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Michael Gove tells Liz Truss that cutting tax for highest earners is wrong as protesters gather at start of Tory conference – live

Gove says government should abandon plan to scrap 45% top rate of tax

Gove is now taking questions from the audience. A man says Gove said the party should come together after the leadership contest. Is is actually following his own advice?

Yes, says Gove.

He says he has two concerns about the mini-budget: the tax cuts being unfunded, and the abolition of the 45% top rate of tax. It would be “wise to reflect” on those policies, he says.

Q: You mean they should be dropped?

Gove says the abolition of the 45% is wrong. The government should drop the idea, he says.

This was implied by what he said on the BBC’S Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, but he is being more explicit here.

Key events

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Ben Wallace says UK commissioning two ships to specialise in protecting cables and pipelines on seabed

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, announced the government has committed to “two specialist ships” with the capability to “keep our cables and pipelines safe”. In his speech at the end of proceedings in the main hall at the Tory conference, he said:

This week we saw the mysterious damage inflicted to the Nord Stream pipelines. And it should remind us of how fragile our economy and infrastructure is to such hybrid attacks.

Our intent is to protect them. Our internet and energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables. Russia makes no secret of its ability to target such infrastructure.

So for that reason, I can announce we recently committed to two specialist ships with the capability to keep our cables and pipelines safe.

The first multi-role survey ship for seabed warfare will be purchased by the end of this year, fitted out here in the UK and then operational before the end of next year.

The second ship will be built in the UK and we will plan to make sure it covers all our vulnerabilities.

Ben Wallace speaking at the Tory conference.
Ben Wallace speaking at the Tory conference. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-Tory protesters at Birmingham.
Anti-Tory protesters at Birmingham. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA
Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Victoria Prentis, a welfare minister, has said that the government should think “very carefully” this winter before taking decisions that would impact on struggling families.

Prentis made the remark at a fringe event convened by the Centre for Policy Studies – called ‘What can the Conservatives do for Families?’ – where she was answering a question from the floor from a school governor who asked what the government would do to help people face a coming “tsunami” of costs including rocketing mortgage payments.

I came from my previous role which was focused on food poverty and something that became very clear to me during the pandemic is how detailed is the evidence that we need of the effects of our policies.

I do think that we need to take decisions this winter very carefully and on the basis of some very granular evidence.

Aubrey Allegretti

One Tory MP who has been privately critical of the tax cuts predicted Liz Truss would be forced to U-turn as the scale of rebellions became clearer. They said:

She’s like a shark. You don’t get through the last three administrations and come out on top the other side unless you’re willing to do whatever it takes to survive. She will realise the writing’s on the wall – the only question is how quickly.

Another Tory MP who is a member of the government said it was possible the government could face a defeat on the min-budget and “find out the hard way what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”.

Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Other MPs who reflected stirrings of backbench unease about the government’s mini-budget included the Ashfield MP Lee Anderson who said that “the optics” were not good around the mini-budget. Speaking at a meeting of young Conservatives he said:

Just to turn around and introduce a policy sometime and say, that’s Conservative, I don’t think that’s good enough, because we’ve got five or six million new people in this country who voted Conservative for the very first time, and they’re still a little bit dubious about us. They lent their vote to us. And we’ve got to, we’ve got to keep on.

Anderson declined to answer a question about whether he would vote against the government’s plans.

He went on to suggest that that the economic situation of many was being exaggerated, and said his own measure was the number of people in Wetherspoons or following their teams at football grounds.

The young Conservatives in the audience included a young banker who told Anderson and her party colleagues that lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses was deeply wrong, adding: “We are not the ones who are struggling.”

Elsewhere, another a fringe event was told by the backbench MP Danny Kruger that the government should not now “take an axe to public spending or benefits in order to balance the books.”

Kruger, a rightwinger, told a Centre for Policy Studies event on family policy:

Very significant steps have been taken already and the energy cap will significantly reduce the impact of what is going on. But what we need to see, in addition to the economic side of things and the deregulation, is actually support on the social side of things to strengthen people with the pressure they are under, to make then more resilient and able to withstand these sorts of shocks.

I don’t think we should be taking an axe to public spending or benefits in order to balance the books at this stage. We need to be supporting families and communities.

Northern Ireland secretary says UK government could have understood complications of NI ‘a bit better, sooner’

In his contribution during the session on Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, also admitted that could have understood the “complication” of Northern Ireland “a bit better, sooner”. He said:

I understand a bit of Northern Ireland history, but I’ve learned a lot in the last few years: the fact that the common travel area allows people to determine what passport they have; the fact that it’s got a common energy market [with Ireland]. So what we do independently in United Kingdom, where we give £400 and other support to consumers of energy, actually can have some effect on the market in Ireland.

So I understand the complications. Maybe we could have understood them a bit better, sooner.

But now the mood music, it certainly seems to be changing and I very much hope that we get some solutions.

Chris Heaton-Harris speaking to the Tory conference.
Chris Heaton-Harris speaking to the Tory conference. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Stephen Farry MP, deputy leader of the Alliance party in Northern Ireland, has welcomed Steve Baker’s apology. (See 6.05pm.)

This is a welcome comment. We need pragmatic leadership. Plus a mutually agreed, legal and sustainable outcome to address issues with the Protocol and the challenges of Brexit.

