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Cost of living: No 10 defends above-inflation rise for pensioners but not public sector workers – live


No 10 defends giving above-inflation rise to pensioners but not to public sector workers

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesperson was asked to explain why the government was opposing above-inflation pay rises for public sector workers, on the grounds they would be inflationary, while approving an above-inflation increase in the value of the state pension for next year. (See 12.35pm.) The spokesperson said the government thought the pension increase would no be inflationary.

Referring to public sector pay, he said:

The view is that if we were to chase inflation in this way, by matching all demands on public sector pay, some of which would involve matching inflation and adding additional on top of that, that would be inflationary, and that’s what in the long term would actually make people feel like they had less money going forward.

Asked why raising the value of the state pension for 2023-24 by more than the likely rate of inflation for that year was not inflationary, he replied:

The chancellor needs to consider it all in the round and the view is that we can meet that commitment without stoking those inflationary pressures. But we did take difficult decisions with regards to the triple lock, a temporary one-year suspension.

Ben Riley-Smith from the Telegraph says the Downing Street arguments about pay and inflation now make little sense.

No 10’s contorted pay position:

1/ Public sector workers will not get an inflation level pay rise as it would be inflationary… but state pensions will rise by inflation

2/ Britain must become “high wage”, but neither public or private sector should give real term pay rises

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

3/ New tax cuts now would be inflationary so would be wrong… but £37 billion in cost of living spending is necessary despite impact on inflation… and the tax cut coming in next month is a good thing…

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

Cabinet Office minister’s repeated evasions cast doubt on PM’s commitment to appointing new ethics adviser

At the end of his speech Michael Ellis, the Cabinet Office minister, eventually said Boris Johnson would appoint an ethics adviser to replace Lord Geidt. But he spent so long dodging the question that, when a quasi-commitment finally did come, it sounded pretty worthless.

Sir Robert Buckland, the Consertative former justice secretary, asked for an assurance that Boris Johnson would appoint a replacement for Lord Geidt as the No 10 ethics adviser (or independent adviser on ministers’ interests, to give him his formal title) “as soon as practical”.

Ellis said the matter was being given “very careful consideration”.

This prompted a worried intervention from John Penrose, who resigned over Partygate from his post as the government’s anti-corruption champion. He said Tory MPs had been given, before the debate started, an assurance that the minister would make a “strong commitment” to replacing Geidt. But Ellis had not done that, he said. He asked Ellis to give that assurance.

Ellis said he thought he had been clear. It was the government’s intention to “act quickly”, he said.

Joanna Cherry (SNP) said Ellis was still not being clear. Did he mean the government was going to act quickly to review how the system work, or act quickly to appoint a replacement adviser?

Ellis said “the position will be dealt with in good time”. But the how and when were still being worked on.

This reply seemed to make Ellis’s position even worse and Simon Hoare, the Conservative chair of the Northern Ireland affairs committee, told him: “This issue of ethics is proving to be a bit of an Achilles heel with the government.” It was in the government’s interests to replace Lord Geidt. Saying that he still was not clear what Ellis meant, he asked again for an assurance that a replacment would be appointed quickly.

In reply, Ellis gave an answer that turned evasion into an art form. He said:

Whether it be the phrase ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’, ‘as soon as possible’, I think is immaterial. I think I’ve made clear. I’m trying to emphasise – the how and when are to be worked out. The government will act with every possible expedition.

It was Karin Smyth, a Labour member of the public administation and constitutional affairs committee, who finally go an answer of sorts. She asked if the PM would be appointing a new adviser. Ellis replied:

The PM intends to appoint a new ethics adviser. We will announce how that is to be done, and who it is and how it works, in due course.

That sounded like a proper answer – although an intention to do something is not the same as a commitment to doing it.

The SNP’s spokesperson on Commons matters, Pete Wishart, opened his speech by saying he thought it was obvious from Ellis’s evasions that Johnson had “no intention” of moving quickly to replace Geidt. If Tory MPs were “taken in by this rubbish, God help them”, he said.

