Man arrested after breaching Parliament's security

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  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019
  • Keir Starmer
    Keir Starmer
    British politician
  • Sajid Javid
    British politician (born 1969)
Armed Police detain a man in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster  - Tom Bowles / Story Picture Agency
Armed Police detain a man in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster - Tom Bowles / Story Picture Agency

One of the Palace of Westminster's main entrances was sealed off after a man broke into the parliamentary estate.

Police were deployed to New Palace Yard, inside parliament's secure compound, at around 3pm on Wednesday and locked down the Carriage Gates entrance, which is used to gain access to the estate by car.

One man was pinned down by police and arrested at the scene, and led away by police while calling for a lawyer and claiming he had been “sexually assaulted by 50 guys”.

A parliamentary security officer at the scene speculated that the man had climbed over a fence, but denied initial reports that he had entered the parliamentary estate on a bicycle.

A Met Police spokesman said: "At around 15:00hrs on Wednesday, 1 December, a man was detained and arrested at Carriage Gates inside the Palace of Westminster on suspicion of trespassing on a protected site.

"Enquiries into the circumstances continue."

A House of Commons spokesperson said: "We are aware of an incident on the Parliamentary estate which is being attended by police and security staff."

It is not being treated as a terrorist incident.

05:15 PM

That's all for today...

A man was arrested today after breaching security at the Palace of Westminster, sparking calls for security to be tightened up.

Police officers detained the man and sealed off the Carriage Gates, one of the main entrances to the Palace.

It happened mere metres away from a memorial to PC Keith Palmer, who was killed by an attacker who used the same entrance in 2017.

The episode cast a shadow over another eventful day in the Commons, during which Sir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson traded barbed comments about reports that Mr Johnson had attended a party and Downing Street hosted another while the UK was locked down last winter.

Mr Johnson did not deny the reports, leading for Sir Keir to claim he was "taking the British public for fools" during a rowdy Prime Minister's Questions.

Of course, the focus in the coming weeks turns to what Christmas will look like this year, as Sajid Javid today tried to calm festive fears over the omicron variant, but encouraged anyone planning to go to a large office party to take a Covid test first.

04:58 PM

Calls for parliamentary security to be increased after intruder breaks in at same location as PC Keith Palmer attacker

The Carriage Gates entrance to Parliament is a “soft underbelly” that should be reinforced to keep staff safe, an eyewitness to this afternoon’s break-in has said.

Elliot Keck, who works for the Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, told The Telegraph the gates were “one of the weakest in terms of security”.

The same entrance was used by Khalid Masood, the Westminster Bridge attacker who killed PC Keith Palmer in 2017.

This afternoon saw a man detained metres from a memorial to PC Keith Palmer - Tom Bowles/Story Picture Agency
This afternoon saw a man detained metres from a memorial to PC Keith Palmer - Tom Bowles/Story Picture Agency

Since then, millions of pounds have been spent on additional security. Today's incident happened metres from a memorial to PC Palmer on the pavement by Carriage Gates.

“Thinking about all the entrances to parliament, that one is the soft underbelly,” Mr Keck said. “I suppose maybe they do need to think about possibly reinforcing that entrance.

“Maybe the gates could be half a metre higher, or something.

“The main thing was, the police acted incredibly quickly, efficiently and professionally.”

04:33 PM

Adopt 'vaccine passports' for Christmas dinner, expert urges Scots

Scottish families should adopt an informal version of the SNP Government's vaccine passport scheme to decide who can attend Christmas dinner, the country's national clinical director has said.

Prof Jason Leitch said they should adopt a "version of Covid certification" by ensuring everyone sitting around the dinner table on Dec 25 has been double jabbed.

In addition, he said Scots hosting Christmas dinners for their families should order everyone attending to take a lateral flow device (LFD) test beforehand.

Prof Leitch said his 81-year-old mother would "Covid certify before she comes" to his house for Christmas dinner.

Referring to the mobile phone app used by nightclubs and the organisers of large events to check customers' vaccine status, he added: "I'm not going to QR scan her at the door but if we can all think in those terms."

Simon Johnson has this report

04:18 PM

Man who breached Parliamentary security tasered after climbing fence, according to eyewitness report

Elliot Keck, who works in the office of Andrew Rosindell, the MP for Romford, told the PA agency that a man looked to have climbed over the fence of the Palace of Westminster before claiming that he was tasered by police.

"As he was being tasered two armed police had their guns drawn," Mr Keck said.

"When it was established he wasn't a threat armed police moved off and he was sat upright for a period before being taken to the van."

04:06 PM

Pictured: Man detained on grounds of Palace of Westminster

Armed Police detain a man in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster a short while after Prime Minister Boris Johnson left after attending Prime Ministers Questions - Tom Bowles/Story Picture Agency
Armed Police detain a man in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster a short while after Prime Minister Boris Johnson left after attending Prime Ministers Questions - Tom Bowles/Story Picture Agency

04:01 PM

Why do Left-wing parties keep plumping for hopeless candidates?

In the last four elections, Labour deliberately and knowingly went into the election with the wrong candidate for prime minister, writes Tom Harris.

Apart from a brief three-months period at the start of his premiership, it was clear Gordon Brown was never going to win a general election. The same judgement was made of Ed Miliband from the moment he beat his older brother to the winning post in 2010. And no serious party has ever chosen a leader less suited to high office than Jeremy Corbyn.

And yet choose him they did. Twice. That makes a total of four times in the last 15 years, if you count Miliband and Brown (although Labour MPs, in their wisdom and concern for their own careers, refused to offer a choice of candidate when Tony Blair stepped down in 2007. But that was a choice too).

At the root of this perennially poor judgement by MPs and members lies a worrying degree of arrogance. Given how rarely Labour has won general elections in its entire existence, it is odd that it still seems to believe it can challenge the electorate not to vote for it by presenting the wrong candidate for prime minister: “Here, take him or leave him!”

Comment: Labour 'deliberately and knowingly' picking the wrong men for the job

03:45 PM

Boris Johnson says no rules were broken at 'boozy' Christmas parties last year

Boris Johnson failed to deny that Downing Street held "boozy" parties during last winter's lockdown, but insisted that no rules were broken.

Sir Keir Starmer claimed the Prime Minister was "taking the British public for fools" as he challenged him over reports that Number 10 hosted two crowded parties while the rest of the country was under restrictions.

During a rowdy PMQs, the Labour leader asked Mr Johnson: "As millions of people were locked down last year, was a Christmas party thrown in Downing Street for dozens of people on December 18?"

Mr Johnson told Sir Keir: "All guidance was followed completely."

Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, then flourished a copy of the rules from that time, saying: "They are very clear: you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party.

"Does the Prime Minister really expect the country to believe that whilst people were banned from seeing their loved ones at Christmas this year it was fine for him and his friends to thrown a boozy party in Downing Street?"

