Henry Smith: The defence sector has a vital role to play in levelling up – but needs Treasury support

28 Nov

Henry Smith is the Member of Parliament for Crawley.

In Crawley, where the aerospace sector is a significant local employer, we have been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19. This will be an extremely challenging time for individuals and families in my constituency and we must look to replace those jobs quickly.

I believe that this recovery can, and should, be technology-led and that one of the Government departments with the biggest budgets – the Ministry of Defence – could be at the heart of it. With the Integrated Review due to report soon, it is important that the UK takes this opportunity to adapt to an environment where technology, science and data are at the centre of delivering our global ambitions.

I agree with Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, that investing in cyber, space, electronic warfare, AI, robotics and autonomy is vital for our future prosperity and security. These kinds of technologies will be critical in building not only national resilience for the UK but a resilient digitally enabled economy.

However, in order to make the Integrated Review effective and the long-term platform on which to build the nation’s security, it must be accompanied by a multi-year spending settlement.

I appreciate that Rishi Sunak needs to focus on the present. But in an industry where contracts are for tens of years and companies make decisions on R&D investment with a long-term view, the absence of a multi-year settlement adds to uncertainty, causes delays in programme decisions, and makes the UK less attractive to large defence companies for investment.

British national security cannot be separated from the strength of our onshore defence and technology base, which increasingly that includes cyber and digital. The ability to rapidly respond to changing threats or shifts in international dynamics is critical. By developing our industry at home, we are able to make decisions to prioritise our values and protect our security, as the Government rightly did with the Huawei/5G decision.

As we have seen throughout this pandemic, our economic and social lives have been shifted online and the importance of being able to have trust in the systems we use, – that our data is secure, that a website is legitimate – can scarcely be overstated. Given the importance of the digital economy, digital trust must now be considered a foundation for national security; we should consider an intrinsic aspect of our Critical National Infrastructure.

Having world leading capabilities that are created and developed in Britain can also support our trade ambitions and export strength. Export sales can help spread the costs of design and production, potentially bringing down the cost of capabilities for the Armed Forces and saving taxpayers’ money. The reputation of the British military is such that when they can be cited as a reference user it adds significant weight to an export campaign.

In order to maximise the UK-wide benefit, the Government must back our industry by choosing to place a high weighting on the positive economic and employment impacts for Britain when making contract decisions, particularly when taxpayer money has been invested in the development of key technologies.

Brexit represents a chance to level the playing field for our defence industry, having previously been hampered by EU competition laws that were interpreted differently across the different states. The Ministry of Defence must be serious about using criteria to make contract decisions that take into account the impact on British jobs. With a large budget and significant annual capital spending, the MoD can be a vital tool in supporting the economic resilience of the nation as well as our security in the more traditional terms. This is something we have seen in countries across the world as they respond to Covid-19 including the US, France, Germany, and Australia.

Like in Crawley, colleagues from many parts of the nation, from Broughton, Brough, and Barrow, will also know benefits of big manufacturers supporting both employment in their area and a national supply chain. By giving the MoD a multi-year settlement, the Government will be recognising the value that defence spending brings to the national and – crucially – local economies.

We must be thinking about the long-term future of our manufacturing towns, and the Government needs to demonstrate their commitment by giving industry the certainty it needs to level up the economy across our United Kingdom.

Newslinks for Saturday 28th November 2020

28 Nov

Gove issues stark warning to rebel MPs

“Every hospital in England faces being overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases if MPs fail to back the government’s tough new restrictions, Michael Gove has warned. Amid a growing Conservative backbench rebellion over the tiering system, the Cabinet Office minister is calling on MPs to “take responsibility for difficult decisions” to prevent further spread of the disease. Mr Gove’s intervention, in an article for The Times today, comes as tens of millions of people in Tiers 2 and 3 were warned they were unlikely to be able to socialise indoors until the spring. The prime minister’s scientific advisers have told him that it won’t be safe for a large number of areas to be moved into Tier 1 until the danger period for the NHS has passed. They conclude that at the lowest level the restrictions are insufficient to stop cases rising.” – The Times

  • Covid tiers have united Tories in furious rebellion – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister ‘defiant’ over new English coronavirus tiers… – FT
  • …but towns and villages offered ‘escape route’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Strict system system won’t be lifted ‘until Easter Monday’ in bid to protect NHS – The Sun
  • Covid ‘data spies’: town halls harvest millions of highly personal details – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The conditions under which Conservative MPs should back the tiering plan next week

Michael Gove: Lockdown was the only way to stop the NHS being broken

“Others have argued, in good faith of course, for a sort of Sweden-that-never-was — for the strict segregation of the most vulnerable while the rest of us go about our business until the pandemic passes. But what would that involve? How, practically, could we ensure that every older citizen, every diabetic, everyone with an underlying condition or impaired immune system was perfectly insulated from all contact with others for months to come? How many are we expected to isolate completely and for how long? Five million? Ten? No visits by carers or medical staff, no mixing of generations, the eviction of older citizens from the homes they share with younger? No country has embarked on this course, with no detailed plan for implementing such a strategy ever laid out. That is not to deny the course we are on has costs. But those costs are not ones we choose; they are ones we must endure.” – The Times

  • The Tier system is destroying Britain… so I’ll be voting against – Sir Graham Brady MP, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Yes to what’s in the new tiers. But No to who’s been put in them. Using county boundaries is barking mad.

Mass testing could hinder vaccine roll-out, health officials warn

“Ambitious rapid coronavirus testing plans for England threaten to become a distraction from other key goals such as the roll-out of a vaccine, prominent health officials have warned. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised the fast mass community testing systems conducted in Liverpool will be replicated in all tier three areas after lockdown ends. This covers areas with a combined population of some 23 million people. But the Faculty of Public Health and the Association of Directors of Public Health said in a joint statement this would be a massive undertaking that would stretch the country’s resources such that other priorities may be compromised. “Firstly, substantial resources – human and financial – are needed to deliver lateral flow testing at scale,” the two bodies said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • People with diabetes set to receive coronavirus jab before over-65s – The Times

Editorial:

  • Johnson must move heaven and earth to get Covid jabs rolled out at lightning speed – The Sun

>Yesterday: Robert Courts MP in Comment: Our new Test to Release scheme will help to revive British tourism

Ministers in ‘last-minute dash to stop Christmas rail chaos’

“Urgent plans to prevent Christmas getaway chaos are being prepared by ministers amid fears that huge numbers of people will be unable to join their families during the five-day festive relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. Britain’s first Christmas transport tsar has been appointed to prevent meltdown on the rail network and has been given the power to force train firms to lay on extra carriages following warnings that social distancing will prove impossible. Advance rail tickets for the holiday period went on sale on Friday – far later than usual – giving ministers less than a month to plan for the rush once they have an indication of how many people plan to travel. Demand is likely to outstrip supply. Sir Peter Hendy, the former Olympics Tube boss who is currently the chairman of Network Rail, has been asked to examine whether road, rail and air links will be fit for purpose when festive travel is crunched into the period from December 23 to 27.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Extra trains planned amid fears of Christmas crowds – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Shapps has spotted a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give Britain world-class railways

Sunak under fire after refusing to appear in front of MPs to answer questions on Spending Review

