Judith Woods: Dave’s cringey dad texts are his most mortifying mistake yet
Boris Johnson urged to fight back against ‘woke warriors’
Allister Heath: Barnier’s immigration U-turn betrays panic
David Cameron Greensill scandal: What is the lobbying row about?
Coronavirus latest news: We may need local lockdowns to tackle Indian variant, says PM
David Cameron has said it is “absurd” to suggest he would have pocked £60 million if Greensill had been successful, saying he had believed his lobbying was in the public interest.
He told the Treasury Committee: “I can tell you the motivation for contacting the Government was that I thought we had a really good idea for how to help extending credit to thousands of businesses.”
Mr Cameron said it was a “painful day” as he gave evidence on his actions, telling MPs: “I completely accept that former prime ministers are in a different position to others because of the office we held and the influence that continues to bring. We need to think differently and act differently.”
“I accept there is a strong argument that having a former prime minister engage on behalf of any commercial interest… can be open to misinterpretation.”
Mr Cameron is first giving evidence to the Treasury committee, followed by a second grilling with the public accounts committee from 5pm.
Follow the latest updates below.
David Cameron dodges details on Greensill pay again
Asked again about his remuneration, David Cameron says he was “well paid” in terms of his annual salary.
“But all the questions you are asking and addressing about lobbying and behaviour… I don’t think they are affected by the amount. I would consider that a private matter.”
Put to him that it has cost UK and German taxpayers potentially billions, he returns to his “motivation”.
Asked if he would have been a multimillionaire if the firm had floated successfully, he points out that no one asked Lex Greensill about his financial concerns.
“All tax is paid on them, and they are all on shore,” he adds. “Everything I have done, I have paid full UK tax on…I don’t have any money offshore.”
David Cameron: ‘Fellow director’ email was a mistake
David Cameron is asked by Dame Angela Eagle if he is “a little bit embarrassed” about his behaviour.
He says there are “lessons to learn” but stresses the “particular” circumstances at the time.
Asked if he wrote to NHSX describing himself as a director of Greensill, Mr Cameron admits to an email describing Bill Crothers as “a fellow director”, but stresses: “It was a mistake. If that’s the one you’re referring to that was a mistake – I wasn’t a director of the company, I was an adviser.”
Asked if he described himself as a director to a company in Australia, he says “I don’t believe I did”, but is asked to check his records.
David Cameron ‘totally not aware’ of being offered as a ‘reward’ for meeting with Lex Greensill
David Cameron has said he was “totally not aware” of any promises of “meetings with you, almost as rewards” if people met with Lex Greensill.
Last month it was reported that crown representative Daniel Green was offered a meeting with David Cameron, but that his initial interaction with “shiny-suited salesman” Greensill left him puzzled and unconvinced the financier’s ideas were “a good idea for any government or anybody else”.
Mr Cameron says he carried out meetings for the company, but adds; “I am not aware of that at all.”
David Cameron: I was given reassurance on Gam and Gupta exposure
David Cameron says he thought “very carefully” before taking on the role at Greensill, including speaking to financial analysts, investors and experts.
“And obviously I asked lots of questions of the company,” he adds. He says he took “comfort” from the fact that General Atlantic had invested in the firm.
But Kensington MP Felicity Buchan says she had picked up “red flags” some time ago, including exposure to Gam and Gupta.
On Gam, Mr Cameron says he “asked lots of questions about it and got a lot of reassurance about it”. On Gupta, he says there was a plan to deal with the “concentration” of exposure, but it never had the opportunity to be inacted.
David Cameron: Prime ministers should ‘restrict themselves more’
David Cameron has said his repeated lobbying attempts were “not a disproportionate use of time” for officials, but acknowledged that he now believes former prime ministers should “restrict themselves more”.
Asked if he thought the time spent responding to his 56 messages, rather than others, was wasted, he stresses that it was explored because it was an “interesting proposal” that could have been beneficial.
“I have reflected on it, it was a time of extraordinary crisis…. in future one of the lessons I would take away is that prime ministers only ever use letter or email and restrict themselves more.”
David Cameron: I had no roadmap after stepping down as prime minister
David Cameron has said there is “no roadmap” for former prime ministers to work out what to do after they leave office.
He told MPs: “There isn’t a roadmap for an ex-prime minster, particularly for a younger one who doesn’t want to be on the board of some big bank and make the odd speech around the world, but who wants to get stuck in and help businesses expand.”
He adds: “Perhaps I would have found that beneficial.”
David Cameron: Lobbying ban on prime ministers could be extended
David Cameron has suggested there is a “a case” for a longer ban on former prime ministers being able to lobby after they leave office.
“I notice that Gordon Brown said there should be no contact whatsoever on a commercial issue, but I would stop one short from that because I could imagine Gordon Brown or John Major being a chairman or a big bank or some strategically important company.”
It would be wrong for there to be no contact in those instances, he says.
