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Tory MPs suspended for trying to influence judge in Elphicke case

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Day’s suspension ordered for MPs who wrote to senior judges before hearing in sexual assault case

Last modified on Wed 21 Jul 2021 05.03 EDT
Several Conservative MPs will be suspended from the Commons for a day and told to apologise for trying to influence a judge presiding over the trial of a colleague for sexual assault, the standards committee has ordered.
The temporary ban from parliament was handed down to the backbenchers Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers and Natalie Elphicke – the former partner of Charlie Elphicke, who was given two years in prison after being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.

Two other Tory MPs – Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart – were pressed to make a statement apologising for their behaviour in the chamber, with all five found to have threatened to undermine public trust in the independence of the judicial system.
The politicians sent a letter to senior judges in November 2020 in advance of a hearing on the release of pre-sentencing character references for Charlie Elphicke.
The MPs used parliamentary-headed and taxpayer-funded Commons stationery to write to Dame Kathryn Thirwall, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, and Dame Victoria Sharp, the president of the Queen’s Bench Division, also copying in Justice Whipple, who had heard the trial of Elphicke and was due to decide on the application to release the character references.
They wrote to “express concern” about the hearing, arguing a decision to disclose the references would be a “radical change to judicial practice” that “could have the chilling effect and harm the criminal justice system”.
In a report published on Wednesday, the standards committee said the letters were disregarded but the MPs had still sought to influence the outcome of the hearing and “risked giving the impression that elected politicians can bring influence to bear on the judiciary, out of public view and in a way not open to others”.
It added: “Such egregious behaviour is corrosive to the rule of law and, if allowed to continue unchecked, could undermine public trust in the independence of judges.”

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$1 Trillion Infrastructure Deal Scales Senate Hurdle With Bipartisan Vote

