Early evening summary
- Michael Gove, the new levelling up secretary, has been accused by campaigners of being “vacuous” after giving his most detailed account to date of what the government’s levelling up policy means. (See 3.35pm.)
- The Conservatives have been under pressure to give back donations given to the party by two businessmen with alleged links to corruption.
- Rishi Sunak has signalled that any further spending pledges will need to be funded by tax rises rather than borrowing, as he told the Conservative party that it should not trash its reputation for “fiscal responsibility”.
- Five people have been arrested over an alleged assault on Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader, outside the conference hall. (See 5.53pm.)
- Nadine Dorries has labelled the BBC an institution riven by bias and staffed by people “whose mum and dad worked there”, despite Boris Johnson urging colleagues to dial down culture war rhetoric.
- The UK will react in a “robust” manner if the EU launches a retaliatory trade war in the event of Brexit talks on Northern Ireland breaking down, the government has warned.
This is what Bridget Phillipson, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said about Rishi Sunak’s speech earlier on behalf of Labour.
The chancellor is in denial about the scale of the economic crisis he has overseen, and today’s speech shows he has no plan or will to tackle it.
Rishi Sunak has overseen the worst economic crisis in the G7, with our economy shrinking by 9.9% in 2020, deeper than Italy (8.9%), and France (7.8%) – and our recovery still further away than any other G7 economy.
Instead of putting forward a plan to boost our economy and invest in the skills we need and the challenges we need to face, he’s pretending there’s no work to be done.
And this is what Alison Thewliss said about it on behalf of the SNP.
Rishi Sunak’s speech failed on every level. It was loaded with soundbites but empty on substance to tackle the Tory-made cost of living crisis facing households across the UK.
There was nothing to address the significant number of households being plunged into poverty due to the impending cut to universal credit, nothing on the impact of the premature move to scrap the furlough scheme, nothing on the impact of regressive Tory tax hikes, nothing to rule out another decade of Tory austerity, and nothing on the meaningful investment needed to secure a strong and fair recovery from the pandemic.
Scum rises to the top, says Rees-Mogg, laughing off Rayner's attack
At a fringe meeting earlier Nadine Dorries said that Angela Rayner’s “scum” description of Labour normalised abuse of politicians. (See 5.21pm.) But in the final conference session of the day, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, took an entirely different approach, laughing it off.
He told large round of applause when he said:
I’m sorry to tell you this, but one of the joys of political life is winding up the left.
Dehenna Davison, the Bishop Auckland MP who was interviewing him, agreed, and said that was why she was wearing a Tory Scum badge. Rees-Mogg went on:
Why should we mind about that? The Duke of Wellington said that British soldiers were the scum of the earth ...
Here we are all together, we’re great people because we have been scum in the socialists eyes, but we make a success of it. And, as scum always does, we rise to the top. So we can’t complain too much.
Greg Hands, the energy minister, told a fringe meeting that the UK would never rejoin the EU in his lifetime, Adam Bienkov reports. According to Wikipedia, Hands is 55.
Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister and a former chairman of the European Research Group, told a fringe meeting that the Tory party was turning socialist, my colleague Aubrey Allegretti reports.
Labour has criticised the government for giving Covid-related contracts worth £3.5bn to firms linked to the Conservative party. The figure, which is based on Tussell government procurement data analysed by Labour, is more than three times higher than the £1bn figure produced when Labour produced a similar analysis a year ago.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, claimed this showed the procurement process was flawed. “The Conservatives have shown complete disregard for working people by wasting taxpayers’ money on dodgy contracts,” she said in a news release.
A disability activist has berated Jacob Rees-Mogg on a Manchester street, accusing the senior Tory of being “just another Eton millionaire” who looks down on disabled people, PA Media reports. PA says:
Dominic Hutchins, who has cerebral palsy, challenged the Commons leader on the government’s track record on disability rights outside the Conservative party conference on this afternoon.
The campaigner took the minister to task over policies that he blames for causing the loss of his job as a youth worker and saw him undergo a “humiliating” test to prove his disability.
Rees-Mogg calmly defended the government’s approach as being “there to support” people as he stopped to talk to the 43-year-old member of the Disabled People Against Cuts group.
Greater Manchester Police have also said that a man has been thrown out of the conference after an alleged assault on a woman at the main conference hotel, the Midland, last night. A police spokesperson said:
Police responded to an incident at the Midland Hotel at around 12.30am this morning to reports of an assault on a 33-year-old woman.
Officers arrived quickly, there were no reports of any injures and no arrests were made. However, a man has been identified [and] had his accreditation removed for the remainder of the Conservative Party conference.
Our investigation into what happened is ongoing.
GMP is here to protect. Women’s safety is a top priority, and something we continue to take incredibly seriously.
Frost says UK would be 'robust' if EU responded to NI protocol suspension with tariffs
The UK will react in a “robust” manner if the EU launched retaliatory trade wars in the event of Brexit talks in relation to Northern Ireland break down, the government has warned.
Outlining fresh detail on the timeline for talks at a fringe meeting, Brexit minister Lord Frost said he expected the EU to issue its formal response to the UK’s demand for renegotiation of the Northern Ireland protocol within the next 10 days.