“We mustn’t get to a situation where the public sector is cut off from private,”
David Cameron: I thought very carefully before lobbying
David Cameron has stressed he thought “very carefully” before contacting officials and ministers, but that “these were exceptional times”, as he defends his lobbying for Greensill.
The former prime minister told MPs he was “passionate about” it because he thought it could “help small businesses” at a challenging time.
“I was very keen for it to be listened to because the banks are – quite rightly – on speed dial at the Treasury… it is important to recognise the changes in the pattern of lending,” he adds.
“Of course, I thought very carefully before picking up the telephone… in the future it would be much better to do one single piece of communication.”
David Cameron rejects claim he ‘demeaned’ himself
David Cameron is the asked if he believes he “demeaned” himself by lobbying for Greensill.
He says he had hoped Greensill would be a “UK success story”, and put to the Government “what I genuinely believed would be a good way to get money into hands of small businesses”.
He says in hindsight, “a single letter or email would have been more appropriate”, but stresses the exceptional circumstances of the time.
Mr Cameron also insists Greensill was “not a business that was destined to fail”.
David Cameron says he is no longer ‘baffled’ by Treasury rebuff
David Cameron has said he now understands why the Treasury rejected his attempted lobbying,despite having previously said he was “baffled”.
He tells MPs: “The reason for being baffled is two fold… firstly, this class of asset was included in 2008, so it thougth if it worked in 2008 rather odd not doing it now.”
He adds that he was trying to support “British firms, British supply chains – I think we thought we had a great idea”.
But “ultimately” he conceded the right conclusion was reached, although it took “too long”.
He says he was testing “in built” caution in the civil service, saying sometimes they need to be challenged on whether “we are being creative and inventive enough”.
David Cameron: Messages sent in a flurry because of crisis
David Cameron insists that he knew all meetings would be reported, because of the rules brought in under his tenure.
He tells MPs he didn’t know “exactly” how his social meetings with Tom Scholar would have been “captured” but if any business dealings came up, it would be recorded.
Asked about the flurry of messages he sent, Mr Cameron says it was “very specific to the crisis”, and he was “very enthusiastic” about Greensill.
David Cameron: I sign off all text messages ‘love Dc’
Harriet Baldwin asks David Cameron about his chummy approach to texting, but the prime minister insists that he did not see Tom Scholar, the Treasury official, more than “once or twice” since leaving office.
He adds: “Anyone I know even at all well I tend to sign off text messages with ‘love Dc’.
“My children tell me you don’t have to sign off text messages at all and that it is all very old fashioned, but there you go.”
David Cameron insists he did not put Treasury officials under pressure
David Cameron has highlighted the evidence given by Treasury officials who have said they did not feel they were being put under pressure by him.
The former prime minister stressed the reasons for his lobbying again, telling MPs supply chain finance is “less well understood and has less contact” with officials, which is why he got involved.
Asked if his involvement helped “open the door”, and started conversations that would not otherwise have happened, he says “sure”.
But he stresses that the Chancellor was “taking calls from heads of banks” because it was “a time of crisis”.
His “persistence” was because the model wasn’t well understood, and the changes of the policy at the time, before then insisting again that Treasury officials were not put under pressure.
Greensill’s financial situation ‘not what motivated me’, says David Cameron
David Cameron has said he did not believe there was a chance of Greensill failing and it was “not what motivated me” to lobby ministers.
He says there are always customers who default but “insurance covers that”.
The former prime minister adds: “I really believed in the solution we had, that I thought would make a difference – that was my motivation for doing so.
“I have spent most of my adult life in public service, I believe it in deeply. I would never do something that I didn’t think was absolutely is there interest of public good and that is what I thought I was doing on Greensill’s behalf.”
David Cameron: Reports I stood to pocket £60m are absurd
Asked about the reports that he stood to pocket £60m, David Cameron says the figure is “totally absurd”.
The former prime minister says it is “important for the committee to know” that he had an interest in Greensill’s success.
But he refuses to give any further detail.
David Cameron: I had big economic interest in Greensitl’s future
David Cameron says “at no stage” was he aware that Greensill might be in “serious financial difficulty” as a result of Covid.
“There was certainly no sense of jeopardy,” he adds. “The conversations I remember were more about the state of the credit markets.”
Asked how much he stood to have gained had “your involvement gone to plan”, Mr Cameron says he was “paid a generous annual amount – far more than I made as prime minister”.
He also had shares and “absolutely had a big economic interest in Greensill’s future”.
But he says the amount isn’t “germane” – although Mel Stride quibbles with this.
David Cameron spoke with Lex Greensill about ‘mini economic heart attack’ as Covid hit
David Cameron says he was “invited to attend the board”, and did so on a “regular” basis.
“But I wasn’t involved in the day-to-day running of the business,” he adds.
Asked about his involvement at the start of the crisis, he says: “The pandemic hit very quickly and I would have go back and check exactly when the board meetings where, but I did have a conversation with Lex Greensill about what was effectively a mini-economic heart attack.
