A summary of today's developments

  • The government survived the threat of a Tory rebellion during a five-hour debate on the illegal migration bill. Four amendments were rejected after a vote by MPs. These were regarding allowing individuals seeking asylum who claim to be victim of crime, human trafficking or deprived of their human rights to remain in the UK during their asylum process, introducing a safe passage pilot scheme, a provision for unaccompanied children asylum seekers coming from the EU to be allowed into the UK for the purposes of family reunion and the government creating reciprocal co-operation deals with the EU Member States regarding asylum seeker and illegal migration issues.

  • Stephen Kinnock, a shadow immigration minister, said Labour had its own plan to stop small boat crossings. The government’s plan would not work because it was not credible, he said.

  • Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members will be on strike throughout April, culminating with another all-out strike by 133,000 civil and public servants on 28 April. It means civil and public servants will be taking strike action from today until the end of April, with workers in the Passport Office on strike for five weeks until 6 May. Members working for Ofgem in Canary Wharf and Glasgow today announced six days’ strike action from April 10-14 and on 17 April.

  • During the statement on the antisocial behaviour action plan Kit Malthouse, the former policing minister, expressed concern that banning laughing gas could lead to supply being taken over by drug dealers.

  • As part of the anti-social behaviour action plan, the government will make organising begging networks an offence. It will also give the police and local authorities powers to stop people engaged in “intimidating” begging, “including obstructing shop doorways and begging by cash points”. Charities that help the homeless have criticised these plans.

And that brings day one of the debate to a conclusion.

MPs vote to reject Labour New Clause 25

The ayes voted 196, the noes voted 306. The majority is 110.


MPs are now voting on the addition of Labour New Clause 25.

The amendment would require the government to create reciprocal co-operation deals with the EU Member States regarding asylum seeker and illegal migration issues.

MPs vote to reject Labour New Clause 24

The ayes 248 voted, the noes 301 voted. The majority is 53.

MPs are now voting on the addition of Labour New Clause 24 which would make provision for unaccompanied children asylum seekers coming from the EU to be allowed into the UK for the purposes of family reunion.

MPs vote to reject Lib Dem New Clause 6

On the division on the addition of Lib Dem New Clause 6, the ayes voted 67, noes 307.

MPs have divided to vote on Lib Dem New Clause 6 which would require the Home Office to establish a humanitarian travel permit scheme.

The result is expected at around 10.30pm.

MPs are now voting on Lib Dem New Clause 6 which relates to a safe passage pilot scheme.

MPs reject SNP amendment

On the vote on amendment 76 of the bill, ayes voted 244, noes 308.


MPs begin to vote on the bill.

MPs are voting on the SNP amendment 76.

The amendment allows individuals seeking asylum who claim to be victim of crime, human trafficking or deprived of their human rights to remain in the UK during their asylum process.


Mary Kelly Foy, Labour MP for the City of Durham, believes the legislation is an “anti-refugee” bill and has described it as “inhumane”.

Conservative MP Miriam Cates was heckled by some on the opposition benches as she argued: “Many of those who argue against strong borders and strong action against illegal immigration are not themselves personally affected by illegal immigration.

“Their wages are not threatened by the black market economy, they don’t rely on essential local resources that are taken up with housing migrants, their children are not sent to school with young men who are clearly not children, and their sense of agency and national identity does not rest on the integrity of our borders or the sovereignty of our Parliament.

“For those whose lives and culture are not negatively impacted by thousands of people arriving here on small boats it makes sense to argue for open borders in the name of compassion.

“For many of my constituents, these are luxury beliefs and the reality is that high and clearly visible levels of illegal immigration are a threat to ordinary people’s safety, security, identity and sense of fair play.

“Believing in and upholding strong borders and firm boundaries is not uncompassionate or bigoted. It is a pre-requisite for a fair, safe and cohesive nation.

“Ultimately when boundaries are not upheld or laws are not unenforced, it’s always the vulnerable that suffer as criminals exploit loopholes and drain much-needed finite resources away from those in genuine need.”

Labour MP Marsha de Cordova has tweeted she will be opposing the bill.

Last week week I met with @4refugeewomen and Rainbow Sisters who shared their stories.

LGBT+ refugees and women are doubly disadvantaged, with many claiming systematic silencing by Home Office.

That is why tonight I will oppose government’s cruel Illegal Migration Bill. pic.twitter.com/jZlnWca12T

— Marsha de Cordova MP (@MarshadeCordova) March 27, 2023


Yasmin Qureshi, a Labour MP and trained barrister, said the bill is the “most repugnant pieces of legislation” she has come across in the Commons.


Alison Thewliss, from the SNP, said she knows of 80 of her constituents who have relatives in Afghanistan and only two were reunited with those family members after the fall of Kabul.

The government is expected to defuse a Tory rebellion over the illegal migration bill by offering assurances to those wanting to toughen up the controversial proposals.

The legislation aims to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means, including those crossing the Channel in small boats.

The bill has been denounced by the UN’s refugee agency as an effective “asylum ban” and has also faced objections from different groups within the Conservative party.

A group of rightwing Tory MPs have signalled that it does not go far enough, with some calling for ministers to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to drive through tighter border controls and prevent them being stifled by the courts.

Others on the liberal wing want to see Rishi Sunak commit to establishing safe routes via which asylum seekers can come to Britain.

For Labour, the shadow immigration minister, Stephen Kinnock, called the bill “entirely counterproductive” and said they would oppose it.

Demonstrators protesting against the bill gathered in Parliament Square on Monday as the measures returned to the Commons.


Nicola Richards, the Conservative’s MP for West Bromwich East, has announced that she will not be standing at the next election

Due to changes in my domestic circumstances, I will not be seeking election as the Member of Parliament for the new constituency of West Bromwich at the next general election. pic.twitter.com/fXlDXf86fZ

— Nicola Richards MP (@nicolafrichards) March 27, 2023

The Conservative MP for Newbury, Laura Farris, has spoken against amendments from her fellow Tories Danny Kruger and Simon Clarke aimed at limiting the Human Rights Act and Strasbourg’s influence on the bill.

The former barrister told MPs: “I think we should be very wary of quick fixes. We said throughout the Brexit debate we would be taking back control of our borders, but it is more complex than that.

“The point I am making in this speech tonight is leaving the convention or derogating from the convention is not the answer.

“It won’t do the job, anyway, and I think it will undermine the effect of this bill, which I think will be upheld as lawful by the European court of human rights in the event that it is referred there.”


Labour’s Stella Creasy speaks of the case of an Afghan family separated after coming to the UK.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick says 25,000 individuals have come to the UK from Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul.

Conservative former minister Sir John Hayes warned the government that the electorate would not give his party a “third chance” at addressing the issue of people arriving on small boats.

He said: “If (the bill) fails, and the government is found wanting, those on this side of the house will pay a heavy price. So, the minister needs to know that we’ve been down this road before with the (Nationality and Borders Bill).

“Of course, we were told that the borders bill would do the job. And I don’t think ministers were deceiving us. They genuinely believed that would be the case, and yet … we found that we couldn’t achieve what we wanted with the borders bill.”

Hayes added: “We will not be given a third chance. This is our second chance to deal once and for all with the matter of the boats arriving in Dover, the – and I do use the word, tide, wave, I think [the] home secretary described it as a swarm – of people coming here who know they’re arriving illegally.”


