Number 10 insists MPs will decide key intelligence role amid reports of interference

Boris Johnson and Chris Grayling campaigned for Vote Leave together
Boris Johnson and Chris Grayling campaigned for Vote Leave together

Number 10 has insisted MPs will decide who will lead a key parliamentary watchdog, amid rumours Conservative members will be whipped to pick Downing Street’s preferred candidate.

After nearly eight months, the Intelligence and Security committee is due to be convened next week after names were finally put forward yesterday.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said those nominated for the ISC — including former transport secretary Chris Grayling, who is tipped as its chairman — would “ensure robust and effective scrutiny” of the UK’s security services.

Although the Prime Minister’s spokesman did not comment on the individuals who have been put forward, he said they were all “senior parliamentarians with extensive range of experience including in government opposition and in Parliament”

Number 10 did not reject outright reports that the Tory nominees were being asked to back the man critics have dubbed “Failing Grayling” for the top job, saying only that the role would “be agreed by the committee itself”.

Former chair and one-time attorney general Dominic Grieve said it would be “highly damaging” and “regrettable” if the reports were true.

Read more below.

01:37 PM

Friday Q&A: UK should move towards pro-saving culture,  says Darren Jones

The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to BEIS Select Committee chair and Bristol North West MP Darren Jones.

Some people heralded lockdown as an opportunity for the country to move away from consumerism – but if we buy less, this has obvious knock-on effects on our economy. Is there a happy middle ground – and should people be encouraged to spend their way out of the recession?

I want there to be a strong economy that creates well-paid jobs providing workers with the security and incomes to be able to pay for a consumer-led economy.

This pandemic has seen a massive pay down in consumer debt, which is welcome. We have to keep doing that and move towards a more pro-saving culture but, again, that requires a re-think of our tax and incentives policy.

The best way out of this recession is to invest in digitising the economy, growing exports and GDP, creating well paid secure jobs and through improvements in productivity sharing that inclusively across the whole country. Net-zero transitions should be central to all of those policy prescriptions.

01:23 PM

High Court judge makes findings over Jeremy Corbyn defamation case

A High Court judge has made preliminary findings in a defamation fight featuring former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Blogger Richard Millett had complained that Mr Corbyn defamed him by accusing him of being “disruptive and abusive” at a 2013 meeting featuring a Palestinian speaker. The Labour MP later said “the Zionists” who had attended the meeting had “berated” the Palestinian speaker, claiming these “Zionists” did not want to study history and did not understand English irony.

Mr Justice Saini, who oversaw a preliminary hearing in June, on Friday made preliminary legal decisions about the meaning of words Mr Corbyn used and whether he was stating facts or expressing opinion.

Lawyers representing Mr Millett argued that the allegations were “factual”, lawyers representing Mr Corbyn argued that the “words conveyed a statement of opinion”.

The judge concluded that Mr Corbyn was making “factual” allegations “as to Mr Millett’s behaviour”. The “words complained of” referred to Mr Millett and “bore a meaning defamatory of Mr Millett”.

He said what had been said suggested “conduct falling below the standards expected of citizens in modern British society”.

01:16 PM

Coronavirus growth rate ‘positive’ in three English regions, figures show

Rates of coronavirus could be growing in three different regions in England, new figures show. 

Overall the national R-rate remains between 0.7-0.9, while the growth rate for the UK is between -five per cent and -two per cent. That is a slight drop on last week, when it was between -six per cent and zero per cent per day last week

However in London, the East of England and the South West the range for the growth rate goes into positive territory, suggesting it is on the increase rather than declining as it is in other parts of the country. 

In London the range is between -five and +one per cent, while in the East of England it is between -four and +one per cent. In the South West, the range is wider at -six to +one per cent. 

“Estimates of R and growth rates for geographies smaller than regional level are less reliable and it is more appropriate to identify local hotspots through, for example, monitoring numbers of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths,” the official statement says. 

01:10 PM

Further 22 deaths in English hospitals, says NHS

A further 22 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in English hospitals, NHS England has confirmed.

That takes the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 29,013.

Patients were aged between 52 and 99 years old, and all had known underlying health conditions. 

 There were two deaths recorded in the East of England, London, the North East & Yorkshire and the South West. 

The Midlands was the least-affected region with one death, while the North West was the worst-affected with eight. The South East registered five deaths in the 24-hour period.  

01:02 PM

Labour attacks Government over Grayling nomination for ISC chair

Labour has attacked the Government over reports that it is angling for Chris Grayling to take over as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. 

Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow home secretary, said the move was “truly astonishing”.

“This is an appointment to a vital national security role at a critical time,” he added. “It beggars belief that the apparently strongest Conservative candidate has overseen disasters such as the botched privatisation of probation services, a ferry agreement with a firm with no ferries, and the mishandling of the East Coast rail franchise.

“Yet again this is an example of the Prime Minister seeking to work in his own interest, rather than the national interest. The work of the ISC is vital and the country will accept no further delays in the publication the long-awaited Russia report.”

12:37 PM

Friday Q&A: Business rates must be reformed as ‘new purpose’ found for high streets,  says Darren Jones

The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to BEIS Select Committee chair and Bristol North West MP Darren Jones.

Will the crisis speed up the demise of the high street, or do you think people will rediscover them as they return to some semblance of normality?

The High Street was changing before the crisis and it will now change more quickly than before. We have to re-imagine our high streets and Government policy needs to equip that.

Business rates need to be reformed. We need to find new purposes for our high street – perhaps new co-working spaces with good broadband on all of our high streets for workers who don’t have to commute into the cities anymore but don’t want to work with the kids and the cat around their ankles.

This is just one example of the opportunity the country now has to accelerate its modernisation with a helping hand from government to help manage the turbulence that comes with that.

12:25 PM

Government interference in ISC ‘very damaging’ if true, says Dominic Grieve

Dominic Grieve has said reports that the Government is whipping Conservative members of the Intelligence and Security committee would be “very damaging” if so. 

The former attorney general, who chaired the ISC during Theresa May’s time as prime minister, told Sky News members who will decide on the new chair “should not be guided by the whips you should be guided by your judgement”. 

Asked if Chris Grayling, the former transport secretary sometimes called ‘Failing Grayling’, should be the committee chair, Mr Grieve did not answer directly, instead saying the key characteristics of a good chair were common sense and the ability to win trust of disparate people including opposition members and outside agencies.  

 It would be “very damaging” to the committee’s role and “regrettable” if reports were true, he added. 

We are running today’s poll on this very subject – have your say in the poll below (1:10pm).

12:12 PM

Lobby latest: Huawei review ongoing, Downing Street insists

Downing Street said the review into Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network was still ongoing.

It follows suggestions a decision is due to made public by the Culture Secretary as soon as next week.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “We continue the ongoing process that the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) are looking at.

“I don’t have an update for you on that. As I say, it is an ongoing process.”

Number 10 would not confirm whether the National Security Council will meet on Tuesday, as reports have suggested.

12:10 PM

Lobby latest: Intelligence and Security Committee chair ‘agreed by committee itself’

Downing Street has insisted the Intelligence and Security Committee chair will be down to the committee members, amid suggestions that Number 10 is interfering with the process.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said all nominees are “senior parliamentarians with extensive range of experience including in government opposition and in Parliament”, noting the chair “will be agreed by the committee itself”.

He added: “We believe that will ensure a robust and effective scrutiny of the security services”.

Once it has gone through all the stages in Parliament which will be on Monday: MPs will be asked to approve the motion, MPs will debate and agree the nomination proposed and then it moves into the Lords on Tuesday.

However there are suggestions the Tory members of the committee will be whipped to support former transport secretary Chris Grayling. 

What do you think? Have your say in the poll below

11:54 AM

Lobby latest: No ‘silver bullet’ on obesity, Prime Minister’s spokesman admits

The time to tackle obesity is ‘now’ but there is no ‘silver bullet’, Downing Street has said.

