Downing Street has said that it wants the inquiry by its ethics adviser into Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative party chair, to conclude “swiftly”. Last night Caroline Nokes, a Tory former minister, said Zahawi should stand aside while the inquiry takes place. Zahawi has not taken her advice, he remains in office, and there have been no futher high-profile calls for his resignation from Conservatives. But government MPs have not been giving him their full support either and, in a sign that No 10 may be happy to see him go, the PM’s spokesperson declined to say that Rishi Sunak was confident Zahawi had always told him the truth about his tax affairs. (See 12.32pm.)
Richard Sharp has insisted he had no conflict of interest when he was appointed the chair of the BBC by Boris Johnson, despite allegations he helped secure a loan of up to £800,000 for the prime minister only a week earlier.
British lawyers were given government dispensation to bypass sanctions in order to help Yevgeny Prigozhin, the controversial Russian businessman and Wagner group founder, sue a journalist, according to documents made available to the website Open Democracy.
The archbishop of York has called for checks on “unscrupulous people making profit inappropriately” from social care as the Church of England launched a sweeping plan to reform how vulnerable people are looked after.
From Sandra Glab from Times Radio
Royal Mail boss told to return to Commons committee to answer claims his earlier evidence was inaccurate
The boss of Royal Mail will be brought back in front of MPs after they accused him of providing information that “may not have been wholly correct”, PA Media reports.
The chief executive, Simon Thompson, has been asked to clarify his statements to the Commons business committee “at the earliest opportunity”, the chair, Darren Jones, said today.
After Thompson spoke last week amid a dispute with the company’s union, MPs said they were sent hundreds of complaints questioning his claims.
In a letter to Thompson and his chair, Jones said the letters had raised concerns over several of the statements.
MPs had asked why Royal Mail was tracking how fast employees were making deliveries using their handheld computers and whether they were disciplined based on that data.
Thompson said: “No. I am not aware of technology we have in place that tells people to work more quickly. I am not aware of that at all.”
But Jones said that his group has “received evidence that suggests this is not correct”.
University staff to strike for 18 days over February and March
The University and College Union has announced the dates for what it says will be “the biggest series of strikes ever to hit UK university campuses”, involving as many as 70,000 of its active members in higher education. The dates include 11 days in February, and 18 days in total.
Tomorrow the union is meeting with employer representatives, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, to discuss pay and working conditions.
Jo Grady, the UCU general secretary, said:
The university sector in the UK has over £40bn sitting in reserves but instead of using that vast wealth to deliver a cost-of-living pay rise and reverse devastating pension cuts, university vice-chancellors would rather force staff to take strike action and see campuses shut down.
The union had already announced a strike day on 1 February, coinciding with industrial action by a number of other unions.
The full series of dates are:
Wednesday 1 February
Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February
Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February
Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March
Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March
Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March
UCU said it will also be re-balloting members at the 150 universities in dispute to extend the union’s mandate and allow staff to take further action through the remainder of the academic year.
Yesterday Boris Johnson gave a peculiar quote about the BBC “disappearing up its own fundament” when doorstepped by reporters about the Richard Sharp story. Today he was even less keen to engage with questions about the affair, ITV reveals, just brushing off questions with a series of “G’days” in a cod Australian accent.
Sadiq Khan and Steve Barclay clash over mayor's plan to extend Ulez across London
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has hit back at Steve Barclay after the health secretary criticised his plan to extend the ultra-low emissions zone (Ulez) across the whole of London.
Speaking in the Commons, Barclay, the health secretary, said the plan would increase costs for NHS staff working in the capital.
Barclay was responding to a question from Louie French, the Tory MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, who said the extension of the charge could lead to some nurses facing charges of £12.50 per shift, or £25 if working nights.
In response, a spokesperson for Khan said Barclay was ignoring health advice on this issue. The spokesperson said:
It is surprising for a health secretary to ignore the advice of their own chief medical officer.
Chris Whitty has been clear that air pollution is everyone’s problem. Not only is toxic air causing 4,000 premature deaths in the capital, it’s also expected to cost the NHS and social care system in London around £10.4bn by 2050.
