London politics latest LIVE: Stephen Hammond joins Tory MPs calling for Boris Johnson to quit
hree Tory MPs called for Boris Johnson to quit on Thursday as pressure grows on the prime minister following the publication of the damning Sue Gray partygate report.
John Baron, Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay said in the morning he could no longer give the prime minister “the benefit of the doubt”.
He said: “The most serious charge against the prime minister is that of knowingly misleading parliament. Given the scale of rule-breaking in No 10, I cannot accept that the prime minister was unaware.”
His comments were soon followed by David Simmonds MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, who called on Mr Johnson to step down “so that new leadership can take forward the important work of the Government in ensuring that our people and country prosper”.
Later on Thursday, Stephen Hammond MP for Wimbledon, Raynes Park, Morden and Motspur Park, submitted a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady.
Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, became the first to call for the prime minister’s resignation on Wednesday following the release of Ms Gray’s report.
It came as Rishi Sunak announced a windfall tax on energy companies and £15billion of extra support for households in a statement in the Commons on the cost of living crisis.
The Chancellor said the government would provide “significant support for the British people”, with inflation rocketing and energy bills set to rise by another £800 in the autumn for millions.
The energy bill discount will be doubled to £400 in the autumn and will be in the form of a grant, rather than a rebate due to the 25 per cent tax on energy firms.
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Inflation-busting pensions and benefits by next year, says Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said benefits and pensions are likely to rise “significantly higher” than inflation next year. Asked by Money Saving Expert website founder Martin Lewis whether he might have to provide further support next year on the cost of living, Mr Sunak said: “I think people can judge me by my actions during the time I’ve had this job. “I’ve always been responsive to the situation that the country is going through, I’ve always had to act to support people where we can, make sure we help the most vulnerable and do that in a way that is responsible and ensures our country and economy is strong in the long term – and I will continue to act in that way.
“None of us know what energy prices are going to be next year but what I can tell you now and what people should be reassured by is that the way our system works, benefits and pensions next year are likely, subject to a review that has to happen legally, to go up by quite a significant amount because the inflation rate that decides that is set in September. “That is likely to be a relatively high inflation rate in September, so that is what will happen next year for everyone’s benefits and pensions, and that increase is most likely to be significantly higher than the inflation we will see next year on all the forecasts that are currently available. “So that should give people an enormous sense of reassurance that we are providing the help today to help them get through to that point and that actually next year there is going to be an enormous easing as all their incomes go up considerably compared to what the increase in prices is.”
Rishi Sunak tells Martin Lewis cost-of-living aid isn’t partygate “fig leaf”
Rishi Sunak denied that his cost-of-living support package had been timed to act as a “fig leaf” for the Government following the publication of the Sue Gray report on Wednesday into No 10 lockdown parties. The Chancellor, speaking to Money Saving Expert website founder Martin Lewis, said: “I can categorically assure you that that had no bearing on the timing for us announcing this support, and I can give you my absolute assurance on that and my word. “The reason we acted today was because we had more certainty about what will happen to energy prices in the autumn.
“I don’t know whether it was you Martin or you were quoting someone but it is not right to say we refused to say we would be providing more help. “I actually said precisely the opposite. I said in the spring, I said in February that of course we would look to provide more support if necessary and that we would do that when we had a better sense of what would happen to energy prices. “That’s the single biggest thing driving the increase in the cost of living and no-one in February could tell me with any certainty what was going to happen with the price cap in October, so I didn’t want to say something that would prove to be wrong. “I wanted to wait for enough time so I had a sense of the scale of the problem and then we could size our support appropriately, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Treasury Minister admits Sunak’s levy is a windfall tax
A Treasury minister admitted the levy announced by the Chancellor on oil and gas companies amounted to a windfall tax, with Rishi Sunak avoiding calling it that during his Commons appearance.
Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “It is a windfall tax but it is crucially a windfall tax with an investment allowance element built into it so that it does indeed incentivize the investment that we want to see in new North Sea oil and gas production.
“I think that is something which is a carefully calibrated offer.”
Asked about Conservative criticisms of the new tax, Mr Clarke said: “There is a long history of these kind of measures, even in relatively recent times.
“George Osborne initiated a windfall tax in 2011, Margaret Thatcher put one in place in 1981 and Labor I think did one in 1997 as well.
