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Shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry has accused the government of failing to secure trade deals “that deliver for Britain”, telling the Commons ministers are allowing the Asia-Pacific region to “take the UK to the cleaners”.
In a question to trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Ms Thornberry said the newly announced UK-New Zealand free trade agreement (FTA) “failed on every count” to deliver benefits at home compared with those secured abroad.
“There is a real problem that this is now the third Asia-Pacific agreement in a row - Japan, Australia and now New Zealand - where more than 80 per cent of the projected growth in trade, by [the trade] department, has gone to exporters in those other countries, and less than 20 per cent has gone to exports to the UK,” she said.
The Labour MP also suggested the new deal would allow NZ farmers to undercut British farmers by shipping in meat produced to lower welfare standards.
Ms Trevelyan replied sternly that the Tories would “never compromise standards for food coming into the UK”, though her assurances have done little to assuage angry UK agricultural workers who say they “aren’t so sure what opportunity” the deal offers them.
UK-NZ trade deal latest example of Britain being ‘taken to the cleaners,’ says Labour...
...before using govt’s ‘own forecast’ to suggest agreement ‘undercuts British farmers’
Man charged with murder of Sir David Amess, Met announces
Sunak and Patel among officials pictured at Brokenshire funeral
PM accused of U-turn on Christmas pledge for Online Safety Bill
MPs told they face ‘substantial threat’ to safety after Amess murder
07:42 , Sam Hancock
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling UK politics coverage. Stay tuned as we bring you reaction to the newly-announced UK-New Zealand trade deal, with international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan set to take questions in the House of Commons at 9.30am.
UK secures trade deal with New Zealand
07:52 , Sam Hancock
The UK has secured a trade agreement with New Zealand, the government has announced.
Sealed on a Zoom call between Boris Johnson and his Kiwi counterpart Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday, the so-called agreement-in-principle is a major step towards a full free trade agreement.
The deal is expected to offer similar provisions on areas like business travel to the Australia agreement, The Independent understands. Provisions easing travel requirements for contractual services suppliers who want to work in New Zealand’s market are a first for the country in any of its trade deals. In return, the UK has given New Zealand greater market access for agricultural products such as lamb.
Boris Johnson said the deal would cement a “long friendship with New Zealand” and noted that it followed the £9.7 billion in investment announced alongside Tuesday’s Global Investment Summit, reports our economics editor Anna Isaac.
Johnson hails NZ trade deal as ‘next chapter in longstanding friendship’
07:53 , Sam Hancock
.@JacindaArdern and I have agreed a new trade deal that will help both the UK and New Zealand build back better from the pandemic.
Our two countries share deep ties of history, culture and values, and I look forward to the next chapter in our friendship.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 21, 2021
Parliamentary schedule for Thursday
07:58 , Sam Hancock
Here’s a schedule for all sessions set to take place in Westminster today.
House of Commons
9.30am International trade questions
10.30am Urgent questions/statements, including business questions
Backbench business debates on (i) Cop26 and limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C (ii) World Menopause Month
A short debate on Black History Month
1.30pm UK’s climate progress: the Committee on Climate Change’s 2021 progress report
House of Lords
11am Introduction of Lord Sedwill
11.10am Oral questions, including questions to Brexit minister Lord Frost
12.15pm Skills and Post-16 Education Bill - report stage (day 2)
A short debate on government plans to consult on measures to enhance the integrity of electoral processes
UK borrowing dips to £21.8bn but still ‘highest September since 1993’
08:13 , Sam Hancock
Let’s get some news on the economy now. Borrowing in the UK hit £21.8bn in September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – down from £28.8bn a year earlier but still the second highest September for borrowing since records began in 1993.
The government’s interest payments bill on the huge debts built up during Covid stood at £4.8bn in September due to rising inflation, the ONS added. The latest figure is the same amount as September last year, despite borrowing levels in the month falling and tax receipts rising year-on-year. This is due to the Retail Price Index measure of inflation rising - which is linked to government interest payments - as the economy recovers.
Borrowing so far in this financial year has reached £108.1bn since the end of March - £101.2bn less than the same period a year ago, the data shows.
However, as a result of continued low tax receipts and high expenditure, the public sector borrowed £319.9bn between end of March and September - the equivalent to 14.9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the highest ratio since the end of the Second World War when it was 15.2 per cent.
Government debt now stands at £2.2tn at the end of September - around 95.5 per cent of GDP - the highest ratio since March 1963.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:
“Our recovery is well under way - with more employees on payrolls than ever before and the fastest forecast growth in the G7 this year - but the pandemic has had a huge impact on our economy and caused our debt levels to rise.
