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“The Conservatives still have a ‘narrow’ path to election victory, provided they can deliver on the public’s priorities and end the party’s toxic infighting, Cabinet ministers will be told today. Rishi Sunak will gather his Cabinet at Chequers this afternoon for an ‘away day’ designed to deliver on his New Year pledges and set a course for next year’s election. Downing Street said ministers would be asked to give updates on progress towards his five pledges, which include restoring economic competence, tackling NHS waiting lists and stopping the Channel migrant crossings. But they will also hold extended discussions on the party’s strategy for winning the general election, pencilled in for the autumn of next year.” – Daily Mail
>Yesterday: Peter Franklin’s column: Sunak – not bold, but “basic”. That needs to change, or he will lose.
“Rishi Sunak is said to be “livid” with Nadhim Zahawi amid a deepening furore over the Conservative Party chairman’s tax affairs. The prime minister yesterday distanced himself from Zahawi in the Commons after ordering an investigation by the independent ethics watchdog. He is said to be frustrated that his colleague initially failed to disclose that he had paid a penalty for tax avoidance as part of an estimated £4.7 million settlement. Sunak has not spoken directly to Zahawi since he revealed details of his settlement with HM Revenue and Customs at the weekend. The Times has been told Sir Laurie Magnus will expedite the investigation and report back within three weeks.” – The Times
“Children could be deported to Rwanda with their families to claim asylum because of fears that excluding them could be exploited by people smugglers, the immigration minister has told MPs. Robert Jenrick said the Government had to balance the “challenge” of sending children to Rwanda against the risk that people smugglers would target families to entice them to cross the Channel if ministers did not include them in the scheme. He said unaccompanied children would be excluded but explained that ministers were still weighing whether to remove families with children, dispelling previous claims that it would only be male migrants who will be sent on a one-way ticket to Rwanda.” – Daily Telegraph
>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: How the politics of asylum, immigration and integration are changing politics in Sweden and Denmark
“Law firms, accountants and even casinos that do not do enough to prevent fraud, false accounting and money laundering will be targeted in the government’s upcoming Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency bill. UK government security minister Tom Tugendhat said new provisions, which are likely to be based on similar “failure to prevent” offences for bribery and tax evasion, would form part of the bill, which is going through parliament. Such laws have made it easier to prosecute organisations for crimes because prosecutors only need to prove that the organisation lacked “reasonable” or “adequate” controls to prevent the wrongdoing.” – FT
“Stay at home mums will be wooed to return to the office in a fresh back to work blitz. Partners of Brits who are on benefits may be specifically targeted to get a job, under plans being considered by ministers. Department for Work and Pensions boss Mel Stride is preparing a major drive to get nine million economically inactive Brits back to work and drag them off benefits. Officials are looking at how to reach previously left-behind and forgotten groups and woo them back into a job that suits them. Plans could see a letter-writing campaign or advertising blitz for mums who aren’t working but live in a UC household. And DWP want all employees to have access to a health and safety specialist in a bid to stop people dropping out of the workplace.” – The Sun
>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Tax and dependency. The biggest driver of both isn’t scroungers on benefits. It’s the rising cost of an ageing population.
“Jeremy Hunt will put scrapping EU red tape at the heart of a growth plan this week, as he outlines proposals to unlock £100billion of investment. The Chancellor will use a major speech tomorrow to insist he is serious about boosting economic growth, despite being against tax cuts in the March Budget. Mr Hunt is expected to focus on plans to scrap EU rules that prevent insurance firms and pension funds from investing in major infrastructure projects, such as roads, nuclear power stations and wind farms. He will pledge to ditch the so-called Solvency II rules by summer, with Treasury sources saying the move could unlock £100billion in private sector investment over the following decade.” – Daily Mail
“Liz Truss is expected to join Conservative party calls for tax cuts ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s March Budget, despite new forecasts warning of slower growth and lower tax revenues than expected. Hunt, the chancellor, and prime minister Rishi Sunak are warning MPs that tax cuts are not planned in the Budget and that the priority is tackling inflation and bringing the public finances under control. But Truss, the former prime minister, and other Tory rightwingers argue tax cuts now will help to generate growth — in spite of the implosion of the Truss government’s debt-funded £45bn tax-cutting mini-Budget last September.” – FT
“Rishi Sunak and Dominic Raab have slammed Nicola Sturgeon after the Scottish First Minister refused to move a transgender double rapist from a women’s prison. Downing Street showed ‘concerns’ about the Scottish government putting a male-bodied rapist in a women’s prison. The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said he had ‘seen the reporting and understands the concerns’ over the decision to let transgender woman Isla Bryson – formerly known as Adam Graham – be held in a women’s prison despite raping two women. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that such a move would not happen south of the border, after the Government overhauled rules to stop transgender sex offenders from being held in women’s prisons.” – Daily Mail
“A Tory MP has claimed that a “massive arms factory” must be built in Poland to help Ukraine win the war, a report has claimed. The chairman of the defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood said Western governments had demonstrated a lack of strategic foresight in their plans for helping Ukraine to “survive and thrive”. The Conservative MP told The Telegraph the model of donations to Kyiv with differeing supply chains and types of ammunition was “unsustainable”. He told the publication: “It’s just not feasible in the long term. “Tanks today, yes. But we need a strategy to make sure Ukraine can defend itself.” Mr Ellwood said the creation of an arms factory in Poland could help transform the Ukrainian armed forces into a more independent military.” – Daily Express
>Yesterday: Andrew Wood in Comment: Are we holding back on sending our military surplus to Ukraine because much of it doesn’t work?
“A crackdown was called for last night on the scandal-hit pressure groups run by MPs and peers. The Speakers of both Houses of Parliament said all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) were too easily set up and lacked independent scrutiny. They recommended that a ‘gatekeeper’ approve any new special interest association and, crucially, members must explain who was bankrolling it. In addition, someone external should chair their annual meetings, with groups facing being struck off if they do not provide reports and accounts. It comes amid growing concern at the activities of APPGs, of which there are more than 700 covering everything from aerospace to zoos.” – Daily Mail
>Today: Profiles: The Institute for Government, which wants to make elected politicians subordinate to unelected officials