Politics latest news: Flu jabs could become compulsory for NHS staff, Sajid Javid suggests as he unveils deadline for Covid vaccine

Flu vaccines could still become mandatory for frontline NHS staff, despite them not being included in today's move to make Covid jabs compulsory, the Health Secretary has said.

Sajid Javid today confirmed that all NHS workers who have face-to-face interactions with patients, who do not have health exemptions, will lose their jobs if they are not fully vaccinated against coronavirus by April 1.

Revealing the deadline in the Commons, the Health Secretary said doctors and nurses "carry a unique responsibility... because they are in contact with some of the most vulnerable people in our society".

He added: "It cannot be business as usual when it comes to vaccination."

But officials have decided not to proceed with mandatory flu vaccines "for now", he added.

Former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock both welcomed the move but urged their successor to go further, noting "the same argument" around asymptomatic transmission applies to flu.

Mr Javid replied: "We were not convinced we should go ahead with flu at this stage, but the option remains open."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

03:48 PM

Sketch: The real scandal about peerages... they’re a rip-off

On reading the allegations about “cash for honours”, the public will no doubt have been shocked and appalled. And rightly so, writes Michael Deacon.

After all, imagine paying the Conservative party £3 million, only to receive little more than a measly bit of ermine, and then be made to endure endless dreary speeches by a load of forgotten politicians. What a rip-off. Peerages have clearly become absurdly over-priced. It’s high time the Tories made them more affordable.

In my view, Labour should steal a march on the Government by pledging to offer peerages at more reasonable rates.

“It is disgraceful that the Tories are handing a peerage to anyone who gives them £3million,” Sir Keir Starmer should say. “At a time when the cost of living is growing ever higher, and inflation threatens to spiral out of control, such a price is completely unreasonable. It just goes to show how out of touch the Tories are.

Read this week's Way of the World here.

03:35 PM

Northern Ireland dodges mandatory Covid jabs demand for healthcare workers

Northern Ireland's health minister has announced a public consultation on a proposal for compulsory Covid and flu vaccination for new healthcare workers.

Robin Swann said requiring existing staff to get jabbed could be "counterproductive" and could further destabilise a workforce that is already severed depleted.

However, he insisted no option was off the table and he had "great sympathy" for the view that patients should only be treated by fully vaccinated staff.

Mr Swann said he wanted "constructive engagement" with the consultation exercise, adding: "There is no predetermined outcome.

03:33 PM

Chris Bryant 'grateful' after Government confirms plan to rescind Paterson amendment

Speaking in the Commons earlier, Chris Bryant had criticised the Government for having briefed journalists about plans to rescind the controversial amendment last week, that blocked Owen Paterson's suspension while an appeal was undertaken by a new standards committee.

But having got it in writing from Jacob Rees-Mogg, the veteran Labour MP said he was "grateful that the Government is tabling precisely the motion I asked for yesterday".

Lashings of snark.

See 12:23pm for more

03:24 PM

Care home residents ‘more at risk from staff shortages than Covid’

Care home residents are at greater risk from staff shortages than Covid, an industry leader has claimed ahead of the looming deadline for vaccinations.

On Thursday, all carers who have not received their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and who are not deemed medically exempt, will no longer legally be allowed to continue working.

Yesteday The Telegraph reported that care home bosses are begging the Government for an “11th-hour reprieve” to delay mandatory covid vaccines, amid fears that managers will be forced to sack 60,000 staff this week.

However, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has refused to delay the deadline for mandatory vaccination of care home staff.

Read more here

03:21 PM

Speaker (and Parliament feed) get MP's name wrong in racism debate

Labour backbenchers shouted for the Speaker to correctly announce Imran Hussain's name after he was mistakenly called the wrong name in a debate on racism in cricket.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced the Bradford East MP as "Mohammad Hussain". Parliament's official livestream, parliamentlive.tv, recording his name as Mohammad Yasin, the Labour MP for Bedford.

Shouts of "Imran Hussain!" could be heard from Labour MPs calling on the Commons Speaker to correct the mistake, as Mr Hussain stood to speak in the debate about racism experienced by Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq.

03:01 PM

Labour writes to Dominic Raab over Cox comments

Labour's deputy leader has written to Dominic Raab, telling him to withdraw his comments in support of Sir Geoffrey Cox.

Angela Rayner has seized on comments by her opposite number suggesting that the Tory MP was doing work that is "quite important" and beneficial to Parliament when he helped the British Virgin Islands handle an investigation by the British Government into corruption.

Writing to Mr Raab, the Labour frontbencher said: "The Conservative MP in question was not engaging in a fact-finding mission... he was advising the government of the British Virgin Islands against our own government on how to defend against allegations of corruption."

She claimed his "arrogant and out of touch" comments were "a slap in the face" for voters, adding: "Comments like this damage Parliament and our democracy and corrode trust."

See 8:16am and 8:19am for more

02:54 PM

Government must 'manage the risk' that NHS staff will quit over vaccines

The chief executive of NHS Providers has said the Government must "manage both risks, not just one", after Sajid Javid announced mandatory Covid vaccines for frontline workers.

Chris Hopson told Sky News taht while he could "see the logic" of the decision, the risk of transmitting coronavirus was not the only issue at stake.

"There is another risk here," he said. "There are around 103,000 NHS staff currently unvaccinated and if we were to lose significant number of those, that brings its own risk."

