Afternoon summary

  • The government is postponing a vote scheduled for Monday on the levelling up bill in the face of a potential rebellion by Tory MPs backing an amendment that would abolish mandatory housing targets, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.

New - Government is pulling vote on Levelling Up bill on Monday, amid a big rebellion on housing targets which at least 46 MPs are planning to vote to abolish. (Though govt blaming lack of time due to Finance Bill debate)

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) November 22, 2022

The amendment has been tabled by Theresa Villiers, the former cabinet minister.

Keir Starmer arriving on stage to speak to the CBI conference this morning.
Keir Starmer arriving on stage to speak to the CBI conference this morning. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Peer joins Owen Paterson in taking government to European court of human rights over misconduct inquiry

Owen Paterson is not the only former parliamentarian taking the UK government to the European court of human rights alleging that a parliamentary misconduct investigation has not been fair to him.

The court in its summary says a peer is also taking the government to court over the handling of a sexual misconduct complaint about him. The peer appealed unsuccessfully against a ruling saying he should be expelled from the Lords for what he did, and he resigned from the house before peers could vote to expel him.

The peer claims that his rights to a private life were breached by the inquiry, and that the process was discriminatory, because, as he was a member of parliament and as parliamentary privilege was involved, he did not have the right to go to court to protect his name that other people would have had.

The court just identifies the applicant as N. A. in its summary, but the facts as set out match what happend to Lord (Nazir) Ahmed, who resigned from the Lords in 2020 claiming he had been unfairly accused of sexual misconduct.

Labour's briefing on how it would impose new conditions on firms needing foreign workers

The Labour party has issued a briefing to journalists giving a little bit more detail of how it would work with business to end “immigration dependency”. For the record, here are three extracts.

On how new conditions might be imposed on firms needing foreign workers

The current immigration system exists entirely in isolation from long-term workforce plans. The result is that employers face delays in getting skilled workers in place, workers are not getting the skills they need to get on, stagnant pay and poor conditions are commonplace in sectors of the UK economy, and innovation is held back.

Labour will speak to organisations to link the points-based system to training, skills and employment standards - to ensure our economy has a plan for the skilled workforce it needs.

As part of this process, the party will consider international comparators, where the wider labour market and immigration are much better linked, like in Australia …

We want to ensure that where there are shortages that need to be filled through international recruitment, there is training, or active workforce measures to address the causes here at home. Our new skills body, Skills England will take on a roll in assessing and recommending action to address skills gaps. After a certain amount of time, sectors cannot expect support with migration without taking action on skills.

On how skills training might be improved

To drive a revolution in learning and skills and achieve sustainable economic growth across the country, Labour will give businesses the flexibility they need to train their workforce and deliver growth, by turning the Tories’ failed apprenticeships levy into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy’. The party will go further and devolve adult education skills spending to combined authorities, and establish a new expert body – Skills England – to oversee the national skills effort.

On the value of migrant workers

Our economy and our communities have long benefited from people coming here from all over the world to work, from building our biggest businesses, to sustaining our public services to leading our scientific research and innovation to caring for our loved ones. That has made us the country we are today. People choosing to come to the UK will continue to be important for our economy and that is exactly why the system needs to be properly managed in the interests of workers and businesses.

The final paragraph shows that Labour cannot fairly be accused of “belittling” the contribution made by migrant workers. Jeremy Corbyn implied this in a tweet this morning. (See 1.36pm). And the Green party made the same claim in its response to the Starmer speech, accusing the Labour leader of “trying to outflank the Tories on anti-migrant rhetoric”.

Green party criticises Starmer's stance on Brexit, saying it would rejoin customs union, and eventually EU

The Green party has criticised Keir Starmer for saying Labour would not rejoin the EU single market or the customs union. In a statement on Starmer’s speech to the CBI, Carla Denyer, the Green party’s co-leader, said:

Six years on from the referendum, we can see clearly there are no economic opportunities from Brexit; nor any social or environmental benefits. Brexit has been a disaster.

The Office for Budget Responsibility said last year that the impact of Brexit on the UK economy will be worse in the long run than the coronavirus pandemic. So Keir Starmer talking of the importance of economic growth within the current Brexit arrangements is to ignore the elephant in the room standing in the way of economic success.

The Green party wants the UK to rejoin the customs union, maintain alignment with EU law where it offers environmental and social protections and reinstate freedom of movement. We also want to rejoin the EU at some point in the future when the conditions are right. And the majority of Brits now agree with us. In a recent poll, 53% of people said they want to rejoin the EU compared to 34% who want to stay out.

Carla Denyer
Carla Denyer. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images


At the afternoon Downing Street lobby briefing the No 10 spokesperson said that the government was aware of that Owen Paterson was taking it to the European court of human rights, but did not offer any comment.

The legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg has more on Owen Paterson taking the UK government to the European court of human rights. (See 3.45pm.) He says the court has not yet decided that the case is admissable.

Guidance on the Owen Paterson story I broke earlier:

Applications communicated to the respondent Government are those which have been notified to respondent Governments but have not yet been declared admissible or disposed of. 1 of 2

— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) November 22, 2022

The Court may request factual information or observations, or inform the Government that their observations are not required since the application concerns well-established case-law.

2 of 2

— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) November 22, 2022

What Owen Paterson said about European convention on human rights in 2014

This is what Owen Paterson said about the European convention on human rights in a speech in 2014.

Much of the problematical immigration into this country stems not just from the EU but from the European convention of human rights. This is exacerbated by the rulings of judges in the court at Strasbourg and by our own UK courts implementing the Human Rights Act. Repeal of the HRA and adoption of new bill of rights, breaking free from the ECHR, would also relieve us of migrant pressure, including such absurdities as not being able to deport illegal immigrants who come to us via Calais, because – according to our judges – France is not a “safe” country for asylum seekers.

Outside the EU and freed from the writ of the ECHR, “freedom of movement” within the EEA could be limited to free movement of workers, without having to accept dependants and members of their extended families.


Raab signals opposition to withdrawing from ECHR, saying there would be 'immediate downsides' and no clear benefits

Back at the Commons justice committee, Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, has just signalled that he does not favour withdrawing from the European convention on human rights. He said that he could see “immediate downsides”, such as the fact that the Good Friday agreement assumes an ongoing commitment to the convention, and that he was “not entirely clear what the upsides would be”. Withdrawing from the convention would not solve the small boats problem, he said, because the UK would still face legal obligations to protect asylum seekers.

He said he would want to see a proper cost-benefit analysis of any proposal to withdraw.


RMT announces four weeks of rail disruption over December and January, including four 48-hour strikes

The RMT rail union has announced four strikes, each lasting 48 hours, taking place in December and January. In a news release it says:

Rail union, RMT will put on a series of 48-hour strikes in December and January after industry bosses failed to offer any new deals to reach a settlement.

Over 40,000 members across Network and 14 train operating companies will take strike action on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December and on January 3,4,6 and 7.

There will also be an overtime ban across the railways from 18 December until 2 January, meaning RMT be taking industrial action for 4 weeks.

Explaining its reasons for the new strikes, the union said:

The union suspended previous strike action in good faith to allow for intensive negotiations to resolve the dispute.

Yet, Network Rail have failed to make an improved offer on jobs, pay and conditions for our members during the last two weeks of talks.

At the same time Rail Delivery Group, representing the train operating companies, have also broken a promise to make a meaningful offer on pay and conditions and even cancelled negotiations that were due to take place yesterday.

We also have evidence from all 14 of the train companies denying that Rail Delivery Group has the authority to conduct negotiations on their behalf, even as the RDG urged us to come back to the table.

In a statement Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said:

This latest round of strikes will show how important our members are to the running of this country and will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions for our people.

We have been reasonable, but it is impossible to find a negotiated settlement when the dead hand of government is presiding over these talks.

The employers are in disarray and saying different things to different people sometimes at the same time. This whole process has become a farce that only the new secretary of state can resolve. When I meet him later this week, I will deliver that message.

In the meantime, our message to the public is we are sorry to inconvenience you, but we urge you to direct your anger and frustration at the government and railway employers during this latest phase of action.


Owen Paterson takes government to European court of human rights saying lobbying probe breached his right to privacy

Owen Paterson, the former Tory cabinet minister and arch Eurosceptic who resigned from parliament last year after an inquiry found he had broken the rules banning MPs from paid lobbying, is taking a case to European court of human rights.

As the court explains in a summary of the case, Paterson “complains that his article 8 rights [to privacy] were infringed [by the inquiry process that led to his resignation], as the public finding that he had breached the code of conduct damaged his good reputation, and that the process by which the allegations against him were investigated and considered was not fair in many basic respects”.

Joshua Rozenberg, the legal commentator, seems to have spotted the listing first.

Owen Paterson, former MP and minister, has launched a case against the UK government at the European Court of Human Rights, complaining about the Commons process. The case has been “communicated” to the government by the court, giving the government an opportunity to respond.

— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) November 22, 2022

Like most Brexiters, Paterson has never been fond of the European court of human rights – although of course this court is not part of the EU.

But, in the light of his decision to launch legal action, Paterson may be glad the government never followed the advice of the prominent Tory who gave a speech in 2014 saying the UK should break free of the European convention on human rights, on which the court adjudicates. That was Paterson himself.

Paterson claims that the inquiry into the allegations against him was unfair because he did not get a proper right of appeal. MPs on the Commons standards committee did not accept that – they took evidence from Paterson after an inquiry from the parliamentary commissioner for standards found he broke the rules, and arguably that part of the process functions as an appeal – but Paterson was able to persuade Downing Street that he had a case, and Boris Johnson ordered Tory MPs to vote down the recommendation saying he should be suspended.

