Politics latest news: Fish and fisheries on the menu as Michel Barnier crosses channel for Brexit talks

Michel Barnier is coming to London - Reuters
Michel Barnier is coming to London - Reuters

Fish and fisheries will be on the menu tonight as David Frost welcomes his EU counterpart to London for the latest round of Brexit talks.

The two negotiators will sit down to an informal dinner of asparagus, halibut and fruit to kick off talks with fisheries and the level-playing field top of Mr Frost and Michel Barnier's agenda.

On the journey to London the EU's chief negotiator tweeted that he sought an agreement "and we are doing everything to succeed - but not at any price".

Mr Barnier added: "We are engaging constructively & I look forward to equivalent engagement from the UK this week."

He arrives after a transcript was published showing that Mr Barnier had told peers the EU will introduce full border checks with the UK on January 1 whether or not the two sides agree a trade deal.

Read more below.

03:09 PM

And that's it for another day

Another day, another case of Number 10 riding a minor scandal out until the complaints die away. 

This time it was a row of the Prime Minister's own making, when he - unprompted - appeared to blame the care home sector for not following procedures properly. 

Downing Street insists that is not what he meant and the PM's spokesman, as well as ministers Matt Hancock and Alok Sharma had resisted calls for an apology, instead opting to clarify the comments. 

The results of our daily poll are split: 43 per cent of our readers think the care home sector is to blame, while 41 per cent think Mr Johnson should apologise. Only 16 per cent are content with his clarification. 

It seems likely that the team will dig their heels in yet again, but it begs the question: how much goodwill is Number 10 willing to use up by refusing to admit any mistakes? 

Tomorrow will bring a whole new set of questions as Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, reveals his mini-Budget. But the Prime Minister is unlikely to get off scot-free as he faces another PMQs with Sir Keir Starmer. 

I'll be back from 8am with more from Westminster and beyond.

02:58 PM

Care home owner urges Boris Johnson to apologise over comment

Another care home owner has told BBC News that Boris Johnson should apologise for his comments about the sector, saying it was an "appalling" thing to say. 

Downing Street this morning refused to apologise, insisting the Prime Minister had been referring to a wider lack of knowledge about the right procedures. 

Labour and others have called on Mr Johnson to apologise, but ministers including Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, have defended him. 

However David Crabtree from Crabtree Care Homes in Yorkshire said: "He’s wrong, and it’s an appalling statement to make. This is an intelligent, articulate man, the prime minister, who should not be throwing off-the-cuff remarks that are so hurtful and derogatory to our staff.

"These staff, throughout the nation, have fought valiantly for these people ... These are residents who we’ve cared for for many years. And now we’re told ‘it was our fault’. This is absolutely ridiculous.

"He may well have misinterpreted himself. But surely by now, as an adult, I beseech you, Boris Johnson, for the nation’s carers and home care workers, please apologise. That’s my message to you."

02:28 PM

Act on 'pandemic of misinformation', Government told

The Government must act to deal with a "pandemic of misinformation" which poses a threat to democracy, a report by a House of Lords select committee has said.

The Lords Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies has called on Boris Johnson to publish its Online Harms Bill immediately to ensure that tech giants are properly held to account for misinformation spreading on their platforms.

Power online had been ceded to a "few unelected and unaccountable digital corporations" such as Facebook and Google, and regulation is needed to prevent these firms negatively influencing public debate and democracy.

As well as calling for legislation to be brought forward, the committee said broadcast regulator Ofcom should be given the power to fine digital companies and even block access to their platforms as punishment for failing to protect users.

Lord Puttnam, chair of the committee said: "We are living through a time in which trust is collapsing. People no longer have faith that they can rely on the information they receive or believe what they are told. That is absolutely corrosive for democracy.

"Part of the reason for the decline in trust is the unchecked power of digital platforms. These international behemoths exercise great power without any matching accountability, often denying responsibility for the harm some of the content they host can cause, while continuing to profit from it... That must stop - it is time for the Government to get a grip of this issue." 

02:07 PM

Why does Nicola Sturgeon get such an easy ride over bigoted supporters?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer this week was held accountable for yet another frontbencher's actions, after he was challenged over shadow housing secretary Steve Reed's tweet describing Richard Desmond as the "puppet master" behind the Government. 

But if Starmer is responsible for Mr Reed’s actions, then Nicola Sturgeon must be held to the same standard.

01:52 PM

Britain's decision to resume arms sale to Saudi Arabia attacked as 'rank hypocrisy'

Britain is to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia after ministers ruled there was no pattern of deliberate breaches of international law involving UK-made weaponry in the conflict in Yemen.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said a fresh analysis of alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) involving Saudi air strikes had concluded any breaches were "isolated incidents".

