Afternoon summary

  • Hilary Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary, has announced that he will stand for election as chair of the new Commons Brexit select committee.

I will be standing for the post of Chair of the new Brexit Select Commiittee. We need to get the best possible deal for the British people.

— Hilary Benn (@hilarybennmp) September 14, 2016
  • Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, has told MPs that Tony Blair should have circulated the Iraq war note he wrote to George Bush saying he would be with him “whatever” to cabinet colleagues. Heywood, who was principal private secretary to Blair at the time of the Iraq war, initially refused to say what he would do as cabinet secretary if a PM refused to circulate a note like this. It was a hypothetical question, he said. Bernard Jenkin, the chair of the committee, replied: “It’s not hypothetical, it happened.” Then Heywood said:

I think the cabinet secretary in that situation should seek a one-on-one meeting with the prime minister to speak to them directly and say to them that he really must share this collectively. It’s going to become government policy. That’s the way the cabinet works ...

I certainly agree with you that private memos from the prime minister to the president of the United States setting out what the government’s position is should have been subject to collective approval, and would be today.

  • Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, has told MPs on the public accounts committee that the government has not committed all the money he thinks is needed for the NHS’s five-year plan.

Simon Stevens tells Public Acocunts Committee he didnt get money requested for years 2,3 and 4 of NHS Eng Five Year View

— Hugh Pym (@BBCHughPym) September 14, 2016

Simon Stevens says in intermediate years of 5 year NHS view theres a bigger hill to climb than first envisaged

— Hugh Pym (@BBCHughPym) September 14, 2016

Asked if Govt gave NHS what it asked for, Simon Stevens "theres a lot of work in hand because we didnt get what we asked for" before 2020

— Hugh Pym (@BBCHughPym) September 14, 2016
  • Patel has told the Commons international aid committee that she no longer supports the death penalty. As recently as 2011 she did support it.

That’s all from me for now.

I will be writing a new blog, covering the Sky News Labour leadership hustings with Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, later tonight. The debate starts at 9pm and I’ll launch the blog at about 8.30pm. You’ll find it here.

Cabinet secretary gives evidence to MPs on Chilcot inquiry

Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, has been giving evidence to the Commons public administration committee about the Chilcot inquiry. According to the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn, it has been a waste of time.

Always wonder why committees bother calling Sir Jeremy Heywood. #PACAC also getting zilch from him. Tighter than proverbial gnat's chuff.

— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) September 14, 2016

But the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope and the Mirror’s Jack Blanchard have found some lines worth tweeting.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood says the Chilcot Inquiry was "an outstanding piece of work." He has met Chilcot and told him so

— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) September 14, 2016

Sir Jeremy Heywood: Inquiry took more than six years because of the scope of the investigation from the beginning #Chilcot

— Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) September 14, 2016

Heywood says the problem was not how long it took to conduct the Chilcot inquiry, but the claims at the outset that it could be done quickly

— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) September 14, 2016

Heywood cannot think of any way Chilcot could have been speeded up. "If you want a thorough inquiry, it's going to take that length of time"

— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) September 14, 2016

Bernard Jenkin to Jeremy Heywood: The #Chilcot report "was delayed so the grass was as long as possible." Heywood denies this.

— Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) September 14, 2016

Jeremy Heywood: #Chilcot £10.3million was "considerably cheaper" than other inquiries - "if that is what it cost, that is what cost"

— Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) September 14, 2016
Sir Jeremy Heywood.
Sir Jeremy Heywood. Photograph: Parliament TV

At PMQs Theresa May also criticised the concept of “safe spaces” designed to ensure debate does not cause offence to students in universities. My colleague Rowena Mason has filed a story on what she said.

Lunchtime summary

  • May has refused to rule out Britons having to pay for visas to visit Europe after Brexit. Angus Robertson, the SNP leader as Westminster, asked for an assurances that May would protect visa-free travel in the Brexit negotiations with the EU, but she refused to give this assurance.
  • May has said that an international competition will be launched to design Britain’s new national memorial to the Holocaust. It will be built in the Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

[Juncker] did refer to that awful incident, but equally he could have referred to many other dreadful things being done all over Europe. Not to mention 14 recognised terrorist attacks in the space of this year. I don’t actually think that it’s ever very wise to pick any one incident against an individual and to use it for political ends.

