UK employment has fallen at the fastest rate in more than a decade as 220,000 jobs were lost between April and June, the largest quarterly fall since the financial crisis.
A total of 730,000 people have been taken off company payrolls since the coronavirus pandemic triggered a national lockdown in March, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed.
The true state of employment in Britain may be hidden by the government’s furlough scheme, as many fear they will not have jobs to come back to when the scheme winds down in October and demand for workers “remains depressed”.
Elsewhere, there is growing pressure on the government to deal with the uptick of migrants making the dangerous journey across the Channel in small boats. Immigration minister Chris Philp is to hold talks with his French counterparts in Paris to discuss the issue.
A group of 25 Tory MP backbenchers were condemned by a former child refugee for saying migrants coming to the UK via the Channel were “invading” the country, with one claiming they could simply “paddle in”.
At least 597 migrants arrived on the UK’s shores between Thursday and Sunday. In total, more than 4,000 migrants have made the treacherous journey so far this year.
Prime minister Boris Johnson condemned the actions of “cruel and criminal gangs” who carry out the Channel crossings, adding the journey is “a pretty dangerous stretch of water in potentially unseaworthy vessels”.
Migrants crossing Channel are ‘invading’ UK, claim Tory MPs
A group of Tory MPs says migrants making the perilous journey across the English Channel are “invading” the country.
The Common Sense Group of Tory backbenchers sent a letter to Priti Patel urging her to get tougher and suggested sending in Royal Navy warships to stop migrants from “paddling in”.
The group has been condemned by Gulwali Passarly, a former child refugee who wrote an acclaimed book about escaping from Afghanistan as a 12-year-old boy.
He said the 25-strong group should “look at themselves and have humanity and have decency”.
Read the full report by deputy political editor Rob Merrick below:
‘Bumpy months ahead’ as UK job losses hit decade-high, warns Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson said the UK economy faces more “bumpy months” ahead following the latest rise in unemployment.
Speaking to reporters on a visit to Herefordshire, the Prime Minister said the Government was committed to making the “colossal investments” needed to rebuild the economy.
“We always knew that this was going to be a very tough time for people,” he said.
“What we are going to have to do is to keep going with our plan to ‘build, build, build’ and build back better, and ensure that we make the colossal investments that we can now make in the UK economy to drive jobs and growth.
“Obviously what we want to see is a return to economic vitality and health. Some parts of the economy are undoubtedly showing great resilience but clearly there are going to be bumpy months ahead and a long, long way to go.”
Boris Johnson insists safe for children in England to return to school
The prime minister has insisted it will be safe for schoolchildren to go back to the classroom in September.
During a visit to Herefordshire, he told reporters: “I have no doubt that it can be done safely. Schools are doing a huge amount to make sure that it is done safely.
“Just for the sake of social justice, ensuring that all our kids get the education they need, we need to get our pupils, our children, back to school in September, and I am very, very impressed by the work that has been done to make those schools Covid-secure.”
Mr Johnson is in the town in West Midlands to visit the construction site of Hereford County Hospital, which is expanding to provide more beds over three wards.
Coronavirus cases in Aberdeen part of ongoing outbreak, says Nicola Sturgeon
The First Minister said that 165 cases of Covid-19 in Aberdeen are believed to be a part of the ongoing outbreak which has seen restrictions put on the city.
875 contacts have been identified in relation to the outbreak, but that does not necessarily mean there are 875 individual people to be traced as contacts are expected to overlap, she added.
The rate at which infections had been increasing in Aberdeen was slowing down, but Ms Sturgeon stressed the Scottish Government “remains very vigilant”.
She also said it was likely more cases and contacts will be identified as part of the outbreak in the next few days.
A review is due on Wednesday on whether extra measures, including the closure of bars and restaurants, will be lifted.
Boris Johnson’s decision to merge aid and Foreign Office could cost £50m, says Labour
Labour has claimed the prime minister’s decision to merge the aid department with the Foreign Office could cost around £50m, following revelations last month the overseas aid budget would be cut by £2.9bn due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Boris Johnson unveiled the move to scrap the standalone Department for International Development (DfID) and merge its operations under foreign secretary Dominic Raab in June.