Ellis indicated that Tory MPs would be voting against the Labour motion. On the basis of these exchanges, it feels like some Conservatives may decide to abstain.

Ellis says Boris Johnson wants to have time to consider how the independent adviser system operates before deciding whether to replace Lord Geidt.

He also claims the Labour proposal is muddled. It confuses the legislature and the executive, because it wants to allow the legislature (a select committee) to appoint an adviser who would be serving the PM.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab) says Ellis has misunderstood the motion. The motion says the new adviser would be advising the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, not the PM, he says.

Ellis says it is clear what the intention of the motion is.

Stephanie Peacock (Lab) intervened to say that the first role of a new ethics adviser should be to “get the prime minister to find some ethics in the first place”. Referring to the recent story about Boris Johnson considering making his wife Carrie his chief of staff at the Foreign Office when he was still married and they were having an affair, Peacock said this wasn’t the first time he had wanted to spend public money on a girlfriend. It happened when he was mayor of London, she said.

Ellis said he would not dignify that with a response.

Minister says Labour’s plan to ensure new ministerial ethics adviser appointed ‘entirely impractical’

Michael Ellis, the Cabinet Office minister, is responding to Rayner.

He says the government wants to uphold standards in public life. But it cannot support the Labour motion because it would be unconstitutional, he says.

If it were passed, it could lead to a Labour chair of the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee choosing the ministerial code adviser for a Conservative PM – or vice versa.

He said that would be “entirely impractical” and could lead to “gridlock”.

Rayner said that, when Lord Geidt resigned, Michael Ellis, the Cabinet Office minister, made a point of saying how much his work had been valued. But she suggested that the government’s true view of Geidt was revealed when Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, had taken to the airwaves to “mock and belittle him”.

She was referring to Dorries telling LBC yesterday:

You call him Lord Geidt. I think the rest of the country had never even heard his name before and used to call him Lord Geddit. I don’t think they give a fig who replaces him or even who he was, or what he did.

Rayner ended her opening speech saying:

If the prime minister won’t appoint an ethics adviser, we must do so.

Rayner launches Commons bid to ensure PM cannot abolish post of ministerial ethics adviser

In the Commons Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, has just opened the debate on the opposition motion intended to bounce Boris Johnson into appointing a new ethics adviser for No 10 to replace Lord Geidt. My colleague Aubrey Allegretti wrote about the strategy here.

The Labour motion is not just declaratory; it proposes a change to the Commons standing orders, with an inclusion saying:

Following any two month period in which the role of independent adviser to the prime minister on ministers’ interests remains unfilled, the public administration and constitutional affairs committee shall appoint a specialist adviser, entitled the adviser on ministers’ interests, whose role shall be to advise the committee on the effectiveness of the ministerial code and on any potential breaches of that code.

Rayner said that Boris Johnson had now driven two independent advisers on ministerial interests to resign. Under Johnson, more rule breaking was inevitable, she said.

To this prime minister, ethics is a country east of London.

Rayner said she was concerned that Geidt would not be replaced. No 10 has already said that this might happen.

Jeremy Wright (Con) said that in the past he had backed Rayner when she called for the implementation of recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, on which he sits. The committee said the independent adviser should have the power to initiate their own investigations. But Wright said the proposal from Rayner today was not in line with what the committee wanted, because the committee thought the ministerial code should be the property of the PM, not a select committee.

Rayner said she would like to see the committee’s recommendations implemented in full. But she said that had not happened, which was why she favoured this approach.

In Wales Mark Drakeford, the Labour first minister, has not told his frontbenchers they must avoid RMT picket lines, the BBC reports. At first minister’s questions Drakeford said:

No inhibition exists on members of my group demonstrating their support for the trade union movement.

But Drakeford acknowledged the Keir Starmer, the UK party leader, was in a different position because the Conservatives wanted to depict him as likely to return the country “to days which have been left far behind”.

