Politics latest news: Germany’s Covid R-rate rise is ‘concerning’

Eufemia Didonato

Boris Johnson’s plans to liberalise Sunday trading laws look to be in trouble – JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock The UK Government is closely watching the situation in Germany, where the reproduction rate of coronavirus has almost tripled in just a few days, with a minister saying this morning it was […]

Boris Johnson's plans to liberalise Sunday trading laws look to be in trouble - JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Boris Johnson’s plans to liberalise Sunday trading laws look to be in trouble – JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The UK Government is closely watching the situation in Germany, where the reproduction rate of coronavirus has almost tripled in just a few days, with a minister saying this morning it was “concerning”. ​

Boris Johnson is expected to update his most senior Cabinet colleagues on the result of the two-metre rule as he prepares to reopen the UK’s hospitality and tourism sectors early next month. The Prime Minister is expected to finalise plans with his C-19 strategy committee, setting out how pubs, restaurants, cafes and hairdressers can reopen in some form from July 4

But James Brokenshire, the security minister, told BBC Breakfast the international experience and understanding of the virus had evolved in recent weeks and the decision would be informed by “the best, most up to date science” and medical experience.

He added: “Obviously it is concerning to see the situation in Germany and it’s why we are informed in our actions by experience from around the world, why the chief scientific officer, the chief medical officer, speak to their counterparts in different parts of the world to ensure that we are applying the best learning and the best experience in informing our next steps.”

Germany’s coronavirus R number has jumped from 1.79 on Saturday to 2.88 on Sunday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for public health (RKI), which has been publishing the country’s statistics. On Friday it was 1.06.

Mr Johnson will reveal all in the Commons tomorrow, once the plan has been rubber-stamped by the rest of the Cabinet.

Read more updates below.

10:22 AM

Why are Conservatives winning elections, but losing the culture wars

Increasingly, many Conservatives are scratching their heads and wondering why, in the words of Prof Matthew Goodwin, the Tories are “winning elections but losing the culture war.”

It would be a mistake to think that Britain’s culture war is limited to Brexit – although it strikes at the heart of many divisions over sovereignty, immigration and human rights.

Our columnist Nick Timothy asks why, when Tories have been in government for more than a decade, cultural liberals and Left-wingers are in the ascendancy.

10:13 AM

Anne Sacoolas did not have diplomatic immunity, says former minister

A former Foreign Office minister has rubbished claims that Anne Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity when she drove into the British motorcyclist Harry Dunn last August.

In court papers, the former Foreign Office minister Tony Baldry, who signed the agreement covering the base where her husband worked, said the diplomatic immunity deal reached in 1995 was intended specifically to exclude dangerous driving cases, or indeed any actions not related to the work of the staff at the base.

Sir Tony also said he believed FCO lawyers would not have “created a situation whereby immunity was waived for agents outside work, but not for their spouses”.

In his witness statement, he said: “We were obviously extremely unhappy at the prospect of technicians and their dependants being placed above the law and this I made clear by instructing that any agreement must be conditional upon the waiver.

“I am sure that the US did not and would not have raised any specific request for dependants to be exempted from the law – had they done so I would have refused or at the very least referred this matter to the Secretary of State for him to decide.

“I cannot imagine any government agreeing to such an arrangement.”

Sir Tony’s evidence will be heard at a judicial review trial in October or November.

Anne Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity after the teenager died in a crash outside a US military base in Northamptonshire on August 27. But it is set to be the subject of a judicial review trial in which Mr Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, allege Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab acted unlawfully over the suspect’s departure from the UK. 

10:02 AM

Uncertainty around relaxing two-metre rule, doctor warns

Dr Zeshan Qureshi, lead author of a report on social distancing for Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was scientific uncertainty around relaxing the two-metre rule.

His team has looked at every study published up to June 17 on Covid-19 and social distancing.

“This one to two-metre distancing, it’s not based on data that we are getting from coronavirus,” he said.”It is based on historic data, decades and decades old that has been applied to coronavirus in good faith.

“It is based on very old, outdated models of droplet transmission, which assume that large droplets are the route in which infections are transmitted.”

He said more modern studies had shown those droplets are on a “spectrum” and smaller droplets can project up to eight metres.

He said it was possible the virus could be transmitted much further than two metres between people.

“We don’t know what a toxic dose of coronavirus is… we don’t know it’s safe to relax what we’re doing already,” he said.

09:52 AM

Home Secretary to make Reading statement this afternoon

Priti Patel will make a statement about the Reading attack to the Commons at 3:30pm today. This was not unexpected, but had to be formally added to the business for the day. 