“Rishi Sunak is under fire from MPs after he was accused of refusing to appear in front of the Treasury Select Committee to answer questions about his controversial Spending Review. The Chancellor’s spending plans, set out on Wednesday, sparked a political firestorm after he decided to slash the foreign aid budget and freeze public sector pay for many workers. The Committee asked Mr Sunak to attend a meeting to give evidence on his proposals but he declined and said he would only appear after next year’s Budget. The Tory chairman of the committee, Mel Stride, has now written to the Chancellor to demand he ‘provide evidence to us before the end of the year’. The Spending Review saw Mr Sunak announce a pay freeze for an estimated 1.3 million public sector workers.” – Daily Mail

  • Wakefield gives conditional thumbs-up to Sunak’s spending review – FT
  • ‘Stealth tax’ may see households hammered with £70 council tax rise, experts warn – The Sun
  • Warning tourists will abandon Britain if Chancellor scraps duty-free shopping – Daily Mail
  • Johnson ‘secretly scraps’ flagship promise to roll out superfast internet to every home by 2025 – The Sun

Comment:

  • The Tories cannot avoid the tax question forever – Camilla Cavendish, FT

>Yesterday:

‘Pragmatic’ Rosenfield offers a clean break with past at Number Ten

“The arrival of Dan Rosenfield, a former Treasury official, in a move that largely blindsided Westminster, has led to some furious recalculations over where power now lies. It is the latest in a series of decisions Mr Johnson has taken in recent weeks to clear the decks before a Brexit endgame that will dominate the remainder of the year… Friends say the new chief of staff, who worked with the former chancellors Alistair Darling and George Osborne before a successful City career, sought and received a number of assurances from the prime minister. It is unlikely to be coincidental, for example, that Cleo Watson, a close friend of the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings, who quit this month, announced her departure from No 10 hours after the news of Mr Rosenfield’s appointment. He is also likely to have demanded that he be given full authority to carry out a role as Mr Johnson’s “enforcer” across Whitehall and Westminster.” – The Times

Charles Moore: A culture of fear is undermining leadership at every level of society

“Yet leadership today – political, industrial/financial, civil service, educational, sporting, media, cultural, charitable, Church and state, private and public, police, even military – has reached a state of weakness that may be even worse than that of the Seventies. In the course of my work, I meet leaders in the above areas – Cabinet ministers, chief executives, bankers, judges, vice-chancellors, chief constables, bishops, generals, museum directors, etc. Many of them are people of high ability, but all of them nowadays, I sense, are subject to an emotion which corrodes their ability to act: fear. They are not wrong to be fearful. Something in the culture wants them to be afraid. What is it? How did we get here? As is often the case with things that go wrong, the road has been paved with good intentions. Tony Blair’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for example, was designed to empower the citizen against the excessive secrecy of bureaucracy. Yet it has also undermined the proper, iterative, well-recorded process by which leaders should reach policy decisions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Our leaders have their heads in the clouds – Matthew Parris, The Times

Johnson looks north for fresh faces in new year reshuffle…

“Boris Johnson is lining up a group of younger and northern Conservative MPs to join his Cabinet next year in a reshuffle that will complete the reset of his government and keep potentially rebellious backbenchers on side. Allies of the UK prime minister say he wants to shake up his top team following the abrupt departure this month of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, his two most senior aides, and the appointment of Dan Rosenfield as his new Number 10 chief of staff. His focus will be on changing senior figures at the top of government as well as promoting loyal talent in the junior ministerial ranks… MPs representing non-traditional Conservative seats in the North and Midlands are tipped for promotion, as well as those elected in 2015 and 2017. Rising stars who have proved their abilities in the House of Commons and in the media are in line for more senior roles, including Treasury minister Kemi Badenoch, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly and health minister Edward Argar.” – FT

…as Patel hits back at black public figures seeking to stop Jamaicans’ deportations

“Priti Patel on Friday night hit back at attempts by 82 black public figures to halt the deportation of up to 50 Jamaican criminals next week, saying she was “unapologetic” about removing people who posed a risk to the public. The 82, including Naomi Campbell, the historian David Olusoga and actors Naomie Harris and Thandie Newton, have written to airlines urging them not to carry the Jamaicans the Home Office wants to deport. They claimed that if next week’s and other similar flights went ahead there was a risk of the unlawful removal of people who have the right to remain in the UK. However, Ms Patel’s department issued a breakdown of the 50 Jamaicans’ criminal records, which comprised a combined total prison sentence length of 294 years including two life sentences counted as 20 years each. The 50, whose offences included murder, rape drug dealing, child sex, grievous bodily harm, firearms possession, importing drugs, manslaughter and attempted murder, had an average sentence length of eight years and two months.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Government ready for 100 per cent increase in Hong Kong citizens coming to UK – The Times

Brexit 1) UK dismisses ‘derisory’ EU fishing offer ahead of last-ditch trade talks

“The UK has dismissed an EU offer on rights to Britain’s fishing waters as “derisory”, dealing a blow to hopes that the two sides can secure a post-Brexit trade deal in coming days. With only five weeks to go before the end of the transition period, talks on the UK’s future relationship with the EU boiled over when Britain lashed out at an indication from Michel Barnier about how far the bloc was prepared to move on the vexed issue of EU access to UK waters. At a closed-door meeting with EU ambassadors, Mr Barnier, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, said he had told Britain the EU could accept a 15 to 18 per cent cut in its share of rights in UK waters. British and EU officials said the offer was made some weeks ago. Brussels estimates that the EU fleet’s catch in UK waters is worth about €650m a year. The offer would mean that Brussels would sacrifice fishing rights equivalent to up to 18 per cent of that revenue – about €120m.” – FT

  • Barnier’s offer on post-Brexit fishing rights ‘impossible for Britain to accept’… – The Times
  • …or is a fishing breakthrough close? EU ‘set to recognise British sovereignty over UK waters’ – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 2) Labour leader risks fury by reopening bitter divide in party

“Sir Keir Starmer risks reopening a Brexit divide in his Labour Party as he edges closer to backing the Tory Government’s UK trade deal with the EU. The Remainer premier is said to be under pressure to throw his weight behind a deal from what’s left of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ – Labour MPs in Brexit heartlands. But Sir Keir, a former senior public prosecutor and Labour’s former Brexit spokesman, risks reopening wounds in a party – battling to make a comeback from the divides under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. This is because Labour MPs, who campaigned desperately for a People’s Vote following the UK’s decision to leave the Brussels club, are said to be furious over Sir Keir’s focus on the “fighting the last war” by reaching out to Brexit voters in the red wall. They fear backing Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will leave them unable to hold the Tory Government to account over the consequences of leaving the bloc.” – Daily Express

  • Labour MPs and members ordered not to discuss Corbyn’s suspension – The Guardian

Sketch:

  • Members quitting in droves? That’s the best news he’s had all year – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Kate Hoey joins us for the next episode of ConservativeHome Live

Iranian ‘bomb plot’ targeted Tory MPs…

“An Iranian diplomat planned to carry out a terrorist attack in France that could have killed five British MPs and Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, a court has been told. Assadollah Assadi, 48, failed to appear yesterday for the opening of his trial at which he is accused of masterminding a foiled attack on an event held by Iranian opposition activists in June 2018. The event, near Paris, was attended by the Conservative MPs Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Theresa Villiers and Sir David Amess and Labour’s Roger Godsiff, as well as 30 other British officials. Mr Assadi and three alleged co-conspirators are being tried in Antwerp. Two of them, Amir Saadouni, 40, and his wife Nasimeh Naami, 36, were arrested in Belgium, supposedly en route to the event. Mehrdad Arefani, 57, was arrested in Villepinte, on the outskirts of Paris, where the event was taking place, and Mr Assadi was arrested in Germany and extradited.” – The Times

