Afternoon summary

  • Facebook is “unquestionably making hate worse”, MPs and peers have been told by the American whistleblower Frances Haugen. She made the claim during a long appearance before the committee considering the draft online safety bill. Although much of what Haugen said echoed what had already been leaked to the US media, or revealed in her recent testimony to Congress, her damning indictment of the company seemed to make a powerful impact on the parliamentarians. This is from the BBC’s Faisal Islam.

Watershed moment for social media from whistleblower Frances Haugen to Parliament…saying Facebook subsidises hate, research recognises children have an “addict’s narrative” with instagram, not possible to make safe for 14 year olds, & “horrific tales” of impact in poor countries

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) October 25, 2021
  • Johnson has been criticised by the Recycling Association for saying that recycling plastic is a “red herring” because what matters is cutting plastics use. (See 12.52pm and 4.57pm.)

This is from the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank on the increase to the “national living wage” announced today.

'The minimum wage is a very imperfect tool to offset cuts to benefits, which are much more targeted at the poorest households.'

Senior Research Economist Tom Waters on today's announced increase to the National Living Wage.https://t.co/1oWEb3mu0m pic.twitter.com/y8xjIy6Ksx

— Institute for Fiscal Studies (@TheIFS) October 25, 2021

Updated

Richard Ratcliffe outside the Foreign Office in London today. The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has gone on hunger strike for the second time in two years and intends to sleep in a tent at night following his wife losing her latest appeal in Iran.
Richard Ratcliffe outside the Foreign Office in London today. The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has gone on hunger strike for the second time in two years and intends to sleep in a tent at night following his wife losing her latest appeal in Iran. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Frost accuses EU of not honouring one of its obligations to UK under Brexit trade deal

A fresh Brexit row has been blown open with Brussels after David Frost accused the EU of being close to breaching the trade deal struck last Christmas.

He said the UK is now “getting quite concerned” about Brussels delaying ratification of the UK’s participation in the £80bn Horizon Europe research programme, costing British scientists their place in pan-European research programmes they traditionally dominated.

He said the UK had “not made a great deal of this” but patience was now running out. “It’s not a very happy place,” he said. Giving evidence to the European scrutiny committee he said:

We are getting quite concerned about this actually. There is an obligation in article 710 of the trade and cooperation agreement to finalise our participation. It uses the word ‘shall’. It is an obligation.

It would obviously be a breach of the treaty if the EU doesn’t deliver on this obligation.

Earlier today the committee claimed scientists were being frozen out of the programmes as punishment for the row over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Separately Lord Frost hinted that there was scope for a deal on the vexed question of a role for the European court of justice in arbitration of disputes involving the Northern Ireland protocol.

He said the system currently in place was one sided and all the UK was asking for “arbitration arrangements that are balanced” .

Some have suggested the EU-swiss model may be acceptable to the UK work as it involves an independent disputes panel with the ECJ used as a last resort.

Lord Frost.
Lord Frost. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/AP

Updated

An activist from SumOfUs, a campaign group, with a 4-metre-high installation, depicting Mark Zuckerberg surfing on a wave of cash and surrounded by teenagers, outside the Houses of Parliament in London today.
An activist from the SumOfUs campaign group with a 4-metre-high installation depicting Mark Zuckerberg surfing on a wave of cash and surrounded by teenagers, outside the Houses of Parliament in London today. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Updated

Back in the committee on the draft online safety bill, Frances Haugen is asked about fake accounts.

She says Facebook is reasonably good at spotting bots.

But she says there are also manually driven fake accounts. She says this is a cottage industry in places like Pakistan or parts of Africa. She says children are paid $1 to play with an account. After a month it passes Facebook’s scutiny, and it looks like a human account because it is a human account. After that it can be sold.

She says one study of 800,000 connectivity accounts found that 100,000 of them were manually driven fake accounts like this.

The hearing is now over.

Updated

Johnson has 'lost the plot' on recycling, trade body claims

The Recycling Association, the trade body for independent waste paper processors and their equipment suppliers, has strongly criticised Boris Johnson for what he said this morning about plastic recycling. (See 12.52pm.) Asked for his reaction to the comment, Simon Ellin, the association’s chief executive, told the World at One:

‘Wow’, I think is the first answer.

It’s very disappointing. I think he has completely lost the plastic plot here, if I’m honest.

We need to reduce and I would completely agree with him on that, but his own government has just invested in the resources and waste strategy, which is the most ground-breaking recycling legislation and plan that we’ve ever seen, with recycling right at the front of it.

So he seems to be completely conflicting with his own government’s policy.

Frances Haugen tells the draft online safety bill committee that she is concerned about Facebook’s plans for its own end-to-end encryption, because we do not know what they are proposing.

