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The Breakfast Briefing: PM told to ready for second wave, Commons bullying row latest, fresh pressure over Jenrick planning storm

The Breakfast Briefing: PM told to ready for second wave, Commons bullying row latest, fresh pressure over Jenrick planning storm

The Prime Minister has said he will not hesitate to reimpose lockdown if infections spike. (Image: PA)

9 min read

Good morning and welcome to the PoliticsHome Breakfast Briefing for Wednesday, June 24.

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The big stories kicking off the political day
Britain must prepare for the “real risk” of a second wave of the coronavirus, health leaders have warned Boris Johnson, after the Prime Minister confirmed that a raft of lockdown measures will be eased in England. A joint letter from the leaders of Britain’s medical royal colleges, published in the British Medical Journal, says “substantial challenges” remain should the UK be confronted with a second widespread outbreak of Covid-19. And it urges Mr Johnson to make sure Britain is “adequately prepared” for a second phase. The group of health leaders are backing calls for a cross-party commission that can produce “practical recommendations for action” on avoiding a second spike of the virus. “Several countries are now experiencing covid-19 flare-ups,” they say. “While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk."
Boris Johnson says he "will not hesitate" to re-introduce lockdown measures at a local and national level if Covid-19 infection rates spike. The Prime Minister said that although he was happy to proceed with the reopening of large parts of the hospitality industry on July 4  — along with allowing two households to meet up indoors — he would reverse relaxations should the number of cases begin to climb again. He told the Government's final daily coronavirus briefing: "If the virus begins to run out of control, I will not hesitiate to put on the handbrake and reverse some of these changes at a local and national level if required. There is no doubt we are beating back this virus, and with your continued co-operation and good judgement, we will beat it once and for all." The warning came as the UK's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said the easing of measures was "absolutely not risk free" and made clear the Government may have to "go back on" some decisions if infections rise.

MPs will not debate the most serious sanctions against a member determined by an independent panel after a widespread backlash to the plans by parliamentary staff and unions. The Commons backed an amendment from Labour MP Chris Bryant by 243 to 238 that prevents the House from discussing a ruling of suspension or expulsion of a member following a complaint of bullying or harassment. “This is an historic moment for the House of Commons," said Amy Leversidge, the assistant general secretary of the FDA union, which represents parliamentary staff. Writing for The House Live in the wake of the vote, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said parliamentarians had “made a fundamental break with the past” and said the “behaviour of a small number of Members of Parliament over years and decades” had “disgraced our parliamentary system”.
Labour are mounting a Commons bid to force Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to publish all documents relating to a controversial planning decision. The party will use an opposition day debate on Wednesday to try to get the Ministry of Housing to release correspondence about the Westferry printing works development in east London. Shadow Communities Secretary Steve Reed will press for a vote and, while the Government’s strong Commons majority means it is unlikely to lose, the debate will provide a fresh chance for MPs to highlight the row. Mr Reed said: “The Secretary of State has admitted he knew his unlawful, biased decision to approve Richard Desmond’s property deal would save the Conservative Party donor up to £150 million, but there are still far too many questions left unanswered.”

Workers from disadvantaged backgrounds are being “left behind” by the UK’s apprenticeships system, the Government’s own social mobility advisers have warned. A new report by the Social Mobility Commission says there has been a 36% drop in apprenticeship starts among people from deprived backgrounds since a major reform of the system in 2017. That compares with a drop of 23% for apprentices from more well-off backgrounds — with older and female apprentices particularly hard-hit. Meanwhile the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds starting degree-level apprenticeships — which are equivalent to a bachelors degree — has tumbled by 13%.

The UK faces a "cultural catastrophe" if the £100bn industry is not supported in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a cross-party group of MPs has warned. Dozens of opposition MPs - including Lib Dem spokesperson Wera Hobhouse, Labour grandee Harriet Harman and ex-coalition government minister Alistair Carmichael - have signed a joint letter to Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, asking him to spell out exactly how the government plans to help the arts sector. "Covid-19 has brought the arts and culture industry to its knees. Experts have suggested that the creative sector will be hit twice as hard as the wider economy, and industry leaders have warned that we are on the brink of a ‘cultural catastrophe’," the letter states.
The number of patients having to wait more than six weeks for potentially life-saving diagnostic tests has skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to new analysis by Labour.  The party has tabled an Opposition Day debate in the Commons on Wednesday, which it will use to call for a new plan for the NHS so diagnostic services can re-open quickly and safely. It comes as NHS England data revealed that of the 840,742 people waiting for tests, more than half (55.7%) are facing a delay longer than the six-week target. In February 2020, before the pandemic hit, that figure was 2.8%. A Department of Health spokesperson said the Government would “continue to ensure the NHS has everything it needs to provide the high quality care the public expect“.
Britain is “acutely vulnerable” to the impacts of climate change and a potential environmental crisis, a leading think tank has warned. A report by the IPPR says the "fragility" of the economy exposed by the coronavirus crisis shows the country is ill-prepared for a climate shock. Their review identifies 21 measures of readiness and concludes that the UK is failing fully to meet any of them, making only partial progress in 15 areas and almost completely failing in the remaining six. The think tank is now calling on the Government to launch a Royal Commission on preparations for environmental breakdown to assess the UK’s current resilience. 

08:30: Brexit and manufacturing - The UK in a Changing Europe report launch
08:45: Government's Proposal For The UK's New Immigration System - Migration Advisory Committee Interim Chair Brian Bell at Home Affairs Committee session
10:30: Implications of COVID-19 for transport - Grant Shapps at Transport Committee session
11:00: House of Lords - Fisheries Bill report stage
11:00: Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee meeting - European Scrutiny Committee publishes report
From 11:30: House of Commons agenda - Northern Ireland Office questions, Prime Minister’s Questions (12pm), ten minute rule motion on demonstrations at abortion clinics, opposition day debates on the Westferry development and NHS services
14:30: International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is questioned by MPs on the trade committee

"In the end, the House of Commons voted to curtail the opportunity for limited remarks and an apology and I completely respect its decision to curb its own powers in this regard. If this means more complainants will feel confident in the system, then so much the better. Of greatest importance is the fact that the independent panel has been established.”
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg reacts after MPs back Chris Bryant’s amendment ruling out debates on MP bullying and harassment sanctions.

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Making headlines elsewhere...
The Telegraph: 'Pure fantasy' to say all children will be back at school in September, headteachers warn
The Times: Coronavirus: Gyms and swimming pools rail at being ruled a threat to health
The Sun: Holidays to Europe and Caribbean by end of month as ‘air bridges’ are announced this week our pick of the comment pages

David Blunkett, The Sun: Opening the pubs but not schools just doesn’t add up
Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News: Coronavirus: Ever-stranger new normal leaves politicians on guard
Marina Hyde, The Guardian: Richard Desmond is an endlessly mutating affliction. We must be on the fifth spike of him
Ross Clark, The Spectator: The limits of Covid death statistics
Sean O’Grady, The Independent: Working class voters won Boris Johnson the general election – but can he keep them after coronavirus?

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