Afternoon summary

  • Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, has backed calls for a second referendum on Brexit. In a tweet, he suggested that with so much at stake, there was a case for making sure there was still a “consensus” for leaving the EU. Many business leaders wanted exactly this kind of “confirming vote”, he said. The Liberal Democrats are actively campaigning for a second referendum - or a first referendum on the final Brexit deal, as they prefer to describe it - but the government is strongly opposed to the idea, and Labour is not in favour either. (See 2.53pm.)
  • The House of Commons has backed a motion saying universal credit claimants should get their first payment after a month, instead of having to wait six weeks as they do now. The motion was tabled by the Labour MP Frank Field who said words could not express the “horror” that UC was generating. (See 1.49pm.)
  • John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has said that the Paradise Papers revelations show that Labour could raise more money from cracking down on tax avoidance than it previously thought. (See 9.30am.)

That’s all from me for today.

Thanks for the comments.

The Times revelation that Michael Gove’s colleagues think he is auditioning for the job of chancellor because he has taken to using “long, economicky words” in cabinet (see 9.42am) is generating much comment.

Stefan Stern has written an article for the Guardian suggesting some more “economicky” words Gove could try.

And the Spectator’s James Forsyth has written a blog strongly defending Gove. Here’s an excerpt.

Any cabinet minister who doesn’t know what MIFID (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive) is, should go away and do some reading. MIFID – and MIFID II – which deal with equivalence and financial services, is hardly obscure and is a crucial part of the Brexit negotiations. If the EU deemed the UK as having an equivalent set of financial regulations under MIFID II (which comes into force next year), it would make it significantly easier for the City to have fairly smooth access to the European financial services market after Brexit.


The Netherlands must prepare for a chaotic, no-deal Brexit, the Dutch parliament’s European affairs committee has said. As my colleague Jon Henley reports, in a strongly worded report the committee blames the stalled exit talks on Britain’s “unrealistic expectations” and “inconsistency”.

Electoral Commission says inquiry into Leave.EU delayed by its failure to disclose information

The Electoral Commission has said its investigation into Leave.EU is being delayed because the Brexit campaign group has failed to hand over information it has requested, the Press Association reports. The PA report goes on:

The democracy watchdog was responding to Leave.EU chairman Arron Banks’ allegation that it is a “swamp creature” that was dragging its feet on the probe.

The Commission is looking into the alleged undeclared provision of services to Leave.EU by data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Banks has complained of the investigation being “over 200 days old” and claimed he has supplied all the information it has requested.

But responding on Thursday, the Commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards said in a letter: “Investigations can take further time where the Commission needs to go back to organisations to ensure that full disclosure of requested material has been provided.

“In relation to our first investigation in respect of Leave.EU, the Commission will shortly set out to Leave.EU areas where it appears material has not been provided, notably relating to documents comprising the services provided by (advocacy firm) Goddard Gunster in late 2015/early 2016.”

The commission is also looking into whether Banks was the “true source” of three loans worth £6m on non-commercial terms to Leave.EU, and whether Better For The Country Limited (BFTCL) - a company that lists him as a director - was acting as an “agent” when it donated £2.3m to five registered campaigners.

Banks has insisted Leave.EU was funded by himself, financier Peter Hargreaves and public donations, and that there is “not one shred of evidence” to back allegations of “dark Russian money” coming into the campaign.


The new defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, meeting crew members onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth today during her latest sea trials.
The new defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, meeting crew members onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth today during her latest sea trials. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Captain Jerry Kyd (left) with defence secretary Gavin Williamson onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Captain Jerry Kyd (left) with defence secretary Gavin Williamson onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

In the Commons earlier Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, gave a statement on the progress being made in setting up an independent grievance procedure for people working in the House of Commons. The government proposed this in response to the sexual harassment scandal.

As BuzzFeed’s Emily Ashton reports, Leadsom is being pressed to go further, and to ensure that MPs found guilty of sexual harassment get removed from parliament.

Andrea Leadsom.
Andrea Leadsom. Photograph: Michael Bowles/REX/Shutterstock

Former head of civil service says universal credit causing 'misery for large number of very vulnerable people'

While MPs were debating universal credit, peers were doing the same in the House of Lords too.