The Prime Minister replied: "I have said what I said about Number 10 and the events of 12 months ago."

03:42 PM

Man arrested on 'suspicion of trespassing' Parliament

Police have confirmed that a man has been arrested "on suspicion of trespassing on a protected site".

Pictures on social media show the man appeared to be pinned down by police after breaching Parliament's security.

A Met Police spokesman said: "At around 15:00hrs on Wednesday, 1 December, a man was detained and arrested at Carriage Gates inside the Palace of Westminster on suspicion of trespassing on a protected site.

"Enquiries into the circumstances continue."

03:40 PM

Nine further omicron cases identified in England

Nine further cases of the omicron variant have been identified in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

It means the total number of confirmed cases in England is now 22, the agency said.

The people who have tested positive and their contacts are isolating, with work under way to establish if there are any links to travel to southern Africa.

The UKHSA said it has now identified cases of the omicron variant in the East Midlands, East of England, London, the South East and North West.

A further case has also been identified in Scotland, the agency said, bringing the total across the nation to 10.

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said: "It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days, as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focused contact tracing.

"That's why it's critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately."

03:36 PM

Immigration minister feels 'huge weight of responsibility' over deaths of 27 people

An immigration minister has told MPs and peers he feels a "huge weight of responsibility" in the wake of what has been described as the "worst-recorded migrant tragedy in the Channel".

Appearing in front of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday afternoon, Tom Pursglove was asked if the Government feels "any sense of responsibility" for the deaths of at least 27 people at sea last week.

He replied: "I feel a huge weight of responsibility as the minister for tackling illegal migration. And I think that all of us in this House feel an enormous weight of responsibility on this issue.

"And I feel that there is a profound duty to put these evil criminal gangs that are responsible for this human misery, that treat individuals as cargo and are only interested in making a profit, out of business once and for all and to render this route, unviable. All of the work that I'm doing is aimed in that direction and is working towards that outcome.

"I think what we saw last week is a dreadful tragedy. It is unthinkable. The thought that women and children and men lost their lives in this way is horrendous.

"And for me that only stiffens my resolve to work as hard as I possibly can to play my part, to render the route unviable with the ultimate objective in my mind of preserving life."

03:30 PM

Man who breached Parliament security 'climbed over wall'

Here is more on the Parliament security breach from my colleague Tony Diver.

It is now thought the man scaled a wall, rather than cycling through security as some eyewitnesses had initially reported.

03:18 PM

Police pin man to the ground after breaching Parliament security

A man has been pinned to the ground by police, after he cycled through the security at Parliament.

Police have told The Telegraph that one person has been arrested.

The breach, at the Parliament Square entrance to Palace of Westminster, has led to the entrance being shut down.

One picture from the scene showed the suspect - wearing a wooly hat, jeans and trainers - being pinned down while police aim their guns at him.

03:07 PM

Teach natural history GCSE to address 'unhappy paradox' between knowledge and concerns, says MP

School children should be taught a natural history GCSE to bridge the "gulf" between their concerns for the environment and their lack of knowledge about nature, ministers have heard.

Conservative MP for Eastbourne Caroline Ansell claimed young people are "caught up in an unhappy paradox" in which their concern about the natural world is unmatched by their ability to "discover its magic and marvel at its wonder".

During a Westminster Hall debate, she cited a study by Bath University, which found that three-quarters of young people in the UK are worried about the future of the planet.

However, at the same time, many young people can no longer identify common wildlife, with one study finding that 83 per cent of five to 16-year-olds "could not identify a bumblebee".

Ms Ansell added: "It is this gulf then between the knowledge and experience of the natural world required to protect it on one hand and the growing concern about ecological decline on the other which a new natural history qualification could help to close."

03:00 PM

Three Covid vaccine doses 'enough to protect against omicron variant'

Early research suggests two to three doses of a Covid vaccine are effective against the new omicron variant which has alarmed scientists worldwide, Israel has said.

Nitzan Horowitz, the country's health minister, said that there was "room for optimism" that current vaccines worked on omicron based on "initial indications."

“The situation is under control, there is no need for panic,” said Mr Horowitz. “We expected a new variant, and we’re ready… in the next few days we will have more precise information about the vaccine’s effectiveness, but early indications show that those who are vaccinated with a vaccine which is still valid or who have a booster are most likely protected against this variant."

The minister did not elaborate on the data the Israeli government has seen.

Separately, a report by the Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 said the Pfizer vaccine was understood to be 90 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic cases of omicron.

Read more here

02:48 PM

Man who prevented 500 Covid vaccines by gluing lock of centre jailed

A man who put superglue in the lock of a Covid-19 vaccination centre, preventing more than 500 people from getting their booster jabs, has been jailed for 12 weeks.

Hayden Brown squirted glue into the keyhole of the door to a pharmacy in Lowestoft Road in Gorleston overnight on November 26, meaning the door could not be opened, Norfolk Police said.

The 53-year-old, of Burgh Road in Great Yarmouth, was arrested on Tuesday after he was identified by covert cameras that had been put in place following two previous incidents on November 12 and November 20.

Brown admitted criminal damage at Norwich Magistrates' Court, Norfolk police said.

Police said he also pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance, by preventing Covid-19 booster jabs for 504 vulnerable people.

02:47 PM

Energy minister travels to Storm Arwen-affected communities

As trade minister, Greg Hands was used to travelling the world and spending time in some much warmer climes.

But these days Mr Hands is energy minister - and has swapped Asia for the communities affected by Storm Arwen, as he tours the regions still suffering from power outage.

02:42 PM

Matt Hancock: Labour's claims 'finally settle' argument on Covid contract

Matt Hancock responds to Anneliese Dodds' argument that he should withdraw his comments from yesterday, in which he said any claims that one of his constituents had secured a Covid contract was a "fabrication".

The former health secretary tells the Commons that the point the Labour frontbencher made "demonstrates very clearly that there was no contract between the firm being discussed and the Department [of Health] or the NHS.

"Of course the department or the NHS does not have a say in subcontracting arrangements, so what this has done is demonstrated finally and for the record that there was no such contract between my constituent and the Department or the NHS."

Mr Hancock added: "No matter how hard they look or how deep they dip all that will discovered is a lot of people working hard to save lives - that is what was going on."

02:31 PM

Labour MP challenges Matt Hancock over Covid contract claims

A Labour frontbencher has challenged Matt Hancock, after he rubbished her claims that one of his constituents secured a Covid contract as "a fabrication pushed by the Labour party and a load of nonsense".

Anneliese Dodds says further evidence has been published today showing that a contract was secured by one company, which then subcontracted it to another firm, "which appears to be run by the hon. member for West Suffolk's constituent".

She asks whether the former health secretary should return to the Commons to withdraw the comments made yesterday.