“At the Budget and Spending Review next week I will set out how we will continue to support public services, businesses and jobs while keeping our public finances fit for the future.”
MPs face ‘substantial threat’ to safety after Amess murder – Patel
08:26 , Sam Hancock
Priti Patel told the Commons last night the threat facing MPs has been elevated to “substantial” in the wake of the murder of Sir David Amess.
A review by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre linked to MI5 was launched after the Tory MP for Southend West was stabbed to death on Friday at a constituency surgery.
While it did not find any “specific or imminent threat” to MPs’ safety, the home secretary said the threat level to MPs was “now deemed to be substantial” and counterterror police will ensure the “change is properly reflected in the operational posture”.
Ms Patel told MPs:
“While we do not see any information or intelligence which points to any credible or specific or imminent threat, I must update the House that the threat level facing members of parliament is now deemed to be substantial.
“This is the same level as the current national threat to the United Kingdom as a whole, so I can assure the House that our world-class intelligence and security agencies and counterterror police will now ensure that this change is properly reflected in the operational posture.”
‘Substantial’ means an attack is likely, while the lower level of moderate means an attack is possible, but not likely.
Hancock returns to call for end of ‘disgusting’ online abuse
08:34 , Sam Hancock
On that note, Matt Hancock has returned to the spotlight – not, this time, with a job announcement only to be rejected in public later – with a piece in The Times urging the government to tackle online abuse.
Teaming up with rival politician Rupa Huq, the pair said Sir David Amess’ murder should spark permanent change to tackle online hatred of politicians and “set public debate on a better path”.
In a co-authored Times column, the pair said Parliament had been “shocked to its core” over veteran MP’s death, and that they had also been “disgusted” to see MP Michael Gove harassed in public only days later.
They said democracy “cannot survive a continuing coarsening of public debate” and called on social media companies - “the creators of algorithms that feed people content that only reinforces what they already think” - to bear responsibility. They also shone a light on the difficulty of enforcing libel laws in the internet age.
It is female politicians, particularly from ethnic minority backgrounds, who receive the worst online abuse, they said, but white men were not immune, citing one social media post calling for Mr Hancock to be executed live on BBC1.
Acknowledging the challenge ahead, they wrote:
“It is hard to prove that a single post by a social media user with a few hundred followers causes significant damage, but when that post is shared and added to by hundreds or thousands of others, it has the same effect as a defamatory newspaper piece in days gone by.”
Just devastated and in shock at the murder of David Amess. He was so kind and cared so much about Southend. He was a mentor to me when I arrived in Parliament. Always selfless and had time for anyone. I send my deepest thoughts to his friends, staff and loved ones.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) October 15, 2021
Health minister claims NHS under ‘sustainable pressure’ – despite warnings from doctors
08:41 , Sam Hancock
Health minister Edward Argar has claimed the NHS is under “sustainable pressure” despite the alarm being raise by a major doctors’ union urging the government to introduce measures to control the spread of Covid.
It comes after Sajid Javid, the health secretary, suggested the country could see 100,000 cases a day, but resisted demands to implement “plan B”, which includes advice to work from home, making face masks mandatory and vaccine passports, reports our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn.
Defending the government’s approach this morning, Mr Argar told Sky News on Thursday: “Well we continue as you expect to look at all the data. The NHS while under huge pressure at the moment, and I pay tribute to all those working in it, is that it’s sustainable pressure at the moment.”
Cop26: Leak reveals nations lobbying to change key climate report
08:51 , Sam Hancock
A huge leak of documents has revealed countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on how to tackle climate change.
Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are among the nations asking UN officials to “play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels”, according to BBC News who published the leak.
It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies.
The “lobbying” comes at a particularly crucial time for the government, with just 10 days to go until the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow at which world leaders will be asked to make significant commitments to slow down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5C.
The comments from governments the BBC claims to have read are “overwhelmingly designed to be constructive and to improve the quality of the final report,” the news service says.
Justin Rowlatt, the BBC’s climate editor, had the following to say on Breakfast earlier:
“It shows the real position countries are going to take at the climate conference”
Climate Editor Justin Rowlatt tells #BBCBreakfast countries, incl. Saudi Arabia, Australia & Japan, are asking the UN to play down the need to move away from fossil fuels.https://t.co/DL63uR8o4W pic.twitter.com/B3OhoFQ25D
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) October 21, 2021
Minister claims government’s Covid plan ‘still working’ - amid rising cases
09:11 , Sam Hancock
Health minister Edward Argar claimed today the original plan for tackling Covid is still working, despite cases rising on Wednesday to levels last seen in March.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said:
“What Sajid [Javid] has highlighted now is that we are facing a challenging period – winter.