He welcomed the decision to impose the deadline for April 1, saying it was "really important we avoided winter, because it would potentially have risked significant issues for the NHS."

02:48 PM

Senior judge to consider 'improvements' to parliamentary standards process

A senior judge will be commissioned to offer advice on possible changes to the code of conduct for MPs, the Commons has heard.

Speaking after the debate on mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs Parliament's standards committee, told colleagues: "As part of our review of the code of conduct and its operation, we have decided today we will be commissioning a senior judicial figure to advise us on possible changes to the process.

"We've already taken advice today from Sir Stephen Irwin, who is chair of the independent expert panel.

"We believe that our present practices guarantee a fair hearing but we'll always consider suggestions for improvements."

02:38 PM

Tories slide in first published poll after Owen Paterson

It might not be quite as eyebrow-raising as the poll published yesterday by Ipsos Mori but a second survey suggests the Tories are at least losing their lead.

According to the poll, taken by Savanta ComRes over the weekend, the Conservatives slipped two points last week while Labour held firm.

The Ipsos Mori poll was actually largely carried out before the Owen Paterson vote - this is the first one to have been published since the controversy erupted.

02:22 PM

Mark Harper welcomes new approach on mandatory vaccines

Mark Harper, the former chief whip, welcomes the confirmation that an impact assessment will be published before MPs vote.

"That was not what happened when we voted on the care home issue, for which he was not responsible. That was an abuse of this House," the Covid Recovery Group chairman says.

He picks up on Sajid Javid's claim that 32,000 care home staff have still not had their jab, asking what will happen if similar numbers leave the NHS.

"Not having had a plan for the care home sector is causing enormous pressure, not just on the care home sector, but on the NHS," he adds.

The Health Secretary says the 32,000 number was the last one published at the end of October and "it is quite fast-moving", suggesting it could drop further.

02:17 PM

Sajid Javid swerves commitment on issuing care workers with higher grade face masks

Clive Efford, the Labour MP, asks Sajid Javid review the guidance around face masks and that staff in care homes be issued with a higher grading, as recommended.

The Health Secretary says "this is something we keep under review at all times".

02:14 PM

Matt Hancock tells NHS workers to get jab 'sooner' rather than later

Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, says he "warmly welcomes" the move and the manner in which the decision has been made.

He says he also supports the extension of mandatory vaccines for NHS workers to flu and urges Sajid Javid to do so "when it is practicable".

Speaking from the backbenches, the former minister said all NHS workers should "come forward as soon as possible" to get the Covid jab.

"They are going to have to get them sooner or later, so better to get them sooner."

02:12 PM

Mandatory flu vaccines 'option remain open', says Sajid Javid

Jeremy Hunt says it is the right decision and congratulates Sajid Javid for "biting the bullet".

The chairman of the health committee tells MPs he doesn't know a single doctor or nurse who wouldn't want to be jabbed to protect their patients.

But stresses the same argument applies for the flu vaccine and asks him to do so

"This is something that needs to happen for exactly the same reasons - there is asymptomatic transmission of flu, just as there is asymptomatic transmission of Covid."

The Health Secretary says this was consulted on but "we were not convinced we should go ahead with flu at this stage, but the option remains open".

02:09 PM

Sajid Javid vows to work with healthcare bosses on mandatory vaccines

Sajid Javid has said he is "more than ready to listen" to healthcare leaders about how best to proceed with mandatory Covid vaccines.

The Health Secretary notes he already has listened to views as part of the consultation, but will continue to do so to establish the best way to implement the new move.

Take-up is around 93 per cent of the first dose and 90 per cent of the second, he tells MPs. That means 103,000 people are working in the NHS who are totally unvaccinated.

"It is hard to know what proportion of that number will take up the offer of vaccination," he admits, although highlights the "significant fall" in the number of unvaccinated people working in social care.

"It is about making sure people are encouraged to take a positive choice - no one should scapegoat or single out anyone in the NHS or social care who has chosen at this point not to get vaccinated."

02:00 PM

Unvaccinated NHS staff should not be shamed, says Sajid Javid

No one in the NHS or care sector should be "scapegoated, singled out or shamed" for not having got the vaccine so far, Sajid Javid says.

"That would be totally unacceptable - this is about supporting them to make a positive choice, to protect vulnerable people, protect their colleagues and of course to protect themselves," he adds.

"I know they will want to do the right thing."

01:58 PM

Deadline for NHS workers to get the jab is April 1

Sajid Javid stresses that he recognises the pressures that the NHS face this winter, so it will not come into force until 12 weeks after Parliamentary approval.

It should start on April 1, he adds.

"We will continue to work closely with the NHS... and continue to support and encourage those yet to get the vaccine to do so," he adds.

01:57 PM

Parliament will have its say on mandatory vaccines, says Sajid Javid

There will be two key exceptions - those who don't have face-to-face work with patients and those who have health exemptions, Sajid Javid tells MPs.

He notes that the UK is not the only country to do this.

The Health Secretary confirms there will not be a similar requirement for the flu jab "at this stage", but says it will be kept under review.

Parliament will have its say, he adds, promising to publish an impact assessment "before any vote".

01:55 PM

Mandatory Covid jabs for NHS staff, Sajid Javid confirms

The number of care workers without a Covid vaccine has fallen from 88,000 to just 32,000 since the Government announced it would become mandatory, Sajid Javid reveals.

The NHS consultation for the same measure was "tempered with some concerns" that people will leave the progression.

But "the scales clearly tip" towards it, he says.