She says if people think they are using end-to-end encryption, but if it is not the same as open source end-to-end encryption, then people’s lives could be at risk.

Frances Haugen giving evidence to the draft online safety bill committee
Frances Haugen giving evidence to the draft online safety bill committee. Photograph: Annabel Moeller/UK parliament 2021

Updated

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has confirmed in a call with Boris Johnson today that he won’t be attending Cop26, No 10 said. In its readout of the conversation it said:

President Putin expressed his regret that he would not be able attend the Cop26 summit in person in the light of the coronavirus situation in Russia.

Johnson also told Putin in the course of the call, which covered a series of issues, that “the UK’s current relationship with Russia is not the one we want”.

Updated

Back in the draft online safety bill hearing, Frances Haugen says that if Facebook can address the problems she has highlighted, in 10 years’ time it will be a more profitable and successful company.

Updated

Facebook admits site appears hardwired for misinformation, memo reveals

Facebook has admitted core parts of its platform appear hardwired for spreading misinformation and divisive content, according to a fresh wave of internal documents that showed the social media company struggled to contain hate speech in the developing world and was reluctant to censor rightwing US news organisations. My colleague Dan Milmo and David Pegg have the story here.

UK already has grounds for triggering article 16 and suspending parts of NI protocol, says Frost

In a separate committee hearing, David Frost, the Brexit minister, has said the UK already has the grounds it needs to justify triggering article 16 - the measure that would allow it to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. He told the European scrutiny committee:

As we have said, we think the test for using article 16 is passed but we would still like to come to an agreed arrangement if we can, and that is what we are trying to do.

Lord Frost said the proposals announced by the EU recently for changes to the protocol did not go far enough. But the two sides are negotiating in the hope of reaching an agreement, he said. He told the committee:

I’m not sure they would quite deliver the kind of ambitious freeing-up of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland that we want to see, but what we’re trying to test is whether they could find the basis to go further than what they have put on the table.

That’s the kind of discussions we have been having and it has been quite constructive so far, but the gaps between us remain significant, and there is a lot of working through to go.

Frost also said he saw this “as an issue for this autumn, to be settled one way or the other”.

Updated

Back in the draft online safety bill hearing, Frances Haugen says she thinks a duty of care would be really important. Facebook has been allowed for too long to do its own thing, she says.

She says, in conflicts of interest, Facebook should align itself with the public good. And it should not lie to the public. Facebook has failed on both counts, she says. She says it needs better oversight.

Updated

Turning away from the Frances Haugen hearing for a moment, my colleague Jessica Elgot says Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, is furious about the extent to which the Treasury has been pre-briefing budget stories ahead of the delivery of the budget on Wednesday.

Speaker very angry about the pre-briefed Budget stories. "At one time, ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a budget, they walked - yes, absolutely - they resigned."

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) October 25, 2021

In truth, for many years now the Treasury has been briefing budget stories to the media in the days ahead of the actual budget. It is an arrangement which means the less important measures get more coverage than they would if everything dropped for the first time on Wednesday.

But this year the Treasury does seem to have pre-briefing a lot more than usual. And it has been doing it more formally too, press releasing all its announcements, instead of just briefing them informally to select outlets, as sometimes happened in the past.

Q: Do you think this bill is keeping Mark Zuckerberg awake at night?

Haugen says she is incredible proud of what the UK is doing, in that it is trying to regulate social media. She says the UK has a track record of leading on policy. She says she is sure Zuckerberg is paying attention.

Updated

Haugen says people want to pay for high-quality news. And 18-year-olds have one of the highest rates of subscribing, she says.

She says any blogger should not necessarily be treated as providing high-quality news.

She says any system relying on AI to identify what counts as high-quality news will fail. She says the solution is to slow the process down and let humans choose.

Q: Are you saying anonymity exists to protect the identity of the abuser from the victim, not the identity of the abuser from the platform?

Haugen says Facebook has much more information about users than people realise.

Q: As a prominent whistleblower, do you think anonymity needs to be protected on social media for the sake of whistleblowers?

Haugen says it would be difficult to mandate the use of real names.

But Facebook knows a huge amount of people, so the idea that users are anonymous is not really correct, she says.

She says if people get more content from family and friends, they will get safer content. That is a better solution, she says.

The hearing has resumed.

Q: Do Facebook leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg, care about the harm they are doing to children?

Haugen says she cannot see into the hearts of men.

But Facebook has not adequately invested in safety, she says.

And, when faced with a choice between safety and profits, “they keep choosing profits”.

Updated

The committee is now taking a 10-minute break.

Earlier Frances Haugen asked for a break, saying she would like to give her voice a rest.

Up to 20% of 14-year-olds may find Facebook addictive, says Haugen

Haugen says Facebook uses euphemisms. She says the team dealing with ethnic violence is called the social cohesion team, because ethnic violence is what happens when social cohesion breaks down, and she says the team dealing with addiction is called the problematic use team.

She says at the age of 14 between 5.8 and 8% of children are deemed to have problematic use. But she says, because that figure is based on people reporting problems, she thinks the true figure is between 15 and 20%.

The top private schools in Silicon Valley do not allow social media use, she says.

Updated

Haugen says there is “no will at the top” of Facebook to address these problems.

She says Mark Zuckerberg has “unilateral control of 3 billion people”.

Q: Is Facebook evil?

Haugen says she cannot look into people’s hearts.

She says Facebook is full of good, conscientious people.

But if they are in a system with bad incentives, that will lead to bad actions, she says.

John Nicolson, the SNP MP asking the questions, says a reasonable person running Facebook, seeing the malevolent outcomes it is producing, would want to do something about it.

Haugen says she thinks Facebook’s safety mechanisms do not work as well with UK English as they do with American English.

Haugen says she is not sure of how a safe version of Instagram for children aged 14 might exist.

She says Facebook knows that young users are the future of the platform. It wants to get them hooked.

UPDATE: Haugen said:

Children don’t have as good self regulation as adults do, that’s why they’re not allowed to buy cigarettes.

When kids describe their usage of Instagram, Facebook’s own research describes it as ‘an addict’s narrative’.

The kids say ‘this makes me unhappy, I don’t have the ability to control my usage of it, and I feel if I left it would make me ostracised’.

I am deeply worried that it may not be possible to make Instagram safe for a 14-year-old and I sincerely doubt that it is possible to make it safe for a 10-year-old.

Updated

Q: Why does being on Instagram make people feel about the way their bodies look?

Haugen says Facebook’s own research shows that Instagram is worse than other social media platforms because it is about social comparision and about bodies.

She also says in the past, if children were bullied at school, they got a break at home. But that is not the case with social media, she says.

UPDATE: Haugen said:

Facebook’s own reports say that it is not just that Instagram is dangerous for teenagers, it is actually more dangerous than other forms of social media.

Instagram is about social comparison and about bodies. It is about people’s lifestyles and that is what ends up being worse for kids ...

Facebook’s own research says now the bullying follows them home. It goes into their bedrooms. The last thing they see at night is someone being cruel to them, the first thing they see in the morning is a hateful statement. They don’t get a moment’s peace.

Updated

Haugen says Facebook should have to do segmented analysis.

The median experience is good, she says.

But she says 20% of people have a horrible experience, or a dangerous experience, on Facebook.

Updated

Haugen says it is helpful to think of Facebook as a “concert of algorithms”.

She says Facebook accepts that engagement-based ranking can be dangerous.

But she says Facebook does not say what integrity systems operate in which languages.

She says 4% of segments are getting 80% of Covid misinformation.

This is not apparent from the overall, generalised data released by Facebook, she says.

Q: Would it be practical for Facebook to release this information?

Haugen says that information exists today.

Haugen says she does not know what the purpose of the Facebook oversight board is. Facebook actively misled it, she says.

Haugen says she could have filed for whistelblower protection in the US because Facebook is a public company. But that would not apply if it had been a private company, she says.

Haugen says around 5.7m Facebook users were given special privileges that meant they were subject to fewer checks.

She suggests Facebook should have to publish its research on a one-way lag.

She says Facebook lied to its own oversight board about this.

Q: Could you make some of these measures mandatory in the bill we are looking at?

Haugen says minor changes to settings can make a difference.

Facebook should be mandated to assess the risks, she says.

And they should have to articulate solutions, she says.

Haugen says it has been claimed she is a plant to promote censorship.

But she says there are techniques that could address the problem that do not involve censorship.

For example, she says if you give people content from family and friends, they will get less hateful content.

And if you made it harder to share content, for example by requiring people to copy and paste, they would share less divisive content.

She says people used to like social media before they were getting their material from algorithmic feeds.

Q: Why doesn’t Facebook do this?

Haugen says Facebook has not been willing to allow anything that would cut profits even by a little.

Updated

Facebook's advert pricing means 'we are literally subsidising hate', says Haugen

Haugen says Facebook adverts are priced according to engagement. That means an advert that promotes engagement is cheaper, and it is easier to promote anger than compassion or empathy, she says. She says that means “we are literally subsidising hate on these platforms”.

UPDATE: Haugen said:

Anger and hate is the easiest way to grow on Facebook ...

We are literally subsidising hate on these platforms ...

It is substantially cheaper to run an angry hateful divisive ad than it is to run a compassionate, empathetic ad.

Updated

Q: The online harms bill focuses on harm to individuals, not harm to society at large. Is that a mistake?

Haugen says it is.

She says if you look at what has happened in Ethiopia, it looks like the opening chapters of a horrific story.

Haugen says engagement-based ranking prioritises polarising, extreme, divisive content.

So the current system is biased towards bad actors, she says.

In her opening remarks to the committee Haugen said Facebook was “very good at dancing with data” and that its algorithms helped “prioritise extreme content”. She said:

Part of why I came forward is that I am extremely worried about the condition of our societies ... and of the interaction of the choices that Facebook has made and how it plays out more broadly.

Engagement-based ranking prioritises ... extreme content.

Updated

Facebook is 'unquestionably making hate worse', says Haugen

Haugen says when she worked at Facebook she thought critical teams were understaffed.

But Facebook has a startup culture, where there is a belief you can achieve monumental things with very few resources.

She says Facebook may say it is spending $14bn on safety. But the question is whether it should be spending $25bn or $35bn.

Q: Is Facebook making hate worse?

Haugen says: “Unquestionably it is making hate worse.”

Updated

Q: Is Facebook testing its systems all the time?

Haugen says it is running many experiments in parallel.

She says she thinks Facebook should have to publish information about these experiments – not what the experiment is, but what its impact is on patterns of behaviour.

Updated

Q: Shouldn’t it be easy for Facebook to moderate groups, because people are in the same place?

Haugen says, above a certain size, she thinks groups should provide their own moderators.

If they are legitimate groups, that should be acceptable, she says.

But she says information operations are using these groups to promote misinformation.

The Facebook hearing has started. (See 2.30pm.)

Damian Collins (Con) is chairing the committee.

Frances Haugen says Facebook never set out to prioritise divisive content. But she says this has happened as as a side effect of the choice they made.

She says Facebook says it supports 50 languages. But most of them get no attention.

Q: Are we likely to see more consequences like the attack on the Capitol?

Haugen says she has “no doubt” that events like those we have seen in Myanmar and Ethiopia are only the “opening chapters” to a new set of problems driven by this.

She says Facebook says only a tiny amount of its content promotes violence. But you only need 3% of the population to have a revolution, she says.

The government has launched a defensive social media campaign after MPs faced anger from their constituents over last week’s sewage vote, in which an amendment to the environment bill that would have placed a legal duty on water companies not to pump waste into rivers was voted down. My colleague Helena Horton has the story.

Facebook whistleblower to give evidence to MPs and peers about online harm

Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who has provided damning evidence about the company’s disregard for the welfare of its users, is about to give evidence to the joint committee of MPs and peers considering the draft online safety bill.

The committee was set up to scrutinise the draft version of the bill before MPs start voting on the actual legislation as it starts its passage through parliament. This is a process sometimes used with bills to ensure potential problems are addressed before the voting starts. It is a mechanism that tends to be deployed when the issues are particularly complex, and the government is anxious to obtain cross-party support.

Here is our preview story.

And here is a summary of Haugen’s evidence to Congress on this topic three weeks ago.

Updated

The Liberal Democrats say that, for a full-time worker on the “national living wage”, almost half (44%) of the increase announced today (see 1.36pm) will be eaten up by tax and and national insurance increase. In a briefing the Lib Dems explain:

Currently, an employee working 40 hours a week and paid today’s national living wage of £8.91 an hour, takes home £16,264.50 - after income tax and the current rate of national insurance (12%).

Once the government raises the national living wage to £9.50, and national insurance to 13.25%, that worker will see their take home pay rise by £707 a year. However, if the government hadn’t raised national insurance, they would have seen their after-tax income increase by £835 instead.

This means that they would have been able to keep over two thirds (68%) of their pay rise, whereas now they will only take home just over half (58%).

Once combined with the cut to universal credit, the same worker could be left poorer by £780 a year.

Updated

There will be four urgent questions in the Commons at 3.30pm.

4 Urgent Questions in the Commons this afternoon:

- @libdemdaisy to Health on NHS England funding

- @CarolineLucas to Home Office on Afghan citizens' resettlement scheme

- @ChiOnwurah to FCO on the arrest of the Sudanese PM

- @TulipSiddiq to FCO on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) October 25, 2021

'National living wage' to rise to £9.50 an hour next year, Sunak announces

The Treasury has just announced that the “national living wage” is set to increase from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour as part of the autumn budget.

As PA Media reports, the 59p rise means a full-time worker on the living wage would see their annual income jump by more than £1,000. The national living wage was introduced in 2016 and sets the minimum hourly pay a person over the age of 23 can earn when working.

The new rate will come into force on 1 April next year. For those aged 21 and 22, the national minimum wage will rise from £8.36 an hour to £9.18 an hour – a 82p increase. And the apprentice rate will rise from £4.30 an hour to £4.81 an hour.

In a news release, the Treasury said the increases were as recommended by the Low Pay Commission. The Treasury said:

By introducing these changes, which are broadly consistent with previous increases, the government accepts all recommendations made by the Low Pay Commission – an independent advisory board which brings together economists, employer and employee representatives.

