London politics latest LIVE: Rishi Sunak says he ‘regrets’ appointing Gavin Williamson to Cabinet
ishi Sunak has said “regrets” appointing Sir Gavin Williamson to Cabinet and that it was “absolutely right that he resigned” in the wake of bullying claims.
However Mr Sunak, facing Labor leader Keir Starmer at PMQs on Wednesday, said he did not know about “any of the specific concerns” relating to Sir Gavin’s conduct as Secretary of State or chief whip.
His comments came after Sir Keir asked him in the Commons: “The member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) told a civil servant to slit their throat.
“How does the Prime Minister think the victim of that bullying felt when he expressed great sadness at his resignation?”
Former chief whip Wendy Morton had reported expletive-laden messages Sir Gavin sent her as he complained about being refused an invitation to the Queen’s funeral.
It then emerged Sir Gavin had been accused of bullying by a former official at the Ministry of Defense and engaged in “unethical and immoral” behavior while he was chief whip.
Sir Gavin said the allegations against him were “becoming a distraction for the good work this Government is doing for the British people” and was stepping back to “clear my name”.
This heaped further pressure on Mr Sunak, who has also faced criticism for reappointing Suella Braverman as Home Secretary after she was forced out for breaking the ministerial code.
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Braverman: Officers need to go back to ‘common sense’ policing
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told police chiefs at a conference in Westminster she did not want officers to face “politically correct” distractions.
She said: “The way to ensure public confidence in the police is to focus on getting the basics right.
“What I call ‘common sense policing’. The kind of policing the law-abiding majority deserves and expects.
“No politically correct distractions, just good old-fashioned policing – with a relentless focus on making our streets, homes and transport networks safer.”
She praised the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police Stephen Watson, saying he “rejects woke policing”.
Government delays calling Stormont election
Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said he will introduce legislation to “provide a short straightforward extension to the period for executive formation”.
Making a Commons statement on Northern Ireland elections, he told MPs: “The one thing that everyone agrees on is that we must try and find a way through this current impasse.
“When I have a legal duty to call an election that few want and everyone tells me will change nothing. Thus, I will be introducing legislation to provide a short straightforward extension to the period for executive formation, extending the current period by six weeks, to December 8, with potential for a further six-week extension 19 January if necessary.
“This aims to create the time and space needed for talks between the UK Government and the European Commission to develop, and for the Northern Ireland parties to work together to restore the devolved institutions as soon as possible.”
Government ‘giving police powers to stop disruptive protesters’ says Sunak
Rishi Sunak has said his Government is “moving ahead” with legislation to give the police the powers they need to stop protests such as Just Stop Oil.
His comments came after Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge Ben Spencer said in the Commons: “Today Just Stop Oil protesters have been on the M25, causing disruption and misery to my constituents, including causing problems of access to my local hospital.
!Does my right honorable friend agree with me rather than illegal stunts that endanger lives, these protesters should look at our records of delivery on net-zero, from renewables to the Glasgow climate pact, and work constructively with us to deliver on our environmental ambitions ?”
The Prime Minister replied: “I completely agree with my honorable friend and I sympathize with his hard-working constituents who are having to deal with this kind of disruption.
!That’s why we are moving ahead with legislation to give the police the powers they need to stop this type of extremist protesting, disrupting the lives of working people, and I very much hope the party opposite actually join us in supporting those changes.”
No10 refuses to say if Sunak knew details of Williamson bullying claim
The Prime Minister’s press secretary would not say whether Rishi Sunak knew of the nature of the bullying claim against Sir Gavin Williamson when he appointed him.
Asked if Mr Sunak was not told by Sir Jake Berry that the complaint in question concerned bullying and intimidation, she said: “I can’t comment on the… details of private discussions.
“But he was made aware of the disagreement.”
Pressed on whether he might have known the nature of the complaint, if not the details, she added: “It wouldn’t be right for me to comment on complaints processes because they are rightly kept confidential.”
No10 declines to say whether Williamson should lose knighthood
The Prime Minister’s press secretary said it would be a question for the Forfeiture Committee whether Sir Gavin Williamson should be stripped of his knighthood.
Asked if the PM thinks Sir Gavin should lose the title, she said: “I believe there is a formal process for that called the Forfeiture Committee. And that would be a decision for them.”
Williamson met Sunak face-to-face before resignation
Sir Gavin Williamson requested a face-to-face meeting with Rishi Sunak ahead of his resignation on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said.
“Gavin asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday evening, they spoke about it and Gavin offered his resignation,” she said.
She said the PM did not originally refuse to accept Sir Gavin’s resignation.
Asked if Mr Sunak would have sacked him if he had not resigned, she said that was a “hypothetical question”.
“The Prime Minister received Gavin’s resignation and he accepted it – and as he said in the House, it was the right thing to do to resign,” she said.
PM ‘keeping dinosaurs on backbenches happy by banning on-shore wind’
The Prime Minister has been accused of “keeping the dinosaurs on his backbenches happy” by maintaining a ban on onshore wind farms.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey welcomed Rishi Sunak’s commitments at COP27 but told the Commons: “I am alarmed that at home the Prime Minister has banned onshore wind, one of the cheapest and most popular forms of renewable energy.
“Will the Prime Minister confirm whether his priority is cutting people’s energy bills, improving Britain’s energy security, and tackling global climate change, or keeping the dinosaurs on his backbenches happy? Why won’t he get rid of the ban on onshore wind?”
Mr Sunak replied: “We are committed to reducing people’s bills and to having more forms of renewable energy, and our track record on this is superb, four times more than in 2010 the amount of renewable energy.
“Zero carbon energy now accounts for half of our electricity needs and we are poised to do more.
“Offshore wind is the thing we are focusing on along with nuclear and we are now a world leader in offshore wind, and it is providing cheap forms of electricity and energy for households up and down the country, and alongside nuclear that is how we will transition to a cleaner grid.”
No10: ‘No decisions’ made on Williamson replacement
The Prime Minister’s press secretary said no decisions have been made on who might replace Sir Gavin Williamson in the Cabinet Office, if the role remains.
Asked if there will be a like-for-like replacement for the role, she said: “Yeah. The PM is considering (a) replacement for the role. No decisions have been taken.”
Pressed on whether Rishi Sunak is considering who fills the role or whether the role continues to exist, she said: “He’s considering the role and whether that is taken on by someone already in the Cabinet Office or someone who would replace Gavin Williamson. No decisions have been made.”
On whether that means Sir Gavin might not be replaced, she said: “No decisions have been taken.”
More training and skills needed for green energy transition, says former PM May
More training and skills will be needed for the UK to take advantage of the switch to green energy, former prime minister Theresa May has said.
Mrs May told the Commons: “He is absolutely right to talk about the creation of high-skilled, high-wage green jobs as we green our economy, but people need to have the training and skills and education to be able to take on those jobs.
“What are the Government’s plans in relation to education and training for green skills?”
Rishi Sunak responded: “I point her to our record investments in apprenticeships in particular, but also to the new lifelong learning entitlement which acknowledges that people will have to retrain at any point during their lives to take advantage of the new economic opportunities that are coming our way.
“I am pleased that we will be rolling out that program over the coming years.”