The Commons has voted to suspend Margaret Ferrier for 30 days by 185 votes to 40 – a majority of 145.
That means a recall byelection in Rutherglen and Hamilton West can now go ahead, provided 10% of voters sign a petition calling for one. This threshold should be met quite comfortably.
In 2019 Ferrier won the seat for the SNP with a majority over Labour of 5,230. But Labour has already been campaigning hard in the constituency, and with the SNP support falling since Nicola Sturgeon resigned, and the party’s finances being investigated by the police, Labour believes it has a good chance of winning.
Voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West will get the chance of signing the petition for a recall election between 20 June and 31 July, STV’s Kathryn Samson reports. A byelection will take place if 10% of voters sign.
Failings by the UK government to comply with its post-Brexit obligations left EU citizens struggling to work, rent and open bank accounts, a watchdog found. PA Media says:
An estimated 1.7 million digital applications by EU citizens for certificates confirming their rights in the UK were delayed over a four-year period, the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA) said in a report.
Insufficient numbers of available caseworkers at the Home Office amid high demand meant large numbers who applied to the EU settlement scheme (EUSS) were not issued with certificates straight away.
Under the withdrawal agreement and the EEA EFTA separation agreement, the Home Office is obligated to immediately issue certificates of application (CoAs) to applicants.
The certificate is used to evidence rights including the right to work, rent or access benefits, while the application is being considered.
For digital applications that required caseworker intervention, the inquiry identified delays due to an insufficient number of available caseworkers relative to demand.
At the peak in December 2021, the IMA said there were approximately 87,960 applications without a CoA.
At the end of today’s Covid inquiry hearing Heather Hallett, the chair, said that she wanted the Cabinet Office to make it clear by the end of the week whether it still intends to redact Boris Johnson’s notes and WhatsApp messages.
The Cabinet Office is opposed to handing over unredacted material, because it wants to have the right not to submit “unambiguously irrelevant” information to the inquiry. But Johnson has said that the inquiry can see his notes and messages unredacted.
Earlier Hugo Keith KC, the inquiry’s lawyer, said the inquiry would be comparing the redacted versions of the documents with the unredacted versions. (See 12.49am.)
In the afternoon, when Hallett asked Nicholas Chapman, the lawyer representing the Cabinet Office, whether the Cabinet Office was still planning to redact material that Johnson wanted to release unredacted, he replied: “The position is that the Cabinet Office is working out its position.”
Subsequently Hallett said that she wanted the Cabinet Office to clarify its position by the end of the week.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s former leader at Westminster, has announced that he will not stand again as an MP. In a statement, he said he wanted to focus in future on developing economic plans for independence and serving as the first minister’s business ambassador.
The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP, who worked in banking and business before he entered parliament, said:
Having stood down as SNP Westminster leader, I have gone through a period of reflection as to how I can best assist the party and the cause of independence – a cause I have campaigned for since joining the SNP as a teenager in the 1970s.
Over the last few months, with others, I have been working on producing a paper on mapping Scotland’s industrial future. This report will be available over the coming weeks and I am determined that our work can and should lead to a policy response that will see Scotland’s potential being realised through a sustainable enhancement in economic growth, driving investment and better paid jobs in Scotland, raising living standards and, as a result, delivering the wellbeing economy that our new first minister has prioritised. I look forward to finishing this work and continuing as the first minister’s business ambassador, on behalf of the SNP.
Blackford defeated Charles Kennedy, the former Lib Dem leader, when he won the seat in 2015. At the last election his majority over the Lib Dems was 9,443.
He says the message was delivered orally at shadow cabinet this afternoon, as well as in writing, in the form of a letter from Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, and Pat McFadden, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.
In their letter, Reeves and McFadden told colleagues “there will be no unfunded spending commitments – if something is not signed off, it is not policy”. They explained:
The economy is the territory on which the next general election will be fought, and Labour’s fiscal responsibility must be the foundation on which we build our campaign.
It is important that everyone appreciates the high level of scrutiny we are under. The test of being trusted with the public finances is not optional – it is essential – and if we pass it, it gives us the space to talk to the electorate about how a Labour government will transform Britain …
[The Conservatives] are not going to run on their record because it is so abysmal – failing public services, higher taxes and the Tory mortgage penalty. And they won’t run on their plans for the future – because they have none.
Instead, they will do whatever they can to portray Labour as a risk on fiscal responsibility – on taxation, borrowing and spending. We will not allow this and will not give the Tory party the election campaign they want to fight.
Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, clashed with Brexiter Tories when she gave evidence to the Commons European scrutiny committee this morning.
