Brexit latest news: Boris Johnson poised to reach deal with Tory rebels on Internal Market Bill

Cat Neilan
·69-min read

Boris Johnson is poised to strike a compromise with Tory backbenchers on the Internal Market Bill, it is understood. 

Rebel MPs said a full agreement would be reached “as early as this week”, with “broad consensus in all but a few technical areas”.

The Government is attempting to head off a rebellion over the Neill amendment, which now has 18 signatories after prominent Brexiteer MPs Andrew Mitchell and Nusrat Ghani added their names. 

This morning Robert Buckland said he had been meeting with rebel MPs including Sir Bob and was confident "we will find a way through this".

"We want to get on with this job, we want to get this Bill through,” the Justice Secretary said. 

Downing Street confirmed Boris Johnson has engaged “in conversations” with Sir Bob and said talks will continue.

Sir Bob did not challenge Mr Johnson on the Internal Market Bill during this afternoon's Liaison Committee, but many other MPs did, chief among them Labour MP Hilary Benn. 

The chair of the Brexit committee challenged him over the need for the law-breaking clause, which the Prime Minister said would provide "belt and brace protection against extreme interpretations of the protocol... our legal advice is that we need to go further than article 16 and put in protections describe in the bill."

Asked if Lord Keen, Scotland's advocate general, was still in place having offered his resignation this morning Mr Johnson said "conversations on that matter are still ongoing". 

Mr Johnson also told Mr Benn he did not believe the EU was negotiating in good faith. 

Asked by Sir Bernard Jenkin why the powers are being held in reserve, Mr Johnson said: "We don't yet propose to bring forward legislation yet to deal with that point... but we do need to fortify ourselves in the way we have described."

Follow the latest updates below.

04:15 PM

Boris Johnson: 'Alas, alas, alas' the R-rate is above one

Greg Clark gets another question, asking the Prime Minister "what test will govern" when and how restrictions will be lifted. 

Boris Johnson says it is a "painful dilemma" about restricting people's lives and protecting people. He looks at "every single indicator, every day". The single most important fact is what is the R doing, he adds.

"Alas, alas, alas, having been under one for so many months, the R is now above one," he says. 

And that is it - the Liaison Committee is over, with a final thanks from Sir Bernard Jenkin for his return. 

04:12 PM

Tobias Ellwood calls on Prime Minister to set out 'strategic vision' for defence

Tobias Ellwood, the Defence Committee chair, asks Boris Johnson to share "your own federalist papers" on the UK's strategic "vision". 

The Prime Minister says it is important to note the UK is not at war at the moment, but we are engaged in supporting and protecting people around the world where we have an interest.

He says the UK wants to show international leadership in vaccines, in trade and in climate change.

Mr Ellwood notes that the nature of conflict is changing and asks him to "ignore" the two per cent of GDP commitment so we can "invest in our armed forces". 

Mr Johnson says the Government is increasing spending on defence equipment and other areas, and "we are one of the very few countries in Nato to spend two per cent of GDP on defence". 

04:06 PM

Boris Johnson rejects suggestion he is frightened of scrutiny

Sarah Champion asks if the Prime Minister is "frightened of parliamentary scrutiny of foreign aid".

"No," says Boris Johnson. "Not at all - in fact I relish it."

He says there may be some suggestion that the DfID committee should be merged with the Foreign Affairs committee. But he says he "perfectly understand" the case for a separate committee dealing with aid.

It is a matter for parliament, he says.  

04:01 PM

Boris Johnson: Coronavirus has seen depressing return to nationalism

Boris Johnson tells Tom Tugendhat that the UK "can be very proud" about what it does in offering support to BNO passport holders. 

Asked about Japan joining Five Eyes, the Prime Minister says it is not something that Japan has raised with him, but says the UK has a "fantastic" security relationship. 

Mr Tugendhat asks if he will host a coronavirus vaccine conference after the US election "to bring in" any new leaders. 

Mr Johnson says "It has been a disaster... you have seen a return to nationalism, nationalist priorities in a way that is very depressing for those who believe in globalism and internationalism. We certainly want to use our G7 presidency... organisations like the WHO I believe are of huge value to the world."

03:57 PM

Boris Johnson challenged over human rights abuses in China

Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat asks several questions about about human rights abuses in China, including if the Sino-British declaration, which Boris Johnson says has been broken by the security law in Hong Kong. 

That change of law is "already starting to bite", says the Prime Minister. 

Mr Tugendhat asks if international law protects British citizens, and Mr Johnson concurs. He then asks about Uighur Muslims, and if it is a genocide.

"I don't believe we are in a position so far of characterising it..." Mr Tugendhat interrupts to note that others do and asks for clarity. 

He asks if ministers and members of the Royal Family will be allowed to attend the Winter Olympics or if they will be asked to boycott. Mr Johnson says it is important to protect international sporting events "and indeed the Royal Family" from politics. 

Pressed on this, he says he has not made a decision yet. 

03:53 PM

Boris Johnson tells MPs reserve law-breaking powers will only used in 'extreme' circumstances

 Meg Hillier asks about the Internal Market Bill, asking whether it only breaks the law if certain powers are used or breaks the law by virtue of being. 

He says: "My position is the AG's position, and the objective of these measures is to protect this country against.... measures that serve to break up the UK."

Asked by the Labour MP again, he says "you have my answer". 

Sir Bernard Jenkin then takes a turn, asking why the powers are being held in reserve. 

Mr Johnson says there are many other issues that the bill addresses. On the third country listings, although the EU have still not taken the threat off the table "it would be so extreme to keep it on the table, to deploy it, we don't yet propose to bring forward legislation yet to deal with that point... but we do need to fortify ourselves in the way we have described."

03:50 PM

Sir Bob Neill asks if Brexit tensions will 'prejudice basic things that affect people's lives'

Asked if he would take "personal charge" of agreements over professional and financial services, Boris Johnson says he is in charge of everything and is following "each dossier very carefully". 

"I hope we will make progress," he adds. 

Sir Bob Neill then turns to legal matters such as child access and commercial contracts. 

He asks if he will "go to member states to put pressure on the Commission" and asks that "the atmosphere we have around some other matters will prejudice basic things that affect people's lives". 

Boris Johnson says: "We have all got skin in this game... I hope every much that common sense will prevail."

Sir Bob warns that important issues might get lost, but Mr Johnson says he is keeping "eagle-eye on every aspect". 

03:46 PM

Sir Bob Neill presses Boris Johnson on post-Brexit security and intelligence

Sir Bob Neill, who is currently leading the rebellion over the Internal Market Bill, asks what practical steps are being taken to ensure the UK has access to "critically important matters" such as criminal databases after Brexit. 

Boris Johnson says: "There will be changes but the safety, security of British citizens will be our number one priority."

He says he won't go into detail, but a "huge amount of work is going on". 

Sir Bob plugs away asking if we will negotiate our way back into the European Arrest Warrant. Mr Johnson pledges to "protect British citizens" but doesn't give any specifics. 

Asked about a data adequacy agreement, Mr Johnson says we need to reach an agreement on that and it is part of negotiations, but doesn't give a timeline despite Sir Bob pushing. 

When asked if the deadline is December 31, he notes the EU has "symmetrical concerns". 

03:42 PM

Angus MacNeill disrupts Liaison Committe with questions about Scottish independence

SNP MP Angus MacNeill asks about the US reaction to the Internal Market Bill, asking if Nancy Pelosi is wrong to interpret it as undermining the Good Friday Agreement. 

Boris Johnson says it "may have been lost in the presentation". 

The two then have a debate about independence and autonomy, during which Mr Johnson looks somewhat bemused. 

Mr MacNeill accuses him of "not respecting democracy in Scotland" and asks him if he will ever agree to hold another referendum. 

Mr Johnson says: "The Scottish Nationalist Party fought the referendum in 2014 very clearly on the understanding that this was a once in a generation thing..."

Mr MacNeill interrupts him to say "you said you'd die in a ditch", with Sir Bernard Jenkin calling "order, order". 

