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The Breakfast Briefing: Boris Johnson faces Tory two metre pressure as Keir Starmer demands schools plan

Conservative MPs are increasingly agitated about the two metre social distancing rule. (PA)

7 min read

Your essential morning guide to what’s moving in Westminster.

Good morning...
...and welcome to the PoliticsHome Breakfast Briefing for Thursday, June 11.

The big stories kicking off the political day
Boris Johnson is under growing Conservative pressure to reduce the two metre social distancing rule in a bid to save the hospitality industry and allow schools to reopen. Senior Conservatives said it would be “impossible” for sectors of the economy to reopen properly with the current restriction in place and urged Boris Johnson to cut it to one-metre. Chancellor Rishi Sunak told a meeting of Conservative backbenchers on Wednesday that 24 countries had already introduced flexibility in the rule, with the Cabinet minister highlighting warnings that only a quarter of pubs will be able to reopen in line with the current guidance. The Telegraph reports that the PM wants to scrap the two-metre rule by September “at the latest” in order to fulfil his pledge to get pupils back into school.
Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “ridiculous” that betting shops and theme parks are able to reopen next week while schools in England remain shut. The Labour leader accused the Government of having a “blind spot” on school reopenings after ministers were forced to abandon plans to allow all primary school pupils to return to the classroom for four weeks before the summer holidays. And he warned “a generation of children now risk losing out on over six months of education” as he demanded extra support from the Treasury for summer holiday learning. “We now have the ridiculous situation where next week betting shops and theme parks will open, but parents are not clear when their children will go back to school,” the Labour leader said.
The Government “fully intends” to get all year groups back to school in September, Boris Johnson has said. Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said the rate of coronavirus infection was “not yet quite low enough” for the return to classrooms. But he insisted the Government will get all pupils back at schools by September - “provided the progress we are making continues”.
Boris Johnson has announced that single adult households will be able to join up with another home to help tackle loneliness created by the coronavirus lockdown. The Prime Minister said people will be able to create a "support bubble", meaning all of those within it "will be able to act as if they live in the same household", and no longer abide by social distancing. The move will allow a grandparent to hug their child for the first time in months - or help a single parent to get support from family or friends, who will able to stay over in a second household. Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, the PM said: "I know how difficult the past months have been for people cut off from their friends and family.”
Boris Johnson believes ministers made decisions that were “right for this for this country” as a former government scientific adviser said Britain could have seen “many fewer deaths” if lockdown had been imposed a week earlier. The Prime Minister said he would not “cast judgement now on everything that happened in the months that have gone by” after Professor Neil Ferguson said scientists had underestimated how fast the virus was spreading. Speaking to the Commons science committee, Professor Ferguson, who was a key adviser to the Government when lockdown began in March, said: “The epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lockdown interventions were introduced. So had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half.”
Disabled people facing trial are being "failed" by the criminal justice system, the UK's equality watchdog has warned. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said people with learning disabilities, autism and brain injuries have been left "bewildered" by the system as they called for urgent reforms to ensure they are given a fair trial. In a new report, the watchdog found that many people with disabilities and mental health issues were not being provided with the adjustments needed to ensure they could properly participate in the legal process. And they warned that that too many legal professionals lacked the training to deal with disabled victims and defendants.

930: Commons questions for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, then Business questions for the Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg
930: Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis at NI committee session on customs arrangements after Brexit
1030: Urgent Commons Question on ‘public confidence in the probity of the planning process’ amid a row over Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick’s approval of a property development owned by Conservative donor Richard Desmond
Then: Commons statement from the Ministry of Justice on reform to probation services in England and Wales
1100: Oral questions in the House of Lords, with Covid-19 economic debate to follow
1400: The Department of Health publishes statistics covering the first seven days of operation of the NHS Test and Trace service
1400: Weekly all-cause mortality surveillance - ONS statistics
1430: Government's response to coronavirus - Business minister Paul Scully at Petitions Committee session
1700: Daily Number 10 press conference expected

“Let us use the momentum created by George Floyd’s tragic death to bring ideas and people together, in a wave of action, to defeat racism in all of its baleful ignorance. But please, no more reports and reviews etc etc. We’ve done the surveys, we’ve seen the data and we have good legislation. We know what we need to do.”
Former minister Helen Grant, the first black woman Conservative MP, says the time for talk is over.

The latest insight and opinion from parliamentarians and PoliticsHome members
Enough reviews - we need action to defeat racism in all of its baleful ignorance
Helen Grant MP
Which workers have been worst hit by coronavirus?
House of Commons Library
It’s time to put tribalism aside – we need a national schools plan to ensure no child is left behind
Layla Moran MP
After coronavirus, we need a Green New Deal to deliver full employment fast
Liam Byrne MP

Making headlines elsewhere

BBC: Cummings Durham-stay family estate had planning breaches

The Telegraph: Matt Hancock downplays role of contact tracing app

The Times: Coronavirus: facemask plans mired in confusion

The Independent: Home Office relying on ‘flawed’ evidence to deport modern slavery victims, lawyers warn

The Guardian: What is the science behind the UK's coronavirus distancing rules? our pick of the comment pages

Sir Keir Starmer, The Telegraph: We need a national plan to restart education
John Redwood, ConservativeHome: Cabinet ratings have taken a tumble. My analysis of what’s behind the figures
Tom Peck, The Independent: It’s not ‘too early’ for Boris Johnson to admit he’s wrong – he’s just too much of a coward
Joseph Harker, The Guardian: 'Black Lives Matter' risks becoming an empty slogan. It's not enough to defeat racism
John Lloyd, CapX: Scottish independence is one of the great confidence tricks of our time  

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