The Conservative peer Lord Cormack said the system was flawed. “This is a catalogue of human errors but also a catalogue of human misery,” he said.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, said almost every week he received “heart-breaking stories about how the transition to Universal Credit is devastating the lives of claimants”, including one young mother who said she took paper napkins from McDonald’s because she couldn’t afford toiler paper. He went on:

I beseech the minister, don’t necessarily listen to us, but please listen to the claimants and some of the staff in the jobcentres, because they will tell you we aren’t succeeding with the original intent.

And the former head of the civil service, the independent crossbencher Lord Kerslake described UC as an almost perfect example of the “politics of the stiff neck - a stubborn, haughty refusal to change one’s mind in the face of all the evidence to the contrary”. The consequence of this stubbornness was to cause “quite unnecessary misery for a large number of very vulnerable people”, he said. He said that pressing ahead with UC when there was clear evidence it would cause distress and hardship was “not just bad government, it is cruel”.

Defending the government, the work and pensions minister Lady Buscombe said the government was committed to implementing UC “safely and fairly to the best of its ability”.

Lord Kerslake.
Lord Kerslake. Photograph: King's College Hospital

Commons votes to cut waiting time for universal credit claimants from six weeks to a month

At the end of the debate Eleanor Laing, the deputy speaker, put the motion to a vote. With no one shouting no, it was approved by acclamation.

That means the Commons has voted to cut the amount of time people have to wait for their first universal credit payment from six weeks to a month.

These backbench motions are not binding on the government, but it has already been reported that ministers are planning to announce a change to this policy within the next few days.

In the Commons Damian Hinds, the work and pensions minister, is replying to the debate on universal credit.

He says only 3% of workers are paid fortnightly. Some 70% of people are paid monthly or every four weeks, he says.

He says the monthly in arrears payment system is essential to universal credit, because UC payments depend on how much people earn in any one month.

He says claimants can get an advance payment worth up to half an indicative award, paid back over six months.

He says UC is transforming lives, and the government is determined to see it through.

He ends without making any comment on whether or not the government will reduce the amount of time claimants have to wait for the money from six weeks to one month.

In the comment dfic1999 asked how many Tory “mutineers” voted against the government last night.

The answer is one. It was Ken Clarke, who voted with the opposition in two of the five divisions: on guaranteeing EU employment, equality and health standards after Brexit, and on adopting EU rules on animal sentience in UK law.

In the other three divisions no Tories voted with the opposition.

My colleague Patrick Greenfield was covering the voting on the blog last night. He explained what the various votes were about in some detail.

If you want to see how MPs vote, look at the divisions page on the Hansard website. For each vote, if you click on the ayes or noes link, there are lists of who voted in that division, by name and by party.

There is also now a very good free app, CommonsVotes, which posts this information for every Commons division about 15 minutes after they take place.

Goldman Sachs boss calls for second Brexit referendum

Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, has come out in favour of a second referendum on Brexit. He has just tweeted this.

Here in UK, lots of hand-wringing from CEOs over #Brexit. Better sense of the tough and risky road ahead. Reluctant to say, but many wish for a confirming vote on a decision so monumental and irreversible. So much at stake, why not make sure consensus still there?

— Lloyd Blankfein (@lloydblankfein) November 16, 2017

Given the position of bankers generally, and Goldman Sachs in particular, at the apex of leave camp demonology, this endorsement may not be particularly helpful to those mobilising for a second referendum.

Lloyd Blankfein, pictured giving evidence to a US senate committee hearing earlier this year.
Lloyd Blankfein, pictured giving evidence to a US senate committee hearing earlier this year. Photograph: Jim Young/REUTERS


David Miliband says Brexit is 'greatest giveaway of political power a country has voluntarily ever done'

David Miliband, the former Labour foreign secretary, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Brexit was “the greatest giveaway of political power that a country has voluntarily ever done”. In an interview to promote his new book about the refugee crisis, Miliband, who now runs the US charity, the International Rescue Committee, he said:

Brexit, by definition is trashing the history of the last 40 years, I think it is putting at severe risk many of the gains. I see Brexit as an act of unilateral political disarmament. It’s the greatest giveaway of political power that a country has voluntarily ever done, because we are ceding our position at the table with 27 other countries. Together we can fashion a foreign policy that really does have clout. On our own it’s much harder to do so.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband has told BBC Radio 5 live that Britain is “trashing” its own interests by going ahead with Brexit, and that triggering article 50 was “ridiculously dangerously premature.”

Miliband said he was in the Foreign Office at the time when article 50 was adopted, as part of the Lisbon treaty.