…as Iran vows to ‘descend like lightning’ to avenge ‘Israeli’ assassination

“Iran has vowed to ‘descend like lightning’ on Israel to avenge the death of a prominent nuclear scientist dubbed the ‘father’ of the rogue nation’s bomb programme. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was killed in an ambush involving an explosion and then machine gun fire on a road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital of Tehran yesterday. His death sent tensions in the regions skyrocketing as Iran accused Israel of trying to provoke a war by killing Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – who Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: ‘Remember that name’. Hossein Dehghan – who is a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election as well as an adviser to its supreme leader Ali Khamenei – echoed the claim that Israel was behind the attack and issued a warning.” – Daily Mail

  • Scientist’s assassination could trigger ‘full blown war’, claims Tehran – Daily Express

SNP conference set to be dominated by race and referendum strategy

“Despite its pared-down online format, this weekend’s Scottish National party conference will see two areas of significant tension between the leadership and ordinary members, amid anger at the quashing of debate on independence referendum strategy and frustration at the lack of black and minority ethnic candidates for next May’s Holyrood elections. While the party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, refused to rule out a second referendum next year in pre-conference interviews, this is unlikely to satisfy those within the SNP and the wider independence movement pushing for development of a plan B for holding a referendum if the UK government continues to deny Holyrood the powers to hold one legally. But senior party sources believe that Sturgeon’s popularity with voters and the bounce in support for independence this year gives them increasing latitude to disappoint these activists, arguing that a second referendum is not a priority for conference.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • The Oxford vaccine can be a shot in the arm for foreign aid – Sam Olsen, CapX
  • Welcome to the new Middle Ages – Ed West, UnHerd
  • Italy is about to hijack the eurozone – Matthew Lynn, The Spectator
  • The Marxist cell in Number Ten – Adam LeBor, The Critic

Shapps has spotted a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give Britain world-class railways

28 Nov

What a wonderful time to be in charge of Britain’s railways. The pandemic both demands and enables a programme of improvements which would otherwise have taken many years to achieve.

Since March, about £10 billion of public money has been spent to keep the trains running. At first sight, that looks like an unmitigated disaster. It is certainly unsustainable.

But it also means the strike weapon has lost its edge. To threaten to bring empty trains to a halt is no threat at all.

Nor can the rail unions divide and rule, as they did when services were divided between different train operating companies, a system which had already collapsed before the pandemic.

This is a moment of central control, when the Government is paying the bills and can insist that the interests of passengers and taxpayers take precedence over the desire of the unions to prevent change.

Ministers recognise this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sweep away the accumulated absurdities, ranging from outdated working practices to the ludicrously convoluted fare structure, which are holding the railways back, and to press ahead with such innovations as the introduction of driverless trains, first seen on the Victoria Line in 1968 and the Docklands Light Railway in 1987.

In March this year, ConHome can reveal, a committee on rail reform was set up within the Department for Transport and began meeting weekly.

It is chaired by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, and attended by the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, but nobody supposed the DfT could provide the specialised knowledge of how to run a railway.

So the expertise is provided by members of the committee including Sir Peter Hendy, Keith Williams, Andrew Haines and some of the Non-Executive Directors of the DfT, notably Tony Poulter.

Hendy, appointed by Ken Livingstone to run Transport for London, was kept on by the winner of the 2008 mayoral election, Boris Johnson, received a knighthood after the London Olympics of 2012 in recognition of the excellent transport arrangements during the games, and since 2015 has chaired Network Rail.

Williams, a former Chief Executive of British Airways, has since September 2018 chaired the Williams Rail Review, set up to make recommendations for reforming the entire structure of the industry, with the interests of passengers and taxpayers put first. Its work has not been published, but is being drawn on now.

Haines is Chief Executive of Network Rail, a former Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, and before that was Managing Director of South-West Trains.

The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this week that Shapps has asked Haines to produce a 30-year strategy for the railway called the “The Whole Industry Strategic Plan”.

And earlier this month, The Sunday Telegraph revealed that Haines has been asked by Ruth Hannant and Polly Payne, joint DfT directors general for rail, to report on the future of the East Coast Main Line, and to do so “from the perspective of a neutral single guiding mind”, rather than in his capacity as Chief Executive of Network Rail.

Hannant and Payne have for many years operated a job-share, and before arriving at the DfT in December 2017 were joint Directors of Higher Education Reform at the Department for Education.

One does not have to be Dominic Cummings to reckon this is perhaps not the best way to run a railway. Many in the industry think so too.

But the paucity of deep expertise within the DfT, and its propensity to meddle counter-productively with such matters as the timetable, demonstrate the need for another body, or “neutral single guiding mind”, to be in overall charge.

We require what the press likes to call a Fat Controller, though one cannot help reflecting that the original Fat Controller’s safety record was poor.

The safety record of Britain’s railways has in recent years been good. Some of the credit for that belongs to Mark Carne, Chief Executive of Network Rail from 2014-18, whose previous career at Shell was coloured by the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988.

Nothing, evidently, must be done to put safety at risk. But just as it is no longer necessary to check the oil in a car by opening the bonnet and inspecting the dipstick, for there is a light on the dashboard which will tell you if more oil is needed, so it is no longer necessary for each train to be checked every 24 hours by a driver who walks all round it at ground level, on a path wide enough to keep out of the way of other trains, and well lit enough to be used at night.

The unions insist on this ritual, which has become a ridiculous waste of the highly paid driver’s time, and of taxpayers’ money. Like modern cars, modern trains tell you when something goes wrong.

In the era of nationalisation (1948-93) the railways appeared to be in inexorable decline, and the most famous figure associated with them was Dr Beeching, who proposed to close a third of the network, which is pretty much what happened.

Since privatisation, passenger numbers have doubled, the network has undergone many improvements, there is a lot of new rolling stock and some of the lines closed by Beeching are being reopened.

Lord Adonis has argued with his usual brio the case for doing this, while Larry Elliott has pointed out that without Beeching, which left so many towns cut off, Brexit might never have happened.

One of the great attractions of creating improved railway services is that this cause appeals far beyond the ranks of Conservatives.

Good railways, railways of which everyone can feel proud, are a quintessentially One Nation policy, levelling up in action, and the 2019 Conservative manifesto rightly promised that

“we will restore many of the Beeching lines, reconnecting smaller towns such as Fleetwood and Willenhall that have suffered permanent disadvantage since they were removed from the rail network in the 1960s.”

There is now every prospect that passenger services between Ashington and Newcastle, lost in the 1960s, will soon be restored. The line runs through Blyth, long a Labour stronghold but captured by the Conservatives last December.

Ashington itself is in the constituency of Wansbeck, held last December by Ian Lavery for Labour with a majority of 814, compared to a majority of 10,435 in 2017. Perhaps the new line will help tip Lavery into oblivion.

Beeching was a blunder of Harold Macmillan’s later and less happy years as Prime Minister. It ought now to be undone, along with the destruction of the Euston Arch.

This cannot, however, become an excuse for wasting taxpayers’ money on “fantastically overpaid and inefficient” train drivers, as one source close to the reform committee describes them.

Nor does anyone know how quickly or fully the demand for rail travel will revive. The likelihood is that some commuters will decide they would rather work from home.

And there are many demands on the Treasury’s funds. Rishi Sunak will heed the calls of the NHS, social care and other good causes before he listens to the railways, especially if he thinks the latter are squandering taxpayers’ cash.

So a realistic deal has got to be made with the rail unions. The powers that be are disposed to allow existing drivers, who are mostly quite old, to retain their perks, but not to show the same indulgence to new recruits.

