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The former minister Simon Clarke is leading calls by Tory MPs for the country not to be put back into a full lockdown amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Middlesborough MP made a “plea for proportionality” to Matt Hancock in his first contribution to the Commons since standing down as a local government minister earlier this month.

Speaking to PoliticsHome he said: “I’ve seen constituents commit suicide during the first lockdown. When you get those emails it’s quite sobering about the human cost about what it is that we’re demanding of people.

“And it made me reflect that we should lever do so lightly, and that frankly if there are intervening measures before we get to those – then I would strongly hope we would exhaust all of them.”

Speaking ahead of a statement by Boris Johnson on Tuesday, where he is expected to introduce tighter restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Mr Clarke warned: “there are very, very significant economic tradeoffs” to such measures.

He is calling for a “graduated tradeoff” of freedom “rather than fire off all our artillery now”, adding it will be “a very long winter if we moved into lockdown now”.

Although he is in favour of local lockdowns he added: “But I just think a suite of national measures which set the economy even further back, and really do impose massive restrictions on people’s quality of life, are to be avoided as such time as they are totally unavoidable.”

Mr Clarke urged his former colleagues to “maintain fundamental liberty for people at this stage of autumn” after suggestions it may take six months to tackle the virus.

With the ‘rule of six’ only recently introduced he called for “other rules kick in before preventing households to mix”, saying “things which cut across basic human freedoms and basic human needs are to be avoided until they are an absolute last-ditch option”.

A growing number of Tory MPs have also expressed concern over what they see as a growing lack of parliamentary scrutiny over Coronavirus legislation. 

Peter Bone MP told PoliticsHome: “I think there’s a growing number of MPs who think you shouldn’t be making these significant regulations without parliamentary approval.”

He said the powers were handed over via emergency legislation but it was when there wasn’t “a functioning Parliament”, at the time, and MPs should not get a chicane to defat, amend and vote on them.

As an example he said the “rule of six” would likely have still been passed, but perhaps amended not to include children or a month-long sunset clause.

Asked whether Number 10 had been ignoring its own MPs, Mr Bone said: “Well I think they get used to it, they got used to in an emergency just doing it ,and they’ve continued. There is a drift within government to a more presidential type of government.

Clarke’s call to avoid lockdown was backed up in the Commons by the ex-transport secretary Chris Grayling, who said he did not believe there is a case for a new national lockdown.

He told the Commons: “Given the huge consequences of this virus for people in our communities on their mental health, particularly the younger generation who are paying a very heavy price, can I say to him that given those regional variations – and in the full knowledge of all the pressures that he is facing – I do not believe the case for further national measures has yet been made.”

Mr Hancock replied: “He’s absolutely right that there are some parts of the country where the number of cases is still thankfully very low and so the balance between what we do nationally and what we do locally is as important as the balance in terms of what we do overall.”

Another former minister – Sir Edward Leigh – said public consent for lockdowns is “draining away”.

Addressing the House of Commons, he said: “The trouble with authoritarianism is that’s profoundly inimical to civil liberties, it is also increasingly incompetent, it relies on acquiescence and acquiescence for lockdowns, particularly national ones, is draining away.

“If you tell a student not to go to a pub, they will congregate in rooms, even worse.”

Mr Hancock said in his reply: “As a Conservative, I believe in as much freedom as possible consistent with not harming others.”

But fellow Tory MP Pauline Latham called for more Parliamentary scrutiny of such decisions, saying: “Could I remind the Secretary of State, I think he’ll be going to a Cobra meeting tomorrow, could he explain to the Prime Minister that we actually live in a democracy not a dictatorship and we would like a debate in this House?”

Mr Hancock replied: “Yes, there absolutely will be a debate in this House on the measures… that we have to use. We do have to move very fast.”

The chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, Sir Graham Brady, then asked the minister if: “Balancing the measures to tackle Covid with the other health consequences such as cancer patients going undiagnosed or not treated in time and the economic and social consequences is a political judgment?”

He added: “And does he further agree with me that political judgments are improved by debate and scrutiny?”

Mr Hancock replied: “Yes I do and I do come to this despatch box as often as possible. I’m very sorry that I wasn’t able to come on Friday for Friday’s decision but the House wasn’t sitting.”

He added: “The more scrutiny the better is my attitude.”

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Pelosi to run for speaker again if Democrats keep the House

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday she’ll seek another term as speaker should Democrats keep the House majority in the Nov. 3 elections.

Asked directly by host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether she will run again, Pelosi responded: “Yes, I am. But let me also say that we have to win the Senate.”

The California Democrat, who is 80, first served as speaker from 2007 to 2011 — becoming the first woman in history to hold the post — and was reelected to it in January 2019.

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Andy Burnham Has Blamed Boris Johnson For The Failure To Reach A Deal For Greater Manchester Over A Tier 3 Lockdown

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Andy Burnham has blamed the government for being unwilling to offer enough financial support to Greater Manchester


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Andy Burnham has blamed Boris Johnson for the collapse in talks over a cash settlement for Greater Manchester as it faces the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

And the region’s mayor has set up a Commons clash over Tier 3 lockdowns by saying he looks to “Parliament to intervene and make a judgement on a fair financial framework”. Labour later said it would force a vote over the restrictions.

In a press conference shortly after it was revealed the government will impose the tightest measures on Greater Manchester without local approval, he said the government had not offered enough to protect people through the “punishing” winter ahead.

Negotiations continued beyond the government’s self-imposed 12pm deadline today, but finally broke down without an agreement to provide extra financial support for the region.

A statement from communities secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed the outcome, with explicit criticism of the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.

“I’m disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the mayor has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control in Greater Manchester and reach an agreement with the government,” Mr Jenrick said.

“I have therefore advised the Prime Minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement.”

But Mr Burnham hit back over the funding for businesses and employees affected by a Tier 3 lockdown, which will see all pubs that cannot operate as a restaurant shut for a minimum of 28 days, along with betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas.

He said local leaders had calculated they needed £90million in extra support, around £15million a month until the end of the financial year.

Having dropped that to £75million during the negotiations in the past week, Mr Burnham told reporters they were prepared to reduce it again to £65million – a figure he described as the “bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship” – but Number 10 would not go above £60million. 

“That is what we believe we needed to prevent poverty, to prevent hardship, to prevent homelessness,” he said.

“Those were the figures that we had – not what we wanted – but what we needed to prevent all of those things from happening.

“But the Government refused to accept this and at 2pm today they walked away from negotiations.

“In summary, at no point today were we offered enough to protect the poorest people in our communities through the punishing reality of the winter to come.

“Even now I am still willing to do a deal but it cannot be on the terms that the Government offered today.”

The government has said it had sought to work with the mayor, council leaders and MPs in the region to find a mutually agreeable solution, but has also repeatedly said the prime minister has the power to unilaterally move the area from “high” to the “very high” category.

It has expressed fears about compliance if the restrictions were not endorsed by the local authorities, but appears willing to act now after projections released by Number 10 yesterday suggested Greater Manchester’s intensive care capacity would be filled within days.

It is now unclear what level of financial help the Treasury will hand over to enter Tier 3, as any lump sum was set to be on top of a £22million payment to pay for additional test and trace services and enhanced enforcement.

This equates to around £8 per person, which is proportionate to the per capita deals struck by Merseyside and Lancashire when they went into the “very high” category last week.

Mr Burnham was highly critical of the process, saying: “I don’t believe we can proceed as a country on this basis through the pandemic, by grinding communities down through punishing financial negotiations.

“We are asking a lot of the public at this difficult time and we need to carry them with us, not crush their spirits.

“We need national unity, and that is why I now look to Parliament to intervene and make a judgement on a fair financial framework for tier three lockdowns, because make no mistake, this was not just about Greater Manchester, all parts of the country may find themselves in a tier three lockdown at some point this winter.

“And what we need to be able to say to people living in those areas, is that they have a guarantee that they can apply for, should they need it, 80% of their wages for their income.

“That is the least that we owe to those people. The money that businesses will be able to rely on to survive. We should be setting out fair financial frameworks.”

In response to the news Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The collapse of these talks is a sign of Government failure.

“The Conservatives have been treating local communities, particularly in the Midlands, North West and North East, and their leaders with contempt.

“Labour recognise the need for stricter public health restrictions. However, that must be accompanied by extra financial support.

“Labour will continue to support Andy Burnham in the fight for people’s jobs, lives and livelihoods.”

And William Wragg, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove in south Manchester, tweeted: The sense of failure is overwhelming.

“I shall avoid political comment until I have heard Matt Hancock’s statement in the House of Commons this evening.

“Leadership is required from everybody. Trust is placed in us all and that is the privilege of public office.”



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Dr Fauci: Covid vaccine result could come by end of 2020

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Dr Anthony Fauci says a Covid-19 vaccine could be available in the United States before the end of the year if proved to be “safe and effective”.

The US government scientist told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the limited first doses would go to people according to a set prioritisation – and that it would take “several months into 2021” before it was more widely available.

He added that the vaccine wouldn’t replace the need for public health measures to be in place to help protect people from the virus for a considerable time.

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