For the first time ever the European Union had made provision for a country to leave. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to be Britain that was the country that was going to leave but what I do remember having a conversation about is, you’d have to be mad to trigger Article 50 until you’re absolutely sure what your game plan is to get out. As once you’ve triggered it, you hand all your cards over to the European Union.

Asked if it was a “mad move” for the government to trigger article 50 in March, he replied:

It was ridiculously premature, it was dangerously premature to hand over that. We should never have triggered article 50 until we were absolutely clear what kind of Brexit we were going to negotiate.

David Miliband at the IRC headquarters in New York.
David Miliband at the IRC headquarters in New York. Photograph: Christopher Lane for the Observer New Review/The Observer

In the universal credit debate Conservative MP Heidi Allen said she supported the principle of UC. But she strongly criticised the way it is being implemented. Citing figures from the research published today by the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust about the impact of the cuts to UC (see 1pm), she said she did not think UC would function properly until the cuts to the taper rate and the work allowance, which have made UC less generous than originally planned, were reversed.

The communities secretary Sajid Javid has lambasted baby boomers who believe young people could afford a home if only they cut back “on nights out and smashed avocados”, saying such critics were out of touch with a broken housing system.

Warning that a failure to make homes more affordable could see an entire generation becomes rootless, and resentful of both capitalism and politicians, Javid said urgent action was required.

In a speech in Bristol Javid had tough words for “baby boomers who have long-since paid off their own mortgage” who believed there was no need to build more homes, saying they were “living in a different world”.

Such people argue that “affordability is only a problem for millennials that spend too much on nights out and smashed avocados,” Javid said, adding: “It’s nonsense. They’re not facing up to the reality of modern daily life and have no understanding of the modern market.”

With the average house price now eight times the average income, and the mean age of a first-time buyer hitting 32, vast numbers of people were forced to remain living with their parents, he said.

“Where once it would have taken an average couple three years to save for a deposit it will now take a quarter of a century. Assuming, of course, they can afford to save at all,” Javid said.

“And last year, the average first-time buyer in London needed a deposit – a deposit – of more than £90,000. That’s a lot of avocados.”

Sajid Javid.
Sajid Javid. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

These are from Labour’s Stella Creasy, who has been contributing to the debate.

When our food banks are saying they need an extra 2,000 tonnes of food to cope with universal credit you can’t argue this system is working or saving exchequer money - we will all pay for the consequences of the delays in system. Government must stop for sake of all!

— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) November 16, 2017

Just raised inherent problem with universal credit delays that will mean those with rent arrears more likely to be evicted - already contacted by residents in walthamstow terrified for when it comes to us in new year. Govt just not listening to mess & fear system will create!

— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) November 16, 2017

Scotland has fortnightly payments - no reason for delay in universal credit for weeks unless government wants to encourage debt. So too if tenants want rent paid direct simpler & less expensive for all concerned-lots of ways to improve system but govt refusing to act at present..

— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) November 16, 2017

The Labour MP Barry Gardiner claims Tory MPs are refusing to sit behind the minister on the front bench because they are embarrassed by the government’s record.

In 20 years I have never before seen every Tory backbencher refuse to sit behind their front bench but move across the aisle.
Clearly nobody can justify Universal Credit#PauseAndFix
Sadly not allowed to photograph in chamber

— Barry Gardiner (@BarryGardiner) November 16, 2017

This shows the scene in the Commons chamber a few minutes ago. The government benches are on the left. Gardiner is referring to the way most Tories are sitting “below the aisle”, not behind the minister.

Commons chamber as MPs debate universal credit.
Commons chamber as MPs debate universal credit. Photograph: BBC

Frank Field tells MPs words cannot express 'horror' of universal credit

Here are some more quotes from Frank Field’s speech.

  • Field, the Labour chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said he did not have the words to describe the “horror” of universal credit.

I want to begin by confessing my own inadequacies. I’m sure most of us, all of us, when we get up to debate in this great place, reflect on how we simply do not have the language to match up to the tasks that we are trying to present, through this chamber, to the nation on what is happening. I have to say, this is the most important debate that I have ever participated in in nearly 40 years as the member of parliament for Birkenhead. And I have never more felt the inadequacies of the language that I have to try and tell the House what horror is happening now to a growing number of my constituents under what is called this welfare reform programme.