The Home Secretary visited Reading this morning to meet with police officers involved in the arrest of a suspected terrorist accused of triple murder on Saturday night. 

She said it was “a tragic, tragic event”, promising “all aspects” will be looked at to ensure “justice is served” and to make sure “lessons” are learnt to “prevent anything like this from happening again”.

09:36 AM

Two-metre rule review taking place after press conference today

Word has just reached us that there are in fact two Covid committee meetings taking place today, as the Prime Minister and his senior team sign off on the next stage of coronavirus response. 

The Covid-19 strategy committee meeting, which will be chaired by Boris Johnson, is due to take place at 5:45pm, the Telegraph understands.

This is the meeting where the review of the two-metre rule will be considered, with many across Westminster and industry hoping for a relaxation as the country moves into phase three. 

Earlier in the day  the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, will chair the regular operations committee, known in Whitehall as “CO”.  

The two committees were formed earlier this month as part of the Prime Minister’s shake- up of the Government’s approach to Covid-19 as he vowed to take “direct control” after being laid low by the virus. 

09:22 AM

What’s on the agenda today?

Top of the agenda is that all-important C-19 meeting this morning, in which Boris Johnson and his most senior ministers are expected to discuss further easing of the lockdown. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance are also expected to sign off on plans for phase three, which are likely to include reducing the two-metre rule, expanding social bubbles and reopening pubs, restaurants and other hospitality and leisure. 

At midday is the usual Downing Street lobby briefing, where journalists will be trying to understand what we are likely to hear from the PM tomorrow, as well as the latest thinking on the Reading attack. 

At 12.30pm, the Scottish and Welsh governments are due to hold their daily coronavirus briefings.

This afternoon we will hear from Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, and other senior officials, when they give evidence to the Commons public accounts committee about preparing the NHS and social care for the coronavirus peak.

From 2.30pm: Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, takes questions in the Commons. Although this is a regular session, he is likely to face quite a bruising time as he is hauled over the coals for the chaos over the return of schools.

And at 5pm it is the daily Downing Street press conference, which we understand will be held by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.

09:10 AM

Hospitality could get ‘consumer mark’ under plans to restart sector

Restaurants, hotels and pubs could be given a “consumer mark” to show they are safe for customers to go to, the director of Visit Britain has said. 

Boris Johnson has been meeting with his most senior ministers to discuss the next steps for the lockdown with chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty. They are expected to sign off on a new plan for phase three, which will be laid out before MPs tomorrow. 

Patricia Yates, director at Visit Britain, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme this morning that hospitality and tourism sectors were expecting to hear the go-ahead for July 4, and that the two-metre rule would be dropped to one. She also revealed the industry was working on plans to create a “consumer mark” to give potential customers confidence that firms are Covid-secure. 

She said: “We looking at doing a consumer mark so that businesses can look at the guidance they can go online, they can show that they’re complying with it all and then they can have a consumer mark saying ‘we’re good to go’ that really displays to customers and staff and local residence that this business understands Covid-19 and it’s a good place to go.”

08:44 AM

Cut NICs as part of bounce-back measures, Chancellor urged

The Chancellor should cut National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and roll out “back to work vouchers” as part of measures designed to help small firms and the self-employed to bounce back from the current recession, a trade body has said.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on Rishi Sunak to avoid “excessive pessimism”, arguing that “a strong recovery is possible” so long as “further fiscal response… [is] calibrated to the extent of continuing temporary restrictions.”

As well as cutting NICs, the Government should assist small firms with apprenticeship training and wage costs as part of an apprenticeship guarantee for those whose education has been disrupted and roll out a full statutory sick pay rebate for those who need to self-isolate under the track and trace programme, the FSB said. 

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “The fundamental question facing small businesses today is: can I open in a way that’s both commercially viable and safe? 

“Among those for whom the answer is yes, the majority will face additional costs as they adjust their operations. The Government should step in with back to work vouchers so firms doing the right thing can recover this expenditure.

08:18 AM

Priti Patel launches working group to ‘right the wrongs’ of Windrush

The Home Secretary has announced a new working group had been established to “right the wrongs” suffered by the Windrush generation, on the 72nd day since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex, bearing some 500 people from Jamaica.

Priti Patel will chair the new Windrush Cross-Government Working Group with Bishop Derek Webley as part of the Government’s efforts to address the scandal.

The group’s findings will influence the Home Office’s response to a report published in March, which found the department’s “system operational failings” had let down the Windrush generation, meaning some people with a right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean.

It comes days after Windrush campaigners delivered a petition to Downing Street signed by more than 130,000 people calling for action to address failings which led to the scandal.