Asked repeatedly if it is a yes or a no, Mr Johnson concludes by saying it is "a statement of the obvious" that a generation has not elapsed since 2014. 

03:35 PM

Boris Johnson rolls eyes as Brexiter Bill Cash lists precedents of international law-breaking

Asked about the "sensible" law-breaking provisions of the Internal Market Bill Sir Bill Cash, chair of the European Scrutiny committee, Boris Johnson says "I think you are right". 

He says: "It is essential that we uphold the will of the people in the way that we are. It is also right that we have a system that allows us to protect parliamentary sovereignty and the geographic integrity of the UK."

Sir Bill offers "something in the order" of 20 precedents where international treaties have been overridden. 

He gives long lists of examples, resulting in Mr Johnson rolling his eyes and shifting around in his seat.

Sir Bernard Jenkin tells him to ask a question, which Sir Bill does by suggesting there are "double standards" going on. 

Mr Johnson says he won't repeat what he has said, but "committee has what the AG has said on this", and "I think this is really about us as a country ensure our friends and partners dont do something that people would think is unreasonable".

03:30 PM

Boris Johnson: I don't believe EU are negotiating in good faith

Hilary Benn asks if the Prime Minister thinks the EU is negotiating in good faith. Boris Johnson says; "I don't believe they are."

Asked why Brandon Lewis said this morning he thought they were (see below), Mr Johnson says it is always possible they are "and perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong" and withdraw the extreme interpretation and "all will be well". 

But in the meantime, he says, he prefers to have the safety net of the Internal Market Bill. 

Asked if he expected all five of his predecessors to say "don't do that", Mr Johnson says it is the duty of the Prime Minister to protect the integrity of the UK. 

03:27 PM

Boris Johnson says Internal Market Bill protects against 'extreme interpretations of the protocol'

Hilary Benn, chair of the Brexit committee, asks if the advocate general for Scotland Lord Keen is still in post. 

Boris Johnson says "conversations on that matter are still ongoing". 

Lord Keen handed in his resignation earlier today as reported below.

Mr Benn then asks about the Internal Market Bill. Mr Johnson directs the Labour MP to Suella Braverman's advice, saying we are "providing belt and brace protection against extreme interpretations of the protocol... our legal advice is that we need to go further than article 16 and put in protections describe in the bill."

Asked why that is he says it is "the only way" to provide the protections he seeks "because we think in order to provide the protections necessary in the very limited range of circumstances in which it might be necessary because of an extreme interpretation of the protocol". 

Asked if he did not realise it when it was originally negotiated, Mr Johnson says "I believed and still believe our friends and partners in the EU would negotiate in good faith."

03:23 PM

Tariffs on EU products would be 'formidable' if no deal is reached, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is then asked about food supply after the transition period ends this year. 

He says he is working to ensure it is as smooth as possible.

"As for the possibility of tariff barriers on either sides, I don't think our friends and partners would want to see them go up - us putting tariff barriers up against their produce... for the very considerable reason that they have a surplus in food exports."

But Neil Parish suggests that is what we should do. 

"Our tariff regime... were it to come in would be formidable for some of their products," Mr Johnson responds, noting that is why he hopes a deal will be struck. 

03:19 PM

Meg Hillier and Boris Johnson clash over testing figures

Meg Hillier then asks the Prime Minister about schools and support for children not in the classroom. 

She and Boris Johnson then quibble over figures. He says he is "surprised at you taking quite such a hostile tone" and details some of the financial support that is being given to schools. 

He also "respectfully rejects" her description of Test and Trace as a failure, saying "yes, there is a long way to go... but I would not want the many many hundreds of thousands of people who are working to deliver these results... of being failures."

Asked about his internal 'moonshot' figure of reaching 10m tests a day, he says: "I don't recognise that figure... but there is an opportunity to do something that is wholly separate to the operation of Test and Trace.... a test and release system if it were."

Boris Johnson - AFP
Boris Johnson - AFP

03:13 PM

Second lockdown would be financially 'disastrous', says Boris Johnson

Julian Knight then asks if the UK can afford a second national lockdown. 

Boris Johnson says it would be "completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it". 

He says: "I doubt the financial consequences would be anything other than disastrous."

When people argue against the rule of six, he understands it, but "we must, must, must beat this disease". 

03:11 PM

Boris Johnson gets in a muddle over testing timeline

Boris Johnson is asked how that is possible when mass testing won't be ready until spring. He says "we are on the brink of getting it right" but then he says "we are a long way off having those instant pregnancy-style liberating tests". 

The "science is almost there" he says and as soon as it is you have the possibility of theatres and football clubs being able to reopen. 

Julian Knight, the DCMS committee chair. asks him if he is "aware of that reality" affecting the sectors. Boris Johnson says having been London mayor he understands how "vital" they are. 

Asked if he will commit to a sector specific plan, he says: "Yes, as you know there is already such a plan underway."

03:08 PM

Julian Knight challenges Boris Johnson over 'morality' of pulling furlough from arts

Julian Knight picks up on some of Mel Stride's points, asking if it is "morally right" for many of those working in the arts to face losing everything when furlough ends, given they are unable to work because of Government restrictions. 

Boris Johnson says there is "a big investment in the arts and culture sector" as well as "specific funds to help everybody through a very very tough time". 

He says: "The best answer is to get these businesses going again, get the theatres lit again by having the virus down and a testing regime that allows us to do that - that is what we are working towards."

03:06 PM

Mel Stride and Boris Johnson clash over spending

Mel Stride then asks what Government is doing to "prudently" look forward, something which Boris Johnson describes as "slightly incoherent" with previous questions about further spending. 

"The threat of future interest rate rises is something we have to bare in mind," he says. 

Mr Stride says short term support "is very distinct from profligate spending in the longer term".

He then turns to the million-plus people who "fell through the gaps" of support, asking if Mr Johnson backs the Treasury's position that nothing can be done for these people. 

The Prime Minister says he has "real, real sympathy" for those affected but says there has been a "dizzying variety" of schemes. "Most people should have been able to qualify for something."

03:01 PM

Boris Johnson pledges 'creativity and flexibility' after furlough scheme ends

Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, asks what the Government will do to support people through "the coming months of this crisis", asking why ministers are not prepared to provide "targeted support" for certain sectors. 

Boris Johnson insists the Government has done more than most other countries so far. 

"We will continue to show great creativity and flexibility... in trying to look after every sector in the economy," he adds. 

Mr Stride says he takes that as yes. Mr Johnson says "yes", and points to other forms of support such as the Kickstart scheme. 

"I don't think anyone on the committee would seriously believe the government would come up with something as imaginative as the furlough scheme" and not continue to support people, he says. 

02:58 PM

Boris Johnson fends off question about people breaking 'rule of six' law

Catherine McKinnell then asks what he is doing "practically" to get a grip of the testing system. 

Boris Johnson says he knows many people have had "infuriating" experiences but the distance that people have to travel has come down from six or seven miles to around five miles. 

(As pointed out earlier, this excludes people who decide not to make the journey because it is too far.)

Ms McKinnell says his response "that it all seems to be going well" is not appropriate. He argues that is not what he said. 

She then asks that if the Government is willing to break the law, why shouldn't the public. He doesn't really respond to the question but says "I urge people to obey it - and there are sanctions in place."

02:54 PM

Boris Johnson rules out exemptions for children from rule of six

Catherine McKinnell then asks him to look at the rule of six again "in light of the science and common sense". 

She wants children under the age of 11 to be excluded, as they are in Wales and Scotland. 

Boris Johnson says coronavirus is transmittable among children, although their symptoms are not as serious. 

"Alas, although the number of cases... is far smaller than it was in the spring, we must expect those infections proportionately to lead to mortality."

02:52 PM

Boris Johnson grilled over lack of support for pregnant women

Petitions committee chair Catherine McKinnell then asks about pregnant women and why the Government rejected every petition that called for women to have their partners with them. 