“The point is that when you initiate it you need to be really careful for it not to have perverse effects and perverse consequences as a result, and that is something we have done.”
Jamie Davies PM’s deputy official spokesman apologises for lying to journalists over No 10 parties
The Prime Minister’s deputy official spokesman has issued an apology for failing to tell journalists the truth about rule-breaking parties at Downing Street.
Jamie Davies was also asked if he would apologise to former No 10 official Allegra Stratton after she quit Government over a leaked recording of a mock press conference.
Mr Davies could be heard joking that one event “wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”.
Tearful Allegra Stratton quits amid outcry over video leak of her joking about Downing Street ‘party’
He told reporters: “I don’t think it would be right for me to use this platform to talk about myself, we’re obviously here to speak on behalf of the Prime Minister, but we apologised this morning and I’ve echoed that apology.”
Asked how they can be trusted, Mr Davies said: “We’ve always tried to answer questions to the best of my ability, as we’ve said we accept we should have taken the time to establish the full facts right at the very beginning , that’s what Sue Gray has done now, and I echo the apology you heard this morning.”
He declined to say whether any member of the Downing Street press room had been disciplined over the scandal.
Rishi Sunak said he respects Met decision to hit him with party fine
The Chancellor said he respected the Metropolitan Police’s decision to fine him for breaking lockdown rules by attending Boris Johnson’s surprise Downing Street birthday bash in June 2020.
Asked by broadcasters during a visit to B&Q in Watford whether he felt unfairly treated given Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was not fined for attending the same event, Rishi Sunak said: “I respect the police, who have concluded their investigation.
“I paid the fine and I’m deeply sorry and sincerely sorry for the hurt and the anger that that’s caused.
“And I’m doing my best to focus on the job that I have at a time that is challenging for the country.”
Government accused of using cost of living support package as ‘covering fire for Boris Johnson and his disgraceful role in partygate’
The Government has been accused of using Rishi Sunak’s cost-of-living package to distract and deflect from Sue Gray’s report on the “partygate” scandal.
Shadow deputy leader of the House of Lords, Lord Collins of Highbury, asked: “Why is action only being taken now?
“Many will see this as an attempt to spare the Prime Minister’s blushes after the publication of the Gray report, which we debated last night, rather than a sign that the Government is on their side.”
Baroness Kramer, Liberal Democrat Lords spokesperson on the economy, echoed this sentiment.
She said: “Announcements by the Chancellor today including the U-turns on windfall tax and on increasing benefits – it’s basically covering fire for Boris Johnson and his disgraceful role in partygate.
“The timing gives it away; people have been suffering from a cost-of-living crunch through much of this winter, making an appalling personal decision on eating and heating and they have needed that help.”
MP submits letter of no confidence
Stephen Hammond MP for Wimbledon, Raynes Park, Morden and Motspur Park has submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.
The MP becomes the fourth to withdraw his support for the prime minister since the publication of the damning Sue Gray report.
Tory MP warns ‘raising taxes on businesses’ is not the Conservative way
Conservative MP Richard Drax told the Commons: “Can I warn (Rishi Sunak) that throwing red meat to socialists by raising taxes on businesses and telling them where to invest their money is not the Conservative way of encouraging those who create our prosperity and jobs to do just that.
“And does he agree with me that by setting this bar, we’re in danger – were we ever to lose power – of allowing the socialists to raise it, which they would do with relish, again and again and again.”
The Chancellor replied: “I do believe a pragmatic and compassionate Conservative Government would act to provide support to the most vulnerable at a time of acute need, and a fiscally responsible government would look to try to fund as much of that as possible in as fair way as possible.”
US/UK trade deal ‘very desirable’ says official
A trade deal with the UK remains “very desirable” but could be risked over threat to the Northern Ireland protocol, Richard Neal has said.
Speaking in Northern Ireland on Thursday, the US official said: “It the threat to the trade deal is a consequence of the perceived unilateral action that the UK suggested that they might use.
“I don’t think that’s been well met anywhere. Again, unilateralism generally means that you have a winner and a loser where you would much prefer a negotiated outcome where you only have winners.”
Acting Met commissioner responds to Sadiq Khan
The acting commissioner of the Met Police, Sir Stephen House, responded to Sadiq Khan after the mayor called for the official to explain the force’s investigation into void breaches.