Most vehicles, more than four in five, seen in the zone will not need to pay the Ulez charge.
It’s only the most polluting vehicles doing the most damage to our health that are affected.
While Caroline Nokes is virtually alone among Tory MPs in calling for Nadhim Zahawi to stand aside as Tory chair (see 9.31am), his colleagues have not exactly been rushing forward to say that he has done nothing wrong either. They seem to be taking the view that this is for the inquiry to decide.
But one Conservative member of the London assembly is a big Zahawi fan. This is from Tony Devenish, who has been on the assembly since 2016 and who has quoted approvingly a letter to the Daily Telegraph saying that being in dispute with HMRC can be a sign of entrepreneurial success.
At the No 10 lobby briefing this morning, asked if Rishi Sunak had ever paid a tax settlement to HM Revenue and Customs himself, the PM’s spokesperson was unable to give a clear no. As my colleague Peter Walker points out, that might not be significant; the spokesperson often doesn’t know the answer to questions like this. But, as Peter says, it would be worth hearing someone ask Sunak about this directly.
Labour frontbencher Alex Davies-Jones is under investigation for a possible breach of lobbying rules, PA Media reports. PA says:
Commons standards commissioner Daniel Greenberg has launched an inquiry into whether the shadow culture minister broke the MPs’ code of conduct with “paid advocacy”.
Davies-Jones, who has represented the Welsh constituency of Pontypridd since 2019, was understood to have referred herself to investigators and is cooperating fully.
She received a trip to Tokyo, Japan, valued at nearly £3,000 and paid for by the British Council last autumn.
On 8 November, the day after returning, she brought up the trip in the House of Commons, praising the council’s “brilliant work” in “educating people in our English language and using our arts and culture for the greatest good”.
She asked the Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan: “What more can the government do to support the British Council, not just in Japan, but across the world?”
Labour is not suspending Davies-Jones from her frontbench position because the party believes any breach of the rules would be minor and inadvertent.
Richard Sharp, the BBC chairman, will appear before the Commons culture committee a fortnight today to take questions about the claims that there was a conflict of interest in his appointment. In a letter, Damian Green, the acting committee chair, said the committee wanted to ask him about “the issues raised in your pre-appointment hearing and any developments since then”. Sharp has accepted, and the hearing will take place on the morning of Tuesday 7 February.
Labour says government plan to tackle 'fire and rehire' practices 'not worth paper it's written on'
Labour has dismissed a government plan to tackle so-called “fire and hire” practices as “not worth the paper it’s written on”.
The government claims the plan, which involves a new code of practice and potentially higher costs for rogue firms in employment tribunals, shows it is taking “strong action against unscrupulous employers”.
Grant Shapps, the business secretary, promised action on this when, as transport secretary, he had to deal with the consequences of P&O Ferries’ decision to sack 800 members of staff, with replacement workers being hired much more cheaply.
But the government is not attempting an outright ban on “fire and rehire”.
Instead, as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy explains in a news release, a code of practice will oblige employers not to use the threat of dismissal as a means of getting workers to acccept lower pay or worse conditions. It says:
Through a planned statutory code of practice, the government is protecting employees and cracking down on employers that use controversial dismissal tactics. The code, subject to a consultation first, will make it explicitly clear to employers that they must not use threats of dismissal to pressurise employees into accepting new terms, and that they should have honest and open-minded discussions with their employees and representatives …
This new statutory code of practice will set out employers’ responsibilities when seeking to change contractual terms and conditions of employment, including that businesses must consult with employees in a fair and transparent way when proposing changes to their employment terms.
Once in force, courts and employment tribunals will be able to take the code into account when considering relevant cases, including unfair dismissal. They will have the power to apply a 25% uplift to an employee’s compensation in certain circumstances if an employer is found to not comply with the statutory code.
Commenting on the plan, Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader and shadow secretary for the future of work, said:
This code isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. It’s shameful that nearly a year after the P&O Ferries scandal the Conservatives can only offer this weak half-measure, which they admit will allow fire and rehire tactics to continue.
