Coronavirus: DUP blocks 14-day NI Covid restrictions extension

Proposals from the health minister to extend coronavirus restrictions in NI for two more weeks have been blocked after an executive vote.

Advice from Robin Swann’s officials recommended keeping the measures in place until 27 November.

The DUP opposed the move, and triggered a cross-community vote to effectively veto the proposals.

The current restrictions are due to end at midnight on Thursday.

The hospitality sector is waiting to find out whether it can resume trading on Friday after a four-week shutdown.

It comes after the Department of Health announced a further 11 coronavirus-related deaths in Northern Ireland on Tuesday and 514 more positive cases.

Ministers are currently considering alternative proposals from DUP Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

Her paper suggests close-contact services such as hair and beauty salons can reopen on Friday, by appointment.

It also proposes allowing unlicensed premises such as cafes and coffee shops to reopen on Friday, but licensed restaurants would remain closed until 27 November.

It is also understood that a “safely open group” could be established if ministers agree the plans, that would cover hospitality.

BBC News NI understands that Mrs Dodds’s paper also stresses the need for increased visibility of police and environmental health officers to manage enforcement.

The minister has previously said she did not want the restrictions to be extended, as it could further damage the economy.

It is understood she still holds this view, but recognises that the executive must agree a “general consensus”.

And so the wait for business owners and employees alike goes on, almost a week since health officials first recommended that the restrictions should be extended.

There was a distinct sense of déjà vu emerging tonight, as attempts for the executive to meet were pushed back repeatedly while the parties tried to work out a plan they could feasibly sign up to.

DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster was facing much internal pressure not to bow to calls to extend the measures, despite the health advice.

It’s understood the DUP’s use of the cross-community veto did not go down well with the Alliance minister Naomi Long, who is excluded from such votes as her party is neither unionist nor nationalist.

Now that the DUP has managed to bring its own proposals to the executive, it may feel that provides its ministers with some political cover to stand over decisions which may end up being made tonight.

However, nothing is over the line yet.

Some businesses may feel the decisions are coming too late, with many unable to prepare for opening with two days’ notice, even if they get the green light.

Others will also wonder about the executive’s messaging – easing some restrictions at a time when doctors have been calling for “breathing space”, to keep the rate of infection as low as possible in the run-up to Christmas.

A number of DUP backbench MLAs have previously vocally opposed the coronavirus regulations agreed by the power-sharing executive, which the DUP jointly leads with Sinn Féin.

Earlier, the executive was accused by DUP MLA Paul Frew of “letting businesses down by the hour” by delaying a decision on extending coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Frew, who has openly criticised his party’s decision-making on the coronavirus regulations before, told the assembly on Tuesday that the delay in announcing a decision was “unbelievable”.

“This is a tremendously harsh time for businesses and yet this executive is causing an act of vandalism to those businesses,” he said during a debate on the Budget Bill.

“It is a shameful position to be in.

“It is an act of vandalism to not be able to tell a business on the Tuesday that they can open up for sure on the Friday, that they can fill up their fridge, bring in their stock and pay their supply line – it’s no way to run a business and no way to run an executive.

“It’s an absolute farce we are letting so many people down, who just want to earn a decent living and who provide so much.”

Earlier, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said he believed the DUP had been “too strident,” by suggesting the restrictions would not remain in place longer than four weeks.

“Arlene (Foster) put herself on a hook by saying at an early stage that these restrictions would come to an end before progress was made,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme.

“Good progress is being made, but from our point of view it would be reckless now to throw it all away.”

He said there was a case to be made for reopening hair and beauty salons, but that restrictions on hospitality should remain in place for another fortnight, as health officials initially recommended.

Alison Canney, owner of the Spaghetti Junction restaurant in Londonderry, said they are undecided whether they would reopen at all if a limit or a ban is placed on alcohol sales.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, the Derry business owner said: “It is doable but is it the same? I don’t think so.

“People come out to relax and unwind. It’s an experience. It’s not like alcohol is essential, but people like a glass of wine with an Italian meal.”

Hair and beauty salons have also been closed since 16 October.

Beautician Carolyn McCauley said First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill needed to “put on their big girl pants and make decisions”.

“At this stage, it’s simply not good enough,” she said.

“They’ve had four weeks to make these decisions and now here we are, at the 11th hour, and there’s still no decision.”