"I am mindful, not only of our need to protect human life but our imperative to protect the NHS," he adds as he confirms mandatory vaccinations will be expected for NHS staff.

01:53 PM

Sajid Javid: NHS workers have 'unique responsibility' to protect vulnerable from Covid

Sajid Javid says the latest figures show 90 per cent of NHS staff have had at least two doses, although "in some trusts the figure is closer to 80 per cent".

The Health Secretary says frontline workers "carry a unique responsibility.. because they are in contact with some of the most vulnerable people in our society".

So whether in hospitals or care homes "the first duty" of those working in these places is to protect patient and each other from Covid.

"It cannot be business as usual when it comes to vaccination," he adds.

01:51 PM

Sajid Javid: UK heading into winter in stronger position thanks to vaccine

The UK is "heading into the winter months in a much stronger position than last year", Sajid Javid has told MPs.

The vaccination programme is the key difference, the Health Secretary says, noting almost eight in 10 people over the age of 12 have had two jabs, with a rising number taking up the booster jab.

Despite the "fantastic" high adoption numbers, more can be done, he adds.

"We have all seen sadly how Covid can devastate lives and how jabs can save lives and keep people out of hospital," he adds.

01:44 PM

Government 'ready to action' over Yorkshire CCC racism row

The Government "stands ready to step in and take action" if Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the ECB fail to take "real action" following Azeem Rafiq's allegations of racism and bullying, a minister has said.

Conservative frontbencher Chris Philp said the Government has made calls for new Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel and the ECB to "fully investigate to eradicate racism where it exists and tackle the culture that can support it".

He added he understood the Equality and Human Rights Commission has requested information about the incidents involving former player Mr Rafiq.

Mr Philp added in the Commons: "The investigations I've referred to need to be thorough, they need to be transparent and they need to be public - that is necessary to restore the public's belief in cricket and beyond.

"Parliament is watching, the Government is watching and the country is watching.

"We expect real action and the Government stands ready to step in and take action if they do not put their own house in order."

01:34 PM

Mandatory Covid vaccines raise human rights concerns, says Michelle O'Neill

Making vaccinations compulsory for frontline healthcare workers in Northern Ireland would raise human rights concerns, Michelle O'Neill has said.

Speaking ahead of an expected announcement by Sajid Javid in Westminster, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister stressed she would favour a voluntary approach.

"We're yet to receive that advice from the Health Minister (Robin Swann) here, but certainly I will engage with him on the issue," said Ms O'Neill.

"I have always been someone who would be more of an advocate of encouraging uptake of the vaccine, educating people as to why it's so important and I think those people that work in the health service obviously understand that more than most.

"I he brings forward a proposal then I'll obviously have to consider that. I think mandatory vaccines are obviously something that is always going to come with its human rights concerns and others, so we have to take a decision based on having all that information."

01:20 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson 'followed Covid measures' during hospital visit

Downing Street has insisted that Boris Johnson did follow coronavirus guidelines during yesterday's visit to a hospital, after he was pictured not wearing a mask when meeting staff who were.

A No 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister followed the Covid measures that were in place throughout his visit, including wearing a mask in all clinical areas. He also took a PCR test before the visit.

"The hospital trust has issued a statement making clear the PM followed its guideline

01:08 PM

Mandatory NHS vaccinations are not "about what's right for patients", health union warns

Making Covid vaccines mandatory is "not about what's right to do for patients", the head of a health union has claimed.

Speaking ahead of an announcement this afternoon Sara Gorton, Unison head of health, said it was wrong to "leap to the law", suggesting it would "send a message to staff" that could hamper efforts thus far.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We've been keen to understand what people are telling us about the reasons why they have fears, about why they are not convinced by the arguments, and making sure that those people can get access to up-to-date information and access to experts who may be able to help them change their mind."

She described the move to bring in mandatory vaccinations as "really risky", saying that it could have "really, really difficult consequences for the NHS in what we know is going to be a really difficult winter".

Ms Gorton added: "But this isn't about what's right to do for patients. This is about what is the best way of increasing the rates of vaccination across the NHS. "

12:46 PM

Government told to 'show leadership and cancel recess'

The Liberal Democrats have called on Jacob Rees-Mogg asking the Commons Leader to cancel recess in light of the sleaze row.

MPs are meant to be having a one-week break from this evening.

But Wendy Chamberlain, the party's chief whip, said: "Boris Johnson must not run and hide from this sleaze scandal. The Conservatives are hoping that they will be saved by the bell, so they don’t have to answer questions on these allegations. It is utterly unacceptable.

“Any upstanding Prime Minister would show leadership and cancel Parliament’s recess. Boris Johnson’s attempts to avoid accountability tells you all you need to know about this Prime Minister who is taking voters for granted.

“It is vital that Johnson faces Prime Minister’s Questions tomorrow. He must not be allowed to get off scot-free. It’s time for the Prime Minister to finally come out of hiding and answer questions from MPs about the sleaze scandal."

As those who worked through the Brexit wars years remember, recesses can be cut short or cancelled altogether - however it seems highly unlikely this will happen today.

12:32 PM

Throw me a Beaune: Lord Frost talks to minister for second time in a week

Clement Beaune shakes hands with Lord Frost during their meeting in Paris - Reuters
Clement Beaune shakes hands with Lord Frost during their meeting in Paris - Reuters

Brexit Minister Lord Frost has spoken to the French Europe minister Clement Beaune for the second time in a week, Downing Street said.