After reports that Boris Johnson hopes to ban promotional junk food deals to fight obesity, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said there must be a broad approach. 

The Government will “think through the arguments carefully”, with the spokesman noting there is currently a consultation on how to better protect children from advertising.

The spokesman added that now is “the time to tackle” the issue in order to “better prepare the country for future health crises”.

11:49 AM

Lobby latest: Face masks will not be mandatory in England, says Downing Street

Downing Street has said there will be no change to official guidance on face masks, despite a different approach in Scotland and growing evidence suggesting it helps to slow the spread of the virus. 

Nicola Sturgeon has made masks mandatory in Scottish shops, but in England face coverings are only mandatory on public transport.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that masks “do provide some help” in asymptomatic people spreading the virus.

The spokesman added: “We’ve been clear that they need to be mandatory on public transport where people can often share the same space for a substantial period of time.”

It is “no replacement for good social distancing practices”, the spokesman said.

11:47 AM

Lobby latest: Brexit talks remain ‘constructive and useful’, Downing Street says

Downing Street has said that Brexit negotiations remain “constructive and useful”, despite this week’s round of talks ending early – the second time in two weeks the two sides have called things off ahead of schedule.

The spokesman said “significant differences” remain on the level playing field and fisheries.

“There still remains differences in a number of these important issues like level playing field level playing field fisheries which is incompatible with our future status as an independent coastal state,” the spokesman added.

11:45 AM

Lobby latest: Downing Street insists lockdown easing is not sexist

Downing Street has insisted changes to lockdown are not favouring men over women, despite an apparent discrepancy in what is allowed. 

Beauty salons have been given the green light to reopen from next week but face waxing, eyelash treatments, make-up application and facials are still not allowed.

This is despite the fact that men are able to have their beards trimmed.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that the Government has “always been clear that we were to be cautious” and claims the changes are “based on the best scientific advice”. 

The spokesman noted that there is a “high transmission of the virus” in facial treatments.

11:41 AM

Highest rise in coronavirus cases for three weeks in Scotland, says Sturgeon

No new coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Scotland for the second day running, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

The First Minister told the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing 2,490 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19, no change since Wednesday.

However 18,333 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 18 from 18,315 on Thursday.

This is the highest rise in positive cases in almost three weeks, she said, which the Scottish Government will be “looking very closely” at.

There are 668 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, up 22 in the past 24 hours.

Of these patients, 12 were in intensive care, a rise of three.

11:30 AM

Friday Q&A: Government doesn’t understand how to spend public money wisely,  says Darren Jones

The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to BEIS Select Committee chair and Bristol North West MP Darren Jones.

How would you rate the Government response during the outbreak? Can you name the main failing and the main area of success?

Government has had real delivery problems. Ministers have learnt that you can’t just pull a lever in Whitehall and deliver outcomes across the country.

This institutional weakness comes from a decade of austerity: public health teams too small, councils doing the best they can on a shoestring, the investment in preparing for these issues far from what it should have been.

I get it’s not easy but I hope the Government has re-learnt the importance of properly funding our public services and realised you can’t just call on the private sector to do the job of Government: evidenced by its failure to distribute laptops to kids without online access, or free school meals, or PPE supplies.

This has all meant the Government was too slow on testing and tracing which has had public and economic health consequences.

How we now spend the money we’re borrowing is really important – it has to be spent wisely – and I’m not convinced the Government really understands how to do that.

11:10 AM

Friday Q&A:  If No10 doesn’t trust ministers, Parliament must be afterthought, says Darren Jones

The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to BEIS Select Committee chair and Bristol North West MP Darren Jones.

Leaving the lockdown aside, do you think Number 10 is allowing sufficient scrutiny? Do you have concerns about the handling of the Intelligence and Security Committee? 

I have concerns that all Government decision making is being centralised into Downing Street, with Government departments not being trusted to get on with their work.

If Number 10 can’t let its own Government departments get on with it, then I’m sure Parliament is an afterthought to some of them. It shouldn’t need saying but Parliament’s role in holding the Government to account is vital in normal times, and it’s especially important now.

