• Exclusive: GPs leading the way in vaccine rollout are forced to slow down

  • Allison Pearson: Our freedom must return not a day later than necessary

  • Private members club vaccinating clients abroad is 'proud' to offer the service

  • Coronavirus latest news: UK deaths rise by 1,564 in record single-day increase

  • Move civil servants north to shake up ideas, says think tank​

The Government is concerned about a new strain of coronavirus identified in Brazil, Boris Johnson has said. 

"We already have tough measures… to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad," he told MPs of the liaison committee this afternoon. "We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant."

He warned that it was unclear whether the Brazilian variant was "vaccine resistant", along with residual concerns about the South African variant. 

But while he insisted "extra measures" were being put in place to prevent it being imported to the UK, the Prime Minister struggled to deliver details.

Pressed by Labour MP Yvette Cooper on whether this meant a new travel ban being imposed on Brazil, he said: "We are taking steps to ensure that we do not see the import of this new variant from Brazil."

Ms Cooper repeatedly asked what those steps exactly are, to which Mr Johnson cited the incoming plans for negative tests for all international travellers arriving to England. 

Follow the latest updates below.

05:36 PM

We are looking at Sandhurst for civil service, Boris Johnson suggests

Sir Bernard Jenkin then asks Boris Johnson some "quick fire questions". 

He can't answer the first one, which is about which department- Treasury or Trade – should answer questions about free ports. The Prime Minister says it is "either " of them. 

Asked for confirmation on the integrated defence review will be announced in mid-February, the PM says that is "a little bit premature". 

Sir Bernard also asks about civil service training. Mr Johnson says he is looking at having "a campus", which may be funded with the military, at Sandhurst. 

He praises the civil service for having done an amazing job "but formal training… there is a merit in training". 

05:22 PM

Boris Johnson touts 'festival of ideas' around Cop26

Philip Dunne, chair of the environmental audit committee, calls on Boris Johnson to "demonstrate the importance of scrutiny" by involving him and Beis committee chair Darren Jones in Cop26. 

The Prime Minister says their contributions will be "very useful" but dodges "allocating places or this or that right now". 

The Conservative MP for Ludlow also asks if activist groups can feed into the event. 

Mr Johnson says he wants "the widest possible engagement with NGOs, civil society, everybody who has a stake in this. I see no reason why there shouldn't be a festival of ideas in the run-up to Cop."

He suggests there could be "some kind of a fringe" in which debate can take place away from the main event. 

05:18 PM

Boris Johnson signals change in legislation for social media firms

Tom Tugendhat then asks about the fact that "a US company control how you communicate with your electorate" – meaning his Twitter account – or if they should be subject to the same rules as other media firms. 

Boris Johnson says there is "a real debate" to be had about social media firms and whether they should be viewed as publishers. 

"When you start editorialising then you are in a different world and that is why we are bringing forward our white paper about online harms," he adds. "It is time we had a frank conversation about boundaries and the role of these companies in what they choose to publish."

Mr Tugendhat asks if he agrees with China that the drop in Uighur birth rates is because of "gender equality" – referring to a Tweet the Chinese embassy made last week. 

Mr Johnson says "on the Uighurs, I am with the point that was made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday". But calling out human rights abuses "should not stop us from having a productive relationship", he adds. 

05:13 PM

UK to seek international treaty on pandemics, says Boris Johnson

Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs committee, asks what the Prime Minister's priorities are for the G7. 

Boris Johnson says "building back better". This includes  being better prepared for future pandemics to create an "international consensus" about the response. 

"One of the things are we are looking at is creating a treaty about pandemics," he revealed. 

And "jobs, jobs, jobs" and global free trade will be important as will responding to "challenges posed by China". 

Mr Tugendhat asks if privacy can be added to the agenda, and Mr Johnson agrees, saying "we should be vigilant.. about what is happening with our national critical infrastructure, protection of our data and our cyber space". 

But he says he doesn't want to "lurch into a position of unthinking Sinophobia… there is a balance to be struck". 

05:01 PM

Boris Johnson: We will 'do our best to iron out creases' in GB-NI trade

Simon Hoare, chair of the Northern Ireland committee, warns the Prime Minister against invoking Article 16 of the protocol noting the damage it would do to all countries involved and the UK's relationship with the US. 

But he says while trade is getting back to normalcy a "huge campaign" among GB businesses is required. 

He asks for assurances that "all the creases are ironed out" to avoid disruption after the three month grace period. 

Boris Johnson says the trade and support service will be "ramped up" and the Government will "do our best to iron them all out". 

04:57 PM

Boris Johnson hits back over SNP's calls for second referendum

SNP MP Pete Wishart suggests that in light of rising support for independence, refusing Scotland a second referendum is not "democratic". He claims the SNP never agreed to the "once in a generation" line. 

Boris Johnson says he remembers "distinctly" both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon saying that. 

But Mr Wishart replies: "Are you seriously saying that democracy in Scotland doesn't matter?"

The Prime Minister asks him if "right now, in the middle of a pandemic", whether anyone thinks it is "sensible" to have a constitutional referendum. 

"It is incredible that the Scottish National Party is focusing on a referendum," he adds. "You can't say what the prospectus is for the destruction of the UK… what is it? You can't say what your agenda is. 

"The people of this country want to focus on Covid and building back better."

04:52 PM

UK did not turn down EU musician scheme, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is then asked about why the UK did not take part in a scheme to enable musicians touring around the EU. 

He says it is "not true" that the UK turned it down, saying they wanted a deal with "reciprocal rights". 

But UK musicians can play in EU countries for 90 out of 180 days. 

04:50 PM

Boris Johnson pledges to compensate Scottish fishermen caught up in post-Brexit disruption

Hilary Benn then asks about problems experienced by Scottish fishing exporters. 

Boris Johnson says the Government will "compensate those Scottish fishing businesses", but stresses the "massive opportunity for Scotland and the whole of the UK" with the increased quota as a result of the Brexit trade deal. 

The Labour MP asks if those difficulties are "only temporary".  Mr Johnson says "yes". 

But Mr Benn asks if the red tape "mountain" was a consequence of Brexit. 

"That's not compatible with what we are seeing," replies the Prime Minister. "I don't doubt there will be problems. Businesses must prepare for change, things will be different… but I believe all that can be readily done and overall the traffic at the moment is smooth,"

04:47 PM

Hilary Benn challenges Boris Johnson over supply disruption

Hilary Benn, chair of the Brexit committee, asks why there is so much disruption to supermarkets in Northern Ireland "if it is all going so well". 

Boris Johnson claims today Northern Ireland supermarkets have said "supply was pretty much back to normal". 

But the Labour MP asks what will happen if the three month grace period, which ends in March, is not extended. He asks for a guarantee that the period will be extended. 

Mr Johnson says he can "certainly guarantee" that if there are "serious problems" over supply because of "some piece of bureaucracy" that they will invoke Article 16 of the Protocol. 

Mr Benn says it is not bureaucracy but the "very essence of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which you negotiated". 

04:41 PM

Boris Johnson fumbles over plan to stop Brazilian variant being 'imported'

Yvette Cooper asks "why immediate action on a precautionary basis" isn't being taken over the Brazilian variant. 

He says: "We are. We are putting in extra measures to ensure people coming in Brazil are checked, and indeed stopping people coming in from Brazil."

Challenged over his previous comments, he says what they are "looking at" is whether the variant is vaccine resistant.

