Michael Portillo Criticises Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling

Michael Portillo, the former Conservative Secretary of State for Defence and Shadow Chancellor, has criticised Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, who has refused to resign over the Brexit ferry contracts.

Speaking on BBC’s This Week programme, Portillo said:

“As Labour said in the chamber – the most incompetent minister of all time, probably. He is pro-Brexit and nearly all the other Eurosceptics have jumped ship now”.

Dame Sally Davies to Stand Down as Chief Medical Officer

The Government has confirmed that Professor Dame Sally Davies is to stand done as the Chief Medical Officer. Davies has held the role for nine years and will now become the Master of Trinity College at Cambridge University.

Davies said:

“I want to pay tribute to the outstanding clinicians, scientists and public servants who have supported me in this role – men and women who are working tirelessly to improve the health of the nation. It has been an honour to be the first female Chief Medical Officer. I have enjoyed it from the start, and I will continue to do so right up until I finish. I am delighted to be appointed as Master of Trinity College following a distinguished list of predecessors and as the first woman. I can assure everyone that I will continue contributing to the global fight against AMR from my new role.”

Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said in a statement:

“Sally Davies has been a dedicated public servant and a driving force for improving the health of the nation. She has led the fight against antibiotic resistance and public health risks, and has pioneered world-leading action across a whole range of areas. She’s been not just England’s CMO but led thinking around the world. Sally has been an inspiration to us all and I’m sure has a huge amount still to contribute in the future”.

A replacement will be announced later in the year following a recruitment process for the role.

Liz Truss Apologies for Conduct of Sir Christopher Chope

Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has apologised for the conduct of Sir Christopher Chope in blocking the progress of an anti-FGM bill. In a fierce attack on the backbench MP she said:

“When I see one of my colleagues opposing a measure which could have saved girls’ lives, could have saved girls from that horrendous experience, I’m absolutely appalled.”

Referring to Chope’s behaviour, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, also attacked the MP:

“Very disappointed by this. FGM is child abuse. I am determined to stamp out this despicable and medieval practice. We will do all we can protect girls at risk.”

James Brokenshire, the Communities Secretary, also condemned Chope, saying:

“I’m just hugely disappointed.”

The chairman of the Conservative Association for Christchurch, Chope’s constituency, confirmed that there will be a meeting held to discuss the MP’s behaviour.

Cross-Party Calls for Chris Grayling to Resign Over Seaborne Freight Crisis

There have been cross-party calls for the resignation of Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, following the collapse of a contract with Seaborne Freight. Grayling rejected concerns about the status of the contract which has now been cancelled.

Andy McDonald, the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said in a letter to Grayling:

“I was not alone in being astonished that you awarded a £14 million contract to a company with no money, no ships, no track record, no employees, no ports, one telephone line, and no working website or sailing schedule.”

Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe, said:

“Grayling has no grip on the very serious nature of his job. The prime minister should also be considering whether there is not someone else who could do the job better.”

Daniel Kawczynski Criticised for Misleading Comments

Daniel Kawczynski, the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, has been criticised for making misleading comments about the UK’s relationship with Europe. He claimed that there was “no Marshall Plan” for the UK, when it was actually the largest beneficiary.

Kawczynski said on Twitter:

“Britain helped to liberate half of Europe. She mortgaged herself up to eye balls in process. No Marshall Plan for us only for Germany. We gave up war reparations in 1990. We put £370 billion into EU since we joined. Watch the way ungrateful EU treats us now. We will remember.”

David Allen Green, a journalist and lawyer, wrote on Twitter about Kawczynski’s post:

“It was a vile and inflammatory tweet – accusatory and base. The sort of thing no decent and responsible politician would want to send, even if their facts were correct. But Daniel Kawczynski does not even have the wit to be an adequate demagogue. Because far from the UK getting no Marshall Plan, the UK as a matter of fact was the greatest recipient. So not just an untruth, but the opposite of the truth.”