Michael Cafolla, who runs a large cafe in Newtownards, County Down, called on the executive to “consult with people on the coal face of this industry, look at the evidence and make sure that the evidence backs up the decisions that are made”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, he said there had been “no direction, leadership or consistent messaging” for businesses.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party supports extending all of the restrictions for an extra fortnight, to reduce the possibility of further interventions before Christmas.

“We need to look beyond short-term decision making and ensure we achieve a safe Christmas by driving down Covid-19 now,” he said.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the executive “absolutely does need” to take a decision on Tuesday.

“It would be wrong if the clock was allowed to run down on this and we saw the restrictions almost disappearing by default,” he said.

Covid: Anti-lockdown Tory MPs to resist repeated restrictions

Conservative MPs who voted against the current lockdown in England have formed a new group aimed at preventing further blanket national restrictions.

The Covid Recovery Group will argue for a different approach when the current curbs end on 2 December to enable the country to “live with the virus”.

Its 30-plus members want more analysis of the economic damage being done and to challenge the scientific advice.

The PM has stressed the NHS is at risk of a “medical disaster” without action.

Boris Johnson has insisted the data on hospitalisations and deaths is “irrefutable” and justified the four-week closure of non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities, which took effect from 4 November.

A further 20,412 coronavirus cases were reported in the UK on Tuesday, with another 532 deaths within 28 days of a positive test recorded.

Although Parliament overwhelmingly backed the restrictions – which include ban on contacts between members of different households outside a support bubble either indoors or in private gardens – in a vote at the start of November, 34 Tory MPs opposed them while 19, including former PM Theresa May, abstained.

The government has said it intends to revert to the previous regionalised system of tiered restrictions when the lockdown period ends.

Ministers have been warned that they face an even bigger rebellion if they try to extend the lockdown over the Christmas and New Year period.

The Covid Recovery Group – whose members include ex-Chief Whip Mark Harper and the chairman of the powerful 1922 committee of backbench Tories Sir Graham Brady – says the “devastating cycle” of repeated restrictions cannot be prolonged.

The group, which includes all those who voted against the lockdown and others who backed it, wants ministers to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the restrictions to determine whether they are costing more lives than they are saving by stopping cancer and dementia treatments and increasing suicide rates among the under-40.

It is also calling for an end to the “monopoly” it says scientists have on advising the government.

It wants all of the statistical modelling informing decisions to be published, following recent rows over the reliability of data, and for a wider range of multi-disciplinary experts to get “a seat the table”.

It says no policies should put before Parliament unless they are backed up by three “independent” expert opinions.

Figures published on Tuesday showed redundancies rose to a record high of 314,000 in the three months to the end September, as firms laid off people in anticipation of the furlough scheme ending in November.

Despite the government extending the wage subsidy scheme to March, economists have said the jobs picture remains bleak, with further big rises in unemployment expected in the coming months.

Mr Harper said the country needed to find a “sustainable way” of living with Covid until a vaccine was available for mass use to stop “immense” economic damage.

“Lockdowns cost lives, whether in undiagnosed cancer treatments, deteriorating mental health, and missed A&E appointments – not to mention the impact it has on young people’s education, job prospects and our soaring debts,” he said.

“The cure we’re prescribing runs the risk of being worse than the disease.”

The new pressure group, he added, would “play its part in helping the government to deliver an enduring strategy for living with the virus, so that we break the transmission of the disease, command public support, end this devastating cycle of repeated restrictions”.

Speaking in Parliament earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was critical people continued to follow the rules to get the R number below one, telling MPs “our plan is working”.

Marcus Rashford thanks artist for Withington mural

Footballer Marcus Rashford has thanked the artist who painted a mural of him near to where he grew up.

Street artist Akse has created the artwork on the side of Coffee House Cafe in Copson Street, Withington, Manchester.

He said the England and Manchester United star’s recent successful campaign to extend free school meals inspired the project.

Rashford tweeted an image of the finished mural with a “thank you”.

The artwork, based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham, was done in collaboration with Withington Walls, a community street art project.

Following Rashford’s campaign, the government announced it was to spend more than £400m on a winter grant scheme to support poor children and their families in England.

It follows the footballer’s campaign in June which led to the government changing its policy to allow children to claim free meals during the holidays.

