Amber Rudd Makes Changes to Universal Credit

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has indicated that she intends to make some changes to the controversial universal credit programme. She confirmed that a pilot to support 10,000 people on ‘ legacy benefits’ will go ahead, and she added that the two-children limit on universal credit will not be back-dated to before April 2017.

Amber Rudd also made a speech about the future of universal credit, although there was some controversy amongst MP that Parliament wasn’t informed first of the changes which were proposed.

In a statement Rudd said:

“There is wide support for the principles we advocate – helping people into work, making work pay, and providing support in times of need. I want Universal Credit to gain further support as we roll it out in practice. This means delivering it in a way that meets the needs of claimants, who come from every conceivable background and who have incredible potential to achieve their ambitions”.

Margaret Greenwood, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said in a statement:

“It’s a disgrace that four single mothers have had to take the Government to court because of the impact that Universal Credit has had on their lives. The rigid assessment system cannot cope with something as basic as incomes that fluctuate from month to month. The High Court’s ruling confirms once again that Universal Credit is failing people on low pay and pushing many into hardship simply because of when their payday falls. The Tories must stop the roll out of Universal Credit to ensure no more people are plunged into poverty and deprivation”.

Business Secretary Responds to Jaguar Land Rover Cuts

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said that the decision of Jaguar Land Rover to cut 4,500 jobs “will clearly be a worrying time for Jaguar Land Rover employees and their families”. The company has recently confirmed that sales in China have fallen and that Brexit has created a climate of uncertainty.

In a statement, Clark said:

“Jaguar Land Rover have today confirmed plans to offer voluntary redundancy packages to their UK workforce as they reduce their global headcount. This is a commercial decision for the company but nevertheless it will clearly be a worrying time for Jaguar Land Rover employees and their families.

Jaguar Land Rover is a much valued British company with a talented and dedicated workforce. The Government has, and will continue, to work closely with the business to ensure that it can succeed long into the future as it invests and transitions to autonomous, connected and electric vehicles. On Monday, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and I will convene a Jaguar Land Rover Development Partnership meeting bringing together Jaguar Land Rover leadership, local MPs and representatives from the Midlands and the North West, supply chain, trade body and trades union representatives.

Jaguar Land Rover and its owners have made clear they remain firmly committed to the UK, continuing to invest billions and employing tens of thousands of people. This includes today’s announcement of investment in next generation electric drive units to be produced in Wolverhampton and a new battery assembly centre in Hams Hall. Building on last year’s investment in their key plants in Solihull and Halewood to build the next-generation of Land Rover models, including electric vehicles.

The UK is a world-leader in automotive manufacturing. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are building on those world beating strengths and investing in the future to put the UK at the forefront of the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles.”

Jack Dromey, the Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, said:

“Areas like mine, of high poverty and unemployment… It’s nothing short of tragic that tonight there will be workers at home wondering what their future holds.”

Jeremy Corbyn Makes Keynote Speech on Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has made a keynote speech on Brexit today on a visit to Wakefield. He repeated his preference not to have a second referendum, but instead said that there should be a General Election to deal with problems in society, which he said was “more divided than ever”.

In the speech he said that there was a choice between the two parties:

“The truth is, the real divide in our country is not between those who voted to Remain in the EU and those who voted to Leave. It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes”.

Rejecting calls for a second vote, he said:

“The alternative plan that Labour has set out for a sensible Brexit deal that could win broad support is designed to enable us to fulfil those ambitions while respecting the democratic result of the referendum”.

Andrew Bridgen Apologises After Comment About Paddy Ashdown

Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, has apologised in the House of Commons for a remark he made about the recently deceased Paddy Ashdown, the former Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Layla Morgan, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said in a point of order to the Speaker:

“On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you are aware, at the beginning of Prime Minister’s questions when I was expressing my deep sadness at the loss of Lord Ashdown and his concern for the state of where we are now, the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) loudly shouted from a sedentary position, “From the grave.” I find such a comment disgraceful, and I ask for guidance on how the hon. Gentleman might, for example, retract such a statement and on whether it was becoming of the sort of conduct that we should expect from Members of this House”.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, replied:

“I did hear those words. I did not hear a particular Member, and I did not see a Member mouth those words, but I did hear those words. I think it was most unfortunate that that was said. People sometimes say things instinctively and rashly, but it was most unfortunate. The hon. Lady was perfectly properly paying tribute to an extremely distinguished former Member of this House and someone that many would regard as an international statesperson. What was said should not have been said. If the person who said it wishes to take the opportunity to apologise, it is open to that person to do so”.

Andrew Bridgen then said:

“Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I will apologise for my remarks if any offence was caused to any Member of the House”.

Prime Minister Defeated in the House of Commons Over No Deal Arrangements

The Government has been defeated today in the House of Commons over arrangements should there be no Brexit deal. The vote is a set-back for Theresa May, the Prime Minister, who said that if her withdrawal agreement is voted down then there will be no Brexit deal. MPs backed a motion which would limit some of the Government’s financial options in the event of a no deal, with 303 in support and 296 against.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, said after the vote:

“This vote is an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit. It shows that there is no majority in parliament, the cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement. That is why we are taking every opportunity possible in parliament to prevent no deal”.

