Boris Johnson is set to lead a coronavirus press briefing for the first time since announcing the England-wide ban on gatherings of more than six people three weeks ago.
The Prime Minister will appear alongside chief medical officer for England professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance,
The UK remains on red alert for further local measures after a record high in the number of daily coronavirus cases, with health chiefs set to consider new measures next week to further restrict mixing between households in London.
Merseyside is said to be one of the areas poised to join the north east under tougher restrictions which ban households mixing indoors. Four North Wales local authority areas – Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham – will go into lockdown from 6pm on Thursday .
Follow our live updates below….
Nick Thomas-Symonds says Government should publish a monthly review of the impact of coronavirus on different groups across the community
The shadow home secretary said: “Some of the most vulnerable people have borne the brunt of this virus and this Government’s failings and we’ve also seen that across our communities that the impact has not been evenly felt. Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have been some of the worst hit by the virus itself and the economic fallout, and disabled people and those with underlying health conditions have made up 59 per cent of the Covid deaths to date.
“In spite of this, the Government has not done enough work on equality impact assessments, on measures or made the necessary evidence available so we can openly debate and vote to address these deep inequalities. And this is an all or nothing motion today that we’re faced with.
“But let me put the Government on notice that we will not tolerate any discrimination in our society as a consequence of the implementation of these measures. And that’s why I say to the Government today they should not be waiting another six months. They should publish a monthly review on the impact of this virus on individuals and groups together with those detailed impact assessments.”
Addressing Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Sir Graham Brady said: “May I begin by thanking you. Although you gave your reasons earlier for not selecting the amendments in my name and that of 80 other colleagues across the House, you also made your expectations of Government crystal clear.
“No-one can doubt your commitment to upholding the standing orders of this House, Mr Speaker, but nor have you left any doubt about your resolve in defending parliamentary democracy and the right of this House to scrutinise and to hold ministers to account.”
Shadow home secretary says Labour “with a heavy heart” will not be blocking the motion, despite the “unsatisfactory” arrangements for the debate
Nick Thomas-Symonds criticised ministers for appearing on national media with “absolutely no idea of what the rules are”, telling the Commons: “The public is being let down on a grand scale.
“The Government has had virtually all the resources and brilliance of our remarkable country on demand for over six months. They’ve been able to call on the UK’s remarkable frontline workers, who have shown incredible skill and bravery through this crisis.
“And yet we’ve ended up with one of the highest death rates in the world and on the threshold of one of the deepest recessions.”
Mr Thomas-Symonds described the testing system as “inadequate at the very moment we need it most”, adding: “Losing control of testing means losing control of the virus.
“It’s that loss of control which makes further restrictions necessary – restrictions that are having a devastating effect on families and businesses up and down the country. This dire situation was not inevitable, it’s the result of a chronic failure of government.”
Health Secretary addresses parts of the Coronavirus Act that contain measures for managing the deceased
Mr Hancock said: “The fourth part of the Act contains measures for managing the deceased, and this is a devastating virus that has caused pain and suffering for many and that tragically has taken away many loved ones before their time.
“And we’ve worked hard to treat them with the upmost dignity along with protecting public health and respecting the wishes of the families of the bereaved.
“And the Act expands the list of people who can register a death to include funeral directors and sets out that coroners only have to be notified when there is not a medical professional available to sign a death certificate.
“It allows death certificates to be emailed instead of physically presented, removes the need for confirmatory medical certificates in order for a cremation to take place and relieves coroners from the need to hold inquests with a jury in suspected Covid-19 deaths.”
“Over the past few months these powers have eased pressure on coroners, reduced distress to the bereaved and allowed funerals to take place without delay and we therefore propose to keep them.”
Matt Hancock condemns the actions of some students at Coventry University who flouted lockdown restrictions by attending a large party
Tory Marco Longhi (Dudley North) said: “This virus clearly behaves according to how each and every one of us behaves and will he join me in condemning what we saw on the news this morning at Coventry University, where some students were behaving in a shameful way, up-close-and-personal partying?”
Mr Hancock replied: “The comments that (Mr Longhi) makes are absolutely right. The need for all of us, all of us, to exercise responsibility in a world where a virus can pass asymptomatically without anybody knowing that they have it is sadly a feature of life during this pandemic that I hope will be over sooner rather than later.
“And so I agree with (Mr Longhi).”
Matt Hancock announces that modifications to mental health legislation meaning a person can be detained under the opinion of just one doctor will be removed from the Coronavirus Act
He told MPs: “Now I also want to come to a measure that we will not be renewing, because I said that we will only keep measures in place for as long as necessary. And I can tell the House that there is one area where we will revoke a power which was part of the original Act.
“When creating the Act, we included provisions to modify mental health legislation to reduce from two to one the number of doctors opinions needed to detain someone under the Mental Health Act and to extend legal time limits to the detention of mental health patients.
“These were always powers of last resort and I was not persuaded, even in the peak, that they were necessary because our mental health services have shown incredible resilience and ingenuity.
“So I’ve decided that these powers are no longer required in England and will not remain part of the Act and will bring forward the necessary secondary legislation to sunset these provisions.”
Health Secretary says he worked with MPs to find a solution which works for both the House of Commons and the circumstances
Conservative former minister Steve Baker told the Commons: “I’m extremely grateful to (Mr Hancock) for what he’s set out and the manner in which he’s done it and I thank him very much indeed.
“He said earlier that some of these provisions he wouldn’t be renewing, could I just invite him to say something about mental health and also something about Schedule 21 relating to potentially infectious persons?”
Mr Hancock responded: “I’m grateful to (Mr Baker) and we’ve been working together to try to find a way through this that works both for the House and for the circumstances.
“On Section 21, there has been a change in the way that this section is used and I believe that has reduced some of the concerns in this area, but we’ll continue to keep it under review.”
He added: “There are measures on mental health that we put forward in the Coronavirus Act that have not been used and that we are not seeking to renew and I hope that that will reassure colleagues that we take a proportionate approach to these measures.”
Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, praises Matt Hancock for being “prepared to listen” regarding the importance of parliamentary scrutiny
He told the Commons: “Can I also thank (Matt Hancock) for being prepared to listen and for the constructive conversations that we’ve had over the last couple of weeks.
“As he said, members on both sides of the House understand the importance of ministers having the freedom to act quickly when it’s necessary, but we are grateful than he and other members of the Government have understood the importance of proper scrutiny in this place and the benefits that can bring to better government as well.”
Mr Hancock responded: “I’m grateful to (Sir Graham) and I agree with him about the point about scrutiny and I’m very glad that we’ve been able to find a way to ensure that we can have that scrutiny and colleagues on all sides can have the opportunity to vote and we do so in a way though that still doesn’t fetter the Government’s need to act fast to keep people safe from this virus.”
Matt Hancock added that he hopes all MPs will be happy with the new arrangements
He said: “I am sure that no member of this House would want to limit the Government’s ability to take emergency action in the national interest as we did in March.
“And we will continue to involve the House in scrutinising our decisions in the way the Prime Minister set out last week, with regular statements and debates and the ability for members to question the Government’s scientific advisers more regularly, gain access to data about their constituencies and join daily calls with the Paymaster General.
“And I hope the new arrangements will be welcomed on all sides of the House and I will continue to listen to colleagues’ concerns, as I’ve tried my best to do so throughout.”
Matt Hancock announced that wherever possible the Government will allow MPs a vote on regulations that will apply to the whole of England or the United Kingdom.
The Health Secretary told MPs: “Today I can confirm to the House that for significant national measures, with effect in the whole of England or UK-wide, we will consult Parliament – wherever possible we will hold votes before such regulations come into force.