Demonstrators protesting against the Illegal Migration Bill in Parliament Square, London.
Demonstrators protesting against the Illegal Migration Bill in Parliament Square, London. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

MPs and pro-immigration campaigners protest against the proposed Illegal Migration Bill outside the Houses of Parliaments in London.
MPs and pro-immigration campaigners protest against the proposed Illegal Migration Bill outside the Houses of Parliaments in London. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA

Charity Sherborne Area Refugee Support has issued a statement on the Illegal Migration Bill.

Sherborne Area Refugee Support statement on 'Illegal Migration' Bill calling on @chrisloder to stand against the Bill #RefugeesWelcome pic.twitter.com/Ab8MaVZ2fe

— Mia Barlow 🧡 (@MiaBarlowMia) March 27, 2023

While the debate continues, Jeremy Corbyn has attended a protest outside parliament opposing the illegal migration bill.

Jeremy Corbyn brings #solidarity from @ApsanaBegumMP at tonight’s rally opposing the Tories’ illegal Illegal Migration bill #SafePassageNow #RefugeesWelcome pic.twitter.com/Am9bi52PEB

— Stand Up To Racism (@AntiRacismDay) March 27, 2023


Here is more from Conservative MP Danny Kruger who told the Commons: “The new framework we need needs to honour the founding principle of both the European convention on human rights (ECHR) and the refugee convention, the principle that the primary responsibility for managing asylum rests with the nation state.”

He added: “My amendment ensures that the policy of removal can go ahead notwithstanding any decision of the European court. No more pyjama injunctions in the middle of the night.

“No human rights framework, no international convention can dictate to us that we should tolerate illegality, let alone illegal entry to our country and to all the privileges of residence here.”

He added there was a need to “put the laws we make here ahead of the interpretation of a foreign court”, adding: “Parliament is sovereign, the public expects us to have the courage to discharge our duty and take back control of our borders as we promised we would do when we left the EU.”


The government must do more to make sure the illegal migration bill is not subject to legal challenges on human rights grounds, a Conservative former minister said.

Former communities secretary Simon Clarke urged MPs to back his amendment aimed at preventing several sections of the Human Rights Act 1988 from impacting the bill.

He told the Commons: “Having disapplied section 3 on the basis that it leaves open the possibility of systemic legal challenge, I can see no legal, philosophical or practical argument against doing the same where a similar risk exists.

“Ultimately we know our best and probably only chance for this legislation from being entangled in human rights law is for this place to be absolutely clear and unambiguous about our intentions.

“It feels to me that my amendment flows in that spirit and that we should show the determination now, not after the fact if and when the fears that many of us have in this House have been realised, to make our intentions clear on the face of the bill.”


Labour’s Andrew Gwynne points out the government said it cut the asylum backlog by 50% but the UK statistics authority said it has increased by 770%, arguing you cannot have a debate when “the statistics are skewed so incorrectly”.

Tim Farron adds “bogus, nonsense figures” spouted in the Commons previously do not help the situation.

Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said the asylum problem is due to the fact that the “Home Office is dysfunctional” and the “system is broken”.

Danny Kruger, the Tory MP, said his policy amendment will mean no more “pyjama injunctions in the middle of the night” opposing orders.

In response, Labour’s Stella Creasy said one of the reasons Winston Churchill set up the ECHR was to protect citizens in the UK and Europe from “overbearing governments who don’t have respect for the role of courts in keeping them honest”.

Away from the debate on the bill for a moment, the National Education Union said it would recommend members reject what it called an “insulting” pay offer from the education secretary.

The union said the offer amounted to a £1,000 one-off cash payment for the present school year (2022/23) and a 4.3% consolidated pay rise for most teachers for next year (2023/24).

The NEU said its analysis suggested that between two in five (42%) and three in five (58%) of schools would have to make cuts next year to afford it.

The national executive committee decided the offer should be put to members, recommending rejection, in a ballot which opens on Monday and closes on Sunday 2 April.


Labour MP Nadia Whittome has tweeted this in the past hour about the bill.

Attacking refugees won’t help people in the UK pay their bills or put food on the table.

The Illegal Migration Bill is a classic example of Tory divide and rule. We can’t fall for it. pic.twitter.com/ae8WrEECKw

— Nadia Whittome MP (@NadiaWhittomeMP) March 27, 2023


On amendment 137, on imposing a cap on migrants using safe and legal routes, Dame Diana Johnson said setting an arbitrary cap “could be seen to restrain the government from responding dynamically and appropriately”. She also argues that children should not be included in the cap number for asylum claims.

Dame Diana Johnson, chair of the home affairs committee and a Labour MP, told the Commons she was concerned about the lack of an impact assessment of the legislation, an equality impact assessment and a children’s rights impact assessment.


Conservative former minister Tim Loughton told the Commons he would push his plans for required safe and legal routes to a vote unless there were “substantial reassurances” from the government.

On his new clause 13, he said: “I will be prepared to move to a vote unless I can have some substantial reassurances from the government … it makes a requirement on the face of the bill that there will be safe and legal routes as part of this legislation going through.

“So, there must be in the regulations, referred to on the face of the bill, specific safe and legal routes by which asylum seekers can enter the United Kingdom in an orderly and sustainable way.”

He said “additional routes” and “additionality is key to this”, suggesting new routes could apply from countries people are fleeing, from refugee camps, reception centres in other countries, and even be subject to a cap, but “that is all down to the government to decide, I don’t want to be overly prescriptive”.


Here are further comments from shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock who called the bill “entirely counterproductive”, adding that Labour “oppose” it.

He said: “It’s only going to make all of the challenges that we face worse. We on these benches believe in supporting legislation that is actually addressing the substance of an issue, rather than chasing tabloid headlines.”

Kinnock added: “A strategy for securing Britain’s borders must begin with a clear and honest recognition that we cannot solve these problems unilaterally … that means urgent action which will be taken forward from day one of a Labour government to negotiate a returns agreement with the EU to replace our previous participation in the Dublin system.”

He went on: “Yes, we do support a capped scheme for safe and legal routes, it has to be based on prioritisation … the benches opposite have completely burned every relationship with our partners and allies across in continental Europe, and as a result of that we have left the Dublin convention and there’s a direct connection between the massive surge in numbers coming on small boats and the government’s botched Brexit negotiations.”


Stuart C McDonald, from the SNP, brands the bill “appalling” and cites the UNHR saying the bill breaches the refugee convention. He adds it should be scrapped entirely.


Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash said his illegal migration bill amendments are designed to ensure the will of parliament is actually implemented.

Amendment 131 seeks to ensure that the only way to prevent a person’s removal is through a successful suspensive claim.

Cash told the Commons: “The point of my amendment is to make sure that what parliament intends actually happens. The illegal migration bill is designed to be both fair and efficient.

“Those who believe there is some special fundamental reason why they should not be sent to Rwanda or another safe country can put their case before a judge, but that should be a comprehensive legislative scheme that sets out permitted routes of challenge.

“These permitted routes of challenge, the suspensive claims, are carefully calibrated and fair.

“They include ample provision for late claims, new evidence and compelling circumstances and other judicial review claims are still allowed in the normal way, it is just that they cannot prevent removal – that is the right balance between fairness on the one hand and deterrence on the other.”


Public and Commercial Services union members to strike on 28 April

Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members will be on strike throughout April, culminating with another all-out strike by 133,000 civil and public servants on 28 April.

