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Tata Steel: Port Talbot closure forces UK to rely on China for steel as MP raises ‘national security’ concerns

Tata’s decision to axe 3,000 jobs at its plant in South Wales will leave the UK reliant on foreign steel imports for years to come, as an MP warned the move raised “serious questions” about national security.

Stephen Kinnock, the shadow minister for immigration and Labour MP for Aberavon - home of the Port Talbot steelworks - said the move leaves the UK the only G20 country unable to make “its own steel from scratch”.

Earlier Tata confirmed plans to close blast furnaces at the plant, with the loss of more than 3,000 jobs. About 2,800 jobs will go over the next 18 months, with a further 300 to be lost after. The Indian-owned firm said the plans were aimed at “reversing more than a decade of losses”.

The move also sparked outrage among several unions.

A statement by the GMB and Community said: “It is an absolute disgrace that Tata Steel, and the UK government, appear intent on pursuing the cheapest instead of the best plan for our industry, our steelworkers and our country.”

Key Points

  • Tata Steel confirms decision to axe 3,000 jobs

  • ‘Dogs in the street’ know Rwanda plan won’t work, senior Tory says

  • Sunak braces for battle to get legislation through Lords

  • Rwanda Bill passes Commons

19:55 , Katy Clifton

We’re pausing our updates for the day, thanks for following along.

Rishi Sunak hints at pre-election tax cut to win votes

18:00 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak has said there is “more to come” in terms of tax cuts as he prepares a pre-election bid to win votes.

The prime minister is plotting a tax giveaway in his March Budget, which could be the last before voters head to the polls this autumn.

Archie Mitchell reports:

Rishi Sunak hints at pre-election tax cut to win votes

All Nicola Sturgeon’s pandemic WhatsApp messages deleted, Covid inquiry hears

17:00 , Matt Mathers

All Nicola Sturgeon’s pandemic WhatsApp messages have been deleted, the Covid inquiry has heard.

At a hearing in Edinburgh, the official investigation into the crisis was told that the former first minister of Scotland had “retained no messages whatsoever”.

Kate Devlin reports:

All Nicola Sturgeon’s pandemic WhatsApp messages deleted, Covid inquiry hears

Boris ally claims Sunak hit by ‘at least 29’ no-confidence letters from Tory MPs

16:30 , Matt Mathers

A leading Boris Johnson supporter has claimed that “at least” 29 Conservative MPs have submitted letters of no-confidence against Rishi Sunak.

Andrea Jenkyns MP – the Tory backbencher who has been a consistent critic of Mr Sunak – said more than two dozen colleagues had told her they have handed in letters.

Adam Forrest reports:

Boris Johnson ally claims Sunak hit by ‘at least 29’ no-confidence letters

Listen: Mother tells Sadiq Khan she ‘can’t afford to buy food’ because of Ulez fees

16:00 , Matt Mathers

Mother tells Sadiq Khan she ‘can’t afford to buy food’ because of Ulez fees

Sunak ‘determined’ to pass Rwanda Bill ahead of Lords showdown

15:45 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak has said he is “determined” to get his Rwanda legislation through Parliament, as ministers prepare for stiff resistance in the House of Lords to the flagship asylum policy.

Many peers have already expressed deep unease about the plan, with ministers braced for a battle with the Upper House over the Bill.

Dominic McGrath reports:

Sunak ‘determined’ to pass Rwanda Bill ahead of Lords showdown

Editing of witness statements used to prosecute subpostmasters is ‘shameful and appalling’, Fujitsu boss says

15:30 , Matt Mathers

Watch:

Fujitsu boss: Editing of witness statements to prosecute subpostmasters is ‘shameful’

Britain will be forced to rely on steel from India and China after Tata closures in Port Talbot

15:15 , Matt Mathers

The closure of two blast furnaces at Britain’s biggest steelworks will lead to thousands of job losses and leave the UK reliant on foreign steel imports for years to come.

In a fresh blow to Rishi Sunak, as the UK teeters on the brink of recession, Tata Steel said it is cutting 2,800 jobs at its plant in Port Talbot, south Wales. It came as the steel giant confirmed it is closing both blast furnaces at the site.

Archie Mitchell and Alex Ross report:

Britain will be forced to rely on steel from India and China after Tata closures

Watch: Sunak laughs off mother pleading with him to fix NHS waiting lists for her daughter

14:56 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak has been captured laughing as he was challenged in the street by a woman who expressed her anger over dire NHS waiting lists.

Cameras caught the awkward exchange as the PM was confronted by voters in Winchester town centre about the state of the health service.

Adam Forrest reports:

Rishi Sunak laughs as shopper challenges him over NHS waits in awkward exchange

Tata statement - in full

14:40 , Matt Mathers

In a statement, Tata said: “Tata Steel today announced it will commence statutory consultation as part of its plan to transform and restructure its UK business.

“This plan is intended to reverse more than a decade of losses and transition from the legacy blast furnaces to a more sustainable, green steel business.

“The transformation would secure most of Tata Steel UK’s existing product capability and maintain the country’s self-sufficiency in steelmaking, while also reducing Tata Steel UK’s CO2 emissions by five million tonnes per year and overall UK country emissions by about 1.5 per cent.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Unite ready to defend workers and steel industry

14:20 , Matt Mathers

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite is ready to use everything in its armoury to defend steel workers and our steel industry.

“We have detailed research demonstrating how and why Tata should be expanding UK steel production in line with growing demand, not slashing its workforce.

