UK plan to be first to run human challenge Covid trials

The UK is pushing ahead to be the first nation to carry out “human challenge” studies where up to 90 healthy people will be deliberately exposed to Covid.

The trials, which could begin in January, aim to speed up the race to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

The government is putting £33.6m towards the groundbreaking work.

Safety will be a number one priority, experts insist. The plans will need ethical approval and sign-off from regulators before they can go ahead.

Human challenge studies provide a faster way to test vaccines because you don’t have to wait for people to be exposed to an illness naturally.

Researchers would first use controlled doses of the pandemic virus to discover what is the smallest amount that can cause Covid infection in volunteers aged 18 to 30.

These human guinea pigs, who will be infected with the virus through the nose and monitored around the clock, have the lowest risk of harm due to their young age and good health.

Next, scientists could test if a Covid vaccine prevents infection.

Lead researcher for the project Dr Chris Chiu, from Imperial College London, said: “My team has been safely running human challenge studies with other respiratory viruses for over 10 years. No study is completely risk free, but the Human Challenge Programme partners will be working hard to ensure we make the risks as low as we possibly can.”

Prof Peter Openshaw, co-investigator on the study and director of the Human Challenge Consortium, said deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen was “never undertaken lightly”.

“However, such studies are enormously informative.

“It is really vital that we move as fast as possible towards getting effective vaccines and other treatments for Covid-19.”

There are more than a hundred Covid vaccines being developed around the world and several front-runners already in the final stages of testing, including one from Oxford University.

Deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said: “For the many vaccines still in the mid-stages of development, human challenge studies may help pick out the most promising ones to take forward into larger Phase 3 trials.

“For vaccines which are in the late stages of development and already proven to be safe and effective through Phase 3 studies, human challenge studies could help us further understand if the vaccines prevent transmission as well as preventing illness.”

The first stage of the project will be delivered by a partnership between Imperial College London, the Royal Free Hospital’s specialist and secure research unit in London and a company called hVIVO.

Volunteers will be monitored for up to a year after taking part in the study to check for any side-effects.

People can sign up for trials here.

Local lockdown rules: What Covid tier is my area in?

Coronavirus rules vary depending on whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Millions of people are also affected by extra local restrictions, with England now divided into three tiers: medium, high and very high.

Find out what the rules are in your area by entering your postcode below.

If you cannot see the look-up, click here.

The rules highlighted in the search tool are a selection of the key government restrictions in place in your area.

Always check your relevant national and local authority website for more information on the situation where you live. Also check local guidance before travelling to others parts of the UK.

All the guidance in our look-up comes from national government and local authority websites.

For more information on national measures see:

There have been more than 500,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far in the UK and more than 40,000 people have died, according to the latest government figures. Find out how the pandemic has affected your area and how it compares with the national average by following this link to an in depth guide to the numbers involved.

Milton Keynes: Living in the shadow of a huge, horrible warehouse

A new warehouse, described as “oppressive” and “huge”, is at the centre of a planning row. Why is it so controversial and what is it like living in its shadow?

“It’s spoilt our estate; it’s spoilt our way of living. It’s miserable.”

Jenny Watson lives in a row of bungalows in Bessemer Court on Milton Keynes’ Blakelands estate.

Largely occupied by retirees, the roads are clean and well-kept. A nature reserve and lake are a five-minute stroll away.

For the 10 years she has lived there, Jenny’s home has backed on to a warehouse, but she says previous neighbours John Lewis were “absolutely brilliant”.

Other residents said they barely knew the retailer was there.

But John Lewis has gone, its Yeomans Drive warehouse replaced by a new facility, built by developer GUPI 6.

From the front, it is much like many others clustered close to access points to the M1 motorway.

But from Bessemer Court, the controversy is clear. It towers over those unassuming bungalows.

Bigger by 3,000 sq m (32,291 sq ft) than its predecessor, and taller by at least 6.5m (21ft), it is 11m (36ft) closer to the nearest bungalow.

Jenny, who lives with partner Russ Savage, calls it “an absolutely huge, horrible nightmare”.