A No 10 spokesman said the conversation covered the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and post-Brexit fishing rights.

The two men, who met in Paris last week, are expected to speak again later this week, the spokesman added.

12:27 PM

Labour writes to Boris Johnson over Geoffrey Cox claims

Anneliese Dodds has written to Boris Johnson asking whether Sir Geoffrey Cox is "a Caribbean-based barrister or a Conservative MP".

The Labour Party chairman is calling for an urgent investigation into the former Attorney General working for a Caribbean tax haven during the height of the pandemic, despite the BVI government facing an ongoing UK Foreign Office inquiry into alleged corruption.

Ms Dodds writes: “It appears that your former Attorney General is profiting from advising an administration accused of corruption and tax avoidance.”

She added: "The people of Torridge and West Devon must be wondering if Geoffrey Cox is a Caribbean-based barrister or a Conservative MP."

See more at 12:21pm

12:23 PM

Lobby latest: Owen Paterson vote to be 'unpicked' from standards reform vote

The Government will bring forward a motion to "unpick" the controversial vote on Owen Paterson from the wider reform of the appeals process for MPs, No 10 has confirmed.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "We recognise the strong views on this particular point and having listened to those again yesterday afternoon, we will table a motion tonight for next week to formalise the change of approach by unpicking the amendment."

The motion will rescind the Leadsom amendment and the proposed committee.

Downing Street said it would allow for the Commons to approve the standards report, while also recognising Owen Paterson is no longer an MP.

12:21 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 slaps down Geoffrey Cox saying MPs must be 'visible' to voters

Downing Street has issued an apparent slap down of Sir Geoffrey Cox after the former attorney general was found to have earned around £1m from his outside legal work.

It also emerged that the Tory MP had utilised lockdown rules to cast votes in the Commons by proxy as he worked 4,000 miles away from Westminster.

Although Boris Johnson's spokesman declined to comment on specific cases, he said the Prime Minister believes an "MP's primary job is and must be to serve their constituents and to represent their interests in Parliament".

He added: "They should be visible in their constituencies and available to help constituents with their constituency matters.

"If they're not doing that, they're not doing their job and will rightly be judged on that by their constituents."

12:16 PM

Lord Frost told to stop using 'incendiary language' on Northern Ireland Protocl

Northern Ireland's deputy first minister has told the UK Government to dial down its "incendiary language" during a virtual meeting with Brexit minister Lord Frost.

Michelle O'Neill said repeated threats to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol by triggering Article 16 was a factor in heightening tensions.

She said: "I've made it very clear to him that it's time to dial down the rhetoric, that the wider community here want solutions, they want to make the protocol work, they want us to iron out the issues that need to be resolved.

"They certainly don't want to see the spill out of the language, the incendiary language actually from the British Government and the DUP that's now spilling out on to our streets and we now see street disorder, none of us want that.

She added: "I have also asked them to remove the threat to trigger Article 16 because that's not what the majority of parties here want, what the wider business community want. What we need to find is solutions and stability, certainly not another period of instability, uncertainty, and all that that brings with it."

12:07 PM

Labour leaders visit hunger striking husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Richard Ratcliffe is on his 17th day of hunger strike on Whitehall - AP
Richard Ratcliffe is on his 17th day of hunger strike on Whitehall - AP

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have visited the husband of Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Whitehall.

Richard Ratcliffe is on the 17th day of his hunger strike camping outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Deputy Labour leader Ms Rayner told Mr Ratcliffe: "I'm really sorry that you are having to do this."

Labour leader Sir Keir told him: "There has to be a resolution to this," adding: "I feel that there is more support now than last time."

11:41 AM

Green council leader flew from Gatwick to Glasgow to protest against climate change at Cop26

A Green council leader has apologised after flying from Gatwick to Glasgow to protest against climate change at Cop26.

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council's (BHCC) Green group, took the 80-minute flight from Gatwick on the same day he criticised the Government for a lack of action over climate change.

After completing the 460-mile journey, Cllr Mac Cafferty made a speech on cutting carbon emissions and appeared at a protest march, led by Greta Thunberg, calling for world leaders to stop temperatures rising.

He told The Argus: "In the Friday evening just gone, I took a flight from London to Glasgow to attend COP26 where I had been invited to represent the city at a presentation of the Glasgow Declaration on Saturday morning.

"This decision to fly was a major failure of my judgement which goes against my political group's pledges and principles and I unreservedly apologise."

Read more here

11:34 AM

Read: Labour's letter demanding answers over funding allegations

There is no urgent question on sleaze and related issues today - for which ministers must be breathing a sigh of relief.

However opposition MPs are keeping the pressure on.

Here's Steve Reed's letter to his opposite number, Michael Gove, about allegations that Tory backbenchers were threatened with having funding cut if they did not back the Government on the Owen Paterson vote last week.

See 9:59am for more

11:23 AM

Former standards committee chairman attacks 'stupid' Government on sleaze row

Sir Kevin Barron, a former Labour MP, has said the Government's attempt to override Owen Paterson's suspension was "extraordinary" and "stupid".

The one-time chairman of the standards committee told Sky News: "I was very pleased committee on standards in public life on the same day was having a conference at IfG and chairman was able to resoundingly tell the Government off for what they were trying to do."

He added: "Nobody complained about the lack of an appeals system in all the years I sat down as the chair of that committee, working with leaders of the house -including Andrea Leadsom...