The new department – the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) – will be established in September.
Labour pointed to a report on creating and dismantling Whitehall departments produced by the Institute for Government last year, in which researchers said the cost of creating a new department could amount to £15m, “with up to £34m on top resulting from loss of productivity”, reports Ashley Cowburn.
Read more below:
Government defends Test and Trace system amid criticism it is ‘not fit for service’
Labour has criticised the NHS Test and Trace programme as being nowhere near “world-beating” and raised “growing concerns” about outsourcing giant Serco’s role in the programme following reports call centre contact tracers were being “paid to watch Netflix”.
The government defended the programme after announcing it is creating a “more tailored service” and giving local governments across England a dedicated team of contact tracers. It will cut 6,000 national contact tracers and prioritise face-to-face contact over phone calls.
Health minister Edward Argar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the move will create a “hybrid system” with national callers alongside a local door-to-door approach”.
But Labour said it had been calling for a “locally-led contact tracing system for months”.
Shadow health minister Justin Madders said while it was welcome, it was “clear Boris Johnson’s £10 billion centralised contact tracing system is nowhere near ‘world-beating’ as he claims and the system is nowhere near ‘world-beating’ as he claims and the system is unable to fight local outbreaks successfully”.
Mr Argar said the service has reached around a quarter of a million people in the past 10 weeks, adding: “That’s a quarter of a million chains of transmission that have been broken by this.”
Businesses hit by local lockdowns need more support, say industry leaders
Business leaders from Lancashire have urged the government to provide extra support in parts of the country affected by local lockdown restrictions.
In a virtual meeting with shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds on Tuesday, business owners and workers from east Lancashire said the current circumstances were challenging without additional support.
Miranda Barker, chief executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We need support for those businesses who have got themselves ready to reopen, they have restocked – there are an awful lot of food businesses – and they are literally now having to throw things away because they are not getting the take-up.
“We really need to try and campaign for some extra support for areas that are on this semi lockdown now because they have got costs they just weren’t able to prepare for.”
Ms Dodds, Labour MP for Oxford East, called not he government to adopt a “flexible approach” to supporting businesses affected by the new restrictions.
“There hasn’t been that support for the hospitality sector, in particular, that has been impacted substantially,” she said.
“We need to have that support there and ultimately businesses shouldn’t be penalised for doing the right thing.”
Ms Dodds called for surplus government funding to be used to help venues that could not reopen, adding that Labour wanted any surplus from government grants to be put into a “high street fightback fund”.
Margaret Thatcher ‘didn’t like being interviewed by women’
BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark revealed that Downing Street once tried to stop her from interviewing then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, claiming the leader did not like being interviewed by other women.
Ms Wark told the Radio Times the ‘Iron Lady’ thought she was “impertinent”.
“She didn’t like being interviewed by women and Downing Street tried to get me taken off the job,” she said, adding the BBC did not let the government “dictate” who carried out the interview.
During the interview, in 1990, Ms Wark said Ms Thatcher tried to put her “off course”, but became so uncomfortable she “had a very sharp go at me afterwards”.
Government urged to increase ambition for renewables as costs fall
Government advisers have said the UK should accelerate the roll-out of renewables in light of falling costs so they generate two-thirds of electricity by 2030.
The National Infrastructure Commission upped its recommendation for renewables and says Britain should aim to generate 65 per cent of its electricity from clean technologies, an increase on its previous recommendation of 50 per cent.
The commission, which gives the government independent advice on long-term infrastructure challenges, said falling prices of wind and solar meant that increasing the ambition for renewables will not cost consumers more.
Currently, clean technologies make up around 40 per cent of the system. Renewables are now the cheapest form of electricity generation due to dramatic cost reductions in recent years, which have been greater than predicted in 2018.
Upping the use of renewables will also help the UK meet its long-term goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, said the commission in a new report.