“We are not going to get any light into the garden through winter,” she says.

“I love gardening. That has hit me more than anything.

“Everything we want for a happy life is against us with this building. It’s very depressing. You can’t get away from it. You feel suffocated.”

The couple were not planning to leave their home and are even having new heating installed.

“I’m in my 70s,” says Jenny. “I don’t want to be finding somewhere else to live.”

The 18m-high (59ft) warehouse was granted planning permission by Milton Keynes Council’s development control committee in May 2017.

Following an internal audit in February 2019, the council asked external planning expert, Marc Dorfman, to review the decision.

He started work that July. It was hoped his report would be ready in 20 working days.

More than a year later, there is no sign of it.

Yvonne Davies has lived in nearby Telford Way for 26 years.

“It’s a lovely area,” she says. “All the neighbours know each other. It’s a bit like being on holiday because you walk down the street and there’s always somebody to talk to.”

She wishes it was as easy to talk to MK Council.

According to an internal council document, after assessing the application in March 2017, senior planning officer Jeremy Lee wanted to refuse it.

Days later, an agent for the developers emailed his manager and the council’s chief planner, referring to “frustrations and concerns” with Mr Lee’s handling of the application.

The following day Mr Lee’s manager responded, saying the case had been “re-allocated to an officer who can dedicate the necessary time to the application”.

Yvonne is mystified. “The council can’t give us decent answers. What changed?

“Suddenly we are living in the middle of an industrial estate.

“They’ve taken away people’s quality of life and ruined a beautiful lake by plopping a great big tin shed on the side of it.”

Yvonne and Jenny’s fears go beyond the warehouse’s size.

“It’s empty. Nobody has been in it,” Jenny says.

When someone does move in, she fears it will be open 24/7, bringing “constant noise”.

A restriction currently limits its opening hours, but the developer is appealing and residents are nervous.

“While empty it is a horrible eyesore, but if it ever came into use…” says Yvonne, her voice trailing off.

With Mr Lee moved aside, the application was passed to another officer, Samantha Taylor.

At more than 20,000 sq m (215,000 sq ft), this application is many times the 1,000 sq m (10,763 sq ft) threshold for a major development.

It would have been a big case for an experienced planning officer, but according to LinkedIn, Ms Taylor had only graduated, albeit with a Masters in spatial planning, in 2015.

She joined the council having worked in the private sector for about a year and a half.

In March 2017, she emailed the developer’s agent saying she was reviewing the application and would soon be able to confirm what the officer recommendation would be.

By the time the application reached the planning committee, she had recommended its approval.

Two MK Council sources have since told the BBC Ms Taylor wanted to reject it.

She has not responded to requests for comment.

When councillors eventually voted to approve the warehouse, it was with 23 conditions attached

By the time the decision notice was finalised, it listed just 10.

Those missing included conditions requiring a noise barrier be built and the retention of trees and hedges.

Residents only realised the conditions were missing when trees were cut down.

Senior council officers say they only became aware of the missing conditions months after the decision notice went out in January 2018.

An internal audit began, but before its completion, Ms Taylor had left the council.

Five days after she finished work on 9 November 2018, her manager wrote in an email that Ms Taylor had “unhelpfully deleted all of her emails in all folders and wiped her h:drive”.

The manager questioned whether what “she has done is a breach of conduct”.

From their pretty garden in Telford Way, Richard and Davina Scholefield cannot see the warehouse.

From upstairs, however, its bulk is all too apparent.

“We said ‘Please could you put something more in keeping with the surroundings there?’,” Davina says.

Having formerly worked as a council officer in nearby Luton, she cannot understand the planning processes undertaken in Milton Keynes.

Such controversies are not confined to Blakelands.

In September 2018 the council’s chief planner, Brett Leahy, drew up a list of other times when, after councillors had considered planning applications, errors were made in paperwork.

His list includes 21 other applications made between 2015 and 2017. Several are said to have had conditions missing.

For more than a year, councillors were unaware of the list’s existence. It was finally emailed to a small group of them in July.