“We were in situation where no one knew how bad unemployment would go… as Covid hit and the economic problems started, the discussions were about the state of the credit markets and the impact it might have on businesses not being able to access credit.
“That obviously turned into this issue of what could we do to help at this stage.”
Mel Stride pins David Cameron down for return appearance
Mel Stride asks David Cameron to return, noting that his statement has run over the time agreed.
The former prime minister counters that he will be there for two hours and after some back and forth says “if we haven’t got through [the questions] I am very happy to come back again”.
The Treasury committee chair clarifies that he will return and finally gets an agreement.
David Cameron ‘desperately sorry’ for Greensill administration
David Cameron says he is “desperately sorry” that Greensill went into administration, but says he has “no special insight into what happened”.
The former prime minister tells MPs he has some “brief thoughts” on lobbying, noting that rules were put in place to deal with lobbying firms to ensure those being approached “knew on whose behalf they were being contacted”.
If it can be extended without excess red tape or damaging charities, there is an argument for that to take place.
He also calls for Acoba, the watchdog that many have said is toothless, be given mandatory powers.
David Cameron: I believed Greensill could help country
David Cameron tells MPs he only met Lex Greensill “briefly” during his time as prime minister.
He adds that he was “not employed at Greensill as a lobbyist and lobbying the UK Government was never intended to be part of my role”.
But the pandemic altered all that, he says. He was contacting ministers and others to try and help SMEs.
“My reason for contacting the Chancellor and others so directly is because these solutions were being considered, introduced and amended in rapid time and I believed Greensill could help the country at this time of acute crisis.”
He insists Greensill was not seeking a bail out and he had “no idea” of financial issues.
David Cameron: Today is ‘painful day’, he tells MPs
David Cameron has said it is a “painful day” for him to appear back at the Commons in the circumstances.
Serving as prime minister was “the greatest honour of my life”, he adds. His roles afterwards were intended to be a mix of good causes as well as business.
He adds he has followed the rules, but “rules alone are never enough”, and how conduct is perceived “matter too”.
“I completely accept that former prime ministers are in a different position to others because of the office we held and the influence that continues to brig,” he adds. “We need to think differently and act differently.”
“I accept there is a strong argument that having a former prime minister engage on behalf of any commercial interest… can be open to misinterpretation.”
Nicola Sturgeon accuses Home Office of creating ‘dangerous’ situation in Glasgow
Nicola Sturgeon has accused the Home Office of creating “a dangerous and unacceptable situation” in Glasgow where a man has placed himself under an immigration van to prevent it from leaving.
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Scotland’s justice secretary demands answers over ‘unacceptable’ immigrant removal
Scotland’s justice secretary and MSP for Glasgow Pollok has asked to speak to the Home Secretary about the scenes in Glasgow.
Police have been called to support the UK Border Agency, after protesters tried to prevent immigration officers from removing people from a property.
Humza Yousaf tweeted: “This UK Border Force Operation, in Polloksheilds, the heart of the Muslim community, on Eid is a demonstration of the UK Govt’s hostile environment.
“I have asked to speak to the Home Secretary to gain further details & make clear just how unacceptable this situation is.”
Downing Street flat probe to be published this month, MPs told
Boris Johnson’s new ethics adviser has told MPs he will publish the findings of his probe into the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat by the end of the month.
Lord Geidt said he will consider “all the facts relating to the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s flat”, including the details of how the work was paid for. That will be published alongside the much-delayed register of ministerial interests.
The new ethics adviser told MPs: “I’m determined that it should be published by the end of this month. I think public confidence, I think in my judgment, demands that this list be published without further delay.
“The publication of the list of interests will include the Prime Minister.”
Boris Johnson’s favourite teacher was Daily Telegraph fan, he reveals
The Prime Minister’s favourite teacher was a Daily Telegraph fan who gave the young Boris Johnson extra reading.
Mr Johnson spoke fondly of a teacher he named as Mr Fox during an international chat with primary school pupils in the UK and Nairobi, joined by president Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mr Johnson told pupils: “I was at primary school in London, Primrose Hill in Camden. It was lovely, it was the same school as Ed Miliband and David Miliband.”
“[Mr Fox] decided I needed extra reading, whether he thought I had potential, whether he thought I was behind, I’m not sure. He took me in the library and gave me loads of books… he would be at his desk reading the Daily Telegraph.”
Mr Johnson went on to say his favourite subjects were Latin and ancient Greek, joking they are “crucial to our understanding of the modern world.”
Via the live-link, Mr Kenyatta said: “Not as important as Swahili.”
David Cameron ‘must realise this is not the way you do things’, says Lord Kerslake
David Cameron has “let himself down” in the way he lobbied on behalf of Greensill Capital, and risks undermining his legacy, a former civil service head has said.
Lord Kerslake told Sky News the ex-prime minister “had many good skills” and had always appeared to be acting “for the good of the country”.
But Mr Cameron should be asking himself “has he gone further than is appropriate for a former prime minister”, he added.
