Politics latest news: Rishi Sunak told to 'check the manifesto' after urging young people to return to the office

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Labour said 'the Chancellor seems to be the only person who doesn’t recognise the benefits that flexible working can deliver' - Reuters
Labour said 'the Chancellor seems to be the only person who doesn’t recognise the benefits that flexible working can deliver' - Reuters

Rishi Sunak has been told to "check the manifesto" after he urged young people to get back to the office.

During an interview with LinkedIn News, the Chancellor said being present was "valuable" if workers want to progress in their career, highlighting his own mentors who he has remained in contact with.

But Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, hit out at his comments, saying people should be allowed to "make their own minds up about what works for them so that work fits around our lives instead of dictating our lives".

She added: “The Chancellor should check the manifesto that he was elected on in 2019 which committed the Government to making flexible working the default. The Chancellor and his colleagues should bring forward the Government’s promised Employment Bill so we can enshrine the right to flexible working in law."

This morning Gillian Keegan, the skills minister, revealed that as few as a fifth of officials were working in Whitehall, but insisted the Government has "led by example" in bringing staff back.

But she added: "Not everybody will be back all the time, flexible working will be part of our future and we are not telling businesses what to do."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

12:33 PM

Have your say: Have you fallen out of love with Boris?

The last few days have brought gloomy news for the Prime Minister, with his personal approval rating falling both among grassroots Conservatives and the wider electorate at large.

Perhaps most worrying for Boris Johnson is his 36-point slide among readers of the Conservative Home website - while Rishi Sunak was the clear front-runner in its survey for who would make the best leader.

The Chancellor's prominence and popularity have soared during the pandemic, while the Prime Minister's has waned.

So have you fallen out of love with Boris - or are you still a fan? Have your say in the poll below.

12:20 PM

Tom Harris: Sturgeon is on the independence warpath again

Never let it be said that our political parties have their finger on the pulse of the nation, writes Tom Harris.

If that were really the case, then the SNP would surely be keen to debate, at its annual conference next month, some of the big headline-grabbing issues that have creased the brow of the first minister in recent weeks.

Inevitably, the SNP administration insists that things would improve if only ministers at Holyrood were able to have full control over legislation on.

And yet in many areas Scotland is playing on a precisely level playing field. What powers do policy-makers have and use to improve death rates in England and Wales that are not open to the nationalists? The answer, uncomfortably for Sturgeon, is that there are none.

Read more from Tom here.

12:10 PM

Wear a mask at work even if you're vaccinated, Facebook tells staff

Facebook has told its employees to start wearing masks in offices even if they are fully vaccinated amid concerns about resurgent Covid cases.

The policy, which comes into effect on Tuesday, applies to all of its offices in the United States. The move comes a week after both Facebook and Google said employees would need to be vaccinated to return to work.

Facebook has not confirmed whether staff in the UK, where its offices have partly reopened, will have to wear a mask at work.

“Given the rising numbers of Covid cases, the newest data on Covid variants, and an increasing number of local requirements, we are reinstating our mask requirement in all of Facebook’s US offices, regardless of an employee’s vaccination status,” the company said.

11:50 AM

France travel restrictions could be scrapped amid confusion over traffic lights system

Travel restrictions for France could be ditched, a minister hinted this morning, after the Government was forced into an embarrassing about-turn on its increasingly confusing travel system.

Overnight, ministers dropped plans to introduce an amber watchlist - alerting holidaymakers to the risk of a country being put into the red category. Following an outcry from Tory MPs and industry figures, Boris Johnson intervened, saying he wanted rules to be "as simple and as user-friendly for people as possible."

This morning Gillian Keegan, the apprenticeships and skills minister, insisted it was "not a U-turn - we are dealing with a global pandemic, it is evolving".

She then hinted that the amber-plus category - solely applied to France - might also be ditched.