Dame Eleanor Laing, the deputy speaker, says it is "not a matter for the chair" what is said between MPs but "if the facts which have been presented to the chamber turn out to be wrong, it is incumbent on every member to come back to the chamber and set the record straight".

She stresses that she "makes no judgment about the facts".

02:20 PM

Social care sector must address churn and zero hours, says minister

High levels of social care staff "churn" and zero-hours contracts in the sector need to be addressed, a minister has said.

Responding to a question from former health secretary Jeremy Hunt (see below), Gillian Keegan told the Commons: "In this particular care sector it is impossible to deliver anything without the workforce. It is also very difficult to look at this workforce structure.

"It is the largest workforce in the country with 1.54 billion people working in it but with 40 per cent churn and very high amounts of zero-hours contracts, very high amounts of retraining.

"I have never seen something that has that, and this has been the case for decades and nobody has done anything to address it. We do need to address it and that is what we are here to do."

Describing the new social care White Paper as "just a start", the social care minister added that a new local government finance settlement "later this year" would set out how much cash councils would get to support their local providers.

02:10 PM

Social care white paper 'three steps forward, two steps back', claims Jeremy Hunt

The social care white paper is "three steps forward, two steps back", Jeremy Hunt has said, as he warned it did not solve hospital bed blocking.

The former health secretary told the Commons: "The step forward which we should acknowledge is the introduction of a cap. Whatever the arguments about what counts towards the cap, having a cap will make a big difference to many people and that is welcome."

But councils, which administer social care, are "barely" given enough to deal with "demographic change and the national living wage increases", Mr Hunt noted, adding it was "hard to see an end to the workforce crisis which leaves 40 per cent turnover in many companies".

He called on Gillian Keegan, the care minister, to bring forward further measures to "deal with those huge problems", warning that otherwise hospital wards will "continue to be full of people who should be discharged and older people not getting the care they need because the carers do not exist."

02:08 PM

Social care plan fails to deal with short and long-term issues, claims Labour

Labour's shadow minister for social care has warned there are "two central flaws" to the new white paper, as she responded to the details by saying: " "But really, is that it?"

Liz Kendall claimed the Government had "utterly failed to deal with the immediate pressures" facing the sector, including rising waiting lists and soaring staff vacancies.

It also did not introduce "more fundamental reforms we need to deliver a care system fit for the future", the MP said.

"Where was the long-term strategy to transform the pay, training, terms and conditions of care workers to deliver at least half a million additional care workers by 2030 just to meet growing demand?"

02:05 PM

Social care white paper encompasses 'ambitious 10-year vision', says minister

The Government's social care white paper sets out an "ambitious 10-year vision" for the sector, minister Gillian Keegan has said.

Unveiling the document to the Commons, Ms Keegan said some of the challenges and issues in social care are so complex "that successive governments over decades have decided to duck them rather than deal with them but this Government is determined to get it right."

The white paper is "underpinned by three core principles" - to ensure "everybody has choice, control and support to live independent lives"; that everyone can access "outstanding" personalised care and support; and that adult social care is "fair and accessible for everyone who needs it".

Central to this is a £300 million investment to "support local authorities to increase the range of new supported housing options", Ms Keegan said.

01:56 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have 'close relationship'

They were the best of friends, they were the worst of friends.... - AP Pool
They were the best of friends, they were the worst of friends.... - AP Pool

Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron have a close "working relationship", Number 10 has stressed.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman was asked about the relationship between the two leaders after the former French ambassador Sylvie Bermann joked on Times Radio that ties had not been as bad since Waterloo.

Asked if Mr Johnson and Mr Macron were friends, the PM's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's been asked about this on a number of occasions and has talked about his close relationship ... working relationship with President Macron."

01:53 PM

Lobby latest: No 'hard evidence' suggest omicron affects children more

There is "nothing to suggest" children are worse affected by the omicron variant, Downing Street has said.

Following reports from Tshwane in South Africa that children under the age of two accounted for about 10 per cent of total hospital admissions with the variant, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We have seen those reports, but we have seen nothing to suggest ... there's no hard evidence to suggest it disproportionately affects children in the way you suggest.

"Clearly, we will (be) monitoring all evidence very carefully.

"It's important to stress that there is nothing to suggest it's impacting on different age groups in a different way to (what) we see with other variants, and it's also worth noting the different age profile characteristics of South Africa as well."

01:43 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 defends 'balanced' response to omicron, following leaked papers

Downing Street has defended its "balanced" response to the omicron variant, after leaked Sage minutes revealed scientists had recommended stronger action.

The papers revealed that experts told ministers testing people for Covid before they travel to the UK would be "valuable" and warning of "a potentially very significant wave with associated hospitalisations" as a result of omicron (see 9:53am for more).

Asked if ministers had ignored the guidance, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "At all times we take account of any clinical advice we receive, and then we need to make a balanced judgement on what is right."

He said the Government had "acted swiftly" to put new measures in place to protect against the Omicron variant of coronavirus "on a precautionary basis".

"We're confident this is the right approach," he added.

01:38 PM

SNP's Westminster leader keeps up heat over Christmas party

Opposition MPs are going to keep piling on the pressure over Boris Johnson's non-denial that Downing Street hosted a boozy Christmas party while the rest of London was locked down.

During PMQs Ian Blackford said he had spoken to the Mirror about the story "and they are confirming what happened, and they have legal advice on potential illegality",

He might have been drowned out in the Commons - but he is continuing to raise the question of trust in the PM online.

01:30 PM

Lobby latest: Pre-Christmas party Covid tests for 'reassurance' only, says No 10

Downing Street has suggested it is not Government policy that party-goers should take a lateral flow test before attending events.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, this morning repeatedly suggested that people should take a test before attending parties.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I think he was very clear about what he was saying.

"He was setting out that we do have a significant testing capacity, and if people wanted further reassurance they could use that."

01:29 PM

Lobby latest: Covid rules followed 'at all times', Downing Street insists

No 10 has insisted all Covid rules "have been followed" when asked about Christmas parties reportedly held in Downing Street last year.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman did not deny the gatherings had taken place but he said: "At all stages the rules have been followed."

The Prime Minister's press secretary added: "We don't recognise this account, as we've said Covid rules have been followed at all times."

Asked which parts of the report were being denied, she said: "I'm not going to get into individual aspects of speculation."

01:22 PM

Local leaders may rule that nativity plays 'aren't the right thing to do', says minister

The Government has vowed to keep schools open until the Christmas holidays, but admitted that local teams will have the final say on nativity plays.

When asked whether schools will be kept open until the Christmas break, Will Quince told the Commons Education Committee: "That is certainly our plan and we want to see schools stay open."

The children's minister told MPs: "There are schools that are cancelling nativities. I find that deeply regrettable and Christmas concerts is one of the loveliest things."

But he added: "But there will be some areas where there is a higher prevalence of transmission.