In a statement, lawyers for developer GUPI 6 said the council had been aware the new warehouse was replacing an existing building which “was not subject to any restrictions on its hours of operation”.

It said evidence had been submitted showing “residents’ concerns about possible noise impacts were not justified”.

The statement said further evidence has been submitted to an ongoing appeal showing the restriction on the hours of operation “can be lifted without unacceptable impacts on neighbouring homes”.

In relation to the planning process, the statement said it was against a backdrop of “unjustified delays” which “created prolonged uncertainty for residents as well as impacting on the developer, that GUPI 6 Limited expressed their concern and frustration”.

Regarding the missing conditions, it said: “The error was pointed out to the council by GUPI, who diligently continued to comply with those conditions as if they had been attached to the planning permission.”

It also said that is has since reapplied for, and been granted, planning permission with the missing conditions reinstated.

A Milton Keynes Council spokesman said: “An independent review of this planning decision is under way and the council will consider and respond to the recommendations made following the completion of the review.”

Coronavirus: Can I eat out with someone from a different tier?

More and more people in the UK face tougher restrictions as the government tries to stop Covid spreading.

Here are some of your questions about England’s new three-tier system of restrictions, and other related topics

What questions do you have about coronavirus? Do you want to ask it on BBC News? Get in touch and we may ask you to send us a video of you asking your question.

In some cases, your question will be published, displaying your name, age and location as you provide it, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. Please ensure you have read our terms & conditions and privacy policy.

Use this form to ask your question:

Covid-19: November GCSE exams in NI postponed for two weeks

GCSE exams due to take place in early November have been postponed for almost two weeks.

Education Minister Peter Weir made the decision due to the closure of schools for an extended mid-term break.

GCSE exams run by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) will now begin on 23 November.

Almost 1,500 positive cases of coronavirus have been recorded in NI schools since they reopened to pupils at the end of August.

Thousands of Year 11 and Year 12 pupils taking GCSEs in science are due to sit exams in November.

There are exam papers in biology, chemistry and physics on three consecutive days.

Those exams had been due to take place from 11 to 13 November.

However, schools have now been told they will be postponed until 23 to 25 November.

In a statement, CCEA said that the decision had been taken by Mr Weir “following the Northern Ireland Executive’s recent decision that all schools should close for an extended mid-term break, due to the ongoing health situation in Northern Ireland”.

Pupils are also due to sit maths and English language GCSE exams in January 2021 and more science GCSE exams in February 2021.

Mr Weir had preciously decided that the main summer A-level, AS and GCSE exams in Northern Ireland will start one week later in 2021, but will still finish by 30 June.

The minister said he had asked the Northern Ireland exams board CCEA to consider what he called “back-up” arrangements.

Pupils are due to sit fewer exams in many GCSEs in 2021 but CCEA has not yet provided final details of precise changes to individual subjects.

We had more than 60 calls from test-and-trace

Two weeks ago, Martin Usborne, a publisher who lives in east London, found out a close family contact had coronavirus. A few days later his wife, Ann, and their one-year-old daughter, also tested positive.

From that moment on, Martin says his wife’s phone would not stop ringing. Over the course of 10 days, Ann had 30 separate calls from NHS Test and Trace that she managed to pick up. On top of this were another 27 calls that were missed. And then there were the half a dozen calls her husband received.

“At one point she would finish one call and as soon as she put the phone down – literally seconds later – another contact tracer would ring. And as soon as that call was over, test-and-trace would call my phone.

“This really was not the easiest situation to deal with, particularly while looking after our two small children,” Mr Usborne told the BBC.

Some calls were made because Ann had been in contact with the family acquaintance, who works in her home, while others were to tell her that her young girls (one and three years old) had been near the same person.

Next came the calls because Ann had tested positive, calls because her little one had tested positive and then calls to alert her older toddler that she had been in contact with someone else one who had the virus (this time her mother).

The family understands some of these calls were necessary and is keen to stress that everyone they spoke to was kind and considerate and did their job well, but Mr Usborne is very concerned there has been a significant waste of resources.