“We have secured funding from a future Labour government that could do this.

“Tata’s plan to close the blast furnaces is simply industrial vandalism on a grand scale.”

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham (PA Wire)
Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham (PA Wire)

Unions’ anger at Tata Steel decision to close furnaces at South Wales plant

14:00 , Matt Mathers

Unions have reacted with anger after Tata Steel confirmed plans to close blast furnaces at its plant in Port Talbot, South Wales with the loss of thousands of jobs.

Tata said its plans are subject to consultation but could be expected to result in up to 2,800 potential job losses across the business out of which, around 2,500 roles could be impacted during the next 18 months.

Alan Jones reports:

Unions’ anger at Tata Steel decision to close furnaces at South Wales plant

Job losses ‘devastating news’ - Wales Green Party

13:40 , Matt Mathers

Wales Green Party leader Anthony Slaughter said: “This is devastating news for the local community and beyond.

“Wales knows only too well what happens when communities are abandoned by government and industries.

“We saw it with the coal industry and now it is happening again with the steel industry.

“Decarbonisation of industry is vital, but communities and people’s jobs must be protected.

“That means putting unions and workers at the heart of a just transition.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Closure of blast furnaces a ‘blow for workers’ - CBI Wales

13:36 , Matt Mathers

Ian Price, director of CBI Wales said: “Tata Steel’s announcement of the closure of two blast furnaces with the loss of 2,800 jobs is a blow for workers employed at the plant in Port Talbot and in the wider supply chain, which includes a number of local companies, and affects other firms throughout Wales.

“The trade unions and the Welsh and UK governments need to come together with Tata and local businesses to find a way of reskilling and retraining those affected staff and help them return to the labour market.

“The new Freeport in Milford Haven-Neath Port Talbot, and on Anglesey, offer opportunities for workers’ talents to be harnessed in support of the renewables and net zero industry and it is essential the projects are delivered rapidly to support the Welsh economy.”

Steel giant Tata is to press ahead with plans to close blast furnaces at its biggest plant, threatening at least 2,800 jobs (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)
Steel giant Tata is to press ahead with plans to close blast furnaces at its biggest plant, threatening at least 2,800 jobs (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

Horizon IT bugs known for ‘many, many years'

13:35 , Matt Mathers

Fujitsu boss Paul Patterson told the inquiry bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon IT system were known about by “all parties” and have been known for “many, many years”, Zoe Grunewald reports.

When asked if Fujitsu knew about the existence of errors and defects at a “corporate level”, Mr Patterson said: “Yes. In fact all the bugs and errors have been known on one level, or not, for many, many years.

“Right from the very start of the deployment of this system there were bugs and errors and defects which were well known to all parties.”

Watch: Post Office victim, 91, trembles as she pleads for dead husband to have seen justice

13:25 , Matt Mathers

Watch the clip here.

Full report: Tata Steel confirms 2,800 job losses at Port Talbot site

13:23 , Matt Mathers

Tata Steel is cutting thousands of jobs at its plant in Port Talbot, south Wales, after the firm confirmed it is closing both blast furnaces at the site.

The Indian-owned steel giant said it was “not feasible or affordable” to adopt a plan put forward by the GMB and Community unions to keep the furnaces open while transitioning to a greener production method.

Archie Mitchell and Alex Ross report:

Tata Steel confirms 2,800 job losses at Port Talbot site

Postmasters still having problems with shortfalls due to Horizon system, former postmaster says

13:15 , Matt Mathers

A former postmaster said that his colleagues were still experiencing shortfalls due to the Horizon computer system, Zoe Grunewald reports.

Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “There was a postmistress up in Perthsire [..] and just last month, she had a shortfall of £414.

The fact that this is still going on, still affecting people’s finances, still affecting people’s mental health is absolutely disgusting.”

The Horizon IT system, which led to 700 sub-postmasters being accused of siphoning money, it still being used by the Post Office.

Law Society urges House of Lords to delay ratification of Rwanda treaty

13:05 , Matt Mathers

Following news that the Lords’ International Agreements Committee has recommended that the Rwanda treaty is not ratified, the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, has said the treaty should be delayed until Rwanda has proven that it is now safe for asylum seekers, Holly Bancroft reports.

Vice president Richard Atkinson said: “We are pleased to see the Committee shares our view that the conclusion of the Rwanda treaty in itself does not make Rwanda a safe country to send asylum seekers to.

“The Supreme Court ruled that the policy is unlawful on a point of fact, based on a core and well-established principle of international and domestic law, non-refoulement.

“It is a fact that Rwanda is not considered a safe country given the high risk of refoulement of asylum seekers.

“The signing of a treaty does not change this finding of fact."

He added: “There are serious questions about the effectiveness of the treaty which we urge the House of Lords to probe carefully.

“At the very least, peers should endorse the Committee’s recommendation that ratification be delayed until the mechanisms and safeguards in the treaty have been fully implemented.”

Stephen Kinnock’s anger at Tata Steel Port Talbot closure: ‘UK only G20 country that can’t make primary steel’

13:05 , Matt Mathers

MP’s anger at Tata Steel closure: UK only G20 country that can’t make primary steel

No 10 ‘confident’ Rwanda will improve asylum systems in time for treaty to be ratified

12:50 , Matt Mathers

Downing Street said it was “confident” Rwanda would implement improved measures into its asylum system in time for a new treaty with the UK being ratified by parliament.