"What happened last week was disgraceful in my view."

11:18 AM

Suzanne Moore: MPs shouldn’t have time for a second job

There are lots of people with second jobs, writes Suzanne Moore. They are called working mothers. No one goes out of their way to make their lives any easier and many of us feel we never do quite enough.

It must be less taxing being an MP, or a guy, as you can apparently work in Parliament, look after your local constituents hundreds of miles away, make a name for yourself and still have time, if you are someone like Andrew Mitchell, to have seven other part-time jobs.

A good few MPs are at it. Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, claims he does consultancy work as he has a severely disabled son to look after which is expensive. Indeed it is. But this feels like a racket to me.

No one has to be an MP and, quaint though it may sound, some still are driven by a public-service ethos. If they actually want to earn loads of money and work in high finance or whatever, off they should toddle. If they find it impossible to live on their salaries, then they can downsize or get cheaper home furnishings.

Read more from Suzanne here

11:14 AM

What's on the agenda today?

Sajid Javid is due to make a statement in the Commons later on Covid, it has just been confirmed.

The Health Secretary is widely expected to confirm a deadline for all NHS frontline workers to get the jab - thought to be by the spring.

There are two urgent questions first: one on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one on racism in cricket, so his statement will probably not start until around 2pm.

Here is what else is coming up.

11:10 AM

Margaret Hodge: Integrity has hit rock bottom under Boris Johnson

Margaret Hodge has said integrity in public life has hit "rock bottom" under Boris Johnson, amid criticism of a Conservative MP earning hundreds of thousands of pounds from outside work.

Sir Geoffrey Cox has not responded to questions after it emerged that he had pocketed almost £1m from legal work including defending the British Virgin Islands, where he was based for around a month.

He appears to have utilised lockdown rules to cast votes in the Commons by proxy as he worked 4,000 miles away from Westminster.

Here is what the veteran Labour MP Ms Hodge had to say:

11:00 AM

Claudia Webbe warned her sentence could increase as she looks to overturn conviction

Disgraced MP Claudia Webbe has formally begun her bid to overturn her harassment conviction - and was warned her sentence could yet be increased.

The 56-year-old was handed a 10-week jail term, suspended for two years, at Westminster Magistrates' Court on November 4 after she was convicted of threatening to throw acid in the face of Michelle Merritt, a friend of her boyfriend Lester Thomas.

Judge Deborah Taylor told Webbe's counsel, Raj Chada: "No doubt the appellant has been told sentences can go up as well as down."

Mr Chada replied: "She (Webbe) has been advised."

Prosecution counsel Tom Doble said victim Ms Merritt would likely be called to give evidence from behind a screen.

The appeal is listed for March 9 2022, and could last up to three days.

10:51 AM

Tory councillors shrug off Sir Geoffrey Cox's second job reports

Conservative Party councillors in Torridge and West Devon have said they have no concerns over reports that their local MP was paid up to £900,000 to work in the British Virgin Islands.

Former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox, who has been an MP since 2005, was hired to defend the islands in an inquiry launched by the Foreign Office.

Debo Sellis, county councillor for Tavistock, said she has worked "very closely" with Sir Geoffrey and described the work he does for local residents as "phenomenal".

She said: "It is quite remarkable how many single mums will say they are voting for Geoffrey because he has helped them. I have stood in for him at his surgeries and there is a lot of people that go there with many sensitive and tricky cases. What he can do for them is phenomenal. He is very passionate about the community."

Bere Ferrers ward councillor Peter Crozier echoed her sentiments.

He told PA: "Sir Geoffrey is excellent with his constituents. He is visible for those in need of help and is probably one of the best MPs with his constituents, and that's probably why he increases his majority every time.

"I doubt the reports will affect the by-election."

10:40 AM

Unions urged to resolve Tube pay dispute without strike action

Union leaders have been urged to resolve a dispute over working conditions and pensions on London Underground without resorting to strikes.

Members of Aslef voted by 9-1 to take industrial action, with the union warning that Transport for London (TfL) was facing a "financial crisis" which was behind the dispute.

A TfL spokesperson said: "This mandate relates to ongoing discussions with our trade unions. We urge Aslef to continue working with us to resolve these matters without having to resort to industrial action."

Butt Finn Brennan, the union's organiser on the Tube, said: "Government cuts to its funding, together with a fall in passenger numbers since the Covid pandemic, have led to a financial crisis at TfL. Management and Government now want to plug that funding gap by slashing staff pensions and tearing up our agreed working conditions.

"But this ballot result shows that our Tube train drivers aren't prepared to let them get away with it."

10:37 AM

NHS chief ridiculed over claims of ‘14 times as many Covid admissions as last year’

Health chiefs have come under fire for claims that the NHS has had 14 times as many Covid-19 admissions as it did at this time last year.

Amanda Pritchard, the head of NHS England, told Sky News on Monday: “We have had 14 times the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 than we saw this time last year and we have also had a record number of A&E attendances and indeed a record number of 999 calls.”

Latest published data on Covid-19 hospital admissions in England show that, in fact, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is significantly lower than last year.

Professor Francois Balloux, director of the University College London Genetics Institute, described Ms Pritchard's claim as “nonsense”.

Read more here

10:29 AM

Sajid Javid pays PM a visit ahead of expected mandatory Covid jabs announcement

Sajid Javid arrives in Downing Street, London - PA
Sajid Javid arrives in Downing Street, London - PA

Sajid Javid is in Downing Street this morning, ahead of an expected announcement on mandatory Covid vaccines for frontline NHS workers.