Asked if that means there is a new travel ban, he replies: "We are taking steps to ensure we do not see the import of this new variant from Brazil."

Asked what steps those are, he says "we are taking steps to stop the Brazilian variant to be imported into this country, as we took steps to stop the South African variant from being important into this country, ans indeed the french took steps to stop the Kent variant being imported into France."

Asked again, he suggests it will be the same test that applies to all countries from Friday. 

04:35 PM

Yvette Cooper hammers Boris Johnson over border checks failings

Yvette Cooper then asks a hypothetical question about international travel and using public transport without a test.

Boris Johnson says he will look at the particular route she describes, but stresses that the new measures in place from Friday should prevent people arriving and travelling around the country without having done a test. 

The senior Labour MP asks when they weren't brought in, but the Prime Minister insists there have been "spot checks" and other measures since the summer. 

"There is a great deal of effort that goes into checking the passenger forms," he says. But Ms Cooper says that 90 per cent of cases were not being checked (see earlier post). 

"We have with respect strengthened that system," he says. 

04:29 PM

Boris Johnson: We don't tolerate domestic abuse

Caroline Nokes, the women and equalities committee chair, asks about protections for domestic abuse. 

Boris Johnson says the Government "doesn't tolerate domestic abuse" and has put in place lots of support.

The former minister then asks about smear tests being cancelled, which he says he sympathises with. 

"Sadly that is what we are seeing, we are seeing delays in cancer, we are seeing delays in smear tests… that is as a result of the rise in the numbers of Covid patients, and that s why we have got to work flat out to get the virus under control and reduce the current wave. 

"I am very sorry for the delay your constituent is experiencing," he adds. 

04:23 PM

Boris Johnson avoids Universal Credit pledge

Boris Johnson is then asked about the imminent £20 cut to Universal Credit by Stephen Timms, chair of the work and pensions cut. 

The uplift is due to end in April, and he asks if it is "unfair" to leave a decision until March. 

The Prime Minister says he takes his point, but adds: "I think that what we want to see is jobs. We want to see people in employment. We want to see the economy bouncing back. Most people in this country would rather see a focus on increasing wages than on welfare."

He adds that "all these things are under review". 

04:20 PM

Boris Johnson: 'Jabs, jabs, jabs will deliver jobs, jobs, jobs'

Labour MP and chair of the Beis committee Darren Jones asks what he is doing for jobs during the pandemic. 

Boris Johnson stresses the lifetime guarantee and Kickstart Scheme to help particularly young people. 

He adds; "Jobs, jobs, jobs is our focus, but the way to deliver that agenda is jabs, jabs, jabs."

After mentioning the levelling up agenda, Mr Jones says "the concern is that levelling up will become as vacuous as the big society". 

Asked about trade between Britain and Northern Ireland in the wake of exiting the Brexit transition period, he claimed things were "flowing smoothly, as I understand it".

He added: "I am not going to deny down that there are teething problems, and there are issues that we need to sort out… but the deal has been of great, great assistance to our businesses in smoothing this."

04:16 PM

Hospitality has had a 'tough time', says Boris Johnson

Catherine McKinnell asks the Prime Minister to meet with petitioners to consider a dedicated minister for hospitality, given the issues the sector has suffered through the pandemic. 

Boris Johnson says she is right that the sector has had a "tough time", but stresses the Business Secretary and himself meet with representatives from hospitality, and highlights the many forms of support available. 

04:13 PM

Boris Johnson dodges question about backing Donald Trump

Labour MP Catherine McKinnell, chair of the petitions committee, asks if Boris Johnson regrets saying Donald Trump deserved a Nobel prize. 

The question is tenuously attached to the fact there was a petition against allowing the outgoing president to have a state visit. 

The Prime Minister says he is in favour of having a good relationship with the US president and looks forward to having one with Joe Biden. 

He is then asked about "being schooled" by Marcus Rashford, but he stresses the parcels "don't reflect the guidance", and it is "a scandal and a disgrace that some companies are trying to get away with the provision they are offering". 

04:09 PM

Boris Johnson dodges commitment about schools reopening from February half-term

Robert Halfon asks about the digital divide, and whether schools will reopen after the February half-term. 

Boris Johnson says that is the priority "if we can achieve what we want to achieve with the vaccination programme", but adds;" If we can begin to do that after the half term holiday… depends on a bunch of things."

He cites the Brazilian variant as a possible issue, although stresses there is "no evidence that they are vaccine-resistant". 

The overall lockdown measures have to be working, he says, adding there are "some early signs of progress".

In the meantime the "tragedy" is that so many children won't get the education they need. 

04:07 PM

Free school meals provider 'hauled over the coals', says Boris Johnson

Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committtee, asks Boris Johnson if he will take the companies behind the food parcels "to task", saying they have "ripped of the tax payer" as well as providing sub-par nutrition. 

The Prime Minister says the MP is "right to be outraged" by the "notorious" pictures, and the company involved "hauled over the coals". 

The images do not reflect the Government guidance, which is double the quantity, he says "if not more". 

But it is "vital that people understand" that the Government has been providing support for vulnerable children and adults, he adds. 

It is right that they are now rolling out the voucher scheme, but it is down to schools to decide which to use, he adds. 

04:02 PM

No data on whether vaccine prevents transmission 'yet', says Boris Johnson

People "have every reason to be confident and happy" about getting vaccinated, the Prime Minister has said, as he acknowledged the high proportion required for it to be successful. 

Sir Bernard Jenrkin said the programme was based on 75 per cent take-up, which was going to get "harder and harder" as the rollout continued. 

"There is some encouraging data showing people are more and more enthusiastic about being vaccinated," the Prime Minister added. 

Asked when will we know whether those who have been vaccinated no longer transmit the disease, Mr Johnson says "not yet". 

The data will be published as soon as possible, he added. 

03:56 PM

Boris Johnson defends Test and Trace system

Labour MP Clive Betts, who is sitting in front of a model Houses of Parliament, asks about Test and Trace, which Boris Johnson immediately defends. 

The system has "conducted 56m tests –  and that is an astonishing number, I believe it's the highest in Europe."

He says although it has been "extremely difficult to control the disease by Test and Trace alone, it has played an important part". 

The chairman of the HCLG committee asks what is being done to get hold of "hard to reach groups" for vaccines. 

Mr Johnson says public health directors will know who has been vaccinated in their communities by the end of this week, saying it was "essential" to helping reach those. 

03:46 PM

Boris Johnson hints that vaccine manufacturers will be bumped up priority list

Sir Bernard then asks what can be done t increase supply to get ahead of schedule. 

Boris Johnson says there is a large amount of vaccine "coming down the track" and a programme that focuses on delivery. 

"We are doing everything we can to bring forward the manufacturing process as fast as we can so we can get it into people's arms in a timely way," he adds.

Sir Bernard notes that immunising these involved in the production would "seem critical", and the rime Minister says "in general" that decision is for the JCVI. 

"But clearly when it comes to the manufacture o the vaccines, there is a critical role for those workers and that has to be taken into consideration."

03:43 PM

Boris Johnson dodges question about data on wastage

Jeremy Hunt then asks the Prime Minister to consider publishing wastage rates. 

Boris Johnson says they will try to be transparent where possible, and that they are trying "absolutely to minimise waste". 

He notes that the challenge of using community pharmacies is at the heart of this problem because there is a risk that some would be left over "in the fridge" and could not be used. 