He would then engage in an “intensive” manner for “short period” before deciding whether to trigger article 16, the mechanism to suspend parts of the protocol and enter a formal dispute with the EU. He said:
On the talks question we must do it as quick as possible. We’re already to go, the team is ready to go to Brussels.
We need a sort and intensive negotiation and when I say short I mean weeks, three weeks.
It means early November will be crunch-time for Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party which on Monday repeated its threat to quit the Stormont assembly and force a local election if substantial progress on ditching the protocol is not made. Frost said:
I personally believe there comes a decision point probably around early November when we know an agreement can be reached or it cannot and certain consequences flow from that.
Frost also warned that if no agreement could be reached, the UK would be “robust” if the EU retaliated by imposing tariffs or other barriers to trade flow between Great Britain and the EU.
“We don’t think retaliation makes any of those things any easier,” he said, but if they did launch trade wars, “proportionality is important”.
Five arrested after Iain Duncan Smith allegedly assaulted outside Tory conference
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader and former work and pensions secretary, has been assaulted at the conference, the Spectator is reporting.
Duncan Smith told the Spectator he was confronted by a group as he was going to an event outside the conference secure zone and that at one point he was hit on the head with a cone. He said he was so angry that he was tempted to retaliate, and that at that point the group backed off.
Greater Manchester Police told the Spectator that officers were there within minutes, that there were not thought to be any serious injuries and that five people - three men and two women - had been arrested.
Rayner was normalising abuse of politicians with 'scum' comment, says Dorries
At the Telegraph fringe Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, also said that when Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, called the Tories “scum” at her party conference in Brighton, she was normalising the abuse of politicians. Dorries explained:
We have a responsibility as politicians to try and stop it. I think one of our problems as politicians is there is a very nasty streak running through the left and it impacts on Labour women as well - Rosie Duffield wasn’t even able to go to Labour’s conference last week.
Sadly Angela Rayner’s comments last week, and Keir Starmer’s weakness and inability to do something about that and to close that down, means that it normalises this unpleasant, nasty language and encourages this kind of attack, particularly on female MPs. I really felt those comments by Angela needed to be shut down last week.
She also said she would not advise her daughters to go into politics now because of the abuse politicians receive. She said:
It’s not just online abuse, it’s just pretty nasty stuff that comes in the post, some pretty awful death threats, I had a stalker for years.
The stuff now - if my daughters said to me ‘should we go into politics’, I would probably say ‘no, don’t’ because some of it is really horrendous.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries says she does not know if BBC will survive another 10 years
Nadine Dorries, the new culture secretary, has told a fringe meeting hosted by the Daily Telegraph, that she does not know whether the BBC will survive another 10 years.
Asked if she thought the licence fee would still be compulsory in 10 or 20 years’ time, she replied:
I can’t look into the future. Will the BBC still be here in 10 years? I don’t know.
We can’t look into the future. It is a very competitive environment at the moment.
You have got Amazon Prime, Netflix and other bods coming down the line.
This younger generation that are coming through, they certainly watch their television in a very different way to how my generation watched its TV, so who knows where we will be?
Here is our story with more from what Dorries said at the fringe.
Minister says she wasn't 'focused' on issue when she posted tweets in past denying climate change
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the new international trade secretary, has attributed tweets she posted a decade ago denying climate change to the fact that she was not “focused” on the issue then. Asked about her tweets, she told PA Media:
I think I’m much like ordinary citizens.
Ten, 12 years ago, I wasn’t particularly focused on it - I was busy bringing up kids, running three businesses, living in Northumberland, dealing with the vagaries of normal life.
I wasn’t a politician, it wasn’t even on my radar at that point.
There was this narrative, and there was a very strong voice that was raising it, but for the rest of us getting on with our lives it didn’t really seem a particularly urgent issue, if I’m honest.
We had more pressing things to worry about in our communities.
Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, has told a Centre for Brexit Policy fringe meeting that he expects negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol to wrap up within about a month. These are from my colleague Lisa O’Carroll.
Zahawi says white paper on tackling innumeracy and illiteracy to be published in new year
In his speech to the Conservative conference, Nadhim Zahawi, the new education secretary, said that he would publish a schools white paper in the new year, focusing on plans to tackle innumeracy and illiteracy. And he said decisions he made about policy would be based on evidence. He said:
Being able to read unlocks the entire curriculum.
Children who are behind in language development at age five are six times less likely to reach the expected standard in English at age 11.
And maths achievement is an important driver in later outcomes.
A one-grade improvement in GCSE mathematics maths is associated with an estimated increase of £14,500 in additional lifetime earnings.
I promise you that I will be led by evidence in the decisions that I take.
We will relentlessly focus on what works.
And we will irrevocably improve children’s futures and the future of this country.
This is from Michael Dougan, a professor of European law at Liverpool University, on Lord Frost’s speech this morning. (See 10.19am.)
Ruby McGregor-Smith, a Conservative peer and president of the British Chambers of Commerce, has urged the government to “increase the number of visas for up to two years” to provide flexibility for businesses in shortage sectors. She told the BBC’s World at One:
I think it’s a great aspiration to say we should be a high-wage, high-skilled economy, but it’s going to take time and the challenge is simply the transition.
So, if you’re a business that has any pressure on labour costs, energy costs, raw material costs, shipping costs and is about to be hit with higher taxes, then I think the government need to do more and I think what they could really do now is to increase the number of visas for up to two years, so that the shortage occupation list they have is flexed to whatever business needs.
