Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insists bars will stay open

NO plans to shut England’s pubs: Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insists bars will stay open despite Chris Whitty warning they may have to close so schools can restart in September

  • Robert Jenrick this morning said the Government has no plans to shut pubs
  • He added that schools would definitely return to full capacity in September
  • It comes after Chris Whitty warned that if schools are reopen in September some restrictions may have to be reimposed 

There are no plans to shut England’s pubs the Housing Secretary said today despite England’s Chief Medical Officer warning that they may have to close so schools can restart in September.

Robert Jenrick, this morning was asked on Times Radio whether the Government would look to close pubs after a rise in coronavirus transmissions and said: ‘We don’t have any plans to do that.’

He added that schools would definitely return to full capacity in September and confirmed it would be the priority should there be a second spike of infections.

It comes just days after Chris Whitty warned the country had ‘probably reached near the limit or the limits’ of what can be done to return to life as normal for now.

He suggested trade-offs would have to be made if schools are to reopen in September, with some restrictions being reimposed. 

The packed Westbourne in west London on Friday night. Mr Jenrick has denied pubs will close

Families could be asked to avoid using public transport or meeting other households under one option. 

But Mr Jenrick said said the government had no plans to close pubs or another nationwide lockdown.

He said:  ‘I think you’re right to say that reopening schools and getting our children back into the classroom with that direct face-to-face contact with their teachers will be a priority for the Government when we have to make those tough choices,’ he said.

He said any fresh restrictions were unlikely to apply wholesale, adding: ‘We don’t want to do anything that is a blanket approach across the country.

‘Our strategy is to manage this in a localised way with targeted action as we’ve done in Leicester, as we’re doing now in the north-west.

‘We will follow the data and look at options if we have to but that approach is the way we restrict in certain areas – it is difficult for those who live there but it provides greater freedom for the rest of the country, for businesses to reopen and for people to get on with their daily lives, and that has to be the way forward if we can.’

Robert Jenrick, this morning was asked on Times Radio whether the Government would look to close pubs after a rise in coronavirus transmissions and said: 'We don't have any plans to do that'

Robert Jenrick, this morning was asked on Times Radio whether the Government would look to close pubs after a rise in coronavirus transmissions and said: ‘We don’t have any plans to do that’

It comes as shutting pubs again to allow schools to reopen risks putting millions out of work, shattering confidence and costing the economy dear, Ministers have been warned.

A top Government adviser yesterday said the move might be necessary as a ‘trade-off’ to stem a possible rise in coronavirus cases caused by 10 million children returning to the classroom.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said most people would prioritise ‘the health and wellbeing of children’ over going to the pub.

Kate Nicholls, of Hospitality UK, which represents pubs, restaurants and hotels, said shutting down ‘large chunks of the economy’ was a short-sighted strategy. 

‘We need to be focusing on collective efforts to drive down and control infections,’ she said, adding that the hospitality industry directly employs 3.2 million, with another two million reliant through supply chains. 

‘It’s simply too big to just switch off. We would be talking about millions of people unemployed, a major loss of economic activity.’  

Senior Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith said it was a ‘false choice’ to say pubs should close to allow schools to open. The former Tory leader pleaded for Ministers to ensure both are kept open.

He told The Mail on Sunday that impending ‘economic Armageddon’ was a far greater risk than Covid-19. He said: ‘Of course, we must protect the vulnerable. 

We must protect people with co-morbidities.’ But he added: ‘The rest of us should be back at work by now and schools should be opening. 

‘If we don’t get this economy moving, more people will die because the economy collapsed than will ever die of Covid.’

DOMINIC LAWSON: What has ‘builder’ Boris got against the miners of Northumberland? 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, says his priority is: ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs.’ For Boris Johnson, it is: ‘Build, build, build.’

Last week, the Prime Minister declared his commitment to end unwarranted delays in the decision-making process, so as to make sure the planning system delivers the infrastructure and employment we all want.

Yet the Conservative Government has been deliberately obstructing a project that would safeguard hundreds of jobs in one of the most depressed areas of the North of England.

The secretary of state now responsible for the continued prevarication is Robert Jenrick — which is particularly ironic given his speedy go-ahead for a housing project proposed by the Conservative party donor Richard Desmond, a development which Jenrick’s own department had advised him to reject.

The Conservative Government has been deliberately obstructing a project that would safeguard hundreds of jobs in one of the most depressed areas of the North of England. The secretary of state now responsible for the continued prevarication is Robert Jenrick (pictured)

But the project over which Jenrick has been demonstrating masterly inactivity is not a property development in increasingly trendy East London: it is in Northumberland, and involves the development not of fashionable flats for yuppies working in the City of London, but a coal mine.

And what could be less fashionable or trendy than that?

Quashed

This is the Highthorn scheme, put before Northumberland County Council in 2015 and approved by both Conservative and Labour elected officials. Their decision was later backed by the national Planning Inspector, who declared that ‘the national benefits of the proposal would clearly outweigh the likely adverse impacts’.

But in 2018, the then Housing and Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid (in the job now occupied by Jenrick), rejected the national Planning Inspector’s report.

The company behind the project, Banks Mining, took the matter to the High Court. The judge quashed the secretary of state’s objections (which were based on ‘the very considerable weight he gave to the adverse effects of the emissions of greenhouse gases’) declaring them to be ‘significantly inadequate’.

In a forensic demolition of the Government’s arguments, Mr Justice Ouseley declared: ‘The Planning Inspector thought the evidence and his reasoning merited the grant of permission … The secretary of state does not indicate … what evidence he had for any conclusion he reached, or by what reasoning he arrived at it.’

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak (pictured), says his priority is: ¿Jobs, jobs, jobs.¿ For Boris Johnson, it is: ¿Build, build, build'

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak (pictured), says his priority is: ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs.’ For Boris Johnson, it is: ‘Build, build, build’

That was in November 2018. But Sajid Javid didn’t comply with the judgment. Neither did his successor, James Brokenshire. And nor has the latest incumbent, the increasingly beleaguered Robert Jenrick. For a Government which declares its determination to speed up planning decisions, this is hypocrisy on an industrial scale.

Jenrick’s officials had promised that its response would finally be made in April of this year, but we are now in July.

They blame the Covid-19 crisis for the continued delay, but this, of course, is a mere excuse. There is nothing in the effects of the virus that has the slightest relevance to this case, and nor are there any new ‘facts’ to be discovered.

No, the reason behind the Government’s obstruction and ill-will is that it likes to portray itself as the ‘world leader’ in the ‘battle against climate change’: and coal, of all forms of mass energy production, produces the greatest amount of CO2 emissions.

Is Boris Johnson (pictured) on the side of the broke or the woke? It¿s time to choose, Prime Minister

Is Boris Johnson (pictured) on the side of the broke or the woke? It’s time to choose, Prime Minister

In particular, Downing Street has been obsessed with its role as host of COP26 (the next meeting of the UN’s climate change intergovernmental conference) which had been scheduled for November this year in Glasgow.

The pandemic has caused that to be postponed, but the Government continues to be fixated on its image on that stage, and the need (as No 10 sees it) to have some sort of ‘brand leadership’ in the drive to reduce CO2 emissions.

But this whole business is an elaborate British con trick, at least in carbon accounting terms.

The Government’s ‘net zero carbon’ commitment makes no account of the emissions created elsewhere to supply the energy-intensive manufactured goods that we no longer produce.

As Dieter Helm, Oxford University’s Professor of Energy Policy, told the BBC last year: ‘The story of the past 20 years is that … we have been de-industrialising, and we’ve been swapping home production for imports, so even though it looks to the contrary, [our policies] have been increasing global warming… There are no plans in the net zero carbon target which address that.’

Essential

Professor Helm’s point is that China, in particular, has a high proportion of coal in energy used for manufacture — much higher than we do — so our offshoring of production actually increases global emissions. Indeed, China is now building almost 260 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generating capacity — in itself about the size of the entire existing U.S. coal-fired capacity.

Perhaps even more absurdly, blocking the Northumberland open-cast mining project (we are not talking about men going down pits) means that we will simply be importing more of the coal we still need for what’s left of our steel industry.

In the case of Banks Mining (a diverse energy business, operating 14 wind farms) this is an entirely British owned company, set up by Harry Banks (pictured) in 1976

In the case of Banks Mining (a diverse energy business, operating 14 wind farms) this is an entirely British owned company, set up by Harry Banks (pictured) in 1976

Coal remains an essential mineral in the production of steel, acting as a chemical reductant in blast furnaces which reach temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees centigrade: roughly, one tonne of coal is required to produce 1.25 tonnes of crude steel.

Tata Steel, our biggest remaining producer, has declared that coal from the Highthorn project would be ‘ideally suited’ to its requirements.

As it is, the coal we still need is being, to an ever-greater extent, imported.

Last year, 86 per cent of our coal was brought in from overseas — compared with an import component of 46 per cent as recently as 2016. The blocking of new domestic mines has led to 6.8 million tonnes of coal being imported in 2019, of which over a third came from Russia.

So not only is the world’s CO2 not reduced, emissions are actually increased because of those generated by transporting the coal from Russia, the U.S. and even as far away as Australia. And it means saving the jobs of miners in those countries, not our own.

In the case of Banks Mining (a diverse energy business, operating 14 wind farms) this is an entirely British owned company, set up by Harry Banks in 1976. Over the years he has run 115 surface mines in the North of England.

Yet Banks, who was awarded an OBE for services to industry, will next month be closing his — and England’s — last one.

Livid

It is especially infuriating to the newly-elected Tory MPs who in last December’s election seized seats from Labour’s former ‘Red Wall’ in the North-East.

They describe this battle as ‘broke versus woke’ — and broke the 250 people who currently work in Banks Mining will certainly be if the Government continues to block the Highthorn scheme (which would be worth an estimated £100 million to the area).

One of Banks’ miners, Graham Henderson, says: ‘If Robert Jenrick gives our jobs to Russian miners, we would be livid about the betrayal.

One of Banks¿ miners, Graham Henderson (pictured), says: ¿If Robert Jenrick gives our jobs to Russian miners, we would be livid about the betrayal'

One of Banks’ miners, Graham Henderson (pictured), says: ‘If Robert Jenrick gives our jobs to Russian miners, we would be livid about the betrayal’

‘Most of the lads on site voted Conservative for the first time last year because they believed them when they said they would look after the North. The ones we sent to Westminster haven’t forgotten those promises, but the others in Westminster don’t care about us.

‘We need a Prime Minister with the guts to tell the privileged fools of Extinction Rebellion that importing coal creates more carbon dioxide.’

Another working for the company told me: ‘Northumberland is a long way from the Savoy Hotel, where Robert Jenrick had his nice dinner with Richard Desmond.’

But this isn’t just a northern thing. Last week, a national opinion poll by Kantar (commissioned by Banks Mining) showed that no fewer than 87 per cent of Britons believed we should still produce steel, cement and bricks in the UK (all of which require coal in their manufacture).

And asked what they thought should be the Government’s ‘highest priority’, only 6 per cent ticked the box which said ‘reducing CO2 emissions’.

I am sure the PM’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, understands this very well. He is a Durham man — and Banks Mining is headquartered in County Durham.

So what’s it to be? Jobs, jobs, jobs? Or dole, dole, dole? Build, build, build? Or block, block, block?

Is Boris Johnson on the side of the broke or the woke? It’s time to choose, Prime Minister. 

Did Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick say that the UK has ‘had enough female Prime Ministers’?

Did embattled Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick say that the UK has ‘had enough female Prime Ministers’?

  • Amber Rudd has said an unnamed senior Tory made the comment last year
  • She claims it came during last years’ Conservative party leadership contest
  • Tory MPs claim that Jenrick was the MP who made the remark, which he denies

Embattled Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was last night at the centre of a Westminster mystery over which Government Minister made the disparaging declaration that the UK has ‘had enough female Prime Ministers’.

The story has been relayed by former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who has told audiences of Tory activists that during last year’s Tory leadership contest, an unnamed senior Tory had urged her not to run herself.

Ms Rudd claimed that the man had said that, after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May had made it to No 10, there was no need for the party to prioritise a woman in the race.

Tory MPs claim that Mr Jenrick, currently embroiled in a ‘cash for favours’ row over a housing development, was the MP who made the remark – which he denies.

Mr Jenrick, currently embroiled in a ‘cash for favours’ row over a housing development, has denied being the minister to say that after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May had made it to No 10, there was no need for the party to prioritise a woman in the leadership race

At the time of the alleged comment, Mr Jenrick was working as Ms Rudd’s parliamentary aide, but backing Boris Johnson for the leadership. When The Mail on Sunday asked Ms Rudd the identity of the MP, she said: ‘It seems mean to spill that one.’ When pressed further if it was Mr Jenrick, Ms Rudd declined to answer.

Mr Jenrick said: ‘I don’t believe I ever said that. It’s not something I would say and is about as far removed from my own views as is possible.

‘At the time I was Amber’s [adviser] and a hugely supportive one as well, as she would no doubt attest to.’ A spokesman for Mr Jenrick said last night: ‘The idea that Robert would say that is frankly absurd and disgusting.

‘He’s one of the strongest male advocates for women in Parliament, was Amber’s hugely supportive PPS when she was planning to run for leader and is the father of three daughters, one of whom he even gave the middle name Thatcher to encourage them to reach for the top.’

Amber Rudd, pictured left with then-Prime Minister Theresa May, has told audiences of Tory activists that during last year’s Tory leadership contest, an unnamed senior Tory had urged her not to run herself

Amber Rudd, pictured left with then-Prime Minister Theresa May, has told audiences of Tory activists that during last year’s Tory leadership contest, an unnamed senior Tory had urged her not to run herself

The ‘cash for favours’ row followed Mr Jenrick’s approval of businessman Richard Desmond’s proposal for a 1,500-home development in East London. 

The Minister overruled the planning inspector and his own officials to grant permission in January, two months after he sat next to Desmond at a Tory fundraising dinner. 

He subsequently had to quash his own decision, admitting ‘apparent bias’ but denying any wrongdoing.

The Commons Housing Select Committee said last week that it disagreed with the Prime Minister’s claim that ‘the matter is closed’, and summoned Mr Jenrick to appear to explain ‘serious mistakes’ in his handling of the plan. 

Minister faced new row over planning 

By Harry Cole and Peter Geoghegan for the Mail on Sunday

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has faced fresh questions over a Tory donor’s rejected planning application that was reopened by his department just weeks after he took office.

Quinn Estates, a major Tory donor, wanted to build 675 homes in Sittingbourne, Kent, but met opposition from local residents and councillors. The case was taken over by the Housing Department a month after Mr Jenrick was promoted to Housing Secretary and is still live. 

After an investigation by the website Open Democracy and The Mail on Sunday, Labour last night demanded Mr Jenrick explain the latest concerns around big donors to the Tories and planning permission granted by his department. But last night, he insisted he had not taken any decisions relating to the case.

Yet he did not respond to questions over whether he had ever met the development’s boss Mark Quinn or was aware of more than £110,000 his firms had donated to the Tories in recent years. Mr Quinn’s planning application was submitted in January 2019, and was rejected by Swale Borough Council in June of that year. 

A month later Mr Jenrick became the Housing Secretary and Quinn Estates also launched an appeal. Before it was concluded at a council level, the Housing Department took control of the decision-making process on August 13 of that year. That same month Quinn Estates made an £11,000 donation to the Tory coffers, with £26,500 donated in September and £14,000 soon after.

Mr Jenrick faces uproar over his decision to grant planning permission to Richard Desmond for a 1,500-flat development. Last night, Labour said: ‘Robert Jenrick has yet more questions to answer about another cash-for-favours planning decision.’

A spokesman for Mr Jenrick said he has not taken any decisions relating to the Quinn appeal. Quinn Estates did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more at Open Democracy

Councils warn of £10billion cash black hole as Robert Jenrick pumps an extra £500m into authorities

Councils warn of £10billion cash black hole as Robert Jenrick pumps an extra £500million into struggling English local authorities – less than £1.5million each – amid bankruptcy fears

  • Local Government Secretary said cash would go towards covering lost income 
  • It is part of £4.3billion package of support put in place by the Government so far
  • Councils have warned they face a funding black hole of up to £10billion
  • An already dire financial situation had made worse by coronavirus pandemic

Robert Jenrick sparked a row with local government this morning after announcing plans to pump an additional £500million into council coffers today.

The Communities Secretary said the cash would go towards covering lost income during the coronavirus lockdown, which has seen mothballed firms given business rate holidays and forced other cuts to income.

It is part of a £4.3billion package of support put in place by the Government and is not ring-fenced and allow council and business rates tax deficits to be repaid over three years instead of one.

The Government said it understood the ‘unprecedented impact’ the pandemic has had on councils’ income from car parks, museums and other cultural assets, and will compensate them.

Mr Jenrick said that to ‘boost cash flow’ any loss of income above 5 per cent of the planned take from sales, fees and charges will be compensated at a rate of 75p in every pound.

But it comes as as councils warn they face a black hole of up to £10billion because of lost income and increased expenditure to deal with coronavirus.

The cash equates to less than £1.5million for each of the 343 local authorities in England – with extra money for those in Scotland and Wales.  

It comes after Tory-run local authorities last week warned the Government they face possible bankruptcy if a second wave of coronavirus forces the UK into a new lockdown.

Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, addressed Mr Jenrick and Boris Johnson on Twitter, writing: ‘I’m sorry, this £500million goes nowhere near filling the £10billion funding gap councils face this financial year. 

The Communities Secretary said the cash would go towards covering lost income during the coronavirus lockdown, which has seen mothballed firms given business rate holidays

Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, addressed Mr Jenrick and Boris Johnson on Twitter

Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, addressed Mr Jenrick and Boris Johnson on Twitter

‘We’ve been giving you the benefit of the doubt up until now, but our patience is wearing very thin.’

Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said ‘Many councils are on the brink of bankruptcy because of the costs of tackling Covid-19, so any help is welcome.

‘But if the Government breaks its promise to fund the costs in full, councils will be forced to cut back services like social care, youth activities and bin collections, and closed libraries and leisure centres might never reopen.

‘This funding is a start, but we don’t know how it will be shared out and much of the detail is being held back until the autumn which might be too late to save many frontline workers’ jobs that are now at risk.

‘We urge the Government to stick to its promise to support councils to do what’s necessary to get communities through this. Councils have kept their part of the bargain, now the Government must do the same rather than punish local communities with cuts to the services they rely on.’

And James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: ‘Councils continue to work all day and night to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19, support local businesses and try and keep normal services running. This package offers some positive measures and recognises the pressures councils are facing, but more is desperately needed to fully address the severe financial challenges facing councils and our local services as a result.

‘The Government’s commitment to fund a portion of councils lost income from fees and charges is a step in the right direction. However, this does not cover the full losses, nor does it extend to commercial and other income losses and is likely to still leave councils having to absorb a substantial and unforeseen loss of funding, in particular the loss of local taxes.

‘We reiterate our call to Government to meet all extra cost pressures and income losses from fees and charges and other sources, including commercial activity, in full if councils are to avoid having to make tough decisions on in-year cuts to services to meet their legal duty to set a balanced budget this year.

Mr  Jenrick MP said: ‘Councils are playing a huge part in supporting their communities during this pandemic.

‘From supporting the most vulnerable and keeping vital services running to operating local track and trace, council workers have been at the forefront of this great national effort and are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.

‘Today I am providing a further package of support that takes our support for councils during this pandemic to £4.3 billion to help meet the immediate pressures councils are facing.

‘I know that the loss of revenue from car parks and leisure centres has created huge difficulties, so I am introducing a new scheme to help cover these losses.’

Robert Jenrick is summoned before MPs to explain ‘serious mistakes’

Robert Jenrick is summoned before MPs to explain ‘serious mistakes’ in his handling of Tory donor’s £1billion homes plan as select committee rejects the PM’s claim that ‘the matter is closed’

  • The Housing Secretary is in a ‘cash for favours’ row over a housing development
  • He approved the 1,500-home development Westferry print works in London 
  • Tory donor Richard Desmond’s proposal for the development was approved 

Robert Jenrick has been summoned before MPs to explain ‘serious mistakes’ in his handling of a Tory donor’s £1billion homes plan.

The Commons housing select committee said it disagreed with the Prime Minister’s claim that ‘the matter is closed’.

Yesterday the committee wrote to the Housing Secretary with a list of 26 unanswered questions and demanded that he appear before it in a fortnight.

Mr Jenrick is embroiled in a ‘cash for favours’ row over his approval of Richard Desmond’s proposal for a 1,500-home development on the site of the Westferry print works in east London.

 

Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick (pictured) has been summoned before MPs to explain ‘serious mistakes’ in his handling of a Tory donor’s £1billion homes plan

The minister overruled the planning inspector and his own officials to grant permission in January, two months after he sat next to the tycoon at a Tory fundraising dinner.

In a letter to Mr Jenrick yesterday, the housing select committee said it would not normally scrutinise individual planning decisions but in this case ‘we feel it is important to make an exception’.

The Housing Secretary last week was forced to hand over documents that show he sped up the approval process. 

Mr Desmond urged him to do so before the introduction of a local levy that he said would cost him £45million.

Mr Jenrick is embroiled in a ¿cash for favours¿ row over his approval of Richard Desmond¿s (right) proposal for a 1,500-home development on the site of the Westferry print works in east London

 Mr Jenrick is embroiled in a ‘cash for favours’ row over his approval of Richard Desmond’s (right) proposal for a 1,500-home development on the site of the Westferry print works in east London

Emails between Mr Jenrick’s officials show that he was ‘insistent’ that the planning decision was made ahead of the deadline. 

The minister subsequently agreed for his decision to be quashed after admitting it had been ‘unlawful by reason of apparent bias’.

Clive Betts, the select committee’s Labour chairman, yesterday wrote in his letter to Mr Jenrick that ‘the documents do clearly demonstrate that serious mistakes were made during this process, and that these put into doubt your ability to act as a neutral arbiter in this case’.

He added: ‘The committee respectfully disagrees with the Prime Minister’s assertion that “the matter is closed”.’