Dods at Party Conference 2019

Labour | Conservatives | SNP

21 February 2019
Jean-Claude Juncker

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted he has little hope that the UK and EU will avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The European Commission president lamented that the two sides were unlikely to reach a deal MPs will be willing to support. And he warned that a no-deal departure from the bloc would have “terrible economic and social consequences, both in Britain and on the continent”. Downing Street insisted both sides were working together “with energy” to secure a deal the Commons could back. MPs last month sent the Prime Minister back to the negotiating table to tweak the controversial backstop plan which ensures the Northern Ireland border will stay open in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Critics of the plan - which would see Britain remain in a customs union with the bloc - argue it could leave the country tied to EU rules indefinitely and could trigger the breakup of the UK. Mrs May has asked the EU for legal guarantees that would see a time-limit imposed on the backstop or the creation of a unilateral exit mechanism for Britain. But Mr Juncker said he was not hopeful the EU would be able to...
21 February 2019
Christopher Davies

Conservative MP Christopher Davies has been charged with falsifying two expenses claims, the Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed.

The Brecon and Radnorshire MP is charged with two counts of forgery dating back to 2016. He has also been charged with providing false or misleading information for allowances in the same year. The 51-year-old will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 22 March. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “In November 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service received a file of evidence from the Metropolitan Police relating to an allegation that Christopher Davies, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, falsified two invoices in support of Parliamentary expenses claims. “Following a review of the evidence, the CPS has today charged Mr Davies with two offences of making a false instrument and one offence of providing false or misleading information for allowance claims.” Mr Davies’ office has been contacted for comment.
21 February 2019
Philip Hammond and Gavin Williamson

Philip Hammond has rebuked Gavin Williamson over comments he made that were said to have angered China.

The Chancellor admitted a pledge by the Defence Secretary to send an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea had not made relations with Beijing “simpler” and noted that the plan was "entirely premature". Last week Mr Williamson announced the plans for the first operational mission of HMS Queen Elizabeth, expected to be in 2021. But he is said to have sparked fears in Beijing that the deployment could approach the Spratly Islands, where China is engaged in an ongoing territorial dispute with Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. It was reported that a planned meeting on trade between Mr Hammond and China vice premier, Hu Chunhua, was scuppered because of the comments by the Defence Secretary. But Mr Hammond said the announcement should not have been made since the warship will not be at full capacity for some time. “I am disappointed the Chinese have reacted in the way they have. But... this entirely premature. The aircraft carrier is not going to be at...
21 February 2019

Today in Parliament, the possibility of free school meals is going back on the Parliamentary agenda thanks to Lord Bassam. 

Whilst the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) supports the idea that children who live in poverty should be helped and nourished, the organisation notes a sound of warning that the infiltration of ultra-processed, industrial foods into school canteens, is actively harming the health of the next generation and costing the British economy billions. Complaints about school food have always existed and the memory of paper-thin slices of roast, usually identifiable by the sauce that accompanied it, served with two vegetables, followed by a starchy pudding and custard, is not that far behind. The nutritious offering of this meal was, however, far and beyond more complete than the foods being served in school canteens up and down the country today.  Changing school food in isolation is difficult, children and parents resist the change, particularly with the pressures of advertising, fast food outlets and even industrial food giants offering free school...
21 February 2019
Heidi Allen

One of the rebel Tory MPs who quit to join Labour colleagues in the Independent Group has said she wants to destroy her old party.

In outspoken comments, Heidi Allen said if the newly-formed bloc is a success “there won’t be a Tory party to go back to”. She also said around a third of Tories were frustrated with the direction the party is heading in, while another top MP warned he would resign the whip if Britain heads for a no-deal Brexit. Ms Allen dramatically quit the party yesterday alongside Anna Soubry and Dr Sarah Wollaston, joining eight Labour MPs in the centrist grouping that was launched on Monday. The self-styled “three amigos” said they resigned to fight against Brexit and argued the Conservative party had been taken over by the hard right. Asked at a press briefing yesterday if she could ever rejoin the Tories, Ms Allen said: “I can’t imagine it, I just can’t. Not least because if we do our jobs right there won’t be a Tory party to go back to. “We are about creating something better that is bang smack in the centre ground of British politics, that people out there I am convinced, we are convinced,...
21 February 2019
CII parliamentary event

Rising stars of the insurance profession met in parliament to discuss data collection, putting the customer first, and changing perceptions of the industry.