My suggestion to them is to sit down with business, sector by sector, and ask them how long it’s going to last for, how long do they need this transition. I think saying to business: ‘It’s down to you’ is not right.
At a fringe event earlier Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, said Britain should show Brexit was worth it by outperforming the EU, Adam Bienkov reports.
Here is my colleague Larry Elliott’s analysis of Rishi Sunak’s conference.
Gove's attempt to define levelling up condemned as 'vacuous'
Michael Gove, the new levelling up secretary, also used his conference speech to try to define in more detail what “levelling up” actually means. But he failed to offer total clarity.
At one point in the speech Gove offered a four-point definition. He told the conference:
Levelling up means four things.
We want to strengthen local leadership, to drive real change.
We will raise living standards, especially where they are lower.
We will improve public services, especially where they are weaker.
And we will give people the resources necessary, to enhance the pride they feel in the place they live.
But these (with the possible exception of the second) are process definitions of levelling up (how it will be achieved), rather than outcome measures (what end result do you want).
In the speech Gove also offered at least two outcome definitions. He spoke about the importance of reducing health inequalities, arguing that life expectancy should not be much lower in Glasgow than it is in Surrey. And he spoke about “making opportunity more equal” (which used to be the definition of levelling up used by Boris Johnson, in so far as he had one). Gove said this was in the Conservative tradition. He explained:
Making opportunity more equal is what drove Disraeli to want to bridge the divide between two nations, the rich and the poor.
Making opportunity more equal is what Margaret Thatcher did when she allowed working people to buy their own homes, brought Nissan to Sunderland, and opened the original academy schools in our inner cities.
Making opportunity more equal is what Boris did as mayor of London, cutting crime in the poorest neighbourhoods, opening free schools for the disadvantaged, and improving life expectancy for the most vulnerable.
Strangely, Gove did not give the definition of levelling up he gave to the Sun in an interview last week – that nobody should have to “leave the place you love in order to live the life you want”. This is similar to “making opportunity more equal”, but not the same. The latter means you can grow up in a poor area of Hartlepool, and end up running Goldman Sachs. The former means you can do all that, and end up running Goldman Sachs while still living and working in Hartlepool, which might not be such an easy outcome to deliver.
And Gove failed to mention the definition of levelling up offered by Boris Johnson on Friday: wage growth. Gove did talk about rising living standards, but higher wages do not always lead to higher living standards (if prices are rising faster). And living standards can go up even if wages aren’t (if prices are falling, or benefits are rising).
So, by my count, that makes eight definitions of levelling up.
The campaign group Best for Britain, which started as an anti-Brexit organisation and now promotes internationalism, says Gove’s definition is vacuous. Its chief executive, Naomi Smith, says:
Politicians must be judged not by their words but their actions. Michael Gove’s statement will butter no parsnips because the government have done the exact opposite on every part of this new and typically vague definition.
They have undermined local leadership with the Internal Markets Act, they have trashed public services by cutting funding for councils and living standards are getting worse as inflation outstrips wages, poverty increases, and as they raise taxes on working people rather than the mega rich.
Enhancing local pride is equally vacuous when people in Kabul can fill their tanks while we have queues at forecourts and empty shelves in supermarkets in the UK.
Gove suggests 'old EU model' to blame for regional inequality in UK
One of the notable features of this conference is the hostility being shown towards the EU by cabinet ministers speaking in the main hall. Yesterday Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, included the Gulf states in a list of the UK’s key friends and allies, but not the EU. This morning Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, said he was glad the “long, bad dream of EU membership” was over. (See 10.19am.) And in his speech a few minutes ago Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, seemed to blame the EU for all that was wrong with the British economy. He said:
Our country voted for change decisively in 2016 and 2019
The old EU model was rejected.
People voted against growth and opportunity centred in one part of our country, with wages kept down for many, and the rewards of financial success restricted to a few.
Gove is right to say Britain is a country with high levels of inequality. But to imply that the EU was to blame is tenuous, because most EU countries have a better record. Here is a chart showing how EU countries were ranked in 2017 according to the Gini co-efficient for disposable income. The Gini co-efficient is a model of inequality, with lower figures indicating lower inequality. It is from this House of Commons briefing paper (pdf).
My colleague Peter Walker has been listening to Nadine Dorries, the new culture secretary, at a lunchtime fringe meeting, and he says she was attacking the BBC for being too middle-class and southern.
Dorries also set out this argument at the end of last week in an interview in the Sun.
IFS says wages are rising overall, but not significantly
Boris Johnson is fond of stressing that wages are going up, and he was at it again on a visit this morning. “For the first time in more than a decade, you’re seeing increases in wages, which is what we want to see,” he said.
On the World at One Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said:
Whilst underlying wages probably are rising by about 4% a year at the moment, inflation is above 3%, so we’re not seeing at the moment significant wage growth ...
It’s very variable across the economy, as you’d expect. There are some sectors ... where there’s a really severe shortage of labour, and that is pushing wages up. But there are other sectors where wages really aren’t going up very much at all. That is certainly true in the public sector.
I think what we’ll see over the next year or two is an economy which is changing, and changing quite fast. And when economies change quite fast, you do get some big winners but you also get some losers as well.