Cardwell is loyal to May and Brokenshire, but does not tell us much about Johnson’s people

28 Nov

The Secret Life of Special Advisers by Peter Cardwell

When Peter Cardwell applied to Fiona Hill, Theresa May’s right-hand woman and in the summer of 2016 suddenly one of the most powerful people in Downing Street, to see if he could become a Special Adviser, he claims he possessed “perhaps the most crucial quality – shamelessness”.

He is wrong about that. Hill took him on, and over the next three and a half years he worked as a SpAd for four different Cabinet ministers, before being summoned to Downing Street in February of this year to be “formally sacked” by the Director of Communications, Lee Cain, who told him: “The Prime Minister no long has confidence in your ability to do your job.”

Cardwell reflects that Boris Johnson is probably “only vaguely aware of my existence”. He is amused that Robbie Gibb, Director of Communications during May’s last two years in office, had not many months before denounced a SpAd who had caused grave annoyance in Number Ten:

“Someone who didn’t play the game. Someone who didn’t stick to the grid. Someone who didn’t keep us informed. Someone who will never set foot in this building again: Lee Cain.”

Since this book was written, Cain has once more left the building, and whether he will ever again set foot there cannot be known.

The reason why Cardwell cannot be called shameless is that he remains loyal to the losing side. He is from Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom where loyalty is a highly esteemed virtue.

Only on page 188 does he confirm that he is a Unionist, who has usually supported the Ulster Unionist Party, now eclipsed (though he does not mention this) by the Democratic Unionists.

Here is Cardwell after Theresa May has wished him “Happy birthday” during the 2017 general election campaign:

“It was a fun moment with a lovely woman, a true public servant and someone who I believe was an excellent Prime Minister despite very trying circumstances.”

The sentiment is admirably unfashionable, but the tone is almost that of John Major. Cardwell has a gaucheness which prevents him from being a good writer. He is, however, a good friend, and forms a particular bond with James Brokenshire, the Cabinet minister for whom he works at the Northern Ireland Office and later at Housing.

Before become a SpAd, Cardwell had spent ten years in broadcast journalism, where at one point Hill offered him Brokenshire as a guest on Newsnight:

“I have a terrible, terrible confession to make… I rejected the offer because I had never heard of him.”

There is nothing terrible about this admission. Cardwell was right to reject Brokenshire as a guest, because Brokenshire is an astoundingly dull performer.

But once he is Brokenshire’s media SpAd, Cardwell becomes “very prickly” about attacks on his boss:

“The press can be merciless, with one particularly poisonous description of James when he was Northern Ireland Secretary suggesting he had ‘the personality of a motorway service station car park’. Ouch.

“The Daily Mail’s sketchwriter Quentin Letts was especially horrible about James. I will not repeat some of the nasty things he wrote in the Mail, but he tweeted in early 2017, ‘Secretary of State James Brokenshire in Northern Ireland today: not so much a statesman as an ink monitor’.”

By early 2019, “for Mayites such as James and me it was bleak”. In the summer of that year, Brokenshire arrives at a decision about the way ahead:

“James, after a lot of thinking and having consulted his three SpAds, had backed Boris for Conservative leader early in the campaign and wrote an excellent op-ed for the Mail on Sunday, although they published only extracts of it, which annoyed  me greatly. To me, it needed to feel like a ‘moment’ when such a May loyalist backed Boris Johnson, and James’s drafted words, which he had sent me to review, were characteristically sincere.”

On become Prime Minister, Johnson sacked Brokenshire, but told him people did sometimes come back into government. In the reshuffle of February 2020, Brokenshire duly came back as Security Minister at the Home Office, so outside the Cabinet.

There is a faint echo in all this of Ferdinand Mount’s defence, in Cold Cream, of Selwyn Lloyd:

“He was used to being patronised. He didn’t care. He was proud of the things he was patronised for being.

“His loyalty was what he was most praised for, but this too was a form of condescension from those who found loyalty a quality of limited value in their own lives. He was loyal to Anthony Eden and never expressed any resentment that he had been led into a course of deceit by that vain, hysterical, serious-minded prima donna (can you be a serious-minded prima donna? Yes, I think you can and Eden certainly was). A few months before Eden married his second wife, the cool and witty Clarissa Churchill, Selwyn had been a guest at a house party given by John Wyndham at Petworth, which included Clarissa. He had been horrified by the way everyone present had said how ghastly Eden was, while Selwyn stuck up loyally for his boss. When the engagement was announced, the others desperately tried to cover their tracks, but Selwyn had no malicious words to swallow,”

In the Tory leadership contest of 1963, Lloyd campaigned energetically and effectively for the surprise winner, Alec Douglas-Home, for he felt, in Mount’s words, that “Home was the only one of them whose judgement was not fatally poisoned by ambition”.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in some future leadership contest, Brokenshire the patronised and disregarded man of government will play a similar role.

If one were contemplating a career as a special adviser, and did not already know what to expect, it would be worth glancing at this book.

There is plenty here about frenetic dealings with the media: nothing much about policy, which at the Northern Ireland Office was in the hands of the vastly more experienced Jonathan Caine.

To say that this account reveals the “secret life” of special advisers is overdoing it. No great secrets are revealed. Most of what happens is trivial, without being particularly amusing.

One gains a sense of the transitoriness of the role of adviser, for as Cardwell says,

“SpAds are political mayflies, lasting on average less than two years in government… Apparently, at the time of my defenestration in February 2020 there were just ten of us, out of some 105 SpAds, who had more than two years’ experience. This was partly due to the fact that in the summer of 2019, when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, so many SpAds had left, taking with them much experience and expertise.”

This is an inexperienced government, which cast aside the knowledge of how Westminster and Whitehall work which had been accumulated by its predecessors.

On arriving in Downing Street, David Cameron was surrounded by a group of professionals who had acquired, like him, a mastery of technique in the Conservative Research Department – a point which escapes Cardwell in his brief and not very illuminating history of SpAds.

Johnson had no such group around him, pursued a daringly unconventional course and in December 2019 won a famous election victory. Cardwell hails Dominic Cummings as “a strategic genius”, but does not have much to say about how all this happened.

For Cardwell belongs to the May interlude, a period about which nothing brilliant has yet been published.

Johnson’s 50:50 target for women in parliament. An important pledge – but Conservatives should avoid quotas.

27 Nov

How do you get more women into politics? This is the question that Boris Johnson delved into last week when he called for the “biggest ever recruitment drive” for female candidates, activists and potential MPs.

Johnson made the announcement as part of “Ask Her To Stand Day”, which marked the 102th anniversary for the Qualification of Women Act. In a video for the occasion, he spoke of the importance of achieving 50:50 representation among men and women in parliament, a goal he also stated in the run up to 2019’s election.

Despite there being a record number (220) of women elected to parliament that year, they still only make up 34 per cent of Members of the House of Commons, and five members of the current Cabinet, leading to the emergence of groups such as 50:50 Parliament, which aims to boost the figures.

As of yet, no details have been released about what the plan for 50:50 representation is. One paper reports that Johnson is not considering selection quotas for Tory candidates.

However, his announcement might raise hopes among campaigners that the Government will take affirmative action. Frances Scott, Director of 50:50 Parliament, said of Johnson’s video “We have never before heard a Conservative Party leader publicly state their support for fully equal representation of women at Westminster”. After the Government took a more interventionist role in its obesity strategy, anything is possible now…

But how do you reach 50:50? And should you set quotas at all? As a woman in political journalism, who did psychology at university, the question of why women and men go into different sectors, in uneven numbers, is one I have always found extremely interesting. There are all sorts of hypotheses about why this is, but I believe the answer is a complicated mixture of personal preference and societal factors, hence why imbalances are so hard to remedy.