But longer term, when they are not "supply constrained" they will be, he says. 

Sir Bernard Jenkin intervenes to note that some hospitals have not been using all the vaccine and calls for "best practice" to avoid wastage. 

03:41 PM

Boris Johnson: Localised data will be published weekly

Jeremy Hunt asks why the Government is being so secretive about vaccine plans, such as localised data. 

Boris Johnson says they "want to be as transparent as we possibly can", noting there have been 2.4m people immunised so far. 

He notes that "you know a little bit about how we are doing it", and says "we should" share the regional breakdowns as soon as possible. 

This will be published weekly by the end of this week, he says. This will be shared with public health directors because there will be points at which people can only be reached with the Government "working hand in glove" with local authorities. 

03:38 PM

Boris Johnson: Government needs long-term plan for health and social care

Boris Johnson has agreed that the Government should consider a long-term plan to better understand how many doctors and nurses are needed. 

Noting that "demand at the moment is enormous", he tells Jeremy Hunt they are looking at how to recruit and maintain people in addition to the 50,000 nurses pledged at the election.

The Health and Social Care Committee chair then asks him about the plan for social care, and if his commitment still stands light of public finances. 

The Prime Minister says it does stand, because of the structural issues that remain, saying plans will be brought forward later this year. 

Both sectors should have a 10-year plan says Jeremy Hunt. Mr Johnson agrees "or at least a long-term plan", he adds. "The younger generation need to start thinking about the eventual cost of their social care," he adds. 

03:35 PM

Boris Johnson: We don't know if Brazilian variant is vaccine-resistant

Jeremy Hunt asks for an immediate travel ban on flights from Brazil, following another new variant. 

Boris Johnson  says they are very concerned about it and are taking steps to deal with it. 

There are still questions about whether it might be "vaccine-resistant", he adds, as there still are with the South African variant. 

03:33 PM

Boris Johnson: Pressure on NHS is 'very considerable'

Boris Johnson is now appearing before the Liaison Committee, with just himself and Sir Bernard Jenkin physically in the room. 

The remaining MPs will be dialling in, starting with Jeremy Hunt. 

The Health and Social Care Committee chair asks for an update on the "horrific" situation in our hospitals. 

Mr Johnson says "the situation is very, very tough indeed", and are "going beyond the normal" in the "colossal" fight against Covid.

"The pressure is very considerable," he says. He declines to give an idea of when it might be "over-topped", saying "the risk is very substantial". 

03:11 PM

Sadiq Khan attacks 'lighter lockdown' as he confirms 10,000 London deaths

More than 10,000 Londoners have now died with Covid-19, Sadiq Khan has said.

"Many of the families will be listening to this programme now and they're in my thoughts and prayers… it's heartbreaking it's come to this," Mr Khan told LBC. 

"This epidemic is far worse than it was in spring, the pressures on the NHS are far higher, yet the lockdown measures are much lighter."

Mr Khan said he and the leader of London Councils, Georgie Gould, have written to the Prime Minister "pleading with him to have additional restrictions on our city".

"We think that's the best way to save lives and stop the NHS being overwhelmed," he added.

02:58 PM

Oliver Dowden blames EU for 'letting down music' by blocking touring scheme

The Culture Secretary has blamed the EU for "letting down music on both sides of the Channel" over post-Brexit touring arrangements.

Writing in the NME, Oliver Dowden said the Government had "fought to get a good deal for British music precisely because we recognise how valuable this industry is to the country".

He added: "Some reports have suggested we turned down a bespoke arrangement from the EU to allow musicians to work and perform across the bloc. In reality, it was the other way round."

He added: "We sought a mutually beneficial agreement that would have allowed performers to continue working and perform across the continent without the need for work permits… But the EU turned it down, repeatedly. It did not propose and wouldn't accept a tailored deal for musicians and artists.

"I'm afraid it was the EU letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us."

He said the "outcome is regrettable but it doesn't have to be final", adding: "Our door is still open, should the EU change its mind."

02:53 PM

Nigel Farage warns Democrats: If you 'martyr' Donald Trump what follows 'could be very sinister indeed'

Donald Trump risks being made a martyr if the Democrats try to impeach or silence him, his friend Nigel Farage warns today.

In his first interview since Trump supporters rioted in the Capitol Building in Washington, Mr Farage, who was in Washington on election day, warns that "if you take Trump out of the picture then what follows Trump could be very sinister indeed".

Speaking to the Telegraph's Trump Card podcast, which you can listen to on the audio player below, he says: "If you take Trump out of the picture, you silence him completely. Then there is a real danger that somebody who is genuinely demagogic comes along."

02:52 PM

Nearly 190,000 vaccines carried out in England since yesterday

Nearly 190,000 vaccines have taken place in England since yesterday, the latest figures show. 

A total of 2,661,850 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 12, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 187,645 on Tuesday's figures.

Of this number, 2,254,556 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 174,276 on Tuesday's figures, while 407,294 were the second dose, an increase of 13,369.

02:43 PM

Labour's deputy leader calls on Twitter to remove Prime Minister's 'lie'

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner has asked for Twitter to remove a tweet in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government "will do everything we can to ensure no child goes hungry".

"In October you, and your MPs, voted against free school meals," she tweeted. "Twitter please remove this tweet, it's a lie."

In October you, and your MPs, voted against free school meals. @Twitter please remove this tweet, it's a lie. https://t.co/u4b3YpiOaw

— Angela Rayner ? (@AngelaRayner) January 13, 2021

Earlier leader Sir Keir Starmer was one of several Labour MPs to tweet a comparison chart, showing the food parcel guidelines against what was actually provided, saying the similarity was "striking". 

The problem is that they show striking similarities with your Government’s guidelines. This is on you.

Change the guidelines and stop putting families last. https://t.co/vuMlrnn4vI pic.twitter.com/LBw6lxU2jx

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) January 13, 2021

02:26 PM

Further 1,012 Covid deaths registered in English hospitals

A further 1,012 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 57,828.

Patients were aged between 39 and 102 years old. All except 46 (aged 39 to 98 years old) had known underlying health conditions. The date of death ranges from 8 May 2020 to 12 January 2021 with the majority being on or after 6 January.

London was the worst-affected region, with 202 deaths registered, followed by the Midlands with 201 deaths, and the South East, with 199 deaths. 

There were 164 deaths registered in the East of England, 106 in the North West, 91 in the North East & Yorkshire – and 49 in the South West.

02:20 PM

Allison Pearson: Our freedom must return not a day later than necessary

Two-fifths of the over-80s – the group at highest risk from the virus – have now received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. That’s over one million senior citizens. Every needle into every arm spells not just protection of an individual but, within a couple of months, we can only hope, the gradual liberation of our whole country from this spirit-crushing and ruinous incarceration.  

Problems still abound, of course, as is inevitable with an operation of such scale and complexity. Nevertheless, Britain is still fourth position, behind Israel, UAE and Bahrain, for immunisation per head of population.

And yet, as a great silver throng queues across the land for Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca and we glimpse the neon Exit sign glimmering in the freezing January fog, the PBP – the Poor Bloody Public – finds itself threatened with even tougher rules to tighten this, our third lockdown.

As Allison Pearson argues in today's column, freedom must not be withheld a day longer than is absolutely necessary.

02:10 PM

Just 10pc of arrivals checked for quarantine rules, MPs told

Only around 10 per cent of passengers arriving in the UK are being checked to make sure they are complying with coronavirus quarantine rules, MPs have been told.

Checks at the border to make sure travellers have filled out passenger locator forms are "very basic", are not carried out on "every arriving passenger", and appear to be "unenforceable", according to Lucy Moreton, professional officer at the Immigration Services Union.

Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Ms Moreton said: "We don't check every arriving passenger. We aim, where there is a high level of compliance with that carrier, to check about 10 per cent of arrivals."

Asked how effective the checks are, she replied: "They are very limited, unfortunately. There simply is not the facility in the border to make any checks on the veracity of what's there."

Ms Moreton added that the majority of concerns from the union's members "centre around the fact that it appears to be unenforceable", adding: "We don't check the addresses. "Inherently, if they have not gone to the place they told us they were going to go, we've lost them. The UK is a very big place."

01:57 PM

Minister: A 'high bar' must be crossed to delay May elections

A Cabinet Office minister has not ruled out the possibility that the May elections may be postponed, although stressed there is "a high bar" that would need to be crossed first. 

Chloe Smith, who spoke from her home as she undergoes cancer treatment, told the Commons: "Safe and secure elections are the cornerstone of any democracy and Parliament's decision, as set out in primary legislation, is that these polls should go ahead in May.

"Due to the pandemic, many of these elections had already been delayed by a year. But voters have a right to be heard and to decide who governs them."

She added: "Given the position, however, we are, as the Prime Minister set out last week, keeping this position under review. Any change would require very careful consideration including by this House and need to be based on robust evidence.

"There should be a high bar for any delay."

01:51 PM

Wales could follow England in 24/7 vaccine services

Wales could offer 24-hour vaccinations in the future, the chief executive of NHS Wales has said, following Boris Johnson's revelation that round-the-clock services will be launched in England soon.

Dr Andrew Goodall said there had already been a "step up" in supply, particularly of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with an increase in vaccination sites, days and hours.

"I think firstly we need to just extend the hours and make them available, but if at some point during this response – particularly as we go over the next four to six weeks – we feel that there is an opportunity to do things on a 24/7 basis, then we would do so if that's the way in which we deliver the activity," Dr Goodall said.

Dr Frank Atherton, chief medical officer for Wales, added: "I'd expect local health boards to be flexible in their approach and to really look at the demand.

"If there is a demand, a real demand, for further hours of opening, then I would expect them to meet those."

01:27 PM

Northern Irish food shortages 'overcome, pretty much', says Michael Gove

Michael Gove said problems at supermarkets have "now been overcome, pretty much".

Responding to suggestions that the Government intervene over empty shelves in Northern Irish supermarkets, Mr Gove told the Commons initial "shortages" had been resolved, but "we need to make sure that we have a sustainable approach for the end of the grace period at the end of March.

"I will be working with Helen Dickinson (chief executive) of the British Retail Consortium and others to do just that."

He added: "More broadly the grace periods for supermarkets and their suppliers are now working well, but we're already planning for the streamlined replacements which will follow.

"A dedicated team within Defra working with the Cabinet Office is also in touch with industry to promote readiness, supported by new specific government funding."

01:16 PM

MPs urge action to avoid supermarkets 'cliff-edge' in March

Supermarkets will face a "cliff-edge" at the end of March unless a grace period where EU certification rules are relaxed is extended, DUP Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said.

Responding to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, Sir Jeffrey told the Commons: "I have to say to him that perhaps the difficulties being encountered by Northern Ireland consumers and businesses are much greater than maybe he recognises."

He added: "We need immediate intervention on this matter. It is important for our economy. It is impacting on the economy of Northern Ireland and it is resulting, in some instances, in a diversion of trade.

"So, we do need steps taken to address what is now becoming a cliff-edge at the end of March for our supermarkets and others, and I welcome what the minister has said in terms of the ongoing discussions, but we need an assurance that this is going to be resolved before the end of March or that the grace period is extended further."

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
A Border Control Post office is pictured at Dublin Port – AFP

01:12 PM

Northern Ireland Protocol causing 'challenges', Michael Gove concedes

The Northern Ireland Protocol "undoubtedly generates challenges as well as providing solutions", Michael Gove has told MPs. 

Answering an urgent question in the Commons from the DUP on the disruption to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Cabinet Office minister said the Government "is committed to addressing those challenges providing pragmatic solutions to any problems that arise".

He added: "Inevitably the impact of Covid and also steps taken by the French Government at their border have affected retail businesses across the UK, but it is important to stress that freight volumes into Northern Ireland ports are at normal levels for this time of year.

"There have been no significant queues and supermarkets are now generally reporting healthy deliveries of supplies into Northern Ireland."

12:52 PM

Have your say: Will you be going for a late-night vaccine?

Boris Johnson has just confirmed that 24/7 vaccine centres will be opened soon, in a bid to ramp up the programme through round-the-clock services. 

In a rare moment of PMQs unity, Sir Keir Starmer even welcomed the move. 

But this morning both Matt Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi suggested there would be limited interest in late-night vaccinations.

So will you be willing to do a late night trip to get your jab? Or would you rather resources were being put into more daytime services? Have your say in the poll below. 

12:48 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson refuses to shift on key worker school access

Andy Slaughter, Labour's MP for Hammersmith, says a local school is teaching 10-times the number of children in the first lockdown. 

He claims the Prime Minister likes having a "lockdown in name only" but that teachers deserve better. 

Boris Johnson thanks "all the schools in Hammersmith" and the rest of the country who are working to look after vulnerable kids and the children of key workers.

He notes that capacity is around 14 per cent, higher than it was in March, but it would not be right to shut them to these children who are benefitting from classroom learning. 

"I think very very much the teachers, and all the staff, for making that possible," he adds. 

And PMQs is finished. 

12:45 PM

PMQs: MP quotes British Gas boss who boasted that strike was kept out of news

Anna McMorrin, Labour's MP for Cardiff North, picks up on the question about British Gas strikers and asks him to outlaw the fire and rehire tactics. 

She notes that one boss was seen boasting that Covid had kept the strike out of the news. 

Boris Johnson replies: "So far as that was the gentleman's intention he has failed in that… we regard fire and rehire as unacceptable and we will continue to make that point and seek redress."

12:42 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson pledges to 'see what more we can do' on fire and rehire tactics

Boris Johnson is asked by SNP MP Gavin Newlands about the recent strikes by workers at British Gas over "fire and rehire" tactics. 

He notes that British Airways had first attempted this, and highlights a bill that he is bringing before the House, which has cross-party support. He asks the PM to meet to discuss how to ensure protection for workers. 

The Prime Minister says fire and rehire threats are "unacceptable" and says Beis is meeting with Acas and business representatives to "see what more we can do". 

12:39 PM

PMQs: Pharmacies will be utilised in later stage of vaccine programme, says Boris Johnson

Karl Turner, Labour's MP for Kingston-upon-Hull, asks Boris Johnson to "fully mobilise the skills and expertise of community pharmacies and get Britain vaccinated". 

The Prime Minister says there are 9,000 community pharmacies around the country, but authorities need to ensure they get "doses get to the places where they are going to be distributed most effectively… I am sure the gentlemen wouldn't want to see doses distributed to places where they might not all be used in the course of day". 

However there are 200 pharmacies who are involved in the programme and that will be increased at a later stage, he says. 

12:31 PM

PMQs: DUP MP calls for 'direct action' over empty shelves in Northern Ireland

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP MP for Lagan Valley, says that despite being promised unfettered access his constituents are "facing empty supermarket shelves" and items are able to be sent in and out of Britain. 

He asks Boris Johnson to invoke article 16 of the Northern Irish Protocol "to resolve these issues… we need direct Government intervention to deal with this now"> 

But Mr Johnson says goods are flowing normally, and no lorries have been turned back. 

"Yes of course there are teething problems," he adds, saying he will invoke article 16 – which  allows the EU or the UK to “unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures” if its application leads to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist” or to diversion of trade – if serious problems emerge. 

12:27 PM

PMQs: Ian Blackford demands compensation for Scottish fishermen

Ian Blackford questions Boris Johnson about the impact of post-Brexit red tape on Scottish fishermen, saying seafood exporters are losing out on "upwards of £1m sales a day". 

The SNP's Westminster leader claims "a third of the Scottish fishing fleet is tied up in harbour" and some boats are landing inDenmark "to avoid Brexit bureaucracy".  The paperwork is "an impossible task", he adds. 

He asks when Scottish businesses will get the same financial support as Northern Irish businesses. 

Boris Johnson says Mr Blackford "continually advocates the break-up of the union and going back into the EU, even though that would be immensely destructive". 

He claims money is already being spent on indyref2 "when they should be getting on with fighting the pandemic", and claims that the SNP can't even bring themselves to name the "Oxford vaccine". 

12:20 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson told off by Speaker twice during clash with Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer says he will hold him to account. 

The current guidance is for items that he lists, which he notes are the very ones shown in the images "you have just called disgraceful". 

"He blames others but this is on his watch," the Labour leader says. He asks Boris Johnson to take down the guidance "and ensure all of our children can get a decent meal in this pandemic". 

The Prime Minister says he is being "hypocritical and absurd" – earning a rebuke from the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle – saying it was a Conservative government who instituted free school meals. 

He also defends the economic support that has targeted the poorest in society, before attacking him for having "stood on a manifesto to dismantle the very pharmaceutical companies" behind the vaccines. This earns him another rebuke for straying from the question he was asked. 

12:16 PM

PMQs: Food parcels 'appalling and an insult', says Boris Johnson

Sir Keir Starmer then turns to the "latest free school meals scandal" saying the images show "disgraceful" parcels being sent out. 

He asks if the PM would be happy with his kids "living on that". 

Boris Johnson says: "I don't think anybody int this House is happy with the disgraceful images we have seen of the food parcels that have been offered. They are appalling and an insult to the families that have received them. 

He says he is grateful to Marcus Rashford for highlighting them, saying the footballer is doing a better job than Labour in holding him to account. 

12:13 PM

PMQs: I rule nothing out, says Boris Johnson on tougher lockdowns

Sir Keir Starmer says the advice was not for a new tier system but a tougher lockdown. 

He says the Prime Minister "gets there late" every time there is a "big decision". He asks why restrictions are not more severe given that rates are higher than last March. 

Boris Johnson says measures "are under constant review", saying he does not rule out going further.

But the lockdown measures and Tier 4 measures "are starting to show signs of some effect," he adds, stressing the "serious damage" caused by lockdowns.

12:11 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson defends his action over new variant

Sir Keir Starmer says "the truth is the indicators were all in the wrong direction" before the PM was advised about the new variant. 

He then says the advisers had warned that November-style lockdowns would not be sufficient and had called for tougher measures. 

"Yet instead of acting on December 18, the Prime Minster sat on his hands for over two weeks," he says. Now we are seeing "the tragic consequences of that delay". 

Boris Johnson says within 24 hours of getting the new advice, "we acted to put the vast part of the country in much, much tougher measures", which is now resulting in "the beginnings of some signs that is starting to have an effect".

But he stresses this is "early days" and urges people to carry on with the measures. 

12:08 PM

PMQs: Sir Keir Starmer challenges Boris Johnson over delay in lockdown

Sir Keir Starmer says the sooner the 24/7 centres can be opened "the better for our NHS and the better for our economy". 

The Labour leader then turns to the Prime Minister's pre-Christmas claims that there was no need for more lockdowns, saying there have been over a million new cases since then. "How did the Prime Minister get it so wrong," he asks. 

But Boris Johnson notes that two days after that statement he was informed of the new variant, "and that is why it is correct to say the situation today is very worrying indeed".

He pays tribute to those working "to help those who so desperately need it". 

12:05 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson says 24/7 vaccine centres will be open 'as soon as we can'

Sir Keir Starmer's first point is about the lack of vaccine supply, asking when the 24/7 centres will be opened and rolled out. 

Boris Johnson says "we will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can", saying the Health Secretary will set out more as soon as he can. 

The limit is currently on supply, he adds, noting the numbers of people and centres working "exceptionally fast". 

12:03 PM

Boris Johnson quizzed over clarity on exams

Boris Johnson has opened PMQs by paying tribute to the "irrepressible" member Brian Binley who died over Christmas. 

Mr Binley was the MP for Northampton South from 2005 to 2015. 

The Prime Minister is asked about young people in education who have been "hit hard" by exams being scrapped, and calls for clarity and a "clear plan, without changes". 

Mr Johnson says there is a "problem of differential learning that has grown over the last few months and risks being exacerbated by the current lockdown",  and the Department for Education was working to ensure "the right arrangements" for this year. 

11:58 AM

Government has 'absolutely no plans' for vaccine passports, minister says

The Government has "absolutely no plans for vaccine passports" Nadhim Zawahi has said. 

The minister for vaccine deployment told MPs of the Science and Technology Committee there were two main reasons that this was the case. 

"One – we don't know what the impact of vaccines are on transmission… and secondly, it would be discriminatory because there would be those who for a number of reasons who cant be vaccinated or chose not to."

It "doesn't speak to our values of freedom", he added. 

11:48 AM

Nadhim Zahawi: 24/7 vaccination centres not appropriate at this stage in programme

Nadhim Zahawi has said the Government will "absolutely look at all of the ways we can expand the vaccination programme", but suggested a 24/7 vaccine centre would not be appropriate at this stage in the rollout. 

The minister for vaccine deployment told MPs of the Science and Technology Committee: "We are targeting the most vulnerable, the hardest to reach.

"It would be much easier to open it up, fill the centres 24/7 but, you are not really targeting those who are at highest risk of death.

"At this stage it is much better to be forensic," he added. 

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
Members of the public arrive to receive their injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre in Newcastle – PA

11:41 AM

UK 'running way below' vaccine wastage estimates, says minister

The UK is "running way below" initial forecasts of vaccine being wasted, Nadhim Zahawi has said. 

The minister for vaccine deployment said 98.5 per cent of deliveries were being made accurately, which was" pretty good". The remaining 1.5 per cent of deliveries were "having some problems, some challenges, but we deal with those rapidly, and we are looking to improve that performance," he said. 

Problems typically involved delays or the wrong number of doses being delivered, he said. 

But NHS England had originally estimated "waste to be about 10 per cent – we are running way below that", he told MPs. 

This was partly because GPs were "getting a sixth dose out of the Pfizer vial" and in some cases they were able to get "a bit more volume in the glass" from the AstraZeneca vaccine, he added. 

11:30 AM

Primary school children should be tested by parents, not staff, says Education Secretary

Parents of primary school children will be expected to conduct tests at home, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said, arguing it was "not appropriate or right" to ask staff to carry them out.

