Sunak and Kwarteng clash over help for factories

“The Treasury yesterday accused the business secretary of “making things up” after he said he was in talks with Rishi Sunak about helping businesses struggling with high energy prices. Amid warnings that some factories were days from collapse because the large amounts of energy they consume had become too expensive, Kwasi Kwarteng suggested that he was discussing possible measures with the chancellor to alleviate the crisis. But in a highly unusual rebuke the Treasury swiftly denied that any talks had taken place, saying that Kwarteng had made no request to Sunak for support. The intervention came little more than an hour after Kwarteng said that he was “very clear” that “we need to help [businesses] get through this situation”. He told Sky News: “It’s a difficult situation — gas prices, electricity prices are at very high levels right across the world and of course I’m speaking to government colleagues, particularly in the Treasury, to try and see a way through this.”” – The Times

Police 1) Sex claims against 2,000 police officers

“Two thousand police have been accused of sexual misconduct, including rape, over the past four years. In nearly two thirds of cases officers accused of sexual violence and of abusing their power for personal gratification faced no further action. The figures were revealed as a Times investigation showed that sexual misconduct and other police corruption is routinely covered up. Forces frequently hold hearings to examine cases in private, even though they should be heard in public. Damning information on the outcome of cases is also deleted from websites where the public could see it. As many as a quarter of misconduct hearings which involve the most serious wrongdoing, including sexual impropriety, racism and homophobia, are closed to the public. Forces routinely anonymise the names of disgraced officers, their ranks and details of their offending despite a legal requirement for open hearings except in extenuating circumstances.” – The Times

Police 2) Theresa May – Police misconduct: Openness is crucial to win back public trust

“It should be obvious that public trust in the police is of the utmost importance. Yet when I was home secretary it was clear that levels of trust, particularly among some sectors of society, weren’t where they should be. That is why I introduced measures to improve transparency, and key among them was the requirement that misconduct hearings should be held in public. The reasoning was straightforward. While the vast majority of police officers serve with honesty and integrity, there are those who don’t operate to the same high standards. Opening up the disciplinary process gives the public confidence that the system is fair and that corrupt officers, or those guilty of misconduct, will be held to account. This shouldn’t have been a controversial step, which is why it is immensely disappointing to learn that more than six years on a number of police forces appear unwilling to open themselves up to scrutiny.” – The Times

More comment:

Police 3) Scotland Yard taking ‘no further action’ over Prince Andrew allegations after review

“Scotland Yard has announced it will take “no further action” over sexual assault allegations against the Duke of York after reviewing legal documents in a civil case brought by his accuser. The force said on Sunday night that, “as a matter of procedure”, it had combed through “a document released in August 2021 as part of a US civil action” relating to Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and convicted paedophile. Virginia Roberts Giuffre lodged a civil claim against Prince Andrew in August and reports over the weekend suggested Metropolitan Police officers had since contacted her. Ms Giuffre has made allegations that she was forced to sleep with Prince Andrew on three separate occasions when she was just 17. The Met Police previously examined allegations that Ms Giuffre was a victim of sex trafficking over claims she was brought to the UK by Epstein, who was a close friend of the Duke.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 1) Russian spies ‘stole formula for Oxford/Astra Zeneca Covid jab and used it to create Sputnik vaccine’

“Russia stole the formula for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and used it to help create its own vaccine, ministers have been told. Security services say they have proof one of Vladimir Putin’s spies swiped the vital data. They say they have proof that vital data was pinched from the drugs firm — including the blueprint for the Covid jab. Russia’s Sputnik jab uses similar technology to the Oxford designed vaccine. Security teams are now sure it was copied. It is understood the data was stolen by a foreign agent in person. Last year spies pointed the finger at President Vladimir Putin. They said they were “more than 95 per cent” sure Russian state-sponsored hackers had targeted UK, US and Canadian bodies developing a Covid vaccine. The late security minister James Brokenshire said at the time: “We are very careful in terms of calling these things out, ensuring we can have that confidence in attribution. We believe we have this here.”” – The Sun

  • People are twice as likely to die if they have both Covid and flu at the same time, Dr Jenny Harries says – The i Paper

Coronavirus 2) Sturgeon accused of cover-up over Scotland’s first major Covid outbreak

“Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to “come clean” over Scotland’s first major Covid outbreak after documents suggested she overruled senior health figures in her government to keep it secret. Holyrood’s opposition parties claimed Scottish government emails, released under Freedom of Information laws, showed the First Minister had orchestrated a “cover-up” of the outbreak at a Nike conference in Edinburgh last February. An email by Liz Lloyd, then Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff, said the First Minister, Jeane Freeman, her then health secretary, and Dr Gregor Smith, then the deputy chief medical officer, considered the outbreak to be “a legitimate public interest matter”. In the email, written on March 5 last year, Ms Lloyd said full disclosure “could be reassuring information for the public around the increase in numbers, demonstrate we’re still at containment [and] that contact tracing works”. But the following day Dr Catherine Calderwood, then the chief medical officer, wrote in an email that telling the public could breach patient confidentiality and impede efforts to trace people who had been in contact with those who were infected.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Get jab to stay safe, pregnant women urged

“The NHS is urging pregnant women to have a Covid jab because data shows they are many of the sickest patients. Between July and September about one in six coronavirus patients being given extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo) treatment were pregnant. Ecmo is used for patients whose lungs are so badly damaged by the virus that their blood must be taken from their body to be oxygenated by a machine. It is one of the highest forms of lifesaving treatment a person can receive. Out of 118 people given Ecmo between July and September, 20 were pregnant. Of those 19 were unvaccinated and the other had had one dose. Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “The disproportionate number of unvaccinated pregnant women in intensive care demonstrates that there is a significant risk of severe illness from Covid-19 in pregnancy.”” – The Times