"The Transport Secretary will carry out his review on Thursday, he will set out more about what is happening with amber-plus and with France in particular," Ms Keegan told Sky News. "We are exploring more options, every option."

Paul Charles, director of The PC Agency consultancy, said "high level" sources had told him the "amber plus" and "green watchlist" categories would also be dropped.

11:40 AM

Rishi Sunak should 'check the manifesto' on flexible working, says Labour

Labour has attacked Rishi Sunak for trying to encourage young people back to the office, and called on the Government to bring forward legislation that would make good on its manifesto promise to protect flexible working.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader and shadow secretary for the future of work, said: "The British people want to be able to work flexibly after Covid and the Chancellor seems to be the only person who doesn’t recognise the benefits that flexible working can deliver to workers and employers alike.

“The Chancellor should check the manifesto that he was elected on in 2019 which committed the Government to making flexible working the default. The Chancellor and his colleagues should bring forward the Government’s promised Employment Bill so we can enshrine the right to flexible working in law."

People should be allowed to "make their own minds up about what works for them so that work fits around our lives instead of dictating our lives", she added.

See 8:17am for more

11:26 AM

Returning pension age to 60 'neither affordable nor fair', says DWP

Calls to return the state pension age to 60 for men and women have been rejected by the Government.

More than 69,000 people have signed a petition calling for a reduction to be introduced with immediate effect.

But the Department for Work and Pensions said this would be "neither affordable nor fair".

Until 2010, the state pension age was 60 for women and 65 for men. The age threshold was increased to 66 for everyone last year, with further phased increases to age 68 planned.

11:23 AM

European Commission fails to blame Iran for drone attack

The European Commission has condemned the "unacceptable" attack on the tanker Mercer Street but said the exact circumstances of the incident "have to be clarified".

European Commission spokeswoman Nabila Massrali told reporters: "Of course we condemn the attack on the oil tanker which took place off the island of Masirah in Oman. A British citizen and a Romanian were killed and we would like to extend our sympathy to their friends and family.

"The exact circumstances of this attack have to be clarified and we take note of investigations carried out by the United States, the UK and Israel - this is an action that was against freedom of navigation in this area, and of course unacceptable.

"We oppose any action that would be detrimental to peace and stability in this area and the EU will continue to follow developments closely."

11:21 AM

UK is 'on your side', Boris Johnson tells Belarusian opposition leader

Boris Johnson told Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya the UK is "on her side" during a visit to Downing Street today.

The Prime Minister said: "We are very much on your side, very much in support of what you are doing. We are committed to supporting human rights and civil society in Belarus."

Ms Tsikhanouskaya said: "It is very important to understand that one of the most powerful countries in the world are supporting Belarus."

Mr Johnson replied: "We strongly support you, strongly support Belarus, the Belarusian people and I think we were among the first to put in sanctions after the hijacking of Roman Protasevich, the flight that was diverted."

11:20 AM

'I can disappear any moment', says Lukashenko critic, after death of activist

Belarusian opposition figures must "take care about themselves" because the "regime will not stop at anything", Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said.

Speaking from Downing Street, where she met with Boris Johnson, the opposition figure said she believed the death of Vitaly Shishov was "a crime".

She added: "We have to understand how to act if we think we are being persecuted, if we are under threat. I can disappear at any moment, I understand this, but I should do what I am doing - I can't stop.

"Even if I disappear one day, I hope this movement will continue without me," she added.

11:15 AM

Boris Johnson will put 'multiple points of pressure' on Belarusian regime

Boris Johnson has promised to put "multiple points of pressure on the regime" of Alexander Lukashenko, during a meeting with the Belarusian opposition leader today.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told reporters that it was a "very warm and sensitive meeting" and that Mr Johnson was "a person who really shares common values with Belarusians", including valuing the rule of law.

Although the pair did not "discuss concrete things", Ms Tsikhanouskaya said she believed the UK would stand with opposition figures and those who are forced to flee the country.

"They will be with us, they will pay more attention to mass media," she added.

11:00 AM

Drug deaths surge to record high in England and Wales

England and Wales have experienced the highest number of fatal drug overdoses since records began in 1993, with cocaine and opiates blamed for the rising trend.

Some 4,561 fatal overdoses were registered in England and Wales in 2020, at a rate of 76.7 per million people - a 3.8 percent jump since 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics. Almost half of all drug poisonings involved an opiate, while there was a 9.7 percent jump in deaths due to cocaine use.

The official statistics body said it was "too early" to assess any effects of coronavirus lockdowns on the data.

The rates of drug misuse deaths showed a "marked" divide between the north and south of England, with the northeast recording the sharpest rise. London registered the lowest rates.

Last week Scotland revealed a new record high with more than 1,300 drug deaths in 2020, making it yet again the country with the highest rate in Europe.

10:56 AM

Nato condemns drone attack and warns Iran over 'international obligations'

Nato has condemned the drone attack on the tanker Mercer Street, which left a Briton dead, and called on Iran to "respect its international obligations".

A Nato spokesman said: "We join allies in strongly condemning the recent fatal attack on the MV Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, and express our condolences to Romania and the United Kingdom for the losses they have suffered.

"Freedom of navigation is vital for all Nato allies, and must be upheld in accordance with international law.

"The United Kingdom, the United States, and Romania have concluded that Iran is highly likely responsible for this incident. Allies remain concerned by Iran's destabilising actions in the region, and call on Tehran to respect its international obligations."

10:53 AM

Joint Biosecurity Centre running 'routinely' after boss quits

The Joint Biosecurity Centre "continues to operate routinely" despite the departure of director general Clare Gardiner, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Dr Gardiner, who was seconded to the role in June 2020, had previously been director of national resilience and strategy at the National Cyber Security Centre and has returned to "a role in national security".

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "The Joint Biosecurity Centre is part of the UK Health Security Agency and is led professionally by the chief executive. The former director general has returned as planned to a role in national security.

"The JBC continues to operate routinely under robust interim arrangements. A formal open competitive recruitment process has concluded and the new DG will be announced imminently."

See 8:33am for more

10:43 AM

Matt Hancock and the curious art of the political comeback

A protester wearing a Matt Hancock mask calls for the arrest of the former health secretary  - Getty
A protester wearing a Matt Hancock mask calls for the arrest of the former health secretary - Getty

“I should have made nothing if I had not made mistakes,” wrote the Cabinet minister to his wife in the wake of his resignation. He was humiliated, his career in tatters, the deaths of many thousands laid at his door. But Winston Churchill, of course, came back.

Can former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock? Binbag of clothes in hand, leaving the marital home, blamed by some for sowing Covid in care homes last year at great cost, he seems at his lowest ebb.

But as he begins to pick his way clear from the wreckage of his own political bombsite, he will be reminding himself that he is still only 42 and that he has not just time, but history, on his side.

For from sheer bloodymindedness to shameless effrontery, from reinvention to dogged persistence, politics offers a host of paths back for even the most doomed-looking soul.

Harry de Quetteville considers the art of the comeback here.

10:34 AM

Have your say: Have you fallen out of love with Boris?

The last few days have brought gloomy news for the Prime Minister, with his personal approval rating falling both among grassroots Conservatives and the wider electorate at large.

Perhaps most worrying for Boris Johnson is his 36-point slide among readers of the Conservative Home website - while Rishi Sunak was the clear front-runner in its survey for who would make the best leader.

The Chancellor's prominence and popularity have soared during the pandemic, while the Prime Minister's has waned.

So have you fallen out of love with Boris - or are you still a fan of the PM? Have your say in the poll below.

10:23 AM

Charles Moore: The Tories risk creating a new cost of living crisis

Not long after becoming prime minister in 2010, David Cameron announced that we should measure our progress as a country “not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life”, writes Charles Moore.

He was right, of course. Life is about more than money. But his remarks assumed that the standard of living question had been solved. It never has been. Even in rich societies like ours, there is always a strong possibility that many people will get poorer. When that happens, the link between standard of living and quality of life appears starkly. If the first falls, so does the second.

Because of Covid, and the consequently vast rise in government spending and borrowing, this question has resurfaced. Boris Johnson’s Government has magicked up much more money and rushed it through the system.

The conditions have been created for a “cost of living” crisis of the kind all too familiar in the 1970s.

Read more from Charles here.

10:13 AM

Pro-democracy protesters gather ahead of PM's meeting with Belarus opposition figure

The exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is meeting Boris Johnson today - Reuters
The exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is meeting Boris Johnson today - Reuters

Pro-democracy demonstrators are gathering at the Foreign Office to support the visit of Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to London today.

Ken McBain, a UK representative of the human rights organisation Libereco, said: "There's been a lot going on with the Olympics and then with a Belarusian activist in Kiev - murdered it looks. We're trying to show the British Government that more needs to be done. We cannot leave Lukashenko to do what he is doing to the country."

Alan Flowers, chairman of the Anglo-Belarusian Society said: "The Belarus people essentially rejected by democratic means the regime, but they don't have the force, they don't have the apparatus at their disposal. They very much want a peaceful transition."

10:05 AM

Sherelle Jacobs: The rest of the world has shamed Britain’s blasé rejection of liberty

Freedom is losing the battle in Britain, writes Sherelle Jacobs.

The young are being bullied into having their jabs with chilling threats, as passports are poised to bar the unvaccinated from nights out. No 10 remains gripped by siege mentality, as travel rules remain stubbornly in force. Among the public, an almost puritanical devotion to caution has prevailed over the seductions of liberty.

Most dispiriting perhaps is that there is no sign of a popular backlash to this dereliction of leadership. Liberty is increasingly being derided as a Right-wing fetish, with agitation limited to a few Tory backbenchers, a smattering of civil rights groups and a fringe assortment of conspiracists and anti-vaxxers.

Read more from Sherelle here.

09:55 AM

Foreign Office calls for Lukashenko to commit to fresh elections in Belarus

The Foreign Office has called on Alexander Lukashenko to commit to fresh elections, a year on from the disputed poll.

The treatment of Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has focused attention on his autocratic rule, with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to meet Boris Johnson later today.

A spokesman said: "Our message is clear: the Lukashenko regime must commit to meaningful dialogue and new elections. They must allow the Belarusian people the freedom to choose their own government and democratically decide their own future."

The meeting comes as police in Ukraine investigate the death of Belarusian activist, Vitaly Shishov, who was found hanged in one of the city's parks not far from his home.

See 10:07am and 8:34am for more.

09:45 AM

Labour demands answers as new allegations surface over Ben Elliot

Labour has demanded the Conservatives explain whether they knew the company run by party co-chairman Ben Elliot was marketing private Covid tests to its clients at the height of a national testing crisis during the first wave of the pandemic.

Quintessentially, the company owned and run by "Mr Access All Areas", arranged for its clients to get access to Covid testing last April, during a national shortage, The Times reported yesterday.

Anneliese Dodds , Labour Party co-chairman, has written to her Tory counterpart Amanda Milling to ask if she was aware of what was happening, and what action she plans to take against Mr Elliot.

She said: "The public will be appalled that the Co-Chair of the Conservative Party’s company was marketing the same tests used by the NHS to its super rich client base in April last year – a time when even care homes weren’t able to access the tests many of their staff and residents needed.

"We need to know just who in the Conservative Party knew what Mr Elliot was up and what action they are going to take in light of these allegations."

09:34 AM

Boris Johnson praises the 'brilliant' GB sailing team

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You can read more about the sailing, and the rest of our Olympics coverage, here.

09:27 AM

US Republicans seek British virus hunter over Covid lab leak theory

Republicans in Congress want to subpoena a British-born scientist as part of an investigation in which they have concluded Covid-19 leaked from a Wuhan laboratory.

A report released by Republicans on the House foreign affairs committee said the "preponderance of evidence proves" the virus leaked from the Chinese research facility "sometime before September 12, 2019".

It cited "ample evidence" that the Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers were working to modify coronaviruses to infect humans, and said such manipulation could be hidden. The report foreshadowed the 90-day deadline on Aug 24 for a US intelligence review into the causes of the pandemic, which was ordered by Joe Biden, the US president.

It is believed US intelligence officials have not yet reached a conclusion on whether the virus escaped from the laboratory, or passed from animal to human in a nearby market. But Michael McCaul, the leading Republican congressman on the committee, accused China of "the greatest cover-up of all time".

Read more here.

09:16 AM

Could Scotland be poised for additional freedoms?

Nicola Sturgeon is set to announce if Scotland will lift its coronavirus restrictions and move beyond the current rules in place.

The First Minister will say whether or not most measures implemented north of the border as a result of the pandemic last March are to be lifted on Monday August 9 as hoped.

Nightclub, sports stadia and concert venues may go back to being able to welcome full capacity crowds again for the first time in nearly 18 months if changes are approved.

It was previously suggested all the major Covid-19 restrictions would be relaxed as long as the over-40 age group is fully vaccinated, which the Scottish Government described as a "gateway condition".

However Ms Sturgeon has already confirmed face coverings in shops and public transport will remain mandatory for "some time to come".

09:07 AM

'Nobody in Belarus can feel safe', says opposition leader ahead of Boris Johnson meeting

Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is now safe but her family may not be, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Boris Johnson today, she told BBC Radio 4's Today that "sport is a weapon of propaganda" for the Lukashenko regime, but the athletes were under "psychological pressure" to perform as a result.

"It's like Stalin's time: you have to play for your country but when you understand that country doesn't take care about you, it's difficult - morally difficult - to fight for," she said.

Ms Tsimanouskaya has been granted a visa by Poland after saying she feared for her safety. But asked if the sprinter's family was safe, the opposition leader said: "Nobody in Belarus can feel safe. It's a pity, but that's true."

She added: "I want the British Government to keep Belarus on the agenda, taking into consideration all the violence that's going on inside the country and... the threat that the regime now is for the international community."

09:00 AM

Government has not supported theatre during pandemic, says Robert Lindsay

Robert Lindsay (R) in Anything Goes - Reuters
Robert Lindsay (R) in Anything Goes - Reuters

The Government has not supported the theatre industry "as much as they should have done", Robert Lindsay has said.

The My Family and Citizen Smith actor said he "shed a tear or two" at the opening night of Anything Goes - the biggest new musical to open since the pandemic, after Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella was forced to postpone.

He spoke of the team's "relief" at being able to work again, telling Sky News: "The West End alone brings billions into this country.... tourists flock to see British theatre, it is probably most respected theatre in the world.

"But at one point the Government were asking freelancers - actors, dancers, singers, musicians - to get a proper job.

"We are insecure at best in this profession... but to be thought of as second-rate was really galling in the extreme. A lot of people in the industry were very, very angry about it, but we are coming back and we are going to succeed."

08:46 AM

Covid deaths jump 50 per cent in a week

A total of 327 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending July 23 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - up 50 per cent on the previous week.

It is the highest total since 362 deaths in the week to April 16.

A total of 35 care home resident deaths involving Covid in England and Wales were registered, up from 27 deaths in the previous week.

08:44 AM

I’m sorry Prince of Wales was dragged into ‘cash for access’ row, says Tory donor

The Tory donor at the centre of a “cash for access” row has said he is sorry that the Prince of Wales has been dragged into the political fracas.

Mohamed Amersi, 61, a telecoms tycoon, told The Telegraph on Monday that he regretted that the senior royal had become engulfed in bitter “blue on blue” infighting in the Conservative Party.

Sources had let it be known that the Prince was aggrieved at becoming “collateral damage” in the dispute, which also involved Ben Elliot, 45, who is Tory party co-chairman and the Duchess of Cornwall’s nephew.

The donor is understood to have written to the Prince expressing his dismay that the heir to the throne has been publicly drawn into the row. Mr Amersi insisted he had “done nothing wrong”, but added: “I highly regret that Prince Charles has been involved in this.”

Read more here.

08:34 AM

'Indiscriminate' gunfire in Helmand province as Afghan forces battle Taliban

Afghan forces battled the Taliban for control of a key provincial capital, as the United Nations warned "indiscriminate" gunfire and air strikes were hurting civilians the most.

Officials said insurgents had seized more than a dozen local radio and TV stations in Lashkar Gah - capital of Helmand province and the scene of days of fierce fighting - leaving only one pro-Taliban channel broadcasting Islamic programming.

The hardline Islamist group has seized control of much of rural Afghanistan since foreign forces began the last stage of their withdrawal in early May, but are meeting resistance as they try to take provincial capitals.

Several Conservative MPs warned Boris Johnson about the impact his decision to follow the US in withdrawing troops would have on the region.

08:18 AM

Labour demands travel data amid 'U-turns and confusion'

Labour has demanded the data behind the Government's decisions on travel rules, following the "days of confusion" over the amber watchlist.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon saidL "Not only have ministers failed to protect our borders, allowing the Delta variant to reach the UK in such force, but time and time again they've refused to be straight with the public and industry to provide them with the information they need to build confidence, with clear information on the direction of travel of infections in each country.

"Ministers need to get a grip and set out a proper strategy, provide full data and progress work with global partners on international vaccine passports so travellers and the industry can have the maximum clarity, instead of reckless? U-turns and confusion."

08:14 AM

Chopper's Politics: Labour should rethink criticism, says Defence Secretary

Labour's opposition to a new national flagship shows they don't understand their own constituents, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

"That's Labour's problem. They're not patriotic about these sort of things, they don't understand the workforces," he told Chopper's Politics.

The minister highlighted workers around the country who make vital products for the defence industry and are "deeply proud" of their contribution "not just because it's a job, but because it's Britain and they're helping keep us safe."

He added: "'This just sums up Labour really, what side are Labour on? Normally basket-weaving, leftie, Islington nonsense."

Listen to the interview in full above

07:53 AM

Government not 'matching' public in responsible behaviour, claims Spi-B scientist

The Government is not keeping up with the public when it comes to behaving responsibly, one of its own advisers has said.

Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of Spi-B, told Sky News: "The public have always been behaving responsibly. The remarkable thing when you look at the data is that people have always been ahead of the Government in being aware of the dangers.

"The problem, to some extent, is that the Government is not matching the public with its own responsibilities."

He claimed the rule changes "come as quickly as medals come to the UK team" during the Olympics.

"We've got to use the summer, we squandered it last year," he added. "We should be installing ventilation in public spaces. In New York, they're going to have two air purifiers in every classroom. If the Government showed the same responsibility the public is showing, I think we'd be in a far better place in the autumn."

07:42 AM

Boris Johnson to meet with Belarussian opposition leader today

Boris Johnson will today meet with Belarussian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to discuss human rights issues, amid growing concerns about the emboldened president.

A Belarusian NGO this morning accused the regime of strongman Alexander Lukashenko of being behind the murder of its head Vitaly Shishov, who was found hanged in a park in Ukraine's capital.

"There is no doubt that this is an operation planned by Chekists to liquidate a Belarusian who presented a true danger to the regime," the Belarusian House said in a statement.

At the weekend sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya, 24, said she had forcibly taken to the airport for criticising coaches, and voiced fears for her safety. She has since been granted a Polish visa.