One point that often gets overlooked is that disparities between men and women shouldn’t always be taken as evidence of sexism or gender inequality. There is a tendency to pathologise anything other than 50:50 representation, but it’s more complicated than that. For instance, in some of the most gender equal societies, women are much less likely to go into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) than men, whereas the STEM gap isn’t as pronounced for those in more oppressive societies. This phenomenon is called called the “gender equality paradox”.

That’s why it’s important for politicians and society to focus on “equality of opportunity”, not “equality of outcome” when assessing gender equality. In short, men and women should have the same opportunities, but we shouldn’t expect these to neatly convert into equal representation across industries. Freedom means being able to choose different things.

As far as parliamentary careers go, there are some very big reasons why women might not choose to go into politics. Personally, I am wary of the long hours, thankless tasks, and especially put off by the abuse and media intrusion. Perhaps if the Government could magic away the latter, I might give politics a try – but it’s an unfortunate part of the job description that has become worse with social media.

Of course, there are some things the Government and society can do to make things better for women. I suspect one positive step is more education about it in schools, so that girls can build experience in political campaigning. Clare Ambrosino, who stood as the Conservative candidate for Easington last year, tells me “I think if women started being active in politics earlier, we’d have a better chance of having more women politicians.”

She adds that some of the weekends away and after work hours can make things particularly challenging for mothers. Given that women are still expected to take the brunt of childcare, trying to manage the many demands of an MP is a mammoth challenge. Anything that makes life easier here should be implemented – indeed, Johnson has previously pledged to make flexible working and childcare more accessible.

Organisations such as 50:50 Parliament, too, are playing a vital role in promoting women’s participation in politics, offering networking and support, and this will make a big difference, as so much of success – in many fields – comes down to building contacts.

There are many small steps we can take that have a big effect on participation. But the Government should not force the issue by trying to emulate Labour’s quotas. Not least because it is anti-Conservative, undermining the values of self-determination. It will, too, backfire on Johnson; seen, alongside his obesity strategy (and all the other Coronavirus measures) as another sign of too much state intervention.

And fundamentally, targets are not the right way of looking at things. The focus should be on equality of opportunity. Are women receiving the same access to politics as men? The answer to that is where we begin.

Carsten Jung: Why Sunak’s budget is at odds with mainstream macroeconomics

27 Nov

Carsten Jung is Senior Economist at the IPPR.

On Wednesday the Chancellor announced a spending review that was bold in ambition but actually surprisingly timid in numbers. Rishi Sunak may have political reasons for holding back, but mainstream economic thinking suggests that there are questions we should ask about the size of the Treasury’s response.

The human cost of doing too little could be large. A stimulus too modest, that does too little to strengthen the economy, would disastrously dampen the economic ambitions of the young and future generations.

On one hand, some consider the overall bill of £400 billion of the pandemic so far is evidence enough that spending now needs to be trimmed back. But on the other, the fundamental insight gained from a century of economic crises is:that the state is uniquely able to boost economic activity when other economic players – businesses, workers and households alike – are still licking their wounds.

Developed by Keynes,and reflected in economic theory almost ever since, is the finding that public spending can keep bad things from happening, and that this can be economically optimal. Right now, this means that keeping firms and their workers from going under is economically superior to the train crash of an economic disaster, with otherwise viable businesses going to the wall amid a wave of bankruptcies.

Of course this isn’t just theory – it’s been generally accepted in practice by governments of all political stripes. The Chancellor understands that it’s the Treasury’s job, especially in a crisis like this one, to stabilise the economy and help it back on a path to sustained growth. The question is: will this week’s measures achieve that?

Arguably not. The IPPR estimates that the economy will receive only just over a quarter of the boost it needs to fully stabilise and restore the economy. We calculate that a total stimulus of £164 billion would be needed to achieve this – at first sight an eye-watering sum, and of course subject to margins of error. But whatever the exact numbers, there is a strong case to argue that the Chancellor’s measures are too modest.

Some might argue that the state ought to get out of the way and allow business to drive the recovery instead. But this ignores the harsh environment in which businesses currently find themselves. With demand still well below the pre-crisis trend, and balance sheets ballooning with debt, it would take an unusually brave entrepreneur to embark on an investment spree right now. For this reason, business investment is still a hefty 20 per cent below its pre-pandemic level – itself far below our international peers – and is not expected to recover until 2023. No wonder many business groups strongly favour the government catalysing investment and supporting demand.

Many might agree that a much bigger boost would be desirable for the economy, commerce and jobs, but ask: can we really afford it? As some commentators observed this week, the UK appears already to be running up debt so great that at first sight it appears dangerously unaffordable.

But that is the appearance, not the reality. Ultra-low interest rates mean that the UK will pay £20 billion pounds less – not more – to service its debt next year than before the crisis.

Moreover, experience shows that spending less can actually be counterproductive for the public purse. That is because the longer the crisis is allowed to run, the more permanent the damage to the economy. That means less investment, fewer profits, lower wages, less consumption, and significantly lower future tax returns.

Our calculations, based on widely-used economic modelling, suggest that public debt as a proportion of GDP could actually fall, were the Government to embark upon a more major investment package that further boosted jobs and growth. It could be 0.5 per cent lower at the end of the first year, and more so over time, because faster and more resilient growth would mean the economy growing more than government borrowing.

Contrary to widespread belief, government finances are not at all akin to a household’s. They are more like those of an entrepreneur who spots a lucrative business opportunity. For them, it can be more profitable to borrow, invest, and reap the benefits of increased growth later.

The same applies to the state. Smart investments today mean more tax revenues in the future. The economic potential is even greater while interest rates are low, and likely to stay that way for years to come.

The IMF makes a similar argument. It argues that “tightening too fast could undermine the recovery” and says “a further increase in debt in the short term would appropriately balance the pro-growth and debt sustainability objectives over the medium term”. In other words, spending more now will make it easier to manage government debt later.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, borrowing more to spend now would make it easier to balance the books later. Surprisingly, fiscal stimulus is fiscal responsibility.

What could we invest in? None of this would be about building ‘bridges to nowhere’. There are many projects in dire need of investment, starting with our hospitals and social care infrastructure. Three quarters of buildings are falling short of energy efficiency standards. Much public transport infrastructure is suffering from years of neglect, not least in the towns and cities of the North and other English regions.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced a ten-point plan to tackle the climate and emergency and restore nature; in March we calculated that the UK needs to invest an extra £33 billion a year to meet our environmental targets. Only a small part of this gap has been plugged by the welcome announcements so far.

Such investment in future growth prospects can unlock job opportunities and is the best way to address the widely-feared economic “scarring” from the pandemic. And these are no moon-shot projects either. We already have the technology. We can start tomorrow.

All this suggests a question we should sincerely ask the Chancellor. Could more spending bring the economy back quicker? And apart from all the other advantages, wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to ensure public finances are on a sustainable footing?

Because doing too little now will also come a great human cost. We have all been hit hard by the pandemic, but for the young in particular it has been a disaster. They face a future with an economy severely damaged and permanently below potential, without enough good jobs, and with permanently over-stretched public services. Not only are they having to endure the rigours of social isolation during the pandemic, they also face the prospect of a future denied. Little wonder that their mental health has fallen more than that of any other group during this crisis.

