Newslinks for Friday 3rd July 2020

3 Jul

We must all act responsibly when pubs reopen on Saturday, Johnson to tell drinkers…

“The success of reopening thousands of pubs on Saturday will depend on drinkers acting responsibly and not letting them down, Boris Johnson will warn on Friday. The Prime Minister will say the reopening “will only succeed if everyone works together” and warn that restrictions will reimposed if coronavirus “starts running out of control again”. Businesses in England have been rushing to make sure they are ready for so-called “Super Saturday” after Mr Johnson said they could reopen from July 4 after more than 100 days of lockdown. The Prime Minister will say that Saturday is “about supporting the livelihoods of business owners and their employees up and down the country” and paying tribute to their “heroic effort” to reopen.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Interview with the Prime Minister – Evening Standard
  • Teenagers must be kept ‘under control’ to stop spread outside school – The Sun

More:

  • Prime Minister ‘plans White House-style daily television press briefings’ – The Times
  • Downing Street to cut back Whitehall communications unit – FT

…as he condemns ‘unacceptable’ Hong Kong crackdown and hints he will axe Huawei 5G deal

“China’s ‘unacceptable’ crackdown in Hong Kong could shut the door to Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G mobile network, Boris Johnson has said as London and Beijing traded blows today. Mr Johnson said the draconian new security law that China has imposed on Hong Kong was ‘plainly an unacceptable breach’ of the freedoms that the city was guaranteed after Britain handed it back in 1997. Linking the crisis to the Huawei deal, the PM told the Evening Standard that ‘I don’t want to see our critical national infrastructure at risk of being in any way controlled by potentially hostile state vendors… so we have to think very carefully about how to proceed now.'” – Daily Mail

  • How to future-proof ourselves against China – Iain Martin, The Times
  • Britain can’t protect Hong Kong from China, but it can do right by its people – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

Sunak ‘damps hopes of big UK tax cuts’

“Rishi Sunak will put jobs at the heart of his set-piece economic statement next week as he tries to avert a post-coronavirus catastrophe, but he has told Tory MPs not to expect big tax cuts to boost the economy. The chancellor’s attempt to manage expectations over fiscal stimulus measures came as Boris Johnson disappointed business leaders by confirming that the government would phase out the job retention scheme by October. As the economy opened up, furloughed workers were simply being kept in “suspended animation”, the prime minister said… Mr Sunak’s statement will mark a shift in his coronavirus strategy from a support phase, where the government “wrapped its arms around the UK economy”, to a stimulus phase, where it encourages households and companies to spend as normally as possible.” – FT

  • Furlough scheme is stopping people working, says Johnson – The Times

More:

  • English councils warn latest Covid funding still falls short – FT
  • UK risks missing net zero target in Covid-19 recovery, Labour warns – The Guardian
  • Carbon scheme ‘backed by Cummings’ gets £100m from the Treasury – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Save if you must, but spending is just as important – Claer Barrett, FT

Fraser Nelson: We should be lifting restrictions in the ‘not spots’

“We can also draw a map of the Covid not-spots, and it is fascinating. London – still pretty much a ghost town – now scores 3, meaning there are just a few dozen new cases a day. The south-west of England is virtually Covid-free. The reopening of Longleat safari park means that in Wiltshire you are more likely to meet a lion than someone recently diagnosed with the virus. Last week, there was not a single Covid case recorded in Bath, Portsmouth, Rutland or Torbay. We didn’t know all this before. Now that we do, it makes it harder to understand why so many theatres remain shuttered, offices empty and schools on a skeleton service. Local knowledge can be put to practical use, as we have seen in Leicester: it allows ministers to act quickly. But they can also do so in places that are virtually Covid-free, abolishing mandatory restrictions and simply asking people to be careful.” – Daily Telegraph

Williamson ‘lays down law’ on full-time school return

“Parents have been instructed to send their children back to school in September unless a doctor tells them otherwise as the government seeks to fully restart classroom teaching. Schools and local councils reluctant to reopen to all pupils have been told that ministers will use emergency powers to force them to do so, unless a local health emergency, similar to that in Leicester this week, is declared. The government issued the order as it released pages of guidance designed to help schools run as safely as possible. It said that they must open full-time and at full capacity in September. In primary schools, pupils will be required to stay in their class “bubbles”, usually numbering 30 or so.” – The Times

  • Parents can be fined for not returning children to school in September – Daily Telegraph
  • All pupils in England to attend but teachers told to prepare remote learning – FT
  • GCSE and A-Level students can sit missed exams in Autumn – The Sun

Comment:

  • France’s class of ’68 holds bitter lessons for today’s children – Leo McKinstry, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • It is vital that all sides find a way to make the Government’s plans work – The Times

Mass coronavirus testing at UK border under ‘plans to abolish blanket quarantine’

“People arriving in the UK will be given Covid-19 tests at the border under plans to abolish the blanket quarantine for all passengers. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, confirmed yesterday that officials were assessing plans for mass testing at airports. He suggested that an enhanced testing regime could unlock travel to and from Britain. A trial scheme at airports is already being planned by two private sector companies and it is believed that details of a government-backed programme will be confirmed in mid-July. Today, Mr Shapps will announce further details of quarantine-free “air bridge” agreements that will allow passengers to travel into the UK without self-isolating for two weeks.” – The Times

  • Plane passengers could soon face swab tests at Heathrow and other airports – Daily Mail
  • Johnson at war with Nicola Sturgeon over lifting quarantine – Daily Telegraph
  • Air bridges will only apply to people arriving in England at first – The Times
  • Prime Minister’s father accused of flouting travel advice – Daily Telegraph

Corbyn’s legacy being ‘demolished’ as now allies of ex-leader lose control of Momentum

“Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy is being rapidly dismantled, with his allies suffering a huge setback in Labour’s civil war yesterday as they lost control of the campaign group Momentum. The grassroots group was set up in 2015 on the back of Corbynmania to help secure the Islington North MP’s victory in the leadership contest. The socialist campaign movement was highly influential over the Labour Party during Mr Corbyn’s four-year tenure in the top job. Following Sir Keir Starmer’s election victory in April, Momentum – which urged its members to back Rebecca Long-Bailey for leader – vowed to “hold Keir to account and make sure he keeps his promises”… But, yesterday allies of Mr Corbyn who oppose Sir Keir’s leadership suffered a severe setback when they lost Momentum’s internal elections.” – Daily Express