“People are indoors, infection rates are rising, and I think what he’s done is levelled early with people, here is what we’re seeing, but there are ways you can... the single biggest way you can impact on that and mitigate it is to have the jabs, that’s the thing.
“Plan A in that sense, if you want to call it that, is still working. But what he highlighted is it’s a race - and I’ve used this phrase with you, I think, before when I’ve been on your programme - it is a race between the vaccines, and getting those in people’s arms, and the virus.
“We’re still winning that race at the moment, but it’s narrowing, that lead is narrowing. So what we need to do is that sprint for the line.”
Raab hails new policy for ex-offenders to fill work shortages: ‘Smart politics’
09:22 , Sam Hancock
Dominic Raab has branded his own suggestion of using ex-prisoners to solve crises such as the HGV driver shortage a “win-win” and “smart politics”.
The justice secretary revealed this morning he wants to draft in British ex-offenders and even existing inmates to support the economy instead of relying on the “old addiction” of foreign labour.
His comments come amid an ongoing dispute about who or what is to blame for the supply chain crisis affecting the UK, which is largely thought to have been caused by Brexit and a resultant lack of lorry drivers.
Mr Raab, who is also the deputy prime minister, said he believes the offer of a second chance will encourage ex and current inmates away from a life of crime and protect the public.
He told LBC radio earlier:
“The call centres, the HGV companies, those with shortages, those who are recruiting and can’t get British staff from outside prison to do the job - why shouldn’t we actually say, do you know what, this is plugging some staff shortages, this is helping these people to go straight and this is cutting reoffending?
“So I say to the critics, look, I can demonstrate it works, this is making your community and the public safer – this is just win-win. It’s smart policy and it’s smart politics.”
Prisoners serving long-term and life sentences are not due to be part of the scheme, he stressed. But, on those eligible, Mr Raab said:
“If we give ex-offenders, the vast majority of whom will be released from prison, if we give them skin in the game, if we give them hope, if we give them something to lose, they’re much much more likely to go straight and that’s good for society, it’s good for the public because it cuts crime.”
'This is just win-win. It's smart policy and it's smart politics.'
Justice Secretary and Deputy PM Dominic Raab wants businesses to employ ex-offenders as a means of plugging staff shortages in the economy.@theousherwood | @DominicRaab pic.twitter.com/A7PNkKwQq9
— LBC (@LBC) October 21, 2021
Trade secretary taking questions in Commons
09:36 , Sam Hancock
International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is now speaking in the House of Commons, where MPs are asking her questions about the newly-announced New Zealand trade deal.
Trevelyan avoids question on impact of UK-NZ deal on British farmer’s livelihoods
09:49 , Sam Hancock
Shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry has challenged the secretary of state on previous forecasts “by her own department” that a deal like the new UK-NZ one could lead to a reduced number of jobs in the British agricultural industry.
She said: “On page 54 of the Trade Partners June 2020 paper on the strategic approach to free trade with New Zealand, it forecasts that an agreement on the lines that I understand the Government has announced last night will cause, I quote, ‘a reduction in output and employment in the UK agriculture sector’. Can I ask the secretary of state if that remains her department’s forecast for the impact of last night’s deal?”
Responding, Anne-Marie Trevelyan is careful not to answer the question directly.
“I am very confident that the deal we struck will provide the opportunity for our wonderful food producers to continue to sell their food across the globe and, as we make more deals, create new markets for them also,” she tells the Commons.
She also says she will be delivering a more-detailed statement on the deal later today.
Thornberry calls for TAC scrutiny on NZ and Australia deals
09:55 , Sam Hancock
Thornberry says the uncertainty around British farming jobs provides “yet more evidence” that an independent inquiry into it and others should take place.
Quoting ex-trade secretary Liz Truss, the Labour MP said Conservatives previously pledged: “We have no intention of ever striking a deal which doesn’t benefit our farmers.”
She also asked Trevelyan to confirm the new Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) would be permitted to scrutinise both the NZ and Australia deals.
Without saying what they were resolutely, Trevelyan appears to concede the TAC will be given some powers to do so.
“The new TAC will be charged with some very clear direction and an independence for them to be able to scrutinise both Australia, New Zealand and all the other trade deals we are looking to strike in the months and years ahead,” she said.
Asia taking UK ‘to the cleaners’ on trade deals, claims Labour
10:36 , Sam Hancock
Asia is “taking us to the cleaners” on trade deals, the shadow trade secretary has said.