So in addition to having benefits for the long-term health of our economy, a bigger fiscal stimulus could prevent us committing a historic mistake: leaving the next generation without enough jobs, without an intact environment, often without the financial means to move out of their parents’ homes – and for some, without hope. From the Chancellor, that would have been a bolder and a better answer.

Carsten Jung: Why Sunak’s budget is at odds with mainstream macroeconomics

27 Nov

Carsten Jung is Senior Economist at the IPPR.

On Wednesday the Chancellor announced a spending review that was bold in ambition but actually surprisingly timid in numbers. Rishi Sunak may have political reasons for holding back, but mainstream economic thinking suggests that there are questions we should ask about the size of the Treasury’s response.

The human cost of doing too little could be large. A stimulus too modest, that does too little to strengthen the economy, would disastrously dampen the economic ambitions of the young and future generations.

On one hand, some consider the overall bill of £400 billion of the pandemic so far is evidence enough that spending now needs to be trimmed back. But on the other, the fundamental insight gained from a century of economic crises is:that the state is uniquely able to boost economic activity when other economic players – businesses, workers and households alike – are still licking their wounds.

Developed by Keynes,and reflected in economic theory almost ever since, is the finding that public spending can keep bad things from happening, and that this can be economically optimal. Right now, this means that keeping firms and their workers from going under is economically superior to the train crash of an economic disaster, with otherwise viable businesses going to the wall amid a wave of bankruptcies.

Of course this isn’t just theory – it’s been generally accepted in practice by governments of all political stripes. The Chancellor understands that it’s the Treasury’s job, especially in a crisis like this one, to stabilise the economy and help it back on a path to sustained growth. The question is: will this week’s measures achieve that?

Arguably not. The IPPR estimates that the economy will receive only just over a quarter of the boost it needs to fully stabilise and restore the economy. We calculate that a total stimulus of £164 billion would be needed to achieve this – at first sight an eye-watering sum, and of course subject to margins of error. But whatever the exact numbers, there is a strong case to argue that the Chancellor’s measures are too modest.

Some might argue that the state ought to get out of the way and allow business to drive the recovery instead. But this ignores the harsh environment in which businesses currently find themselves. With demand still well below the pre-crisis trend, and balance sheets ballooning with debt, it would take an unusually brave entrepreneur to embark on an investment spree right now. For this reason, business investment is still a hefty 20 per cent below its pre-pandemic level – itself far below our international peers – and is not expected to recover until 2023. No wonder many business groups strongly favour the government catalysing investment and supporting demand.

Many might agree that a much bigger boost would be desirable for the economy, commerce and jobs, but ask: can we really afford it? As some commentators observed this week, the UK appears already to be running up debt so great that at first sight it appears dangerously unaffordable.

But that is the appearance, not the reality. Ultra-low interest rates mean that the UK will pay £20 billion pounds less – not more – to service its debt next year than before the crisis.

Moreover, experience shows that spending less can actually be counterproductive for the public purse. That is because the longer the crisis is allowed to run, the more permanent the damage to the economy. That means less investment, fewer profits, lower wages, less consumption, and significantly lower future tax returns.

Our calculations, based on widely-used economic modelling, suggest that public debt as a proportion of GDP could actually fall, were the Government to embark upon a more major investment package that further boosted jobs and growth. It could be 0.5 per cent lower at the end of the first year, and more so over time, because faster and more resilient growth would mean the economy growing more than government borrowing.

Contrary to widespread belief, government finances are not at all akin to a household’s. They are more like those of an entrepreneur who spots a lucrative business opportunity. For them, it can be more profitable to borrow, invest, and reap the benefits of increased growth later.

The same applies to the state. Smart investments today mean more tax revenues in the future. The economic potential is even greater while interest rates are low, and likely to stay that way for years to come.

The IMF makes a similar argument. It argues that “tightening too fast could undermine the recovery” and says “a further increase in debt in the short term would appropriately balance the pro-growth and debt sustainability objectives over the medium term”. In other words, spending more now will make it easier to manage government debt later.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, borrowing more to spend now would make it easier to balance the books later. Surprisingly, fiscal stimulus is fiscal responsibility.

What could we invest in? None of this would be about building ‘bridges to nowhere’. There are many projects in dire need of investment, starting with our hospitals and social care infrastructure. Three quarters of buildings are falling short of energy efficiency standards. Much public transport infrastructure is suffering from years of neglect, not least in the towns and cities of the North and other English regions.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced a ten-point plan to tackle the climate and emergency and restore nature; in March we calculated that the UK needs to invest an extra £33 billion a year to meet our environmental targets. Only a small part of this gap has been plugged by the welcome announcements so far.

Such investment in future growth prospects can unlock job opportunities and is the best way to address the widely-feared economic “scarring” from the pandemic. And these are no moon-shot projects either. We already have the technology. We can start tomorrow.

All this suggests a question we should sincerely ask the Chancellor. Could more spending bring the economy back quicker? And apart from all the other advantages, wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to ensure public finances are on a sustainable footing?

Because doing too little now will also come a great human cost. We have all been hit hard by the pandemic, but for the young in particular it has been a disaster. They face a future with an economy severely damaged and permanently below potential, without enough good jobs, and with permanently over-stretched public services. Not only are they having to endure the rigours of social isolation during the pandemic, they also face the prospect of a future denied. Little wonder that their mental health has fallen more than that of any other group during this crisis.

So in addition to having benefits for the long-term health of our economy, a bigger fiscal stimulus could prevent us committing a historic mistake: leaving the next generation without enough jobs, without an intact environment, often without the financial means to move out of their parents’ homes – and for some, without hope. From the Chancellor, that would have been a bolder and a better answer.

Joel Gladwin: International rivals are catching up on the UK’s fintech success. Here’s how we can defend our crown.

27 Nov

Joel Gladwin is Head of Policy at the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec).

Our fintech sector is a great British success story. Investment into UK fintech companies is at record highs, accounting for over a third of all investment into the sector in Europe. Last year, London had more people working in fintech and a greater number of venture capital investment deals than any other city in the world.

Companies like Monzo, Starling, Revolut and TransferWise are all less than 10 years old but they have matured into global brands in their own right. They have also grown into formidable rivals for customers and their cash, putting pressure on the rest of the financial services sector to step outside its comfort zone, innovate rapidly and embrace a fail-fast, customer-centric culture.

Our historic strength in financial services, combined with forward-thinking regulators in the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and pro-competition policy in the form of open banking, have all contributed to establishing London as the fintech capital of the world.

But that is enough backslapping for now.

Not only are our international rivals catching up when it comes to the volume of fintech deals, they are also drawing up plans to open up more financial – as well as non-financial – data for their fintechs to access and innovate. These plans go well beyond the limited scope of our own open banking regime. The key to defending our fintech crown will be building on this momentum.

Thankfully, the Government is already starting to think seriously about what comes next, with the Treasury and the FCA embarking upon a number of reviews this year including on payments regulations, open finance and the broader UK fintech sector.

Moving beyond open banking to open finance is the next logical step for our fintech sector’s growth and development. It will open up the savings, credit, mortgages and pensions sectors for innovation – and, ultimately, bring consumers more choice, convenience, and ease when it comes to managing their finances.

In its latest Digital Finance Strategy the EU has committed to establishing an open finance framework by 2024. As someone who was involved in the lobbying battles of getting PSD2 over the line – the EU regulation that made open banking possible – I know full well that this is an extremely ambitious target by European standards.

