Damian Collins (Con) asks if the PM agrees it is wrong that Facebook allows people smugglers to use its site.
Johnson agrees. The online harms bill will allow that material to be taken down.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, says farmer are on the brink. They are about to see payments cut by 5% at least. The PM promised a new support system for farmers. But in the meantime farmers will go bankrupt. Will the PM stop cutting the old payments until the new system is in place?
Johnson says he met representatives of the food and farming industry last night. He says every embassy now has an official backing food exports.
Ian Blackford (SNP) says it is regrettable that MPs are having to talk again about the PM’s misconduct. Last Christmas the PM hosted a party that broke lockdown rules. He says he spoke to the Mirror newspaper, they are confirming their report [er – they would, they would not have published it otherwise], and they have legal advice saying the law may have been broken. It is one rule for him, one rule for everyone else.
Johnson says Blackford should have mentioned Storm Arwen.
Blackford says he did. He says Sage advice to PM called for tougher travel rules. That is what Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, advised too. Will the PM take this advice?
Johnson says Blackford is “simply wrong” in what he has said about the steps taken by the government. He says this government was the first internationally to respond to Omicron. He says it put countries on the red list. He says the measures being taken are balanced and proporotionate.
Andrew Rosindell (Con) says the government cannot deal with illegal migrants while still constrained by the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights.
Johnson says the government is reviewing the human rights system. He says Labour should back the nationality and borders bill.
Starmer says the new hospitals are just the latest example of Johnson not keeping a promise.
Johnson accuses Starmer of drivelling on about parties and wallpaper. He says Labour are obsessed with factional infighting. He is getting on with governing. He says the government is cutting tax for low-paid families. He ends with the usual dig at Captain Hindsight.
That is not true. The lowering of the universal credit taper will lead to poorer worker having higher take-home pay, but it is not a tax cut.
Starmer quotes from government advice saying refurbishments should be called new hospitals. Refurbishments are a good thing, but they are not new hospitals. How many are genuinely new.
Starmer seems to be referrring to this report.
Johnson says you do not build on greenfield sites.
Starmer challenges the PM to publish the report saying the building programme has been flagged as red.
Johnson says there is record investment going into the NHS.
Starmer points out that Johnson has not denied that there was a party. But he says no rules were broken. Both of those things cannot be true. Both of those things cannot be true.
He says Tory MPs are not obey the rules. As usual, it is one rule for them, one rule for us.
He says a Treasury analysis says the PM’s plan for 40 new hospitals is unachievable. Is that right?
No, claims Johnson. He claims he is helping to build another 40 hospitals, with investment worth £36bn.
Starmer says the rules were clear. They say you could not have a work Christmas lunch or party. Why does the PM think it was okay to hold a boozy party?
Johnson says he has commented on what happened 12 months ago. He says he wants to focus on this year. He summarises the latest guidance. He says he hopes Starmer has had his booster.
Keir Starmer says he also wants to mark world Aids day. He says it is within our hands to end new transmissions of Aids within a decade.
Was a Christmas party held in Downing Street on 18 December last year?
Johnson says all guidance was followed. He says Starmer is holding his own party on 15 December, and has not invited Angela Rayner.
Boris Johnson starts by saying he is wearing a purple tie because it is people with disabilities day on Friday.
He says MPs’s thoughts are still with those affected by Storm Arwen. There will be a statement after PMQs, he says.
PMQs is about to start.
Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.
Here is the BBC report with more details of its story about Sage, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, saying pre-departure Covid tests for people arriving in the UK would be “valuable”. It is based on leaked minutes of a meeting held this Monday.
Yvette Cooper, the new shadow home secretary, says that in ignoring this advice the government is being “totally irresponsible”.
Last week a subgroup of Nervtag, the government’s new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group, met to consider the threat posed by the Omicron variant. As Sky News reports, Nervtag concluded that this could lead to a new wave of coronavirus hitting the UK that could overwhelm the NHS. A minute of the meeting says:
If introduced into the UK, B.1.1.529 [Omicron[ would likely be capable of initiating a new wave of infections. We cannot exclude that this wave would be of a magnitude similar, or even larger, than previous waves.
Although data on disease severity associated with B.1.1.529 are not yet available, a large wave of infections will be accompanied by a wave of severe cases and the subgroup cannot rule out that this may be sufficient to overwhelm NHS capacity.
This is a marginally starker expression of the risk that ministers and government advisers have been talking about in public since the Omicron threat emerged at the end of last week.
According to the minute, which is available on the Nervtag website here, the subgroup said the government should improve early detection of Omicron and intensify the vaccine booster campaign. Both of these things are happening.
Nervtag also called for “early and robust actions to prevent introduction and onward transmission”. The government has re-introduced PCR tests at day 2 for arrivals into the UK, mandated mask wearing in shops and on public transport in England, and ordered close contacts of Omicron cases to isolate for up to 10 days, but whether these responses are “robust” enough for the Nervtag advisers is not clear from the minute.
There will be two statements in the Commons after PMQs, the parliamentary authorities have announced.
At 12.30pm Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, will make a statement on Storm Arwen.
And at around 1.30pm Gillian Keegan, the care minister, will make a statement giving further details of the government’s plans for social care.
The People’s Covid Inquiry, which was set up by the campaigning group Keep Our NHS Public and which took evidence in a series of public evidence sessions earlier this year, has this morning published its final report (pdf).
It is called “Misconduct in Public Office”, and one of its conclusions is that the pandemic involved “serious governance failures” by the UK government that “contributed to tens of thousands of avoidable deaths and suffering” and that this amounts to misconduct in public office.