The Government’s handling of the public health crisis requires it and the enormous amount of borrowing and spending on the economic crisis requires it too.

10:57 AM

EU leaders consider emergency Brexit fund

European Union leaders will consider setting up a Brexit emergency fund of €5bn as part of summit talks over €750bn coronavirus recovery package next week, James Crisp writes.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said a “Brexit reserve” could “counter the unforeseen consequences” of the UK leaving the EU.  

The fund is aimed at helping the counties worst hit by a no trade deal Brexit at the end of the year.

Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands are among the countries who were pushing for a Brexit element to the coronavirus package, which involves a 1.1 trillion euro EU budget for the next seven years.

Sophie Wilmès, Belgium’s prime minister, welcomed the inclusion of the Brexit cash in the latest proposal to be put before EU member states.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst: a sound principle in politics,” she said, praising the Brexit Adjustment Reserve as “a very good signal to start the negotiations.”

10:49 AM

Boris Johnson praises ‘bravery and sacrifice’ of Battle of Britain airmen

Boris Johnson is having a busy social media day.

Having recorded an address for school leavers, and ahead of his ‘People’s Questions’, the Prime Minister has tweeted about the “bravery and sacrifice” of those who took to the airs during the Battle of Britain. 

10:43 AM

No cruises until October to avoid another repatriation, says minister

Britons will be “dissuaded” from going on cruises until October, because of fears the Government may have to repatriate people from around the world again, a minister has said. 

Caroline Dinenage told Sky News that although air corridors are today being opened with 59 countries, high risk countries and cruises were still off the menu “probably until October” in order to minimise risk.  

She said: “Just because of the situation when crisis hit when we had to repatriate people from all around the world, we want to be a little bit more secure with where we are as a country and as the world.”

Some 19,000 British travellers were repatriated from cruise ships at the start of the crisis

On the first day that quarantine restrictions have been lifted on dozens of countries, the UK Government confirmed that Serbia has been removed from its travel corridor list, bringing England into line with Scotland. 

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon dropped her biggest hint yet that she would consider imposing border restrictions on people entering the nation from other parts of the UK.

10:40 AM

Labour warns of BAME hit over beauty restrictions

Labour has said the restrictions involved for reopening beauty salons would put jobs at risk which are “overwhelmingly” held by women from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

Shadow women and equalities minister Marsha de Cordova said: “The Government’s half-baked plans for reopening beauty salons put at risk thousands of jobs overwhelmingly held by women, and black, Asian and minority ethnic women in particular.

“This week, the Chancellor ignored Labour’s calls to carry out and publish an equality impact assessment of what impact his summer statement would have on different groups.

“With the proposals as they stand, this Government will make the crisis even worse for those who have already been disproportionately affected.

“Yet again this Government is failing to target its support at those who need it most.”

10:25 AM

Have your say on: the Intelligence and Security Committee

On Monday, MPs will debate the names that have been put forward for the Intelligence and Security Committee, ahead of it being convened for the first time this year. 

The break is the longest in its history, and has delayed the publication of the now-infamous report into Russian interference in UK politics. 

Chris Grayling, Sir John Hayes, Stewart Hosie, Dame Diana Johnson, Mr Kevan Jones, Dr Julian Lewis, Mark Pritchard and Theresa Villiers have been nominated, with the former transport secretary expected to be named as chair.  It has been reported that Tory members will be “whipped” to support Boris Johnson’s choice.

However former chair Dominic Grieve has urged the Prime Minister not to interfere in the process, saying it should be solely down to the members of the committee. 

MPs will have their say on Monday – you can have yours today in the poll below

10:11 AM

Friday Q&A:  Democracy has changed for the worse during lockdown, says Darren Jones

The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to BEIS Select Committee chair and Bristol North West MP Darren Jones.

What has it been like to participate in the hybrid parliament? What has it done for scrutiny? Is it right that MPs should vote in person?

Every business and household in the UK has adapted to be safe during this pandemic, and it’s right that Parliament does this too. The decisions being made now will have long-run effects on everyone in the UK and it’s vital that they are scrutinised properly.

