11.33am BST

The Times’ Esther Webber has posted the line being sent to Tory MPs defending the government’s decision not to back Marcus Rashford’s call for the free school meal scheme to be extended in England to cover the summer holidays.

Esther Webber

Tory MPs got this rebuttal to use as a defence on free school meals – but some point out total cost of schemes here is only c. £30m less than FSM and ask if was a hill worth dying on pic.twitter.com/3AI4kCeFU5

June 16, 2020

The Department for Education made more or less the same arguments in this blog on its website yesterday defending the government’s position.

11.25am BST

These are from the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg on the Commons statement on “global Britain” that we are getting from Boris Johnson later. Unusually No 10 has been refusing to give details of what it’s about.

Laura Kuenssberg

Has been some mystery about PM’s ‘Global Britain’ statement later today – but he’s expected to announce to plans to merge DFID and Foreign Office after Lord Bew’s review of how best to spend UK aid money – likely at around 1.30

June 16, 2020

Laura Kuenssberg

Idea has been doing the rounds in Tory circles for ages and was mooted as part of reshuffle earlier this year but didn’t happen ..lets see exactly what plan is later on – the 2 depts already share ministers but it’s been a controversial idea

June 16, 2020

And this is from the Financial Times’ Sebastian Payne.

Sebastian Payne

Boris Johnson told me in Jan 2019:

“If ‘Global Britain’ is going to achieve its full and massive potential then we must bring back Dfid to the FCO. We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO.” https://t.co/lrhRokxO6F

June 16, 2020

11.21am BST

Transport for London to increase congestion charge to prevent surge in road traffic

Transport for London will next week increase the congestion charge and enforce it through weekends and evenings in a bid to stop the surge in vehicle traffic in the capital.

The charge to drive a car into central London will rise to £15 a day and apply from 7am-10pm, seven days a week, from 22 June, as transport authorities try to avert gridlock.

Passenger numbers on the tube and bus have only risen slightly this week, as people continue to avoid public transport, but as the Covid-19 restrictions ease motor traffic has already reached pre-lockdownlevels, TfL say.

The charge, along with the ultra-low emission charge, was suspended at the start of lockdown in March when London’s streets were empty. Now though TfL say a hike is necessary, or traffic is forecast to grow to double normal levels, causing widespread congestion and pollution, and disruption to the bus network.

London has been trying to encourage walking and cycling, widening pavements and giving new sections of road lanes over to non-motorised traffic.

TfL said the increase in the charge from £11.50 a day was a temporary move, agreed as part of the £1.6bn funding agreement with central government to help offset lost revenue, mainly from the tube. NHS workers will be exempt.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan:

Coronavirus continues to present our city with unprecedented challenges but I am determined to ensure that we emerge from this pandemic with a cleaner, greener and more sustainable transport system.

The reality is that due to social distancing requirements public transport can only carry a fraction of the number of passengers compared to pre-pandemic levels. While capacity on the network needs to be preserved for those people who need it most, we can’t allow journeys that were previously taken on public transport to be replaced with car trips.

Rush hour traffic at Clapham Common in London this morning. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

at 11.33am BST

11.05am BST

‘We’re working to same aim’ – cabinet minister Thérèse Coffey seeks to defuse free school meals row with Marcus Rashford

Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, has responded on Twitter to the England footballer Marcus Rashford, who complained earlier that her only engagement with his campaign for the free school meal scheme to be extended in England over the summer holidays was a post apparently fact-checking one of his claims.

As we reported earlier, Coffey said earlier that Rashford was wrong to say poor families risked having their water cut off. (See 9.09am.)

Rashford responded with this post on Twitter.

Marcus Rashford

I’m concerned this is the only tweet of mine you acknowledged. Please, put rivalries aside for a second, and make a difference #maketheuturn

June 16, 2020

And Coffey later claimed that Rashford and the government were “working to the same aim”.

Therese Coffey #ProtectEachOtherSaveLives

Hi @MarcusRashford, I welcome your passion for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society – a passion we share. We are working to the same aim. I & this Govt will continue to actively help and support families and businesses through this emergency and beyond

June 16, 2020

Therese Coffey #ProtectEachOtherSaveLives

@MarcusRashford We supported people renting and ensure they cannot be evicted & intervened with electricity suppliers on bills. We have kept schools open for vulnerable children and those of key workers. We will continue to support the economy and help all of us get through this

June 16, 2020

In an interview with BBC News earlier the Conservative MP David Simmonds defended the government’s decision not to fund the free school meal programme over the summer, saying that there were better ways of targeting the money available at those families most in need.

Asked about Coffey’s original response to Rashford tweets (“water cannot be disconnected though”), Simmonds at first sidestepped the question. But he added that, from his 20 years’ experience as a councillor, some people did get their water cut off, even though the rules said that was not meant to happen.

at 11.18am BST

11.03am BST

This is from Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former joint chief of staff in Downing Street. He thinks the government will end up backing down over free school meals.

Nick Timothy

Congratulations to Marcus Rashford, who I expect will be able to declare victory some time before this afternoon’s opposition day debate.

June 16, 2020

at 11.09am BST

10.30am BST

Lawyers have said that growing evidence of a link between air pollution and the impact of coronavirus means the government has a legal obligation to urgently review its air quality strategy – the Guardian’s environment editor, Damian Carrington, reports.

In a letter to ministers, the lawyers argue that refusing to order a review would breach UK law, the precautionary principle and the European convention on human rights.

Dirty air is estimated to cause 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK, and evidence is mounting that it is linked to increased Covid-19 infection rates and death rates. The lawyers, acting for Mums for Lungs and the Good Law Project, say this potential risk to life means ministers must act even if the evidence is not yet conclusive.

The full story is here.

at 10.35am BST

10.19am BST

Excess deaths in UK during Covid crisis have reached 64,500, says ONS

Nick Stripe, head of the health analysis and life events division at the ONS, has posted a useful Twitter thread on the ONS statistics. It starts here.

Nick Stripe

THREAD – Deaths registered w/e 5 Jun (E&W)

There were 10,709 deaths registered in total

= 885 more deaths than the week before, but registrations that week were affected by the late Spring bank holiday

This was 7% (732 deaths) above the 5-yr wkly avg = “excess” deaths

1/n pic.twitter.com/HhSbgHja8D

June 16, 2020

And here are some of his key points.

Excess deaths in the UK are now running at about 64,500, the ONS says. Excess deaths means all deaths above the seasonal average. They include deaths directly attributed to coronavirus, but also deaths otherwise related to the pandemic. Scientists and politicians have repeatedly said that the excess death rate is the best measure of the impact of the virus on the UK.

Nick Stripe

Across Eng & Wales 47,104 deaths have now mentioned COVID on death certs

There have been 58,693 “excess” deaths across E&W in total since w/e 27 Mar

Across the UK c.52k deaths have mentioned COVID with c.64.5k “excess” deaths


June 16, 2020

There have been 26,600 excess deaths in care homes in England and Wales since the pandemic began, the ONS says.

Nick Stripe

36% of deaths involving COVID were in care home settings

Total deaths in care homes were 16% above the 5-yr weekly average

Excluding CV-related deaths they would have been 11% below

The no. of “excess” deaths in care homes since the pandemic started now totals 26.6k


June 16, 2020

There have been 15,400 excess deaths in private homes in England and Wales since the pandemic began, the ONS says.

Nick Stripe

5% of deaths involving COVID were in private home settings

Total deaths in private homes were 41% above the 5-yr weekly avg

Excluding CV-related deaths they would have been 38% above

The no. of “excess” deaths in private homes since the pandemic started now totals 15.4k


June 16, 2020

9.56am BST

London first region in England and Wales to see death rate fall below seasonal average, says ONS

The Office for National Statistics has published its latest weekly death figures for England and Wales. These cover up to the week ending Friday 5 June (or week 23, as the ONS calls it.)

ONS coronavirus death figures are more thorough than the daily ones released by the Department of Health and Social Care. The DHSC figures only cover people who tested positive for coronavirus and died, whereas the ONS figures cover any death where coronavirus was mentioned as a factor on the death certificate.

Here are the main points.

Excess deaths – the number of deaths above the five-year average for this time of year – were still running at 7.3% in the first week of June. That amounted to 732 excess deaths. But, as this chart shows, the excess death rate is falling to what it was at the end of March. (Excess deaths are represented by the gap between the thick blue line, all deaths, and the dotted grey line, the five-year average for all deaths.)

Coronavirus deaths and excess death figures. Photograph: ONS

There were 335 excess deaths in care homes in week 23 (ie, 335 more than you would expect given the five-year average). But in hospitals in that week the number of deaths was 538 below the five-year average.

Deaths in London in the first week of June were below average. Other regions continued to record excess deaths (ie, more deaths than you would expect based on the average).

Excess deaths in first week of June in England and Wales by region. Photograph: ONS

Coronavirus accounted for 14.8% of all deaths in England and Wales in the first week of June. There were 1,588 coronavirus deaths – the lowest number for nine weeks.

at 10.04am BST

9.56am BST

Another Conservative MP has come out in support of Rashford’s call for the free school meals scheme to be extended into the summer.

George Freeman MP

This is an unprecedented crisis. The PM @10DowningStreet & Chancellor @RishiSunak have been right to take unprecedented steps to help shield the most vulnerable.

Free School Meals are a lifeline for many v low income families.

Let’s do the right thing: extend FSM thru summer. https://t.co/DqI3oedqaM

June 16, 2020

9.33am BST

Some more evidence of disquiet among Tory MPs over the government’s refusal to extend the free school meals programme over the summer:

The education select committee chairman and Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, has told BBC Breakfast that Britain could be facing “an ice age for vulnerable children”.

He said extending the free school meals programme “would be the right thing to do” but acknowledged there were mixed views among Conservative politicians.

Families have not only faced health worries but enormous financial anxieties and enormous stress, many of them being made redundant…

There are lots of food programmes across different government departments. If they just consolidated those programmes, they would almost have the money for the free school meals programme over the summer, which would cost roughly £110m.

Robert Halfon. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Media

at 10.44am BST

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