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Tackle cost of living crisis by scrapping energy bill tax, Tories urge Johnson

“Boris Johnson has been told he must intervene to address Britain’s cost of living crisis, with 20 Tory MPs and peers calling on him to scrap taxes on energy bills. Five former ministers are among a group of backbenchers who are calling on Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, to step in amid fears that household energy bills could double to £2,000 by April. In a letter to The Telegraph, the MPs argued that while a global surge in wholesale gas prices is contributing to the crisis, the UK is causing energy prices to increase “faster than any other competitive country” through “taxation and environmental levies”. With the cap on energy bills expected to rise by approximately £500 in April, the group warned that the hike will feed “directly into a cost of living crisis for many and push them into what is bluntly called ‘fuel poverty'”.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Britain becoming more energy self-sufficient is vital – Sir John Redwood, Mail on Sunday
  • The Tories risk blowing themselves up with gas – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
  • My voters don’t care about COP26… just their gas bills – Lee Anderson MP, Mail on Sunday

He enters the New Year 16 points behind Labour in Red Wall seats

“Boris Johnson enters the New Year 16 points behind Labour in a bombshell Mail on Sunday poll of the seats he needs to retain to win the next Election. The Deltapoll survey of the 57 constituencies the Conservatives gained in the 2019 General Election puts Labour on 49 per cent and the Conservatives on just 33 per cent. The poll also puts Sir Keir Starmer’s party ahead in national voting intention, with Labour on 40 per cent and the Tories on 35 per cent. If the results were repeated in a General Election it could lead to the loss of more than 100 Tory seats – enough to put Sir Keir in No10, although without a clear majority. The findings come as Tory backbenchers are increasingly discussing whether to force a leadership challenge by sending letters calling for a vote to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 Committee.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Just one in three voters in the 57 constituencies the Tories won in 2019 would back them again – Sun on Sunday

More:

  • Can Boris Johnson escape the web? – Tim Shipman, Sunday Times

>Today: ToryDiary: A year of Brexit

Prime Minister demands ‘robust contingency plans’ to deal with 300,000 NHS staff absences

“Boris Johnson has ordered a blueprint to be drawn up to deal with up to 300,000 Covid-related staff absences across the NHS. The Prime Minister demanded “robust contingency plans” to meet the worst case scenario for numbers off-work with the virus or self-isolating. It comes as pressure mounts to cut the week-long isolation period to five days — and give NHS staff, police, lorry drivers and other essential workers priority for PCR tests. Health experts, however, argue that new restrictions must be brought in fast if Omicron cases continue to rocket. But several Tory MPs insist lockdowns must not be reintroduced. Nearly one in ten NHS staff were off work on New Year’s Eve, official figures revealed last night.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Quarter of public sector workers could be off work – Sunday Express
  • Ministers say no to five-day Covid isolation – Mail on Sunday
  • Neonatal and A&E departments hardest hit – Sunday Times
  • Tory MPs slam NHS ‘betrayal’ as hospital trusts ban partners from pregnancy scans – Mail on Sunday

Secondary school pupils forced back into face masks in lessons

“Secondary school pupils will be asked to wear face masks in classrooms again as ministers draw up contingency plans to keep schools open amid fears of widespread teacher absences. The measure will apply to students across the country in Year 7 and above, with the Government issuing new guidance just 48 hours before millions of pupils are due to start returning after the Christmas holidays. It brings England in line with Wales and Scotland, with mask guidance already in force for staff and pupils when walking through corridors and communal areas. Defending the decision to reimpose masks in classrooms for the first time since May last year, Nadhim Zahawi said it was designed to help “maximise the number of children in school” and would remain only as long as needed.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Johnson accused of surrendering to unions – Sun on Sunday
  • The rule will not be law although schools will be expected to follow the guidance – Mail on Sunday

Home Office 1) Home Secretary vows to curb eco protests and asylum appeals in 2022

“The home secretary has said she intends to crack down on eco protesters and end the “legal merry-go-round” of “spurious” asylum seeker claims in 2022. In a new year video message posted on social media, Priti Patel said she was proud of many things the government had achieved in 2021, such as the launch of its strategy to tackle violence against women and girls. But she said there was “much more to do” this year, including cracking down on eco protesters on the country’s roads, who she said had “caused misery to the law-abiding public”. Patel added that she was committed to tightening asylum laws and stopping crossings over the channel from France, after a year that saw more than 25,000 people reach the UK in small boats.” – The Observer

Home Office 2) Patel to slow down visa applications from countries that won’t take back crooks

“Priti Patel has introduced visa sanctions against countries refusing to take deportations from the UK. The Home Secretary has applied slow-down measures to paperwork for Gambian applicants. Ms Patel said The Gambia repeatedly ignored calls and only accepted four criminals last year. Countries such as Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Cambodia and Vietnam are also understood to have poor records on deportations. Priti Patel said those staying cost the UK taxpayer by using public services and make a mockery of the rules… About 11,000 criminals in the UK are awaiting deportation, stats show, up from 4,000 ten years ago. There are about 6,000 failed asylum-seekers who receive support but are difficult to return owing to a lack of assistance from their home nations.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Ministers eager to ease immigration rules for Indian citizens – The Observer

