London politics latest LIVE: Stephen Hammond joins Tory MPs demanding Boris Johnson quits after Sue Gray report

London politics latest LIVE: Stephen Hammond joins Tory MPs demanding Boris Johnson quits after Sue Gray report
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Three Tory MPs called for Boris Johnson to quit on Thursday as pressure grows on the prime minister following the publication of the damning Sue Gray partygate report.

John Baron, Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay said in the morning he could no longer give the the prime minister “the benefit of the doubt”.

He said: “The most serious charge against the prime minister is that of knowingly misleading parliament. Given the scale of rule-breaking in No 10, I can not accept that the prime minister was unaware.”

His comments were soon followed by David Simmonds MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, who called on Mr Johnson to step down “so that new leadership can take forward the important work of the Government in ensuring that our people and country prosper”.

Later on Thursday, Stephen Hammond MP for Wimbledon, Raynes Park, Morden and Motspur Park, submitted a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady.

Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, became the first to call for the prime minister’s resignation on Wednesday following the release of Ms Gray’s report.

It came as Rishi Sunak announced a windfall tax on energy companies and £15billion of extra support for households in a statement in the Commons on the cost of living crisis.

The Chancellor said the government would provide “significant support for the British people”, with inflation rocketing and energy bills set to rise by another £800 in the autumn for millions.

The energy bill discount will be doubled to £400 in the autumn and will be in the form of a grant, rather than a rebate due to the 25 per cent tax on energy firms.

Inflation-busting pensions and benefits by next year, says Rishi Sunak

20:19 , Anthony France

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said benefits and pensions are likely to rise “significantly higher” than inflation next year.Asked by Money Saving Expert website founder Martin Lewis whether he might have to provide further support next year on the cost of living, Mr Sunak said: “I think people can judge me by my actions during the time I’ve had this job.“I’ve always been responsive to the situation that the country is going through, I’ve always had to act to support people where we can, make sure we help the most vulnerable and do that in a way that is responsible and ensures our country and economy is strong in the long term - and I will continue to act in that way.

“None of us know what energy prices are going to be next year but what I can tell you now and what people should be reassured by is that the way our system works, benefits and pensions next year are likely, subject to a review that has to happen legally, to go up by quite a significant amount because the inflation rate that decides that is set in September.“That is likely to be a relatively high inflation rate in September, so that is what will happen next year for everyone’s benefits and pensions, and that increase is most likely to be significantly higher than the inflation we will see next year on all the forecasts that are currently available.“So that should give people an enormous sense of reassurance that we are providing the help today to help them get through to that point and that actually next year there is going to be an enormous easing as all their incomes go up considerably compared to what the increase in prices is.”

Rishi Sunak tells Martin Lewis cost-of-living aid isn’t partygate "fig leaf”

19:37 , Anthony France

Rishi Sunak denied that his cost-of-living support package had been timed to act as a “fig leaf” for the Government following the publication of the Sue Gray report on Wednesday into No 10 lockdown parties.The Chancellor, speaking to Money Saving Expert website founder Martin Lewis, said: “I can categorically assure you that that had no bearing on the timing for us announcing this support, and I can give you my absolute assurance on that and my word.“The reason we acted today was because we had more certainty about what will happen to energy prices in the autumn.

“I don’t know whether it was you Martin or you were quoting someone but it is not right to say we refused to say we would be providing more help.“I actually said precisely the opposite. I said in the spring, I said in February that of course we would look to provide more support if necessary and that we would do that when we had a better sense of what would happen to energy prices.“That’s the single biggest thing driving the increase in the cost of living and no-one in February could tell me with any certainty what was going to happen with the price cap in October, so I didn’t want to say something that would prove to be wrong.“I wanted to wait for enough time so I had a sense of the scale of the problem and then we could size our support appropriately, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Treasury Minister admits Sunak’s levy is a windfall tax

18:07 , Barney Davis

A Treasury minister admitted the levy announced by the Chancellor on oil and gas companies amounted to a windfall tax, with Rishi Sunak avoiding calling it that during his Commons appearance.

Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “It is a windfall tax but it is crucially a windfall tax with an investment allowance element built into it so that it does indeed incentivise the investment that we want to see in new North Sea oil and gas production.

“I think that is something which is a carefully calibrated offer.”

Asked about Conservative criticisms of the new tax, Mr Clarke said: “There is a long history of these kind of measures, even in relatively recent times.

“George Osborne initiated a windfall tax in 2011, Margaret Thatcher put one in place in 1981 and Labour I think did one in 1997 as well.

“The point is that when you initiate it you need to be really careful for it not to have perverse effects and perverse consequences as a result, and that is something we have done.”

Jamie Davies PM’s deputy official spokesman apologises for lying to journalists over No 10 parties

17:08 , Barney Davis

The Prime Minister’s deputy official spokesman has issued an apology for failing to tell journalists the truth over rule-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Jamie Davies was also asked if he would apologise to former No 10 official Allegra Stratton after she quit Government over a leaked recording of a mock press conference.

Mr Davies could be heard joking that one event “wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”.

He told reporters: “I don’t think it would be right for me to use this platform to talk about myself, we’re obviously here to speak on behalf of the Prime Minister, but we apologised this morning and I’ve echoed that apology.”

Asked how they can be trusted, Mr Davies said: “We’ve always tried to answer questions to the best of my ability, as we’ve said we accept we should have taken the time to establish the full facts right at the very beginning, that’s what Sue Gray has now done, and I echo the apology you heard this morning.”

He declined to say whether any member of the Downing Street press room had been disciplined over the scandal.

Rishi Sunak said he respects Met decision to hit him with party fine

17:06 , Barney Davis

The Chancellor said he respected the Metropolitan Police’s decision to fine him for breaking lockdown rules by attending Boris Johnson’s surprise Downing Street birthday bash in June 2020.

Asked by broadcasters during a visit to B&Q in Watford whether he felt unfairly treated given Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was not fined for attending the same event, Rishi Sunak said: “I respect the police, who have concluded their investigation.

“I paid the fine and I’m deeply sorry and sincerely sorry for the hurt and the anger that that’s caused.

“And I’m doing my best to focus on the job that I have at a time that is challenging for the country.”

Government accused of using cost of living support package as ‘covering fire for Boris Johnson and his disgraceful role in partygate’

16:57 , Matt Watts

The Government has been accused of using Rishi Sunak’s cost-of-living package to distract and deflect from Sue Gray’s report on the “partygate” scandal.

Shadow deputy leader of the House of Lords, Lord Collins of Highbury, asked: “Why is action only being taken now?

“Many will see this as an attempt to spare the Prime Minister’s blushes after the publication of the Gray report, which we debated last night, rather than a sign that the Government is on their side.”

Baroness Kramer, Liberal Democrat Lords spokesperson on the economy, echoed this sentiment.

She said: “Announcements by the Chancellor today including the U-turns on windfall tax and on increasing benefits – it’s basically covering fire for Boris Johnson and his disgraceful role in partygate.

“The timing gives it away; people have been suffering from a cost-of-living crunch through much of this winter, making an appalling personal decision on eating and heating and they have needed that help.”

MP submits letter of no confidence

16:15 , Bill Mcloughlin

Stephen Hammond MP for Wimbledon, Raynes Park, Morden and Motspur Park has submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.

The MP becomes the fourth to withdraw his support for the prime minister since the publication of the damning Sue Gray report.

Tory MP warns ‘raising taxes on businesses’ is not the Conservative way

16:10 , Bill Mcloughlin

Conservative MP Richard Drax told the Commons: "Can I warn (Rishi Sunak) that throwing red meat to socialists by raising taxes on businesses and telling them where to invest their money is not the Conservative way of encouraging those who create our prosperity and jobs to do just that.

"And does he agree with me that by setting this bar, we're in danger - were we ever to lose power - of allowing the socialists to raise it, which they would do with relish, again and again and again."

