Sunak caves in to Tory planning reform rebels…
“Rishi Sunak on Monday night climbed down on key planks of his planning reforms in the face of rebellions by backbench Tories. The Prime Minister ditched compulsory house-building targets for local areas after 60 Conservative MPs threatened to vote against his flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The Telegraph understands that he is also set to back down on the ban on onshore wind farms after 34 Tories, including Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, demanded that it be lifted. Discussions on the issue are still under way between rebels – led by Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary – and ministers.” – Daily Telegraph
- Mandatory targets will become voluntary in bid to keep two factions of MPs onside – FT
>Yesterday: ToryDiary: A message for Sunak’s New Year. I’m a moderate man, but my patience is exhausted.
…and distances himself from hardline immigration report supported by Braverman
“Downing Street today distanced itself from a hardline immigration plan supported by the Home Secretary. Suella Braverman penned the foreword to a report by the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank which called for new laws barring migrants who enter illegally from ever settling in the UK. In other measures, the report – co-authored by Theresa May’s former adviser Nick Timothy – recommended that ministers should legislate to make it impossible to claim asylum in the UK after travelling from a safe country like Albania. It called for the overhaul of human rights laws – with the UK ‘if necessary’ withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights – to allow detentions and offshoring the processing of asylum claims.” – Daily Mail
>Today: Karl Williams in Comment: Small boats. Ministers must ensure that it is impossible to claim asylum in Britain after travelling from a safe country.
Zahawi promises to take action if police probe MP sex attack claims
“A senior Conservative MP faces being suspended from the party over allegations of rape and sexual assault. Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi says he will “take action” if cops open an investigation into the MP, who has not been named. Mr Zahawi said yesterday he was made aware of the claims when he took on the position in October and has commissioned independent legal advice. He told Times Radio: “That is something that the police are now looking at. If there is an investigation by the police, then we will obviously take action. But at the moment, I’m waiting for the legal advice on safeguarding on this. It’s right to do this properly.” Mr Zahawi also revealed the party had been discussing the matter with the police, and the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team.” – The Sun
Truss ‘scrapped plans to reveal spending cuts in mini-Budget’
“Liz Truss abandoned proposals to announce spending cuts in her mini-Budget, one of her closest allies has claimed. The former prime minister held discussions with members of her inner circle about “making sure tax and spend were in alignment” but later decided this was “not necessary”, according to Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP. Mr Clarke – the chief secretary to the Treasury at the time – said that during the leadership race in the summer he and Ms Truss had talked about announcing spending cuts of between five and 10 per cent at the same time as a series of tax cuts. But he added that, as the summer wore on, Ms Truss’s “appetite for radicalism” increased and she abandoned the plans.” – Daily Telegraph
- Mini-budget an ‘international embarrassment’ says NatWest boss – The Guardian
- She confirms she will stand as MP again – The Sun
>Yesterday: Peter Franklin’s column: Why do the Conservatives struggle to shrink the state?
MPs slam Lynch over festive season train strikes
“MPs have slammed RMT union baron Mick Lynch for ‘ruining Christmas’ after he sparked further festive chaos by announcing more strikes from December 24 to 27, in new wave of walkouts to cripple train services this winter. Former levelling-up secretary Simon Clarke called the decision ‘dreadful’, while Transport Secretary Mark Harper dubbed it ‘disappointing’. Union boss Mr Lynch announced the additional dates this evening, and reaffirmed the strikes in January. ‘I am sure the travelling public will be really disappointed and irritated and angry,’ Mr Lynch said at a press conference. But he added that ‘there has been no improved offer presented to his union’ and that they have ‘no choice’ as the current offer is ‘extremely detrimental’.” – Daily Mail
- Union ‘holding country to ransom’ with further Christmas strikes, says minister – Daily Telegraph
- Rayner insists unions not to blame – Daily Express
- Cameron secretly watered down anti-strike laws to get major unions to campaign against Brexit – The Sun
>Yesterday: David Gauke’s column: Too much focus on public spending figures, too little on value for money. It’s time to revive reforming public services.
Government proposes NHS pension plan reform in effort to stop staff quitting
“The UK is seeking to overhaul the NHS retirement scheme in an effort to draw back thousands of retired staff and keep doctors from quitting over pension tax bills as patient waiting lists soar. The government on Monday said it aimed to make it more attractive for staff who have left the health service to “come back” by allowing them to rejoin the NHS pension plan, which offers guaranteed indexed benefits. In a push to address widespread staff shortages, a partial retirement option is to be introduced; that would give older employees the opportunity to draw down part of their pension, while staying in work and building up their pot.” – FT
- Hancock launches his Pandemic Diaries – Daily Mail
Labour 1) Party would make free access to the NHS a constitutional right
“Free access to the NHS would be made a US-style constitutional right under proposals championed by Sir Keir Starmer. The Labour leader has unveiled a new plan to outlaw reform of the service towards a European-style health insurance model. It would prevent hospitals from charging patients for care, as was recently floated by under-pressure bosses in Scotland. The proposals are contained in a report drawn up by Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, which calls for radical constitutional change. It says the NHS needs to be permanently protected from the “hostile” Tories who have put access to free healthcare “under threat”.” – Daily Telegraph
- Millions of patients turned away from NHS GP appointments, Labour finds – The Times
- Nurses say job they love is exacting too high a price – FT
Labour 2) Blunkett and Brown clash over House of Lords reform
“Sir Keir Starmer’s plans for an elected second chamber risk US-style “gridlock” and should not be a priority, Lord Blunkett has said, as questions were asked about how urgently a Labour government would abolish the House of Lords. The Labour leader unveiled a 40-point plan for constitutional reform yesterday. It has been spearheaded by Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, and Starmer has pledged that it would form a “first-term agenda” if he wins the next election. While Starmer played up the radicalism of his agenda for reforming Britain’s constitution, he again ruled out rejoining the EU single market, saying that it would not boost growth and would spell “years of uncertainty”.” – The Times
- Plan to reform constitution will end ‘sticking plaster politics’, says Starmer – The Guardian
- Labour moots ‘biggest’ transfer of power from Westminster – FT
>Yesterday: Left Watch: Starmer wants to stop MPs having second jobs. Does he want to stop them being ministers as well?
Labour 3) Starmer pours scorn on Sturgeon’s ‘de facto’ independence referendum
“Sir Keir Starmer has said Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to use the next general election as a “de facto” independence referendum defies “common sense”, as he made clear he will reject it if he becomes prime minister. The Labour leader poured scorn on the idea that the First Minister could turn an election dealing with a wide array of domestic issues, such as the cost of living crisis, into a vote on separation. Speaking on a visit to Scotland, Sir Keir said “no amount of discussion” by Ms Sturgeon would change the terms of the election from giving people the choice between a Labour and a Tory UK government.” – Daily Telegraph
- Plan to hand foreign policy to Holyrood ‘testing water’ for Labour/SNP pact – Daily Express
News in Brief:
- Why Brown cannot help but double down on his constitutional failure – Henry Hill, CapX
- He doesn’t understand what Scottish voters want – Iain Macwhirter, The Spectator
- Can Starmer break Labour’s curse? – Dominic Sandbrook, UnHerd
- British museums are failing visitors – Henry Oliver, The Critic