Jeremy Corbyn clashes with Owen Smith, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions

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Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has clashed with Owen Smith, the newly appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, over the subject of the benefit cap.

Smith had said that it would be “foolhardy” to oppose the benefit cap, but that Labour would not support any further reductions to the level of the benefit cap. The previous benefits cap was supported by the previous Labour leaders, Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman.

Corbyn’s spokesman today though rejected this and confirmed that the benefits cap would be entirely abolished. In an interview with the New Statesman Corbyn also said:

“In my own constituency, the benefit cap has had the effect of social cleansing, of people receiving benefit but the benefit is capped, therefore, they can’t meet the rent levels charged and are forced to move. It’s devastating for children, devastating for the family and very bad for the community as a whole”.

The current benefits cap is £500 a week for couples, £500 a week for single parents with children and £350 for single adults with no children living with them. There are some exceptions for those with disabilities and special requirements.

UK pledges £115 million in response to Syrian refugee crisis

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The UK Government is to provide £115 million in funding to help ease the Syrian refugee crisis. The Government also called on the European Union to do more to provide funding to help the refugees.

The largest recipient of the aid money will be the World Food Programme who will receive £40 million, with additional donations being made to UNICEF, UN Relief and Works Agency, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN’s Refugee Agency.

Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, said in a statement:

“Once again the UK is leading the way in meeting the most immediate, basic needs of hundreds of thousands of Syrians caught up in this conflict.

Our new support will give desperate people the food, clean water and shelter they need to survive on a daily basis where they are, so they won’t have to risk their lives fleeing the region and attempting the treacherous crossing to Europe. It will also provide immediate, life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection to refugees in transit.

The UN is desperately underfunded and more help is urgently needed in the short term. Today’s emergency European Council meeting presents a real opportunity for the EU to show leadership in tackling the humanitarian and migration crisis at source.

That means continuing to meet basic needs inside Syria and across the region, while helping host countries cope with growing numbers of refugees. At the same time, we must ensure Syrian children can get an education and adult refugees have the prospect of finding work if we are to address some of the issues that are driving people to move and give them some cause to hope for the future”.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, addresses party conference in Bournemouth

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Tim Farron, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, has addressed members at the party’s annual conference being held in Bournemouth this week.

Farron said:

“If Labour aren’t interested in standing up to the Tories and providing a credible opposition, that’s their funeral. The Liberal Democrats will fill that space. Radical and liberal and responsible too”.

The party conference will run until 23 September 2015.

New poll shows no honeymoon period for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour

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A poll for ComRes has shown that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party hasn’t experienced a honeymoon period as would usually be expected for a new leader. The Conservatives polled 42% (up 2%), Labour 30% (up 1%) giving the Conservatives an increased lead of 12%.

Asked about individual figures those polled named Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, the new Shadow Chancellor, as those they least liked. 52% of those polled did though credit Jeremy Corbyn with increasing interest in politics.

Prime Minister meets with President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus

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David Cameron has met at Downing Street with President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus. Anastasiades has been the President of the country since 2013 and had previously been the leader of the Democratic Rally, a Conservative political party in the country.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said:

“The Prime Minister met President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus at Downing Street today. They discussed the forthcoming Special European Council on the migration crisis, the Cyprus settlement talks and the UK’s EU renegotiation agenda.

On the migration crisis, the Prime Minister underlined his belief in the need for increased support to displaced people and refugees in Syria and the region. He and President Anastasiades agreed on the need to tackle the problem at source and to pursue a comprehensive strategy.

On the Cyprus settlement talks, the President discussed the progress that has been made. The Prime Minister offered the UK’s full support in working towards a resolution.

In turn, the Prime Minister updated the President on the UK’s EU renegotiation and the steps taken since the June European Council. The President expressed his support for the UK’s reform agenda, in particular the emphasis on greater competitiveness and a stronger role for national Parliaments”.

Jeremy Corbyn has announced most shadow Ministers including an ex-arsonist

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Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, has surprisingly appointed Lord Watson, a former arsonist, to the education brief.

Watson was sentenced to 16 months in prison in 2004 for deliberately starting a fire and during the sentencing the Judge said:

“Fire-raising is a most serious crime. The potential for serious injury to guests and staff within the hotel, and for very significant damage to the property, was considerable”.

At the time Watson was expelled from the Labour Party but he was readmitted in 2012.