Badenoch, who is seen as one of the lead candidates to be next Tory leader, used to be seen as one of the most committed Brexiters in government. But her recent decision to shelve the deadline in the retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill, that could have led to all remaining EU regulations becoming redundant at the end of this year, has caused a rift with some Tory hardliners on this issue.
The Tory members of the European scrutiny committee are all strongly pro-Brexit, and so today’s hearing was always likely to be feisty. What made relations even more tense was that Badenoch only agreed to give evidence after turning down at least five previous invitations.
As Stefan Boscia reports for Politico, the Tory MP Richard Drax told Badenoch that her decision to rewrite the REUL legislation had created “distrust” amongst Tory MPs who now feared that the long-promised “bonfire” of EU regulations would not take place. This provoked a strong response from Badenoch, who told him:
It is not the bonfire of regulations – we are not arsonists.
I’m certainly not an arsonist. I’m a Conservative.
My view is that what we want to do is get rid of laws we don’t want – there’s a process for that.
Badenoch also clashed with the Tory MP David Jones, who argued that her changes to a bill passed by the Commons was disrespectful to MPs. In response, as Adam Payne reports at Politics Home, Badenoch accused him of leaking to the press.
Something you’re not saying is that we had private meetings, David, where we discussed this extensively because I knew you had concerns.
It’s public knowledge that we had private meetings, because when I thought I was having private and confidential meetings, I was reading the content in the Daily Telegraph.
What is the point of us as MPs voting through legislation that is not doing what we want it to do just so we can say ‘well we have passed this legislation’?
Our job is to deliver for the people of this country and what the people of this country want is reform which makes their lives better, not just saying we have deleted things from the statute book.
The two Alba MPs have issued statements saying why they voted against the motion to suspend Margaret Ferrier from the Commons for 30 days.
Neale Hanvey said:
Natural justice demands that there are consequences for errors in judgment. Margaret has never sought to deny wrongdoing and has accepted multiple punishments already.
Each of us deserve to be dealt with fairly and equally. For reasons obvious to almost everyone this sanction far exceeds anything imposed on any member in relation to Covid. Even setting aside the multiple infractions from the partying PMs and their cronies, Peter Gibson MP made the same error in judgment as Margaret Ferrier, but his party stood by him.
Gibson, the Tory MP for Darlington, admitted travelling by train from London to his home in the north-east in March 2020 when he had Covid symptoms. But lockdown restrictions were not in place at the time and so, unlike Ferrier, he was not committing an offence.
And Kenny MacAskill said:
[Ferrier has] been punished by the courts and the sanction imposed by parliament is far more severe than for others. Yet again it’s one law for wealthy Tories and another for everyone else.
For the second day in a row Boris Johnson has made an intervention during questions in the Commons. The former prime minister has mostly kept well away from the chamber since resigning last year. But yesterday, during levelling up questions, he urged the government “to accelerate the now stalled levelling up and regeneration bill and push forward urgently with Northern Powerhouse Rail, planning reform, devolution, secure affordable energy supply, gigabit broadband and all the other levelling up measures that will make this the strongest and most prosperous economy in Europe”.
And today, during health questions, he praised the government for the “rapid progress” it was making on the hospital building programme and said he was looking forward to it delivering “a superb new state-of-the-art hospital” in Hillingdon, in his constituency.
Ministers could face criminal sanctions for deleting their WhatsApp messages, the information commissioner has warned.
John Edwards told MPs this morning that ministers should not have auto-deleting messages turned on if they were using WhatsApp to conduct government business and could face prosecution if they did.
As PA Media reports, government guidance says “disappearing messages” have “a role in limiting the buildup of messages” but their use must not affect “recordkeeping or transparency responsibilities”, including a requirement to forward messages about government business to an official system.
Asked whether ministers should be using disappearing messages, Edwards told the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee:
I think the Cabinet Office is pretty clear that if it is government business being conducted on a non-corporate communications channel, it must be retained as part of the official record.
So no, they shouldn’t be using disappearing messages in the conduct of government business.
Asked what sanctions were available if ministers did use disappearing messages, Edwards added:
It’s a little perilous for me to speculate on hypotheticals, but there are criminal sanctions for failing to maintain a record or destroying a record.
The independent MP Margaret Ferrier was in the Commons chamber during the vote on her suspension, PA Media reports. She was accompanied by Conservative former minister Andrew Selous and SNP MP Carol Monaghan. At one point, the Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski was seen walking to the opposition benches to shake Ferrier’s hand.
The Chinese embassy has been told running overseas police stations in the UK is “unacceptable” and that “they must not operate in any form”, Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, has said.
As PA Media reports, Tugendhat set out the findings of an investigation into allegations of unofficial Chinese overseas police stations operating in the UK which stood accused of seeking to intimidate dissidents.