“The majority of calls were long and repetitive, with different callers reading out the same script each time, asking the same questions and giving the same answers,” he says.

And the family say when they told contact tracers they had heard the exact same thing several times already, the callers apologised but said they would have to complete the entire phone call or it would not register and someone else would simply ring again.

Mr Usborne told the BBC: “Essentially we were dealing with a broken excel spreadsheet, personified by a very nice person.

“In a way it was quite impressive as they were really persistent – but it was like a dog who had got the wrong bone.”

Later in the week, calls from contact tracers became more helpful, with some checking the family were OK and giving them information on when their isolation would end.

But Mr Usborne says they received conflicting advice about how long they had to remain at home. The NHS Covid-19 app recommended his wife stay indoors a few days longer than contact tracers suggested, for example.

He added: “The people were super-nice about it but one contact tracer admitted they worked on a different system to the app and would continue to use theirs. Which one is right?”

They are now not quite certain when exactly it is safe to go out and are isolating for the longest suggested time. And, more crucially, they say they are not sure if they can trust the advice at all.

The family feels there needs to be a lot more done to join up the dots, so that contact tracers are alerted if someone has already been called and the system recognises when callers have already spoken to parents or carers responsible for small children in the same household.

Mr Usborne also feels there should be a way for the hard-working humans on the other end of the phone to override the computer system if a family tells them they have received multiple, repetitive calls, all week long.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS Test and Trace has reached a total of 901,151 people since it was started.

The first week of October saw the service successfully reach 76.8% of people who tested positive and 76.9% of contacts where communication details were provided.

But there have been issues over the time taken for test results to be returned.

And the system had its worst week for reaching close contacts who were not in the same household as the person testing positive. Just 62% were reached in the week to 7 October, down from 67% the week before.

In the same week, the number of people transferred to test-and-trace more than doubled, to 88,000.

A spokesperson said the government’s test-and-trace programme “is working hard to break chains of transmission, with over 900,000 people who may otherwise have unknowingly spreading coronavirus contacted and told to isolate”.

“We all have a crucial part to play in keeping the number of new infections down, which is why there is now a legal duty to self-isolate, and steps have been taken to make sure that people are complying with the rules.”

Covid restrictions: How to socialise in English tiers this winter

Socialising in the summer, when lockdown rules eased, was pretty simple: A few mates, the park, done.

But with winter approaching and temperatures struggling to reach double figures, no one wants to spend an afternoon sat on the grass.

However, with the government’s new tier system, anyone living in tier 2 and 3 can only socialise with their friends outdoors.

On 16 October, London, Essex (apart from Southend and Thurrock), York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Erewash in Derbyshire, Elmbridge in Surrey, and Barrow in Furness, Cumbria all moved from tier 1 to tier 2 and faced new restrictions – including a ban on mixing households indoors.

People in tier 3 are also banned from private outdoor spaces like gardens and can only socialise in public outdoor spaces.

This is probably why your local park is full of chilly looking people trying very hard to have a nice time right now.

Karen Elder, a journalist and presenter for BBC Gaelic News in Scotland knows a thing or two about getting through a long, isolated winter.

She grew up on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, and says it was the wind and rain that made the winters tough.

Temperatures on Barra this month are around a brisk 10 degrees in the daytime.

For people in England who might be new to embracing having to spend more time outdoors, she says the first thing they need to do is look after their feet.

“If your feet are warm, that’s half the battle,” she says.

“I always find my feet are cold, I tend to get grumpy. You need big socks and big boots and a big jacket as well.”

So once you’ve got all your big stuff on, what are you going to do? We asked Newsbeat listeners to slide into our DMs on Twitter to find out how they’re staying social and socially distant right now.

There’s only so many times you can do laps of the park, but there are ways you can make walking more interesting.

People like Spencer Cooper, a freelance photographer, have been making an event of it with friends.

He’s been taking mates out to interesting places around London to take pictures – and give them both content for their Instagram.

He says it’s a way of hanging out with friends, making new ones and also keeping things socially distanced.