The Chancellor replied: "I do believe a pragmatic and compassionate Conservative Government would act to provide support to the most vulnerable at a time of acute need, and a fiscally responsible government would look to try to fund as much of that as possible in as fair a way as possible."

US/UK trade deal ‘very desirable’ says official

16:03 , Bill Mcloughlin

A trade deal with the UK remains “very desirable” but could be risked over threat to the Northern Ireland protocol, Richard Neal has said.

Speaking in Northern Ireland on Thursday, the US offcial said: “It the threat to the trade deal is a consequence of the perceived unilateral action that the UK suggested that they might use.

“I don’t think that’s been well met anywhere. Again, unilateralism generally means that you have a winner and a loser where you would much prefer a negotiated outcome where you only have winners.”

Acting Met commissioner responds to Sadiq Khan

15:29 , Bill Mcloughlin

The acting commissioner of the Met Police, Sir Stephen House has responded to Sadiq Khan after the mayor called for the official to explain the force’s investigation into Cvoid breaches.

Met boss defends not fining PM for attending leaving party

14:55 , Bill Mcloughlin

Acting Commissioner of the Met Police, Sir Stephen House has defended not fining the prime minister for attending a leaving drinks for then director of communications, Lee Cain.

Commenting on Operation Hillman, Sir Stephen said the investigation was done with “integrity”.

“The explanations that were given in the questionnaire were all considered carefully,” he said.

“Some gatherings we decided were not work related, and some we decided were work related.”

Sir Stephen then concluded: “We also included consideration of the nature of the gathering, the different phases of the gathering, and the amount of time spent there, as I said by any participant and critically, cross referenced the evidence to identify whether the individual, on a full consideration of all the facts that we had, including their own account, did or did not have a reasonable excuse for his or her participation in the gathering.

"If the case were taken to court, in other words, if we issued a fixed penalty notice and it was refused and somebody said no, I want to go to court, then we had the evidence that we thought would give us a realistic prospect of a conviction

"I believe that the decisions that my officers made were based on the facts and were proper."

Downing Street bans infamous ‘wine time Fridays’

14:39 , Bill Mcloughlin

The infamous Downing Street “wine time Fridays” have have been banned after Sue Gray’s partygate report revealed government staff “drank excessively” at the events.

Staff in the No10 press office helped themselves to bottles of wine in their office on the last day of the week.

The “WTF” gatherings took place before and during the pandemic.

One lockdown gathering in the office led to red wine being spilled on a wall and over copier paper, while another saw someone be sick and a fight broke out.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the events had “in effect” now been banned “because alcohol consumption for staff is not permitted” any more on the estate outside of formal events, such as those held for visiting dignitaries.

Read our story here.

Sadiq Khan gives statement on cost of living crisis

14:19 , Bill Mcloughlin

Following the Chancellor’s cost of living announcement, Sadiq Khan said he welcomes the U-turn on a one off tax on energy company profits.

He said: “I welcome the Government’s U-turn on introducing a windfall levy on energy companies, something I have been calling for repeatedly.

“It’s vital that the money raised from this urgently funds new support for those struggling the most with the cost of living crisis.

“It’s right that the Government is finally taking some steps to address the spiralling cost of living, which is having a devastating impact on the lives of many Londoners, particularly the poorest households.

“But today is a missed opportunity as the measures simply do not go far enough.

“If the Government is truly serious about tackling the cost of living crisis, it must immediately give me the powers to freeze private rents in London, reverse the damaging cuts to Universal Credit and increase this vital benefit in line with inflation.”

Senior MP ‘sorry for any minister’ doing news rounds

14:12 , Bill Mcloughlin

Tobias Ellwood has said he feels “very sorry for any minister" who is on duty for the daily news rounds and has to "defend all this".

He went on to add that the prime minister has been supported due to his ability as a campaigner, and “won us the general election”.

“But these were the previous battles,” Mr Ellwood added, and now “we’ve got different battles ahead of us”.