The Health Secretary recently said he was “leaning towards” making jabs compulsory for frontline health workers.

However it is thought that the deadline will be set for the spring - averting a possible exodus from the service at a critical time, as pressure is expected to build owing to a rise in seasonal respiratory diseases as well as Covid.

10:15 AM

Sir Keir Starmer: The Brexit-blocking bastion of democracy

It was the self-righteous rhetoric of a man keen to capitalise on the political fallout from an abominable week for the Tories, writes Camilla Tominey.

Accusing Boris Johnson of giving “the green light to corruption” over the Owen Paterson row, Sir Keir Starmer claimed the Prime Minister “had damaged himself, damaged his party and damaged his democracy” by trying to overturn the standards system last week.

Yet amid all the pious hyperbole expressed in the House of Commons on Monday, Sir Keir’s own chequered history when it comes to respecting the democratic process appeared conspicuous by its absence.

It may have been a wholly different set of circumstances, but the former shadow Brexit secretary’s claim that Mr Johnson had “led his party through the sewers” failed to take into account of how the stench of his own party’s attempts to reverse the referendum result still lingers.

Read more from Camilla here

10:07 AM

UK Covid deaths top 167,000

A total of 167,367 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.

The highest number on a single day was 1,484 on January 19.

During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 on April 8 2020.

10:04 AM

Boris Johnson 'followed protocols' on masks in hospital visit

Boris Johnson followed NHS rules on face coverings despite being photographed without a mask during a hospital visit, Dominic Raab has insisted.

During an interview with BBC Breakfast, the deputy prime minister was read the guidance from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital.

He was told that it stated: "Anyone attending our hospitals and community settings must continue to wear a face covering at all times to protect patients, visitors and staff."

Mr Raab responded: "I know the Prime Minister took the advice on the clinical setting that he was in and followed all the protocols and procedures that were applied there, and that's what everyone should do."

Asked about the guidance specifically and whether that meant Mr Johnson was not following the rules, Mr Raab said: "No, precisely because, as you said, in the settings where it was required he did wear a mask."

09:59 AM

Michael Gove must 'come clean' on sleaze funding threats, demands Labour

The Government has been told to "come clean" about whether ministers threatened to withhold funding for public services from MPs if they did not vote to rescue Owen Paterson from suspension last week.

Conservative backbenchers claim party whips had "gone hard" on MPs to shore up support before the controversial vote took place, with one unnamed backbencher telling the FT last week that some were told "they would lose funding for their constituency".

Steve Reed, Labour's shadow communities secretary, has called on Michael Gove to "come clean" about conversations between ministers and MPs about how money is applied to different constituencies.

There was "growing concern that ministers are misusing their power and potentially breaching the ministerial code of conduct to coerce MPs by making threats to funding for their constituents," he said. Labour is also calling for the Government to publish the selection criteria for funding, so that it is impossible for "ministers to corruptly seek to influence decisions in order to coerce MPs".

09:52 AM

Minister hits out at SNP for making 'political points' by calling in police

Dominic Raab has insisted there is "absolutely no question" of the Government being involved in a cash for honours scandal, after the SNP's Pete Wishart called for the Metropolitan Police to investigate allegations.

The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister said opposition parties were making "political points", following reports that Tory donors who had given more than £3 million to the party had been elevated to the Lords.

He told Sky News: "In relation to becoming appointed to the House of Lords there's also very clear rules.

"I would just say that, of course, people who are entrepreneurs but also engaged in public service, whether that's charities, whether that's supporting political parties, do a public service.

"And certainly we benefit when the Conservative Party has a treasurer... people who've got that kind of experience."

See 8:09am for more

09:42 AM

Controversial housebuilding targets to be torn up by Michael Gove

Michael Gove has indicated that he is preparing to rip up controversial housing targets that have triggered a backlash from Tory backbench MPs and grassroots supporters.

The Housing Secretary said that he is looking at how “housing need” is calculated, amid fears it is based on out-of-date assumptions.

Mr Gove told the housing, communities and local government select committee: "We want to be in a position where people accept and welcome new development.

"In making a calculation about housing need overall, one of the things that I want to do is to look at how the numbers are generated in the first place.

"Some of the assumptions are probably out of date and some of the ways that those numbers are deployed by a planning inspector can be done in a more sophisticated way."

Read more here

09:40 AM

Lib Dems attack Tory MP's 'gobsmacking' second job

Voters will be "gobsmacked" by Sir Geoffrey Cox earning almost £1m from his second job, which took him thousands of miles away from Westminster and his constituency, the Liberal Democrats' chief whip has said.

Wendy Chamberlain, who secured yesterday's vote on sleaze and standards, said: "Why was a Tory MP apparently spending time on the other side of the world advising a known tax haven instead of supporting his constituents? For the Justice Secretary to defend this behaviour as legitimate is frankly astonishing.

"The bigger irony here is that the Government has ordered an inquiry into corruption and political cronyism in the British Virgin Islands, while refusing to carry one out at home."

09:37 AM

Justice Secretary: It's not for me to 'get comfortable' with MP's second job

Dominic Raab said it was not for him to "get comfortable with" former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox earning hundreds of thousands of pounds outside of his work as an MP.

Mr Raab, the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, was asked on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 whether he was comfortable with Sir Geoffrey's earnings and the time that took away from Parliament.