In a Commons written statement, she said the Saudis had a "genuine intent" to comply with IHL and that military exports could resume.

An analysis had not revealed any "patterns, trends or systemic weaknesses", she said. "In the light of all that information and analysis, I have concluded that, notwithstanding the isolated incidents which have been factored into the analysis as historic violations of IHL, Saudi Arabia has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with IHL.

"On that basis, I have assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL."

The decision - coming the day after the UK imposed sanctions on 20 Saudi nationals linked to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi - was condemned as "rank hypocrisy" by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which brought the original case.

Andrew Smith, of the CAAT, said its lawyers would now be looking at "all options" to challenge it. "This is a disgraceful and morally bankrupt decision," he said. 

01:44 PM

The new Domestic Abuse Bill is a landmark moment for the UK - and could be Theresa May’s legacy

It’s the day many women have been waiting for: the Government’s much delayed domestic abuse bill has cleared its final hurdle in the House of Commons, changing the landscape for victims.

The bill has been in the works for a long time, first proposed by Theresa May when she was Prime Minister back in 2018. As Joan Smith writes, it could be her legacy.

01:39 PM

Boris Johnson's care home comments 'despicable', says union boss

A union boss has said Boris Johnson's comments about care homes are "despicable", and said he should be "ashamed". 

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "It's despicable for Boris Johnson to blame incredible, dedicated care workers for his own government's failings.

"Care staff have kept working throughout to help the vulnerable, putting their own health at risk with little or no protective kit and without testing.

"Many lacked full sick pay so couldn't afford to stay at home. Others went unpaid if they became ill, causing real financial headaches for doing the right thing. ?

"This was all the result of poor decisions taken by his government. The Prime Minister should be ashamed, take responsibility and commit to proper, lasting reform of social care."

01:37 PM

Conservative MP rejects Hammond's claim of 'alarming' rise in anti-Chinese sentiment

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns has rejected claims that the party is succumbing to Sinophobia amid concerns over Huawei and the new security law in Hong Kong. 

This morning former chancellor Philip Hammond warned of an "alarming" rise in anti-Chinese sentiment among Tory MPs (9:17am).

But the Foreign Affairs Committee member told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "Unfortunately, it is just not something I accept.

"There is a lot of concern about China and I think it is very interesting how during the Covid-19 pandemic that awareness and concern has actually filtered through to the general public," added the member of the China Research Group.

"But when I speak to my colleagues, none of us want to enter into an era of frozen relations with China, that's just not what we want or are trying to seek to achieve."

She added: "China is an autocratic regime with a president who is increasingly flexing his muscle internationally and at home and also China is now seeing a UK that is standing by our moral and legal responsibilities and it will also need time to adapt to that Britain which it possibly is not as used to because we haven't had to take those actions."

01:21 PM

Further 36 people with coronavirus die in England

A further 36 people who tested positive for the coronavirus have died, NHS England has confirmed. 

That takes the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 28,940.

Patients were aged between 53 and 98 years old. Two patients, aged 83 and 85, had no known underlying health conditions.  

The worst-affected region was the North West, where 14 deaths were recorded, followed by London with six and Midlands and the North East & Yorkshire, where five deaths were recorded in each region.

The South West was the least-affected with one death, followed by the East of England with two and the South East with three. 

01:18 PM

Further three people die in Wales with coronavirus

Public Health Wales said a further three people had died after testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths to 1,534, while the total cases recorded in Wales increased by seven to 15,900.

Yesterday the nation recorded no coronavirus-related deaths for the first time since March.

01:17 PM

Barnier en route for London talks to tackle fish and fisheries

Ahead of today's talks, Michel Barnier, the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, tweeted that the EU "wants an agreement - and we are doing everything to succeed - but not at any price".

Posting an image from his train journey to London, Mr Barnier added: "We are engaging constructively & I look forward to equivalent engagement from the UK this week."

The EU negotiator will kick off the latest round of trade-deal talks with David Frost - which are expected to centre on fisheries - with a dinner of chargrilled asparagus, followed by a fillet of halibut and then a terrine of summer fruits at Number 10.

01:07 PM

Rishi Sunak will need to do something radical to avoid a surge in unemployment

We've been told not to raise our expectations too high for Rishi Sunak's "economic update" on Wednesday, and in particular, not to anticipate sweeping tax cuts. 

But, writes Jeremy Warner, the Chancellor will need to do something radical to avoid a serious surge in unemployment. Tomorrow's update will seem somewhat pointless if he doesn't.

