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A leading expert on Covid laws has questioned the “inconsistency” of the Metropolitan Police fines handed out to Downing Street staff while Boris Johnson escaped further punishment.
Scotland Yard announced 126 fines had been given out over eight events as its Partygate probe came to an end.
Both the prime minister and his wife Carrie Johnson previously received £50 fixed penalty notices in relation to a 56th birthday party held for Mr Johnson in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.
But the PM’s official spokesperson confirmed Mr Johnson had been told by police he would receive no further penalties, and The Independent understands the same assurance has been given to Ms johnson.
Junior staff at No 10 are reportedly angry at being given fixed penalty notices – in some cases receiving multiple fines – while the PM and other senior figures avoided fresh action.
Describing the outcome of the Partygate inquiry as a “bit odd”, barrister Adam Wagner said it appeared that Mr Johnson had avoided fines despite attending illegal leaving drink events.
Boris Johnson and wife Carrie escape further fines
Partygate probe ends with 126 fines
Unilateral action over NI could ‘nix’ Brexit agreement – ambassador
Legal expert questions ‘odd’ fines for junior No 10 staff
Sue Gray report could come as soon as next week
Thursday 19 May 2022 04:36 , Namita Singh
Welcome to The Independent’s live blog for Thursday, 19 May 2022, where we provide the latest updates on UK politics.
Sunak calls on businesses to ‘invest and innovate’ amid ‘perfect storm’
Thursday 19 May 2022 05:16 , Namita Singh
The Chancellor has called on businesses to “invest, train and innovate” more to help boost the productivity in UK as he reaffirmed his earlier stance of helping families cope with the impact of rising inflation.
However, Rishi Sunak also warned of a “perfect storm” of supply shocks rocking Britain as he cautioned that “the next few months will be tough”.
Speaking at the annual dinner of the business organisation, the Chancellor told businesses “we are on your side” and called on them to help increase productivity and enterprise, adding: “We need you to invest more, train more, and innovate more.”
Read the details here:
‘Police should use discretion if cost-of-living crisis fuels rise in crime’
Thursday 19 May 2022 05:21 , Namita Singh
The cost-of-living crisis will “invariably” fuel a rise in crime and police should use “discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute people desperate to eat, the new HM chief inspector of constabulary has said.
As inflation hit a 40-year high on Wednesday, which experts warned was unevenly impacting poorer households, Andy Cooke said that he expected a corresponding rise in petty crime will “be a challenge for policing to deal with”.
I think whenever you see an increase in the cost of living or whenever you see more people dropping into poverty, I think you’ll invariably see a rise in crime.
My colleague Andy Gregory reports:
‘Middle-class coke heads’ taking drugs at football matches to face five-year ban
Thursday 19 May 2022 05:33 , Namita Singh
“Middle-class coke heads” could face a football ban of five-year is convicted of selling or taking class A drugs at matches, said the government.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse announced the rule on Thursday. The measure is aimed at the government’s attempt to tackle a rise in violence and disorder at sports matches.
Boris Johnson said the drug habits of “middle-class coke heads” are driving crime across the UK.
Middle-class coke heads should stop kidding themselves, their habit is feeding a war on our streets driving misery and crime across our country and beyond. That’s why we are stepping up our efforts to make sure those who break the law face the full consequences - because taking illegal drugs is never a victimless crime.
The new punishments will be implemented by extending Football Banning Orders, reports my colleague Andy Gregory:
Government to unveil new £600mn plan to fight benefit fraud
Thursday 19 May 2022 05:57 , Namita Singh
The Government is expected to unveil a new £600 million plan to fight benefit fraud and save the taxpayer £2 billion over the next three years.
The plan will involve 2,000 trained specialists reviewing two million universal credit claims over the next five years.
Department of Work and Pensions officers will also be bolstered with new powers, including undertaking arrests, executing warrants, conducting searches and seizing evidence.
Read the details in this report:
Rishi Sunak says government can’t stop inflation as clamour grows to help poorest
Thursday 19 May 2022 06:04 , Namita Singh
Rishi Sunak has said there is nothing the government can do to stop rising inflation impacting Britain’s families, as he resists clamour from Conservatives – including former chancellor Kenneth Clarke – for urgent help for those struggling with price hikes.
Instead, Mr Sunak used a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to promise tax breaks for business in the autumn Budget, aimed at stimulating sluggish productivity.