It comes after the House of Lords International Agreements Committee said “significant legal and practical steps” must be taken before Rwanda can be deemed safe and the treaty approved by Westminster.

Asked whether ministers would be following through on the committee’s recommendations, a spokeswoman for the prime minister said: “So I think more broadly on the process, we will let it follow its course as it is looked at in the Lords. We will consider issues that are raised — motions and amendments — in the usual way.”

On the matter of the treaty, she said: “In terms of the improvements and the assurances that we have with the government of Rwanda, we are confident that there will be implementation of all of those measures in line with the timelines for the treaty.

“So those assurances that we provided, which responded to issues raised by the Supreme Court, will be in place when we get flights off the ground.”

Asked whether the government would comply if peers pass a motion designed to provide assurances over the treaty, the spokeswoman said: “I’m not going to get ahead of parliamentary processes and processes in the Lord’s — that starts to get into hypotheticals.”

 (PA)
(PA)

Sunak: I won’t pack more peers into Lords to get Rwanda Bill through

12:35 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak played down the prospect of putting more peers into the House of Lords to pass the Rwanda Bill.

Speaking to reporters in Hampshire, he said: “We shouldn’t be talking about these things because the House of Lords will be able to see that this is part of the strong majority in the Commons, they can see that this is a national priority.

“And I would urge them strongly to crack on with it because we all just want to get this done.

“The country is fed up and frustrated with the merry-go-round on this topic.

“I think people can appreciate that we have made progress last year, but we now need to finish the job and that’s why we should pass this scheme as quickly as possible.”

Sunak: I’m determined to get Rwanda bill through Lords

12:24 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak said that he is “determined” to get his Rwanda Bill through parliament, with the legislation set for stern opposition in the House of Lords.

Speaking to broadcasters while on a visit to Hampshire, the prime minister said: “I think it’s really important that we stop the boats, it’s one of the priorities I set out to the country last year.

“I am pleased our plan is working and that we’re making progress. The numbers last year were down by over a third, that hasn’t happened before, so that shows that we can make a difference here.

“In order to fully solve this problem we need to have a deterrent, so that when people come here illegally they won’t be able to stay and will be removed.

“That is why the Rwanda scheme is so important, and that’s why I’m determined to get it through parliament and get it up and running as quickly as possible so we can properly solve this problem.

“We have got a plan, this plan is working, if we stick with it we can deliver the change people want to see.”

Sunak walks through the local streets during a visit to Winchester (Getty Images)
Sunak walks through the local streets during a visit to Winchester (Getty Images)

Brexit U-turn as EU citizens who missed residency deadline allowed to stay in UK

12:05 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak’s government has made a U-turn on residency rights of EU citizens which makes it easier for them to stay in the UK.

New guidance from the Home Office says it will no longer block Europeans making late applications for settled status if they were unaware of the Brexit scheme.

Brexit U-turn as EU citizens who missed deadline allowed to stay in UK

Hunt urges Trump not to return to economic protectionsim

11:41 , Matt Mathers

Jeremy Hunt has urged Donald Trump not to return to economic protection if he wins the US presidential election.

The former president pursued an “America first” policy while in the White House and has floated an automatic 10 per cent tariff and all goods imported to the US if he beats Joe Biden this year.

“I don’t support protectionist measures,” the chancellor said when asked at the Davos summit if he was concerned about the potential impact a Trump presidency could have on the UK economy.

“I think they harm the people who introduce them as much as the people they are aimed at.”

Hunt at Davos (AP)
Hunt at Davos (AP)

‘Completely ridiculous’ to exclude women from football punditry - Sunak

11:20 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak suggested it is “completely ridiculous” to exclude women from football punditry and said he would love for one of his daughters to grow up to be a commentator.

The prime minister said the profession should be “open to everybody”.

His comments come after sports minister Stuart Andrew condemned “dangerous” comments made by former footballer Joey Barton about women football pundits.

Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to Hampshire, he said: “I listen to all sorts of conversations and they’re all great. It shouldn’t really matter really, quite frankly.

“I mean, what we care about is the quality of the commentating and… I don’t get to watch or listen to as much football as I’d like… but obviously, that’s completely ridiculous.

“I have two young girls and I’d love it if one of them wanted to be a football commentator when they grew up but I sadly think that it’s unlikely to happen. I’ve failed to get them into it and support Saints the way I do, but there you go. But yeah, of course it should be open to everybody.”

Prime minister Rishi Sunak (second right) speaks with Eastleigh FC players and staff (PA)
Prime minister Rishi Sunak (second right) speaks with Eastleigh FC players and staff (PA)

ICYMI: Rishi Sunak set for titanic battle with Lords over Rwanda bill

11:00 , Matt Mathers

Defiant peers have rejected Rishi Sunak’s warning not to frustrate “the will of the people” by opposing his flagship Rwanda legislation, as the prime minister heads for a showdown with the House of Lords.

The PM said his controversial deportation plan is an “urgent national priority” and told the upper chamber it is “now time to pass this bill”.