Labour’s Emily Thornberry said:
“I’m just reading the figures from her own department. And there is a real problem that this is now the third Asia-Pacific agreement in a row, Japan, Australia and now New Zealand, where more than 80 per cent of the projected growth in trade, by her own department, has gone to exporters in those other countries, and less than 20 per cent has gone to exports to the UK.
“The government says that they’re tilting to Asia. I have to say, I think that Asia is taking us to the cleaners.”
Ms Thornberry added: “Enough is enough”, saying: “What we need is trade deals that deliver for Britain.”
Trade minister Penny Mordaunt said resolutely: “£9 trillion. That is what these deals and ultimately the CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership] will mean to this country. Yes, we have three deals and we’re going to get more deals.” She added:
“We’re going to grow these markets. That is the whole point of us leaving the EU. That is the whole point of us formulating this plan for global Britain. And it will increase growth and prosperity in this country.”
Petrol stocks ‘fully recovered’ since crisis began – data
10:10 , Sam Hancock
Petrol station stock levels have fully recovered from the crisis which began last month, new figures show.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said filling station storage tanks were an average of 45 per cent full at the end of the day on Sunday – the highest since May.
Stock levels dropped to a low of 15 per cent on 25 September due to panic-buying of fuel seen across the UK.
London and the southeast were the slowest regions to recover from the shortage, but their petrol station storage tanks were an average of 42 per cent and 45 per cent full on Sunday, the data shows.
Minister challenged over lack of mask-wearing in Commons
10:27 , Sam Hancock
Health minister Ed Argar was called out earlier for the government’s mismatched stance on face masks after Sajid Javid told people last night to wear coverings in enclosed spaces, to meet people outside and to allow ventilation inside via open windows.
The twist is the health secretary gave the Covid briefing in a windowless room after weeks of criticism that the majority of Tory MPs appear to sit in the Commons maskless more often than not.
LBC’s Nick Ferrari confronted Mr Argar on the issue earlier.
“Were you wearing your mask in the Commons this week?” Mr Ferrari asked the government minister, to which Mr Argar said, yes, “for the most part” he was wearing a covering.
Asked why “so many” Tories were not doing the same during the tributes to Sir David Amess in the Commons on Monday, Mr Argar said the government “was not at the point of mandation” and that his colleagues would “exercise their own judgement”.
Nick Ferrari confronts Minister Ed Argar on why Tory MPs aren't wearing masks in the House of Commons despite the Health Secretary calling for face coverings to be worn in enclosed spaces.@NickFerrariLBC pic.twitter.com/MTl7IJErUE
— LBC (@LBC) October 21, 2021
Crack down on social media trolling ‘could lead to improved MP safety’ – ex-police chief
10:32 , Sam Hancock
More on the conversation around MPs’ safety now, after a former police chief said it could be helped if various organisations – including internet companies – crack down on online abuse.
Sir Peter Fahy, ex-chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier:
“It is also about the police, the institutions and the internet companies tackling a situation where it appears that threats to kill have almost been normalised and decriminalised when, in fact, they are a serious criminal offence.”
Labour MP Diane Abbott, a former shadow home secretary, also appeared on the show to discuss the abuse she has faced during her career. She said:
“The reason that people can be so abusive and make these violent threats is they have end-to-end anonymity.
“Of course people ought to be able to post anonymously in the first instance, but the tech companies should hold their name and address so that if the police need to investigate, they can do it.
“At present, [with] many of the threats against me, the police can’t investigate them because of anonymity.”
Economic growth and tacking climate crisis ‘go hand-in-hand’, claims trade secretary
10:44 , Sam Hancock
More from the trade debate going on in the Commons now. Economic growth and tackling climate challenges go “hand-in-hand” when negotiating trade deals, the international trade secretary has said, amid concerns over Britain’s priorities.
Labour MP Rachael Maskell, addressing Anne-Marie Trevelyan, asks in the Commons: “In the light that the secretary of state has not denied her department’s leaked document, which is saying it is prioritising economic growth over climate protection, how will she make representations at Cop26 when we hear we’re way off target for 1.5C and placing the climate emergency at the top of her priorities as opposed to something she really doesn’t believe in?”
Ms Trevelyan, in her reply, says somewhat vaguely: “As I said earlier, economic growth and tackling climate challenges go hand-in-hand.”
She added the UK is “leading the way” in finding solutions.
Trevelyan wraps up questions
10:46 , Sam Hancock
The trade debate has now wrapped up, with the Commons turning to an urgent question on Covid from shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.
NZ’s Maori haka dance protected under UK trade deal
10:57 , Sam Hancock
Britain’s new trade deal with New Zealand includes a commitment to protect the Maori cultural tradition of the ceremonial haka dance.