He told the Education Select Committee: "In a primary-school setting you'd have to ask the staff to do the tests themselves and I just do not think that is appropriate or right.

"What we have been looking at doing is having a system where the tests are carried out by the parents on their child … and that would have to take place in the home."

Susan Acland-Hood, permanent secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), said: "Getting to the point where parents can administer the tests at home unlocks the ability to do primary testing on a much greater scale in a way that is more straightforward but also more appropriate."

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
“I want to see mass testing rolled out across all education settings,” he told a parliamentary select committee. – PA

11:23 AM

Vaccinating most vulnerable is 'greater challenge than just opening the doors', says minister

Nadhim Zahawi has said he is confident he will "absolutely" meet the target of vaccinating around 14m people with just under five weeks to go – but he warned there would be "fluctuations" in the daily figures being published. 

This was because getting to some of the most vulnerable people was more challenging, the minister told MPs of the Science and Technology Committee. 

"To vaccinate in care homes takes each individual… 10 or 12 hours to do a care home of between 50 and 100 residents and staff, whereas to vaccinate in primary care setting, some [GPs] have done… over a 1,000 in a day.

"The great challenge… is making sure we actually get to the most vulnerable," he added. "The easiest thing is just to open it up to everyone over age of 60, as Israel has done – just tell people 'queue up and we will get you vaccinated'.

But focusing on the priority list "is a much greater challenge for delivery than just opening the doors", he added. 

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
Care home vaccinations take longer than in primary care settings, the minister said – PA

11:16 AM

Nadhim Zahawi fudges questions over vaccine supply

The supply of vaccines was "lumpy at the outset but getting better", Nadhim Zahawi has told MPs. 

The vaccines deployment minister told the Science and Technology Committee: "I now have line of sight of deliveries all the way through to end of February and getting more confident about March too."

But supplies "move around", he said, so he could not guarantee numbers on a weekly basis because he would be "misleading" the Committee.

But challenged by Greg Clark over comments made by Tom Keith-Roach, President of AstraZeneca UK, that it was a matter of national security, Mr Zahawi said "it is not so much only security… as of seven days time the NHS will share data at a local level… so that MPs and of course local government can begin to see where deliveries are."

He stressed it was "not about wanting to withhold information from a committee", but added: "The more we show off about how many vaccines we are receiving, the more difficult life becomes fr the manufacturers."

11:09 AM

Prime Minister speaks to Marcus Rashford over 'unacceptable' food parcels

Boris Johnson has spoken to Marcus Rashford over the latest free schools meal row, the campaigning footballer has said. 

Mr Rashford, who was awarded an MBE last year for his work on child poverty, has been critical to publicising the paltry amounts of food being given out to some families instead of a £30 voucher this week. 

"He has assured me that he is committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers and that a full review of the supply chain is taking place," the striker said, noting the Prime Minister believes the pictures show "unacceptable" packages of food.

Just had a good conversation with the Prime Minister. He has assured me that he is committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers and that a full review of the supply chain is taking place. He agrees that images of hampers being shared on Twitter are unacceptable.

— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 13, 2021

11:04 AM

No plans to shut nurseries, Gavin Williamson confirms

Gavin Williamson has defended his decision to keep nurseries open, saying that many families "rely" on early years education services.

The Education Secretary told MPs that "transmissibility among those who are youngest is very low compared to all of the settings".

"So, when you're in a position to keep part of the education system open in the early years I believe it was the right decision to make because so many families really rely on that nursery provision," he added. 

"Those early years are so important."

Asked whether he would guarantee that nurseries would be kept open, Mr Williamson said that there was "no intention" to close them and that the Government had "not received any contrary advice".

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
Younger children have lower transmission risk, Gavin Williamson said – PA

10:59 AM

Nurseries will not be included in schools testing programme, Education Secretary confirms

Nurseries will not be included in the mass testing of teachers but are "very much included in the community testing programme", Gavin Williamson said. 

The Education Secretary said it was a "key" component to the community testing programme announced earlier this week, because of the range and volume of nurseries. This will mean testing is dependent on local authorities – the full list is available here. 

"It was felt the best way to reach the whole breadth of them was through the community testing programme," he tells MPs of the Education Select Committee. 

Mass testing at schools will have "the ability to pick up a lot of nursery settings," he added. 

10:49 AM

Gavin Williamson defends 11th-hour announcement on mass testing

Gavin Williamson has defended the last-minute announcement to schools that they would be expected to carry out mass testing of students when they reopened after Christmas. 

In the event, the mass testing was not carried out because schools were kept shut to all but key worker children following the break. 

But the Education Secretary told MPs: "We felt it was the right thing to be able to do because by that time the Health Secretary… had made a statement to the House of Commons about emergence of new variant."

It was a way of "supporting schools, supporting the workforce and most importantly students to get back into education at the earliest possible stage," he said. 

"In any global pandemic decisions are made at incredible speed," Mr Williamson added. "This is not the situation we ever wished to be in."

He adds that he wants mass testing rolled out across all schools – with staff testing extended to primary schools next week. "I want to see it rolled out to all pupils, that's my ambition," he says

10:36 AM

Have your say: Would you accept a late-night vaccine appointment?

A split appears to be forming within the Government over whether there is sufficient demand for round-the-clock vaccines to make it worth launching such a service. 

Boris Johnson is said to have personally intervened to get a 24/7 pilot set up. But while Matt Hancock this morning said he was "up for it", the Health Secretary stressed there was not much demand to get late-night vaccinations, stressing that the problem was supply constraints instead. 

Would you accept a late-night appointment – bearing in mind it could involve a 90-minute round trip? Or do you think resources would be better deployed in bolstering daytime services? 

Have your say in the poll below. 

10:21 AM

Education Secretary fighting 'tooth and nail' to get teachers prioritised for vaccine

Gavin Williamson has said he is fighting "tooth and nail" for teachers and support staff to be prioritised for the vaccine after the initial set of categories have been immunised. 

The Education Secretary told MPs it was vital to be "protecting that really, really critical workforce that are vital for all of us, but most importantly for our children". 

He told Education Committee chairman he was having "conversations every single day" about this subject. 

10:18 AM

Gavin Williamson 'absolutely disgusted' by food parcel contents

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was "absolutely disgusted" by a picture showing the meagre contents of a free school meal parcel, adding that such packages "will not be tolerated".

Speaking to MPs of the Education Select Committee, he said: "When I saw that picture I was absolutely disgusted. As a dad myself I thought how could a family in receipt of that really be expected to deliver five nutritious meals."

The Government would "name and shame" companies not delivering against standards after many complaints were made by families about food parcels delivered by contractor Chartwells, he added.

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
Gavin Williamson says he was “disgusted” by these images

10:01 AM

Footballers warned off kissing as country is in 'dangerous place'

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said footballers should stop post-goal hugging and kissing, warning "we are in a dangerous place".  

Asked if was time to issue "no kissing" advice, England's deputy chief medical officer told LBC Radio: "I completely agree with you."

Prof Van-Tam said: "We cannot relax until we have a very substantially vaccinated population. Until then we are in a dangerous place – if you look at the NHS, we are in a dangerous place now.

"Every close human contact that is avoidable should be avoided because one-in-three of us will get the infection and have no symptoms at all.

"So, I'm afraid, yes, on the football point, on the sporting point, I do agree with you."

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
No kissing and hugging, footballers told – Reuters

09:46 AM

NHS trying to 'level' out vaccine doses so some GPs can 'catch up', says medical director

Authorities are trying to ensure there are "level" amounts of vaccine around the country, medical director of primary care for NHS England has said as she explained why some GPs have been asked to "pause" their efforts. 

Dr Nikita Kanani told BBC Breakfast all sites would be getting vaccine deliveries in the coming weeks but noted "the amount of vaccine that sites are given is slightly different depending on how many people they've got left in priority cohort one and two, and how quickly they've come on."

She added: "What we need to do is make sure that it's level across the country. Not overly manage it, but make sure that somebody isn't getting into groups five and six when somebody in their over 80s in another part of the country hasn't been offered their vaccine."

If some GPs have been vaccinating since mid-December "there's a good chance that they've covered most of their priority cohort group one and two" whereas other surgeries will need "a bit more vaccine so that they can catch up to for their patients."

09:39 AM

Sketch: It’s only January, but Priti Patel has already got the Bizarre Quote of the Year award sewn up

It’s not easy, trying to make sense of Priti Patel. It’s like staring at one of those impossible staircases drawn by MC Escher. No matter how many stairs the little men climb up, they always end up back they started.

The last time the Prime Minister entrusted her to host a Downing Street news conference – all the way back in spring last year – she solemnly announced that the number of Covid tests carried out to date was “three hundred thousand and thirty-four, nine hundred and seventy-four thousand”. 

Last night – a mere four thousand, twenty-one hundred and nine thousand days later – the Home Secretary was finally invited to host another news conference. It was well worth the wait. Half way through, she delivered one of her Escher specials. 

“Exercise is important,” she declared. “It’s important for people’s health and wellbeing. And that equally applies,” she added firmly, “to exercise.”

09:37 AM

No need for three-metre rule or face masks outdoors, Jonathan Van-Tam suggests

Jonathan Van-Tam has shot down suggestions that the two-metre rule needs to be extended, and questioned the need for face masks outdoor. 

England's deputy chief medical officer told LBC: "The question you are asking is whether the new variant is really going to be capable of moving a greater distance, and that doesn't kind of fit with my biological understanding, because the distance relates to the force of the cough or the sneeze or the respiratory droplet that flies out of you.

"Unless we were saying that the variant makes you cough in a different way or cough more violently, I can't see how you can gain that extra distance, like in the long jump as it were."

The "cloud of viruses" around an infected person with the more infectious variant were not "way out here" but "if you breach those safety distances the chances of you picking it up are higher"

09:27 AM

Algorithm banished for summer exams grading, Education Secretary confirms

The Government has agreed not to use an algorithm to set students' grades in England, following the chaos their use caused last summer, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

In a letter to Ofqual, Mr Williamson said: "We have agreed that we will not use an algorithm to set or automatically standardise anyone's grade.

"Schools and colleges should undertake quality assurance of their teachers' assessments and provide reassurance to the exam boards. We should provide training and guidance to support that, and there should also be external checks in place to support fairness and consistency between different institutions and to avoid schools and colleges proposing anomalous grades."

But he added: "Changes should only be made if those grades cannot be justified, rather than as a result of marginal differences of opinion. Any changes should be based on human decisions, not by an automatic process or algorithm."

09:19 AM

Lockdown success to be determined in 'next few days', says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has said it should become clear in the next few days whether lockdown measures in England are bringing down the rate of coronavirus infections.

The Health Secretary told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I am looking to see the case rate just starting to level off. I hope that is what we start to see over the next few days.

"The few days ahead of us is the critical period to know whether this national lockdown is working."

Mr Hancock said there was a "good case" for prioritising teachers, police officers and shopworkers for the coronavirus vaccine once the most clinically vulnerable groups have received the jab.

"It is certainly something that we are looking at but we haven't made a final decision on it yet."

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
Health Secretary Hancock at Downing Street in London – Reuters

09:16 AM

No 'mix and match' vaccine approach for now, says Jonathan Van-Tam

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said that there should be no "mix and match" approach to the vaccines, after reports suggested the UK was drawing up plans to enable people to have different doses. 

"At the moment you can't," he told LBC radio. "The reason for saying that is you have to do the science experiments and understand if that is possible." It was "important work" but "unlikely to happen in the next three months," he said. 

It was "quite reasonable" to think there would be rolling Covid vaccination programmes akin to the flu, he added. 

The deputy chief medical officer said the country had to be "on our guard to make sure virus doesn't outwit the vaccines we have", saying his "hunch" was that it would last for a few months before effectiveness begins to wear off. 

Politics latest news: Boris Johnson 'concerned' about new Brazilian variant - watch liaison committee live
Jonathan Van-Tam – AFP

09:10 AM

Second vaccine doses 'not cancelled', says Jonathan Van-Tam

People must not think the second dose of vaccines has been "cancelled" Jonathan Van-Tam has stressed, as he explains why officials have extended the period between the two jabs. 

"We are in a constrained situation, the bottom lines is we all have loved ones and if we want to protect as many as we can… if you have two grandparents and two vaccines, what do you do?" the deputy chief medical officer told LBC radio. 

He said he was "absolutely comfortable" with the "science-tested" approach, saying the "protected effectiveness" after the first dose was "something close to 90 per cent". 

However he confirmed that his 79-year-old mum still has not had her first dose. 

09:07 AM

ICYMI: Vaccine passports to be trialled by thousands of Britons

Thousands of Britons who have received their coronavirus vaccine are set to be offered a health passport as part of a government-funded trial taking place this month. 

The passport, created by biometrics firm iProov and cybersecurity firm Mvine, will be issued in the form of a free app allowing users to digitally prove if they have received the vaccine. 

The trial will be overseen by two directors of public health in local authorities and will be complete in March. However, the locations have yet to be agreed.

Read the full details of our exclusive here.

08:59 AM

People most likely to 'bend the rules' about outdoor socialising, claims academic

The rule most people are likely to break is meeting with more than one person from another household outside, according to the lead author of a study looking at lockdown rules.

Dr Daisy Fancourt, from UCL's Institute of Epidemiology & Health,  told BBC Breakfast that rule flouting such as holding house parties is only being done by a "very, very tiny" percentage of people. A higher proportion were "bending these rules, so perhaps looking for loopholes, or slightly pushing the boundaries of the rules".

She explained: "People are thinking they've got that added protection from being outside with increased air and ventilation, which of course is true to a certain extent, but actually I think now we're looking at this new virus we've got to be particularly cautious on this.

"We're finding this across all age groups, so it's not like there's one particular group that are most likely to break this rule, but I think it's one that people, if they're looking to improve their own behaviours at the moment, it's a really good one to try and tighten up on."

08:57 AM

People must social distance after getting the jab, says vaccines boss

People must continue to social distance after being vaccinated until authorities know whether it reduces transmission, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said. 

Professor Anthony Harnden told Sky News that measures such as social distancing will be needed "for a while yet", even among those who have received the jab.

"We must be very clear that vaccination will prevent disease in individuals but it may not prevent those individuals from transmission to others," he said.

"So, even though you've been vaccinated, you might not be completely protected yourself, you may be in risk of transmitting to others, so I think we will have to use extra precautions in terms of social distancing, wearing masks, for a while yet."

He added: "There is light at the end of the tunnel and certainly by the beginning of March we should see a sharp drop off in hospitalisations and deaths."