Kate Devlin and Archie Mitchell report:

PM set for titanic battle with Lords over Rwanda bill

Independent readers share their 2024 general election predictions following dire opinion poll

10:40 , Matt Mathers

While some Independent readers are ready to say goodbye to a Conservative government, others were not convinced of the Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Read more here:

Readers share their election predictions following dire opinion poll

Watch: BBC Question Time audience member grills Emily Thornberry over Rwanda row in heated exchange

10:26 , Matt Mathers

BBC Question Time audience member grills MP over Rwanda row in heated exchange

Ministry of Defence inventory failures ‘led to medicines expiring during tours’

10:07 , Matt Mathers

MPs have highlighted how there is a “significant risk to life” due to Ministry of Defence inventory failures that have seen medical supplies issued that passed their expiry date while armed forces were on tour.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said it had warned 10 years ago of “waste and fragmentation” in the department’s supply system but that a fresh investigation had found “many of those problems remain unresolved”.

Patrick Daly reports:

Ministry of Defence inventory failures ‘led to medicines expiring during tours’

Recession fears as Christmas sales much lower than expected

09:46 , Matt Mathers

Sales by UK retailers has fallen at its fastest rate in nearly three years in December as people did some of their Christmas shopping earlier than usual.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that retail sales volumes have had the worst performance since January 2021, and are thought to have dropped 3.2 per cent in December, down from a rise of 1.4 per cent the month before.

Zoe Grunewald reports:

Christmas retail sales fall unexpectedly in December

ICYMI: Robert Harris is right – Rishi Sunak’s popularity has entered ‘death valley’

09:21 , Matt Mathers

With polling this bad, you could almost mistake it for the plot in one of the ‘Fatherland’ author’s new thrillers, writes John Rentoul. Yet the PM soldiers on – or, at least, he’s trying to...

Read John’s piece in full here:

Robert Harris is right – Sunak’s popularity has entered ‘death valley’ | John Rentoul

Tata steel bosses urged to ‘look again’ at alternatives

09:10 , Matt Mathers

Tata Steel bosses should “look again” at an alternative, union-proposed plan to closing the blast furnaces in South Wales, a shadow minister has said.

Stephen Kinnock,  Labour MP for Aberavon - home of the Port Talbot steelworks - told Sky News: “The steelworks here in Port Talbot is the beating heart of our economy and of our community.

“Multi-unions (sic) have come together and put a plan on the table which would actually be much more of a bridge rather than a cliff edge to the changes that we know have to take place within our steel industry.

“But instead of that, we have got a plan which has been cobbled together between Tata Steel and the UK government which is going to use £500 million of taxpayers’ money to make 3,000 men and women redundant.

“And it is also going to remove the British capability to make its own steel from scratch.

“We will become the only country in the G20 that is no longer able to do that, so that is not the right way to go. Tata Steel should really look again at the multi-union proposal.”

More comments from Mr Kinnock below:

Jeremy Hunt hints at more tax cuts before general election

08:55 , Matt Mathers

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has signalled he wants to cut taxes in the Budget, as the Tories gear up for an election in the face of dire poll ratings.

Tory MPs are clamouring for a move that would win votes as the latest opinion poll by YouGov shows support for the Tories is at its lowest level since Liz Truss’s final days as prime minister.

Holding out the prospect of more money for the NHS, families and the armed forces, Mr Hunt said he wanted to focus on growth in the Budget on 6 March.

Jane Dalton has more details:

Jeremy Hunt hints at more tax cuts before general election

Government has ‘no industrial strategy’ - Labour

08:40 , Matt Mathers

The government has “no industrial strategy”, says shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock, Zoe Grunewald reports.

Mr Kinnock has accused the government of “sitting on its hands” over the expected closure of the Tate steel plant.

He told Times Radio it was “deeply frustrating” that the government implemented a “short term plan” by pursuing a narrow Electric Arc Furnace-only model, rather than innovate.

Tata Steel is expected to confirm plans to press ahead with plans to close both blast furnaces at its biggest plant, likely resulting in more than 3,000 job losses.

File photo: Stephen Kinnock (Getty Images)
File photo: Stephen Kinnock (Getty Images)

Home Office using dummy plane to practice forcing migrants onto Rwanda flights

08:25 , Matt Mathers

The Home Office has hired an aircraft hangar and a dummy plane for security officials to practise forcing asylum seekers onto flights to Rwanda, it has emerged.

As the government prepares for deportation flights to take off, security guards have undergone special training programmes to deal with disruptive people.

Archie Mitchell reports:

Home Office hires dummy plane to practice forcing migrants onto Rwanda flights

‘Dogs in the street’ know Rwanda flights are ‘probably never going to happen’ - senior Tory

08:07 , Matt Mathers

A senior Conservative peer has cast doubt about whether prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda policy will ever see asylum seekers deported to east Africa.

Ahead of the House of Lords debating the Safety of Rwanda Bill, former Scottish Tory leader Baroness Ruth Davidson said there “are dogs in the street that know” that deportation flights are “probably never going to happen”.

In comments made to The Today Podcast and broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lady Davidson said: “Let’s have a debate about immigration, absolutely.

“Every sovereign nation should be in charge of who comes in; not everybody has a right to go to every country in the world — I completely get all of that. But where is the balance in this, rather than some of the language that is being used, some of the knots that people are getting into?

“And this thing about putting people on planes to Rwanda. I mean, there are dogs in the street that know that, one, it is probably never going to happen.

“And two, if it does, it is going to be a number so small that it makes very little difference to the bottom line.”

Lady Davidson (PA Wire)
Lady Davidson (PA Wire)

Sunak out and about in southeast

07:59 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak will be out and about on a series of regional visits this morning and give interviews to local outlets.

He is likely to discuss immigration following the successful passage of his Rwanda plan through the House of Commons.

No 10 insists that the visits are not a campaigning trip, Playbook reports.