As inflation topped 9 per cent for the first time in 40 years, and experts warned that the true rise in living costs was closer to 11 per cent for the poorest families, the chancellor said he was powerless to stem global pressures such as the pandemic, war in Ukraine, and supply chain disruption.
There is no measure any government could take, no law we could pass, that can make these global forces disappear overnight. The next few months will be tough.
My colleagues Andrew Woodcock and Anna Isaac report:
International law should be applied to cyberspace, Attorney General to say
Thursday 19 May 2022 06:18 , Namita Singh
International law should be applied to cyberspace to make it clear when a nation state has acted unlawfully and what action can be legally taken in response to a cyberattack, the Attorney General will say.
Suella Braverman will speak on Thursday at the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank to set out the UK’s position on cybersecurity and international law and how it can help inform decisions on what constitutes unlawful action.
Ms Braverman is expected to use the speech to highlight how a united international approach to the issue would help establish and shape such a framework, highlighting the global response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an example.
Lord Kinnock says wife’s Alzheimer’s is a challenge but he ‘deals with it out of love’
Thursday 19 May 2022 06:34 , Namita Singh
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock has said the hardest part of being married to someone with dementia is “the knowledge that the change is going to continue and they are ceasing, very gradually, to be the person that they have been”.
Baroness Kinnock, 77, herself a former minister, was diagnosed in 2017 with Alzheimer’s disease, it was revealed earlier this year.
Talking of his wife’s condition, he said: “Glenys is a highly articulate, immensely lively, funny woman, a brilliant cook, wonderful mother and grandmother - and in all of those areas she has lost capability.
“She would meet every challenge, whether it was border guards in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or a new recipe, she would take it on.”
Ex-Labour leader says disease makes his wife extremely frustrated and is a challenge to him, reports Jane Dalton.
Government to face court hearing over links to PPE supplier accused of modern slavery
Thursday 19 May 2022 06:36 , Namita Singh
Legal action taken against the government’s decision to continue working with a PPE manufacturer accused of labour abuses is set to proceed to a full judicial hearing, in the first case of its kind to consider the presence of modern slavery in the UK’s supply chain.
The High Court granted permission for The Citizens, a non-profit group, to proceed in challenging the decision to continue using the UK subsidiary of the Malaysian company, Supermax, as an approved supplier of disposable gloves for NHS workers.
Supermax has faced multiple allegations of modern slavery, stretching back to 2019. The US has banned imports from the company after an investigation found “ample evidence” of forced labour within its factories, while Canada has also ceased business with the firm over similar concerns.
Our senior news correspondent Samuel Lovett reports:
Liz Truss claimed only Irish people hit by Brexit would be ‘a few farmers with turnips’
Thursday 19 May 2022 06:46 , Namita Singh
Alexandra Hall Hall resigned her diplomatic role in the US in 2019 – saying she no longer wished to “peddle half-truths” on behalf of leaders she did not “trust”.
Responding to the foreign secretary’s plan to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Ms Hall Hall said she was “so pleased to see Liz Truss become a genuine expert on Irish matters”.
Adam Forrest has the details:
Calls to bring government aid rise amid Chancellor’s warning of economic ‘storm’
Thursday 19 May 2022 06:59 , Namita Singh
The Treasury has been called on to bring benefit and pension rises forward to help the nation’s most vulnerable, as the Chancellor warned of a “perfect storm” of supply shocks rocking Britain over the next few months.
Karl Handscomb, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said waiting for the annual increase in April 2023 was “a recipe for more debt”, adding: “The main thing is the need to provide more support for those highly reliant on benefits.
“If (the Treasury) get started now, they can do it before the next energy price rise in October,” he told the BBC.
Read the details here:
Doctors ‘let down by government’ during pandemic
Thursday 19 May 2022 07:35 , Namita Singh
The British Medical Association launched a scathing attack on the government for failing “in its duty of care” to doctors during the coronavirus crisis.
The union, which conducted its own review of the government’s handling of the crisis, slammed it for failing to provide doctors with enough personal protective equipment in the early stages of the pandemic.
Four in five doctors said they did not feel adequately protected during the first wave of the virus, according to the BMA report.
One doctor quoted in the report said: “We made our own, and bought our own when we could find any, we depended on friends sourcing FFP3 masks, my son’s school was 3D printing visors.”
Read the details here:
Kit Malthouse says government is ‘intrinsically opposed’ to a Windfall Tax
Thursday 19 May 2022 08:01 , Zaina Alibhai
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse says the government is “intrinsically opposed” to implementing a Windfall Tax to help struggling households with the cost of living crisis.
