3 min read
New “simplified” coronavirus restrictions announced by Boris Johnson has left one constituency operating under two different sets of rules.
The prime minister revealed on Monday that a “small part” of High Peak in Derbyshire would join other areas of England, including Greater Manchester, under mid-level restrictions which ban household mixing in indoor settings.
The area’s Conservative MP, Robert Largan, later posted on social media that the more stringent restrictions would apply to Glossopdale area only.
The rest of the constituency, which is home to about 72,000 people, will remain under lower level tier one restrictions, including the ‘rule of six’ and 10pm hospitality curfew.
Mr Johnson said the new curbs had been brought in to simplify rules nationally, after local leaders complained of discrepencies in different regions with similar levels of infection.
But several MPs complained that their areas had been wrongly categorised – including Derek Twigg in Halton, which will be put under the toughest level three measures alongside Merseyside as a whole from Wednesday.
“Halton has a lower rate of infection than a number of other areas that are not in the highest restricton rate,” he said.
The Prime Minister responded: “Our objective remains unchanged, which is to get the R down…whilst keeping education open and keeping our economy going.”
Jane Stevenson, Wolverhampton North East MP, who was elected in 2019 in a former “red wall” seat, told the Prime Minister in the Commons she was disappointed that Wolverhampton “has been lumped into the tier two system” despite protest from all three MPs and the local councils.
She said: “My fantastic pubs and restaurants have done everything asked of them and now because they’re in tier two they face no financial support at all and a devastating effect on their viability.”
The prime minister said the government’s Job Support Scheme is available to people in her constituency who are open but not able to trade as they normally would.
Another Tory MP in a former red-wall seat, Dehenna Davison, MP for Bishop Auckland, said pub owners in her constituency were concerned about different households not being able to meet in pubs and the impact of that on their business.
She asked the PM to lift the restrictions as soon as feasibly possible.
Johnson said businesses could also take advantage of the current business rate cut, as well as the Job Support Scheme.
Phillip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said the prime minister should trust the British people to act responsibility and that individuals make better decisions for themselves, rather than the state.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “deeply sceptical that the government actually has a plan to get control of this virus”.
“It was less than three weeks ago – 22 September – the prime minister came to this House to announce new restrictions,” he added.
“He said then that the measures he was introducing would ‘curb the number of daily infections’. And were ‘carefully judged to achieved the maximum reduction in the R number’.
“That has not happened. Those measures have not worked. We would not be here today if they had.”
Murkowski to back Barrett for Supreme Court, despite opposing GOP process
Sen. Lisa Murkowski will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite her opposition to moving forward in an election year.
The Alaska Republican said Saturday she will split her votes on Barrett. She will vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday to advance her nomination over a filibuster, due to her longstanding objection to confirming a justice so close to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
But based on the merits of Barrett’s credentials for the job, she’s a ‘yes.’
Tension Has Escalated Between Tory MPs And Marcus Rashford Ahead Of A Vote On Free School Meals
4 min read
Tories must face up to their “conscience” today on a vote on extending free school meals over the holidays, Labour has claimed, as footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford ramped up the pressure on politicians to back it.
The challenge from shadow children’s minister Tulip Siddiq came after another difficult morning for the government as Manchester United star Rashford said he was “paying close attention” to the vote and then got into a Twitter spat with Tory MP Steve Baker over who has the power to introduce the free meals.
Moments later Tory backbencher Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot in Devon, broke ranks to say she would be supporting Labour’s motion on extending the free school meals until next Easter. Education select committee chair Conservavtive Robert Halfon has urged the government to work with Rashford.
When asked at Prime Minister’s Questions to back the proposal by Labour, Boris Johnson said the government wanted to use the benefits system to support children in the hoildays.
“I want to make sure we continue to support families thoughout the crisis so they have the cash available to feed their kids as they need to do,” he said.
Earlier this week government minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that struggling families can claim Universal Credit and that many parents do not like being labelled as being on ‘free school meals’ instead preferring to pay a modest sum of money to a holiday club to provide food.
Siddiq told PoliticsHome: “A lot of the Tories, Don Valley, Bishop Aukland and places like that they’re all a little bit worried. It’s the kind of thing that can be used against them in their patches.
“Even if they don’t walk through the lobbies with us tonight that they put a lot of pressure on the prime minister. And that’s how it happened last time.
“I know it’s not easy to break the whip but some votes are a matter of conscience and this is one of them.
“We’re going to be facing the toughest winter of a generation, there’s coronavirus, the end of the furlough scheme – children are in for a tough ride. Why can’t we just do one last thing for parents so they don’t have to worry?”
She said some Tories she had spoken to directly in Parliament on Tuesday were sympathetic to the issue but they did not want to break the whip.
The vouchers were introduced for the poorest families in August after significant pressure from Rashford. The England striker said today that the situation for children is now worse than in the summer.
The vote at 7pm is on a Labour motion calling on the government to continue directly funding free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021. They say it would prevent a million children going hungry.
Rashford tweeted that he was paying close attention to the Commons today and to those who are willing to “turn a blind eye” to the needs of our most vulnerable children.
He wrote: “2.2M of them who currently qualify for Free School Meals. 42% newly registered. Not to mention the 1.5M children who currently don’t qualify.”
He then got into an disagreement with MP Steve Baker who said Rashford was the one with all the power to make the change on free school meals because he has more Twitter followers that he does, despite Baker being a politician for the ruling Conservative party.
Baker said instead Universal Credit could be boosted to try and help families..
Morris, who was elected in 2010 said that she would vote against her own party tonight because of the economic fall out for people in her constituency.
She tweeted: “The ongoing pandemic has had a heavy impact on many across Teignbridge, bringing with it significant economic difficulties for many. This is why I am supporting the motion calling for the continuation of direct funding for FSM over school holidays until Easter 2021.
“This time-limited measure is a perfectly sensible response as we deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19. Longer-term I believe it is right that those eligible should be supported through the Holidays & Activities Food Programme and the Universal Credit system.”
Trump comment on ‘blowing up’ Nile Dam angers Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s prime minister has said his country “will not cave in to aggressions of any kind” after President Donald Trump suggested Egypt could destroy a controversial Nile dam.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at the centre of a long-running dispute involving Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.
Mr Trump said Egypt would not be able to live with the dam and might “blow up” the construction.
Ethiopia sees the US as siding with Egypt in the dispute.
The US announced in September that it would cut some aid to Ethiopia after it began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.
Why is the dam disputed?
Egypt relies for the bulk of its water needs on the Nile and is concerned supplies could be cut off and its economy undermined as Ethiopia takes control of the flow of Africa’s longest river.
Once complete, the $4bn (£3bn) structure on the Blue Nile in western Ethiopia will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project.
The speed with which Ethiopia fills up the dam will govern how severely Egypt is affected – the slower the better as far as Cairo is concerned. That process is expected to take several years.
Sudan, further upstream than Egypt, is also concerned about water shortages.
Ethiopia, which announced the start of construction in 2011, says it needs the dam for its economic development.
Negotiations between the three countries were being chaired by the US, but are now overseen by the African Union.
What did the Ethiopian PM say?
PM Abiy Ahmed did not address Mr Trump’s remarks directly, but there appears to be little doubt what prompted his robust comments.
Ethiopians would finish the dam, he vowed.
“Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind,” he said. “Ethiopians have never kneeled to obey their enemies, but to respect their friends. We won’t do it today and in the future.”
Threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law”.
Why did Trump get involved?
The president was on the phone to Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu in front of reporters at the White House on Friday.
The occasion was Israel and Sudan’s decision to agree diplomatic relations in a move choreographed by the US.
The subject of the dam came up and Mr Trump and Mr Hamdok expressed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.
But Mr Trump also said “it’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way”.
He continued: “And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”
What is the state of the negotiations?
Mr Abiy maintains that the negotiations have made more progress since the African Union began mediation.
But there are fears that Ethiopia’s decision to start filling the reservoir could overshadow hopes of resolving key areas, such what happens during a drought and how to resolve future disputes.
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