Politics latest news: Boris Johnson blames post-Brexit fishing disruption on restaurant closures

The British fishing industry is being hamstrung “in large part” by the pandemic Boris Johnson has claimed, insisting that demand has declined because “restaurants have been closed for so long”.

Seafood hauliers descended on roads near 10 Downing Street today, saying they were being “tied in knots with paperwork” by the Brexit fishing deal. Metropolitan Police confirmed that 14 people had been issued with fines for making unnecessary journeys.

Asked if he had a message for the industry, Mr Johnson told journalists: “I sympathise very much and understand their frustrations and concerns and, obviously, things have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

“Unfortunately, the demand in restaurants on the continent for UK fish has not been what it was before the pandemic, just because the restaurants have been closed for so long.”

A £23m compensation fund in instances “where it is not people’s fault” has been set up, he added.

Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of “trying to blame the fishing communities rather than accepting it’s their failure to prepare.”

Last week the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation sent the Prime Minister an angry letter claiming they had been “spun a line ” about post-Brexit opportunities, and attacking his ” desperately poor deal on fisheries”.

Follow the latest updates below.

07:14 PM

Government spending billions on Covid recovery, says Treasury minister

Closing the case for the Government, Treasury minister Stephen Barclay said the best way to help people was to keep them in work.

He detailed various measures the Government is using to help people who are unemployed find work.

Mr Barclay said the Government was “acutely aware” of the effects of Covid and had spent billions on the recovery.

MPs will now vote on Labour’s motion.

06:54 PM

Cost of Universal Credit increase would be felt by the young, says Tory MP

Huw Merriman, the Tory MP for Bexhill and Battle, has questioned how an increase to Universal Credit payments would be paid for.

“This would end up being paid for by young people who have already suffered during the pandemic, just to chuck more debt on to those young people is completely unfair and unjust,” he said.

He earlier told the Commons: “Once the pandemic comes to an end and we return back towards some normality then of course the Government won’t be subsidising 80 per cent of employee wages, of course the Government won’t be paying businesses not to open, and in the same way we’ll go back to the same welfare support that we’ve always offered and have always made sure that those who deserve it get what they need to be supported.”

Mr Merriman also urged new Conservative MPs to “stand firm” behind Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

06:40 PM

Universal Credit row shows ‘failure of leadership’, says MP

Mick Whitley, a Labour MP, accused Boris Johnson of a “failure of leadership” over the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “The Government should hang its head in shame for leaving people on universal credit living under the shadow of a potential cut in their benefits at the end of March.

“We face the worst recession of any European country to large extent due to the Government’s shambolic handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Prime Minister’s failure to provide a clear strategy, some economic certainty and the adequate financial support that millions of people desperately need is a failure of leadership and of government policy.”

06:28 PM

Former Tory Cabinet minister urges Government to keep credit uplift

Conservative former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb urged the Government to keep the £20 weekly rise in Universal Credit for a further 12 months in order to give people “certainty” over their finances.

He praised Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s “historic” financial support policies during the pandemic but told the Commons: “The question for us right now is whether at the end of March this year, just 10 weeks away, it’s the right time to begin unwinding this support – specifically to remove the extra support for Universal Credit claimants – and I don’t believe it is the right moment.”

Mr Crabb said the extra £20 a week has helped those “right at the bottom of the income scale”, adding: “The truth is the labour market is a horrible place right now for many people.

“Opportunities for people to find new work, increase their hours, boost their earnings, improve their family finances have been massively curtailed by the economic impact of the public health emergency, and that’s the context for this discussion about cutting back the £20 per week uplift.

“It’s why I believe the uplift is so important right now and it’s why I believe it needs to be extended for a further 12 months.”

05:54 PM

MPs debate Universal Credit uplift

Jonathan Reynolds, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary – Twitter/Jonathan Reynolds

MPs are debating an uplift Universal Credit in the new financial year.

Labour is in control of business this evening as part of “Opposition Day”, which allows the Opposition to set the topic of debates.

Labour says a temporary increase to Universal Credit in the 2020-21 Budget may not be extended, which amounts to a £20 per month cut in benefit payments.

The Government says no decisions have been announced yet on Universal Credit “uplifts” in next year’s Budget – so the cut may not take place.

In his opening speech, Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow DWP secretary, said: “If this cut goes ahead, it will leave unemployment support at its lowest level ever, relative to average earnings.

“This isn’t just morally unjustifiable. It is economically incompetent.

“Cutting unemployment support in the middle of a recession is always the wrong choice, which is why no Government has done so, since the Great Depression.

“If the Government is serious about economic recovery, cutting Universal Credit is like pulling the rug from under the economy’s feet.

“This £20 a week is not saved by families. It is spent. It is spent in shops and businesses across the country, stimulating the economy.

“No-one can reasonably argue that the pandemic and the unemployment crisis will be over by April this year.”

05:32 PM

No promises restrictions will be eased, says Hancock

Matt Hancock is asked why fewer people appear to be vaccinated at the weekends.

The Health Secretary says the NHS is “absolutely” a seven-day operation, but there are fluctuations in supply throughout the week.

“I wouldn’t read too much into individual days’ figures,” he says.

Another journalist asks Mr Hancock whether the plan is still to ease restrictions in March – and will schools go back at the same time?

“What we can do is see the line of sight in vaccinating everyone before September,” he says.

“On the lifting of restrictions…we have got to watch the data.”

Mr Hancock says deaths, cases and pressure on the NHS must fall, and there must not be any new variants of the virus that spread more easily.

05:26 PM

Let’s have a debate about who to vaccinate next, says Hancock

Matt Hancock says “we should have a debate about” who should be vaccinated after the Government has finished vaccinating the top nine priority groups.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to PHE, says if the vaccine does affect transmission, the Government could vaccinate people most likely to transmit the virus, like people going to work.

05:23 PM

What does Hancock say to areas that have shortages of the vaccine?

Hancock
Hancock

The Health Secretary says there are countries that have made “very significant progress” on the vaccine.

“What we are doing now is making sure that while they are moving on to the next groups, we are prioritising the supply of the vaccine into those parts of the country that need to complete the over-80s,” he says.

Mr Hancock says he received an email from a friend and constituent today to tell him he had been vaccinated.

“The critical thing is to make sure everybody can get it,” he says.

“Supply is the rate limiting factor. The NHS have brilliantly been able to deliver the supply that is available to go out.”

05:17 PM

How much would a surge among young people matter if the vulnerable were protected?

Matt Hancock is asked how much it would matter if there is a spike among young people once the vulnerable are protected.

Mr Hancock says one of the most important questions we do not yet know the answer to, is whether the vaccine stops transmission and people getting the virus seriously.

