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The Liberal Democrats are campaigning for parliament to be recalled from summer recess to debate proposals to introduce the use of vaccine passports.

The party’s leader Sir Ed Davey has written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson accusing his government of “committing to vaccine passports by stealth” which he warned was “a recipe for chaos and dissent”.

Sir Ed added that the use of such a scheme would be “a grotesque misuse of government diktat” and said MPs must be brought back from their summer holidays immediately to vote on the matter.

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Lib Dem leader Ed Davey
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Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said MPs should be recalled from their summer holidays to discuss and vote on the issue

The PM has said individuals will need to be fully vaccinated to go to nightclubs from the end of September and that proof of a negative COVID test will no longer be sufficient.

And the prospect of people having to prove their COVID-19 status to access a range of other venues has been raised in recent weeks with universities, music events and sporting fixtures all having been mentioned as possible other settings for certification.

Sir Ed said businesses will suffer greatly under the proposals.

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“It is deeply unsettling to see you and your government committing to vaccine passports by stealth. This goes against all our country’s traditions and is utterly deceitful,” his letter published on Friday states.

“Parliament must be recalled immediately.

“How businesses or indeed even churches will be expected to decide who can or cannot pass through their doors has not been made clear.

“This is a recipe for chaos and dissent on many doorsteps throughout England.

Vaccine passports for football games
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Sporting events have been mentioned as other areas where vaccine passports may be required

“It would be a grotesque misuse of government diktat to introduce ID cards without any scrutiny, let alone a vote of MPs.

“The government owes this to all those individuals and businesses who will suffer as a result of your rushed and botched scheme.

“The nation is calling out for leadership, not deception. It is time to step up, to own your decision on COVID ID cards and put it to a vote to parliament. You must recall parliament now.”

A number of Conservative MPs have told Sky News they do not think the government will follow through and actually introduce domestic vaccine passports.

More than 40 Conservatives recently signed a declaration from the campaign group Big Brother Watch expressing opposition to the idea.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, told Sky News that vaccine passports for domestic use would be a “massive step and a misguided one”.

Some Tory MPs contacted by Sky News say they think the prime minister is bluffing in a bid to increase vaccine uptake, while others expressed their belief that the government would pull any vote on the matter if there is a realistic prospect of them losing.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London, Monday, July 5, 2021. Johnson on Monday confirmed plans to lift mask requirements and social distancing rules as planned on July 19 despite a surge in infections. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool Photo via AP)
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Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from some of his own MPs over the issue

“I don’t think they will,” Wellingborough MP Peter Bone said when asked if he thinks the government will follow through and introduce vaccine passports.

He added that he was against vaccine passports because they are “identity papers by the back door” and risked creating a “two class society”.

Fellow Conservative Craig Mackinlay, meanwhile, said he thinks the government is adopting a “carrot and stick approach” to increase vaccine take-up.

“I hope that is as far as these plans go,” the MP for South Thanet said.

And Andrew Bridgen described vaccine passports as “completely unnecessary, bureaucratic and unworkable”, adding that they would “create a divided society”.

The Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire accused the government of engaging in “sabre-rattling” as part of a “crude attempt to coerce young people to take the vaccine”.

Sir Keir Starmer accuses the prime minister of recklessness over proposed removal of restrictions
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Sir Keir Starmer has said he ‘can see a case for vaccine passports’ for mass events

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he “can see a case for vaccine passports” for mass events, but not for “day-to-day routine”.

Asked whether people should have to prove they have had two vaccine doses before returning to the office, Sir Keir told reporters: “I don’t agree with that.

“I can see a case for vaccine passports, alongside testing, when it comes to big sporting events or mass events, certainly for international travel.

“But for day-to-day routine – access to the office, access to health services or dentistry or even food – I don’t agree with vaccine passports for day-to-day access.”

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He added: “We can’t have a situation where someone can’t have access to a health service or dentistry or supermarkets – that is something I don’t think anybody could seriously countenance, so we have to make this distinction.

“But we need to be pragmatic, we need to look at whatever the government puts on the table when it comes to longer term events, mass events etcetera.”

