Politics latest news: Government's emergency coronavirus powers come under Commons spotlight - watch live

Cat Neilan
·63-min read

The scale of a potential Conservative rebellion against the Government will be made apparent during a lengthy debate this afternoon, ahead of a formal review of emergency coronavirus powers. 

Sir Graham Brady's amendment, which seeks to curb executive powers by giving Parliament a say over new national restrictions before they are brought into force, has the support of more than 40 MPs including former ministers Steve Baker and Harriett Baldwin. 

Last week Ms Baldwin said while she was supportive of the measures so far, there was a risk of "going down a slippery slope towards a more dictatorial powers for our executive." 

Behind the scenes, Mark Spencer, the chief whip, is attempting to win those who are on the fence back onto the Government's side to avoid a potentially embarrassing moment for Boris Johnson, with the numbers of Tory rebels threatening the Prime Minister's majority. 

However there is no guarantee Sir Graham's amendment will be selected by Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker. 

Speaking at the top of the debate, Matt Hancock agreed to hold a further meeting with the chairman of the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, to discuss matters further.

Read the latest updates below.

05:50 PM

Only do what is absolutely necessary, urges Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling, a Cabinet minister under Theresa May - Chris Grayling, a Cabinet minister under Theresa May
Chris Grayling, a Cabinet minister under Theresa May - Chris Grayling, a Cabinet minister under Theresa May

Chris Grayling, a former Cabinet minister, says he is concerned about "extreme theories" that spread on the internet.

He praises ministers for the job they have done on test and trace, and points out that the UK is testing more people than any other European countries.

He urges the Government to "only do what is necessary to keep the virus under control".

Steps that go beyond absolute necessity damage people's lives and livelihoods, he says.

"We must not take national measures except in extremis."

05:46 PM

Government has 'kneecapped' pubs, says MP

Chris Bryant says "it's not that we're killing pubs, it's just that we've kneecapped them".

"I can see no logical reason why you would want to chuck everybody out of the pubs at the same time in all of the pubs in a town."

He said the Government should respect "drinking up time," which he called "a tradition in Britain".

05:43 PM

Public losing trust in the Government, says Chris Bryant

Chris Bryant is a former Labour minister - PA
Chris Bryant is a former Labour minister - PA

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP, says Government in the UK can "only be by consent".

"I worry that the Government is losing the consent of the British people," he said.

"My inbox is full of people who now subscribe to all sorts of mad conspiracy theories and they elevate all sorts of wild scientists they've discovered somewhere on the web to be the great international experts."

"Slowly but surely, it feels to me that people are beginning to lose confidence in the Government's handling of this...we need the Government to do better than this."

05:38 PM

Don't download NHS Covid-19 app on your work phones, police told

Police officers are being told not to download the coronavirus contact tracing app on to work phones, as the app topped 12 million downloads on Monday.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) issued the guidance to forces across the country following the NHS Covid-19 app's launch last Thursday for England and Wales.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own contact tracing apps.

A spokesman denied suggestions that the move was a result of "security implications".

"Police forces use a variety of mobile devices with different system restrictions," the NPCC said.

"It is important that we have confidence that the NHS app will work for officers and staff consistently across the country, and it is for this reason that we have recommended that officers and staff download the app to their personal as opposed to work devices, rather than any suggestion of security implications."

05:34 PM

'Dystopian' measures could be worse than the pandemic, warns MP

Andrew Lewer, a Tory backbencher, says he is concerned about the impact on the economy because of the reliance of public services on the wider economy.

A constituent sent him an open letter from Belgian medics who argue "the cure should not be worse than the medicine".

Mr Lewer described the measures taken by the Government against the pandemic as "dystopian".

The elderly and vulnerable should be shielded as an alternative to general lockdown, he said.

05:26 PM

London constituent sent on the ferry for a Covid test

Munira Wilson, the Lib Dem MP for Twickenham -  UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA
Munira Wilson, the Lib Dem MP for Twickenham - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrat MP who first raised concerns about London constituents being asked to drive to Aberdeen for a test, says she has a constituent who waited up all night for a test.

Her son had a 39 degree temperature, and when she received a test, it was in the Isle of Wight, Ms Wilson said.

05:23 PM

North East restrictions came in before council was told

Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council leader, has criticised the Health Secretary for the manner in which the announcement on the latest Covid-19 measures was made.

He said: "While we have been in discussions with the Government on potential further restrictions, the Secretary of State has once again stood up and announced changes without telling us he was about to do so.

"We want to work constructively with the Government but the way these measures are being communicated in headlines and without detail does nothing for public confidence.

"We have demanded clarity on the new restrictions, testing and support for those businesses most affected."

05:15 PM

Former minister backs Brady amendment

Nus Ghani, a former transport minister, says she has "huge concerns" over restrictions being extended.

Ms Ghani says it is "not appropriate" for MPs to hear about new laws and restrictions in the press.

She says she will vote for Sir Graham Brady's amendment to allow Parliament more of a say in the extension of regulations.

"I do not think I am in any position to tell my constituents they cannot see their kids at Christmas right now," she adds.

05:11 PM

Covid app tops 12 million downloads

The coronavirus contact tracing app for England and Wales has been downloaded more than 12 million times, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock revealed that the app had been downloaded on to 12.4 million devices by noon on Monday, hailing it as "the fastest download of an app in British history".

The app, launched on Thursday, uses Bluetooth technology to keep a tab on close proximity encounters with other people and informing them if one later tests positive for the virus.

"Just this weekend, I want to thank everyone who has played their part in the fastest download of an app in British history, 12.4 million downloads as of noon today," Mr Hancock told the Commons.

The NHS app is now available on Apple and Android phones - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
The NHS app is now available on Apple and Android phones - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

05:07 PM

Rebels believe they have won over Parliamentary check on new powers

Ministers have held crisis talks with Tory MPs in an effort to ward off a revolt over coronavirus laws.

Boris Johnson is under pressure to give Parliament the opportunity to debate and vote on future restrictions, with more than 50 Tory MPs signalling they could rebel on the matter.

MPs will vote on Wednesday on whether to renew the powers in the Coronavirus Act, with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, leading calls for ministers to consult Parliament before introducing new curbs on people's freedoms.

Some 52 Conservatives publicly back the amendment, enough to wipe out Mr Johnson's Commons majority if it is put to a vote and the opposition parties support it.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chief Whip Mark Spencer and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg met Conservative MPs in an effort to address their concerns.

Former minister Steve Baker, one of those who signed up to Sir Graham's amendment, was at the "cordial and constructive meeting".

"I hope and expect we will reach a satisfactory agreement," he said.

05:00 PM

Cost of Covid is felt by people with other illnesses, says MP

Jim Shannon, the DUP MP for Strangford, says many of his constituents have lost family members to other illnesses that went undiagnosed because of the pandemic.

"Some people are resenting lockdown, they are seeing loved ones slipping through the net," he says.

"We cannot do another six months with screenings not taking place, with surgeries cancelled and people dying."