During a Zoom call on Wednesday evening, Boris Johnson and his counterpart Jacinda Ardern agreed to terms on a deal aimed at boosting trade and relations between their two countries.
Both leaders committed to promoting Maori participation in trade, addressing Maori concerns and identifying “appropriate ways to advance recognition and protection of the haka Ka Mate”.
Haka means “dance” in the language of New Zealand’s Maori people and involves a group performing synchronised movements, with lots of stomping, shouting, and eye-rolling, reports Matt Mathers.
First images: PM attends Northern Ireland centenary church service
11:06 , Sam Hancock
Northern Irish journalists have begun posting images online of Boris Johnson as he arrived at Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh for a cross-community service to mark the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland.
Politicians from both sides of the border are also at the Service of Reflection and Hope, which has been organised by church leaders. The president of Ireland Michael D Higgins declined his invitation.
The Queen had been set to attend but Buckingham Palace announced yesterday she would miss the trop due to ill health.
Around 150 people are attending the service, including a number of schoolchildren.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Church leaders ahead of the service of reflection and hope. pic.twitter.com/pExL73dzkT
— Michael Kelly ن (@MichaelKellyIC) October 21, 2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for the Armagh event, spending some time speaking to local school kids pic.twitter.com/IHxGqbt8lx
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) October 21, 2021
There’s British PM Boris Johnson on his way in. He asked a school teacher with the students: “What’s the biggest challenge?”
We didn’t hear the answer. pic.twitter.com/4SRBd0AoGH
— Alison O'Connor (@alisonoconn) October 21, 2021
Footage of PM arriving in Northern Ireland
11:27 , Sam Hancock
Following my last post, here’s some footage of the PM arriving at the church service in Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has arrived at a church service in Armagh to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland's formation.
The Queen was unable to attend following advice from her doctors.@skydavidblevins has the latest.https://t.co/7D77OjYVxY pic.twitter.com/sYupoF2eJQ
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 21, 2021
Watch: Anti-vaxxers ‘serve’ Colchester hospital
11:39 , Sam Hancock
Gay rights charity accused of ‘excluding trans people’ in gender row
11:52 , Sam Hancock
Demonstrators have accused a gay rights charity, which is calling for “rational debate” in the face of a campaign to replace sex with gender, of “excluding the trans community” from the conversation.
It comes as the LGB Alliance held its first annual conference on Thursday, at which the charity said the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people are “under threat”. SNP MP Joanna Cherry, Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price and Labour MP Rosie Duffield were all due to attend.
Ahead of the conference, LGB Alliance co-founder Kate Harris said:
“LGB rights are once again under threat, in particular from the campaign to replace sex with gender. If we cannot define our own sexuality, it is impossible for LGB people to talk about our rights.
“There is so much acrimony in this debate but LGB Alliance firmly believes that rational debate is the only way forward. We can’t solve these complicated and important issues on social media or by simply pretending that conflicts of rights do not exist.
“Our message is simple: we need to talk. And that’s what we’re doing. We have assembled the biggest gathering of experts in this debate and we look forward to a lively and invigorating conference.”
But three protestors gathered outside the centre, holding placards saying “Trans rights are human rights”.
Kel Finan-Cooke, of the group Pride in Surrey, accused the alliance of being “an exclusionary organisation” and said the conference had been organised “to exclude the trans community”.
— Pride in Surrey (@PrideInSurrey) October 21, 2021
Sunak and Patel among MPs attending Brokenshire funeral
12:06 , Sam Hancock
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and home secretary Priti Patel were among those pictured arriving at James Brokenshire’s funeral on Thursday, where family members and a number of MPs will pay their respects to the former minister.
Brokenshire died, aged 53, on 7 October after suffering from lung cancer.
Church leaders express sadness Queen absent from Northern Ireland service
12:33 , Jane Dalton
Church leaders at the service to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland’s formation expressed sadness after learning the Queen would not be attending.
Boris Johnson and Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney were among politicians there, as were secretary of state Brandon Lewis and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
About 150 people were at the service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. Sinn Fein did not send a representative.
The Queen, unable to travel on doctors’ advice, was represented by the Lord-Lieutenant of Co Armagh, Lord Caledon.
The service became the centre of a row last month after the president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, declined an invitation to attend because he believed it was not politically neutral.
It was organised by the four main churches to mark the formation of Northern Ireland and the partition of Ireland in 1921.
Man filmed confronting Michael Gove is ex-Tory councillor who says ‘all men carry knives’
12:44 , Jane Dalton
A man who was among a mob confronting Michael Gove has been filmed apparently boasting about his right to carry arms, saying the “government should fear their people”.
