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Boris Johnson news – live: UK to offer new route to citizenship for Hong Kongers, as Keir Starmer says PM ‘flippant’ on lockdown easing

Follow the latest updates

Starmer says PM ‘flippant’ on lockdown easing

The UK will offer some Hong Kong residents a new route to British citizenship after Beijing imposed a draconian new “national security” law, Boris Johnson has confirmed. He and, earlier, Dominic Raab, said the new law violated the city’s autonomy which had been agreed when the UK handed control to China in 1997.

Mr Johnson faced a grilling at PMQs as Keir Starmer said he was “blind to the risks” of easing lockdown. Sir Keir blamed the prime minister for scenes of crowded beaches last week and suggested the impending reopening of pubs – on a Saturday – was cause for concern.

Earlier, the PM issued a plea for Israel to abandon plans to annex more Palestinian territory in the West Bank, warning it will risk the country’s security in the long run and that the UK will regard expansion as against international law.


Local councils face 'perfect storm' from Covid and funding gap, Starmer warns

Local authorities are facing a double whammy of coronavirus and a massive £10bn "black hole" in their finances, Labour has warned.

Sir Keir Starmer is to tell the Local Government Association's annual conference today that he will commit a future Labour administration to building a new relationship with councils.

Sir Keir will also use his online address to reaffirm his commitment to replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber representing "the nations and regions" of the UK.

"A Labour government would win power in order to hand it back to the nations, regions, cities and towns across our country," he will say.

"We would give local government a much bigger say over investment and services, not through plans devised by someone in an office on Whitehall, but ones created and rooted in communities, so that they truly serve the people.

"We would put local government, its power and its innovation, straight at the heart of Westminster by replacing the House of Lords with a democratic second chamber representing the nations and regions of the UK.

"And we would give councillors, communities and people on the front line in our public services a bigger say over the decisions that affect them."

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was giving councils "unprecedented support" through the pandemic with a £27bn package of help.

"This government is committed to levelling up prosperity and opportunity across the country," a spokesperson said. 

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 07:35

Johnson to face questions over Leicester lockdown

Boris Johnson is expected to face a string of questions over his government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, f,ollowing confusion over the reimposition of lockdown controls in Leicester.

Ministers are being asked whether they were too slow to act following a spike in cases in the east Midlands city.

Sir Keir Starmer - who faces Mr Johnson in the Commons at Prime Minister's Questions at midday - has said people in Leicester were "crying out" for answers and suggested the Government should have moved quicker.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby criticised the government and Public Health England for delays in sharing case and testing data which showed how the disease was spreading.

Lizzie Dearden has more on the situation in Leicester:

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 08:06

Labour warns Johnson plan could see 'substandard' homes created

Boris Johnson's plans to ease some planning restrictions as part of his "build build build" drive could allow developers to create substandard housing, a senior Labour MP has warned.

Clive Betts, the chairman of the Commons housing, communities and local government committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We need to build 300,000 homes a year in this country to keep pace with the demand and remove housing shortages - I don't think this is really going to add much to it.

"What you could do [under the PM's plans] is build some very substandard homes which aren't really fit to live in.

"If you remove the planning restrictions and roles then of course those sorts of homes, inadequate homes, could be built, we don't want those sort of homes adding to the stock in this country.

"What we should've seen yesterday, if we're really going to get Britain building, is a big injection of cash and grants into councils and housing associations.

"We know if they get planning permission to build they will build them because they will build houses that people can afford and really need."

Rob Merrick has more on the government's plans here:

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 08:20

Review 'discriminatory' lockdown fines, MPs say

More than 40 MPs and peers are calling for a review of over 18,000 fines given to people for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules in England and Wales, writes Lizzie Dearden.

A letter sent to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said the penalties had been handed out in an “inconsistent and discriminatory” way, amid racial and regional disproportionality.

Police leaders have commissioned analysis looking at why black and Asian people have been fined at a much higher rate than white people for breaking lockdown rules, but the letter said that explanations given so far have been “unconvincing and unevidenced”.

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 08:30

Your morning politics briefing

A Bristol pub named after slave trader Edward Colston has temporarily changed its title to “Ye Olde Pubby Mcdrunkface”. The boozer formerly known as The Colston Arms wants the public to help come up with a permanent rebrand, writes Adam Forrest.

Boris Johnson is not a big fan of revising history. But he does appear to be fond of sprucing up ye olde spending commitments and calling them new. The prime minister has been accused of rebranding existing infrastructure plans as part of a coronavirus response – something he’s sure to face a grilling on at PMQs today.

Welcome to The Independent’s daily Inside Politics briefing.

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 08:40

Raab to address Hong Kong situation

The foriegn secretary will make an oral statement in the Commons after PMQs today about the situation in Hong Kong.

Beijing's draconian new "national security" law has come into effect, sparking protests.

Images from the Agence France Press news agency showed police pepper-spraying journalists, while one reporter tweeted that she had been targeted with a water cannon.

One arrest has apparently already been made under the new law.

Some of the UK's objections to the law are reported in Adam Withnall's story below. It's likely we'll hear similar sentiments from Dominic Raab this afternoon.

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 08:50

'I'm not a communist' - Sharma

The business secretary has ruled out the (to be fair, unlikely) possibility he is a closet communist.

Alok Sharma echoed Boris Johnson's own declaration that he was "not a communist" despite the state intervention he promised on Tuesday.

"I am not a communist, I am what the prime minister is, which is a one-nation Conservative," Mr Sharma told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Sharma also said the best way to support jobs was to reopen the economy. "The support in the job retention scheme is being provided until October," he said.

"But the best way of providing support for business is to open up the economy, and we have been doing that in a phased and cautious manner."

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 09:05

'Lives will be lost' through poor data management

Lives will be lost in fresh outbreaks of coronavirus because local health chiefs are being starved of the data they need, doctors’ leaders are warning, writes Rob Merrick.

The British Medical Association has hit out at the failure to provide local leaders with the addresses and workplaces of people becoming infected – preventing them from taking swift action.

The data gap has been partly blamed for the delay in imposing the local lockdown in Leicester, where it was thought the city had recorded just 80 new Covid-19 cases between 13-26 June.

The data confusion is being blamed on the separate “pillars” system set up by Mr Hancock, in his ill-fated attempted to hit his 100,000 daily testing target in April.

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 09:20

UK will not accept Israeli annexation of Palestinian land, Johnson warns

Boris Johnson has warned that Britain will not accept Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory, which is being pushed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The PM said he believed the plan would work against Israel's long-term interests, and would be a violation of international law.

In an op-ed for Ynet News, Mr Johnson wrote: "As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.

"Annexation would put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world.

"Israel’s enemies would seize upon it, and use it against those in the Middle East who want to see progress.

"Annexation would represent a violation of international law.  It would also be a gift to those who want to perpetuate the old stories about Israel."

The UK will not recognise any changes to demarcation lines drawn up in 1967, except where they are accepted by both sides, the PM added.

Rob Merrick has more:

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 09:35

Exclusive: Government's new fire safety plan 'funds just 12 new officials'

The government's new Fire Safety Bill would fund just 12 new officials to help cover safety inspections in two million homes, firefighters have claimed, writes Jon Stone.

The Fire Brigades Union accused the government of risking another Grenfell-style catastrophe and said the 951 inspectors currently in the field needed to be doubled.

The new legislation would require inspections on cladding, balconies, windows and firedogs in blocks of flats, with as many as 2.2 million flats covered by the legislation, according to ministers' estimates.

Jon Sharman1 July 2020 09:50

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