He said: "As I made very clear, it's not for me to get comfortable or otherwise with it.

"It's for the voters in any individual constituency to look at the record of their MP and decide whether they got the right priorities."

09:20 AM

Mandatory vaccines for NHS workers is 'difficult decision', says Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab admitted it was a "difficult decision" to make over mandatory Covid vaccines amid staff shortages, in a tacit acceptance of a forthcoming announcement.

The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "If the consequence of not taking difficult decisions is that more people, particularly more people who are vulnerable either because they're in hospital, or because they're in a care home and elderly or with multiple conditions... I think that's got to be the countervailing and overriding factor.

"We've got to do everything we can to protect those vulnerable, particularly elderly, people or those with multiple conditions."

He said it was right to "look at every alternative before taking a mandatory one", but noted that "ultimately" it was about protecting the most vulnerable people.

"I think we'd be getting a lot of criticism if we weren't taking those difficult decisions, and we were leaving people more and unnecessarily exposed than before," he added.

09:08 AM

Boris Johnson walks Dilyn the dog as sleaze row rumbles on

Boris Johnson walking Dilyn the dog this morning - Nigel Howard Media
Boris Johnson walking Dilyn the dog this morning - Nigel Howard Media

Boris Johnson might have spent most of yesterday out of SW1A, but he appears to be sticking closer to home today.

The Prime Minister, who is under pressure over the ongoing sleaze and standards row, was pictured taking his dog Dilyn for a walk this morning.

Dominic Raab, his deputy, was asked repeatedly why Mr Johnson hadn't apologised for the vote during an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He replied that the Prime Minister is "answering questions the whole time on a whole range of issues", adding: "I have been very clear, as the Government across the board have been, that we regret the conflation of those two issues."

08:59 AM

Boris Johnson acknowledges mistake - but there is no apology from his deputy

Boris Johnson acknowledges a mistake was made in trying to conflate a vote on Owen Paterson's suspension with wider reform, Dominic Raab has said.

But the Justice Secretary avoided apologising outright - or explaining why the Prime Minister has not apologised himself.

Challenged over his failure to do so, Mr Raab swerved the question entirely and chose to condemn the vandalism of Peter Bone's office following the vote and the "tragic circumstances we have all been dealing with in the aftermath of the murder of Sir David Amess".

He added: "Steve Barclay, who was the responsible minister in the Commons yesterday, and I am clear now and all ministers are, that it was a mistake to conflate the two things... and we regret that."

Asked if Mr Johnson was sorry, he said: "I don't speak for the Prime Minister directly."

08:54 AM

'Strict rules' mean public knows about Sir Geoffrey Cox's second job, says minister

Sir Geoffrey Cox is under fire over his second job based 4,000 miles away from Westminster - Barcroft Media
Sir Geoffrey Cox is under fire over his second job based 4,000 miles away from Westminster - Barcroft Media

The public knows about Sir Geoffrey Cox's high-earning job representing the British Virgin Islands because of the "strict rules" in place for second jobs, Dominic Raab has said.

The former attorney general spent up to a month in the British Virgin Islands defending the tax haven as it faces a Foreign Office inquiry into corruption. During that time, the MP voted in the Commons by proxy.

The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister told LBC: "Well, you know about it precisely because of the transparency that's required and ultimately in terms of accountability it's for the voters, the listeners watching your show, to hold all of us to account, that's the ultimate accountability we have in our democracy."

See 8:16am and 8:19am for more

08:48 AM

Justice Secretary cannot rule out whether funding threats were made to MPs

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, has said he could not rule out threats being made to MPs over funding for their constituency ahead of a vote on Owen Paterson - but insisted the ultimate decision would not be made improperly.

Asked about questions that have been raised by Labour's Steve Reed, the deputy prime minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was "not privy to those conversations because I am not in the Whips Office".

But he added: "There would have been no government decisions on investment across the country that would have political influence beyond the correct official criteria, processes, procedures... To make sure money goes where it is needed most."

08:31 AM

Mandatory NHS jabs could boost take-up if dealt with well, says Providers boss

Mandatory vaccination for NHS staff could boost take-up of jabs - but there is a risk it could force people out of the workforce, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

Chris Hopson told the Today programme "peer to peer" conversations are important in groups where there is lower take-up as long as authorities avoided "scapegoating people."

He said: "There is no doubt that if you do it carefully, at the point when you announce the fact that you are going to have mandatory vaccinations in the sector, it does provide quite a useful opportunity to then have those kind of further conversations."

Mr Hopson warned that the NHS and the social care sector losing "significant numbers of staff" would be a "real problem".

He said: "We run these systems incredibly hot on very, very fine margins. Both of us have got around 90-100,000 vacancies.. losing significant numbers of staff, particularly given the pressure that both of the systems are under at the moment, is a real, real problem."

08:28 AM

Justice Secretary refuses to comment on mandatory NHS vaccine announcement

Dominic Raab refused to comment on reports that an announcement was due on Tuesday over mandatory vaccination for NHS staff.

The Justice Secretary told BBC Breakfast: "I don't comment on leaked reports about what the Government may or may not do, and that's just not the professional thing for a minister to do.

"Obviously, we set out our announcements on this in the usual way.

"I think it's right to say that we've been very mindful of encouraging greater take-up - or maximum take-up if you like - of the vaccination and the boosters to go with it, but not just across the country at large, but particularly in vulnerable settings, like care homes and in the NHS."