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, said:

“Is this a parody account? Britain received billions from the Marshall Plan and significantly more than West Germany or any other nation. Pick up a history book and you will learn that this brand of jingoistic nationalism is what tore our continent apart twice in one century.”

Kawczynski refused to apologise, saying that:

“The tweet was actually talking about all the things that Britain has done for Europe. Let’s not forget we liberated part of Europe in the Second World War.”

Asked on Talk Radio to explain the tweet Kawczynski refused to answer and instead terminated the interview.

Nissan Cut Investment Over Brexit Uncertainty

Nissan have confirmed that they are scrapping a multi-million pound investment in Sunderland following continued Brexit uncertainty. The new next-generation X-Trail car was to have been built in the city following an announcement which was made in 2016, but which has now been reversed.

In a statement Nissan said:

“Nissan Motor Company Ltd. today announced that the next-generation X-Trail for the European market will be produced in its Kyushu plant in Japan. This model was previously planned for production in Sunderland, UK, as announced in 2016.

Since that time, Nissan has increased its investments in new powertrains and technology for its future European vehicles. Therefore the company has decided to optimise its investments in Europe by consolidating X-Trail production in Kyushu, the production hub for this global model. Other future models planned for Nissan Sunderland Plant – the next-generation Juke and Qashqai – are unaffected.”

Nissan Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said:

“Nissan is investing heavily in new technologies and powertrains for the next generation of vehicles in our Sunderland plant. To support this we are taking advantage of our global assets, and with X-Trail already manufactured in Japan, we can reduce our upfront investment costs.

We appreciate this will be disappointing for our UK team and partners. Our workforce in Sunderland has our full confidence, and will continue to benefit from the investment planned for Juke and Qashqai. While we have taken this decision for business reasons, the continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.”

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said in a statement:

“Nissan’s announcement is a blow to the sector and the region, as this was to be a further significant expansion of the site and the workforce. The company has confirmed that no jobs will be lost. They have reiterated today their commitment to the UK by continuing to manufacture in Sunderland the current Qashqai, Leaf and Juke models and the new Qashqai model from 2020.

The UK automotive industry is a vital sector for the British economy which draws on our combination of rich automotive heritage and cutting edge innovation. Its role in providing high skilled well paid jobs, innovative R&D and investment is why we are determined to build on these strengths to make the UK a leader in the next generation of autonomous and electric vehicles through the Automotive Sector Deal, as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Polling for the Observer Shows Steep Fall in Labour Support

The Conservative Party have opened up a 7% lead over Labour in an opinion poll released by the Observer. It’s the biggest lead reported for Theresa May’s party since the 2017 General Election and shows a 6% fall for Labour from 40% to 34% and a 4% rise for the Conservatives from 37% to 41%.

The poll’s findings do differ widely from other recent polls, with the Observer noting that the Opinium poll for next month would show whether this shift is sustained or an aberration.

British Government Welcomes New Government in Lebanon

The British Government has welcomed the new Government in Lebanon, which is a national unity government formed after nine months of debate. Saad al-Hariri will remain as Prime Minister, a role which he has held since December 2016.

Alistair Burt, the Minister of State for the Middle East, said in a statement:

“I congratulate President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri and welcome the announcement of the formation of Lebanon’s new government. This is an important moment for Lebanon.

The new government will have the increasingly important task of protecting Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability, including through implementing the policy of disassociation from regional conflicts, and abiding by the provisions of all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, including 1559 and 1701. The United Kingdom will continue to support these goals, including strengthening the Lebanese Armed Forces in its role as Lebanon’s sole and legitimate defender.

This is a very important time for the Lebanese economy, and we look forward to rapid progress being made on the commitments made at the CEDRE Conference in Paris on 6 April last year. The UK-Lebanon Business and Investment forum in London on December 12 was an important moment in demonstrating Lebanon’s commitment to delivering key economic reforms, and now is the time for action.

The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting Lebanon, particularly in the fields of security, education and economic growth, as well as by providing support to its most vulnerable.”