The Conservative Party has introduced the tax in the past - notably under former prime minister Margaret Thatcher - and he acknowledged some circumstances may warrant it.
Malthouse told Times Radio: "We are intrinsically opposed to that kind of taxation. We want to see a pattern of investment from that industry that will help us with our medium and long-term energy problems.
"But the chancellor reserves the right to take all steps he thinks necessary and he’s in conversation with that industry all the time, I’m sure.
"My predilection as a Conservative generally is to have low and stable and predictable taxes, and that retrospective taxation is to be avoided, but there are Conservative administrations in the past who have felt the need to tax retrospectively and sometimes the circumstances might warrant that."
Lib Dems says chancellor ‘just doesn’t seem to get’ the cost of living crisis
Thursday 19 May 2022 08:16 , Zaina Alibhai
Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey says the chancellor is not “doing anywhere near enough” to help people with rising energy prices, adding he “just doesn’t seem to get it.”
He has called on Rishi Sunak to take further action, adding the government was “dithering and delaying” leading to more anxiety over the future.
"There are millions of families and pensioners who are hurting now, and we are seeing a government that first of all has not done enough and then it is dithering and delaying. They’ve got to do something now,” he told Sky News.
"I’m really worried that people out there are getting more and more anxious about the future.
"They’ve heard this is going to get worse, that we could be entering a recession, energy bills will go up further in the autumn and they have a government that seems tone deaf."
Policing minister disputes suggestion cost of living crisis will spark increase in crime
Thursday 19 May 2022 08:30 , Chiara Giordano
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has disputed chief inspector of constabulary Andy Cooke's suggestion that the cost-of-living crisis will trigger an increase in crime as people resort to stealing to eat.
Mr Malthouse told Times Radio the "cost of living problems people are facing are very difficult for households up and down the land, that does not necessarily mean they're going to turn to crime".
On Mr Cooke's suggestion officers should use "discretion" when deciding whether to prosecute desperate shoplifters, Mr Malthouse said: "The broad rule is that justice should be blind and I hope and believe that is the principle that sits behind not just the police but the operation of the courts as well.
"I have to challenge this connection between poverty and crime. What we've found in the past, and where there is now growing evidence, is that actually crime is a contributor to poverty. That if you remove the violence and the crime from people's lives they generally prosper more than they otherwise would."
Mr Malthouse insisted that ministers were helping families through the crisis, but added: "It still doesn't mean that we can solve every problem, it's still going to be hard, it's going to be tough for families, and what we have to hope is that this storm of inflation will pass quite quickly."
‘Really tough year ahead’
Thursday 19 May 2022 08:40 , Chiara Giordano
Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the CBI, said there is a "really tough year ahead", and what is needed is "some really targeted help for the most vulnerable in society".
She told Sky News: "We have a situation where half a million households in the UK are having to choose between heating their homes or putting food on the table.
"So we do need to see some targeted support for the very poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
"But more importantly, the way of seeing increasing standard of living over time is to really keep investment flowing in our economy, help those small businesses be able to invest in people, to keep people in jobs.
"And so for that we need the Chancellor to set out the best incentives we can on capital allowances.
"He's been prepared to be bold in the past but we do need to see some more targeted action at low income households, and importantly extending the loan schemes that are available for small businesses to make it through this year which we know is also going to be very tough for businesses."
Royal Mail says it will need to hike prices to offset soaring inflation
Thursday 19 May 2022 08:55 , Chiara Giordano
Royal Mail has said it will need to hike prices and slash costs to offset soaring inflation amid an "uncertain" outlook for the economy as it posted a rise in annual earnings.
The group cautioned over "significant headwinds" as it faces higher wage demands, surging energy and fuel costs.
It is cutting costs by more than £350 million to help mitigate the hit, but said it would also have to look at price increases.
The group has already hiked the cost of posting letters by an average of around 7 per cent, and parcel prices by an average of about 4 per cent.
It came as the group reported an 8 per cent rise in underlying operating profits to £758 million for the year to the end of March.
Tackling rising food and fuel bills will not add to inflation, says CBI
Thursday 19 May 2022 09:12 , Chiara Giordano
Tackling rising food and fuel bills will not add to inflation and people who are "the hardest hit" need help now, the director-general of the CBI has said.
Tony Danker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "You have to help the hardest hit now.
"Helping people with heating and eating bills will not fuel inflation.
"You need to stimulate business investment now - that's not going to overheat the economy.