This month the Chartered Insurance Institute hosted its annual New Generation Parliamentary Reception. The ‘New Generation Group’ is the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) flagship talent programme, showcasing 40 rising stars from across the insurance profession. Craig Tracey MP, Member of Parliament for North Warwickshire, Chair of the Insurance & Financial Services APPG and ex-insurance broker of 20 years, joined a panel of experts to discuss the future of the sector and how it can work side by side with policymakers, to ensure the industry adapts to, and evolves with, the times.  Insurance and parliament may not seem like a natural fit but, as the audience heard, the sector often is at the forefront of shaping policy that affects every aspect of a constituent’s life.  Craig Tracey MP reflected on the relationship: “When I got here I was made acutely aware of the fact that there aren’t many people...
21 February 2019
High Streets

The Government should hike taxes on online giants like Amazon to prevent high streets becoming “ghost towns”, MPs have declared.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government committee urged miniters to “level the playing field” when it comes to business rates. A fifth of UK retail sales now occur online, but high street retailers pay much higher business rates than online shops because they need physical premises. In a new report, the MPs said high streets had faced “store closures, persistently empty shops and declining footfall” as a result. “Some formerly thriving shopping areas are likely to become ghost towns and effectively close down altogether unless the government, councils, retailers, landlords and the local community act together,” they added. The MPs urged the Government to consider an online sales tax, a general sales tax, taxes on online deliveries and higher VAT for web stores. The cash raised would allow ministers to cut business rates for high street shops and plough investment into regenerating town centres. Amazon refused to comment on the proposals but insisted it pays all taxes due in the...
21 February 2019
Free school meal

Increasing numbers of hungry children are going without a daily nutritious hot meal, says Lord Bassam.

Tomorrow I intend putting the issues of free school meals back on the agenda with an oral question in the Lords. Last year the minister responsible was made to feel distinctly uncomfortable when we debated and passed a motion regretting the cuts to this important benefit.  The whole issue of free school meals for families on universal credit is riddled with complexity. Back when we had a functioning welfare state access to free school meals was far simpler, all that was required was a passporting benefit. That’s how my mother qualified when I was at school in the 60’s and early 70’s and I had free school meals.   When UC was first introduced in 2013, the children in any family receiving UC were entitled to benefit. The rationale was that this first group were mainly unemployed and historically only children in families where no-one worked were eligible for free school meals. Then as more families moved onto UC, the rules were amended to reduce eligibility. From April 2018...
21 February 2019
London skyline

The British Safety Council calls on parliamentarians to join their new campaign to protect outdoor workers from ambient air pollution.

The World Health Organisation and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) tell us that air pollution is carcinogenic, yet our laws are leaving outdoor workers perilously exposed. Their health, the IARC tell us, is more at risk simply because they work in the ambient environment and are therefore exposed to higher levels of pollutants over the long-term. A Royal College of Physicians report says that each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution. It also says that “it’s clear that outdoor air quality issues still apply to many workers, particularly those who work near sources of outdoor air pollution including, for example, urban-based traffic police and street cleaners.” And though these workers in their thousands help us cross the road, fill potholes, guard our children, deliver our food or maintain the...
21 February 2019
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker

Theresa May has warned that the UK and EU face a race against the clock if they are to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister insisted time was “of the essence” after she met European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for talks in Brussels. She made the comments just hours before Jeremy Corbyn travels to meet EU officials in a bid to woo them towards the Labour Brexit plan of maintaining a permanent customs union. Mrs May has promised MPs she will renegotiate the controversial backstop plan to ensure the Northern Irish border remains open in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Critics of the proposal - which would keep Britain in a customs union - argue it would leave the country tied to EU rules indefinitely, prevent the UK having its own trade policy and trigger the breakup of the UK. Mrs May told Mr Juncker she would be unable to get her deal through Parliament without legally-binding guarantees that would put a time-limit on the backstop or allow the UK to leave it unilaterally. After the talks she said: “We have agreed that work to find a solution will continue at pace, time is of...