And at the moment at least, on the average, wages are going up about as fast as they have been over the last several years, which isn’t a disaster, given what’s happened over the last year, but at the moment, on the average, we don’t have this take-off.
Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, is addressing the conference now, and he starts with a joke about his adventures in a night club in Aberdeen.
I’ll post a summary when I’ve read the full speech.
Kit Malthouse, a joint Home Office and Ministry of Justice minister, told the conference this morning that GPS tagging for offenders was going to be further rolled out. He said:
We’re rolling out GPS tagging for burglars, robbers and others who do acquisitive crime at the moment.
That’s been in six forces, done remarkably well, we’re expanding it shortly to another 13 forces and then hopefully to the rest of the country.
You’ll hear more about that later this week.
Justice system requires £2.5bn to return to 2010 levels of funding, Bar Council tells Treasury
In its submission to the Treasury’s spending review, the Bar Council has today told the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, that £2.48bn is required just to return the justice system (excluding police funding) to the levels of 2010 amid pressures caused by “systemic underfunding, under-resourcing and increasingly complex criminal cases”.
The Ministry of Justice lost over a quarter of its budget over the last decade and the latest criminal court statistics, published last month, showed the number of outstanding cases in crown courts had risen again to more than 60,000.
The submission says:
[Legal services] in many areas ....are running on empty and rely on the goodwill of those who work in the courts to keep them afloat. The reputation of the justice system domestically is under threat which, in turn, threatens our reputation as a leading international legal centre.
In addition, the Bar Council, which represents approximately 17,000 barristers in England and Wales, is calling on the Treasury to include justice in the government’s levelling up agenda, with recommendations including opening more courts and recruiting more judges, recorders (lawyers who sit part-time as judges) and magistrates.
Here is some Twitter reaction to Rishi Sunak’s speech from journalists and commentators.
From Torsten Bell, a former Labour aide who now runs the Resolution Foundation thinktank
From the i’s Paul Waugh
From the New Statesman’s Tim Ross
The answer is zero.
From ITV’s Robert Peston
From the Mirror’s Pippa Crerar
From Sky’s Ed Conway
From my colleague Gaby Hinsliff
From the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire
Sunak's speech – snap verdict
At the Labour conference last week a strategist who helped to mastermind the New Zealand Labour party’s landslide win last year said that “relentless positivity” was at the heart of Jacinda Ardern’s electoral success. It is a message that the Labour party (which often sounds like the friend you meet for a drink from time to time who spends the whole night moaning) has yet to absorb. But it helps to explain how Boris Johnson became prime minister, and Rishi Sunak has finally got the memo too.
This was a speech that was much lighter on substance than a normal chancellor’s speech at party conference. The two policy announcements (see 12.13pm and 12.23pm) were relatively minor, and there was nothing to compare with the national living wage announcement made by Sajid Javid, the then chancellor, at the last in-person Tory conference in 2019. It would not be that surprising if it turns out Johnson has pilfered an announcement on this theme for his own speech on Wednesday.
Sunak has always been seen as one of the members of Johnson’s team less given to excessive optimism. But, perhaps inspired by the reshuffle (which saw ministers promoted on the basis of whether they shared Johnson’s “boosterish vision for this country”, according to the Sunday Times), he has dialled up the rhetoric, and today he set out a vision for how the UK could become “the most exciting place on the planet”. All that’s left is for Liz Truss, his main rival for the future leadership at the moment, to trump this with plans to make the UK the most exciting place in the galaxy.
On fiscal policy, Sunak offered a retrospective justification for the national insurance increase (raising borrowing instead would have been “immoral” – see 12.03pm) but clearly left the door open for tax cuts before the general election. (See 12.07pm.)
If the tone of the speech was probably its most important feature, it was also interesting for what it said about Sunak himself. For most of the time he has been chancellor, the public has just seen him as someone hiking public spending up to record levels to protect jobs and the economy. But in this speech he revealed that what inspires him is the prospect of creating the “culture of enterprise” he witnessed when working in California. (See 12.14pm.) That also explains why he backed Brexit; not primarily because of concerns about EU migration, but as a long-term bet about how the economy might benefit from regulatory freedom. (See 12.19pm.) These passages will inspire low-tax, Thatcherite Conservatives. But, combined with his defence of the universal credit cut (see 12.12pm), they don’t bode well for people reliant on benefits; in the US economic model, welfare provision is minimal.
And here is Sunak’s peroration.
The British people want a party…
... that can get things done.
... at just the moment when it feels like we’ve done enough...
…. that we’ve gotten through ...
... that we can take a rest…
…. we must not stop.
Now is the time to show them …
... that our plan ….
…. will deliver.
And now is the time …
... at last …
...at long last…
... to finally …
….to the future.
Sunak announced 2,000 artificial intelligence scholarships
Sunak said the UK was a world leader in artificial intelligence, as he announced 2,000 AI scholarships.
If artificial intelligence were to contribute just the average productivity increase of those three technologies …
... that would be worth around £200bn a year to our economy.
And so today …
…. I am announcing that we will create 2,000 elite AI scholarships for disadvantaged young people
… and double the number of Turing AI World-Leading Research Fellows..
… helping to ensure that the most exciting industries and opportunities are open to all parts of our society.