“We’re able to explore parts of the city together and leave with some great outcomes,” he says.

Another option? Borrow a dog.

In some parts of the UK, you can hire or borrow dogs for a short time – often as an alternative to kennels when their real owners are away.

Or you could just ask a friend if you can take theirs out for a few hours.

It makes walks more interesting, and you don’t need to keep two metres away from pets. (But you will need poo bags.)

It’s the most British of pastimes and despite strict rules, you can still go to the pub.

Check which tier you’re in and what the rules are.

In tier 2 you can’t be indoors with anyone you don’t live with but you can be outside in a group of up to 6 who are not from your household, so a pub beer garden is a good choice. Is it too early for mulled wine?

You may have to spend most of your evening pressing a button to keep the heater working, but at least it’s one way of seeing friends and maintaining some sort of normal social life in these unusual times.

This isn’t allowed in tier 3 though. You’d have to meet in an open space like a park, on the beach (yes, really), in the countryside or in a forest.

The rules around sport are the same for all three tiers in England – you can play it, but you also have to stick to social distancing rules.

So things like tennis or small games of cricket are how some people are planning to socialise outdoors – and keep warm at the same time.

Sam says that “there’s not much sport to be played when it’s baltic” but adds he doesn’t feel like he has any other options.

Spaces such as basketball and tennis courts, bowling greens and golf courses were closed during the peak of lockdown at the start of 2020, but re-opened on 13 May.

If you’re lucky enough to live in tier 2, have a garden and space for a fire pit – you can still socialise outdoors with up to six friends, from different households.

Sales of fire pits and patio heaters reportedly soared by 400% in October this year, as people tried to prepare for winter, and hold onto some sort of social life.

And people who live in cities who now have to follow rules to socialise outside, might find that this has a benefit for them – mentally and physically.

“If you’re feeling a bit down, or work’s getting to you, sometimes you just need to get out into the fresh air just to literally and metaphorically blow away the cobwebs,” says Karen from BBC Scotland.

“I find this one of the things that even now, if I was to go home, the first thing I would do is go to the beach and just go for a long walk, you know, regardless of what the weather’s doing.”

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

Coronavirus restrictions: How to socialise in English tiers this winter

Socialising in the summer, when lockdown rules eased, was pretty simple: A few mates, the park, done.

But with winter approaching and temperatures struggling to reach double figures, no one wants to spend an afternoon sat on the grass.

However, with the government’s new tier system, anyone living in Tier 2 and 3 can only socialise with their friends outdoors.

On 16 October, London, Essex (apart from Southend and Thurrock), York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Erewash in Derbyshire, Elmbridge in Surrey, and Barrow in Furness, Cumbria all moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and faced new restrictions – including a ban on mixing households indoors.

People in Tier 3 are also banned from private outdoor spaces like gardens and can only socialise in public outdoor spaces.

This is probably why your local park is full of chilly looking people trying very hard to have a nice time right now.

Karen Elder, a journalist and presenter for BBC Gaelic News in Scotland knows a thing or two about getting through a long, isolated winter.

She grew up on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, and says it was the wind and rain that made the winters tough.

Temperatures on Barra this month are around a brisk 10 degrees in the daytime.

For people in England who might be new to embracing having to spend more time outdoors, she says the first thing they need to do is look after their feet.

“If your feet are warm, that’s half the battle,” she says.

“I always find my feet are cold, I tend to get grumpy. You need big socks and big boots and a big jacket as well.”

So once you’ve got all your big stuff on, what are you going to do? We asked Newsbeat listeners to slide into our DMs on Twitter to find out how they’re staying social and socially distant right now.

There’s only so many times you can do laps of the park, but there are ways you can make walking more interesting.

People like Spencer Cooper, a freelance photographer, have been making an event of it with friends.

He’s been taking mates out to interesting places around London to take pictures – and give them both content for their Instagram.

He says it’s a way of hanging out with friends, making new ones and also keeping things socially distanced.

“We’re able to explore parts of the city together and leave with some great outcomes,” he says.