The spectacle of Tory MPs voting to protect a colleague who broke the rules was disastrous for Johnson, who quickly realised he had made a huge mistake and ordered a U-turn. That prompted Paterson’s resignation, but the episode is seen as the start of the process that led to Johnson himself being forced to resign less than a year later.


Nigel Farage, the former Ukip and Brexit party leader, claims that Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI today shows that Labour is now to the right of the Conservative party on immigration.

(He also claims that Labour’s immigration policy, and its plan for the House of Lords, mirrors what Ukip was proposing in its 2015 manifesto. But he is wrong about that. The Ukip 2015 manifesto did not mention the Lords, and Ukip wanted to cap the number of visas issued for skilled migrants. Labour is not proposing caps on migrant numbers.)

This critique is similar to the SNP’s (see 1.21pm) – although when Farage says Labour is to the right of the Conservative party, he is probably saying that mainly as a means of disparaging the Tories.

Keir Starmer says we must end our reliance on cheap foreign workers and start training our own people.

Labour are now to the right of the Tories on immigration!

— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 22, 2022

Raab suggests deal offered to criminal barristers by Brandon Lewis to settle strike dispute was too generous

Q: The new lord chancellor who replaced you, Brandon Lewis, sorted out the industrial action by defence lawyers within weeks. Are you up to it?

Raab says he thought the strike action was unjustified.

And the deal to settle cost £50m, he says.

Now the matter has been settled, he is not going to backtrack on it, he says.

But the money for that settlement has to be found. Where should it come from, he asks.

Should it come from victim support? Should it come from drug rehabilitation? Should it come for education for prisoners? Those are the real problems in the real world that government ministers have to grapple with.

Raab is clearly implying he does not approve of the deal offered by Lewis to settle the strike.


Karl Turner (Lab) is asking about legal aid. He says there are parts of the country where qualified duty solictors are not available.

Raab says this issue is being kept constantly under review. He says the legal aid agency can address the particular problems that arise.

He says he published the Bellamy review on legal aid. So he has moved this forward “dramatically”, he says. And he claims “the money is coming through”.

Imran Ahmad Khan, the former Conservative MP jailed earlier this year for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy, claimed thousands of pounds of expenses after his conviction in April, albeit primarily connected to winding up his work in the Commons.

Details collated by Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which oversees the system, shows the main cost incurred by the former Wakefield MP was just under £8,600 for removals, connected to him giving up his London accommodation.

Another big chunk, totalling around £4,000, went on end-of-tenancy cleaning and repairs to what sounds like a heavily-used constituency office, covering things including an exterior jet wash, replacing a broken appliance and a blind, and “gate repair”. He had claimed £1,400 for a Mac computer, but repaid this after the conviction.

More than a decade after the scandal over lavish and often-misused MPs’ expenses, the system is notably tougher, is often misunderstood, with critics citing a total figure for expenses which tend to be mainly made up of staffing and office costs.

Q: Something like 14% of crown court premises are not available for use on any day because of maintenance problems. How much is that a priority?

Raab says that is a priority for him. These courts should be in use, he says.

Q: What are you doing to make up the shortfall in recruitment to the judiciary?

Raab says a recruitment campaign is under way. They are in constant conversation about this, he says.


Sir Bob Neill (Con), the chair, is asking the questions.

Q: What impact will the autumn statement have on your budget?

Raab says spending wil rise by 3.7% over the spending review period. But the department will have to find efficiency savings to compensate for the inflationary pressures.

After that, spending will rise by 1% in real terms until 2027-28, he says.

Dominic Raab gives evidence to Commons justice committee

Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy PM, is giving evidence to the Commons justice committee. The hearing has just started, and there is a live feed at the top of the blog.

The session will cover Raab’s work as justice secretary and lord chancellor.

We may get a question or two about the bullying allegations about Raab, but since they are now the subject of an investigation, it is unlikely that Raab will say anything in detail about them.


According to Sky’s Paul Kelso, Keir Starmer’s speech at the CBI conference this morning went down very well with CBI attendees.

Unscientific survey of CBI delegate reaction to Starmer - unanimous view his speech was more substantial, focused & better delivered than Sunak, who seems to have underwhelmed on style & substance yesterday. One delegate said: "I came to see the next Prime Minister & I did"

— Paul Kelso (@pkelso) November 22, 2022

Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, has put a message on Twitter defending immigrant workers.

This seems intended as implicit criticism of Keir Starmer – although Starmer’s speech to the CBI this morning could not fairly be described as “belittling” migrant workers

Without immigration, the trains wouldn’t run, businesses wouldn’t function and the NHS wouldn’t exist.

We will not end cheap labour by dividing workers and belittling migrants’ contribution.