If the Conservatives want to protect workers, they’d finally bring in the employment bill they promised but have abandoned. Instead, they’re bringing in a law to threaten nurses, firefighters and other key workers with the sack.
Labour says it would ban “fire and rehire”. But the government’s consultation document for its proposed new code of practice argues that an outright ban would be a mistake. It says:
Although there have been calls for the practice of dismissal and re-engagement to be banned outright, the government has judged that this would not be right as there are some situations in which dismissal and re-engagement can play a valid role as businesses may need the flexibility to use this option to save as many jobs as possible. We believe that this Code strikes the right balance between labour market flexibility and worker protections.
Church of England criticised by MPs for not allowing same-sex marriage in church
The Church of England was criticised by MPs earlier for failing to allow clergy to conduct same-sex marriages. Under a compromise proposed by the church’s bishops last week, vicars will be allowed to bless couples in church after civil ceremony, but same-sex marriages are still deemed incompatible with church teaching, and not allowed in church.
The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw tabled an urgent question on this. Unusually for a UQ, a minister did not reply, because the government does not run the church. But the Church of England is an established church, and there is always an MP appointed as the the second church estates commissioner who serves as a link between parliament and the church. It’s Andrew Selous (Con), who responded to the UQ.
Bradshaw, and most of the other MPs who spoke, condemned the policy unveiled by the church last week as discriminatory. Bradshaw asked:
What can [Selous] say to reassure parliament that the bishops are not allowing policy to be dictated by a minority of very vocal Anglicans in England and in some overseas provinces while neglecting their primary duty to serve all of God’s people in England?
Could he perhaps explain to parliament how continuing to discriminate against lesbian and gay Anglicans in England is compatible with the unique duty of the established church to serve everyone?
How sustainable is it when gay Anglicans in Scotland, and soon in Wales, may marry in church but our constituents in England may not?
The most moving contribution probably came from Chris Bryant, a former vicar. He asked MPs to imagine a church warden volunteering in church every week, falling in love with someone of the same sex, but banned from marrying in “the place that you’ve devoted your life to”. That was “terribly, terribly painful”, he said. He went on:
And I think there’s still a cruelty in what the bishops have brought forward. There’s a sort of hypocrisy. I know they’re trying to square everything off, but in the end there’s a hypocrisy that will bless the individuals but not the relationship …
And is there any biblical teaching that says that this is wrong? Any, really? Did Jesus say a single word about same-sex relationships or marriage? I don’t think he did. He said a great deal about love, the God of love, and St Paul said that in Christ there was neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek. And I think he would have also said neither gay nor straight.
Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, told MPs:
Nothing made it harder for me to come out as a gay Anglican than the church’s teaching on sexual orientation and human sexuality.
And in the end I made the choice that I think many young gay Anglicans did of choosing to be myself and choosing not to go to church. And that is such a tragedy for so many, particularly young Anglicans across our country …
I would never cast my vote in a way that compels any place of worship to perform same-sex marriage because I believe in freedom of religious belief.
Given this is an established church, surely permissive legislation that enables places of worship to enable churches and priests to make that choice for themselves would be a different matter, and certainly I know where my vote would go on that.
Selous said that the bishops themselves recognised that for many people the new rules did not go far enough.
But he said that to change the canon law on holy matrimony there would have to be a two-thirds majority in the General Synod, which he said was a devolved body of parliament, and he said that majority did not exist.
At the health committee this morning Chris Hopson, the chief strategy officer for NHS England, said Monday 6 February would be the biggest strike day in the organisation’s history. He explained:
We expect February 6 to be the biggest strike day in NHS history for five reasons: Firstly, we’re going to have nursing and ambulance unions planning coordinated industrial action across the country.
Secondly, we know that the nursing stoppage will last for two days, rather than one.
Thirdly, we know that the numbers of trusts affected will go from 44 in December, to 55 in January, to 73 in February; there is now a shorter gap between the strikes; and this strike starts on a Monday, which effectively makes it difficult to deploy the discharge of patients to improve flow, which is what we’ve been doing in previous strikes.