Mark Drakeford says he is not following Sir Keir Starmer in asking Labour colleagues to stay away from rail strike picket lineshttps://t.co/9ZNMyBgmU8

— BBC Wales Politics (@WalesPolitics) June 21, 2022

Severin Carrell

The Scottish Greens have been fined £2,300 for missing a deadline for filing their annual accounts for 2020, and blamed a third party for the delay.

Louise Edwards, the Electoral Commission’s director of regulation, said:

It is important for transparency that voters have timely and accurate information about political parties’ finances. The requirements are clear, so it is always disappointing when they are not met.

A Scottish Green party spokesperson admitted the breach. “We regret that due to documentation from a third party being received late, our statement of accounts for 2020 was not submitted on time. Our accounts received a clean audit and we are confident the problem will not reoccur.”

The commission also fined Kingston Independent Residents Group, a registered political party based in New Malden, Kingston on Thames, £200 for the late delivery of its annual accounts.

Levelling up bill ‘substantially erodes public participation in planning system’, say MPs

The Commons levelling up committee has written to Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, to express concerns that his levelling up and regeneration bill “radically centralises planning decision-making and substantially erodes public participation in the planning system”. Writing on behalf of the committee, which has a Conservative majoriy, Clive Betts (Lab), the chair, said in his letter:

The bill represents a significant change to the existing planning system. It undermines an important planning principle, the primacy of the development plan, by elevating national development management policies to the top of the planning hierarchy.

Unlike development plans, which are produced locally via a statutory process that involves considerable public participation, the bill contains no obligation to allow the public to participate in the development of national development management policies …

The bill introduces a new mechanism to allow the secretary of state to grant planning permission for controversial developments, bypassing the planning system entirely. There is no right for the public to be consulted as part of this process.

Overall, in our view the bill radically centralises planning decision-making and substantially erodes public participation in the planning system.

In the Commons yesterday Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, cited, as one example of railway industry working practices in need of reform, the fact that working on Sundays was voluntary. This was a rule dating from 1919, he said.

In an interview with LBC today Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said Shapps’ argument was nonsense. He explained:

We have a seven-day railway and the vast majority of our members work Sundays all of the time.

What we’ve got is a situation, the agreements that we’ve got on the contract of employment deploys their hours, their working time, their contracted hours over six days. And then Sunday is a roster day normally that gives a bit of premium. People can ask to decline to work if they’ve got a baptism to go to or some function, and then they go to the rest of the roster to find that replacement.

Mick Lynch.
Mick Lynch. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Former chancellor Ken Clarke says recession almost inevitable and UK in ‘one of worst economic crises I can remember’

Kenneth Clarke is often seen as one of the most successful Conservative chancellors of modern times. Now in the House of Lords, he delivered a grim forecast for ministers in an interview on the World at One. Here are the main points.

  • Clarke said the UK was facing one of the worst economic crisises of his lifetime and that a recession was almost inevitable. He said:

We are in one of the worst economic crises I can remember in my lifetime, certainly since 1979. We are, I think, almost certainly going to go into recession in the next couple of years, and the Bank of England has had to start tackling inflation, which has been allowed to get completely out of hand. And I don’t think it is going to be self-correcting … Really strong actions has got to be taken to minimise the consequences of the economic problems we’re going to see over the next two years.

This contradicts the line taken by ministers like Boris Johnson who argue that, despite inflation being a problem, the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

  • He said it was essential for the government to ensure the rail strike ended in the defeat of the RMT. If that did not happen, other unions would make similar, inflationary pay demands, he claimed. “If a pay settlement is 10, 11%, then you’re going to have vast amounts of the public sector going in for the same militancy,” he said. He said:

I’m afraid that [the strike] cannot be allowed to look successful when it settles … It must be seen to have been not worth it to have gone on strike for the railwaymen. That’s a situation we had reached by the time we got to the 70s and 80s. And I think we’ve reached that stage now.

Clarke is now regarded as a patrictan, one nation Tory, but as a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, he was an implacable opponent of various public sector unions.

