Boris Johnson news – live: Khan refuses to back Starmer rule changes as Brown slams ‘callous’ UC benefit cut
Sadiq Khan repeatedly refused to be drawn today on if he supports Sir Keir Starmer’s plan to change the Labour Party’s leadership election rules.
Under the controversial proposals Labour would ditch the one member, one vote system and replace it with an electoral college system which would give MPs and unions a stronger say in future leadership contests.
Mr Khan was asked on three occasions if he supported the alterations suggested by Labour but said that “internal party rules isn’t at the fore of my mind”.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Gordon Brown lambasted ministers for an upcoming cut to universal credit, adding that he had never seen a government act “so callously”.
He also called the £20-a-week reduction “more economically illogical, socially divisive and morally indefensible than anything I have witnessed in this country’s politics”.
It comes as Boris Johnson has told leaders at the UN the world is not “indestructible” and that the upcoming climate summit in Glasgow is “the turning point for humanity”.
The prime minister was addressing the General Assembly in the early hours on Thursday in the final act of his US visit, where he also discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and trade.
Tory MPs call for Government to reduce or abolish VAT on energy bills
The Government should reduce or abolish VAT on energy bills, two Conservative former ministers have told the House of Commons.
Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope said: “Why don’t we reduce VAT on fuel as a temporary measure?
“We did it for the hospitality industry, which was badly affected by Covid-19. Why don’t we abolish VAT for consumers on fuel now?”
He was followed by the MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, who told the Commons: “I am sure the Conservative answer to this is to reduce VAT on energy bills, something that was pledged by those who support Brexit in the EU referendum.
“He will say it is up to the Treasury to decide, but he is very persuasive. He believes in tax cuts and I know if he went to see the Chancellor, he would ensure that we will get VAT cuts on energy bills.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng replied: “As he knows, I see the Chancellor on a regular basis and I am delighted to inform him that these conversations tend to be confidential.”
Sadiq Khan refuses to back Keir Starmer over Labour leadership rules
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has refused to back Sir Keir Starmer’s plan to end the one member, one vote system which elected Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
Labour mayor was asked three times if he supported Sir Keir’s proposal to replace existing rules with a return to an electoral college system, which would give MPs and unions a much greater say.
But Mr Khan three times spurned the chance to back the party leader. “I’ve got to be frank, as the mayor of London, internal party rules isn’t at the fore of my mind,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Northerners will be hardest hit by soaring energy prices, Kwarteng acknowledges
People living in the north will be hit hardest by soaring energy prices this winter, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has acknowledged.
Labour MP Rachael Maskell (York Central) told the Commons: “The rise in energy prices will disproportionately impact people living in the north because it is colder during the winter in the north.
“So what assessment has he made of the regional disparities and how is he going to mitigate against that?”
Mr Kwarteng replied: “I think the honourable lady raises a very fair point and clearly, in terms of the gas price, the single most important determinant of it is the weather, and she’s absolutely right.
“That’s why we’ve got schemes like the Warm Home Discount and that’s why we’re absolutely focused on protecting the most vulnerable customers, wherever they are in the UK.”
‘I have never seen a government act so callously’: Gordon Brown condemns universal credit cut
Gordon Brown has fiercely condemned ministers for the upcoming cut to universal credit, suggesting he has never seen a government act “so callously”.
The former prime minister said the withdrawal of the £20-a-week uplift on 6 October could not come at a worse time for struggling households, which face the prospect of rising food and energy costs, writes The Independent’sRory Sullivan.
“I have never seen a government act so callously and with so little concern for the consequences of their actions on the poorest in our society,” he said.
Second MoD data breach compromising safety of Afghan interpreters emerges
A second data breach at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) could have compromised the safety of dozens more Afghans, it has emerged.
The details of 55 Afghan citizens who might be eligible for relocation to the UK under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) were mistakenly made public in an email, rather than being hidden to shield their identities, according to the BBC.
This comes shortly after the defence secretary Ben Wallace launched an investigation into how a similar error – affecting more than 250 people – was made.
Ed Miliband tells MPs the Government has been ‘complacent’ about the gas crisis
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the Government had been “far too complacent” about the gas crisis, after he made warnings earlier in the week.
The Labour MP, speaking in the House of Commons, added: “Events since have unfortunately borne this out: complacent about the crisis in the market, complacent about the impact on families, complacent about the cost of living crisis.
“He pretended on Monday and again today that it was normal for a number of suppliers to go down each winter, but what we are dealing with is far from normal – 8,000 customers losing their suppliers yesterday alone, 1.5 million in the last six weeks.”
Mr Miliband also quoted from a letter energy regulator Ofgem sent to the Government 18 months ago warning about “systemic risk to the energy supply as a whole”.
The MP said: “It said the usual Ofgem mechanism, the supplier of last resort, may not be possible, and it went on, the failure of medium and large suppliers would need to be handled via a special administration regime, placing significant burden and costs on Government.
“We are seven days from the cut to Universal Credit. This is the last time a Government minister will be in the House to explain to millions of families why it is plunging them further into fuel poverty. Instead of warm words or platitudes, can he now tell the British people how he can possibly justify this attack on their living standards?”
Kwasi Kwarteng tells Commons the Government will not be bailing out energy firms
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, responding to an urgent question in the Commons, told MPs that the government would not be bailing out failed energy companies and said the energy price cap would remain in place.
He said: “The Government has been clear that protecting consumers is our primary focus and shapes our entire approach to this.
“We will continue to protect consumers with the energy price cap.
“The solution to this crisis will be found from the industry and the market, as is already happening, and the Government – I repeat – will not be bailing out failed energy companies.”
Mr Kwarteng maintained the price cap will remain in place and has insisted the industry and market will find the solution to the energy crisis.
‘We can’t arrest our way out of a drugs death crisis’
Scotland’s drugs minister has defended a change in stance which will allow police to issue warnings to those caught with drugs such as heroin or cocaine, saying: “We can’t arrest our way out of a drugs death crisis.”
Angela Constance hit back after the Conservatives claimed the new approach – announced by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC – amounts to “defacto decriminalisation”.
Police officers can already use their discretion to issue warnings to those caught with Class B and C drugs – such as barbiturates and cannabis.
Ms Bain announced on Wednesday that that power is now being extended to Class A substances, which also include ecstasy, crack cocaine and magic mushrooms.
Describing the change as a “smart use of the law”, Ms Constance said it will be at the discretion of police whether a warning is issued, and she stressed this will only be an option in cases of possession for individual use, not where someone is suspected of being involved in supplying drugs to others.
She hailed the move as “very significant” as Scotland aims to reduce drugs deaths – which reached a record 1,339 in 2020.
Government launches consultation on flexible working
The Government has today launched a consultation on plans to give everyone the right to request flexible working from the first day in a job.
The move, reported earlier this week, will lead to 2.2 million more people given the right, rather than having to wait for six months under current arrangements, said ministers.
The consultation will also consider cutting the current three-month period an employer has to consider any request.
The Government said a range of flexible working methods will also be looked at, including job-sharing, flexitime, compressed hours and phased retirement, as well as working from home, a trend which has accelerated as a result of the pandemic.
A day-one right to a week’s unpaid leave for carers balancing a job with caring responsibilities is also being planned.
Ministers said there were some circumstances where businesses will not be able to offer flexible working, so they should still be able to reject a request if they have sound business reasons.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Empowering workers to have more say over where and when they work makes for more productive businesses and happier employees.
“It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day-one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country.
“A more engaged and productive workforce, a higher calibre of applicants and better retention rates – the business case for flexible working is compelling.”
But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, who is also shadow future of work secretary, said it reflected “another broken manifesto promise”.
She said: “Labour will give workers the right to flexible working – not just the right to request it. Labour will make flexible working a force for good so that everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of flexible working, from a better work-life balance to less time commuting and more time with their family.”