Rashford became an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list last month.

Manchester-based artist Akse said the mural was close to where the footballer grew up in Old Moat, Withington, before his family moved to Wythenshawe.

Rashford’s mother provided the quote on the mural, which read: “Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose.”

“It’s incredible,” said Ed Wellard of Withington Walls. “Akse is a world class artist but it’s exceeded my expectations. It is amazing.”

Akse said he had a video call with 23-year-old Rashford while working on the painting.

“It was very kind of him to take time to chat with me,” he said.

“I hope the mural will inspire the local community as he has inspired the whole nation with his campaign to fight child food poverty.”

Coronavirus: DUP blocks two-week Covid restrictions extension

Proposals from the health minister to extend coronavirus restrictions in NI for two more weeks have been blocked after an executive vote.

Advice from Robin Swann’s officials recommended keeping the measures in place until 27 November.

The DUP opposed the move, and triggered a cross-community vote to effectively veto the proposals.

The current restrictions are due to end at midnight on Thursday.

The hospitality sector is waiting to find out whether it can resume trading on Friday after a four-week shutdown.

Ministers are now considering alternative proposals from DUP Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

Her paper suggests close-contact services such as hair and beauty salons can reopen on Friday, by appointment.

It also proposes allowing unlicensed premises such as cafes and coffee shops to reopen on Friday, but licensed restaurants would remain closed until 27 November.

It is also understood that a “safely open group” could be established if ministers agree the plans, that would cover hospitality.

BBC News NI understands that Mrs Dodds’s paper also stresses the need for increased visibility of police environmental health officers to manage enforcement.

The minister has previously said she did not want the restrictions to be extended, as it could further damage the economy.

It is understood she still holds this view, but recognises that the executive must agree a “general consensus”.

A number of DUP backbench MLAs have previously vocally opposed the coronavirus regulations agreed by the power-sharing executive, which the DUP jointly leads with Sinn Féin.

Earlier, the executive was accused of “letting businesses down by the hour” by delaying a decision on extending coronavirus restrictions.

DUP MLA Paul Frew accused Stormont ministers of causing an “act of vandalism” to hospitality firms.

Mr Frew, who has openly criticised his party’s decision-making on the coronavirus regulations before, told the assembly on Tuesday that the delay in announcing a decision was “unbelievable”.

“This is a tremendously harsh time for businesses and yet this executive is causing an act of vandalism to those businesses,” he said during a debate on the Budget Bill.

“It is a shameful position to be in.

“It is an act of vandalism to not be able to tell a business on the Tuesday that they can open up for sure on the Friday, that they can fill up their fridge, bring in their stock and pay their supply line – it’s no way to run a business and no way to run an executive.

“It’s an absolute farce we are letting so many people down, who just want to earn a decent living and who provide so much.”

Earlier, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said he believed the DUP had been “too strident,” by suggesting the restrictions would not remain in place longer than four weeks.

“Arlene (Foster) put herself on a hook by saying at an early stage that these restrictions would come to an end before progress was made,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme.

“Good progress is being made, but from our point of view it would be reckless now to throw it all away.”

He said there was a case to be made for reopening hair and beauty salons, but that restrictions on hospitality should remain in place for another fortnight, as health officials initially recommended.

Alison Canney, owner of the Spaghetti Junction restaurant in Londonderry, said they are undecided whether they would reopen at all if a limit or a ban is placed on alcohol sales.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, the Derry business owner said: “It is doable but is it the same? I don’t think so.

“People come out to relax and unwind. It’s an experience. It’s not like alcohol is essential, but people like a glass of wine with an Italian meal.”

Hair and beauty salons have also been closed since 16 October.

Beautician Carolyn McCauley said First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill needed to “put on their big girl pants and make decisions”.

“At this stage, it’s simply not good enough,” she said.

“They’ve had four weeks to make these decisions and now here we are, at the 11th hour, and there’s still no decision.”

Speaking in the assembly ahead of the executive meeting, First Minister Arlene Foster said she hoped “consensus can be achieved” on Tuesday.

“We’re in a five-party coalition… many other governments in the United Kingdom and in the British-Irish Council do not have to deal with differing political philosophies and ways forward but we will work together,” she said.

“We have a determination to work together to find a solution and that will happen hopefully today.”