  • He said that he expected public opinion to turn against the government as the strike went on. He said at first the public would be angry with the union on strike, but that after a week or so of disruption people would turn against the government. “You can become very unpopular as a minister when you continue to hold out against a pay claim that is, frankly, unaffordable and not in the public interest,” he said.
  • He suggested it was rash for Johnson to promise a high-wage economy. That was “a conference phrase”, he said. “I would not make that the basis for policy at the moment.”
  • He said criticised the fact that the government’s cost of living support helped people like him, instead of being more focused on people in need. The government had to “protect the poor”, he said.

You’ve got to protect the poor, stop giving me money to pay my power bills. I’m not rich, but I got £1,100 pounds out of the government in the latest package. It’s absurd. I’ve got two houses and I’m a pensioners. Very nice, but I don’t need it.

Kenneth Clarke.
Kenneth Clarke. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images

Kelly Beaver from the polling firm Ipsos says public opinion on the rail strikes is split. (See 2.11pm.) In an article for the New Statesman, based on data from a YouGov poll from earlier this month, Katharine Swindells backs up that claim, and explains in more detail how views are divided.

Polling earlier in June by YouGov found that British people are divided in their opinion of the strike. Half of respondents said they opposed rail workers striking over pay and conditions, while a third said they supported it.

There was a big difference across age groups. Half (49%) of respondents aged 18-24 said they supported strikes. Among older age groups, who tend to use trains far less frequently, there was significantly less support. Of those aged 50-64, a third (32%) said they strongly opposed rail workers going on strike, and among those over 65 it was 42%.

This chart illustrates the point very clearly.

Polling on support for rail strike
Polling on support for rail strike Photograph: New Statesman

Dominic Raab is facing demands today from 150 organisations to allow detailed parliamentary scrutiny of legislation that is expected to replace the Human Rights Act, my colleague Rajeev Syal reports.

In an interview with Times Radio Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said that his organisation came very close to reaching a deal with the RMT last night. They were still talking at 8.30pm, he said.

We were so close, we were so close to avoiding the strike with a credible package for colleagues with the sort of workplace reforms that would be valued for the taxpayer as well. We were within a gnat’s whisker of that. And, that’s one reason why it’s so devastating to see this disruption.

Asked why, despite getting close, there was no deal, he said the problem was “the defence of working practices that just don’t make sense”.

Kelly Beaver, CEO of the polling firm Ipsos in UK and Ireland, told the World at One that votes were “very, very split” in terms of who they sympathised with in the rail strike. They were sympathetic to rail workers, not so sympathetic to the rail companies, but mostly sympathetic to passengers, she said.

Asked if they sided with employers or unions, and whether it was 50/50, Beaver said the figures were in that territory. She said her firm would be publishing the full details of the new polling tomorrow.

Johnson warns against risk of Ukrainian war ‘fatigue’

And here are some of the other lines from the Downing Street lobby briefing.

  • Boris Johnson told cabinet that he was concerned about Ukrainian war “fatigue”. Summing up what happened at cabinet, the PM’s spokesperson said:

The prime minister said there was a risk of growing fatigue around the conflict. He said it was vital to remember that the Ukrainians are fighting for freedom and that the UK would be steadfast in supporting them. He said we must not allow anyone to believe that making concessions to Putin would lead to anything but disaster. He said it would embolden not just Russia but their allies and have an impact on UK security and on our economy.

Johnson told colleagues that at the Commonwealth, G7 and Nato meetings he was attending over the next week, he would be pressing other world leaders not to give up on support for Ukraine.

  • Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, both stressed at cabinet the need to maintain fiscal discipline. The spokesperson said:

The prime minister said the public would expect the government to stick within their means at a time of global cost of living pressures. The chancellor emphasised that the government had responsibility to not take any action that would feed into inflationary pressures or reduce the government’s ability to lower taxes in the future.

  • The spokesperson did not deny a report saying Johnson considered putting his wife into one of two jobs in 2020. The Mirror reports:

Sources say the PM wanted to get [Carrie Johnson] a job as a green ambassador in the run-up to the global climate summit in Glasgow. They claim his second idea was to line her up as communications director for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Earthshot Prize.

The insiders suggest he wanted cabinet secretary Simon Case, who had previously been Prince William’s private secretary, to “take soundings”.

But the PM’s closest advisers were said to have vetoed both suggestions, warning either position could undermine his wife’s status as a private citizen.

Asked about the report, the spokesperson said Johnson did not “recommend” his wife for these jobs. But he did not deny that the option might have been discussed. He said:

The prime minister has never recommended Mrs Johnson for a government role, or one as part of the Earthshot Prize. Beyond that I wouldn’t get into any conversations the prime minister may or may not have had in private.

  • The spokesperson confirmed that the government is considering changing the rules about how non-executive directors can be paid. But he also denied a suggestion in the report in the i that the government was considering, as part of this, lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses. The spokesperson said what was being considered was removing “any unnecessary restrictions on paying non-executive directors shares”.

No 10 defends giving above-inflation rise to pensioners but not to public sector workers

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesperson was asked to explain why the government was opposing above-inflation pay rises for public sector workers, on the grounds they would be inflationary, while approving an above-inflation increase in the value of the state pension for next year. (See 12.35pm.) The spokesperson said the government thought the pension increase would no be inflationary.

Referring to public sector pay, he said:

The view is that if we were to chase inflation in this way, by matching all demands on public sector pay, some of which would involve matching inflation and adding additional on top of that, that would be inflationary, and that’s what in the long term would actually make people feel like they had less money going forward.

Asked why raising the value of the state pension for 2023-24 by more than the likely rate of inflation for that year was not inflationary, he replied:

The chancellor needs to consider it all in the round and the view is that we can meet that commitment without stoking those inflationary pressures. But we did take difficult decisions with regards to the triple lock, a temporary one-year suspension.

Ben Riley-Smith from the Telegraph says the Downing Street arguments about pay and inflation now make little sense.

No 10’s contorted pay position:

1/ Public sector workers will not get an inflation level pay rise as it would be inflationary… but state pensions will rise by inflation

2/ Britain must become “high wage”, but neither public or private sector should give real term pay rises

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

3/ New tax cuts now would be inflationary so would be wrong… but £37 billion in cost of living spending is necessary despite impact on inflation… and the tax cut coming in next month is a good thing…

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

Treasury says triple lock means state pension rise next year likely to be ‘significantly higher’ than inflation

In response to a parliamentary written answer, Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, has confirmed that the government will apply the pensions “triple lock” again this year. The mechanism, which was suspended last year because the impact of Covid meant it would have had a distorted impact, says pensions will go up in line with earnings, or inflation, or 2.5% – whichever is higher.

Clarke said:

Next year, the triple lock will apply for the state pension. Subject to the secretary of state’s review, pensions and other benefits will be uprated by this September’s CPI which, on current forecasts, is likely to be significantly higher than the forecast inflation rate for 2023/24.

This is from Josephine Cumbo, the FT’s global pensions correspondent.

NEW: UK Govt confirms the “triple lock” will apply for next year’s state pension, meaning millions of pensioners are in line for 10%+ rises to their weekly income.

Treasury minister confirms in response to written question.https://t.co/fZT03E3Lxj

— Josephine Cumbo (@JosephineCumbo) June 21, 2022

Momentum, the Labour group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn and his agenda when Corbyn was party leader, says Keir Starmer’s attempt to ban fronbenchers from RMT picket lines (see 9.31am and 11.40am) shows the party has “lost its way”. A spokeperson for Momentum said:

The Labour party was founded to represent the interests of workers. But under Keir Starmer’s leadership, the party has lost its way. Instead, it is Socialist Campaign Group MPs out there on the picket lines with rail workers who refuse to accept cuts to their pay and conditions, in a time of spiralling inflation. That’s the basic solidarity that the Labour name demands.

It has also posted this on social media.





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