  • The government has said it did not renew the contract of an American firm accused of wrongly withdrawing tax credits from claimants because its work was not up to scratch - but has ruled out an inquiry. As the Press Association reports,
    Concentrix’s contract to reduce fraud and error in the tax credits system will not be extended when it comes up for renewal in May 2017. Responding to an urgent question on the matter in the House of Commons, Treasury minister Jane Ellison said the firm has “not been providing the high levels of customer service that the public expect and which are required in their contract”. But she said there is no need “to go into inquiries etc etc” as the contract is not being renewed.

PMQs - Verdict from the Twitter commentariat

This is what political journalists and commentators are saying about PMQs on Twitter.

In summary, they are almost unanimous in thinking that Jeremy Corbyn was very effective, and Theresa May poor.

From the Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire

Corbyn beat May at #PMQs. She was floundering, didn't have answers. And Cameron will be laughing his little socks off

— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) September 14, 2016

That sound is scales falling from Tory eyes after May's #PMQs. Hammy jibes only emphasised her startling lack of answers. Honeymoon over

— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) September 14, 2016

From the Independent’s John Rentoul

Conservative side of the House not happy for the first time since about 2012. #PMQs

— John Rentoul (@JohnRentoul) September 14, 2016

From the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour

After a year Corbyn stops trying to reinvent PMQs. He was focussed, on right issue, stuck to theme, found relevant Cameron quote. Momentum.

— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) September 14, 2016

From the BBC’s Vicki Young

Strong performance from Corbyn on education policy, a real dividing line for many #PMQs

— Vicki Young (@BBCVickiYoung) September 14, 2016

From Sky’s Adam Boulton

Good wk for JC poor for TM. She'll be glad of the party conference break. Political landscape will be totally different by next #PMQs in Oct

— Adam Boulton (@adamboultonSKY) September 14, 2016

From the Financial Times’ Robert Shrimsley

Corbyn on target today. Still think his questions could be sharper but his grammar school lines are uncomfortable for Tories #pmqs

— robert shrimsley (@robertshrimsley) September 14, 2016

From the Times’ Matt Chorley

Turns out that if Corbyn chooses topical issue, which his MPs agree with him on & puts pointed questions to the PM, he can have a win #PMQs

— Matt Chorley (@MattChorley) September 14, 2016

From Sky’s From

Corbyn's best outing at #PMQs since he went for Tory divisions on forced academisation of schools in April. An issue party can unite around

— Tamara Cohen (@tamcohen) September 14, 2016

From the Telegraph’s Michael Wilkinson

That was a genuinely terrible #PMQs for Theresa May. Her pre-prepared stock answers sounded crass in contrast to Corbyn's questioning.

— Michael Wilkinson (@ThatMichaelW) September 14, 2016

From Politics Home’s John Ashmore

Not often I say this, but Jeremy Corbyn has smashed it so far at this PMQs - May keeps giving the same answer to every question

— John Ashmore (@smashmorePH) September 14, 2016

From Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh

May really needs new PMQs scriptwriter. That finale didn't work, and inexpertly delivered.
Maybe time to 'Let May Be May', not ape Cameron?

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) September 14, 2016

May's line in grammars is succeeding in uniting Labour better than either Corbyn or Smith have in recent months.
Some achievement#PMQs

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) September 14, 2016

From Huffington Post’s Owen Bennett

Tory MPs looking glum. Theresa May trying to read out a list of corbyn's greatest gaffes. It didn't go well. #pmqs

— Owen Bennett (@owenjbennett) September 14, 2016

From the Guardian’s Rafael Behr

May is beatable on grammar schools. And was indeed just beaten in #pmqs on grammar schools. By Jeremy Corbyn.

— Rafael Behr (@rafaelbehr) September 14, 2016

Scripted material, shoe-horned in off topic, mediocre delivery. That was not a good performance by May. And possibly JC's best. #pmqs

— Rafael Behr (@rafaelbehr) September 14, 2016

From ITV’s Chris Ship

Am I actually watching a #PMQs where Labour MPs are supporting their leader as he questions the PM? Whatever next?

— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) September 14, 2016

From the New Statesman’s George Eaton

Corbyn's performance will have made some Labour MPs feel better about his coming victory. #PMQs

— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) September 14, 2016

From the i’s Nigel Morris

Best performance by Corbyn at #PMQs for a long time...shows passion on a topical subject...