A government spokesperson told Sky News on Thursday: “There has been no change to our plans to introduce vaccine certification in September.

“The government is focussed on protecting the public and reducing the impact of the virus, including mandating COVID certification in certain settings.

“Vaccines are the best possible way to protect you and your family against the virus and we strongly encourage people to come forward.”

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Tories warned Mark Menzies misuse of funds claims ‘constituted fraud’ but whistleblower told there was no ‘duty’ to report it

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Tories warned Mark Menzies misuse of funds claims 'constituted fraud' but whistleblower told there was no 'duty' to report it

The Conservatives were warned ex-Tory MP Mark Menzies’s alleged misuse of party funds may have constituted fraud but the whistleblower was told there was no duty to report it

Mr Menzies, the MP for Fylde in Lancashire, gave up the Tory whip in the wake of reports in The Times that he misused party funds. He disputes the allegations.

The allegations came about after Mr Menzies former campaign manager, Katie Fieldhouse, spoke to the newspaper.

Mark Menzies pictured in Peru  in 2020
Pic: AP
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Mark Menzies pictured in Peru in 2020. Pic: AP

In a new interview with The Times this evening, Ms Fieldhouse, 78, claims she was told the Conservative Party was aware the allegations were potentially criminal.

She says the Conservative Party’s chief of staff “told me that when they first took over the investigation [from the Whips’ Office] they had consulted solicitors”.

She added: “He told me on the phone, ‘the solicitor said it is fraud but you are not duty-bound to report it because it’s not Conservative Party money’.”

The whistleblower said she was told the decision not to inform the police was made because it was donors’ money and not the party’s.

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A Conservative spokesperson said: “The party is conducting an investigation into the claims made and has been doing so for several months.

“We will of course share any information with the police if they believe it would be helpful to any investigation they decide to undertake.

“Suggestions the party has not been seriously examining this matter are demonstrably false.”

Lancashire Police said today it was “reviewing” information about Mr Menzies after Labour asked for an investigation to take place.

In a statement, the force said: “We can confirm that we have now received a letter detailing concerns around this matter and we are in the process of reviewing the available information in more detail.”

Read more: All the Tory MPs suspended since Sunak became PM

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Ruth Davidson on Mark Menzies allegations

The party’s chief whip, Simon Hart, is said to have been made aware of the claims in January, when the former campaign manager reported what had happened.

Sky News understands there has been an investigation ongoing by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) since the allegations were first raised, but further information came to light this week and Mr Hart acted immediately.

Speaking tonight, Labour’s chair Anneliese Dodds said: “The Conservative chairman and chief whip must urgently come out of hiding and explain what they knew and what advice they received.

“If, as reported, they or Conservative officials​ were warned about potentially fraudulent activity and chose not to go to the police, this would be indefensible.”

Mr Menzies, who has served as an MP since May 2010, is reported to have phoned his 78-year-old former campaign manager at 3.15am last December, saying he was locked in a flat by “bad people” and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which rose to £6,500, was eventually paid by his office manager from her personal bank account and subsequently reimbursed from funds raised from donors in an account named Fylde Westminster Group, the newspaper says.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Fieldhouse said: “I am feeling dreadful because I am a devout Tory and as I have said to everybody else, I reported his actions to the chief whip… it is now the middle of April.

“Come to your own conclusions [about] what is happening.”

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Asked if she was disappointed with the way the complaint was being handled, she said: “Yes.”

Mr Menzies said on Thursday: “I strongly dispute the allegations put to me. I have fully complied with all the rules for declarations. As there is an investigation ongoing I will not be commenting further.”

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Mark Menzies: Tory activist who reported MP over alleged misuse of funds disappointed by party response

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Mark Menzies: Tory activist who reported MP over alleged misuse of funds disappointed by party response

A Tory activist who reported an MP over claims he misused party funds has told Sky News she is disappointed by the way her complaint has been handled.

Mark Menzies voluntarily quit the Conservative parliamentary party this week after a report in The Times claimed he called his ex-campaign manager Katie Fieldhouse, 78, early one day to say he was locked in a flat by “bad people” and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which rose to £6,500, was eventually paid by his office manager from her personal bank account and subsequently reimbursed from funds raised from donors in an account named Fylde Westminster Group, the newspaper said.