The shadow Ministerial team is now confirmed as:

Leader of the Opposition
Jeremy Corbyn MP

Business, Innovation & Skills
Angela Eagle MP
Kevin Brennan MP
Stephen Doughty MP
Yvonne Fovargue MP
Chi Onwurah MP [Joint with DCMS]
Bill Esterson MP
Gordon Marsden MP [Joint with Education]
Lord (Wilf) Stevenson
Lord (Jon) Mendelsohn
Baroness (Dianne) Hayter

Cabinet Office
Tom Watson MP
Gloria De Piero MP
Jon Ashworth MP
Ian Lavery MP
Wayne David MP [Joint with Scotland, Justice]
Anna Turley MP
Lousie Haigh MP
Baroness (Dianne) Hayter

Communities and Local Government
Jon Trickett MP
Steve Reed MP
Liz McInnes MP
Lord (Roy) Kennedy
Lord (Jeremy) Beecham

Housing
John Healey MP (Housing)
Roberta Blackman-Woods MP
Teresa Pearce MP
Lord (Roy) Kennedy
Lord (Jeremy) Beecham

Culture, Media & Sport
Michael Dugher MP
Chi Onwurah MP [Joint with BIS]
Clive Efford MP
Lord (Wilf) Stevenson

Defence
Maria Eagle MP
Kevan Jones MP
Toby Perkins MP
Rachel Maskell MP
Rt Hon Lord (Don) Touhig

Education
Lucy Powell MP
Nic Dakin MP
Pat Glass MP
Sharon Hodgson MP
Gordon Marsden MP [Joint with BIS]
Lord (Mike) Watson

Energy and Climate Change
Lisa Nandy MP
Barry Gardiner MP
Alan Whitehead MP
Clive Lewis MP
Baroness (Bryony) Worthington
Lord (John) Grantchester

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Kerry McCarthy MP
Alex Cunningham MP
Nick Smith MP
Baroness (Maggie) Jones
Lord (John) Grantchester

FCO
Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP
Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP
Rt Hon David Hanson MP
Diana Johnson MP
Catherine West MP
Lord (Ray) Collins
Baroness (Eluned) Morgan

Health
Heidi Alexander MP
Luciana Berger MP
Andrew Gwynne MP
Barbara Keeley MP
Justin Madders MP
Rt Hon Lord (Philip) Hunt

Home Office
Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
Jack Dromey MP
Lyn Brown MP
Keir Starmer MP
Sarah Champion MP
Lord (Richard) Rosser
Lord (Roy) Kennedy

International Development
Diane Abbott MP
Mike Kane MP
Lord (Ray) Collins

Justice
Rt Hon Lord (Charlie) Falconer QC
Andy Slaughter MP
Jenny Chapman MP
Wayne David MP [Joint with Scotland, Cab Office]
Lord (Willy) Bach
Lord (Jeremy) Beecham

Law Officers
Catherine McKinnell MP
Karl Turner MP
Lord (Neil) Davidson QC [Adv. Gen. Scotland]

Leader of the House of Commons
Chris Bryant MP
Melanie Onn MP

Leader of the House of Lords
Rt Hon Baroness (Angela) Smith
Rt Hon Lord (Philip) Hunt [Deputy Leader]

Northern Ireland
Vernon Coaker MP
Stephen Pound MP
Rt Hon Lord (Tommy) McAvoy

Scotland
Ian Murray MP
Wayne David MP [Joint with Justice and Cabinet Office]
Rt Hon Lord (Tommy) McAvoy

Transport
Lilian Greenwood MP
Jonathan Reynolds MP
Richard Burden MP
Daniel Zeichner MP
Lord (Richard) Rosser

Treasury
John McDonnell MP
Seema Malhotra MP
Rob Marris MP
Rebecca Long Bailey MP
Richard Burgon MP
Rt Hon Lord (Bryan) Davies
Lord (Denis) Tunnicliffe
Lord (Neil) Davidson

Wales
Nia Griffith MP
Susan Elan Jones MP
Baroness (Eluned) Morgan

Women & Equalities Office
Kate Green MP
Cat Smith MP
Baroness (Dianne) Hayter

Work & Pensions
Owen Smith MP
Emily Thornberry MP
Debbie Abrahams MP
Nick Thomas Symonds MP
Baroness (Maeve) Sherlock
Lord (Bill) McKenzie

Whips Office

House of Commons

Chief Whip
Opposition Chief Whip
Rt Hon Rosie Winterton MP

Whips
Alan Campbell MP (Deputy Chief Whip)
Mark Tami MP (Pairing Whip)
Jessica Morden MP
Judith Cummins MP
Vicky Foxcroft MP
Sue Hayman MP
Holly Lynch MP
Conor McGinn MP
Grahame Morris MP
Angela Rayner MP
Jeff Smith MP

House of Lords

Chief Whip
Rt Hon Lord (Steve) Bassam

Deputy Chief Whips
Lord (Denis) Tunnicliffe
Rt Hon Lord (Tommy) McAvoy

Senior Whips
Baroness (Margaret) Wheeler
Baroness (Maeve) Sherlock

Whips
Lord (Ray) Collins
Baroness (Eluned) Morgan
Lord (Wilf) Stevenson
Rt Hon Lord (Don) Touhig
Lord (Roy) Kennedy

John McDonnell apologises for saying that the IRA should be “honoured” for their bombs

John McDonnell has apologised on BBC’s Question Time for comments he made regarding the IRA and the peace process.

McDonnell had said:

“It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”

The comments had drawn widespread condemnation across the political parties and McDonnell said:

“I think my choice of words was wrong. I accept that”.