"It's going to make sure that any downturn in our fortunes is short and shallow because growth is coming soon."
Minister rejects chief inspector’s call for police to use ‘discretion’ with desperate shoplifters
Thursday 19 May 2022 09:30 , Chiara Giordano
A policing minister has rejected a suggestion from the HM chief inspector of constabulary that officers should use “discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute desperate shoppers during the cost-of-living crisis.
Kit Malthouse said that “justice should be blind” and said he had written to chief constables last year to stress that they “should not be ignoring those seemingly small crimes”, and highlighted government support.
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the full story:
Police told not to let shoplifters off if caught stealing food out of desperation
Thursday 19 May 2022 09:45 , Chiara Giordano
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has told officers not to let shoplifters off if they are stealing food out of desperation during the cost-of-living crisis.
Asked on LBC if ministers will ensure police do not turn a blind eye to shoplifters stealing food, he replied: "Absolutely right. In fact I wrote to chief constables just a year or so ago saying they should not be ignoring those seemingly small crimes."
On chief inspector of constabulary Andy Cooke's warning crime will rise due to the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Malthouse added: "I'm afraid I find it a bit old-fashioned thinking. We first of all believe the law should be blind and police officers should operate without fear or favour in prosecution of the law.
"Secondly it's not quite right to say that as the economy fluctuates so does crime. We've seen economic problems in the past, or not, when crime has risen, or not."
Petrol and diesel prices continue to climb to new highs
Thursday 19 May 2022 09:58 , Chiara Giordano
Petrol and diesel prices continue to climb to new highs, figures show.
Statistics from data firm Experian Catalist show the average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts on Wednesday was 168.2p.
That was up from 167.6p per litre on Tuesday.
Diesel prices reached an average of 181.0p per litre on Wednesday, up from 180.9p a day earlier.
The Competition and Markets Authority warned on Wednesday that retailers could be fined if it launches a formal investigation into the sector, following claims they have hiked profit margins since a cut in fuel duty.
Commons speaker admits he is powerless to keep rape-accused Tory MP out of parliament unless rules changed
Thursday 19 May 2022 10:08 , Chiara Giordano
Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said that unless the rules change, an MP has the right to come to the House of Commons while under police investigation.
His comments come as a Conservative MP is under police investigation after being accused of rape and sexual assault offences.
Sir Lindsay was asked if this MP should be kept away from entering the House while the police are investigating.
"Unless the rules change in the House, a member has the right to come in," he told Times Radio.
"What we believe is it's in the best interest of both the member and the staff to stay away while there is a police investigation.”
He was asked if empowering him or the Commons authorities outside the traditional disciplinary routes of the party whips or parties themselves was something the Speakers' conference should look at.
"What I would say is conversations are going on at the moment," he said.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle argues he hasn’t seen defence secretary closing bars within armed forces
Thursday 19 May 2022 10:25 , Chiara Giordano
Speaking about the culture of drinking in Westminster, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he had not seen defence secretary Ben Wallace close down many bars within the armed forces.
Last week, Mr Wallace told Times Radio the mix of long hours, high pressure and alcohol could be "poisonous", adding: "My advice to any MP is actually avoid the bars - finish a day's work and go home."
Today, Sir Lindsay told the same radio station: "Ben's my neighbour. I've got the greatest of respect.
"I've not seen Ben closing many bars down within the armed forces.
"So, you know, if the culture is fine there, why can't we use the same kind of culture here?"
Stock markets tumble as inflation surges and recession fears intensify
Thursday 19 May 2022 10:35 , Chiara Giordano
Stock markets fell in London and across Europe on Thursday as fears grow that out-of-control price rises could soon cause a recession.
The FTSE 100 index of large company chares slid 2 per cent to 7,288.56 after inflation surged to a 40-year high and markets reacted to Wall Street suffering its worst day since the height of the pandemic.
Our business correspondent Ben Chapman has more details:
Partygate investigation ends with 126 fines issued for eight events, Met Police say
Thursday 19 May 2022 10:50 , Chiara Giordano
The Metropolitan Police investigation into Partygate has ended, with 126 fines given out over eight events.
The force said its probe was now complete, and that a total of 73 women and 53 men had been given penalties - some multiple times.
