The Breakfast Briefing: Boris Johnson’s two-metre plan, ‘appalling’ Reading terror, and Tory trouble on Sunday trading
Boris Johnson will this week unveil his latest plans to ease the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown. (PA)
Good morning and welcome to the PoliticsHome Breakfast Briefing for Monday, June 22.
▸ THE NEWSLIST
The big stories kicking off the political day
Boris Johnson will announce the findings of the Government review into the two-metre coronavirus social distancing rule this week, it has been confirmed. Number 10 said the Prime Minister would unveil the results of the study on Tuesday, amid pressure from Conservative MPs and some businesses to ease the curbs. The announcement will come as Mr Johnson sets out the next stage of the Government’s ‘roadmap’ for lifting the coronavirus lockdown that has now been in force for three months. On Monday the PM will chair a meeting of the Government’s Covid-19 strategy committee and will, Number 10 said, hear recommendations on the two-metre review and the next phase of the roadmap. Then on Tuesday, Cabinet will be consulted and the PM will set out the Government’s updated position in the House of Commons. A Number 10 spokesperson said: “The reason we are able to move forward this week is because the vast majority of people have taken steps to contain the virus. The more we open up, the more important it is that everyone follows the social distancing rules. We will not hesitate to put the handbrake on to stop the virus running out of control.”
Boris Johnson has said he is "appalled and sickened" by the Reading attack which left three people dead and three others seriously injured. The Prime Minister said his thoughts are with victims of the stabbing attack in Forbury Gardens on Saturday evening as he praised the police for their "bravery" in apprehending a suspect. A 25-year old man has been arrested in connection with the attack which has now been declared as a terrorist incident. Responding to the comments, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party would be willing to work with the Government to establish if there needed to be "changes to the law" in the wake of the attack. "It's horrific that it happened at all wherever it happened, and across Reading, across the country there will be communities really upset and worried about this, united in their grief," Sir Keir said.
The Government must boost a host of legacy welfare benefits to help people cope with the coronavirus crisis, MPs have said. A new report by the Work and Pensions Committee says the pandemic is leaving “huge numbers” of people “struggling to cover the cost of essentials. The Government has already raised Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit payments by £20 a week for 12 months. But the committee warns that those on benefits that have not yet been replaced by Universal Credit — including Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Child Tax Credits — have not received the same help. The committee is also calling on ministers to ditch the long-standing ‘No Recourse To Public Funds’ immigration rule, which sees thousands of migrants routinely shut out of access to state benefits including Universal Credit.
Boris Johnson’s plan to lift the six-hour cap on Sunday shop opening hours could be heading for trouble amid warnings that at least 50 Tory MPs will vote against them. The Prime Minister has reportedly been considering a year-long suspension to the trading curbs in a bid to help retailers recover after months of lockdown. But a letter seen by The Daily Telegraph makes clear the scale of Conservative opposition to the plans — and suggest Mr Johnson’s proposals could face the same fate as those abandoned by former PM David Cameron in 2016. The group warns: “We stand squarely behind your ambition to stimulate economic growth and revitalise British high streets, but removing Sunday trading hours will not achieve this.”
Construction sites could see longer working hours to help them maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, ministers have said. Under a new Government plan to “get Britain building”, sites will be able to ask local councils to let them work longer days for a temporary period. And deadlines for planning permission will be drastically extended to prevent work disrupted by the pandemic from grinding to a halt completely. Launching the package, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “New laws will enable us to speed up the pace of planning appeals and save hundreds of construction sites from being cancelled before they have a chance to get spades in the ground, helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many others.”
Matt Hancock has suggested people might have to register before going to the pub under new plans for easing the coronavirus lockdown. The Health Secretary said the measures were being considered in order to make it "safe" for the hospitality sector to reopen as ministers look towards further easing of restrictions. Many pubs and restaurants have been calling for a change to social distancing guidelines change, warning they will not be able to resume trading if the current two-metre restrictions remained in place. Asked by Sky's Sophy Ridge whether people could be asked to "register" before going to a pub and to order drinks via an app, Mr Hancock said he "wouldn't rule it out". And he said: “That is the sort of thing that we are looking at for how do you make it safe to open things.”
▸ THE DAY AHEAD
Boris Johnson chairs C-19 committee and is updated on two-metre review and roadmap
10:00: Minute’s silence held for victims of this weekend’s terror attack in Reading. Home Secretary Priti Patel visits the scene of the attack
12:30: Coronavirus in Scotland - Nicola Sturgeon daily briefing
13:45: Readying the NHS and social care for COVID-19 peak - senior Department of Health and NHS officials at Public Accounts Committee session
14:30: House of Lords - Fisheries Bill at report stage
14:30: House of Commons - Education Questions
15:30: Any ministerial statements or urgent questions. Second reading of the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill
17:00: UK government - daily coronavirus briefing
"Since 2010 our country has been absent from the global stage. We’ve left a vacuum for others to fill, and this abdication of responsibility has had consequences for our national security. It’s time for a new approach based on the confident assertion of our interests and values, and this has to start with the development of an effective China strategy.”
Labour’s shadow foreign minister Stephen Kinnock calls on the Government to rethink its relationship with Beijing.
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▸ THE MORNING MUST READS
Making headlines elsewhere...
The Telegraph: Reading stabbing: terror suspect was on MI5 list
The Times: Liam Fox and Peter Mandelson compete to be next world trade chief
Daily Mail: Almost 200 charities accuse Government of turning their backs on the world's poor by axing DfID
BBC: Windrush: 'Grave risk' of scandal repeat, warns review author
The Guardian: Labour councils in England hit harder by austerity than Tory areas
...plus our pick of the comment pages
Lizzie Dearden, The Independent: Fourth UK terror attack in six months sparks questions for government
Stephen Bush, The Times: Boris Johnson’s mantra must still be reform
Richard Holden, ConservativeHome: Here in Durham, Labour ponder tinkering with statues – while local people yearn for jobs, security and pay
Chris Giles, Financial Times: Tough decisions loom for ‘giveaway’ chancellor Rishi Sunak
Nesrine Malik, The Guardian: For a few weeks, black lives mattered. Now what?
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