That’s what we’ve been doing on the BEIS committee, which has been meeting virtually throughout the lockdown.

It’s been a bit strange but it’s better than all of us huddling up in the House of Commons. It’s true that our capacity has been restricted compared to normal, and the style of our democracy has had to change (for the worse, in my view), but the approach we’re taking is the right one. I’m looking forward to getting back to normal!

10:02 AM

Friday Q&A: Chancellor is ‘refusing’ to help manufacturing, says Darren Jones

The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to BEIS Select Committee chair and Bristol North West MP Darren Jones.

How is your constituency faring under lockdown? Have there been any particularly challenging moments, and any times when people have come together?

Everyone in my constituency has pulled together during this crisis, and every day I’ve seen examples that back-up why Bristol is such a special place to live.

At the start of this pandemic when things were most uncertain, community groups sprang up across my constituency to help, which was great to see.

And the NHS staff at our local Southmead Hospital, as well as all of our health and social care staff, reminds us why we have such affection for our frontline workers.

It’s now starting to get tough, though. We’re getting close to 2000 announced redundancies in and around my constituency already, and that’s just the reported ones.

I was hoping we’d see some specific support for the manufacturing sector from the Chancellor this week and was disappointed when we didn’t.

Each redundancy is heart-breaking and can cause such stress for families – I know the Government can’t protect every job but I know they can do more in the manufacturing sector, especially aerospace, and I just don’t understand why they refuse to do so.  

09:49 AM

No quarantine fines issued under new rules, figures show

Not a single person has been fined by police in England and Wales for breaching quarantine rules after arriving from abroad, new figures show.

Just 10 tickets were handed out to passengers for not wearing face coverings on public transport, according to the data released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council on Friday.

The figures come as quarantine rules for people returning to or visiting the UK from a list of countries, including popular holiday destinations, were relaxed from Friday.

The 14-day self-isolation policy for UK arrivals, bar a handful of exemptions, was introduced on June 8, with breaches punishable of fines of between £100 and £1,000.

09:20 AM

School leavers will be ‘one of most important and influential generations’, Prime Minister says 

Boris Johnson has told school leavers they will become “one of the most important and influential generations in the peacetime history of our nation”, in an address to those who are finishing education in the exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus crisis. 

The Prime Minister said that “because of your sacrifice”, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved – “not something many generations will be able to say about their final weeks in school”. 

Mr Johnson also gave a message of hope, saying they have the opportunity to “rebuild” the country saying: “The really exciting bit is yet to come… We have an incredible opportunity to do things differently, to build back better.”

Watch the full address below.

09:05 AM

Friday Q&A: Lockdown has made me realise how much you miss family, says Darren Jones

The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to BEIS Select Committee chair and Bristol North West MP Darren Jones.

How are you finding lockdown personally – are you getting to spend quality time with family or are you sick of them all? What are you doing to keep sane?

I’m very fortunate in that my family have been well during the lockdown.

It’s been great to spend so much time with my girls – Ophelia who’s now two and a half, and Edie who turned one in April.

It made me realise how little I get to see them normally during the week and how much you miss when they’re growing up so quickly. I’ll miss that when we get back to normal. It’s obviously been nice to spend so much time with my wife, Lucy, too!

08:55 AM

Esther Rantzen blames politicians for BBC licence fee ‘slap in the face’

Dame Esther Rantzen has said the BBC’s timing in ending the universal free TV licence for over-75s is “insensitive”, but said it was the action of politicians that felt like a “slap in the face to older people”.

Yesterday the BBC said it would start means-testing the entitlement from August 1, having previously delayed its introduction because of the pandemic. 

Dame Esther told the PA news agency that it would have been “kinder” if the BBC waited until September when life could be easier for pensioners.

“The BBC probably feel that their reputation is very high at the moment,” the former That’s Life presenter said.