Yesterday, the prime minister visited Gatwick Airport where he met and chatted with staff.

 (PA)
(PA)

Chancellor hints at lowering taxes in budget

07:00 , Jane Dalton

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says he wants to cut taxes in the next budget, in what commentators believe is an effort to win back votes amid the Conservatives’ dire opinion poll ratings.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Hunt said: “In terms of the direction of travel we look around the world and we note that the economies growing faster than us in North America and Asia tend to have lower taxes, and I believe fundamentally that low-tax economies are more dynamic, more competitive and generate more money for public services like the NHS.

“That’s the direction of travel we would like to go in but it is too early to say what we are going to do.”

Reminder: Brexit will leave UK £300bn worse off, say economists

06:00 , Jane Dalton

In case you missed it: Brexit is set to leave Britain’s economy £311bn worse off by the middle of the next decade, a damning new report by top economists has found:

Brexit will leave UK £300bn worse off by 2035, say economists

Reader questions answered as Tory popularity plummets

05:00 , Jane Dalton

The Independent’s chief political commenator John Rentoul has been answering reader questions:

John Rentoul answers your questions as Tory popularity plummets

Scots leader defends invitation to Turkish president

04:00 , Jane Dalton

Scotland’s First Minister has defended inviting the Turkish president to visit, saying both countries are “on a journey” regarding human rights.

Humza Yousaf briefly met Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Cop28 UN climate summit in Dubai last year – drawing the ire of the Foreign Office due to a UK official not being present.

Minutes of the meeting given to the Herald under freedom of information legislation show the First Minister “invited RTE to visit Scotland during a future visit to the UK”.

The meeting drew criticism from within the First Minister’s own party, with SNP councillor Roza Salih saying she “did not expect this from a FM that says he respects human rights” over Turkey’s treatment of Kurds.

Mr Yousaf said: “I said the next time he’s in the United Kingdom, he should come up to Scotland.

“Turkey is a Nato ally; why would we not wish to have a Nato ally here?”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Loan charge victims need full investigation, say MPs

03:00 , Jane Dalton

A fair resolution and “full independent investigation” is required into the loan charge fiasco to avoid “another Horizon scandal”, according to MPs.

The controversial tax-avoidance clampdown has affected an estimated 60,000 people and been linked to 10 suicides, the Commons was told.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said there are “frightening parallels” between the loan charge and the Horizon IT scandal, which led to more than 700 Post Office branch managers being convicted.

Mr Wilson and other MPs tabled a parliamentary motion on the loan charge that warned many people are facing “unaffordable demands”, there is the “risk of further suicides” and that a review conducted by Lord Morse was “limited and not genuinely independent” of the Treasury and HMRC.

Does a dire opinion poll mean it’s all over for the Conservatives?

02:00 , Jane Dalton

How bad is it for the party supported by a mere 20 per cent of voters, asks Sean O’Grady:

Does the latest dire opinion poll mean it’s all over for the Conservative Party?

Voters care about economy far more than immigration, polling guru says

00:59 , Jane Dalton

Voters will be more concerned about the state of the economy than immigration at the next election, top polling guru Sir John Curtice says:

Voters care about the economy far more than immigration, polling guru says

HS2 ‘intimidated landowners over compensation claims after contact with MP’

Thursday 18 January 2024 23:59 , Jane Dalton

HS2 has been accused of intimidating landowners who raised compensation cases against the high speed rail company with their Tory MP:

HS2 ‘intimidated landowners over compensation claims after contact with MP’

Home Office loses track of nearly 6,000 asylum-seekers

Thursday 18 January 2024 22:59 , Jane Dalton

Almost 6,000 asylum-seekers whose claims have been withdrawn have gone missing in the UK, ministers have admitted:

Home Office loses track of nearly 6,000 asylum seekers

Ban on Islamist group as terror organisation becomes law

Thursday 18 January 2024 22:00 , Jane Dalton

Plans to ban Islamist political group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation have been approved by Parliament.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has organised rallies that took place in London alongside pro-Palestinian marches in recent months, following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

It has already been banned in Germany, as well as in several Arab and Asian countries because of what the Home Office has described as its “long-term goal of establishing a caliphate ruled under Islamic law”.

With headquarters in Lebanon, the group also operates in at least 32 countries including the United States, Canada and Australia.

Both the Commons and Lords backed plans to proscribe the group as a terror organisation on Thursday.

It paved the way for the ban to come into force on Friday.

It will mean belonging to, inviting support for and displaying symbols of the group in public will be a criminal offence.

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Getty Images)
Hizb ut-Tahrir (Getty Images)

I have no skeletons in cupboard, says Starmer

Thursday 18 January 2024 21:10 , Jane Dalton

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he has “no skeletons in the closet” from his time in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ahead of the general election:

Keir Starmer says there are ‘no skeletons’ in his closet ahead of general election

Analysis: What Labour’s new ‘campaign guide’ tells us about its policies

Thursday 18 January 2024 20:20 , Jane Dalton

Labour’s Let’s Get Britain’s Future Back document might be best thought of as a pilot for the manifesto. Sean O’Grady looks at what it means – and what there is in it to worry about:

What does Labour’s new ‘campaign guide’ tell us about its policies?

