Dan Rosenfield is Johnson’s new Chief of Staff. That’s the admin sorted (we hope). But what about the politics?

26 Nov

Dominic Cummings goes out and Dan Rosenfield comes in through Downing Street’s revolving door.  They are ships that almost passed in the night.

Rosenfield is a former civil servant; Cummings distrusted the civil service.  He worked for Alistair Darling and George Osborne, both faces from the vanished pre-EU referendum world.  Cummings helped to destroy it.  Rosenfeld then went to Hakluyt, a strategic advisory firm, via Bank of America.  This is Planet Remain territory, not Leave Country.

Such comparisons are bound to be made today in the wake of Rosenfeld’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.  They are wide of the mark.

Cummings was Boris Johnson’s Chief Adviser – election strategist come guru come specialist operator, concentrating during the run-up to his depature on getting the new “moonshot” test and trace plan up and running.  But Rosenfeld is not replacing him: indeed, Cummings, for better or worse, is irreplacable.

Rosenfield will be Chief of Staff, not a special adviser.  He has clearly been appointed not to provide policy direction, but to exercise administrative grip.  That he reportedly has no discernable political views whatsoever is from that point of view a plus.  And a sign that Johnson wants a bit of calm after the storm. For the moment.

At any rate, Rosenfield is broadly in the tradition of Jonathan Powell, the former civil servant who became Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff, rather than that of Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron’s Chief of Staff who later became a civil servant – or, more precisely, a diplomat; or more precisely still, Ambassador to Paris.

Powell, one old Labour hand tells us, “scarcely dealt with Labour MPs at all”.  Conservative MPs queueing up to bend Rosenfield’s ear may be re-directed to Johnson’s Political Secretary, Ben Gascoigne.

“I really enjoyed working with George,” Rosenfield has said in an interview. “He is a really professional guy, and someone who cares deeply about making a difference. I enjoyed every minute.”

As we write, Osborne has not yet tweeted about the appointment.  It’s impossible to believe that Downing Street didn’t at the least ask the former Chancellor for his view.  Anyway, that’s the admin dealt with.  (We hope.) Next comes the politics. That means sorting not so much staffing in Downing Street as relations with Tory MPs.

Which suggests change in CCHQ come the reshuffle, a shake-up in the Whips Office and a senior backbencher as a Number Ten troubleshooter – to snuff out problems before they can flare up.

The Health Secretary’s statement full text. “Hope is on the horizon” in Covid-19 battle.

26 Nov

“Mr Speaker, with permission I’d like to make a statement on coronavirus.

We are approaching the end of a year where we have asked so much of the British people.

And in response to this unprecedented threat to lives and to livelihoods, the British people have well and truly risen to the challenge by coming together to slow the spread and support each other.

I know how difficult this has been, especially for those areas that have been in restrictions for so long. The national measures have successfully turned the curve, and begun to ease the pressure on the NHS.

Cases are down by 19% from a week ago and daily hospital admissions have fallen 7% in the last week.

January and February are always difficult months for the NHS. So it is vital we safeguard the gains we’ve made.

We must protect our NHS this winter. We have invested in expanded capacity – not just the Nightingales, but in hospitals across the land – and we have welcomed thousands of new staff.

Mr Speaker, this morning’s figures show the number of nurses in the NHS is up 14,800 compared to just a year ago – well on our way to delivering our manifesto commitment of 50,000 more nurses.

Together, while we invest in our NHS, we must also protect our NHS. So it will always be there for all of us, during this pandemic and beyond.

Mr Speaker, I am so grateful for the resolve that people have shown throughout this crisis.

Thanks to this shared sacrifice, we have been able to announce that we will not be renewing our national restrictions in England.

And we have been able to announce UK-wide arrangements for Christmas, allowing friends and loved ones to reunite, and form a 5-day Christmas bubble. And I know that this news will provide hope for so many.

But we must remain vigilant. There are still, today, 16,570 people in hospital with coronavirus across the UK, and 696 deaths were reported yesterday.

That means 696 more families mourning the loss of a loved one, and the House mourns with them. So, as tempting as it may be, we cannot simply flick a switch and try to return life straight back to normal.

Because if we did this, we would undo the hard work of so many and see the NHS overwhelmed, with all that that would entail.

We must keep suppressing the virus, while supporting education, the economy and of course the NHS, until a vaccine can make us safe. That is our plan.

We will do this by returning to a tiered approach, applying the toughest measures to the parts of the country where cases and pressure on the NHS are highest, and allowing greater freedom in areas where prevalence is lower.

While the strategy remains the same, the current epidemiological evidence, and clinical advice, shows we must make the tiers tougher than they were before to protect the NHS through the winter and avert another national lockdown.

So we’ve looked at each of the tiers afresh and strengthened them, as the Prime Minister set out on Monday.

In tier 1 if you can work from home, you should do so.

In tier 2, alcohol may only now be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal.

And in tier 3, indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation will have to close, along with all forms of hospitality, except for delivery and takeaways.

Mr Speaker, I know that people want certainty about the rules they need to follow in their area.

These decisions are not easy. But they are necessary.

We have listened to local experts, and been guided by the best public health advice, including from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

We set out the criteria in the COVID-19 Winter Plan, and we published the data on which the decisions are made.

As the Winter Plan sets out, the 5 indicators are:

  • the case rates in all age groups
  • in particular, cases among the over 60s
  • the rate at which cases are rising or falling
  • the positivity rate
  • and the pressures on the local NHS

When setting the boundaries for these tiers, we have looked not just at geographical areas but the human geographies which influence how the virus spreads, like travel patterns and the epidemiological situation in neighbouring areas.

While all 3 tiers are less stringent than the national lockdown that we are all living in now, to keep people safe, and to keep the gains being made, more areas than before will be in the top two tiers.

This is necessary to protect our NHS and keep the virus under control.

Turning to the tiers specifically: the lowest case rates are in Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly, which will go into tier 1.

In all 3 areas have had very low case rates throughout and I want to thank residents for being so vigilant during the whole pandemic.

I know that many other areas would want to be in tier 1. I understand that.

My own constituency of West Suffolk has the lowest case rate for over 60s in the whole country.

And I want to thank Matthew Hicks and John Griffiths, the leaders of Suffolk and West Suffolk Councils, and their teams, for this achievement.

But despite this, and despite the fact Suffolk overall has the lowest case rate outside Cornwall and the Isle of Wight, our judgement, looking at all of the indicators, and based on the public health advice, is that Suffolk needs to be in tier 2 to get the virus further under control.

Now I hope that Suffolk, and so many other parts of the country, can get to tier 1 soon, and the more people stick to the rules, the quicker that will happen.

We must make the right judgements guided by the science.

The majority of England will be in tier 2, but in a significant number of areas, I’m afraid, they need to be in tier 3 to bring case rates down.

I know how tough this is, both for areas that have been in restrictions for a long time, like Leicester and Greater Manchester, and also for areas where cases have risen sharply recently, like Bristol, the West Midlands and Kent.

The full allocations have been published this morning and laid as a written ministerial statement just before this statement began.

I understand the impact that these measures will have, but they are necessary given the scale of the threat that we face.

We will review the measures in a fortnight, and keep them regularly under review after that.

I want to thank everybody who’s in the tier 3 areas for the sacrifices that they are making, not just to protect themselves and their families, but their whole community.

And regardless of your tier, I ask everyone: we must all think of our own responsibilities to keep this virus under control.

We should see these restrictions not as a boundary to push but as a limit on what the public health advice says we can do safely in any area.

But, frankly, the less any one person passes on the disease, the faster we will can get this disease under control together. And that is on all of us.

Mr Speaker, we must all play our part while we work so hard to deliver the new technologies that will help us get out of this. In particular, vaccines and testing.

The past fortnight has been illuminated by news of encouraging clinical trials for vaccines. First, from Pfizer/BioNTech and then from Moderna. And then of course earlier this week, from the Oxford/AstraZeneca team.

If these vaccines are approved, the NHS stands ready to roll them out, as soon as safely possible. Alongside vaccines, we have made huge strides in the deployment of testing.

Our roll-out of community testing has been successful because it means we can identify more people who have the virus but don’t have symptoms and help them to isolate, breaking the connections that the virus needs to spread.

As part of our COVID-19 Winter Plan, we will use these tests on a regular basis. For instance, to allow visitors safely to see loved ones in care homes, to protect our frontline NHS and social care colleagues, and to allow vital industries and public services to keep running safely.

Mr Speaker, we have seen in Liverpool, where now over 300,000 people have been tested, how successful this community testing can be, and I want to pay tribute to the people of Liverpool, both for following the restrictions and for embracing this community testing.

It has been a big team effort across the whole city. And the result is that in the Liverpool City Region the number of cases has fallen by more than two-thirds.

In the borough of Liverpool itself, where the mass testing took place, cases have fallen by three-quarters.

It hasn’t been easy and, sadly, many people in Liverpool have lost their lives to COVID. But thanks to people sticking to the rules, and to the huge effort of community testing, Liverpool’s cases are now low enough for the whole City Region to go into tier 2.

This shows what we can do when we work together. We can beat the virus.

And I want to pay tribute to the people of Liverpool, to NHS Test and Trace, the University, the Hospital Trust, and Mayor Joe Anderson and so many others, who have demonstrated such impressive leadership, responsibility, and a true sense of public service.

We are now expanding this community testing programme even further, to launch a major community testing programme, honing in on the areas with the greatest rate of infection.

This programme is open to all local authorities in tier 3 areas in the first instance and offers help to get out of the toughest restrictions as fast as possible.

We will work with local authorities on a plan to get tests where they’re needed most and how we can get as many people as possible to come forward and get certainty about their condition.

The more people who get tested then the quicker that a local area can move down through the tiers, and get life closer to normal.

Mr Speaker, viruses can take a short time to spread, but a long time to vanquish, and sadly there is no quick fix.

They call upon all our determination to make the sacrifices that will bring it to heel and all our ingenuity to make the scientific advances that will get us through.

Hope is on the horizon but we still have further to go. So we must all dig deep. The end is in sight. We mustn’t give up now.

We must follow these new rules and make sure that our actions today will save lives in future and help get our country through this.

And I commend this statement to the House.”

The new coronavirus restriction areas in full

26 Nov

Tier 1: Medium alert

South East

  • Isle of Wight

South West

  • Cornwall
  • Isles of Scilly

Tier 2: High alert

North West

  • Cumbria
  • Liverpool City Region
  • Warrington and Cheshire

Yorkshire

  • York
  • North Yorkshire

West Midlands

  • Worcestershire
  • Herefordshire
  • Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin

East Midlands

  • Rutland
  • Northamptonshire

East of England

  • Suffolk
  • Hertfordshire
  • Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
  • Norfolk
  • Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
  • Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes

London

  • All 32 boroughs plus the City of London

South East

  • East Sussex
  • West Sussex
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Surrey
  • Reading
  • Wokingham
  • Bracknell Forest
  • Windsor and Maidenhead
  • West Berkshire
  • Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire

South West

  • South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
  • Bath and North East Somerset
  • Dorset
  • Bournemouth
  • Christchurch
  • Poole
  • Gloucestershire
  • Wiltshire and Swindon
  • Devon

Tier 3: Very High alert

North East

  • Tees Valley Combined Authority:
  • Hartlepool
  • Middlesbrough
  • Stockton-on-Tees
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • Darlington
  • North East Combined Authority:
  • Sunderland
  • South Tyneside
  • Gateshead
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • North Tyneside
  • County Durham
  • Northumberland

North West

  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancashire
  • Blackpool
  • Blackburn with Darwen

Yorkshire and The Humber

  • The Humber
  • West Yorkshire
  • South Yorkshire

West Midlands

  • Birmingham and Black Country
  • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
  • Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

East Midlands

  • Derby and Derbyshire
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
  • Leicester and Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire

South East

  • Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)
  • Kent and Medway

South West

  • Bristol
  • South Gloucestershire
  • North Somerset

Published by HM Government on 26 November 2020

The Chancellor’s Spending Review statement. Full text – “The UK is forecast to borrow a total of £394 billion this year”

25 Nov

“On Monday, the Prime Minister set out the action we need to take between now and the start of December to control the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Speaker,

Today’s Spending Review delivers on the priorities of the British people.

Our health emergency is not yet over.

And our economic emergency has only just begun.

So our immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.

But today’s Spending Review also delivers stronger public services.

Paying for new hospitals, better schools and safer streets.

And it delivers a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure.

Creating jobs, growing the economy, increasing pride in the places we call home. 

Mr Speaker,

Our immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.

So let me begin by updating the House on our response to coronavirus.

We’re prioritising jobs, businesses and public services.

The furlough scheme, support for the self-employed, loans, grants, tax cuts and deferrals as well as extra funding for schools, councils, the NHS, charities, culture and sport.

Today’s figures confirm that taken together:

This year, we are providing £280 billion to get our country through coronavirus.

Next year, to fund our programmes on testing, PPE, vaccines – we are allocating an initial £18 billion.

To protect the public services most affected by coronavirus, we are also providing:

£3 billion to support NHS recovery, allowing them to carry out up to a million checks, scans and operations.

Over £2 billion to keep our transport arteries open, subsidising rail networks.

Over £3 billion to local councils.

And an extra £250 million to help end rough sleeping.

And while much of our coronavirus response is UK-wide, the government is also providing £2.6 billion to support the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Taken together, next year, public services funding to tackle coronavirus will total £55 billion.

Mr Speaker,

Let me turn to the OBR’s economic forecasts.

And can I thank the new Chair, Richard Hughes, and his whole team, for their work.

The OBR forecast the economy will contract this year by 11.3%, the largest fall in output for more than 300 years.

As the restrictions are eased, they expect the economy to start recovering growing by 5.5% next year, 6.6% in 2022, then 2.3%, 1.7% and 1.8% in the following years.

Even with growth returning, our economic output is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until the fourth quarter of 2022.

And the economic damage is likely to be lasting.

Long-term scarring means, in 2025, the economy will be around 3% smaller than expected in the March Budget. 

Mr Speaker,

The economic impact of coronavirus, and the action we’ve taken in response, means there has been a significant but necessary increase in our borrowing and debt.

The UK is forecast to borrow a total of £394 billion this year, equivalent to 19% of GDP.

The highest recorded level of borrowing in our peacetime history.

Borrowing falls to £164 billion next year, £105 billion in 2022-23, then remains at around £100 billion, 4% of GDP, for the remainder of the forecast.

Underlying debt – after removing the temporary effect of the Bank of England’s asset purchases – is forecast to be 91.9% of GDP this year.

And due to elevated borrowing levels, and a forecast persistent deficit, underlying debt is forecast to continue rising in every year, reaching 97.5% of GDP in 2025-26.

High as these costs are, the costs of inaction would have been far higher.

But this situation is clearly unsustainable over the medium term.

We could only act in the way we have because we came into this crisis with strong public finances.

And we have a responsibility, once the economy recovers, to return to a sustainable fiscal position. 

Mr Speaker,

This is an economic emergency.

That’s why we have taken, and continue to take, extraordinary measures to protect people’s jobs and incomes.

And it is clear those measures are making a difference.

The OBR now state – as the Bank of England and the IMF already have – that our economic response has protected jobs, supported incomes and helped businesses stay afloat.

They’ve said today that business insolvencies have fallen, compared to last year.

And the latest data shows the UK’s unemployment rate is lower than Italy, France, Spain, Canada and the United States.

And we’re doing more to build on our Plan for Jobs.

I’m announcing today nearly £3 billion for My Right Honourable Friend the Work & Pensions Secretary to deliver a new, three-year Restart Programme to help over a million people who’ve been unemployed for over a year, find new work.

But I have always said: we cannot protect every job.

Despite the extraordinary support we’ve provided, the OBR expects unemployment to rise to a peak in the second quarter of next year, of 7.5% – 2.6 million people.

Unemployment is then forecast to fall in every year, reaching 4.4% by the end of 2024.

Mr Speaker,

Today’s statistics remind us of something else: coronavirus has deepened the disparity between public and private sector wages.

In the six months to September, private sector wages fell by nearly 1% compared to last year. Over the same period, public sector wages rose by nearly 4%.

And unlike workers in the private sector, who have lost jobs, been furloughed, seen wages cut, and hours reduced, the public sector has not.

In such a difficult context for the private sector – especially for those people working in sectors like retail, hospitality, and leisure I cannot justify a significant, across-the-board pay increase for all public sector workers.

Instead, we are targeting our resources at those who need it most.

To protect public sector jobs at this time of crisis, and ensure fairness between the public and private sectors, I am taking three steps today.

First, taking account of the pay review bodies advice, we will provide a pay rise to over a million Nurses, Doctors and others working in the NHS.

Second, to protect jobs, pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused next year.

But third, we will protect those on lower incomes.

The 2.1 million public sector workers who earn below the median wage of £24,000, will be guaranteed a pay rise of at least £250.

What this means, Mr Speaker, is that while the government is making the difficult decision to control public sector pay the majority of public sector workers will see their pay increase next year.

And we want to do more for the lowest paid.

We are accepting in full the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission to increase the National Living Wage by 2.2% to £8.91 an hour; to extend this rate to those aged 23 and over; and to increase the National Minimum Wage rates as well.

Taken together, these minimum wage increases will likely benefit around two million people.

A full-time worker on the National Living Wage will see their annual earnings increase by £345 next year.

And compared to 2016 when the policy was first introduced, that’s a pay rise of over £4,000. 

Mr Speaker,

These are difficult and uncertain economic times – so it is right that our immediate priority is to protect people’s health and their jobs.

But we need to look beyond.

Today’s Spending Review delivers stronger public services – our second priority.

Before I turn to the details, let me thank the whole Treasury team, and especially My Right Honourable Friend the Chief Secretary for their dedication and hard work in preparing today’s Spending Review.

Next year, total departmental spending will be £540 billion.

Over this year and next, day-to-day departmental spending will rise, in real terms, by 3.8% – the fastest growth rate in 15 years.

In cash terms, day-to-day departmental budgets will increase next year by £14.8 billion.

And Mr Speaker, this is a Spending Review for the whole United Kingdom.

Through the Barnett formula, today’s decisions increase Scottish Government funding by £2.4 billion, Welsh Government funding by £1.3 billion, and £0.9 billion for the Northern Ireland Executive.

The whole of the United Kingdom will benefit from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and over time we will ramp up funding so that total domestic UK-wide funding will at least match EU receipts, on average reaching around £1.5 billion a year.

To help local areas prepare for the introduction of the UKSPF, next year we will provide funding for communities to pilot programmes and new approaches.

And we will accelerate four City and Growth Deals in Scotland, helping Tay Cities, Borderlands, Moray, and the Scottish Islands create jobs and prosperity in their areas.

Mr Speaker,

Our public spending plans deliver on the priorities of the British people.

Today’s Spending Review honours our historic, multi-year commitment to the NHS.

Next year, the core health budget will grow by £6.6 billion, allowing us to deliver 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more general practice appointments.

We’re increasing capital investment by £2.3 billion.

To invest in new technologies to improve patient and staff experience.

Replace ageing diagnostic machines like MRI and CT scanners.

And fund the biggest hospital building programme in a generation – building 40 new hospitals and upgrading 70 more.

We’re investing in social care, too.

Today’s settlement allows Local Authorities to increase their core spending power by 4.5%.

Local authorities will have extra flexibility for Council Tax and Adult Social Care precept which together with £300 million of new grant funding gives them access to an extra billions pounds to fund social care.

And this is on top of the extra billion pound social care grant we provided this year, which I can confirm will be maintained into next year.

To provide a better education for our children, we’re also getting on with our three-year investment plan for schools.

We’ll increase the schools’ budget next year by £2.2 billion, well on the way to delivering our commitment of an extra £7.1 billion by 2022-23.

Every pupil in the country will see a year-on-year funding increase of at least 2%.

And we’re funding the Prime Minister’s commitment to rebuild 500 schools over the next decade.

And we’re also committed to boosting skills.

With £291 million to pay for more young people to go into further education.

£1.5 billion to rebuild colleges.

£375 million to deliver the Prime Minister’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

And extend traineeships, sector-based work academies, and the national careers service.

As well as improving the way the apprenticeships system works for businesses.

And we’re also making our streets safer.

Next year, funding for the criminal justice system will increase by over a billion pounds.

We’re providing more than £400 million to recruit 6,000 new police officers – well on track to recruit 20,000.

And £4 billion over four years to provide 18,000 new prison places.

New hospitals, better schools, safer streets – the British people’s priorities are this government’s priorities.  

Mr Speaker,

Today’s Spending Review strengthens the United Kingdom’s place in the world.

This country has always and will always be open and outward-looking, leading in solving the world’s toughest problems.

But during a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services sticking rigidly to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid, is difficult to justify to the British people especially when we’re seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record.

I have listened with great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target.

But at a time of unprecedented crisis government must make tough choices.

I want to reassure the House that we will continue to protect the world’s poorest:

Spending the equivalent of 0.5% of our national income on overseas aid in 2021, allocating £10 billion at this Spending Review.

And our intention is to return to 0.7% when the fiscal situation allows.

Based on the latest OECD data, the UK would remain the second highest aid donor in the G7.

Higher than France, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States.

And 0.5% is also considerably more than the 29 countries on the OECD’s development assistance committee – who average just 0.38%.

And overseas aid is of course only one of the ways we play our role in the world.

The Prime Minister has announced over £24 billion investment in defence over the next four years, the biggest sustained increase in 30 years.

Allowing us to provide security not just for our country but around the world.

We’re investing more in our extensive diplomatic network, already one of the largest in the world.

And providing more funding for new trade deals.

We should, however, judge our standing in the world not just by the money we spend but by the causes we advance and the values we defend.

Mr Speaker,

If this Spending Review’s first priority was getting the country through coronavirus.

And its second was stronger public services.

Then our final priority is to deliver our record investment plans in infrastructure.

Capital spending next year will total £100 billion – £27 billion more in real terms than last year.

Our plans deliver the highest sustained level of public investment in more than 40 years.

Once-in-a-generation plans to deliver once-in-a-generation returns for our country.

To build housing, we’re introducing a £7.1 billion National Home Building Fund.

On top of our £12.2 billion Affordable Homes Programme.

We’ll deliver faster broadband for over 5 million premises across the UK.

Better mobile connectivity with 4G coverage across 95% of the country by 2025.

The biggest ever investment in new roads.

Upgraded railways, new cycle lanes and over 800 zero emission buses.

Our capital plans will invest in the greener future we promised.

Delivering the Prime Minister’s ten-point plan for climate change.

We’re making this country a scientific superpower.

With almost £15 billion of funding for research and development.

And we’re publishing today a comprehensive new National Infrastructure Strategy.

To help finance our plans, I can also announce we will establish a new UK infrastructure bank.

Headquartered in the north of England, the Bank will work with the private sector to finance major new investment projects across the UK – starting this spring.  

Mr Speaker,

I have one further announcement to make.

For many people, the most powerful barometer of economic success is the change they see and the pride they feel in the places they call home.

People want to be able to look around their towns and villages and say, yes: our community – this place – is better off than it was five years ago.

For too long, our funding approach has been complex and ineffective.

And I want to change that.

Today I’m announcing a new Levelling Up Fund worth £4 billion.

Any local area will be able to bid directly to fund local projects.

The fund will be managed jointly between the Treasury, the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – taking a new, holistic, place-based approach to the needs of local areas.

Projects must have real impact.

They must be delivered within this Parliament.

And they must command local support, including from their Member of Parliament.

This is about funding the infrastructure of everyday life:

A new bypass.

Upgraded railway stations.

Less traffic.

More libraries, museums, and galleries.

Better high streets and town centres.

This government is funding the things people want and places need.  

Mr Speaker,

Today I have announced huge investment in jobs, public services and infrastructure.

And yet… I cannot deny numbers alone, can ring hollow.

They stand testament to our commitment to create a better nation, but on their own they are not enough to create one.

When asked what our vision for the future of this country is, we cannot point to a shopping list of announcements and feel the job is done.

So, as we invest billions in research and development, we’re also introducing a new immigration system ensuring the best and brightest from around the world come here to learn, innovate and create.

As we invest billions in the building of new homes, we’re also simplifying our planning system to ensure beautiful homes are built where they are needed most.

As we invest billions in the security of this country, we’re also defending free speech and democratic rule, proving our values are more than just words.

And as we invest billions in public services, we’re also protecting the wages of those on the lowest incomes and supporting jobs because good work remains the most rewarding and sustainable path to prosperity.

The spending review announced today sets us on a path to deal with the material matters of government and it is a clear statement of our priorities but encouraging the individual and community brilliance on which a thriving society depends, remains, as ever, a work unfinished.

We in government can set the direction, better schools, more homes, stronger defence, safer streets green energy, technological development, improved rail, enhanced roads all investments that will create jobs and give every person in this country the chance to meet their potential.

But it is the individual, the family, and the community that must become stronger, healthier and happier as a result.

This is the true measure of our success.

The spending announced today is secondary to the courage, wisdom, kindness and creativity it unleashes.

These are the incalculable but essential parts of our future, and they cannot be mandated or distributed by government.

These things must come from each of us, and be shared freely, because the future, this better country, is a common endeavour.

Today government has funded the priorities of the British people, and now the job of delivering them, begins.

Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.”

Mak is co-Chair of the new Conservative Party Policy Board

24 Nov

ConservativeHome wrote recently about the appointment of Neil O’Brien as a new Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, and Chair of the Conservative Party’s Policy Board – a promotion with wider implications.

We weren’t alone in doing so. The news about our columnist got a lot of publicity, including an interview with him in the Times.

But what has not been evident so far is that there was already a Vice-Chairman of the Party responsible for policy.  Step forward, Alan Mak.

That most missed his own earlier appointment isn’t surprising, since these Vice-Chairmen have a way of rapidly coming and going.

At any rate, Mak is still there – and this site is told that he will co-chair the Board with O’Brien.  The third MP who will sit on it is John Penrose, who chairs the Conservative Policy Forum.

Another member will arguably carry more weight than any of them: Munira Mirza, the head of the Downing Street Policy Unit.

Her presence on it, and that of Joel Winton, her deputy, is a sign that the Board should be taken seriously.  Iain Carter, who heads up the Conservative Research Department, will also be a member.

And there are to be Parliamentary Party representatives – which raises the question of who these are to be.  ConHome is told that the intention is that they be selected. (By whom, exactly?)

We suspect that Graham Brady and the 1922 Committee Executive will have something to say about that.  The ’22 had its own elected policy committees during the run-up to the last election.

Unlike O’Brien, Mak has neither run a think-tank nor served as a SpAd – let alone as a senior one in George Osborne’s Treasury.

Nonetheless, he is no policy slouch: see his pieces on the Fourth Industrial Revolution for this site.  And he was agitating about about ending child hunger almost 18 months ago – well before the Marcus Rashford push.

The twin-hatting arrangement seems awkard to us, and we doubt it will last long.  “Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere, / Nor can one England brook a double reign, / Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.”

One or other of these gentlemen will presumably be wafted heavenwards in a blaze of glory during the New Year reshuffle that must surely come…

…Unless Boris Johnson has second or third or seventy-seventh thoughts, and puts the whole thing off until after the spring’s local elections.

The Prime Minister’s full text. ‘Scientific breakthroughs will ultimately make these restrictions obsolete’.

23 Nov

Mr Speaker, thank you very much and with your permission, I will make a statement on the Government’s Covid Winter Plan.

For the first time since this wretched virus took hold, we can see a route out of the pandemic.

The breakthroughs in treatment, in testing and vaccines mean that the scientific cavalry is now in sight and we know in our hearts that next year we will succeed.

By the Spring, these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we have endured in 2020 and make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant.

When that moment comes, it will have been made possible by the sacrifices of millions of people across the United Kingdom.

I am acutely conscious that no other peacetime Prime Minister has asked so much of the British people and just as our country has risen to every previous trial, so it has responded this time, and I am deeply grateful.

But the hard truth, Mr Speaker, is that we are not there yet.

First we must get through Winter without the virus spreading out of control and squandering our hard-won gains, at exactly the time when the burden on the NHS is always greatest.

Our Winter Plan is designed to carry us safely to Spring.

In recent weeks, families and businesses in England have, once again, steadfastly observed nationwide restrictions and they have managed to slow the growth of new cases and ease the worst pressures on our NHS.

I can therefore confirm that national restrictions in England will end on 2nd December, and they will not be renewed.

From next Wednesday people will be able to leave their home for any purpose, and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the Rule of Six.

Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.

But without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a Winter or New Year surge.

The incidence of the disease is, alas, still widespread in many areas, so we are not going to replace national measures with a free for all, the status quo ante Covid.

We are going to go back instead to a regional tiered approach, applying the toughest measures where Covid is most prevalent.

And while the previous local tiers did cut the R number, they were not quite enough to reduce it below 1, so the scientific advice, I am afraid, is that as we come out is that our tiers need to be made tougher.

In particular, in tier 1 people should work from home wherever possible.

In tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal.

In tier 3, indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation will have to close, along with all forms of hospitality, except for delivery and takeaways.

And I am very sorry obviously for the unavoidable hardship that this will cause to business owners who have already endured so much disruption this year.

Mr Speaker, unlike the previous arrangements, tiers will now be a uniform set of rules.

That’s to say we won’t have negotiations on additional measures with each region, it’s a uniform set of rules.

We have learnt from experience that there are some things we can do differently.

So from the 10pm closing time for hospitality we’re going to change that to so that it is last orders at 10 with closing at 11.

In tiers 1 and 2, spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside – with capacity limits and social distancing – providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.

We will also strengthen the enforcement ability of Local Authorities, including specially trained officers and new powers to close down premises that pose a risk to public health.

Later this week we will announce which areas will fall into which tier, I hope on Thursday, based on analysis of cases in all age groups, especially the over 60s, also looking at the rate by which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have Covid, and the current and projected pressures on the NHS.

I am sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall – at least temporarily – into higher levels than before, but by using these tougher tiers and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below 1 and keep it there, it should be possible for areas to move down the tiering scale to lower levels of restrictions.

By maintaining the pressure on the virus, we can also enable people to see more of their family and friends over Christmas.

Mr Speaker, I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.

We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it.

But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.

So to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we are working with the Devolved Administrations on a special, time-limited Christmas dispensation, embracing the whole of the United Kingdom, and reflecting the ties of kinship across our islands.

But this virus is obviously not going to grant us a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas, Mr Speaker, and families will need to make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives.

We will be publishing guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable on how to manage the risks in each tier, as well as over Christmas.

As we work to suppress the virus with these local tiers, two scientific breakthroughs will ultimately make these restrictions obsolete.

As soon as a vaccine is approved, we will dispense it as quickly as possible.

But given that this cannot be done immediately, we will simultaneously use rapid turnaround testing, the lateral flow testing that gives results within 30 minutes, to identify those without symptoms so they can isolate and avoid transmission.

We are beginning to deploy these tests in our NHS and in care homes in England, so people will once again be able to hug and hold hands with loved ones, instead of waving at them through a window.

By the end of the year, this will allow every care home resident to have two visitors, who can be tested twice a week.

Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly tests from today.

And from next month, weekly tests will also be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing, and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines.

We are also using testing as the House knows to help schools and universities stay open, and testing will enable students to know they can go home safely for Christmas and indeed back from home to university.

But there is another way of using these rapid tests, and that is to follow the example of Liverpool, where in the last two and a half weeks over 200,000 people have taken part in community testing, contributing to a very substantial fall in infections.

So together with NHS Test and Trace and our fantastic Armed Forces, we will now launch a major community testing programme, offering all local authorities in tier 3 areas in England a six week surge of testing.

The system is untried and there are of course many unknowns, but if it works, we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions, for example, meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative.

And those towns and regions which engage in community testing will have a much greater chance of easing the rules, the tiering, that they currently endure.

Mr Speaker, we will also use daily testing to ease another restriction that has impinged on many lives.

We will seek to end automatic isolation for close contacts of those found positive.

Beginning in Liverpool later this week, contacts who are tested every day for a week will only need to isolate if they themselves test positive.

If successful, this approach will be extended across the health system next month, and to the whole of England from January.

And, of course, we are working with the Devolved Administrations to ensure that Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland also benefit as they should and will from these advances in rapid testing.

But clearly the most hopeful advance of all is how vaccines are now edging ever closer to liberating us from the virus, demonstrating emphatically that this is not a pandemic without end.

We can take heart from today’s news, which has the makings of a wonderful British scientific achievement.

The vaccine developed with astonishing speed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is now one of three capable of delivering a period of immunity.

We don’t yet know when any will be ready and licensed, but we have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories.

And the NHS is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme, ready next month, the like of which we have never witnessed.

Mr Speaker, 2020 has been in many ways a tragic year when so many have lost loved ones and faced financial ruin.

This will be still a hard Winter, Christmas cannot be normal, and there is a long road to Spring.

But we have turned a corner: and the escape route is in sight.

We must hold out against the virus until testing and vaccines come to our rescue and reduce the need for restrictions.

Everyone can help speed up the arrival of that moment by continuing to follow the rules, getting tested and self-isolating when instructed, remembering hands, face and space, and pulling together for one final push to the Spring, when we have every reason to hope and believe that the achievements of our scientists will finally lift the shadow of the virus.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Statement to the House.

Please register for today’s joint Policy Exchange and ConservativeHome event on One Nation after Covid

15 Nov

The Editor of this site will today chair a joint Policy Exchange/ConservativeHome event on: One Nation conservatism: what does it look like after Covid-19?  The five panellists are:

  • Isaac Levido: 2019 General Election Conservative Campaign Director.
  • Arlene Foster: First Minister of Northern Ireland and Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
  • Kirstene Hair: Senior Adviser to Douglas Ross, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, and former MP for Angus
  • Danny Kruger: former Political Secretary to the Prime Minister and MP for Devizes.
  • Jane Stevenson: MP for Wolverhampton North East.

The event will take place via Zoom at noon today, Monday November 16.  You are welcome to register for it via this link here.

The 32 Conservative MPs who voted against lockdown

4 Nov
  • Afriyie, Adam
  • Bone, Peter
  • Brady, Graham
  • Brine, Steve
  • Chope, Christopher

 

  • Davies, Philip
  • Djanogly, Jonathan
  • Doyle-Price, Jackie
  • Drax, Richard
  • Duncan Smith, Iain

 

  • Fysh, Marcus
  • Green, Chris
  • Grundy, James
  • Harper, Mark
  • Henderson, Stephen

 

  • Jones, David
  • Loughton, Tim
  • Mackinlay, Craig
  • McPartland, Stephen
  • McVey, Esther

 

  • Merriman, Hugh
  • Morris, Anne-Marie
  • Penning, Mike
  • Redwood, John
  • Rosindell, Andrew

 

  • Smith, Henry
  • Swayne, Desmond
  • Syms, Robert
  • Thomas, Derek
  • Walker, Charles

 

  • Whittaker, Craig
  • Wragg, William

Steve Baker and Philip Hollobone were tellers for the Noes.

Johnson is pressed in the Commons by Tory MPs about an end to shutdown by Christmas

3 Nov

Even when Conservative MPs vote in the Commons, there can be ambiguity about what they’re up to.  You might think that, with only a Yes or else a No lobby to go through, there would be none at all.

But there are also abstentions – and no single way to read these.  Has an MP refused to cast his vote deliberately?  Or was he abroad?  Is he ill?  Was he slipped on constituency business?

And when it comes to what Tory MPs say rather than do, we are in even deeper water.  Here nonetheless is a risky take on their reaction to Boris Johnson’s Commons statement yesterday.

  • Sionhan Bailey, Duncan Baker, Alberto Costa, Jeremy Hunt, Bernard Jenkin, Andrea Leadsom, Andrew Percy and Julian Smith were essentially supportive.  That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have particular ideas, criticisms, or points to make – as Hunt did, for example, about NHS staff and regular testing.
  • This group tends to merge into those who were a bit more neutral in tone, or had particular policy or constituency points to make.  We count among these: Steve Baker, Andy Carter, Rehman Chisti, Greg Clark, David Davis, Nigel Fletcher, Gareth Johnson, Antony Higginbotham, Faye Jones, Edward Leigh, Jason McCartney, Tom Tugendhat and Craig Williams.
  • A special mention for Peter Aldhuous, Ben Bradley, Sara Britcliffe, Pauline Latham, Stephen Metcalfe, James Sutherland and William Wragg – all of whom are concerned about restrictions on activities outdoors and indoors, such as golf, swimming and the use of gyms.
  • Next comes a cluster of MPs who, like ConservativeHome, want an impact assessment of the effects of the virus, lockdown and restrictions; or else regular reports on their impact on lives and livelihoods – the same thing in effect.  They were: John Baron, Graham Brady (an opponent of the new lockdown), Anne Marie-Morris, Bob Seely and Mel Stride, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee.
  • Moving towards outright opposition, there were a series of MPs who didn’t go that far, and indeed may be fairly and squarely behind the new shutdown, but who pressed the Prime Minister on whether it will be over by December 2, or at least by Christmas. These were: Saqib Bhatti, Bob Blackman, Laura Ferris, Richard Holden, Simon Jump, Anthony Mangnall and Mark Pawsey.  All these will presumably vote with the Government on Wednesday, but are swing voters to watch during the weeks ahead.
  • Finally in this spectrum, those who were either unambiguously opposed to the lockdown, such as Philip Davies, and those who essentially sounded unsupportive. Our list of these is as follows: Peter Bone, Steve Brine, Davies, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Huw Merriman, Robbie Moore, Greg Smith and Charles Walker.

That leaves two contributions to make a special note of.

First, Douglas Ross, confirming that he intends to place clear tartan water between the Scottish Conservatives and Johnson is he considers it necessary: “will he explain why it seems that an English job is more important than a Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish one?” he asked about furlough.

Second, Liam Fox, who believes that “a new parliamentary Committee—perhaps time limited, or made up of Privy Counsellors—should be established to reassure the British public that the cure is not worse than the disease?” It would “determine that decisions across all parts of Government have been taken on the best available evidence”.

That suggestion is very much in tune with what we and others have been calling for, and really ought to be a runner.  Lots of MPs on all sides of the Chamber will like it: expect to hear more of it.  Johnson replied that “I leave it up to the House to decide what arrangements it chooses to make”.

Fox followed his question up with a point of order designed to draw the Speaker into the discussion – and of which he had given notice.  Nigel Evans replied, setting out the means by which such a committee might be set up, and suggested that Fox might seek further guidance from the Clerk of the House.  That sounds like a door being left ajar.

Johnson is pressed in the Commons by Tory MPs about an end to shutdown by Christmas

3 Nov

Even when Conservative MPs vote in the Commons, there can be ambiguity about what they’re up to.  You might think that, with only a Yes or else a No lobby to go through, there would be none at all.

But there are also abstentions – and no single way to read these.  Has an MP refused to cast his vote deliberately?  Or was he abroad?  Is he ill?  Was he slipped on constituency business?

And when it comes to what Tory MPs say rather than do, we are in even deeper water.  Here nonetheless is a risky take on their reaction to Boris Johnson’s Commons statement yesterday.

  • Sionhan Bailey, Duncan Baker, Alberto Costa, Jeremy Hunt, Bernard Jenkin, Andrea Leadsom, Andrew Percy and Julian Smith were essentially supportive.  That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have particular ideas, criticisms, or points to make – as Hunt did, for example, about NHS staff and regular testing.
  • This group tends to merge into those who were a bit more neutral in tone, or had particular policy or constituency points to make.  We count among these: Steve Baker, Andy Carter, Rehman Chisti, Greg Clark, David Davis, Nigel Fletcher, Gareth Johnson, Antony Higginbotham, Faye Jones, Edward Leigh, Jason McCartney, Tom Tugendhat and Craig Williams.
  • A special mention for Peter Aldhuous, Ben Bradley, Sara Britcliffe, Pauline Latham, Stephen Metcalfe, James Sutherland and William Wragg – all of whom are concerned about restrictions on activities outdoors and indoors, such as golf, swimming and the use of gyms.
  • Next comes a cluster of MPs who, like ConservativeHome, want an impact assessment of the effects of the virus, lockdown and restrictions; or else regular reports on their impact on lives and livelihoods – the same thing in effect.  They were: John Baron, Graham Brady (an opponent of the new lockdown), Anne Marie-Morris, Bob Seely and Mel Stride, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee.
  • Moving towards outright opposition, there were a series of MPs who didn’t go that far, and indeed may be fairly and squarely behind the new shutdown, but who pressed the Prime Minister on whether it will be over by December 2, or at least by Christmas. These were: Saqib Bhatti, Bob Blackman, Laura Ferris, Richard Holden, Simon Jump, Anthony Mangnall and Mark Pawsey.  All these will presumably vote with the Government on Wednesday, but are swing voters to watch during the weeks ahead.
  • Finally in this spectrum, those who were either unambiguously opposed to the lockdown, such as Philip Davies, and those who essentially sounded unsupportive. Our list of these is as follows: Peter Bone, Steve Brine, Davies, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Huw Merriman, Robbie Moore, Greg Smith and Charles Walker.

That leaves two contributions to make a special note of.

First, Douglas Ross, confirming that he intends to place clear tartan water between the Scottish Conservatives and Johnson is he considers it necessary: “will he explain why it seems that an English job is more important than a Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish one?” he asked about furlough.

Second, Liam Fox, who believes that “a new parliamentary Committee—perhaps time limited, or made up of Privy Counsellors—should be established to reassure the British public that the cure is not worse than the disease?” It would “determine that decisions across all parts of Government have been taken on the best available evidence”.

That suggestion is very much in tune with what we and others have been calling for, and really ought to be a runner.  Lots of MPs on all sides of the Chamber will like it: expect to hear more of it.  Johnson replied that “I leave it up to the House to decide what arrangements it chooses to make”.

Fox followed his question up with a point of order designed to draw the Speaker into the discussion – and of which he had given notice.  Nigel Evans replied, setting out the means by which such a committee might be set up, and suggested that Fox might seek further guidance from the Clerk of the House.  That sounds like a door being left ajar.