Government issues joint statement on Libyan situation with France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US

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The Foreign Office has issued a statement on the situation in Libya. The statement was issued jointly with the French, German, Italian, United States and Spanish Governments.

The statement issued on behalf of Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, read:

“The Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States welcome the current round of the UN political dialogue in Skhirat, Morocco and reiterate our full support for the UN process led by Special Representative of the Secretary General Bernardino Leon. We strongly encourage all parties to continue to participate constructively in the talks at this critical stage of negotiations, in order to reach a comprehensive agreement. This includes reaching a conclusive decision on a package including the candidates for the Government of National Accord before 20th September, to be endorsed by the parties before the end of September, so that the latter may be seated within the shortest delay (or no later than 21st October), as expected by all Libyans.

The international community strongly condemns any kind of violence and of intimidation against any party involved in the dialogue process. Those who are aiming to derail the process shall be held accountable.

Time is running out for Libya to address its critical humanitarian, economic, and security challenges, including the spread of Da’esh/ISIL-aligned groups and of criminal organizations engaged in smuggling and trafficking in persons. Recognizing upcoming Eid celebrations, we believe it is essential that all parties in the process approve a final agreement and the leaders for the new Government of National Accord before the end of September.

The Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States reaffirm their support for a united, sovereign, and independent Libya. The international community stands ready to provide significant economic and security assistance to a united Libya as soon as the new government is agreed. It is clear that we are going towards a process of reconciliation in Libya, and no party should fear it”.

Theresa Villiers makes statement on paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland

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Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has issued a statement on paramilitary groups in the Province.

Villiers said:

“On Monday we plan to press ahead with intensive talks involving the five main Northern Ireland parties and the Irish Government on matters for which they are responsible. The UK Government is determined to play our part in helping to build a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger and more united. The full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement is central to making progress towards those objectives. The Agreement represented a good deal for Northern Ireland.

Recent events have also highlighted the continuing impact and legacy of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. This too needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency. The fallout has damaged political relationships making it more difficult for meaningful talks to begin. The public concern about continuing paramilitary activity and involvement of paramilitaries in criminality has been raised by all the five main Northern Ireland parties and in Parliament in response to my recent statement.

The measures set out below are intended to inform and assist the Northern Ireland parties in grappling with the difficult issues on the talks agenda next week.

Independent Assessment of Paramilitary Organisations

I am announcing today that the Government has commissioned a factual assessment from the UK security agencies and the PSNI on the structure, role and purpose of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. This assessment will be independently reviewed and checked by three individuals who I will appoint. Their names will be announced early next week. This assessment will be published by mid-October and will be available to inform the parties’ discussions and conclusions in the cross party talks.

Paramilitary activity, criminality and cross border crime

Over recent days, I have discussed with all five main Northern Ireland parties their determination to redouble efforts to tackle links between paramilitary organisations and organised crime. This is also a key concern of the Irish government.

The Government strongly supports the excellent work of Justice Minister, David Ford’s Organised Crime Task Force in Northern Ireland. This brings together the PSNI, HMRC, NCA, and other partners, focusing their efforts to address organised crime in all its forms in Northern Ireland, including where paramilitary organisations are involved. I pay tribute to all those organisations for the outstanding work they do in protecting the community. I know that during next week’s talks, all the five Northern Ireland parties intend to discuss what more can be done to strengthen those efforts. The UK Government is committed to doing all we can to support, and work with, those involved in the fight against organised crime in Northern Ireland.

To that end, I want to explore with urgency what further support we can give them through the relevant bodies for which we have responsibility, such as HMRC and the National Crime Agency. I also intend to establish dedicated funding aimed at increasing the capability of agencies working to tackle criminality and organised crime associated with paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. It will support agencies to enhance specialist capabilities such as forensic accounting to strengthen their capacity to seize criminal assets.

Lastly, I am planning to discuss with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister and the Irish Justice Minister how we can work best together in our efforts to tackle cross border crime. Minister Fitzgerald and Minister Flanagan have both reiterated the determination of the Irish Government to deal as effectively as possible with cross border crime and to build on the high levels of co-operation which already exist. I would value the opportunity to work with ministers on both sides of the border to ensure the most efficient use of our collective resource to tackle organised criminals operating in both jurisdictions”.

Rebecca Winson and BBC apologise over disabled offence

Rebecca Winson, a trade union activist, and the BBC have both apologised after mocking a Conservative MP who is hard of hearing.

Alec Shelbrooke, the Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell said:

“I am genuinely slightly deaf and struggle to hear. I had taken part in the debate and was trying to hear the wind ups. Seems a shame I get trolled due to being slightly deaf.”

After complaints were made over the comments BBC Newsbeat issued a Twitter comment stating:

“Very heartfelt apologies”

Rebecca Winson made a Twitter statement saying:

“I didn’t know Shelbrooke is partially deaf – have deleted tweet, and apologies to him and anyone offended”.