— Nigel Morris (@NigelpMorris) September 14, 2016

From the Telegraph’s Peter Dominiczak

Jeremy Corbyn may have just won PMQs. Pause and think about that for a second.

— Peter Dominiczak (@peterdominiczak) September 14, 2016

From the Financial Times’ Sebastian Payne

Dare I whisper Jeremy Corbyn actually holding the government to account for once? Almost like a proper opposition leader #PMQs

— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) September 14, 2016

From’s Adam Bienkov

Much better from Jeremy Corbyn today. Chose a topical subject, stuck to it and won the argument #PMQs

— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) September 14, 2016

From Total Politics’ David Singleton

Corbyn socked it to May on grammar schools. Fired up and thinking on his feet, not just sticking to scripted lines. His best #PMQs for ages.

— David Singleton (@singersz) September 14, 2016

PMQs - Verdict

PMQs - Verdict: People often think PMQs is a pointless, archaic ritual but, for all the shouting and sloganising, it is remains an arena where ideas and policy gets scrutinised and no amount of wit or mudslinging can disguise a seriously weak argument. That is why Jeremy Corbyn won today, handsomely. Theresa May may be entirely sincere in her desire to create more good schools, and her point about “selection by house price” is a good one, but Corbyn successfully highlighted some of the multiple flaws with her grammar policy. Where are the experts who back it? Why do FSM (free school meal) pupils in grammar-school Kent do so much worse than those in non-grammar London? Will pupils at grammar school feeder schools be guaranteed a place? How can segregation at 11 be justified? On all these questions, May couldn’t provide an answer. It was easily her worst PMQs so far.

And that’s what I thought watching it in TV from my desk. Many of the journalists who tweet and report on PMQs watch it from press gallery in the chamber and they often get a different impression because they hear the actual noise levels (which can be much louder, and much more one-sided, than you would realise from just following it on TV). And they tell me what was striking was how little support May was getting from her own side. That’s not because Tory MPs have suddenly gone all Corbynite; it’s because many of them have serious reservations about grammar schools. On the basis of today’s PMQs, and judging by what happened the last time Corbyn won a PMQs so clearly on an education matter (see 12.26pm), the chances of May’s plans being ditched, or having to be substantially amended, must be quite high.


My PMQs coverage normally leaves out Angus Robertson, the SNP leader, because he asks his questions as I’m writing my snap verdict. So here is what he asked.

He started by asking if May would protect visa-free travel to the EU.

She dodged the question.

There was a very clear message from the British people that they wanted to see an end to free movement as it operated, they want to see control of the movement of people from the EU into the UK and that’s what we will deliver.

Robertson then quoted Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator. He asked May:

Does she agree with Mr Verhofstadt, the EU negotiator, and the Scottish government who want to protect Scotland’s place in Europe?

May responded by saying the Scots voted to stay in the UK two years ago.

It’s all very well him asking that question but only two years ago he didn’t want to protect Scotland’s place in the EU because he wanted Scotland to leave the Uk and on all of these questions - whether it’s the q of the EU referendum, the referendum on independence on Scotland, the right honourable gentleman seems to think if he asks the same question all the time he’ll get a different answer. Well, it won’t work for me and it won’t work for the Scottish people.

Labour’s George Howarth says the police are being asked to do more and more in difficult circumstances.

May praises the police for what they do, on duty and off duty. But she says police budgets have been protected. Labour wanted to cut them by 5 to 10%, she says.

And that’s it.

David Tredinnick, a Conservative, asks about the cooperation between the US and Russia and Syria. If we can improve relations with Russia, we may be able to solve more problems in the region.

May says she hopes this agreement will lead to progress. But we should have no doubt that the relationship with Russia is not a business as usual one, she says. She said that after the report into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, and still thinks that.

Shailesh Vara, the Conservative, asks about a forthcoming report from Louise Casey about political correctness threatening traditions like Christmas. He says minority communities should respect mainstream traditions.

May says she will not comment on the report. But mainstream traditions, as well as minority ones, need to be respected, she says.

Diana Johnson, the Labour MP, asks for an inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal.

May says she will consider this.

Lucy Allan, a Conservative, asks if May will agree to an independent review of child sexual abuse in Telford.