"The directors of public health guidance will say, 'look, actually big gatherings probably isn't the right thing to do'. Or, 'if you've got parents coming into school to watch a play, wearing a mask might be a sensible precautionary measure'.

"So I think, ultimately, on balance, it comes down to trusting schools and headteachers and directors of public health."

01:09 PM

EU should 'think about mandatory Covid vaccines', says Ursula von der Leyen

It is time for the European Union to "think about mandatory vaccination" against Covid, Ursula von der Leyen has said.

The European Commission chief said it was "understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now," with a third of the bloc's population of 450 million still unvaccinated, and rates highly uneven across the continent.

Austria has announced compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations from February 1 next year and Germany is mulling following suit. Vaccines will become mandatory for over-60s in Greece, while France has said Covid passes will be deactivated for all adults who have not had booster shots within six months of their last dose.

"We have the vaccines, the life-saving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere," Ms von der Leyen said.

However she emphasised that member states would maintain responsibility for how their vaccination programmes are carried out.

01:05 PM

Boris Johnson's actions are 'not just wrong, but dangerous', says Angela Rayner

Boris Johnson might have been trying to stoke the flames between Labour's Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner (see 12:15 and 12:05pm) but the deputy leader is backing her boss - on Twitter at least.

Following a fiery PMQs in which the Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of "taking the British public for fools" over claims he attended a Christmas party during last year's lockdown, Ms Rayner says this is "not just wrong, its dangerous".

12:57 PM

Business Secretary: 30,000 people still without power after Storm Arwen

Storm Arwen wreaked havoc across much of the UK at the weekend - PA
Storm Arwen wreaked havoc across much of the UK at the weekend - PA

Some 30,000 people are still without power following Storm Arwen, the Business Secretary has said.

Making a statement in the Commons on efforts to restore power to homes, Kwasi Kwarteng said: "I'm glad to say that over 95 per cent of those affected by the storm, over 935,000 customers, have had their power supply restored so far and I'd like to thank the engineers for their hard work and perseverance.

"However there are still 30,000 as of 8am this morning who are without power."

He added: "I also want to reassure people who are still without power, who are exhausted, who are worried and who are angry that we are all working incredibly hard to make sure that their normal conditions return."

12:51 PM

Jacob Rees-Mogg responds to Commissioner probe

Jacob Rees-Mogg has responded to the news that he is under investigation by the Standards Commissioner (see 11:54am).

The Commons Leader said in a statement:

"Saliston is 100 per cent owned by me and this is declared clearly in the Commons register and to the Cabinet Office. It has no activities that interact with government policy.

The loans from 2018 were primarily taken out for the purchase and refurbishment of 7 Cowley street as temporary cash flow measures. All loans have either been repaid with interest in accordance with HMRC rules or paid as dividends and taxed accordingly.

The register asks for earnings, not loans, which is why I was declared an as a non-remunerated director until I resigned on entering government. Loans are not earnings and are not declarable in the register of interests."

12:40 PM

Pre-Christmas lifting of Covid regulations could be delayed, admits Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid has admitted that "it might take a bit longer than three weeks" to determine how bad the new omicron variant is, opening the door to Covid regulations being renewed ahead of Christmas.

MPs last night approved regulations to restore mandatory mask wearing, new self-isolation rules and tougher travel restrictions, all of which are due to be reviewed in three weeks. However several Tory MPs - including some former ministers - rebelled, amid fears that the isolation rule could cause another pingdemic.

The Health Secretary played that down, telling Sky News: "At this moment at time the case numbers are very low. They will certainly go up but the numbers are low. I am not worried about pingdemic-type situation."

Asked about the 'arbitrary' decision to review restrictions in three weeks, he replied: "I wouldn't call it an arbitrary figure. Where you might be a bit right is that it might take a bit longer than three weeks.

"We are confident that actually maybe within two weeks we will know a lot more about this. We may not even need to wait three weeks," Mr Javid added.

12:40 PM

PMQs: Hillsborough victims must never be forgotten, says Boris Johnson

The final question comes from Ian Byrne, the Labour MP for West Derby, who notes that next week the 97th victim of the Hillsborough tragedy, Andrew Devine, will receive the freedom of Liverpool.

He asks Boris Johnson to meet him to discuss the rollout of a legacy project, "including the addition of the Hillsborough disaster to the curriculum" to ensure the "smears" of certain media do not endure.

The Prime Minister says he knows "the wounds remain very raw in Liverpool", and that the Government is "committed to engagement with the families of the bereaved and to making sure the lessons of that tragedy continue to be properly learned, and that the victims of Hillsborough are never forgotten".

He says the relevant minister will meet to discuss "an agenda I think is shared by people up and down this country".

12:36 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson demands Labour MP withdraw 'shameful' comment on Borders Bill

Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, says his grandfather came to the UK and worked "seven days a week" to help rebuild the country after the war.

But the Borders Bill means Priti Patel "can revoke our British citizenship and deport us for even the most minor wrongdoings".

He says the "burning question that is now on the lips of everyone from a Bame background - when is he coming for me".

To calls of "disgrace", Boris Johnson says the MP should "look at the Conservative frontbench today and withdraw what he has just said. What he has said is absolutely shameful. The Borders Bill does nothing of the kind."

12:32 PM

PMQs: Government has invested in breakthrough Covid treatment, Boris Johnson confirms

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, asks about Pfizer's new trial of treatment for Covid, saying it will "allow governments around the world to avoid lockdowns".

He asks what the Government is doing to secure doses.

Boris Johnson says it will depend on regulatory approval by the MHRA "but the Government, as a precaution, has already invested in hundreds of thousands of courses of that drug".

12:30 PM

PMQs: Gibraltar will remain 'British, British, British', says Boris Johnson

David Jones, the Conservative MP for Clwyd West, says the chief minister of Gibraltar gave evidence to MPs last week in which he "made clear that his ambition was that Gibraltar's future should be 'British, British, British'."

He asks what the UK Government is doing to support that aim.

Boris Johnson says he "can't really improve" on that verdict, saying Gibraltar will "remain" British.

He adds: "I see no role for the ECJ."

12:28 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson challenged to help 'mesh-damaged' women

Emma Hardy, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West, asks Boris Johnson about the suffering of "mesh-damaged" women.

Boris Johnson says this is a very important issue and "if there is anything more we can, I will certainly be willing to look at it".

12:26 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson ignores calls to rollover farming payments

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, asks the Prime Minister to "help our farmers before it is too late", by not cutting the essential payments of the pre-Brexit scheme until the new one is rolled out.

Boris Johnson praises the "outstanding job" of the sector, saying it will be supported by "the same level of payments", as well as "new opportunities" being opened up by trade deals.

But he doesn't respond to the nub of the question.

12:24 PM

PMQs: Tory MP calls for 'immediate review' into childcare costs

John Penrose, the Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, asks the Prime Minister to meet him to discuss an "immediate review" into the UK's high cost of childcare.