“In his heart of hearts, he must realise this is not the way you do things.”
David Cameron will be quizzed on influence of Lex Greensill in No 10, predicts former official
David Cameron will be tested on how much he knew about Greensill Capital’s financial distress, and the extent to which the founder had access to Downing Street, Lord Kerslake has said.
The former prime minister is appearing before two committees this afternoon, following an appearance by Lex Greensill earlier this week.
The former civil service head told Sky News that it “may well be the case” that Mr Cameron only met Mr Greensill twice during his tenure, but questions remain about the extent of the financier’s influence in Number 10.
David Cameron has ‘big questions’ to answer on his ‘unprecedented’ lobbying, says former civil service head
David Cameron is making an “unprecedented” appearance before two separate committees “on issues of his own personal conduct”, the former head of the civil service has said.
Lord Kerslake said the ex-prime minister had “big questions” to answer, including the “extraordinary extent” of his lobbying of ministers, saying the volume of messages he had sent was also “quite unprecedented”,
“You could suggest some of the civil servants on the end of it thought it was pestering,” he told Sky News, adding that any Treasury officials who were “not made of stern stuff” might have felt obliged to act on his request.
The lobbying “went beyond what was reasonable and proportionate”, he added, saying it was abundantly clear what they were offering didn’t fit the rules”.
“To apply that much pressure over that period is something that does have to be explained,” he added.
Former Tory rebel becomes minister in Boris Johnson’s Government
Richard Benyon, one of 21 Conservative MPs stripped of the whip by Boris Johnson during the height of the Brexit wars, has been made a minister.
Lord Benyon, as he is these days, has been named junior environment minister following the resignation of Lord Gardiner, after he became senior deputy speaker in the House of Lords.
Lobby latest: No 10 ‘working at speed’ to remove Boris Johnson’s CCJ
Downing Street is “working on” getting a county court judgment against Boris Johnson for a debt of £535 removed, Number 10 confirmed today.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “As you know, we are moving at speed to get this removed.
“Courts do have the power to strike down vexatious claims as an abuse of the court, and they do issue various orders restricting litigants’ ability to continue with further claims.
“We’re working on getting that removed.”
See 9:33am for more.
Lobby latest: No 10 hits out at EU for ‘issuing threats’ over fishing access
Downing Street has accused the EU of “issuing threats at any sign of difficulties” after suggestions France plans to delay a financial services deal over fishing access.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re taking a consistent evidence-based approach to licencing EU vessels using information supplied by the European Commission.
“This threat is another example of the EU issuing threats at any sign of difficulties instead of using the mechanisms of our new treaties to solve problems.
“We’ve always been clear that an agreement on financial services is in the best interests of both sides.”
Lobby latest: Surge vaccinations could be used to deal with Covid flares
Downing Street said officials would not “rule anything out” when asked if the Government was considering surge vaccinations to accompany surge testing in areas with spikes of new variants.
Yesterday Boris Johnson said it was one area under consideration, although not a priority.
Today his spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We want to consider all options. The Prime Minister said we’re not going to rule anything out, we want to make sure that we keep the public safe and keep our road map on track.
“The meeting is happening with Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) today and should they come out with any further updates on this variant originating in India and the epidemiology in the UK then we will consider it.”
Lobby latest: No 10 plays down prospect of tiers – for now
Downing Street said there were “no plans” to reintroduce the tier system in England amid concerns local restrictions could be needed in areas where variants are identified.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “We have set out what we want to do on the road map, moving together as a nation on this, and that has been very successful so far.
“There are no plans to reintroduce tiering measures, like I say we have got a raft of measures available to us which are already in place, with regards local testing, surge testing and tracing.”
However, moments ago Boris Johnson hinted that local lockdowns could be on the cards (see 12:22pm).
Boris Johnson urges patience on face masks and social distancing
Boris Johnson has urged patience on masks and social distancing, as he stressed that announcements will be made before the end of the month.
The Prime Minister told reporters: “I think we have to wait a little bit longer to see how the data is looking but I am cautiously optimistic about that.
“Provided this Indian variant doesn’t take off in the way some people fear, I think certainly things could get back much, much closer to normality.”
Boris Johnson: We may have to use local lockdowns to suppress Indian variant
Boris Johnson has hinted that localised lockdowns may be possible, as the Government looks to keep the Indian variant under control.
Asked if local lockdowns were possible, he said: “There are a range of things we could do, we want to make sure we grip it. Obviously there’s surge testing, there’s surge tracing.”
He added: “If we have to do other things, then of course the public would want us to rule nothing out. We have always been clear we would be led by the data.
“At the moment, I can see nothing that dissuades me from thinking we will be able to go ahead on Monday and indeed on June 21, everywhere, but there may be things we have to do locally and we will not hesitate to do them if that is the advice we get.”
Boris Johnson ‘ruling nothing out’ over containing Indian variant
Boris Johnson has said he is “ruling nothing out” when it comes to containing the Indian variant.