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The vote was a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling among White House officials and senators in both parties, clearing the way for action on a top priority for President Biden.
Emily Cochrane and
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Wednesday to take up a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that would make far-reaching investments in the nation’s public works system, as Republicans joined Democrats in clearing the way for action on a crucial piece of President Biden’s agenda.
The 67-to-32 vote, which included 17 Republicans in favor, came just hours after centrist senators in both parties and the White House reached a long-sought compromise on the bill, which would provide about $550 billion in new federal money for roads, bridges, rail, transit, water and other physical infrastructure programs.
Among those in support of moving forward was Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader and a longtime foil of major legislation pushed by Democratic presidents. Mr. McConnell’s backing signaled that his party was — at least for now — open to teaming with Democrats to enact the plan.
The deal still faces several obstacles to becoming law, including being turned into formal legislative text and clearing final votes in the closely divided Senate and House. But the vote was a victory for a president who has long promised to break through the partisan gridlock gripping Congress and accomplish big things supported by members of both political parties.
If enacted, the measure would be the largest infusion of federal money into the public works system in more than a decade.
The compromise, which was still being written on Wednesday, includes $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects; $66 billion for passenger and freight rail; $39 billion for public transit; $65 billion for broadband; $17 billion for ports and waterways; and $46 billion to help states and cities prepare for droughts, wildfires, flooding and other consequences of climate change, according to a White House official who detailed it on the condition of anonymity.
In a lengthy statement, Mr. Biden hailed the deal as “the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.”
He also framed it as vindication of his belief in bipartisanship.
“Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal,” Mr. Biden said. “But that’s what it means to compromise and forge consensus — the heart of democracy. As the deal goes to the entire Senate, there is still plenty of work ahead to bring this home. There will be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to forge along the way.”
That was evident on Wednesday even as the president and senators in both parties cheered their agreement. In negotiating it, Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders were forced to agree to concessions, accepting less new federal money for public transit and clean energy projects than they had wanted, including for some electric vehicle charging stations, and abandoning their push for additional funding for tax enforcement at the I.R.S. (A senior Democratic aide noted that Democrats secured an expansion of existing transit and highway programs compared with 2015, the last time such legislation was passed.)
The changes — and the omission of some of their highest priorities — rankled progressives in both chambers, with some threatening to oppose the bill unless it was modified.
“From what we have heard, having seen no text, this bill is going to be status quo, 1950s policy with a little tiny add-on,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, a Democrat and the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“If it’s what I think it is,” he added, “I will be opposed.”
Still, the bipartisan compromise was a crucial component of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, which Democrats plan to pair with a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would provide additional spending for climate, health care and education, to be muscled through Congress over Republican objections.
The vote to move forward with the infrastructure bill came after weeks of haggling by a bipartisan group of senators and White House officials to translate an outline they agreed on late last month into legislation. Just last week, Senate Republicans had unanimously blocked consideration of the plan, saying there were too many unresolved disputes. But by Wednesday, after several days of frenzied talks and late-night phone calls and texts among senators and White House officials, the negotiators announced they were ready to proceed.
“We look forward to moving ahead, and having the opportunity to have a healthy debate here in the chamber regarding an incredibly important project for the American people,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and a lead negotiator.