“But of course responding to the virus means that the Government must act with speed when required and we cannot hold up urgent regulations which are needed to control the virus and save lives.”
Speaking at a weekly coronavirus press conference, Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham said coronavirus restrictions could cause England’s north-south divide to “massively increase”.
He said: “If we go into a winter with the north under local restrictions, millions of people under restrictions, businesses suffering because of those restrictions, no support for those businesses, we are going to see a widening of the north-south divide.
“If you look back in years to come you’ll think Covid-19 did more harm to the north of England than Margaret Thatcher and whatever she did in the 1980s.
“This is a real danger that is staring us right in the face.
“A government that says it wants to level up cannot put the north of England under restrictions without support. It’s pretty much as simple as that.”
Welcome to NHS Knittingale:
A great-great-grandmother spent three months knitting a model hospital to raise funds for the NHS. Margaret Seaman, 91, has called her masterpiece “Knittingale” after the NHS Nightingale field hospitals.
Ms Seaman used 34 balls of wool to make the masterpiece at the bungalow she shares with her 72-year-old daughter Tricia Wilson in Caister-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
Exams will likely go ahead:
Boris Johnson is committed to GCSE and A-Level exams taking place next year, Downing Street has said.
Asked if the exams could be scrapped, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a briefing of Westminster journalists: “We do expect exams to take place next year.
“We are working with the exam boards and Ofqual on our approach, recognising that students experienced considerable disruption to their education last year.”
England figures in…
A further 43 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,005, NHS England said on Wednesday.
Patients were aged between 43 and 98 years old and all except one (aged 72) had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between August 22 and September 29.
Five other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
Downing Street has hinted that the Government has struck a compromise with Tory rebels calling for votes on new coronavirus restrictions.
A source among the rebels also indicated that Health Secretary Matt Hancock will outline an agreement as he opens the Commons debate.
It comes after backbenchers from all sides of the Commons appeared to be uniting to hold the Government to account.
Northern Ireland figures in…
There have been 424 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Northern Ireland in the last 24-hour reporting period, the Department of Health has announced.
A further coronavirus-linked death has been reported to the department, although it did not occur within the last day.
The death toll recorded by the department now stands at 579.
Downing Street has not ruled out standardising local lockdown rules to make them simpler to follow.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We always keep the guidelines under review and you have seen in the past us take steps such as introducing the rule of six in order to provide more clarity and certainty around the rules.”
Downing Street has declined to follow Business Secretary Alok Sharma in criticising the question that prompted Boris Johnson to wrongly state some coronavirus restrictions in the North East.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The PM engaged with the question, he did misspeak in the answer but he apologised and corrected the record as soon as he could afterwards.”
Downing Street has signalled the Government has struck a compromise with rebels who have been calling for votes on new coronavirus restrictions.
A source among the rebels also indicated that Health Secretary Matt Hancock will outline an agreement as he opens the Commons debate.
Asked about Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s criticism of the Government, a No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have acknowledged that we’re looking at further ways to involve Parliament in the process in advance and we know how important it is for both houses to have to debate and scrutinise all coronavirus regulations.
“At the same time it does remain vital that we can move quickly to stop the virus spreading, as we have done throughout the pandemic and I’m sure you will hear more on this from the Health Secretary this afternoon.”
Pressed on whether an agreement had been struck, the spokesman said: “I can’t pre-empt what the Health Secretary is going to say and as you can imagine the appropriate place for any announcement to be made would be in the Commons.”
Downing Street has said officials are “closely monitoring” Merseyside amid concerns the region could be set for further coronavirus restrictions.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Public Health England, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and NHS Test and Trace are constantly monitoring the levels of infections and other data on the prevalence of the virus across the country.
“They have been closely monitoring the prevalence of the virus in Liverpool and Merseyside.
“The measures that we have in place are kept under constant review and if changes are required to protect local people and protect the NHS these will be set out by the Department of Health and Social Care.”