04:53 PM

Claudia Webbe 'suspended from Labour'

Claudia Webbe has been charged with harassment, prosecutors said - David Woolfall/UK Parliament
Claudia Webbe has been charged with harassment, prosecutors said - David Woolfall/UK Parliament

Claudia Webbe, the Labour MP for Leicester East who has been charged with harassment, has been suspended from the party, The Telegraph understands.

See the post at 14.20 for the full details.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "It would not be appropriate to comment on an ongoing case."

Ms Webbe will be suspended until the case is concluded.

04:42 PM

Steve Baker: I have downloaded track and trace app 'against all my instincts'

Steve Baker says he wants to praise the Government on much of their virus response, including the track and trace app.

He says as a libertarian the app is "against all his instincts" but he has downloaded it anyway.

Mr Baker is against the continued lockdown restrictions and has been whipping fellow Tory MPs to vote against the Government's measures.

He quotes Harold Macmillan: "We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.

He encourages ministers to bring the new lockdown restrictions to Parliament before they come into force.

"I know it is inconvenient...it is supposed to be," he says.

04:33 PM

'It's a bit unnerving' - Stuck students speak out through windows

Unhappily for Gavin Williamson, students stuck in university halls in Manchester have provided a neat image for the issues with self-isolating people on campus.

Plenty of them have been more than happy to speak out, too.

04:30 PM

Government guilty of 'covert mission creep' - Sir Christopher Chope

Sir Christopher Chope, a hardcore sceptic of the Government's coronavirus measures, is now speaking in the Commons.

Reading from a report at the time, he says the Government promised "accountability" when they introduced coronavirus measures, but the debate has happened too late.

"I am not yet persuaded that I need to support the continuation of the Coronavirus Act.

"The Government is guilty of covert mission creep," he says.

Sir Christopher points out that the concerns about the NHS being overwhelmed have not materialised but the restrictions are being kept "just in case".

Sir Christopher Chope is the MP for Christchurch - PA
Sir Christopher Chope is the MP for Christchurch - PA

04:21 PM

Threats of Christmas isolation for students 'scaremongering', says uni chief

Speaking of Christmas, Colin Bailey, the principal of Queen Mary University of London has said reports that students will be kept in their halls over the holidays is "scaremongering" by the media.

Last week Matt Hancock admitted that while the Government didn't want to keep students from their families at Christmas, it was a possibility.

"We will advise you to follow whatever local restrictions are in place at the time," he wrote.

04:13 PM

MP calls for hope rather than threat of cancelling Christmas

Sir John Redwood, the Conservative grandee, says the country "needs some hope".

He says the Government needs a strategy to shield vulnerable people from the virus "if we don't have a magic vaccine".

"The nation needs a vision of a better future. It needs to believe that in a few months time, something good will happen. It certainly doesn't need the threat of cancellation of Christmas."

Sir John made the case for opening up the economy, but stressed it must be done in a way that keeps vulnerable people safe.

04:07 PM

Two chiefs 'frightened country to death' with 'charts they knew were wrong', says MP

Lucy Allen, Conservative MP for Telford, applauds ministers for their work so far - but says MPs must be more involved, adding they should not forget the people they serve. 

She says the Government must consider "not just the science" but also "the big picture", including the social and economic impact, or whether "a Covid death matters more than any other death - I say not". 

She says the country needs to understand risk, asking why it is that university students are being locked up "when we do not place similar restrictions on the people most at risk". 

Ms Allen picks up a similar theme to Sir Desmond Swayne, saying the country was "frightened to death by scientists presenting charts to the nation that they must have known were wrong". 

The chart did not tell us the probability of such a scenario unfolding, she adds. 

In terms of the powers, she says MPs must be involved "in a different way" because the situation has evolved. "We may not be experts in science but we are experts in the people we represent," she adds. 

The two chiefs are under fire - Downing Street
The two chiefs are under fire - Downing Street

03:55 PM

Have your say on: the hospitality curfew

While MPs are having their say on the Government's emergency coronavirus powers, you can have your say in our daily poll. 

The 10pm curfew has prompted much debate today, after images emerged of revellers partying in the street after being kicked out of the pub. Critics have called for an immediate review, amid fears the unintended consequences could be worse for transmission, while evidence suggests it may be targeting the wrong places. 

So should the curfew stay, with some tweaks? Should the Government go further and shut hospitality as well as banning socialising? Or should they scrap the whole thing and ban household transmission while letting people still go out for food and drinks? Have your say in the poll below. 

03:51 PM

Boris Johnson 'abducted by Doctor Strangeglove', says Sir Desmond Swayne

Boris Johnson has been "abducted by Doctor Strangeglove and reprogrammed by the Sage over to the dark side", Sir Desmond Swayne has said. 

The outspoken New Forest West MP told the Commons that politicians were meant "to impose a measure of proportion on science and not to be in thrall to it", cheerily saying he would "make myself very unpopular" by claiming that "the appearance of the chiefs last week should have been a sacking offence". 

What they presented as "a plausible scenario" was in fact "project fear - an attempt to terrify the British people, as if they haven't been terrified enough in the past", he said. The MP said he was relieved to see the emergence of alternative medical viewpoints which challenged this consensus. 

"Government policy has been disproportionate - by decree it has interfered in our private life," he added. 

Sir Desmond said "there may be one day a virus that threatens our very life - but this isn't it, even if we are behaving as if it were". 

03:40 PM

Lord Clarke tells peers he has 'every sympathy' with Government on pandemic

While MPs debate the Government's emergency coronavirus powers on the green benches, over on the red benches a new addition has made his maiden speech to the Lords. 

Former chancellor - and one-time rebel - Lord Clarke of Nottingham told peers he had "every sympathy" with the Government in dealing the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

"The difficulty of dealing with it is it is shrouded with total uncertainty," he said. "It is quite unprecedented the choices that have to be made on the tensions between the life-saving prospects of doing one thing and the damaging economic consequences they expect that will have on the other."

He added: "Everybody's going to second-guess every decision that ministers come to.

"With the wisdom of hindsight everyone will be able to see what should have been done in the light of what we know has happened."

The former MP for Rushcliffe has had an ermine upgrade - PA
The former MP for Rushcliffe has had an ermine upgrade - PA

03:28 PM

Former minister says MPs must be honest with people about life under Covid

Simon Clarke, the former communities minister, pays tribute to Matt Hancock for his work at an "exacting" time. 

He says MPs "owe it to the British people" to be honest that until there is a vaccine, the world will be living with coronavirus. It is not clear how effective a vaccine will be, he says. 

"We need to be clearsighted about what choices are open to us," he adds, saying the Government is right to keep as much of the economy open as possible. 

The "calculus" might look different if it were a matter of weeks, he says. But the return to a national lockdown would be "wrong" because of the economic and health impacts, as well as the "less tangible" impacts such as lost opportunities and loneliness. 

"We must do our utmost to live without fear," he says, channelling Rishi Sunak's comments from last week. 

But "the lack of consistency" makes compliance harder, he adds. 

Simon Clarke, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP - PA
Simon Clarke, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP - PA

03:23 PM

Jon Ashworth calls for 'alternative' restrictions over Christmas

Jon Ashworth says the Government was "too slow" going into the first wave, and lists the situation from Boris Johnson saying "we should take it on the chin" until the national lockdown. 