So, just to make the point, we are now entering a new and more difficult phase in the dispute.
Hopson also said that, even though the strike was taking place, it was “incredibly important” that people with a life-threatening emergency on the day should call 999, and people needing other urgent care should use 111 online.
Ministers accused of 'staggering complacency' over missing child asylum seekers
Ministers were accused of “staggering complacency and incompetence” after the revelation that 200 children seeking asylum have gone missing from hotel accommodation provided by the Home Office.
In a Commons urgent question, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, said it was “entirely foreseeable that children were at risk of being snatched, abducted and coerced by criminals”.
Lucas represents a constituency in Brighton, where some of the child asylum seekers have been housed, and she said the problem should have been anticipated. She said:
The staggering complacency and incompetence from the Home Office is shameful. We need immediate answers, we need an urgent investigation. We need to ask how many more children are going to go missing before we actually see some action?
Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, was replying for the government. He said that the Home Office wanted to end the use of hotels for this group and, echoing what his fellow Home Office minister Simon Murray told the House of Lords yesterday, he said the government did not have the power to detain unaccompanied asylum seekers.
Of the unaccompanied asylum-seeking children still missing, 88% are Albanian nationals, the remaining 12% are from Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Vietnam, Pakistan and Turkey.
When any child goes missing a multi-agency missing persons protocol is mobilised alongside the police and relevant local authority to establish their whereabouts, and to ensure that they are safe. Many of those who have gone missing are subsequently traced and located.
Barclay rejects claims government wants to extend charging in NHS
During health questions in the Commons, Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, challenged the government to rule out “any extension of user charging in the NHS”.
Echoing an argument used by the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown in a Guardian article yesterday, Streeting pointed out that Sajid Javid, the Tory former health secretary, has argued for people to be charged to see a GP. And he claimed Rishi Sunak supported charges when he was standing for the Tory leadership in the summer.
In response Steve Barclay, the health secretary, accused Streeting of misrepresenting Sunak’s position. (Sunak backed a £10 charge for patients who missed a second GP appointment, but has since dropped the idea.)
Barclay also insisted the government was committed to keeping the service free at the point of use. He told Streeting:
We are committed, and we remain committed, to keeping [the NHS] free at the point of use. That is the prime minister’s position, that is the government’s position.
In his article for the Daily Mail (see 11.33am), Boris Johnson said Ukraine should be getting “hundreds” of tanks from its allies. The former prime minister said:
The Ukrainians need hundreds of tanks, and they should be getting them from the Americans, the Germans, the Poles and many others.
Johnson’s comment seemed to be aimed in particular at Germany, which is not sending its own tanks to Ukraine, and has also been reluctant to approve the deployment of German-made tanks from Poland.
But at the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson refused to back Johnson’s position. Asked if Ukraine’s allies should be sending more tanks, the spokesperson said:
As the foreign secretary and others have said, we would like to see additional support provided to Ukraine.
What we are not going to do is dictate to other countries exactly what they should or should not provide – first and foremost that must be for those countries.
No 10 declines to say Sunak confident Zahawi has always told him truth about his tax affairs
At the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson said Rishi Sunak expects the inquiry into Nadhim Zahawi’s tax arrangements being carried out by the PM’s ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, to be carried out “swiftly”.
But the spokesperson said there was no deadline for its conclusion. He explained:
We haven’t set a timeline for it because whilst we want this to be conducted swiftly, it’s important equally that it is thorough, hence why we’re not restricting to a particular date.
Asked if the PM was confident that Zahawi always told him the truth about his tax affairs, the spokesperson said:
The investigation looks at any potential breaches of the ministerial code. As you’ll know, I won’t get into being prescriptive about how the advice goes about ascertaining that.
Poorer students will lose out because of the government’s changes to the student loan system, a House of Lords committee said today.
Regulations that implement the changes are being considered by peers and, in a report, the Lords secondary legislation scrutiny committee said the changes “make the system less progressive and may not be consistent with government policy elsewhere, for example in the levelling up agenda”.
It also said the changes made the system too complicated.