Another option? Borrow a dog.

In some parts of the UK, you can hire or borrow dogs for a short time – often as an alternative to kennels when their real owners are away.

Or you could just ask a friend if you can take theirs out for a few hours.

It makes walks more interesting, and you don’t need to keep two metres away from pets. (But you will need poo bags.)

It’s the most British of pastimes and despite strict rules, you can still go to the pub.

Check which tier you’re in and what the rules are.

In Tier 2 you can’t be indoors with anyone you don’t live with but you can be outside in a group of up to 6 who are not from your household, so a pub beer garden is a good choice. Is it too early for mulled wine?

You may have to spend most of your evening pressing a button to keep the heater working, but at least it’s one way of seeing friends and maintaining some sort of normal social life in these unusual times.

This isn’t allowed in Tier 3 though. You’d have to meet in an open space like a park, on the beach (yes, really), in the countryside or in a forest.

The rules around sport are the same for all three Tiers in England – you can play it, but you also have to stick to social distancing rules.

So things like tennis or small games of cricket are how some people are planning to socialise outdoors – and keep warm at the same time.

Sam says that “there’s not much sport to be played when it’s baltic” but adds he doesn’t feel like he has any other options.

Spaces such as basketball and tennis courts, bowling greens and golf courses were closed during the peak of lockdown at the start of 2020, but re-opened on 13 May.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Tier 2, have a garden and space for a fire pit – you can still socialise outdoors with up to six friends, from different households.

Sales of fire pits and patio heaters reportedly soared by 400% in October this year, as people tried to prepare for winter, and hold onto some sort of social life.

And people who live in cities who now have to follow rules to socialise outside, might find that this has a benefit for them – mentally and physically.

“If you’re feeling a bit down, or work’s getting to you, sometimes you just need to get out into the fresh air just to literally and metaphorically blow away the cobwebs,” says Karen from BBC Scotland.

“I find this one of the things that even now, if I was to go home, the first thing I would do is go to the beach and just go for a long walk, you know, regardless of what the weather’s doing.”

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

Bletchley Parks contribution to WW2 over-rated

Code-breaking hub Bletchley Park’s contribution to World War Two is often over-rated by the public, an official history of UK spy agency GCHQ says.

The new book – Behind the Enigma – is released on Tuesday and is based on access to top secret GCHQ files.

“Bletchley is not the war winner that a lot of Brits think it is,” the author, Professor John Ferris of the University of Calgary, told the BBC.

But he said Bletchley still played an important role.

And GCHQ had a significant influence in other conflicts, according to the signals intelligence historian.

GCHQ, known as Britain’s listening post, was set up on 1 November 1919 as a peacetime “cryptanalytic” unit.

During World War Two, staff were moved to Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, to decrypt Nazi Germany’s messages including, most famously of all, the Enigma communications.

This provided an inside view of Nazi orders and movements.

The work was kept secret for decades but an official history of British intelligence in the war would later say it had shortened the conflict by two to four years and without it the outcome would have been uncertain.

Bletchley Park remains the most iconic success in British code-breaking and intelligence gathering. But some of the mythology surrounding it has masked the reality, the new book argues.

Nazi Germany actually had the advantage when it came to intelligence and code-breaking for the early part of the war because Britain’s own communication security was so poor.

Eventually, Britain overtook the Germans and Bletchley carried out “amazing” work which did hasten victory, but not necessarily by the amount some previous estimates have claimed.

“Intelligence never wins a war on its own,” says Prof Ferris.

He was given extensive access to the secret files of the intelligence agency, although some limits were placed on what he could see and write about, including more recent interceptions of other country’s diplomatic messages and some of the technical secrets of code-breaking.

The book provides a detailed sweep of the agency’s contribution from its founding after World War One through to the cyber age of today, including the impact of revelations from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Prof Ferris writes that a “cult of Bletchley” has protected GCHQ and boosted its reputation, and argues that the fact he is able to raise questions about it show GCHQ was sincere in giving him freedom to come to his own conclusions.