Follow our breaking news story here:
The eight events that led to 126 partgate fines
Thursday 19 May 2022 10:59 , Chiara Giordano
Our home affairs and security editor Lizzie Dearden has more details on those partygate fines:
The events found to have breached Covid laws included:
The “bring your own booze” Downing Street garden party on 20 May 202
Boris Johnson’s birthday celebration on 19 June 2020
A gathering in the prime minister’s official residence on 13 November 2020 - the day of Dominic Cummings’ departure
The Downing Street Christmas party on 18 December 2020
A Cabinet Office drinks event on 17 December 2020
The leaving do held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, where a suitcase of wine was allegedly brought into Downing Street
Number 10 leaving drinks on 14 January 2021
A leaving do for a No 10 private secretary on 18 June 2020.
Reputation of Commons can only be rebuilt if ‘bad eggs’ are dealt with, says Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 19 May 2022 11:00 , Chiara Giordano
Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said the reputation of the House of Commons can only be rebuilt if "bad eggs" are dealt with.
The Commons Speaker said those who work in Parliament should not feel alone or feel they have to suffer, as he highlighted there is support available.
He also said people should go straight to the police if a criminal offence has been committed.
Asked about his feelings on recent events and allegations involving figures in Westminster, Sir Lindsay told Times Radio: "I'm very, very concerned, not only for victims, but also this doesn't help the reputation of the House of Commons. Far from it.
"What I want to do is make sure we have clear ways in which to support victims and making sure that those routes are available, and what I would say very clearly - if it is a criminal offence, please go straight to the police.
"We also have our ICGS, our independent complaints way forward, so as I say we have different routes, please use them.
"Do not feel you're alone. Do not feel that you have to suffer. We're here to help and support.
"And we've got to rebuild the reputation of the House of Commons. We can only do that by ensuring if there are bad eggs out there, let's get them."
Crucial Sue Gray Partygate report could come as soon as next week
Thursday 19 May 2022 11:03 , Chiara Giordano
Sue Gray’s long-awaited report into partygate could be published as soon as next week, now that police inquiries have concluded, a source close to her team has told The Independent.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has more updates here:
Metropolitan Police has ‘no objection’ to Sue Gray publishing report
Thursday 19 May 2022 11:17 , Chiara Giordano
Our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden is in a briefing with Metropolitan Police acting deputy commissioner Helen Ball.
Ms Ball has told reporters: “We have no objection to Sue Gray publishing her report and she will make her own decision now on what action she wants to take.
“The position at the moment is that 97 of the FPNs have been paid, we haven’t been notified that anyone intends to contest it.”
Timeline of government gatherings as more partygate fines issued
Thursday 19 May 2022 11:30 , Chiara Giordano
The Independent has taken a look at all the claims of parties and investigations into gatherings across No 10, government departments and at Conservative Party HQ.
Carrie Johnson has not received any further partygate fines
Thursday 19 May 2022 11:43 , Chiara Giordano
An update from our political editor Andrew Woodcock:
Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie has not received any further fined in the final round of Partygate fixed penalty notices, The Independent understands.
Possible people will still receive partygate fines in coming days, says Metropolitan Police
Thursday 19 May 2022 11:56 , Chiara Giordano
The Met's acting deputy commissioner Helen Ball said it was possible that people would still receive partygate fines over the coming days.
"We have made some referrals today, so it is possible that people will hear in the next 24 to 48 hours," she said.
She also said Scotland Yard had no objection to senior civil servant Sue Gray publishing her report on partygate.
"We have no objections at all to Sue Gray publishing her report and she will make her decisions now as to the next steps she wants to take, I'm sure."
Boris Johnson and wife Carrie escape further fines as partygate investigation concludes
Thursday 19 May 2022 12:05 , Chiara Giordano
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has confirmed the prime minister has been told by police that neither he nor his wife Carrie Johnson are to receive further partygate fines.
Twenty-eight people referred for between two and five fines, says Metropolitan Police
Thursday 19 May 2022 12:23 , Chiara Giordano
Scotland Yard's acting deputy commissioner Helen Ball said: "In total we have made 126 referrals for a fixed-penalty notice to be issued.
"Some of those referrals were for more than one fixed-penalty notice to be issued - 28 people have been referred for between two and five fixed-penalty notices."
She told broadcasters: "The whole of the pandemic was extraordinary times, wasn't it, and many things happened that haven't happened before or haven't happened since.
"We've carried out a really thorough, painstaking and impartial investigation into what happened.
"That has concluded today with the outcome I have described."
Downing Street rulebreakers should do community service – SNP
Thursday 19 May 2022 13:20 , Liam James
Ministers who are found to have broken Covid laws at Downing Street should be sent to do community service with food banks, the SNP suggested.