We introduce a £15 min wage, end zero-hours contracts & back striking workers instead.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 22, 2022

Starmer accused by SNP of trying to 'out-Tory the Tories' with speech saying firms should end 'immigration dependency'

The Scottish National party has accused Keir Starmer of trying to “out-Tory the Tories” with his speech to the CBI this morning. In a statement referring in particular to Starmer’s comments about the need for employers to end their “immigration dependency” (see 9.11am), Kirsten Oswald, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, said:

It was depressing to watch the Labour leader try to out-Tory the Tories – again – on Brexit and migration, and essentially tell CBI that they are wrong …

The CBI has raised legitimate and very real concerns over Brexit and its impact on immigration and our workforce. Instead of heeding the warnings, both the Tory and Labour leaders have chosen to double down on the delusion of Brexit, when it is obvious it isn’t working.

With both Labour and the Tories committed to the damage of Brexit, the only route to escape its long-term harm and rejoin the largest single market in the world – a market seven times greater than the UK – is for Scotland to become an independent country.

Kirsten Oswald
Kirsten Oswald Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA


No 10 signals that inquiry into Raab bullying allegations could extend beyond formal complaints already submitted

The inquiry into bullying allegations about Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy PM, could extend beyond the two formal complaints that have been submitted, No 10 has signalled.

As PA Media reports, the PM’s spokesperson indicated the inquiry could examine new allegations reported in the Guardian that Raab behaved so badly in a meeting with the Home Office during his first stint as justice secretary that his department’s top official had to personally apologise to counterparts.

An independent investigation has been promised, although Downing Street said the person who will lead that inquiry has not yet been appointed. As PA reports, asked for Rishi Sunak’s response to the latest allegations about Raab’s behaviour, the spokesperson said:

The prime minister has asked for an independent investigator to establish the facts and provide their findings. In the first instance, we will appoint an investigator and then there will be the process … It will be for the investigator to decide what they do or do not choose to look at.

Ofsted chief says some schools now revealed as no longer outstanding may have seen standards slip 'many years ago'

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, has confirmed that 80% of schools in England rated “outstanding” that were inspected last year had their status downgraded.

When Michael Gove was education secretary, he said schools rated outstanding would no longer receive regular Ofsted inspections, unless there were particular concerns about them. That policy applied from 2012 until it was lifted in 2020.

Today Ofsted has revealed that more than 300 schools lost their “outstanding” status after inspections last year. It says:

Over 80% (308) of these schools that had a graded inspection last year did not retain the outstanding grade. The majority were judged to be good. However, around a fifth were rated requires improvement (17%) or inadequate (4%).

When selecting schools for inspection, Ofsted prioritised those that had gone the longest without inspection, which for some was as long as 15 years ago. The average for schools inspected last year was 13 years.

When the exemption ended, 43% of exempt schools had not had a graded inspection for at least 10 academic years, and a further 38% had gone between 5 and 10 academic years.

Giving evidence to the Commons education committee this morning, Spielman said the fall in standards at these schools may have happened “many years ago”. She said:

The ones we inspected last year in the main hadn’t been inspected for 13, 14, even 15 years – a great deal of time in which all of the staff, including the head, all of the governors are likely to have changed, sometimes a number of times.

So, at one level there is no surprise that the profile doesn’t look extremely similar to what it did for those 300 schools all that time ago.

It’s important to say that in many cases the downward shift ... may have happened many years ago.


No 10 urges MPs to ignore guidance allowing them to claim some Christmas party costs on expenses

Downing Street has criticised guidance that says MPs can claims expenses to cover the cost of food and refreshments, but not alcohol, for Christmas parties for their parliamentary staff.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has said it would approve such payments, although it has also urged MPs to make sure any gathering “represents value for money, especially in the current economic climate”.

At the No 10 lobby briefing, the PM’s spokesperson said Rishi Sunak did not believe MPs should be claiming for parties on expenses. He said:

Questions on these sorts of arrangements are for Ipsa, they’re independent of both parliament and government, they set the allowances. But the prime minister certainly doesn’t intend to use this and his view is that MPs will want to justify all spending to their constituents.


Government has 'failed' millenials on housing, childcare and wages, says Tory thinktank founder as he quits

Ryan Shorthouse, the founder of an influential Conservative thinktank, is to quit his post, accusing the government of betraying younger people who face stagnant wages and little help with punishing housing and childcare costs, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports. Shorthouse told the Guardian:

The Tory government has failed my generation – millennials – who have come of age and entered the labour market under 12 years of Tory rule, with punishing housing and childcare costs – combined with stagnant wages – preventing the building blocks of what Conservatives believe make the good life.

The full story is here.


Sunak tells cabinet winter will be 'challenging' for UK, with high energy bills, strikes and long NHS waiting lists

Rishi Sunak warned ministers at cabinet that this winter will be “challenging” because of high energy bills, strikes and long NHS waiting lists.