Sunak says Brexit will be worth it for economy in long term
Sunak says that Californian optimism was also at the heart of Brexit.
He says when he backed Brexit five years ago, he was told his political career would be over before it had begun. He goes on:
…. I put my principles first…
…. and I always will.
I was proud to back Brexit …
… proud to back Leave.
And that’s because … ... despite the challenges …
…. in the long term …
…. I believed the agility … ...flexibility…
... and freedom …
... provided by Brexit …
... would be more valuable in a 21st century global economy …
... than just proximity to a market.
That in the long term ...
…. a renewed culture of enterprise …
... willingness to take risks and be imaginative …
... would inspire changes in the way we do things at home.
Brexit was never just about the things we couldn’t do.
It was also about the things we didn’t do.
Sunak says he was inspired by his time working in California.
The years I spent in California left a lasting mark on me ….
…. working with some of the most innovative and exciting people in finance and technology.
Watching ideas becoming a reality.
Seeing entrepreneurs build new teams.
It’s not just about money.
I saw a culture …
…. a mindset …
…. which was unafraid to challenge itself...
…. reward hard work ...
…. and was open to all those with the talent to achieve.
I look across the United Kingdom …
... and that culture is here too ….
Sunak confirms the government is increasing spending on employment programmes.
Sunak says promoting work better then letting people become more reliant on benefits
Sunak defends the government’s policy on welfare. Without mentioning the universal credit cut directly, he says just increasing benefits, so that people “lean ever more on the state”, is not the best way to help people in the long term.
He says this is Labour’s approach.
But it is better to focus on “good work, better skills and higher wages”, he says.
Sunak says Labour keeps losing elections because the “British people won’t trust a party that isn’t serious with their money”.
Sunak says public finances must be on sustainable footing before tax cuts possible
Sunak defends his decision to raise tax, rather than increase borrow, to fund health and social care.
Whilst I know tax rises are unpopular …
... some will even say un-Conservative…
... I’ll tell you what is un-Conservative:
Unfunded pledges ...
... reckless borrowing ...
... and soaring debt.
Anyone who tells you … ... that you can borrow more today …
…. and tomorrow will simply sort itself out …
... just doesn’t care about the future
Yes, I want tax cuts.
But in order to do that …... our public finances must be put back on a sustainable footing.
Sunak says he will do whatever it takes to protect people.
So I will do whatever I can …
... to protect people’s livelihoods …
... and create new opportunities too.
And when it comes to those new opportunities …
... I am very much a child of my time.
I spent the formative years of my career …
... working around technology companies in California.
And I believe the world is at the beginning of a new age of technological progress …
... which can bring jobs, wealth …
... and transformed lives.
…. pragmatism …
... fiscal responsibility …
…. a belief in work …
... and an unshakeable optimism about the future.
This is who I am.
This is what I stand for.
This is what it will take ….
And we will do … ...whatever it takes
Sunak says he considers excessive borrowing 'immoral'
Sunak is summing up his values.
I believe in some straightforward things.
I believe that mindless ideology is dangerous.
I’m a pragmatist.
I care about what works …
…. not about the purity of any dogma.
I believe in fiscal responsibility.
Just borrowing more money …
... and stacking up bills for future generations to pay …
... is not just economically irresponsible…
... it is ... immoral.
Sunak starts: “Whatever it takes ...” That phrase was his introduction to his task as chancellor.
He says it has been great to meet people in person at conference for the first time – and to hear people joke about how he is even shorter in real life.
Rishi Sunak takes the stage. Boris Johnson is about the first person in the audience to rise to give him a standing ovation.
This is what the queue to get into the conference hall for Sunak’s speech looked like a few minutes ago.
A 24-year-old activist who moved to the UK from Zimbabwe when he was just four is giving a speech introducing Rishi Sunak. He says as a student he worked part-time at Nando’s, and he recalls being unemployed when he graduated. He says he was offered work experience, but the firm was then able to keep him on because of the Treasury’s Kickstart employment programme.
Rishi Sunak's conference speech
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is about to give his speech.
There is speculation that he may announce a big increase in the value of the national living wage. At the Labour conference Sir Keir Starmer was criticised by the left for not letting the party commit to raising the minimum wage beyond £10. The national living wage, for people age 23 and over, is currently £8.91.
Quality of social housing 'scandalously poor' in some areas, says Gove
The condition of social housing in some parts of the country is “scandalous”, Michael Gove, the new levelling up secretary, has admitted.
Speaking at a fringe meeting, he said:
The supply of social housing overall has not kept pace with the demand, and also the quality of social housing, particularly in some parts of the country, remains scandalously poor.
There are people who are living in conditions which are overcrowded, there are people living in conditions afflicted by damp and other factors which hold back the flourishing of the children and the families who are raised in those homes.
Gove said the government wanted to incentivise social housing providers “to improve stock and to increase numbers”.
At the Tory conference Arlene Foster, the former DUP leader and former Northern Ireland first minister, is interviewing Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, on the stage.
On the subject of the Northern Ireland protocol, Foster suggested the government should trigger article 16 to suspend it now. “What are we waiting for?” she asked.
Lewis said that the government was still trying to negotiate a solution to the problems arising from the protocol with the EU. But if it needed to trigger it, it would, he said.