It means civil and public servants will be taking strike action from today until the end of April, with workers in the Passport Office on strike for five weeks until 6 May.

Members working for Ofgem in Canary Wharf and Glasgow today announced six days’ strike action from April 10-14 and on 17 April.

The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “Our members are not backing down in this dispute. Ministers need to take notice that we’re escalating our action and they need to resolve the dispute by putting money on the table.

“We know our strikes have already caused serious disruption. The new strikes and another national day of action will pile the pressure on a government that refuses to listen.”


Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash said he expects to receive assurances from the government for talks to consider a series of illegal migration bill amendments that threatened to cause a Tory rebellion.

Cash said the Bill was “getting better with the amendments proposed by the government today” before adding: “The number of backbenchers who are supporting my own and our constructive amendments is growing.

“This bill to stop the boats is both legally and politically necessary because illegal migration is out of control, some part of which is because there’s a failure to distinguish between genuine refugees and others who are illegal and economic migrants.

“We must stop people making these hazardous and lethal journeys in small boats. We must stop the criminality, we must stop illegal migration and the cost of this and the impact of this on our local and national resources.”

Cash also believes the bill “can achieve that objective with goodwill” after he pointed to Tory amendments.


Tim Loughton MP said on ECHR judgments, 47% have not been complied with. In Spain, 61% of rulings have not been complied with, the proportion is 58% in Italy and 37% in Germany.


Tory MP Tim Loughton said the fact that almost 10,000 Afghan refugees brought to the UK 18 months ago are still in hotels shows there is “an accommodation problem”.

Under the proposals, the home secretary’s “duty to remove” will take precedence over an individual’s right to claim asylum.

People removed will be blocked from returning to the UK or seeking British citizenship in the future. Although the bill not become law for several months, it will be possible for the government to apply it retrospectively.

Labour’s Steven Kinnock said it would result in a limbo situation where a court rules it would pose unacceptable risks to a person’s safety to be returned to the country where they are from but they cannot lawfully remain in the UK because of the government refusing their claim.


Labour says government's illegal migration bill will not work as it is not credible

Stephen Kinnock, a shadow immigration minister, was the second MP to speak in the illegal migration bill debate. He said Labour had its own plan to stop small boat crossings. The government’s plan would not work because it was not credible, he said. He went on:

The central premise of this bill is that it will act as a deterrent by banning the right to asylum and replacing it with blanket detention and removal policies.

But in order for a deterrent to be effective, it has to be credible.

And this bill fails the credibility test because there is nowhere near enough capacity to detain asylum seekers in the UK, there is no returns agreement with the EU, and the Rwandan government is only agreeing to take thousands at some unspecified future date.

So the boats will keep on coming, the backlog will keep on growing and the hotels will keep on filling.

All of which leaves the house in the somewhat surreal position of debating a bill that everyone knows is not really worth the paper it’s written on.

That’s all from me for tonight.

My colleague Nadeem Badshah is now taking over.


MPs resume debate on illegal migration bill

In the Commons MPs have just stated debating amendments to the illegal migration bill being considered on day one of the committee stage. The full list of the amendments is here. Sir Bill Cash, the veteran Tory Brexiter, opened the debate because he tabled one of the lead amendments (amendment 133, which would limit the circumstances in which a removal order could be challenged). Ministers have indicated that they want to address the concerns of Cash and his supporters, and Cash said if he got satisfactory assurances, he would not push his amendment to a vote.


Tory former policing minister warns Braverman that banning laughing gas could boost trade for drug dealers

During the statement on the antisocial behaviour action plan Kit Malthouse, the former education secretary, and before that policing minister for three years, expressed concern that banning laughing gas could lead to supply being taken over by drug dealers. While welcoming much of the plan, he said:

On nitrous oxide though, I wonder if I could just urge [Suella Braverman, the home secretary] to examine carefully the roots of supply of this particular toxin. One of the issues that we need to avoid is that this substance moves from the legitimate market into the illegitimate market, becomes another hook for drug dealers to draw young people into their awful trade. How can she restrict supply to those who genuinely need it without it necessarily becoming an illicit substance that drug dealers use for their business?

In response, Braverman said she wanted to ensure that people who need nitrous oxide for lawful purposes would still be able to get it.

Kit Malthouse in the Commons today.
Kit Malthouse in the Commons today. Photograph: HoC


Alex Salmond, the former SNP leader and former first minister who now leads the Alba party, has urged Humza Yousaf to convene an independence convention.

I offer my congratulations to Humza.

He should now heed the calls of other independence supporting organisations, to convene an Independence Convention.

It’s his responsibility to re-unite not just the SNP, but the movement.

Continuity won’t cut it. https://t.co/7gCHezhLtG pic.twitter.com/jBdn7hMnlv

— Alex Salmond (@AlexSalmond) March 27, 2023

In the early 1990s the Scottish Constitutional Convention played a major role in creating public support in Scotland for devolution, which was subsequently implemented by Tony Blair’s government.

The Conservative MP Theo Clarke has been chosen to contest the next election despite local party chiefs rejecting her candidacy, PA Media reports. PA says:

Clarke said she was “delighted” that members of the Stafford Conservative association had chosen her to fight to retain the West Midlands seat.

She fought for the backing of the full local party membership after criticising the association executive for de-selecting her after she returned from maternity leave.

Clarke, the niece of former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, said: “I am delighted Stafford Conservative association members have readopted me as their parliamentary candidate to fight the next general election. It was vital the whole membership, not just a minority, were given the opportunity to decide who they wanted as their candidate.”

Last month she said she was “deeply disappointed” not to have been selected by the local selection committee the week she returned from leave.

She also said she received abuse on social media after announcing she was having a baby.

Theo Clarke.
Theo Clarke. Photograph: UK Parliament/PA

No 10 rejects criticism from homelessness charities of its plans to curb 'intimidating' begging

As part of the anti-social behaviour action plan, the government will make organising begging networks an offence. It will also give the police and local authorities powers to stop people engaged in “intimidating” begging, “including obstructing shop doorways and begging by cash points”.

Charities that help the homeless have criticised these plans. Fiona Colley, director of social change at Homeless Link, said:

We are extremely disappointed to see that this new plan will result in further criminalisation of vulnerable people, rather than offering the constructive solutions that work in helping people off the streets for good.

And Matt Downie, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said “labelling destitute people a nuisance and threatening to move people on is not the answer to tackling rough sleeping”.

But Downing Street rejected claims that the homeless were being further criminalised. The PM’s spokeperson told journalists:

No one should be criminalised for simply having nowhere to live. That’s why we’ve repealed the Vagrancy Act, which was passed in 1824.

We want to end rough sleeping, we want to prevent people from ending up on the streets in the first place and we’re investing billions to that end.

What we are doing is giving forces and local councils the tools they’ve made clear they need to ensure vulnerable individuals on the streets can get the support they deserve, whether that’s accommodation, mental health support or substance misuse services, and at the same time deal with individuals whose behaviour is intimidating or maybe linked to criminal gangs.

To coincide with the release of the action plan, the Home Office has also published polling showing that most people feel safe in their local area, but that “there are low levels of confidence in how community safety issues are being dealt with both at a local level and across England and Wales”.


In the Commons Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, responded to Suella Braverman with the line she released earlier (see 1.46pm), saying it was “too weak, too little and too late”.

