Watch live as Dominic Raab faces questions on foreign aid cuts
Labour is demanding a probe into Boris Johnson’s conduct as the latest cronyism scandal enveloped Whitehall last night after reports the prime minister exchanged text messages with Sir James Dyson over the tax status of his employees.
Mr Johnson promised the entrepreneur he would “fix” the issue after personal lobbying from Sir James as he sought to build ventilators early in the coronavirus crisis.
At PMQs on Wednesday Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested it was “one rule for those that have got the Prime Minister’s phone number, another for everybody else”.
But Mr Johnson told the Commons that he was “happy to share all the details” of the exchanges as there is “nothing to conceal”.
It comes as Dominic Raab has been condemned for “hiding” the scale of overseas aid cuts, with many of the poorest countries expected to lose up to half their funding.
I have real concerns about lobbying – Lib Dems Ed Davey
Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey has said he has “real concerns” about lobbying but denied having broken any rules himself.
Asked if he agreed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying “cronyism” had returned to Government, Sir Ed replied: “I have real concerns, yes, I would agree.”
He added: “Transparency is really key if we’re going to clean this up.”
He said his party would continue to argue for the tightening of the rules around the ministerial code so that those who breach it are more seriously punished.
But he denied breaking any rules around lobbying himself, adding: “It is completely legitimate for people to advise companies.”
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 10:24
SNP to fall short of majority at Scottish election, poll finds
The SNP are set to narrowly miss out on a majority at the Scottish parliament, according to a new Holyrood election poll.
The Savanta ComRes survey predicts that the party will return 63 MSPs in total – two short of a majority, and the same number as in 2016.
Adam Forrest has the latest
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 10:15
It is ‘very good’ people can directly access ministers – Kwarteng
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said that it was “very good” that business leaders and constituents had “direct access” to ministers and those making decisions in Whitehall.
“I think that in the real world, in reality, people are contacting ministers, contacting MPs, all the time,” he told Sky News.
“Business people are contacting MPs all the time, constituents also contact me on my phone.
“I think that in a modern democracy it’s very good that people actually can have direct access to ministers and people who are taking responsibility.”
He added that Boris Johnson “averted an even greater crisis” on ventilators last spring with his text exchanges with Sir James Dyson.
“I don’t think it’s unfair in the sense that people are trying to lobby ministers, lobby MPs, all the time,” he added.
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 10:00
European Parliament set to ‘ratify UK-EU trade deal’
RTE Europe editor Tony Connelly has this morning tweeted that the European Parliament will vote next Tuesday to ratify the UK-EU trade deal.
Just last week The Independent reported that party group leaders had still not set a date amid concerns the deal was not being properly implemented by the UK.
The decision by the parliament’s conference of presidents represented the second time ratification has been delayed – the first time was in March.
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 09:49
‘Possible corruption’ in 20% of Covid contracts awarded, campaigners warn
Around 20 per cent of the value of Covid-19 contracts awarded – a total of £3.7bn – raises “red flags for possible corruption”, anti-sleaze investigators are warning.
The detailed study of nearly 1,000 deals struck when the pandemic struck concludes they were “systemically biased” in favour of firms with political connections.
The Independent’s deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 09:35
Conservative Andy Street has nine-point lead in West Midlands mayoral race, poll shows
Tory Andy Street has moved ahead of Labour’s Liam Byrne in the race to be the next mayor for the West Midlands, new polling shows.
The Times Red Box Editor Patrick Maguire tweeted out the fresh data this morning that has Mr Street on 46 per cent, trailed by Mr Byrne on 37 per cent.
The latest polling will make glum reading for Mr Byrne who recently seemed confident in being able to overturn the incumbent mayor.
When asked on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday if he was anticipating a comfortable victory, he said: “Yes. We’ve found door-knocking has gone really well. We’ll do well.”
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 09:23
Labour demands probe into Boris Johnson’s ‘conduct’ after Dyson text messages
Labour has called for a parliamentary investigation Boris Johnson’s “conduct” after he personally text messaged Sir James Dyson, telling him he would “fix” a tax issue for his employees during the height of the pandemic.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, called on the influential Commons Liaison Committee to summon Mr Johnson to give evidence to MPs on the issue and publish his correspondence with the entrepreneur.
The Independent’s political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 09:08
Kwasi Kwarteng ‘does not recognise’ Mercer government criticism
Yesterday Johnny Mercer blasted the Government as “the most distrustful, awful environment” where “almost nobody tells the truth” after departing as veterans minister.
This morning business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was asked about the comments on Sky News and said he “did not recognise” Mr Mercer’s description of government.
He said: “Johnny has his own issues relating to what he feels about the government, I think he was very frustrated around particular issues related to veterans.
“And I think you would be best to direct those questions to Johnny, I think he was a very good minister, a very good colleague.
“I don’t recognise his description of government and I accept there are frustrations within government, but that happens in lots of different walks of life, people feel frustrated.”
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 08:52
Ousted No 10 aide complains of class bias in Westminster
No10’s former director of communications Lee Cain has hit out at Whitehall officials and complained of class discrimination.
Cain said his northern accent and modest background led to him being branded an “oik” in the corridors of power.
However he claimed the issue was not with government ministers but instead pointed the finger at senior Whitehall officials, who he said behaved as if he should be grateful to have got as far as Downing Street.
The Independent’s political editor Andrew Woodcock has the details
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 08:38
SNP set to miss out on majority, new poll reveals
The SNP could miss out on a majority at the Holyrood election, according to a new poll.
The Savanta ComRes survey for The Scotsman predicts that the party will return 63 MSPs in total – two short of a majority – the same number as in 2016.
However there would still be a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, with the Scottish Greens forecast to return eight MSPs, two more than 2016, and the party predicted to secure 7 per cent of the list vote in 2021.
Only 1 per cent of voters said they plan to vote for Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, which would leave it without a single MSP elected.
The poll projects that the SNP will return a constituency vote of 46 per cent and a list vote of 38 per cent in the May 6 election.
It predicts that the Scottish Conservatives will achieve 25 per cent of the constituency vote and 23 per cent of the regional list, which would see it return 32 MSPs – one more than in 2016.
Scottish Labour is forecast to return 20 per cent on the constituency and 17 per cent on the list vote and is predicted to return 21 MSPs, three fewer than in 2016.
The poll of 1,001 Scottish adults also found that support for Scottish independence is split, though support for No has increased since a survey at the start of April.
Joe Middleton22 April 2021 08:23