SNP Commons leader Peter Wishart also called for any minister issued with a fine to address parliament “at the earliest possible opportunity”.
At buisness questions in parliament, Mr Wishart said: “This party of law and order is now the party of parties in no particular order.”
He added: “This criminal gang should be sent a short, sharp shock of some sort of community service, maybe even working in the food banks they like to talk about at such great lengths.
Mark Spencer, leader of the House of Commons, replied that the SNP had its own troubles to worry about this week with a ferry-building “fiasco” and huge cuts to train services.
Boris Johnson will address Commons on Sue Gray report – No 10
Thursday 19 May 2022 12:45 , Liam James
Downing Street said the prime minister will update parliament when the Sue Gray report is published.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “I would say the prime minister is pleased the investigation has concluded and we’d like to thank the Met Police for their work in bringing this investigation to completion.
“Beyond that ... I think the prime minister will update parliament in the first instance on the publication, once Sue Gray’s report is published, and that’s when he will talk in more detail. So beyond that I wouldn’t be going into more detail.”
Ms Gray’s report into Partygate could be published as soon as next week, a source close to her team told The Independent after the conclusion of the Met’s investigation.
A version of the report was published in January but it was heavily redacted to avoid interfering with the police investigation.
Downing Street ‘not aware’ of any more fines for ministers
Thursday 19 May 2022 13:07 , Liam James
The prime minister’s spokesman said he was not aware of any other ministers implicated in the Partygate scandal.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been dealt one fine each, both of which have been paid.
As the Met ended its investigation today, the prime minister was spared another fine. It is understood the chancellor was also yet to be fined again.
Asked if any other government ministers will confirm to MPs if they have been fined over the scandal, the PM’s spokesman said: “Our commitment is to update with regards to the prime minister and the cabinet secretary, as I have done.
“I’m certainly not aware of any other ministers who would be involved in this. But that’s our commitment, as before.”
Policing minister deflects questions about why Boris Johnson only received one fine
Thursday 19 May 2022 13:37 , Chiara Giordano
Policing minister Kit Malthouse deflected questions to Scotland Yard when asked how Boris Johnson received only one fine despite reportedly being at multiple events.
Mr Malthouse told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "You'd have to discuss that with the police.
"My job is to look at the results and be relieved that it's done and get on with the really important stuff that we need to focus on."
Boris Johnson raises ‘significant concerns’ with Ukrainian president about rising food prices
Thursday 19 May 2022 14:02 , Chiara Giordano
Boris Johnson has raised "significant concerns" with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky about rising food prices linked to the Russian invasion.
In a call this morning, the pair looked at options to "open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks", and committed to directing their teams to "work urgently on the next steps", Downing Street said.
A No 10 spokesperson said: "The prime minister spoke to Ukrainian president Zelensky today to discuss a range of issues, including military support and global food security.
"The prime minister raised his significant concerns about the growing global fallout from Russia's illegal invasion and president (Vladimir) Putin's craven and reckless blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports, including rising food prices in developing countries.
"They looked at options to open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks, and committed to direct their teams to work urgently on the next steps."
The PM also stressed his "undimmed admiration for the brave defenders of Mariupol" and urged Russia to treat any prisoners of war with dignity and respect, No 10 said.
Police ‘rightly able to use their discretion’ over shoplifters stealing food out of desperation, says No 10
Thursday 19 May 2022 14:18 , Chiara Giordano
Downing Street said the law does need to be enforced, but police officers are "rightly able to use their discretion".
The Prime Minister's official spokesman was asked for Boris Johnson's view on officers turning a blind eye to shoplifters stealing food out of desperation, after a police watchdog suggested discretion should be used during the cost-of-living crisis.
He replied: "I think that the police minister talked about this this morning. Obviously the law does need to be enforced. At the same time police officers are rightly able to use their discretion."
Beyond that, he said he would not seek to say anything that could be perceived as treading on the police's operational independence.
Pressed on whether that meant police should be able to turn a blind eye in some cases, he said: "I'm just talking in broad terms about the long-standing principle where police officers are able to use discretion.
"But I think you'll know the policing minister challenged the premise of this question this morning ... the financial pressures people (are) facing don't necessarily mean they are going to turn to crime."
Legal expert questions ‘odd’ fines for junior No 10 staff while PM escapes
Thursday 19 May 2022 14:36 , Chiara Giordano
A leading expert on Covid laws has questioned the “inconsistency” of the Metropolitan Police fines handed out to Downing Street staff while Boris Johnson escaped further punishment.