After all, the bureaucratic wranglings of Brussels led PSD2 to be an extremely lengthy project. It spanned five years (2013 to 2018), one directive, eight guidelines, six technical standards and seven opinions. And it has still not been delivered in parts of Europe to this very day. The UK’s approach towards a functional open finance ecosystem can now be quicker, leaner and more agile.

By returning to our principles based approach to regulation, rather than overly prescriptive technical standards, and enabling the market of AP specialists to get on and build the connections for open finance from below, new research by The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) suggests that it would be possible to unlock the benefits of open in two years.

This isn’t a novel idea either. It has been the approach taken by the Australian Government which has introduced arguably the most expansive open data regulatory initiative in the world.

The Australian Consumer Data Right (CDR) will give consumers the right to access not only their financial data but also utility and telecom data by 2021, even though they started on their journey two years later than us. A market-led, principles-based regulatory framework will allow the UK to deliver open finance much quicker than our near neighbours.

The Chancellor has also made it clear that he will “review our regulatory framework on financial services” and that “not being inside the EU more generally gives us a chance to do things differently.” One area that desperately needs the Treasury’s attention is the innovation-killing, anti-competitive, EU regulation that forces customers to re-authenticate third party access with their bank every 90 days – known as Secure Customer Authentication (SCA).

Imagine having to send your accountant, bookkeeper or financial adviser a new letter of authority every 90 days just so they can continue to work on your behalf. The chances of forgetting to do so would be high – potentially missing filing deadlines, payroll or important insights on your financial health. But this is precisely the situation that customers of accountancy software and financial adviser platforms face.

As a result, fintechs are forced to endure customer attrition rates between 13 per cent and 65 per cent according to industry data, rates which are not viable for any business at either end of the spectrum. This is made even worse by this process being managed by the very same banks for which open banking measures were introduced to provide competition. There is little incentive for them to get this right.

These barriers have thwarted open banking’s potential to add $1.4 billion to the UK’s GDP on an annual basis, according to analysis from the Centre for Economics & Business Research. It is vital that we address them.

The UK’s regulatory influence on the global stage will endure. Informal channels, networks and knowledge communities have always played a critical role in shaping the content and application of policy frameworks, especially in areas where technological progress necessitates new approaches such as fintech. By moving quickly to embrace an open finance environment, and correcting the deficiencies within existing European regulation, the UK can continue to lead on fintech.

Robert Courts: How our new Test to Release scheme will help to revive British tourism

27 Nov

Robert Courts is Transport Minister and MP for Witney.

2020 has been a year like no other. During this pandemic our reality shifted, slowly at first – but as borders closed, flights were grounded and millions stayed at home, our world became less connected, less open, and less familiar.

It’s time for that to change. Our decisive action to prevent the virus from spreading freely throughout the world came at the price of a hammer blow to the UK aviation industry, a booming sector that in normal years contributes around £14 billion to the economy and directly employs 130,000 people.

But aviation is a British success story, and we must get it back in the air. That’s why we’ve developed the Test to Release scheme which, just like the vaccines now around the corner, will provide a much-needed shot in the arm to the sector.

In just a few short weeks, passengers arriving into England will be able to choose to take a Covid test at home. This is to shorten the required period of self-isolation by up to a week and go about their daily lives – provided, of course, that they receive a negative result.

It’s a real game-changer. Not only will it allow for the restart of our world-leading long-haul airline industry, but crucially, as it relies on a single test, it is also affordable – opening up short-haul travel too. A UK that has visitors from across the globe is what we’ve come to know and love, so I’m glad we’ll once again see tourists from Brussels to Bermuda in our towns and cities.

In addition, as we are insisting on the use of the private testing network, it will not burden NHS Test and Trace. Doctors, nurses and teachers – these vital workers must have first call on public resources.

Our route out of this pandemic is looking more positive than ever, but we must focus on what we can do right now to bolster travel while keeping the public safe. Giving people the choice to test on day five not only encourages travel, but supports the industry when it needs it most.

From the very first days of the pandemic we’ve followed the science, and Test to Release is no different. Scientists have told us that the effectiveness of a day five test is significantly greater than the effectiveness of a single test on arrival.

Of course, I understand the frustration felt when we saw other countries such as Germany, France and Iceland rushing to eliminate the need for self-isolation through testing on arrival. However, we’ve seen time and again that countries didn’t in fact eliminate the need for self-isolation. The practice was just re-introduced when imported case numbers rose once more.

There are no easy ways to solve the problem of imported cases. That’s why we stuck with self-isolation plus Travel Corridors while looking for a longer-term solution. I believe Test to Release is that. So by taking this approach we can be absolutely certain that we can continue to prevent the spread of this virus while reigniting confidence in international travel.

My lifelong passion for aviation is rooted in its ability to connect people. Test to Release is the best example of how we can make that happen again. For those that choose to, it will provide the ability to holiday again, to visit family again, and to do business again. It signals to the world that the UK is ready to once again lead the way when it comes to travel and tourism. Test to Release will bridge the gap between the dark days of the pandemic and the bright future ahead.

But it’s only been possible thanks to the tireless work of this Government, hand in hand with the private sector. We’ve been working flat out with the health, travel and testing sectors to revive tourism and travel. No doubt there will be tough months to come but airlines, ports, and operators can look to the future with more optimism than ever before.

We know how hard it’s been for an industry that provides for so many, and that’s why we’re offering a new package of financial support in the New Year for English airports and ground handlers serving them, to shore up jobs and reinforce local economies. Travelling has always been one of the great joys of modern life, and I’m delighted to say it will be again, in 2021 and beyond.

Newslinks for Friday 27th November 2020

27 Nov

Rebellion 1) Covid tiers chaos threatens to ‘tear Johnson’s support apart’

“To borrow from Boris Johnson’s beloved cod Latin dictionary, he must have hoped the end of England’s national lockdown would also bring an end to his “mense horribilis”. Alas for the Prime Minister, his terrible month, in which he lost his most trusted aide, got worse on Thursday when the announcement of the tiers to follow the lockdown paved the way for a blistering row that threatens to tear apart his support inside the Conservative Party and across the country. From the Tory shires to “Red Wall” seats, the stench of a full-blown rebellion was in the air. Mr Johnson may yearn for a return to self-isolation. Harriet Baldwin, a former minister and member of the Covid Recovery Group, led the charge. She had done the maths and worked out that 23 million people including her own West Worcestershire constituents, who were in the more relaxed Tier 1 before the lockdown, will wake up on December 2 in Tier Two, ruling out any pre-Christmas household mixing indoors.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He may need the support of opposition MPs to get his coronavirus rules through the Commons – The Times
  • New rules leave 34 million ‘worse off than before lockdown’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Millions in tough Covid tiers until middle of January – The Times
  • Prime Minister promises your tiers are ‘not your destiny’ – The Sun
  • They are ‘a very serious infringement of fundamental human rights’, says Brady – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The conditions under which Conservative MPs should back the tiering plan next week

>Yesterday:

Jeremy Warner: Britain’s inept handling of Covid demands root and branch reform

“Be that as it may, the pandemic has exposed myriad different failings and weaknesses both in our system of governance and in the provision of our public services. Nowhere is this more apparent than in healthcare, where decades of penny pinching and rationing of provision has created a capacity constraint that necessitates closing down much of the economy merely to prevent the system being overwhelmed. There could scarcely be a better example of false economy. As a nation, we need to be spending more on health and social care to provide the sort of service people increasingly demand and expect, perhaps 2 to 3 percentage points of GDP more. Institutional reform – allowing healthcare to be transformed from the producer-determined service it is today into the modern, consumer led business healthcare needs to be – would flow naturally from changing the funding model from general taxation to a system of hypothecated social insurance.  Public or private, in principle it makes no difference.” – Daily Telegraph

  • We must see the bigger picture and not rely solely on one body’s advice – Esther McVey MP, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s tiers increase fears of rebellion – James Forsyth, The Times
  • Crude new tier system has only inflamed the lockdown revolt – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Johnson must review inconsistent tier system or pubs and businesses will shut for good – The Sun
  • Only testing and vaccines still offer a way out – The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Yes to what’s in the new tiers. But No to who’s been put in them. Using county boundaries is barking mad.