“They’ve been a fantastic source of news, they’re offering educational programmes for children who can’t go to school…  But my main criticism at the moment is for the politicians. I do think that (Culture Secretary) Oliver Dowden, who said he felt let down by the BBC, was shifting blame…

“It was Gordon Brown who decided to make this gift of free television licences, and it was George Osborne (then chancellor) who took it away and said the Government would no longer fund it.

“And that’s what feels like a slap in the face to older people.”

08:40 AM

What’s on the agenda today?

It may be Friday, but it’s still shaping up to be a busy day.

Boris Johnson has his “People’s PMQs” around midday today, during which he will answer pre-selected questions from members of the public. There will likely be a smattering of silly questions as usual, but hopefully it will be an opportunity to get some answers about the discrepancy between guidance for beauticians, and more details on other steps including air bridges.  

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will today meet ambassadors from the 11 nations making up the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership that Britain is angling to join. Ms Truss will make the case that the UK’s membership “will strengthen the agreement, benefiting both the UK and our trading partners around the world.”

The latest Sage publications around midday including updated R numbers and growth rates are due out this afternoon. That will give us a sense of how things are panning out after the last few weeks of restrictions being relaxed. Fingers crossed that things remain positive.

And we have Darren Jones, Labour MP and the new BEIS committee chair, doing the Friday Q&A today.

08:16 AM

Unlikely pen pals Michel Barnier and Mark Francois clash on Brexit

Michel Barnier has written to Mark Francois and told the Chair of the Eurosceptic European Research Group of Tory MPs that Brexit isn’t worth it.  

While nobody has been able to demonstrate to me the added value of leaving the most integrated economic and free trade area in the world, I have always respected the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU,” Mr Barnier said, replying to an earlier letter from the Rayleigh and Wickford MP.

Mr Francois told the Telegraph that he was grateful for the “charming billet doux”. He said, “As he rightly acknowledged, we are now a free country – and indeed very happy to be so.”

Read the full story about this burgeoning pen pal-ship here.

08:10 AM

Parts of New York record nearly 70pc Covid-immunity 

Was the herd immunity strategy right after all? Areas of New York have recorded a nearly 70 per cent rate of immunity to Covid-19, in what scientists have described as “stunning” findings that suggest they could be protected from any second wave.

But it has come with a heavy price: New York is among the hardest-hit cities in the world, recording some 222,000 cases and nearly 23,000 deaths to date.

Read the full story here.

07:55 AM

Gatwick boss hopes for flights to take off as quarantine restrictions lift

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport, has hailed the relaxation of travel quarantine rules saying he hoped that people would now be persuaded to get back onto planes. 

“For our airport it makes a massive difference,” he said. “The reason being, about 75% of the destinations we serve are now quarantine free for passengers coming back into Gatwick.

“From a consumer point of view what we’re hoping is that will persuade people to take advantage of the flights.”

During the height of the coronavirus lockdown he said flights from Gatwick had dropped to as low as two or three a day.

More than 500 airport staff have taken part in a voluntary redundancy programme, while 80 per cent of workers remain furloughed.

Mr Wingate said there would be 50 flights at the airport on Friday, with this rising to 100 by the end of the month and possibly to 300 or 400 per day later in the summer. In normal periods the airport handles 900 flights, he added.

07:46 AM

Women and Equalities Committee chair to challenge ministers over beautician guidance

Caroline Nokes has said she will be challenging ministers over the discrepancy between official guidelines that allows men to have their beards trimmed but prevents women from having equivalent facial treatment. 

The Women and Equalities Committee chair, a former minister, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain there was “a serious gender divide here”, noting that a friend of hers had sent a text message to the Prime Minister last week “asking why she couldn’t get her beard waxed”.

She said: “Men can get their beards trimmed women cant have facial waxing”.

Ms Nokes said it was a particular issue for women with polycystic ovary syndrome who have facial hair, saying: “We really need to have that tackled.”

The Romsey and Southampton North MP said it was “really confusing and difficult”, and she had received “a whole raft of questions that I will be taking up with ministers today”.

07:25 AM

‘Lots’ of ministers have worn face masks, Caroline Dinenage says

Asked why ministers don’t wear face masks, Caroline Dinenage says she “wears mine all the time”, saying her son has “run me up a few on his sewing machine”. 