Sunak heads for titanic battle with Lords

Thursday 18 January 2024 19:35 , Jane Dalton

Defiant peers have rejected Rishi Sunak’s warning not to frustrate “the will of the people” by opposing his flagship Rwanda legislation as the prime minister heads for a showdown with the House of Lords:

PM set for titanic battle with Lords over Rwanda bill

Anger as ministers allow bee-killing pesticides fourth year running

Thursday 18 January 2024 19:20 , Jane Dalton

Farmers have been given the go-ahead for the fourth year in a row to use a banned pesticide that kills bees – prompting anger among nature lovers:

Anger as government allows banned bee-killing pesticides for fourth year in a row

No 10 pledges to consider stats chief letter

Thursday 18 January 2024 18:40 , Jane Dalton

Downing Street said it would consider a letter by UK Statistics Authority chairman Sir Robert Chote, concerning the accuracy of a claim by Rishi Sunak that ministers had cleared the asylum legacy backlog, to “ensure we can be as clear and transparent as possible”.

The Prime Minister previously pledged to abolish a portion of older asylum applications awaiting an initial decision by the end of last year, tasking the Home Office with tackling 92,601 so-called legacy claims made before the end of June 2022.

But figures showed 4,537 applications were still outstanding as of December 28. Sir Robert said some people “may feel misled” by the Government claims the backlog had been cleared.

Asked whether there was a problem in No 10 with not being able to represent statistics accurately, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “I don’t think that is right. We publish a wide range of statistical information and continue to do so.

“We also linked through to the full story on Gov.uk with the details of our update on the legacy backlog and the PM was referring to a commitment he himself made and spoke about. But of course we will note the letter and consider it to ensure we can be as clear and transparent as possible.”

ICYMI: Sunak rapped by watchdog over claim to have ‘cleared’ asylum backlog

Thursday 18 January 2024 18:00 , Matt Mathers

The UK’s statistics watchdog has slammed Rishi Sunak for his repeated claim to have “cleared” the asylum backlog – and warned the assertion could erode trust in the government.

Sir Robert Chote, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, also said voters may have felt “misled”.

Kate Devlin reports:

Rishi Sunak rapped by watchdog over claim to have ‘cleared’ asylum backlog

Robert Harris is right – Rishi Sunak’s popularity has entered ‘death valley’

Thursday 18 January 2024 17:00 , Matt Mathers

With polling this bad, you could almost mistake it for the plot in one of the ‘Fatherland’ author’s new thrillers, writes John Rentoul. Yet the PM soldiers on – or, at least, he’s trying to...

Read John’s piece in full here:

Robert Harris is right – Sunak’s popularity has entered ‘death valley’ | John Rentoul

Tributes for Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd

Thursday 18 January 2024 16:30 , Matt Mathers

MPs have paid tribute to their Labour colleague Sir Tony Lloyd, who died on Wednesday aged 73.

A minute’s silence was held in the Commons chamber earlier to remember Sir Tony, who served as Stretford/Manchester Central MP for 29 years and Rochdale for seven.

He died “peacefully” at his home on Wednesday morning, his family said.

“We are all deeply saddened at the loss of Tony,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said.

“I spoke to him last Thursday when he left hospital for the last time to spend as much as he could with his family, and was able to pass on to him our thoughts, our respect, our affection for him.”

You can watch the Labour leader’s tribute below:

Sir Tony Lloyd: Keir Starmer pays tribute to Rochdale MP who died age 73

Fujitsu will not get new lucrative government contracts until Post Office inquiry makes judgement

Thursday 18 January 2024 16:10 , Matt Mathers

The embattled technology company Fujitsu will not seek any further government contracts for at least the next two years, the government has announced.

Fujitsu, which developed the defective Horizon accounting system that led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being wrongly convicted of theft and false accounting, has written to the Cabinet Office to say it has “voluntarily” decided not to bid for government contracts during the inquiry unless it is asked.

Zoe Grunewald reports:

No new lucrative government contracts for Fujitsu until Post Office inquiry concludes

Sunak concerned about continuing attacks on cargo ships in Red Sea

Thursday 18 January 2024 15:55 , Matt Mathers

Britain is continuing to urge Houthi rebels to “desist” from carrying out “illegal” and disruptive attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea, the prime minister has said.

Speaking during a press conference in Downing Street, Rishi Sunak said the situation remained “concerning” as attacks on commercial shipping in the region persisted despite RAF intervention.

The UK joined the US in carrying out air strikes against the Iran-backed militant group last week but clashes along vital global trade routes in the Middle East, with warships also being targeted, have continued since.

File photo: Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the US and the UK strikes on Houthi-run military sites (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
File photo: Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the US and the UK strikes on Houthi-run military sites (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Fujitsu vows to compensate victims of Post Office Horizon IT scandal

Thursday 18 January 2024 15:40 , Matt Mathers

Fujitsu has confirmed it will contribute to compensation payments to Post Office subpostmasters wrongfully convicted in the Horizon IT scandal.

It had earlier emerged that the company will not bid for government contracts while an inquiry into the scandal is ongoing.

Ben Hatton reports:

Fujitsu vows to compensate victims of Post Office Horizon IT scandal

Call me No 2: Lord Cameron happy to play ‘second fiddle’ to Sunak

Thursday 18 January 2024 15:20 , Matt Mathers

Former prime minister Lord Cameron has said he does not mind playing “second fiddle” to Rishi Sunak since his return to frontline politics.

The foreign secretary, during a trip to Davos, called current PM Mr Sunak a “good boss”.

Lord Cameron was appointed to the cabinet last year in a shock return for the former Conservative leader, who resigned after the UK vote to leave the EU in 2016.