According to the No 10 readout of cabinet, the winter challenges were the main topic discussed this morning. In a readout, Downing Street said:

Looking ahead to winter, the prime minister said this would be a challenging period for the country caused by the aftershocks of the global pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster [Oliver Dowden] updated on the cross-government coordination taking place to mitigate some of the challenges expected this winter, including further strike action.

The health and care secretary [Steve Barclay] set out some of the issues facing the health system, where the pandemic had significantly exacerbated pressures – with 1,600 people waiting for more than 52 weeks for an operation pre-pandemic compared to 400,000 currently.

Rishi Sunak at the ceremonial welcome for the state visit to the UK by the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
Rishi Sunak at the ceremonial welcome for the state visit to the UK by the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa. Photograph: Leon Neal/PA


Starmer declines to commit Labour to cutting overall immigration numbers, saying he's opposed to 'arbitrary' targets

Here are the key points from Keir Starmer’s Q&A at the CBI after his speech.

  • Starmer confirmed that Labour would not take the UK back into the EU’s single market or customs union. (See 10.34am.)

  • He would not say whether he wanted overall immigration numbers to fall, saying he was opposed to “arbitrary” targets. Asked if his policies would lead to immigration numbers falling, or whether he just wanted to see different types of immigration, he replied:

On the question of numbers. I always start with what is driving the numbers when we discuss immigration, and if what’s driving the numbers is our skills failure … then I think we need to address the skills issue, rather than just talking about arbitrary numbers.

And that does mean, if we get this right, that immigration will go down in some of those areas that are overly reliant on immigration.

But equally I’m not going to hold businesses back if there’s innovation technologies where we do need talent from abroad.

The government is committing to reducing net migration numbers over time. But it has not said when, or set a target for the reduction, and when he spoke at the CBI yesterday, Rishi Sunak did not mention this as a pledge.

  • Starmer said that he had turned the Labour party “inside out” since the Jeremy Corbyn era and transformed its relationship with business. He said:

The Labour party has changed, we’ve turned the Labour party inside out and that’s particularly significant when it comes to the way we’re working with business.

I say to you loud and clear, this Labour party has changed, there is no going back and it is united behind what we’re trying to achieve.

  • He said a Labour government would have to postpone some of the things it wanted to do because of the state of the economy. He said:

We will inherit an economy that’s been damaged by the last 12 weeks and the last 12 years, and we need to fundamentally accept that as an incoming government …
Restoring stability is key … If that means there are things - good Labour things - which we can’t do as quickly as we would like, then that is a consequence of that security.

Keir Starmer speaking at the CBI conference.
Keir Starmer speaking at the CBI conference. Photograph: Jacob King/PA


According to the Mirror’s Dan Bloom, Keir Starmer hosted executives from businesses including the arms firm BAE Systems at an event in his Commons office last night where they watched Wales play in the world cup.

Business wooing latest - Keir Starmer hosted bosses from firms including arms giant BAE Systems in his Commons office suite last night, alongside MPs who watched Wales’ World Cup match in the corner

— Dan Bloom (@danbloom1) November 22, 2022

Tories accuse Starmer of abandoning his pledge in Labour leadership contest to 'defend free movement'

The Conservative party has responded to Keir Starmer’s speech by pointing out that his new approach to labour immigration is the opposite of what he was proposing when he stood for Labour leader. At the time Starmer said he supported “free movement”, which is what the Labour conference voted for in 2019 (although quite what that would mean after the UK left the EU, and automatic free movement for EU workers ended, was never fully set out by those who championed the notion).

This you @Keir_Starmer?

— CCHQ Press (@CCHQPress) November 22, 2022

My Guardian colleague Owen Jones, who is not a Conservative, has been making exactly the same point.

In the leadership election, Keir Starmer said, and I quote:

"We have to make the case for freedom of movement, and we have to make it strongly."

However you cut it, there has never been such a dishonest campaign for a party leadership in British democratic history.

— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) November 22, 2022

It may not be wise for CCHQ to start complaining about leaders not keeping their election campaign promises because recently No 10 said that Rishi Sunak is reviewing all the policies he proposed when he stood for leader in the summer to see if they are still deliverable.

These, though, were promises made in a campaign that Sunak lost. When Sunak stood again, he did not make any pledges, or do any public campaigning, at all.

Lucy Fisher from Times Radio says some Tories think as many as 80 of their colleagues could decide to stand down at the next election. MPs have been asked to tell CCHQ if they intend to leave, or stand again, by 5 December. (See 10.56am.)

Expect there will be a big wave of ‘stepping down’ announcements from Tory MPs ahead of next election…

Some Consevatives predict as many as 80 colleagues will bow out rather than choose to fight again

— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) November 22, 2022

Here is the full text of Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI.

