School return date must be ‘signed in blood’, Johnson told


blank“Boris Johnson has been told by Tory MPs that reopening schools on March 8 must be “signed in blood, not a line in the sand” amid fears that date could be pushed back. Concerns have emerged of a potential delay as the Government declined to confirm the exact date on which the Prime Minister will reveal his “roadmap” for easing lockdown. Mr Johnson and ministers have made differing comments about the day the roadmap will be published, saying either on Feb 22 or later that week. If the roadmap is published after Feb 22, then the day schools reopen will be likely to be pushed back beyond March 8, given that the Prime Minister has said two weeks notice will be given to teachers. Asked to guarantee the school reopening date, his official spokesman said: “It’s for us to examine the data next week. That will inform the roadmap we publish on the week of the 22nd.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Claims from inside Downing St that timetable will slip – Daily Mail
  • Teachers and cops to get Covid jab from May – The Sun
  • Prime Minister to announce roadmap out of lockdown on Feb 22 – Daily Telegraph


  • UK scientists call for debate on allowing ‘big wave of infection’ – FT
  • Covid rules ‘should remain until all Brits are vaccinated’, says top medic – The Sun
  • Social distancing rules in England could remain until autumn – The Times

Fraser Nelson: Tory MPs are touting Javid to get schools back on track

“Rishi Sunak once made this point in a Cabinet meeting. His wife has a Stanford MBA and has the time to teach his kids, he said – but what about other families? What do ministers think is going on in overcrowded homes? How are single working parents coping? As so often when it comes to the damage inflicted by lockdown, there was an embarrassed silence. Had Sajid Javid been at that Cabinet meeting, he might have seen things differently. He grew up as one of five children packed into a tiny house, with both of his parents working. His dad – nicknamed “Mr Day and Night” for the hours he put in – would not have taken furlough. His mum, who was illiterate, would have struggled to teach him even if she’d stayed at home. Javid was all set to leave school aged 16, as his older brother had done. But he stayed, encouraged by a teacher. His talents shone and he went to university, then into finance. He became a millionaire, then MP, then Chancellor.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hancock’s threat to holidaymakers is the distress call of a minister losing his grip – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

Over-65s to get letters inviting them for jab from Monday ‘in latest sign Britain could get out of lockdown early’


blank“Over-65s will start getting letters inviting them for their Covid vaccine from next Monday, The Sun can reveal. More than 13.5million Brits — one in five — have been vaccinated against the virus. Britain is on course to hit its hugely ambitious target of offering the jab to 15 million vulnerable people by mid-February. Nearly 450,000 were jabbed yesterday as it emerged deaths have dropped by a quarter in a week and cases by 34 per cent. The PM has vowed to share his plan for leaving lockdown on February 22… And the Covid Recovery Group of 70 Tory backbenchers warned they would not tolerate any more delay.” – The Sun

  • Experts hail GBP500 drug that speeds Covid recovery and saves lives – The Times
  • Pfizer’s vaccine ‘does work against super-covid variants’ – Daily Mail
  • New Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ‘will be ready to tackle Covid variants by autumn’ – The Times


  • Hotel quarantine booking system crashes shortly after being launched – Daily Telegraph
  • BBC host challenges Atkins on ‘dangerous’ hotel quarantine loophole – Daily Express
  • UK ministers to discuss plans for vaccine and testing certificates – FT
  • Powerful ‘Covid O’ Cabinet committee is set to consider plans – Daily Mail
  • Changing UK red list could rule out international travel for months – The Times


Hancock defiant as critics attack timing of NHS reforms

“ritics have questioned the timing of the Government’s shake-up of the NHS after Matt Hancock insisted the Covid pandemic had made reform “more, not less, urgent”. The Health Secretary told MPs on Thursday that “there is no better time than now” to conduct the reorganisation, which rolls back much of the healthcare framework implemented by David Cameron in 2012. He unveiled a white paper in the Commons which brings together the NHS, social care and local government to make decisions with the aim of providing integrated care. It will reduce red tape and “get funding and support closer to the front line”, he said… But Jon Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, questioned the move to carry out a structural reorganisation “in the middle of the biggest public health crisis that our NHS has ever faced”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Medical experts question wisdom of NHS shake-up during pandemic – FT
  • NHS shake-up will leave ministers with no one to blame but themselves – The Guardian

Covid pandemic ‘risks repeat of 1930s chaos’, says forces chief


blank“Britain’s military chief has warned that coronavirus has led to “nationalist barriers” and economic crises reminiscent of the lead-up to the Second World War. General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said the “security challenges” presented by the pandemic are similar to those faced in the 1930s. In an interview with The Telegraph, which you can read in full here, the UK’s most senior military commander argued that better global co-operation is needed to tackle the virus crisis and its economic impact… It is his starkest hint yet that the world could face another large-scale conflict. Previously, he has warned that escalating competition between states might lead to “miscalculation” that resulted in a war.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK sends armoured vehicles to Lebanon as Isis threat festers – The Times
  • ‘Joining the fight against Covid has taught people a lot about the Armed Forces’ – Interview, Daily Telegraph