Asked why the Prime Minister and Chancellor haven’t worn one, she says that is a question for them. 

Ms Dinenage says “lots of my colleagues” have done, noting there is “some brilliant work going on up and down the country to encourage people to have face masks”. 

Asked if it should be made mandatory in shops and other enclosed spaces, as it is in Scotland, she adds that “if the scientific evidence proves that it is definitely something to change, then of course we will”.  

Rishi Sunak has been criticised for not wearing a mask in public
Rishi Sunak has been criticised for not wearing a mask in public

07:21 AM

Beauticians ‘absolute life-blood’ of British economy, says minister

Caroline Dinenage said she recognised small businesses such as beauticians were “the absolute life-blood” of the economy, saying the decision to ban eyebrow work and other facial services was “not a decision ever taken lightly”. 

She told Today programme the Government would be working “very very carefully” with the sector to further open it up.

“I want these services to be open as soon as possible, I haven’t had my eyebrows done for months,” the culture minister added.

07:18 AM

Government accused of being ‘inconsistent’ over beauty rules 

The Government has been accused of being “inconsistent” in its guidance, after banning beauticians from working on eyebrows and other facial care, despite allowing barbers to trim beards. 

Vanita Parti, Blink Eyebrow brow bar boss, said she was “absolutely furious” with yesterday’s announcement, having been previously told the industry could reopen with hairdressers. 

Ms Parti stressed that the process was hygienic and both the customer and beautician would wear a mask – something not possible when beards are trimmed. 

Caroline Dinenage told Today that she “completely understand her frustration” but stressed the Government had to be “completely confident”. 

She said the guidance around beard trimming is “quite tight”, and any “intricate” work isn’t allowed. 

07:12 AM

Chancellor urged to stay flexible for ‘future support’ job cuts mount

The Chancellor has been urged to offer flexible support to businesses as the pattern of the recession becomes clearer, after thousands of job cuts were announced by high street brands yesterday. 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said coronavirus was accelerating shopping trends that were already in place.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “What the crisis has done is really forced people to look so carefully at the structure of their businesses, particularly those who have a strong digital presence, and seeing what the balance is between the number of stores and the investment in digital and reducing potentially the number of stores.

“Where the focus for the Chancellor needs to be is standing ready, staying open to what any future support might look like.”

She said business rates needed to be addressed in the long term, and that the sector hoped the loosening of lockdown restrictions on hospitality would help boost retail further.

07:07 AM

Further delays expected for Russia report as Prime Minister warned over committee 

The Prime Minister should not have any involvement in deciding who will chair the Intelligence and Security Committee, former head Dominic Grieve has said, as he warned not to expect the much-delayed Russia report for several more weeks. 

Boris Johnson has approved eight MPs to join the committee, including Chris Grayling, who is expected to be named as chair as this blog reported yesterday.

But Mr Grieve said the delay in convening the committee – which has not sat since before December’s election, the longest break in its history – was “deeply unsatisfactory” and that it was crucial the committee remain “non-partisan”. 

He told the Today programme: “If it’s to do is work – you shouldn’t be able to tell which party a member belongs to. That has always been the case. 

“The Prime Minister, nobody, should be seeking to tell the committee who should be the chair… I don’t have a view as to who the right chair should be but it should be a matter for the committee. They should not be put under party political pressure who chairman should be,” the former attorney general said. 

He noted that because all but two people on the chair will be new it was right that they take “several weeks” to consider the long-awaited Russia report

06:42 AM

Salons reopen as normality edges closer

Beauty treatments are back – along with gyms, swimming and sport – in latest easing of restrictions..

Nail bars, beauty salons, tattoo parlours and other “close contact” personal services will be open from Monday, with indoor sports venues including gyms, pools and courts following on July 25.

It means that almost every business closed during lockdown will now be open. Indoor theatres and concert halls, nightclubs, casinos, soft play areas, conference centres and sports stadiums are among the only venues that remain closed.

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