Junior staff at No 10 are reportedly angry at being given fixed penalty notices – in some cases receiving multiple fines – while the PM and other senior figures avoided fresh action from Scotland Yard.
My colleague Adam Forrest has the full story:
Time to ‘move on’ from Partygate, says Home Office minister
Thursday 19 May 2022 14:52 , Chiara Giordano
Home Office minister Kit Malthouse has said it is time to “move on” from Partygate.
“I’m pleased that it’s done, thankful to the police for conducting themselves efficiently,” he told the BBC’s World at One.
“I hope now we can now move on to the really pressing issues.”
Asked if understood why the PM received only one fine, Malthouse said: “You’d have to discuss that with the police. My job is to look at the results and be relieved that it’s done, and get on with the really important stuff that we need to focus on.”
Meanwhile, environment secretary George Eustice told the BBC: “The prime minister has apologised for everything that’s happened at No 10.
“Obviously there’s been a very thorough investigation and rightly so. There were failings, and we acknowledge that. We acknowledge the angry that some people will feel.”
Starmer condemns ‘industrial scale lawbreaking’ at No 10
Thursday 19 May 2022 15:08 , Chiara Giordano
Sir Keir Starmer is standing by his call for Boris Johnson to resign, as he condemned the PM for setting a culture of “industrial-scale law-breaking” in No 10.
The Labour leader told reporters in Leeds: “What I want to see now is the full Sue Gray report published, there’s no further hiding places for the prime minister on that.”
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said it “beggars belief that Conservative MPs are allowing our great country to be run by a prime minister who broke the law then repeatedly lied about it”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer says police investigation has shown "industrial scale lawbreaking in Downing Street... that reflects a culture and the prime minister sets the culture"
“Of course he should resign,” he says https://t.co/9xBcPs8vWH pic.twitter.com/oBuMzOpWCh
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 19, 2022
EU ambassador warns unilateral action over Northern Ireland Protocol will provoke response from Brussels
Thursday 19 May 2022 15:35 , Chiara Giordano
The EU's ambassador to the UK Joao Vale de Almeida warned unilateral action by Boris Johnson's government over the Northern Ireland Protocol would provoke a response from Brussels.
"There is still potential in the proposals that we've made, we would like to focus on that instead of going unilateral," he said.
"Unilateral calls for unilateral. Action calls for reaction.
"And is that what we want, an escalation around Northern Ireland at this present point in time? I don't think so."
UK threat of unilateral action over Northern Ireland could ‘nix’ Brexit agreement, EU ambassador warns
Thursday 19 May 2022 15:45 , Chiara Giordano
The EU’s Brexit negotiators have been given a firm instruction from the 27 member states that there can be no change in their mandate and no renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Brussels’ ambassador to London has revealed.
João Vale de Almeida said no “credible alternative” to the protocol had been identified and warned that unilateral UK action to override it could “nix” the agreement altogether.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the full story:
Homes for Ukraine scheme could be made permanent
Thursday 19 May 2022 16:14 , Chiara Giordano
The Homes for Ukraine scheme could become a model for dealing with future refugee crises, the minister in charge has said, but frustrations remain on the Ukrainian side.
Lord Harrington, who was drafted in to run the refugee scheme in March 2022, told an audience in Westminster today: "My vision is for this system to be a permanent part of government, so that when refugee crises happen - and unfortunately they do all the time - we have a machinery.
He added: "We've got lots of goodwill, we've got this machinery of government in place - it's not perfect but it's improving day by day - and I hope it will become a permanent part of how this country deals with refugees."
Partygate: Full timeline of government gatherings and Covid fines
Thursday 19 May 2022 16:32 , Liam James
Alastair Jamieson and Lizzie Dearden have drawn up a detailed list of all 16 events investigated by Sue Gray.
The Partygate events date from 15 May 2020 to 16 April 2021 and all took place in times when lockdown restrictions were in place.
See the full list here:
Levelling up schools plan 'won’t attract top academies’
Thursday 19 May 2022 16:58 , Liam James
High-performing multi-academy trusts (MATs) would not want to take on schools in the 55 education investment areas identified by the levelling up paper because the areas are too risky, a leading economist has said.
Earlier this year the government identified 55 education “cold spots” in England that are set to be targeted with investment for the next 10 years. In that same period, the government aims to have all schools academised, or planning to join an MAT.
Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said the best MATs “would not dream of going anywhere in the North, because it’s too hot.