In his speech he described UC as “organised chaos” and a “national scandal” and gave examples of constituents facing extreme hunger or poverty because under UC they were missing benefit payments.

  • He ridiculed the idea that it was acceptable to make people wait six weeks for their first UC payments. This is what MPs are voting on today, and he said:

More than half of low and middle income families have no savings at all to fall back on us. Two thirds of us have less than a month’s savings to tide us over a criss. The idea that families can wait for six weeks, the most vulnerable people that we have the honour to represent in this House - in the cold light of day, you wonder how any decent set of people [can think that].

  • He also proposed five other reforms to UC.

1 - Payments every two weeks, instead of monthly. Field said that this was the case in Scotland, and that Northern Ireland was going to get fortnightly payments too. He said England should adopt the same policy.

2 - Payments direct to landlords if tenants want. Under UC (which replaces housing benefit and five other benefits), all the money goes to tenants, instead of housing benefit going directly to landlords. Field said, if tenants want, they should be able to revert to having their rent money going direct to the landlord.

3 - Warnings to housing associations. Field said the department for work and pensions shoud automatically tell local authorities and housing associations that their tenants would be pushed into debt.

4 - Sharing free school meals data. Field said babies and toddlers were going without healthy start vouches, and low-income pupils going without free school meals, because UC data which could be given to local authorities was not being passed on. He said “that terrible nonsense” should end.

5 - Duty on work and pensions secretary to promote the welfare of claimants. Field said that he objected when the government removed a line in legislation saying the work and pensions secretary had a duty to promote the welfare of claimants. He was told that statement was unnecessary, he said. But he said the duty should be reintroduced, because he said it was incompatible with the current, punitive sanctions policy (which leads to claimants losing money if they don’t comply with very strict conditions.)

Frank Field.
Frank Field. Photograph: BBC


Frank Field says food banks will need 2,000 more tonnes of food because of universal credit rollout

In the debate Field says the Trussell Trust estimates that food banks will need an extra 2,000 tonnes of food because the impact of the rollout of universal credit.

He says, when the Commons work and pensions committee looked at this, it decided that the first thing that could be done to alleviate the problem would to change the system so that UC claimants get their first payment after a month, not after six weeks.

The committee set out its argument in this report. Here is the key recommendation.

The baked-in six week wait for the first payment in Universal Credit is a major obstacle to the success of the policy. In areas where the full service has rolled out, evidence compellingly links it to an increase in acute financial difficulty. Most low income families simply do not have the savings to see them through such an extended period. While increased availability of advance payment loans, of up to half the estimated monthly award, are welcome, they are not a solution to a fundamental flaw in the current design. Universal credit seeks to mirror the world of work, but no one in work waits six weeks for a monthly paycheque. We recommend the government aims to reduce the standard waiting time for a first universal credit payment to one month.

Field says UC was created with “noble intent”. But it has not lived up to that promise, he says, and it has become “a personal nightmare” for his constituents.

He ends by saying UC is “a national scandal which the government could stop”.


MPs debate call to cut waiting time for first universal credit payment to one month

In the Commons Frank Field, the Labour chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, has just started the backbench debate on universal credit. MPs are debating a motion that calls on the government “to reduce the standard initial wait for a first universal credit payment to one month.” Currently claimants have to wait six weeks for their first payment.

Field says that, in almost 40 years as an MP, he does not think he has spoken in a more important debate.

Here is the full text of John McDonnell’s speech. It does not contain new policy, but it fleshes out the Labour budget demands and the critique of austerity that he set out in his overnight briefing (see 9.08am) and in his Today interview (see 9.30am.)

In the speech he reiterated his demand for a pause in the rollout of universal crexit.

Since the last autumn statement, the government has accelerated the roll out of universal credit despite evidence it is causing poverty, debt and evictions.

The six week delay in payments has taken some families into outright destitution.

The Trussell Trust has found a 30 per cent increase in foodbank usage in areas where universal credit has been rolled out.

And under the guise of reforming the system, the government have pushed through swingeing cuts now amounting to £3bn a year.

Those cuts will now mean a million more children living in poverty.

McDonnell also cited research published today jointly by the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust looking at who loses out from cuts to universal credit. The report compares what individuals and households would have got under the original plans for universal credit published in 2013 with what they will get now, following the 2015/2106 changes making universal credit less generous. There were various cuts, but the key one was a reduction in the work allowance.

