Johnson plans to let ministers throw out legal rulings…

“Downing Street is to begin a fresh war with judges over a plan to let ministers throw out any legal rulings they do not like. Boris Johnson wants to further curtail the power of the courts to overrule decisions by ministers through the process of judicial review, The Times has learnt. The move comes after a series of political clashes with judges that started over Brexit. The prime minister has ordered Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, to toughen plans to reform judges’ powers to rule on the legality of ministerial decisions. An option drawn up by Raab and Suella Braverman, the attorney-general, that is liked by No 10 is for MPs to pass an annual “Interpretation Bill” to strike out findings from judicial reviews with which the government does not agree.” – The Times

… as the Government aims to clamp down on middle-class drug users

“Boris Johnson has warned middle-class drug users they will have “nowhere to hide” as he considers confiscating passports and driving licences for those caught using Class A drugs, under government plans. People caught with the substances will be encouraged to go on drug awareness courses, which will be similar to speed awareness courses, with those refusing to take the lessons facing a range of tougher civil orders, including having their passport or driving licence removed and greater fines. The prime minister said these were examples of the “new ways” of penalising people who take “lifestyle drugs” such as cocaine.” – The Times

  • End of ‘slaps on the wrist’ for middle-class drug users – Daily Telegraph
  • Scotland seeks to ban words like addict and alcoholic under plan to tackle drugs death crisis – Daily Telegraph

Patel: The criminal drug trade is run by dangerous people whose evil has no limits… I won’t stand by while evil gangs exploit our children

“Drugs ruin lives. They are a scourge on our society, fuelling violence and crime. They destroy relationships, families and communities, the misery they spread is untold. Almost 3,000 people in England and Wales died last year from drug misuse. That’s more than all knife crime and road accidents combined. Drugs are a major driver of crime. Abusers steal to fuel their habit and the substances are a major factor in murder and other violent offences. The criminal drug trade is run by dangerous people whose evil has no limits.” – Daily Mail

Minister to seek end of Trump tariffs

“The international trade secretary is flying to the US to persuade her American counterparts to drop Trump-era tariffs on British steel and aluminium. Anne-Marie Trevelyan has said that there are “huge opportunities to deepen the trading links benefiting communities on both sides of the Atlantic” before the three-day visit, which begins today. Trevelyan’s meetings will seek to build on the recent lifting of the US ban on British beef and lamb, to push for reform of the World Trade Organisation, seek closer trade ties with individual states and further work towards a future free trade agreement.” – The Times

Lord Ashcroft: Johnson promised he’d ban the import of sickening hunting trophies. This week he must deliver.

“Animal cruelty is something which I simply cannot abide and I have spent a significant amount of time in recent years raising awareness of crimes against nature. Last year I published a book, Unfair Game, which tells the story of two undercover missions I funded in South Africa in 2018 and 2019. These operations exposed the grim truth about the shocking abuse of lions there. Over the last 30 years, they have been commoditised to such a degree that a new, captive-bred species has in effect been created. The typical lifecycle of the captive-bred lion is heartbreaking. It is born to die. Cubs are taken from their mothers when just days old and used to lure naïve tourists into paying to cuddle and pet them.” – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 1) It’s too late to stop Omicron in the UK, says scientific adviser…

“The reintroduction of pre-travel Covid tests is like “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”, a government scientific adviser has said. Professor Mark Woolhouse said that the rules had come “too late” because the Omicron variant was “already spreading pretty rapidly” in Britain. His warning came after the number of Omicron cases reported in the UK rose by 50 per cent in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 246. Scientists in South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, said that although the variant appeared to be spreading faster, vaccines seemed to be protecting against it and the disease it caused was milder.” – The Times

  • UK omicron Covid cases surge by 50pc in a day – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS doctors fear Omicron variant will push them ‘over edge’ – The Times
  • Vaccines work against variant, says scientist – The Times

Coronavirus 2)… as rules are set to be extended in bid to fend off even tougher curbs – amid ongoing concerns over the variant

“Laws requiring masks in shops and on public transport are set to stay until the New Year, as ministers try to fend off demands for tougher restrictions in the run up to Christmas. Emergency regulations last week reintroduced mandatory masks until December 21 to help slow the spread of the Omicron variant. A final decision on whether to extend their use may not be taken until as late as December 18. But Whitehall sources said it was likely masks would stay mandatory for at least another three weeks to give scientists more time to assess the threat posed by Omicron. Other restrictions, such as travel tests and compulsory ten-day quarantine for those in close contact with an Omicron case, are also set to be extended.” – Daily Mail

  • Javid urged to crack down on the testing firms ‘conning’ customers – The Times
  • Backlash at new curbs on travel: Tory MPs and industry chiefs live up to condemn extra Covid tests for passengers returning to the UK – Daily Mail
  • Only third of housebound people have had a Covid booster – The Times
  • Private hospitals are offered billions to deal with Covid backlog – The Times
  • Race to expand quarantine hotels with hundreds stranded in red list countries – Daily Telegraph
  • Raab tells the public they should go to Christmas parties for the ‘social interaction’ – but admits his Ministry of Justice will swap its own festive gathering for ‘appropriate drinks at a smaller scale’ – Daily Mail