William Coleshill, the co-editor-in-chief for anti-lockdown YouTube channel Resistance GB, recorded himself chasing the minister down Horseferry Road in Westminster. Holly Bancroft reports:
Minister fails to rule out trade deals with rainforest-destroying nations
12:59 , Jane Dalton
Britain has failed to rule out making trade deals with countries that destroy their rainforests, amid concerns it is prioritising economic growth over climate protection.
Labour pressed international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan to make the commitment after highlighting the actions of Brazil and Malaysia.
Ms Trevelyan argued that economic growth and tackling climate challenges go “hand in hand”, stopping short of responding directly to Labour’s request.
In the Commons, shadow trade minister Bill Esterson said a leaked document “suggests economic growth is a higher priority to this Government than climate protection in trade negotiations”.
He added: “She can now confirm the Government’s priority once and for all by making a definitive statement about whether the Government and her department will rule out trade deals with countries like Brazil and Malaysia as long as they continue to destroy their rainforests. Will she make that commitment today?”
Ms Trevelyan replied: “Economic growth and the UK’s world-leading commitment to the climate challenges that the planet faces are not mutually exclusive, they go hand in hand together. But the environment and climate change will continue to be a key priority for the UK.”
Rees-Mogg declines debate on injections spiking of women and girls
13:08 , Jane Dalton
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has swerved a request for a debate on the safety of women and young girls after reports emerged of spiking done with injections.
Conservative MP Robbie Moore (Keighley) asaid: “Like many across this House, I’m deeply concerned about the reports in recent days of spiking by injection. This is a completely horrendous act and we’ve heard harrowing stories from dozens of young girls across the country.
“I’m pleased that the Home Secretary has requested an urgent update from the police but can we have a debate in Government time on this, to discuss these crimes and ensure that we tackle these perpetrators without delay?”
Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “This is really a very concerning matter and it does come in really to the whole approach that needs to be taken to tackle violence against women and girls, and the Government does have a strategy on this.
“There is some extra money, £5bn, for the safety of women at night fund, in addition to the £25m safer streets fund.
“There are also increases in penalties for stalking and harassment that have taken place, the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Domestic Abuse Act has been passed, but this is all about ensuring that our society is one that is safe for women and girls, and taking the legislative and policy steps that are necessary to make it a safer place.”
Suspect charged with murder of Sir David Amess
13:14 , Sam Hancock
Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has been charged with murdering Conservative MP Sir David Amess and preparing acts of terrorism. He will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today.
Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said:
“We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations.
“He has also been charged with the preparation of terrorist acts. This follows a review of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police in its investigation.
“The CPS reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Ali are active and that he has the right to a fair trial.”
Our security correspondent Lizzie Dearden reports:
Met hails charging Amess suspect as ‘milestone’ in high profile case
13:36 , Sam Hancock
Following my last post, the Met’s assistant commissioner Matt Jukes has released a statement to say the charge against Ali Harbi Ali marks a “significant milestone”.
He added his colleagues in the Counter Terrorism Command “will continue apace” to ascertain “the background, history and motivation of the man now charged”.
Speaking outside New Scotland Yard, he said:
“I understand the huge level of public interest in this case, but now a charge has been brought it is vitally important that everyone exercises restraint when commenting on it publicly, to ensure future court proceedings are not prejudiced in any way.
“If there are members of the public who have further information that might help the investigation, I would urge them to come forward.
“Every piece of information in investigations like these is important and you will not be wasting our time.”
Mr Jukes also confirmed security arrangements at Parliament remained under review.
“Police forces across the country have been working with individual MPs to review their specific arrangements.
“It’s important for me to stress counter-terrorism officers across the UK, and the security service and other partners are working night and day to bear down on the threat from terrorism.
It comes after a Labour MP accused “some local police forces” of not doing enough, though. Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who represents Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said her own area’s police chief had “been great”. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier, she said she knew of other MPs who had been sent “nothing more than a text message” to offer extra security.
Clip of Met police announcing Amess suspect charge
13:39 , Sam Hancock
Sky News has the following footage:
'Sir David's dedication to his family, constituents and community have been abundantly clear since his death.'
Matt Jukes from the Met Police has offered his "deepest condolences" to the family and friends of Sir David Amess who was killed last Friday.https://t.co/W43NhKu7Wb pic.twitter.com/z0O0eAzebN
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 21, 2021
Watch: No masks in Commons because Tories ‘know each other’, says Rees-Mogg
13:48 , Sam Hancock
NZ trade deal ‘to undercut British farmers with lower animal welfare standards’
13:54 , Sam Hancock
The government’s new trade deal will allow New Zealand farmers to undercut British farmers by shipping in meat produced to lower welfare standards, Labour has said.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday morning, shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry argued that “any other government” would have kept quotas in place to stop domestic farmers being undercut.