“It’s not just the most vulnerable…who do consist of the vast majority of deaths…but for hospitalisations young people are more likely than that to end up in hospital,” Mr Hancock says.

05:09 PM

Don’t blow it now, urges Hancock

The Health Secretary says the vaccination programme continues to expand, and ten new centres opened this morning.

He urges the public to follow the basics of “hands, face and space” and ventilating rooms well.

“Don’t blow it now. We’re on the route out,” he says.

Mr Hancock finishes by thanking people who have signed up to be Covid volunteers and volunteered in vaccine trials.

“It really inspires me how people are helping in adversity,” he says.

05:07 PM

Matt Hancock: Some areas have already finished vaccinating care homes

Mr Hancock says the Government is on track to deliver its plan to vaccine the top four vulnerable groups by the middle of February.

In total, 4,06,501 doses have been administered, he said.

Over half of people over 80 and half of care home residents have been offered the jab already, he says.

In some areas, like Slough, all care home residents have already been vaccinated.

Mr Hancock says in some areas where the majority of the top two groups have been given the jab, then people in their 70s and extremely clinically vulnerable people will be vaccinated too.

The Health Secretary reassures the over-80s they will be vaccinated in the next four weeks if they have not been already.

05:04 PM

Someone is admitted to hospital with Covid every 30 seconds, says Hancock

Sounding a bit croaky, Matt Hancock starts today’s press conference by introducing Prof Stephen Powis, the National Medical Director of NHS England and Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to PHE.

Mr Hancock says:

  • 37,535 positive cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours.

  • 37,475 people are in UK hospitals with coronavirus, the highest ever figure.

  • Someone is admitted to hospital every 30 seconds.

  • 599 people have been reported dead after testing positive.

04:54 PM

Matt Hancock to host Downing Street press conference

Matt Hancock will appear at a Downing Street briefing in a few minutes.

You can watch it live on the video at the top of this blog.

04:42 PM

Jelly and gravy at risk after Brexit grace period, warns Northern Ireland

Having a wobble: Jelly could be at risk after the end of a grace period  -  Marc O. Finley/Getty
Having a wobble: Jelly could be at risk after the end of a grace period – Marc O. Finley/Getty

Processed goods like jelly or gravy could be unavailable in Northern Ireland at the end of the protocol grace period, Stormont’s agriculture minister said.

Edwin Poots acknowledged the country had plenty of homegrown beef and potatoes but warned Northern Ireland Assembly members trimmings like Bisto or trifle could be missing from traditional Sunday dinners.

A soft-touch three-month period has been negotiated with the EU for regulating supermarket goods transported from the rest of the UK following the end of the transition period.

The DUP minister said: “We do not need these barriers.

“We need common sense, particularly from the EU.

“We need a message going out from all of our companies that we do not need barriers which are going to put costs on.”

04:20 PM

Policing minister asked: Do you know how much data has been lost?

Addressing Mr Malthouse, the Policing Minister (see 15.58), Nick Thomas-Symonds asked whether the Government can be sure how much data has actually been lost.

“Can (Kit Malthouse) tell us when the Home Secretary first knew about the data loss and why the public had to find out from the media?” he asked.

“Given the initial reports were of 150,000 items of data and now the figure seems to be over 400,000, can the minister be sure how much data has actually been lost?”

Mr Malthouse responded: “Once the error became clear to the team, they escalated it up through the Home Office, first of all on Monday and then through Wednesday into ministerial and other offices in accordance with normal protocols.

“In terms of the scale of the data, while the figures of 400,000 has been quoted, that is an accumulation of the various bits of information that may or may not have been deleted.”

03:58 PM

Policing minister urges MPs to be patient ahead of ‘complex’ review into arrests data loss

The Home Secretary has commissioned an internal review into the loss of hundreds of thousands of records from a police database.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse urged MPs to be patient “while we continue our rapid internal investigation and begin the recovery”, noting “the task in front of us is a complex one”.

He added: “Public safety is the top priority of everyone working at the Home Office and I have full faith that Home Office engineers and our partners in the National Police Chiefs Council and the police forces across the country who they are working with are doing all they can to restore this data.

“While this is rightly our immediate priority, clearly the Home Secretary and I have commissioned an internal review as to the circumstances which led to this incident so that lessons can be learned. I will update this House regularly on the process.”

03:57 PM

Have your say: Should the Universal Credit uplift be extended?

A row is brewing today over Labour’s decision to force a vote on whether the Universal Credit uplift should be extended beyond March.

The Chancellor is said to be reluctant to commit to the measure, which will cost £6bn a year, when he is already struggling to plug the gaps caused by the pandemic.

But Conservative MPs, bruised by having defended the Government on free school meals, are reluctant to take a position on yet another emotive issue that is likely to result in more angry emails and social media abuse – not least given that Downing Street has said no decision has been taken yet.

The debate is due to start shortly: have your say first in the poll below.

03:51 PM

Labour attacks Priti Patel for not answering questions over deleted police records

A Labour frontbencher has asked “where is the Home Secretary”, saying the loss of police records was an issue akin to the Windrush scandal for seriousness.

Nick Thomas-Symonds attacked his counterpart Priti Patel for having “provided a media clip” rather than appearing in the Commons to answer questions about the data loss, saying “she likes to talk tough, but when the going gets tough she is nowhere to be seen”.

He tasked policing minister Kit Malthouse with a series of questions including when the Home Secretary first knew about the loss of records, what the full impact will be on crime investigations and what contingency plans are in place to recover the records.

Mr Malthouse says the team first learned about it last Monday and it rose up the ranks “in accordance with protocols”. They won’t know exactly how many individuals it affects until the week ends, he adds.

The records relate to instances were no action was to be taken after being arrested, Mr Malthouse says “which to a certain extent helps to mitigate some of the risk”.

03:42 PM

US Capitol on lockdown amid security threat as smoke seen nearby

The US Capitol complex is on lockdown due to an external security threat, with people who were taking part in the inauguration rehearsals forced to evacuate inside, Reuters is reporting.

The lockdown comes just days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and follows the storming of the US Capitol in Washington on January 6 by extremists and supporters of Donald Trump.

The city’s police are on high alert ahead of the inauguration, after some of the protesters called for the death of Vice President Mike Pence as he presided over the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.

03:12 PM

UK fishing woes because EU ‘restaurants closed for so long’, claims Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has suggested that the problems faced by British fishermen trying to export to the EU are “in large part” caused by the pandemic, because “restaurants have been closed for so long”.

The Prime Minister said there would be compensation for those who were facing “teething problems” in instances “where it is not people’s fault”.

He also stressed the “great opportunities” longer term for fishermen to “take advantage of our spectacular marine wealth.”