A tribute by May: British politics worse off without James Brokenshire — a decent and loyal friend

“James Brokenshire was a shining example of what every MP and minister should be, thoughtful, diligent and completely committed to public service. Through the nine years we worked together in government he never failed to step up to the plate when asked, always willing to put his duty to the government and the public before his personal interests. He was respected across the House of Commons and by all he dealt with, politician and civil servant alike. But he was far more than that. He was a devoted husband and loving family man. When he had to stand down from the cabinet following his initial diagnosis with lung cancer the main concern he raised with me was the impact on his wife Cathy and their children. And at various stages during his ministerial career he was not only doing his two jobs as MP and minister, but was also caring for his parents as they went through periods of ill health.” – Times Red Box

Patel urged ‘to come clean’ as 1,100 migrants try to cross Channel in two days

“Priti Patel has been urged to “come clean” over her strategy to curb Channel crossings after more than 1,100 migrants tried to make the journey over two days. On Saturday, Border Force officials picked up 491 migrants on 17 boats, while the French authorities prevented 114 people from making the dangerous journey. The previous day, 624 people made the crossing on 23 boats, and 300 were intercepted by French officials. The figures emerged as Patel, the home secretary, faced criticism from a French minister who said the UK had not paid the £54 million it had promised to France to help tackle the crossings. Patel recently said the government would withhold the funds unless French authorities stopped more migrants from reaching the UK. “For now, not one euro has been paid,” Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, told the Associated Press. “We are asking the British to keep their promises of financing because we are holding the border for them.”” – The Times

Truss hits out at abuse of Kathleen Stock, professor in trans dispute

“Liz Truss has spoken out against the abuse a university professor has faced for her views on transgender rights and the police have told her to install CCTV cameras at home and have a bodyguard on campus. Truss, the minister for women and equalities, wrote on Twitter: “No one should be targeted and harassed simply for holding an opinion.” Kathleen Stock, a University of Sussex professor, was told by the police that she was now physically at risk. Truss said she “fully supports” a letter to The Times by the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, who called attacks on Stock, 48, disgraceful and said that tougher regulation was needed to protect people. Stock, a professor of philosophy, has been called a transphobe by some of the university’s students and academics for her view that although a person’s professed gender identity should be respected, she does not believe that an individual can change biological sex.” – The Times

£220m levelling up fund for deprived communities has not been given out by ministers seven months on

“Boris Johnson’s flagship levelling up strategy has been undermined as it emerged that a £220 million fund to boost deprived communities unveiled several months ago has not yet been allocated to councils. The UK Community Renewal Fund was launched in March this year to replace EU regional funding lost after Britain left the EU, with local authorities invited to submit bids for the cash. But a promise by ministers to allocate the funding in July has been broken, and last night the government admitted the bids are still being assessed. The failure to meet the target was exposed by the Liberal Democrats, who said councils were running out of time to spend the money before the deadline of March 2022. Lib Dem communities and local government spokesman Tim Farron accused ministers of “abandoning deprived communities and leaving local councils in the dark”. Emails seen by i from councils reveal that town hall chiefs are exasperated by the lack of clarity from the government, as they are unable to make plans or meet targets without confirmation that the funding is coming.” – The i Paper

Average GP now working three-day week after ‘worrying’ drop in hours

“The average GP is now working a three-day week following a “significant” drop in working hours, government research shows. The research, commissioned by the Department of Health, is from before the Covid pandemic – during which concerns have grown that it is getting harder to see a GP. There are particular tensions over access to face-to-face appointments, with Boris Johnson intervening last month to say every patient has the right to see a GP in person. The new figures show that GPs carried out just 6.6 half-day sessions a week – the equivalent of just over three days – in 2019, the lowest on record. In 2010, it was 7.5 sessions. The data also show a fall in the proportion of time spent on “direct patient care”. Just 59 per cent of GPs’ time was spent in this way in 2019, down from 63.1 percent in 2010. The National GP Worklife Survey of 1,332 GPs, carried out by the University of Manchester, shows that the average number of weekly hours “decreased significantly” between 2017 and 2019.” – Daily Telegraph

New push to get civil servants back in offices

“Civil servants could face deadlines to return to the office as ministers prepare a fresh push this week. Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, has already told Whitehall departments to get as many staff back to their desks as Covid rules allow. As government concern about the pandemic fades, ministers are considering setting targets to end working from home. An announcement is expected this week. Unions warned that imposing quotas would “make no sense” and waste time on rotas because desk space had been cut to save money. The unions reacted furiously last week when ministers at the Conservative conference disparaged civil servants for homeworking. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, which is responsible for protecting public health, expressed a note of caution yesterday.” – The Times

  • Ministers accused of using Afghan crisis in working-from-home row – The Times

Mortgage rates to soar by most since 2008

“Homeowners face the biggest surge in mortgage costs since the property market collapse in 2008 as investors brace for a string of interest rate rises to rein in inflation. Markets expect a sharp 0.5 percentage-point climb in the interest rate on a new two-year fixed rate mortgage to 1.7pc by the end of next year, a blow to households already facing soaring living costs. An increase on this scale would add almost £50 a month to the cost of paying off a typical £200,000 mortgage. Households are less immediately vulnerable to a Bank hike than they were a decade ago. However, the effective borrowing cost on all mortgages would still be 0.8 points higher at the end of 2022 than it presently is, according to Pantheon Macro. That would mark the biggest increase in the effective rate since 2008. Samuel Tombs, economist at Pantheon Macro, said: “Our biggest concern is that the rise in mortgage rates implied by markets’ expectations for the Bank Rate would have a bigger impact on the economy via the housing market.”” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: