Friday, January 27

Covid vaccine announcement ‘helps take pressure off people’s other concerns’, says minister – UK politics live | Politics

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The government has said that it is “confident” that people will be able to get a new bivalent Covid-19 jab as part of the autumn booster programme.

The UK became the first country in the world to approve Moderna’s bivalent vaccine, which targets both the original strain of the virus and the Omicron variant, but it emerged that the country does not have enough doses to offer the new jab to all people eligible for the booster.

Some 26 million people will be invited to come forward for a booster jab in the autumn but it is understood that only 13 million of the new bivalent Moderna jabs are available.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup told Good Morning Britain:

Obviously we’re getting stocks in other new vaccines … and we’re getting further stocks as we go through the next few weeks, but there are other vaccines coming online as well.

So we are quite confident that we’ll be able to deliver the programme with a bivalent vaccine throughout the next few weeks.

But Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said people eligible for a Covid-19 booster jab should not worry about what type of vaccine they will receive.

He told BBC Breakfast:

The key point is that people need to get vaccinated rather than worrying too much about the type of vaccine that they’re receiving.

These are all very good vaccines, which have proven efficacy against severe disease – that’s hospitalisation and death.

Labour is planning a campaigning blitz in order to take ownership of its new energy price cap policy in case the next Tory leader bows to pressure and cancels the 80% rise expected in October.

Keir Starmer has vowed that his party “wouldn’t let people pay a penny more” on their gas and electricity bills this winter, proposing freezing the price cap at current levels and preventing the average household bill from reaching £3,600.

Senior sources said the party had limited time to get out its message before the next Tory leader, presumed to be Liz Truss, enters No 10. The new prime minister will need to produce a comprehensive package on the cost of living, despite Truss’s reticence to spell out how she would help beyond tax cuts.

Labour will increase efforts to promote its policy in the coming days, including with digital adverts, campaign tools for local parties and with direct mail for MPs to use. Plans for the summer offensive have been in the works since mid-July.

Over the coming weeks, the party will set out more on its energy policy offer, including plans to upgrade 19m homes to make them more energy efficient, double onshore and offshore wind capacity and triple solar power.

Starmer has said Labour’s plan, funded in part by an expanded windfall tax, is the radical approach needed to help households and reduce inflation, contrasting it with the inaction of a “lame duck” government.

“We asked ourselves: do we want a plan that allows those prices to go up, causes that anxiety, and then rebates some people after the event, but doesn’t do anything about inflation, or do we want to be more radical, more bold, more ambitious?” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“One of the benefits of our proposal is that it brings inflation down, which benefits everybody, but particularly those who are most vulnerable, and those who are least well off.”

Sources close to Starmer say plans for the party conference will need to be adapted on the basis of what the new prime minister announces in the first weeks in office, especially if there is an early emergency budget.

Read more from my colleagues Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker here:

Richard Partington

The real value of UK workers’ pay continued to fall at the fastest rate for 20 years in June as wage increases were outstripped by soaring inflation amid the cost of living crisis.

The Office for National Statistics said annual growth in average pay, excluding bonuses, strengthened to 4.7% in the three months to June against a backdrop of low unemployment and high job vacancies.

However, the real value of workers’ pay packets dropped by 3% – the fastest decline since comparable records began in 2001 – after taking account of its preferred measure of inflation.

Growth in average earnings including bonuses was 5.1%, although also failed to keep pace with the soaring cost of living.

The latest snapshot showed early signs of a slowdown in hiring demand among employers despite job vacancies remaining close to a record high. The ONS said unemployment rose slightly to 3.8% in the three months to June, while the number of new job openings fell for the first time since summer 2020.

Growth in employment slowed to 160,000 in the three months to June, well below analysts’ forecasts, suggesting the jobs market is beginning to cool as Britain’s economic performance falters.

Ruth Gregory, a senior UK economist at the consultancy Capital Economics, said: “June’s labour market figures revealed further evidence that the weaker economy is leading to a slightly less tight labour market.”

The chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, said the latest figures showed Britain’s jobs market was in a strong position, with unemployment lower than at almost any point in the past 40 years. “[That is] good news in what I know are difficult times for people,” he said.

“Although there are no easy solutions to the cost of living pressures people are facing, we are providing help where we can. We are delivering a £37bn package of help for households through cash grants and tax cuts so people can keep more of what they earn.”

However, the figures underlining the unprecedented hit for workers’ pay are likely to add to the pressure on the government and Conservative leadership candidates amid the cost of living crisis.

Labour said the figures showed the Tories had lost control of the economy. Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “This zombie government is offering no solutions to the cost of living crisis.”

Read the full story here:

People haven’t seen the full extent of what the government is doing to help with the cost of living crisis, Maggie Throup has said, amid increasing criticism and accusations that Boris Johnson is a “lame-duck” prime minister.

The public health minister told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:

We’ve already put together a 37 billion [package] that is being rolled out and there’s lots of different aspects of that: helping pensioners; helping those on low pay; helping people generally, and people haven’t seen the full extent of that.

Asked about whether Rishi Sunak should have a clear policy on how to deal with the crisis, she said:

I think it’s quite right that we wait until we know who is our new leader – prime minister – and then they will take on a lot of advice about the legacy situation.

Only last week the prime minister’s assistant secretary and the chancellor met with energy companies and they started talking, and also the civil service [has] put together different options to put in front of whoever it is in September, to make sure that very quickly we know exactly how people are going to be helped.

Asked whether Sunak should stand down from the leadership race, Throup replied:

I think it is quite right that we wait for the outcome of the election, we haven’t got long to go. And I don’t think any candidate should stand down because until we know the actual results on the day, everything’s to play for.

Nicola Slawson

Nicola Slawson

The government is concerned about how the cost of living crisis will affect people’s health and has taken it into consideration when planning the rollout of flu and Covid booster jabs, a minister said.

The public health and vaccines minister, Maggie Throup, was speaking on LBC radio about the new dual-variant Covid vaccine that has been approved for use in the UK’s booster programme.

She was asked about the impact the cost-of-living crisis will have on health and whether the government had taken it into consideration.

LBC’s Nick Ferrari said: “A lot of people saying they’re so concerned about energy prices, they won’t be able to turn the gas up and it is feared more people will die than is usual.”

Throup responded:

Well, that is a concern, it’s something that we’ve taken into consideration when we looked at our vaccination programmes.

We are rolling out the Covid jab, we’re also rolling out the flu jab, providing as much protection as we can to those who are most vulnerable, and where possible will be co-administrating the flu and the Covid jab so people can have both jabs at one go.

And I think if people are reassured about their own health, then it helps to take the pressure off some of the other concerns that they may have.

And yes, you’re right, people who perhaps don’t heat their homes as much will be more vulnerable. And that’s why, as I say, we’re putting that ring of protection around the most vulnerable with our vaccine programme.

Welcome to today’s politics liveblog. I’ll be covering for Andrew Sparrow today. Do drop me a line if you have any questions or think I’ve missed anything. My email is and I’m @Nicola_Slawson on Twitter.

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