Surprise non-announcement of pay rise for NHS staff branded ‘shambles’ by Labour – politics live
Latest updates: expected announcement on NHS pay-rise fails to happen
- UK says it wants to substantially rewrite Northern Ireland Brexit protocol
- Johnson’s aides plotted to oust him as PM, Cummings claims
- Patel accused of throwing good money after bad over Channel migrants
- PM risks major rebellion over Covid jab passports, say Tory MPs
- Global coronavirus updates – live
And the Royal College of Nursing has also described the government’s failure to announce its NHS pay rise decision today, as expected, as “shameful”. In a statement Pat Cullen, the RCN interim general secretary, said:
This treatment of our NHS workers is shameful. Ministers are holding them in contempt and we have no choice but to condemn this behaviour.
With tens of thousands of nursing vacancies and thousands more considering their future in the profession, the government is sending the worst possible signal with this political gameplaying.
The GMB union has described today’s non-announcement of an NHS pay rise (see 2.32pm) as “completely outrageous”. Rachel Harrison, the GMB national officer, said:
This is completely outrageous – virtually the last day of parliament and the government has insulted hard-working NHS workers once again by staying silent.
NHS workers who tuned in to watch the minister today will be rightly disgusted by this lack of respect.
Sir Keir Starmer is now having to isolate, Labour has said, because one of his children has tested positive. A party spokesperson said:
One of Keir’s children tested positive for Covid this lunchtime. In line with the rules, Keir and his family will now be self-isolating.
Keir was already doing daily tests and tested negative this morning. He will continue to take daily tests.
In the Commons Helen Whately, the social care minister, is making a statement about the NHS. MPs were expecting her to announce a 3% pay rise for NHS staff, but she did not mention this in her opening statement, and instead covered various other topics, including the new autism strategy being announced today.
When asked what had happened to the pay rise announcement, Whately said the government would make an announcement as soon as it could.
Government say they cant afford to offer NHS staff more than 1%, see the backlash so brief they are going to give 3% but then come to Parliament to make a statement on it….and say nothing at all. What an utter shambles.
Utterly surreal that @Helen_Whately not announcing NHS pay rise, when that’s exactly what we were led to expect today
Mystery (as yet) on why Helen Whately has not announced the NHS pay award this afternoon, as we were briefed she would. Last minute cold feet by Treasury/Number 10/DHSC? https://t.co/4h38tt6iIS
At the post-PMQs Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesman said that new guidance would be issued soon giving more information about which critical workers will be allowed to take advantage of the scheme allowing them to use testing as an alternative to isolation. He said:
There’s updated guidance, which will be published very shortly, which sets out sort of sectors we’re considering here, but I think what’s really important – and I’ve emphasised this a couple of times now – the sort of critical services that we are talking about are already in contact with government, they are already speaking to departments, and do so on a regular basis even outside of a pandemic.
As you’d expect in things like medicine supply, critical food supply, trains, transport, those are the kinds of things we’ve seen and exemptions have already been granted both within the healthcare system and outside of it.
We know that one in three people contacted either by test and trace or by the app go on to develop coronavirus symptoms so that demonstrates the importance of people isolating when asked to do so.
Echoing the SDLP (see 2.02pm), the British Chambers of Commerce has also suggested that aligning sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards with the EU’s may offer a solution to many of the problems with the Northern Ireland protocol. William Bain, head of trade policy at the BCC, said:
Businesses in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland need durable, workable, negotiated solutions on compliance with the protocol to ensure the continued two-way flow of goods east-west and north-south. The UK and EU governments need to work together to find solutions which work for business.
A negotiated solution on customs, agri-food and e-commerce deliveries which deals with all of the red tape issues, is preferable to unilateral actions. An SPS agreement would deal with the most obtrusive border checks and controls, but customs and e-commerce issues also need to be dealt with by the autumn.
The SDLP, the Northern Ireland nationalist party, has described today’s plans to reset the Northern Ireland protocol from the government as “shameless”. The SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, said:
Today’s statement … on the operation of the protocol is the latest in a car crash attempt by the British government to distance themselves from an agreement they negotiated, campaigned for and signed up to.
It is a shameless position based on political expedience rather than providing the stability that people, businesses and communities in Northern Ireland need.
Neale Richmond, a member of the Irish parliament and a Fine Gael spokesman on European affairs, has described the British government’s plans for the Northern Ireland protocol as “overly simplistic and disappointing”.
