Statue of Millicent Fawcett Unveiled by the Prime Minister

The first statue of a female in Parliament Square had been unveiled by Theresa May, the Prime Minister. The statue is of Millicent Fawcett, a suffragist leader, with the unveiling designed to mark 100 years since women obtained the vote.

Politicians at the unveiling included Sajid Javid, Sadiq Khan, Harriet Harman and Jess Phillips. The Prime Minister also made a speech during the unveiling of the statue, saying:

“The struggle to achieve votes for women was long and arduous. Dame Millicent was there from the beginning, and devoted her life to the cause. As a teenager, she collected names for the first pro-Suffrage petition even though she was too young to sign it herself.

As a young woman she overcame a dislike of public speaking and took to the platform at the first women’s suffrage meeting to be held in London. For decade after decade, in the face of often fierce opposition, she travelled the country and the world, campaigning not just for the vote but on a whole range of issues”.

Labour Party Remove Mandy Richards as Candidate for Worcester

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party has decided not to endorse the candidature of Mandy Richards as the Labour candidate for Worcester following a series of allegations which have been made against her. The NEC had met in an urgent meeting yesterday evening and confirmed that the candidate would no longer be sanding for the party.

Richards had made comments which questioned the Manchester bombing, as well as the murdered Labour MP, Jo Cox. It has also transpired that she had been banned from bringing certain cases to court, without having declared that to the Labour Party whilst making her application.

UK Government Says it has Reached Agreement with Welsh Government on Brexit

David Lidington

David Lidington, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has confirmed that the UK Government has reached agreement with the Welsh Government on the European Union Withdrawal Bill. The Government has though still to reach agreement with the Scottish Government on the bill, although talks are expected to continue.

Lidington said in a statement:

“I am very pleased that the many months of detailed negotiation have got us to a point where we have now reached an agreement with the Welsh Government on changes to the Bill. This is a significant achievement that will provide legal certainty, increase the powers of the devolved governments and also respect the devolution settlements. The UK Government has made considerable changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill to address issues that have been raised in Parliament and by the devolved administrations

It is disappointing that the Scottish Government have not yet felt able to add their agreement to the new amendments that Ministers and officials on all sides have been working on very hard over recent weeks. I thank them for that effort and hope that they may still reconsider their position. All governments agree that it would be best for all parts of the UK if we had an agreed way forward on the EU Withdrawal Bill”.

Bank of England Governor Says Brexit May Slow Interest Rates Rise

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, has said that he expects interest rates to rise this year, but that they may be slower because of the impact of Brexit. The markets are expecting a 0.25% rate rise in May, but Carney warned that this wasn’t inevitable.

Carney said:

“The biggest set of economic decisions over the course of the next few years are going to be taken in the Brexit negotiations and whatever deal we end up with. And then we will adjust to the impact of those decisions in order to keep the economy on a stable path”.

Interest rates are currently at 0.5%, but a rise to 0.75% is expected by the end of 2018 in a bid to keep control of inflation. The bank increased interest rates from 0.25% to 0.5% in November 2017, the first increase in a decade.

Prime Minister Meets with Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has today met with Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, in London. They discussed the trade relationship between the two countries as well as sharing ideas before the CHOGM meeting starting today.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“This afternoon the Prime Minister held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

The leaders agreed that the Commonwealth was a unique and diverse institution, capable of delivering real change through practical action. They both noted the importance of the Commonwealth’s youth to its future success.

They agreed that the UK-Singapore trade and investment relationship was strong and would continue to grow, noting the potential for an even stronger future bilateral trade and investment partnership between our two countries as we leave the European Union. They welcomed the approach agreed at the March European Council to provide continuity during the implementation period for international agreements, which could be swiftly transitioned into new bilateral agreements once the implementation period ends.

They agreed the attack in Salisbury had been an outrageous act, and agreed on the importance of upholding the global norm against chemical weapons use, including in the context of Syria. They discussed the importance of tackling Russian disinformation and of preserving the rules-based international system.

They also discussed evolving challenges on cyber security and noted increasing UK-Singapore co-operation in this area. The leaders agreed that they were looking forward to working together more closely in this area after the two governments signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on the matter earlier this week”.

Pressure Increases on Government Over Brexit Following Defeat in the House of Lords

The Government is under pressure to reconsider leaving the European Customs Union following a large defeat in the House of Lords today. The Government was defeated by a majority of 123 votes, with 348 Lords voting to reopen the Customs Union debate.

Following the vote Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, said:

“The passing of this cross-party amendment is an important step forward. Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her red line on a customs union and rethink her approach”.

Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Conservative Party Chairman, said earlier in a speech in the Lords:

“The first thing we have to do is secure our market in the European Union—50% of our trade. We then have to think about the 12% of trade with countries with which the European Union has concluded agreements already and the 8% with which it is negotiating trade agreements already. That adds up to about 70%. Of the remaining 30%, about half is with the United States, a quarter with China and Hong Kong, and the rest with everyone else”.

Lord Callanan, the Government Minister for Leaving the European Union, said in a speech:

“The nub of the issue is this. If the UK were to remain in the customs union and be bound by the EU’s common external tariff, it would mean providing preferential access to the UK market for countries that the EU agrees trade deals with, without necessarily gaining preferential access for UK exports to such countries. Alternatively, we would need the EU to negotiate with third countries on the UK’s behalf. This would leave us with less influence over our international trade policy than we have now, and would not, in our humble assertion, be in the best interests of UK businesses”.

Theresa May Meets with Canadian Prime Minister

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has met with Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, during his visit to London. Trudeau also said today that he hoped to sign a trade deal between Canada and the UK at the earliest opportunity.

A spokesperson for Theresa May said:

“The Prime Minister held a bilateral meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Downing Street earlier today. They agreed that Canada’s G7 Presidency was coming at a crucial time, and would be an opportunity to build on themes discussed at CHOGM and to show the world the value of a multilateral approach. Prime Minister May thanked Prime Minister Trudeau for Canada’s strong support for the UK in response to the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury.

They agreed the decision by the US, UK and France to take action against the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks was the right thing to do, and necessary to uphold the global prohibition on chemical weapons use. They agreed to continue standing side by side to uphold international norms and the rules which keep us safe.

They agreed the bilateral trade and investment relationship would continue to go from strength to strength, welcoming the approach agreed at the March European Council to provide continuity during the implementation period for international agreements such as CETA, which should be swiftly transitioned to form a new bilateral arrangement between the UK and Canada once the implementation period has ended.

Prime Minister Trudeau said he believed that, post-Brexit, the UK and Canada Governments would be able to move in rapid fashion towards a new trade deal that will be particularly beneficial to both countries”.

Rogue Landlords Database Goes Live

Heather Wheeler

A new on-line database of rogue landlords has been launched by the Government in a bid to help councils work together to identify illegal practices in the renting market. There has also been the introduction of a new banning order for landlords who have been involved in illegal practices.

Heather Wheeler, the Minister for Housing, said in a statement:

“I am committed to making sure people who are renting are living in safe and good quality properties. That’s why we’re cracking down on the small minority of landlords that are renting out unsafe and substandard accommodation. Landlords should be in no doubt that they must provide decent homes or face the consequences”.

John Healey, the Shadow Housing Secretary, said:

“After eight years of failure on housing, this is yet another half measure that will do little to help private renters. Since 2010, Conservative Ministers have blocked Labour’s proposals to crack down on rogue landlords and stopped Labour councils from bringing in licensing schemes to drive up standards.

The next Labour Government will help renters with new consumer rights, longer tenancies and controls on their rents. While the Conservatives cling on to power in Westminster the best hope for millions of renters is to elect Labour councillors and create more Labour councils on 3rd May”.

Government Confirms Concern Over Vietnam Trial

Harriett Baldwin, the Minister of State for International Development, has said that the Government is concerned over the trial of six human rights activists in Vietnam. The six have been imprisoned for periods between seven and fifteen years each in a heavily guarded trial.

Baldwin said in a statement:

“The British Government is deeply concerned by the conviction in Vietnam of six members of the Brotherhood for Democracy for attempting to overthrow the regime and the harsh sentencing of 66 years in prison.

We do not believe that the peaceful expression of views on Vietnam’s own political system, or promotion of basic and universal human rights, should constitute a criminal offence. Freedom of expression and association are enshrined within both Vietnam’s own 2013 constitution and the international commitments to which Vietnam is a party”.

A spokesperson for the United States said that the President was “deeply troubled” over the convictions.

Jeremy Corbyn Embroiled in New Anti-Semitism Row

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has been criticised by the Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust as being “mocking and disrespectful” after meeting with Jewdas, a left-wing Jewish organisation. A number of Labour MPs have also criticised Corbyn for not going to meetings with Jewish groups who had said they were concerned about the party’s direction.

John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said:

“This is deliberately baiting the mainstream Jewish community days after they pleaded with him to tackle antisemitism. And he must know that meeting them now will give his members the message that the group’s extreme views are OK. Irresponsible and dangerous”.

Angela Smith, the Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said:

“Corbyn’s attendance at the Jewdas seber reads as a blatant dismissal of the case made for tackling anti-Semitism in Labour”.

Jeremy Corbyn is yet to comment on the allegations, but his office said that his visit was made in a personal capacity and not an official one.