A member of Sage said a delay to the date for the last tranche of restrictions to be lifted was “possible”, according to the i newspaper.
Today the Prime Minister said “we are anxious about” the variation of concern.
Speaking at a primary school in Ferryhill, County Durham, he added: “At the moment there is a very wide range of scientific opinion about what could happen.
“We want to make sure we take all the prudential, cautious steps now that we could take, so there are meetings going on today to consider exactly what we need to do. There is a range of things we could do, we are ruling nothing out.”
Kate Green apologises for ‘good crisis’ comments
Kate Green has apologised for having said Covid was “a good crisis” which Labour should not let “go to waste”.
Asked about those comments, which came to light last year, the shadow education secretary told Christian Wakeford: “I regret those remarks.
“They were inappropriate, insensitive and will have been offensive to those who have suffered in this pandemic… I should not have used those remarks.”
She added: “I thank the hon gentleman for the opportunity to put that on the record in this chamber.”
Labour frontbencher hits out at SNP for ‘letting down young people’
A Labour frontbencher has hit out at the SNP for pressing the case for a referendum, as she switched the focus of her attack from the Tories.
Kate Green, shadow education secretary, was accused of “standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories” in blocking IndyRef2.
But the Scottish MP said it was not a priority for people, including children, saying they were “struggling to achieve the same standards in school as in the rest of the UK… the hon member needs to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.
“The Scottish Government is failing young people, educational attainment is declining and we see no sign of them taking on the seriousness of the way in which the SNP Government has let down young people.”
People ‘ought to be able to get’ face-to-face GP appointments, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg said people in need of face-to-face GP appointments “ought to be able to get them” and should not have to accept a virtual consultation.
Conservative MP Felicity Buchan told the Commons many of her Kensington constituents could not get in-person appointments, saying that while remote consultations “will become a factor going forward”, people should be able to get face-to-face appointments “if they are needed and within a reasonable time-frame”.
The Commons Leader replied: “General Practice appointment levels are, I am glad to say, now close to pre-pandemic numbers… So people who need face-to-face appointments ought to be able to get them.”
Minister defends free speech bill amid criticism of Holocaust denial inclusion
Last night, Michele Donelan published a statement explaining her position on plans to encompass Holocaust denial within the Freedom of Speech bill.
The universities minister insisted it was not inconsistent with the Government’s position on anti-Semitism, which she said was “abhorrent and will not be tolerated at our universities”.
She added: “Our key objective is to stop the chilling effect which is leading students, academics and visiting speakers to self censor.
However, given the point of order raised just now (see post below), it seems likely she will now be under pressure to tweak the details of the bill before it begins its passage through the Commons.
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MP’s ‘blood ran cold’ at ‘chilling’ Holocaust denial policy
An MP has said her “blood ran cold” when she heard a minister “explicitly confirmed” that it was Government policy to provide legal defence for Holocaust deniers.
Charlotte Nichols, Labour’s MP for Warrington North who is herself Jewish, told the Commons that Michelle Donelan had said that it would beincluded as part of a new “policy to protect and promote the free speech of controversial and offensive advocates at universities”.
Requesting that the universities minister “recant this chilling policy”, Ms Nichols added: “There are few more serious crimes in history that the Holocaust … to take the side of those who would deny this genocide is truly appalling.”
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, said Holocaust denial was “completely abhorrent”, but stressed the minister could clarify the policy when the bill comes to the House.
Jacob Rees-Mogg not ‘trendy’ enough for the Brits
Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he is not “trendy” enough to have watched this week’s Brit Awards, as he defended the Government’s handing of NHS finances.
The Commons leader was challenged by Labour’s Chris Bryant over comments made by award-winner Dua Lipa, that NHS staff should be given a pay rise.
Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “Unfortunately I didn’t pay much attention to the British Awards – I am neither as trendy, fashionable nor as a la mode as (Mr Bryant). If only if we could all be such models of modernity as he is.”
Stressing that nurses were receiving a one per cent bump, he stressed the “great strain” that public finances are in, “and that there are constraints on what can be spent.”
Ministerial code will be ‘at my elbow’, ethics adviser says
Lord Geidt has said the “document at my elbow” will be the ministerial code when deciding whether to investigate actions.
The new ethics adviser tells MPs he is “deeply immersed” in the code to ensure he becomes instinctively familiar with it.
Partial ministerial interests to be ‘published without further delay’
A partial list of ministerial interests will be “published without further delay”, to shore up public confidence the new ethics adviser has said.
Lord Geidt told MPs he was “absolutely determined” to have a list published in a timely manner, clarifying that he meant by his previous use of this phrase (see 10:21am) that it would be “by the end of the month”.
But he noted it would not be exhaustive – only “as full and current as it can be, placing reliance on a previous list where we know circumstances have not changed”.
Those whose jobs or other circumstances have changed will have to resubmit their interests, he says.
Jacob Rees-Mogg defends voter ID plans
Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended the Government’s plans to require photographic identification to vote by comparing it to a ban on MPs wearing overcoats and hats during Commons divisions.