The changes were widely criticised when they were announced last year on the grounds that students who go on to earn lower or middle-income salaries will have to pay more than they do under the current system. Students who go on to become top earners will pay less.
Lady Bakewell, a Lib Dem member of the committee, said:
The regulations will adversely affect students from disadvantaged backgrounds which is in clear contradiction to the government’s levelling up agenda.
Additionally, the government have implemented the policy in such a way as to render an already complex system so opaque and convoluted it would be very difficult to for anyone to navigate their way through it.
SNP condemns reported plan to bring forward rise in state pension age to 68
A government review of the state pension age is currently in the pipeline. It was launched in December 2021 and, under a law requiring the state pension age to be reviewed during every parliament, the results must be published by May.
Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, hinted, when he gave evidence to a committee last year, that the review would lead to the state pension age rising more quickly than planned.
In a story for the Sun, Natasha Clark says that announcement could come in the budget in March, and that the Treasury wants the state pension age to rise to 68 as early as 2035 – instead of between between 2044 and 2046, as planned now.
The state pension age is already due to rise from 66 to 67 by 2028.
The next increase – to 68 – was not due to happen until 2046, but an upcoming review is set to say it should be brought forward …
The Treasury is said to want the change to 68 to come in as early as 2035 – affecting those who are 54 and under today.
The Sun has learnt the chancellor is eyeing up announcing the move as early as the March budget.
Clark says Stride himself is pushing for 2042, not 2035, as the date for the next increase because he is “arguing that predicted increases in life expectancy have failed to materialise”.
The SNP has criticised the plan as reported by the Sun. David Linden MP, the SNP’s social justice spokesperson, said:
This is just the latest in a long line of attacks from the Tories on the UK’s state pension.
In 2014, the people of Scotland were warned that the only way to protect their pensions was by voting no.
Fast forward nine years and the current state pension doesn’t support the minimum standard of living, with the state age now set to rise to a staggering 68.
This is scandalous, and must be condemned in the strongest possible way.
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, will give a speech at Chatham House later on the foreign policy of a Labour government. As my colleague Patrick Wintour reports in his preview story, Lammy will argue for closer cooperation with Europe across security, trade and diplomacy.
In an interview with LBC this morning, Lammy said Labour would have to repair the damage done to the UK’s international reputation under the Tories. He said:
The bottom line is the last few years, the Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss, Boris Johnson Partygate stuff, has damaged our reputation.
Diplomats have said to me that they have been in situations where they are being pitied by international colleagues.
What I’m setting out today is that we have to reconnect Britain to our allies.
Boris Johnson says Ukraine must join Nato for sake of long-term peace
Boris Johnson has called for Ukraine to be admitted to Nato and launched a thinly veiled attack on Germany and the US over the failed deal to donate tanks, after a return to Ukraine this week, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.
Johnson made his comments in an article for the Daily Mail, which provides the paper’s splash.
There are two urgent questions in the Commons later. At 12.30pm Caroline Lucas (Green) is asking one about the child asylum seekers who have gone missing from hotel accommodation provided by the Home Office, and that will be followed by Ben Bradshaw (Lab) asking one about the Church of England’s stance on equal marriage.
After those are over Damian Hinds, the justice minister, will deliver a statement about the probation inspectorate.
Tory chair of Commons women's committee says Westminster should not have blocked Scotland's gender recognition bill
Holyrood’s equalities committee is sitting this morning, but without two invited guests – Scottish secretary Alister Jack and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch – who both declined to discuss with MSPs the UK government’s decision to use a section 35 order to block the Scottish parliament’s gender recognition bill.
As I discuss in this morning’s Today in Focus podcast, the row over the bill is symptomatic of an ongoing breakdown in communication between the UK and Scottish governments, but the use of this hitherto untested order takes us into uncharted territory.
And while the focus this morning has been on Caroline Nokes’s views on Zahawi, she was also asked on BBC Radio Scotland about her views on the gender recognition bill, given her role as chair of Westminster’s women and equalities committee.
She pointed out that the recommendations made by that committee in 2021 into gender recognition reform were not that different from the Scottish bill, aside from the drop in age of application, and that it was “worthwhile looking at ways in which the Westminster government could make the whole gender recognition certificate process simpler, more straightforward”.