She said she supported the government’s plan to expand hotspot policing. But hotspot policing was not the same as neighbourhood policing, she said. She said 10,000 neighbourhood policing posts had been cut under the government.

UPDATE: In reponse to Cooper, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, said:

Under Labour PCCs [police and crime commissioners) residents are almost twice as likely to be a victim of robbery and knife crime is over 44% higher.

In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan wants to legalise cannabis. In the West Midlands, the Labour PCC wants to close police stations.

The truth about Labour is that they care more about the rights of criminals than the right of the law-abiding majority … They are soft on crime, they are soft on the causes of crime.


People experiencing more anti-social behaviour than decade ago, but reporting it to police less, Home Office figures show

Here is a question from below the line.

'Both main parties believe that antisocial behaviour will be a key issue at the election and this morning'

@Andrew - is 'antisocial behaviour' actually increasing? As far as I recall, the British Crime Survey has been showing most forms of crime declining for a very long period now. There are exceptions like online fraud and violent crime but I don't recall hearing about any increase in this area.

My cynicism here is that I had to work on processing results for a survey during the last general election. Voters were asked about their most important policy areas and without fail all the Tory voters gave crime as one of their answers. Which was odd, as it's a rural constituency without a particularly high crime rate....

The government action plan addresses this question and the answer is, it depends how you measure it. The document says:

While the total number of incidences of antisocial behaviour reported to the police has fallen by more than half since 20128, last year 35% of people reported witnessing or experiencing antisocial behaviour. This divide suggests that people are increasingly unwilling to report antisocial behaviour or have a much wider understanding of what constitutes antisocial behaviour compared to police recorded incidents.

And here is the graph from the document, showing that while incidents of antisocial behaviour reported to the police have gone down over the past decade, people say they are experiencing it more often. The figures cover England and Wales.

Anti-social behaviour figures
Anti-social behaviour figures Photograph: Home Office


In the Commons Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is making a statement about the antisocial behaviour action plan.

The full 48-page plan is on the Home Office’s website. It has been well publicised over the weekend.

She starts by saying the government is just days away from getting police numbers to a record level.


Humza Yousaf first Muslim elected national leader in western democracy, says thinktank

The election of Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s first minister will be a breakthrough moment, according to Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, a thinktank focusing on race, identity and migration. In a statement Katwala explained:

The significance of Humza Yousaf becoming Scotland’s first minister should be recognised across the partisan divides in Scottish and British politics. King Charles III will now be inviting a Hindu UK prime minister and a Muslim first minister of Scotland to his coronation this spring. It highlights how ethnic and faith diversity have become a new norm at the top of British and Scottish politics, in a way that is unmatched throughout Europe.

Yousaf is the first Muslim to be elected as a national leader in any western democracy in Europe or beyond. There have been Muslim mayors of major cities, including London and Rotterdam, and senior cabinet ministers too. But this is a breakthrough in a national leadership role that will resonate well beyond Scotland.

Katwala has written about this at more length in a column for Eastern Eye.


And this is from Stephen Noon, chief strategist for the pro-independence Yes campaign in 2014 (ie, Blair McDougall’s opposite number – see 2.54pm) on the significance of the election result. He is referring to the fact that the members were split almost 50/50 between Kate Forbes (who represents a rural constituency, and is more pro-business) and Humza Yousaf (who represents an urban constituency, and is more pro-redistribution).

Congratulations to Humza Yousaf. The result suggests the old @theSNP balance remains: urban & rural; wealth creation & wealth sharing etc. This has long been a creative dynamic for the party and can serve us well again. A both/and mindset is usually better than either/or.

— Stephen Noon (@StephenNoon) March 27, 2023

This is from Keir Starmer on Humza Yousaf’s election as SNP leader.

Congratulations to @HumzaYousaf - the first First Minister of an ethnic minority background is a significant moment for Scotland.

The SNP do not have the answers on the NHS or on the cost of living crisis.

Only Labour can provide the change that Scotland needs.

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) March 27, 2023

Alba, the pro-independence party set up by the former SNP leader and first minister Alex Salmond, has dismissed Humza Yousaf as a “continuity” party leader.

Continuity won't cut it.

Join ALBA today ➡️ https://t.co/Jveyc2DOrl #ALBAforIndependence 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 pic.twitter.com/BmEBD9qsdD

— ALBA Party (@AlbaParty) March 27, 2023

Salmond said that Ash Regan had the best approach to independence.

And this is from Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, on Humza Yousaf’s election.

I congratulate Humza Yousaf on his election, and on becoming the first leader of his party from an ethnic minority.

We encourage him to govern for all of Scotland and abandon his divisive plans to push independence relentlessly as the self-styled ‘first activist’.

As the main opposition party, we will hold Humza Yousaf to account when he lets the Scottish people down.

Unfortunately, we have serious concerns about his ability. For the good of Scotland, we hope he does not lurch from failure to failure as he did when he was Nicola Sturgeon’s health secretary, justice secretary and transport minister.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, has issued this statement about Humza Yousaf’s victory in the SNP leadership election. He said:

I extend my sincere congratulations to Humza Yousaf on his election.

While I question his mandate and the SNP’s record, it is important to reflect on the election of what will be the first first minister from an ethnic minority background. Regardless of your politics, this is a significant moment for Scotland.

But while Scotland faces the twin crises of the cost of living and the NHS emergency, it is clear that the SNP does not have the answers that Scotland needs.

This chaotic and divided party is out of touch and out of ideas.

Humza Yousaf has inherited the SNP’s woeful record, but he has not inherited Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate.

This is from Blair McDougall, a former Labour adviser who was chief strategist for the Better Together campaign in 2014 and who is now a prominent anti-nationalist commentator.

Nearly half of SNP members just voted for the small government, low tax, pro austerity, anti-gay marriage, anti-choice, anti-single parent candidate. Don’t ever darken my door with your “red tories” shit ever again.

— Blair McDougall (@blairmcdougall) March 27, 2023

And here is an extract from his Substack analysis.

We will now have both a first minister and a prime minister who can trace their families back to South Asia. We will have our first Muslim and our first Hindu heads of government.

While a shrinking minority will see this as a negative, I love that most of us see it as something to celebrate, or, perhaps more typically, as something that is no longer even worthy of mention.


Nicola Sturgeon, the outgoing first minister, has congratulated Humza Yousaf. She did not endorse any of the candidates, but it was widely assumed that she wanted Yousaf to win. He was the candidate most supportive of her agenda.

I pay tribute to all 3 candidates for @theSNP leadership for rising to the challenge.
Most of all I congratulate @HumzaYousaf and wish him every success. He will be an outstanding leader & First Minister and I could not be prouder to have him succeed me.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 27, 2023

These are from the Scottish Conservatives on Humza Yousaf’s victory.

BREAKING: @HumzaYousaf has won the SNP leadership race. So what can we expect from the new leader? 🧵👇


— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) March 27, 2023

Instead of focusing on Scotland's real priorities - rebuilding our NHS & tackling the global cost-of-living crisis - Humza Yousaf has said his top priority is independence.

With Humza at the helm of this SNP Government, Scotland faces years more division and distraction.

