- Downing Street has offered a concession to Tory MPs worried about the internal market bill, which gives ministers the powers to break international law. The move will satisfy many Tory MPs who refused to vote for the bill at second reading on Monday – it has been welcomed by Sir Bob Neill, who was leading this particular rebellion – but some Conservatives, particularly in the Lords, may continue to oppose the legislation because today’s concession does not address the argument the very act of passing the bill breaks the Brexit withdrawal agreement – even if its powers are never used. (See 6.22pm.) Labour has said the changes announced tonight will make the bill worse. This is from Charlie Falconer, the former lord chancellor who is now shadow attorney general.
- Boris Johnson has told MPs on the liaison committee that he thinks the EU is not negotiating with the UK “in good faith” – even though Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, told another committee this morning that it was.
- Johnson has admitted that the UK does not have enough coronavirus testing capacity. He told the liaison committee:
We don’t have enough testing capacity now because, in an ideal world, I would like to test absolutely everybody that wants a test immediately.
- Angela Rayner has tackled Johnson over a “collapsing” Covid test regime and a wider crisis in the care sector, using a prime minister’s questions where she stood in for Keir Starmer to accuse Johnson of refusing to take responsibility for his failings.
- Headteachers and school governors have written a strongly worded letter to the prime minister “imploring” him to take personal charge of the crisis in Covid testing, warning that children’s return to education is being put at risk by failures in the system.
- Johnson has suffered another embarrassing resignation over his controversial Brexit policy after Lord Keen, the UK government’s law officer for Scotland, stepped down.
- The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is facing a growing backlash in the US Congress after senior Democrats warned they would scupper any future US-UK trade deal if the UK does anything to jeopardise the Good Friday agreement in an attempt to leave the European Union on its own terms. At a press conference in Washington, Raab defended the internal market bill, the UK proposal that has alarmed Democrats, saying the UK was responding to a threat posed by the EU and that any measures taken would be defensive, precautionary and proportionate.
- The British public backs an ambitious transformation of the UK into a greener, fairer more equal society as it emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, according to an inquiry by a cross-party group of MPs.
- A spate of deaths from Covid-19 in a hospital in Greater Manchester are “a canary in the mine” for the rest of the country if it continues to struggle to test and trace infections, one of the UK’s most senior public health chiefs has warned.
- A trip to Doncaster races by a group of sports fans from south Wales is being blamed for a cluster of Covid-19 cases in an area where a new, strict lockdown is being imposed.
That’s all from me for today. But our coverage continues on the global coronavirus live blog. It’s here.
No 10 offers internal market bill concession, giving MPs vote before contentious powers used
Downing Street has just issued this statement. It is a joint statement from No 10, the Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill who chairs of the Commons justice committee, and Damian Green, the Conservative MP who chairs the One Nation caucus.
It confirms that the government has accepted a compromise on the internal market bill. The statement says:
Following constructive talks over the last few days, the government has agreed to table an amendment for committee stage. This amendment will require the House of Commons to vote for a motion before a minister can use the ‘notwithstanding’ powers contained in the UK.
The internal market bill was designed to give MPs and Peers a vote on the use of these powers via statutory instrument. But following talks, it is agreed that the parliamentary procedure suggested by some colleagues provides a clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of these powers, and also provides more legal certainty.
The government will table another amendment which sets clear limits on the scope and timeliness of judicial review into the exercise of these powers. This will provide people and businesses with the certainty that they need.
We welcome the way the parliamentary party has come together on these issue. There is near-unanimous agreement that the government must be able to use these powers as a final resort, that there must be legal certainty, and that no further amendments are required on these powers.
The bill gives ministers the power to override parts of the withdrawal agreement. The original plan was for MPs to use these powers under a conventional secondary legislation procedure that would have meant MPs would have only had a vote retrospectively – after the powers had been used. Now the bill will be changed so MPs have to vote first.
For many Tory MPs unhappy about the bill, this will be enough. But there is a strong argument that the very act of passing the bill would break international law, regardless of whether these powers ever get used, and some Conservatives may continue to oppose it on those grounds.
Those MPs concerned about the bill are also likely to be worried by the revelation in this statement that the government will add another amendment trying to protect it from judicial review.