Asked by Times Radio if he found it difficult to play “second fiddle”, he said: “No, not at all actually, because he’s a very clear boss.

“He’s easy to work for because he knows what he wants. He chairs cabinet meetings with great efficiency. He’s read everything, understood everything. He knows what the issues that are contentious, that we have to discuss, are about. And he has a pretty clear view of what he wants, so that’s a good boss.”

Lord David Cameron said he did not mind playing second fiddle to Rishi Sunak (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Lord David Cameron said he did not mind playing second fiddle to Rishi Sunak (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Starmer has formally written to Cabinet Office asking for access to officials

Thursday 18 January 2024 14:59 , Matt Mathers

Keir Starmer has officially written to the head of the civil service asking for permission for Labour to begin access talks with officials.

It was revealed in an ITV three-month behind-the-scenes documentary with the Labour Party leader, which airs tonight.

Earlier today the Labour leader addressed an all-staff gathering in London, expected to be the last such event before voters go to the polls.

On Tuesday it emerged that hundreds of Labour MPs and prospective candidates have been sent a “campaigning bible” urging them to go deep into Tory Party territory.

It also marked the next phase of the party’s election preparations and campaigning on its five missions, summing up key policies, arguments for change, their tangible benefits for voters and case studies, Labour List reported.

Sunak meets Border Force staff after passing Rwanda Bill

Thursday 18 January 2024 14:55 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak has met with Border Force staff after the Rwanda bill passed through the Commons.

The prime minister visited workers at Gatwick Airport, where he met a sniffer dog and chatted with those present.

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Therese Coffey hits back after mistaking Rwanda capital for another country

Thursday 18 January 2024 14:40 , Matt Mathers

Therese Coffey has hit back at “keyboard snipers” after she was mocked for mistaking the Rwandan capital for another country.

The top Tory, who served as deputy prime minister under Liz Truss, insisted that Kigali is “of course” the capital city of Rwanda, saying she was not involved in a mix-up over the two.

Archie Mitchell reports:

Therese Coffey hits back after mistaking Rwanda capital for another country

Devastating poll result shows only 10% of voters under 50 would support Conservatives at next election

Thursday 18 January 2024 14:35 , Matt Mathers

Only 10 per cent of voters under the age of 50 would vote Conservative in the next general election, according to a new YouGovpoll.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults found only 20 per cent said they would vote for Rishi Sunak’s party, while fewer than half (49 per cent) of those who back the Tories in 2019 intend to support the party.

Zoe Grunewald reports:

Only 10% of voters under 50 would support Conservatives at next election - poll

Sunak tweet claiming to have cleared asylum backlog reemerges after watchdog rebuke

Thursday 18 January 2024 14:21 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak’s tweet claiming the government had cleared the asylum backlog has remerged after it was branded misleading by a watchdog.

Earlier, the UK Statistics Authority said the government’s repeated claims to have cleared the backlog may have misled voters and affected trust in politics.

You can read that story in full here:

Rishi Sunak rapped by watchdog over claim to have ‘cleared’ asylum backlog

Autumn election is a ‘risky business’, think tank chief warns

Thursday 18 January 2024 13:57 , Matt Mathers

Holding an election in November is a “risky business” for the Conservative Party due to the potential impact of the US presidential contest, a think tank chief has warned.

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, made the comment after Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would prefer Donald Trump to Joe Biden as the US president.

“This is why I think a mid-November general election in the UK is a risky business for the Tories - if their MPs are actually going to say they’re Trump fans you’ll make this a (weirdly) big part of our short campaign,” he said.

Lords timetable for Rwanda Bill already agreed - report

Thursday 18 January 2024 13:35 , Matt Mathers

The timetable for debating the Rwanda Bill in the House of Lords has already been agreed.

The legislation will get its second reading on 29 January, before moving to the committee stage on 12, 14 and 19 February, the BBC reports.

A report will probably be ready by 4 March, with a third reading on 12 March.

“So MPs will be looking at (ie trying to remove) Lords amendments by about 18 March,” BBC chief political correspondent Henry Zeffman says.

MPs back plan to designate Islamist political group Hizb ut-Tahrir as terrorist

Thursday 18 January 2024 13:17 , Matt Mathers

MPs have backed plans to ban Islamist political group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has organised rallies which took place on the streets of London alongside pro-Palestine marches in recent months, following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

In the House of Commons, security minister Tom Tugendhat said the proscription order would cover the entire global organisation, as well as all regional branches including Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain.

He told MPs: “This proscription will serve as a reminder that the United Kingdom does not and will never tolerate the promotion of or encouragement of terrorism.

“It will send the message that promoting or encouraging Hamas’ sickening attack on October 7 is utterly unacceptable and at odds with the values of this country.”

File photo: Tom Tugendhat (PA Wire)
File photo: Tom Tugendhat (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill is ‘step toward totalitarianism’, leading lawyer warns

Thursday 18 January 2024 13:00 , Joe Middleton

What was Rishi Sunak’s press conference all about? - Analysis

Thursday 18 January 2024 12:50 , Matt Mathers

The Independent’s political correspondent Zoe Grunewald has run the rule over the prime minister’s press conference this morning.

Rishi Sunak’s almost-impromptu press conference has left journalists scratching their heads.

It is highly unusual for a prime minister to call an emergency press conference at twelve hours-notice with nothing at all new to announce. Mr Sunak confirmed – as was already known - that the hotly contentious Rwanda bill would now be making its way into the Lords, having passed its third reading last night.

