Saturday, December 05, 2020

Cognitive dissonance on trade with the EU.

There appear to be nearly as many opinions about whether Britain should sign a trade deal with the EU as there are people in Britain.

Some of these make some kind of sense whether I personally agree with them or not.

Other combinations of views - from both the Leave side and the Remain side - represent such an extreme cognitive dissonance. 


Let's look first at rational and irrational views from the hardline Brexiteers.

There are people on the Brexit side who argue that the EU has offered the UK preposterous terms. Clearly, this is very different from what most of these people were predicting before the referendum, when they were telling us that a trade deal between Britain and the countries remaining in the EU would be the easiest trade deal ever, but writing as someone who was always pessimistic about whether it would be easy to get a fantastic trade deal from the EU, I must say that the EU negotiators have taken an even harder and less reasonable line on some issues than I thought they would. 

I always thought that the Brexiteers were living in cloud cuckoo land expecting the EU to offer Canada +++ but the reasons given by the EU for not offering a deal equivalent to the one given to Canada were ridiculous.

Whether you actually think this or not, whoever is running the negotiations on the British side has to formally take the position that Britain should walk away rather than sign a really bad deal. Nobody should ever get themselves into the position of being in a negotiation where you can't walk away, because then you have no leverage at all.

The Brexiteer position which makes no sense at all, however., is that that "Leave" vote was a mandate for no deal. There was nothing on the ballot paper which said that "Leave" means "no trade deal."  And the leave campaign didn't say before the vote that a vote to leave meant a no deal Brexit - on the contrary, they promised that it would be easy to do a trade deal.

But it is not only on the Leave side that some people are displaying a complete absence of logic.

Let's consider the three propositions currently put forward by different hardline Remain camps.

Some people on the Remain side argue that "No deal" is the worst possible outcome for Britain. You can make a case for that, and I would have a great deal of sympathy for it.

Other people on the Remain side argue that you have to see whether a deal is any good before deciding whether to vote for it. There is a case for that view, and it applies as much to Remainders as to Leavers that it is not in Britain's interests for the other party to the negotiation to think that Britain will sign up to any deal no matter how bad it is.

A third group of Remainers argue that their side should vote against any deal because they refuse to be participants in Brexit. I am sorry to see some people who I would have expected to have more sense. such as Matthew Paris in today's Times, going along with this insanity.

Brexit has already happened. If the government comes back with a deal, parliament will not be presented with a choice between the deal they get and some fantasy perfect deal, nor between this deal and not leaving the EU after all. There will be two alternatives - one will be the specific real deal which is actually on the table, and the other will be a no deal Brexit.

Either "no deal" is the worst outcome, in which case one should vote for the deal, or the deal on offer is worse than a "no deal" Brexit, in which case one should vote against it.

To simultaneously argue that a "no deal" outcome is that the worst possible outcome, and that one should consider voting against a deal, is cognitive dissonance - e.g. it is supporting incompatible positions. Yet the shadow cabinet representative on "Any Questions" last night and today managed to embrace both those positions and she is far from being the only one.

Parliament needs to think through the choices Britain actually faces.



Carol of the day: "Angels from the realms of glory"

The 2019 election: one year on

As we fast approach the one year anniversary of our historic election last December, the Conservatives continue to deliver on our ambitious manifesto, which set our vision for this country that will level up opportunity and unlock the potential of every region of the UK.  

  • Despite the extraordinary challenges Britain faced this year, we have not wavered from delivering on our election promises, putting levelling up at the centre of our economic recovery, investing in skills, jobs and infrastructure across the UK as we begin to rebuild our economy.
     
  • Last year the British people put their faith in us, and we are determined to show them that the bold platform they elected us on is being realised; from providing more nurses, doctors and police officers, increasing education funding, and investing in the infrastructure that supports our world-class public services like schools and hospitals which people rely on every day.
     
  • And as Britain leaves the European Union on 31 December, the Conservatives we have delivered on our promise to take back control of our borders by introducing a new points based-immigration system which will attract the best and brightest from around the world, while encouraging British employers to train and invest in the UK’s workforce.