The weekly rate of new cases of Covid-19 in Bolton has risen above 200 per 100,000 people, new data shows. As PA Media reports, a total of 587 cases were recorded in Bolton in the seven days to September 13 – the equivalent of 204.1 cases per 100,000, up from 152.0 in the previous week (the seven days to September 6).
Bolton continues to record the highest weekly rate in England.
Eleven other areas of England now have weekly rates between 100 and 200 cases per 100,000 people, including Liverpool where the rate has jumped sharply from 56.8 to 106.4 with 530 new cases recorded.
The latest Guardian Politics Weekly podcast is out. Jessica Elgot and John Crace discuss the Covid testing catastrophe, and Angela Rayner’s PMQ’s debut. Rory Carroll and Katy Hayward discuss the future for Northern Irish politics. Plus Rajeev Syal speaks with the new head of the Whitehall spending watchdog, Gareth Davies.
Advocate general has resigned from government, No 10 confirms
Downing Street has just put out this statement:
Lord Keen has resigned as advocate general for Scotland. The prime minister thanks him for his service.
When Boris Johnson was asked about this about an hour ago (see 4.22pm), he said he did not know if Keen was staying or not. That clearly implies they were fighting hard to keep him.
I’ve corrected the post at 4.19pm to say it was some hardline Brexiters, not the government, who used to argue that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the UK should not impose tariffs on the EU. Sorry.
Scotland’s children’s commissioner has called for “clear and direct communication to children and families” from the Scottish government, amidst growing concerns that the rule of six impacts disproportionately on poorer children.
Parents have asked why it is that both grouse shooting and fox hunting can continue under the new restrictions, while it is against the law for children from more than two families to play together indoors or out, resulting in an effective ban on home-organised birthday parties and limits on free play in parks, as well as excluding those who can’t afford paid-for group activities.
Confusion has also emerged about whether the six person/two household limits applies to children in play parks; according to the Scottish government children should be playing in household pairs, but this is plainly unenforceable on the swings.
The Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson Alison Johnstone raised the lack of fairness at the Scottish parliament’s Covid committee. She said:
Public health is the first priority, and we need the public to have confidence that the rules are fair … The fact is, current regulations mean children can only invite all their friends to celebrate their birthday if their parents can afford to pay someone else to organise it.
After Nicola Sturgeon confirmed at her daily briefing that no children’s rights impact assessment was undertaken for the latest guidelines “because of the speed with which we have to introduce these changes”, Bruce Adamson, Scotland’s children commissioner said:
A children’s rights impact assessment is essential in demonstrating the legitimacy of decision-making and should be a part of any significant policy changes, along with clear and direct communication to children and families so the legitimate reasons for the restrictions are widely understood.
Sir Bernard Jenkin says there are two more follow-up questions.
(The session was due to end at 5pm.)
The SNP’s Angus Brendan MacNeil goes first.
Q: If there are long lorry queues at the border after January, who will be responsible?
Johnson says he does not think anyone will be in any doubt he is responsible.
Next, it’s Greg Clark.
Q: What factors determine whether lockdown measures are tightened.
Johnson says he looks at all the data. They look at the dashboard every morning.
The most important question is, what is the R number doing? And now it is above 1.
Q: Sir Patrick Vallance says the R number matters at the start of the pandemic, but less so now.
Johnson says it is still an important.
And that’s it. The session is over.
Q: Do you accept the importance of investment in land warfare, and in the surface fleet? And, if we want to have our aircraft carriers operating we will need F-35s.
Johnson says the UK is committed to strong defence.
And he says the UK wants to show international leadership in vaccines, in trade and in climate change.
Q: Will you commit to a real terms growth in the defence budget?
Johnson says it is already going up by 2.6% above inflation.
Spending on defence equipment will increase by £180bn in the next few years.
There are many areas where the UK could be doing more and will be doing more, he says.
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the defence committee, goes next.
Q: Can I meet with the chancellor to see what can be done to help service charities, who have lost revenue during the crisis?
Yes, says Johnson.
Ellwood urges the PM to make more use of the armed forces. They are trained for emergencies.