“It’s a bit like venture capital – people that invest go into venture capital, where you might risk losing all your money.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, refuted Mr O’Neill’s remarks, saying: “Many MATs have an excellent track record of working with and supporting schools in all sorts of contexts.”
Nadine Dorries tackled on ‘sham’ BBC funding review by senior Tory MP
Thursday 19 May 2022 17:24 , Liam James
A senior Tory MP has described a forthcoming review into BBC funding as a “sham”, as Nadine Dorries called the licence fee a “regressive tax” which penalises women and poorer people (Ashley Cowburn writes).
It comes after the culture secretary unveiled a two-year freeze to the organisation’s licence fee in January, with a review to be launched before the summer recess to examine alternatives.
Appearing at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, Ms Dorries told MPs people needed to “wake up and smell the coffee”, insisting it was time for a model that is “more effective, modern and fair”.
The cabinet minister labelled the existing licence fee a “regressive tax and it does penalise women and the poor more than it does others”, adding it was “antediluvian” to suggest it was still appropriate now.
But Damian Green, the former de facto deputy prime minister under Theresa May, suggested it was “the wrong way round” for the minister to come to a decision before launching a consultation.
PM ‘lost control’ of No 10, says Iain Duncan Smith
Thursday 19 May 2022 17:48 , Liam James
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the Partygate affair had undoubtedly been “damaging” for Boris Johnson and the No 10 operation.
“It was wrong, he has apologised a lot for it – and so he should – because they lost control of what was happening in Downing Street,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM.
Sir Iain previously said it would be difficult for the prime minister to hold onto power if fined.
Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns, a close ally of Mr Johnson, told the same programme that some staffing changes had already been made, but said there were more “lessons to learn”.
“I think when the Sue Gray report comes there will be questions to be answered in terms of accountability for others, other than the prime minister, for some of the things that happened in No 10,” he said.
George Osborne says PM was never going to go because of fines
Thursday 19 May 2022 18:12 , Liam James
Former Tory chancellor George Osborne said Boris Johnson’s future never depended on fines.
“It’s always been about whether anyone wants it enough to try wresting the crown from Boris,” he tweeted. “The answer for now is a resounding ‘no’.”
He had predicted in a tweet last month that the prime minister would stay in power as no one would challenge him.
My observation a month ago - it’s never been about police fines or cabinet office reports; it’s always been about whether anyone wants it enough to try wresting the crown from Boris. The answer for now is a resounding ‘no’ https://t.co/h5a0TxHnuZ
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) May 19, 2022
Ministers ‘have moral duty to resign if fined over parties'
Thursday 19 May 2022 18:35 , Liam James
Ministers have a “moral duty” to resign over partygate, says a bereaved son after the Metropolitan Police concluded its investigation with a total of 126 fines.
Andy Mitchell, 63, from Dunblane, Scotland, said only five people attended the funeral of his mother – who died in May 2020.
Mr Mitchell said he was “appalled” to find that a party took place in Downing Street on the day of the funeral.
He said: “I really hope that the people who have been fined, if that includes senior politicians, will act responsibly now that they’ve been found out and will resign from their positions.”
Asked about Mr Mitchell’s case, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister’s taken responsibility and he acknowledges people’s anger and hurt, and he’s offered an unreserved apology.
“But again, as I say, he will make a further statement once the Sue Gray report is published.”
Starmer next for pinata treatment, says musician
Thursday 19 May 2022 19:00 , Liam James
Musician Sam Fender joked that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is the next politician he plans to turn into a pinata and destroy with a trophy after winning his first Ivor Novello Award.
Following his win at the Brit Awards for best alternative/rock act in February, the singer returned to his local pub in North Shields with a pinata made to look like Boris Johnson which he proceeded to smash with his new award.
On Thursday, he claimed the Ivor Novello for best song musically and lyrically for his classic rock-inspired track “Seventeen Going Under”, written about his teenage years in his hometown in northeast England.
When asked if he had similar plans for his Ivor award, he told the PA news agency: “Ah yes, Keir Starmer, we’re going to smash his face in as well.”
Here is footage of Mr Fender smashing the Boris Johnson pinata back in February:
🚨 drunk sam fender almost kills a fan at his local pub in north shields
— gio (@parableofender) February 10, 2022
Thursday 19 May 2022 19:25 , Liam James
That will be the end of The Independent’s live coverage of politics for today. Have a good evening and make sure to check back tomorrow for updates.