Government Admits Chancellor of the Exchequer Unable to Name Budget Date

Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, has said Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is not able to currently set a date for the Budget. Sunak, who has faced a series of allegations regarding his past conduct, was expected to deliver the budget on 11 March 2020, the same date as planned by his predecessor Sajid Javid.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Shapps said that this is a “matter for the new Chancellor” and said that “the Government hadn’t previously said that the Budget would go ahead [11 March 2020]”, although HM Treasury had announced this date on 7 January 2020.

HM Treasury was unable to comment on when the Budget would be held.

Times Newspaper Allege Rishi Sunak Linked to Fund Which Crashed UK Economy

The Times Newspaper has today alleged that Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, profited from a fund which contributed to the crash of the UK economy. The Times newspaper wrote:

“Sunak was a partner at the hedge fund TCI when it launched an activist campaign against the Dutch bank, AMB Amro in 2007, resulting in its sale to the RBS”.

The Times added that this made Sunak a multi-millionaire and led to the bail-out of the banks.

Sunak has also been alleged to have been involved with Patrick Degorce, who was a key figure involved in a tax avoidance scheme.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said in a statement:

“Clearly Mr Sunak has questions to answer about his past activities and associations.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Resigns

Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has unexpectedly resigned from the Government, as the Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle falls into chaos. Javid rejected a demand by Boris Johnson to sack his advisers and instead resigned, with Rishi Sunak, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury taking over his role.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

“This must be a historical record, with the government in crisis after just over two months in power”.

Government Approves HS2 Rail Project

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has said in a statement today in the House of Commons that HS2 will proceed. A Government Minister will oversee the project full-time to ensure that costs are brought under control, with construction work now expected on building the line to start this year. The first stage of the project between London and Birmingham is expected to be completed within around ten years, with work on later stages expected to be finished by 2040.

Boris Johnson said in his statement:

“I cannot say that HS2 limited has distinguished itself in the handling of local communities. The cost forecasts have exploded, but poor management to date has not detracted from the fundamental value of the project.”

The Labour Party also confirmed that it backed the project, which was initially approved by the then Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Adonis, in 2009. The project may cost up to £100 billion, although the Prime Minister said he hoped that the total bill would come to no more than £88 billion.

The Prime Minister added that the benefits of the project were still clear in terms of increasing capacity on the rail network and ensuring that trains could get from Birmingham Airport to London in around 38 minutes.

A spokesperson for the CBI said:

“The Prime Minister’s decision to back HS2 sends the right signal around the world that the UK is open for business. HS2 shows the government’s commitment to levelling up the nations and regions of the UK. The project will bring jobs, new homes, skills and investment to the areas of the country that need them most. Once built, HS2 will bring much needed capacity to our railways and help to realise the government’s promise of an ‘infrastructure revolution’ for the North, Midlands and beyond.”

Prime Minister Launches Climate Change Summit

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has launched the UN Climate Change Summit at an event in central London. David Attenborough, the broadcaster and naturalist, is also attending as politicians look at ways to tackle climate change.

The Prime Minister said in a statement:

“There can be no greater responsibility than protecting our planet, and no mission that a Global Britain is prouder to serve. 2020 must be the year we turn the tide on global warming– it will be the year when we choose a cleaner, greener future for all.”

Political Journalists Walk Out After Treatment by Prime Minister’s Staff

There was a walkout earlier today of political journalists following an attempt by Lee Cain, a communications adviser for Boris Johnson, to restrict some media outlets which the Prime Minister hadn’t wanted to attend. When journalists from i, the Daily Mirror, the HuffPost, PoliticsHome and the Independent were blocked from attending, all other journalists also walked out.

Tracy Brabin, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, raised a point of order in the House of Commons, saying:

“This afternoon, accredited lobby journalists based here in the House of Commons were denied access to an important briefing with David Frost, the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser on post-Brexit trade plans. David Frost is a civil servant and therefore his briefing on the most prominent issue of the day is supposed to be neutral and not political. The issue of post-Brexit trade plans is one of great public concern, and access to a high-level briefing should not be hand-picked by Government and political advisers. The exclusion of some publications led to every major national broadcaster and newspaper walking out.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Pays Tribute to Seamus Mallon

Julian Smith, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has today paid tribute to Seamus Mallon, who has died at the age of 83. Mallon was a central figure in the Northern Ireland peace process and was also the MP for Newry and Armagh between 1986 and 2005.

Smith said in a statement:

“Seamus Mallon was passionate about politics and political debate. His leadership, with David Trimble, of the first Northern Ireland Executive formed after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in 1999 was marked by a generosity of spirit – he sought to represent the views of communities across Northern Ireland.

Seamus Mallon championed the development of policing in Northern Ireland, fighting for the necessary reform to ensure the full participation of nationalists in the new policing structures introduced following the Good Friday Agreement. I want to also express my sincere condolences to his family, friends and to the SDLP.”

Prime Minister Speaks to US President

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, spoke today to Donald Trump, the US President, by phone. They discussed matters relating to international security and the case of Harry Dunn.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said in a statement:

“They discussed a range of issues, including cooperation to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks.

The Prime Minister raised the tragic case of Harry Dunn, and the need to secure justice for Harry’s family. He reiterated the need for the individual involved to return to the UK. The Prime Minister also gave an update on the UK’s departure from the EU.”

Durham Miners’ Gala Refuse to Invite Conservative MPs to Event

Alan Mardghum, the President of the Durham Miners’ Association, has said that he “would rather die in a ditch” than invite Conservative MPs to attend the Durham Miners’ Gala event. Mardghum added that “they might need to speak to the police” if they did want to go ensure their security.

Richard Holden, the Conservative MP for North West Durham which was a seat held until 2019 by Labour for over 100 years, said on Twitter:

“Silly of Alan Mardghum to make these veiled threats to MPs elected by County Durham Esp as he was removed as a trustee of a miners charity by
@ChtyCommission – it was paying out 5 TIMES more in wages/admin than it was granting to those in need…”

Mardghum later clarified his comments to deny that he was making threats, saying:

“The current political climate has polarised many and feelings are running high. It is only advisable that anyone in public office seeks advice from the relevant authorities. Our position is one of responsibility to the thousands of people who take part in the Gala. It certainly is not an implied threat to any specific group of people who may wish to attend.”

 

Brexit MEP Queries Lack of UK Representation in the EU After Brexit

June Mummery, the outgoing Brexit Party MEP for the East of England, has queried how the European Union fisheries policy can be held to account by the British after Brexit.

Mummery posted on Twitter:

“Attending the penultimate session of the #EuropeanParliament’s #FisheriesCommittee #PECHcommittee) with #BritishMEPs. The big question now is, who will be here to hold these people to account while they still control Britain’s waters, but the UK has no representation?”

Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit Co-Ordinator for the European Parliament, posted on Twitter with reference to Mummery’s comments:

“European countries are stronger together using our combined influence to act in the world of Trump, Xi & Putin. This cooperation enhances our sovereignty. The isolation of nationalism takes this away, as some in the Brexit Party are now realising.”

Mummery later posted:

“To clear up any misunderstanding. I have always supported a #CleanBreakBrexit and reclaiming our fishing waters on day one. However, under  @BorisJohnson’s #WithdrawalAgreement, we have a situation where the EU will control our waters unchecked for at least 11 months.”