During the debate today in the House of Commons, Sir Oliver Letwin, the Conservative MP for West Dorset said:

“My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), who is sitting next to me, and I have calculated that we have been in the House, collectively, for 56 years, and we have only ever, either of us, voted once against the Conservative Whip. This will be the second time that we will both be voting against the Conservative Whip, and I want to explain why”.

He added:

“Some of my hon. Friends and others in the country believe they can assure that under circumstances where we wreck the deal, refuse to make all the payments that the EU is expecting and falsify its expectations of a reasonable departure, the EU will then reasonably set out to work with us in a calm and grown-up way to ensure a smooth departure. It may be so. I am in no position to deny that it will be. I do not make lurid projections. Anybody who believes that they know it will be so is deluded”.

Robert Jenrick, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, rejected the proposals in the House of Commons, saying:

“As I made clear, the Government do not want or expect a no-deal scenario. That was why we negotiated the withdrawal agreement, which will see us leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way on 29 March and sets the framework of our future relationship. As we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), the best way of avoiding a no-deal scenario, if that is of grave concern to Members, is to support the withdrawal agreement next week.

Unless Parliament agrees a deal, the UK will leave the European Union on 29 March with no deal, as that was the agreement we all knew when we voted to trigger article 50. That is now the law, and amendment 7 does not change that simple truth”.

Foreign Office Issues Statement on Iran

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has today issued a statement alongside numerous other European countries with regards to the current situation in Iran.

A spokesperson for the FCO said:

“The UK and a number of European partners today jointly raised with Iran our deep concerns about hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe. Such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences.

We informed the Iranian authorities that those responsible for the June 2018 bomb plot planned in France are being included on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts and will be subject to restrictive measures.

We also condemned other illegal activities, including the recent thwarted assassination plot in Denmark and two assassinations in the Netherlands.

We remain committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, for as long as Iran continues to implement it in full. This agreement remains central to international efforts to halt nuclear proliferation and is crucial for the security of the region. But we are clear that this commitment does not preclude us from addressing other hostile and destabilising activities”.

John Bercow Makes Statement on Brexit Supporters Calling Anna Soubry a Nazi

Anna Soubry

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has made a statement in the Commons following the disruption of a television interview earlier today where Brexit supporters called Anna Soubry “a Nazi”. Bercow said:

“I have indeed been made aware of recent incidents involving aggressive and threatening behaviour towards Members and others by assorted protesters who have donned the yellow vests used in France. When I refer to “recent incidents”, I am more specifically referring to reports I have had of incidents that have taken place today, in all likelihood when many of us, myself included, have been in this Chamber. The House authorities are not technically responsible for the safety of Members off the estate—that is and remains a matter for the Metropolitan police—but naturally, I take this issue very seriously and so, I am sure, do the police, who have been made well aware of our concerns.”

The protesters are also alleged to have said that they hoped Soubry and Kay Burley, a Sky interviewer, were sexually assaulted.

Soubry said during the interview with Burley:

“I don’t have a problem with people demonstrating and making their views heard. I have a real problem with people who call me a traitor or ‘Soubry, you Nazi’. That is a criminal offence and I’m a criminal barrister. I’m also a lass from Worksop, so I don’t get scared by these people or intimidated. I was a reporter during the miners’ strike, so I don’t feel physically intimidated. My difficulty is I want to respond and you mustn’t, so I’m really behaving myself.”

Poole Council Block Return of Bench in Honour of Royal Marine Killed in Action

Poole Borough Council have refused to allow a bench repaired by Royal Marines to be returned to the location which it was sited for fifteen years. The bench, which commemorated the life of Corporal Ian Plank, was restored by friends of the soldier and a plaque added to it. The council has rejected it as another bench has already replaced it and the original no longer meets the council’s specifications for benches.

Plank, a member of the Special Boat Squadron, was killed in Iraq in 2003 and the bench was placed on Poole seafront to commemorate his life and bravery Elizabeth Plank, the soldier’s mother, said to the Bournemouth Echo:

“Ian’s friends in the Marines restored the bench with all the best intentions. When I found out, they apologised profusely. They wanted it to be done before Remembrance Sunday. They renovated the bench quite beautifully and even got a nice engraved plaque for it. I cannot understand why the council is reluctant for the original bench to go back in its rightful place where it has been for the last 15 years”.

The newspaper reported that Kate Langdown, head of services at Poole Council, said that the bench should be retained by the Royal Marines in their barracks.

Two British Soldiers Seriously Injured in Syria

Two British soldiers have been seriously injured in Syria today following a Daesh missile attack. The Ministry of Defence have yet to confirm the details, but it is being reported that the two soldiers are members of the British army’s special forces.

News of the injuries was reported by two military organisations who are opposed to Daesh, the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces. The British Government has said that it doesn’t comment on military matters which involve special forces.