Britain faces a further round of strikes. Civil servants working in multiple government agencies have voted to go on strike, teachers in Scotland have also voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, and train drivers have announced a further rail strike on Saturday 26 November (see 1.22pm).
Rishi Sunak has been meeting Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, at the British-Irish Council gathering in Blackpool. (See 9.28am.) This is from UTV’s Tracey Magee.
Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, has expressed concern about reports that Sunak will shelve Boris Johnson’s plan to impose a cap on social care costs. (See 2.35pm.)
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has walked away from a Liz Truss commitment to spend 3% of GDP on defence by 2030 – just a few weeks after speculation he might resign from the government if the target was not met.
Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of the clothing and homeware retailer Next, has urged the government to make it easier to allow foreign workers into the UK and said this is “not the Brexit I wanted”.
Hopes that a planned northern high-speed railway line may include Bradford after all have been raised after the new rail minister, Huw Merriman, said he was still “working on options” to link in the city.
Labour has dissolved a local selection panel in a row over candidates for the prized seat of Camberwell and Peckham, currently held by Harriet Harman, with officials reinstalling a key adviser to Sadiq Khan on to the shortlist.
'Mood music' between London and Brussels has improved under Sunak, says EU ambassador
João Vale de Almeida, the outgoing EU ambassador to the UK, has said the “mood music” between London and Brussels has improved under Rishi Sunak.
Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, Vale de Almeida said that after Brexit, relations between Britain and the EU were particularly poor. He said:
Contact between leaders and intimacy has been lacking.
We’ve had more summits with China than we have had with the UK. There have been none. That’s not normal. These people need to share their WhatsApp numbers.
But, commenting on the change since Sunak became prime minister, he said:
The mood music has changed, the melody is nicer but we still don’t have the words of a new British song.
The two sides are still at loggerheads over the future of the Northern Ireland protocol. Vale de Almeida said they were “not that far apart”, but he did not suggest that a deal was imminent. Describing the state of negotiations, he said:
There are always talks about talks and real talks — we are somewhere in between. We’re not that far apart. We need now to focus on the landing zone.
And Keir Starmer also said Matt Hancock should quit I’m a Celebrity and get back to Westminster. Speakign on his BBC Radio Humberside phone-in, Starmer said he felt “very strongly” about this. “[Hancock] should voluntarily leave and get back to parliament and do his job,” Starmer said. He went on:
It is not as if he is some great guy, anyway. This isn’t a guy who rolled up his sleeves and was a champion of the nation. His reputation was pretty bad before he even started on this.
Keir Starmer has said it was “inappropriate” for Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, to call Jeremy Corbyn “senile” in the Commons yesterday.
Asked about the incident in a phone-in on BBC Radio Humberside, Starmer said:
I’m not going to pretend that what Wes Streeting said wasn’t anything other than inappropriate. I know that; Wes Streeting knows that. He’s apologised. It was in jest, but both Wes and I know that’s not good enough.
Starmer dismissed suggestions it should be a resignation matter. He said there was a “world of difference” between what Streeting said and the words of Gavin Williamson, the former minister, putting security at risk and telling an official to slit their throat.
Back to the proposed nurses’ strike, and Ben Zaranko, an economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank, has posted a thread on Twitter showing how nurses’ pay has been falling behind over the past decade.
Labour’s Kate Green has formally resigned as an MP, setting up a byelection in the safe seat of Stretford and Urmston. She is going to become deputy mayor of Greater Manchester, replacing Bev Hughes, who announced yesterday she is retiring.
Keir Starmer is wary of wholeheartedly backing unions that go on strike, on the grounds that Labour wants to be in government and that it’s the government’s job to resolve strikes, and not simply to side with the employees. But some Labour MPs are much more willing to back the workers.
Here are tweets from four Labour backbenchers, all on the left of the party, who are supporting the PCS strike.