New shadow leader Thangam Debbonaire described the plans as an “attack on democracy”, adding: “Will the Leader of the House please explain to his own constituents why they can’t vote by giving their name to a clerk and being counted by a teller when this is how their own MP votes in this place – in normal times at least.”
But the leader replied: “It is important that elections are fair and proper…. she’s forgetting that we’re not allowed to wear overcoats in the division lobbies just in case we send somebody through to vote in our place or indeed – as Mr Speaker helpfully says – hats.”
Last night Ruth Davidson said the plans were “total b——-” (see 8:56am).
Lord Geidt defends status of probe into Prime Minister
Lord Geidt has defended the nature of his role as being subservient to the Prime Minister, despite the fact that his first investigation is into Boris Jonson himself.
“It is to the credit of this Prime Minister, and matter of act, that the revised terms of reference reflect the first change in a decade,” he told MPs. “I truly believe the present revised terms, which were fully agreed with the active will of the Prime Minister, should be put to work before seeing if they need to be developed further.”
He confirmed the work would be carried out behind closed doors, saying he was “both cognisant of and respectful of the fact that the Prime Minister has ultimate responsibility for the ministerial code”.
Asked if he was satisfied about the lack of “sunlight” on the matter, he says he has “no problem” with it, and that it should be judged “in due course”.
But he then adds: “I agree that you are clearly making an observation that sunlight doesn’t appear to shine into every corner of these arrangements – and I absolutely accept what you say.”
Ethics adviser to consider ‘all the facts’ in Downing Street flat refurbishment
Lord Geidt has said he will consider “all the facts relating to the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s flat”, as he probes the details of how the work was paid for.
The new ethics adviser told MPs he would also tell Boris Johnson what he should do “on his declaration of interests”, adding: “I plan to publish that advice, alongside declaration of interests… in a timely manner”.
He claims that the resignation of his predecessor Sir Alex Allan, after his report into Priti Patel was effectively ignored, will have bolstered faith in the role, saying “public confidence will have flowed from Sir Alex’s behaviour”.
He adds that it is “very important to submit to public scrutiny”, and is “very glad to contribute to this committee’s work in that area, in the furtherance of that confidence”.
Lord Geidt challenged over ‘unethical behaviour’ as board member of BAE Systems
John McDonnell challenges Lord Geidt over his paid post with defence giant BAE Systems, “which has plumbed the depths of unethical behaviour”.
He asks: “How can anyone have confidence in you enforcing ethical behaviour when you have been associated with unethical arms dealer who is willing to sell any arms to any brutal murdering dictatorship, and use corruption to secure those sales?”
Lord Geidt says he was “proud to do this work for a couple of years”, but says he takes “very seriously” the need for British servicemen and women have access to arms.
He stepped down “with the prospect of taking on this responsibility, I was going to have to ensure I was lightening my other work”, he adds.
New ethics adviser promises to ‘speak truth to power’
William Wragg asks Lord Geidt if he has had the occasion to say “no minister, or the equivalent, in standing your ground”.
The new ethics adviser says he does not want to be “explicit about what may have passed in my own professional past”, but says he is “absolutely determined to assert that I would be undertaking this role without fear or favour”.
He adds that he has the capacity to “speak truth to power”.
New ethics adviser: I can bring integrity, objectivity and impartiality to role
Lord Geidt, the Prime Minister’s new adviser on ministerial interests who is carrying out an investigation into ‘Wallpapergate’, is giving evidence to the the public administration and constitutional affairs committee.
The former private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II tells William Wragg, chair of the committee, that the death of Prince Philip had delayed the process.
Asked why he thinks he is suitable for the role, the cross-bench peer tells MPs that his “record of public service” had been raised by Boris Johnson, adding: “I hope I can bring integrity, objectivity and impartiality to the role.
“I am not a politician, clearly, but equally I am familiar with the issues and political milieu.. and bring an appreciation and respect for the status of the role.”
‘Very hard to take’: Bereaved families attack delay in Covid inquiry
More criticism is being levelled at the Government for announcing that the Covid inquiry will not begin until Spring 2022 (see 8:07am).
This morning Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, said: “In just over a month we’re told that all restrictions will be lifted, but at the same time we’re told that the inquiry won’t be able to happen until next year…
“For people who are losing people now or who lose people in the future, knowing that the opportunities to learn those lessons haven’t been taken until after the fact, it’s very hard to take.”
She added: “We were calling for a rapid review phase of the pandemic to happen last summer so we could learn the lessons of the first wave of the pandemic… Sadly that didn’t happen and we saw that there were even more deaths in the second wave than there were in the first. It was really devastating to look on and see that.”
Nicola Sturgeon pledges loyalty to ‘the sovereignty of the people’
Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Parliament’s other party leaders have been sworn in as MSPs, following last week’s Holyrood election.
The First Minister made an affirmation, followed by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar taking the oath, which states that MSPS “will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth”.