Backbench Tory accuses Sunak of ‘throwing red meat to socialists’

13:43 , Josh Salisbury

One of the few Tory voices of criticism to the announcement in the Commons comes from South Dorset MP, Richard Drax.

He accused Mr Sunak of “throwing red meat to socialists”.

He said: “Can I warn [him], by throwing red meat to socialists, by raising taxes on business and by telling them where to invest, is not the Conservative way of encouraging those who create our prosperity and jobs to do just that.

He asked the Chancellor if he agreed that Labour would raise taxes further should they win power.

In response, Mr Sunak said: “I do believe that a pragmatic and compassionate Conservative government would act to support the most vulnerable at a time of acute need”.

Sadiq Khan: Govt cost-of-living package ‘another missed opportunity'

13:24 , Josh Salisbury

Reacting to Rishi Sunak’s announcement, Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: "After months of dither and delay, the Tory Government have finally u-turned on introducing a windfall tax on oil & gas profits.

"But today was another missed opportunity to prove the Tories are truly serious about tackling this cost of living crisis.

"From reversing Universal Credit cuts to giving me powers to freeze private rents - there is so much more they could do.

"Whilst the Government remain out of touch, and out of ideas, people across our city and country remain out of pocket."

SNP statement on cost of living statement

13:17 , Bill Mcloughlin

Speaking in the Commons, Kirsty Blackman, SNP spokesman said: “Its quite amusing to hear the chancellor talk about this being timely.

“It just happens to have happened the same week as the Sue Gray report, it just happens that that report came out yesterday and the chancellor has suddenly realised today that people are struggling.

“That he’s suddenly realised he needs to announce something about it.”

No10 spokesman apologises for Sue Gray comments

13:03 , Bill Mcloughlin

After telling journalists that no parties had taken place in Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s spokesman offered an apology when asked.

He said: “The prime minister has said and I have said on a number of occasions that there were failings, both in terms of what happened and in terms of how it was handled.

“The prime minister has apologised for that, and obviously I’m happy to apologise for that as well.”

Pressed on the matter, the spokesman added: “I’ve apologised for how subsequent events were handled. Beyond that, obviously, I will continue to set out and answer your questions.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to use my position here to set out my own circumstances when others are unable to do so.”

Asked if he had attended any of the events listed by Sue Gray, the spokesman said: “I understand the interest but I’m here to answer questions on behalf of the prime minister. I’m not here to talk about myself as an individual so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment.”

Eight million to benefit from additional £1,200

12:57 , Bill Mcloughlin

Overall, eight million most vulnerable households will receive at least £1,200 of extra support this year, the Government has claimed.

The Government has announced a further £500million for the Household Support Fund, extending it from October until March 2023.

Energy profit ‘quite generous’ says Institute for Fiscal Studies

12:54 , Bill Mcloughlin

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said the 25% energy profits levy “is an increase in the tax on North Sea profits”.

“It is a reasonable tax system but should be clear how rate will change with profits/oil price,” he said.

Mr Johnson added that the £650 payment to low income households is “well-targeted and quite generous”.

“Especially generous to those on smaller levels of benefits. Less generous to those with high benefits at the moment,” he added.

“Flat-rate payment to those on means-tested benefits probably best way of supporting them.

“But there will be a big cliff edge - those who are only just not eligible, or who are not taking up benefits, will be a lot worse off than those currently receiving small amounts.”

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said the 25% energy profits levy “is an increase in the tax on North Sea profits”.

‘This is a discredited and chaotic Government’, says Labour

12:52 , Bill Mcloughlin

Continuing, Ms Reeves says: “After today’s announcement let there be no doubt about who is winning the battle of ideas in Britain – it is the Labour Party.

“Today it feels like the chancellor has finally realised the problems that the country is facing. We first called for a windfall tax on oil and gas producers nearly five months ago to help struggling families and pensioners.

“It was Labour that first highlighted the unfairness of this government’s buy now, pay later compulsory loan scheme.

“This is just the mark of this Klarna chancellor – announce now, ditch later.”

Concluding, Ms Reeves said when it comes to the big issues leading the country“we lead and they follow”, while labelling the Government as “chaotic”.

In response, the Chancellor said the levy has a “very generous allowance” and is now the “blunt instrument the Labour party asked for”.

He adds being able to change course on the windfall tax is not a “weakness but a strength”.

Labour would have solved weaknesses of our economy, says Rachel Reeves

12:48 , Bill Mcloughlin

Continuing her speech, Ms Reeves said Labour would have solved the issues of the economy and said the Government has not created a “real plan” to solve the cost of living crisis.

She adds that Labour’s own energy plan will go towards reaching net-zero.

She asks why the Government got rid of the UK’s gas storage capacity.

Rishi Sunak: Our plan is creating more jobs and seizing the benefits of Brexit

12:45 , Bill Mcloughlin

Concluding his speech, he said the Government has a plan to aid millions across the country.

He said the Government is “creating more jobs” and seizing the opportunity of Brexit.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves now responds to the speech, highlighting Labour’s calls for a windfall tax.

Energy bill rebate doubled to £400

12:41 , Bill Mcloughlin

The previously annnounced energy bill rebate, will now be doubled to £400 while households will not have to repay the money.

Overall, the new measures will cost the Government £15billion, the Chancellor said. Combined with the previous measures, the overall cost will be £37billion.

Chancellor announces one off £300 pensioner payment

12:37 , Bill Mcloughlin

Commenting on pensioners, Mr Sunak said many who areelegible for benefits, do not claim the money.

To aid pensioners, he has announced a one off payment of £300. He has also announced a one off disability payment of £100.

Chancellor announces £650 for eight million households

12:35 , Bill Mcloughlin

He said the levy will raise £5billion in revenue over the next year.

In order to help with the cost of living, Mr Sunak has announced eight million households will get a payment of £650.

The fee will be paid in two sums, first in July and then the second in the autumn.

Rishi Sunak announces energy profits levy

12:31 , Bill Mcloughlin

The Chancellor has announced a new energy profits levy which will have an investment allowance built in.

Energy companies will be issued a temporary 25 per cent tax on profits.

Mr Sunak said: “Like previous governments, including Conservative ones, we will introduce a temporary targeted energy profits levy, but we have built into the new levy... a new investment allowance similar to the super-deduction that means companies will have a new and significant incentive to reinvest their profits.

“The new levy will be charged on profits of oil and gas companies at a rate of 25%.

“It will be temporary and when oil and gas prices return to historically more normal levels the levy will be phased out.”

Within the levy, the Chancellor said “investment allowance” woulkd work to sustain reinvestment in the UK.

‘We will combat inflation’, says Rishi Sunak

12:28 , Bill Mcloughlin

Announcing his support package, Mr Sunak said the Government said it is looking at the fairest way to combat surging energy prices.

For that reason, Mr Sunak said he has taken to fairly tax profits.

Rishi Sunak makes statement on cost of living crisis

12:25 , Bill Mcloughlin

Speaking in the Commons, the Chancelllor said the Government has been forced to act to make sure the vulnerable “have the support they need”.

In his statement ahead of the announbcemet on the cost of living package, Mr Sunak said be targeted and “timely”.

He said: “This Government will not sit idly by while there is a risk in this country that some could be set so far back they will never recover.

“I want to reassure everyone - we will get through this.

“We will make sure the most vulnerable and least well off get the support they need.”

Martin Lewis: what I asked the Chancellor to do to help Britons

12:03 , Bill Mcloughlin

Sir Ed Davey comments on partygate report

12:00 , Bill Mcloughlin

Lib Dem leader, Sir Ed Davey has claimed it is “shocking” that Conservative MPs have not taken action against the prime minister following the release of Sue Gray’s report.

Labour: Chancellor dragged into windfall tax

11:55 , Bill Mcloughlin

Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor said the Rishi Sunak has been “dragged kicking and screaming” into a U-turn on the measure.

She said: “Good it seems the Chancellor is finally being dragged kicking & screaming to a U turn, and four months late adopting Labour’s call for a windfall tax on oil & gas producer profits.

“Why has it taken so long? Why have families had to struggle and worry while he dragged his feet?”

Sunak to announce ‘very big’ intervention

11:11 , Bill Mcloughlin

Although it is unclear how much the Chancellor’s new support package will cost, The Times’ Steven Swinford claims it may exceed £10billion.

Windfall tax ‘will bring about job losses', says energy industry

10:48 , Bill Mcloughlin

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK, said the news of a windfall tax on firms will “undermine our supply chain”.

The group, which is the leading representative body for the offshore gas and oil industry, said history has shown a windfall tax “doesn’t work”.

Ms Michie said: “That will directly impact manufacturing in this country. It will undermine our supply chain and it will bring about job losses.”

She said: “At a time when the country needs to really focus on its security of energy supply and the energy transition, we have been arguing for stability and predictability in terms of the fiscal regime that is working.

“It is generating significant returns for the Treasury that they can then use to address the consumer crisis, but at the same time, can give the kind of investor confidence that’s needed to keep investing in oil and gas and underpin the energy transition.”

Second MP says he has lost confidence in PM

10:13 , Bill Mcloughlin

David Simmonds, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner has withdrawn his support for the prime minister becoming the second to do so on Thursday.

A statement from the MP read: “I listened to what the Prime Minister had to say at Prime Ministers Questions, his statement and the 1922 Committee yesterday following the publication of the Sue Gray report.

“Having reflected on what he said, and the views of constituents and my Conservative Association, it is clear that while the government and our policies enjoy the confidence of the public the prime minister does not.

“Accordingly, it is time for him to step down so that new leadership can take forward the important work of the government in ensuring that our people and country prosper.”

Tory MP withdraws support for PM

09:57 , Bill Mcloughlin

John Baron, Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay has said he can no longer support Boris Johnson following the publication of Sue Gray’s report.

In a statement, he said: “The most serious charge against the prime minister is that of knowingly misleading parliament. Given the scale of rule-breaking in No 10, I can not accept that the prime minister was unaware.

“Therefore, his repeated assurances in parliament that there was no rule-breaking is simply not credible.”

He added: “Parliament is the beating heart of our nation. To knowingly mislead it can not be tolerated, no matter the issue.

“Whether or not the prime minister is an asset to the party or the country is of less importance.”

The MP concluded, saying he no longer supports the Prime Minister and that “I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt”.

John Baron (House of Commons/PA) (PA Archive)
John Baron (House of Commons/PA) (PA Archive)

‘We recognise there’s a significant challenge’, says Steve Barclay

09:36 , Bill Mcloughlin

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said he would not discuss details of the statement ahead of its announcement to the House of Commons.

He told BBC Breakfast: “What I can tell you is we have said we recognise there’s a significant challenge coming this autumn. We need to take targeted action to address that.

“If you look at the comments from people like Paul Johnson of the IFS this morning, I very much agree with him in terms of what he has set out on the need for us to take measures to affect those that are particularly hard-pressed.

“The detail of how we do that will obviously be first announced to the Commons.”

Steve Barclay has avoided confirming whether Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a windfall tax in his statement.

Rishi Sunak announcement a ‘distraction’ from Sue Gray report, says Labour

09:29 , Bill Mcloughlin

Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary suggested the new cost of living support package is being used to distract from the damning report into lockdown-breaking parties.

She told Sky News: “I strongly suspect there will be action today - it’s been breached into the papers - but also because, several times over the last few months, the prime minister has taken action when he’s been in real trouble in order to distract from the troubles in Government.”

Ms Nandy went on: “And what was striking yesterday is that the debate that was happening very publicly in the House of Commons amongst Conservative MPs and ministers, about what the prime minister has done, was very much about whether it was in the interest of the Conservative Party to junk him or not.

"Still the country was completely cut out of this conversation. The debate wasn't 'have we done the wrong thing? Is this in the interest of the country that we have a prime minister that cannot be trusted'?

“The debate was 'are we going to win the next election or not with this man in charge'?"