Boris Johnson says he is "completely right" about the importance of childcare and highlights investment that has gone into the sector, adding he is "always happy" to meet his colleague.

12:23 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson defends action on omicron

Ian Blackford then turns to the advice he received on dealing with omicron, asking the Prime Minister to "finally convene a four-nations Cobra meeting" on travel restrictions.

"Or will he continue to ignore the Scottish government, the Welsh government and his own Sage advisers and imperil the health of these islands."

Boris Johnson says there "will be opportunity in the days ahead to concert our efforts", but stresses he is "simply wrong" that the Government has not acted swiftly to the omicron variant.

Mr Blackford then attempts to shout over the Prime Minister's response.

12:20 PM

PMQs: Ian Blackford drowned out by laughter

MPs break into laughter as Ian Blackford is interrupted saying "it is regretful that we have to spend so much time in this House..." A backbencher calls out "listening to you".

The SNP Westminster leader ignores the catcalls, asking about reports of the lockdown-busting party.

Boris Johnson says he would have been better off "asking about Storm Arwen", and saying they should "work together to get those people's power back".

Mr Blackford says it is a "disgraceful answer".

12:18 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson urged to 'take back control' of migrant crisis

Andrew Rosindell, the Tory MP for Romford, asks about the "endless waves of illegal migrants", saying the UK must "break free from the constraints of the European Convention on Human Rights".

Backbenchers cheer him on as he calls on the Prime Minister to "take back control" and bring a "British bill of rights".

Boris Johnson says he will "certainly review the human rights system", adding that that Borders Bill is "coming back to this House" next week and urging MPs to back it.

12:15 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson hits out at Keir Starmer's 'drivel'

Sir Keir Starmer says it is "the same old story" of broken promises and "defending the indefensible".

The Labour leader lists various U-turns including the "working class dementia tax" for social care, the new hospitals and others, saying the manifesto pledges "aren't worth the paper they are written on".

Boris Johnson claims Sir Keir "drivels on irrelevantly" and claims that Angela Rayner not being invited to Labour's Christmas party is "factional infighting".

12:13 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson challenged over pledge to build 40 new hospitals

Sir Keir Starmer says he should "have the confidence" to publish the report, saying the manifesto pledge gets "murkier" the closer you look at.

He highlights a DoH "communications playbook", which offers advice to the NHS about how to speak about the new programme, which "instructs everybody to describe refurbishments... on old hospitals as new hospitals".

He asks how many of the 40 are "fix up jobs" and how many are new.

Boris Johnson says "obviously you don't always go around building on greenfield sites - you rebuild hospitals".

MPs can be heard shouting "exactly".

12:10 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson 'taking public for fools', claims Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer says the country is being asked to follow the rules and notes that he has "not denied" that a party was held last year.

"He says no rules were broken - both of those things can't be true. He is taking the British public for fools," the Labour leader adds. He says the PM should look behind him to see how few people are wearing masks.

Sir Keir then turns to the "red flag" that has been raised by the Treasury and the Cabinet Office about a lack of progress in building 40 new hospitals. He asks if it is true that it is now "unachievable".

Boris Johnson says "no", accusing his opponent of "playing politics".

Mr Johnson says the Government is "helping to build another 40 new hospitals".

But Sir Keir notes that the Prime Minister is denying an internal report, saying there is "some confusion" on the Government benches.

12:06 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson dodges questions about party '12 months ago'

Sir Keir Starmer asks if the Prime Minister expects "the country to believe that while people were banned from seeing their loved ones, it was fine for him to throw a boozy party in Downing Street".

Boris Johnson says he has "said what I have said", stressing it was "12 months ago".

This year is "frankly a more relevant consideration", he adds, urging people to follow the updated guidance and get their booster.

12:05 PM

PMQs: Keir Starmer challenges the PM over lockdown-busting 'boozy party'

Sir Keir Starmer opens by recognising the "extraordinary advances" of treatment for people living with Aids.

The Labour leader quickly pivots to asking a direct question - whether a Christmas party was held in Downing Street when the rest of the country was locked down.

Boris Johnson says "all guidance was followed completely" - and asks him to do so for his own Christmas party "to which he has unaccountably not invited his own deputy".

Sir Keir says: "Nice try but that won't work."

He flourishes the rules which say "you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party".

12:03 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson marks 'International Day of People with Disabilities'

Boris Johnson says he is wearing a purple tie in recognition of this Friday's 'International Day of People with Disabilities'.

He is also wearing a red ribbon for World Aids Day.

The Prime Minister adds that there will be an opportunity for questions about the impact of Storm Arwen after PMQs.

12:00 PM

Coming up... PMQs

Boris Johnson is on his way  - AP
Boris Johnson is on his way - AP

11:54 AM

Jacob Rees-Mogg under investigation by Standards Commissioner

Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously defended the move - AFP
Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously defended the move - AFP

Jacob Rees-Mogg is under investigation by the Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, it has emerged.

According to the latest updates on the independent commissioner's website, the Commons Leader is being probed for a "registration of an interest under Category 1 of the Guide to the Rules (employment and earnings)" under paragraph 14 of the code of conduct.

Although the focus of the investigation is not yet clear, it comes after Labour had called for an investigation into claims Mr Rees-Mogg broke the financial rules for MPs by failing to declare that he got £6 million in loans from one of his companies.

Mr Rees-Mogg has been approached for a comment.

In a statement last month the minister, who led the Government’s attempt to relax the rules around MPs standards, said: "The loans from 2018 were primarily taken out for the purchase and refurbishment of [my home] as temporary cash flow measures. All loans have either been repaid with interest in accordance with HMRC rules or paid as dividends and taxed accordingly."

11:46 AM

Don't repeat mistakes of the past on borders, says Yvette Cooper

The Government "must not repeat the mistakes it made" at the start of the pandemic by not sufficiently strengthening the UK's borders, Yvette Cooper has said.

The shadow home secretary said leaked Sage papers, revealing that experts had called for pre-departure Covid testing to be reintroduced, should be acted on.

“It is totally unacceptable that ministers are failing to take action at the border when even their own advisors are telling them to introduce pre-departure tests," Ms Cooper said.

“It cannot be right that people can travel to an airport, board a busy flight, queue at busy departure gates, and travel on trains and buses in the UK, all without having taken a test.

“The Government must not repeat the mistakes it made earlier in the pandemic by being too slow to take action to prevent further cases of the Omicron variant entering the UK.”

11:32 AM

Ofcom steps in again as 25th energy firm fails in three months

Yet another energy supplier has been forced to turn the lights out, amid the ongoing price squeeze.

Energy regulator Ofgem has stepped in for the 25th time in just three months after Zog Energy collapsed this morning.

With just 11,700 customers on its books the business pales next to Bulb, whose 1.7 million households made it one of the top energy suppliers in the country, forcing the Government to use a special programme designed to prop it up.

Normally Ofgem would simply find a new supplier to take over a failed company's customers.

But today's news is likely to pile further pressure on Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, who is already under fire for his handling of the situation.

11:23 AM

Boris Johnson vows to go further to eradicate HIV/Aids

Boris Johnson has marked World Aids Day by saying "we must and are going further" to eradicate the disease, which was first identified 40 years ago.

Government plans, published today, are targeting "zero new HIV infections and deaths from HIV/Aids by 2030", backed with increased funding, greater testing, and increasing access to PrEP and other prevention programmes.

The Prime Minister also vowed to do "more to fight the stigma too", with the Armed Forces agreeing that being HIV+ "is no longer a barrier to entry for those wishing to serve in uniform".

He said:

11:10 AM

UK and Belgium agree migrant cooperation deal following French snub

The UK and Belgium have promised to cooperate more closely to tackle irregular migration, after 27 people died when their dinghy capsized as they tried to cross the Channel.

The pledge is part of a wider bilateral deal signed by Boris Johnson and Alexander De Croo after a virtual meeting on Tuesday. The two sides have promised improvements in detecting and stopping irregular migration at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, and along the Belgian coast.

They also pledged to "improve joint working on illegal flows, including to disrupt human trafficking and human smuggling networks and prevent loss of life". They also plan to work with others to secure closer cooperation on "small boats in order to prevent illegal sea crossing towards the UK".

This included trying to stop "secondary movements" of migrants with the Schengen free-movement area of the European Union, they added.

Last weekend Emmanual Macron uninvited Priti Patel from a meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis. As a result, Priti Patel has embarked on her own plan to deal with the issue and is said to be planning a tour of European capitals.

11:02 AM

Angela Rayner received threats to 'hunt her down like Jo Cox'

Angela Rayner now has a permanent police escort and has had panic buttons fitted in her home. - Getty
Angela Rayner now has a permanent police escort and has had panic buttons fitted in her home. - Getty

Labour's deputy leader has opened up about the abuse she has received since taking on the role, including threats to "hunt her down" like murdered MP Jo Cox.

Angela Rayner told the BBC that at first she was called "thick" and mocked for her northern accent by trolls, but since becoming more prominent the abuse took a more sinister turn.

"I have received emails saying 'do us all a favour so we do not have to hunt you down like Jo Cox'," she said.

"It worries my mum. She literally thinks that people are out to kill me and it is very difficult for her to see that. My eldest son has said to me that he does not want me to do this any more."

In October Benjamin Iliffe was sentenced to 15 weeks in prison for sending Ms Rayner a threatening email.

The Ashton-under-Lyne MP now has a permanent police escort and has had panic buttons fitted in her home.

10:52 AM

Allison Pearson: We're led by experts who have no idea what living a normal life is

How are we to interpret the impertinent statement by Dr Jenny Harries, that “not socialising when we don’t particularly need to” is the way people can “do their bit” to reduce the spread of the new omicron variant, asks Allison Pearson.

It is a golden rule of mine that anyone who uses “behaviour” in the plural is a nerd with a very limited understanding of what makes humans happy. Unfortunately, the geeks have inherited the Earth.

In the past year and a half, narrow scientific minds have come to exercise undue influence on the Government and now they are upset that their control over the rest of us is, like Covid, waning fast. What do you suppose Harries has in mind when she says “not socialising when we don’t particularly need to”?

Lockdown fanatics, I’m afraid to say, have learnt none of the bitter lessons about the awful cost of loneliness and isolation.

Read more from Allison here

10:35 AM

(Westminster) is beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Things are starting to look festive in Westminster - as pictured by Conservative MP Michael Fabricant.

10:34 AM

Donald Trump: Boris Johnson is making a ‘big mistake’ by backing wind power

Boris Johnson is “making a big mistake” by trying to turn the UK into the Saudi Arabia of wind, Donald Trump has said.

The former US president told GB News that wind farms were “horrible”, “ridiculous”, “kill all the birds” and “start to rust” after a couple of years. They were only backed by environmentalists “who hate the world”, he said.

Mr Trump also took aim at a wind farm sited just off the coast of Aberdeen where he owns the Trump International Golf Links, describing it as a “shame” and the windmills as “monsters”.

Read more here

10:12 AM

Minister says being 'shouted at and called a fascist' is regular occurrence

A minister and one of Boris Johnson's staunchest allies has said being "shouted at and called a fascist" has become a regular occurrence.

Conor Burns, a Northern Ireland minister, suggests he received the verbal abuse during the "brief walk" between his department office and parliament.

In recent months, politicians, scientific experts and high profile political journalists have been targets for abuse, often linked to the pandemic and Covid restrictions.

09:59 AM

End your Brexit ‘sausage war’ on British bangers, UK to tell EU

The EU’s ban on British sausages must be overturned, UK officials will tell Brussels in talks over the Brexit trade deal.

The demand opens up a new front in the “sausage war” over supplies to Northern Ireland, which were under threat because of EU rules for chilled meat imports.

Brussels surrendered over sausages in Northern Ireland in October and proposed a “national identity” exemption for certain products, but it has so far stuck to its guns over the EU ban.

“What’s the risk? That the UK is now producing substandard food?” a UK source said.

A fourth round of negotiations continues this week but there is growing pessimism in Brussels after previous rounds failed to bring an expected breakthrough on medicines supplies.

Read more from our correspondents here

09:53 AM

Reintroduce pre-departure tests and brace for 'significant wave' of Covid, Sage warns

Sage scientists have recommended the reintroduction of pre-departure Covid tests for travellers returning to the UK, saying it would be "valuable" in light of the omicron variant.

Sage's advisory committee also says the government's policy of asking travellers to take a test two days after they arrive would "identify significantly fewer cases" than extra tests on days five or eight, according to minutes seen by the BBC.

The document, which has not yet been published, urges the Government to prepare for "a potentially very significant wave with associated hospitalisations" as a result of omicron, despite scientists not having established how serious the new variant is.

Yvette Cooper, Labour's new shadow home secretary, yesterday called for the reintroduction of pre-departure tests.

09:46 AM

England and Wales record first weekly fall in Covid deaths since early Oct

The number of Covid-related deaths has fallen week-on-week for the first time since early October.

A total of 952 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending November 19 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is down seven per cent on the previous week.

Around one in 13 (7.9 per cent) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to November 19 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

09:38 AM

What's on the agenda today?

Boris Johnson talks to stall holders as he visits a UK Food and Drinks market set up in Downing Street last night - Reuters
Boris Johnson talks to stall holders as he visits a UK Food and Drinks market set up in Downing Street last night - Reuters

Boris Johnson might be hoping for a slightly easier time of it at today's PMQs - but with the emerging omicron variant and a series of allegations about lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street last year, it might not be as straightforward as he thinks.

Here is what to expect today:

11:30am Cop26 questions with Alok Sharma

12pm: Prime Minister's Questions

12:40pm: Urgent questions/ministerial statements (details TBC)

After that: A 10-minute rule motion on Quarries (Planning)

Then: Finance (No. 2) Bill - committee stage

09:29 AM

House prices rise 15pc since start of pandemic

House prices have risen by almost 15 per cent since the start of the pandemic, after annual house price growth rose again in November.

Annual price growth across the UK rose 10 per cent, up from 9.9 per cent in October, Nationwide Building Society said. Prices rose by 0.9 per cent month on month, taking the average UK property value to £252,687.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "House prices are now almost 15 per cent above the level prevailing in March last year when the pandemic struck the UK.

"There have been some signs of cooling in housing market activity in recent months; for example, the number of housing transactions were down almost 30 per cent year on year in October.

"But this was almost inevitable, given the expiry of the stamp duty holiday (in England and Northern Ireland) at the end of September, which gave buyers a strong incentive to bring forward their purchase to avoid additional tax."

The number of transactions is now "tracking close to the number seen at the same stage in 2007, before the global financial crisis struck", he added.

09:22 AM

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: A benign omicron may be the answer to our economic prayers

It is almost too good to believe. The days go by and there is still little evidence that the omicron wave in South Africa is leading to a concomitant surge in severe illness, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

Professor Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, says we cannot rule out the “highly optimistic scenario” of a late-epidemic mutation that is extremely contagious, displaces delta, but does less harm.

If we are “a bit lucky”, he says, the replication rate of the virus in host cells proves slower than the delta variant, leading to less hospitalisation and death. If we are “really lucky”, it also replicates preferentially in mucosa cells of the upper airways, rather than in organs such as the lungs and the kidneys where it does greatest damage. This would be the answer to our prayers.

Goldman Sachs has gamed four omicron outcomes: “severe downside”, “downside”, “false alarm”, and a surprise “upside”. These scenarios have starkly different implications for asset prices and macroeconomic policy over the next year. Get it wrong at your cost.

Read more from Ambrose here

09:15 AM

Cancer diagnosis only caught because of kidney stones, shadow health secretary reveals

Labour's shadow health secretary has revealed details of his own brush with cancer, as he called on the Government to bring forward a plan to deal with the backlog of cases.

Wes Streeting told LBC Radio: "I had kidney cancer earlier this year and went through successful treatment for that. When it comes to cancer treatment and cancer outcomes, timing is everything...

"In my case, the only reason I knew I had kidney cancer, the only reason I'm talking to you this morning cancer free, is because I have kidney stones.

"So, in a scan for something entirely different, my cancer was detected.

"In that big NHS backlog, for all sorts of operations, there will undoubtedly be cancer cases that will go undetected.

"That's why we urgently need from the Government an elective care recovery plan to get those NHS waiting lists down, to shorten waiting times and speed up cancer treatment because when it comes to cancer, timing is everything."

09:00 AM

Christmas parties should be down to 'individual choice', says Sage scientist

People should be allowed to decide whether they attend Christmas parties based on their own "perceptions of risk and different levels of desire", a Sage scientist has said.

Asked if people should perhaps be avoiding Christmas parties, Professor Andrew Hayward told Times Radio: "I think it's worth thinking of the sort of Covid control and what you can do as an individual in different layers.

"Everything that you can do will make a difference - washing your hands, wearing masks when you're around other people, trying to keep a bit of a distance, minimising those big large indoor social events.

"I'm not saying don't go to them at all, but I think it's basically a cumulative thing, so the more exposures you're having, the more likely you are to get it and spread it to other people.

"I think there does need to be individual choice in this and people have different perceptions of risk and different levels of desire to go to these events, and I think we should respect that."

08:57 AM

Take a test before going to Christmas parties, says Sajid Javid

People should take a Covid test before going to a Christmas party, the Health Secretary has said.

Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4's Today programme people should be "sensible", amid concerns about the emerging omicron variant.

"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) test before you go. Go to the party, but just be cautious," he added.

Asked if he would wear a mask if he was at a party, Mr 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."

08:55 AM

Use your common sense on Christmas plans, says Sajid Javid

People should have "a bit of common sense" as they make plans ahead of Christmas amid concerns about the omicron variant, Sajid Javid has said.

The Health Secretary told LBC radio: "There's no need to change our plans unless they've been affected by the new rules we've put in place.

"So, if you're asked to self-isolate for example, because you've come into contact with someone with a suspected case of this new variant, then of course your plans are going to be affected...

"In the winter, as each day gets darker and colder, the virus likes that, the flu virus likes that, so just have a bit of common sense and follow the current guidance.

"And the vast, vast majority of people do just that, they know about the risks and threats that are out there and they behave responsibly."

08:53 AM

NHS trusts are asking staff not to 'mix in big groups' ahead of Christmas

NHS trusts are asking staff "not to mix in big groups" in the run-up to Christmas., the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers has revealed.

Saffron Cordery told Sky News that unlike last year when "it was absolutely clear that nobody was going to a Christmas party last year" people were making "their own decisions".

But she added: "We know that many NHS trusts, for example, are asking their staff not to mix in big groups in the run-up to Christmas because of the potential threat to their health and what they will be available to do.

"So, they are they are setting one example there."

She added: "It's a really challenging and difficult one."

08:34 AM

Health Secretary rejects reports of lockdown-busting Christmas parties

Sajid Javid has said "all rules will have been followed at all times", following reports that the Prime Minister and Downing Street aides attended parties in Number 10 last Christmas, while imposing draconian restrictions.

According to the Daily Mirror, Boris Johnson gave a speech "at a packed leaving do"in the midst of the second lockdown. A second event - a Christmas party - was held while London was stuck in tier three restrictions.

The Health Secretary - who was a backbench MP at the time - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Whatever happened in No 10 throughout the pandemic, I am certain the rules would have been followed.

"I can't tell you what is going on in a daily basis in any building... but I am certain all the rules will have been followed at all times."

Pressed, he added: "You're assuming that the news report you're referring to is accurate. I'm sure you would have come across inaccurate news reports in the past.

"All I can tell you is whatever happened in No 10, all rules would have been followed at all times."

08:29 AM

Sajid Javid defends face mask ruling

Sajid Javid has defended the Government's ruling on face coverings, which have become mandatory for places like public transport and shopping but not for plays and pantomimes.

The Health Secretary said there was a "whole spectrum of response", adding: "The job of Government is to listen to expert advice and make a balanced and proportionate judgment, that is what we have done - we have acted swiftly."

08:27 AM

Follow Government advice, not Jenny Harries, says Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid has said that people should follow Government advice rather than Dr Jenny Harries' warning not to socialise unnecessarily.