08:55 AM

Sportspeople must respect the rules, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has defended the decision to allow professional football to continue, but called on sportspeople to be "respectful of the rules". 

Asked about images of elite footballers celebrating goals with hugs, Mr Hancock said: "I think elite sport is important because these are tough times, and being able to watch the football on the telly is really important because there's loads of things that you can't do, and watching it from the comfort of your own home is a perfectly safe activity.

"I know that the Premier League really think hard about this," he added. "It's important that it is carried out in a way that is respectful of the rules.

The Health Secretary continued: "It's important that everybody respects, not just the letter but the spirit of the rules because it's actually the spirit of the rules that's important, which is don't pass on the disease, act as if you've got it and then you won't pass it on to others."

08:29 AM

Exercise is a lifeline for people – but don't take the Mickey, says Matt Hancock

Exercise with another person is "a lifeline" for people, particularly those who live alone, Matt Hancock has said. 

Asked if he would specifically change the rule on people meeting one other person outside, the Health Secretary told the BBC: "We always keep these things under review, but you've got to balance the downsides.

"The rule is clear. You can go outside to exercise with one other person, not a group of people, one other person, and it should be for the purposes of exercise, not socialising, but I'm very reluctant to remove this rule because for some people this is a lifeline – for some people who live alone."

When two people meet for socially-distanced exercise, the "likelihood of spread from people who are following that rule is very, very small", he added, but noted that some people are "stretching that rule".

Rather than getting rid of the exemption, he said it would be better if everyone "follows that rule and doesn't stretch it or flex it … people should not take the Mickey out of the rules and they shouldn't stretch the rules, people should respect the rules, because they're there for a reason and that's to keep everybody safe."

08:26 AM

Hotels contingency plan only for 'step-down' patients, says Matt Hancock

Hotels will only be used for "step-down" patients who do not need beds, Matt Hancock has said, as he confirms contingency plans in case hospitals are overwhelmed. 

Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast: "We're going to do everything we possibly can to give the NHS the support, the resources it needs.

"That includes, for instance, opening the Nightingale hospitals and the London Nightingale hospital is now receiving patients for the first time since April."

The Health Secretary said sending some patients to hotels was a "further back-up plan" only done if appropriate for the patient but "it's not something we are actively putting in place".

He added: "It is only ever happening if it is clinically right for the patient."

08:22 AM

Prime Minister says 'farewell with respect and admiration' to Telegraph joint-owner Sir David Barclay

The Prime Minister has said "farewell with respect and admiration" to Sir David Barclay, who has died after a short illness aged 86.

Along with his identical twin Sir Frederick, Sir David built a vast business empire which began with hotels and expanded to include shipping, retailing, and, since 2004, ownership of the Telegraph Media Group. He died on Sunday. 

This morning Boris Johnson, who previously worked as a columnist for the paper, said Sir David had "rescued a great newspaper, created many thousands of jobs across the UK and who believed passionately in the independence of this country and what it could achieve."

Farewell with respect and admiration to Sir David Barclay who rescued a great newspaper, created many thousands of jobs across the UK and who believed passionately in the independence of this country and what it could achieve.

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 13, 2021

08:18 AM

UK has 'as much vaccine supply as expected', says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has insisted the UK has "got as much [vaccine supply] as we were expecting", following his admission that some GPs have had to pause their programme over supply issues. 

He told the Today programme doses were "being delivered on track, according to supply schedules" and that everyone in the top four categories who is due to be vaccinated by mid-February would be given an appointment in time. 

The UK was "miles ahead of Europe and other than Israel, essentially going faster than anyone else in the world."

08:16 AM

Matt Hancock admits some GPs are having to 'pause' vaccinations over supply constraints

Matt Hancock has admitted that some GPs have had to pause their vaccination programme, noting the "supply of the vaccine is the rate-limiting factor". 

His concession backs the Telegraph's exclusive story this morning. 

The Health Secretary told the Today programme: "We have to make sure the vaccine is distributed to everyone over the age of 80 and then age of 70 by mid February… we are also vaccinating health care staff at the same time and we are getting into vaccinate people in care homes.

We have now vaccinated over 40 per cent of all over-80s."

He stressed that "supply will increase over next couple of weeks and that will continue to accelerate over the next couple of weeks". 

08:11 AM

Free school meal food parcels 'clearly unacceptable', says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has said the food parcels sent to families who qualify for free school meals were "clearly unacceptable", saying ministers have "got right on it".

The company, Chartwells, faced widespread criticism on social media after an angry mother posted a picture of the food parcel she had been sent. England footballer Marcus Rashford drew attention to a number of similar instances. 

Mr Hancock said the company involved has "apologised, and rightly so", adding that "one of the strengths of social media is that we can find that out so quickly and ministers were on it."

Minister for children Vicky Ford launched an urgent investigation and called for other people to come forward if they are affected. 

Anyone with any evidence of problems should come forward to dfe with details so we can investigate – We will set out further details tomorrow on how best to report this and other matters.

— Vicky Ford MP (@vickyford) January 12, 2021

08:06 AM

Matt Hancock urges people to "make this the peak"

Matt Hancock has urged people to "make this the peak", saying it "comes down to the behaviour of everyone". 

The Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast that staying at home was "absolutely necessary" to get the number of cases down, amid reports new daily infections could be as high as 250,000. 

"We can all play a part in making this happen. It is so important. Together we can make this the peak if enough people follow the rules," he added. 

But asked if he thought the country was at the peak, he admitted he didn't know. 

"Whether or not this is the peak of this winter wave of coronavirus is not external to us all, it is down to all of us -we can all do our bit," he added. "Every time you think 'should I do that, should I go out for this reason?'… It is those individual decisions all together that determine whether this virus continues to spread."

08:01 AM

'No date' on lifting lockdown says Matt Hancock, as hospitalisations tipped to rise well in March

Matt Hancock has insisted he hasn't "put a date" on when lockdown restrictions could be lifted, despite Tory MPs hoping they could be relaxed from March 8.

Despite being "on track" to vaccinate the four most vulnerable categories by February 15, the Health Secretary told SKy News it was wrong to assume restrictions could begin being rolled back three weeks after that point.  

Asked when people could expect to see restrictions lifted, he said: "It is impossible to know, we will keep restrictions not a moment longer than necessary."

He added: "I haven't put a date on it."

07:47 AM

NHS could use hotels for patients to 'relieve pressures' on hospitals, says Matt Hancock

The NHS is considering plans to move some patients into hotels to ease pressure on hospitals, Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary said it was being considered because "there are huge pressures on the NHS and we are looking to all different ways that we can relieve those pressures."

He told Sky News: "We would only ever do that if it was clinically the right thing for somebody. In some cases, people need sit-down care, they don't actually need to be in hospital bed.

"It isn't a concrete proposal by any means but it is something that we look at as we look at all contingencies."

07:44 AM

Boris Johnson to defend the vaccine rollout to MPs today

Boris Johnson and health chiefs will be questioned on the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine this morning after warnings to abide by lockdown restrictions were stepped up to ease pressure on the NHS.

The Prime Minister will be grilled by senior MPs on the Liaison Committee after facing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during PMQs on Wednesday.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi and health bosses crucial to the jabs programme will also be questioned by the Commons science and technology committee.

The latest NHS figures showed 2,347,461 people in the UK have received a first dose.

But the health service was under extraordinary pressure as official figures showed UK deaths from Covid-19 having passed 81,960, with a further 45,533 cases being confirmed by labs.