‘Stealth tax raid on personal allowances’ to raise GBP6bn…

“The Treasury is considering freezing personal income tax allowances in next month’s Budget in a “stealth” tax raid that could bring in up to GBP6 billion, The Telegraph can disclose. Officials are interested in scrapping the planned increases to both the GBP12,500 and GBP50,000 thresholds in a move that would result in tens of millions of people paying more. Freezing the thresholds would effectively cancel planned tax relief, with the average family forecast to miss out on a GBP250-a-year saving by 2024-25. Such a move is often described as a “stealth tax” because no tax rates are being increased – meaning the risk of a voter backlash is lessened – but a large amount of revenue is raised. It would be politically appealing for the Treasury because it would raise significant revenue but would not strictly break any manifesto promises.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Fuel duty rise in next month’s Budget will a blow to the North, Chancellor warned – The Sun

>Yesterday: Kevin Hollinrake MP in Comment: Time for an honest conversation about taxation – here are seven practical reforms

…as Sunak says Amazon and Facebook must give back with revenues tax after pandemic boom


blank“Tech giants that have boomed in the pandemic must now give back with a tax on their revenues. That is the message Rishi Sunak will deliver to fellow finance chiefs as Britain starts its presidency of the G7. The Chancellor will meet counterparts from the world’s powerhouses this afternoon — and the “Amazon and Facebook Tax” will be top of his agenda. Britain will host the annual gathering of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States. The world leaders will meet in Cornwall in June — but the finance ministers are the first to get together via Zoom. Mr Sunak has tried to tax tech firms two per cent of their UK revenues. But the global firms use sophisticated structures, moving money and assets around as well as -basing themselves offshore so it is hard to establish true revenues.” – The Sun

  • Economy beats growth expectations but outlook darkens – FT
  • UK economy shrank by record 9.9% last year – The Times
  • Bank of England chief economist declares Britain a ‘coiled spring’ – Daily Mail
  • Small businesses to be offered grants to cope with Brexit disruption – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: “We have been terrific at pure research, and useless at translational research.” What our industrial strategy should aim to change.

>Yesterday: Alan Mak MP in Comment: Industrial strategy. Focus narrowly and don’t spread thinly – concentrating on key innovative sectors.

HS2 secures approval for Birmingham-Crewe stretch

“The second phase of HS2 received official approval yesterday after Boris Johnson promised that the high-speed line would be built in full. Royal assent was granted for phase 2a between Birmingham and Crewe, which will eventually allow high-speed rail services to join existing train lines to Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. The 36-mile route is scheduled to open between 2029 and 2033, the same time as the first phase of the line, which is already being built between London and Birmingham. When it is completed, scheduled for 2040, HS2 will comprise a Y-shaped high-speed network between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The approval came despite continuing opposition to HS2, including the occupation of tunnels in central London by environmental campaigners.” – The Times

  • GBP27bn roads plan in doubt after Shapps overrode official advice – The Guardian

MPs pass ‘long overdue’ bill for ministers’ paid maternity leave


blank“MPs have voted to give ministers formal paid maternity leave for the first time, hailed as an “important and long overdue change” as the government pledged to bring forward more sweeping maternity protections before the summer recess. However, the move to give the attorney general, Suella Braverman, six months’ paid leave drew accusations of double standards during the parliamentary debate, including over the omission of any reference to paternity leave and the failure to extend similar benefits to backbenchers. Some MPs also protested over the language in the bill, which refers to a person, rather than a woman, which minister Penny Mordaunt said was “not a policy decision around language”. Mordaunt said the bill put an end to the “wholly unacceptable” situation of a minister having to resign in order to take leave. Braverman is expecting her baby at the end of February.” – The Guardian

UK and EU to seek ‘workable solutions’ on Northern Ireland protocol

“The UK and the EU agreed on Thursday night to look for “workable solutions” to deliver the controversial Northern Ireland protocol, pledging to consult more deeply with the region’s business groups over the impact of the deal. Following a three-hour meeting in London between Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, and Maros Sefcovic, EU vice-president in charge of relations with the UK, London and Brussels appeared to take a step back following two acrimonious weeks of disagreements. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two sides said the talks had been “frank but constructive” and agreed to “intensify the work” on the protocol “in order to address all outstanding issues, with the shared objective to find workable solutions on the ground”. Gove and Sefcovic discussed their differences, often in one-to-one talks without officials, over steak and potatoes ordered from Deliveroo.” – FT

  • Gove and Sefcovic reiterate commitment to it after meeting – The Guardian
  • Downing Street slams EU for failing to acknowledge ‘shock and anger’ felt across Northern Ireland – Daily Express
  • Ireland’s Prime Minister warns other leaders to stop their ‘Brit-bashing’ – The Sun

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Gove’s challenge – what if the Protocol ends up threatening the peace in Northern Ireland?

Salmond may give evidence about botched sex claims investigation


blank“A court ruling could clear the way for Alex Salmond to give evidence to a Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against him. Salmond’s planned appearance at the committee this week was cancelled after SNP committee members and Andy Wightman, an independent MSP, voted against publishing his submission or a redacted version of it, citing legal concerns over an order protecting the identities of complainants in the former Scottish first minister’s trial. Lawyers for The Spectator, which published a redacted version of Salmond’s evidence on its website, yesterday argued at the High Court in Edinburgh that the anonymity order was loosely worded and prevented journalists and the Holyrood inquiry from doing their work properly. Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, agreed to vary the order.” – The Times

  • It is time for Unionists to attack the useless SNP – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Damian Flanagan in Comment: Manchester has a central role to play in preserving the UK

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