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The Breakfast Briefing: Jenrick and Desmond texts revealed in planning row, PLUS climate watchdog tells ministers not to waste Covid-19 crisis

The Breakfast Briefing: Jenrick and Desmond texts revealed in planning row, PLUS climate watchdog tells ministers not to waste Covid-19 crisis

The Westferry printworks development is at the centre of a political row. (PA)

7 min read

Good morning and welcome to the PoliticsHome Breakfast Briefing for Thursday, June 25.

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The big stories kicking off the political day
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick must explain "explosive" new documents on his contact with a Conservative donor whose property development he controversially approved, Labour have said. The Cabinet minister's opposite number Steve Reed said Mr Jenrick needed to come back to the House of Commons to explain "discrepancies" in his account of the Westferry planning row after the fresh batch of files was handed to MPs. The raft of correspondence, released to the Commons Communities Committee on Wednesday night, details exchanges between Mr Jenrick and Richard Desmond - including on November 18, when the pair were seated together at a Conservative fundraiser. Speaking to the Today programme on Thursday morning, minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “If people go to a fundraiser in their local area in Doncaster for the Conservative Party they'd be sitting next to MPs, and other people in their local authorities. People can interact with different parts of that authority. The important thing by the way [is] — the access didn't buy this billionaire a decision.”

The Government has an “amazing opportunity” to use the Covid-19 economic recovery to tackle carbon emissions, according to the chair of the Committee on Climate Change. Speaking to The House Live as the group launched its latest annual report, Lord Deben, the Tory former Environment Secretary, said it would be “stupid” to build the comeback around polluting industries. “What you need to do first of all is things that get jobs and get the economy working again,” he said. “And through that, you are also doing the things that you need for climate change.” The chairman called for “immediate” work on retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient, alongside projects such as tree planting; restoring peatland; building green infrastructure for carbon capture and hydrogen power; improving recycling to promote a circular economy; and expanding fibre broadband. The report reveals that the UK is set to miss its fourth and fifth carbon budget — the maximum emissions levels a country should aim for — which the committee helps set. | Read the full interview

A post-Brexit deal between Britain and the European Union is “still possible”, the bloc’s chief negotiator has said, as he signalled a “margin of flexibility” on key sticking points in the talks. Mr Barnier told an online seminar on Wednesday that his team was willing to work on a “credible and operational” framework on the level playing field commitments the EU has demanded in a deal. The bloc wants Britain to agree close alignment between the two sides’ rules on state-aid, the environment and employment rights in exchange for high access to its single market. But Britain has argued that similar conditions have not been imposed in EU trade deals with countries like Canada or Japan. “The ball is in the UK’s court,” Mr Barnier said. “I believe that the deal is still possible.”
The Government’s revamped coronavirus test and trace app will rely on people “self-declaring” if they are at risk of being infected, the Health Secretary has confirmed. Matt Hancock told ITV’s Robert Peston that limits imposed by a tie-up with tech giants Apple and Google would make it harder for the NHS to automatically spot “flare ups” of the virus. And he would not put a date on when the delayed smartphone software would launch — instead vowing to “make it work”.
Households were hit by the coronavirus crisis while they were still suffering a long hangover from the financial crash, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. New research shows the pandemic arrived after the weakest decade of growth in incomes since comparable records began. The report, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says the UK had “suffered years of stalled productivity and poor earnings growth”, while “deep cuts to working-age benefits had been a further drag on the living standards of many lower-income households”.
A senior Conservative MP is backing calls from from medics for a review into how ready the UK is to tackle a second wave of coronavirus infections. Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the influential Commons Liason Committee, has offered to lead a "lessons learned" review into the coronavirus response after leaders of Britain's medical royal colleges told Boris Johnson a "rapid review" of the response to the first wave of infections was needed. The Tory grandee said Mr Johnson should establish a "cross-party" exercise "as soon as possible" to conduct the probe.

From 9:30: Commons Environment Questions
10:30: Commons Urgent Questions on the DWP’s response to a court challenge to the way Universal Credit treated four single mothers, followed by Business Questions to Commons leader Jacob Rees Mogg. Business Secretary Alok Sharma presents the Business and Planning Bill today to “make provision relating to the promotion of economic recovery and growth”.
From 11.00: House of Lords oral questions before peers scrutinise legislation including health protection regulations and the Sentencing Bill at second reading
14:00: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair at Reuters Newsmaker event
14:00: Weekly all-cause mortality surveillance - ONS statistics
15:00: Jeremy Hunt in POLITICO interview
16:00: Northern Ireland Executive holds press conference

“What would be sensible in putting money into old industries which are also polluting ones?”

Committee on Climate Change chair Lord Deben urges ministers not to let the Covid-19 crisis go to waste.

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Making headlines elsewhere...
The Telegraph: Destinations for first set of 'air bridges' from UK revealed
Sky News: Tracey Crouch: Conservative MP reveals breast cancer diagnosis
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Stephen Bush, New Statesman: Tory MPs backed Boris Johnson as a natural winner. But they now worry he is incapable of governing
Helen McArdle, The Herald: Coronavirus: Excess deaths paint a grim picture of Scotland's pandemic performance
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