The UK needs to act “sooner rather than later to tackle the climate crisis”, it said, and urged the government to support conditions for growth to ensure a market-led recovery from coronavirus in the power sector.
Reporting by PA
Home Secretary was warned government policies were increasing Channel crossings nine months ago
Priti Patel was warned nine months ago that the government’s own policies were “pushing migrants to take more dangerous routes” across the Channel in a report by MPs.
The Foreign Affairs Committee heard evidence that the number of migrants trying to reach the UK by sea would rise and current measures were not effective.
The committee, of which Ms Patel was a member, released a report calling for the government to increase legal routes to asylum, improve conditions in French camps, and address the root causes of migration.
Our home affairs correspondent Lizzie Dearden reports on the exclusive:
Changes to Test and Trace system welcome, but more resources needed
The president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, Jeanelle de Gruchy, praised the government’s announcement to overhaul the NHS Test and Trace programme, but said more resources were needed to change phone calls to face-to-face contact.
She said the “evolution” of the system was a step in the right direction and was glad the government is “recognising the value of local government”.
The Department of Health and Social Care announced on Monday it will cut the number of national contact tracers from 18,000 to 12,000 and the programme will provide local authorities across England with a dedicated team of tracers to ensure as many people as possible are being reached.
“Some people, some communities, they need a much more local approach in terms of people who know the communities, know where people are, how to contact them and, as you say, knock on their doors and have that conversation face-to-face, because a lot of what we’re asking people, it is a lot to self-isolate for 14 days, so all the support that we can give to them really does help make it the most effective it can be,” said Ms de Gruchy during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Resources to deliver it will be an issue because we are being asked to do a lot more,” she added.
Smells funky: UK-Japan trade deal ‘consensus’ hits stumbling block over Stilton
Post-Brexit trade deal talks between the UK and Japan appear to have gone mouldy after international trade secretary Liz Truss insisted on preferential treatment for British blue cheese makers.
Both countries hoped to finalise an agreement by the end of August and apparently reached a “consensus” in all major areas of a prospective deal last week.
But Ms Truss, who has championed the cause of domestic cheesemakers in the past, is reportedly holding out in a bid to get better terms for blue cheese producers than those agreed in Japan’s recent trade deal with the EU.
Adam Forrest has more on the stink:
Minister for employment responds to latest ONS figures on job losses
Mims Davies addressed today’s figures on the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on jobs across Britain, pointing towards a number of schemes the government set out to help protect jobs.
She said: “Today’s figures show more of the impact the virus is having on both our economy and labour market, meaning many people will be understandably concerned about the future – which is why we’ve set out our Plan for Jobs, to protect, create and support jobs as we build back our economy.
“We’ve already protected more than 9.5 million jobs throughout this period with the furlough scheme, supported more than two million self-employed people and paid out billions in loans and grants to thousands of businesses.
“Our Eat Out to Help Out scheme is supporting thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector and helping boost confidence, and the key cut to stamp duty has led to a surge in house sales and a welcome boost to the economy.
“Looking to the future, next month we’re launching the £2 billion Kickstart scheme to create thousands of new high quality jobs for young people, increasing access to tailored job support by doubling the number of work coaches across the UK and we are boosting the DWP Flexible Support Fund by £150m to provide vital localised employment support.
“We are determined to build back stronger and support people as we move into recovery.”
Data on coronavirus in schools incomplete, warns health minister
A health minister has cautioned against “reading too much” into a major Public Health England (PHE) report about the transmission of Covid-19 among school children as it is still a “work in progress”.
Edward Argar claimed no one had seen the final results of the yet-to-be-published work. It comes as ministers insist the study shows “little evidence that the virus is transmitted at school”.
Ashley Cowburn reports:
Consider ‘virtual trial’ for Harry Dunn’s alleged killer, Priti Patel asked
Andrea Leadsom, MP for the constituency Harry Dunn’s family lives in, has written to home secretary Priti Patel asking her to consider a “virtual trial” for the 19-year-old’s alleged killer.
Anne Sacoolas, 42, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving after a crash outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire last August, but claimed diplomatic immunity and was able to return to the US.