May says the overall inquiry will consider some of these isssue. It is for the authorities in Telford to consider what happens there. But the home secretary will look at this.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy says May should insist Dame Lowell Goddard turns up to give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee about about the child abuse inquiry.

May says she cannot force Goddard to attend.

Theresa Villiers, a Conservative, asks about the negotiations for a permanent settlement in Cyprus.

May says she hopes the talks succeed.

Tom Elliott, the UUP MP, asks about a case of alleged fraud in Northern Ireland.

May says she will write to Elliott about this.

Mary Robinson, a Conservative, says schools should be considered as community assets in terms of water charges.

May says the government is looking at the guidance issued to water companies in terms of how they bill schools.

Labour’s Alex Cunningham asks about carbon capture and storage (CCS).

May says this has been looked at carefully in the past. And it will continue to look at the role CCS can play.

Fiona Bruce, a Conservative, says the life chances of children are limited through living in chaotic households. An all-party group has proposed family hubs as a solution.

May says Bruce has been a champion on this issue. She says the government will look at the all-party group’s report.

Richard Burden, the Labour MP, asks about cuts of between 30% and 50% in apprenticeship funding.

May says she does not recognise the situation Burden describes.

Lucy Frazer, a Conservative, asks about a hospital in Ely.

May says she understands there is due to be a meeting about this.

John Baron, a Conservative, asks for an assurance that the post-Brexit immigration system will not give preferential treatment to EU migrants.

May says Brexit will allow the UK to control immigration. The details of the plans are being worked on. But the government will have the ability to control immigration. So there will be a greater element of fairness.

  • May refuses to confirm that EU citizens and non-EU citizens will be treated in the same way under post-Brexit immigration rules.

PMQs - Snap verdict

PMQs - Snap verdict: Jeremy Corbyn’s best PMQs was the one where he attacked David Cameron over the plans to force all schools to become academies, and this one may well have been his second best. Again, he challenged the PM over the lack of support for the plan and, again, he won the exchange because he had the best arguments. He was not flash (he never is), but his fourth question, where he spoke passionately about how wrong it was to separate children at 11, was powerful, and it was telling that towards the end Theresa May resorted to having to change the subject. Unlike last week May restricted her jokes to her final answer, but even her pay-off soundbite did not quite work. It was premised on the idea that this might be Corbyn’s last PMQs. But, of course, no one believes that ...

Corbyn says his policy is not about pulling up ladders. It is about offering ladders to everyone. He quotes someone saying there is something hopeless about grammar schools, and the idea only some pupils can benefit. It was Cameron, he says, who said this.

May says she wants a diversity of good provision. Good school places are important. Corbyn has still not welcomed the employment figures, she say. Labour would offer more taxation for working families.

Corbyn welcomes anyone who can get a job. But there are now almost 1m people on zero-hours contracts. She quotes Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools. He said the idea the poor will benefit from grammar schools is “tosh and nonsense”. The Tory green paper addresses none of the problems in education, he says. Isn’t this the case of a government heading backwards, to segregated schooling and second-class schooling for the many.

May says some of Corbyn’s facts were wrong. There are more teachers in schools. Corbyn has opposed all measures to improve schools, such as those on parent choice, and free schools. This may be Corbyn’s last PMQs, she says. So she will recap some of the things Corbyn has introduced. He wants coal mines without mining them, submarines without weapons, and to be a leader without leading.

John Bercow intervenes. Progress has been absurdly slow, he says.

But he will get down the list. (That means PMQs will last till 12.40 at least.)

Corbyn quotes the IFS saying those in selective areas who don’t pass the 11-plus do worse than in non-selective areas. May wants grammar schools to set up feeder schools. Will their pupils get admitted to the grammars?

May says we have selection at the moment, but it is selection by house price. She says Corbyn went to a grammar school. She went to one to. That is what got them to where they are.

Corbyn says she and May can both remember the 1950s and going to a grammar school. We don’t need to and never should divide children at the age of 11. Can May confirm whether existing grammar schools will have to widen their existing admission?

May says she wants all grammar schools to educate a wide range of pupils. She wants a good education for every child. There are 1.25m children who are in schools that are not good or outstanding. She believes in the education that is right for every child. Labour has stifled opportunity. Members of the Labour party will take the advantages of a good education for themselves, but pull up the ladder for others.