“We are going to give people a helping hand,” he added. “That is why we have set up the £100m fund, to help rejuvinate a historic and proud industry.”

Asked if he had a message for the industry, Mr Johnson added: “I sympathise very much and understand their frustrations and concerns.

“Things have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Demand in restaurants on the continent for UK fish has not been what it was,” he added. “Restaurants have been closed for so long.”

Cannes, canned: Closed restaurants on the continent are to blame, the PM claims - Reuters
Cannes, canned: Closed restaurants on the continent are to blame, the PM claims – Reuters

03:07 PM

Boris Johnson dodges commitment on Universal Credit uplift

Boris Johnson has refused to give any commitment on whether the Government will extend the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit, ahead of a potentially bruising debate in the Commons this afternoon.

Several Tory MPs could side with Labour on the opposition day debate amid concerns that any change to the benefit before restrictions end could harm a growing number of families.

Asked about specific plans today, the Prime Minister said: “We keep all measures under constant review. We have got to get country through this health crisis… I believe the UK is capable of staging a very powerful economic recovery.”

Pressed about whether he would like to extend the uplift, he added: “I am very proud of Universal Credit and the introduction of Universal Credit. It is the policy of the opposition to abolish Universal Credit altogether.”

Asked a third time, he added: “We want to support people throughout the pandemic. We want to support people through the pandemic, and make sure people don’t suffer the consequences of the pandemic.”

Boris Johnson at a viewing window where technicians are manufacturing the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine - Heathcliff O'Malley
Boris Johnson at a viewing window where technicians are manufacturing the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine – Heathcliff O’Malley

03:02 PM

Things will be ‘very different by Spring’, promises Prime Minister

Boris Johnson has reiterated his pledge that things “will be very different by Spring”, but stressed it will not happen “in one big bang”.

The Prime Minister told journalists: “We are not out of the woods yet.”

Asked about the prospect of restrictions being lifted, he added: “We are going as fast as we can, we will do everything we can to open up but when we come to February 15, the moment when we have to take stock, that is the time to look at where the virus is, the extent of the infection and the success that we have had., it’s only then we can talk about the road ahead.

“It will be gradual,” he added. “We can’t just open up in a great bang because the situation is still pretty precarious. [But] I do think things will be very different by the Spring.

“That doesn’t mean that we are not going to be living with the consequences of the arrival of coronavirus for some time. We are going to have to remain vigilant about it for a long time.”

Is this a jabber I see before me? - Heathcliff O'Malley
Is this a jabber I see before me? – Heathcliff O’Malley

02:58 PM

Vaccine manufacturing ‘immensely complex’, says Boris Johnson as he hails 4m jabs

Boris Johnson has defended the speed of the vaccine rollout, saying the manufacturing process is “immensely complex”.

Speaking on a visit to Oxford Biomedica, where they are manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine for AstraZeneca, the Prime Minister hailed the near four million jabs carried out so far.

“We are getting it out as fast as we can. There is around four million done so far, more than half of the over-80s, half the people in care homes.

“Those groups remain our top priority.. but it is right as more vaccine comes on stream to get into the arms of others on the JCVI list.”

02:40 PM

London bottom of England’s vaccine race, NHS data shows

London has administered the lowest number of vaccinations in England’s regions so far, the NHS England data shows.

A total of 417,225 jabs have been given to people in the capital between December 8 and January 17, including 367,209 first doses and 50,016 second doses.

This compares to 746,487 total jabs in the Midlands, 681,317 in the North East and Yorkshire, 541,145 in the North West, 652,350 in the South East, 461,792 in the South West and 424,135 in the East of England.

02:37 PM

Genocide amendment will not benefit ‘a single person in Xinjiang’, says minister

A minister has hit out against efforts to amend the Trade Bill tomorrow, which would require the government to consider pulling out of any free trade agreement with a country engaged in genocide.

The amendment has cross-party support and is championed by Nus Ghani, who this morning said it was “our first chance outside the EU to show what our values really mean and what Global Britain stands for”. It is particularly aimed at the ongoing human rights abuses against the Uighur people in Xinjiang province.

But Greg Hands, the trade minister, said while he was sympathetic to this issue the amendment would not address it.

“There would be no trade deal to revoke. Not a single person in Xinjiang would benefit from this policy,” he tweeted, adding: “Do we want to hand over trade policy, until last month handled in Brussels, straight to the courts?”

02:23 PM

Boris Johnson visits vaccine lab as jabs tally nears 4m

A total of 3,947,442 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 17, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 155,848 on Sunday’s figures.

Of this number, 3,520,056 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 154,564 on Sunday’s figures, while 427,386 were the second dose, an increase of 1,284.

Boris Johnson has been visiting the quality control laboratory where batches of the Astro Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine are tested.

 visiting the quality control laboratory where batches of the Astro Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine are tested . - Heathcliff O'Malley
visiting the quality control laboratory where batches of the Astro Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine are tested . – Heathcliff O’Malley
 Boris Johnson at a viewing window where technicians are manufacturing the Astro Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine - Heathcliff O'Malley
Boris Johnson at a viewing window where technicians are manufacturing the Astro Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine – Heathcliff O’Malley
Dipesh Sonar and Nisha Gill speaking to Boris Johnson whilst visiting the quality control laboratory - Heathcliff O'Malley
Dipesh Sonar and Nisha Gill speaking to Boris Johnson whilst visiting the quality control laboratory – Heathcliff O’Malley

02:12 PM

Further 532 Covid deaths registered in English hospitals

A further 532 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 61,453, NHS England said on Monday.

Patients were aged between 35 and 103. All except 21, aged between 40 and 97, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between December 13 and January 17, with the majority being on or after January 10.

There were 11 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

London was the worst-affected region, with 115 deaths recorded, followed by the South East with 107 and the Midlands with 106.

There were 94 deaths in the East of England, 46 in the North East & Yorkshire, 45 in the North West and 19 in the South West.

02:01 PM

‘Actions have consequences’ warns Home Secretary, amid tighter lockdown enforcement

Police will be enforcing the lockdown rules “rigidly, stringently” in a bid to get the Covid rate back down, Priti Patel has said.

Speaking to reporters outside St Thomas’s Hospital in central London, the scene of a New Year’s Eve anti-lockdown protest, the Home Secretary suggested people taking part in similar demonstrations would face police action.

“Actions have consequences,” she said. “We have got heroes in the NHS right now working very hard to save people’s lives and we have got heroes in frontline policing working hard to keep people out of hospital, stopping the spread of this virus…

“The public need to take responsibility, act conscientiously, wear their masks, wear face coverings, follow the rules, follow the regulations.”

The ramping up of enforcement “has been illustrated in the number of fines over the weekend, in the last week,” she added.

