Newslinks for Thursday 6th August 2020

Johnson to slash red tape in ‘planning revolution’

“Boris Johnson is to limit the power of local politicians to block building developments in the biggest reform of the planning system for 70 years. The proposals, to be published today, aim to trigger a construction boom that would swiftly provide homes, hospitals and schools. The prime minister has promised to rejuvenate the economy with a “build, build, build” strategy. Councils are to be given up to three and half years to designate areas for growth, renewal or protection. Once agreed, however, local politicians will have little or no say over specific applications that fit the rules. Ministers insist that residents will be consulted over how land is designated and on “design codes” to ensure that new buildings fit in. They are braced, however, for opposition from councils, especially Tory-controlled local authorities.” – The Times

  • Planning reforms will create ‘generation of slums’ – The Guardian

More:

  • Jenrick to unveil new plans to help get Britain’s builders and brickies back to work – The Sun
  • Aide who helped build red tape bonfire for England’s planning policy – The Guardian

Ministers ‘waste £150m’ buying unusable masks from banker

“Ministers wasted at least £150 million buying masks with the wrong kind of straps from a little-known family investment company, The Times can reveal. Health officials signed a £252 million contract to buy masks for frontline healthcare staff from Ayanda Capital in April in a deal brokered by a government adviser who also advises the company’s board. The contract included 50 million high-strength “FFP2” medical masks costing an estimated £150 million to £180 million and amounting to the entire health system’s expected consumption for a year, as well as 150 million cheaper “IIR” masks. Officials have admitted that the 43.5 million Chinese-made FFP2 masks delivered so far did not meet standards and could not be used in the NHS, legal documents reveal.” – The Times

  • West Lothian factory will be ‘ready to produce millions of Covid vaccines’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Thousands of coronavirus deaths set to be wiped off official records – The Sun

‘Nine out of ten parents’ back full reopening of schools next month

“Nine out of ten parents back the full reopening of schools next month – a dramatic change of heart from earlier polls. The big turnaround comes as ministers extend a pilot scheme so thousands more teachers and pupils can be spot-tested for Covid. The Office for National Statistics found 88 per cent of parents were “very” or “fairly likely” to return their child to class. Though 56 per cent are still worried about their kids catching the virus. A May poll by Parentkind found just ten per cent would send a child back after lockdown. And a University of Oxford study in June said half were uncomfortable about a return… New 90-minute tests announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier this week will also help – although they will not be ready by the time gates open in September.” – The Sun

  • Schools reopening in England risks sharp rise in Covid cases, says expert – The Guardian

More:

  • Surge in services raises hopes of a ‘V-shaped recovery’… – Daily Telegraph
  • …but 135,000 Britons now face the axe amid fear of ‘economic Armageddon’ – Daily Mail
  • British workers lag behind Europeans in returning to the office – The Times

Comment:

  • Stop scaremongering: cases are going up because we are testing millions – Karol Sikora, The Sun
  • A Covid jobs crisis is on the way – Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian
  • Voters will turn on Johnson if there is a second lockdown – Sherelle Jacobs, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Waves of media foreboding

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: A battle with teaching unions looks inevitable next month. Who will win?

Wallace authorises British warship to assist in aftermath of Beirut explosion

“Ben Wallace has authorised a British warship to assist in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion as the UK Government pledged to send £5million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon. The Defence Secretary confirmed that the Royal Navy will send HMS Enterprise, a survey vessel currently based in Cyprus, to help Beirut prepare to rebuild its port following the catastrophic blast which left thousands injured and more than 100 dead. Mr Wallace added that the ship will assess the damage and support “the Lebanese government and people rebuild this vital piece of national infrastructure”. The Daily Telegraph understands that HMS Enterprise, which carries survey launches to conduct in-shore work, will not deploy immediately.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Raab pledged £5m aid to help stricken city – Daily Mail

More:

  • Lebanon orders house arrest of some port officials – FT
  • 300,000 people are left homeless – Daily Mail

I won’t be pushed around, says Scottish Tories’ new leader

“The new Scottish Tory leader said yesterday that he would stand up to the UK government in Westminster and failed to endorse Boris Johnson as being a “great asset” for the party in Scotland. Douglas Ross was appointed Scottish Conservative leader uncontested yesterday after Jackson Carlaw resigned on Thursday amid dire internal polling, six months after his election as leader. Mr Ross, a former junior minister in the Scotland Office, became the first ministerial resignation over Dominic Cummings’s trip to Co Durham during the coronavirus lockdown. He told Times Radio yesterday that he had chosen to leave in May because he could not defend the action of the prime minister’s chief strategist.” – The Times