Jeremy Corbyn starts paying tribute to a police officer stabbed in Liverpool arresting a suspect. We wish him well, he says. He wishes David Cameron well too, and says he hopes the byelection will focus on selective education.

May has brought about a consensus on education thinking, he says. Can she name any educational experts that back her grammar school plans?

May also pays tribute to the police constable stabbed. As home secretary she looked forward to going to the policy bravery awards, she says.

On education she says 1.4m more children are in good and outstanding schools. That is because of the government’s reforms, which Corbyn opposes. She wants more good school places, she says.

Corbyn says he asked if May could name any experts who backed the policy. She could not. He quotes John, a teacher, asking why all schools cannot be funded properly. In Kent 27% of pupils on free school meals get five good GCSEs. In London it is 45%.

May says Corbyn should stop casting his mind back to the 1950s. She will be ensuring that the government provides good school places for the 1.25m pupils in schools that are failing or that need improvement.

In grammar schools the attainment gap is virtually zero, she says. In other schools it is not. Corbyn believes in equality of outcome, she says. She believes in equality of opportunity. He wants to level down; she wants to level up.

Marcus Fysh, a Conservative, says unemployment in his Yeovil constituency has halved since 2010. Will she promote technical education?

May welcomes the unemployment figures. The government has had an economic plan. But in the future we need to consider those for whom a technical education is the right route.

Deidre Brock, the SNP MP, says May could not say last week if she favoured staying in the single market. Will passporting continue for financial services?

May says she will give the same answer as last week: the government will work for the right deal. The best thing for the financial sector in Edinburgh is to be part of the UK, she says.

Theresa May starts by paying tribute to David Cameron. He has been a tremendous public servant, she says. The economy has stabilised and more people have been taken out of paying tax under his leadership.

No sign of Corbyn press team in usual places in press gallery. Strange..

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) September 14, 2016

Oct 20: by elections for Labour MP Jo Cox in Batley & Spen and for David Cameron in Witney will be held on the same day

— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) September 14, 2016

Tory cheers for Jeremy Corbyn as he enters Commons for #PMQs as loud as they were for Theresa May

— Ben Glaze (@benglaze) September 14, 2016

PMQs set to start. May, Hammond, Rudd, Fallon, Greening, Johnson on the frontbench.

— Jack Maidment (@jrmaidment) September 14, 2016


PMQs is about to start.

Here is the list of MPs due to ask a question.

Here's the MPs due to quiz Theresa May at #pmqs

— PoliticsHome (@politicshome) September 14, 2016

Greening abandons plans to scrap the requirement to have parent governors on school boards

Justine Greening, the education secretary, has been giving evidence to the Commons education committee. Here are some of the key lines. The tweets are from the Guardian’s Richard Adams and Schools Week’s Freddie Whittaker.

  • Greening said she was abandoning plans to scrap the requirement to have parent governors on school boards.

Justine Greening drops the plan to remove parent governors from school boards - that's big.

— Richard Adams (@RichardA) September 14, 2016
  • She insisted the new government remained committed to the apprenticeship levy.

Asked about her commitment to the apprenticeship levy, Greening says she's pushing ahead with it. "It is being introduced" #edselctte

— Freddie Whittaker (@FCDWhittaker) September 14, 2016
  • She said she wanted to do more to tackle the problem of teachers leaving the profession.

Greening says she'd like the government to do a better job of keeping teachers in profession and getting them back in #edselctte

— Freddie Whittaker (@FCDWhittaker) September 14, 2016

Onto teacher shortages. Greening says it's something she's "started to dig into" since arriving at the DfE #edselctte

— Freddie Whittaker (@FCDWhittaker) September 14, 2016
  • She said she would set out plans soon to address the issue of summer-born children (who often suffer academically because they are the youngest in their school year).

On summer-born children, Greening says she'll set out next steps "shortly" and she wants to make progress on it #edselctte

— Freddie Whittaker (@FCDWhittaker) September 14, 2016
  • She said she was looking at whether Ofsted should inspect multi-academy trusts.

Greening says she's looking at whether Ofsted should directly inspect multi-academy trusts #edselctte

— Freddie Whittaker (@FCDWhittaker) September 14, 2016
  • She said she was considering the case for making PSHE education statutory.