Rishi Sunak: The audience awaits

01:02 PM

Watch again: Matt Hancock dodges demand for apology over PM's care homes comment

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, almost quoted Downing Street word by word in his defence of the Prime Minister today. 

Asked to give an apology for Boris Johnson's comments yesterday, when he said "too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures", the Health Secretary said he was referring to the lack of understanding about asymptomatic transmission at the start of the outbreak. 

Watch again - and if you haven't already, let us know what you think in the poll below. 

12:58 PM

Restrictions to be lifted in Dumfries and Galloway after coronavirus outbreak controlled

Travel restrictions have been lifted in Dumfries and Galloway after a coronavirus outbreak was brought under control, according to Nicola Sturgeon.

Speaking during her daily briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said special measures for Annan and Gretna - restricting people to going no farther than five miles from their homes - will now be lifted to match the rest of the country, as well as allowing those in the area to visit care homes. 

Giving the latest Covid-19 figures, Ms Sturgeon said 2,489 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for the virus, up one from Monday.

She said: "We cannot, and this is a statement of the obvious, go on indefinitely with severe restrictions on our economy and on our way of life.

"That's why I hope we will be able to confirm on Thursday that we are moving to phase three of our route out of lockdown.

"However, it is also why we are and must continue to be determined to ensure that our emergence from lockdown is both safe and sustainable."

12:41 PM

Conservative party conference to go 'virtual'

The Conservative party conference this October has been (partially) cancelled and will be replaced by a "virtual" event. 

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have already cancelled their conferences because of the coronavirus. 

But Conservative party members were informed this morning that the Birmingham event has finally been shelved, to protect the "health and safety of members, delegates and attendees". 

"Most" of the conference will be moved online, although details have not been shared yet. The full agenda will go live in September. 

"The virtual conference will provide a fantastic opportunity for members to share ideas and hear from voices across the party," said co-chairs Amanda Milling and Ben Elliot.  

"Whilst we hope we will be able to host some aspects in the physical format, we would only do so if allowed by government guidelines and following the strictest safety guidelines."

12:16 PM

Watch: Boris Johnson remembers victims of 7/7 London bombings

The Prime Minister has recorded a message to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attack in London. 

Boris Johnson said this anniversary will be "especially hard" because lockdown prevents people from coming together to remember the 52 people who died in the "great evil". 

He praises London and Londoners, saying "this city is stronger than any hate-filled ideology".

"We are not afraid," he added. Watch in full below.

12:06 PM

Prime Minister's comments 'risk undermining role' of care workers during crisis

Downing Street may be hoping to draw a line under the care homes row, but those working in the sector are still pushing for an apology.

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: "The Prime Minister's comments risk undermining the key role played during the pandemic by social care services, which in many places has been nothing short of heroic, and has doubtless saved many lives.

"A crisis will always shine a light on weaknesses and vulnerabilities and the issues social care continue to face are indicative of continued, long-term neglect by successive governments and a failure to fully fund the sector.

"There have been persistent warnings from across the NHS and care sector that investment and reform is urgently needed and the pandemic has exposed how desperately this is now needed."

Should he apologise - or is the clarification enough? Have your say below. 

11:54 AM

Hancock: I will not allow divisive approach to tackling crisis

Matt Hancock has said he will "not allow a divisive approach to tackling this crisis", telling MPs; "We will all work together."

Debbie Abrahams, Labour's MP for Oldham East, had said his suggestions at the weekend that local authorities needed help interpreting data was "insulting". She claimed he was trying to "shift the blame for the Government's mess of handling the crisis". 

But the Health Secretary insisted he was working with local authorities, mayors, and local areas "in Manchester and across the board". 

"I just hope the hon. lady will take the message back to Manchester how keen we are to work collegiately, together. That is the right way forward."

11:46 AM

Matt Hancock dodges demand for apology on care homes

Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, challenges Matt Hancock over the Prime Minister's comments regarding the care home sector yesterday. 

The Labour frontbencher asks if he "can appreciate the hurt" the comments caused, and which procedures were not followed. He also asks Mr Hancock to apologise, something which Downing Street did not do earlier. 

Mr Hancock says: "Throughout this crisis care homes have done amazing work. The Prime Minister was explaining that because asymptomatic transmission was not known about the correct procedures were therefore not known. 

"We have been constantly learning about this virus from the start and improving procedures all the way through. 

"I pay tribute to the care homes in this country who have done so much to care for the most vulnerable throughout this crisis."