The shadow health secretary is slightly playing fast and loose with what happened, because of course the PM said taking it on the chin was an option he didn't think we should take. 

Either way, the Labour frontbencher then details the restrictions that were in place after the delayed lockdown, saying there will be huge mental health implications from this. 

He asks about Christmas and the chances of families being able to celebrate, and asks for ministers to consider "alternative" restrictions if the virus is still widespread at that time, so people can see each other again. 

Mr Ashworth asks how effective restrictions such as the curfew "will help contain the spread of the virus", calling on Matt Hancock to undertake a rapid review, and publish it to Parliament this week. 

He also asks for a strategy for "further containment steps" that will avoid a second lockdown, keeping children in school and allowing people to see each other. 

03:16 PM

Labour to support 'better scrutiny' but not 'attempts to scupper restrictions' that keep people safe

A sombre-sounding Jon Ashworth then responds for Labour, highlighting the number of people who have died from a disease that a year ago we had never heard from. 

The shadow health secretary says taking action now "is in our long-term economic interest", saying Labour supports a strategy that will protect lives and livelihoods. 

He says they understand the need for speed with restrictions, which is why he and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer offered initially "our support and cooperation", despite their "deep concerns" about the act which will be further debated on Wednesday. 

They will offer their reassurances again, he says, but MPs should "play a greater role" particularly when rules are "unclear and confusing... or when rules come out at 11:30 at night". 

"If this house can find a way for better scrutiny of these measures, then of course we would be extremely sympathetic to that... but we wont support attempts to scupper restrictions that are clearly in the public health interest," Mr Ashworth says. 

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth responds after Health Secretary Matt Hancock  - PA
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth responds after Health Secretary Matt Hancock - PA

03:09 PM

Household ban brought in for the North East, Matt Hancock confirms

Matt Hancock then turns to the local restrictions, confirming more measures for parts of the North East where the incidence rate has risen above 100 per 100,000. 

That means legal restrictions are being brought in "on indoor mixing between households in any setting", the Health Secretary says. 

"The number of cases continues to rise sharply," he tells MPs. "We know a large number of these infections are taking pace in indoor settings outside the home.

"At the request at local councils we will introduce legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting.

"We do not take these steps lightly, we must take them, and take them now."

The quicker that happens, the "quicker we can restore the freedoms we all enjoy", he adds. 

03:05 PM

UK has processed more tests than Italy and Spain combined, says Health Secretary

Matt Hancock has told MPs the UK is poised to process its 20-millionth test, meaning we have processed more than Italy and Spain combined. 

But testing has to be acted on, he says, paying tribute to the "army" of contact tracers, who are "supplemented" by the app. 

He claims the NHSx contact tracing app has become the country's fastest-ever downloaded app, reaching 12.4m downloads as of noon today. 

The Health Secretary says the increased knowledge about the virus means the Government can put "targeted measures in place". 

Countries with the best testing regimes have kept deaths low
Countries with the best testing regimes have kept deaths low

 

03:01 PM

There is no 'middle option' in suppressing the virus, Matt Hancock says

Matt Hancock has told MPs there is "no middle option" in managing coronavirus, saying "the only question is how to control the virus and when to put measures in place". 

The Health Secretary said the Government was trying to find the way to "best protect ourselves from the virus while also protecting liberty, livelihoods and the things that make life worth living". 

But he added: "The truth is, it is not a simple trade off between these things because the exponential growth of this virus means only two paths - control it, or let it rip - there is no middle option.

"No matter how effectively we protect the vulnerable, letting the virus rip would leave a death toll too big to bear," he added. 

The Government's strategy focused around one goal as a result - to suppress the virus while protecting the economy and education until a vaccine arrives. 

02:53 PM

Matt Hancock defends late-night publication of laws saying policy intent was 'clear'

Matt Hancock has defended the late-night publication of new laws just before they come into force, saying the Government has been "clear about the policy intent". 

The laws all related to the Prime Minister's statement on Tuesday last week, he added. 

The Health Secretary said he wants "the whole House" to be involved but says it is "a welcome recognition that sometimes we have to move at pace". 

Mr Hancock added it is a question of having suitable scrutiny while also being able to respond to the changing situation. 

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock walks outside Downing Street in London - Reuters
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock walks outside Downing Street in London - Reuters

02:49 PM

Matt Hancock admits there is 'further work to do' on parliamentary engagement

Angela Eagle intervenes to ask Matt Hancock if the UK should adopt a similar approach to that of New Zealand, where a special select committee has been set up, chaired by the opposition leader, to "subject the Government's performance to more direct scrutiny". 

The Health Secretary says the structure of select committees is a matter for the House. But he adds that he welcomes the scrutiny of the House, noting he has answered seven urgent questions, given 12 statements and taken 800 interventions since the start of the pandemic. 

But backbenchers call out "more, more". 

Mr Hancock admits there is "further work to do" and that he looks forward to working with his parliamentary colleagues. 

Mark Harper, the former chief whip, says it is more than scrutiny, pointing to the publication of laws very late at night. 

Mr Hancock says the challenge "collectively that we all face" is the speed at which the virus moves. 

02:45 PM

Matt Hancock: Government looking at 'further ways' to involve MPs in emergency Covid decisions

Matt Hancock has opened the debate on emergency coronavirus powers for the Government, saying it is "the first duty" of minister to keep people safe. MPs must represent their constituents to the best of their ability, in the interest of the nation. 

Each decisions are a case of "balance" between economic, social, educational and health, he adds. 

Sir Edward Leigh intervenes to ask if he agrees that the first duty of Parliament is to scrutinise Government. He asks him to meet with Sir Graham Brady "and come to a compromise" so that MPs are "fully involved in the process" if there is another national lockdown. 

The Health Secretary says he "strong agrees" with the need for scrutiny. The aim is to give Parliament more access to the medical experts, ministers and data.

"We are looking at further ways the House can be involved in the process," he adds, saying he will update MPs soon, and agrees to meet Sir Graham again soon. 

02:23 PM

Nearly 180 people arrested for people smuggling this year, says Priti Patel

Some 179 people have been arrested for offences related to people smuggling this year, Priti Patel has told MPs. 

The Home Secretary confirmed there had been "24 convictions relating to people smuggling alone this year".

"We have a further 296 disruptions against organised criminal gangs and individuals who are also responsible for the organisation of immigration crime - 124 of those are related to people smuggling.

"We also have 176 live investigations into this illegal activity relating to maritime activity."

She added: "Discussions are taking place not just with Germany but also with France, but Belgium and counterparts in The Netherlands as well.

"The issue of boats also relates to the issue of criminal upstream activity. I should also add that when it comes to convictions we are of course working with the courts and the Crown Prosecution Service, and obviously our intelligence networks, to ensure more work is taking place to pursue those who are responsible."

02:08 PM

MPs hold minute's silence for murdered police officer

A minute's silence has been held in the House of Commons for murdered police officer Sergeant Matt Ratana.

The tribute was paid on Monday, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle inviting members to pay their respects.