— Stephen Farry MP (@StephenFarryMP) October 2, 2022

Steve Baker apologies to EU and Ireland for way he and some colleagues did not respect their concerns about Brexit

Steve Baker, the leading Brexiter and former chair of the European Research Group, has acknowledged that he and some of his Brexiter colleagues did not always fully acknowledge EU and Irish concerns about Brexit.

Speaking at on the stage at the Conservative conference in his capacity as a Northern Ireland minister, Baker also apologised for what had been said in the past. And he revealed that he had apologised in person to leading Irish figures.

Referring to his reputation as a Brexit “hard man” (a term he coined himself, although he says it was a joke), he said:

The thing I want to add is, as one of the people who perhaps acted with the most ferocious determination to get the UK out of the EU, I think we have to bring some humility to this situation. And it’s with humility that I want to accept and acknowledge that I and others did not always behave in a way which encouraged Ireland and the European Union to trust us to accept that they have interests, legitimate interests, that we’re willing to respect – because they do and we are willing to respect them.

And I’m sorry about that. Because relations with Ireland are not where they should be and we all need to work extremely hard to improve them. And I know that we are doing so.

The demise of Her late Majesty gave us an opportunity to meet leading Irish figures, and I said that to some of them. ‘I am sorry that we did not always respect your legitimate interests.’

And I hope they won’t mind me saying I felt the ice thawing a bit.

Baker also said it was time to reset relations and make sure the UK and Ireland went forward as “closest friends and partners” and to reinforce the Belfast Good Friday agreement before its 25th anniversary next Easter.

Baker did not explain in detail what he meant by not acknowledging the EU’s legitimate interests. But some Brexiters were happy to downplay, or ignore, the EU’s concern that Brexit would undermine the single market without a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which nobody wants. He may also have been referring to the way Brexit was imposed on Northern Ireland even though 56% of people in Northern Ireland voted for remain.

Baker’s comment may help to explain why Micheál Martin, the taoiseach, said earlier today that he thought the UK government was serious about getting a solution to the Northern Ireland protocol. (See 3.37pm.)

But Baker also stressed that his apology did not mean the protocol was acceptable. He said the government would resolute about getting it changed.

Steve Baker.
Steve Baker. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

As my colleague Lisa O’Carroll reports, Steve Baker, the Northern Ireland minister and leading Brexiter, has apologised for the way Ireland and the EU were treated in negotiations as the UK left the EU.

NEW and WOW: Steve Baker, former head of ERG apologises to Ireland and the EU for “not always behaving” in a way that they would “trust us” in Brexit negotiations . “I am really sorry about that because relations with Ireland are not where they should be”

— Lisa O’Carroll (@lisaocarroll) October 2, 2022

I will post the full quotes shortly.

Welsh secretary Robert Buckland says government must not neglect poorest, even if greater spending needed

Aubrey Allegretti

A cabinet minister has hinted at his unease about the tax cuts in the mini-budget disproportionately benefiting the wealthy were expressed by a cabinet minister.

Sir Robert Buckland, the Welsh secretary, said while simplifying tax bands was sensible, he wanted to see “intelligent interventionism” instead of “trickle down economics”.

He told a fringe event hosted by Chamber, a policy journal:

A sensible Conservative government must be very careful to make sure that at the other end of the equation, those in greatest need are not left behind …

We must remember that it is those who are in genuine need who will also need our help as a government.

We have to not shirk our responsibilities in that respect, even if it does mean that for the time being there has to be greater expenditure.

Buckland was speaking amid speculation that the government could cut benefits as one means of ensuring the tax cuts in the mini-budget are funded in the medium term. In her BBC interview this morning Liz Truss refused to commit to uprating benefits next year in line with the inflation figure for September, as Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, had promised.

Robert Buckland
Robert Buckland Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

Former first secretary of state Damian Green says it’s ‘no-brainer’ that Tories will lose if they’re seen as party of rich

Damian Green, the former first secretary of state, has said the Conservative paarty will lose the next election if they are just seen as the part of the rich. Green, who chairs the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs, told a drinks reception hosted by the caucus and the Tory Reform Group:

Apart from the fact I think it’s morally right, I also think it’s a political no-brainer that if we end up painting ourselves as the party of the rich and the party of the already successful then, funnily enough, most people won’t vote for us and we lose.

Green also indicated that he hoped there would be a rethink. He said:

I’ve been coming to party conference since the early 1980s so I’ve arrived at party conference in a mood of much gloom many times, frankly, in more than 40 years. And this one is more difficult than many.

Very clearly there are conversations that need to be had over the direction of government as we move between now and the general election.

Boris Johnson will be the new president of the Conservative Friends of Ukraine group. As PA Media reports, the current president, the former culture secretary John Whittingdale, announced his successor at a Tory conference fringe event, saying Johnson is “in many ways the obvious and most deserving person to lead this organisation because he was the first person, not just in this country but across the western world, to so strongly come out in support of the Ukrainian people”.

Johnson is not attending the conference. Whittingdale said: “Boris is sorry that he can’t be with us today, but he has sent his total support for what we all believe and our support continuing for Ukraine.”

Conservative party members singing the national anthem.
Conservative party members singing the national anthem. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters


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