The inquiry was chaired by Michael Mansfield QC. In his introduction to the report, Mansfield says that the government has a legal duty to protect public health and that, because a pandemic was anticipated, and because Whitehall had even planned for one, the government should have been prepared. He says:
The government should, therefore, have been well prepared for the eventuality that presented itself at the end of 2019. The NHS and social care infrastructure should not have been neglected and run down; effective in-date personal protective equipment should have been readily stored and accessible; track and trace provision should have been anticipated as vital to basic public health measures; extra NHS hospital space carefully planned; an adequate NHS trained staffing complement at the ready; quarantine conditions and support sorted; strict border controls and isolation facilities programmed in advance. None of this is hindsight, as we make clear. This People’s Covid Inquiry report is unequivocal – dismal failure in the face of manifestly obvious risks.
And he says that, once Covid arrived in the UK, Boris Johnson and the government failed to respond properly.
There was no consistent, comprehensive and coordinated plan of public health strategy. What leapt off the press conference page was the dilatory initial response; the absence of any effective track and trace system; the sheer waste of taxpayers’ money ploughed into the pockets of private cronies; the contradictory messaging; the abject failure to provide PPE; the albatross of Nightingale hospitals; the lack of trained staff; the failure to utilise NHS primary care facilities; the misrepresentations about care home ringed protection; the parlous state of the NHS in the first place. Above all is the utter distrust of the public and the disrespect for the frontline workers, who, once the claps and saucepan fanfares had abated, were offered a 1%, below-inflation, pay rise for their life-endangered troubles.
As my colleague Rowena Mason reports, in his morning interviews Sajid Javid, the health secretary, also hinted that demands for GPs to return to face-to-face appointments could be dropped to let them do more vaccinating.
In his interviews Javid also suggested that people might want to take lateral flow tests before attending Christmas celebrations. Asked on Sky News if people should take a Covid test before going to a Christmas party, he replied: “I would.”
Later he told the Today programme:
If you are invited to a Christmas party, there’s quite a few people there, maybe you want to take an LFT [lateral flow test] before you go. Go to the party, but just be cautious.
Asked if he would wear a mask if he was at a party, Javid said:
It depends if I am walking around or sitting down. It depends if I’m eating. People just need to make a decision based on the guidance.
This is what the government guidance for England says about taking lateral flow tests ahead of going to crowded events.
You are at higher risk of catching or passing on Covid-19 in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and where there is limited fresh air.
You may wish to take a rapid lateral flow test if it is expected that there will be a period of high risk that day. This includes spending time in crowded and enclosed spaces, or before visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they get Covid-19.
In Scotland government advice is tougher. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, has advised Scots to take a lateral flow test every time they leave home to meet up with friends.
According to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, there has been a leak of a document from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) saying that its members think pre-departure tests for people coming to the UK would be valuable and that PCR tests for arrivals would be more use at day 5 or day 8, instead of at day 2 (where they are now required, under a rule announced at the weekend).
This is almost certain to come up at PMQs. The new shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, and the new shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, have been loudly calling for pre-departure testing since they took up their new roles on Monday night.
And the SNP government in Scotland and the Labour government in Wales have both said the PCR testing at day 2 for arrivals is not enough, and the arrivals should have to isolate until they have done a PCR test at day 8.
Good morning. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, was doing the morning interview round this morning and, although mostly he was asked about the expansion of the booster programme announced last night, he also faced questions over new reports about Downing Street breaking Covid rules last year. We’ve had a steady stream of such stories during the pandemic, some more consequential than others, and the latest is by Pippa Crerar in the Daily Mirror, who says Boris Johnson and his Downing Street staff “have been accused of breaking Covid rules by attending parties at No 10 in the run-up to last Christmas”. Crerar reports:
The prime minister gave a speech at a packed leaving do for a top aide last November when the country was in the grip of its second lockdown.
Then just days before Christmas, with London in tier 3 restrictions, members of his top team held their own festive bash in Downing Street.
Officials knocked back glasses of wine during a Christmas quiz and a Secret Santa while the rest of the country was forced to stay at home.
Around “40 or 50” people were said to have been crammed “cheek by jowl” into a medium-sized room in No 10 for each of the two events.
“It was a Covid nightmare,” one source claimed.
The Mirror quotes from the lawyer Adam Wagner, who says that if there was an unofficial Christmas party on 18 December, it probably broke the rules. The paper also says that, when it put the story to No 10, Downing Street did not dispute that the gatherings took place, but claimed no rules were broken.
Asked about the story on the Today programme, Javid – who only became health secretary because Matt Hancock resigned after breaking Covid restrictions – replied:
Whatever would have happened at No 10 throughout the pandemic, I’m absolutely certain all the rules around the pandemic would have been followed. Obviously I can’t tell you what’s going on on a daily basis in any building. But what I can tell, if it’s government, and especially No 10, is that all the rules would have been followed at all times.
Javid also told the interviewer, Mishal Husain, not to assume that the news report was accurate. But when asked if the report was definitely inaccurate, he just said: “I can tell you all rules would have been followed at all times.”
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes a report on the characteristics of people getting Covid.
10am: Leading lawyers give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee about rape prosecution rates.
10am: The People’s Covid Inquiry publishes a report based on the hearings it held earlier this year.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.
2.15pm: Sir Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee.
3pm: Tom Pursglove, a Home Office minister, gives evidence to the joint committee on human rights about the nationality and borders bill.
4pm: Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, discusses the Northern Ireland protocol at a Public Policy Projects event.
4.30pm: Maroš Šefčovič , vice-president of the European Commission, gives evidence to MLAs about the Northern Ireland protocol.
I will be covering UK Covid developments here, as well as non-Covid politics, but for global Covid developments, do read our global live blog.
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