The Dunn family has been trying ever since to bring her to justice, but have been frustrated by her claiming diplomatic immunity, which sparked an international controversy.
Ms Leadsom said in her letter, seen by the PA news agency, that the virtual trial would be a “way to achieve closure… without undermining the US decision not to accept the extradition request”.
She also wrote to the Solicitor General, the Foreign Secretary, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Lord Chancellor about the issue.
The family’s spokesperson, Radd Seiger, said the family “would not object” if a decision was taken to conduct a remote trial.
Harry’s mother, Charlotte Charles, told PA she was grateful to Ms Leadsom for writing the letters on their behalf to “ensure that justice is done for Harry”.
“For me and my family, it is all about doing the right thing and ensuring justice is done,” she added.
Harry’s first death anniversary falls on 27 August.
Over 10m meals eaten under Eat Out To Help Out scheme
According to the Treasury, more than 10 million meals have been consumed in restaurants under the new support scheme Eat Out To Help Out.
Diners receive a 50 per cent discount, up to £10, when they dine at restaurants taking part in the scheme from Monday to Wednesday, throughout August.
The Treasury said it received claims for 10,540,394 individual meals from restaurants across the country. More than 83,000 restaurants are signed onto the scheme.
NHS Test and Trace system to cut 6,000 contact tracers
The Department for Health and Social Care will reduce the number of NHS contact tracers by a third in an overhaul of the Test and Trace programme, which was initially described as “world beating”.
The department announced the programme will now provide local authorities across England with a dedicated team of contact tracers, calling it a “more tailored service”.
Our politics correspondent Ashely Cowburn has the story:
Tory MP faces backlash for saying migrants are ‘breaking into’ UK
Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, has been criticised for describing migrants making the dangerous journey across the Channel as “breaking into” the UK to seek asylum.
Ms Elphicke, who wrote an article for The Express on Sunday calling for a more robust plan to stop the crossings, told BBC Radio 4 the Dublin Regulation, which determines which EU member state is responsible for examining asylum applications, is “unsatisfactory and inflexible” and does not allow the UK to “return” people back to France.
“And that is why it is important to bring forward legislation when we finally leave the transition period at the end of the year to make sure that we can return people who break into our country through illegal routes like this crossing,” she said.
On social media, many have called her choice of words “dehumanising” and compared the notion of “breaking into” a country to colonialism.
One person criticised her for not acknowledging the “human suffering and desperation it take to cross the Channel in a boat”.
Others said they were “angered” by her language and said making the crossing harder would not stop organised crime.
UK ‘determined’ to work with France to stop migrants crossing Channel
The UK is in talks with France and is “determined” to work with French counterparts to stop migrants from crossing the Channel in search of asylum as the journeys are “dangerous and illegal”, junior health minister Edward Argar has told LBC Radio.
Mr Argar added that Boris Johnson wants “greater flexibility” to return migrants coming to the UK’s shores back to France, where they began their journey across the Channel.
Immigration minister Chris Philps is to hold talks with French counterparts in Paris following increasing pressure from Conservative MPs to address the uptick in crossings.
More than 4,000 migrants have made it onto British shores so far this year after the treacherous voyage across the world’s busiest shipping lane. At least 597 people arrived between Thursday and Sunday.
Home secretary Priti Patel said earlier the UK needs to work with France to make the route “unviable”, calling the number of recent crossings “totally unacceptable”.
“Across the Government we are absolutely committed to shutting down this route and we will bring down the criminal gangs that facilitate these illegal crossings.”
Secondary school pupils may post greater virus risk than primary students – reports
It has been reported that government research suggests some secondary school pupils may spread Covid-19 at a similar rate to adults.
The same research is being used by ministers to insist it is safe for pupils to return to school in September, as Boris Johnson declared it was the “national priority” and continuing closures was “morally indefensible”.
Although Sage member and president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said the findings showed schools and pupils “play a minor role in transmission of the virus”, a source in Public Health England told The Times that secondary school children are most likely to get infected and transmit the virus.
Andy Gregory reports: