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PMQs: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer ahead of rumoured cabinet reshuffle – UK politics live PMQs: Starmer attacks Johnson over universal credit cuts; No 10 confirms cabinet reshuffle – live
(32 minutes later)
Latest updates: prime minister to face Labour leader in Commons before a rumoured cabinet overhaul later today Latest updates: prime minister takes questions in Commons before a cabinet overhaul takes place this afternoon
Starmer says low paid people cannot work the extra hours to recoup the money. And they would need to do that because of the broken tax system. For every extra pound earned, the government will take 75p. Why is the PM hammering them with a tax rise? Johnson says the future of work under Labour is low skills and law wages, driven by high immigration.
Johnson claims payments are being increased. He claims it was incredible that the party of Nye Bevan voted against more money for the NHS last week. They do not have a plan to fix the NHS, he says. Andrew Bridgen (Con) asks about government support for nuclear power.
Starmer says people would have to work an extra nine hours to make up the money. That is an extra day. How will people find the time? Johnson says the government is waiting for the Rolls Royce consortium to come forward with a fully worked out plan.
Johnson says the government is taking measures to raise wages. It is investing in skills. The government wants a high wage economy, with controlled immigration. Labour wants low wages and uncontrolled immigration, he says. Jamie Stone (Lib Dem) asks the PM to back a space project in Sutherland.
Starmer says Johnson did not answer the question. The work and pensions secretary thinks the answer is two hours. Is the correct answer higher or lower? Johnson welcomes the project. It needs a suitable payload, he says. He says Keir Starmer would be suitable.
Johnson says wages are rising. Labour want to take money from people and put them into higher benefits. Johnson says he wants people to earn more. He praises a Costa Coffee initiative and says if we had listened to “Captain Hindsight” (Starmer) we would still be in lockdown. Kieran Mullan (Con) asks the PM to attend a meeting on the geothermal sector.
Sir Keir Starmer offers his condolences following the death of the PM’s mother and asks how many extra hours someone on universal credit would have to work to make up for the £20 they will lose under the government’s cut. Johnson says he is very interested in these projects, and will hold a meeting.
Johnson says every single UC claimant would lose under the Labour’s plan because they want to abolish the benefit. Jack Dromey (Lab) asks about the proposed GKN factory closure in Birmingham.
Caroline Nokes (Con) asks about children affected by sodium valproate. Johnson says the business secretary is looking at this. But the future for the automative sector in the UK is bright, he says. The country is moving towards electric vehicles. That will drive high-skilled jobs, he says.
Johnson says the government is committed to accepting the recommendations of the Cumberlege Review, that considered this. Bob Blackman (Con) asks the PM to back the Scouts movement, and praises its new youth wing, the Squirrels.
Boris Johnson starts by congratulating Emma Raducanu and other players for their victories in the US Open. Johnson says this initiative is fantastic.
PMQs is starting shortly. Nadia Whittome (Lab) says she was able to take time off to recover form PTSD. But other people cannot do this. Will the PM agree to raise sick pay to a level where people can live on it?
Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question. Johnson says most people who are ill get more than statutory sick pay.
Here is some more reshuffle comment/speculation. Mark Harper, the chair of the Tory Covid Recovery Group, says testing for children is interrupting their education. Does the PM agree?
From the FT’s Sebastian Payne Johnson says the government still thinks testing is a good way of keeping schools open, which is the best thing for pupils.
From my colleague Jessica Elgot Anum Qaisar-Javed (SNP) asks the PM to join her in thanking health staff who fight childhood cancer. And will he attend a meeting to discuss how funding can be increased.
From the Telegraph’s Cat Neilan Johnson says not a family in the country has not been touched by this. He endorses what Qaisar-Javed said.
From the Daily Mirror’s Rachel Wearmouth Kim Leadbeater (Lab) asks if the PM accepts the UC cuts will impact on people’s mental health.
Three sources have told the Guardian that Boris Johnson is planning to finally overhaul his cabinet with a reshuffle later today. Johnson says it would not. He says Labour would abolish UC altogether.
There has been no denial from Downing Street and civil servant are on high alert for a change of secretary of state in their department. Neil Hudson (Con) asks if the PM will back plans to rebuild a community college in his constituency.
Diaries have been cleared and “first day” plans for inducting new ministers are at the ready. Johnson says 100 rebuild projects are underway already. And he says Cumbria county council has been awarded £5m for projects including this one.
Special advisers - whose jobs often depend on whether their minister gets to keep their job - are also conceding they expect a reshuffle today. Johnson says the UK has cut its dependency on coal from 40% to 1%.
After weeks of speculation, it could be that Wednesday is finally the day. Some believe the timing makes sense because Johnson is away at the UN general assembly meeting next week, parliament is soon to break up for conference recess, and an overhaul of the cabinet is badly needed. Sir Roger Gale (Con) asks about a local farm that has had to trash its produce because of a shortage of pickers. Will the PM introduce a Covid recovery visa so that crops are not lost?
However, others have been sceptical, thinking it would be difficult to move ministers just weeks before Conservative party conference where they are due to make major speeches, ahead of the spending review and before Cop26 in November. Johnson says he supports buying British and eating British. He says the government wants to take steps to ensure farms get the labour they need.
“At least it will - finally - be gotten out of the way,” one exasperated frontbencher said. Tom Randall (Con) asks if there will be a review of maternity services in Nottinghamshire.
This is from the Times’s George Grylls. Johnson says a review is going ahead.
Paul Goodman has a good guide to some of the issues affecting reshuffle decisions in a ConservativeHome article here. Chris Byrant (Lab) says there are not enough NHS doctors to save lives by dealing with the cancer backlog.
This is from Sky’s Sam Coates on the reshuffle. Johnson says the government is hiring more doctors and nurses.
And these are from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. He urges Bryant to support the NHS funding package announced last week.
Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, has claimed the plan B contingency measures announced by the government yesterday will be “hopeless” if Covid cases get out of control. In a statement he argued the measures in the autumn and winter plan would make another lockdown more likely, not less likely. He said: A No 10 source told journalists:
Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organization special envoy for Covid, said this morning that he was unhappy about the UK government’s decision to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds. He told Sky News that he thought those vaccine supplies would be better used in the developing world. He said: Chris Green (Con) says, now the move to a national ID card has started, nationalists will use them to break up the union.
The Commons culture committee has urged the government to block Paul Dacre, the former Daily Mail editor, from re-applying to be chair of Ofcom. Johnson says he is opposed to ID cards.
In a statement issued this morning, the Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the committee, said it was “extremely alarming” that the government was minded to let Dacre apply again after his application was rejected earlier this year by an application board. Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, says inflation is at is highest rate for a decade. Prices are going up when workers can least afford it. There is a Tory poverty pandemic that will only get worse. How much will welfare cuts cost the average nurse?
Dacre, a fierce supporter of Brexit who in the past has been critical of supposed leftish bias in the BBC, is understood to be Boris Johnson’s preferred candidate for the post, which would put him in charge of the body responsible for regulating broadcasting. Johnson says the government is protected the wages of people on low income by freezing fuel duty and supporting childcare. The government is investing massively in health and social care, he says.
But earlier this year the interview panel set up to vet the final four candidates for the job decided that Dacre was “not appointable”. Rather than appoint one of the other three top candidates, Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, decided to re-run the contest to give Dacre a second chance. Blackford says the PM either does not know the answer to the question, or does not care. The average nurse will lose more than £1,000, he says. The PM does not know how much his cuts will hit people, and the DWP secretary does not know how the system works. He says any Scottish Tory MPs with a backbone would be advised to find it. Or has the PM brought them off with the promise of a job.
This morning Knight released the text of a letter he has sent, on behalf of his committee, to the culture department saying the new recruitment process defines the qualities needed in the next Ofcom chair in almost identical terms to the way the job was described in the original job specification. Johnson says nurses have access to a training bursary worth £5,000, and another bursary worth £3,000 for childcare. And their pay has gone up 3%, he says. He says if Blackford is really saying the SNP is opposed to that investment, he would be better off banging on about a referendum.
But normally when a recruitment process for a post like this is re-run, previous candidates deemed unsuitable are told not to reapply. The culture department has not done that in this case, but Knight said it should. Johnson says the government is working to address the lorry driver shortage. It has changed the licensing rules. After a long period of stagnation for drivers, they are seeing wages going up. Labour is opposed to that, he says.
In a statement he said:
In his morning interviews Sajid Javid, the health secretary, also said Covid restrictions would return if the virus got “out of control” again this year. My colleague Aubrey Allegretti has the story here.
The Scottish parliament’s governing body is refusing to back down on “unjustified” plans which could affect protesters outside the Holyrood building, as the Scottish Greens – who signed a cooperation deal with the SNP government last month – demand a rethink.
The parliament’s governing body has insisted it is not seeking to limit or curb protest outside the Holyrood building, after serious objections have been raised by opposition parties, legal experts and campaigners over plans to make the parliament a “protected site”. This would give the building the protection already in place for the House of Commons and the Welsh Senedd and would give Police Scotland the authority to remove protesters who were there without lawful authority and impose fines.
Holyrood’s corporate body has refused to publish its reasons, and yesterday Green MSP Gillian Mackay argued in the chamber that there had been no consultation with MSPs or the public.
But Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker, speaking for the body, “categorically” assured fellow MSPs that people’s right to protest outside parliament would not change.
With the Scottish Lib Dems also demanded more detail on how the plans will work, this row looks set to run.
There is increasing speculation that Boris Johnson may start on his reshuffle after PMQs today. This is from ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston.
And this is from his BBC counterpart, Laura Kuenssberg.
Good morning. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has been doing a morning interview round this morning, and he has been asked why Conservative ministers and MPs are so reluctant to wear masks. It is because when they are at Westminster they are not with strangers, he said. This is what he told Sky News when asked why no one was wearing a mask at yesterday’s crowded cabinet meeting.
And he used the same argument when asked why so few Conservative MPs wear masks in the Commons chamber (even though the parliamentary authorities say wearing a mask there is “strongly advised”). He told Times Radio:
The government’s autumn and winter Covid plan (pdf) published yesterday does advise wearing a face covering “in crowded and enclosed settings where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet”.
But Labour has mocked Javid for suggesting that people might not catch Covid from someone they know. This is from the deputy party leader, Angela Rayner.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10am: Lord Deben, chair of the climate change committee, gives evidence to the Commons housing, communities and local government committee.
10.15am: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, gives evidence to the Lords constitution committee.
10.30am: Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, gives evidence to the Lords justice and home affairs committee.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
Around 1pm: MPs start debating a Labour motion saying the £20 per week cut to universal credit planned for next month should be abandoned. The vote will be at about 4pm.
2pm: Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, and other Greater Manchester leaders hold a press conference on Covid.
For further Covid coverage, do read our global live blog.
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