Figures released last month showed fewer than five per cent of claims under the Government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme have been paid out, with just 60 people receiving £362,996 in the first year.

Meanwhile London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on the Government to learn from the suffering endured by the Windrush generation and end the “hostile environment” faced by immigrants in the capital.

Mr Khan will join community leaders to mark Windrush Day on Monday at a virtual event co-hosted by the Greater London Authority and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Priti Patel
Priti Patel

08:05 AM

Second victim in Reading attack named as American citizen 

Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK,  has confirmed that an American citizen was killed in the Reading attack this weekend.

He was named locally as Joe Ritchie-Bennett, originally from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

According to tributes posted on social media, Mr Ritchie-Bennett was friends with James Furlong, the only other victim to have been named so far.

Mr Johnson said: “I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack on June 20.

“To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen. Our thoughts are with all those affected.

“We condemn the attack absolutely and have offered our assistance to British law enforcement.”

A minute’s silence will be held at 10am for the victims, according to the mayor of Reading, councillor David Stevens.

For all the latest updates on the Reading attack, please read our dedicated live blog. 

07:49 AM

Intelligence and Security Committee will return ‘in near term’, minister says

The Prime Minister will ensure the Intelligence and Security Committee is constituted “in the near term”, a minister has said, in the wake of the Reading attack this weekend. 

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has not sat since before December’s election – the longest break since it was established in 1994.

It has led to concerns about a lack of oversight over important decisions on intelligence matters, something that has come under the spotlight following the stabbings.

Speaking to the Today programme, James Brokenshire said: “The Prime Minister is looking at the membership to bring forward the Intelligence and Security Committee  is constituted, I am sure it will do in the near term.”

The Security Minister noted that he had brought forward legislation that created the committee, stressing that he valued “the oversight it provides“. 

The Government felt the “importance we do attach to scrutiny”, he added. 

James Brokenshire
James Brokenshire

07:40 AM

Up to 40,000 people known to counter-terrorism officers, former police chief says

Police and security services face a “wicked problem” deciding which of the 40,000 people known to them could launch a terror attack, a former head of UK counter terrorism has said.

Sir Mark Rowley, former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “What you end up with operationally is about, I think, about 3,000 people under investigation at one stage.

“But there is 40,000 people… whose names have touched the system.

“And in that 40,000 are lots of volatile people who dip in and out of interests in extreme ideology, and to spot one of those who is going to go from a casual interest into a determined attacker, which can happen in a matter of days, is the most wicked problem that the services face.”

07:32 AM

Double bubble: Expansion may reunite grandparents with their families

One of the likely areas under discussion during today’s meeting of the C-19 Cabinet – Boris Johnson’s senior Cabinet colleagues – is whether to extend the social bubbles. 

Currently, a single adult can form a “support bubble” with one other household of any size. 

But, as my colleague Gordon Rayner reports, the PM is poised to announce a move that means millions more grandparents being reunited with their grandchildren.

07:17 AM

We will consider policy changes in response to Reading attack, says minister

James Brokenshire has said the Government will consider changing the law, in response to the terrorist attack in Reading this weekend. 

The security minister told Sky News he couldn’t talk specifically about the case, including the identity of the suspect, but said: “We are looking very closely at all facts and circumstances of this case. If policy needs to be altered, that is precisely what we will do.”

He added: “We will do our part in govt to challenge our systems, to make sure they are as rigorous and robust as we would seek”

07:13 AM

James Brokenshire pays tribute to emergency services after Reading attack

James Brokenshire has paid tribute to first responders and members of the public after Saturday’s attack in Reading.

The security minister told BBC Breakfast: “I want to pay tribute to the work of our emergency services, the police, all of those first responders who dealt with this appalling evil and callous act, but also those members of the public as well who supported the police, bravely dealt with those issues on the ground.

“Our thoughts, our hearts go out to all of those this morning who have lost loved ones, who are mourning or have been affected by this appalling incident.”

When asked what he would say to people in Reading who are concerned, Mr Brokenshire added: “People should be alert, not alarmed.

“People must remain vigilant, our terrorist threat level is at substantial – the third level which means an attack is likely.

“But we need to go about our lives, we need to be able to ensure that those who would seek to intimidate, those who would seek to use terror to try and change our way of life, that they do not succeed but we remain vigilant.”

Flowers are placed at the entrance to the Holt School, Wokingham, Berskhire, in memory of teacher James Furlong, a victim of the terrorist attack in Forbury Gardens - Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Flowers are placed at the entrance to the Holt School, Wokingham, Berskhire, in memory of teacher James Furlong, a victim of the terrorist attack in Forbury Gardens – Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Steve Parsons/PA Wire

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