He called upon peers to pass it. He could not provide any new information, such as when the first flight to Rwanda might take off, nor whether the government would succeed in its pledge to stop the boats entirely.

Rather, the press conference simply confirmed two things. First, that Mr Sunak is measuring the success of his premiership on whether the Rwanda scheme lives or dies.

By drawing attention to its successful passage through the Commons, he is highlighting its importance - and his success. He is making Rwanda his personal yard-stick. Second, that the prime minister is haunted by division. Having government legislation pass in the Commons should not worthy of a press briefing, it is a basic expectation of governance.

But Mr Sunak’s party is so very fractured that the simplest achievement, for a moment, seemed impossible. The prime minister may have wished to demonstrate that his victory in the Conservative power struggle yesterday is evidence that he is a strong and competent leader.

But the reality is that many will still be asking why it was all so difficult in the first place.

When are the House of Lords set to debate Sunak’s Rwanda plan?

Thursday 18 January 2024 12:45 , Joe Middleton

The BBC’s chief political correspondent Henry Zeffman has posted the rough timetable for when the House of Lords will debate Rishi Sunak’s controversial Rwanda scheme.

Sunak’s Rwanda plan ‘a step towards totalitarianism’, says peer

Thursday 18 January 2024 12:35 , Joe Middleton

Rishi Sunak’s controversial Rwanda legislation represents “a step towards totalitarianism”, a prominent member of the House of Lords has warned.

Lord Carlile, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, warned many peers fear the integrity of the British legal system is “under attack” from Tory infighting.

Lord Carlile told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve seen in various countries the damage that is done when governments use perceived and often ill-judged political imperatives to place themselves above the courts - this is a step towards totalitarianism and an attitude that the United Kingdom usually deprecates.

“I think you’ll find that many of the lawyers in the House of Lords will say this is a step too far, this is illegitimate interference by politics with the law, on an issue that can be solved in other ways.”

The crossbench peer told the Today programme it is the House of Lords’ role to revise legislation and protect the public from abuses of legal correctness and principle by the Government.

“I think many of us in the House of Lords believe that is exactly what has happened, that good policymaking and the integrity of our legal system are under attack because of internal political quarrelling in the Conservative Party.

“If you want to blame someone, you can blame the lawyers, but the lawyers on the whole do not accept that. What we are doing is trying to countermand meddling by politicians in the law.

“It’s been Government elevating itself to an unacceptable level above the law, above our much-admired Supreme Court, and above the reputation internationally of the United Kingdom law.”

Sunak’s press conference - the verdict from the commentariat and political reporters

Thursday 18 January 2024 12:21 , Joe Middleton

Rishi Sunak’s press conference this morning to try and galvanize the Tory party before his controversial Rwanda proposals enter the House of Lords was not given a glowing endorsement by keen-eyed Westminster watchers.

My colleague Zoë Grünewald described it as “self-indulgent” with “no new information”.

The Daily Mirror’s Lizzy Buchan said:

Former Independent colleague and now parliamentary sketchwriter at The Times, Tom Peck, said:

And Ava Santina at Joe said:

Shout of ‘shame’ as Sunak’s Rwanda plan introduced to House of Lords

Thursday 18 January 2024 12:11 , Joe Middleton

There was a shout of “shame” as Rishi Sunak’s controversial Rwanda legislation was introduced to the House of Lords.

In keeping with convention, the flagship deportation plan received an unopposed first reading in the unelected chamber following its approval by MPs.

However it faces a rocky ride at future stages with many peers already having raised concerns.

Sunak unable to confirm when Rwanda flights will take off after policy win

Thursday 18 January 2024 12:00 , Matt Mathers

Sunak’s claim to have ‘cleared’ asylum backlog slapped down by watchdog

Thursday 18 January 2024 11:45 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak’s claim to have cleared the asylum backlog has been slapped down by a watchdog.

The prime minister was accused of lying when he made the comment earlier this month.

The Home Office said it had processed more than 112,000 asylum cases overall in 2023, but Labour accused the government of making false claims about meeting the target, with figures showing the department had fallen short of the number it initially set to reach.

The government has now been reprimanded by the UK Statistics Authority, which said the episode “may affect public trust”.

Kate Devlin has the full report:

Watchdog slams Rishi Sunak over claim to have ‘cleared’ asylum backlog

Rwanda plan ‘crazy hill’ to fight on - former minister

Thursday 18 January 2024 11:40 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan is a “crazy hill” for the Conservative Party to be fighting on, a frustrated former cabinet minister has said.

The anonymous MP told Sky News they were worried voters would think the Tories were a “single issue” party.

A YouGov poll published earlier this morning found the party had dipped to 20 per cent - 27 points behind Labour - and the lowest level since Liz Truss was prime minister.

Watch: Sunak pleads with HoL to back his Rwanda Bill

Thursday 18 January 2024 11:30 , Matt Mathers

More migrants than Rwanda has capacity for have arrived in the UK today

Thursday 18 January 2024 11:10 , Matt Mathers

More migrants crossed the Channel yesterday than Rwanda currently has capacity for under the UK’s deportation partnership with the east African nation, Archie Mitchell reports.

Some 358 migrants were detected crossing the channel on Wednesday, while the High Court was told last year that the physical capacity for housing asylum seekers in Rwanda was limited to 100.

The government, however, has said the capacity of the scheme is uncapped.