The Ulster Unionist party leader, Doug Beattie, has also welcomed the plans from the UK government to overhaul the Northern Ireland protocol. He said:
We will take our time to consider them in full, but it is welcome to see movement in the direction of finding pragmatic, workable solutions.
I hope that the European Union will take their time in considering these proposals in good faith and will not reject them out of hand. Solutions need to be found and intransigence will only serve to harm Northern Ireland.
In her response to Brandon Lewis in the Commons, Louise Haigh, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said the government was trying to discredit an agreement it negotiated and signed. She went on:
The country will be asking: is this bad faith or simple incompetence?
Whichever it is , this shambolic approach – the dishonesty, recklessness and utter ineptitude – has come at a real cost.
This is not the first time [Frost] has appeared before this house to discredit his own deal. I regret that this approach has potentially dire consequences for communities in Northern Ireland and also, critically, for our international reputation, at a time when we are seeking to forge new agreements.
The erosion of trust in the UK government – an essential component of stability in Northern Ireland – is deeply regrettable and must not be taken lightly. [Frost’s] statement is an admission of failure.
The government’s command paper on the Northern Ireland protocol is now available online here. It runs to 22 pages.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, has welcomed the government’s command paper on the NI protocol as “a significant step in the right direction”. In a statement he said:
This is a significant step in the right direction by the government and an acceptance that the protocol is not sustainable. We warned about the flaws of the protocol and since its imposition upon Northern Ireland, we have been highlighting how the Irish Sea border has been injurious to almost every area of life for people living in Northern Ireland.
Sticking plasters and short-term fixes were never going to work. We need a proper renegotiation.
Here are the main points from the joint statement delivered by David Frost, the Brexit minister, in the Lords and by Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, in the Commons.
As we have sought to operate the protocol, it is clear that its burdens have been the source of considerable – and ongoing – disruption to lives and livelihoods.
We have seen reductions in supermarket product lines. We have seen more than 200 suppliers decide they would no longer sell to Northern Ireland. We have seen difficulties not just on the famous chilled meats but also on medicines, on pets, on movements of live animals, on seeds and plants.
We have worked with the EU to try to address these challenges. Some avenues for progress have been identified in certain areas. But overall those discussions have not got to the heart of the problem.
Put simply, we cannot go on as we are.
We have looked carefully at the safeguards provided by article 16 of the protocol.
They exist to deal with significant societal and economic difficulties, as well as trade diversion.
Today’s command paper outlines the new balance we wish to find.
It is a balance which needs to ensure that goods can circulate much more freely within the UK customs territory, while ensuring that full processes are applied to goods destined for the EU.
We look to open a discussion on these proposals urgently. At the same time, we must provide certainty and stability for businesses as we do so. So we believe we should also quickly agree a “standstill” period, including maintaining the operation of grace periods in force, and a freeze on existing legal actions and processes, to ensure there is room to negotiate and to provide a genuine signal of good intent to find ways forward.
There is no doubt that we have tried to operate the protocol in good faith.
We worked throughout 2020 to finalise the areas left open by the protocol text, without of course knowing what the real-world impacts on the ground would be.
Covid-related deaths in Scotland climbed last week to their highest level since March after the deaths of 47 people were recorded where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate, 16 more than the previous week.
National Records of Scotland data showed that in the week ending 18 July, 11 deaths involving Covid were registered in Glasgow, six in Edinburgh and five in Dundee. Another 19 council areas recorded one death. Of those, 38 deaths occurred in hospitals and four in care homes; 11 people were under 65.
The UK has launched an attempt to substantially rewrite the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol that Boris Johnson signed up to in 2019, arguing “we cannot go on as we are” given the “ongoing febrile political climate” in the region, my colleague Lisa O’Carroll reports.
In the Commons Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, is making his own statement on the Northern Ireland protocol. It is an repeat of what Frost has been telling peers (which is normal when a statement is repeated in both houses).
Frost says the government wants significant change to the protocol.
He says it wants an urgent discussion with the EU on its plans.
In the Lords, just before PMQs is over, David Frost, the Brexit minister, starts giving his statement on the Northern Ireland protocol.
He says the protocol is placing considerable burdens on NI.
Rehman Chishti (Con) asks about the problem of missing people.