But, she said, the UK’s rush to liberalise would damage its own farming industry, with the nation’s own government forecast predicting a trade deal with New Zealand could slightly reduce the size of the UK economy due to gains from cheaper imports being offset by damage to domestic farming communities, reports our policy correspondent Jon Stone.
“According to the government’s own forecast, this deal will lead to reductions in growth and jobs in the UK farming sector because, as the scoping paper says, and I quote, ‘New Zealand’s producers may be able to supply UK retailers at lower cost relative to domestic producers’,” Ms Thornberry told the Commons.
Trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan replied the Tories would “never compromise food standards for food coming into the UK”.
British farmers ‘not so sure what opportunity’ UK-NZ deal offers them
14:26 , Sam Hancock
Let’s get some expert commentary on fallout from the UK-NZ deal now.
Mark Tufnell, deputy president of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA), said:
“Instinctively, we support free trade but by definition there has to be something in it for both sides. We see the opportunity for New Zealand farmers in this deal, but aren’t so sure what the opportunity is for those of us in the UK.
“Over time, New Zealand will be able to sell even larger quantities of meat and dairy produce into the UK, often produced much more cheaply than we can do ourselves. This risks undercutting UK farmers and putting a question mark over the viability of their businesses.
“Government is leaving the industry in the dark about what this deal really means for agriculture, setting a worrying precedent for other Free Trade Agreements we may strike with other major food exporters – many of which have far lower animal welfare and environmental standards than we do. Government promised that suitable checks and balances would be put in place to ensure we would not be undercut in this way. So far they have failed to materialise.
“We now need a serious conversation with government, particularly about the formation of the Trade and Agriculture Commission and a response to its predecessor’s report. If ministers expect us to compete on the global stage, they need to help us to do so and we need further support from trade envoys alongside better labelling. ”
No masks in Commons because Tories ‘know each other’, says Rees-Mogg
14:35 , Sam Hancock
Following my earlier post (1.48pm), here’s a bit more detail on what was said in the House of Commons earlier.
Tory MPs will continue to refuse masks in the chamber because they “know each other,” a defiant Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.
It came just hours after Sajid Javid, the health secretary, bowed to pressure for Conservative MPs to change their much-criticised stance – as he warned of tougher Covid restrictions if the public’s behaviour does not change.
But that didn’t stop Mr Rees-Mogg from telling MPs: “The advice on crowded spaces is crowded spaces with people that you don’t know – we on this side know each other.” The Commons leader suggested MPs from other parties did not like “mixing”, adding: “We one this side have a more convivial, fraternal spirit – and are therefore following the guidance of Her Majesty’s Government.”
Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports:
Ministers ‘confident’ there will be turkeys for Christmas
14:41 , Sam Hancock
Following a decision to issue 800 temporary visas for foreign butchers, the government has said it is confident there will be enough food available in the UK at Christmas.
As well as butchers, 5,500 visas poultry workers were also invited to come to the UK in the light of labour shortages.
Questioned by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, senior civil servants from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) sought to reassure politicians that the supply chain had stabilised.
David Kennedy, director-general for food, farming and biodiversity at Defra, said uptake of the poultry worker visas had been “pretty good” while his department was “feeling very positive” that all 800 butchers’ visas would be used.
He told MPs:
“I think we’re confident, and if you listened last week to the chief executive of Bernard Matthews he was saying there is enough capacity now in terms of turkeys for Christmas.
“More generally I think there is an HGV issue which is affecting the whole of the food system. We monitor that closely.
“The current supply situation is reasonably stable. It’s not at the ideal level but it’s not in a bad place at all.”
He added that the first poultry workers were expected to arrive in the UK at the beginning of November, with the pig butchers arriving two weeks later. However, Mr Kennedy said the problems in the pig industry would take six months to sort out.
Watch: Here’s a first look at former President Trump’s new app called ‘Truth’
14:50 , Sam Hancock
In images: James Brokenshire’s funeral
15:00 , Sam Hancock
PM hopes Amess family ‘get justice they deserve’
15:10 , Sam Hancock
Boris Johnson has said he hopes Sir David Amess’ loved ones “get the justice they deserve as fast as possible” after a 25-year-old man was charged with the Tory MP’s murder.
Speaking at Crumlin Integrated primary school in Northern Ireland, the PM told reporters:
“First thing to say about the charging of that individual is that I hope the family of David Amess and all those who love him will get the justice they deserve as fast as possible.
“Other than that I can’t really comment on the case.
“What I can say is the threat to MPs as the home secretary said yesterday has been elevated a little bit to substantial, but that is in line with the general threat, the terrorist threat level, in the country.”
Mr Johnson said the British public “must not be intimidated by this appalling murder” and allow it to change “the way we conduct our parliamentary business or the way we work in our constituencies”, adding:
“Which I think is the last thing that David Amess would’ve wanted.”
Johnson blames people not getting booster jabs for slow rollout
15:19 , Sam Hancock
Boris Johnson has blamed a failure of people to come forward for booster jabs for the slow rollout of the programme, calling it “a demand issue”.
The NHS and the department of health are both in the firing line for the low number of vaccinations – with Labour claiming two million eligible people have yet to receive an invitation.
But the prime minister insisted there is adequate supply, saying: “It’s a demand issue. We really urge people to come and do it.” He acknowledged case rates are “high” and are rising, after almost 50,000 new infections are recorded each day across the UK – but said his government will be “sticking with our [current] plan”.
Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has the full report:
NI Protocol issues must be ‘flushed out pretty fast,’ PM says
15:28 , Sam Hancock
Some more commentary from Boris Johnson now, as the PM continued to speak to reporters at a centenary event in Northern Ireland.
Asked about ongoing post-Brexit furore, Mr Johnson said problems with the much-discussed Northern Ireland Protocol need to be flushed out “pretty fast”.
He told reporters:
“We can’t go on forever with this question because it is affecting real people and real lives and real businesses right now because of the way in which the Protocol is being interpreted.
“I don’t think that it is coherent with the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement because the way it is being used is creating these unnecessary checks down the Irish Sea.
“So we need to flush it out pretty fast and we need to change the causes of the problem and not the symptoms and I think we need to move pretty fast.”
Britain ‘close to firebreak lockdown,’ says Tory backbencher Roger Gale
15:38 , Sam Hancock
— talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) October 21, 2021
Watch: Arden and Johnson announce post-Brexit trade deal
15:38 , Sam Hancock
MPs reject demand for air pollution limits after 13-year-old’s death
15:49 , Sam Hancock
MPs have rejected tougher air pollution limits which would have brought the UK in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance by 2030 and cut exposure to harmful airborne toxins.
The proposal, set out in an amendment to the government’s Environment Bill by peers in the House of Lords, followed the tragic case of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who last year became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as their cause of death, reports our environment correspondent Harry Cockburn.
It would have set a new legal limit for small particulate matter (PM2.5), which is largely generated by diesel engines and woodburning stoves, but MPs voted 307 to 185 to disagree with the amendment and remove the proposal from the Bill.
Instead, the government said a public consultation will take place next year with an aim to introduce new legislation by October to tackle the problem – dashing hopes of having it through in time for Cop26.
PM accused of U-turn on Christmas pledge for Online Safety Bill
15:55 , Sam Hancock
Boris Johnson is facing claims of backtracking on his pledge for new internet safety laws to be pushed through by ministers before Christmas.
He had said the Online Safety Bill would be considered at second reading - the first time it is debated and voted upon - in the House of Commons ahead of the holidays.
But MPs heard a parliamentary committee examining the proposed legislation is not expected to report back until December, with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg failing to guarantee second reading would take place pre-Christmas.
For Labour, shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said: “The prime minister appeared to confirm first that the Online Safety Bill would have completed all stages by Christmas, then it was just going to be second reading, and now it seems No 10 have rowed back even further to a vague commitment that the Bill will be presented at some point during this session. That’s not even before Christmas.
“Could the Leader of the House please help us out here, what is the timetabling for this Bill because the prime minister doesn’t seem to know.” Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “The Online Safety Bill will complete its draft scrutiny in December.”
Labour MP Chi Onwurah then spoke to say: “Can we have a debate on planning and the prime minister so that he will not again announce the date of a critical piece of legislation - the Online Safety Bill - then U-turn on that date within a couple of hours?”
The legislation is expected to force the biggest technology firms, such as Facebook and Google, to abide by a duty of care to users, overseen by Ofcom as the new regulator for the sector. Mr Johnson also insisted it will impose “criminal sanctions with tough sentences” on those responsible for allowing “foul content” on their platforms.
That’s it for today...
16:09 , Sam Hancock
That’s it from us on the politics blog for today, thanks for following along. Be sure to check The Independent‘s homepage for all the latest politics news.
In the meantime, if you want to keep up-to-date on the pandemic, head over to our Covid blog.
We’ll be back tomorrow morning with all the latest developments from Westminster.