2/ pic.twitter.com/2wAAd9mvP9

— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) March 27, 2023

Humza Yousaf with Ash Regan (left) and Kate Forbes, his rivals in the leadership contest, as his victory was announced.
Humza Yousaf with Ash Regan (left) and Kate Forbes, his rivals in the leadership contest, as his victory was announced. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Q: When you were campaigning, you said people in the south-west of Scotland would not be forgotten, and that you would start the independence campaign there. When will you go there?

Very soon, says Yousaf. He says the SNP will only win independence if it persuades people who voted against last time.

He says that’s the last question. He has a lot of work to do, and will get on with it, he says.

Q: Will you continue to use public money and civil service time drawing up the prospectus for independence?

Yousaf says, when a party wins an election, it has every right to implement its manifesto. The civil service will help it do that, he says.

Q: What will you do on the gender recognition reform bill?

Yousaf says he does not think Westminster had the right to block it using a section 35 order. His first principle will be to challenge that, he says.

Q: What will the first thing you do to take Scotland closer to independence?

Yousaf says he wants to kickstart the civic-led campaign for independence. It must be led from the grassroots, he says.

Q: Aren’t you going to be just as divisive as Nicola Sturgeon?

Yousaf says Sturgeon enjoyed huge support, particularly for her record during Covid.

If the government wins the trust of people, they will be persuaded by the SNP’s message on independence, he says.

Q: The SNP is in trouble on various front, so haven’t you got the worst job in Scottish politics?

Yousaf says he has the best job in Scottish politics. The government has support, and a record any government would be proud of, he says.

Q: What are you going to do to reassure members of the party worried about the financial state of the party?

Yousaf says he has not been involved in that up to now. He expects to get up to speed quickly. And he wants the party to be transparent, he says.

Yousaf says political obstacles at Westminster will disappear when there is 'consistent, majority support for independence'

Q: What is your timeline for independence? And how will you reassure people that Scotland can afford independence?

Yousaf says the key to independence is having “consistent, majority support for independence”. He says when that is the case, the political obstacles to independence in Westminster will disappear.

Yousaf says he wants to put independence drive 'into fifth gear'

Yousaf says he wants to put the drive for independence “into fifth gear”.

Q: How can you unite the country if you are still committed to independence, which is divisive?

Yousaf says he will deliver on the priorities of the public, while making the case for independence.

Q: Polls found you were seen as the most incompetent, weak and untrustworthy of all the candidates. How will you turn that round?

Yousaf says the SNP is an election-winning team.


Yousaf says he wants SNP to be 'as big a tent as possible'

Yousaf says he wants to have “as big a tent as possible”.

That means accepting ideas put forward by his rivals, he says.

He says the SNP has won the trust of the people of Scotland because it has delivered for them.

Q: How will you unite the party after such a bruising contest?

Yousaf says it is important for the party to come together. One of his first acts will be to meet Kate Forbes and Ash Regan. There will be no team Humza, team Kate or team Ash. They must be one team SNP.

Yousaf is now taking questions.

Q: What makes you think you can deliver independence when Nicola Sturgeon could not?

Yousaf says it will be a team effort, and he will build a team.

Humza Yousaf started his acceptance speech by saying that he felt humbled, and that he felt like the luckiest man in the world to be SNP leader.

The late John Smith got it right, he said. All we ask is the chance to serve, he said, quoting Smith.

He said he would lead the SNP in the interests of all members, not just those who voted for him.

And he said he would be first minister for all of Scotland. He went on:

There will be no empty promises or easy soundbites when the issues in front of us are difficult and complex. Because government is not easy.

He said his first priority would be protecting people from the cost of living crisis. But he said he would also extend childcare, improve rural housing, support small businesses, boost innovation, reform the criminal justice system and empower local authorities.

He said the journey to net zero should not lead to people being in fuel poverty.

He said he would work to lift people out of poverty.

And he said the SNP was united behind its support for independence.


Here is my colleague Libby Brooks’ story on Humza Yousaf’s victory.

SNP leadership election results in full

Lorna Finn, the national secretary, read out the results.

She said the electorate was 72,169. And 50,494 people voted, meaning there was a turnout of 70%.

There were three spoilt ballot papers.

First ballot results

Ash Regan: 5,599 – 11.1%

Kate Forbes: 20,559 – 40.7%

Humza Yousaf: 24,336 – 48.2%

Second ballot results

Kate Forbes: 23,890 – 47.9%

Humza Yousaf: 26,032 – 52.1%


Humza Yousaf elected new SNP leader, and prospective next Scottish first minster

Humza Yousaf has been elected SNP leader, beating Kate Forbes with second preferences by 52% to 48%.

He is now certain to be next Scottish first minister too, although that has to be confirmed by MSPs.

From the National’s Abbi Garton-Crosbie

We’ve been given a very informative hand out 😂 pic.twitter.com/oAsv85it6T

— Abbi Garton-Crosbie (@agc_reports) March 27, 2023

Jeremy Corbyn has issued a statement in response to the news that Labour’s national executive committee is set to block him from standing as a candidate at the next election. Implying he will run as an independent, Corbyn says: “Our message is clear: we are not going anywhere.”

A statement on the latest attempt to block my candidacy for Islington North. pic.twitter.com/ytZSK4oEKI

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) March 27, 2023

The BBC’s Iain Watson has posted on Twitter the text of the anti-Corbyn motion that the NEC will be asked to approve tomorrow. It does not specifically mention Corbyn’s response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report on Labour and antisemitism, which was the trigger for Corbyn being suspended from the parliamentary party.

this is ⁦@Keir_Starmer⁩'s motion to ⁦@UKLabour⁩ NEC to debar ⁦@jeremycorbyn⁩ as a candidate pic.twitter.com/zvLKqcy3bN

— iain watson (@iainjwatson) March 27, 2023


These are from Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland’s political editor.

Just seen @HumzaYousaf with a massive smile on his face

He said not to read anything into that


— Glenn Campbell (@GlennBBC) March 27, 2023

Kate Forbes is here with her baby, Naomi

She said she was feeling “fine”

Think there’s been a lot of nervous anticipation in all three campaigns because they have found it “impossible” to gauge how SNP members have been voting

— Glenn Campbell (@GlennBBC) March 27, 2023

All three candidates have prepared acceptance speeches … just in case

I suppose two of those texts will end up in the shredder

— Glenn Campbell (@GlennBBC) March 27, 2023

Sunak's antisocial behaviour action plan 'too weak, too little and too late', says Labour

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has described Rishi Sunak’s antisocial behaviour action plan as “too weak, too little and too late”. In a statement, she said:

Over the last 13 years the Conservatives have decimated neighbourhood policing and youth services and weakened antisocial behaviour powers so they are barely used.

There are still 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police and PCSOs on our streets than there were 7 years ago.

A few hotspot pilots is nowhere near enough to turn that around. We need guaranteed neighbourhood patrols and action in all areas or this is just yet more empty rhetoric.

Labour will put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on the beat to keep our communities safe.

But Cooper also said that Labour would support the ban on laughing gas – even though this is one of the aspects of the plan that has attracted most criticism, because it runs counter to the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. In an interview on BBC News, when it was put to her that there was no evidence to support a ban, Cooper said there was some “early evidence” to suggest laughing gas did cause harm. She also said it was linked to antisocial behaviour.

Chris Philp, the policing minister, said almost exactly the same when he was asked to defend the ban. (See 12.26pm.)


My colleague Severin Carrell is at Murrayfield, where the winner of the SNP leadership contest will be announced at 2pm.

