Amber Rudd Resigns as Home Secretary

Amber Rudd has today resigned her role as Home Secretary following the Government’s treatment of what has become known as the Windrush generation. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, is expected to complete the reshuffle later today.

Rudd wrote to the Prime Minister:

“Dear Prime Minister,

It is with great regret that I am resigning as home secretary. I feel it is necessary to do so because I inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee over targets for removal of illegal immigrants during their questions on Windrush.

Since appearing before the select committee, I have reviewed the advice I was given on this issue and become aware of information provided to my office which makes mention of targets. I should have been aware of this, and I take full responsibility for the fact that I was not.

The Windrush scandal has rightly shone a light on an important issue for our country. As so often, the instincts of the British people are right. They want people who have a right to live here to be treated fairly and humanely, which has sometimes not been the case. But they also want the government to remove those who don’t have the right to be here. I had hoped in coming months to devise a policy that would allow the government to meet both these vital objectives – including bringing forward urgent legislation to ensure the rights of the Windrush generation are protected. The task force is working well, the residence cards are being issued well within the two weeks promised, and the design of the compensation scheme is making good progress.

The Home Office is one of the great offices of state and its job is to keep people safe. It comes with the responsibility to fight terrorism, support and challenge the police and protect people against the abuse, as well as manage migration.

It has been a great privilege to serve as your home secretary. I have seen first-hand the second to none commitment and bravery of our police, fire and intelligence services, they truly are the best in the world and we should rightly be extremely proud of them.

I have been particularly pleased that we were able to set up the first Global Internet Forum for Counter Terrorism which has led the way with encouraging social media sites to go further and faster in taking down radicalising and terrorist material, which plays such a dangerous part in increasing extremism.

Setting out new laws to tackle the scourge of knife crime and acid attacks and helping to steer our young people away from a life of crime and violence by providing them with credible alternatives have been particularly important to me.

Opportunities to work on issues that safeguard the vulnerable, champions women and make a lasting impact on people’s lives particularly stand out for me. New policies to fight domestic violence and abuse against women are out to consultation, and will lead this country to taking a new approach. Helping to bring thousands of refugees, including child refugees from both Calais and the Middle East region, and meeting some of the families who fled the terrible situation in Syria and have now been given a chance to rebuild their lives here in the UK in safety and security is something we can be proud of.

It has been an honour to work on a new security treaty with the EU as part of our new partnership going forward and to participate in your Brexit sub-committee helping to ensure that we have the best possible EU deal for our economy, businesses, jobs and people across the UK.

The new Economic Crime Centre that i launched with the first use of unexplained wealth orders will be important to the confidence of London as a financial centre.

I will continue to support the Home Office ministerial team whenever possible on all these important subjects, supporting the government from the back benches and continuing to work hard for my constituents of Hastings and Rye.

Best wishes,

Amber Rudd”

The Prime Minister replied:

“Dear Amber,

Thank you for your letter of this evening tendering your resignation as home secretary. I was very sorry to receive it, but understand your reasons for doing so.

When you addressed the House of Commons and the Home Affairs Select Committee last week on the issue of illegal immigration, you answered the questions put to you in good faith. People who have entered the United Kingdom illegally or overstayed here should expect to face the full force of the law and know that they will be removed if they will not leave this country voluntarily. Just as importantly, people who have come here legally and enriched the life of our country should not expect the state unreasonably to challenge their presence here; rather, it should help them prove their right to continue living here and contributing to the life of our nation.

Under your tenure, the Home Office has been working to enforce a firm but fair immigration policy – working to increase the number of illegal migrants we remove, while ensuring that we continue to recognise the huge contribution of everyone who has come to the UK legally, and remain open to the brightest and best from across the globe.

When you spoke in the House of Commons, you said that you had not agreed specific removal targets, but that the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement command had been using local targets for internal performance management. You also said that you were not aware that those operational targets had been set.

I understand why, now that you have had chance to review the advice that you have received on this issue, you have made the decision you have made and taken responsibility for inadvertently misleading the Home Affairs Select Committee.

I am very sorry to see you leaving the Home Office, but you should take great pride in what you have achieved there – working with internet service providers to set up the first Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and take extremist and terrorist content offline; countering the cyber threat to British families and businesses; standing up for the victims of crime, abuse and domestic violence; offering shelter to refugees from Syria and elsewhere; and advancing the cause of equality as minister for women and equalities.

This comes on top of the considerable contribution you have made to Government since 2012 – first as a whip, then as minister and subsequently secretary of state at the department for energy and climate change – as well as the devoted service you have always given, and will continue to give, to your constituents in Hastings and Rye.

As a former home secretary myself, I appreciate the particular demands of that great office of state. You should take great pride in the way you have led the Home Office and its dedicated public servants through a number of serious challenges, including five terrorist incidents and other complex national events. You have done so with great integrity, compassion, and selflessness – notwithstanding the personal and political challenges you have faced during this period.

