Johnson denies claim he ‘stoked division’ by refusing to condemn fans who booed England taking the knee
The prime minister today offered only the “skeleton” of plans to level up the nation – in a speech billed as a major bid to define his vision for the UK. During a press conference in Coventry, Boris Johnson was asked where, “after two years into the job”, his clear strategy for levelling up was. “I do think that in all fairness there was at least the skeleton of what to do,” he responded.
Mr Johnson said a levelling-up policy paper was expected to be published later this year but the speech is already being panned as inconclusive. The only new proposal appeared to be to “rewrite the rule book” to take a “more flexible approach to devolution” in England.
A significant moment did, however, come when the PM answered a question about the National Food Strategy, published this morning, suggesting his government will not enforce the proposed snack tax set out by Henry Dimbleby. “I’m not, I must say, attracted to tacking on extra taxes to hardworking people,” the PM said.
Public should be able to trust CCTV, says Hancock investigator
One of the investigators on the Matt Hancock probe suggested his aim was to ensure, or restore, public confidence in the safety of CCTV.
Steve Eckersley, director of investigations at the ICO, said: “It’s vital that all people, including employees and visitors to public buildings, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data captured by CCTV.
“In these circumstances, the ICO aims to react swiftly and effectively to investigate where there is a risk that other people may have unlawfully obtained personal data.”
Mr Eckersley added: “We have an ongoing investigation into criminal matters and will not be commenting further until it is concluded.”
Sam Hancock15 July 2021 14:13
Two houses searched after CCTV images of Matt Hancock embracing aide leaked
Breaking news: Two homes in the south of England have been searched by the Information Commissioner’s Office after CCTV images of the then health secretary Matt Hancock embracing an aide in his Whitehall office were leaked.
The organisation said personal computer equipment and electronic devices were seized, writes Ashley Cowburn in this breaking report.
Jane Dalton15 July 2021 13:49
PM urges caution over Covid as he faces flak over mask guidance
Boris Johnson has urged people to act cautiously when coronavirus restrictions are lifted in England on Monday, as he faces growing criticism over “confused” guidance given to shoppers, businesses and commuters in England over the wearing of masks.
Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said businesses were “understandably confused” over “a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements” in the latest guidance. Adam Forrest reports:
Jane Dalton15 July 2021 13:32
What shall we call county leaders, PM asks public
Boris Johnson has suggested having directly elected county leaders, appealling to the public for ideas of what to call them instead of mayors.
Local leaders in towns should be “given the tools to make things happen for their communities”, he said during his levelling-up speech.
“To do that we must take a more flexible approach to devolution in England.
“We need to rewrite the rulebook with new deals for the counties, and there is no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers we’ve devolved to city leaders.”
But he cautioned “we must get the right local leadership” so there cannot be a “one size fits all template”, as he criticised the “looney left”.
“One possibility is a directly elected mayor for individual counties. And if you can think of a better title than mayor for somebody who represents a county then please send me an email,” he added.
Jane Dalton15 July 2021 13:16
Johnson admits he has only ‘skeleton’ of a plan to level-up country
Boris Johnson’s levelling up speech has been criticised for lacking detail, as the PM admits to only having the “skeleton” of a plan.
The prime minister was challenged that he had failed to set out how to tackle “entrenched inequalities” – after acknowledging 11 years of Tory rule had left many areas poorer than East Germany.
But, at an event in Coventry, he was asked: “You are almost two years into the job now. Where is the clear strategy beyond investment in high streets and infrastructure as to how tackle what is often entrenched inequalities around health, education, aspiration?”
Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports:
Sam Hancock15 July 2021 12:51
PM denies ‘stoking division’ by refusing to condemn fans booing taking the knee
Things got a bit tense for Boris Johnson earlier as he spoke to dozens of reporters about levelling up.
Asked by Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby if he and his ministers had “stoked division” by refusing to condemn fans who booed England players taking the knee, Mr Johnson said he had “always said” this was “wrong”.
Responding to Ms Rigby’s accusation, the PM said: “Obviously I reject that – or disagree with that, I should say.
“I think that racism has absolutely no place in our society and I think the England team represented the very best of us and our country, and I think the overwhelming support, the outpouring of love for the England team, after the match on Sunday showed this country at its best and at its most united.”
He added: “I think what we all want to do is take practical steps to prevent racism in all its forms.”
When he tried to move on to the next reporter, though, Ms Rigby refused to stand down and pressed the PM on his failure to condemn “from the start the booing of the players”, to which Mr Johnson replied: “I always said that it was wrong to boo the England players, and that is my firm belief.”
Sam Hancock15 July 2021 12:19
PM says he is ‘not attracted’ to idea of snack tax
Boris Johnson has signalled his government will not enforce all the recommendations set out by Henry Dimbleby’s Nation Food Strategy review.
Most notably, the prime minister suggested he will not impose the suggested levy on sugary and salty foods, in a bid to tackle Britain’s obesity problem.
“Obviously I will study the report, I think it’s an important report, and I don’t doubt there are some good ideas in it,” Mr Johnson told reporters when asked about its findings. “As I said earlier on, we believe in tacking obesity – trying to help people lose weight by promoting exercise.”
He finished by saying: “I’m not, I must say, attracted to tacking on extra taxes to hardworking people – let me just single that. But I will study the report with interest.”
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the full report:
Sam Hancock15 July 2021 12:06
Obesity expert urges ministers to create legislation on back of food strategy
Back to National Food Strategy reaction now. The government should now create food-based legislation on the back of the National Food Strategy’s recommendations, a leading obesity expert has said.
Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum, said he “fully welcomed” the review into Britain’s obsession with junk food and congratulated Henry Dimbleby “on his report”.
Asked by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire why it isn’t enough to “simply label bad and good foods”, and leave it to consumers to decide what they buy, Mr Fry said: “It isn’t good enough because the food which is available is not as healthy as it could be. As Mr Dimbleby said, this is an effort to tell the food industry to reformulate – so they can still put some sugar and some salt and some fat in but not the excessive amounts we have been used to up until now.”
He continued” It’s got to be done by regulation and the government, because we’ve had 25 years of saying to people, ‘it’s your responsibility to know what good food is, so go out and buy it’ and that has not worked. And now we’ve come to the point where we have to be more tough and I think in the end, the industry will recommend it.”
He added brands had benefited from the sugary drinks levy – noting there has been a fall in sugar added to drinks but a rise in sales of those same drinks – and said the same would happen here.
Pushed on whether he believed legislation was now needed on the back of Mr Dimbleby’s report, the obesity expert replied simply: “Absolutely”.
Sam Hancock15 July 2021 12:00
Boris Johnson told reporters in Coventry that levelling up was a “huge undertaking” but stressed the government was not looking to shirk richer parts of the nation or businesses in the process.
“Let’s be clear about the philosophical difference between this project, levelling up and levelling down,” the PM said. “We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies, we don’t think that you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts of the country poorer.”
He added: “You can’t hope to stimulate growth around the country by actually constraining companies from developing.”
Mr Johnson said levelling up could only be achieved with “a strong and dynamic, wealth-creating economy”.
“There’s got to be a catalytic role for government and government must provide a strategic lead,” he said. “But that requires consistency from government, not chopping and changing.”
Sam Hancock15 July 2021 11:48
The PM, drawing a number of comparisons between opportunities in nearby British cities, said that the UK was “squandering” the potential of its population.
Speaking from Coventry, Boris Johnson said: “No one believes – I don’t believe, you don’t believe – there is a basic difference in the potential of babies born across this country. Everybody knows that talent, energy and enthusiasm and flare are evenly spread across the UK.”
He continued: “It is opportunity that is not, and it is the mission of this government to unite and level up across the whole of the UK, not just because that is morally right but because if we fail we are simply squandering vast reserves of human capital and we are failing to allow people to fulfil their potential and we are holding our country back.”
Sam Hancock15 July 2021 11:29