In a written statement, Tugendhat said:
Reports by the non-governmental organisation Safeguard Defenders claimed that there were three Chinese ‘police service stations’ in the UK – in Croydon, Glasgow, and Hendon. Further allegations have been made about an additional site in Belfast …
The police have visited each of the locations identified by Safeguard Defenders, and carefully looked into these allegations to consider whether any laws have been broken and whether any further action should be taken. I can confirm that they have not, to date, identified any evidence of illegal activity on behalf of the Chinese state across these sites. We assess that police and public scrutiny have had a suppressive impact on any administrative functions these sites may have had.
However, these ‘police service stations’ were established without our permission and their presence, regardless of whatever low level administrative activity they were performing, will have worried and intimidated those who have left China and sought safety and freedom here in the UK. This is unacceptable …
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office have told the Chinese embassy that any functions related to such ‘police service stations’ in the UK are unacceptable and that they must not operate in any form.
The Chinese embassy have subsequently responded that all such stations have closed permanently.
Any further allegations will be swiftly investigated in line with UK law.
The inquiry was launched amid claims there were Chinese overseas police stations operating in Croydon, Glasgow and Hendon as well as in Belfast and being used to “monitor and harass diaspora communities and, in some cases, to coerce people to return to China outside of legitimate channels”.
Three Conservative MPs have been condemned after attending a conference hosted by the populist Hungarian leader, Viktor Orbán, along with representatives from a series of hard right and far-right European parties, Peter Walker reports.
He’s back in the room … Kevin Pringle, the softly-spoken spin-maestro widely credited with securing the SNP’s electoral dominance over Scottish politics for over a decade – and who quit politics in 2015 – has been hired by Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, as his new official spokesperson, an influential role that will pitch him right back onto the frontline at arguably the most testing time the party has known.
Pringle, who commands significant respect at Holyrood, worked for former first minister Alex Salmond, helping him lead the SNP to its unexpected Holyrood landslide in 2011. He then worked at Westminster after the 2015 general election returned an extraordinary 56 SNP MPs for Nicola Sturgeon.
Pringle made the announcement in his regular column for the Courier newspaper, in which he writes:
Despite all the difficulties and controversies, the SNP still seems to me to retain its hard-earned and relatively recently-acquired status of natural party of government in Scotland.
These “difficulties” of course include a slump in support since Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation in February, a bruising leadership contest to replace her and the ongoing police investigation into the party’s finances.
The Scottish Tories have lost no time in pointing out that Pringle hasn’t appeared a fan of the current governing partnership with the Greens. But he is also highly regarded as a supremely skilled operator – Pringle may have his work cut out already, but this appointment makes times ahead a lot more interesting.
The Commons division list is out showing who voted for and against the motion to suspend Margaret Ferrier from the Commons for 30 days.
Normally motions to confirm punishments recommended by the standards committee get passed unopposed. When the result was called, 40 MPs were said to have voted against the motion, but the Commons website only lists 37 MPs voting against – 32 Conservatives, two DUP MPs, two Alba MPs and one Reclaim MP. Another two DUP MPs acted as tellers for the noes.
There have been claims that Boris Johnson supporters were going to vote against because they did not want to establish a precedent for an MP facing a suspension at least 10 sitting days (enough to trigger a recall byelection) over Covid breaches. And some of the MPs who voted against Ferrier’s suspension (eg, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Mark Jenkinson, Scott Mann) have been strong Johnson supporters.
But some of Johnson’s most loyal and vocal supporters did not vote. And the Johnson allegations being investigated by the privileges committee (misleading MPs) are quite different from Ferrier’s offence, making it hard to see why voting against suspending her might protect him.
In practice, most of the MPs who voted against suspended Ferrier for 30 days were probably acting as they did because they thought the punishment was excessive. Four MPs on the standards committee (three Tories and an SNP MP) tried unsuccessfully to amend the final report so that she would only be suspended for nine days. They also joined a fourth Tory in unsuccessfully proposing an amendment to the report saying Ferrier deserved lenience. It said:
Ms Ferrier was a woman on her own in London, not her home city. There were no family or close friends to assist her. Her actions were not designed to enrich her or give her any form of benefit in kind. Her behaviour and judgment was directly affected by her distress and panic in her health condition and loneliness.
Although the motion to suspend Ferrier was passed overwhelmingly, that was only because of opposition MPs voting in favour: 127 Labour MPs, 14 from the SNP, 9 Lib Dems, three Plaid Cymru MPs, two independents (both suspended from Labour), one Green and one from Alliance.
Only 28 Conservatives voted for the motion – fewer than the 32 who voted against.