Hopkins says – The Times


Coronavirus 4) Vallance to apply lessons to cancer and climate fight

“Sir Patrick Vallance has been put in charge of a government innovation body to apply lessons from the UK’s vaccine rollout to curing cancer and solving the climate crisis. Boris Johnson announced that Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, will run the Office for Science and Technology Strategy in addition to his existing role. Vallance, 61, a former president of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company, will also become the national technology adviser. In those roles he will support a National Science and Technology Council, a ministerial group that will be chaired by the prime minister.” – The Times

We are injecting funds to restore Britain’s status as a scientific superpower, writes Johnson…

“I cannot think of a time in the last 100 years when the entire population of this country has been so deeply and so obviously indebted to science – and to scientists. Had it not been for our scientists, we would not now be able to enjoy the most basic human freedoms: hugging relatives, meeting friends, playing football, going to the pub; or at least not without the risk of spreading a lethal disease. It is thanks to the vaccine rollout that literally every person and every family in this country has an immediate future that is happier, more prosperous, more full of hope and opportunity – and if you think I am belabouring this point, it is because it needs belabouring. We have spent too long in a state of semi-detachment from science, as though it was something intimidating and remote from our lives. Too many people in our country lack training in science and technology, too many children think STEM subjects are not for them.” – Daily Telegraph


More comment:

… as ministers urge him to consult cabinet on key decisions

“Cabinet ministers including Rishi Sunak will this week urge Boris Johnson not to keep sidelining his ministers, as officials warn of a difficult autumn ahead with pressures over hospital waiting lists, social care reform and court backlogs. Johnson will face a tricky few days after the landslide loss in the byelection in Chesham and Amersham, a defeat that many of his own MPs put down to his controversial planning changes and which Labour will seek to exploit in a debate and vote on Monday. He also remains under persistent attack from his former aide Dominic Cummings, who has promised a new submission on the prime minister this week and a live Q&A on Monday. On Sunday John Bercow, the former House of Commons Speaker, revealed he had defected from the Conservatives to Labour, calling Johnson “someone who has only a nodding acquaintance with the truth in a leap year”.” – The Guardian

Scotland 1) Let Scots in whole of UK vote on independence, PM is urged

“Cabinet ministers are pushing Boris Johnson to toughen up the fight to save the Union by allowing Scots living anywhere in the UK to vote in a second independence referendum. The prime minister is also being urged to appoint Ruth Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, to a newly created role of constitutional secretary, making her nominal head of the pro-Union campaign. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the SNP, promised a referendum before the end of 2023 after securing a pro-independence majority in Holyrood in last month’s elections. She is expected to start pushing for one as soon as the autumn.” – The Times

Scotland 2) Sturgeon a hypocrite for Manchester travel ban, says Burnham

“Andy Burnham has accused Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, of “hypocrisy” for imposing a travel ban on Greater Manchester on Friday without contacting him in advance. The mayor of Greater Manchester said that residents should be compensated for any hotel and travel expenses for planned trips to Scotland that were cancelled without warning. Ivan McKee, Scotland’s tourism minister, said that he would keep Burnham and local authorities “better informed in future”. Burnham said that Sturgeon was “treating the north of England with contempt” while keeping Dundee, which has a similar rate of coronavirus cases, under light touch restrictions that permit travel in an out.” – The Times

Planning reform won’t brick over countryside, worried Tories told

“Boris Johnson does not want to “brick over the countryside”, a cabinet minister has said, as the government tries to fend off opposition to its planning reforms. Discomfort within the Conservative Party over proposals to make it much easier for new homes to be built was intensified by the party’s shock defeat in the Chesham & Amersham by-election last week. MPs, especially in similar southern seats, believe that opposition to plans for the biggest reorganisation of the planning system in more than 70 years was a key reason for the Liberal Democrats’ surge in support. While a planning bill has not yet been published, it is widely expected to follow the approach of a white paper published last year by Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary.” – The Times

  • Property market cools as soaring prices and lack of homes lock out buyers – Daily Telegraph



HS2 costs rise by a further £1.7bn during pandemic

“The cost of the HS2 high-speed railway line has increased by a further £1.7bn over the past year, as Covid-19 delays put further strain on the UK’s biggest infrastructure project. Work was temporarily suspended at most HS2 sites at the start of the pandemic, while social distancing measures have caused access delays and reduced productivity, increasing costs. Similar pressures have been reported by industry experts in projects ranging from Crossrail and the A303 Stonehenge tunnel to the Tideway tunnel and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant. The costs associated with the first phase of the high-speed line between London and Birmingham have gone up by as much as £800m, according to people close the project.” – FT


Judges not bound by European Court of Human Rights rulings, review told

“British courts could be encouraged to diverge more from European human rights provisions under plans being considered by a government review. A study of the Human Rights Act commissioned by the government last year is considering whether to update the law to remind judges that they are not “bound” by the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. The ECHR interprets the European Convention on Human Rights, which is intended to protect political and personal freedoms. At present the Human Rights Act, introduced in 1998, requires British courts to “take account” of decisions of the ECHR, which is separate from the European Union. They are not required to follow Strasbourg’s rulings.” – The Times

  • 130,000 Europeans to lose benefits in Brexit cut-off – The Times

Macron suffers disaster in French regional elections while conservatives say they have ‘broken the jaw’ of Marine Le Penn’s far right National Rally party

“French President Emmanuel Macron’s party made a disastrous showing at the country’s key regional elections on Sunday. Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party failed to win more than 10 per cent of the vote in many regions, with the centrist Republicans outstripping it and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (NR) party. Conservatives claimed to have ‘broken the jaw’ of National Rally, whose leader was hoping to make huge gains across the country before challenging Macron in next year’s presidential elections. Exit polls on Sunday night following the first round of the two-round vote showed NR had taken only 19 per cent of the national vote – a nine per cent drop from the last regional elections in 2015.” – Daily Mail

News in brief: