Politics latest news: You won't legally need two jabs to return to the office, says minister

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The Government will not pass legislation forcing people to be fully vaccinated before returning to work, Grant Shapps has said. 

Yesterday Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, put the cat amongst the pigeons when he suggested jabs for jobs policies adopted by Netflix, Google and Facebook were "smart", adding: "Whether or not there should be hard and fast legal rules, we would need to look at that carefully."

His comments sparked concern among Conservative backbenchers, with Steve Baker, the Tory MP and deputy chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, warning "the Government is now encouraging discrimination in relation to vaccinations".

Quizzed on whether it was right for firms to impose such restrictions, the Transport Secretary told Sky News: "Yes it is a good idea and yes some companies will require it.

"We are not going to make that legislation that every adult has to be double vaccinated before they go back to the office, but yes it is a good idea and yes some companies will require it."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

09:34 AM

Covid test and trace revolt as growing number refuse to hand over contacts’ details

Rising numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 are refusing to hand over details of close contacts, as the numbers forced to self-isolate reached a record high.

Official statistics show almost one quarter of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the week ending July 21 would not provide details of any recent close contacts.

In total, 76.9 per cent of such cases provided such details – with compliance falling by almost 10 per cent in the past month.

Latest weekly figures for England show almost 1.3 million isolation orders sent out by app or NHS Test and Trace, the highest on record.

The figures show 678,102 people pinged by the app in the week ending July 21, up 11 per cent from the previous week. It is the third consecutive week that more than half a million people have been told to self-isolate by the app.

09:28 AM

Rail workers around the country poised to strike over pay

Workers at three rail companies are to take industrial action in the coming weeks in separate disputes over issues including pay and pensions.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Hull Trains, East Midlands Trains and ScotRail will strike on Sundays in August as well as taking other forms of action.

Union members at Hull Trains will ban rest day working and overtime from Monday and stage 24-hour walkouts on August 8, 15, 22 and 29.

The union said talks at the conciliation service over a dispute about pensions had broken down without progress.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "RMT remains fully committed to defending our members' rights to a decent pension in retirement and will do everything in its power to protect our members' final salary pension rights."

09:17 AM

Jeremy Warner: What’s really behind these absurd and restrictive foreign travel rules?

When saintly Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, closed her borders with the aim of going beyond suppression to complete eradication of the disease, she was hailed as setting a shining example to all, writes Jeremy Warner.

What we now see is that failing to combine zero tolerance strategies with an effective vaccination programme – only 14 per cent of Australians and New Zealanders have been fully vaccinated – condemns a country to never-ending isolation. In the case of Australia, where there is now a growing public backlash against the eradication strategy, add lingering and repeated economic lockdown. Once buoyant tourist industries have been all but annihilated.

In Britain, we have at least achieved success with vaccine roll out, but little good does it seem to have done us, with policy on international travel stuck in the muddled, neither fish nor fowl, halfway house of the current traffic light system.

Read more from Jeremy here.

09:09 AM

Have your say: Should isolation rules end earlier than August 16?

This week Boris Johnson said August 16 was "nailed on" as the date that isolation rules would be lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated. 

But now it has emerged that England will be stuck in the pingdemic for a week longer than Wales, which is removing the requirement on August 7, and Scotland, which will drop the rule on August 9. 

Labour has challenged the Government to bring its date forward, but so far there are no signs it will change, with Grant Shapps saying isolation was the sole "lever" left to respond to surging cases. 

Is the Government right, or are they being overly cautious? Have your say in the poll below. 

08:57 AM

Scotland's drug death rate 'heart-breaking', says minister

Scotland's drugs minister has said the number of deaths from drugs last year was "heart-breaking".

Angela Constance, who was appointed at the end of last year to try to combat the rising tide of drug-related deaths, announced that figures will be published quarterly from September to help the response to the crisis.

She said: "We are working hard to get more people into the treatment that works for them as quickly as possible. Without treatment, there is little hope of recovery so we are funding as many community and third sector initiatives as we can so that individuals have the widest possible choice and can opt for the support which suits them and their family.

"Of the £250 million announced over the next five years, £100 million will go on improving the provision of residential rehabilitation and I will update Parliament on progress in this area after the summer recess.

"As I have said before, I am determined that every penny of this additional funding will make a difference to all those affected by drug use in Scotland."

08:56 AM

Scotland's drug deaths rise five per cent in a year

Scotland's drug deaths rose to a record 1,339 in 2020, the seventh time in a row that the number has risen.

The figure is five per cent higher than the previous year, meaning Scotland continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1,000 of the population, more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK. Glasgow was again found to be the worst area.

Nicola Sturgeon said the number of lives lost "is unacceptable, each one a human tragedy".

The First Minister tweeted that the Scottish Government "does not shirk the responsibility & we are determined to make changes that will save lives".

She added: "These 2020 figures (though no less shameful because of it) predate actions set out at start of year."

Those actions include appointing a dedicated drugs minister, more funding and a plan to deliver faster access to community support, treatment and rehab. 

08:45 AM

Grant Shapps: France will remain amber-plus until 'this time next week'

A decision on France's place in the international travel traffic-light system is not expected until next week, despite the amber-plus ranking sparking outrage in Paris.

Grant Shapps said a decision on its status will be taken "by this time next week" as part of the regular travel list update every three weeks.

Asked if the decision could be taken before then, the Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "No, it's only six days away actually, so I wouldn't expect anything in advance of that, but it is the moment at which this will be looked at."

Asked if that also means waiting to hear whether Spain will join the amber-plus list, Mr Shapps said: "That's right. I would encourage people to broadly ignore the sort of ongoing speculation as much as is possible."

08:44 AM

Chopper's Politics: Washing dishes order is not 'nanny state gone mad', says Allegra Stratton

Telling people not to rinse their dishes to save the planet is not "nanny state gone mad", Allegra Stratton has insisted as she said people should put recycling bins in bathrooms to help the environment.

Earlier this week Ms Stratton, the Government's COP26 spokesman,  sparked a debate about what "micro-steps" households can take to help the environment.

She told today's Chopper's Politics: "It's not nanny-statism because it's not me saying 'do this'. It's me saying 'people around the country are already doing quite a few of these things, why don't you Chopper, think about one, or if you want five, that you can do'.

She added: "We are, in Government, doing a huge amount of work to make sure that we're future-proofing the United Kingdom."

Listen to the interview in full above.

08:26 AM

Lord Ashcroft to write unauthorised biography of Carrie Johnson

The billionaire Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft has announced that he is to write a biography of Boris Johnson's wife, Carrie. 

Lord Ashcroft has previously written biographies of David Cameron, Rishi Sunak and Jacob Rees-Mogg, as well as other books on military history and British politics.

In a blog on the Conservative Home website, he wrote: "Carrie has interested me for some time. 

"Many people know her as Boris Johnson's wife, but her influence developed long before she moved into 10 Downing Street via her work over the last decade within the Conservative Party and also through the posts she has held working for government ministers.

"Aside from politics, she has campaigned in the fields of the environment and animal rights, both of which are areas of great interest to me," he added. "As with all of my political biographies, this project will be independent, objective, open-minded, fair, factual and even-handed. The research I've done already has proved fascinating."

08:17 AM

Labour: Ministers 'tying themselves in knots' over France's amber-plus rating

Ministers are "tying themselves in knots" trying to explain why additional restrictions were imposed on travellers from France, Labour has said. 

This morning Grant Shapps sought to explain Dominic Raab's suggestion that the amber-plus rating was because of concerns about the beta variant on the island of Reunion, several thousand miles away from the mainland (see 8:11am and 8:37am).

Jim McMahon, shadow transport secretary, said: "If they misinterpreted the data over cases in mainland France they need to come clean and apologise. 

"It's completely unfair that holidaymakers who booked in good faith in line with the Government’s own advice, have had to fork out extra for early flights, or lost income through having to isolate when they came home.

"This is why Labour has been calling for the country-by-country data informing the traffic light system to be published. The Government must do that without delay."

08:11 AM

RNLI donations soar after criticism of migrant rescues

RNLI donations have topped £200,000 in a day after the charity revealed its volunteers were abused for helping migrants.

Online donations to the RNLI passed the £200,000 mark on Thursday, up from around £7,000 on a typical day.

There was also a near four-fold increase in people looking at volunteering opportunities on the sea charity's website during the same period.

A “small number” of others, however, contacted the RNLI to withdraw financial support following boss Mark Dowie's decision to speak out and praise volunteers' work during the migrant crisis.

08:10 AM

Seven million people missing out on employment rights, Labour claim

More than seven million UK workers are missing out on full employment rights because they have been in their job for less than two years, Labour has said.

It comes after the party called for the qualifying period for full employment rights to be scrapped.

Labour analysis of ONS Labour Force Survey data from the period January to March this year shows 7.2 million people - 26 per cent of those employed across the UK - have been in their job less than two years and so do not have protection from unfair dismissal.

Almost two million people have been working for their employer for less than 26 weeks, meaning they cannot request flexible working arrangements, the party said.

Labour's shadow employment minister Andy McDonald called the current rules "unfair".

He said: "Many are restricted from achieving a better work-life balance and miss out on valuable time at home with their families because of these qualifying periods." 

07:57 AM

'Biden is keeping the UK travel ban'

Grant Shapps this morning repeated his line about the US travel ban on UK visitors being imposed by Donald Trump. 

However, as The Telegraph's political editor points out, that's not quite the full story...

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07:54 AM

Government will not 'go as far' as requiring Covid passes for shops or pubs

The Government will not "go as far" as requiring vaccine passports for entry to shops or pubs, the Transport Secretary has said.

Asked on ITV's Good Morning Britain about concerns over vaccine passports being required for entry into certain places, Grant Shapps said: "I don't know why this is particularly controversial - nine out of 10 people have had their first vaccinations and are going on to have their second, so most people have already had their vaccinations anyway - and I'm talking about adults who have had their vaccinations anyway.

"So, for most people this doesn't matter one way or the other. It does protect not just your life but other people's lives when you get vaccinated, so of course, as a society, we should be encouraging it.

"We won't go as far as requiring it to enter a shop or the pub, we will for very close contact things like going to nightclubs - other countries are for international travel - so I think there is precious little reason not to be vaccinated, every good reason to be vaccinated. Why wouldn't we want to save lives? It's just obvious to me."

07:41 AM

No change to US travel ban, Grant Shapps admits

The US has still not signalled any change to the travel ban on visitors from the UK, Grant Shapps has said. 

The UK unilaterally lifted its travel ban for US visitors, along with those from the EU, as long as they have proof that they are fully vaccinated with an FDA or EMA-approved jab.

"The US have an executive order, which... bans visitors from the UK and several other countries," the Transport Secretary told Radio 4's Today programme. "I should add, it didn't help the US in their battle with coronavirus - they have had a pretty torrid time.

"It is the case they are yet to release that executive order," he added. "We look forward to hearing news once they have."

07:37 AM

Grant Shapps tries to deflect criticism over France's amber-plus rating

Grant Shapps has attempted to deflect criticism over Dominic Raab for causing confusion over why France was added to the amber-plus on the media. 

The Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It was actually the cases the [JCB] were picking from France - there has been some discussion about whether those cases where from Reunion, they may have started there but they were measured in France."

Challenged over the fact it was a discussion prompted by Mr Raab's comments, Mr Shapps said: "I also heard him say 'and in northern France' as well." You can read what the Foreign Secretary actually said here.

Asked if beta variant cases are high in France, he said: "I had been higher, it looks like it has been trending downwards... the Joint Biosecurity Centre will be looking at France and providing fresh advice on where that should sit in the system."

07:32 AM

Funding will 'doubtless change' after Bethany Shriever wins BMX gold, says Grant Shapps

Bethany Shriever's gold medal win in Tokyo will "doubtless" change the funding of female BMXers, Grant Shapps has said. 

UK Sport decided to fund only male BMX riders following the Rio Olympics, meaning she had to fund herself before British Cycling stepped in.

The Transport Secretary said the Olympian had "broken the mold".

"She wanted to prove women can do it and she has done that in amazing style," he added. "Funding will doubtless change.