“GCHQ is probably Britain’s most important strategic asset at the moment and will probably remain that way for generations,” he says.

“I think that Britain gains from keeping it strong and world class, but at the same time, you need to put in proportion what it is you can and cannot get from intelligence.”

Bletchley was still a high-point, he said, because of the ability to get inside the enemy’s strategic communications.

This was not possible against the Soviet Union in the Cold War, although GCHQ was still able to provide the majority of intelligence about its adversary’s military thanks to innovative work in studying the patterns of communications.

Prof Ferris also argues the agency’s contribution was particularly important in the 1982 Falklands Conflict.

“I don’t think Britain could have won the Falklands conflict without GCHQ,” Prof Ferris told the BBC.

He said because GCHQ was able to intercept and break Argentine messages, British commanders were able to know within hours what orders were being given to their opponents, which offered a major advantage in the battle at sea and in retaking the islands.

“They understand what the Argentines planned to do. They understand how exactly the Argentines were deploying their forces.”

The book provides new details on the controversial sinking of the Argentine warship Belgrano and over whether enough was done to warn of the invasion.

“It was a failure of policy, as far as I’m concerned, rather than a failure of intelligence,” Prof Ferris told the BBC.

The book also details the close alliance with the US which persists to this day and how the make-up of staff who work at the agency, now based in Cheltenham, has changed over time.

In a foreword, the current director of the intelligence agency, Jeremy Fleming writes: “GCHQ is a citizen-facing intelligence and security enterprise with a globally recognised brand and reputation. We owe all of that to our predecessors.”

Covid-19: Transfer test causing extreme concern to parents

Over six in ten parents who responded to a Stormont survey said they were “very or extremely concerned” about children taking transfer tests this school year.

That is according to a survey on post-primary transfer carried out by MLAs on Stormont’s Education Committee.

There were more than 8,500 responses to the survey, including 6,150 parents and 1,858 teachers.

Respondents were self-selecting, so the findings may not be representative.

The transfer tests are used by almost all grammar schools to select pupils.

However, a number have said they will not use them to admit pupils for 2021 due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The tests have also been moved back from their usual dates in November until January 2021.

The committee commissioned the NI Assembly’s Engagement, Communications and Education Service to develop a survey to collect views on the subject of post-primary transfer tests.

MLAs from the five main assembly parties sit on the committee.

The survey – which took the form of a questionnaire – was carried out from 20 July to 7 September and the results have just been published.

A separate young people’s survey was also carried out during that period to which 753 children responded – three-quarters of whom were in primary seven.

Over half of the children who responded (55%) said they were not concerned or only slightly concerned about taking the transfer tests during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

However, almost a third (31%) said they were very or extremely concerned about taking the tests.

Of over 6,000 parents who responded to the survey, 85% said that they were intending to enter their children for the transfer tests.

However, almost two-thirds (63.9%) said they were very or extremely concerned that children had not had enough time to prepare for the tests.

Only one in eight (12.5%) said they were “not concerned at all”.

When questioned about what they would prefer to happen about transfer in 2020/21, the most popular option chosen by parents was for post-primary schools to use non-academic admissions criteria instead for a year.

Parents felt that in the absence of tests, pupils should go to their nearest suitable school or a school where a sibling already attended.

However, a slightly higher proportion of parents wanted the tests to go ahead in November 2020 rather than be delayed until January 2021.

Of the 1,858 teachers who completed the survey, almost two-thirds (63.6%) said they were very or extremely concerned about children taking the transfer tests following the lockdown period.

Over half said they were concerned that children would be disadvantaged and over six in ten said they felt children had lost too much preparation time due to lockdown.

Around half (49.1%) were “extremely concerned” that there would be further disruption to schools due to a second wave of Covid-19.

The chair of the Stormont Education Committee, Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, called the response to the survey “unprecedented”.

“The committee will bring a motion to the assembly after Halloween in order to discuss and debate the overall findings of the survey,” he said.

“We will also be calling on the minister to bring forward contingency plans for post-primary transfer arrangements.”