See 8:23am for more

08:27 AM

Northern Ireland Secretary tests positive for Covid

The Northern Ireland Secretary has tested positive for Covid-19.

Brandon Lewis tweeted that thanks to the vaccine he is experiencing "only mild symptoms".

He is the second minister in two days to announce they have tested positive, after George Freeman yesterday revealed he had been confined to his bed after a "very bad" attack.

08:23 AM

Mandatory vaccines for health workers expected to be confirmed today, says NHS boss

An announcement on mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff in England is expected today, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

Chris Hopson told BBC Radio 5 Live he was expecting a deadline to be introduced akin to the one brought in for care homes, adding: "I wouldn't be a surprise if that was introduced in the NHS."

An extended deadline would mean that hospitals will be able to discuss concerns with vaccine-hesitant staff to explain that "it is in their interests and their patients' interests to get vaccinated", he added.

Mr Hopson continued: "But I suspect that come the deadline, whenever it is set, there will still be some staff who are adamant that they don't want to get vaccinated and that is a very significant risk for the NHS."

Officials from the Department of Health and Social Care have said they are not commenting on speculation over the proposals.

08:20 AM

Labour accused of 'politicisation' amid sleaze row

Dominic Raab accused Labour of "politicisation" after the opposition accused Boris Johnson of running scared for not turning up to a Commons debate on standards on Monday.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister said: "I don't think the politicisation by the Labour Party, given how much money that they take from the unions, is a particularly attractive look for Keir Starmer.

"I think we ought to actually be coming together to make sure that there's public confidence in our institutions, including how we do our job as MPs, and that we've got a robust system for complaints or impropriety, but also a fair system. That's what we should all be working towards."

08:19 AM

Dominic Raab: Voters will decide if they don't like MPs having second jobs

It is ultimately up to voters whether they thought their MP was earning too much in a second job, Dominic Raab has said.

Sir Geoffrey Cox, who before becoming attorney general was named the highest-earning MP, has come into the spotlight as he published his declarations amid the latest row (see below).

But the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast that "there are very strict rules" on second jobs and that it was "respectable and legitimate" for MPs to hold other roles.

Mr Raab said: "I think that people do want to see MPs and politics have exposure and experience that comes (from) outside the political world."

He added this would "make sure we don't become ever more secluded and out of touch with the priorities of what's going on in the world outside the House of Commons".

But Mr Raab said: "Ultimately, voters will decide on their MP and whether they're spending enough time doing the job for them as their constituents."

08:16 AM

Sir Geoffrey Cox doing 'legitimate' work in row over £900,000 second job, says Dominic Raab

Sir Geoffrey Cox was doing "legitimate" work for the British Virgin Islands, a minister has said, after it emerged the former attorney general had been paid up to £900,000 for defending the territory in an inquiry.

Dominic Raab, Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, told Times Radio that it was essential that "outside interests have to be properly declared".

He added: "In relation to the British Virgin Islands, I was the foreign secretary that commissioned a commission of inquiry, given the allegations of misgovernance and very serious ones, including criminal wrongdoing.

"I'm not going to get dragged into what individual MPs do, but actually having the former attorney general... actually, is a legitimate thing to do as long as it's properly declared.

"And of course, it's quite important in that Parliament, which is responsible residually for some areas of our relationship with the overseas territories, we've got some knowledge of what's going on in those territories."

08:11 AM

Minister defends Boris Johnson from criticism over being unmasked in hospital

Boris Johnson is at the centre of a new row - this time about not masking up in a hospital - Reuters
Boris Johnson is at the centre of a new row - this time about not masking up in a hospital - Reuters

Boris Johnson followed the Covid rules applied in clinical settings on a hospital visit on Monday, the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister has said.

The PM is being criticised after pictures showed him at Hexham General Hospital not wearing a face mask.

Dominic Raab told Times Radio that "in any clinical setting, you follow the rules that are applied there".

Mr Raab added that while he was not there, he understood the rules had been followed.

08:09 AM

It's not just Labour who are hammering the Government over sleaze...

The SNP's Pete Wishart has asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate allegations that Tory donors had been given seats in the House of Lords - although he insisted he was "not accusing anyone of anything".

The shadow leader told Sky News: "The Pandora's box marked Tory sleaze has been opened for full examination, and what a rotten septic cesspit we found that to be."

Challenged about a complaint about a £600,000 independence fund which is under investigation, he insisted the accounts had been "properly accounted for and given to the Electoral Commission."

He dismissed such questions as "the greatest bit of whataboutery", adding: "The real issue and concern here is what the public feel about what they've seen, the behaviour of the Conservative Government, in the course of the past few days."

07:53 AM

Exclusive: 11,600 people caught Covid in hospital and died

More than 11,000 people have caught Covid and died after being admitted to NHS hospitals for other ailments, The Telegraph can disclose.

Thousands of patients who went to hospital to be treated for other illnesses “probably” or “definitely” caught coronavirus during their stay and subsequently died, hospital data show.

On Monday night, MPs condemned the figures as a “scandal”.

The revelation has prompted fresh calls for vaccinations for NHS staff to become compulsory, amid fears that hospitals could struggle to cope during the winter.

Read more here.

07:52 AM

Good Morning

For Boris Johnson, recess can't come soon enough.

Having missed yesterday's bruising debate on sleaze, there is no let up in the criticisms and allegations being levelled at the Government. Opposition MPs have scented blood - but will they get the kill?

Here is today's front page.