  • Party turbocharges efforts to destroy Sturgeon’s SNP – Daily Express
  • Moray MP will face test over growing support for independence in Scotland – FT

>Yesterday: Dr Graham Gudgin in Comment: Now is the time to combat Scottish Nationalism

UK-Japan trade deal talks ‘hit impasse’ over crucial negotiation

“Japan has flown its foreign minister to the UK to strike a last-minute free trade deal, as the deadline looms this weekend. Toshimitsu Motegi, the Japanese foreign minister, flew into London to finish a Free Trade Agreement with the UK. He is due to meet trade secretary Liz Truss for the rushed talks, who also flew back to London last night. Britain left the European Union on January 1, and is holding a series of free trade talks with allies to boost the post-Brexit economy. Mr Motegi told reporters that the “difficult” and rapid talks are essential for a post-Brexit trade deal… Both Ms Truss and Mr Motegi have shared their hopes that they can strike a deal before the foreign minister leaves on Friday.” – Daily Express

  • Both sides see agreement as key although it will largely replicate existing EU-Tokyo accord – FT

More trade:

  • Johnson building ‘White House centre of power’ to help get Brexit trade deal sorted – Daily Express

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: The UK’s parallel trade negotiations are of unprecedented ambition

David Aaronovitch: Johnson’s peers disgrace the House of Lords

“But the Lebedev peerage, and its contribution to inflating the second chamber, is a relatively minor hypocrisy compared with ennoblement of Claire Fox. You may recall that back in December Mr Johnson was facing the feeble electoral challenge of Mr Corbyn. One of the prime minister’s most effective lines of attack was the Labour leader’s history of support for unpleasant causes. In Maidstone, for example, Johnson described Corbyn as “a man who all his political life has campaigned to break up that Union and who supported for four decades the IRA in their campaign violently to destroy it”. Support for the Provisionals, even the tacit kind offered by Mr Corbyn, was a disqualifier for high office. But Mr Corbyn was a mild-mannered peacenik compared with Claire Fox.” – The Times

  • Why isn’t there outrage about Boris’s own Lavender List of Lords? – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • How Johnson lost control – Philip Stephens, FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Prime Minister being ‘frustrated, angry and upset’ is no basis for Lords reform

Welby defends MP accused of transphobia over cervix tweet

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his backing to an MP facing accusations of transphobia and called some of those who led the attacks “cruel and wrong”. The Most Rev Justin Welby used a social media post to support Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP who faced calls for disciplinary action by her party last week over her stance on a reference to transgender women. It began with a message posted online by CNN, the American broadcaster, about cancer screening in the United States, which used the term “individuals with a cervix”. CNN’s use of language was mocked on Twitter by Piers Morgan, the breakfast television presenter, who wrote “Do you mean women?” His post was “liked” by the MP.” – The Times

Swinney under mounting pressure after exams day ‘debacle’

“John Swinney must fix an exam day “debacle” or his position as Education Secretary will become “untenable”, his critics have said. There has been widespread anger after the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) downgraded marks in 124,000 cases, after normal exams were axed due to coronavirus. The “moderation” process was applied to estimates for pupil grades which were provided by teachers to the exam board, using a controversial formula which relied heavily on a school’s past performance. There have been claims, rejected by the Scottish Government, that this disadvantaged children in poorer areas where results are typically lower. Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said that Mr Swinney’s credibility had been “shot to pieces”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scots pupils stuck with wrong exam grades and ‘no right of appeal’ – The Times

More SNP:

  • SNP leader exposed for ‘failing to visit Scottish voters’ in two years – Daily Express
  • Emergency lockdown in Aberdeen could extend to other towns – The Guardian

BBC could send in the bailiffs to ‘seize pensioners’ possessions’

“Bailiffs could be sent into the homes of over-75s to seize and sell their possessions if ministers push ahead with proposals to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee. The government has acknowledged that its plans to replace the criminal sanction for licence-fee evasion with a civil penalty could cause additional anxiety to vulnerable people, as private bailiffs would have a greater role in collecting the money. Age campaigners said the prospect of debt collectors turning up at pensioners’ doors was “distressing and frightening”. The warning comes as millions of over-75s begin receiving letters billing them for the £157.50 charge unless they can provide evidence that they receive pension credit and so are exempt.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • The worrying slide towards self-censorship in our universities – Dr David Jeffery, CapX
  • Scotland’s exams fiasco exposes its bitter educational divide – Oliver Rhodes, Reaction
  • The drawbacks of Japan’s cult of peace – Eri Hotta, UnHerd
  • London in limbo: can the capital survive this crisis? – Gerard Lyons, The Spectator
  • Advertising bans are a threat to free speech – Len Shackleton, 1828

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