.@William_Wragg asks when govt will make PSHE a statutory requirement. Greening says this is one of the things in her in-tray #edselctte

— Freddie Whittaker (@FCDWhittaker) September 14, 2016

Schools Week has published its own summary of what we have learnt from the hearing.

Justine Greening.
Justine Greening. Photograph: Parliament TV

Downing Street has released a picture of the new cabinet.

The highlight, of course, is Boris Johnson is giving a demonstration of his Olympic-grade manspreading talents.

Theresa May’s cabinet
Theresa May’s cabinet Photograph: Zoe Norfolk/EPA

My colleague Lisa O’Carroll says today’s report may not be the end of the story.

Phone hacking scandal still has some way to run. MP Paul Farrelly says he wants to revisit Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson evidence to comm

— lisa o'carroll (@lisaocarroll) September 14, 2016

Tom Crone has rejected the privileges committee’s findings. This is from my colleague Lisa O’Carroll.

Tom Crone, former NoTW lawyer has hit out at parliamentary report accusing him of misleading House on hacking. He does not accept findings

— lisa o'carroll (@lisaocarroll) September 14, 2016

Les Hinton says today's report clearing him is 'too little too late'

Here is a statement from Les Hinton, the former News International executive chairman, about the privileges committee’s findings. (See 10.14am.)

Parliament’s committee of privileges has this morning published the results of its investigation into the 2012 findings of John Whittingdale’s culture media and sport select committee.

At that time, the CMS select committee accused me of being in contempt of parliament by lying to it about my knowledge of phone hacking at the News of the World and of being “complicit” in a “cover up”.

The report from the committee of privileges has today found that John Whittingdale’s select committee got it wrong - the evidence does not support the CMS Committee’s claims that I lied to it. The committee of privileges has found that I am not guilty of contempt of parliament.

After more than four years, the committee of privileges has thrown out the charges that I was guilty of contempt of parliament and a cover-up of phone hacking. Its findings are too little and too late, coming so long after I was vilified by MPs in a 125-page report, a televised press conference and a 90-minute House of Commons debate.

The culture media and sport select committee reached its false findings in 2012. It posed as a quasi-judicial body with the right to impose criminal punishments, yet followed none of the usual rules of law and fair process. It carried out an amateur investigation, missed vital evidence, and some members displayed no pretence at impartiality. Even before its report was released, the committee’s most vocal member, Tom Watson MP, published a book accusing me of misleading the committee.

Today’s report by the committee of privileges speaks proudly of its concern to “meet modern standards of fairness” in deciding whether the culture committee had been “correct” in its findings.

Parliament has a back-to-front idea of justice and fairness when it claims these standards after allowing the sham trial and free-for-all character assassination I experienced in 2012.

Les Hinton giving evidence to the Commons culture committee in 2007.
Les Hinton giving evidence to the Commons culture committee in 2007. Photograph: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Here is my colleague Lisa Carroll’s report on the privileges committee’s findings.

Why 'admonishment' is the only penalty Myler and Crone face - and what it means

The privileges committee says that the House of Commons as a whole should pass a motion admonishing Colin Myler and Tom Crone because that is the only punishment available to MPs for contempt of parliament. “Admonishment” is the term used by the committee. It means censure or, to put it colloquially, a severe bollocking.

If MPs are found to have broken parliament’s rules, they can be suspended. Back in the eighteenth century parliament also had the power to imprison members of the public found to be in contempt (often reporters publishing reports that offended MPs). But that power is deemed to have lapsed.

MPs could in theory summon someone to attend the Bar of the House of Commons (the bit marking the formal entrance to the chamber, not the place where they serve drinks) to be reprimanded in person. This happened to John Junor in 1957 when he was editor of the Sunday Express. Junor had written an article criticising MPs for their use of petrol allowances (rationing still applied) and, although he apologised for the contempt, he did so without retracting his comment.

In today’s report the privileges committee said it considered summoning Myler and Crone to the Bar of the House. But it has not recommended that step - probably because the 1957 episode was seen at the time as a bit of a farce, and something that did not reflect well on MPs. It is also not clear what would happen if someone were summoned but refused to turn up.

Instead what will happen is that MPs will debate the motion proposed by the privileges committee. (See 10.14m.) It is almost certain to be passed unanimously, probably after a relatively short debate.