I have beefed up the post at 10.34am to include the full quote from Keir Starmer saying Labour would not rejoin the single market or the customs union, but explaining how he does think the current Brexit arrangements can be improved. You may need to refresh the page to get the update to appear.

Former DWP secretary Chloe Smith says she is standing down at next election

The former work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith has announced she will stand down at the next election, ahead of a December deadline for Tory candidates.

The Guardian understands that Tory MPs have been asked to express their preferences for the next election by 5 December, which is also the closing of the final consultation on the boundary review.

Smith won her Norwich North seat in a 2009 byelection against Labour and increased her majority to 4,793 in 2019, but had a tiny majority of just 507 votes in 2017. On current polling, Smith would be likely to lose her seat to Labour.

Smith was briefly in the cabinet under Liz Truss and held a variety of junior ministerial positions but returned to the backbenches under Sunak. When first elected, aged 27, Smith was the youngest MP in the Commons and also had a bout with breast cancer during her time as an MP.

She said in a statement:

I hope I’ve been able to make a difference, locally and nationally. In 2024, after 15 years of service, it will be the right time to step back, for me and my young family.

Chloe Smith
Chloe Smith. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Rex/Shutterstock


Starmer says he has 'turned Labour party inside out' since Corbyn era and transformed its relations with business

Q: Can we trust your party, given its recent history?

Starmer says he wants to stress “the Labour party has changed.” He goes on: “We have turned the Labour party inside out.”

And he has taken the Labour party with him, he says.

He is talking about the change from the Jeremy Corbyn era, and the transformation in Labour’s approach to business.

He says that was clear at the Labour party’s recent conference.

This Labour party has changed. There is no going back. And it is united behind what we are trying to achieve.

The last Labour conference was the best since 1996, he says.

And that’s the end of the Q&A.

I will post a summary of the speech and Q&A soon.

Q: What would you do to allow new entrants to the decarbonised electricity market?

Starmer says he wants to use his proposed GB Energy publicly-owned company as a catalyst for innovation.

Q: What do you want from business to help you achieve your priorities?

Starmer says he wants better public services. But that requires growth.

There are different models of growth. You could just focus on London and the south-east, and then redistribute the wealth from there to the rest of the country.

But that is not the model he wants, he says. He wants growth spread more widely.

He says he wants proper business engagement. And that does not just mean having a cup of tea with local business. It means working with business as the party develops policy.


Those were all questions from journalists. Starmer is now taking questions from CBI members.

Q: What is your priority for growth?

Starmer says it is the clean power plan for 2030.

Starmer confirms Labour would not take UK back into single market or customs union

Q: Do you think immigration is too high? Do you want it lower, or just a different profile of immigration?

Starmer says he starts by looking at what is driving the numbers. And if the skills failure is driving that, then we need to address skills, he says. That would mean immigration would go down in areas reliant on foreign workers.

But he would not hold firms back that needed to hire from abroad – for example, if they needed experts in innovative technology.

Q: What is your view on a Swiss-style Brexit deal?

Starmer says Labour would not take the UK back into the single market or the customs union.

But he says the current arrangements can be made to work better.

The current situation is not working well for business, for exports, or for growth.

He wants to fight the next election on growth, he says.

UPDATE: Starmer said:

On the Swiss model, I’ve said a number of occasions that we are not going back to the EU, and that means not go back into the single market or the customs union.

But we have to make Brexit work. The deal with government has got us, it’s not working well. It’s holding business back. It’s holding growth back. There are things that we need to do to address it. Some of them we could start straight away. The protocol in Northern Ireland needs a pragmatic answer; I’ve talked businesses in Northern Ireland, they have pragmatic approaches to how we could deal with the protocol in Northern Ireland.

We need to reduce trade barriers. By being clear that we want high standards, there isn’t a conflict there, there’s something we can build on.

We need to share more when it comes to education and research, and scientific research in particular.

I think there’s much more we can do in the security space, if you look particularly at the response to the Ukraine crisis, and the way Nato and the EU have worked together.

So I do think that we can have a better Brexit. I think that we need to make Brexit work and I think what’s happening so far has been a government that simply set the words get Brexit done and put in place a deal which I think most people in this room would say is not working well.


Q: What would you do to help firms with energy bills?

Starmer says Labour led in proposing a short-term energy plan.

But he says that is not a long-term answer. They need to improve energy supply.

Planning is holding firms up. Companies can build a windfarm in less than two years, but it takes seven years, allowing for the planning application. Labour would speed that up, he suggests.

And he says 19m homes are leaking energy. The government has gone slow on insulation. If the government had acted early, 2m homes could have been insulated by now, meaning 2m families would be paying smaller bills.


Starmer says his message to the NHS is that “the cavalry is coming”. Labour will boost recruitment, he says.

He says he has been having the same discussing on skills for seven years with business. A Labour government will do something about it, he says.