Planning reforms update

This week the Housing Secretary announced new planning reforms which will speed up the building of the schools and hospitals we promised the British people - which will help protect and create thousands of high skilled jobs in the process.

  • This new fast track will enable public service buildings including schools, universities and hospitals to be delivered at pace through a faster, more streamlined planning process, and speed up local decision making so our planning system works for our public services and the communities they serve.
      
  • Building on the £20 billion of investment in new homes and the £4 billion Levelling Up Fund promised in last week’s Spending Review, these reforms will also help address the housing shortage by allowing commercial premises to be converted into new high quality homes and give high streets across the country a new lease of life by transforming unused and derelict buildings, while making the most of our brownfield land.
     
  • Through these reforms to England’s outdated planning system we can transform communities and support our economic recovery, as the Conservatives deliver on the trust the British people put in us to provide the high-quality homes and public services our country deserves.

Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday - a chance for us to show our support for small businesses across the country.

  • Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we do not underestimate how challenging 2020 has been. 
     
  • That’s why the government has provided an unprecedented package of support – from stepping in to pay people’s wages to offering grants and loans that have been vital for companies facing reduced cashflow. And as we kickstart our economy, we will deliver a once-in-a-generation investment in the infrastructure businesses rely on.
     
  • Small businesses will be key in Britain's economic recovery and plans to build back better after coronavirus, as we continue to make Britain the best place in the world to start, run and grow a business.

Quote of the day 5th December 220


 

Friday, December 04, 2020

Carol of the day: "Carol of the Bells" (for 12 cellos) - The Piano Guys

A carol with a difference - a mashup by Steven Sharp Nelson & Al van der Beek of the "Carol of the Bells" (attributed to Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych,) and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" performed by the Piano Guys on twelve cellos!

Action to reduce human-made climate change

Today the Prime Minister set out an ambitious new climate target to reduce UK emissions, putting Britain us on the path to achieving net zero by 2050 in a way which will help create and support thousands of green jobs in our industrial heartlands and help secure the health of the planet for generations to come.  

  • Tackling climate change requires a global effort, and as the first major country to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050 Britain is leading the way. This announcement comes ahead of the UK co-hosting the Climate Ambition Summit later this month which will call on countries to take similar ambitious steps ahead of COP26 hosted by the UK next year.  
     
  • Britain will today pledging ourselves to reducing the UK’s emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels – a target that is among the highest in the world and commits us to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the fastest rate of any major economy so far, and in the past decade, we have cut emissions by more than any similar country. 
     
  • This announcement builds on the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution which will allow us to end our contribution to climate change by 2050, and will create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled jobs across the whole UK, as we build back better and greener after coronavirus.  

Quote of the day 4th December 2020


 

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Carol of the day: The Zither Carol

Ending the live export of animals for slaughter

Today the Environment Secretary launched an eight week consultation on ending the live export of animals for slaughter – which we have been unable to do under EU rules – the first step towards delivering our manifesto commitment to end this unnecessary practice and strengthen animal welfare.

  • As we leave the EU, the Conservative government is committed to strengthening existing standards and to improving the welfare of animals at all stages at life.
     
  • That is why the government is bringing forward proposals to end live exports of animals for slaughter, delivering on our promise to end this unnecessary practice at the first opportunity once we are no longer bound by EU rules.
     
  • This will ensure that animals are spared stress prior to slaughter and enhance the UK’s reputation as a place where animals are reared humanely and in a sustainable way.

Support for students, part two - fair exams

The Education Secretary has unveiled a package of exceptional measures to support students taking exams and other assessments next year, to ensure they are as fair as possible and students are not disadvantaged by the unprecedented disruption to their studies caused by the pandemic.

  • Exams are the fairest way to judge a student’s performance and the government has made keeping schools and colleges open a national priority throughout the pandemic.
     
  • In recognition of the challenges faced by students, exams will be different next year - grades will be more generous, students will be given advance notice of some topic areas, and steps will be taken to ensure every student receives a grade, even if they miss a paper due to self-isolation or illness.
     
  • We should all be determined to prevent young people’s education being hindered by the pandemic and by announcing these measures now the government aims to give young people the clarity and confidence they need to achieve every success.

Support for students, part one - getting them home safely for Christmas

As I have two students in my own family who are about to travel home for Christmas I am pleased to see that the government is taking steps to make sure that students can travel home for Chrfistmas in a COVID-safe way.

The government has published new guidance setting out how students should return to universities after Christmas in a safe way to protect their communities and reduce the spread of the virus.

  • The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is the primary concern at the start of term.
     
  • Working with universities, the department for Education and has developed plans to stagger the return of students after Christmas and will ensure every student is offered a rapid coronavirus test upon their return to help identify and isolate those who are asymptomatic but could spread the virus. A new £20 million fund will also help students most in need of extra support.
     
  • Students have had to make many sacrifices this year, but these measures will allow them to continue their studies while controlling the virus.


Quote of the day 3rd Dcember


 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Visits to care homes

From today, new guidance and testing will allow care home residents in all tiers to be able to see their families again this Christmas period – allowing the reuniting of families while ensuring we keep our loved ones safe. 

  • We all know how difficult it has been for people in care homes and their families to be apart for so long. The separation has been painful but has helped protect residents and staff from this deadly virus. 
     
  • Thanks to significant increases in testing capacity, over a million tests can be sent out providers over the next month – allowing friends and family to visit relatives in care homes if they receive a negative result prior to the visit. Alongside this testing capacity, new guidance will be put in place, requiring visitors to wear appropriate PPE and follow other infection control measures during their visit. 
     
  • Thanks to the unprecedented strides made in testing, these indoor visits to care homes across England can now take place safely – balancing the need to control infection while allowing the reuniting of long separated families during this festive season.

New Tiers start today

 Last night, national restrictions in England ended as our new localised tier system came into force – helping to ensure we keep the virus under control to save lives and protect the NHS.   

  • While infection levels have started to fall, they are still at a high level, and the pressure on hospitals remains severe. 
     
  • This tougher tiered system is necessary to keep the virus under control, avoid overwhelming the NHS or prevent another national lockdown which is more damaging and restrictive than the tiered system. 
     
  • Last night, national restrictions ended, as the government promised they would, and moving to the strengthened tiers set out in the Covid-19 Winter Plan.
     
  • Last night, the Prime Minister confirmed:

    • This is not another lockdown, or renewal of the previous measures in England. 
       
    • From today, everyone in England, including those in tier 3, will be free to leave their homes for any reason.
       
    • Shops open for Christmas - as are hairdressers, nail bars, gyms, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.
       
    • In every tier, you will be able to meet others in parks and in public gardens, subject to the Rule of Six. 
       
    • There will be an opportunity to review all tier allocations at the first review point on 16 December.
       
    • The government will set out publicly the circumstances that need to change in each region for it to be considered to move down a tier.
       
    • The government will continue to support hospitality and hard-hit businesses, including a temporary relaxation in shop opening hours this Christmas and throughout January, allowing extended hours for shoppers on every high street Monday to Saturday. 
       
  • Although the approval of the first vaccine gives us hope, for now only by keeping the virus under control through these local measures will we be able to see friends and family over Christmas in a relatively safe way while managing the threat the virus still poses. As mass testing and vaccines are rolled out through winter and into the spring, the need for even localised restrictions will gradually reduce – and life can once again return closer to normality.

Carol of the day: In the bleak midwinter (Harold Darke tune)

Joke of the day 2nd December 2020

Earlier today a picture was posted of a number of top Nazis looking at an absolutely enormous artillery piece, and it was retweeted by Danny Boy (@InTheLionsDen_) with the caption 

"Do we think the Nazis were overcompensating for something?"

























This was my reply ....


       

Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine approval - further note

I have received the following briefing note about today's vaccine approval.

"Today  the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency formally authorised the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19 - allowing vaccinations to start taking place from next week. 

  • The protection vaccines could offer our nation has the potential to allow us to reclaim our lives and get our economies moving again. 
     
  • The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply, with the NHS standing ready to start vaccinating early next week. We have secured 40 million initial doses of this vaccine, with several million expected before the New Year.
     
  • Alongside mass testing, the vaccine can be rolled out through winter and into the spring, offering hope that need for localised restrictions will start to gradually reduce – and life can once again return closer to normality." 

Hallelujah! Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine approved

The best news we've had so far during this awful year: the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine which protects 95% of people against COVID-19 has been authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA). 

It is expected that 800,000 doses will be available from next week which is enough to protect 400,000 of the most vulnerable people. Millions more doses are on order. 

We cannot yet relax our guard and stop social distancing measures - it would just be too awful to catch COVID-19 and die from it now the end of the pandemic is finally in sight - but at least now every family struggling to cope, every business struggling to keep afloat knows that if we can keep going for a few more months there is light at the end of the tunnel - and that it isn't the headlights of an oncoming train. 

(Here is the Royal Choral Society's socially distanced performance of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah earlier this year.)



I'm feeling very emotional this morning: I'm not ashamed to admit that I broke down and cried with relief when I heard the news. The world's long nightmare is not over yet but it is coming to an end.

It is reported on the Guardian website this morning that the first doses of the vaccine will arrive in the coming days, according to the company. The UK has bought 40m doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to have 95% efficacy in its final trials.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: 

“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the MHRA to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.

“This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

“The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable. The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”

Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer added: 

“Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against Covid-19. This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK.

“As we anticipate further authorisations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world. With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.”

Although the vaccine has to be kept at -70C, the companies say it can be stored for up to five days in a fridge, at 2-8°C. The first priority groups for vaccination are care home residents, who may not be able to come to a vaccination centre, together with the staff who look after them. At fridge temperatures, it may be possible for the vaccine to be brought to them. Next in line will be the over-80s and NHS staff.

The trial data showed the vaccine had equal efficacy among younger volunteers and those over 65 who are most at risk from Covid. Gender, race and ethnicity also made no difference.

Pfizer and BioNTech say their combined manufacturing network has the potential to supply globally up to 50m vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3bn doses by the end of 2021.

The delivery of the UK’s 40m doses will start immediately. Health Secretary Matt Hancock expects 10m doses to arrive this year. Delivery will continue throughout 2020 and 2021 in stages “to ensure an equitable allocation of vaccines across the geographies with executed contracts.”

The US, which has ordered 100m doses, and Europe, which has bought 200m, are expected to approve the vaccine within weeks.

The MHRA has moved with unprecedented speed to grant emergency use authorisation within just a week, having received the final data from the companies on 23 November, but this does not mean that it has only had a week's scrutiny, because the authority has been carrying out a rolling approval process, scrutinising data from early trials as they came in.


Ugur Sahin, the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said that
 
“The emergency use authorisation in the UK will mark the first time citizens outside of the trials will have the opportunity to be immunised against Covid-19.” 

“We believe that the rollout of the vaccination programme in the UK will reduce the number of people in the high-risk population being hospitalised. Our aim is to bring a safe and effective vaccine upon approval to the people who need it. The data submitted to regulatory agencies around the world are the result of a scientifically rigorous and highly ethical research and development programme.”

Derek Gadd on boundary reform

If we are not to have fair constituency boundaries and not allow the return of the "rotten boroughs" which made a nonsense of British democracy before the great reform bill of the 1830s, we need to ahve impartial boundary reviews on a regular basis, and implement the results.

Unfortunately the events of the last decade show how easy it is for unscrupulous politicians who might lose out from an update of the boundaries to oppose whatever changes are on the table claiming to be fighting against "gerrymandering" when in fact what they are doing is implementing it.

The present parliamentary boundaries, first used in 2010, are based on demographic data which is nearly 20 years old. It is high time they were updated.

Derek Gadd has a good piece on "The Article here about the measures on the way though parliament which will give the impartial boundary commission the power to carry out regular reviews without further reference to politicians now and in the future.

This is a good thing. MPs are interested parties in parliamentary boundary reviews and should not have a vote on them.

As Derek Gadd writes  of the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill 2019-21 which is nearing the end of its passage through parliament, 

"It fixes the number of electors in each constituency, except for four island seats, to be within five per cent of a quota calculated by even distribution of electorates. But most important, it removes the need for Parliament to approve them. Once agreed by the commissions, they take force. They are final. Parliament has eventually faced up to its inability to resist the temptation to interfere. It has done the right thing and relinquished control. Parliamentary turkeys no longer have to vote for Christmas." 


   

Quote of the day 2nd December 2020


 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Introducing a points based immigration system

Britain's new Points-Based Immigration System opens for applications today, delivering on a key promise in the 2019 Conservative manifesto.

  • The British people have voted repeatedly for a points-based immigration system, and this bill delivers that.
     
  • Applications for the new skilled worker visa open today, meaning the brightest and the best from around the world can now apply to work in the UK from 1 January 2021. Routes are also being opened for those who have an exceptional talent or show exceptional promise in the fields of engineering, science, tech or culture.
     
  • This simple, effective and flexible system will ensure employers can recruit the skilled workers they need to drive our economy forwards, whilst also encouraging employers to train and invest in the UK’s workforce.

The Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament

 

The Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament

Here is the text of the PM's address to the House of Commons today.


"Mr Speaker, I beg to move that these Regulations now be approved.

 

And I want to begin by telling the House that I was hugely encouraged by a visit I paid only yesterday to a vaccine plant in North Wales

 

where I saw for myself the vials of one of seven vaccines backed by the UK Government

 

that could turn the tide of our struggle against Covid,

 

not just in this country but around the world.

 

It is the protection of those vaccines that could get our economies moving again,

 

and allow us to reclaim our lives.

 

And that one plant in Wrexham

 

could produce 300 million doses a year

 

and yesterday was the momentous day when it began to manufacture the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

 

And it was a very moving moment Mr Speaker when I talked to one of the brilliant young scientists there,

 

And she described the extraordinary moment for her in her life,

 

to be part of an enterprise that was she thought truly going to offer humanity a route out of this suffering.

 

But Mr Speaker, we have to be realistic,

 

And we have to accept that this vaccine is not here yet, no vaccine is here yet

 

and while all the signs are promising

 

and almost every scientist I’ve talked to agrees that the breakthrough will surely come

 

we do not yet have one that has gained regulatory approval.

 

We can’t be completely sure when the moment will arrive

 

and until then we cannot afford to relax,

 

especially during the cold months of winter.

 

The national measures which are now shortly ending in England

 

have eased the burden on the NHS and begun to reverse the advance of the virus.

 

Today, the R is back below 1

 

and the ONS survey is showing that signs of the infection rate are levelling off

 

and Imperial College London has found that the number of people with Covid has fallen by a third in England since 2nd November.

 

But while the virus has been contained, it has not been eradicated.

 

The latest ONS figures suggest that out of every 85 people in England, one has Coronavirus; far more than in the Summer

 

between 24th November and yesterday, 3,222 people across the UK lost their lives;

 

and despite the immense progress of the last four weeks,

 

our NHS remains under pressure, with hospitals in three regions – the South West, the North East and Yorkshire - all treating more Covid patients now than at the peak of the first wave.

 

So we can’t simply allow the current restrictions to expire for the reason he gives with no replacement whatever.

 

With the spread of the epidemic varying across the country, there remains a compelling case for regional tiers in England and indeed Mr Speaker a compelling necessity for regional tiers.

 

But I hope the House is clear what I am not asking for today.

 

This is not another lockdown,

 

nor is this the renewal of the existing measures in England.

 

The tiers that I am proposing would mean that from tomorrow

 

everyone in England

 

– including those in tier 3 –

 

will be free to leave their homes for any reason.

     

And when they do, they will find the shops open for Christmas,

 

the hairdressers open,

 

the nail bars open,

 

gyms and leisure centres, swimming pools open,

 

churches, synagogues, mosques and temples will be open for communal worship.

 

Organised outdoor sport will resume,

 

and in every tier you will be able to meet others in parks and in public gardens subject to the Rule of Six.

 

And every one of those things has been by necessity restricted until today.

 

Every one of them would be allowed again tomorrow.

 

Of course I accept that this is not a return to normality. I wish it were so.

 

But it is a bit closer to normality than the present restrictions.

 

And what we cannot do is lift all of the restrictions at once, or move too quickly, in such a way that the virus would begin to spread rapidly again.

 

That would be the surest way of endangering our NHS and forcing us into a new year lockdown, with all the costs that that would impose.

 

We all accept that the burden on the hospitality sector has been very great.

 

We feel this deeply, because our pubs, our hotels, restaurants they are in many ways the heart of the communities

   

And part of the fabric of our identity as a country

 

And everybody can see that the hospitality industry has borne a disproportionate share of the burden in this crisis. There’s no question about it. And that is obviously because we want to keep schools open Mr Speaker and we have to take such measures as we can.  

 

I would just remind the House however, that we are not alone in this.

 

In France bars, restaurants and gyms will not reopen until 20th January at the earliest.

 

In Germany, the hospitality sector will remain closed in its entirety over Christmas.

 

But we will do everything in our power to support our hospitality sector throughout this crisis.

 

We have already extended the furlough scheme for all businesses until the end of March,

 

We’ve provided monthly grants of up to £3,000 for premises forced to close,

 

and £2,100 for those that remain open but have suffered because of reduced demand.

 

We have allocated £1.1 billion for local authorities to support businesses at particular risk.

 

And today Mr Speaker we are going further with a one-off payment of £1,000 in December to wet pubs – that is Mr Speaker pubs that do not serve food as the House knows

 

recognising how hard they have been hit by this virus in what is typically their busiest month.

 

We will also work with the hospitality sector in supporting their bounce back next year.

 

Mr Speaker I want to stress, that the situation is profoundly different now because there is an end in sight.

 

And I am not this afternoon seeking open-ended measures.

 

On the contrary, these regulations come with a sunset clause at the end of February, sorry at the end of the 2 February I should say Mr Speaker.

 

At that point we will have sufficient data to assess our position after Christmas,

 

and though I believe these types of restrictions will be needed until the Spring,

 

they can only be extended beyond 2 February if this House votes for them Mr Speaker.

 

These are points that have been made with great power as I say by Hon Members on all sides of the House.

 

We will review the allocation of tiers every fourteen days, starting on 16th December. I just want to make an important point to my Rt Hon friend and to all members who are rightly concerned about the position of their constituencies, our constituencies, in these tiers.

 

Hon Members have it in their powers, in our power to help move our areas down the tiers,

 

by throwing their full weight Mr Speaker, our full weight as leaders in our communities behind community testing,

 

and seizing the opportunity, seizing the opportunity to encourage as many people as possible to take part.

 

Of the kind we’ve seen in Liverpool Mr Speaker

 

where since the 6th November over 284,000 tests have been conducted,

 

and together with the effect of national restrictions,

 

the number of cases fell by more than two thirds. This is the model that I would recommend.

 

We are now proposing that from tomorrow Liverpool City Region and Warrington should be in tier 2, where as previously obviously they were in tier 3.

 

And we want other regions and other towns, cities, communities to follow this path,

 

And that is why – with the help of our fantastic armed forces –

 

we will be offering community testing to tier 3 areas as quickly as possible.

 

 

Mr Speaker let me just say, I find it extraordinary that the Official Opposition –represented by the gentleman opposite -

 

Currently have no view on the way ahead and are not proposing to vote tonight.

 

I do think it is extraordinary that in spite of the barrage of criticism that we have no credible plan from the party opposite. Indeed, we have no view on the way ahead. It’s a quite extraordinary thing Mr Speaker that tonight to the best of my knowledge

 

The RHG Opposite who has always said he will ‘act in the national interest’ has told his party to sit on its hands and to abstain in the vote tonight Mr Speaker.

 

And I think the government has made its decision, we’ve taken some tough decisions Mr Speaker and the Labour opposition has decided tonight heroically to abstain Mr Speaker

 

And I think when the history of this pandemic comes to be written, I think the people of this country will observe that instead of having politicians of all parties coming together in the national interest they had one party taking the decisions and another party heroically deciding to abstain

 

Mr Speaker, in the story of 2020, I think there are two great feats in which we can take a great deal of comfort.

 

First, our country has come together in an extraordinary effort that has so far succeeded in protecting our NHS and in saving many lives.

 

And while our scientists have been zeroing in on the weaknesses of Covid,

 

telescoping ten years of work into ten months,

 

and now their endeavours are about to deliver the means as I say to rout the virus. That is clear.

 

The Government is backing not one potential vaccine, but seven.

 

We have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, that is now seeking regulatory approval.

 

We have ordered 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has almost 95 per cent effectiveness in trials.

 

And Mr Speaker, we have ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which

 

– if approved by the regulator –

 

could start being administered before Christmas.

 

In total, Mr Speaker our Vaccines Task Force has secured more than 350 million doses,

 

more than enough for everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and our Overseas Territories.

 

All we need to do now Mr Speaker is to hold our nerve until these vaccines are indeed in our grasp, and indeed being injected into our arms.

 

So I say to the House again let us follow the guidance, let us roll out mass testing, let’s work to deliver mass testing to the people of our country, let’s work together to control the virus and it is in that spirit that I commend these regulations Mr Speaker I commend these regulations to the House."

Carol of the day: In the bleak midwinter, (Gustav Holst tune)

Britain's new Border Operations Centre

Today the government has announced a new Border Operations Centre, using cutting-edge software to monitor the UK border in real-time – ensuring we are ready to take back control of our borders as the transition period ends in a month’s time. 

  • With just one month to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, businesses are being encouraged to make their final preparations. Regardless of the outcome of our negotiations with the EU, there are guaranteed changes that businesses must prepare for now. 
     
  • The government has announced a new multi-million pound 24/7 Border Operations Centre with state-of-the-art technology, which will monitor the UK border in real-time. This will help tackle challenges quickly and decisively, and give us increased information which will make us safer and more secure. And as it develops over time, the Border Operations Centre will be able to analyse historical trends and will have predictive capability.
     
  • The Business Secretary has also written to companies across the UK outlining the top actions they need to take, ensuring they know what they need to do to prepare for the challenges and seize the opportunities of leaving the EU. 
     
  • This will help businesses to prepare for the new rules and opportunities that being an independent trading nation will bring, while paving the way for the UK to have the world’s most effective border by 2025.

Joke of the day 1st December 2020

 Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary arrive at the Inn.

The innkeeper says

"I'm very sorry, we can't find a room for you, we're in Tier Three."


The Moderna Vaccine

 

The Business Secretary has confirmed that the UK has secured an additional 2 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which trials suggest is 95 per cent effective, as we continue our preparations to rollout a vaccine that – should one be approved by the regulator – will ease pressure on the NHS, keep people safe and allow life to gradually return to normal.

  • The government has pre-ordered hundreds of millions of doses from those companies most advanced in their work developing a coronavirus vaccine.
     
  • This now includes an extra 2 million doses of Moderna’s promising vaccine, on top of the 5 million previously secured, taking the total number of vaccine doses the UK has access to to 357 million across seven different developers – one of the world’s largest and most diverse vaccine portfolios.
     
  • I understand that every possible step is being taken to ensure that, whenever a vaccine receives approval from the independent regulator, the NHS will be ready to roll it out, free at the point of delivery on the basis of need, and prioritised for those groups at the greatest risk, overseen by a new dedicated minister.
     
  • But as Britain edges closer to a vaccine being deployed it is vital people do not lose sight of the real and present danger the virus continues to pose, so we have to keep doing the things we know work, like following the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ guidance.