Earlier this year, opposition Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, were detained after the Ryanair plane they were travelling on was forced to land in the country.

07:33 AM

Top Government adviser has quit, minister admits

A minister has confirmed that the director general of the Joint Biosecurity Centre has resigned, following reports.

Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, told LBC radio that Clare Gardiner had quit from the group, which advises the Government on Covid outbreaks at a local and national basis.

It is thought she left the job back in June.

Ms Keegan confirmed she had left, adding: "There is a group of experts who are basically there that are looking at data, analysing data and then giving advice to the Government, and so I guess they will be looking for a new chair."

Asked why Ms Gardiner has quit, Ms Keegan said: "I don't have any understanding at all of that, no, I have only heard what you have heard."

07:17 AM

Get back to the office if you want to get ahead, says Chancellor

Rishi Sunak: Working in the office gives young people 'valuable' relationships - Reuters
Rishi Sunak: Working in the office gives young people 'valuable' relationships - Reuters

Rishi Sunak has told young people to get back to the office if they want to progress in their career.

During an interview with LinkedIn News, the Chancellor noted that it was "really beneficial to me when I was starting out in my career."

He highlighted his own mentors, who he still speaks to, saying: "They have been helpful to me all through my career even after we have gone in different ways.

"I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom, and that’s why I think for young people in particular being able to physically be in an office is valuable."

07:12 AM

Just a fifth of civil servants back in the office, minister admits

As few as a fifth of officials have returned to the office, a minister has admitted this morning, despite the Government beginning its back-to-work push.

Gillian Keegan, the apprenticeships and skills minister, insisted that "many civil servants are back" but then admitted that it was just "20-25 per cent on any one day".

She added: "We have only recently changed that advice, and we are also in August so some people are on holiday, but we have led by example... More people will use the summer to get people coming back, but not everybody will be back all the time, flexible working will be part of our future.

She added that civil servants were "excited to come back, they have had enough of staring at each other on a screen. It is safe to come back, we have said to use the summer to reintroduce people coming back."

07:10 AM

Government decided against 'more complex' travel system, minister says

The Government has "explored all options" on the travel traffic lights system, but opted for a system that would be "simple enough for people to understand", a minister has said.

Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, told Times Radio: "We are trying to tread this very careful balance between opening up travel and giving people the opportunity to travel... but also to keep the country safe from new variants.

"And we have explored all options, looked at all options, but the most important thing is that the system is actually simple enough for people to understand," she added. "There was a lot of discussion about these kind of different categories potentially being more complex and more difficult for people to navigate.

"It's important in any aspect of any system that we want people to follow that it is simple enough for people to understand."

06:49 AM

Nicola Sturgeon invites Boris Johnson for showdown talks

Nicola Sturgeon has invited Boris Johnson for showdown talks in Edinburgh after it emerged that she is preparing to relaunch her push for Scottish independence.

The First Minister wrote to Mr Johnson on Monday suggesting a summit, hours after The Telegraph revealed that he was planning to visit Scotland this week as part of efforts to strengthen the Union.

In a letter released publicly on her Twitter account, Ms Sturgeon asked him to her Bute House residence, where he was met with loud boos from nationalist crowds the last time he visited and left by a back door.

While Mr Johnson's itinerary has not yet been released, Ms Sturgeon said his trip north would be "their first opportunity to meet in person for a while" and "might offer us an opportunity to meet in person in Edinburgh for a discussion on the current Covid situation and our respective plans for recovery".

06:48 AM

Good Morning

Overnight we have seen not one but two about-turns from the Government, with plans for an amber watchlist being pulled after outcry from industry and backbenchers, and the well overdue changes to the NHS Covid app in a bid to end the pingdemic.

Naturally, the Government is keen to present both of these as part of a well-considered plan, rather than a knee-jerk reaction - but will people buy it?

Here's today's front page.

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