Ahead of affirming, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP “pledges loyalty to the people of Scotland in line with the Scottish constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people”.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said his party’s “allegiance lies with the people of Scotland who elected this parliament and who are sovereign, and we look forward to the day when they can choose their own elected head of state”.
Covid forces NHS waiting lists to record higs
The number of people in England waiting to start hospital treatment has risen to a new record high, as the pressure of the pandemic take its toll.
A total of 4.95 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of March 2021, according to figures from NHS England. This is the highest number since records began in August 2007.
The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment stood at 436,127 in March 2021 – the highest number for any calendar month since August 2007, when the figure stood at 578,682.
The Government has committed to getting that number back under control, but today’s figures lay bare the scale of the problem.
Boris Johnson’s county court judgment for ‘claim that is totally without merit’
A county court judgment against Boris Johnson for a debt of £535 was issued over a claim of defamation, it has emerged.
Downing Street said the debt claim against the Prime Minister was “totally without merit” as an application was being lodged in an attempt to strike it out.
Official records showed an “unsatisfied record” for the unpaid debt was registered to Mr Johnson at “10 Downing Street”, with the judgment dated October 26 last year.
An additional file shows the claim was made by a claimant named Yvonne Hobbs against “The Rt Hon Boris Johnson”. The reasons cited for the claim were “defamation” and “committed repeated defamation”.
But a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “An application will be made for an order to set aside the default judgment, to strike out the claim and for a declaration that the claim is totally without merit.”
Treasury committee to probe David Cameron on ‘his actions in the context of being a former PM’
The Treasury committee has sent out the terms of today’s hearing from David Cameron, which will focus on “the failure of Greensill Capital and Mr Cameron’s knowledge of it”.
Mel Stride and co will also probe the former prime minister on his relationship with civil servants, who he repeatedly lobbied with overly-friendly messages.
They will also be looking at “his actions in the context of him being a former prime minister, the nature of his role at Greensill, and the amount of lobbying that he undertook”.
Israel has ‘legitimate right to defend itself’, says minister
Israel has a “legitimate right to defend itself” but must do so “proportionately”, James Cleverly has said.
“We have got to remember that the military wing of Hamas, which is firing these rockets, is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK,” the Foreign Office minister told LBC.
“There is no legitimate reason for these rockets to be fired, and we have demanded that they cease doing that.
“We recognise that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself but must do so proportionately.”
Shadow minister quits after being accused of intimidation
A shadow minister has quit after being accused of trying to intimidate a colleague seeking to assist a parliamentary worker who raised allegations of sexual harassment against a former Labour MP.
Kate Hollern left her role on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s frontbench after the allegations were made during an employment tribunal against Mike Hill.
The parliamentary worker accuses Mr Hill, the former Hartlepool MP, of carrying out a campaign of sexual harassment and bullying against her over a 16-month period while he was in office.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Central London Employment Tribunal on Wednesday that Ms Hollern made “malicious” remarks designed to “scare” him away from helping the woman.
Labour confirmed on Thursday that Ms Hollern, the MP for Blackburn, had resigned as shadow minister for local government, but did not comment further.
Voter ID legislation is ‘total b——-‘, says Ruth Davidson
Ruth Davidson has said the Government’s plans to introduce voter ID is “total b——-“.
The outspoken former leader of the Scottish Tories told ITV’s Peston it was “trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist… the idea that this is some sort of legislative priority is for the birds”.
Ms Davidson, who was once tipped as a possible future prime minister, has handed Labour a gift in her criticism as the opposition claims the plans will disenfranchise millions of people who don’t have photographic identification.
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David Cameron Greensill scandal: What is the lobbying row about?
Two of the three parliamentary inquiries into the Greensill scandal are grilling David Cameron about the extent of his lobbying today – but what is the row all about and why is it commanding so much time?
The affair erupted in the spring, when it emerged that Mr Cameron had privately lobbied ministers, including Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and then-business minister Nadhim Zahawi for the firm.
Allegations also surfaced that Lex Greensill, an Australian financier, was given privileged access to Whitehall departments when Mr Cameron was in No 10. The row deepened in April when it was revealed that a senior civil servant was granted permission to join Greensill Capital while still working at the highest levels of government.
So far it appears that no rules have been broken – but the committees will be looking to reassure themselves on this front, as well as seeing whether rules should be tightened as a result.
Lord Myners sets out key questions for David Cameron today
MPs of the Treasury and public accounts committees will no doubt be hard at work prepping for today’s hearing with David Cameron.
But if they need any hints on what questions to ask, former City minister Lord Myners has some thoughts.
The Labour peer said if he had the the opportunity to quiz the former prime minister, questions would include the extent of his involvement with Greensill, and whether he is “trying to suggest you didn’t know as much you probably did?
“Was he aware the company was probably in great difficulties when he started lobbying…. and about the various flight he took to that well known financial centre, Newquay in Cornwall.
“That’s probably where I’d start,” he told Sky News.
How damaging could today be for David Cameron?
David Cameron’s over-friendly manner in messages has long been a topic of amusement, after it emerged that the former prime minister confused the meaning of “lol” for “lots of love”, and used it to sign off texts to Rebekah Brooks and others.
But the man once accused of creating a “chumocracy” in Downing Street today faces difficult questions from two of the most senior groups of MPs – the Treasury committee, chaired by Mel Stride, and the public accounts committee, chaired by Labour’s Yvette Cooper.
They will be looking to go beyond the merely embarrassing, and increasingly desperate, texts Mr Cameron sent to ministers including Michael Gove and Rishi Sunak to ascertain whether any wrong-doing took place.
It could the day his prophecy that lobbying would be the next big scandal comes back to haunt him.
Jo Cox’s sister ‘honoured’ to stand in Batley and Spen
Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, has said she hopes to stand as the candidate in Batley and Spen, after Tracy Brabin was elected as West Yorkshire’s first mayor.
As reported yesterday, the campaigner is planning to throw her hat in the ring, in what is expected to be a challenging contest for Labour to retain the Red Wall seat.
In a statement that she would be “honoured” to “give the people of Batley & Spen the opportunity to put their trust in me” in the election expected to take place this summer.
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Former minister urges Tories to back ‘sensible’ planning reform as row brews
A former minister has urged his colleagues to back the Government’s planning reforms, amid threats of a widespread rebellion.
Several Conservative MPs have expressed concern about the plans, warning they will take power out of local communities’ hands.
But Simon Clarke said he backed the plans, saying: “Fundamentally, England’s housing crisis is a problem of land supply, and until we become serious about tackling this, too many people will continue to be excluded.”
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Indian variant ‘will get everywhere’, expert warns
The spread of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 should be viewed as a country-wide problem, an expert has warned.
Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, that the variant may spread “way beyond” the local areas where it has been detected.
Prof Naismith, who is also a director at the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said: “I think we should view it as a country-wide problem. It will get everywhere. We keep learning this lesson, but we know that this will be the case.”
Prof Naismith said he did not believe local restrictions would work to contain the variant.
He added: “When we tried locally having different restrictions in different regions that didn’t really make any difference. So I don’t think thinking about a localised strategy for containment will really work.”
Government accused of ‘playing political games’ by delaying Covid inquiry
The Government has been accused of ‘playing political games’ by delaying the public inquiry into how it responded to the pandemic, amid concerns it could result in the same mistakes being repeated.
Boris Johnson confirmed the inquiry would have full powers to compel people to give evidence under oath – but that it would not begin until Spring 2022.
Lobby Akinnola, of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice group, told BBC Breakfast: “I understand the prime minister saying people involved in the inquiry might have other responsibilities to attend to, but we are currently seeing rates go down. It is imperative we start it as soon as possible – if we wait too late to learn from mistakes.”
NHS doctor Sonia Adesra added: “It is very likely we will have a third wave in this country. What I don’t want to happen – what I saw in the second wave – is we were still making the same mistakes.
“We have had one of the highest death tolls in the world. We need to understand why those mistakes were made, who those decisions were made by… It is completely illogical to me that we are pushing this back for another year.
“Playing political games with this is really shameful.”
David Cameron faces Greensill grilling
MPs are set to ask David Cameron on Thursday whether he feels he has demeaned himself and his position as a former British prime minister by lobbying for Greensill Capital.
The Treasury committee will take evidence from Mr Cameron from 2.30pm over lessons learned from the debacle engulfing the collapsed lender.
The Telegraph understands that members of the committee plan to interrogate the former prime minister over what checks he performed on the controversial finance firm before taking on a role as a paid adviser.
Greensill Capital is now under investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority, which warned this week that some of the allegations about its collapse are “potentially criminal in nature”.
Driven by data: Indian variant surge prompts fears over future of roadmap
Decisions about further progress on restrictions will be based on the data, a minister has stressed, as the spread of the India variant is prompting fears there could be a delay to the June 21 relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England.
James Cleverly told Sky News: “Scientists on Sage will make their assessments, they will report that to Government, and we will make decisions based on the data and the evidence that they provide.
“The Prime Minister, the Health Secretary, have always been clear that the easing of restrictions which allow us to get back to normality will be done at a pace and in a way which is safe.
“We will always be driven by the data.”
UK working ‘very, very hard’ as Israeli conflict escalates
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly urged Israelis and Palestinians to “step away from this” to prevent further casualties and fatalities.
“What the UK has called for, what countries around the world have called for, is for this to de-escalate,” he told Sky News.
“For both the government of Israel and the Palestinians, particularly Hamas, to step away from this, so that we don’t see any more casualties, we don’t see any more fatalities, and we can start working towards a sustainable peace.”
Mr Cleverly said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had spoken with foreign ministers of both the Palestinian Authority and Israel and that the UK was “working very, very hard to take the tension out of this situation”.
He added: “It is in nobody’s interests for this to escalate further.”