Many of the bill’s spending provisions remain unchanged from the original agreement. But it appeared that it pared spending in a few areas, including reducing money for public transit to $39 billion from $49 billion, and eliminating a $20 billion “infrastructure bank” that was meant to catalyze private investment in large projects. Negotiators were unable to agree on the structure of the bank and terms of its financing authority, so they removed it altogether.
The loss of the infrastructure bank appeared to cut in half the funding for electric vehicle charging stations that administration officials had said was included in the original agreement, jeopardizing Mr. Biden’s promise to create a network of 500,000 charging stations nationwide.
The new agreement also included significant changes to how the infrastructure spending will be paid for, after Republicans resisted supporting a pillar of the original framework: increased revenues from an I.R.S. crackdown on tax cheats, which was to have supplied nearly one-fifth of the funding for the plan.
In place of those lost revenues, negotiators agreed to repurpose more than $250 billion from previous pandemic aid legislation, including $50 billion from expanded unemployment benefits that have been canceled prematurely this summer by two dozen Republican governors, according to a fact sheet reviewed by The New York Times. That is more than double the repurposed money in the original deal.
The new agreement would save $50 billion by delaying a Medicare rebate rule passed under President Donald J. Trump and raise nearly $30 billion by applying tax information reporting requirements to cryptocurrency. It also proposes to recoup $50 billion in fraudulently paid unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
Fiscal hawks were quick to dismiss some of those financing mechanisms as overly optimistic or accounting gimmicks, and warned that the agreement would add to the federal budget deficit over time. But business groups and some moderates in Washington quickly praised the deal.
Jack Howard, the senior vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has worked for months to broker a bipartisan deal that does not include a corporate tax increase, said the spending in the agreement “will provide enormous benefits for the American people and the economy.”
“Our nation has been waiting for infrastructure modernization for over a decade,” he said, “and this is a critical step in the process.”
During a lunch on Wednesday, the Republicans who spearheaded the deal passed out binders containing a summary of what could be a 1,000-page bill. The group of 10 core negotiators ultimately held a celebratory news conference where they thanked their colleagues in both parties for their support.
“It’s not perfect but it’s, I think, in a good place,” said Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, who voted in favor of taking up the bill.
After the vote Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, expressed optimism that the Senate would be able to pass not just the bipartisan infrastructure package, but the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint needed to unlock the far more expansive reconciliation package to carry the remainder of Mr. Biden’s agenda.
“My goal remains to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution during this work period — both,” Mr. Schumer said, warning of “long nights” and weekend sessions. “We are going to get the job done, and we are on track.”
Democrats still must maneuver the bill through the evenly divided Senate, maintaining the support of all 50 Democrats and independents and at least 10 Republicans. That could take at least a week, particularly if Republicans opposed to it opt to slow the process. Should the measure clear the Senate, it would also have to pass the House, where some liberal Democrats have balked at the emerging details.
But Republicans who negotiated the deal urged their colleagues to support a measure they said would provide badly needed funding for infrastructure projects across the country.
“I am amazed that there are some who oppose this, just because they think that if you ever get anything done somehow it’s a sign of weakness,” said Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has repeatedly said she will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the House until the far more ambitious $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill passes the Senate.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the lead Democratic negotiator of the infrastructure deal and a key moderate vote, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that she did not support a plan that costly, though she would not seek to block it. Those comments prompted multiple liberals in the House to threaten to reject the bipartisan agreement she helped negotiate, underscoring the fragility of the compromise.
“Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, wrote in a tweet. “Especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment.’”
Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Fandos, Coral Davenport, Catie Edmondson and Lisa Friedman.