MPs say truth about phone hacking would have emerged 'far earlier' if executives had not misled committee

The privileges committee says that, if Colin Myler and Tom Crone had not given misleading evidence to the Commons culture committee, the conclusions of the culture committee’s inquiry into phone hacking would have been different.

As a result, the misleading evidence resulted in “substantial interference” with the committee’s work, the privileges committee says.

If truthful evidence had been given, the scale of the wrongdoing would have emerged far earlier, and we consider that it is likely that the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations would have been drafted differently, in particular as to the involvement in and extent of phone hacking. The CMS Committee reported to the House; had it been provided with truthful evidence from which to draw its conclusions, the House may have decided to have debated the Report and the Government’s response. We conclude that the threshold of substantial interference has been reached.


The full text of the privileges committee’s report is here (pdf). It runs to 150 pages.

Further written evidence submitted to the inquiry is on the committee’s website.

2 former Murdoch executives face censure from Commons for 'misleading' MPs in phone-hacking inquiry

The Commons committee on privileges has just published a report about its investigation into allegations that three former News International executives lied to MPs when they were giving evidence to the phone hacking inquiry.

Here is its press statement about its findings in full.

The Committee of Privileges today releases its report on Conduct of witnesses before a select committee: Mr Colin Myler, Mr Tom Crone, Mr Les Hinton, and News International. Associated correspondence and evidence is published on the internet.

The report follows the referral to the Committee by the House of the Eleventh Report of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (Session 2010-12) which concluded that it has been misled by witnesses during its inquiries into phone-hacking. Based on the evidence and applying the standard of proof that the allegations must be significantly more likely than not to be true, the Committee of Privileges has found that:

a) Mr Colin Myler misled the CMS Committee by “answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing”.

b) Mr Tom Crone misled the CMS Committee in 2009 by giving a counter impression of the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement.

c) Tom Crone misled the CMS Committee by “answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing”.

The Committee therefore finds Mr Myler (former editor of the News of the World) and Mr Crone (former legal manager at News International) to have been in contempt of the House.

The Committee also found that:

d) There is insufficient evidence to find that Tom Crone sought to mislead the CMS Committee about the commissioning of surveillance.

e) The allegation that Les Hinton sought to mislead the CMS Committee as to the extent of the pay‐off to Clive Goodman and his own role in authorising the payments is not significantly more likely than not to be true.

f) The evidence that Les Hinton misled the CMS Committee about the extent of his knowledge of allegations that phone‐hacking extended beyond Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire to others at the News of the World does not meet the standard of proof set for a finding of contempt.

g) While the Culture, Media and Sport Committee was sceptical about Mr Hinton’s memory, there is no evidence that he misled the Committee in relation to his role in the payment of legal fees or the fact that he authorised the payments to Mr Goodman to settle his Employment Tribunal claim.

h) There is insufficient evidence of a breach of Parliamentary privilege on the part of NI (now News UK). NOTW was not a corporate body. As such, the Committee does not consider NI to have committed a contempt.

The Committee recommends that the House be invited to agree a motion in the following terms:

That this House—

i) approves the First Report from the Committee of Privileges;

ii) having regard to the conclusions of the Committee in respect of Mr Colin Myler, considers that Mr Myler misled the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by answering questions falsely about his knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing, and therefore formally admonishes him for his conduct; and

iii) having regard to the conclusions of the Committee in respect of Mr Tom Crone, considers that Mr Crone misled the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by giving a counter‐impression of the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement and by answering questions falsely about his knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing, and therefore formally admonishes him for his conduct.

The Committee also recommends that the Leader of the House take steps as soon as possible to address the issues identified by the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege in 2013, particularly in respect of the penal powers of the House and select committees and contempt.

The Government is expected to find an early date for debate on the Committee’s report.

And this is what it means.

  • Two very senior former News International executives, the former News of the World editor Colin Myler and the former News International legal manager Tom Crone, have been censured for misleading MPs when they gave evidence to the phone-hacking inquiry.
  • A third executive, Les Hinton, the former News International chairman, has been cleared of misleading MPs - but only because the evidence did not meet a relatively high burden of proof.
  • MPs are set to pass a motion censuring Myler and Crone.
  • News International “as a corporate body” has not been found guilty of lying.
  • The privileges committee is calling for an investigation into what can be done to punish witnesses who lie to select committees. At the moment parliament does not have effective powers to punish people for this.