Michael Cafolla, who runs a large cafe in Newtownards, County Down, called on the executive to “consult with people on the coal face of this industry, look at the evidence and make sure that the evidence backs up the decisions that are made”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, he said there had been “no direction, leadership or consistent messaging” for businesses.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party supports extending all of the restrictions for an extra fortnight, to reduce the possibility of further interventions before Christmas.

“We need to look beyond short-term decision making and ensure we achieve a safe Christmas by driving down Covid-19 now,” he said.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the executive “absolutely does need” to take a decision on Tuesday.

“It would be wrong if the clock was allowed to run down on this and we saw the restrictions almost disappearing by default,” he said.

Nearly 160 migrants attempt to cross Channel to UK

Six boats carrying 159 people have been found by UK authorities as migrants continue to try to cross the English Channel.

The Home Office released Tuesday’s figures and said authorities in France prevented about 30 people making the journey on the same day.

Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney said the criminals behind the crossings were breaking the law.

UK authorities were “relentlessly” going after those responsible, he said.

He said: “We are working side by side with France to increase beach patrols and enhance surveillance to stop the crossings at source, breaking up the ruthless gangs who facilitate this activity, and locking up the people smugglers responsible.

“We are returning migrants who have no right to stay in the UK to safe countries with flights every week and will do whatever we can to make this route unviable.”

More than 7,915 people have crossed the Channel in more than 600 boats this year.

Covid-19: Bridgend sees jump in hospital outbreak deaths

Another 28 deaths have been reported, linked to Covid-19 infections caught inside hospitals within Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board.

Eighteen of those were in the last week at the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend, taking the total so far to 127 across four hospitals.

Meanwhile, 121 deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in Wales, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figure is 56 more than the previous week.

Altogether, Cwm Taf Morgannwg reports 531 cases of Covid-19 inside its hospitals, linked to separate outbreaks.

Royal Glamorgan Hospital at Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taf, has the most – 195 – and there have been 56 deaths.

Along with Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, each reported another five deaths in the last week.

The outbreak in Bridgend however has resulted in most of the recent deaths.

The health board also said it was undertaking “urgent improvement works” at Maesteg community hospital, with one ward being closed until January,

Medical director Dr Nick Lyons said: “As we come out of the firebreak in Wales, the rate of Covid-19 infection in our communities remains worryingly high.

“Each day, more Covid patients are being admitted to our acute hospitals which are already very busy at this time of year.

“Please think carefully about your actions and adhere to the restrictions still in place.”

The ONS weekly figures, up to 30 October, included 42 deaths registered across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area, 36 of which happened in hospitals.

There were also 26 in the Aneurin Bevan health board area, 21 deaths in Swansea Bay, 15 in Betsi Cadwaladr and 10 in Cardiff and Vale.

There were five deaths in Hywel Dda and two hospital deaths involving Powys residents.

Only Anglesey and Pembrokeshire did not see any Covid-related deaths among Welsh counties over the week.

The total number of Covid deaths in Wales up to and registered by 30 October has now risen to 2,884.

This includes deaths in care homes, hospices and people’s homes and when Covid is just suspected by doctors.

When deaths which were registered in the days following are counted, it takes the total to 2,984 deaths occurring up to 30 October.

Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) has now seen its cumulative death rate climb to 167 deaths per 100,000 people – and has moved up to third highest rate across all local authorities in England and Wales.

Cardiff has had the largest number of deaths in Wales with 427 so far in the pandemic, followed by RCT with 401.

So-called excess deaths, which compare all registered deaths with previous years, are above the five-year average in Wales.

Looking at the number of deaths we would normally expect to see at this point in the year is seen as a useful measure of how the pandemic is progressing.

In Wales, the number of deaths rose to 712 in the latest week, which was 96 deaths higher than the five-year average.

Coronavirus: DUP table new Covid-19 proposals to executive

DUP minister Diane Dodds has tabled proposals to the executive seeking to reach “general consensus” on Covid-19 restrictions, BBC News NI understands.

The parties have been divided over advice to extend all the restrictions for two more weeks.

Ministers began meeting late on Tuesday, after earlier discussions were postponed.

The hospitality sector is waiting to find out whether it can resume trading on Friday after a four-week shutdown.

The current restrictions are due to end at midnight on Thursday.