Dorries plans to target Ofcom over ‘bias towards the BBC’

“Nadine Dorries is planning to review Ofcom’s structure following concerns over bias towards the BBC, The Mail on Sunday understands. The Culture Secretary is expected to examine the regulator’s role as part of an upcoming review into the Corporation’s complaints process. Officials have raised concerns that out of the 14 members of Ofcom’s Content Board, ten are ex-BBC employees. The regulator is the ultimate authority to which complaints can be escalated. Over the past two years, only one complaint about the Corporation was investigated by Ofcom, out of 418 referred to it by the BBC. This is a fraction of the 830,632 viewer complaints made in total to the Corporation over the same period. A Government source said: ‘Fundamentally this needs to be looked at.’ Ian Paisley, the DUP MP for North Antrim, accused the BBC of ‘marking their own homework’.” – Mail on Sunday

Set deadline for end of Northern Ireland Protocol talks, DUP leader tells Truss

“Liz Truss must set a formal deadline for ending negotiations with Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the DUP leader warned on Saturday as he renewed his threat to collapse Stormont if fixes were not found urgently. Speaking to The Telegraph in the wake of Lord Frost’s resignation as Brexit minister, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the Foreign Secretary must deliver a “clear date” for drawing the talks to a close. He added that, once this deadline was hit, he expected the UK to have either secured a deal with the EU that ended the trade disruption being caused by the protocol or to trigger Article 16 – allowing it to unilaterally suspend parts of the agreement. In a clear sign that his patience with the UK Government is waning fast, Sir Jeffrey also warned that his threat to take further action included the option to withdraw ministers from Northern Ireland’s political institutions.” – Sunday Telegraph

More:

  • Truss wants to lunch, and only a Tory donor’s place will do – Sunday Times

Kwarteng ‘locked in battle’ with civil servants over royal portrait

“Civil servants working for the Department for Business have been accused of disrespecting the Queen after they refused to rehang a large portrait of the monarch in their Whitehall headquarters. The Telegraph can disclose that allies of Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, have been locked in a long-running battle with officials at 1 Victoria Street over the picture. The feud has been sparked over delays in returning the portrait of the Queen to the main entrance of the building, where it has been displayed prominently for several years. It had been temporarily removed while the reception area was refurbished, with the expectation among political aides in BEIS being that it would be returned once this had been completed. However, after several weeks, insiders in the department noticed that it had not been returned and contacted the civil servants involved in the project to request that it be rehung.” – Sunday Telegraph

Farmers to be paid to restore natural habitats in push to rewild countryside

“Farmers will be given funds to restore natural habitats and rewild Britain under new government schemes designed to replace EU subsidies. George Eustice will this week unveil plans for two new environmental land management schemes seen as crucial to halting the decline in biodiversity. At the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday, the Environment Secretary will set out details of a new Local Nature Recovery scheme, which will pay farmers to create new habitats, plant trees, and restore peat and wetland areas. He will also unveil plans for a Landscape Recovery scheme, which will support larger projects designed to return British countryside to the wild. The initiative will be open to individual landowners and farmers or groups engaging in land management projects spanning 500 to 5,000 hectares.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Carrie-backed animal welfare group seeks trail-hunting ban – Sunday Telegraph

Speaker defends Tony Blair knighthood after backlash

“The former Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s ennoblement this weekend, courtesy of the Queen, has been defended by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Sir Tony, rather than Sir Anthony, as he is now known, has been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, 14 years after leaving Downing Street. But the honour has been criticised by Blair’s political opponents and those who argue the legacy of his invasion of Iraq in 2003 makes him unsuitable. Speaking on Saturday morning Hoyle said he felt the honour, the oldest and most senior British order of chivalry, was “a fitting tribute” for a former prime minister, although he felt it was not a political decision.” – The Observer

  • Over 80,000 sign petition to block award – Sun on Sunday
  • Move ‘a kick in the teeth for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan’, say anti-war activists – Sunday Telegraph
  • Military mothers describe move as the ‘ultimate insult’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Former Ministers and senior backbenchers honoured – Buckland, Dinenage, Goodwill and Wiggin.

Seventy-two MPs pocketed a total of over £70,000 by filling in surveys

“It has been a bumper year for cash-for-questions with MPs using a simple life hack to top up their paltry £81,932 salaries (plus expenses, free housing and travel). Seventy-two MPs pocketed a total of over £70,000 by filling in surveys, with some earning £250 for just one hour’s work answering polling questions for cash.Labour’s Dan Jarvis found time between representing the people of Barnsley Central and serving as Mayor of South Yorkshire to fill in 29 polls in the year to November, earning nearly £3,000 on top of his £161,000 salary for both jobs – plus £120 in Amazon vouchers, according to his Register of Interests. He insists he didn’t ‘personally profit’ from the work… Nineteen other Labour MPs and 43 Tories were paid to take part in surveys by pollsters including IPSOS Mori, YouGov and Savanta Comres, which claim the parliamentarians provide essential information to reproduce in official reports and studies.” – Mail on Sunday