The research says “low paid workers will lose the most from cuts and changes to universal credit with women and ethnic minorities hardest hit”. “By April 2021 employed individuals who live in households claiming universal credit will be £1200 a year worse off than they would have been under the original UC system,” it says. And it says increases to the national living wage and the raising of the personal tax allowance will not, despite government claims, compensate for the cuts.

Here is a chart from the report, showing the impact of the UC cuts on people by gender, ethnicity and employment status.

Impact of universal credit cuts
Impact of universal credit cuts Photograph: Women's Budget Group/Runnymede Trust

In the Commons Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, confirmed that the third day of the EU withdrawal bill committee stage debate will take place on Tuesday next week. But after that there will be five more days of committee stage debate, and those days have not been timetabled yet. In response to a question about this, Leadsom could not even give an assurance that the committee stage would be over by Christmas.

No 10 describes reports May will offer EU another £20bn as 'speculation'

There have been various reports in recent weeks saying that Theresa May is planning to increase the UK’s “Brexit bill” offer to the EU. In her Florence speech she said explicitly that the UK would continue paying into the EU budget for the rest of the current budget period, which runs until 2020, so that other EU states don’t lost out. She did not put a figure on what this cost, but it amounts to around €20bn.

But the EU wants more. It wants to the UK to cover its share of other liabilities, including long-term spending commitments known as “reste à liquider”, or RAL. Estimates for what these are worth vary, but roughly it could be another €20bn or more.

After meeting Theresa May in Downing Street yesterday, Manfred Weber, the powerful German MEP, indicated that the UK was close to offering extra money. And today a story in the Sun says May is “preparing to offer up to £20billion more to Brussels in the first week of December to kick start Brexit trade talks”.

At the morning lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesman described the Sun report as “yet more speculation”. That is normally Whitehallese for “true”.

Perhaps more interesting than the Sun’s news report was the Sun’s editorial on this. For a long time it has been assumed that hardline Brexiters would balk at paying Brussels a big “Brexit bill”. But, so far, there is little evidence of Brexiters making money a red line and the Sun editorial says that May should offer more to the EU, perhaps even £20bn, provided it does unlock trade talks.

And @thesun says...

— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) November 16, 2017

You can read the editorial here. Here is the key quote.

If the government calculates that the long-term benefits are worth substantially more than the £18billion we have so far put up, so be it. Offer more.

Not one penny of it should be transferred until the deal is signed, sealed and delivered. And it cannot be beyond price. There must be a limit to what Theresa May will spend.

If she offers £20billion more and Brussels still won’t play ball, let’s walk away.

It is worth pointing out that the Sun does seem to have shifted its stance on this. In an editorial in August it said that the government should be willing to pay the EU £24bn - but only if that led to the EU opening talks on a future trade deal.

We need to honour commitments we have made and obligations to our people in Brussels.

Whatever we pay, though, must take into account our substantial share of EU wealth and assets.

It is in both our interests and the EU’s to set up a limited transition period, ­followed by a free trade deal.

Given that we currently pay £8billion a year net into the Brussels pot, a figure of, say, £24billion doesn’t seem unrealistic.

That should be conditional on EU negotiators working towards free trade.

We must not give them a huge cheque and still have them seek to “punish” us.

An official report published yesterday said that Primodos, a hormone pregnancy test used in the 1960s and 1970s, was not responsible for serious birth defects. As the Guardian reports, the findings were strongly criticised by campaigners.

In a Commons urgent question on this topic this morning Anna Soubry, a Conservative former health minister, said she smelt “something like a very large rat” when she read the findings. She told MPs:

Could I suggest that we have a proper backbench debate about this to exorcise all these issues. Because with great respect to this working party, having had some experience as a former public health minister and knowing about contaminated blood, I’m afraid to say I smell something like a very large rat in all of this and I think there have been cover-ups in it.

Steve Brine, the health minister, said the expert group had reviewed all the evidence and was better qualified to make a judgement than MPs.

The Unison union has released research today claiming that, if the government were to give council workers a 5% pay rise, the Treasury would recoup more than half the £623m cost in increased tax payments. It says:

The research, carried out for UNISON by New Policy Institute (NPI) shows that although the 2018 pay claim would mean a wage bill of £623m for local authorities, half the cost would be offset by tax gains and benefits savings of £242m a year for the Exchequer.

If council staff were to receive a 5% pay rise, the government would pocket £71m in higher employer national insurance contributions, £128m in tax revenues and would save £43m by paying out less in benefits and tax credits. A further £68m would be recouped through the extra VAT on increased spending.