Rebellion 2) Report casts doubt on UK pledge to prevent low-quality food imports

“Ministers’ pledges to preserve the UK’s food and farming standards after Brexit will not prevent the import of lower-standard products and could spell potential disaster for Britain’s farmers, a report has found. The government has repeatedly promised that a ban on chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef would remain in place after Brexit, and has made changes to the way future trade bills will be scrutinised. But ministers have refused to sign safeguards on imported food into law, despite pressure from consumers and civil society groups… Facing a potential second rebellion by its own MPs on the agriculture bill, the government agreed to strengthen the scrutiny of future trade bills with an expanded trade and agriculture commission (TAC), a statutory body with powers to advise on bills for the next three years.” – The Guardian

  • Red tape means Northern Ireland to miss out on 15 per cent of M&S food range – Daily Express

Comment:

  • UK’s trade deal with EU must live up to Brexit promises – Sammy Wilson MP, Politico

>Today: ToryDiary: Kate Hoey joins us for the next episode of ConservativeHome Live

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: Agreeing to disagree on the trickiest parts of the UK-EU deal may be the best way forward. For now.

Rebellion 3) Tories seek to block £4bn cut to foreign aid budget in Parliament

“Tory rebels have launched a major whipping operation in a bid to block a £4bn cut to foreign aid spending as the Government conceded it would need to pass legislation to force it through. A group of moderate MPs led by Andrew Mitchell, a former chief whip and international development secretary, are urging colleagues to vote down the reduction of the target when it is put to a vote in Parliament. It came as the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday refused to commit to a “sunset clause” in the legislation which would limit the cut to overseas aid spending to just one-year. Insisting that it was right that “every penny of public spending” was scrutinised during an “economic emergency”, Mr Raab said only that the commitment would be reinstated when “the fiscal situation allows.”” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Raab – ‘We can’t for the moment meet our target of spending 0.7 per cent’ on aid

Sunak refuses to rule out raising income tax, VAT or national insurance

“Rishi Sunak, the UK’s chancellor, on Thursday refused to rule out raising income tax, value added tax or national insurance, as new forecasts revealed a borrowing hole of about £30bn at the next election. The “triple lock” against the rates of these taxes increasing was a central part of Boris Johnson’s manifesto at the December 2019 general election, and Mr Sunak was asked if that pledge still stood. Speaking on the BBC, he said the current level of spending was “unsustainable”. Asked if the tax lock still applied, he added: “I’m not going to be drawn on future fiscal policy.” On Sunday Mr Sunak gave the same answer to Sky’s Sophy Ridge. Mr Sunak on Wednesday dropped a Tory manifesto pledge on overseas aid spending, and Conservative MPs speculated that he might be about to reverse the flagship promise on taxes because of the Covid-19 crisis.” – FT

  • Tories may have to raise taxes to help repair coronavirus-ravaged finances, economists warn – The Times

Benefits:

  • Sunak urged to extend boost to welfare benefit – FT
  • Tens of thousands of families face benefits cap – The Guardian

Comment:

  • ‘Economic emergency’ adds pressure for a rethink on fiscal rules – Chris Giles, FT
  • Sunak can end Britain’s generational divide – Ed Conway, The Times

>Today: Local Government: “The Chancellor has passed the responsibility to us. Can’t complain.” Council leaders respond to the Spending Review.

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Sunak opts to suck it and see

Tech giants ‘must stop exploiting news’

“Facebook and Google will be compelled to give a “fair deal” to news outlets as pressure grows for them to start paying publishers for content. A statutory code of conduct is being written to prevent the digital platforms from taking advantage of consumers and other businesses in markets they dominate, ministers will announce today. The code will help to “rebalance the relationship” between news publishers and the social networks that feature their journalism, the government said. The Facebook-Google duopoly raked in 80 per cent of the £14 billion spent on digital advertising in the UK last year, eating into revenues that local and national news outlets need to fund original reporting. News publishers argue that they deserve to be paid for providing articles that appear in Facebook feeds and Google search results. The code of conduct will be introduced and enforced by a new digital markets unit within the Competition and Markets Authority.” – The Times

  • Public Health England paid £60,000 bonuses to top execs before bungling Covid – The Sun

Prime Minister appoints ex‑Treasury boss Rosenfield as his chief of staff

“Boris Johnson has appointed a former banker as his chief of staff after Dominic Cummings left Downing Street. Dan Rosenfield is described as a “clean skin” by insiders and begins working next month. It follows the high profile departure of Cummings, who was ousted from No10 after losing a bitter power struggle. The Vote Leave boss – who shot to political fame working on the Brexit campaign in 2016 – confirmed his departure after losing key ally, spin doctor Lee Cain. Cain had been the PM’s pick for chief of staff but the plan sparked a backlash from senior figures in Government – and even Mr Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds is reported to have objected. The appointment of a politically neutral former banker and civil servant is in stark contrast to the abrasive Vote Leave figures Cain and Cummings.” – The Sun

  • Cummings ‘sidekick’ quits Downing Street – The Times

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Rosenfield is Johnson’s new Chief of Staff. That’s the admin sorted (we hope). But what about the politics?

Corbyn to start legal action over suspension of Labour whip

“Jeremy Corbyn is to start a formal legal claim against the Labour party for suspending the whip, in a case which allies of the former Labour leader say is intended to prove there was a deal with Keir Starmer’s office to readmit him to the party. The Guardian has seen evidence of exchanges between key members of Starmer’s office and Corbyn’s representatives, suggesting there were private meetings in the run-up to the party’s decision to lift his suspension from the party. Starmer subsequently ordered the Labour whip be withheld from Corbyn until he apologises and deletes comments made following the equalities watchdog investigation into antisemitism in the party. Corbyn’s lawyers lodged a pre-action disclosure application to the high court on Thursday night. “All of this will be in the public domain soon,” one source involved in the discussions said.” – The Guardian

Sturgeon hints at new Scottish independence vote next year

“Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she wants to hold a second Scottish independence referendum as soon as next year. The SNP leader said she anticipates that a vote will take place “in the earlier part” of the next Scottish parliament, which begins next year. Boris Johnson has said that he will refuse to transfer the power needed to hold another referendum to Holyrood. Some ministers, however, believe there will come a point when “no has to turn into yes” if the SNP secures a significant majority in the election in May. Ms Sturgeon told ITV Border: “I’ve not put a date on it yet. I have not ruled it out nor I have ruled it in. I think that is right, not least because of the challenge the country is facing coming out of and rebuilding from Covid. Scotland should have the opportunity to choose whether to become independent in the earlier, rather than the later, part of the next parliament.” Mike Russell, Scotland’s constitution secretary, said last week that the SNP’s ambition was to hold the vote in 2021.” – The Times

  • Welsh government cries foul on post-Brexit farm funding – FT

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: MSPs scent blood as the Scottish Government fights to thwart the Salmond inquiry