Media and SNP activists gathering at #Murrayfield for @theSNP leadership election result, soon after 2pm pic.twitter.com/n0N38UoMFF

— Severin Carrell (@severincarrell) March 27, 2023

At 3.30pm there will be an urgent question in the Commons about the oil spillage in Poole harbour. After that, at around 4.15pm, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, will make a statement about the antisocial behaviour action plan. The debate on the illegal migration bill will not start until after 5pm.


No 10 says no need to change second job rules for MPs after '£10,000 per day' Hancock/Kwarteng sting revelations

Downing Street has said there is no need to change the rules governing what second jobs MPs are allowed to do despite the revelation that two former Tory cabinet ministers, Matt Hancock and Kwasi Kwarteng, agreed to work for £10,000 a day on behalf of a South Korean firm.

The firm was fake, and Hancock and Kwarteng were two of several Tories duped by an undercover sting operation carried out by the Led By Donkeys campaign group. The MPs did not break, or offer to break, House of Commons rules, but the investigation revived concerns that some MPs are unduly focused on work not relevant to their parliamentary duties.

At the morning lobby briefing, asked if Rishi Sunak was content with the current rules, the PM’s spokesperson replied:

The prime minister thinks that an MP’s primary job is and must be to support their constituents and represent their interests in parliament. That is why we agreed with the recommendation made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 2018 that members should be banned from accepting any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant and why we brought forward an amendment to support the introduction of limits on members undertaking outside work.

It is right that MPs’ financial interests are transparently and publicly declared online … MPs having second jobs can contribute to their work in parliament, so we think this strikes the right balance.

In November 2021 Boris Johnson, the then PM, proposed putting “reasonable limits” on what MPs could earn from a second job. That proposal was subsequently abandoned.

Here is the Observer’s story about the Led By Donkeys sting.


No 10 dismisses reports government about to include safe route plan for up to 20,000 refugees in illegal migration bill

At the weekend the Sunday Telegraph reported that ministers were preparing to accept a proposal from Tory MPs to amend the illegal migration bill to include provision for a new safe route for up to 20,000 asylum seekers a year to come to the UK.

Some Conservative MPs want to amend the bill to toughen the provisions enabling the government to ban people from claiming asylum in the UK if they have arrived in the country illegally, and to deport those people swiftly.

But other Tories, led by the former children’s minister Tim Loughton, want to make the bill less hostile to refugees by amending it so that it includes a new safe and legal route for asylum seekers wanting to come to the UK.

The Sunday Telegraph claimed ministers were preparing to accept the plan rather than risk defeat in a vote on the amendment.

But at the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson dismissed this report saying that, although the government was in favour of more safe and legal routes, it wanted to tackle illegal migration first. The spokesperson said:

It is true that we do want to create more safe and legal routes but the view remains that in order to do that we first need to get a grip on those crossing illegally so we can plan and make a proper decision about the numbers of people the country, local authorities, councils, GPs, are able to deal with each year.

We think that is something parliament should have a say on. We think that is an important democratic principle.

The spokesperson also rejected claims that Suella Braverman, the home secretary, was a “sock puppet” for Tory rightwingers wanting an even harder line on immigration. “Both the prime minister and the home secretary have been clear that this bill will comply with international law and stop the boats,” the spokesperson said.

'Significant gap' between UK's infrastructure needs and what government delivering, report says

There is a “significant gap” between what the UK needs in terms of new infrastructure and what the government is delivering, the National Infrastructure Commission says.

In a foreword to its 2023 progress review, Sir John Armitt, the commission’s chair, says:

If the commission saw 2021 as a year of slow progress in many areas, in 2022 movement has stuttered further just as the need for acceleration has heightened. There have been negligible advances in improving the energy efficiency of UK homes, the installation of low carbon heating solutions or securing a sustainable balance of water supply and demand.

The risk of a mixed scorecard is that readers take their pick based on their own experiences or purposes. Residents in the north of England, for instance, could hardly be blamed for focusing on the appalling state of current rail services within and between the places pivotal to supporting growth. Others will cheer the further expansion of cheap renewable energy generation at a time of severe concerns about energy security and the high costs of fossil fuels.

But taking a strategic view on the recent pace of planning and delivery suggests a significant gap between long-term ambition and current performance. To get back on track we need a change of gear in infrastructure policy.

The commission was set up to advise the government on infrastructure policy.


Minister defends laughing gas ban saying there is 'some emerging evidence' it causes physical harm

Rishi Sunak was relucant to explain why the government was banning laughing gas (nitrous oxide) despite the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs saying a ban would be disproportionate (see 11.50am), but in interviews this morning Chris Philp, the policing minister, was more forthcoming. He said:

There is some emerging evidence of physical medical harm. There have been some reports recently of paralysis being caused by large-scale use.

And of course it does fuel this anti-social behaviour problem where people, typically younger people, congregate, sometimes in large groups, and consume nitrous oxide and then discard the canisters which sometimes adds to a sense of menace or unease for other members of the public who may be using a park or some public place.

In its report the advisory council said “current evidence suggests that the health and social harms are not commensurate with control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971”.

Voting closes in SNP leadership contest

Voting has closed in the race for the SNP leadership, with Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement to be announced within the next two hours, PA Media reports. PA says:

Health secretary Humza Yousaf, finance secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan have taken part in about 16 hustings as they vied for the top job.

The first minister announced in February that she would resign after more than eight years in the job once her successor had been chosen.

SNP members had until noon on Monday to cast their ballots.

The fate of the three candidates is set to be revealed at about 2pm on Monday at the BT Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh.

A vote in Holyrood will follow on Tuesday to select the next first minister.

Sunak criticised during public Q&A as voters express scepticism about antisocial behaviour crackdown

Here are the main points from Rishi Sunak’s speech and Q&A in Essex. Unusually, this was one of those events where the questions were probably more newsworthy than the answers. In the past Sunak has always received a positive and generally respectful reception when taking questions from members of the public at his PM Connect events. Yet today the people who were there sounded sceptical and underwhelmed when Sunak set out the details of his antisocial behaviour action plan.

It was by no means a disaster, and there was no evidence of personal hostility towards Sunak. But if the strategists in No 10 believe that announcements like this are going to win them much credit with the electorate, they are probably mistaken. (It is also worth noting that the Daily Mail, probably the most influential of the pro-Tory papers, put the Sunak crackdown on pages 6 and 7 today, despite No 10 providing an article by Sunak to go with it; it splashed instead on a story critical of the government’s record on crime.)

  • Sunak faced criticism during a public Q&A as voters expressed scepticism about his new crackdown on antisocial behaviour. The very first question came from a member of the public who told Sunak about his experience trying to report shoplifters using the non-emergency number for the police. He asked the PM:

Have you ever tried that non-emergency phone number? It’s the most frustrating thing in the world.

A second questioner said he had lived in Chelmsford his whole life and felt crime was getting worse. He was not impressed by the announcement today that laughing gas is being banned. He said:

I think the Conservatives have dropped the ball a little bit, to be honest. I know it’s all good talking about laughing gas, but that is the least of your problems.

He said he had seen people dealing drugs near his allotment, and using heroin, but nothing seemed to happen when he reported this.

We reported this and nothing happens. As the gentleman said earlier, you don’t know whether it goes into the system or not.