A number of DUP backbench MLAs have previously vocally opposed the coronavirus regulations agreed by the power-sharing executive, which the DUP jointly leads with Sinn Féin.

Despite a number of meetings this week, ministers have not yet been able to decide what should replace them.

Health Minister Robin Swann had brought his own paper to the executive last week, which recommended keeping all the restrictions in place for another fortnight.

It is understood the paper was brought to a vote on Tuesday night, but the DUP used its cross-community veto to block the proposals.

Mrs Dodds’ paper suggests close-contact services such as hair and beauty salons can reopen on Friday, by appointment.

It also proposes allowing unlicensed premises such as cafes and coffee shops to reopen on Friday, but licensed restaurants would remain closed until 27 November.

BBC News NI understands that the paper also stresses the need for increased visibility of police environmental health officers to manage enforcement.

Mrs Dodds has previously said she did not want the restrictions to be extended, as it could further damage the economy.

It is understood she still holds this view, but recognises that the executive must agree a compromise.

It is also understood that a “safely open group” could be established if ministers agree the plans, that would cover hospitality.

Earlier, the executive was accused of “letting businesses down by the hour” by delaying a decision on extending coronavirus restrictions.

DUP MLA Paul Frew accused Stormont ministers of causing an “act of vandalism” to hospitality firms.

Mr Frew, who has openly criticised his party’s decision-making on the coronavirus regulations before, told the assembly on Tuesday that the delay in announcing a decision was “unbelievable”.

“This is a tremendously harsh time for businesses and yet this executive is causing an act of vandalism to those businesses,” he said during a debate on the Budget Bill.

“It is a shameful position to be in.

“It is an act of vandalism to not be able to tell a business on the Tuesday that they can open up for sure on the Friday, that they can fill up their fridge, bring in their stock and pay their supply line – it’s no way to run a business and no way to run an executive.

“It’s an absolute farce we are letting so many people down, who just want to earn a decent living and who provide so much.”

What do you want to know about the latest coronavirus restrictions in Northern Ireland?

Business reporter Richard Morgan joins Jordan Kenny live on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT here on the BBC News NI website to explain the latest developments and to answer your questions.

If you are reading this page on the BBC News app, you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question on this topic.

Earlier, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said he believed the DUP had been “too strident,” by suggesting the restrictions would not remain in place longer than four weeks.

“Arlene (Foster) put herself on a hook by saying at an early stage that these restrictions would come to an end before progress was made,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme.

“Good progress is being made, but from our point of view it would be reckless now to throw it all away.”

He said there was a case to be made for reopening hair and beauty salons, but that restrictions on hospitality should remain in place for another fortnight, as health officials initially recommended.

Alison Canney, owner of the Spaghetti Junction restaurant in Londonderry, said they are undecided whether they would reopen at all if a limit or a ban is placed on alcohol sales.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, the Derry business owner said: “It is doable but is it the same? I don’t think so.

“People come out to relax and unwind. It’s an experience. It’s not like alcohol is essential, but people like a glass of wine with an Italian meal.”

Hair and beauty salons have also been closed since 16 October.

Beautician Carolyn McCauley said First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill needed to “put on their big girl pants and make decisions”.

“At this stage, it’s simply not good enough,” she said.

“They’ve had four weeks to make these decisions and now here we are, at the 11th hour, and there’s still no decision.”

Speaking in the assembly ahead of the executive meeting, First Minister Arlene Foster said she hoped “consensus can be achieved” on Tuesday.

“We’re in a five-party coalition… many other governments in the United Kingdom and in the British-Irish Council do not have to deal with differing political philosophies and ways forward but we will work together,” she said.

“We have a determination to work together to find a solution and that will happen hopefully today.”

Michael Cafolla, who runs a large cafe in Newtownards, County Down, called on the executive to “consult with people on the coal face of this industry, look at the evidence and make sure that the evidence backs up the decisions that are made”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, he said there had been “no direction, leadership or consistent messaging” for businesses.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party supports extending all of the restrictions for an extra fortnight, to reduce the possibility of further interventions before Christmas.

“We need to look beyond short-term decision making and ensure we achieve a safe Christmas by driving down Covid-19 now,” he said.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the executive “absolutely does need” to take a decision on Tuesday.