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January 6 and the 'Insurrection' Thesis

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Sentences handed out so far are for lesser offenses.
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Queen secretly lobbied Scottish ministers for climate law exemption

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Monarch used secretive procedure to become only person in country not bound by a green energy rule
Last modified on Wed 28 Jul 2021 23.37 EDT
The Queen’s lawyers secretly lobbied Scottish ministers to change a draft law to exempt her private land from a major initiative to cut carbon emissions, documents reveal.
The exemption means the Queen, one of the largest landowners in Scotland, is the only person in the country not required to facilitate the construction of pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy.

Her lawyers secured the dispensation from Scotland’s government five months ago by exploiting an obscure parliamentary procedure known as Queen’s consent, which gives the monarch advance sight of legislation.
The arcane parliamentary mechanism has been borrowed from Westminster, where it has existed as a custom since the 1700s.
In a series of reports into Queen’s consent in recent months, the Guardian revealed how the Queen repeatedly used her privileged access to draft laws to lobby ministers to change UK legislation to benefit her private interests or reflect her opinions between the late 1960s and the 1980s.
The new documents, uncovered by Lily Humphreys, a researcher for the Scottish Liberal Democrats using freedom of information laws, disclose how the monarch used her special access to Scottish legislation to intervene in the parliamentary process as recently as February.
The documents also suggest Nicola Sturgeon’s government failed to disclose the monarch’s lobbying this year when a Scottish politician used a parliamentary debate to query why the Queen was securing an exemption from the green energy bill.
The move appears at odds with the royal family’s public commitment to tackling the climate crisis, with Prince William recently joining his father, Charles, in campaigning to cut emissions and protect the planet.
Sturgeon’s government heralded the bill as a key piece of legislation to combat the climate emergency. It said the law, known as the heat networks bill, would help cut emissions, reduce fuel poverty and create green jobs.
The legislation enabled the construction of pipelines to heat clusters of homes and businesses using renewable energy, rather than from separate fossil fuel boilers.
On 12 January, John Somers, Sturgeon’s principal private secretary, wrote to Sir Edward Young, the Queen’s most senior aide, asking for her consent to the heat networks bill. In his letter, Somers said it would allow companies and public authorities to compulsorily buy land from landowners.
On 3 February, officials working for Paul Wheelhouse, the then energy minister, recorded that the Queen’s lawyers raised concerns about the bill. They also recorded he had agreed to alter the bill, noting the “minister agreed to proposed amendment that would addressed [sic] concerns from Queen’s solicitors”. This had been done in relation to the Queen’s consent process.
On 17 February, a courtier told the Scottish government the Queen had given her consent to allow the bill to be passed.
Five days later, when MSPs debated the bill, Wheelhouse put forward an amendment that applied only to land privately owned by the Queen. It specifically prevents companies and public authorities from compelling the Queen to sell pieces of her land to enable the green energy pipelines to be built.
Buckingham Palace says Queen’s consent, a process requiring ministers to notify lawyers when a proposed bill might affect her public powers or private interests, is a “purely formal” part of the parliamentary process.
However, there are increasing examples where the Queen has taken advantage of her consent privileges to require changes before she formally consents to the law proceeding through parliament. That appears to have occurred on this occasion in Scotland, where the procedure – known as crown consent – operates in the same way.
During the debate over the parliamentary bill, Andy Wightman, then an independent MSP, objected to the amendment, arguing it was wrong to single out the Queen for preferential treatment.
Wheelhouse responded that the amendment was “required to ensure the smooth passage of the bill”. However, he did not disclose that the Queen’s lawyers had lobbied for the change. The amendment was passed with Wightman and a handful of other MSPs opposing it.
After being informed about the new documents, Wightman said he was “shocked to discover that the amendment was put in place in order to secure Queen’s consent. That should have been stated in the debate.
“If changes are being requested in order to secure Queen’s consent, people should be told about that and it appears in this case we were not told.”
Unlike the better-known procedure of royal assent, a formality that brings a bill into law, Queen’s consent gives the monarch a mechanism to covertly meddle with proposed UK laws without the public knowing about her intervention.
Revelations earlier this year about how the Queen had vetted draft laws before they were approved by the UK’s elected representatives prompted more than 65,000 people to call for an inquiry into the “unfathomable” process.
Adam Tucker, a senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Liverpool, said disclosures made it plain the process was more than a mere formality and “should prompt grave concerns about the practice’s continued existence”.
Willie Rennie, who stood down recently as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said the documents raised concerns about “secret doors” made available to the monarch to change laws. “Others who lobby for changes have to declare it,” he said. “That should be true for everyone.”
Rennie added: “The Queen rightly does not express her views publicly and does so privately with the prime minister and first minister. However, this is different. It’s about the interests of the head of state’s assets and direct interests. Any of these communications should be notified publicly and openly so we can judge for ourselves.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “The royal household can be consulted on bills in order to ensure the technical accuracy and consistency of the application of the bill to the crown, a complex legal principle governed by statute and common law. This process does not change the nature of any such bill.”
Wheelhouse, who lost his seat at the last election, said: “I led several bills in my time and these sort of exemptions for the Queen’s interests are sometimes required as a necessary step.”
The Scottish government did not answer questions about the number of bills that provided special exemptions for the Queen, or whether greater transparency was needed.
In a short statement, a spokesperson said: “Scottish government policy is that the crown should be subject to regulatory requirements on the same basis as everyone else, unless there is a legitimate reason for an exemption or variation. However, crown consent is required by law if a bill impacts the private property or interests of the sovereign – and that is what happened in this case.”

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In the Capitol, Revival of Mask Mandate Ignites Partisan Recriminations

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Lawmakers from districts with low-risk areas — many of them Democrats — are complying, while members of Congress from areas where the virus is spreading rapidly — including many Republicans — have resisted.
Nicholas Fandos and
WASHINGTON — Late Tuesday night, after the attending physician of the Capitol declared that the “People’s House” was once again under a mask mandate, the response from Republicans was immediate and emphatic.
“Make no mistake,” the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, wrote, “The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state.”
“More freedom. Less Fauci,” quipped Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, referring to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the right’s favorite boogeymen.
It was not clear what “liberal government officials” would get out of forcing Americans back into masks. Few relish donning their face coverings again. But the House mandate appeared to be playing out as a parable for the rest of the nation.
Lawmakers from districts with low rates of infection and high rates of vaccination — many of them Democrats — are compliantly wearing their masks, while members of Congress from areas where the virus is spreading rapidly — including many Republicans — have resisted, or are wearing their masks under protest.
In something of a twist, Republicans have co-opted a Democratic phrase and are insisting that they are the ones following the science, given Washington’s high vaccination rate and relatively low case count. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says its latest mask recommendations reflect the resurgent coronavirus, driven by a new, highly contagious variant ripping through unvaccinated populations.
Asked about Mr. McCarthy’s comments on Wednesday, Ms. Pelosi was overheard retorting, “He’s such a moron.” (She later softened her tone, saying the top Republican’s position was “not wise.”)
“If she’s so brilliant,” Mr. McCarthy shot back, “can she tell me where the science in the building changes between the House and the Senate?” The Senate has not mandated masks, adopting voluntary recommendations instead.
Later, in a speech on the House floor, Mr. McCarthy accused the speaker of violating her own rules and suggested the House’s mandate was “just the beginning” of a power trip by Democrats to roll back into place restrictions on social gatherings and in-person school.
For the C.D.C., the director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said on Wednesday, the tipping point was new evidence that vaccinated Americans with “breakthrough” Covid-19 cases could infect others.
“Vaccinated people who are the breakthroughs have the same amount of virus as the unvaccinated people,” she said on “Doctor Radio Reports,” a show on SiriusXM. “And that is very much leading us to believe that it is probably the case that those vaccinated breakthrough infections, rare as they might be, have the potential to infect others.”
Whether the C.D.C. can succeed in getting Americans back into masks will play out in microcosm in the Capitol, that rare place where ardent conservatives mingle with fervent liberals on a daily basis.
Following the C.D.C.’s guidance, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician of the Capitol, kicked off the effort Tuesday night, restoring a mask mandate for the House that he lifted only weeks ago. The House, he said, represented “a collection of individuals traveling weekly from various risk areas.” The Senate is a much smaller body where all but a few members are vaccinated.
Dr. Monahan warned gravely of the spreading Delta variant, which has sent coronavirus cases soaring by 145 percent over the past 14 days, to a seven-day average on Tuesday of 63,248. A month ago, the nation recorded fewer than 12,000 cases.
Hospitalizations are up 70 percent. Deaths, a lagging indicator, have risen 6 percent over two weeks.
“The Delta variant virus has been detected in Washington, D.C., and in the Capitol buildings,” Dr. Monahan said. “It represents a dire health risk to unvaccinated individuals and is not without some risk to the vaccinated individuals or their unvaccinated household contacts.”
The virus is making the doctor’s point. The Senate homeland security committee called off a business meeting where it had been scheduled to advance two key nominees after staff members who came into contact with the panel tested positive for the virus despite being vaccinated, a committee aide said. A vaccinated senior aide to Ms. Pelosi was infected, as were other House and Senate aides.
Yet the Republican response on Capitol Hill has been unequivocal — and angry. An unmasked Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, moved to adjourn the House and forced all its members to convene to vote him down. Moments before, he had elaborately tied the mask mandate to one of Republicans’ choice political issues: the crush of migrants crossing the southwestern border, who he said were “heavily infected.”
“We have a crisis at our border and we are playing footsie with mask mandates in the people’s house,” Mr. Roy said, his voice raised.
While dutifully wearing a mask, Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the Administration Committee, said he worried Dr. Monahan was “getting pressure from the speaker sometimes to issue guidance that is motivated less by science and more by politics.” Republicans later raised the charge to Dr. Monahan directly during an in-person meeting, accusing him of acting based on slapdash data and the speaker’s political interests — a claim he strenuously denied.
All told, a dozen or more Republicans appeared to flout the rule on the House floor. When a staff member handed a mask to one of them, Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, she tossed it back.
House rules say that any lawmaker who does not wear a mask in specified spaces in the Capitol complex can be fined $500 or more.
Democrats, many of them already angry about conservatives stoking vaccine hesitancy, were on a short fuse. Just off the House floor, a masked Representative Jared Huffman, Democrat of California, publicly accosted an unvaccinated Republican colleague, Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, calling him “selfish” for refusing to wear a mask.
Mr. Donalds shot back, “Mind your business, man” and walked off in a huff. He later voted without a mask on and would not say if he planned to get vaccinated because he contracted Covid-19 in the fall and believed he still had antibodies.
“Listen, the rule is stupid,” he said. “Let’s just be very blunt about this. Yesterday, we were on the floor for all total two hours and some change. If Covid-19 has been swarming through the Capitol, we all have it.”
While the House raced to lock down, senators appeared to be in no rush.
Senate Republicans have generally taken a more conciliatory tack than their House counterparts, with their leaders pleading with conservatives to drop their hesitance and get vaccinated. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, planned to use tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to run radio ads in his home state heralding the vaccine as a “modern medical miracle.”
“If you haven’t been vaccinated, do the right thing,” he says in the ad, in which he recounts his own fight with polio.
Still, when Mr. McConnell strolled to the Senate floor on Wednesday, he did not don a face covering. He said on Tuesday that the high vaccination rate among lawmakers and Capitol aides gave him confidence to leave it off.
But others were happy to pile on the outrage. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas fumed, “the science hasn’t changed. Only the politics has.”
Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, wondered aloud to the conservative news outlet Breitbart: “Do masks even work? Do they do more harm than good — particularly to children who have a low risk of serious disease or death from Covid?”
He continued, “Time to reclaim liberty and end this state of fear.”
Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.
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Lack of quarantine at England’s borders ‘risks havoc of Covid variants’

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Labour and medical experts question reliance on vaccination status and tests for arrivals from Europe, the US and elsewhere
Last modified on Wed 28 Jul 2021 16.53 EDT
Opening England’s borders to let millions of people arriving from the US and Europe avoid quarantine could risk importations of new Covid variants that might wreak havoc with unlocking domestic restrictions, ministers have been warned.
After the government announced plans to recognise vaccination status if people were fully jabbed in the US and most of Europe, Labour said it could make the country more susceptible to being overwhelmed by another Delta-like variant.

The change, which will come into force from next Monday, was signed off by members of the cabinet on Wednesday in a move to let Britons who moved abroad be reunited with family back home, and to unlock more business travel to boost the economy.
Many millions of people are set to benefit across all of the US, in all 27 EU member states (apart from France, which is being kept on the “amber plus” list for another week) and in Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and the microstates of Lichtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and Vatican City.
All arrivals will still have to test negative before their trip and again within two days of landing in the UK. Children who mainly reside in the US and Europe will also be able to avoid quarantine.
Europeans will need to produce their digital Covid certificate, while Americans who do not have an app should show the Centers for Disease Control card they were given when vaccinated.
The move was welcomed by aviation and tourism firms, the news adding nearly £2bn to their value. But one industry body admitted the summer season was already all but lost, and another claimed the lack of a reciprocal deal to get the US to ease restrictions on its side of the Atlantic was a significant stumbling block.
Scotland announced it would follow suit but keep the situation “under close review”, while the first minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, gave reluctant backing to the change. He said that for practical reasons it would be hard not to go along with it but that politicians in Westminster were “making decisions that we probably wouldn’t have made for ourselves”. He repeated that he thought people should avoid going abroad this year.
Jim McMahon, the shadow transport secretary, criticised ministers’ “recklessness” and said evidence needed to be published proving the move would not lead to another variant running “rampant through the country” and damaging “the effort of the British public”.
Alexandre Holroyd, the deputy in the National Assembly representing French citizens in northern Europe, called the decision to exclude travellers from his country absurd, tweeting: “Decisions made without any science or logic. Kafka goes on holiday with Godot.”
Meanwhile the number of new Covid cases in the UK rose by more than 4,000 – putting to an end the seven-day streak of falling figures that had given ministers and their advisers cause for optimism.
Daily deaths in the UK dropped by 40 to 91 and hospitalisations continued growing but at a slower rate to 6,021.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, tried to lower expectations by saying people should remain cautious and forecast that there would “still be bumps on the road” later this year.
Scientists were split about the level of threat from the government’s decision to allow significantly more people into the country without quarantining.
Prof Christina Pagel, director of the clinical operational research unit at UCL, said given that fully vaccinated people could still catch and pass on the virus, she was worried about variants that were better at infecting people who were already vaccinated.
She said a “worrying new variant could emerge” in the US or Europe; or if travel were less inhibited between those places and the UK “a variant that emerges anywhere will spread everywhere”.
Pagel said: “We should be taking advantage of the fact that we are an island and having much more control over potential new variants coming in.”
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, told the BBC it was “self-indulgent” for the government to be focusing on what freedom to give to fully vaccinated people while the vast majority of people in some poorer countries did not have access to jabs.
He pressured the government to increase the number of doses it was sending abroad, saying: “If you want variants, you’ve got the perfect storm for that, and it is not in Watford – it is in Zimbabwe and Rwanda and South Africa.”
But Prof Ravi Gupta, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, said there were “much more worrying conditions here in the UK” for variants that could escape current vaccines, adding it was “sensible” to allow fully vaccinated travellers in with no quarantine, given the lack of legal restrictions now in place.
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, also said the UK had recently “been more of a risk to others than they have been to us” and that while new variants were concerning, travel restrictions only delayed their arrival rather than stopped them.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, insisted it was safe to open up the border. He also announced that international cruises would soon be allowed to resume and that testing requirements would be relaxed for delivery drivers who entered the country but do not leave their vehicle.
Letting more fully vaccinated travellers avoid quarantine was hailed as a “fantastic step” towards rebuilding Britain’s tourism sector by Joss Croft, the chief executive of UKinbound.
But Croft said businesses dependent on foreign visitors still faced “substantial barriers to recovery”, with other countries reopening faster and the US still advising its citizens not to travel to the UK. “The valuable 2021 summer season is all but lost”, he said, and it would mean thousands of businesses and jobs continuing to be at risk over the winter.
The travel association ABTA warned that the aviation industry was also “not out of the woods”. A spokesperson for the group said other countries were reopening faster than the UK, and urged the government to add more destinations to the green list, which is due to be reviewed next Wednesday with changes coming into effect from 9 August.