Priti Patel: "The public need to take responsibility, act conscientiously, wear their masks." - Getty
Priti Patel: “The public need to take responsibility, act conscientiously, wear their masks.” – Getty

01:45 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson believes people should be ‘civil and kind’, says Downing Street

Boris Johnson believes people must be “civil and kind to each other” and be careful over their choice of language during political debate, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said.

Mr Johnson messaged Conservative MPs to tell them to abstain from voting on the Opposition’s Universal Credit motion, accusing Labour of “inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying”.

Allegra Stratton said: “I think the Prime Minister believes that all of us, in our political language in our debate, need to remember to be civil and kind to each other.”

Asked if he was making a comparison to the recent violent protests in the US, she said: “It’s clearly not like the storming of the Capitol. The Prime Minister is urging everybody, all of us on this call, to be civil and kind to each other when debating matters that clearly matter greatly and passionately, not just to parliamentarians but to people up and down the country.”

Asked if the Prime Minister regrets his past language about Remain supporters, she added: “The key thing is political conduct and the debate in the months and years ahead, and the key thing is that we all remember to be civil and respectful to each other in how we talk about these issues that matter greatly to the electorate.”

01:42 PM

Have your say: Should the Universal Credit uplift be extended?

A row is brewing today over Labour’s decision to force a vote on whether the Universal Credit uplift should be extended beyond March.

The Chancellor is said to be reluctant to commit to the measure, which will cost £6bn a year, when he is already struggling to plug the gaps caused by the pandemic.

The best defence vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi could muster this morning was to accuse Labour of a “political stunt”.

But Conservative MPs, bruised by having defended the Government on free school meals, are reluctant to take a position on yet another emotive issue that is likely to result in more angry emails and social media abuse – not least given that Downing Street has said no decision has been taken yet.

So should the uplift be extended? Have your say in the poll below.

01:41 PM

In pictures: Police intervene with fishing protest over ‘unnecessary journeys’

Police have stopped some of the lorry drivers joining a protest about the post-Brexit disruption to the fishing industry, saying they are making ‘”unnecessary journeys” during lockdown.

Trucks owned by shellfish firms from Scotland and Yorkshire descended on Parliament in reaction to the red tape they claim is suffocating their businesses.

About a dozen large lorries – including one bearing the words “Brexit carnage!” – drove past the Houses of Parliament and parked outside Downing Street.

A policeman escorts the driver of a shellfish export truck as he is stopped for an unnecessary journey - AP
A policeman escorts the driver of a shellfish export truck as he is stopped for an unnecessary journey – AP
Police speak to a shellfish export truck driver as he is stopped for an unnecessary journey - AP
Police speak to a shellfish export truck driver as he is stopped for an unnecessary journey – AP
Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action by fishermen against post-Brexit red tape - AFP
Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action by fishermen against post-Brexit red tape – AFP
Police speak to a shellfish export truck driver as he is stopped for an unnecessary journey in London - AP
Police speak to a shellfish export truck driver as he is stopped for an unnecessary journey in London – AP
A truck saying 'Incompetent Government Destroying Shellfish Industry" drives around Trafalgar Square - AP
A truck saying ‘Incompetent Government Destroying Shellfish Industry” drives around Trafalgar Square – AP

01:26 PM

Boris Johnson ‘pathetic’ for abstaining on Universal Credit vote, says Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has branded Boris Johnson “pathetic” for ordering Conservative MPs to abstain ahead of today’s vote on Universal Credit, saying backbenchers support the uplift “in their heart of hearts”.

The Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, are under to pressure to extend the £20-a-week boost to the benefit, introduced to help families through the Covid crisis, which is due to wind-up at the end of March.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi rubbished the opposition day debate as “a political stunt”, saying: “This debate today has no real impact on the outcome on those families, other than a political little stunt for Labour.”

Conservative MPs are expected to abstain. However, with widespread unhappiness about the handling of previous issues such as free school meals, as well as lockdown sceptics looking to take advantage of the opportunity to inflict a bloody nose, some could side with Labour if they do not receive assurances that it will be extended in the March Budget or before.

Last night the Northern Research Group, which makes up 65 MPs, issued an 11th-hour plea to the Chancellor to extend the Universal Credit uplift “until restrictions are lifted”.

Sir Keir told ITV’s Lorraine that abstaining suggested the Prime Minister had “no view on whether it should stay or not – that’s pretty pathetic,” he added. “I think in their heart of hearts they would actually vote with us today if they had the option to do so.”

01:20 PM

Lobby latest: No decision taken yet on next vaccine priority list

Number 10 has insisted no decision has been taken on who should be next in line for the vaccine, after minister Nadhim Zahawi said shopworkers, teachers and police should be prioritised.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is for the JCVI to look at phase two and advise where the vaccine priority will be after phase one, but I point you to Matt Hancock’s words last week.

“I believe he said there is a strong case for professionals who come into contact with a lot of other people to be prioritised as part of phase two, along with the words of the vaccine minister this morning.”

Pressed on whether Boris Johnson agreed with the statements made by his ministers, the spokesman added: “It is for the JCVI to advise on who should be prioritised as part of phase two but we have set out that there are some professions that interact with a lot of people and with the public who (could) feature high in that priority list.”

01:15 PM

Lobby latest: UK Government ‘stands ready’ to help Wales, says Downing Street

The UK Government “stands ready” to help Wales with its vaccine rollout, Downing Street has said, after Mark Drakeford suggested supplies were being rationed to last until February (9:00am).

Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton told reporters: “The distribution of the vaccine in Wales is a matter for the devolved Welsh administration but the UK Government has procured vaccine on behalf of the entirety of the United Kingdom… If they were to need any more support then the UK Government stands ready to help all parts of the UK.”

She added: “The Prime Minister has always been clear that the British people want to see jabs in everybody’s arms as quickly as is sensibly possible.

“That’s his philosophy and he would imagine that is the philosophy of all the leaders of the devolved administrations.”

01:13 PM

Lobby latest: Rishi Sunak will set out plans for Universal Credit ‘shortly’, says Downing Street

No decision has been taken on whether the uplift to Universal Credit should be extended and Rishi Sunak set out the next steps “shortly”, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, said: “The key thing in our position on Universal Credit is that the Chancellor will be coming, he has always said he will be coming, back to the House of Commons in due course.

“We know it runs out at the end of March, we know that households want to know what is coming next and he is going to come forward with more information shortly.”

She declined to state when the Chancellor would make his update, other than saying it would come “ahead of” the end of the uplift and in the “weeks to come”.

01:11 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street defends vaccine rollout after Cabinet minister raises problems

Downing Street has insisted supplies of the Covid vaccine are being “distributed equally” across the country, after Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey noted problems in her own constituency (12:28pm).