11:40 AM

Shut pubs doing 'right thing by customers and communities', says Health Secretary

Matt Hancock notes that contact tracing for customers "is working" and points to the three pubs that have shut down "for a deep clean and staff testing" after a customer tested positive. 

"They are doing the right thing by their customers and their communities", he adds. 

"Three pubs shut so others can be open."

11:38 AM

Leicester infection rate has dropped after 'difficult but vital' lockdown

Matt Hancock is updating MPs on the latest coronavirus news, which includes 352 new cases -the lowest since lockdown began - and 16 new deaths. 

He also points to the lower-than-average death rates, as recorded by the Office for National Statistics. 

The Health Secretary hails the reopening of pubs and hairdressers as part of getting the "buzz" back into the country. 

He also notes the "difficult but vital" move in Leicester, where the seven-day infection rate has dropped from 135 to 117 per 100,000 people. 

11:34 AM

Small business group urges Chancellor not to leave firms behind

One in 10 small businesses are already making redundancies, while others have been scaling-back capital investment (37 per cent), reducing working hours (25 per cent) and cutting training initiatives (14 per cent), a new survey has found.

Federation of Small Business (FSB) research has found that two thirds (67 per cent) of UK small firms have furloughed staff as a result of the pandemic, but that the support has not been enough to stave off job cuts and other measures. 

Previous FSB research shows that one in three small business owners who had been forced to close during lockdown until restrictions were eased were unsure about their ability to reopen.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Although small firms are thankfully able to continue furloughing staff for months to come, many are already having to make tough decisions.The Chancellor needs to take a jobs first approach tomorrow. Bringing down employment costs and increasing opportunities will be central to recovering from this recession... 

“The Chancellor and Business Secretary must make every effort to ensure that no-one is left behind as they draw-up the next round of interventions," he added. “That starts with a fit-for-purpose broadband network and incentives to adopt new-to-firm, not just new-to-market, innovations.”      

11:11 AM

Lobby latest: No 10 urges people to cover 'mouth and nose' with face masks

Downing Street has urged people to cover their mouth and nose with face coverings after reports suggested the UK was well behind other countries in using masks. 

"I think we have been very clear about the benefits of people wearing coverings," he added. Individuals should cover "both the nose and the mouth" with face coverings.

Professor Venki Ramakrishnan, the president of the Royal Society, this morning (8:05am) said everyone should have a face covering to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said this is "something which we always keep under review".

11:09 AM

Lobby latest: Downing Street shrugs off Moscow's threat of reciprocal sanctions

Downing Street has shrugged off the Kremlin's threat of reciprocal sanctions on British citizens, after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced a list of designated individuals yesterday.

Several Russians involved in the mistreatment of Russian tax expert Sergei Magnitsky were included in the list.

Asked about Moscow's threats, Downing Street insists the announcement was made "in accordance with a range of criteria, including the UK human rights priorities".

The Prime Minister's spokesman said that sanctions have been imposed on "individuals involved in some of the most notorious human rights violations of recent years".

Asked why no Chinese citizens have been sanctioned with a travel ban or asset freeze, the spokesman said that to speculate about future decisions would "undermine the impact of the sanctions themselves".

11:07 AM

Lobby latest: UK has a ‘strong and constructive’ relationship with China, No 10 insists

Number 10 has insisted the UK has a "strong and constructive" relationship with Beijing, after former chancellor Philip Hammond claimed there was rising anti-China sentiment within the Conservative party. 

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have a strong and constructive relationship with China in many areas, but at the same time, where we have concerns we will raise them and when we need to intervene we will.”

He added that the Government is currently “assessing” the National Security Law passed by Beijing and “its ramifications in terms of extradition with Hong Kong”. “Our approach to China is clear eyed and rooted in our values and interests,” he said.

11:06 AM

Lobby latest: Leicester textile industry being investigated, Downing Street confirms

The National Crime Agency is investigating Leciester’s textile industry following claims that low-paid workers in sweatshops are at the centre of the city's surge in coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said that the Health and Safety Executive is also “actively investigating” the claims.

He added: “Nobody should be in any doubt about the seriousness with which we treat this.”

It follows a report in the Sunday Times that workers for the fashion site at a factory in Leicester making clothes for Boohoo's Nasty Gal could expect to be paid £3.50 an hour, with little evidence of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

11:03 AM

Lobby latest: Late night licencing change will make social distancing 'easier'

Number 10 has insisted new licencing laws will make social distancing "easier".

It follows warnings from the House of Lords that plans to allow late-night pubs and bars to sell takeaway alcohol will spark street violence, disorder and drunkenness.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said that the temporary changes to licencing law, which will allow businesses to sell alcohol consumption off the premises, will "make social distancing easier for customers who wish to take their drinks home with them". 

He added: "But of course we expect everyone to act responsibly and comply with the guidelines to keep themselves, their family and friends, and those around them safe."

Downing Street said the "vast majority of the public in England" acted responsibly and followed social distancing guidelines this weekend.

11:01 AM

Lobby latest: Clarification, but no apology for care home comments

Care homes have done a 'brilliant job under difficult circumstances', the Prime Minister's spokesman has said, seeking to clarify his comments rather than apologise for them.  

Following the furore this morning after Boris Johnson suggested care homes were to blame for the high number of deaths, his spokesman insists he was only "pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time".

Mr Johnson has been attacked for saying care homes "didn't really follow the procedures". 

His spokesman noted that the Government has since put in a "comprehensive action plan" to protect care settings with "rigorous testing and additional funding".

"We know that care providers across the country have been doing their utmost to keep people safe in the most challenging circumstances," he said.

10:59 AM

Lobby latest: Fish on the menu as David Frost and Michel Barnier meet for dinner

David Frost and Michel Barnier will have an 'informal' dinner at No 10 this evening, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said the meal would "kick off" the next stage of trade talks and will be followed by further discussions tomorrow.

The dinner "will be in accordance" with social distancing rules and are likely to discuss fishing and level playing field concerns.

"They are informal talks so there is no published agenda but I think you are fully aware of the full range of issues we need to reach agreement with the EU on," the spokesman said.

The UK wants to become an "independent coastal state" which is "in control" of its fishing waters, Downing Street insisted.

10:55 AM

Treasury 'monitoring economic conditions' for next steps, Rishi Sunak says

Rishi Sunak has said the Government will "monitor economic conditions to ensure our labour market policy response is both appropriate and effective".

The Chancellor has been challenged about support for freelancers, and he told MPs that those in the creative arts can benefit from funding including the £1.37bn package announced yesterday. 

He also stressed that 95 per cent of those who are "majority self-employed" had access to the financial support already available. 

My colleague Louis Ashworth is covering the questions in more depth here.

10:46 AM

Chancellor promises to look into test tax concerns

Mel Stride, the Treasury Select Committee chair, has asked the Chancellor about the tax concerns he raised earlier (see 11:06am) about coronavirus tests. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, says he will look into it "very quickly”.

Alison Thewliss, the SNP's Treasury spokesperson, asks about the three million people "excluded" from the furlough schemes, and says the Government's support does not go far enough. She calls for a stimulus package of at least £80bn, asking for Scottish government to have the "full suite" of powers if he will not commit to that amount. 

Mr Sunak says so far £130bn support has been given. 

10:42 AM

Edward Leigh tells ministers to speak less about "high-spending lefties" like FDR

Treasury ministers have been challenged to announce "less about subsidies and more about tax cuts". 

Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough, told Jesse Norman he wanted to "hear from the Prime Minister less about high-spending lefties like President Roosevelt and more from good conservatives like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher".

Mr Norman, the financial secretary to the Treasury, told his Tory colleague that President Reagan was "a deep admirer of FDR and quite a big spender in his own right".

On the substance of the question itself, about inheritance tax, he stressed that only one in four estates pay the tax "but we do take these issues very seriously and return to them regularly at fiscal events". 

10:27 AM

EU 'ready' for full Brexit border checks next year, Barnier claims

The European Union will introduce full border checks with the UK on January 1, despite Britain introducing customs controls on EU goods more slowly and whether or not the two sides agree a trade deal.

Michel Barnier warned a House of Lords Committee that Brussels “will not delay things”, despite the Government’s U-Turn on EU goods imports. 

My colleague James Crisp has the full details here.

10:07 AM

Former Labour MP ordered to sign Sex Offenders register over indecent photo

Former Labour MP Eric Joyce has been ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register as he admitted making an indecent photograph of a child (see 10:56am).

Mr Joyce, 59, who was MP for Falkirk in Scotland between 2000 and 2012, pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court to making an indecent photograph of a child between August 7 2013 and November 6 2018.

Judge Emma Peters said that the single 51-second movie, found on a device, "depicts a number of children".

"Some are quite young, one is said to be 12 months old," she said. "Clearly a category-A movie."

Former shadow minister Joyce, of Worlingworth, Suffolk, was granted bail.

Judge Peters instructed that a report be prepared before Joyce is sentenced on August 7.

10:06 AM

Treasury Committee chair writes to Chancellor over test tax concerns

The chair of the Treasury Select Committee has written to Rishi Sunak urging him to look into Government guidance suggesting employees may end up paying income tax on their coronavirus tests. 

HMRC guidance published yesterday (6 July) clarified that employees will face a taxable benefit in kind when their employer pays for coronavirus testing. As many employers will require these tests on a regular basis, "the tax bills could soon mount up", the committee chair Mel Stride has warned.

 He added: “Many employees, especially healthcare and hospitality workers, are required to undergo regular coronavirus testing. This new guidance is unclear and will worry a large number of workers.

“If these tests are to be treated as a taxable benefit in kind, the tax bill for workers could soon mount up.

“Many of our key workers could be faced with the perverse incentive of avoiding employer-sponsored tests in order to reduce their tax bill.

“This cannot be right. I’ve asked the Chancellor to look into this as soon as possible.”

09:56 AM

Former Labour MP pleads guilty to making indecent photo of child

Former Labour MP Eric Joyce has pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court to making an indecent photograph of a child.

Mr Joyce, Labour MP for Falkirk between 2000 and 2012,  was arrested in November 2018. 

More to follow...

09:44 AM

Health Secretary welcomes 'encouraging' ONS figures

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has welcomed the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, showing deaths have fallen below the five year average for the second week in a row, saying they are "encouraging". 

09:31 AM

Terrorists 'will never succeed' says Sadiq Khan as he pays tribute to 7/7 victims

Sadiq Khan and Dame Cressida Dick have paid tribute to the 52 people who died in the July 7 bombings, on the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks.

The Mayor of London and Metropolitan Police Commissioner laid wreaths at the 7/7 memorial in Hyde Park at 8.50am on Tuesday morning - the time of the first bomb.

A second group, including London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe and London Ambulance Service's director of integrated patient care, Athar Khan, laid wreaths at 9.47am, the time of the bomb on the bus in Tavistock Square.

A floral tribute was sent by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while a separate virtual service for families of the 52 people who died and the survivors is being held on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Khan said: "Our capital will never forget the terrible events of that day, and my thoughts are with all those whose lives were changed forever... The way that our city responded and stood united in the aftermath of the attack showed the world that our values of decency, tolerance and mutual respect will always overcome the hate of the terrorists.

"Today, we reaffirm our commitment to upholding these values. To those who wish to divide us and spread hatred, we send a clear message that they will never succeed, and that we are stronger together."

Mr Khan said: "Our values of decency, tolerance and mutual respect will always overcome the hate of the terrorists." - PA

09:12 AM

Watch again: Alok Sharma defends Boris Johnson over care homes comments

Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, had a gruelling broadcast round this morning, where he was repeatedly called on to defend the Prime Minister over comments made yesterday regarding care homes. 

The Business Secretary did not apologise on Boris Johnson's behalf, but he did attempt to clarify the statement - with limited success. 

Watch Mr Johnson's original interview and Mr Sharma's response again here. 

08:56 AM

More than £30bn of bounce-back loans approved, Government reveals

More than £30bn-worth of "bounce-back loans" have been approved for small businesses, as the Chancellor promises to do "all we can to support" the country's firms.

New figures from the Treasury also revealed that more than 53,500 coronavirus business interruption loans have now been approved, providing £11.5 billion worth of funding since midnight of July 5.

Rishi Sunak said: "Our small businesses are the powerhouse of our economy and will help drive our recovery as we bounce back from this global crisis.

"We've worked hard to give small businesses the help they need - from loans and grants to paying the wages of their staff.

"I'm delighted that more than a million loans have been approved - and we will continue to do all we can to support small business as they reopen their doors in the weeks ahead."

Mr Sunak will be in the Commons from 11:30am today, as part of the regular Treasury questions. 

Sunak sets the stage 

08:52 AM

What would three million Hong Kong arrivals do to the UK economy?

In the days after the Brexit vote, Boris Johnson wrote for the Telegraph of his desire to re-open the UK to the world as “a truly global Britain”. This month the UK’s offer to allow almost three million people from Hong Kong to move to Britain and take citizenship shows the slogan has meaning.

But what will this do to the economy? My colleague Tim Wallace analyses what impact the wave of emigrants will have.

The Government is allowing 3m BNO passport holders to move to the UK in the wake of a new security law

08:46 AM

Deaths in England and Wales fall below average as numbers fall in all but one region

Registered deaths involving coronavirus decreased in all but one region in England in the week ending June 26, the Office for National Statistics said.

In the North East there were two more deaths registered compared to the previous week.

There were a total of 8,979 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to June 26, according to the ONS, 314 fewer than the five-year average of 9,293.