Farage tells MEPs their stance on single market access for UK after Brexit self-defeating

In a message on Twitter yesterday Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian MEP who is the European parliament’s lead negotiator on Brexit, insisted that the UK had to accept free movement for EU citizens if it wanted to retain access to the single market. It is the same point Jean-Claude Juncker made in his speech this morning. (See 9.17am.)

If UK wants access to #SingleMarket, it must also accept the free movement of citizens. Our four freedoms are inseparable.

— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) September 13, 2016

In his speech to the European parliament this morning Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, said that for the EU to adopt this approach would be self-defeating.

He also said the parliament should ditch Verhofstadt and replace him with a more pro-UK negotiator.

Farage describes Verhofstadt appointment as "a declaration of war on any sensible negotiation process".

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) September 14, 2016

Farage told MEPs:

If you adopt the dogma of saying that for reciprocal tariff-free access to the single market we must retain the free movement of people, then you will inevitably drive us towards no deal: no deal, and trading under WTO rules. For the United Kingdom that actually isn’t too bad, because it’s very much better and cheaper than the current deal we’ve got. But for hundreds of thousands of German car workers and French wine producers, potentially it’s very bad news because we are their biggest market, who we trade with most profitably in the world.

I would argue what we really need is to have a sensible, common sense approach and for this parliament to recognise that it has made a mistake and to find somebody who actually likes the United Kingdom to lead these talks.

Farage also started with a joke about José Manuel Barroso, the former European commission president, taking a job with Goldman Sachs.

Nigel Farage takes the floor: begins with congrats to Barroso on Goldman Sachs job, proving the point that it was a gift to eurosceptics.

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) September 14, 2016
Nigel Farage addressing the European parliament.
Nigel Farage addressing the European parliament. Photograph: BBC News

Unemployment down, but claimant count up

The unemployment figures are out.

  • Unemployment fell by 39,000 to 1.63m (4.9%) between May and July.
  • The number of people on the claimant count in August increased by 2,400 to
  • Average earnings increased by 2.3% in the year to July, 0.2% down on the
    previous month.

And here is the Office for National Statistics bulletin with the full details.

Here is my colleague Jennifer Rankin’s preview story on the Juncker speech.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, has been giving his annual state of the union address to the European parliament and he has reaffirmed his insistence that the UK will not be able to get “unlimited access to the single market” unless it accepts the free movement of EU citizens.

There can be no a la carte access to the single market.

It is not the first time he has said this, of course. And other EU leaders have said the same thing. But every time it gets said, it illustrates how hard it will be for Theresa May to achieve her aim of getting a Brexit deal that will allow the government to control EU immigration while also giving British firms full access to the single market.

Only yesterday David Davis, the Brexit secretary, implied that the government thought Britain might be able to remain a full member of the single market. Replying to an MP on the Commons foreign affairs committee, he said:

Whilst I won’t get drawn into what our [negotiating] position on it is, you are right in one respect that the language used about the single market, access to the single market and membership of the single market does get very confused. What we want to see is the best trading capacity for British manufacturing and service industry. That could be any of those things.

Juncker: UK cannot have ‘à la carte’ access to single market

In his speech Juncker also condemned the way Polish people have been attacked in the UK since the Brexit vote.

Juncker: "Europeans can never, never, accept polish workers being harassed, beaten up or even murdered in the streets of Essex”

— steve hawkes (@steve_hawkes) September 14, 2016

I will post more from the speech when I see the full text.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Justine Greening, the education secretary, gives evidence to the education committee.

10am: The Commons privileges committee publishes a report on the conduct of Colin Myler, Tom Crone and Les Hinton when they gave evidence to the culture committee about phone hacking.

12pm: Theresa May faces Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.

2pm: Priti Patel, the international development secretary, gives evidence to the Commons international development committee.

2.30pm: Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, gives evidence to the Commons public administration committee on the Chilcot report and the EU referendum.

2.30pm: Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, gives evidence to the Commons public accounts committee.

Later Corbyn and Owen Smith will take part in the final hustings of the Labour leadership campaign, on Sky at 9pm. I will be covering that live on a separate blog.

As usual, I will be covering the breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I will post a summary after PMQs and another in the afternoon.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments BTL but normally I find it 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 direct questions, although sometimes I miss them or don’t have time. Alternatively you could post a question to me on Twitter.



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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