The government remains committed to meeting its ambitious target of a national living wage of two-thirds of median earnings and expanding it to include workers over the age of 21 by 2024, provided economic conditions allow.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said:

This is a government that is on the side of working people. This wage boost ensures we’re making work pay and keeps us on track to meet our target to end low pay by the end of this parliament.

Rishi Sunak.
Rishi Sunak. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesman said that Boris Johnson’s comments at his Q&A with children earlier (see 12.52pm) did not mean he wanted people to give up on recycling. The spokesman said:

The prime minister was setting out that recycling alone is not the answer. We’re taking a wide range of action across society to cut plastic pollution. Simply relying on recycling alone as the prime minister set out would be a red herring, we need to go further and take wider action.

The spokesman said that Johnson was “simply setting out the realistic situation” when he explained how difficult it would be reaching an agreement at Cop26.

And the spokesman said that when Johnson said that he did not support new coal mines, he was making a broad point, and not referring to the proposed coal mine in Cumbria, which has been the subject of a public inquiry.

My environmental specialist colleagues are doing a Q&A with readers about Cop26 now. You can follow it on a live blog here. As you would expect, the answers are more detailed and less glib than they were in the earlier Q&A. (See 12.52pm.)

Failure to act on climate change will be a “betrayal of young people around the world” and risks life on earth becoming “unrecognisable”, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said this morning.

In a speech ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, Sturgeon warned that even keeping temperature rises to 1.5C would not prevent all the damaging impacts of the climate crisis. Sturgeon said:

The hard fact is this: ‘Keeping 1.5 alive’ - which has become the strapline almost for Cop26 - is vital. It mustn’t become a face-saving slogan. It must be real.

And both in the run-up to and at Cop itself, there needs to be a significant uplift in ambition from the world’s biggest-emitting countries to make that real.

And each and every country gathered round the negotiating table also knows the action that is needed to prevent it. So there is not excuse for failing to act.

Sturgeon said that “justice and fairness will be central to Scotland’s whole approach to Cop26” and she promised to “work to ensure that leaders of my generation understand that failure to act now would be a betrayal of young people around the world”.

Sturgeon giving a speech at the Technology and Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University in Glasgow this morning.
Sturgeon giving a speech at the Technology and Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University in Glasgow this morning. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Reuters

Updated

Johnson's Q&A with children on Cop26 – summary and analysis

Although Alok Sharma, the Cop26 president, has generally impressed environmentalists with the seriousnessness with which he has taken preparations for the summit, the same cannot be said for Boris Johnson. He took a holiday two weeks ago, he is unwilling to accept the possible downsides of moving to net zero, and this morning he asked for advice on his negotiating strategy from a room full of children. (See 11.52pm.) In 1980, when the then US president Jimmy Carter spoke about consulting his 13-year-old daughter about nuclear policy, he produced a soundbite seen as fatal to his presidential campaign.

Johnson’s intervention was harmless by comparison (in the 1980s US analogy, he is much more Ronald Reagan than the priggish Jimmy Carter), and he was clearly just humouring his audience. But there are probably better ways of making the point that Cop26 is an issue of intergenerational justice. And environmentalists would love to hear him engage seriously with the Cop26 issues, instead of joking about feeding people to animals.

That said, Johnson made a provocative argument about plastics during his Q&A (albeit one that could undermine support for recycling initiatives). Here are the key points he made.

  • Johnson said that he was “very worried” about the Cop26 summit failing. Referring to the difficulty of getting an agreement to deliver net zero by 2050, he said:

I think it can be done. It will be very very tough, this summit, and I’m very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need, and it’s touch and go. It’s very, very difficult. But I think it can be done.

He said there would be a lot of “peer pressure” on countries at the summit to produce proper net zero plans. But, he went on, “it’s very, very far from clear that we will get the progress that we need”.

  • He dismissed plastic recycling as an enviromental “red herring”, saying what mattered was cutting plastic use. He said:

The issue with plastics is recycling isn’t the answer, I’ve got to be honest with you. Recycling – you’re not going to like this –

You can only recycle plastic a couple of times, really, and what you got to do is stop the production of plastic, stop the the first use of plastic. The recycling thing is a red herring.

Johnson’s remark led to an embarrassing disagreement with his fellow speaker at the event, WWF UK’s chief executive, Tanya Steele. After Johnson described recycling as a red herring, Steele suggested he had gone a bit too far. She said:

We have to reduce, we have to reuse – I do think we need to do a little bit of recycling, PM, and have some system to do so.

But Johnson interrupted, effectively contradicting her. He said:

It doesn’t work. I don’t want to be doctrinaire about this but – if people think that we can recycle our way out of the problem, we will be making a huge mistake. We need to reduce our use [of plastics], we need far, far less.