  • Labour never understands how Tories think – Philip Collins, The Times

Barnier blames UK’s ‘lack of respect’ as Brexit talks break up early

“Michel Barnier accused British trade negotiators of a lack of respect after Brexit talks ended a day early on Thursday amid “serious divergences” between the UK and the EU. Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, blamed British intransigence and a refusal to engage in negotiations for the lack of progress in this week’s round of talks, which had been meant to close on Friday. The EU and UK are divided over fishing rights, the future role of the European Court of Justice, Brussels’ demands for “level playing field” guarantees and the governance of the future relationship treaty. “We want a deal but not at any price,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, during a press conference with Angela Merkel.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Frost issues ‘angry retort’ – Daily Express
  • EU negotiator hints he is ready to address UK’s red line on European court – FT

DUP calls for Sinn Féin leader to quit in IRA funeral row

“Northern Ireland faces a fresh political crisis after Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionists called on Sinn Féin’s joint head of government to step aside in a row over alleged breaches of coronavirus rules at an IRA enforcer’s funeral.  Mrs Foster, the first minister, urged deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill to stand down pending a police investigation into alleged breaches of social distancing guidelines at the Belfast funeral of Bobby Storey, a senior figure in the IRA. But Sinn Féin insisted Ms O’Neill won’t go, saying she “will not be stepping aside as deputy first minister under any circumstances”. The escalating row has piled pressure on the coalition led by the DUP and Sinn Féin that controls Northern Ireland’s devolved government at Stormont.” – FT

  • First details emerge of system for checks on goods crossing Irish Sea – The Guardian

Parents attack Sturgeon’s ‘confusing’ and ‘hyper-controlling’ changes

“Complicated changes to the two-metre social distancing rule unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon will see it retained on pavements, halved in bars and abolished for some children but not others. The First Minister announced that from Friday youngsters under 12 can play normally with each other outside and interact with adults, allowing them to hug non-shielding grandparents for the first time since lockdown started. However, despite widespread reports for weeks of teenagers socialising in parks and other public spaces, she said the two-metre rule would still apply to children aged between 12 and 17. In theory, both age groups will still be restricted to meeting outside in groups of up to eight people from no more than three households.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scots ordered to wear face coverings in all shops from July 10 and face £60 fine – The Sun
  • Senior SNP politician turns on party, saying ‘IndyRef2’ would be illegal – Daily Express

Comment:

  • The First Minister is using Covid to try and split the Union – Stephen Daisley, Daily Mail

Profile: Ben Elliot, Co-Chairman of the Party, under fire for the seating plan which put Jenrick next to Desmond

3 Jul

Ben Elliot is a more significant figure than his title, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, might suggest. Just as Andrew Feldman was David Cameron’s man in CCHQ, so Elliot controls the party organisation for Johnson.

The Conservative Party Board is chaired by Elliot, not by his Co-Chairman, Amanda Milling. The new Chief Executive, Darren Mott, a long-term servant of the party, reports to Elliot, not Milling, and Elliot is regularly in Number Ten, conferring with Johnson.

Elliot’s success as a fundraiser for the party is generally recognised. He not only raised the money for last December’s election, but ensured there was a surplus to carry the party through the leaner period after the election – a particularly welcome precaution once the pandemic struck.

The question troubling some Tories is whether, while charming the donors, he is sufficiently careful to avoid unfortunate juxtapositions.

He would not have arranged the seating plan for the now notorious dinner last November at which Robert Jenrick found himself sitting next to Richard Desmond. Nor can he be held to answer for Jenrick’s subsequent conduct, which included sending a friendly text message to Desmond and then ruling in his favour on a major planning application.

The seating plan would have been in the hands of the Treasurer’s Department, which appears to have tried to inform Jenrick’s special advisers about it by way of departmental emails which could not be opened because the general election campaign was already under way.

But because Elliot is in overall charge of CCHQ, he still incurs criticism when things go wrong. The buck stops with him.

“He clearly hasn’t understood the politics,” a senior Tory backbencher complained. “It smells wrong.”

“I’ve never met him,” a second senior Tory backbencher said. “He’s invisible. Maybe that’s a good thing.”

“There are mutterings that he’s a disaster waiting to happen,” an activist who knows the party well comments.

But none of those three knows Elliot. Zac Goldsmith – now as Lord Goldsmith Minister of State for the Pacific, International Environment, Climate and Forests, and Animal Welfare (is there a longer title in the Government?) – has known Elliot “pretty much all my life”, has the highest opinion of him, and calls him “without doubt the most effective person I know in terms of getting things done – he is the go-to person, he has an amazing ability to get people onside, to get people together”.

Goldsmith says it is Elliot’s job “to make sure the party can operate”, by raising the necessary funds: “How politicians behave around party donors is for politicians to figure out.”

This is right: the responsibility for behaving with complete propriety rests with the politicians. On the other hand, they ought not to be placed in situations which might lead to unnecessary embarrassment.

And the donors themselves can be tricky. “Donors put up stuff on Instagram – you despair,” one Conservative remarks. “Desmond is a particularly difficult man,” another observes.

Elliot himself possesses such a tremendous, gung-ho ability to carry off awkward social situations that he may underestimate the difficulties these could pose for less self-assured figures.

His insouciant manner suggests to those around him a refusal to contemplate the danger of scandal.

The élan with which his grandfather, Major Bruce Shand, commanded a squadron of armoured cars in the Western Desert during the Second World War, is displayed by Elliot in the less heroic roles offered by peacetime.

One of Shand’s daughters is now Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, while the other, Annabel, married Simon Elliot, a landowner in Dorset.

Ben Elliot, born in 1975, is almost invariably described, in articles about him, as Camilla’s nephew rather than Annabel’s son.

He does not appear to repine at this branding. After a conventional education at Eton and at Bristol University, where he read politics and economics, he set out to make his way as an entrepreneur.

When he was 24, he and two partners set up a firm called Quintessentially, a “lifestyle management” service for people with more money than sense. It from time to time attracts adverse comment in the press, but Elliot has also shown a flair for promoting it by giving interviews about his own lifestyle.

Here is a piece from The Daily Telegraph in 2011 about his perfect weekend:

“In my heart and soul I am a West Country man and ideally my weekends are spent there. I was born and bred in Dorset and I missed it massively when I was setting up Quintessentially, my lifestyle company, in New York during my twenties and early thirties. On my bedroom wall I had a photograph of Hod Hill, the Iron Age fort behind my parents’ home near Blandford Forum. But these days I also spend weekends in Northleach in Gloucestershire, where my wife Mary-Clare’s family live and where we own a home. I was nervous about emigrating north to Gloucestershire but you’ve got to compromise sometimes…

“We met at an Eric Clapton concert in Madison Square Gardens in New York about three and a half years ago. Her father, Steve Winwood, is a songwriter and musician who formed Blind Faith with Eric Clapton in 1969, and he was also performing in the concert. The Winwoods are half British and half American; they have a second home in Nashville, Tennessee, where Mary-Clare and I spent some time last summer.”

At the end of the interview he was asked, “What are you most ashamed about?” and replied with characteristic boldness: “I don’t have much shame. I don’t really regret anything.”

He also said: “I’d love to represent a West Country seat in the House of Commons.” It would be surprising if he did not still harbour a desire to become an MP, conceivably for The Cotswolds, the seat where Northleach lies.

Politics has been an interest from his earliest years. Goldsmith can remember Elliot at the age of nine or ten at Hawtreys, their preparatory school, getting people to sign petitions.

Recent years have seen an accumulation of offices: in 2015 he was appointed to the development board of the Royal Albert Hall, in 2016 he was deeply involved on the fundraising side of Goldsmith’s unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of London and became a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum, in 2017 he joined the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, and in December 2018 Michael Gove made him the Government’s Food Surplus and Waste Champion.

Publicity for the last role offered scope, in an interview with The Times, for one of the self-deprecating anecdotes of which Elliot is a master, used as the intro to the piece by its author, Damian Whitworth:

“Ben Elliot arrives for our breakfast meeting having already been into battle. ‘I had a row with my youngest son today because he wouldn’t eat all his porridge. It’s bloody difficult. Negotiating with him on anything is a nightmare.’

“When Britain’s new food waste tsar was growing up he was not allowed to leave the table until he had finished everything on his plate. His father once made him sit, picking away at the last scrap of lunch, until 5 p.m. Modern parenting trends are less hardcore. Caught between an intransigent 21st-century four-year-old and the horror of throwing food away, what did he do? ‘I ended up eating most of it.'”

Here is a rhetoric which creates a feeling of complicity between Elliot and anyone who has ever had trouble getting a child to eat.

But behind the genuine charm lies something else. Someone who has worked for Elliot said he has two modes, charming and angry.

One day he will walk in smiling, the next day like a storm cloud. He is no mere boulevardier, a tall, relaxed, handsome man who networks for his own amusement, content to look good in his grandfather’s old suits as he moves among fashionable and well-connected people.

He is a serious person who for most the time conceals his seriousness, as Englishmen of a certain type do, behind a screen of affability, but who gets immensely frustrated when he cannot achieve what he has set out to achieve.

In this he is like the Prime Minister, another man often written off as not serious, because his manner seems to indicate  incorrigible frivolity.

The two of them are more ambitious, incisive and energetic than their critics are willing to admit. Both of them want to make dramatic changes to the organisations they are running, not conduct themselves as caretakers.

Last summer, when Johnson became Prime Minister and put Elliot into CCHQ, preparations began for an early general election campaign, to be run by Isaac Levido, protégé of Lynton Crosby, who himself got Johnson elected as Mayor of London in 2008, and ran David Cameron’s successful general campaign in 2015.

Most of the recommendations of the Pickles Review, set up to work out what went wrong in Theresa May’s disastrous campaign in 2017, had already been implemented.

Elliot raised the money for the 2019 campaign, frightening donors with the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn government. He also ensured that Levido had the space to get on with running the show. No turf wars disrupted what was a highly successful operation.

Johnson since his Oxford days, when the workers, peasants and intellectuals of Balliol were given no glimpse of his upper-class friends, has had a talent for belonging to several different circles which are for most of the time unaware of each other’s existence. Elliot, close to Gove, great friends with the Goldsmith brothers, and a member at 5 Hertford Street, a club owned by Robin Birley, belongs to one such circle.

The press has striven, quite rightly, to find out all it can about Jenrick and Desmond, and to investigate Elliot’s other enterprises, including the Government work obtained some years ago by Quintessentially, and the lobbying firm, Hawthorn Advisors, which he and others founded in 2013.

That sort of journalism is an indispensable check on the abuse of power. But it may also lead, paradoxically, to an underestimate of the abilities of those against whom it is directed; a cutting down to size which misses significant aspects of someone’s character.

Elliot is described, by one who has seen him at close quarters, as an invigorating boss, a genuine believer in entrepreneurship who sees the good in people, and takes it personally when people criticise Johnson, in whose leadership campaign he played a important role.

If Elliot lacked self-confidence, he would be useless as a fundraiser. To ask people for large sums of money in return for the opportunity to eat an over-priced dinner with Jenrick, and bid for an absurdly expensive game of tennis against Johnson and Elliot, requires a degree of impudence.

Iain Dale: China’s cyber attacks on Britain. How do I know about them? Because I’ve seen the proof.

3 Jul

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

Wednesday was a sad day for every right-thinking person in Hong Kong, and one that will be full of consequence, not just for the people of Hong Kong, but for the future of international relations and the world’s dealings with China.

China has been flexing its muscles for a long time, but the West has been slow to realise it. It is the new imperial power in Africa. It has in large parts taken over the continent, raping it for its natural resources and embedding itself in different countries. It has only one aim: the furtherance of Chinese power and influence on the continent.

Just look at how it’s behaving towards India over the disputed border region. It continues to threaten Taiwan. It treats its minority Uighur Muslim population in a manner reminiscent of how the Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.

And now it has imposed a new security law on Hong Kong in defiance of the terms of the 1985 Joint Declaration. Laughably, China justifies it on the basis that it was a ‘declaration’ and not a ‘treaty’. They say it is we who have broken the agreement by offering British passports to 2.9 million Hong Kong Chinese people and offering them sanctuary in the UK.

You don’t have to be a lawyer to work out that they’re talking utter bollocks. They know it too – but it will always suit their interests to create a bogeyman for all those who fall for their preposterous propaganda.

I think it is now inconceivable that the deal with Huawei can go ahead. There are now enough Conservative MPs who would be able to defeat the Government in any vote. I doubt whether it will come to that. The Prime Minister was always reluctant to go ahead with it anyway. So surely he will now be pushed over the edge.

There will be consequences, though – and one of them will be that UK universities will be targeted by the Chinese. Many university courses are now totally reliant on Chinese students (and their fees) for their existence. China will probably stop its students from coming to the UK, and that gap in funding for UK universities will be impossible to fill. In 2014-15 there were 89,500 Chinese students at UK universities. Since then, the number has risen by a third to 120,000.

It would not surprise me if the UK experiences a state sponsored country-wide cyber attack in the next few weeks, along the lines of that which Australia underwent a few weeks ago. A huge proportion of the cyber attacks launched against Britain already come from China. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen the proof. I could reveal how, but I’d have to shoot you.

The Government is entirely right to offer sanctuary to Hong Kongers. Initially, it looked as if they would only do this for the 330,000 current British Overseas Passport holders, but they have extended it to 2.9 million people who would be entitled to apply for one.

No one seriously believes that all 2.9 million would come here. There are plenty of other countries in the world that would welcome some of them too, but it’s entirely possible that maybe a quarter to a third might consider coming.