Boris Johnson says he "totally agrees" with those who say that separation was wrong. 

But Ms McKinnell points to the pledge he made during People's Questions, and 23 recommendations which were mostly rejected. She asks him to "genuinely commit" to supporting new mums. 

He says he is "certainly happy" to look at what more can be done to support new mums. But Ms McKinnell says it is easier for a new father to "go to the pub or grouse shooting than to attend his own baby's growth scans". 

He promises to look into this. 

02:48 PM

Ministers, not civil servants, have ultimate responsibility, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is then asked about the civil service, specifically why it needs reform. 

The Prime Minister says "I venerate our civil service... they deliver extraordinary things every day for the British public".

But "perhaps, one of the lessons we need to draw from this... maybe there are sometimes when we need to move faster", he adds. "We won't be shy of reform where necessary," he tells William Wragg. 

There are "changes and improvements" going on all the time but "not in any spirit of disapproval of ethic of service of the performance of our civil service," he insists, confirming that the fundamental relationship between ministers and officials would remain. 

Asked when a minister should resign rather than a civil servant, he says: "Ministers should of course be responsible. I as the minister for the civil service and Prime Minister takes full responsibility for everything that the Government does."

02:43 PM

Sir Bernard Jenkin warns Prime Minister 'everything will fall over' without school tests

Sir Bernard Jenkin intervenes to note that "everything will fall over" if schools don't have enough tests. 

He asks about priorities. Boris Johnson says "perhaps you weren't listening" to his response to an earlier question. 

Sir Bernard points out that if one individual tests positive an entire class and their families will have to isolate, and not be able to take a test. 

Mr Johnson apologises for the distances people are having to travel, saying "it has come down a bit". 

02:39 PM

Boris Johnson says people must only seek a test if they have symptoms

Boris Johnson says many people are seeking tests so they can be "released to get on with their lives in the normal way". 

The Prime Minister says this is "perfectly reasonable" but the advice is only to get a test if they have symptoms. The priority list will be "set out today... set out very shortly", he adds. 

In terms of schools, he says, teachers and parents should look at guidance for when to take a test. But it would be "wrong" for the whole class to be sent home if they have not tested positive, he says. 

Greg Clark challenges him on this, but Mr Johnson tells the committee to "consult the guidance". 

Mr Clark then says the capacity they have targeted won't be enough. The Prime Minister says it will make "a very substantial difference", although concedes he makes "a very important point".

02:36 PM

Boris Johnson admits UK does not have enough testing capacity

Bernard Jenkin opens the Liaison Committee asking Boris Johnson to appear again before Christmas. He says he "will do my utmost", but gives no firm commitment. 

Greg Clark then asks about the UK's testing capacity, noting people in Kent have to travel to Cornwall. 

Mr Johnson admits "we don't have enough testing capacity now because in an ideal world I would like to test everybody immediately". 

He says there has been a massive increase, and pledges 500,000 a day by October. 

Mr Clark says Matt Hancock said it would be resolved in two weeks, and Mr Johnson just repeats his answer. 

02:32 PM

Who is grilling Boris Johnson today?

Boris Johnson will go head-to-head with the man leading the rebellion on the Internal Market Bill during this afternoon's Liaison Committee hearing today. 

The Prime Minister is set to be grilled by several high ranking MPs including Justice committee chair Sir Bob Neill, who has tabled an amendment to the controversial law that would give backbenchers a final say before ministers use the law-breaking powers in the bill. 

He is also up against Science and Technology committee chair Greg Clark at a time when the national testing programme appears to be unravelling, and Foreign Affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat, as well as Tobias Ellwood, who damned the Government for its "Nixonian Madman strategy" last week. 

Other notable backbench inquisitors include William Wragg, Sir Bill Cash and Mel Stride. From Labour, Meg Hillier and Hilary Benn are among those likely to apply some pressure. 

02:20 PM

Michel Barnier tells EU 'not to rise to British provocation'

Michel Barnier urged EU governments this morning to not rise to British “provocation” over the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland  and “keep calm and carry on” with the trade negotiations. 

The EU’s chief negotiator told the EU-27 ambassadors  in Brussels that if the UK was prepared to move on its red lines in the next round of trade talks, a trade deal could be undergoing legal scrubbing in the second half of October and make the deadline of the end of the month. 

Ambassadors criticised Mr Johnson for claiming that the EU could blockade UK food imports to Northern Ireland. 

“This was seen as a sign of how low the UK was prepared to go,” a source said, “one delegation said that the UK government was a master of disseminating fake news and the EU had to be prepared to counter those messages.”

“There was a lot of dismay at UK spin and in particular over the food blockades but also an awareness of how good the British are at picking fights that play well to the public.” 

Mr Barnier  used the “keep calm” British wartime slogan to convince ambassadors to stay focused on the prize of avoiding no deal, rather than be distracted by Boris Johnson’s threat to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement. 

“It was a rallying cry for everyone not to rise to the provocation,” the European source said. 

02:10 PM

Dominic Raab's trip to US rocked by Washington's latest trade deal threat

Dominic Raab's hopes of reassuring US politicians over Boris Johnson’s plan to override parts of the Brexit divorce deal has been rocked by further threats that it could scupper a trade deal between the two countries.

The Foreign Secretary has travelled to the US for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but he will also meet US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who last week said there would be no UK-US trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement was undermined.

Today four US congressmen, led by chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel, wrote Mr Johnson making the same threat.

The congressmen wrote: "Many in the United States and in Congress consider the issues of the Good Friday Agreement and a potential US-UK Free Trade Agreement inextricably linked.

"With the issues raised in this letter in mind, we therefore urge you to abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement and look to ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland and future options for the bilateral relationship between our two countries."

Dominic Raab - PA
Dominic Raab - PA

01:49 PM

Have your say on: who won today's PMQs?

Boris Johnson stumbled in his first response to Angela Rayner, perhaps thrown by her shift from bemoaning the UK's test capacity to a specific question on care worker pay - something he was unable to answer. 

Labour's deputy leader spent much of the session focused on social care, which the Prime Minister insisted he would support and bring forward a winter action plan tomorrow. 

But neither side really packed a powerful punch. The closest we got to fireworks was the clash over grouse shooting, which Mr Johnson hit back at as evidence of Labour's "carping" from the sidelines. 

Who won in today's debate? Have your say in the poll below. 

01:42 PM

Philip Johnston: Parliament must stand up to an executive bent on restricting us

ver since the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores the big question has been whether it was sufficiently lethal to warrant suspending our liberties. To begin with, no-one could be certain that Covid-19 was not an existential threat to humanity. But, mercifully, it is not –as indeed, the Government concedes.

This makes it harder to understand laws like the Rule of Six - by any measure an extraordinary infringement of personal liberties, to be justified only in extremis.

More than that, asks Philip Johnston, how has the Government been allowed to get away with this without any proper scrutiny and no vote or even debate in parliament, the supposed upholder of those very liberties

01:32 PM

Police officers to support contact tracing in Manchester, Andy Burnham says

Police community support officers and fire safety staff will be called on to help boost contact tracing in Greater Manchester, with the national system failing to reach nearly half of contacts in the area, Andy Burnham has said. 

Speaking during his weekly online press conference, the mayor of Greater Manchester said NHS Test and Trace system was failing to reach 46 per cent of named contacts in the area.

He said: "Test, trace and isolate is not working well enough for Greater Manchester at the moment and we have only a small number of weeks to fix it before we go into the really tough time which lies ahead in the autumn and into the winter."

Mr Burnham added: "We have agreements from Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to mobilise a number of police community support officers and fire safety staff to focus their efforts on contacting the contacts that are currently not being reached in Greater Manchester by the national system."

01:19 PM

Further 11 people die with coronavirus, NHS England confirms

A further 11 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 29,687.

Patients were aged between 69 and 98 years old. All had known underlying health conditions.

Date of death ranges from 11 September to 15 September 2020, with the majority on or after 14 September.

The North East & Yorkshire and the North West were the worst-affected regions, with three deaths reported in both region. There were two deaths registered in London and one in the East of England, the Midlands and the South East.

No deaths were reported in the South West.

01:10 PM

Labour MP lists five Tory MPs who questioned colleague's account of PPE shortages

Wes Streeting has asked the Speaker to "correct an injustice" after Nadia Whittome, MP for Nottingham East, was "wrongly accused of fabricating a shortage of PPE".

Ms Whittome had returned to work at the local Lark Hill retirement village for almost a month at the height of the pandemic before being sacked for going public with her concerns. 

"As well as accusations in the media and social media, my hon friend's account of this serious PPE shortage was called into accounts by Rutland and Melton [Alicia Kearns], Mansfield [Ben Bradley], Mid Bedfordshire [Nadine Dorries], Braintree [James Cleverly] and North West Durham [Richard Holden]," Mr Streeting said. 

Lord Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park was also named. 

He told the Commons that "today the care home in question has confirmed shortages of PPE".

"The Government must listen to frontline workers and stop trying to distract from catastrophic failures," he added. 

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said it was important the record was corrected and suggested MPs "may wish to speak with the honourable member in question". 

He called on all members to "be a little bit more careful before we point the figure at each other", urging "a little bit more care and a little bit more caution". 

12:56 PM

Lord Keen offers Boris Johnson his resignation over Internal Market Bill

Lord Keen, Scotland's advocate general, has tendered his resignation over the Internal Market Bill, the BBC has reported. 

The lawyer was finding it "increasingly difficult" to reconcile Boris Johnson's bill with the law.

Downing Street has not yet confirmed his resignation.

He was the subject of some discussion this morning at the Northern Ireland committee, where his comments appeared to be at odds with those of Brandon Lewis. 

Both Lord Keen and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, have suggested the Internal Market Bill does not break the law, while Mr Lewis has admitted repeatedly it would. 

12:46 PM

UK does not want to disrupt Ireland's land bridge to Europe, says Taoiseach

The UK does not want to disrupt Ireland's multibillion-euro trade land bridge to Europe, the Taoiseach has said.

The transit of goods from Europe via the UK is worth billions of euro and carries thousands of vehicle movements every year, dominated by agri-food like fresh fish with a short shelf life.

The UK has agreed to remain part of the Common Transit Convention, which is used for moving goods between EU member states.

Micheal Martin said: "We do not have the sense from the UK Government that there is in any way going to be any sort of undermining of such trade.

"They are still adamant that they want a comprehensive free trade agreement." 

Mr Martin said work has been carried out with French, Belgian and Dutch authorities.

But he repeated his concerns that the UK Internal Market Bill represents a "disavowal" of the EU Withdrawal Treaty.

He said: "This is unacceptable. It does breach an international treaty and risks issues about the UK Government's commitment to any further agreements that might be arrived at."

12:42 PM

Education Committee chair expecting schools to be on priority list for tests

The Conservative chair of the Education Committee has said he is expecting schools to be on the priority list for coronavirus tests, echoing comments made by a minister earlier today. 

Robert Halfon told Radio 4's World at One: "As I understand it, schools will be on the priority list.

"Also, the Government, the Department for Education need to make a decision - are we going to risk damaging the life chances of our children still further?

"We have got to do everything possible to keep our schools open."

Mr Halfon has called for schools to have access to coronavirus tests within 48 hours, explaining: "If we don't do this, we won't just have over 300 schools partially closed or fully closed as we have at the moment, we could have a lot more."

This morning Robert Buckland told Sky News: "For me, the priority should be for children in school and their parents in order to ensure their lives are safe and also importantly they are not disrupted in the way we are seeing."

He later told BBC Breakfast that testing at schools would be prioritised because of "the importance of education" and the "knock-on effect on parents" that quarantine would have. 

12:36 PM

Tory questions 'eye-watering' legal aid given to Pc Harper's killers

A Conservative MP has questioned the sum of legal aid given to Pc Andrew Harper's killers.

Speaking during a debate on the new sentencing white paper Sir Desmond Swayne, the member for New Forest West, asked the Justice Secretary if he would "address eye-watering costs like the £456,000 clocked up by Andrew Harper's killers? That can't be right, can it?"

Robert Buckland replied: "Well (Sir Desmond) knows that everybody in this country is equal before the law and fair trials have to happen.

"Legal costs are of course paid to the people who represent criminals or accused people. I take his point about making sure that our legal aid system is efficient and that money is not wasted, but the fundamental principles of a right to a fair trial are something that I will defend and that I think he would agree with as well."

11:57 AM

Quarter of a million people in Wales under local lockdown from 6pm

Nearly a quarter of a million people in Wales will be placed under a local lockdown following an increase of coronavirus cases, the Welsh Government has announced.

Rhondda Cynon Taf, which has a population of around 240,000, has seen a rolling seven-day case rate of 82.1 per 100,000 people.

Health minister Vaughan Gething announced that the measures, which will be reviewed within two weeks, would come into force at 6pm on Thursday.

Under the measures, people must not enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area without a reasonable excuse. People will only be able to meet outdoors and will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors. All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.

11:53 AM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson in talks with Sir Bob Neill, Downing Street confirms

Boris Johnson has spoken to senior Tory Sir Bob Neill who is calling for ministers to create a parliamentary lock on the UK Internal Market Bill, Downing Street confirmed.

A Number 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister and his team "are in conversations with MPs about the Bill and the importance of creating the legal safety net".

He confirmed that the Prime Minister had spoken to Sir Bob and said "conversations with MPs will continue".

This morning Robert Buckland said he was also in talks with the justice committee chair about concerns regarding the law-breaking powers contained in the bill. 

11:50 AM

Lobby latest: Curfews not ruled out by Downing Street

Downing Street did not deny reports that curfews were being considered to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Such restrictions could be introduced in London and other major cities in a bid to stem transmission, it has been reported. 

Kevin Fenton, London director of Public Health England, told the Evening Standard: "It might be local curfews so you're not out drinking until the wee hours of the morning.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "We will continue to keep the transmission rate under review.

"We've introduced the rule of six to try and bear down on the transmission rate given that it has risen recently.

"But as I say we will keep that data and the scientific evidence under review."

11:45 AM

Have your say on: who won today's PMQs

Boris Johnson stumbled in his first response to Angela Rayner, perhaps thrown by her shift in questioning from test capacity to care worker pay. 

Neither side really packed a powerful punch, with Labour's deputy leader focusing on social care while the Prime Minister insisted he would support the sector and bring forward a winter action plan tomorrow. 

The closest we got to fireworks was the clash over grouse shooting, which Mr Johnson hit back at as evidence of Labour's "carping" from the sidelines. 

Who won in today's debate? Have your say in the poll below. 

11:40 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson agrees to look at Waspi women case

The SNP’s Martyn Day asks what the Prime Minister will do to honour the promise he made last year to take a fresh look at the plight of the Waspi women.

Yesterday tThe Court of Appeal ruled the women had not been discriminated against and backed the High Court’s claim that the Government was right to correct "historic direct discrimination against men”

Boris Johnson says he will study the judgement and write to him. 

And that’s it. PMQs is over.

11:38 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson rejects criticism on testing capacity

Stephen Doughty, Labour's MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, asks when the Prime Minister is "going to get a grip", of the testing situation, which he says "should have been seen months ago".

The MP claims the Prime Minister is "incompetent". 

Boris Johnson replies saying "once again the opposition is at risk of undermining the colossal work of NHS Test and Trace."

He claims that the average distance that people go for a test has fallen from "six or seven miles to five miles", although it has been pointed out previously that this is only the distance travelled by people actually getting a test -excluding those who give up at the prospect of travelling hundreds of miles. 

11:35 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson rejects calls to extend furlough scheme

The Prime Minister is asked by Labour MP Rachael Maskell about whether he will consider extending the furlough scheme. 

He appears slightly taken aback, clarifies the question and says the opposition frontbench is "shaking their heads - I don't think that is sensible", he adds.

"We need to get people off furlough and into work", he adds, noting schemes like the furlough bonus and Kickstart Scheme for young people. 

He promise to deploy "maximum creativity" in "putting our arms around this country's workers".

11:29 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson challenged over contradictory claims on Internal Market Bill's legality

Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael notes the confusion between whether the Internal Market Bill breaks the law, with Brandon Lewis saying it does while Scotland's advocate general Lord Keen has said it does not. 

"It is of course possible they are both right in saying that the other is wrong, but surely an important matter such as this requires clarity," he adds, asking the PM to publish all the advice he has received so the House can make an "informed decision". 

Boris Johnson says "governments don't normally publish such advice", but he adds: "Of course this bill is intended to uphold the.. integrity of the United Kingdom and I believe it should be supported by every member in this House."

11:26 AM

PMQs: Lib Dem leader claims Government broke law over rights for disabled people

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey claims he has seen legal advice that suggest the UK Government "broke international law in how the coronavirus act reduced the rights of disabled people". 

He asks Boris Johnson to meet with him to ensure the Government "act legally" before renewing those powers. 

The Prime Minister says he is unaware of this, and promises to write to him to discuss the matter further. 

Boris Johnson - Shutterstock
Boris Johnson - Shutterstock

11:23 AM

PMQs: Ian Blackford claims Tory backbenchers want Boris Johnson 'gone'

Ian Blackford accuses the PM of being "all over the place", saying he doesn't "understand" Brexit or the Internal Market Bill. 

He claims it is "a blatent power grab", and that Tory backbenchers accuse Boris Johnson of being incompetent and that "they want him gone before the next election" - which prompts laughter from MPs. 

Mr Johnson says he is not clear if Mr Blackford is in favour of the union or not, but that "his hostility to me" suggests he supports it. 

The bill would give a "surge of powers" transferred to the devolved administrations, and stresses that 70 per cent of testing in Scotland has been supported by the UK Government. 

Mark Logan, Conservative MP for Bolton North East, tells the House that he will "push back" against Mr Blackford's comments.

11:19 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson hits out at Labour's 'carping' after grouse shooting comment

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner then asks about the extent of the crisis and the looming second wave, claiming the top priority of the coronavirus war cabinet was "restoring grouse shooting". 

Is this really your top priority, she asks. 

Boris Johnson says Labour has been "consistently carping throughout this crisis" and have been "raising issues that are tangential". 

The Government meanwhile is "getting on with delivering the priorities of the British people", he claims, citing various policies including the sentencing white paper and new police recruits. 

"We are getting on with delivering our programme, getting on with our fight against coronavirus," he adds. 

11:14 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson 'totally agrees' that partners should attend births

Angela Rayner then turns to the Covid rules banning partners from attending scans for pregnant women, which in some cases has led to women giving birth on their own "or worse", having to deal with natal deaths. 

Boris Johnson says she is "absolutely right" to raise this issue, and he "totally agrees" that partners should be able to attend births and "very happy to encourage cooperation" between Ms Rayner and his colleagues in the Department for Health. 

She welcomes this. 

11:12 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson urges public to follow guidance on getting tests

Angela Rayner tells MPs that Boris Johnson makes and breaks promises. He has had six months to deliver and he still can't get it right, she says. 

Matt Hancock said yesterday it would take weeks to sort out but "we don't have weeks", she says. 

The Prime Minister repeats his claim that the Government has delivered on the most thorough-going testing of any country in Europe.

"We are delivering exactly what we said we would do - what is happening is the British people quite understandably ares responding... with a huge, huge surge in demand."

He calls on the public to "follow the guidance about when to get a test". 

Ms Rayner says the next time someone drives from London to Durham it will probably be to get a Covid test, to some light chuckling. 

11:09 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson defends testing capacity

Angela Rayner then turns to the "moonshot" testing pledge, and asks if all care homes in this country have weekly tests. 

Boris Johnson says "yes, to the best of my knowledge". 

He says she is "right to express frustration" about the "massive demand" for test which has increased hugely in the last few days. "What we are trying to do now is meet that demand at record speed," he adds, pointing to efforts that are being taken to do so. 

"We want to get up to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October - that is a huge, huge number," Mr Johnson says. 

"We are testing more than any other Europe country."

11:07 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson hints at new Covid rules for social care workers

Angela Rayner then asks the PM to commit to give the social care sector the funding it needs to the through the winter crisis. 

Boris Johnson says he is concerned about the rates of infection in care homes, and tomorrow the further winter care home action plan will be set out. That will include "toughening up" around rules including workers moving between settings, he says. 

The PM praises workers for what they have done during the crisis, and commits to giving them the PPE "and the cash" they need. 

Labour's deputy leader says "get some skates on it". 

11:05 AM

PMQs: Angela Rayner challenges Prime Minister over social care pay

Angela Rayner opens with thanks for veterans, following the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. 

She then turns to a letter she has received "from a man called Keir" who hasn't been able to go to work because he has been self-isolating.

She asks what the average hourly rate of a care worker.  In response Boris Johnson fumbles over his congratulations to her. 

But he says "her constituent Keir" has had a negative test and "I don't know why he is not here". 

He highlights the UK's fast turnaround capacity, and says this compares very favourably with other countries. 

On care homes, he says the Government is today launching a winter care home action plan. "We will do everything we can to ensure care homes and their workers are protected."

He then points to the National Living Wage, which means "every worker is paid substantially more". 

10:43 AM

Hopes of 11th-hour trade deal rekindled amid reports of fisheries concession

Hopes are growing that an 11th-hour agreement could be reached during this week’s Brexit talks, despite tensions rising between the UK and EU in public. 

Chief negotiator David Frost is understood to be travelling to Brussels today, earlier than expected, where it is thought he will meet his EU counterpart Michel Barnier tomorrow to ramp up efforts to secure a deal before the all-important October deadline. 

It comes amid claims that the UK had made a “tentative, modest” concession on fisheries, with Reuters reporting that London was “moving cautiously towards some opening on fisheries in the technical talks”. 

This morning Ursula von der Leyen used her flagship speech to warn that an agreement could only be reached if the UK stuck to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Quoting Margaret Thatcher, the European Commission president said: "Britain does not break treaties. It would be bad for Britain, that have relations with the rest of the world, and bad for any future Treaty on trade."

Ms von der Leyen added: "With every day that passes the chances of a timely agreement start to trade. Negotiations are always difficult, and we're used to that. The Commission has the best and most experienced negotiator in Michel Barnier to navigate us through that, but talks have not progressed, as we would have liked."

10:42 AM

Breaking: Sir Keir Starmer released from self-isolation

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is released from quarantine after a coronavirus test for his child came back negative. 

10:41 AM

Minister forced to defend Attorney General over 'negligent' legal advice

Back at the Northern Ireland committee, Brandon Lewis has been asked what advice the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, has given about whether the EU will trigger the dispute mechanism because of the Internal Market Bill. 

He says he has "not had that conversation" with Ms Braverman because the powers are not being triggered yet. 

Simon Hoare checks again that the AG has given no advice as to what the EU might do in response to the bill, saying "surely the attorney has advised Cabinet, prior to publication of the bill, about how the EU could respond?"

Mr Lewis says the "advice to Government is as published". The question is not "a relevant avenue", he adds "because we are not seeing that situation at the moment". 

Mr Hoare presses the case that lawyers "advise what tools were available to the other party", suggesting the AG has not given "the fullest of advice". 

"It is relevant," he argues, and suggests it is "negligent" that it does not suggest what is open to the EU to do in response, saying it implies the EU is "a toothless party, with no recourse to the law itself". 

10:27 AM

UK needs a 'new approach' to sentencing, says Robert Buckland

The Justice Secretary has called for a "new approach" to sentencing as he set out plans for a shake-up of powers for courts.

During a speech for the think tank the Centre for Social Justice on Wednesday morning, Robert Buckland said sentencing failures can perpetuate low-level offenders getting stuck in a life of crime.

Robert Buckland - Bloomberg
Robert Buckland - Bloomberg

He said: "This means that offenders have little hope of being rehabilitated and we, as a society, have little hope of ending the cycles of crime in which any one of us can become victims. That is a failure, letting down everyone concerned. Aside from the social impact, it is also a waste of money, with the cost of re-offending running into the billions every year.

"We need a new approach."

He told the online audience the White Paper being put forward by the Government proposing the changes was an "opportunity to grow trust and confidence in the sentencing system - in its ability to make the smart choices to protect the public from the harmful effects of crime, in whatever form they take".

10:16 AM

Irish MP raises flag over 'revealing' comments from Brandon Lewis

It is not just Westminster watching today's Northern Ireland committee hearing - politicians in Dublin are too. And they are not impressed with what they are hearing. 

Neale Richmond, the Dublin Rathdown MP, has hit back at Brandon Lewis' earlier refusal to answer a question about the arbitration process as hypothetical, saying "UK Govt must guarantee their responsibilities and meet their obligations."

10:08 AM

Brexit talks continue in 'good faith' despite UK's threats to break Withdrawal Agreement, says Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis is then asked about "alarmist language" relating to Tesco's not being able to stock its shelves, and which clause of the bill relates to the export of food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The Cabinet minister says the Government is doing what it can to ensure as smooth as possible a flow of exports, and says there is a "wider issue" of the integrity of the UK. 

Asked what impact the bill will have on negotiations, he says there has been "a fair bit of conjecture around this", but stresses negotiators are focused on getting the deal and "not distracted" by other issues. 

They are working in "good faith", he adds, but stresses he is not privvy to the detail. 

"We make sure we are up to speed with progress," he adds. "But we come back to the key point -we want to exhaust alternatives... I am optimistic we will be able to secure a positive outcome through that joint committee and negotiation work."

10:00 AM

Official accused of 'misrepresenting' Northern Irish business response to Internal Market Bill

Asked if any businesses support the bill, the Northern Ireland Office's economy director Colin Perry says there are long-standing relationships with businesses and business groups.

Chair Simon Hoare interrupts to ask him to answer the question. Mr Perry says there has been "broad acceptance" of the steps taken to ensure unfettered access. 

"Our conversations with businesses around the IMB, they have recognised the steps we are taking to try and deliver unfettered access."

He is asked to share statements from specific groups, with the MP Claire Hanna accusing him of "misrepresenting" those views. 

Mr Perry says he is not trying to do that, and repeats his argument that there has been broad support around the principle of unfettered access. 

Colin Perry (R) was accused of misrepresenting NI businesses - PA
Colin Perry (R) was accused of misrepresenting NI businesses - PA

09:52 AM

Brandon Lewis warned about long-term damage to UK's reputation from law-breaking bill

Brandon Lewis is grilled about the contents of the Good Friday Agreement, including having to confirm that he has read it. 

Then Northern Ireland Committee chair  Simon Hoare asks if the government will abide by the outcome of the arbitration process set out in the Northern Ireland protocol for the resolution of disputes between the UK and the EU.

But Mr Lewis rejects it as a hypothetical question, however Mr Hoare says it is an important question. He says other countries that sign agreements with the UK will want to know that it sticks to agreements.

The Northern Ireland Secretary says the UK is a country that acts in "good faith", which can be "evidence" through work that has been carried out, but Mr Hoare says that is "not the view of very many people in the international community and business world at the moment", warning about the long-term damage it is causing. 

Although Mr Lewis insists "our history shows that we do" Mr Hoare says "we are concerned about the present and the future".  "We can't just rest on our laurels... by their deeds shall they know them," he adds. 

He says he has no doubt about Lewis’ personal commitment to the rule of law. But it is “the wider group” that counts, he says.

09:44 AM

Brandon Lewis insists law-breaking in line with Attorney General advice

Asked if the Internal Market Bill breaks the ministerial code, Brandon Lewis says no. 

"That is why I gave a very straight answer to parliament last week... so the position is clear and outlined. For us it is about having a safety net... to protect people and businesses across the United Kingdom."

Asked if ministers overruled officials on the bill, Mr Lewis says it is "absolutely in line with the legal advice the Attorney General put down". 

Simon Hoare then returns to the question about who wrote his statement, something which Mr Lewis still does not answer. 

"The Attorney General appears to be in two minds about this," he adds, pointing to advice suggesting that the law would not be broken. "What was the advice of the attorney before the Urgent Question," Mr Hoare asks. 

Mr Lewis said it was advice he was aware of when he answered the question last Tuesday. There is some discussion about the tweet below. 


09:39 AM

Brandon Lewis dodges question about who wrote law-breaking statement

Asked who wrote his statement, Brandon Lewis says he read "something very specific, because I wanted to make sure I gave the House a straight answer". 

Mr Lewis caused consternation among MPs with his admission last week that the Internal Market Bill broke the law in a "very specific and limited way", with rumours across Westminster suggesting it was deliberately planted by Prime Minister's chief of staff Dominic Cummings. 

Asked if it was a lawyer or Number 10, the Northern Ireland Secretary declines to comment, and repeats his point about it being "a straight answer" and that it was "absolutely in line with the legal advice we were given". 

09:35 AM

Government created 'clumsy elephant trap' with Internal Market Bill, says Simon Hoare

The Government has created a "rather clumsy elephant trap" in the creation of the Internal Market Bill, the chair of the Northern Ireland committee has said. 

Simon Hoare told Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, the bill would be better if the law-breaking clauses only came into force at the end of an arbitration period. 

He added: "Given that we are dealing with a section of the Northern Ireland community who don't recognise authority of the UK Government, given the seriousness and fragility of Stormont and the Good Friday Agreement etc this does seem to have been, from the Business Department a rather clumsy elephant trap they have created."

Asked by Ian Paisley if he thought it would create a heightened terrorism risk, Mr Lewis said he "never comments on security matters" but stresses the "huge gains" that the peace process has made, economically and more generally. 

Simon Hoare MP - UK Parliament
Simon Hoare MP - UK Parliament

09:28 AM

Prime Minister was not wrong to back Irish protocol last year, says Brandon Lewis

Asked if the Prime Minister was wrong when he said the protocol was 'in perfect conformity with the Good Friday Agreement, Brandon Lewis said: "No, the PM was absolutely right... the protocol itself was always subject to being ironed out."

The Northern Ireland Secretary insisted: "We were always also very clear... that we would protect, defend the gains from the Good Friday Agreement."

He added: "The Prime Minister was right - he was working on the basis believing on the basis of good faith approach of the negotiators, friends and partners in the EU.

"We are still optimistic will get to that conclusion... all we are doing in this act is simply taking an insurance policy, a safety net, to ensure that all parts of the UK have confidence that they will have unfettered access."

09:23 AM

Brandon Lewis refuses to be drawn on possible Internal Market Bill compromise

The Northern Ireland Secretary has refused to be drawn on whether the Government will compromise on the Internal Market Bill, but suggested a compromise can be reached. 

Asked about Bob Neill's amendment, which would offer MPs a parliamentary lock, Brandon Lewis told the Northern Ireland committee that there is "a long tradition of history" for minister to put "aims and intent on the record". 

"In terms of the amendments put down by colleagues so far... that debate, that scrutiny is ongoing," he said. "It would be wrong to presuppose what the outcome will be - it is a matter for the House that we will come to conclusion on that."

He stressed that even if ministers "use the safety net we would use that at same time" as other dispute mechanisms, he added. 

09:16 AM

Brandon Lewis: Internal Market Bill delivers unfettered access for businesses across Irish Sea

Asked how the Internal Market Bill would protect the Good Friday Agreement, and why it is that the protocol "now" undermines it, Brandon Lewis tells Simon Hoare said the bill creates a "safety net" so that if the joint committee cannot find a conclusion in time, businesses will continue to have unfettered access.

"It is hugely important, and has to reflect the work of all communities. That means we have to ensure there is no border not just for the south... but also east-west as well, to ensure we do deliver for businesses unfettered access."

But "our focus, our determination is to find a... positive solution" first, he added. 

Brandon Lewis - Barcroft Media
Brandon Lewis - Barcroft Media

09:10 AM

Brandon Lewis stands by law-breaking claims despite Home Secretary's contradiction

Brandon Lewis has confirmed that he was right when he told MPs that the Internal Market Bill would break the law, despite suggestions from other senior figures that this is not the case. 

The Northern Ireland Secretary last week said it would do so "very specific and limited way".

Both the Home Secretary and Lord Keen, the Advocate General for Scotland, have suggested the bill does not break international law. Priti Patel yesterday told Sky News it "absolutely does not do that".

But Mr Lewis told Simon Hoare, chair of the Northern Ireland committee, his response "reflects the legal advice" that ministers had received, saying: "The answer I gave was a very clear answer to very specific question."

"The answer I gave was correct."

09:00 AM

Boris Johnson urged to "take charge" of coronavirus test shortages to keep schools open

Boris Johnson must "take charge" of delays in obtaining Covid-19 tests to ensure schools remain open, organisations representing headteachers and governors have said.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), school leaders' union NAHT and the National Governance Association have written to the Prime Minister to express concern about difficulties with the testing system.

The letter warns of a "deep sense of foreboding about the potential for the system to become ever-more riddled with delays as more cases emerge".

"This would be increasingly disruptive to children's education and make staffing unsustainable," it adds, noting that hundreds of schools have already warned they had symptomatic staff and/or pupils who were struggling to access tests.

The letter adds: "Our purpose in writing is to implore you to personally take charge of this situation in the interests of keeping our schools and colleges open, and protecting pupils and staff."

08:51 AM

UK cannot 'unilaterally disregard' Withdrawal Agreement, von der Leyen says

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has warned that the UK cannot "unilaterally disregard" the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

In her annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, Mrs von der Leyen said both sides had agreed it was the only way to guarantee the Northern Ireland peace process.

"This Withdrawal Agreement took three years to negotiate and we worked relentlessly on it line-by-line, word-by-word, and together we succeeded," she said.

"The European Union and the UK jointly agreed that it was the best and only way for ensuring peace on the island of Ireland and we will never backtrack on that.

"This agreement has been ratified by this house and the House of Commons. It cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded, disapplied.

"This is a matter of law and trust and good faith."

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen delivers her first state of the union speech - Shutterstock
European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen delivers her first state of the union speech - Shutterstock

08:39 AM

Schools and parents to join coronavirus testing priority list, hints minister

Children, their parents and teachers could be top of the list to get coronavirus tests after frontline NHS and social care workers, amid fears that the lack of testing could result in "lockdown by default", a minister has hinted. 

This morning Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, said: "All of us who know and have been here through testing will know it has to be NHS first and then social care. 

"And then I think what we need to do is have a cascading system where we know where our priority should be and for me priority should be for children in school and their parents in order to ensure their lives are safe and also importantly they are not disrupted in the way we are seeing."

He later told BBC Breakfast that testing at schools would be prioritised because of "the importance of education" and the "knock-on effect on parents" that quarantine would have. 

"A very sensible outline is coming," Mr Buckland said. 

08:30 AM

Government will not 'cancel Christmas', Robert Buckland promises

Robert Buckland denied that the "rule of six" would effectively cancel Christmas, following criticisms from a source close to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the social restrictions imposed this week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the Justice Secretary said: "Archbishop Justin (Welby) makes an important contribution to this debate and he is right to point to the huge spiritual and social significance of Christmas.

"I don't think any of us in Government want to be Oliver Cromwell-esque about this - we want to see families celebrate Christmas in a safe and happy way and we want to see our churches and indeed our other places of worship joining in that celebration."

Mr Buckland added: "We are not going to cancel Christmas but the 'rule of six' is something that is clear and important and I do think we've committed to that and we need to stick to it."

08:16 AM

What's on the agenda today?

Today is shaping up to be a busy day, with plenty to keep us going. 

The Prime Minister is up before the Liaison Committee this afternoon from 3:30pm, the first time since May. Boris Johnson will face questions from the likes of Tom Tugendhat, Tobias Ellwood, Mel Stride and Bill Cash. 

But most importantly, he will be quizzed by Bob Neill, who is currently leading the rebellion on the Internal Market Bill, having tabled an amendment for next week. This could be the moment Mr Johnson signals whether a compromise is coming that will call the revolt off. 

Before that he will go against Angela Rayner in PMQs at midday, which will be interesting for the clash in personalities and backgrounds as much as the content. Labour's deputy leader has been subbed in to cover Sir Keir Starmer, who is having to self-isolate after a member of his household started displaying coronavirus symptoms. 

But first time Brandon Lewis is being hauled in front of the Northern Ireland committee following his admission that the Internal Market Bill breaks the law. MPs want to know more details on how it will do so, and what the bill actually does for Northern Ireland, and our future relationship with the EU, among other things. Committee chair Simon Hoare has been damning so far and is named on the Neill amendment so it's a must-watch. 

At the same time Gavin WIlliamson is before the Education Committee - the pressure is somewhat off him for now but it will still be worth a watch to go over the detail of the summer's chaos. 

Boris Johnson last appeared before the Liaison Committee in May - Reuters
Boris Johnson last appeared before the Liaison Committee in May - Reuters

08:10 AM

Eat Out to Help Out drives inflation down to lowest level in five years: ONS

The Chancellor's Eat Out to Help Out scheme was the biggest driver in driving down inflation to the lowest level in nearly five years, the Office for National Statistics has said. 

The Consumer Prices Index tumbled from one per cent in July to 0.2 per cent in August - the lowest rate since December 2015.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: "The cost of dining out fell significantly in August thanks to the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme and VAT cut, leading to one of the largest falls in the annual inflation rate in recent years.

"For the first time since records began, air fares fell in August as fewer people travelled abroad on holiday.

"Meanwhile the usual clothing price rises seen at this time of year, as autumn ranges hit the shops, also failed to materialise."

Eat out to Help Out
Eat out to Help Out

08:06 AM

Put teachers at top of list for coronavirus test or face 'lockdown by default', union boss warns

Keeping schools open this autumn will become "unsustainable" if testing capacity is not resolved, a union boss has warned. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told the Today programme that headteachers were being forced to decide that the "bubble has to stay at home" if a pupil or teacher in a year group had shown Covid-19 symptoms and could not get a test to prove they were negative.

Mr Barton said: "This will feel I think like lockdown by default - it will be more frustrating for parents because you can't predict whether it is going to happen.

"And similarly from the headteacher's point of view, if my Year 4 teacher today shows symptoms, will he or she be in school tomorrow, will they be here for the next 14 days?

"As soon as you start to get that with six, seven, eight teachers, it becomes unsustainable to be able to run things."

Mr Barton said teachers should be given testing priority to keep schools open, adding: "Teachers need to be counted as key workers in order that you can at least keep that maths teacher in front of 30 young people if their test is negative."

08:01 AM

MPs will 'have their say' on law-breaking powers of Internal Market Bill, says Robert Buckland

MPs will be given a say on the use of law-breaking powers in the Internal Market Bill, Robert Buckland has said. 

Conservative backbenchers are seeking an amendment that would give them a vote on the use of these "reserve powers" before they are brought in, but so far Downing Street has only conceded a vote in the 40 days after they are invoked. 

Asked about a possible 'parliamentary lock', Mr Buckland told the Today programme: "We want to make sure where if we hit a situation where we have this dislocation, this sort of crisis, that we can act swiftly to bring into power the necessary regulations.

"Whilst absolutely we have got parliamentary procedures to allow secondary legislation to come into force with debate and scrutiny, we have got to get the balance right," he added. "We have got to be fleet of foot when it comes to the crunch, but at the same time to make sure  MPs to have their say.