  • Johnson named Coca-Cola as one of 12 global companies “producing the overwhelming bulk of the world’s plastics”. He said these companies needed to find alternative types of packaging.
  • He joked about feeding people to animals as a means of addressing the imbalance in nature. After Steele said that 97% of mammals on the planet were humans and their livestock, and just 3% was “left for the wild”, Johnson said that was “so sad”. He added: “We could feed some of the human beings to the animals.”

Updated

A girl says eating more yoghurt and seaweed could be good for people, not just for cows.

(Both ideas came up earlier as a means of getting cows to produce less methane.)

Johnson says perhaps we’ll all end up eating yoghurt and seaweed.

And that’s it.

I will post the highlights (in so far as there were any) shortly.

A girl says there should be more pedestrian-only areas.

Johnson says he agrees with that. But he says you should be careful about mixing cyclists and pedestrians. As London mayor, he built more cycle lanes, he says.

A girl says she hopes Johnson will consider her plan for a water-powered car.

Johnson says that sounds like a fantastic idea.

Updated

Q: What sacrifices will you make personnally?

Johnson says he would like everyone to stop using hydrocarbon cars. He says he would like to go back to the time when he was able to ride everywhere by bike.

A girl says all schools should have solar panels.

Johnson says that is ultimately the solution we will want.

A girl says in some countries they are burning coal because they need to pay for food.

Johnson agrees. He says it is not fair to ask poor countries to make sacrifices. That is why the richer countries are giving them $100bn a year to help.

A boy says all schools should have electric minibuses.

Johnson says that is a brilliant idea.

A boy says the government should cut the prices of electric cars and solar panels.

Johnson agrees. He says he recently spoke to manufacturers who said they would cut the price of electric vehicles very soon.

Q: Do you still support new coalmines in the UK?

Johnson says he does not want to support new coalmine.

Updated

A girl tells Johnson people do not buy electric cars because there are not enough charging points.

Johnson agrees. Most people will be able to charge their cars at home, he says.

Another girl says we need more green spaces.

Johnson says she is “completely right”. We neeed an extra trillion trees, he says.

Johnson invites his audience to tell him what he should say to world leaders.

A boy says he should tell world leaders that they need to join in too, and that it is not just the UK that is doing this.

Johnson says he will do that.

Updated

Johnson dismisses plastic recycling as 'red herring', saying what matters is cutting plastic use

Johnson says recycling plastic is a “red herring” because plastic can only be recycled a couple of times.

Steele says there is a role for recycling.

Johnson says it does not work. People think we can recycle our way out of this problem, but we cannot, he says. He says the key thing is to reduce the use of plastic.

Johnson says he thinks world leaders are listening. He says he has spoken to many of them in recent weeks and they are making significant developments.

In particular, he cites the Australian move towards agreeing net zero by 2050. That was very significant for Australia because it produces so much coal, he says. It was a “heroic thing”, he says. He says he hopes more countries will follow.

Updated

Q: What can we do to protect the oceans and wildlife?

Johnson says he wants to ensure that 30% of oceans in the world are protected by 2030. It is the 30 x 30 campaign, he says. He says the UK can play a big part because it controls a large amount of sea. He says 30% of the world’s emperor penguins are British.

Updated

Johnson says everyone must use less plastic.

The WWF UK chief executive, Tanya Steele, who is appearing alongside Johnson, adds “we need to move away from single use anything”.

Johnson says around 12 global companies, like Coca-Cola, are producing most of the world’s plastic. He says we have to move away from that.

Steele says plastic is “quite symbolic of how we are treating our world”. It is important to take care of our resources, and not waste anything, she says.

Updated

Johnson says at Cop26 he will have to ask world leaders to take decisions that will save the planet. He says all countries are going to have to make sacrifices, like giving up coal-fired power stations.

Johnson says the children asking questions are journalists.

Q: You treated Covid like an emergency. Why are you not doing the same for climate change?

Johnson says he thinks that is a “very fair criticism”. He says they need to address this urgently. But he says a lot has happened. He says 80% of the world’s economies are now signed up to net zero.

Updated

Johnson says he is 'very worried' about risk of Cop26 not being successful

Johnson says he is “very worried” about Cop26 because they might not get the agreements they need for the world to get to net zero by the middle of the century.

But he thinks it can be done.

Boris Johnson's Q&A with children on Cop26

Boris Johnson is now starting his Q&A with children ahead of Cop26. There is a live feed here.

WATCH LIVE: Prime Minister @BorisJohnson and @TanyaMSteele, CEO of @WWF_UK answer questions on climate action from young people at our #KidsPressConference ahead of @COP26. https://t.co/FuVpttj9yO

— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) October 25, 2021

It is great for politicians to engage with young people, of course, but a press conference with adult journalists ahead of Cop26 might be nice too, and we haven’t had one yet.

Updated

One dose of Covid-19 vaccine could lead to a 13% drop in the chance of getting long Covid, PA Media reports – although it is unclear whether this improvement lasts until a second dose. PA says:

Getting a first dose was found to be associated with an initial 12.8% decrease in the odds of self-reported long Covid among people aged 18 to 69 in the UK, according to experimental findings published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A second dose was associated with a further 8.8% drop, with “statistical evidence” of a sustained improvement afterwards.

Because the study is based on a survey of self-reported symptoms, the ONS was unable to say for certain that vaccines affect the chances of getting long Covid.

The data is not clear on whether an initial improvement in symptoms after a first dose is sustained over time until a second dose, while long-term associations between a vaccine and long Covid “remain unknown”.

Long Covid is defined as symptoms that persist for at least 12 weeks after first having Covid-19 which are not explained by something else.

Commenting on the figures, Daniel Ayoubkhani, the ONS head of health modelling, said:

Today’s study, the largest internationally to look at long Covid after vaccination, shows that the likelihood of ongoing symptoms is reduced after vaccination.

But we can’t say for certain whether vaccination caused the observed changes, and it remains unknown as to whether these will be sustained in the long term.

Updated

Yesterday the Mail on Sunday claimed that Angela Rayner, Labour’s depuy leader, was being sidelined by Keir Starmer because of her comment at party conference about the Tories being “scum”. Starmer was asked about this in his interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain this morning, but said the report was false.

In response to a question from Richard Madeley, who has yet to catch up with the 21st century and who asked if Rayner was still Starmer’s “best girl”, Starmer said he regularly read stories in the papers “that bear no relation to the truth”. This was one, he said. The Mail on Sunday claim was “not true”.

The Labour leader also said Rayner had been absent from the Commons recently because of a bereavement. She lost someone very close to her, someone that Rayner treated “more or less as her mother”, Starmer said.

Keir Starmer on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday.
Keir Starmer on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday. Photograph: ITV

Updated

Boris Johnson will be holding a Q&A this morning with children today ahead of the start of Cop26. He will take questions alongside WWF UK’s chief executive, Tanya Steele.

Tomorrow Prime Minister @BorisJohnson will be joined by @TanyaMSteele from @WWF_UK to answer kids' questions about climate change ahead of @COP26 🌍 pic.twitter.com/Kua4EzH8cB

— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) October 24, 2021

Updated

Javid says government cannot commit to clearing NHS backlog in three years

Here are the main points from Sajid Javid’s morning interviews.

  • Javid, the health secretary, said the government could not commit to clearing the NHS treatment backlog generated by Covid within three years. The government has already announced that £12bn a year from the new health and social care levy will mostly go to fund this work over the next three years, and today Javid has announced another £6bn in capital funding for the same purpose. But when asked whether the backlog would be cleared in three years, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I’ve been very open about this, it’s going to go up before it comes down. I’m not going to put a number on it – it’s impossible to know because I don’t know how many people will eventually come back to the NHS.

  • Javid said he would be wearing a mask if he is in the Commons chamber on budget day. He told the Today programme:

If I’m in the chamber on budget day, given it will be packed, I will be, yes.

But he would not go as far as to say other MPs should do the same. He said:

The guidelines are clear, it’s for people to make a personal decision on how they see the risk of them and those around them, and this is obviously a workplace setting, so it’s going to be a decision for them, but I can speak for myself.

Last week, after Javid said Tory MPs should set an example and wear a mask in the Commons chamber, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, and Downing Street refused to say they agreed.

  • Javid rejected Labour’s call for the government to move to its plan B for Covid now. “The facts right now are that we don’t think the data requires us to move to plan B,” he said.
  • He dismissed claims that forcing NHS staff to be fully vaccinated would lead to large numbers of them leaving, saying in the care sector the rule had led to an “absolute surge” in the number of people getting vaccinated. (See 9.25am.)
  • He confirmed that the government will change the rules to allow people to make the booking for their booster vaccine before they reach the six months point after their second vaccine. People would still only get the vaccine six months after the second dose, but there have been complaints that the current system, which does not allow early booking, means people cannot get boosters immediately they become eligible because getting an appointment takes on average almost three weeks. Javid said:

At the moment the booking system does not allow you to book until you hit six months and one week and I actually think that needs to be changed, and we’re in the process of changing that so I want to allow people to book early.

These people are doing so much damage.

First of all here you have three children that are injured, actually physically injured, and that’s heart-breaking to see, children going about what they should be doing, going to school every day, and you’ve got frankly these idiots outside their school spreading vicious lies.

It is becoming a growing problem as time goes by.