“It would be wrong if the clock was allowed to run down on this and we saw the restrictions almost disappearing by default,” he said.

Covid: Can I go on furlough and how much will I be paid?

Workers for firms hit by lockdowns or Covid restrictions can now be furloughed until the end of March.

Under the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, to give furlough its official title, employees placed on leave receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

The scheme pays some of the wages of people who can’t do their jobs because their workplace is closed, or there is no longer enough work for them.

They may also be unable to work because someone in their household has to shield, or they have caring responsibilities due to coronavirus, such as looking after children.

You can be furloughed whether you are on a full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contract.

You must have been on the payroll by 30 October 2020. It is not necessary to have been furloughed before and you keep all your working rights, including annual and parental leave.

There is also some help for people who recently lost their jobs but were not placed on furlough.

If you were employed and on the payroll on 23 September, but were then made redundant or stopped working, you can be re-employed and claimed for by your former employer.

While you are on furlough you can take on other jobs, as long as it doesn’t break the rules of your contract. You can also take part in training, or volunteer for an unconnected organisation.

Since July, employers have been able to bring back employees part-time, and furlough them for the rest. This will continue, and employers will have to pay employee’s wages for the hours they work as normal.

Furlough was due to be replaced by the Job Support Scheme on 1 November.

But as month-long restrictions began in England, including the closure of pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops, the government said furlough would continue.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says it will run until the end of March, although the government will decide in January whether employers should start paying into the scheme.

While employees won’t notice any difference in their pay packet, the scheme has become more generous for employers, who will pay less towards it.

In recent months, firms have had to top up furloughed wages by 20%, with the government paying 60%. Now, the state will put in the full 80%, with the employer only covering pension and National Insurance contributions.

While the government updates the system, employers will submit their wage claim to the government, and be refunded afterwards. After that, they will be paid upfront to cover the cost.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed the scheme will still apply throughout the UK, saying the country had “a Treasury for the whole of the United Kingdom”.

About 10 million jobs have already been claimed for, with an estimated two million people still on furlough at the end of October.

Boris Johnson congratulates Biden in phone call

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has congratulated Joe Biden on his US election win, in their first phone conversation since last week’s vote.

It is believed that Mr Biden called Mr Johnson ahead of other leaders of major European countries.

The prime minister said he looked forward to “strengthening the partnership” between the US and UK and work on “our shared priorities”.

The media declared Mr Biden the election winner on Saturday.

But counting is ongoing in some states, with incumbent President Donald Trump disputing many of the results.

In a tweet, the prime minister said: “I just spoke to @JoeBiden to congratulate him on his election.

“I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities – from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic.”

Stephen Lawrence family criticises undercover police inquiry

The parents of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence are losing confidence in the public inquiry into undercover policing, their lawyers have said.

In an opening statement for Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Imran Khan QC said the campaigner had doubts the inquiry would reveal why her family were spied on.

Counsel for Stephen’s father Dr Neville Lawrence echoed her concerns.

The Lawrences also raised questions about the number of police officers granted anonymity during the inquiry.

It emerged that undercover officers had spied on the family’s campaign for justice, with whistleblower Peter Francis claiming he had been tasked with finding “dirt” on the Lawrences and their supporters.

Currently, the cover names of 51 officers must remain secret, along with 119 of the real names of officers and staff.

So far, one has been published – David Hagan – but there are four others who remain anonymous that Dr Lawrence would like identified.

Heather Williams QC, representing Stephen’s father, said if the family were at least given the cover names, they would be able to give evidence about what the police spies did.

Stephen was murdered by a gang in 1993 and incompetence and racism within the Met Police marred the original investigation.

Two of his killers, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were jailed nearly 20 years later but the remaining three suspects never faced justice.

Baroness Lawrence believes it was only the public nature of the Macpherson Inquiry into her son’s death that meant racism in the force was exposed.

The Lawrences have called on inquiry chairman Sir John Mitting to appoint panel members to help him focus on issues including racism, as the previous inquiry did.

Mr Khan said: “The fact that the Metropolitan Police and the individual officers have made applications for anonymity and, more importantly, that they have been granted, is a travesty and goes against everything that a public inquiry stands for and what Baroness Lawrence expected.

“It appears to her that this inquiry is more interested in protecting the alleged perpetrators than the victims.”

1 2 3 8