A third member of the audience interrupted while Sunak was taking media questions and asked why there were not more police officers on the streets. “Surely we could get a little bit more presence on the street,” he said.

  • Sunak ducked a question about why he was ignoring advice from experts saying banning laughing gas could have “significant unintended consequences”. In a recent report, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said banning nitrous oxide as the government is proposing (it will still be available for legitimate use in healthcare and catering) would “would be disproportionate for the level of harm associated with nitrous oxide and could have significant unintended consequences”. Asked why he was ignoring this, Sunak did not engage with the argument but instead depicted this first as a litter problem. He said:

I think, quite frankly, I and almost everyone else is just sick of having to deal with nitrous oxides canisters when they’re walking through their communities. It’s about being in your community, being in your park, being on the high street of the town centre, and not having to see these things strewn around.

But Sunak also said he favoured a zero-tolerance approach to drugs.

  • Sunak sidestepped a question about whether Suella Braverman is seen by No 10 as a “sock puppet” for Tory MPs who want to harden the illegal migration bill. When this claim was put to him (see 10.27am), Sunak ignored the specific question, but praised Braverman’s contribution generally. He also stressed the government would abide by its international obligations.

The home secretary has done a superb job. The home secretary and I have worked incredibly closely for the last few months, since we’ve had this job, to get the legislation exactly right. It’s not easy. We need something that is going to be robust, that’s going to be effective, and that’s what we’ve got.

It’s important that it’s effective, which it will be, and it’s also important that we abide by our international obligations. This is a country and a government that does follow the law. Of course that’s important.

Braverman is thought to agree with Tory hardliners who want the government to deal with the small boats problem by withdrawing from the European convention on human rights. Sunak does not support that, and claims it will not be necessary.

Rishi Sunak speaking at a PM Connect event in Chelmsford, Essex, this morning.
Rishi Sunak speaking at a PM Connect event in Chelmsford, Essex, this morning. Photograph: Kin Cheung/PA


Sunak's illegal migration bill would add to 'significant regression' of rights of refugees, says Council of Europe

Rishi Sunak’s illegal migration bill would add to the “significant regression” of human rights protection for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the UK, the lead official in charge of human rights at the Council of Europe has said.

In a damning verdict on the government’s proposals, the commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, said people must be able to claim asylum and have a fair assessment, regardless of how they arrived in the UK.

The bill proposes to detain and deport people who arrive in the UK on small boats or in the back of lorries, depriving adults of the chance to claim asylum even if they were fleeing war or persecution.

Mijatović wrote:

By effectively preventing people arriving irregularly from having their asylum claims assessed, the bill would strip away one of the essential building blocks of the protection system.

She added that “numerous other measures” gave cause for concern, saying there was no guarantee that other provisions on removing people were in line with the European convention on human rights, including the prohibitions on exposing people to a violation of their right to life, or freedom from torture or degrading treatment.

The concerns were raised in a letter to the Commons speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and his counterpart in the Lords, Lord McFall of Alcluith, as she urged parliamentarians to block a bill she said was “incompatible with the UK’s international obligations”.

Mijatović also said she found proposals to deprive most people arriving to the UK on small boats of any protection from legislation to counter modern slavery as “another disturbing aspect of the bill”. She raised a red flag about the bill’s “widespread powers of detention” which she thinks would mean people being locked up for “virtually unlimited” periods of time “without sufficient possibilities for independent judicial oversight”.

She concluded:

In my view, the bill’s provisions create clear and direct tension with well-established and fundamental human rights standards, including under the ECHR.

The Council of Europe monitors human rights across its 46 members and led to the creation of the European court of human rights, a bête noire for Eurosceptic Conservatives.

The letter comes as the prime minister comes under pressure from the right of his party to ensure migrants cannot use the Strasbourg appeals system to block deportation flights. Legal experts have questioned government claims of ECHR “reform”, casting doubt over whether the Strasbourg court was likely to weaken any mechanisms intended to protect people “facing an imminent risk of irreparable harm”.

"Clear and direct tension
with well-established and fundamental human rights standards, including under the ECHR."

Absolutely damning verdict on government's illegal migration bill from Council of Europe's human rights commissioner. pic.twitter.com/iV0uSlMf4X

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) March 27, 2023


Sunak and Braverman heckled on walkabout in Essex

Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, the home secretary, did a short walkabout before his PM Connect event in Chelmsford, Essex, PA Media reports. PA says:

The street was quiet at around 9am and the pair did not stop to chat to any of the small number of people on the street or go into any shops.

One woman shouted out: “Allow migrants into our country.”

Shouting at the PM and home secretary, the woman added: “Go away. We don’t want you here.”

UPDATE: Here is video of the incident.

'Refugees deserve sanctuary in Britain' - @RishiSunak and @SuellaBraverman are heckled by a member of the public in Essex, who tells them to allow migrants into the UK https://t.co/na6tHuktkLpic.twitter.com/lQiutg7NyA

— ITV News Politics (@ITVNewsPolitics) March 27, 2023
Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak on their walkabout this morning.
Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak on their walkabout this morning. Photograph: Jack Hill/AFP/Getty Images


Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour MP at the next election, Keir Starmer will confirm at tomorrow’s meeting of the party’s national executive committee (NEC), my colleague Pippa Crerar reports.

Q: [From the Telegraph] Do you think capital gains tax rates should be brought in with income tax rates, as Labour seems to be considering?

Sunak ignores the question about tax rates, but stresses what the government is doing to help people with the cost of living.

Q: Will you open talks with the new SNP leader on an independence referendum?

Sunak says he is a big supporter of the union. He points out that he was in Wales at the end of last week.

And that’s it. The event is over.

Q: [From the Sun] Prime ministers since Tony Blair have been promising to tackle antisocial behaviour. Why should we trust you to deliver?

Sunak says people have seen what he has done as PM, and he gets things done. He only promises what he can deliver. He is confident he can deliver on this.

He says he is doing significant things – banning laughing gas, and increasing hotspots.

Q: Are you concerned by reports saying Suella Braverman is acting as a sock puppet for Tory rebels on migration?

Sunak says the government has to address this. He thinks the government is doing it in a compassionate way.

Braverman has done a “superb job”, on this. They have been working to get the leglislation right.

This bill goes further than previous legislation. It will be effective. But the government has to abide by its international obligations too, he says. He says this bill will do that.

The question was inspired by this story in the Times. It says:

Suella Braverman is accused of secretly backing a backbench rebellion against her own illegal migration bill to push Downing Street into toughening up measures to tackle the small boats crisis.

Senior government sources said the home secretary was a “sock puppet” under the influence of Tory hardliners who believe that Rishi Sunak has not gone far enough to clamp down on Channel crossings.


Q: The chief constable in Essex says officers are having to take second jobs, or use food banks, because they are not paid enough. Do you agree they should be paid more?

Sunak says the government has accepted the recommendation on police pay.

But the government has to get inflation down. Halving inflation is his top priority, he says. He says he has a plan, and it will work.

If there is nothing else, you can trust that I can manage an economy.

Q: Will shops still be allowed to sell laughing gas?

Sunak says the current law says it is not meant to be sold as a drug, but that is clearly not working. The government will consult on how to enforce the new law.

People do need to be able to buy this for catering and healthcare.

The government will work on this over the spring and the summer.

Sunak says the Louise Casey report was appalling. But there are countless good police officers, he says.

He ignores an invitation to say he wants to see more officers like Happy Valley’s Catherine Cawood recruited.

Sunak tries to move on to the next question, but a man in the audience who is not a journalist interrupts, and asks why the police are not more visible. Can’t they at least drive around, he asks.

Sunak says it is not for him to say how much time they should spend in cars, and how much patrolling on foot. But he wants the police to be as effective as possible, he says.


Q: Should children as young as eight be strip-searched?

Sunak says the report on this that came out at the weekend, from the children’s commissioner, is concerning. The Home Office will look at this in detail.

Sunak is now taking media questions.

Mark Easton from the BBC is finally allowed to ask his question.

Q: Your expert advisers on drugs say banning laughing gas could have unintended consequences. They say this ban risks harming children and empowering criminals.

Sunak says it is important to have a zero-tolerance approach. He says people are fed up with the mess caused by the canisters.

Places like the Netherlands and California have already banned this.

And it is already illegal to sell this for use as a drug, he says.

He says lots of people have spoken to him about this.


As Alex Wickham from Politico points out, the questions Rishi Sunak is getting this morning suggest this audience is not happy with the government’s record on crime.

Main takeaway so far from Sunak's Q&A with voters this morning is people raising things *that are already crimes* never being investigated by police... one man suggests govt chasing headlines on laughing gas when nothing ever happens on existing crimes...

— Alex Wickham (@alexwickham) March 27, 2023

Q: The Conservatives have “dropped the ball a little bit, to be honest”. The questioner says laughing gas is the least of their problems. People are using much harder drugs. He has skimmed through the action plan document. Some of it is good. But punishments need to be firmer. People probably won’t turn up for community sentences. And the government needs to tackle drugs at source.

Sunak agrees. Drugs are appalling, he says. They are a scourge. And there is a direct link between drugs and other crimes, like violence.

He says laughing gas is the third most popular with young people, after cocaine and cannabis.

He says the government is acting to disrupt county lines. Some 3,500 have been disrupted, he says.

He agrees on the need for tough sentences, and for the people at the top to be caught.

He agrees that drugs ruin lives, he says.


Q: Airbnbs also produce antisocial behaviour. We have a property near us let as an Airbnb. In this one, 10 people can stay. There are hot tubs, and noisy behaviour can go on all night. You don’t expect this in an area of Chelmsford like this.

Sunak says this is a really good point. He expresses his sympathy for the questioner. He will consider this, he says. He thinks ministers are looking at this problem already.

He says the plan includes powers to evict antisocial tenants more quickly. The eviction time should be halved, he says – although he accepts this does not apply to Airbnb customers.


Q: Football is a good way of engaging young people, but lack of facilities is a problem. What support is there?

Sunak asks if the questioner is saying this is a planning issue.

Q: It’s money and planning.

Sunak says the government is investing £300m over this parliament to build new youth facilities.

On football, the government has partnered with the Premier League and the FA to roll out 3G football pitches.

Q: We work with vulnerable youth across Essex. Many are dropping out of school because they are not coping. We welcome this, but we need to look at the causes of antisocial behaviour too.

Sunak says Covid has led to young people having more mental health problems. The government is funding a mental health lead for all schools. That is being rolled out.

He says his antisocial behaviour action plan includes an extra 1m hours of youth provision.

And family breakdown is an issue too, he says. The supporting families programme addresses this, he says. It used to be the troubled families programme, but the name was changed. Caseworkers help families access different services. Sunak says his first ministerial job in government involved being in charge of this.


The next questioner asks Sunak if he has ever used the non-emergency police number. It is “the most frustrating thing in the world”, he says.

Sunak says this is a good point. But he claims this plan, and hotspot policing, will make a difference.

Sunak invites questions. He says people can ask about anything, not just antisocial behaviour.

The first person he calls is Mark Easton, the BBC’s home affairs editor.

As Easton starts speaking, Sunak realises he is a journalist (he does not seem to recognise him), and he says he will take media questions at the end.


Rishi Sunak is delivering a speech in Essex ahead of his PM Connect Q&A.

Talking about his antisocial behaviour plan (see 9.27am), he says we teach our children the “golden rule”, that they should treat others as they expect to be treated themselves. He says that is why this issue is important.

He says the details of the action plan have been published. But he says he can sum it up as three buckets.

First, there will be a focus on urgency. That is why offenders will be required to repair the damage they have caused quickly.

Second, there will be a zero-tolerance approach, especially towards drugs.

And, third, he says he will give the police more powers.


Ministers expected to toughen illegal migration bill to placate Tory rebels

Ministers appear set to at least partly give way to Conservative rebels over removing safeguards from the illegal migration bill after a Home Office minister said the government was “in listening mode”, my colleague Peter Walker reports.

Labour says Rishi Sunak’s antisocial behaviour plan is a weaker version of its own policy

Good morning. Both main parties believe that antisocial behaviour will be a key issue at the election and this morning, at a PM Connect event, Rishi Sunak will formally announce an antisocial behaviour action plan. It has been well trailed over the weekend and No 10 has now published the details. Here is an extract.

Under the plan, 16 areas in England and Wales will be funded to support either new ‘hotspot’ police and enforcement patrols in areas with the highest rates of antisocial behaviour, or trial a new ‘Immediate Justice’ scheme to deliver swift and visible punishments. A select few areas will trial both interventions, and following these initial trailblazers, both schemes will be rolled out across England and Wales from 2024.

Steve Reed, the shadow justice secretary, says one of the ideas proposed by Sunak, for vicitms to have a say in what work offenders with community sentences have to do, has been announced by Labour already.

The Conservatives aren’t against robbery then - they’re trying to steal the policy I announced 3 months ago! Only they’ve shrunk it down to a pilot scheme in just a few areas instead of Labour’s nationwide roll-out pic.twitter.com/jm7xXoKAOM

— Steve Reed (@SteveReedMP) March 26, 2023

In fact, Reed has understated his case. This is a package of measures that seems to have been lifted not from what Labour proposed three months ago, but from what Labour was saying 15 years ago. Sunak says offenders will be made to wear high-vis vests or jumpsuits while doing community sentences. Labour announced a very similar plan in 2008. David Cameron announced his own plans to toughen non-custodial sentences when he was PM, and two years ago Boris Johnsons said he wanted to see offenders in “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs visibly paying your debt to society”.

In a statement, Reed said the government should have tackled this problem much sooner. He said:

The Conservatives have let antisocial behaviour make people’s lives a misery by slashing neighbourhood police and letting offenders get away without punishment. They have been content to oversee crumbling frontline services meaning these crimes are now plaguing communities, blighting town centres and leaving people feeling unsafe.

Under 13 years of Conservative government, community sentences have plummeted by two-thirds. And now they have finally realised how angry local people are, so once again following where Labour has led by trying to copy our plan on tough community payback.

It is embarrassing that all the Conservatives can come up with is a pilot in 10 areas – covering only a quarter of police forces. They are out of ideas and out of time. What we need is tough action to punish criminals across the country.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Rishi Sunak gives a speech and takes questions at a PM Connect event in Essex.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

2pm: The SNP announces the results of its leadership contest.

2.30pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

After 3.30pm: MPs debate and vote on the illegal migration bill in the first day of its committee stage.

4.15pm: Gove gives evidence to the Commons levelling up committee on intergovernmental relations.

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 andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.



Nadeem Badshah (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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