"It demonstrates that a) this is a sport and b) that women should be funded to do it. She has done phenomenally well."

07:16 AM

Labour MP demands answers over 'shocking' migrant conditions

Women with babies and children were among 56 migrants packed into a small room in "shocking" conditions in Dover, the Home Secretary has been told.

Priti Patel has been sent a letter by Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, raising "serious concerns" after MPs visited the Kent Intake Unit.

People were being held in a cramped room for up to 48 hours - double the intended maximum period, while some people, including an unaccompanied child, have stayed in an atrium room for more than 10 days. The committee was also "very concerned" about the "clear risk" of a Covid-19 outbreak.

In the letter, Ms Cooper said: "The holding room facility, in which detained asylum seekers wait for onward placement and screening, is wholly inappropriate... Sharing these cramped conditions were many women with babies and very young children, alongside significant numbers of teenage and young adult men."  

07:11 AM

Dominic Raab wrong to suggest remote island was cause of France' amber-plus listing

Grant Shapps has suggested Dom Raab was wrong when he said France was on the amber-plus list because of Reunion island. 

The Foreign Secretary yesterday said the additional travel restrictions were imposed because of "the prevalence of the so-called beta variant in particular in the Reunion bit of France", which is 6,000 miles from the mainland. 

He added: "It's not the distance that matters, it is the ease of travel between different components parts of any individual country."

But the Transport Secretary this morning said this was not correct. "The beta variant is not just on an island thousands of miles away, it was also and issue in Northern France," he said.

Asked about comments made by Clement Beaune, the Europe minister, who claimed it was "discriminatory", Mr Shapps told Sky News: "It’s always disappointing for any country to be on anything other than the green list."

07:04 AM

August 16 is set in stone 'right now', says Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps has insisted the Government is right to stick with August 16 as the point at which isolation ends, despite Labour's demand to bring it forward by a week. 

The Transport Secretary told Sky News: "We are always keeping it under very close review, but the reality is that people putting themselves in self-isolation has been a factor in saving a lot of lives."

Mr Shapps highlighted the testing sites - which are due to be opened in 2,000 locations, although only 260 have so far, adding that isolation was the only "lever" left after other restrictions had been lifted. 

Asked if the August 16 date is set in stone despite what the other nations are doing, Mr Shapps said: "Right now that is the date. We'll always keep these things under review but I don't want to open up false hope for you, it's not too far away now."

He added: "Right now I haven't seen anything which suggests that we shouldn't wait until the 16 August."

07:01 AM

End pingdemic on August 7 when Welsh Labour does, Sir Keir Starmer says

Labour is demanding the Government bring forward the end of isolation rules from August 16 to August 7, when the restriction ends in Wales.

Earlier this week Boris Johnson said August 16 was "nailed on" as the date. 

But Sir Keir Starmer questioned why England should have a later timeline than Wales or Scotland, with the latter due to end isolation on August 9. 

"This has been a summer of chaos for British businesses and British families," he said. "The Tory Government has never been able to explain the logic of their self-isolation rules and has just repeated the same mistakes over and over again...

"The Government's slapdash approach to this global pandemic is crippling our economy and creating real problems for businesses and families alike. Welsh Labour has shown what can be done and it's time for the Tories to do the same."

06:48 AM

‘Smart’ businesses will insist staff have jab, says Raab

Businesses should ensure their staff are vaccinated before returning to the workplace, a Cabinet minister has suggested.

Dominic Raab, the First Secretary of State, said on Thursday that it was a "smart policy" for companies to insist on staff being double jabbed in order to come back to the office.

A government source told The Telegraph ministers wanted firms to advise their staff to take up the jab and "explain why it's obviously a sensible thing to do to protect yourself and others".

Mr Raab's intervention came in the wake of a series of companies announcing plans to make inoculation against Covid obligatory for all employees.

06:47 AM

Good Morning

Team GB has picked up another gold - but the marathon against the pingdemic continues. 

Boris Johnson is coming under increasing pressure to bring forward the end to isolation, with Labour finally waking up to the issue. 

Here's today's front page. 

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