In his Times Red Box briefing, Patrick Maguire says YouGov polling for the newspaper suggests that support for the Conservatives is down almost 10 points in red wall seats (former Labour ones that turned Tory) from the 2019 election. He says this could cost the Conservatives up to 32 seats.
Huge swings would deliver four seats safely back into Labour hands, with leads over 10% – including such totemic 2019 losses as North West Durham – while another 14 are likely to fall, including Stoke-on-Trent Central, Bolton North East and Wrexham.
Another 14, meanwhile, are too close to call – including Darlington, Blyth Valley and Leigh.
Maguire also says 54% of red wall voters now disapprove of the government’s performance overall, and just 26% approve.
Louise Haigh, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has accused Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, of “inflaming tensions”. In a response to Frost’s speech (see 10.19am), she said:
Lord Frost negotiated every single word of the deal he now discredits at every opportunity.
And as this speech proves, their approach is inflaming tensions while solving nothing.
Communities in Northern Ireland are sick and tired of the political posturing from a government they have long since lost trust in.
Tory ministers should show some responsibility, and do what businesses across Northern Ireland have been telling them for months - get round the table and negotiate a veterinary agreement to help lower the barriers they created down the Irish Sea.
Labour set the rules for vetting donations to political parties, says Johnson
In his interview with broadcasters during his National Rail visit this morning (see 11am), Boris Johnson defended the Conservative party’s system for vetting potential donors.
Asked about the revelation that a major Tory donor advised on the structure of a deal that was later found to be a $220m (£162m) bribe for the daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan, Johnson said:
I see that story today. But all I can say on that one is all these donations are vetted in the normal way in accordance with rules that were set up under a Labour government. So, we vet them the whole time.
Johnson says he wants all UK electricity to come from renewable sources by 2035
Boris Johnson has confirmed he wants all UK electricity to come from renewable sources by 2035.
Asked on a visit to a Network Rail site in Manchester to confirm reports that this was the new government target, Johnson said: “Yes, it is.” He went on:
What I’m saying is we can do for our entire energy production by 2035 what we’re doing with internal combustion engines in vehicles by 2030.
By 2030, you won’t be able to buy any more a new hydrocarbon-fuelled internal combustion engine car and we’re going to move to clean power of one kind or another.
And that will make a huge difference to our CO2 output, to controlling climate change, to our planet, but it will also put the UK at the forefront of this amazing new industry of clean vehicles.
And what we’re also saying is that by 2035, looking at the progress we’re making in wind power, where we lead the world now in offshore wind, looking at what we can do with other renewable sources, carbon capture and storage with hydrogen potentially, we think that we can get to complete clean energy production by 2035.
The prime minister also said a shift to renewable energy sources by 2035 would protect consumers from fluctuating import prices. He said:
The advantage of that is that it will mean that, for the first time, the UK is not dependent on hydrocarbons coming from overseas with all the vagaries in hydrocarbon prices and the risk that poses for people’s pockets and for the consumer.
We will be reliant on our own clean power generation, which will help us also to keep costs down.
And here is one of the pictures from Johnson’s visit. The Conservatives may have abandoned almost all policies associated with George Osborne’s era as chancellor (lower corporation tax, austerity, the pivot to China, the Northern Powerhouse, etc), but the high-vis jacket photo opportunity (something Osborne indulged in relentlessly) lives on. It may turn out to be his most lasting political legacy ...
Frost says UK 'cannot wait for ever' for EU to agree to overhaul of Northern Ireland protocol
The UK government has issued a veiled threat to ditch the Northern Ireland protocol sooner rather than later, warning it “cannot wait for ever” for the EU to respond to its demands to rewrite the Brexit arrangement.
In his speech to the conference, the Brexit minister, David Frost, said he had been waiting since July for a formal request for substantial changes to the protocol, which the UK has largely suspended over objections to checks on a range of goods including sausages.
Declaring the “long bad dream of EU membership” over, he warned the EU that it must come back to him with “ambitious” proposals to renegotiate the protocol, which was drawn up to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
But setting the scene for an imminent triggering of article 16, allowing the UK to unilaterally suspend some of the current arrangements if the EU does not respond, he told a half-full hall in Manchester he was not confident the EU would meet his demands.
From what I hear I worry that we will not get one [a response] which enables the significant change we need.
We cannot wait for ever. Without an agreed solution soon, we will need to act, using the article 16 safeguard mechanism, to address the impact the protocol is having on Northern Ireland.
That may in the end be the only way to protect our country – our people, our trade, our territorial integrity, the peace process, and the benefits of this great UK of which we are all part.
Frost attacked what he described as the EU’s “heavy handed actions”, which he said had led to the protocol unravelling sooner than he had anticipated. “Cross-community political support for the protocol has collapsed,” he declared.
His claims come just days after business representatives in Northern Ireland warned that triggering article 16 would have a chilling effect on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and the EU.
The EU’s ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida, who was in the audience, said there was “nothing strange” or unexpected in Frost’s speech, promising a response to the UK’s demands within the coming weeks.
“We are looking forward to the solutions in Northern Ireland. We are ready to be flexible,” he said.
Pig industry facing 'disaster' because of labour shortages, says NFU president
Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers Union, told the Today programme this morning that pig farmers were “angry, distraught and extremely upset” about the prospect of having to dispose of their animals as waste because of a shortage of butchers and slaughterers.