However, it is also entirely possible that the Chinese could do one of two things. They could impose a deadline for people to leave, or they could stop people leaving altogether. That would provoke a full-blown international crisis, but they’re ruthless enough not to give a damn about that.

Britain has very few levers to pull in a situation like this. Using condemnatory language is one thing we can do. Offering sanctuary is another. Bringing to a halt Chinese involvement in our national infrastructure is a third. I don’t see a trade war having much effect unless some sort of trade sanctions are imposed by the international community through the WTO.

We as individuals could boycott Chinese goods, I suppose, but given Chinese imports are worth nearly £45 billion a year, I suspect a boycott wouldn’t make much of a dent. Our exports to China are worth only half that, but there’s little doubt that they would be hit, too.

In the end, we have to do what is right and hang the consequences. What the government has done is right. There may some anti-immigration siren voices on the right who have an issue with us meeting our obligations, but they should be ignored.

We should welcome Hong Kong Chinese people with open arms. They would bring massive positives to our country. The Government now needs to try to work out how many might want to come and on what timescale. We need to think very deeply about this because if we make the same mistake as Tony Blair made in the early 2000s with immigration from eastern Europe, and fail to provide the requisite infrastructure, the consequences could be dire

Tony Smith: Turning the tide on migrant boats

3 Jul

Tony Smith is a former Head of the UK Border Force and Director of Ports and Borders in both the UK and Canada. He is now Managing Director of Fortinus Global Ltd, and Chairman of the International Border Management and Technologies Association.

Rarely a day goes by without news of more migrants crossing the English Channel from France to claim asylum. What began as a trickle two years ago has now become a stream. Over 1800 came across in 2019. Over 160 arrived in a single day on 3rd June. At current rates, the 2020 figure will double last year’s total; it could even go higher still. Yet only around six per cent are returned to France.

Those who said that these waters were too difficult to navigate in unseaworthy vessels have been proved wrong. We have seen arrivals in all forms of makeshift craft, even inflatables and canoes. So how do we turn the tide, and stem these illegal flows?

This is a complex problem. There are significant challenges raised by international law including 1951 Refugee Convention, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (COLAS), and the Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR).

Following media reports that French vessels were “escorting” migrant boats into British waters in May, Priti Patel announced that she would change international law to close the Channel loophole; but any change in international law needs international agreement.

Article 98 of UNCLOS encourages neighbouring states to establish regional arrangements for search and rescue at sea. Examples include joint patrol vessels, or the placement of officials from one jurisdiction on board the vessel of another.

So there is no reason in international law why the British and French governments could not introduce joint SAR patrols. They would have to meet the requirements on international law; but – crucially – refugees and asylum seekers can be taken to any place where there is no risk of their life or freedom being threatened in accordance with Article 33(1) of the Refugee Convention, on the principle of “non refoulement”.

So subject to mutual agreement, we could establish an integrated UK/French border patrol to rescue migrants at sea and bring them to a place of safety; and as both countries are signatories to the 1951 Convention, that could be to a port on either side, and not necessarily to the country whose vessel happens to rescue them.

Of course, this needs a political agreement with France. Some may say this is not achievable. Maybe not. But in 2002, the total UK asylum intake figure rose to over 100,000, with the vast majority arriving from France. To stem the flows, the UK and France agreed a bilateral Treaty (Le Touquet) in to establish “juxtaposed controls” whereby officers would conduct passport inspections prior to boarding ferries.

As these inspections were “extra territorial”, asylum claims were excluded. This led to a far harsher reduction of asylum claims from France than the numbers we see on the migrant boats today. In my experience, successive French governments have been prepared to work with UK border enforcement agencies to disrupt and deter irregular migration on the cross-channel routes. They don’t like human smugglers any more than we do. This suggests that there is scope for further bilateral agreement to counteract the maritime threat.

Although France is a “safe third country”, the current Dublin Convention trumps safe third country rules. To return as asylum seeker to another member state, the receiving state has to prove that an asylum claim had already been made in the other state.

Given that nearly all migrants are undocumented on arrival, this evidence is rarely available – and accounts to a great extent for the very low returns rate. As the UK departs the EU, it will no longer be party to the Dublin Convention. A new “safe third” agreement is needed.

There will always be migrants in France who want to come to the UK. Some may have legitimate reasons for doing so – for example, those with family connections here. To meet this demand, the UK could offer a legitimate migratory route to the UK for specific categories of persons via our offices in France; thereby reducing the incentive for illegitimate routes and simultaneously disrupting the smuggling supply chains.

I hope that the Government’s current strategy to encourage better enforcement in France pays off. It is certainly having an impact. But if we believe that this could escalate into a crisis like the one we saw back in 2002, we will need a more fundamental and radical approach to tackling the problem.

That means reaching a new international agreement France on joint patrols, search and rescue, and safe returns whilst simultaneously exploring alternative legitimate offshore processing routes for those with a genuine case to enter. Then – and only then – will we finally be able to turn the tide on migrant boats and defeat the maritime threat to our borders.

Richard Holden and James Wild: Ministers must bring gambling regulation into the 21st Century

2 Jul

Richard Holden is MP for North West Durham. James Wild is MP for North West Norfolk. Both were elected in the 2019 General Election and are members of the Public Accounts Committee.

A day at the races. A night out at the dogs or the bingo. A flutter on the Grand National at the bookies.

Most common of all, checking that pink ticket you got from the corner shop and maybe, just maybe you’ll become a multi-millionaire – and if not at least you are helping support good causes.

For most people, our interaction with the gambling industry is part of destination or event-based gambling. We only do it when it’s part of a social activity or its based on a specific event at a specific time – like the Friday night Euromillions draw.

But, behind the façade of a flutter, Labour’s mass liberalisation of gambling in the 2005 Gambling Act transformed the industry into something else. The Act opened-up “casinos in the High Street” with the £100-a-spin Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, four per bookies office, that took years to be reigned back down to a £2 stake (as part of the consultation the Gambling Commission recommended the stake be lowered to £30 or less), and opened the door to online casino gambling.

At the same time the Gambling Commission, which the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report at the weekend is largely about, was formed.

During the passage of the 2005 Act those opposed to gambling harm became side-tracked in a totemic focus on the wrong target – the possibility of so called ‘Super-Casino’ – an easily understood enemy.  But Parliamentarians didn’t focus on the much more dangerous parts of the Act, which allowed FOBTs on every high street and casinos on every mobile phone. Opponents went for the wrong target: a destination casino has more benefits and fewer downsides than what was allowed by the rest of the Gambling Act.

More money is now staked online that in all the physical bookies, casinos, and on-course bookmakers combined. The gambling industry has adapted much faster than almost any other business to the changing world. With net income (staked monies minus winnings) of £11.3 billion in the UK, it’s big business.

Together, we led the questioning of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Commission as part of the hearing into gambling harm being held by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), to which we were both elected as newbie MPs. As we dug around this matter, with constituency cases that had helped focus our minds on specific issues, what we found shocked us.

There are 395,000 problem gamblers in the UK. The effects can be devastating: damaging mental health, causing family break-ups, and even contributing to suicide. As MPs we’ve heard personal accounts of the impact of problem gambling on constituents and their families. A problem gambler will likely cause problems for their immediate family, extended family, and friendship group as debts accumulate, money is borrowed, and promises broken.

It shouldn’t be like this. It doesn’t have to be like this.  We can have sensible regulations that reflect the reality of modern gambling and that protect the vulnerable.

But the Gambling Commission isn’t doing that job effectively or efficiently. It is behind the curve. Too slow to deal with FOBTS or making sure people could withdraw funds from online accounts. Too slow on gambling on credit. It doesn’t measure the impact of the action it takes and has no target to cut levels of problem gambling.

Too often the industry, with public, media and political pressure ends up leading on so-called ‘responsible gambling’ measures before the regulator has even got out of bed.

Some of this is down to how the Commission is funded.  Bizarrely, it gets less funding if there are fewer but larger gambling companies – and we’ve seen massive mergers recently. So the Commission gets £19m a year to regulate a sector clearing the thick end of 1,000 times that in gross profit. We’ve got analogue regulation for an industry that’s undergone a digital revolution.

PAC recommended several key steps, the most important of which is to get the review of the Gambling Act, promised in the Conservative Party manifesto, underway as soon as possible.

Online fixed-odds betting urgently needs reviewing too – controls need to be at least as clear as those in betting shops. Loot boxes, gambling advertising on children’s computer games, 16- and 17-year-olds being able to gamble hundreds a week via a loophole for lotteries, unlimited roulette available in the isolation of your bedroom but no-where else… all raise questions.

The Gambling Commission needs to prove, and sharpish, that it’s up to the job. It needs proper research into problem gambling, targets to reduce it, and to measure the effects of the actions it does take. All we really know at present is that since the regulator was formed, public confidence that gambling is fair has fallen from about 50 per cent to around a third of the population.

Finally, individuals must be able to get redress through the regulatory regime when companies fail to meet social responsibility obligations. A proper Ombudsman for gambling is required. The fact that the most vulnerable only really have legal recourse (not much use if you’ve got no money) is absurd.

The deck is stacked against problem gamblers and in favour of the gambling companies, many of which have clearly used the lockdown to further cash in on coronavirus. It’s time for sensible, conservative action to protect the vulnerable and allow the majority a safe flutter.

Henry Hill: Johnson prepares to take a more ‘robust’ line on the Union… but muzzles devosceptics

2 Jul

Fight for the Union: Government mulls ‘devolution revolution’… but tries to muzzle Tory critics

Earlier this week, the Times reported that ministers are considering setting up new, UK-wide economic and security bodies as part of a bid to enhance the standing of the British Government in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

This move could finally mark an end to the previous practice of feebly handing over reserved powers to the devolved institutions, even when this risked great damage to the Union, in the name of the “spirit of devolution”.

Apparently, “Tory ministers are preparing to be more “robust” with their SNP counterparts in taking responsibility for macroeconomic and security issues”, and ideas will be brought forward by a new Union Policy Implementation Committee, supported by a Downing Street-based ‘Union Unit’.

This may be some comfort to the Scottish Conservatives, many of whom are deeply concerned that the Prime Minister doesn’t grasp the scale of the danger posed to the Union by the next Holyrood elections. (Of course, holding a referendum is one thing ministers could be ‘more robust’ about.)

It also comes in the same week as Boris Johnson’s high-profile clash with Nicola Sturgeon over the latter’s threat to start quarantining visitors from England. Following the ugly politics we have already seen from the Welsh Government, this highlights once again the real damage the ‘Four Nations’ approach to the Union, so thoughtlessly endorsed by minister after minister, is doing to the integrity of our country.

But there are apparently limits to the boldness of this approach. This week Guido Fawkes reported that the whips have been cracking down on Conservative MPs who want to break ranks and criticise devolution. This is further proof that the divisions we revealed in May are not going away, and will continue to exacerbate the coalition-building dilemma faced by the Welsh Tories.

For their part, the ruling devophiles amongst the Cardiff Bay leadership are reportedly doubling-down on their efforts to excise wrongthink on this question: apparently expressing devosceptic views is enough to get even already approved candidates summoned back for re-assessment.

But silencing such critics will only slow (even further) the Government’s painfully slow awakening to the dangers of the current constitutional situation. We must hope that, like the Eurosceptics before them, it will not be long until some true believers slough off the whip on this particular question.

Elsewhere this week Joanna Cherry MP, an ally of Alex Salmond and prominent figure on the SNP’s ‘fundamentalist’ wing, called on the Nationalists to be prepared to make a bid for independence without a referendum.

Plaid Cymru launches investigation after Senedd candidate accused of antisemitism

The Welsh Nationalists have launched an investigation after a prominent Jewish organisation called for one of their candidates to be permanently barred from the Party over an antisemitic tweet.

According to Wales Online, high-profile Plaid activist Sahar Al-Faifi tweeted the same claim about Israel training US police officers which ended up seeing Rebecca Long-Bailey sacked from the Labour front bench.

This is not the first time this has happened: Al-Faifi was previously suspended from Plaid over a series of antisemitic social media posts published in 2014, but was since reinstated. Apparently the Nationalists would not confirm whether or not she remains a candidate.

DUP call for O’Neill to ‘step aside’ over funeral attendance

The Democratic Unionist Party are calling on Michelle O’Neill, the leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland and Deputy First Minister, to step aside to allow a police investigation into a republican funeral held earlier this week.

O’Neill, who has repeatedly urged the public to maintain social distancing and obey other public health guidelines, flagrantly breached them at the funeral of Bobby Storey, an IRA terrorist and senior Sinn Fein official.

Now the DUP are saying that it will be difficult for Arlene Foster, the First Minister, to appear alongside O’Neill at the Executive’s coronavirus press conferences. For her part, the Sinn Fein leader says that she is “satisfied” that her actions were within public health advice.

Anglesey constituency protected from ‘radical’ boundary shake-up

ITV reports that the Government has committed to protecting the boundaries of Ynys Môn, the parliamentary constituency which corresponds to the Isle of Anglesey, ahead of “the most radical shake-up of Welsh parliamentary seats in more than a century”.

Under the proposals, Wales’ seats will be brought into line with England’s in terms of size. As a result, the Principality’s representation in the House of Commons will be cut by almost a quarter, from 40 to about 32. This is part of a broader push to equalise constituencies across the UK.

Anglesey will now join four other island-based exceptions to the new rule: Orkney & Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) in Scotland, and two seats on the Isle of Wight. The move may help the Conservatives, who won the seat at the last election, as the adjoining area of mainland Wales is slim pickings for the party.

Alan Mak: A new tech scrappage scheme will boost productivity

2 Jul

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founder of the APPG on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, governments around the world including those of Japan, Germany and the US responded to calls to help struggling car manufacturers by introducing popular scrappage schemes. After new car registrations declined by 30 per cent in the UK in the first quarter of 2009, the schemes saw demand bounce back, while dirty, polluting old cars were consigned to the scrapheap.

Now there is media speculation about a new car scrappage scheme – drivers will be given up to £6,000 to swap their petrol or diesel cars for electric ones – designed to provide a shot in the arm for the UK electric car manufacturing sector in the wake of Coronavirus.

Yet focus should also be given to how the Government could launch a similar scheme to help factories and businesses investing in the latest technology. We must use this period of recovery to press the fast-forward button on helping our businesses to improve their performance by adopting new technologies quickly, accelerating processes that would have otherwise taken many years into a much shorter period.

Just as the Government ushered a brand-new fleet of cars onto our roads a decade ago, a new scrappage scheme should be introduced for old and obsolete IT, tech and machinery. By particularly focusing on the adoption of robotics, it would achieve the dual ambitions of boosting productivity, and giving our businesses the cutting edge in international markets post-Brexit.

More British firms need to follow in the footsteps of innovators such as Ocado, who have created one of the most advanced automated warehouses in the world. Ocado’s newest fulfilment centre uses automation to pick 200 items per hour of labour time using its hive system – far outstripping traditional supermarket competitors.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates, for British manufacturers and suppliers to keep up with international competitors, they must upgrade the machinery and software that is powering the workplace.

Yet automation and the adoption of new technology is an area where the UK needs to improve if we are to boost the nation’s productivity and economic growth after Coronavirus. Research published by the International Federation of Robotics shows that the UK has a robot density of 71 units per 10,000 employees – below the world average of 74 units – ranking us 22nd globally. Europe’s most automated country, Germany, has more than 300 units per 10,000 employees.

Whilst the critics will always fear job losses from automation, as we recover from Coronavirus, we can create high-wage employment through robotics. I’ve visited factories, such as Harwin’s manufacturing site near my own constituency of Havant, that have successful re-trained factory workers as high-skilled robot operators. We must rebut trade union leaders and others holding back change and hindering the adoption of new technology.

Just as a car scrappage scheme was brought in to safeguard the car manufacturing industry and protect demand in its vast supply chain, a tech scrappage scheme also has the potential to boost the fast-growing UK tech and robotics sector. Businesses that could benefit include Tharsus, the Blyth-based robotics company that supplies Ocado’s automated warehouse, which is now one of Europe’s fastest growing technology firms.

While individual businesses know the products that are right for them, a tech scrappage scheme can and should promote world class British engineering and high-end manufacturing by creating more demand.

Every UK business could benefit from upgrading technology and IT, but key to the success of the car scrappage scheme was incentivising people into the new car market by making them more affordable. To be eligible, the car had to be at least ten years old and many of those taking part in the scheme would never before have bought a new car. The same must be implemented for a tech scrappage scheme. The Government needs to target the least productive SMEs that have never before invested substantially into the latest robotics, software, automation or information technology.

Research published last year based on a survey of 2000 business owners showed that 46 per cent of small business owners believe technology is more important to their business than people. Just as we incentivised car owners into the market, a new scrappage scheme will give SMEs the confidence to make the tech upgrades their businesses need.

There would be environmental gains too. Just as polluting cars were taken off the road through scrappage, businesses would have the opportunity to replace diesel-fuelled machinery with cleaner and more energy efficient alternatives.

As our country bounces back from Coronavirus, and the focus shifts from health emergency to economic recovery, the Government must continue to focus on not only supporting businesses in the short term but arming our businesses to be ready for the long term impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Our economic recovery must be both green and digital – a scrappage scheme for IT, tech and machinery achieves both goals.

This is the third in a three-part series on how to boost our economy after Coronavirus.

Alex Story: The Government needs to end the State’s fixation on race

2 Jul

Alex Story is Head of Business Development at a City broker working with Hedge Funds and other financial institutions. He stood for parliament in 2005, 2010 and 2015.

“We are the most tolerant, lovely country in Europe” said Lawrence Fox, an actor, on BBC’s Question Time back in January 2020, in response to Rachel Boyle, a lecturer at Edge Hill University, who accused Britain of being racist.

The lecturer then attacked him for being a “white privileged man”. His riposte: she was being racist for judging him by his colour. The audience cheered.

Who is right?

Over the last decade, two large scale surveys were conducted to find out which countries in the world were the most and the least racially tolerant.

In 2013, the Washington Post published a survey to shed light on racial attitudes across the world. The data was then used to produce a world map to give a sense of the issue. The question asked was whether locals would like having people of other races as neighbours. Answers saying “no” were assumed to have some form of racial basis.

The research showed the following: Britain, the U.S., Canada and Australia were more tolerant than anywhere else. India and Jordan were the least. The survey showed that racial tolerance in China was low. 

A few years later, in 2015, Insider Monkey, an economic and trading organisation, combined data from the World Values Survey covering the years 2010-2014 with the findings published by the Washington Post. The aim was to rank the top 25 most racist countries in the world. It asked whether respondents had seen or experienced racism. Overall, 85,000 people in 61 countries took part in the survey. The data was gathered over a two year period.

Again the top slot went to India, this time followed by the Lebanon and Bahrain. Nigeria came in 12th, Pakistan 17th. Japan just squeezed in at 25th. Only two European countries made it onto the list: Russia (21st) and Cyprus (23rd). With the usual caveats when it comes to surveys, the findings backed the claims of Fox. “Britain is one of the most racially tolerant countries on the planet”, the survey noted.

Whilst these rankings provide some data to gauge attitudes on race on the world stage, we need to delve a little into mind-sets within the UK. And for this, luckily, there is no need to wait for a new “cross-governmental commission on race and ethnic disparities” as announced recently by Boris and team. Data on race disparities in the UK exist aplenty.

For instance, only four short years ago, the Equality and Human Rights Commission published its “Healing a Divided Britain” findings in which it showed that of all the ethnic groups in the United Kingdom, poor white working class boys “suffer higher rates of exclusion from school and achieve the lowest academic results, making them less likely to enter higher education and therefore more likely to end up in lower-paid, insecure jobs.”

On the same metrics, young white working class girls came second to last. And in Rotherham, Rochdale, Telford, Manchester and currently Wakefield, poor white girls do doubly badly as they are seen, as Jack Straw once said, as “easy meat” by grooming gangs – to use a fashionable euphemism.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission couldn’t explain the reason behind these numbers. The authors speculated that it may have something to do with  culture and location, not, however, family breakdown, the usual port of call when researching social breakdown.

Be that as is may, around 85 per cent of the population in the United Kingdom is white and nearly half of the population is working class. With a population of around 65 million, and around 29 per cent under 24, over five million poor white boys and girls are either on the road to failure or have already failed. In short, there are thirty three times, or 3300 percent, more poor, young white failures than black ones.

Their plight is an open secret. Few seem to care. No statues were vandalised in their name. Their flag, however, has been burned and oftentimes desecrated. The only thing they still have is the vote, whatever that might mean.

Two things stand out: Firstly, the United Kingdom is, as Fox said, on the face of it, one of the most tolerant countries in the world; Secondly, the country has a young army of failed poor white boys and girls, who are left metaphorically to drown in a sea of official indifference.

Giving the facts, for neutral observers, the stunning thing over the last fortnight was the alacrity with which our leaders accepted the narrative and violence, both cultural and physical, of the Black Lives Matter movement.

But wait.  Could it be that both Fox and Boyle, the lecturer from Edge Hill University, are right, but mean completely different things?

When Fox said that “we are the most tolerant, lovely country”, he was, and is, of course right.  According to the data published by the Washington Post, over 95 per cent of the people in the UK tend to judge, in the manner of Martin Luther King, a person by the content of their character rather than by the colour of their skin. They are, in other words, colour blind. To them racism is alien, which is why they are so sensitive to being tarred with the indelible “racist” brush.

However, Boyle is also right when she calls the country racist. In her case, though, she, perhaps unwittingly, means the British State. Every official document demands racial data from anyone who wishes to fill them in; policies are increasingly focused on quotas based on a person’s “identity”; finally, as Boyle intimated, in the UK today, it is preferred if one opines on behalf of another only if one shares that person’s racial make-up and/or other proclivities.

The fact is that over the last two decades, the British State has beavered away at creating what looks and smells like a caste system.

It has done so surreptitiously. At the bottom of the social scale, the untouchables as it were, are the millions of poor, white working class boys and girls with little hope of escape; at the top, the Brahmin caste is represented by the likes of Steve Bell from the Guardian, who produced what the newspaper considered to be a “cartoon”, depicting Priti Patel, the Home Secretary as a fat Indian cow. That higher caste can seemingly vent their racist views without fear of retribution because they are, by their own opaque standards, “morally” right (and politically Left).

The bottom line is that the British State is weaving a complex, apartheid-style mosaic of identities based on skin colour, sex and religion, with each caste vying for space at the top of this multifaceted and narrowing peak, moving a step closer one day and slipping one or two the next, depending on events, whims and fashion.

The conclusion must be, as Fox implied, that those who fixate on race are themselves racist. Very much, it would seem, like official Britain.

Rob Sutton: Top Tories on Twitter. Case Study 4) Tom Tugendhat

2 Jul

Rob Sutton is an incoming junior doctor in Wales and a former Parliamentary staffer. He is a recent graduate of the University of Oxford Medical School.

Number 13 on the Top Tories on Twitter list: Tom Tugendhat

A former lieutenant colonel in the Army with ten years’ service, Tugendhat entered Parliament in 2015 in the safe seat of Tonbridge and Malling. Since then the seat has become even darker blue, last year reaching a majority of 47.3 per cent.

Since arriving, his focus has been on committee work. In just over two years, he became the youngest ever chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. His approach is a long game, focused on areas which will increasingly dominate conversation in the decades to come: diplomatic tensions with the US; violations of international law by Russia; the uncertain future of multilateral organisations.

He has butted heads with Boris Johnson enough times that a ministerial career seems unlikely in the immediate future. He was critical of Parliament’s prorogation before the 2019 general election, wrote a scathing judgement of Johnson’s “suicide bomber” jibe at Theresa May, questioned the former Foreign Secretary’s approach to diplomacy and backed Michael Gove during the Conservative leadership election.

His position has given him the freedom to speak openly and with authority where those holding government portfolios must tread lightly. He can align his stances with popular discontent, particularly with regards to China.

In areas such as Huawei’s involvement in 5G infrastructure, Beijing’s role during the early Covid-19 outbreak, the citizenship status of British Nationals Overseas and historic human rights violations he has been outspoken. And he isn’t compromised by the diplomatic considerations of a government anxious to make friends outside of the EU.

Newslinks for Thursday 2nd July 2020

2 Jul

Britain opens its doors to 3m Hong Kong migrants

“Millions of Hongkongers will be offered five-year visas and a path to British citizenship after the government stepped in to protect residents of its former colony against a draconian Chinese security law. The new law gives Beijing powers to crack down on dissent with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for a range of crimes, in effect outlawing public protest. Boris Johnson described it as a “clear and serious breach” of China’s treaty with Britain and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which serves as its constitution. The prime minister said that in response Britain would improve its previous offer to Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) passports.” – The Times

  • Foreign Secretary says UK has ‘got a specific historic responsibility’ and there ‘won’t be any quota’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister who pledged to end EU free movement outlines route to UK for almost 3m in ex-colony – FT
  • China vows to stop UK granting Hongkongers residency – The Guardian

More:

  • Tugendhat: Beijing’s law threatens Hong Kong students at our universities – The Times
  • Raab hits out at HSBC as first arrests made under Hong Kong security law – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson condemns new law as breach of handover pact – FT

Malcolm Rifkind: Best hope of protecting Hong Kong lies in showing President Xi that he still needs it

“Its people will continue to have far greater freedom of movement; they will have a choice of candidates in local elections; they will have, unlike mainland Chinese, uncensored access to the internet. On all but “national security” issues, their courts will remain largely free of political interference and their judges will remain independent. But even this will only be for the time being. Beijing does not want a collapse of business confidence in Hong Kong. Nor does it want a mass exodus of the territory’s brightest and best people who have made it such a vibrant society. That would be a humiliation for the Chinese Communist Party. It is this consideration that gives the people of Hong Kong and the many governments around the world that support them some leverage in trying to influence Chinese policy.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The EU must end its appeasement of Chinese interests – Mark Kwan, The Times

Editorial:

  • Britain must welcome eligible Hong Kong citizens – The Sun
  • The West needs to unite to combat Chinese expansionism – The Times

Prime Minister attacks Sturgeon’s ‘astonishing and shameful’ English quarantine warning

“Boris Johnson has lambasted Nicola Sturgeon over her “absolutely astonishing and shameful” warning she will consider introducing quarantine for English visitors to Scotland if there is a surge in cases south of the Border. The Prime Minister told the Commons that there had been “no discussions” with the Scottish Government on the matter and questioned if it was even possible. He said there was “no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.” His official spokesman later clarified that he was making the point there was no “border infrastructure.” His criticism echoed an earlier attack by Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, who said Ms Sturgeon had “encouraged reckless talk” with her “divisive” quarantine idea.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Westminster and Holyrood in emergency talks over latter’s ‘bid to thwart ‘air bridge’ plan’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • Sturgeon crisis: Scotland faces eye-watering 50 per cent rise in council tax – Daily Express

Jenrick’s flats reform ‘gifts huge windfall to investors’

“Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, has given a “multibillion-pound” planning windfall to freehold investors including those in a fund run by David Cameron’s brother-in-law. Under reforms, owners of residential tower blocks will be allowed to extend their developments upwards by two storeys without planning permission from the start of next month. One of the biggest beneficiaries is a fund run by William Waldorf Astor IV, Samantha Cameron’s half-brother, which contains hundreds of residential freeholds. Other potential beneficiaries include Vincent Tchenguiz, the property tycoon, as well as anonymous and offshore investors.” – The Times

  • Johnson begs bosses to hold off on more layoffs – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • The paltry £5bn pledged bears no comparison to Roosevelt’s programme – Miatta Fahnbulleh, The Guardian
  • The pound has been a ball-and-chain on successive UK governments – Philip Stephens, FT

Ministers ‘set to drop non-jury trials plans’ after backlash…

“The Government is set to ditch proposals to abandon juries in some trials to reduce the backlog of cases after an outcry from the legal profession and Tory MPs, The Telegraph understands. Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, first raised the idea of replacing juries with a judge and two magistrates in “either way” crown court trials, where they are on the borderline to be heard by magistrates.It was one of four measures to tackle the “unprecedented” challenge of maintaining social distancing in court rooms to combat coronavirus and reducing a backlog of crown court cases that has grown from 37,500 to more than 40,000 during the pandemic.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Supreme Court accused of encouraging ‘divorce tourism’ – FT
  • Government urged to ‘nationalise policing’ – The Times

…and ‘reject £6,000 scrappage scheme for toxic vehicles’

“A scrappage scheme for petrol and diesel cars appears to have been ruled out by the government despite concerns over levels of toxic emissions. Ministers said that there were no plans to hand motorists £6,000 to trade in the most polluting vehicles in favour of an electric model. The Department for Transport added that it was already investing about £2.5 billion on the transition to zero-emission cars. Two years ago ministers had discounted a scrappage scheme because it would be far too costly and potentially open to abuse. Rachel Maclean, the transport minister, reiterated the government’s commitment to phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 “or sooner”.” – The Times

  • Calls for green bank mount amid UK recovery plans – FT

Ministers will unveil plan to get all children back in education in September ‘come what may’

“Whole year groups at secondary school will form ‘bubbles’ in a massive effort to get all children back in education from September, it was revealed today. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is unveiling plans for a full return from the beginning of the academic year, with staggered start times and strict classroom rules to minimise the risks of spreading the virus. Every school in England will reopen ‘come what may’ in September – with sources insisting even if the R rate surges other parts of society will be closed down first to facilitate the move. Parents will face fines if they do not fall into line and send their children. However, schools will be forced to to shut their doors again if just two pupils test positive for coronavirus. ” – Daily Mail

  • Universities are ‘taking advantage’ of teens with Mickey Mouse courses, says Donelan – The Sun

Air bridges ‘shelved’ as holidaymakers cleared for take-off to 75 countries

“Individual air bridges will be effectively abandoned by the Government, as it emerged that as many as 75 countries will be on the first quarantine exemption list for British holidaymakers. The list, to be published on Thursday or Friday, will lift the Foreign Office ban on non-essential travel to nearly all EU destinations, the British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, and Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. All 75 have been judged sufficiently low risk destinations for holidaymakers based on the prevalence of Covid-19, that their infection rate is in decline and that their data on the state of the disease can be trusted.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Travel industry bosses demand more answers – Daily Mail

Davis blasts ‘over-controlling’ Public Health England for getting ‘every single task’ wrong

“Top MP David Davis has blasted Public Health England as “over controlling” and claimed it got “very single task” wrong during the pandemic. His scathing blast comes as it was suggested that the Government body could be ditched – with senior figures said to be unhappy about their response to the crisis. It came after the Prime Minister attacked the response to the virus yesterday as “sluggish” – with sources suggesting PHE were to blame… Public Health England – an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care – are responsible for the nation’s testing regime, and were widely blamed for having to give up track and trace in the early days of the pandemic, once the number of cases grew.” – The Sun

  • Johnson challenged at PMQs over Covid-19 test data – The Guardian

More:

  • PHE says ‘no explanatory outbreaks’ across Leicester, which is back in lockdown – Daily Mail
  • Leicester and Merthyr Tydfil top table for UK-wide Covid infections – FT
  • Coronavirus infections tumble after lockdown relaxed – Daily Telegraph

Starmer wins change in Labour NEC election rules

“Keir Starmer has faced down objections from Labour leftwingers to secure a change in the way members of the party’s ruling national executive committee are elected. At an explosive meeting on Tuesday, Starmer was also confronted directly about a BBC Breakfast interview in which he described Black Lives Matter as a “moment”, and dismissed calls to “defund the police” as “nonsense”, the Guardian understands. The national executive committee (NEC) agreed by 19 votes to 12 to introduce a single transferable vote (STV) system for its CLP (constituency Labour parties) section, which represents grassroots members. The change is a relatively modest one, but it underlined the speed at which Starmer has seized control of the levers of Labour party machinery.” – The Guardian

  • Sir Keir cautiously makes his mark on Labour – FT
  • Long-Bailey ‘finally’ deletes tweet that got her sacked – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Labour leader should finish off his far-left fringe – David Aaronovitch, The Times

Britain and Brussels ‘turn on each other’ for prolonging City’s uncertainty

“Britain and Brussels have each accused the other of holding up a decision on the City of London’s ability to do business in EU markets from next year, prolonging the financial services’ state of uncertainty about the future. Both parties had agreed to complete assessments of the other’s regulatory regimes for financial services by Tuesday 30 June, with the expectation that they would deemed “equivalent”, allowing business to continue in the new year. With the deadline for an equivalence decision likely to be missed, the financial sectors on both sides have been left in the dark about the future terms of business, and the European commission and the UK government have blamed each other for the delay.” – The Guardian

  • Johnson blames EU for missing crucial trade talks deadline – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • Without firing a shot, China has killed Hong Kong – Ron Shine, CapX
  • Return of the dragon – Richard Cockett, The Critic
  • The state has failed the Covid stress test – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • FDR and the failed concept of the New Deal – Gerard Warner, Reaction
  • Who’s to blame for such anguished activism? – Mary Harrington, UnHerd