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U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Indo-Pacific Region

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Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. defense secretary, announced that the Biden administration has pledged to deliver 500 million doses of coronavirus vaccine around the world over the next year, including to the Indo-Pacific.
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It's Time to Start Requiring Covid Vaccines

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Too many aren’t getting the shot, and the state has options to compel citizens.
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The Guardian view on a crime blitz: Boris Johnson won’t make you feel safer | Editorial

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Many voters think the government handles crime badly. Unworkable but tough-sounding punishments won’t change their minds.
Last modified on Wed 28 Jul 2021 04.49 EDT
Boris Johnson was a journalist who wanted to be prime minister. Now in Downing Street, he appears happiest when supplying headlines for the rightwing press. On Sunday, his plan to “blitz crime” was on the front page of the Sunday Express. On Monday, his home secretary was telling readers of the Daily Mail that she’ll make “yobs clean the streets”. At best, the government’s proposals are an irrelevance to tackling crime or making people feel safer. More likely, they will create perverse incentives and make a bad situation worse.
The policies fail on their own terms. Chain gangs are not a good way of deterring criminals. They have not stopped them in the US. This silly stunt will stigmatise a generation of offenders. There is good evidence that stop and search has minimal effects on crime levels, so why persist with a tactic that lowers trust levels? Tagging those released from prison might help reduce recidivism rates. But why devote resources to tagging burglars and not violent offenders?

Whitehall knows that a punitive approach is likely to have a negligible effect on levels of offending. But that is not the point. The prime minister wants to send a message to reassure socially conservative voters. Mr Johnson’s aim is to snatch ground from his rivals. Opinion polls suggest that 60% of voters think the government handles the issue of crime badly. Labour has been exploiting this distrust. Senior police officers worry that as lockdown is lifted, there will be a rise in violent crime, shoplifting, burglaries and alcohol-fuelled fights. The “policy blitz” gives Mr Johnson’s team something to say in the months ahead, even if it is just a list of unworkable but tough-sounding punishments.
The prime minister asks a lot of the police, while giving little in return. His rhetoric may go down well with the rank and file – but they would clearly, and with good reason, prefer a decent pay rise. Downing Street’s plan to recruit 20,000 officers goes some way to undoing a decade of cuts, but 18,000 support staff will not be replaced. The cash is being allocated in such a way that some areas lose out: the West Midlands will, it seems, be left 900 officers short of the number it had in 2010.
Mr Johnson is also not listening to police chiefs. Earlier this year, the outgoing chief constable of Merseyside police told the Guardian that cutting poverty and inequality was the best way to reduce crime and thwart criminals’ attempts to attract poor youngsters. He was right. Young people in deprived areas do not need chain gangs, they need youth clubs. But the government is not listening. Instead, the strategy is based on refounding the Conservatives’ reputation on law and order. Mr Johnson thinks that prison works and he says he will spend £4bn to construct new jails. Many suspect they will never be built.
As the courts reopen, the prison population is expected to rise by a quarter over the next five years – and could hit 99,000. Prisons are not turning people away from crime. Overcrowding is a big reason jails fail to rehabilitate people. England, Scotland and Wales have the highest imprisonment rates in western Europe. A better policy would be sending fewer people to prison, using alternative sentences and improving rehabilitation. But that would need Mr Johnson to challenge the rightwing press over the folly of draconian criminal justice rather than endlessly seek the next cheap headline.

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