She added that a section 35 order “should not have been done” and that there was “room for compromise” between both governments.
NHS England says research suggesting A&E delays causing up to 500 excess deaths per week not 'definitive'
At the health committee three NHS England executives – Chris Hopson, the chief strategy officer, Prof Julian Redhead, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, and Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director national transformation and medical directorates – are now giving evidence about A&E delays and excess deaths.
NHS England has said it does not endorse the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s claim that there are between 300 and 500 excess deaths per week because of delays in A&E. (See 10.22am.)
Hopson said he accepted that A&E departments were under considerable pressure. And he accepted that the excess death figures are particularly high.
But he said it was not clear what the explanation for the high excess death numbers were.
He said it was not unusual to see high excess deaths in the winter. He said flu, the cold weather, and Covid could all be factors.
The RCEM figure was based on a study that “suggests a link” between A&E waits and excess deaths, he said.
But he said that research “cannot be definitive and does not give a full and certain figure”.
However, he also stressed that he was acknowledging the system was under extreme pressure.
In his BBC interview, Richard Sharp, the corporation’s chair, rejected suggestions that he misled the advisory committee that recommended his appointment, or the Commons select committee that considered it.
Speaking about his involvement with Sam Blyth, the businessman who offered Boris Johnson a £800,000 loan guarantee, Sharp said:
I had clarified and agreed with the cabinet secretary, both of us had the judgment that I’d avoided a conflict or a perception of conflict.
Asked if it undermined BBC efforts to prove itself impartial, he said he saw attacks on the BBC all the time in the media and on social media.
They attack our impartiality and I think the governance we have put in place is extremely strong on impartiality.
Precisely because we should be judged by our output. I think the governance is world-class at the BBC and so I feel comfortable that the BBC brand is strong, and that I support it.
BBC chair Richard Sharp says he still thinks there was no conflict of interest in his appointment by Boris Johnson
Richard Sharp, the BBC chair, has told the BBC that he believes there was no conflict of interest when he was appointed by Boris Johnson – despite the revelation that he played a role in linking the businessman willing to offer Johnson a £800,000 loan guarantee to the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, who needed to approve the arrangement.
In an interview Sharp said:
Having had a discussion with the cabinet secretary about avoiding conflict, and the perception of conflict, I felt comfortable and I still feel there was no conflict, because at that stage what I was seeking to do was ensure that the process was followed exactly by the book and that the process hadn’t started, of any kind, in terms of any support that Sam [Blyth] was going to provide to the prime minister.
Sharp set out his account of the affair in a long message to BBC staff yesterday.
Royal College of Emergency Medicine president defends claim A&E delays causing up to 500 excess deaths per week
At the health committee Steve Brine, the chair, asks Dr Adrian Boyle about the claim he made at the start of the year that between 300 and 500 people are dying every week because of treatment delays in A&E.
Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, says this is based on a peer-reviewed study published in an emergency medicine journal. It was based on data from all NHS England A&E patients.
It looked at mortality rates within 30 days of attending A&E.
It found that, if people have to wait more than five hours for treatment, they are more likely to die within the next 30 days. The death rates go up in a linear fashion, he says. He says the study only looked at waits up to 12 hours, because at that point very few people were waiting longer than that.
The results showed that, for every 72 people who waited more than eight to 12 hours, there was one excess death, he says.
And he says for every 82 people who waited between six to eight hours, there was one excess death.
Boyle says he produced the figure of between 300 and 500 excess deaths per week by applying the one in 72 formula to the number of people waiting in A&E departments.
He says this estimate was a “conservative estimate”, because it did not apply a higher death rate to people waiting more than 12 hours. For that group, he just used the one in 72 ratio, he says.
The Commons health committee has just started taking evidence from Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, about the situation in A&E departments.
Steve Brine (Con), the committee chair, starts by pointing out that there was a 15.1% increase in attendance at emergency departments between December 2021 and December 2022. He suggests the increase demand is a factor in the current problems.