Referring to farmers protesting outside the conference, she said:
We have been calling for an emergency scheme, a Covid recovery scheme, to be put in place to avoid this very scenario.
I am desperate to get the facts of this story to the prime minister and that is what the pig farmers outside want to get across, the story of this disaster.
We have never had a cull of healthy livestock in this country and this cannot be a first. I can’t stress it enough, this cannot happen, there are vets outside as well. It is a welfare disaster.
In a separate interview, Nick Allen, the chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told Sky News that while the government criticised producers for paying low wages, it was happy for meat to be imported from countries that paid low wages. He said:
What’s interesting is [the government is] happy to ban the import of non-UK labour in this country, but they continue to actually aid and abet imported food from countries that have got access to this labour.
At the end of the day someone has to pay for these increased wages and they somewhat get in the way of that by aiding and abetting imported food.
And Zoe Davies, the chief executive of the National Pig Association, said higher wages for people in the industry – which is what the government wants – would lead to higher prices for consumers. She said:
There is an inevitability that food prices will rise as a result of this increased wage – that has to happen.
So the retailers themselves have a huge responsibility to support that, rather than doing what they’re currently doing, which is effectively looking at EU pork, which is a lot cheaper and shipping that in instead, and not prioritising British pork or British jobs.
Sunak rejects Truss's suggestion government has no responsibility for food supply in shops
Here are the main points from Rishi Sunak’s morning interviews.
- Sunak did little to play down speculation that the government is planning to cut taxes before the next general election. It has been reported that this is what Boris Johnson wants to do, and that Sunak has implied that a tight spending review this autumn could make it possible for taxes to go down before polling day. When this was put to Sunak, he did not dismiss the idea. Instead he said:
I’m not going to sit here and speculate about future budgets. I would like to think that we’ve been responsible with the public finances and that’s something I take very seriously.
- He confirmed that he had joked about needing to tear up Johnson’s credit card. “That was an old thing but I think that’s something all chancellors say as part of our job,” he said.
- He rejected the suggestion from Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, that the government is not responsible for food shortages in the shops. At a fringe event yesterday Truss said: “I don’t believe in a command and control economy, so I don’t believe the prime minister is responsible for what’s in the shops.” When it was put to Sunak that Truss seemed to be saying the government was not to blame for the shortages, he replied:
What I’d is there are things that we can do and should do, and it’s reasonable that people expect us to do what we can. Whether it’s short-term visas or speeding up testing capacity for HGV drivers, of course we should do all those things and we are doing all those things.
But we can’t wave a magic wand and make global supply chain challenges disappear overnight.
- He played down claims that rising inflation will wipe out the value of pay rises. He said the Bank of England and other central banks thought the current inflation rise would be “transitory”. (See 8.19am.)
- He reprimanded the Tory MP who said he wanted supermarket supply chains broken up, saying no one thought that would be a good outcome. (See 8.10am.)
- He said the fuel situation was “improving”. He said:
We know there’s enough petrol at our refineries and our terminals, and the issue is we’ve had a very steep demand spike ... but the good news is it is getting better, so I think every single day since about last Tuesday we’ve delivered more petrol to forecourts than has been taken out, the number of people getting deliveries has increased, the volume of fuel getting delivered has increased.
- He insisted the Conservative party does carry out checks before accepting money from donors. He said:
My understanding is we carry out compliance checks in line with the referendums and political parties legislation that was put in place by the Labour government. Those are the checks that are required by law, those are the compliance checks that the party carries out.
- He rejected the claim that the UK’s record on tax avoidance was a source of shame. (See 8.35am.)
- He said that he had not personally benefited from offshore tax arrangements.
At the conference Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, is delivering the first speech of the morning. There is a live feed at the top of the blog.
In an overnight briefing the Tories said Frost would use his speech to warn the EU about the need to revise the Northern Ireland protocol. A spokesperson said:
[Frost] will also issue a warning to the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, warning that the protocol now risks undermining the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, and that the threshold for the use of article 16 safeguards has been met. He will warn that ‘tinkering at the edges’ will not fix the fundamental problems with the protocol, and urge the EU to be more ‘ambitious’ in their approach so that an agreed solution which fixes the problem can be found.
I will post quotes from the speech when I have read the full text.
The New Statesman’s George Eaton has posted this in response to one of Rishi Sunak’s comments this morning.
My colleague Matthew Weaver is writing a blog with reaction to the revelations in the Pandora Papers. It’s here.
Rishi Sunak is being interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Q: Can you tell us where we can buy petrol in London or the south-east?
Sunak says the situation is improving.
Every day last week, more fuel was delivered to petrol stations than was taken out.
He says army drivers have started helping.
Alastair Campbell, a GMB presenter, says he read the Operation Yellow Hammer document last night, which was for no-deal Brexit planning. He lists a series of problems, and asks if Brexit is a factor.
Sunak says other countries have supply chain problems, too.
Q: Name me a country that has had to get the army out to help deliver petrol.
Sunak says it is good that the government is doing something.
Q: Why are you saying it is nothing to do with Brexit?
Sunak says he is not saying that. He is saying it is not exclusively due to Brexit.
And that’s it.