When all these savings are taken into account, the research says this would reduce the cost of the three local government unions’ pay demands from £623m to £381m.

Austerity associated with 120,000 'excess deaths', says academic study

Labour’s case against austerity has been strengthened by new academic research saying that there is a link between public spending cuts and increased mortality. The academics, from various universities, argue that austerity can be linked to 120,000 extra deaths between 2010 and 2017. They describe their report as “the first study to provide an in-depth analysis of the potential effects of constraints in PEH [public expenditure on healthcare] and PES [public expenditure on social care] on mortality”. They produced their figures by looking at mortality rates since 2010, and comparing them with the mortality rates that might have been expected on the basis of the trends that applied before “spending constraints” kicked in.

The report has been written up overnight - eg here, in the Daily Mirror, and here, in the Independent - but you may find it most helpful to read the study itself. It is here, at BMJ Open.

Here is the key paragraph.

This study demonstrates that recent constraints in PEH and PES spending in England were associated with nearly 45,000 higher than expected numbers of deaths between 2012 and 2014. If these trends continue, even when considering the increased planned funding as of 2016, we estimate approximately 150,000 additional deaths may arise between 2015 and 2020. Combining these projected excess deaths and the observed deaths prior to 2015 translates to around 120,000 excess deaths from 2010 to 2017. Contemporaneous reductions in life expectancy and excesses in measures of preventable death both validated our mortality findings.

And here is the authors’ conclusion.

We have found that spending constraints since 2010, especially PES, may have produced a substantial mortality gap in England. Our analyses demonstrate that if demand-side solutions are infeasible, large improvements in efficiency or, more feasibly, spending above growth in demand (and not just general inflation) are required to close this gap. We suggest that spending should be targeted on improving care delivered in care homes and at home; and maintaining or increasing nurse numbers.

In response to the report, a department of health spokesman said:

As the researchers themselves note, this study cannot be used to draw any firm conclusions about the cause of excess deaths. The NHS is treating more people than ever before and funding is at record levels with an £8bn increase by 2020-21. We’ve also backed adult social care with £2bn investment and have 12,700 more doctors and 10,600 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.

Hammond says there's no 'silver bullet' to fix housing crisis, as Javid says government must 'think big'

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, is delivering his speech in Bristol. I will post a summary when I’ve seen the text, but Sky’s Beth Rigby points out that the tone of Javid’s remarks differs from what we are hearing from Number 11.

Javid saying we’re going to see real action on housing in the Budget next week. That is NOT the vibe emanating from No 11....

— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) November 16, 2017

In extracts from his speech released overnight, Javid says:

There are many, many faults in our housing market, dating back many, many years. If you only fix one you’ll make some progress, but not enough. This is a big problem and we have to think big.

But yesterday Philip Hammond, the chancellor, told Sky News that there was no “silver bullet” that would fix the housing crisis.

There is no silver bullet, there isn’t a single thing that solves the challenge of affordability in the housing market - we are a crowded island and this is a very complex challenge.


McDonnell says Labour would not 'waste' money preparing for no deal Brexit

In his Today interview John McDonnell also said Labour would not “waste” money preparing for a no deal Brexit. He explained:

What we have said all the way along is that we think we can get a good deal. That means we don’t have to waste resources on preparing for a no deal.

We don’t think we need to set money aside because we can get a good deal which will maintain tariff-free access, allow our economy to grow and work in a new collaborative relationship with our European Union partners.

And the reason that the government is having to set money aside, no matter what the sums are, is because a number of them in that cabinet are planning for a no deal, some of them want us to be a tax haven off the edge of continental Europe and are willing to sacrifice our manufacturing base, we’re not willing to tolerate that.

John McDonnell managed to get through his Today interview without using “long, economicky words”. But, according to a story by Matt Chorley in the Times (paywall), the same cannot be said for Michael Gove, the environment secretary, who has surprised cabinet colleagues by displaying a new-found interest in the minutiae of economic policy making. According to Chorley, his motives are quite transparent. Chorley explains more in his Red Box morning briefing.

The environment secretary has angered cabinet colleagues by straying beyond his brief in what is being seen as an attempt to persuade the prime minister to give him Hammond’s job.

A fortnight ago he tried to wow/bamboozle colleagues with talk of Mifid (which of course everybody knows is the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive).