Johnson says 95% of missing people cases are resolved. But the remaining 5% represents an unacceptably high level of suffering, he says.
Sarah Olney (Lib Dem) says her own daughter has had to miss school because she had to isolate. From September will pupils get an uninterrupted schooling?
Johnson says that is what he wants. But he says it is important for people to get their first jab.
Johnson says he wants to start phasing out badger culling.
Richard Burgon (Lab) says hundreds of thousands of people are having to isolate because of the PM’s reckless policy. But they cannot rush off to a mansion with a heated pool. And they have to survive on £96 per week sick pay. Could the PM live on that?
Johnson says Burgon is wrong. He says more help is available to people isolating, including a £500 payment [although that is only available to some low-income workers].
Cat Smith (Lab) says the government is paying too much attention to the interests of property developers.
Johnson says he has never heard so much “cobblers” in all his life.
Cherilyn Mackrory (Con) says there is real concern in the Cornish daffodil industry that they won’t have enough pickers this year.
Johnson says he is happy to meet Mackrory to discuss this. The government wants to develop a local labour force, and line up young people. But there are also 6 million EU nationals allowed to stay in the UK, he says.
Debbie Abrahams (Lab) calls for an inquiry into the deaths of people who have died after having their benefits cut.
Johnson says Abrahams will get a full account of what the government is doing to address this problem.
Johnson says he supports a plan for a memorial to Dame Vera Lynn.
Margaret Ferrier (Ind) asks about one aspect of fire safety guidance in surveys needed by someone buying a home.
Johnson says Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, is making a statement to the Commons soon to address the specific issue Ferrier is raising.
Alberta Costa (Con) says he welcomes the move to step 4. If we don’t move forward now, we risk opening up when the NHS is under more pressure.
Johnson says Costa is “spot on, completely right”.
Stephen Timms (Lab), the chair of the work and pensions committee, says he and the chairs of equivalent committees in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are calling for the £20 universal credit uplift to be maintained.
Johnson says he wants to get people into work, rather than keeping them on welfare.
Theo Clarke (Con) asks about maternity services at Stafford hospital.
Johnson says options are being explored for restoring maternity services there.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, asks what the PM will do to restore the Act of Union and remove the border down the Irish Sea.
Johnson says the government is setting out its plans today. Nothing in the Northern Ireland protocol affects the territorial integrity of the UK, he says.
David Davis (Con) asks if the PM will commit to ensure every working-class child can use modern technology for education.
Johnson says he is looking at doing this.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, says the Scottish government is more interested in settling up than levelling up.
He says Johnson said on 15 October last year that the NHS was not at risk of being overwhelmed and the elderly should be sacrificed. He says the PM was pushing for the virus to be allowed to run rampant. How can anyone put faith in a PM who typed the words “Get Covid and live longer”.
Starmer says they need to check the line to Chequers is working; the PM is not answering the questions. He says nobody believes what the PM is saying. Johnson let the new variant into the country, and cases are soaring, he says.
Johnson says the government is protecting jobs. The opposition has no plan, he says. Labour seems to favour perpetual lockdown, he says.
Starmer says Johnson is inviting him to back the PM’s chaos.
He quotes the text message revealed by Dominic Cummings implying Johnson was happy to see old people die. Starmer says 83,000 people over the age of 80 have died. Will the PM apologise?
Starmer says Johnson is making it up. How is business meant to plan on this basis. He says he is surprised that the PM cannot see the irony of announcing freedom day from isolation, and saying he will introduce vaccine ID cards when he used to say he would eat them. He is a superspreader of confusion, he says.
Johnson says the opposition leader has a choice between constructive opposition, and just scoring cheap points. He says it should be obvious why he wants to wait until all young people are fully vaccinated before making vaccine ID compulsory.
Starmer says it may be calm at the PM’s country retreat, but in the Commons they are heading for a summer of chaos.
He says the message changed yesterday hour by hour as to what would happen in terms of exempting critical workers from the isolation rules.
Starmer says Johnson said everyone understands the position. But the government is “all over the place”. Yesterday one minister said the app was advisory, and another said it was about allowing people to make informed decisions. And Johnson tried to dodge the rules. So how can the public follow the rules?
Johnson says isolation is an important part of the armoury against Covid. When you are advised to isolate, you should do so. And even more important than isolation is vaccination, he says.
Sir Keir Starmer also thanks Commons staff for their work keeping people safe.