He said: "I am sure all honourable members will wish to join me in paying their respects to Police Sergeant Matt Ratana, who was killed in the course of duty on Friday, and sending our condolences to his family.

"Yesterday was National Police Memorial Day, and I ask all honourable members to stand and observe a minute's silence to mark that occasion and to remember Matt Ratana."

Experienced custody sergeant Mr Ratana, 54, was shot dead by a handcuffed suspect in the early hours of Friday at a custody suite in Croydon, south London.

His suspected killer, widely reported to be 23-year-old Louis De Zoysa, remains in a critical condition in hospital after he was also hit by a bullet following the killing.

The Metropolitan Police officer of almost 30 years has been described as someone who epitomised the role police play in protecting others and, as head coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, was said to be an "irreplaceable figure".

MPs stood to honour Matt Ratana, who was killed on Friday morning - PA
MPs stood to honour Matt Ratana, who was killed on Friday morning - PA

02:03 PM

Scottish Government calls on Holyrood to block Internal Market Bill

The Scottish Government will recommend that MSPs in Holyrood refuse consent for new UK legislation on post-Brexit trading arrangements. 

Scottish Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said the Internal Market Bill should be "stone dead" without the formal backing of the Scottish Parliament. 

Mr Russell said: "This is a defining moment that will determine both the future of the Scottish Parliament and whether or not the UK can be described as a partnership of equal nations."

Ministers have freely admitted that clauses within the controversial bill breach international law, but the SNP Government argue it also represents a Westminster land-grab that will "fundamentally" erode devolved powers. 

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has already said the UK Government plans to press ahead with the legislation - without the backing of the Scottish Parliament if necessary.

But Mr Russell insisted: "The UK's established constitutional rules mean that the consent of the Scottish Parliament is required for the UK Government's Internal Market Bill to proceed.

"If the Parliament refuses to grant consent then that should kill the Bill stone dead. It will demonstrate beyond all doubt that the UK Government does not believe the UK to be a partnership of equals."

01:46 PM

Law-breaking clauses 'will remain' in bill despite EU's threats over trade deal, says Michael Gove

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said the UK will continue to seek to resolve differences with the EU over legislation overriding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement but stressed the controversial clauses will not be removed.

Following talks in Brussels, Mr Gove said: "We want to reach agreement in the joint committee, we want to make sure that the position of Northern Ireland is secure in the United Kingdom, we want to make sure the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in full.

"But those clauses are there. They are in legislation supported by the House of Commons as a safety net if need be. And those clauses will remain in that Bill."

01:44 PM

Labour MP says she is "innocent of any wrongdoing" after being charged with harassment

Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe has said she is "innocent of any wrongdoing" and that she will "vigorously" defend herself in court after being charged with harassment.

The 55-year-old Labour MP was charged after a file of evidence was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by the Metropolitan Police.

Ms Webbe is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on November 11 to face one count of harassment between September 1 2018 and April 26 2020.

In a statement, Ms Webbe said: "I am innocent of any wrongdoing and look forward to proving this in court.

"I will be vigorously defending myself against these claims."

01:27 PM

Lobby latest: All students 'expected' to go home for Christmas, says Downing Street

Downing Street said it expected students would be allowed to return home for Christmas.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said university students were subject to the same rules as the wider population in the areas where they live.

"The rules for students are the same as those for the rest of the public. Universities can obviously issue advice to their students and I believe that's what has been happening in recent days," the spokesman said.

Asked what Boris Johnson thought about students potentially being asked to stay on campus over Christmas, the spokesman said: "We would expect all students to be able to go home at Christmas."

01:24 PM

Further 10 Covid deaths in English hospitals

A further 10 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospitals in England, the NHS has confirmed.

That brings the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 29,918.

Patients were aged between 60 and 97 years old. All had known underlying health conditions.

Date of death ranges from 24 to 27 September 2020.

The North West and North East & Yorkshire were the worst-affected regions, with three deaths recorded in each, while the Midlands recorded two deaths and both London and the South East registered one death. 

There were no Covid-related deaths in hospitals in the East of England or the South West.

01:20 PM

Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe charged with harassment: CPS

Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe has been charged with an offence of harassment against one female, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

The 55-year-old Labour MP was charged after a file of evidence was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by the Metropolitan Police.

Ms Webbe is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on November 11 to face one count of harassment between September 1 2018 and April 26 2020.

In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service said it made the decision after receiving a file of evidence from the Metropolitan Police.

It added: "Criminal proceedings against Ms Webbe are now active and she has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings."

Claudia Webbe
Claudia Webbe

01:05 PM

Ban on social mixing could be reimposed, suggests minister

The Government is considering further restrictions if coronavirus infections continued to rise, a minister has suggested, saying the country faces "a choice" about what happens next. 

Asked about reports this morning that further national restrictions are looming Helen Whately, the care minister, pointed to existing restrictions on household mixing in the North East as a possible next step. 

It is thought that the rest of the North and London, where rates have been rising and last week was placed on the at-risk list, could be next to come under more draconian restrictions, including shutting all hospitality and banning household mixing. 

"We don't want to bring in more restrictions but of course we keep a constant eye on what's going with the Covid rates and we have seen these upward trends in recent weeks," Ms Whately told Sky News.

"This is the moment in time we have an opportunity, we have a choice as a country to get this back down under control.

"We have to break these chains of transmission. That's the way we get the rates back down again. We have seen them going up again in the last two weeks."

01:02 PM

Lobby latest: Brexit talks to run until mid-October summit, says Downing Street

Downing Street has said it is prepared for Brexit trade talks to run beyond this last week of formal negotiations, but said the mid-October deadline remains. 

The formal round of talks will last until Friday, but informal discussions will run until October 15-16 summit of European Union leaders which Boris Johnson has made his deadline for an agreement, Number 10 said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Although the last few weeks of informal talks have been relatively positive, there remains much to be done.

"The fundamentals of our position have not changed. From the start of this process we have been saying that we simply want a standard free-trade agreement like Canada's.

"The EU's position has been less straightforward and we continue to be asked to accept provisions which do not reflect the reality of our status as an independent country.

"Significant gaps remain as the EU still needs to adopt more realistic policy positions, but we are ready to work as hard as necessary to move things forward this week."

01:00 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street rejects Brussels' demands to rip up Internal Market Bill

Downing Street has rejected Brussels' demands to withdraw controversial clauses from the UK Internal Market Bill which could see the UK unilaterally tear up parts of the Brexit divorce deal.

Earlier today European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic reiterated calls for the UK to withdraw provisions in the Internal Market Bill overriding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by the end of the month.

Speaking separately, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said without a U-turn on this he feared a trade deal would not be possible. 

But the Prime Minister' official spokesman said: "The Bill has been supported by the House of Commons and will continue its passage through the House of Lords."

There was "no change in our position", he said, with the legislation providing a "vital safety net should agreement not be reached at the joint committee".

"We continue to work through the joint committee to resolve the outstanding issues and ambiguity," the spokesman said.

12:53 PM

Lobby latest: No plans to review hospitality curfew

Downing Street has rejected calls to immediately review the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants in England, and played down images showing street parties in city centres. 

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said there were no plans to scrap the restriction and suggested changing the time to allow more flexibility for a staggering of exit times from pubs was not being considered.

He said: "I'm not aware of anything specific in that regard. The decision to reduce time to 10pm was based on the fact it had been in operation in the local lockdown areas and had been considered to strike the right balance."

The spokesman said there was a "particular media focus around Liverpool" with regards to crowded streets when pubs called time at the deadline on Saturday.

He pointed towards a statement from Merseyside Police Superintendent Chris Gibson who said images of a "spontaneous gathering around a local street performer" did not "reflect the overall behaviour of people in Liverpool this weekend".

There have been calls for the 10pm curfew to be reviewed - PA
There have been calls for the 10pm curfew to be reviewed - PA

12:49 PM

Lobby latest: No national restrictions planned for this week - but nothing ruled out

Further restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus could be imposed, including imposing a two-week "circuit break" and a ban on social mixing, Downing Street has said - but stressed there is nothing imminent being planned.

Asked about reported plans, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "There's nothing new beyond the position that was set out by the Prime Minister on Tuesday. We've said that we may require to take additional steps particularly in areas of high prevalence."

Asked about London, he said there was "no update" since the capital being added to the list of areas of concern.

New national measures were not being anticipated this week, but any sudden change in the number of coronavirus cases could change this.

12:48 PM

Lobby latest: More time needed to judge if rule of six is working, says Downing Street

More time is needed to judge if the rule of six is having an impact on the spread of coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "What you continue to see in the statistics that have been published in recent days is that infection rates are rising across the country and in all age groups.

"We have introduced a package of measures over the course of recent weeks and the intention of those is to bring the virus under control."

Asked if the rule introduced on September 14 was not working, he said: "I don't think we're in a position to be able to say that. I think it takes a minimum of two weeks to be able to start to see the impact of measures which we have introduced."

12:45 PM

Brussels stands firm on no deal threat over Internal Market Bill

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has reiterated calls for the UK to withdraw provisions in the Internal Market Bill overriding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by the end of the month.

Following a meeting of the Joint Committee on the implementation of the agreement in Brussels, Mr Sefcovic said the UK's position was still "far apart" from what the EU could accept.

"We maintain that the Bill if adopted in its current form would constitute an extremely serious violation of the (Northern Ireland) protocol as an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law," he said.

"The Withdrawal Agreement is to be implemented, not to be renegotiated, let alone unilaterally changed, disregarded or disapplied."

12:32 PM

Planet Normal: Would the real Boris Johnson please stand up?

“Where’s Boris?” That anguished cry came across loud and clear on Planet Normal this week.

By Boris our listeners don’t mean that whey-faced imposter who stands up in the House of Commons and claims to be “spiritually” troubled by imposing further restrictions on the British people – then goes and does it anyway. No, the Boris they yearn for is that charming, ebullient fellow who promised to “get Brexit done” and now seems capable of only doing what his scientific advisers tell him. Boris used to take gleeful aim in his column at the “gloomsters and doomsters”. Now, it appears that he is their hostage.

Listen to Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, as they ask whether the Covid-19 crisis could be Boris's equivalent of the Iraq War.

12:15 PM

Gavin Williamson to make universities statement... tomorrow

Gavin Williamson, the lesser-spotted Education Secretary, will give a statement to the Commons tomorrow about the situation facing university students. 

With thousands of students around the country currently under self-isolation - many of them young people in their first few weeks away from home - his absence has been notable. 

He was similarly criticised for being AWOL during much of the summer, despite the exams chaos. 

11:51 AM

'Recklessly' leaving self-isolation carries £4,000 fine for first-time offenders

Conservative MPs threatening to make Boris Johnson's life more difficult over emergency coronavirus powers will be scouring the latest set of restrictions that carry with them a fine of up to £10,000. 

From today it is now a legal requirement to quarantine if you test positive for coronavirus, not leaving your home for exercise or food, for 10 days from when your symptoms started.

Some of these restrictions, which do not appear to have been publicised by the Government, include the creation of a new offence to "recklessly" leave self-isolation, which carries a £4,000 fine for first-time offenders, as opposed to £1,000 for other offences. 

However there are exemptions, including attending a funeral, where currently up to 30 people are allowed to attend, despite other "life cycle" events coming under the rule of six. 

It is also a crime to falsely claim you have been in close contact with someone when you haven't. 

You can read the full details here.

11:42 AM

Victoria Lambert: University students should be treated like the paying customers they are, rather than criminals

Seeing university students quarantined in halls - just days after arriving, for some the first time they’ve left home - is grim. There will be those able to treat this as a great adventure but many others will be feeling isolated, anxious and home-sick, a rough start to their three-year journey into independence. 

For those claiming it’s good character building stuff, perhaps bear in mind that many 18-year-olds are not allowed out by security even to get food; online delivery slots are full and in some halls the laundrettes are closed. 

As Victoria Lambert argues, it is no wonder students and parents are united in one thought: what the hell are we paying for?

11:35 AM

Have your say on: the hospitality curfew

Images emerged this weekend of spontaneous street parties forming after people were kicked out of pubs early because of the the new 10pm curfew. 

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said it needed to be urgently reviewed, claiming it caused "more harm than good", while evidence suggests hospitality accounts for just a tiny minority of the overall transmission. 

But without a curfew on hospitality, it makes it more likely that other restrictions - such as a a full ban on hospitality and a ban on household mixing - could be imposed. 

So should the curfew stay, with some tweaks? Should the Government go further and shut hospitality as well as banning socialising? Or should they scrap the whole thing and ban household transmission while letting people still go out for food and drinks? Have your say in the poll below. 

11:15 AM

In pictures: Boris Johnson goes into bat

Rain did not halt play as Boris Johnson enjoyed a game of cricket during a visit to a sports lesson at Ruislip High School in his local constituency of Uxbridge, west London.

Boris Johnson - PA
Boris Johnson - PA
Boris Johnson  - PA 
Boris Johnson - PA
Boris Johnson  -  Stefan Rouseau/PA 
Boris Johnson - Stefan Rouseau/PA

11:05 AM

Higher education watchdog will 'look very closely' at quality of university education

The higher education watchdgo will be "looking very closely" at the quality of education being provided by institutions, amid growing calls for universities to refund students who are forced to live under draconian coronavirus restrictions. 

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students (OfS), told Radio 4's Today programme that institutions must be clear with students on what teaching conditions they can expect and if this changed.

"What we can't have is a situation where students don't know what's going on, that they're locked in their halls of accommodation, and can't get hold of food," she said.

She said students had "legal rights as consumers" and could raise complaints with their university and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

Asked if students should receive a refund of tuition fees she said it was "a question for government".

10:54 AM

'Still potential' for Brexit deal, says Taoiseach - as he warns he is 'not that optimistic'

Micheal Martin has told the Liberal Democrats' conference that he was "not that optimistic" of a future free trade agreement being reached between the UK and the EU.

He said the Irish Government was preparing its latest Budget on the basis of a no-deal Brexit.

"That's the basis upon which we're preparing our Budget and we're warning and alerting businesses to that terrible reality."

But the Taoiseach said he believed there was "still potential" for a deal to be struck.

"A deal is the sane and sensible thing to do," Michael Martin said. But he described talks so far as slow and said that genuine efforts needed to be made if they are to be successful.

"It will take serious engagement and time is running out," he warned.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin - PA
Taoiseach Micheal Martin - PA

10:37 AM

Parliamentary bars will stop serving alcohol at 10pm following outcry over curfew exemption

The Parliamentary authorities have rowed back on plans to allow bars on the estate to stay open after 10pm, despite the national curfew on hospitality. 

This morning it was reported that bars were being exempted from the restrictions, arguing they fall under "canteen" categories. That prompted anger from MPs on all sides, while Helen Whately, the care minister, said she thought the bars should be shut (8:47, 8:59am). 

Following the mini row, a UK Parliament spokesperson said: “Alcohol will not be sold after 10pm anywhere on the parliamentary estate.”

It will come into effect immediately, but the catering of food can continue if the House sits later.

10:31 AM

Parliament to observe minute's silence for police officer killed in Croydon

The Commons will this afternoon observe a minute's silence for police sergeant Matiu Ratana, the officer who was killed in Croydon in the early hours of Friday. 

Sgt Ratana, from New Zealand, died in hospital on Friday after being shot in Croydon as a handcuffed suspect was being taken into custody.

After he has been honoured, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, will take questions, followed by a general debate on coronavirus emergency powers, which will give an indication of the scale of the Tory rebellion growing over the use of executive powers. 

Rebel MPs led by Sir Graham Brady are hoping that an amendment will be accepted by Speaker Sir Linday Hoyle that could curb the use of these powers. 

10:24 AM

Nick Timothy: Both Johnson and Starmer face a reckoning from their restive parties

As with life, so with politics: the disruption and distancing made necessary by Covid has disturbed not only the business of politics, it has changed the personalities of our leaders, the decisions they make and their relationships with their parties and the public at large.

Last week, Keir Starmer gave an important speech to an empty room at Labour’s virtual conference in Doncaster. Next week, Boris Johnson will seek to show the country the way forward, through the pandemic, the economic crisis, and Brexit, in a speech delivered online, to a remote audience of party supporters watching at home, alone.

Party management at conference can be a nightmare. Ambitious ministers preen in front of the members. Policy announcements can blow up and rows break out. Rumours and gossip spread through the bars late at night. Ministers and advisers make injudicious comments after one drink too many with journalists. Ministers say stupid things at fringe meetings.

And yet, argues Nick Timothy, this is why conferences are important. 

10:09 AM

Second backbencher compares Boris Johnson to bewitched king from Lord of the Rings

Another Conservative MP has compared the Prime Minister to a Lord of the Rings character who is "under the spell of his advisers", in a sign of growing unease over the direction Number 10 is taking.  

Last week, one backbencher sent me a clip of the  king Théoden who has been bewitched by Gríma Wormtongue, allowing  his wicked adviser to rule - and ruin - the land. The adviser is then defeated by the Chancellor Gandalf.

It seems that clip might be doing the rounds on the Tory WhatsApp groups, because this morning a different MP - former Brexit minister Steve Baker - told Times Radio: "Many of us will have seen Lord of the Rings... Theoden the king is under the spell of his advisers. And he has to be woken up from that spell.

"When he wakes from that spell joy comes to pass in the kingdom."

09:56 AM

Boris Johnson urged to make online learning 'the norm' for universities

The Prime Minister has been urged to ensure online learning "becomes the norm" for university students.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, the University and College Union (UCU) claimed university employers were "hiding behind the Government's current sectoral guidance, with all the ambiguities associated with the term 'blended learning"'.

It added: "Whilst other sectors are being encouraged by the Government to work from home to help control the spread of the virus, universities are requiring staff to travel across their local regions to work on-site and in-person with any number of students.

"Considering the known risks associated with in-person teaching and students living in close quarters, why did the Government not insist on minimising in-person teaching and students travelling to universities?

"We have concerns that universities are taking this stubborn position because they depend on rents from student accommodation - and because your own Government refuses to step in and underwrite universities' lost income for the duration of the pandemic to ensure they are not negatively impacted and jobs are not lost."

A poster put up at Glasgow University - PA
A poster put up at Glasgow University - PA

09:53 AM

UK returning to 'worst days of Thatcher's sink or swim mentality', says Labour

Labour has attacked the Government after a minister said they could not support jobs "where there simply isn’t work at the moment", saying this is a return to "the worst days of Thatcher's sink or swim mentality". 

Helen Whately, the care minister, told Sky News this morning that the Chancellor was supporting "jobs where there is an opportunity ongoing" and that the hospitality curfew was designed to ensure there were as many jobs in the economy as possible. 

But Wes Streeting, the shadow Treasury minister, claimed this was "black and white" proof of ministers turning their backs on sectors unable to reopen. 

He said: “Millions [have been] consigned to the scrap heap because the Chancellor wouldn’t back jobs that would be viable in the long run with a proper work sharing scheme that incentivised employers to keep more staff on.

“We’re back to the worst days of Thatcher’s sink or swim mentality. And just like in the 1980s, it’s people on the lowest incomes in the north and the midlands who will pay the highest price.

“The shine is well and truly coming off Rishi Sunak.”

09:46 AM

Carrie Symonds praises Boris Johnson's 'brilliant' rewilding plans

Boris Johnson has promised to restore to nature 30 per cent of Britain by 2030 as he signs a biodiversity pledge with other UN leaders.

The Prime Minister will today unfurl plans to secure an area of land the size of the Lake District and South Downs national parks combined to make sure almost a third of the country is wild.

Existing National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other protected areas already comprise approximately 26 percent of land in England. 

The move, which you can read more of here, has got the support of at least one environmental campaigner... 

09:36 AM

Andrew Neil: I am not out to seek revenge against BBC

Andrew Neil has said he is not out to "seek revenge" as he leaves the BBC to launch a new channel aimed at those who feel "under-served and unheard by their media", to launch early next year.

Mr Neil told ITV's Good Morning Britain he moved on from the BBC in an "amicable way" although admitted there were "times where I have been unhappy at how the BBC has treated me". 

Mr Neil said the new director-general of the BBC, Tim Davie, had presented him with a number of offers but that they had felt like a "step back".

He added: "The new DG came up with some really good offers at the end but they weren't quite good enough.

"I felt it was a bit of step back, too much water had flowed under the bridge. It was time to move on and I do so in an amicable way.

"I'm not out to seek revenge. I'm not going to do a John Humphrys in which you leave the BBC with glowing reports, then 24 hours later you beat up on the BBC. That's not my style."

Discovery Inc-backed GB News hopes to create at least 120 positions, including more than 100 journalists in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

09:17 AM

Have your say on: the hospitality curfew

Images emerged this weekend of spontaneous street parties forming after people were kicked out of pubs early because of the the new 10pm curfew. 

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said it needed to be urgently reviewed, claiming it caused "more harm than good", while evidence suggests hospitality accounts for just a tiny minority of the overall transmission. 