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But despite the incident taking place in December – and Ms Fieldhouse submitting her complaint in January – the Fylde MP had remained part of the parliamentary party and as a trade envoy for the government until the press reports surfaced.

He has now lost the Conservative whip and was suspended as one of Rishi Sunak’s envoys.

Mr Menzies strongly disputes the claims, which also include accusations he used campaign funds to pay his personal medical bills.

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Speaking to Sky News’ Frazer Maude, Ms Fieldhouse said: “I am feeling dreadful because I am a devout Tory and as I have said to everybody else, I reported his actions to the chief whip… it is now the middle of April.

“Come to your own conclusions [about] what is happening.”

Asked if she was disappointed with the way the complaint was being handled, she said: “Yes.”

And asked if Mr Menzies should step down, she added: “It is for his conscience and the party to deal with. I have put my faith in the party, it is for them to deal with it.”

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Mr Sunak was also asked by reporters on Friday whether his former colleague should quit the Commons, and why it had taken until now for the party to act, but he said he would not comment while an investigation was being carried out.

Instead, the prime minister said: “It’s right that Mark Menzies has resigned the Conservative whip. He’s been suspended from his position as a trade envoy whilst the investigations into those allegations continue.

“For our part, I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation while it’s happening and he’s no longer a Conservative MP.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has written to Lancashire Police to demand an investigation into allegations of fraud and misconduct in public office.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters that the Conservatives “seem to have sat on their hands” over the allegations.

He added: “If they thought they could sweep this under the carpet somehow they were obviously very mistaken and that is why I think there are very serious questions now that need to be answered – not just by the individual but also by the government on this.”

And the Liberal Democrats have called for the ministerial ethics adviser to investigate chief whip Simon Hart’s handling of the complaint.

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Labour blames ‘shoplifters’ charter’ for surge in retail crime

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Labour blames 'shoplifters' charter' for surge in retail crime

A “shoplifters’ charter” has seen thefts rise significantly – to about one offence every minute – but police are charging fewer people, according to Labour.

The party said data showed a record 402,482 shoplifting offences in England and Wales in the year to September 2023.

However, offences resulting in a police charge fell from 20% to 15% between 2018 and 2023, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Labour said offenders were getting off “scot-free” as the fall had not been matched by a rise in other penalties.

More than 54% of shoplifting offences are also dropped with no suspect identified, according to recent Home Office figures.

Labour partly blamed the situation on a 2014 move to introduce a “low value” shoplifting category for items worth under £200 in total.

Theresa May, then home secretary, brought it in to speed things up and allow police to deal with these offences by post.

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But Labour and others, such as the British Retail Consortium, said it meant officers have deprioritised shoplifting.

The rise in shoplifting and attacks on staff have caused some retailers to lock away – or put security tags on – everyday products such as meat, butter, chocolate and coffee.

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Shoplifter ransacks Co-op

Co-op’s food business lost £33m in just six months last year as shoplifting cases surged.

A recent British Retail Consortium survey said the number of annual customer thefts across the UK had doubled to 16 million – far higher than the Home Office data.

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Shadow home secretary Yvette Copper said Labour would change the law as criminals are “getting away with it and more local businesses are paying the price”.

“The Conservative government has decimated neighbourhood policing, leaving our town centres unprotected, and they are still refusing to get rid of the £200 rule, which is encouraging repeat offending and organised gangs of shoplifters,” said Ms Cooper.

“Labour will scrap the Tories’ shoplifters’ charter and bring in a community policing guarantee, with 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs to crack down on shoplifting and keep the public safe.”

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Home Office minister Chris Philp said the “reality” was people in Labour-run areas were 20% more likely to be a victim of shoplifting, and 40% more likely to be a victim of crime, than those in Conservative areas.

“This month, Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives announced that serial or abusive shoplifters will face tougher punishments and we are making assault of a retail worker a standalone criminal offence,” Mr Philp added.

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