He wishes the “Chequers one” well in his isolation.
Sally-Ann Hart (Con) asks about the case for the HS1 extension from Ashford to Eastbourne.
Johnson says this is being reviewed. A decision will be made in due course, he says.
Boris Johnson says he is delighted to be taking part in the 60th anniversary edition.
He starts by thanking parliamentary, constituency and Commons staff before the summer break for all their work.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, starts by saying it is just over 60 years since the first PMQs. Harold Macmillan was the PM at the time. The then Speaker said he was trying it as an experiment. But now it is one of the most high-profile events of the parliamentary week, watched by people around the world.
Hoyle says he expects the exchanges to be “robust but orderly”.
PMQs is about to start.
It will be the last before the summer recess.
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest figures for the percentage of adults in the four nations of the UK who would test positive for Covid antibodies. Here are the figures.
England: 91.9% (up from 89.8% a fortnight before)
Fewer than one in 12 people reported negative side-effects in the week after having a coronavirus vaccine, a study shows, while almost half reported feeling better, PA Media reports. PA says:
Some 7.9% of participants reported side-effects that disrupted their daily activities, with the most common including fever, headaches and fatigue, according to the Vac4Covid study which recruited more than 12,000 people across the UK.
Forty-five per cent of study participants said they felt better in the seven days following their jab, according to the researchers from the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine.
Three Conservative MPs will be temporarily suspended from the Commons and told to apologise after being found to have tried to influence a judge presiding over the trial of a former colleague for sexual assault, my colleague Aubrey Allegretti reports. The one-day ban from parliament was handed down by the standards committee to backbenchers Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers and Natalie Elphicke – the then partner of Charlie Elphicke, who was given two years in prison after being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.
Here is the standard committee’s report, and here is Aubrey’s story.
As Suzanne Lynch, the Irish Times’ Washington correspondent reports, the US government wants the UK to stay within the “existing mechanisms” of the Northern Ireland protocol. She posted these tweets last night.
New – US State Department urges UK/EU to stay within “existing mechanisms” of #Brexit #NorthernIreland protocol ahead of key announcement by Boris Johnson tomorrow @StateDeptSpox pic.twitter.com/VvWzT7CxB7
“It’s something that we are watching” says US State Department on UK announcement on #NorthernIreland protocol. “We encourage them to negotiate within the existing mechanisms when differences do arise.”
“We’ve consistently said that we welcome the provisions in both the trade and cooperation agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol between the UK and the European Union which importantly protect the gains of the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement” – @StateDeptSpox @StateDept
Paul Givan, the DUP first minister of Northern Ireland, has posted this on Twitter following a briefing he has had about the statement on the NI protocol being made in the Commons later.
Morning call with @BrandonLewis & Lord Frost discussing the command paper that will be published later today. Evidence is clear the Protocol has failed and is damaging the economy of Northern Ireland, destabilising societal cohesion and lacks democratic accountability.
Cooper tells Patel that she does not think there is anyone in the country who think the government’s border policy worked to prevent the Delta variant spread in the UK. She says it is “quite troubling” that Patel is saying the policy worked.
Q: Nervtag said on 16 April that it was worried about new cases in India. Why did it take a full week from then to put India on the red list?
Patel says she does not accept that the government delayed putting India on the red list.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, is giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.
Yvette Cooper (Lab), the chair, opens the questions. She asks why border measures have failed to keep out new variants.
If you haven’t watched it already, Laura Kuenssberg’s BBC interview with Dominic Cummings mentioned earlier (see 9.26am) is well worth watching. He gave evidence to MPs for seven hours about Brexit, but this interview covers a lot not discussed in that hearing, like Brexit and Cummings’s relationship with Boris Johnson. And even though Cummings sets out his views regularly on his blog, there is a lot to be gleaned from actually watching someone being interviewed. Those smirks were remarkably telling.
The Independent’s John Rentoul has posted a transcript.
This may be the most self destructive interview since Prince Andrew.
It is unbelievable that advisers could discuss getting rid of an elected PM within days of an election victory. Dominic Cummings will surely regret this interview.
Bump into politically you are uninterested neighbour post-Cummings bonfire of vanities. “They’re all mad. What is it like writing about people who are all mad?” I said I’d get back to him
A fascinating interview with Dom Cummings, expertly executed. Had previously thought it didn’t justify an hour of prime time TV, but it really did. Cummings’ narcissism craft-fully exposed. Suspect he will deeply regret doing it. Bravo @bbclaurak.
Small group of people in British politics – some of them in the House of Commons, some of them working for thinktanks, some in campaigning organisations of one kind or another, and some in the media – have a shared set of views about how the country should be run. They successfully take over a political party, remake it, and then the country. Eventually, they fall out and the political project collapses …
The Cummings story is also the story of the New Labour project, the government of David Cameron and the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. Had history gone a little bit differently, it might also have been the story of the governments of William Hague or Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn …
Michael Oakeshott, you’ll remember of course, infected the conservative worldview for decades in the middle of the last century with his deep cynicism and profound lack of purpose. Politics is no great project, but rather the men in it “sail a boundless and bottomless sea … There is neither harbour nor shelter, neither starting place nor appointed destination”.
“We didn’t say it (Turkey) was about to join (the EU), we said it was in the process of joining.” pic.twitter.com/QHXbWGGUkF
“Who is we, who is us?!” @bbclaurak calls out the suggestion that Cummings is backed by a heap of people operating in the background, some from Vote Leave. If he does have two dozen figures that agree with him, they haven’t been very forthcoming in defending him so far. pic.twitter.com/U8ljIoRLFm
When I half jokingly asked Dominic Cummings in 2019 if he was Robespierre or Rasputin, he half smiled. After tonight’s interview with @bbclaurak I will settle for the avenging angel of the French Revolution. Dom even wanted to purge Johnson after a clear election victory!
Listening to Dominic Cummings
fascinating interview. It’s like someone who plays video games all day who thinks he is talking to people who play video games all day too.
Food supply chains are “starting to fail” because of workers isolating over coronavirus contacts, an industry leader has warned as he criticised Boris Johnson’s effort to ease the “pingdemic”, PA Media reports. PA says:
The meat industry trade body said it cannot rely on the prime minister’s new exemption for some fully-vaccinated critical workers because the bar has been set “very, very high”.
In the face of widespread criticism from businesses over staff shortages as Covid-19 cases soar, Boris Johnson announced a plan for a “small number” of critical workers to be able to continue their functions.
This is from Rem Korteweg, a Brexit specialist at the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch foreign policy thinktank, on the UK plans for the Northern Ireland protocol expected to be announced today.
Still waiting for Frost’s new proposal, but if @pmdfoster is correct (he usually is) it includes:
– ‘honesty box’
– dual standards regime in NI
-no role for ECJ
Sounds like opening the backdoor to the Internal Market and promising not to walk through it.https://t.co/7I5qWmb6V9
John Kerry, the US president Joe Biden’s climate envoy, told the Today programme this morning that the resilience of peace in Northern Ireland was a “constant concern” to the White House. Asked about the future of the Northern Ireland protocol, Kerry said:
There’s a constant concern.
My principal concern is now climate and it’s not my portfolio but, suffice to say, President Biden is deeply immersed in the issue. He’s been dealing with it for years on the foreign relations committee.
Thomas Byrne, Ireland’s European affairs minister, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that any solutions to the problems at the Northern Ireland/Great Britain border had to be found within the confines of the NI protocol.
Asked how he would respond to the proposals expected to be announced by David Frost and Brandon Lewis today (see 9.26am), Byrne said:
We’re going to listen carefully to what the British government have to say.
We’re willing to discuss any creative solutions within the confines of the protocol but we have to recognise as well that Britain decided itself to leave the single market of the European Union, to apply trade rules, to apply red tape to its goods that are leaving Britain, to goods that are coming into Britain.
Good morning. In his interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg broadcast last night, Dominic Cummings, the key strategist behind the Vote Leave campaign and Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, admitted that he could not be sure Brexit was a good idea. He said:
Questions like is Brexit a good idea? No-one on earth knows … what the answer to that is.
I think anyone who says they’re sure about questions like that has got a screw loose, whether you’re on the remain side or our side … I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say Brexit was a mistake.
In a move that officials called a “wholesale change of approach”, Lord David Frost, Cabinet Office minister, will outline a strategy that seeks to eliminate most of the checks on the Irish Sea trade border that came into force in January.
And in a warning that Britain could suspend the Northern Ireland protocol in its Brexit deal with the EU if the bloc does not give way, Frost will claim the UK is already within its rights to activate the article 16 override clause in the agreement …