From Dan Carden
From Beth Winter
From Nadia Whittome
From Richard Burgon
The UK government has said it intends to minimise disruption to services if civil servants go ahead with their planned strike. Responding to the news the PCS members have voted for industrial action (see 1.28pm), a government spokesperson said:
We regret this decision and remain in regular discussion with unions and staff.
As the public would expect, we have plans in place to keep essential services running and minimise any potential disruption if strikes do go ahead.
The public sector pay awards are a careful balance between delivering value for money for the taxpayer and recognising the importance of public sector workers.
The Scottish Labour party has blamed the decision by teachers in Scotland to vote for strike action (see 3.06pm) on SNP mismanagement. Michael Marra, Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, said:
Years of SNP mismanagement and neglect are at the root of this decisive result.
Teachers have been going above and beyond to deliver the education recovery children and young people so badly need, and this should be recognised.
No-one wants strikes in schools, but pupils and teachers alike are being failed by the SNP’s catastrophic lack of leadership.
The education secretary needs to get round the table with a fair deal for teachers and for schools before strike chaos hits.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies, has said it is “incredibly frustrated” at the decision by Aslef to call a strike on Saturday 26 November. (See 1.22pm.) It said in a statement:
We are incredibly frustrated the Aslef leadership has decided to take further strike action.
We regret Aslef’s decision, which will cause real disruption to passengers and hit its members’ pay packets. Instead of staging more counterproductive strike action which increases the very real financial challenge the industry is facing, we ask them to work with us to secure both a pay deal and the changes needed it for it to thrive in the long-term and improve reliability across the network.
Army could answer 999 calls if ambulance workers in England strike
The army could answer 999 calls if ambulance personnel on England go on strike over their pay, under NHS plans to keep services running during strikes, my colleague Denis Campbell reports.
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has said he will “believe it when we see it”, when asked about Russia withdrawing from the Ukrainian city of Kherson. He was speaking during a meeting of ministers from the Joint Expeditionary Force nations in Edinburgh. Echoing the language used by Rishi Sunak and the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during their call this morning (see 1.16pm), Wallace said:
It must be quite a significant psychological blow that the one objective they did manage to capture, they have announced their intention to leave. Of course this is Russia, so we haven’t yet seen them leave en masse. We will believe it when we see it and I think we should all be cautious, as President Zelenskiy was, that there is still Russian tricks and all sorts of things.
But if they do pull out of Kherson it does beg that broader question of what was it all for? What was all the tens of thousands of deaths for when every one of their major objectives they have failed to hold or capture since February.
Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary, said today that next week’s autumn statement will represent the “very last chance” for the government to avoid a winter crisis in the NHS. In a statement she said:
This is now a fight to save the NHS itself. Rishi Sunak has to get serious about the crisis engulfing the NHS. Make no mistake patients’ lives are at risk.
His coming budget must deliver on pay and funding - no weasel words or sleight of hand. Serious money is needed because this is the very last chance for this government to prevent a devastating winter crisis across our NHS.
Unite is currently balloting its members in the NHS, including nursing staff, paramedics, emergency responders, health visitors and blood specialists, on strike action. The strike ballots will close in mid December.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has urged the RMT union to return to negotiations with Transport for London because Londoners are suffering from today’s strike. He told Times Radio:
What I’d say to the RMT is to get around the table with TfL to resolve any concerns you have because, ultimately, the people that suffer are Londoners. Our city is trying to get back on its feet after the pandemic; the theatres, the live music, the bars, the restaurants, who would have lost out on revenue. Nobody wants Londoners caught in the crossfire because of the government’s conditions on this deal.
Here is our story about today’s Tube strike in the capital, triggered by RMT concerns about proposed job losses and changes to the funding of their pension scheme.
In his interview Khan also urged the government not to push spending cuts too far given the extent of industrial unrest across the economy. He said:
Yesterday it was the Royal College of Nurses. You’ve seen teachers battling for strike action, you’ve seen transport workers across the country, including today in London. And that’s why I’d say to the government, in addition to thinking very carefully about the choices before the budget next week, be very careful about what it is you cut, because we’re in danger of damaging our economy at a time we need all cylinders firing.
Scottish ministers urged to reopen talks after teachers’ union votes to strike
Scottish teachers’ leaders have urged ministers and council leaders to reopen pay talks after teachers voted overwhelmingly for strike action in their pay dispute, my colleague Severin Carrell reports.
Micheál Martin, the taoiseach, has tweeted about his visit to Manchester. (See 11.32am.)
Nadine Dorries expresses concern that Boris Johnson's key social care reform could be shelved by Sunak
Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary and one of Boris Johnson’s biggest supporters, has expressed concern about reports that Rishi Sunak plans to shelve one of his main domestic reforms.
When Johnson became PM in 2019 he claimed to have a plan to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. There is no evidence that he did have a plan at that point, but in September last year he finally announced a plan to cap the amount any adult would have to pay for social care at £86,000.
Rishi Sunak, who was then chancellor, only agreed to the move if the government increased national insurance to fund it. But that national insurance increase has now been cancelled and, according to a story by Chris Smyth in the Times, Sunak and Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, are now planning to delay the implementation of the cap by two years.
It was due to come into force in October 2023. Now it will be delayed until 2025, Smyth says. He writes.
Boris Johnson’s social care policy will not now be introduced before 2025. Some officials believe that such a delay will be a way to kill it off.
The prime minister is understood to have suggested an “indefinite” delay last week, but accepted an initial postponement of two years after being warned that explicitly scrapping the policy would be politically damaging.
The move would save £1 billion in the first year, rising to £3 billion a year if the policy were ditched entirely.
Smyth also says that Sunak believes the original Johnson policy was hard to justify anyway. He reports:
At a meeting with Hunt last week, Sunak is understood to have questioned why the government was still going ahead with the cap, which he argued is simply a way of protecting richer voters’ houses.
In response, Dorries, a former nurse and a former minister, said shelving the introduction of the cap on social care costs would contradict the stance Hunt took on this when he was chair of the Commons health committee.
The charity Age UK has also expressed concern about the prospect of the cap being shelved. Its director, Caroline Abrahams, said:
If the chancellor does announce next week that he is kicking it into the long grass, probably to disappear altogether, it will mean we have endured a lost decade or more where social care is concerned. Millions of older and disabled people have had to put up with inadequate services over that period.
Health secretary Steve Barclay says meeting with RCN chief about proposed nurses' strike 'constructive'
Steve Barclay, the health secretary, says he had a “constructive meeting” with the Royal College of Nursing general secretary, Pat Cullen, about the proposed strike by her members. In a message on Twitter, he did not give details, but said they would meet again shortly.
As she left the Department of Health where the meeting took place, Cullen did not respond to questions from reporters.
Keir Starmer has told ITV’s Anushka Asthana that he wants to see nurses get a “fair” pay settlement. But he has refused to say they should get an above-inflation pay rise. The government claims the RCN’s demands would amount to a 17.6% rise.
As Asthana reports, Starmer has also expressed concern about the impact of the proposed strike by nurses on patient care.
Train drivers announce new strike for 26 November
And train drivers at 12 operators are to stage a fresh strike in the long-running dispute over pay, threatening more travel chaos across the country, PA Media reports.
Members of Aslef will strike on 26 November after the union said it was still waiting for a pay offer from the employers, despite a series of talks, PA says.
Mick Whelan, the Aslef general secretary, said:
We regret that passengers will be inconvenienced for another day. We don’t want to be taking this action. Withdrawing our labour is always a last resort for a trade union.
We have come to the table, as we always will, in good faith but while the industry continues to make no offer - due to the dodgy deal they signed with the Department for Transport - we have no choice but to take strike action again.
They want drivers to take a real-terms pay cut. With inflation now well into double figures, train drivers who kept Britain moving through the pandemic are now being expected to work just as hard this year as last year but for less. Most of these drivers have not had an increase in salary since 2019.
We want the companies - which are making huge profits - to make a proper pay offer so that our members can keep up with the cost of living.
The 12 companies facing the fresh strike are Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Great Western Railway; Greater Anglia; London North Eastern Railway; London Overground; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Transpennine Express, and West Midlands Trains.
Aslef members have taken a series of strikes in recent months, while the RMT and TSSA unions are also still embroiled in industrial disputes, PA reports.
Civil servants working across multiple government agencies vote for strike action
Around 100,000 civil servants, working in multiple government agencies, have voted to strike in a dispute over pay, pensions and jobs.
As PA Media reports, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said the legal threshold for industrial action had been reached in 126 separate areas, covering workers including driving test examiners, border force officials and Jobcentre staff.
It is demanding a 10% pay rise, job security and no changes to redundancy terms.
The PCS said that unless it received “substantial proposals” from the government, it would draw up plans at a meeting on 18 November for a programme of industrial action.
Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary, said:
The government must look at the huge vote for strike action across swathes of the civil service and realise it can no longer treat its workers with contempt.
Our members have spoken and if the government fails to listen to them, we’ll have no option than to launch a prolonged programme of industrial action reaching into every corner of public life.
Civil servants have willingly and diligently played a vital role in keeping the country running during the pandemic but enough is enough.
The stress of working in the civil service, under the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, job cuts and office closures means they’ve reached the end of their tethers.
We are calling on the government to respond positively to our members’ demands. They have to give our members a 10% pay rise, job security, pensions justice and protected redundancy terms.
Rishi Sunak spoke to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, this morning. Sunak restated his commitment to keep providing Ukraine with military aid, and both leaders said it was right to be cautious about the Russian decision to evacuate its troops from Kherson until the city is back in Ukrainian hands.
In a summary of the call, a No 10 spokesperson said:
The leaders agreed that any Russian withdrawal from the occupied city of Kherson would demonstrate strong progress for the Ukrainian forces and reinforce the weakness of Russia’s military offensive, but it was right to continue to exercise caution until the Ukrainian flag was raised over the city.
The prime minister praised the bravery of the Ukrainian armed forces and reiterated the UK’s unwavering military, economic and political support. He expressed his horror at the ongoing Russian drone strikes on civilian areas and confirmed that the UK would continue providing further military aid, including another 1,000 surface-to-air missiles and more than 25,000 extreme cold winter kits for troops.
President Zelenskiy set out how UK military support is protecting vital energy infrastructure and helping Ukrainian troops to make advances on the battlefield against Putin’s unjustified invasion.
Last week Rishi Sunak published his list of cabinet committees, with their membership. The document is more revealing about Sunak, and how he plans to govern, than you might expect and Alex Thomas at the Institute for Government thinktank has a published a good blog today explaining what’s significant. He summed up the key points on Twitter.
Here is the link to the veterans’ survey launched by Johnny Mercer, the minister for veterans’ affairs and described in the post at 11.46am.
Going on I'm a Celebrity means Hancock thinks his career in politics is over, Hammond claims
In his GB News interview Philip Hammond, the former Tory chancellor, also said that Matt Hancock’s decision to go on I’m a Celebrity meant he recognised his career in politics was over. Hammond said:
I will not be tuning in to watch Matt Hancock [on I’m a Celebrity]. I think I’ve seen probably quite enough of Matt Hancock to last me a lifetime. Should he be there? Well, that’s his decision, I think. Probably he’s sending a pretty clear signal that he’s decided to move on from politics.
Hammond might be wrong about this. Nadine Dorries went on I’m a Celebrity in 2012, but seven years later Boris Johnson made her a minister, and she ended up in cabinet.
And Hancock himself claims that appearing on the programme is the sort of thing all MPs should be doing, because it’s a means of enabling politicians to reach a wider audience.
Triple lock on pensions 'quite difficult to justify', says former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond
Philip Hammond, the former Tory chancellor, has said the Conservatives should consider abandoning the pensions triple lock – the pledge to uprate pensions every year in line with earnings, or inflation, or 2.5%, whichever is highest.
In an interview with GB News, Hammond, who was chancellor when Theresa May was prime minister and who now sits in the House of Lords, said he expected Jeremy Hunt, the current chancellor, to maintain the triple lock in next week’s autumn statement.
But Hammond said that in the long term it should be reviewed. He said:
Is it really right that we should always up the rate by the highest of wages/prices or by 2%?
I think that is quite difficult to justify, and not all pensioners are poor. So I think there is a case for looking again at the way we treat pensioners, and possibly for distinguishing the poorest pensioners from the great body of pensioners, some of whom are really quite comfortably off.
The triple lock on pensions was introduced by the coalition government in 2011. Since then both the main parties have been very wary of getting rid of it, despite claims it is too generous to some pensioners, not least because pensioners are a powerful electoral force. That is partly because they are more likely to vote in elections than younger people.
Hammond also said that he was in favour of windfall taxes and that he expected the windfall tax on energy companies to be extended in the autumn statement. He said:
I am broadly in favour of a windfall tax. As long as it’s sensibly structured, and only tackles the genuinely windfall element, not the cyclical ups and downs that you get in energy markets, because energy companies plan around those cycles …
Where genuine windfalls are earned, I think it is legitimate to tax them.
Home repossessions up 15% in third quarter of 2022, figures show
The number of UK homes being repossessed jumped in the third quarter of this year, as some households and buy-to-let landlords were unable to pay their mortgages, my colleague Graeme Wearden reports on his business live blog. He says:
Trade body UK Finance has reported that 700 homeowner mortgaged properties were taken into possession in the third quarter of 2022. That is a 15% increase on the previous quarter, although still below pre-pandemic levels.
An additional 390 buy-to-let mortgaged properties were taken into possession as well in July-September, an 11% increase.
The full details of the figures are here.
Johnny Mercer, the new minister for veterans’ affairs, has launched a national survey for veterans, asking about their experience using government services. It is intended to enable to government to better shape services to meet their needs.
Mercer, who as a minister is based in the Cabinet Office, not the Ministry of Defence, said:
Public services need to reflect the people they serve and so it’s really important we hear from veterans on their experiences in accessing support.
No one knows better what it’s like to be a veteran in Britain than ex-military themselves. So I urge all ex-service personnel to take the small amount of time to fill in the first ever veterans survey. Your voice can help shape stepped-up services for veterans.
You can fill in the survey here.
There are 1.85 million people who have served in the armed forces in England and Wales. In England they account for 3.8% of the population, and in Wales 4.5% of the population, but in some regions the proportion is higher. In the south-west of England 5.6% of people are veterans, and in the north-east 5%.
Micheál Martin, the taoiseach, is visiting Manchester before he attends the British-Irish Council summit to promote links between Ireland and the north-west of England. He will be meeting Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, and Steve Rotheram, the Liverpool city region mayor, who earlier this year both led a trade mission to Ireland with business leaders from the north-west. The two-day visit was described as the first of its kind.
Ahead of his meeting with Martin today, Burnham said:
It is a great privilege to be able to welcome the taoiseach to Greater Manchester today, as we celebrate the enduring and historic friendship between the north-west and Ireland.
Earlier this year I led the first joint mayoral mission to Dublin, alongside my friend and colleague Steve Rotheram. I am now pleased to extend the same warm welcome to Micheál Martin on his visit to our city-region, and to reaffirm our strong commitment to deepening trade and cooperation with our closest neighbours across the Irish Sea.
According to Pat Leahy, political editor of the Irish Times, the Irish government is doubtful about the prospect of a breakthrough in the coming weeks in the talks on the Northern Ireland protocol.
I’m a Celebrity: MPs and peers voting for Hancock to do ‘grim’ tasks, says minister
In his Sky News interview Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, also suggested that large number of politicians in parliament are voting for Matt Hancock to perform “grim” tasks on I’m A Celebrity. My colleague Aubrey Allegretti has the story here.
If you didn’t watch Hancock on I’m a Celebrity last night – or, even better, if you did – Stuart Heritage’s review is excellent.
Brexit deal was 'oven-ready' because everybody thought NI protocol would work, says Heaton-Harris
In his interview with Sky News this morning Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, rejected claims that the problems with the Northern Ireland protocol showed that Boris Johnson was wrong when he told people in 2019 that he had an “oven-ready” Brexit deal.
At the time the protocol was negotiated, people thought it would work, Heaton-Harris claimed. He said:
I should say that when it [the protocol] was written, I honestly don’t think the people behind writing it thought it would have the ramifications. Politicians are legislators, legislators are very good at creating law, but when the rubber hits the road, sometimes you get unforeseen consequences.
Asked about Johnson saying there was an oven-ready deal in place, Heaton-Harris said:
It was an oven-ready deal. The European Commission, who co-authored the protocol with the UK government … you know, everybody believed that this would work.
The protocol was designed to ensure that the UK leaving the single market and the customs union would not lead to the return of a customs border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which would have undermined peace on the island. Instead, under the protocol, goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland are subject to certain restrictions and checks.
The UK and the EU are currently trying to negotiate changes to the current protocol, which unionists in Northern Ireland view as too restrictive.
Micheál Martin, the taoiseach (Irish PM) will urge Rishi Sunak to redouble efforts for a breakthrough on the talks between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland protocol dispute when they meet in Blackpool over dinner tonight.
Sunak is meeting Martin for the first time, but two months after Boris Johnson departed from Downing Street Anglo-Irish relations and relations with the EU appear to be on the way to being restored.
An Irish government statement said Martin would be on a two-day visit to England including the British-Irish Council summit. It said:
It is anticipated that discussions will focus on the importance of making progress in the negotiations between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland protocol, as well as cover political developments in Northern Ireland and the bilateral British-Irish relationships.
Martin will also meet Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, and Manchester and Liverpool metro mayors.
Heaton-Harris says legal advice was that it would be 'unbelievably difficult' to cut pay just for DUP MLAs
Yesterday Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, announced that he would be cutting the pay of members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) in Northern Ireland by 27.5% because the assembly has not been sitting, because of the DUP boycott. If this goes ahead, that means their pay will be cut from around £51,000 to £37,000.
This was part of Heaton-Harris’s announcement putting back the deadline for a new election to the assembly, to allow more time for talks to resolve the deadlock.
Yesterday Sinn Féin said only DUP MLAs should have their salaries cut, because they are responsible for power sharing not being restored. The DUP want the Northern Ireland protocol abandoned or reformed first.
In an interview this morning Heaton-Harris said his legal advice was that it would not be possible to cut the salaries of some MLAs, but not others. He said:
There has been legal opinion taken in the past by former secretaries of state that demonstrate it would be unbelievably difficult and judicially reviewed if I didn’t do it in a fair and proportionate way, which is what this is.
And here are the other things he said on his interview round related to yesterday’s announcement.
He said there was a very, very big budget black hole in Northern Ireland’s finances.
He defended his decision to delay the election when previously he had said it would not be delayed. He did that because people did not want an election, he said.
I was talking to all the political parties, I was talking to business representative groups, I was talking to community groups, I was talking to people on the street, and I did clock that people were saying that no-one wants an election before Christmas, so forgive me for being a politician that listens.
He said that the absence of an executive in Northern Ireland made it harder to pass on the £400 energy bill discount to people in the region. But he said hoped to announce “very, very soon” how the money would be paid to people.
NHS hospitals will do all they can to “minimise harm to patients” if nurses go on strike, a national health leader has said.
As PA Media reports, Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents most NHS organisations, told BBC Breakfast there were national and regional plans to minimise the impact on patients, but admitted operations and appointments will have to be cancelled or postponed. He said:
Clearly industrial action is a challenge for the health service and NHS leaders.
We’re already coping with the gap that exists between the demand that is currently on the health service from the public. We’ve got to meet that demand, and we all know that we are heading into what already is a very difficult winter.
Then we add industrial action into that and it’s going to be an extremely difficult job.
The priority will be to try to minimise patient harm.
7.1m people in England on hospital waiting list, a record high, NHS figures show
The number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a new record high, PA Media reports. PA says:
A total of 7.1 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of September, NHS England said.
This is up from 7 million in August and is the highest number since records began in August 2007.
A total of 401,537 people in England had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment at the end of September, NHS England said.
This is up from 387,257 at the end of August, and is the equivalent of around one in 18 people on the entire waiting list.
The government and NHS England have set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than a year by March 2025.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, will not be at the summit in Blackpool today in person (see 9.28am) because he has Covid, Adrian Masters from ITV Cymru reports.
Brexit-backing Next boss Simon Wolfson calls for immigration rules to be relaxed, saying this is 'not Brexit I wanted'
Simon Wolfson, chief executive of Next, was one of the most prominent business figures to support Brexit. But he has now told the BBC that the Brexit we have got is “definitely not the Brexit that I wanted, or indeed, many of people who voted Brexit, but more importantly, the vast majority of the country”.
As Graeme Wearden reports on his business live blog, Wolfson is now calling for immigration rules to be relaxed, to make it easier for companies to hire foreign workers if they need them.
Rishi Sunak seeks to fix relations with Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford at summit with devolved governments
Good morning. On Monday Rishi Sunak attended his first foreign summit as prime minister (Cop27). Next week he has another international debut, when he represents the UK at the G20 in Bali. And today he has got another diplomatic engagement in his diary – which could be just as challenging.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, and Mark Drakeford, the first minister of Wales, are not foreign leaders. But they might just as well be judging by the way recent UK prime ministers have treated them. Boris Johnson found it hard to conceal his belief that devolution had been a “disaster”, and Liz Truss would not even find time for a courtesy call with Sturgeon and Drakeford in her brief time as prime minister.
We don’t know much about Sunak’s thinking on Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or devolution. He has never shown much interest in the topic. But as prime minister he does seem keen to avoid some of the mistakes of his predecessors, and to treat Sturgeon and Drakeford with respect. He is meeting them today face to face and this is what he said in a statement released ahead of those meetings overnight.
We face huge challenges from global economic headwinds to war in Europe.
So let’s be pragmatic. Let’s work together in our shared interests.
Let’s deliver for all our people across these great islands – and build a future defined not by division, but by unity and hope.
Sunak will also be meeting the taoiseach (Irish PM), Micheál Martin. Again, he has not said much about the politics of Ireland in the past, but London and Dublin are desperate to resolve the Northern Ireland protocol problem, which is preventing the resumption of power sharing in Northern Ireland, before the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement next year.
All these meetings are taking place in Blackpool, where Sunak is attending a meeting of the British-Irish Council summit. This is a talking shop for the UK, Irish and devolved governments, plus the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. Meetings take place once or twice a year, and they normally never generate much news. But there are two significant features of this shindig.
First, Sunak is the first prime minister to attend one of these summits since Gordon Brown in 2007. Normally someone like Michael Gove represents the UK government. (Sunak is only there for the opening today; Gove will chair the main plenary tomorrow.)
And, second, Sunak will also chair a meeting of the Prime Minister and Heads of Devolved Governments Council. This is a new body, set up as a result of reforms to UK intergovernmental relations announced by Gove in January, but it has never met before. When Johnson did sit down for meetings with the heads of the devolved governments, it was normally at Cobra meetings, discussing Covid.
Morning: Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, is due to hold a meeting of Joint Expeditionary Force defence ministers in Edinburgh.
11.10am: Huw Merriman, the rail minister, gives a speech at the Rail Industry Association annual conference.
Afternoon: Rishi Sunak is due to meet Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford in Blackpool. His meeting with Micheál Martin, the taoiseach, is due later.
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