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “I was asked a similar question last week and I said that we continue to make the vaccines available and distributed equally across England and the UK. That will remain the case.

“But in some areas where they have already vaccinated the majority of those four high-risk groups, we want to ensure we maintain momentum and continue to rollout the vaccine to more and more people who are at higher clinical risk – that’s why we sent out the letter to the over-70s.

“The Prime Minister has stated clearly that we will ensure that everybody in the first four priority groups will receive a vaccination by February 15 and we’ve also said that care home residents will all have received it by the end of the month.”

01:09 PM

Lobby latest: Over-70s will only be invited for vaccine when ‘majority’ of vulnerable have had jab

People aged over-70 will only be offered the Covid vaccines in areas where the “majority” of those higher up the priority list have already received their first jab, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman would not put a figure on what proportion of the most vulnerable people should have received it.

He said: “From today, those aged 70 and over will begin receiving invitation for vaccination, and it will be for them to book an appointment or come forward.

“Depending on where they are, the timing will be slightly different but the important point is that this allows areas that have already vaccinated a majority of those over 80, care home residents, frontline NHS and care home staff to keep the momentum up and to start giving it to further-at-risk people.”

Asked whether those in their 70s could expect to start receiving their vaccination this week, the spokesman said the jabs would start “shortly”.

01:02 PM

Joe Biden preparing blizzard of executive orders for first days in office

Over in the US, Joe Biden aims to hit the ground running with a blizzard of executive orders on his first day in office.

Mr Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, plans to rejoin the Paris climate accord, end Donald Trump’s travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries and order masks to be worn in federal buildings.

The orders will represent the opening salvo of a flurry of activity over the first 10 days of the Biden administration, aimed at rolling back many of the policies introduced by his predecessor.

Read the full story here.

Joe Biden will become the 46th president on Wednesday - Getty
Joe Biden will become the 46th president on Wednesday – Getty

12:54 PM

Scotland aims to vaccinate all over-65s by beginning of March, says Nicola Sturgeon

Wales might be falling behind in the vaccine race (see 9am), but Scotland appears to be keeping pace with England, with the country “on track” to complete vaccinations for care home residents, health and care staff and the over-80s by the start of February.

During her regular press conference, Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped to have completed first doses for the over-70s and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable by mid-February. Everyone aged over 65 will have had their first dose of the vaccine by the beginning of March, she said.

But she added: “All of this is subject to getting the supplies we need.”

So far 264,991 people across the nation have now received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine, Mr Sturgeon said.

Having first focused on care home residents, Scotland will now “rapidly expand” its vaccination programme.

12:42 PM

Government ‘seriously concerned’ about Israel’s approval of new West Bank settlements

The Government has said it is “seriously concerned” by Israel’s decision to approve new settlements in the West Bank.

The move to approve a further 780 homes in West Bank settlements last week has come represents a last-minute surge of approvals before change of administration at the White House on Wednesday.

A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson said: “The UK is seriously concerned by the Government of Israel’s decision to approve the construction of 780 new settlement units across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including areas deep within the West Bank which could threaten future peace negotiations.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and risk undermining the physical viability of the two state solution. We call for the construction of these in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank to cease immediately.”

12:34 PM

Matt Hancock to lead Downing Street press conference at 5pm

Matt Hancock will be leading the Downing Street press conference this evening, on the day NHS England opens 10 more mass vaccination centres.

The Health Secretary has already announced that over-70s and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals will start receiving vaccination invites from today.

Boris Johnson will travel to Oxfordshire for a Covid-related visit this afternoon, his team has confirmed. Later, he will chair the first “Build Back Better Business Council Meeting” in Downing Street.

12:28 PM

‘Something not quite working right’ in vaccine rollout, admits Cabinet minister

A Cabinet minister has admitted that some individuals are receiving the “distressing and annoying” information that lower priority individuals are to receive jabs first.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said she has been contacted with concerns in her Suffolk Coastal constituency that some over-80s, and even over-90s, have not been invited for the coronavirus vaccination while younger citizens have been.

She explained that her constituency has mostly received the Pfizer vaccine so far, which she said is “more challenging to distribute especially in a rural area”, with its need for ultra-cold storage.

“Something is not quite working right yet though, particularly in one part of the constituency, as I am hearing from people in part of the area that 80+ and 90+ year olds have not been contacted while some 70+ patients in the same GP practice were invited for vaccination,” she wrote on Facebook.

“I know it is both distressing and annoying when people hear that other cohorts of a lower priority (according to the JCVI) are being vaccinated ahead of our oldest and most vulnerable. On that point, every care home resident will be vaccinated by next Sunday.”

12:26 PM

Boris Johnson hails ‘significant milestone’ as UK rolls out vaccine to over-70s

The Prime Minister has hailed a “significant milestone” in the UK’s vaccination programme, as it begins to berolled out to millions of over-70s.

Boris Johnson tweeted: “Today marks a significant milestone as we offer vaccinations to millions more people who are most at risk from Covid-19.

12:24 PM

Patrick O’Flynn: Immunity passports will stoke the fires of inter-generational rage

Last week ministers stressed that they had made no decision to go ahead with vaccine passports – following the Telegraph’s exclusive revelations about trials of just that – yet the choice may soon be taken out of their hands.

Recent reports suggest that Israel is already planning to insist that visitors certify whether or not they have been immunised. Greece and Spain are leading calls for the entire EU to follow suit, while the US is busy developing its own scheme. As private businesses, airlines and cruise companies will also be free to ask people to demonstrate they are not a Covid risk if they see this as commercially advantageous – which it doubtless will be.

So vaccine passports, certificates or similar are bound to be with us soon, helping us over-50s warm our old bones in second homes, at plush hotels and aboard sun-drenched cruise liners.

What a heart-warming thought. Unless, argues Patrick O’Flynn, you belong to a younger generation.

11:54 AM

BMA ‘extremely concerned’ by Wales move to ration Covid vaccine

The British Medical Association has said it is “extremely concerned” that Wales is rationing the Pfizer vaccine to ensure supplies last until February, following Mark Drakeford’s admission this morning (9am).

“If Pfizer vaccines are available, second does must be given within the maximum 42 day timeline and all remaining vaccinations for staff must be accelerated,” the BMA tweeted.

The move has also been attacked by opposition politicians, including Tories (11:26am).

Plaid’s health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “Comparing Wales and England isn’t always useful – for various reasons, we’re ahead on some things, and England ahead on others – it’s swings and roundabouts. But where it’s a four-nations programme, we need to know it’s a level playing field.

“Welsh Government must give an update on vaccines made available for Wales – of each type – plus numbers vaccinated in Wales compared to England, using the different types of vaccine, and on the projected supply of vaccines in the weeks to come. Why are we rationing here?”