I know that you have a great contribution still to make to national life, and look forward to seeing you do so.

Yours,

Theresa.”

Theresa May Speaks with German and French Leaders over Iran Nuclear Deal

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has spoken to Emmanuel Macron, the French President, and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, by phone regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“The Prime Minister held separate phone calls with the French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday and this morning.

They discussed the importance of the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) as the best way of neutralising the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, agreeing that our priority as an international community remained preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

They agreed that there were important elements that the deal does not cover, but which we need to address – including ballistic missiles, what happens when the deal expires, and Iran’s destabilising regional activity.

Acknowledging the importance of retaining the JCPoA, they committed to continue working closely together and with the US on how to tackle the range of challenges that Iran poses – including those issues that a new deal might cover.

They also noted the vital importance of our steel and aluminium industries and their concern about the impact of US tariffs. The leaders pledged to continue to work closely with the rest of the EU and the US Administration with the aim of a permanent exemption from US tariffs.

Finally, they all agreed on the value of continued engagement in the E3 format (Britain, France and Germany) to advance our shared interests and our security”.

UK Quarter Growth Increases by Just 0.1%

The Office for the National Statistics, the ONS, has said that UK growth increased by only 0.1% over the last quarter, increasing fears that Brexit has caused damage to the economy.

The ONS said:

“The preliminary estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) shows that the UK economy grew by 0.1% in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018, the weakest quarterly growth since Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2012. The weak growth in Quarter 1 2018 was driven by a sharp fall in construction output and a sluggish manufacturing sector, while growth in services also slowed. Today’s figures suggest that the overall impact from the recent snow and adverse weather conditions across the UK was relatively small”.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that the figures were “disapppointing”.

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

“It’s clear to everyone except Philip Hammond that our economy is in need of increased investment and working families are struggling with the cost of living and the burden of increasing household debt”.

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”.

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”.

Government Announces Children’s Funeral Fund

The Government has announced a children’s funeral fund to ensure that parents no longer have to pay for the cost of burying or cremating their child. Local authorities will now waive the charges, with the cost instead being paid for by the Government.

The Government’s decision comes following a campaign led by Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP for Swansea East, who lost her eight year old son. Harris said that she had been forced to take out a loan to fund the burial of her son following his death in 1989.

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said in a statement:

“No parent should ever have to endure the unbearable loss of a child – a loss that no amount of time will ever truly heal. But in the raw pain of immediate loss, it cannot be right that grieving parents should have to worry about how to meet the funeral costs for a child they hoped to see grow into adulthood.

I have been incredibly moved by the dignity and strength of campaigners like Carolyn Harris, who lost her own son Martin when he was just eight years old. Carolyn has passionately argued for a Children’s Funeral Fund to spare grieving families the burden of meeting funeral costs.

In the darkest moment of any parent’s life there is little light – but there can be support. That is why I have asked for the Children’s Funeral Fund to be set up in England. For Carolyn, in memory of her son Martin, and in support of all those parents overwhelmed by such harrowing loss”.

Prime Minister Meets German and French Leaders in Brussels

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has met with the German and French leaders in Brussels to discuss the Salisbury Attack which has been attributed to the Russians. The Prime Minister gave further details of the attack to Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, with the three countries agreeing a stance on Russia.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“Prime Minister Theresa May today met with President Macron and Chancellor Merkel on the fringes of the European Council in Brussels. The Prime Minister provided the President and Chancellor with a detailed update on the investigation into the reckless use of a military nerve agent, of a type produced by Russia, on the streets of Salisbury.

She said there had been a positive identification of the chemical used as part of the Novichok group of nerve agents by our world leading scientists at Porton Down. The Prime Minister also outlined our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations.

The UK, Germany and France reaffirmed that there is no plausible explanation other than that the Russian state was responsible. The leaders agreed on the importance of sending a strong European message in response to Russia’s actions and agreed to remain in close contact in coming days. On Iran, they reaffirmed their commitment to the JCPOA and agreed to hold further discussions in April”.

John McDonnell Says Vladimir Putin was Responsible for Salisbury Attack

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has clarified Labour’s position on the Salisbury attack and said that he considers that the Russians were responsible. He also denied that Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, had a different policy and said that the Labour Party was supportive of the Government’s position.

When asked if McDonnell thought that Putin was responsible for the attack he said:

“He is responsible whichever way you look at it, he is responsible and all the evidence points to him”.

When asked if Jeremy Corbyn had a different policy and was critical of the Prime Minister, McDonnell said:

“It was a critique. It was asking questions about investment in diplomacy, it was asking questions about where you go from here in building that international coalition. That is what oppositions do and it was a constructive critique, I think others have misread that”.