But without a curfew on hospitality, it makes it more likely that other restrictions - such as a a full ban on hospitality and a ban on household mixing - could be imposed. 

So should the curfew stay, with some tweaks? Should the Government go further and shut hospitality as well as banning socialising? Or should they scrap the whole thing and ban household transmission while letting people still go out for food and drinks? Have your say in the poll below. 

09:04 AM

Will we be in lockdown for Christmas? What celebrations will look like during Covid-19

It may be too early to put up the Christmas tree, but that doesn't mean Christmas isn't on the minds of many Britons. It will be here before we know it, but it's clear Christmas 2020 will be unlike any other.

The Government has announced yet another fresh wave of lockdown rules following a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in the UK. In addition to the 'rule of six', which bans social gatherings of more than six people, Britons will face new curfews for hospitality venues, stricter face mask requirements and pleas to work from home if possible from later this week.

But how long is it expected to last? And what else is around the corner? Find out what's in store here.

Will Father Christmas be free to deliver presents? - Getty
Will Father Christmas be free to deliver presents? - Getty

08:47 AM

Irish Taoiseach 'not optimistic' about Brexit trade deal

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said he is "not optimistic" that a trade deal will be struck, with the last round of scheduled talks due to begin tomorrow.

Mr Martin said there was still the "potential for a deal", but warned that the controversial Internal Market Bill had "eroded trust".

He told the i newspaper that the legislation "damaged the credibility" of agreements already entered into.

Asked if he believes a free trade deal is likely, he said: "I'm not that optimistic, if I'm honest. Just to let you know that the (Irish) government is preparing its budget in three weeks' time on the basis that there will be a no-deal Brexit.

"That's the basis on which we're preparing the budget and we're warning and alerting businesses to that terrible reality.

"I think progress has been slow in the talks so far, I think there is still potential for a deal, I believe a deal is the sane and sensible thing to do, and I think all of us as politicians have an obligation to those we represent - and in terms of Brexit that means the least damage possible to workers, to employers and to business and economy."

08:34 AM

Shadow minister apologises for saying Labour should not 'let a good crisis go to waste'

Shadow education secretary Kate Green has apologised for comments relating to the Covid-19 pandemic in which she said the Labour Party should not "let a good crisis go to waste".

Appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain, she said: "That was the wrong thing to say. I regret it. I know it will have caused pain and offence to people who've suffered under this terrible pandemic and I should not have said that.

"What I would say is that the crisis has exposed all sorts of things about our economy and about the pressure on our public services that we've got to learn from, we have to learn the lessons of this pandemic."

She added: "I apologise profusely for those comments, they were the wrong thing to say and I'm particularly ashamed that people should feel that I was seeking to make political capital out of a crisis."

Kate Green MP - Heathcliff O'Malley
Kate Green MP - Heathcliff O'Malley

08:31 AM

Increas testing so students can go home for Christmas, says Labour MP

The Government should "step up" testing capacity to help ensure university students can return home for Christmas, the shadow education secretary has said.

Thousands of students are self-isolating around the country, following outbreaks in the university population. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said he would not rule out banning these young people from going home over the holiday. 

This morning Kate Green said the Government must increase testing capacity to avoid this situation. 

She told Sky News: "Students will desperately want to be able to go home to be with friends and family at Christmas. And, of course, it's right that we all have a part to play in keeping distance and keeping safe.

"But the real key to this is getting the mass testing rolled out so that students can be tested, we can know if somebody is testing positive and make sure that they are isolated and don't travel.

"But it would mean the other students would be able to get back home for Christmas and that's why the Government needs to step up too and make sure that that testing capacity is available."

08:19 AM

Brexit talks to resume this week - remember 'the tunnel'?

It's not just Westminster that we will be focusing on this week, with the last scheduled round of EU-UK post-Brext trade talks getting under way tomorrow.

Firstly, Michael Gove is heading to Brussels to discuss the Withdrawal Agreement and if the UK plans to go ahead with its threat to breach it, via the Internal Market Bill. As the two sides have reached an understanding on third party listing it seems unlikely that any laws will be broken - but the question is whether the EU will stand firm on its position that the powers must be removed from the bill if a deal is to proceed. 

After that, talks between Michel Barnier and David Frost will resume tomorrow. There is talk of negotiators returning to the intensive media-black phase dubbed 'the tunnel' (remember that from last time?) in the hope of reaching a deal in time for it to be considered during the European Council summit on October 15-16. 

Commentators agree there is a "landing zone" for an agreement - but as we've seen before, there will be plenty of maneouvring before we get there.

This week is likely to be just another chapter in the Brexit epic drama, but I suspect we are still a little way from the denouement.

08:03 AM

Students 'trapped in disgusting conditions', says NUS boss

Students self-isolating at universities are "trapped" in "disgusting conditions", the president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has said.

Appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Larissa Kennedy said: "I'm hearing from some students across the country where there are security guards outside of these blocks where students are being kept, stopping people from leaving, coming and going, where students are being discouraged from getting deliveries and told by the university that they'll deliver food and that delivery has not arrived and so they've gone for the day without food.

"I've heard from other students who, they've turned up with an amount of toilet roll, told with no notice that they're going to be locked down and wondering where the next roll of toilet roll is coming from.

"It just feels like these are disgusting conditions for students to have been trapped in."

Read: Senior Tories call for tuition refunds for university students forced to lock down

07:59 AM

MPs back minister in calling for Parliament bars to adopt national curfew

MPs are backing Helen Whately in calling for Parliament to follow the curfew rules imposed on the rest of the country, and shut its bars by 10pm. 

Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, tweeted: "This surely will not last the day, and rightly so."

Tim Loughton replied saying: "It's also wrong. Royal Palaces are exempt from licencing laws but that didn't stop us bringing in the smoking ban."

Helen Whately, the care minister, this morning said she thought the estate bars should by shut by 10pm, although stressed that was her personal view (8:47am).

07:54 AM

Public responsible for preventing further restrictions, says minister

It is the public's responsibility to follow the new rules, or face further restrictions, a minister has said. 

Asked if the Government was planning to introduce more restrictions including bans on household mixing, Helen Whately, the care minister, told Radio 4's Today programme: "We don't want to bring in more restrictions, clearly we don't want to do that.

"but I wouldn't rule it out - we do need to get Covid rates under control."

Asked if people should call the police if they see people breaking the rules, Ms Whately urged the public to "do the right thing ourselves", adding: "We all take responsibility -  it is quite clear what you should be doing." 

07:47 AM

Bars in Parliament should abide by 10pm curfew, says minister

Bars in Parliament should be shutting at 10pm, in accordance with the rest of the country, a minister has said.

Facilities serving alcohol on the parliamentary estate are exempt from the earlier closing time on the basis that they fall under the description of “a workplace canteen”, The Times reported this morning.

Helen Whately told Radio 4's Today programme that she did not know whether that was the case as she had "not been spending time in the bars in Parliament" lately. 

But she added: "I don't see that we in Parliament shouldn't be sitting around late at night drinking, we have job to do when we are there."

Asked if they should close, she said yes but stressed it was "just my personal view". 

07:36 AM

Pub curfew causing 'more harm than good', says Manchester mayor

Pub curfews are causing "more harm than good", Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said. 

Photographs and videos emerged this weekend of revellers breaking social distancing rules as they congregated after hospitality venues kicked them out to meet the 10pm curfew. 

Mr Burnham said this should prompt an "urgent review of the emerging evidence", saying his gut feeling was that it was creating "more harm than good". 

He added: "It is potentially contradictory because creates an incentive for people to gather in the street, or more probably, their home, which is the opposite of what local restrictions are trying to do."

It was "not fully thought-through", he added. 

But the Labour politician stressed he was "not coming on in spirit of scoring points, I am looking for solution here - I understand what the Government is trying to do". 

Mr Burnham suggested a 9pm curfew on the sale of alcohol in shops "would prevent the rush" for people looking to continue drinking after pubs had shut. He also called for "on-street dispersal" teams to break groups up. 

07:31 AM

Government's tiered system for Covid restrictions 'can't come soon enough', says Andy Burnham

The Government's tiered system "can't come in soon enough", the Greater Manchester mayor has said, as he argues that confusion over restrictions is making compliance more difficult. 

Local coronavirus lockdowns are set to be automatically triggered by a three-tier "traffic light" system, with alerts sent directly to people's mobile phones, The Telegraph revealed last week. The planned new approach divides the country into different areas based on local infection rates, which will dictate the severity of local lockdowns.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme this morning Andy Burnham said that although nationwide restrictions made it easier for people to understand, it was not right to return to a second lockdown "at this stage", but as the country has to "learn to live with Covid", greater clarity was needed. 

"We can have more of our normal if we observe the rules," he said. "But we need urgent simplification and clarification about the rules... I understand they are looking at new system of tiers in terms of explaining the rules and that can't come in soon enough."

He added that authorities have "all got to get better at explaining this". 

07:24 AM

MMU students to be given food supplies and 'access to outdoor space', Manchester mayor confirms

Students at Manchester Metropolitan University will be given food supplies, "access to outdoor space" and a support package, the mayor of Greater Manchester has confirmed. 

Up to 1,700 students have been told to self-isolate, with security guards blocking people from leaving to get food while police action was threatened after students stuck posters up criticising the university and the Government

Andy Burnham told Radio 4 that "people are able to leave [their halls] if they have got a good reason to do that" but stressed that the university is "dealing with very worrying situation" that required a "firm response". 

He added: "It is not the welcome we would want to give. I don't know what message was given out by whom, maybe the university needs to look back at that....  Nobody would have wanted this to be welcome to Manchester for students."

Mr Burnham said the university was going to announce a financial package today, and that students would be given "food supplies and access to outdoors space". 

07:15 AM

UK must quadruple test capacity to get through second wave, NHS boss says

The country needs "probably four times as many tests as we've currently got" to get through the second wave over the winter, the boss of NHS Providers has said. 

Current capacity stands at around 200,000 a day Helen Whately, the care minister, said this morning. The Government has set itself a target of 500,000 by the end of October. 

Chris Hopson told BBC Breakfast that NHS Test and Trace "has now become as important in a sense as catching criminals, fighting fires and treating heart attacks.

"It's a key public service and when it doesn't work, then we all suffer."

He said that going into winter, the country would need "probably four times as many tests as we've currently got".

And he said there was a need to build testing facilities much closer to where people live and work, and reduce turnaround times for results.

07:12 AM

Labour attacks Government for consigning 1m jobs 'to the scrap heap'

Labour has launched a fresh attack on the Government's job support scheme, claiming that more than a million workers are being "consigned to the scrap heap".

Shadow ministers said there was no acknowledgement about the plight of several sectors, particularly arts and entertainment, which will be forced to remain fully or mainly closed for the next six months.

Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: "The Chancellor is consigning whole sectors of our economy to the scrap heap, damaging lives and livelihoods, and threatening the recovery.

"The failure of ministers to ensure an effective test, track and trace system means that many businesses have no idea when they can reopen.

"Even for those who can access it, the job support scheme is badly designed and could lead to a wave of job losses."

Lucy Powell with the Telegraph's Christopher Hope - Heathcliff O'Malley
Lucy Powell with the Telegraph's Christopher Hope - Heathcliff O'Malley

07:09 AM

Minister defends pub curfew, despite low transmission rate in hospitality

Health minister Helen Whately has defended the Government's 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, despite evidence suggesting hospitality was behind just three per cent of infections in the run-up to the restrictions being imposed.

"As people drink more they tend to socially distance less. So one approach to keeping people socially distancing is to limit the amount of time that people are in places where they are drinking and then this breaking down of compliance with the rules," she told BBC Breakfast.

"We have also seen in some of the places where there have been higher rates over the summer that sometimes bars have been the places where there has been an outbreak so this is a reason why one of the actions we have taken is to have people stopping being out drinking at an earlier time."

Ms Whately again failed to rule out the prospect that university students may be unable to return home at Christmas.

"We want them to be home for Christmas. Everybody wants to come home and spend Christmas with family. We want that very much to be the case," she said. "Christmas is some time off yet and it is down to all of us to get this under control so we can spend Christmas with our families."

07:06 AM

People will 'make their own judgements' about snitching, minister says

Health minister Helen Whately has said people will have to make their own judgments on whether to inform on neighbours who break coronavirus rules.

Neighbours are being encouraged by the Government to report Covid sufferers who are not self-isolating to the police, as it becomes an offence punishable with a fine of up to £10,000 from today.

Police will also conduct spot checks in areas with high infection rates and in high-risk groups.

"Everyone will make their own judgments," she told Sky News.

"If you see that there's a marquee in someone's garden, there's a huge party going on, you are probably going to take action about that because that is clearly a risk of spreading the virus."

07:05 AM

Covid tests can't be diverted to uni students because of uptick in care home cases, minister admits

Coronavirus tests cannot be diverted to universities, despite outbreaks meaning more than 3,000 students have been placed under self-isolation, because of an uptick in cases in care homes, a minister has said.

Helen Whately, the care minister, echoed comments made by her boss Matt Hancock last week in saying the Government wouldn't rule out the possibility that those students currently locked down would have to remain on campus over Christmas. 

Challenged on whether testing, which is expected to reach 500,000 this month, could release these students, Ms Whately stressed the need for care homes to continue to get regular tests as cases start to rise.   

"In the last couple of weeks we have seen rates go up in the tests we do every week [in care homes], particularly in staff but also in residents," she told Sky News. 

06:47 AM

Neighbours urged to call police on Covid self-isolation cheats

Neighbours are being encouraged by the Government to report Covid sufferers who are not self-isolating to the police, on the day it becomes an offence punishable with a fine of up to £10,000.

Police will also conduct spot checks in areas with high infection rates and in high-risk groups.

The news comes amid concerns that people are becoming increasingly fatigued by lockdown measures and suggestions by Boris Johnson that the virus is spreading because people are not abiding by the rules.

The new legal duty to self-isolate, which comes into force on Monday, covers anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus or has been contacted by NHS test and trace and told to stay at home.