There are options, in terms of whether it’s an exclusion zone, or other potential action, I think it’s got to be done at a local level.

If you’ve injured children, that is a criminal act and I hope in that case police are able to track those people down.

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated

Starmer says forcing NHS staff to be fully vaccinated 'a mistake'

In an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain this morning, Sir Keir Starmer said forcing all NHS staff to be fully vaccinated would be a mistake. He said:

First thing I have to say is I want all NHS staff to be double vaccinated ... I think forcing them is a mistake. It’s better to encourage and cajole. In Wales they’ve encouraged and cajoled in relation to the care sector and done it very, very successfully.

In a separate interview this morning Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, also stated Labour’s opposition to making vaccination compulsory for health and social care staff, saying it could drive staff out of the profession. Sky’s Kay Burley asked Green how she would feel if she had a loved one who caught Covid from an unvaccinated care worker and subsquently died, and she was shocked when Green said that is exactly what did happen to her. Green said her mother died in a care home, probably from an infection brought in by staff, before vaccines were available. Green said she did not blame the staff. Burley said she was sorry, and had not realised when she asked the question. Green said “agonising personal stories” should not blind politicians to what policies were effective or ineffective.

'Forcing them is a mistake.'

Labour leader Sir @Keir_Starmer says he would not make the Covid jab mandatory for NHS staff.

He says the focus needs to be on getting young people vaccinated and rolling out the booster vaccine more quickly. pic.twitter.com/mtwPsibu4v

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) October 25, 2021

Updated

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, told Times Radio this morning that NHS leaders had “mixed” views on the proposal to require health staff to be full vaccinated. She said:

We’ve spoken to our members about this, and it’s a bit of a mixed picture because most of them agree that in some ways, mandating the vaccine could be quite helpful to make sure that more people get the vaccine.

But on the other hand, if some people decide they don’t want the vaccine that could lead to staff recruitment and retention problems and we’re going into this incredibly challenging winter.

If we start to lose staff during this time that could be incredibly challenging, so it’s a it’s a real balance.

But Jeremy Brown, a professor of respiratory infection at University College London and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told Sky News this morning that medical staff should want to be vaccinated. He explained:

If you’re frontline NHS staff dealing with patients and meeting the general public you should be vaccinated – it’s a professional thing, it’s a safety thing.

We know that quite a few infections [that] have occurred in the hospital have potentially come from staff rather than patients.

And if you’re not vaccinated, I feel, you shouldn’t be dealing with patients or the general public – whether it should be compulsory it is always a tricky thing but I do think professionally each person should be vaccinated.

Updated

Starmer calls for schools to be protected from anti-vaccine protests

Councils should be allowed to use exclusion orders to stop anti-vaccine activists from protesting outside schools, Sir Keir Starmer has said. My colleague Sarah Marsh has the story here.

Javid says making jabs compulsory for social care staff has led to ‘surge’ in uptake

Good morning. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has been on airwaves duty this morning, primarily to promote the announcement that almost £6bn extra is being spent tackling waiting lists in England. My colleague Andrew Gregory has the story here.

Javid was also asked about the government decision that comes into force on 11 November requiring all frontline social care staff to be fully vaccinated, and the consultation on requiring all frontline NHS staff to be fully jabbed too.

Javid said the final decision for NHS staff has not yet been taken, but he confirmed that his “direction of travel” was towards making full vaccination a mandatory requirement.

There have been claims that this policy will make staffing shortages – which are already a problem in the NHS, and particularly dire in the social care sector – even worse because a minority of employees will leave rather than agreeing to get fully vaccinated.

But Javid argued these fears were unfounded, because in social care the new rule had led to an “absolute surge” in people getting vaccinated. He said:

If we look at [social care] as an example, when we announced that ... we’ve seen an absolute surge in the number of social care workers that are finally getting their vaccinations. If you want the latest numbers, we are told by the [Care Quality Commission] there’s around 30,000 at the moment, out of a workforce of over a million, that haven’t yet had their any vaccination. Of those a substantial portion that will be medically exempt.

So whilst there will be an impact on the social care workforce that I would rather not see, I think the net result is a safer social care sector.

At the time the government announced in June the decision to make vaccination compulsory for social care workers in England, about 15% of staff in care homes had not received a single dose of vaccine and approximately 30% were not fully vaccinated.

I will post more from Javid’s interviews shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS publishes figures relating to vaccinations and long Covid.

12.30pm: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.

2.30pm: Michael Gove takes questions in the Commons for the first time in his new role as levelling up secretary.

2.30pm: Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, gives evidence to the joint parliamentary committee considering the draft online safety bill.

3.30pm: David Frost, the Brexit minister, gives evidence to the European scrutiny committee.

I’ll be covering some UK Covid developments here, but for wider coronavirus coverage, do read our global live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Updated

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