This is the second week in a row that deaths have been below the five-year average.

The number of deaths in care homes and hospitals in the week to June 26 was also below the five-year average (103 and 815 deaths lower respectively), while the number of deaths in private homes was 745 higher than the five-year average.

Of those deaths registered in the week to June 26, 606 mentioned 'novel coronavirus (Covid-19)' on the death certificate - the lowest number of deaths involving Covid-19 since the week ending March 27.

08:41 AM

House prices fall for fourth month in a row

House prices have been falling for four months in a row, the first time this has happened since 2010, according to Halifax house price index.

Property values in June were 0.1 per cent lower than in May, Halifax said, following month-on-month price falls of 0.2 per cent in May, 0.6 per cent in April and 0.3 per cent in March, when the lockdown came into effect.

However, house prices were 2.5 per cent higher in June than the same time last year.  

The release comes ahead of Rishi Sunak's economic statement tomorrow, in which he is expected to offer support for the property market, potentially through a stamp duty holiday. 

08:26 AM

UK review of overseas investment will go beyond China, Business Secretary says

New legislation will ensure major investment from all countries will be reviewed - not just that from China - Alok Sharma has said. 

The Business Secretary was grilled on moves to reconsider China's role in UK nuclear power in light of the Huawei review, as tensions between the two countries grow. 

He told the Today programme: "We will be looking at all of this in the round.

"The key thing I just want to say is ... we will look at all investments that are made in the UK, we will look at that against the criteria we have set out in the Enterprise Act, that will be set out in the National Security Investment Bill, and that will be for all investments that are made rather than picking and choosing individual countries."

Moving on to discussing Huawei, Mr Sharma said: "I don't want to go into the details of a particular country but you will know that, as a result of the initial sanctions that the US has put in place against Huawei specifically, we are having a look to see what the impact would be on UK networks.

"There is a process ongoing, we will see what that review comes to and we will set out our next steps."

08:17 AM

'Alarming' rise of 'anti-Chinese sentiment' in Tory party, claims Philip Hammond

Philip Hammond has said there is an "alarming" rise of "anti-Chinese sentiment" within the Conservative party, arguing the UK should not be distancing itself from China while "loosening ties" with Europe.

Speaking this morning to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the former chancellor said: "Right now, the UK is in the process of loosening its ties with trade partners in Europe in the name of expanding its global reach.

"It seems to me this is not a time to be wanting to weaken our trade links with the world's second largest economy.

"We have to find a way, and I think we have done it in the past with many countries, of continuing to trade, continuing to invest and welcome investment from countries with which we have frank disagreements about political issues."

The ex-foreign secretary said he is "concerned about the outbreak of anti-Chinese sentiment within the Conservative Party" and called its rise "alarming".

08:05 AM

Have your say on: the Prime Minister's care homes comments

Boris Johnson is under pressure today after he said care homes did not follow procedures at the start of the outbreak, suggesting the sector was to blame for the high death toll. 

Did the Prime Minister intend to shift the blame onto care homes - and was he right to do so? Or have his comments been misconstrued? Have your say in the poll below.

07:57 AM

What's on the agenda today?

It's shaping up to be a busy Tuesday. 

First up, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, will give MPs a preview of his mini-Budget as he answers Treasury questions from 11:30am.

There is still speculation over whether he will announce a stamp duty holiday, and if so whether it will be delayed until the autumn, on top of the £3bn energy efficiency scheme that has been announced already.

He will likely face questions about jobs and the furlough scheme but the details will probably remain under wraps until tomorrow. 

Another question that might come up is the now-ditched idea to have Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey address the 1922 committee tomorrow. You can read all about that here.

After the Chancellor, Matt Hancock is in the Commons answering questions on the latest with coronavirus from 12:30, where the issue of care homes is likely to dominate.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage will then respond to questions about the arts package announced yesterday. The bulk of the afternoon is given over to a debate about education.

Over in committee land, PACAC is hearing from Jesse Norman this morning about management of major projects, while there are sports associations in front of the DCMS committee at the same time.

The Brexit committee will be hearing from EU citizens groups from 10am. 

And Chief of the Defence Staff, General Nick Carter, is up before the Defence Committee from 2.30pm.  

07:38 AM

Prime Minister 'certainly not blaming care homes', says Business Secretary

Alok Sharma says care home workers "have been incredibly brave" but refuses to comment on whether the Prime Minister should apologise yet again. 

Continuing his gruelling broadcast round this morning, the Business Secretary told the Today programme that Boris Johnson meant was that nobody knew procedures at the start of the outbreak. But he is challenged on what was actually said. 

"The Prime Minister is certainly not blaming care homes," Mr Sharma says. 

"Nobody knew at the time definitively what the correct procedures were but we did put in place a definitive plan once we did."

07:31 AM

Alok Sharma refuses to say if Prime Minister should apologise for care homes comments

Asked if care homes representatives are over-reacting, Alok Sharma says he has "provided clarification" about the Prime Minister's comments.

Care homes have said it is "a slap in the face" and asked Boris Johnson to retract his comment and apologise. 

He does not respond directly, saying that "no one could doubt" the extent of the Government's support for the social care sector and the NHS. 

The Business Secretary repeats that Mr Johnson was explaining that "nobody knew" the right procedures. 

Asked if he agreed with the Prime Minister's comments, Mr Sharma says: "I agree with the fact that nobody knew what the correct procedures were at the time... The Prime Minister was making a specific point, which was that nobody knew what the correct procedures were at that point."

07:27 AM

Business Secretary defends PM over care homes comments

Alok Sharma has again insisted that the Prime Minister was "making the point that nobody knew what correct procedures were at the time", because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known. 

The Business Secretary told Sky News that care homes had "done a brilliant job in difficult circumstances" and stressed the Government had supported the sector throughout. 

"Nobody knew what the precise procedures were at the time," he added. 

07:22 AM

Chancellor must think carefully about spending 'precious Govt money', warns Philip Hammond

Cutting stamp duty and VAT could help manage the short-term disruption to the economy, but Rishi Sunak must think carefully about how to spend "precious Government money", a former chancellor has said. 

Philip Hammond told the Today programme the current economic crisis required his successor to be "very agile and flexible in his response", noting that cutting taxes were "certainly ways to bring forward, or manage demand... but it doesn't overall increase the level of demand, it just shifts the pattern of it".

He added: "It is one tool in his tool box, he has many tools available to him... The Chancellor has to respond to short term pressures in the economy but you can only spend money once."

Mr Sunak must also be conscious of long term challenges, such as the UK's productivity problem and the need to decarbonise the economy, Mr Hammond said. 

07:05 AM

Not wearing face masks as anti-social as drink driving, says Royal Society head

Not wearing a face covering should be regarded as "anti-social" in the same way as drink driving or failing to wear a seatbelt, the president of the UK's national academy of science has said.

Professor Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, said people should wear a mask whenever they are in a crowded indoor environment. It follows the publication of two reports by the society into the wearing of masks.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was "inconsistent" for ministers to recommend the wearing of masks while in hospitals or when using public transport but not in other places.

Prof Ramakrishnan said: "I think what we would like for the Government is to be a bit stronger and clearer about the messaging and require it whenever you are in crowded public spaces where you cannot get more than two metres away from the next person.

"If you're in a crowded setting, you ought to wear a mask."

He said "outdoors was less of a problem" for transmission and that mask-wearing was largely required in indoor settings.

07:00 AM

Care homes boss challenges Government's claims on tests

A care homes boss has challenged the Government's claims that the sector has had access to repeat tests since April. 

Mark Adams said the care sector had been "crying out" for weekly testing for months.

The chief executive of charity Community Integrated Care told the BBC's Today programme: "I think what we're getting is history re-written in front of us, when you could list pages and pages of Government failure which the system has had to cope with.

"And to get a throwaway comment, almost glibly blaming the social care system and not holding your hand up for starting too late, doing the wrong things, making mistake after mistake, is just frankly unacceptable."

When asked whether his staff were being tested enough, he said: "We didn't test social care until the end of May.

"So us, like most social care operators, had our losses before we started having any testing at all.

"Yes, the testing has now reached a point where most of our people in care homes and most of the residents have been tested once but once is absolutely useless because if you get tested and then get back on the bus and pick up the virus on the bus, within a week you're potentially asymptomatic and infectious.

"We have been crying out for weekly or ideally twice-weekly testing for months and we've only just got that commitment - it is a question of the horse bolting and shutting the stable door."

06:55 AM

Homeowners to receive insulation vouchers

Homeowners will be given vouchers to pay for insulation and double glazing as part of a multibillion-pound job-creation drive in the wake of the Covid-19 recession, Rishi Sunak will announce on Tuesday.

The Chancellor will use his summer economic update to unveil a £3 billion scheme that he says will create thousands of new jobs and support “tens of thousands” more by stimulating demand for eco-friendly home improvements.

It came as the Governor of the Bank of England postponed a private meeting with Tory MPs after facing questions about whether he was acting in concert with the Chancellor.