Q: You have been frank about the need to restore stability. What won’t you be able to do as quickly as you would like because you are prioritising stability?

Starmer says he won’t set out the next manifesto now. But the next Labour government will inherit an economy damaged by the last 12 weeks, and the last 12 years.

Starmer is now taking questions.

Asked to what extent political considerations are behind his immigration policy, he says he is frustrated with short-term fixes.

Of course he will be pragmatic, he says.

But the skills problem needs to be addressed. He says he does not want to see a repeat of what we saw last year, with HGV drivers.

Starmer says Labour has a plan for green growth.

And he ends saying he is not going to give up on growth.

Britain deserves better. A new partnership for prosperity. The path to a greener, fairer more dynamic country, to higher wages, higher skills, higher productivity, from leading the world on the greatest challenge punish facing our planet to give working people a sense of hope, aspiration. and possibility.

Starmer says Labour will give employers more control over what training the levy funds.

And spending from the adult skills budget will be devolved too, he says.

Labour wants to make it easier for people to retrain mid-career, Starmer says.

Let me tell you from personal experience – there’s nothing wrong with changing your career in your mid-50s.


Starmer says in his speech to the CBI last year he announced that David Blunkett, the former Labour cabinet minister, was heading a review of skills policy.

He says Blunkett has delivered that report, and Labour will implement it. He says the apprenceticeship levy will be made more flexible.

Starmer says yesterday he went onto the government’s website to look up its industrial strategy. He quotes from what it says:

The aim of the industrial strategy was to boost productivity by backing businesses to create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.

Starmer stresses the word “was”. And he quotes from another line on the web page, saying this page has been “archived”. He says this tells you everything: “The government has archived Britain’s growth.”


Starmer says Labour will have three economic priorities.

The three big priorities for my Labour government, the principles our partnership must deliver to drive Britain forward, are:

One – economic stability.

Two – higher skills.

Three – green growth.

I’ll put it simply: every business in this room has a strategy for growth. A nation needs one too.

I believe in our country, I believe in our businesses and I believe in our people.

Britain deserves better. A new partnership for prosperity. The path to a fairer, greener, more dynamic country. To higher wages, higher skills, higher productivity.

To leading the world on the greatest challenge facing our planet. To giving working people a sense of hope, aspiration and possibility once again.


Starmer now turns to the passage about immigration briefed overnight. (See 9.11am.)

He says:

Migration is part of our national story – always has been, always will be. And the Labour party will never diminish the contribution it makes to the economy, to public services, to your businesses and our communities.

But let me tell you - the days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way on growth must end.


Starmer says people should be able to get mental healthcare within four weeks.

And the childcare system needs to be reformed, he says.

He says this is what Janet Yellen, the former US Treasury secretary, calls modern supply-side economics.


Starmer says he does not accept that the large number of people who have left the labour force is not related to the number of people waiting for hospital treatment.

That is a drag on productivity, he says.

He says Labour would create the biggest training programme to increase the size of the NHS workforce.

Starmer says Britain is trapped in a “vicious cycle of stagnation”.

The UK has had the worst record for growth in centuries, he says. He says a new model is needed. And this should be a turning point.

In future Labour will worry about increasing productivity as much as in the past it has cared about redistribution.


Starmer says Tories have done 'immense' damage to British economy

Starmer says the government has done “immense” economic damage to Britain.

They put our public finances in a perilous position, wasted the chance to transform our potential in an era of low interest rates, and created an economy with weak foundations.

He says he is not blaming the government for not anticipating the war in Ukraine.

But the war didn’t ban onshore wind. The war didn’t scrap home insulation. And the war didn’t stall British nuclear energy.

Starmer tells CBI Labour is now not just pro-business, but 'proud of being pro-business'

Keir Starmer starts saying he comes with a simple message: “Labour is ready.”

He says it is “ready to give Britain the clear economic leadership” it needs, and ready to work with business.

He says Labour is “not just a pro-business party, but a party that is proud of being pro-business, that respects the contribution profit makes to our jobs growth”

He says this is a matter of conviction for him. And he has united the party behind it.

Chloe Smith, the former work and pensions secretary, has announced she is standing down at the next election, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.

New - The former work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith has announced she will stand down at the next election

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) November 22, 2022

Smith was only in cabinet for about seven weeks. She was appointed by Liz Truss, a fellow Norfolk MP and someone Smith had supported in the Tory leadership contest.

Smith is only 40. In the past it used to be unusual for MPs to stand down at that age, but recently it has become more common for MPs to leave parliament in time for them to pursue a second career.

The prospect of losing her seat might be a factor too. Smith represents Norwich North, which is a marginal, and at the last election she had a majority of 4,738. In 2017 she had a majority of just 507.

There will be a live feed of the Keir Starmer speech here.

Watch Live: Keir Starmer speaks at CBI's Annual Conference

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) November 22, 2022


This is from my colleague Aubrey Allegretti, who is at the CBI conference in Birmingham.