"That is what the Prime Minister wants, that is what he said in parliament and I am sure we will find a way to do that in a manner that is acceptable to all Conservative colleagues."

07:53 AM

Robert Buckland: I will have a problem if the UK acts 'capriciously and egregiously' over Brexit end-game

If the EU acts "in good faith" and the UK still "capriciously and egregiously" walks away during the Brexit end-game, Robert Buckland would consider quitting, he has said. 

"If I see the UK acting in egregious breach of obligations made, let's say we get to the end of the year, the EU has been acting in good faith and we capriciously and egregiously say 'no thank you , goodbye', that causes me a problem," he told the Today programme.  

"But I am not seeing that, I am seeing a genuine and earnest attempt by both teams... to get this sorted."

Asked if the Cabinet had agreed the controversial clause, the Justice Secretary insisted the Internal Market Bill was the "result of collective decision making within the Government".

He added: "Cabinet have approved these matters."

Asked about his own position, described as being "wobbly" over the potential for law-breaking, Mr Buckland said: "I am not really wobbler, I am someone who knows my own mind and the Prime Minister knows he will get clear views from me."

07:42 AM

Internal Market Bill 'in national interest', says Robert Buckland

Robert Buckland has said the controversial Internal Market Bill is in the UK's "national interest", saying it would be " irresponsible" not to prepare for the worst case scenario. 

"I think that while the events of the last few days have led naturally to fevered brows, I think the Prime Minister's comments in the debate on Monday were extremely clear," he said. "We will continue to use all the mechanisms under the Withdrawal Agreement and protocol to seek that compromise but we need these provisions in case that doesn't happen."

"I believe if we get to that circumstance, every Conservative MP will vote to trigger those provisions."

Mr Buckland told Times Radio: "We have to act in the national interest when it comes to our internal market.

"I do not believe we'll get to that stage, I've been very clear if I think this country is breaching international law, or the rule of law, in a way that's egregious and unacceptable than clearly I would take the appropriate action."

Internal Markets Bill vote tracker
Internal Markets Bill vote tracker

07:36 AM

UK makes 'tentative, modest' offer on fisheries in Brexit trade talks: report

The UK has made "tentative concessions on fisheries" as Brexit trade talks hot up, Reuters is reporting. 

The newswire cites two sources, who did not attend last week’s talks between the sides’ chief negotiators but were briefed on them by the EU negotiating team, as saying the offer was "a possible bid by London to overcome a key obstacle to a new trade deal from 2021".

"The UK definitely seems to be coming around on this, they seem to be moving cautiously towards some opening on fisheries in the technical talks,” said one of the sources.

The second source reported a “tentative, modest” move on fisheries. 

07:31 AM

Capacity must increase 'dramatically' to keep up with winter sickness, Sage scientist warns

Matt Hancock's admission that it could take "a matter of weeks" to resolve the issue with coronavirus tests is "concerning", a Sage scientist has said. 

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the Government would need to "dramatically" increase Covid-19 testing to half a million people per day if testing was to cope with demand during winter.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We would expect the demand and the capacity to need to rise quite rapidly over the autumn and winter as the number of people who develop symptoms that could be Covid increase.

"Some of our research has shown that at least in the winter, you would expect about half a million people a day to develop symptoms that are typical of Covid - and that would be in a winter when there was no Covid - so you can see that the capacity requirements will have to increase dramatically if we are going to keep up."

He added: "One of the more challenging bits is making sure people can be tested close to home because that is one of the key delays at the moment in the system. It is those delays that effect the effectiveness of the system."

07:28 AM

Robert Buckland: Time to make 'radical and meaningful' change to sentencing

Robert Buckland has said he wants to make "radical and meaningful" changes to crime sentencing.

The Justice Secretary has this morning written for the Telegraph outlining what he describes as "the most radical package of changes to sentencing laws in nearly 20 years".

He told the BBC: "I want to change this system, I've had 30 years of working in it.

"I've now got the opportunity to do something really radical and meaningful.

"And with the help of the probation service, which we're increasing in capacity, I believe that we can deliver a really balanced system of sentencing that means that we protect the public from serious offenders but also offer meaningful rehabilitation for those who want to take that opportunity."

The review has been sparked by attacks such as the one carried out by Usman Khan, a former prisoner convicted of terrorism offences, in December - Getty
The review has been sparked by attacks such as the one carried out by Usman Khan, a former prisoner convicted of terrorism offences, in December - Getty

07:21 AM

Government has 'more work to do' on testing, Robert Buckland admits

Robert Buckland has acknowledged the Government faced difficulties with the coronavirus testing system, admitting there is "more work to do".

It comes as Matt Hancock admitted he was having to ration tests again, creating a new prioritisation list, following a nationwide shortage of test lab capacity.

The Justice Secretary told the BBC: "There are of course huge positives in the in-person tests, 90 per cent of those have been returned in a day, that's great, but clearly when it comes to the tests we have to post out and the delayed response, there is much more work to do.

"I'm not denying that for a moment, we're listening and acting upon the concerns of everybody who's getting in touch and telling us about the problems they're experiencing."

07:18 AM

UK 'not at stage of breaking law' over Internal Market Bill, says Robert Buckland

Robert Buckland has insisted he does not believe the Internal Market Bill is "at that stage" where he would resign as a minister. 

The Justice Secretary said this weekend he would quit if he saw the rule of law being broken "in a way that I find unacceptable".

Speaking to Sky News this morning, he explained: "If this country breaks the law and does so in a way that is clear and in a way that cannot be judged finely or fudged in any way - there are lots of debates about precisely what the law means in this area - I said that if the law is breached in a way that I find unacceptable, of course I will go.

"But I do not believe we are at that stage yet."

Questioned on the objections of former attorney generals Jeremy Wright and Geoffrey Cox to the Internal Market Bill, Mr Buckland added: "I think my colleagues are absolutely right to sound the alarm about a flagrant and egregious breach of the rule of law - something that is beyond any doubt or argument - but I do not believe we are there."

Robert Buckland and Larry the Cat - Bloomberg
Robert Buckland and Larry the Cat - Bloomberg

07:12 AM

EU to blame if UK breaks law, says minister

If the UK is forced to break the the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement through the Internal Market Bill will have been sparked by a European Union decision, Robert Buckland has suggested.

The Justice Secretary told Sky News: "If we reach that stage, the reason for it is because we judge that sadly, despite everybody's best efforts, the EU is in a position where we think they are actually breaching their obligations to us.

"It is like an international dispute where clearly there is a breach somewhere but it is going to be the subject of a lot of argument.

"I would like to avoid that, I think we can but we do need to just prepare for that contingency, that 'break glass in case of emergency' provision, which I believe this is."

He repeated his commitment to quitting the frontbench if the UK broke the law in an "unacceptable way". 

07:09 AM

Justice Secretary in talks with Bob Neill over Internal Market Bill

Robert Buckland has held talks with senior Tory MP Sir Bob Neill over his amendment to the UK Internal Market Bill, the minister has admitted.

But the Justice Secretary refused to confirm if he had passed on the MP's concerns to Boris Johnson. 

Mr Buckland told Sky News: "I don't think it would be right of me to start talking about private conversations.

"But what I can say is that there are lots of discussions going on with MPs from all parts of the debate, not just Bob Neill but MPs in all parts of the Conservative Party.

"We want to get on with this job, we want to get this Bill through, we want to make sure we are ready for any disagreements or disputes that might arise if we don't get agreement at the Joint Committee, and that's what we're planning on."

Asked about whether he had spoken to Sir Bob, Mr Buckland added: "I talk to Bob Neill regularly, I have talked to Bob Neill about the Internal Market Bill, I have spoken to other people (as well)."

Pushed on whether he had raised Sir Bob's concerns with Boris Johnson, he said: "I've had lots of conversations with colleagues - ultimately it is up to the Prime Minister and those responsible for business in Parliament to get the details (sorted)."