And on Tuesday he was at it again, using “lots of long, economicky words”, according to two people present.

“He was the only one auditioning,” said a cabinet source. “Others just contributed to a discussion on the industrial strategy without giving the impression of this being the culmination of lengthy rehearsals.”

Now there is nothing wrong with someone taking an interest in economic matters. In fact, it’s to be welcomed in a cabinet sometimes lacking in firepower. It is the way that Gove has suddenly taken an interest in slightly obscure Treasury matters that has caused alarm.

Another minister said: “Lots of people think Hammond is a goner but Gove shouldn’t be so blatant about it.”

Michael Gove.
Michael Gove. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

McDonnell says Paradise Papers show Labour can raise even more than expected from tax avoidance crackdown

Here are some more lines from John McDonnell’s interview on the Today programme.

  • McDonnell said that Labour would fund its extra spending by reversing tax cuts for corporations and the rich. He said:

We said one way is that the government has got to stop giving the tax cuts to the corporations and the rich. At the moment, the calculation now is that on corporation tax and capital gains tax, and some of these tax cuts to the rich, you’re talking about £76bn being given away during the life of this parliament. I don’t think that’s acceptable when our public services are in such a crisis.

  • He said the Paradise Papers showed that Labour could raise even more from cracking down on tax avoidance than it thought at the time of the election. He said that at the election the party’s “grey book” manifesto costings said £6.5bm could be raised from clamping down on tax avoidance.

I cut that down from what was predicted - over £8bn to £6.5bn - because I thought we’d give it a bit of leeway. Now we know from the Paradise Papers it must be significantly more than that, even the government now is going to have to address this.

  • He said Labour could provide the “strong and stable” leadership that Theresa May once promised.

Businesses are coming to me and investors are coming to me and I’m meeting numerous numbers of the business community and numerous investors, and they are coming to me for certainty.

And the one thing they are getting from us is openness and transparency about what we want to do, and you know, they are welcoming it, they are welcoming our investment plans, they welcome the stability that will provide because they are certainly not getting this from this government.

And they are welcoming, yes, the strong and stable leadership that we will provide.

The question was raised with me about the run on the pound and the first thing I said is there will not be a run on the pound. I said we would war game every option that would face us. Before I said that I said there will not be a run on the pound.

John McDonnell
John McDonnell Photograph: Martin Pope


We’re now less than a week away from the budget, and the government and the opposition are now both focusing on what Philip Hammond, the chancellor, should be pulling out of his red box at 12.30pm next Wednesday.

The government is focusing on housing. Theresa May is doing a visit this morning, and Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, is giving a speech on the topic. As Heather Stewart and Rowena Mason report, May will signal that tackling the housing crisis will be a key theme of next week’s budget.

And John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, will use a speech to set out Labour’s five budget priorities. According to Labour, they are:

1 - Pause and fix universal credit

2 - Provide new funding to lift the public sector pay cap

3 - Serious funding for infrastructure across the whole country

4 - Properly fund our public services including health, education, and local government

5 - Launch a large-scale public house-building programme

Speaking on the Today programme, McDonnell said Labour would spend around £17bn a year extra on the NHS, social care, schools and local government.

We’ve had some fairly strong messages from the front line of our public services about what’s happening in health - the chief executive of the NHS telling us that there’s a need for additional funding to avert a crisis.

We’ve got head teachers, 5,000 of them, writing to the prime minister about the cuts, urging the government to halt the cuts in our schools at the moment.

For the first time - I’ve never seen this before - we’ve had the government’s adviser on tackling terrorism saying that that cannot be tackled if we keep on cutting our police officers on the beat in our communities.

All of those messages now need to get to government, and it’s not just me saying this, it’s Conservative backbenchers, it’s even cabinet ministers urging now that we start investing in our economy again.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, gives a speech on housing in Bristol.

11am: John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, gives a speech ahead of next week’s budget.

Around 11.30am: MPs begin a debate on a backbench motion saying the amount of time people on universal credit have to wait for their first payment should be cut from six weeks to a month.

2pm: Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, gives a speech at the Future Forum in Liverpool.

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

You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here.

Here is the Politico Europe round-up of this morning’s political news from Jack Blanchard’s Playbook. Here is Paul Waugh’s summary of the morning’s political news for HuffPost. Here is the ConservativeHome round-up of today’s political stories in the papers. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’ top 10 must reads.

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.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter.



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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