Boyle says demand has gone up. But he says that is not the cause of the current problems.
Minister says it is 'reasonable' for Zahawi to stay in post while No 10 ethics adviser carries out inquiry
Caroline Nokes, the Tory former minister who now chairs the women and equalities committee, told TalkTV last night that, if Nadhim Zahawi were to step aside now, he could return to government later. (See 9.31am.) She said:
There are countless examples of good, competent cabinet colleagues who have got themselves in a mess who have resigned quickly and come back, really in some instances, just a few months later and I think in order to get this cleared up Nadhim should stand aside and let the investigation run its course.
Lord Hayward, a Conservative peer, made a similar argument when he appeared on Andrew Marr’s LBC show last night.
But in his interviews this morning Chris Philp, the policing minister, said it was “reasonable” for Nadhim Zahawi to stay in his job while he is being investigated. Philp told BBC Breakfast:
I think it is reasonable that where there is an investigation, the person concerned is allowed to continue serving while that investigation continues.
We do have a principle, don’t we in this country, innocent until proven guilty. That applies to a whole range of different circumstances.
Labour restates call for Zahawi to resign, or be sacked
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, was Labour’s representative on the morning broadcast shows. He restated the party’s call for Nadhim Zahawi to be sacked. He told Sky News:
When you’ve been chancellor of the exchequer and you said you’ve been careless despite the fact that offshore trusts have been set up in Gibraltar, I’m sorry you really ought to resign or be sacked.
He also criticised the government for letting this drag on.
What we’ve seen time and time again over the last 13 years is that when they’ve done wrong, government ministers remain in office, they hold on.
It goes on and on for days, dominates the news when we should be dealing with far more serious issues and I’m afraid we’re here again.
Nadhim Zahawi under fresh pressure to quit as senior Tory says he should ‘stand aside’
Good morning. Ever since it won plaudits for its coverage of the demise of the Liz Truss administration, some Westminster insiders have taken the view that the news organisation providing the most incisive and astute coverage of British politics (apart from the Guardian, of course) is the Daily Star. And this morning it has delivered its verdict on Nadhim Zahawi – not lettuce, but toast.
It is hard to disagree. Last night Caroline Nokes, a former minister who now chairs the women and equalities committee, became the first Tory MP to call for Zahawi to “stand aside” from his job as Conservative party chair while his tax affairs are being investigated by the No 10 ethics adviser.
This morning Chris Philp, the policing minister, was doing a media round on behalf of the government, and it was two hours of his life that he will probably be keen to forget.
Philp defended Rishi Sunak, arguing that the PM deserved credit for ordering an investigation into what happened. But he did not try to defend Zahawi, repeatedly saying that he did not know the full facts about Zahawi’s tax arrangements.
On the Today programme Mishal Husain, the presenter, put it to him that Zahawi has admitted being careless with his tax affairs and that the government’s own website says that “carelessness” with tax affairs can be likened to the “longstanding concept in the general law of negligence”.
Asked whether Sunak found it acceptable for a cabinet minster to be “negligent in their tax affairs”, Philp told the programme:
We’ve got this word ‘careless’ that has been put into the public domain.
We don’t know exactly what it was that that carelessness represents.”
After further questions, the minister added:
You’re effectively inviting me to speculate on exactly what happened.
I don’t know exactly what happened, I don’t know what form that carelessness took and nor probably does anybody else apart from HMRC and Mr Zahawi. So let’s find out the facts.
As my colleague Peter Walker points out, this argument is rather feeble.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10am: Dr Adrian Boyle, president, Royal College of Emergency Medicine, gives evidence to the Commons health committee about the situation in A&E departments. At 10.45am three NHS England executives, Chris Hopson, the chief strategy officer, Prof Julian Redhead, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, and Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director national transformation and medical directorates, give evidence.
11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
11.30am: Steve Barclay, the health secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
12pm: David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, gives a speech at Chatham House.
After 12.30pm: The Conservative MP Bob Seely introduces a 10-minute rule bill to tackle Slapps (strategic lawsuits against public participation).
I’ll 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 firstname.lastname@example.org