Sunak rejects claim Pandora revelations show that UK's record on tax avoidance 'source of shame'
Q: Isn’t it a source of shame that, as the Pandora papers reveal, the UK is a global capital for tax avoidance?
Sunak denies that.
I don’t think it is a source of shame because actually our track record on this issue is very strong.
Q: But half of Russian money laundering happens in this country.
Sunak says an independent research said the UK was one of the best places in the world at tackling this.
And that’s it. The interview is over.
I will post highlights from all Sunak’s morning interviews soon.
Sunak does not deny hoping to cut taxes before next general election
Q: The governor of the Bank of England said recently that growth is levelling. Things are going to get tougher, aren’t they?
Sunak says, after the immediate bounce back, you would expect the pace of growth to slow.
Q: What is your message for people ahead of winter?
Sunak says his message is, ‘We’re not done helping you.’
Q: If ministers come to you now asking for more money for their departments, you will have to say no, won’t you?
Sunak says spending is growing at historically high levels. The Ministry of Justice budget is rising.
Q: Over the last decade its budget has fallen by a quarter.
Sunak says it has been rising in the last couple of years.
Q: Is it true you told the PM you were cutting up his credit card?
Sunak says that is something all chancellors says. It is part of the job.
Q: Shouldn’t you rule out future tax cuts too?
Sunak says they have been responsible with the public finances.
Q: On the eve of the election you will find enough money for tax cuts.
Sunak says he won’t speculate on future budgets.
Q: That’s what the papers are reporting.
Sunak says he cannot control what is in the papers.
Q: You are announcing more money for job schemes. But if someone does not benefit from this directly, how might they gain when they lose £1,000 a year from universal credit.
Sunak says, like governments around the world, the government has put in temporary measures to help people during the Covid crisis.
Q: But six former Tory work and pensions secretaries have said the money should stay.
Sunak says he respects colleagues. But he says unemployment is far lower than people expected. He wants people to go into well-paid jobs.
Sunak plays down claim rising inflation will wipe out value of pay rises
Sunak says the government is doing everything it can to ensure Christmas can go ahead as normal.
Q: Who will pay for HGV drivers being paid more?
Sunak says in an ideal world higher pay will be driven by higher productivity.
Q: But that is not what is happening here. This is about people being paid more for the same work.
Sunak says this could catalyse employers into thinking about how they might improve productivity.
The government would like to see that over time.
But it will not happen overnight, he says.
Q: If that does not happen, and if pay goes up and inflation goes up, won’t we end up poorer?
Sunak says that is not happening now.
The Bank of England and other authorities think the inflation rise will be transitory, he says.
Q: Do you accept that the pig crisis is not a joke, as the PM seemed to imply in his Andrew Marr interview yesterday?
Sunak says he does not think anyone would regard this as a joke.
Rishi Sunak's Today programme interview
Nick Robinson is interviewing Rishi Sunak on the Today programme.
He starts by asking about something Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said at a fringe meeting last night. She said:
I don’t believe in a command and control economy, so I don’t believe the prime minister is responsible for what’s in the shops. This is why we have a free enterprise economy, I’m sure that the goods will be delivered into our shops.
Sunak says there are things the government can do and is doing.
But it cannot make global supply chains problems go away overnight.
Sunak reprimands Tory MP who said he wants supermarket supply chains to break up
Good morning. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is the main speaker at the Conservative party conference this morning, and he has been doing the morning interview round ahead of the speech, which he seemed to be rehearsing last night.
In one of his early interviews, Sunak reprimanded the Tory MP Chris Loder who told a fringe meeting yesterday that he hoped the current HGV driver shortage would lead to supermarket supply chains being dismantled. Sunak was able to confirm that abandoning the supply chains that most of us rely on for our shopping is not Conservative party policy. Asked about Loder’s comment, Sunak said:
I don’t think anyone would say there’s an upside to people struggling with supply chain challenges and not being able to get what they want at the time they want it. No one wants to see that.
What we’ve said more broadly is over time one of our desires is to transition ourselves to a higher-wage, high-skill economy, more productive economy.
Sunak was also asked about the revelations from the leaked Pandora papers, published in detail by the Guardian. He said HM Revenue and Customs would be looking at the revelations.
I’ve seen these things overnight as well and it’s always tough for me to comment on them specifically given they’ve only just emerged, and of course HMRC will look through those to see if there’s anything we can learn.
Overnight the Tories trailed an announcement from Sunak’s speech. The government will spend another £500m over the next few years extending various employment programmes, he will say. Here is our preview.
I will post more from Sunak’s interview soon.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.10am: Lord Frost gives a speech.
9.20am: Steve Barclay, the Cabinet Office minister, is interviewed on stage.
10.20am: Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, is in conversation on stage with Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor.
11.20am: Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, is in conversation on stage with Arlene Foster, the former Northern Ireland first minister.
11.50am: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, gives a speech.
Lunchtime: George Eustice, the environment secretary; Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader; Neil O’Brien, the levelling up minister and Oliver Dowden, the Conservative part co-chair are among the Tories speaking at fringe events.
2pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, gives a speech.
2.50pm: Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, takes part in a panel discussion.
3.50pm: Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, gives a speech.
4.40pm: Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is interviewed on stage.
5.40pm: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, is interviewed on stage.
Afternoon: Gove, Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, and Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor, are among the Tories speaking at fringe events.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
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