The Times - UK (2020-10-14)

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2 2GM Wednesday October 14 2020 | the times


News


The first minister of Wales has suggest-
ed that he could close the border to the
English if the prime minister refuses to
ban people from leaving areas under
local restriction measures.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour
leader, wrote a letter to Boris Johnson
yesterday telling him that the UK gov-
ernment’s “voluntary guidance ap-
proach” had proved “ineffective” and
said “firmer action is urgently required
to keep the virus under control”.
Much of Wales is under local restric-
tion measures and people living in
those areas are prohibited by the Welsh
government from travelling outside
their county boundary without a
“reasonable excuse” such as work.
This measure, affecting about two
million people in 15 areas, is designed to
prevent the spread of infection within
the nation and to other areas of the UK.
Mr Drakeford told the prime minis-
ter: “Our efforts are being undermined
by travellers from high-prevalence
areas in other parts of the UK travelling
to Wales... If you fail to introduce the
sort of measures we have already intro-

Welsh leader threatens to


close border to the English


Will Humphries
Southwest Correspondent

duced in Wales, it will make this an
issue which will undermine rather than
support the successful operation of the
border region.
“It would be better if all four nations
were to act in concert, but in the ab-
sence of an agreed way forward, I will
act to keep Wales safe.”
The letter was the second Mr Drake-
ford has written to Mr Johnson in the
past three weeks, urging him to intro-
duce travel restrictions for those living
in areas of England in local lockdowns.
Mr Drakeford said that he had
not received a reply to his first letter and
his second letter was to give Mr
Johnson “one final opportunity” to
prevent people living under lockdown
in England from being able to travel to
areas of Wales where virus levels
were low.
“The evidence against allowing trav-
el from high-prevalence areas is clear,”
Mr Drakeford said. “Examination
shows the infection, as a general rule,
concentrating in urban areas and then
spreading to more sparsely populated
areas as a result of travel.”
A Welsh government source said the
devolved administration believes it
could use its powers under “public

health legislation” to restrict the move-
ment of people. “We believe we could
do that but we are hoping the prime
minister takes action,” they said.
Mr Drakeford hinted at the use of
devolved powers in his letter to the
prime minister on September 28.
He expressed “deep disappointment”
after a Cobra meeting on Monday.
Speaking on BBC Wales Today that
evening, he said closing the Welsh bor-
der was “not the preferred option” but
that the prime minister’s guidance
“simply will not do”.
“We need rules that prevent people
from high-incidence areas coming into
Wales, to areas with low incidences of
the virus,” he said. “UK ministers were
asking me for the evidence that tells
you that if people come from high areas
to low areas, that spreads the virus.
We’ve got that evidence, we’ll share
that with the prime minister.”
Mr Drakeford ended his letter by tell-
ing the prime minister that “circuit-
breaker” options might best serve to
bring the virus — and the R number —
under control across the UK and called
for him to “urgently convene a further
meeting of COBR(M) specifically to
discuss circuit-breaker measures”.

Speaker tells older MPs to


stay away from parliament


Tom Newton Dunn Times Radio


The Speaker of the House of Commons
is urging MPs to stay away from parlia-
ment as fears mount that it is again
becoming a coronavirus hotbed.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle has held a series of
discreet conference calls in the past week
with vulnerable and older MPs to advise
them of the growing risk of contracting
Covid-19 on the Westminster estate.
The move follows several outbreaks
of the virus within parliament. One
centres on the parliamentary police
force in which 45 Metropolitan Police
officers are thought to have tested
positive.
Last night a Labour frontbencher an-
nounced that he had tested positive for
coronavirus and was self-isolating with
symptoms that “aren’t very pleasant”.
Chris Matheson, a shadow culture
minister, said that he fell ill on Saturday
and then received a positive result.
He wrote on Facebook: “The
symptoms aren’t very pleasant, but I
don’t have it nearly as badly as many
others. I now have to stay at home and
can’t attend parliament in person, but
will have a proxy vote, which will be cast
by one of the opposition whips on my
behalf.”
With the Speaker’s support, some
MPs are pushing Jacob Rees-Mogg,
leader of the Commons, to return to
virtual debates and votes.
Concern is also growing among some

Tory ministers over the safety of
parliament’s workers. One minister
described the Palace of Westminster to
The Times as “a God-forsaken place
with no ventilation and long, enclosed
corridors with too many people”.
Westminster was deemed to be an
epicentre of the virus during the initial
outbreak in March.
The Labour MP Dame Margaret
Hodge, 76, is pushing for virtual pro-
ceedings and plans to stay away from
Westminster until the second wave is
under control. She told The Times: “The
Speaker told us his view is don’t come in
now, it’s just too dangerous. The place is
riddled with coronavirus again. The
police have it, doorkeepers have it, and
nobody is wearing masks.
“We come from all over the country,
meet each other all day, and then go
back again. It’s not very clever.”
The Speaker’s Office confirmed last
night his advice to vulnerable MPs to
stay away. Sir Lindsay’s spokeswoman
said: “The Speaker’s No 1 priority is the
safety of MPs, their staff and House
staff — and to ensure the parliamentary
estate is Covid-secure.”
Commons authorities are expected
to advise MPs this week to limit the
number of their staff on the estate to
two.
However, Mr Rees-Mogg is opposing
demands for a return to virtual
proceedings, saying that it sends the
wrong signal to the nation.

immediately after Mr Johnson
announced the three-tier policy, with
only Liverpool at the “very high” level.
Chris Whitty, the chief medical offi-
cer for England, has told him that more
areas need to go into the top tier and Mr
Johnson is expected to redouble his
efforts to persuade council leaders and
mayors in the worst-affected areas to
do so. Senior officials expect only one
other area to join Liverpool in tier three
this week.
The Labour leader’s call for national
action is likely to stiffen resistance to
area-specific shutdowns. Sir Keir
suggested half-term to maximise the
impact without closing schools. “The
government has not got a credible plan
to slow infections,” he said. “It has lost
control of the virus. And it’s no longer
following the scientific advice.”
Mr Johnson said that Labour was
“careering all over the shop like a shop-
ping trolley with a broken wheel”.
A senior Tory source said: “You’ve
got Starmer calling for a national lock-
down while Labour MPs are voting
against restrictions in areas with high
rates and frontbenchers like Lucy Powell
[the shadow business minister] saying
pubs in her area shouldn’t shut down.
They are all over the place.”
Sir Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative
MP and chairman of the Commons
liaison committee, told Times Radio
that there was a persuasive case for a
short lockdown, saying: “If we nipped it
hard now, we would be well back to
manageable levels before Christmas.”
Coronavirus latest, pages 6-

NEWS


COMMENT


Boris Johnson should at least be honest


about his plans for a new Jerusalem


ALICE THOMSON, PAGE 27


Today’s


highlights


Listen for free DAB | Smart speaker | Online at times.radio | Times Radio app


highghghghggggghghghgggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggglights


8.10am Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of
Commons

12pm PMQs Unpacked with Tim Shipman,


Sunday Times political editor


2pm Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the singer and wife of


the former French president, on her new album


8.30pm The Skunk Anansie frontwoman Skin,


right, chats to Phil Williams about her memoir


10pm The Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood and


Labour’s Florence Eshalomi take stock of the
day’s political news

Britain joins


‘lunar land grab’


Britain’s space agency


has joined an


international group led


by Nasa in signing new


accords governing


exploration of the


moon. Russia and


China, which did not


sign, said that it was a


lunar land grab. Page 12


Migrants give


Italy €500m


Immigrants benefit
Italy by €500 million a
year, a study has
found, because they
pay more tax than the
cost of their housing,
schools and healthcare.
Foreigners in Italy
make up 8.7 per cent of
the population. Page 31

CROP STAR


Google’s new


‘plant buddy’ brings


AI to farming


PA G E 1 5


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COMMENT 25
LETTERS 28
LEADING ARTICLES 29

WORLD 30
BUSINESS 35
REGISTER 51

SPORT 58
CROSSWORD 68
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Largely dry with sunny spells and a
few showers, mainly in the south
and east. Full forecast, page 57

THE WEATHER


222

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151

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9

TODAY’S EDITION


TIMES


STANDARD FARE


Does Dominic West


always have


his taxi light on?


PA G E 9


SPORT


HOPE AND GORY


How Harry Randall


fought back to


target England


PA G E 6 0


Metro stops


new accounts


Metro Bank has
stopped new accounts
for businesses despite
the Bank of England
calling for credit to
keep flowing. Demand
for Bounce Back loans,
which require a
current account, has
been soaring. Page 35

companies, such as search engines,
social media platforms and online
marketplaces, have to pay a 2 per cent
tax on all revenues derived from British
users.
However, amid concerns that this
could adversely affect traditional retail-
ers such as John Lewis, which also have
online sales platforms, the government
stopped short of levying it on sales.
This has had the perverse effect of
allowing Amazon to avoid paying the
new tax on goods it sells directly. Last

month Google also informed advertis-
ers that they would face a 2 per cent levy
on adverts running in Britain, rather
than absorb the cost itself.
Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of
the British Independent Retailers Asso-
ciation, said: “All it has done is resulted
in small sellers paying more and mak-
ing less while Amazon gains further
competitive advantage.”
An international tax lawyer said:
“This is a really dumb tax. How much
money is the tax collecting? Very little,
about £500 million a year by 2023. On
the other hand it is complicating getting
an international agreement on tax and

risks sparking a trade war with the US.
It’s a political and economic failure.”
Fair Tax Mark, an accreditation
scheme, said that Amazon’s accounting
was so complicated that there was “no
way to discern” how much tax it should
be paying or is paying in Britain.
An Amazon spokesman said: “Like
many others, we have encouraged the
government to pursue a global
agreement on the taxation of the digital
economy at OECD-level rather than
unilateral taxes, so that rules would be
consistent across countries and clearer
and fairer for businesses.”
Leading article, page 29

continued from page 1


Amazon escapes digital tax


continued from page 1
Half-term lockdown
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