11:43 AM

What’s on the agenda today?

The main event today will be the debate on Universal Credit – but there are plenty of other things on the agenda. Here’s what’s coming up later today.

12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds her daily coronavirus briefing.

12.15pm: The Welsh government is expected to hold a coronavirus briefing.

2.30pm: Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace, gives evidence to the public accounts committee.

3:30pm: Labour has been granted an urgent question on the loss of 150,000 arrest records last week. The party says Priti Patel should appear, but it is expected to be policing minister Kit Malthouse who responds for the Government.

After 4.15pm: MPs begin the debate on Labour’s motion seeking to extend the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit.

5pm: A Cabinet minister will hold a press conference at Downing Street.

7pm: MPs vote on the Universal Credit motion.

Priti Patel walks across Westminster Bridge toward St Thomas' Hospital - Getty
Priti Patel walks across Westminster Bridge toward St Thomas’ Hospital – Getty

11:31 AM

Extend Universal Credit uplift to ‘nation’s army of carers’, says Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the increase in Universal Credit to be extended – but only for those who are caring for a friend, family member or neighbour.

Liberal Democrat’s work and pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain said today’s vote was a “chance to right a huge wrong in our society”.

She added: “Not only can we vote to scrap the planned £1000 cut in Universal Credit but we can also do more to support the country’s carers. Just calling for this cut to be cancelled is not enough, carers need help now.

“If Conservative MPs choose to blindly back the Government line then they will have to explain to the country why they can find hundreds of thousands of pounds for their mates and party donors but can’t find an extra £20 a week for our nation’s army of carers.”

11:26 AM

Welsh Tories attack Mark Drakeford over vaccination ‘go-slow’

Welsh Tories have attacked Mark Drakeford after the First Minister admitted the vaccine rollout was being slowed down to ensure supplies lasted until February (see 9:00am).

The former Welsh Secretary and Conservative MP Stephen Crabb said: “Some astonishing comments this morning from Labour’s First Minister in Wales defending his go-slow vaccination strategy.

“Over-80s in Wales desperate to know when their vaccinations will be starting.”

Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Andrew RT Davies added: “Whether intended or not, this outburst of honesty from the First Minister tells the Welsh people all they need to know. The Welsh Labour Government is failing to deliver its vaccine programme.

“His shocking doubling-down on his decision to delay deployment of Pfizer vaccine supplies is dangerous, and makes no clinical sense whatsoever.

“We need to get these vaccinations into people’s arms ASAP. Lives and livelihoods across Wales are at stake.”

11:21 AM

Fishing industry descends on Downing Street

The Scottish fishing industry is planning to dump their catch outside Number 10 today, as they ramp up their protest over new Brexit trading arrangements.

Several lorries have driven to Whitehall to complain about the post-transition red tape which is hampering their ability to export.

Last week the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation wrote to Boris Johnson, claiming they had been “spun a line ” about opportunities, and damning his ” desperately poor deal on fisheries”.

Boris Johnson has pledged to compensate Scottish fishermen for their losses, although details so far have been scarce.

Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action - AFP
Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action – AFP
Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action - AFP
Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action – AFP
Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action - AFP
Lorries from Scottish seafood companies drive past the Houses of Parliament in a protest action – AFP

11:09 AM

Annual Covid vaccine programme ‘likely’, says NHS boss

It is “likely” that there may need to be “frequent, maybe annual” vaccination programmes to deal with new variants of Covid-19, rofessor Stephen Powis has said.

The national medical director for the NHS in England told BBC Breakfast: “The early signs are that the vaccines will be perfectly adequate for that new strain. Other strains of the virus will emerge – that’s what happens with viruses, they mutate.

“Every year flu is a little bit different and we adapt our flu vaccines each year to cope with that,” he added. “I think it’s perfectly possible that over time the Covid vaccine will need to be adapted from year to year to deal with new strains.

“The good news is that we’re using new technology with these new vaccines and that can be done very quickly.

“So yes it is likely that there may have to be frequent, maybe annual – like flu vaccine programmes, which will deal with these new variants, but it’s a bit too early to be absolutely sure yet.”

10:47 AM

More than 9,000 infected with Covid as a result of student Christmas exodus

More than 9,000 people were infected with Covid-19 as a result of students returning home for Christmas, according to new research by Cardiff University.

Mathematicians calculated that each student infected would have, on average, passed the disease to just under one other household member – or 0.94 people.

“With the potential movement of over one million UK students for the Christmas vacation, even a modest one per cent infection level (meaning 10 in 1,000 students are infected, perhaps many of them without symptoms at the time of travel) would equate to 9,400 new secondary household cases across the country,” said Prof Harper.

Could mass testing have made it worse? Read the full story here.

10:34 AM

Alexei Navalny’s detention ‘an insult to the Russian people’, says Labour

The detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is “unjustifiable and an insult to the Russian people”, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary has said.

Lisa Nandy called for the Kremlin critic – who returned home at the weekend after having spent the last five months recovering from being poisoned – to be released immediately.

She added: “Alexei Navalny was the victim of a cowardly chemical weapons attack and has shown great courage in returning to his homeland to continue to champion democratic reform.

“His detention is unjustifiable and an insult to the Russian people. Navalny should be released immediately and those responsible for the chemical attack that almost cost him his life brought to justice.

“We stand in solidarity with the Russian people, who have the right to exercise their democratic rights and determine the future of their country.”

10:31 AM

Nick Timothy: The West is divided but Britain can build a coalition to counter China

As the US military surges into Washington to guard America’s newly elected President, Beijing is delighted by the chaos in the capital of its strategic rival. Chinese propagandists have compared the Capitol Hill rioters to Hong Kong democracy activists, and claimed an equivalence between arresting the rioters and rounding up Hong Kong’s elected officials.

They have used Twitter’s decision to ban President Trump to justify their own intolerance of free speech. They nickname Trump “Chuan Jianguo”, which translated means “Trump Builds China”, and mockingly call the violent disorder in America the “Washington Spring”. One regime mouthpiece has cited the military presence ahead of President Biden’s inauguration and asked, “Is the US in deep fear of its people?”

It is tempting to write off such language as the typical propaganda of a nasty autocracy. But, argues Nick Timothy, it reflects the grim reality that the events of 2020 have emboldened China as never before.

Riot police disperse pro-democracy protesters during a demonstration opposing postponed elections, in Hong Kong - Reuters
Riot police disperse pro-democracy protesters during a demonstration opposing postponed elections, in Hong Kong – Reuters

10:26 AM

Labour MP Margaret Hodge receives first vaccine dose

Veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge has had her first vaccination, and urged others to “make sure you go” to your appointment.

The 76-year-old, who has spent much of the pandemic shielding, tweeted: “I have just had my first jab, it was quick & easy! Big thank you to the brilliant team of NHS staff & volunteers, who work tirelessly every day.”

10:10 AM

Slash stamp duty and council tax to level up Britain, Rishi Sunak told

It is not just the matter of Universal Credit that is causing headaches in the Treasury this week.

Rishi Sunak is also under pressure to slash taxes to promote the Government’s “levelling up” agenda and prolong the stamp duty holiday to help homebuyers who risk an extra tax bill in April.

Council tax should be a key target for reform, according to the think tank Onward in research for the Levelling Up Taskforce, which counts 65 “red wall” MPs among its backers.

Cutting the lowest band of council tax would also benefit more than half of households in the North East compared to just 4pc in London due to the regressive nature of the tax, Onward added.

Read the full article here.

Rishi Sunak has got to make the sums add up in March's Budget - Reuters
Rishi Sunak has got to make the sums add up in March’s Budget – Reuters

09:43 AM

Priti Patel must give ‘full and frank explanation’ of arrest records deletion, says Labour

Labour has called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to address the records wiped from the Police National Computer, with junior minister Kit Malthouse due to make a statement to MPs instead.

Policing minister Mr Malthouse is expected to give a statement to the Commons at 3.30pm, pushing back the start of the debate on Universal Credit to 4:30pm.

But the Labour whips called for the more senior minister to address the issue, which surfaced last week.

09:41 AM

Have your say: Should the Universal Credit uplift be extended?

A row is brewing today over Labour’s decision to force a vote on whether the Universal Credit uplift should be extended beyond March.

The Chancellor is said to be reluctant to commit to the measure, which will cost £6bn a year, when he is already struggling to plug the gaps caused by the pandemic.

However, the best defence vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi could muster this morning was to accuse Labour of a “political stunt”.

Conservative MPs, bruised by having defended the Government on free school meals, are reluctant to take a position on yet another emotive issue that is likely to result in more angry emails and social media abuse. While they are expected to abstain, some could side with Labour, causing no small embarrassment for the PM.

So should the Government extend the uplift, or should they dig their heels in? Have your say in the poll below.

09:30 AM

Boris Johnson ‘pathetic’ for abstaining on Universal Credit, says Sir Keir Starmer

Conservative MPs “in their heart of hearts” want to back Labour’s vote to keep the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit, Sir Keir Starmer has said, as he branded Boris Johnson “pathetic” for ordering his party to abstain.

The Labour leader told ITV’s Lorraine: “If he’s going to call it a stunt, he should probably come with me to a food distribution centre to see these families this morning and explain to them what is a lifeline to them is a ‘stunt’, because it certainly isn’t from their point of view.

“I actually think in their heart of hearts quite a lot of Tory MPs know that cutting this money to people who desperately need it in the middle of a pandemic is the wrong thing to do, they know that, they probably want to vote with us but because of the tribal way we do politics they can’t.”

Abstaining suggested the Prime Minister had “no view on whether it should stay or not – that’s pretty pathetic,” he added.

“I think in their heart of hearts they (Tory MPs) would actually vote with us today if they had the option to do so.”

Labour is using an opposition day debate to force a vote on Universal Credit - Shutterstock
Labour is using an opposition day debate to force a vote on Universal Credit – Shutterstock

09:27 AM

Data from Israel giving hope about plans to reopen country, says minister

The drop in mortality rates in Israel – which is leading the vaccine race – is setting a path for restrictions to be lifted in the UK, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has suggested.

The small country—whose roughly nine million population is less than that of Greater London —has vaccinated around 20 per cent of the population, including more than 72 per cent of over-60s. While there was little difference between those who had been vaccinated and those who hadn’t in the first 14 days, data shows a 33 per cent fall in infection rates thereafter.

Mr Zahawi told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “There is some really good early data from Israel… they are beginning to see, two weeks later, a marked reduction in the serious illness and death in that same cohort.

“So, two weeks after mid-February, we should be seeing a marked reduction in death and of course serious illness.

“We begin to gradually reopen and schools will be a priority – the Prime Minister … was desperate to keep them open and as a last resort we had to close them (and) he wants them first back.”

Around 20 per cent of Israel's population has been vaccinated - AFP
Around 20 per cent of Israel’s population has been vaccinated – AFP

09:19 AM

Four in five NHS staff angry about treatment by Government, union’s study finds

The majority of NHS staff believe the Government does not value their efforts during the pandemic, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the union Unison.

More than 10,000 health service staff from across the UK took part in the study, which has been used as part of evidence submitted as part of efforts to secre all NHS workers a pay rise of at least £2,000.

More than four out in five said they were angry at how NHS staff are being treated by ministers, while almost two-thirds said the Government’s approach to NHS pay makes them question their future in the health service.

Unison said its survey revealed that health workers feel “deeply dissatisfied” with their treatment, with only one in 10 saying the Government values NHS staff.

Just one in 10 NHS workers said they felt valued by the Government - Barcroft Media
Just one in 10 NHS workers said they felt valued by the Government – Barcroft Media

09:00 AM

Wales rationing supply of Pfizer vaccine so it lasts until mid-February, First Minister says

Wales has been rationing its supply of the Pfizer vaccine, as it has to last until February, Mark Drakeford has said.

The First Minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There will be no point, and certainly it will be logistically very damaging to try to use all of that in the first week and then to have all our vaccinators standing around with nothing to do for another month.

“The sensible thing to do is to use the vaccine you’ve got over the period that you’ve got it for so that your system can absorb it, they can go on working, that you don’t have people standing around with nothing to do.

“We will vaccinate all four priority groups by the middle of February, alongside everywhere else in the UK.”

08:58 AM

Dominic Raab calls on Russia to ‘immediately release’ opposition leader Alexei Navalny

The Foreign Secretary has told Russia to immediately release Kremlin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny after he was arrested in Moscow yesterday.

Mr Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport moments after he arrived in the country, after spending five months in Germany recovering from nerve agent poisoning.

Dominic Raab called for his immediate release, adding: “Rather than persecuting Mr Navalny Russia should explain how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil.

08:55 AM

NHS could hit limit of ‘space and people’ this week, warns boss

The NHS could hit the limit of its critical care beds this week as hospital admissions due to Covid-19 continue to rise, a senior figure has warned.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, praised the determination of critical care staff in tackling the surge in cases.

“I think one of the most remarkable things is that our teams have kept going throughout that (winter) period,” he told Times Radio. “They refuse to see a point where they aren’t prepared to keep on going anymore.”

But he warned: “I think, this next week, we will be at the limit of what we probably have the physical space and the people to safely do.

“And, of course, this is the week when we expect also the highest rate of admissions, the highest demand for the care that we’re providing.”

08:42 AM

Pimlico Plumbers’ ‘no jab, no job’ policy is discriminatory, says minister

Pimlico Plumbers’s “no jab, no job” policy, making a Covid-19 vaccination a requirement to work for the business, is “discriminatory”, a minister has said.

Charlie Mullins, Pimlico’s founder and chairman, said last week the company’s lawyers were drafting new employment contracts for its 400-strong workforce. The business subsequently said no existing staff would be “forced” to do it, and there would be exemptions for safety reasons.

Nadhim Zahawi told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are not a country that forces people to take vaccines, we want to do it by persuasion.”

Asked about the specific case, he said: “It’s discriminatory… We have the highest rate of acceptance in the world, bar one country… that is done because we are seen to be transparent, sharing information.”

He noted that he was “worried about the BAME community, which is why I am spending a lot of time with metro mayors… to make sure we reach those hard to reach communities.”

08:31 AM

Minister moves to reassure over-80s they will not lose out

The vaccines minister has moved to reassure those over-80s who have not yet received a jab, as the Government widens the rollout to include the next category.

Nadhim Zahawi told Radio 4’s Today programme this group was the “absolute priority”, adding: “the over-80s need not worry they won’t get an appointment.”

He was played a recording of a doctor saying she felt they were being “set up to fail” by Downing Street’s messaging, saying that the public was getting angry about the lack of vaccinations.

While he acknowledged that supply was the “limiting factor” and “lumpy”, it was getting “better and better” which was “by mid-February, I am confident offer top four cohorts”.

He noted that global demand “could delay supply” into the UK.

08:25 AM

Jeremy Corbyn begins legal battle with Labour

The first stage of Jeremy Corbyn’s legal battle with Labour over his suspension from the parliamentary party will be heard by the High Court today.

Lawyers for the former opposition leader are applying for the disclosure of documents ahead of a possible legal challenge over his suspension, with the case reportedly centering on a deal they sau was agreed with Sir Keir Starmer’s office to readmit him to the party.

Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour in October for claiming that the scale of anti-Semitism in the party was “dramatically overstated for political reasons”. A later clarification said concerns about anti-Semitism were “neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated”‘.

The former leader was reinstated as a party member by the National Executive Committee but his successor blocked him from sitting as a Labour MP, though he said he would keep the decision not to restore the whip “under review”.

The first stage of Jeremy Corbyn's legal battle with Labour over his suspension from the parliamentary party will be heard today - PA
The first stage of Jeremy Corbyn’s legal battle with Labour over his suspension from the parliamentary party will be heard today – PA

08:21 AM

Donald Trump baby blimp acquired by Museum of London

There may still be a question-mark over Donald Trump’s legacy when he officially leaves office on Wednesday, but one memorable ‘tribute’ to him has found a permanent home.

The Donald Trump baby blimp has been acquired by the the Museum of London, where it will join its protest collection. The 6m-high (19.7ft) inflatable, blimp was flown over Parliament Square during the US President’s working visit to the UK in July 2018.

The Museum of London’s director, Sharon Ament, said the museum was “not political and does not have any view about the state of politics in the States”, but the balloon had touched on the typical British response of satire.

“We use humour a lot. And we poke fun at politicians. This is a big – literally – example of that,” she said.

The huge inflatable depicts the US president in a nappy and clutching a mobile phone - PA
The huge inflatable depicts the US president in a nappy and clutching a mobile phone – PA

08:16 AM

Labour calls on Tory MPs to ‘do the right thing’ on Universal Credit

Labour is appealing to Tory MPs to “do the right thing” ahead of the opposition day debate on Universal Credit today.

There will be a vote in the Commons this evening about whether to extend the £20 a week uplift to the benefit, which is currently due to wind-up at the end of March.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds tweeted: “After the worst recession of any major economy, the Government should be supporting families through this crisis. Instead it’s hitting them in their pockets.”

08:11 AM

‘Caveats remain’ over when to reopen economy, says minister

There are “a number of caveats” remaining before ministers can confirm when lockdown restrictions will be lifted, despite the success of the vaccine rollout.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast that people who have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech would be protected “pretty much” in two weeks, while it was a three-week wait after having received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

But he added: “One of the things we don’t know yet, and the deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam is on record as saying ‘look give me a couple of months and I’ll tell you’, is the impact of the vaccine on transmission rates ie on infecting people.

“So there are a number of caveats that stand in the way of us reopening the economy.

“It will be gradually, it will be probably through the tiered system but you’re looking at that sort of period, two to three weeks after the middle of February, after we’ve protected the top four cohorts.”

08:08 AM

Government ‘very worried’ about arrest of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny

The Government is “very worried about the well-being and safety” of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Mr Navalny was arrested at a Moscow airport, when he arrived back in the country for the first time after he was poisoned with a nerve agent – something he blames on the Kremlin.

Russia’s prisons claims the 44-year-old has violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction.

Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for vaccine deployment, told Sky News: “The Foreign Secretary will say more about this but we are very worried about the wellbeing and safety of Alexei Navalny.

“We have to make sure the Russian government answers why a poison was used against Alexei Navalny in Russia.

The Foreign Secretary [Dominic Raab] has been leading the world in terms of being robust, in terms of the Magnitsky Act and holding countries to account.”

Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia arriving in Russia yesterday - AP
Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia arriving in Russia yesterday – AP

08:04 AM

Minister promises 24/7 vaccine pilot will launch in London this month

Round-the-clock vaccinations will be piloted in London before the end of January, minister Nadhim Zahawi has promised.

Boris Johnson revealed last week that 24/7 pilots were being readied, however his announcement appeared somewhat pre-emptive with subsequent briefings suggesting plans were at a very early stage.

This morning the minister for vaccine deployment told Sky News: “We are going to pilot the 24-hour vaccination, the NHS is going to pilot that in hospitals in London and we will look at how we expand that.”

Pressed for when the pilots will start, he said: “By the end of January, absolutely.”

But he said 8am-8pm vaccination “works much more conveniently for those who are over 80 and then as you move down the age groups it becomes much more convenient for people to go late at night and in the early hours”.

07:47 AM

Exclusive: Mass testing of entire regions considered

Mass testing of entire regions is being considered by ministers to help get the country out of lockdown, it has emerged, as Dominic Raab said restrictions could start to be eased in March.

The Foreign Secretary said that by the “early spring, hopefully March” some restrictions would be lifted “gradually” so the country could “get back to normal”.

He warned it would not be a “big bang” end to lockdown but a return to tiers depending on the level of Covid admissions in hospitals, death rates and hitting targets on vaccinating the over-50s and vulnerable by early spring.

The Telegraph understands mass testing could be used to swiftly move the worst-infected areas down the tiers.