The Health Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "People should continue to follow the guidance set out in the autumn and winter plan i presented a month or so ago. That guidance remains valid even in light of this new variant... I don't think people need to change those plans."

He added: "Dr Jenny Harries.... she is an absolutely amazing in the work she does [but] she will be the first person to agree that ministers get advice from different experts and then we make a decision taking into account all of the advice."

Challenged over what the right thing to do is, he added: "The right thing to do is follow the existing guidance, but taking into account the changes that have been announced in the last few days."

08:22 AM

Sajid Javid: GPs' workload will be lifted to focus on booster campaign

GPs' workload will be lifted in order to prioritise the booster programme, Sajid Javid has confirmed.

Asked if he would lighten the load for doctors who have complained about excess work, the Health Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Yes - this is our new national mission in terms of the public health of this country there is nothing more important.

"We are working at pace with GP representatives in the last two days, in how we can free up some of their time. I won't set that out now myself, it will be set out by NHS directly."

Noting the target that everyone should have received an offer of a third Covid vaccine by the end of January, Mr Javid added: "This is a huge thing we are trying to achieve - it is essential that we do this."

08:17 AM

Wait to be called for Covid booster, says Sajid Javid

People "should wait to be called" for their Covid booster jabs, Sajid Javid has confirmed.

The Health Secretary, responding to reports of people struggling to get their third vaccine and run-ins with those giving the jab, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is a huge challenge.... we are asking a lot more of them now because of this new variant. We need to step up hugely our plans."

If people have a walk-in centre nearby, they should "take up that offer as well", he added.

"But for the vast majority of people, they will act when they are invited by the NHS by email, text message or otherwise," Mr Javid said.

The expansion of the booster programme means that all adults from 18 and above can get their jab, but the NHS will "obviously prioritise the most vulnerable - that is why we will approach this in age groups."

08:12 AM

Sajid Javid plans small family Christmas celebration

Sajid Javid speaking at the Covid press conference yesterday - AFP
Sajid Javid speaking at the Covid press conference yesterday - AFP

Sajid Javid has revealed he will be having a small Christmas celebration in his constituency this year, as questions grow over the extent to which people will be free to mingle during the festive season.

The Health Secretary told Sky News he would be "spending it with family in Bromsgrove - just my family".

This morning a member of the JCVI said she was keeping her plans "open" (see 8:01am).

Last year, of course, the country was locked down just days before Christmas Day.

08:08 AM

We need more jabs army volunteers, admits Sajid Javid

The Government "absolutely" needs more volunteers to join the so-called jabs army to deliver one million more jabs a week to meet the Government's target for Covid boosters, Sajid Javid has said.

The Health Secretary said the programme was being expanded but he acknowledged more volunteers were needed.

"In the last week we had about 2.4 million jabs across the UK. We are going to need to do around a million more ... but I think it can be done," he told BBC Breakfast.

"Existing national vaccination centres and the hospital hubs, many of them will open for longer. Some of the people there are already committed to doing extra hours or they know where they can find the volunteers they want.

"We are also going to have more pharmacies than ever before - 1,500 pharmacies across the country - and more GPs will be involved as well. In terms of volunteers, we do absolutely need more volunteers."

08:07 AM

Tory MP: Vague wording on isolation rules could create pingdemic

Craig Mackinlay has said he is "relaxed" about new rules mandating mask-wearing, despite having voted against the regulations yesterday.

The Conservative MP for South Thanet told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was concerned about "some of the nonsense... creeping in", highlighting discrepancies around where and when masks needed to be worn.

This suggested the legislation "hadn't been thought through very well", he added.

But the biggest concern was around enforced isolation for those who come into contact with a "suspected" case of omicron, suggesting it could lead "us down the road of a pingdemic".

He said: "We had no guidance from the minister or anything else that came out through the day as to what 'suspected to have' really means - will it be really confirmed, or will it be a bit of a blunt instrument?"

Asked if he thought Downing Street was overreacting, he said: "They are damned if they do and damned if they don't... the Government is in a difficult situation."

08:01 AM

JCVI member 'keeping Christmas plans open' amid omicron uncertainty

A member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said she is keeping her Christmas plans "open", amid concerns that the new omicron variant could derail the festive period.

Dr Maggie Wearmouth, a GP and member of the JCVI, said medics were "keeping our fingers crossed" that boosting people's immunity through more jabs would deal with the Omicron variant, adding that vaccines work against the dominant Delta strain.

She told LBC radio: "We don't have the answer for absolutely everything and we would be accused of complacency if we didn't warn people and we didn't do this while we were waiting the few weeks while we had the scientific data."

Asked about her own Christmas plans, she said: "I'm keeping them open, I have to say."

07:58 AM

Government 'falling well short' of booster target, says Labour MP

The Government is "falling well short" of the booster jab numbers needed to keep people safe and Christmas on track, Labour's new shadow health secretary has said.

Wes Streeting, who was promoted in this week's reshuffle, told LBC: "We said to the Government they need to get around half a million booster jobs delivered a day - they have been falling well short of that.

"In terms of this new push, we will get behind it, we will encourage people to volunteer, we will encourage people to take booster jabs."

Asked about whether people should change Christmas plans, Mr Streeting added: "I don't want people to change their plans. That's the brunt of it. I don't want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas.

"I don't want ministers turning up in the House of Commons in a couple of weeks time telling people to change their plans at the 11th hour because they didn't do everything that they possibly could, so that's got to be the focus now.

"I hope people have a very Merry Christmas and the Government's got to do everything it can to make sure that happens."

07:56 AM

Go to Christmas parties - but take a Covid test first, Health Secretary says

Sajid Javid has once again played down comments made by Dr Jenny Harries, who yesterday suggested that people should avoid unnecessary socialising in light of the omicron variant.

The Health Secretary told Times Radio people should continue with the plans they had prior to the emergence of the Covid strain, but urged people to get a booster jab.

He added that he would take a test if he was going to a party with "three or four hundred people".

07:54 AM

No need to change Christmas plans over omicron, says Sajid Javid

People do not need to change their plans for Christmas due to concerns about the omicron variant, Sajid Javid has said.

The Health Secretary told Sky News: "I think people should continue to behave in the way they were planning to behave over Christmas. I don't think there is any need to change those plans."

Asked if people should take a Covid test before attending Christmas parties, Mr Javid said: "I would."

07:39 AM

Good Morning

New Covid rules on self-isolation were last night enshrined in law until March, as Tory MPs warned Boris Johnson that restricting freedoms was a path “towards hell”.

The regulations forcing people to isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who has the omicron variant or risk a fine of up to £10,000 - even if they are fully vaccinated - will not expire until March 24.

The measure prompted a major revolt of 33 Tory MPs, including former Conservative cabinet ministers Greg Clark, Jeremy Wright and Esther McVey, as well as Mark Harper, the former chief whip.

Here is today's front page.

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