Standing room only for Keir Starmer's speech to business leaders at the CBI.

He's introduced by the CBI president, who says the Labour leader is "serious about business, and serious about leading a country with sustainable growth".

— Aubrey Allegretti (@breeallegretti) November 22, 2022

Labour suggests Sunak's use of private healthcare might lessen his understanding of problems people face accessing NHS

During his morning interview round Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, was asked about my colleague Pippa Crerar’s story saying Rishi Sunak is registered with a private GP practice that charges £250 for a half-hour consultation.

Reynolds did not criticise Sunak for going private. But he did suggest that this might lessen Sunak’s ability to understand the problems people are having accessing the NHS. He said:

It’s not something I would ever do. I’m not going to comment on anyone else’s healthcare choices.

But I would say what the country really needs is some investment in the NHS workforce. We would do that by abolishing the non-dom rule, expand the workforce, get people the care that they need.

And people can make their own decisions whether their leaders, their politicians, are aware of the genuine problems they face when accessing healthcare and they can decide who’s got the best policies to alleviate some of that going forward themselves.


How Labour says it would change current work visa arrangements

In its overnight press release about Keir Starmer’s speech, Labour identifies four changes it would make to the current rules that allow some foreigners to get work visas. It says it would

Reform and strengthen how the migration advisory committee works so that it has better information, connects across government departments on labour shortages and skills shortages, and projects future trends.

Tackle visa processes and timing so it works for employers and employees, avoiding labour shortages that hurt the economy.

Ensure that where there are shortages that need to be filled through international recruitment, we also make sure there is proper training, plans for improving pay and conditions or modernisation of the sectors.

Ensure all employers able to sponsor visas are meeting decent standards of pay and conditions.


What Starmer will tell CBI about need for business to end its 'immigration dependency'

According to the extract from Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI released by Labour in advance, he will say that a Labour government would be “pragmatic” on the shortage of workers in the economy and would not ignore the need for “skilled people’ to come to the country. But he will go on:

But I want to be clear here: with my Labour government any movement in our point-based migration system, whether via the skilled occupation route, or the shortage worker list, will come with new conditions for business.

We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology.

But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here.

Migration is part of our national story – always has been, always will be. And the Labour party will never diminish the contribution it makes to the economy, to public services, to your businesses and our communities.

But let me tell you - the days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way on growth must end.

Now, I know most businesses get this. But when we look at our economy as a whole, it can seem like we’re more comfortable hiring people to work in low paid, insecure, sometimes exploitative contracts than we are investing in the new technology that delivers for workers, productivity and our country.

And we can’t compete like that. Britain’s low pay model has to go. It doesn’t serve working people. It’s not compatible with grassroots growth.


Labour says Starmer's pledge to end firms' 'immigration dependency' does not make its policy same as Tories'

Good morning. Keir Starmer is addressing the CBI this morning, and, as my colleague Jessica Elgot reports in our overnight report, he will say that “our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here”.

And here is another quote from the speech.

We are not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills, and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration …

The answer … is not to reach for that same old lever of uncontrolled immigration, to keep wages low.

The answer is to control immigration, to allow people of talent to come to this country, but not to use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest in people, in skills and in the equipment the facilities the machinery they need to do their jobs.

Oops, sorry, wrong speech. That is not Keir Starmer to the CBI in 2022. That was Boris Johnson to the Conservative party conference in 2021.

The comparison shows how – quite deliberately – Labour is engaged in an important piece of repositioning, on an issue at the heart of the Brexit debate and central to the concern of voters.

But that does not mean the Conservative and Labour parties’ positions are now identical. Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, was giving interviews this morning and on the Today programme Amol Rajan, the presenter, put it to him that it was now very hard to see the difference between the two parties on their approach to immigrant workers. Reynolds replied:

I would say on the issue of better pay and conditions in something like the care sector, we’ve got clear employment policies that we’ve put forward, things like fair pay agreements, which would drive up [pay] across the sector. [On] pay and conditions, there is no approach from the government at all on that. They have not even fulfilled their promise of an employment bill.

On things like better skills training, the apprenticeship levy was a good policy, but it’s led to a massive decline in the number of apprenticeships since it was introduced. Our policy to give businesses more freedom would, I think, strengthen apprenticeships, but also allow them to spend some of that levy on other forms of training.

I don’t think anyone can say right now, if you look at the shortages in the labour market, but also the situation with skills training in the country, that these things are being delivered now. So I think ours is a clear plan, a clear improvement on what is happening at the moment.

9.45am: Keir Starmer gives his speech to the CBI conference.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11.30am: Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

2.30pm: Raab gives evidence to the Commons justice committee.

Afternoon: Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, gives an address to MPs and peers in the royal gallery at Westminster as part of his state visit.

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

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

Alternatively, you can email me at



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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