Coronavirus 3) Next virus may be more lethal, Covid vaccine inventor Sarah Gilbert warns

“Another pandemic could prove to be both more contagious and more lethal, one of the inventors of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine warned yesterday. Dame Sarah Gilbert said that scientific advances made in viral research “must not be lost”, as the former prime minister Tony Blair urged the international community to “organise global genomic sequencing” to act faster on new variants and boost jab delivery worldwide. Gilbert, delivering the 44th Richard Dimbleby Lecture, said: “This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both.”” – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Rogue firms blacklisted for contracts

“Emergency contracts will no longer be handed out without competition in a shake-up of the state’s £300 billion expenditure which aims to avoid a repeat of Covid “VIP lane” controversies. Companies that have ripped off the taxpayer or broken the law will be barred from further government contracts as ministers use post-Brexit freedoms to blacklist rogue suppliers. Firms implicated in the Grenfell fire disaster are likely to be among the first to be banned as ministers give themselves more discretion to disqualify those that have run over budget or engaged in unethical practices.” – The Times

Coronavirus 5) PM put under more pressure over No 10 Christmas party claims

“Boris Johnson is facing renewed pressure to come clean about claims that his staff broke Covid-19 rules by partying in No 10 after Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, said that it would have been “the wrong thing to do”. The prime minister has not denied reports that members of his team held a party in Downing Street on December 18 last year when London was under Tier 3 restrictions, but he has insisted that no rules were broken. There were also reports of up to three other parties being held in Downing Street despite restrictions. Under Tier 3 all indoor mixing was banned except within household bubbles.” – The Times

Migrant children left alone in hotels

“Refugee children are being put in hotels on their own because the care system is stretched to breaking point, the head of Ofsted will say tomorrow. Amanda Spielman will say at the publication of the regulator’s annual report that the number of vulnerable children is at a record high, leaving them at risk. Ofsted’s report will also cover the impact of the pandemic on schools and colleges but it is particularly concerned with the plight of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children. Their arrival has thrown chronic capacity issues in England’s care system into sharp relief, the chief inspector will say.” – The Times

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Lockdown and school closures let abuse go unnoticed

“Lockdown and the closure of schools weakened the child protection system that failed a six-year-old boy who was tortured and killed by his stepmother and father, the children’s commissioner has said. Dame Rachel de Souza said that the voices of children must be listened to following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. Arthur was killed in June last year after Emma Tustin, 32, and Thomas Hughes, 29, had submitted him to a “campaign of cruelty” that amounted to torture at their home in Shirley, Solihull. The boy was isolated, abused and forced to eat salt-laced meals before dying from an “unsurvivable brain injury” after being beaten by Tustin.” – The Times

  • Major review into boy’s murder will aim to free up social workers – Daily Telegraph


Hong Kong visa scheme could extend to the young

“Ministers are considering expanding the bespoke UK visa scheme for Hongkongers by offering it to younger people, The Times has learnt. The British National (Overseas) (BNO) visa scheme offers up to 5.4 million Hongkongers a five-year visa and a path to permanent British citizenship. It was opened on January 31 after China’s security laws were introduced. Those born after Britain handed the territory over to the Chinese in 1997 and who do not have a parent applying for the scheme are not eligible. A group of 27 Tory MPs have signed an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill, calling for the visa scheme to be expanded to all 18 to 25 year olds.” – The Times

Johnson’s levelling up plans are in disarray, claim Labour

“Labour has accused the government of being in “disarray” over levelling up plans, after ministers delayed the release of a flagship paper until next year. The delay will mean that Boris Johnson’s flagship levelling up plan to narrow the UK’s regional inequalities will not be fleshed out until the release of the government white paper in 2022. Lisa Nandy MP, the shadow secretary for levelling up, housing and communities, said: “The government’s commitment to level up our communities is in complete disarray. “After two years of empty slogans and broken promises it is now crystal clear ministers haven’t been able to come up with a single new idea to make good on the promises they made to level up our communities beyond more boards, bureaucracy and quangos.”” – The Times

Gender pay gap sees little improvement in 25 years

“There has been little change in the gender pay gap in the past 25 years when improved education for women is taken into account, a report has concluded. The study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the average woman in the UK earned 40 per cent less than her male colleagues in 2019. It said that this was because women were 9.5 per cent more likely to not be in paid work at all, worked eight hours a week fewer than men and earned 19 per cent less per hour on average. The average is an improvement on a pay gap of 53 per cent in the 1990s but the IFS said that this was because more women had higher education qualifications. Women were now more likely than men to be graduates.” – The Times

News in brief: