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Boris Johnson news – live: PM ‘at end of road’ as 54% of Tories don’t believe he is telling truth on parties

·43-min read
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Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner says Boris Johnson is “at the end of the road”, after the PM denied knowing a drinks party held in his back garden during lockdown would breach Covid rules.

Now, an exclusive poll for The Independent has revealed that 65 per cent of voters and more than half (54 per cent) of Conservative supporters do not believe the PM’s claim he thought the 20 May 2020 drinks in the Downing Street rose garden was a “work event”.

A further 80 per cent, including 73 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2019, agreed that under Johnson there was “one rule for the government and another for everybody else.”

It follows a tense interview between Mr Johnson and Sky’s Beth Rigby earlier, during which the PM became flustered as she grilled him on his “ludicrous” claim that he thought the 20 May 2020 event was work-related.

The Tory leader insisted he “categorically” was not warned the party was unlawful, despite ex-No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings claiming Mr Johnson pushed for it to go ahead and attended knowing full-well “it was a drinks party”.

Key points

  • ‘End of the road’: Labour responds to PM’s claim he didn’t lie...

  • ...after PM ‘categorically’ denies Cummings’ garden party claims

  • Letter PM sent to girl, 7, who postponed birthday party goes viral

  • ‘He’s running’: Pundits react to Hunt signalling a leadership bid

  • Raab suggests Johnson should quit if he lied to parliament about garden party

  • Deputy PM condemns ‘unfair caricature’ of party culture at No 10

Good morning

07:58 , Sam Hancock

Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling politics coverage. Stay tuned for the latest updates as pressure mounts on Boris Johnson to resign over the No 10 ‘partygate’ scandal.

Suggestion PM lied over No 10 parties ‘nonsense,’ Raab says

08:01 , Sam Hancock

Deputy PM Dominic Raab backed his boss this morning, insisting ex-No 10 aide Dominic Cummings’ claims that Boris Johnson lied to parliament about his knowledge of partying at Downing Street were “nonsense”.

Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Raab added he “wouldn’t be drawn” on commenting further about the claims Mr Cummings had made.

Cummings says he’d ‘swear under oath’ PM knew 20 May event was not work-related

08:03 , Sam Hancock

As Boris Johnson’s former right-hand man tweeted himself:

Deputy PM: ‘People in public office should hold highest standards’

08:20 , Sam Hancock

Dominic Raab is up on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme now.

He starts by telling listeners that Dominic Cummings’ claims the PM had “prior knowledge” of the 20 May 2020 drinks party are “entirely untrue”.

Going on to acknowledge that Britons deserve to know the truth, the deputy PM said: “People in public office are supposed to hold the highest standards and I think that’s implicitly right.”

Pressed on whether any minister who lies to parliament should be dealt with accordingly, Raab was hesitant to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, clearly aware he was really being asked if the PM should be sacked if it is proved he lied to MPs in the Commons about his knowledge of the 20 May gathering.

Eventually, though, he said: “If it’s lying, deliberate in the way you describe, if it’s not corrected immediately, it would normally, under the ministerial code and the governance around parliament, be a resigning matter.”

Raab condemns ‘caricature’ of party culture at No 10

08:26 , Sam Hancock

Continuing his defence of Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab told Sky News the PM had been “straightforward” with parliament after allegations he lied about parties in No 10.

Asked if the PM should resign if he misled parliament, Raab told Sky News: “I’m not going to speculate on hypotheticals. I’m confident he’s been straightforward with the House of Commons.”

Pressed about Dominic Cummings’ claims, he added: “The PM has been very clear that that’s not true or accurate.”

Raab also went to great lengths to rubbish the “caricature” he says has been presented about No 10 staff and their inclination to hold unlawful parties.

“There’s something of a caricature being presented of the dedicated and hard work that I saw [when I was filling in for the PM when he was off with Covid,’ Raab told Kay Burley.

He also denied ever seeing a wine fridge which it has been claimed was bought by No 10 staff, to be filled with wine at weekly Friday Night Wine events during the first Covid lockdown and beyond.

Cummings’ claim PM lied to parliament ‘nonsense’, says Raab

08:32 , Sam Hancock

Here’s our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn with some more detail on the remarks made by Dominic Raab this morning.

Raab’s comments on Tuesday came as Conservative backbenchers – incensed at the multiple reports of rule-breaking events inside Downing Street – said they had received “enormous” amounts of angry correspondence from voters.

While the deputy PM admitted “there is some frustration” and there were “mixed views” on the doorstep in his own constituency, he also claimed on Sky News didn’t “get raised a lot with me”.

Cummings’ claim that PM ‘lied to Parliament’ is ‘nonsense’, says Raab

Raab appears to say PM should quit if he lied to parliament

08:40 , Sam Hancock

Let’s stick with Dominic Raab for now. The deputy PM appeared to suggest Boris Johnson should resign as PM if he is found to have lied to parliament about his knowledge of at least one party held at No 1, while the rest of the country was under strict coronavirus restrictions.

Asked about the ministerial code stating that those “who knowingly mislead parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the prime minister”, Raab told BBC Breakfast: “I think the ministerial code should be followed at all time.”

Pressed if a minister should resign if they lie to parliament and fail to correct themselves, he conceded that “yes”, they should.

But, Raab seems to have some hope left. Asked about how safe the PM’s position is, the justice secretary said he was “confident” Johnson “will carry on for many years and into the next election”.

Watch: Raab says he does not recognise ‘caricature’ of No 10’s partying culture

09:02 , Sam Hancock

Tory MPs turn on Johnson with public criticism

09:11 , Sam Hancock

The division between Boris Johnson and some of his backbench MPs is more apparent than ever, with various Tories questioning the PM’s position after claims made by Dominic Cummings about No 10 parties.

George Freeman, the science minister, said that stories of “boozy” gatherings in No 10 had caused “serious damage” to public trust in the government.

In a letter to a constituent sent after Johnson’s appearance at PMQs last week, Freeman said that people in positions of power “shouldn’t seek to escape public responsibility or accountability”, adding: “The prime minister and his office should set the highest standards.”

In a statement posted to social media, Freeman later denied that he was calling Johnson’s leadership into question in the letter. “I’ve been v clear re PM that we need to wait & hear what the official investigation shows, & PM’s response,” he said. “My letter to constituents makes clear my anger that No 10 staff were holding parties, how damaging the saga has been & that the PM & cabinet need to restore trust.”

Maria Caulfield, a health minister, was less subtle. She said that whether or not rules were “technically” breached, “the spirit of the rules” was broken. She added she would “consider what action is needed” after the report by the civil servant Sue Gray.

It comes after six MPs – William Wragg, Caroline Nokes, Tim Loughton, Sir Roger Gale, Douglas Ross and Andrew Bridgen – publicly called for Johnson to resign.

Freeman is parliamentary under-secretary of state for science, research and innovation (Wikimedia Commons)
Freeman is parliamentary under-secretary of state for science, research and innovation (Wikimedia Commons)

Justice secretary suggests ‘context’ could change meaning of ministerial code

09:18 , Sam Hancock

As Byline TimesAdam Bienkov reports:

Tory peer investigated over links to ‘VIP lane' PPE contracts

09:24 , Sam Hancock

There’s more trouble for Boris Johnson’s party now, as Tory peer Michelle Mone is being investigated over alleged links between her and a company that was awarded PPE contracts worth more than £200m via a “VIP lane”.

PPE Medpro Limited was awarded an £80.85m contract in May 2020 to supply the NHS with masks, and a £122m contract the following month to supply surgical gowns, reports Lamiat Sabin. It is alleged that Lady Mone had recommended the company to the Cabinet Office in May 2020.

The House of Lords commissioner for standards has now launched an inquiry after a complaint was made by Labour peer George Foulkes on 6 January.

Lords watchdog launches investigation into Michelle Mone over PPE contracts

Britons ‘fed up with PM’s lies,’ says Labour’s Ashowrth

09:44 , Sam Hancock

The shadow pensions secretary has accused Dominic Raab of being “utterly out of touch with public opinion” after the latter claimed Britons were not all that angry with Boris Johnson over partygate.

“When I’ve been out and out, people are furious... I’ve been stopped in the street on this. People are furious at Boris Johnson and they’re sick to death of his lies,” Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News.

Sky’s Kay Burley challenged this point, saying Raab had only moments ago been on her show to say “that wasn’t what he was hearing on the doorstep”.

Ashworth, who was shadow health secretary while the alleged parties took place in No 10, added if MPs “inboxes were anything to go by”, there would be no doubt if the public was angry at the PM.

Watch: Deputy PM slams ‘ridiculous’ claims ‘party’ held in ‘his honour’ on 20 May

09:59 , Sam Hancock

Raab briefly admits No 10 event was a ‘party’ – before backtracking

10:02 , Sam Hancock

Last bit from Dominic Raab’s media round this morning. The deputy PM and justice secretary appeared to briefly admit there was a “party” in No 10 while the rest of the country faced severe Covid lockdown restrictions – before going back on his remarks.

His comments came as he attempted to dismiss the explosive claims from Dominic Cummings, the former chief Downing Street adviser, that Boris Johnson had lied to parliament.

In an awkward exchange, Raab told Sky News: “There was speculation that the 20 May party was held in my honour to thank me – it’s just ridiculous. Of course not, ridiculous”. When challenged by presenter Kay Burley, who said “so it was a party on 20 May then”, Raab backtracked, saying: “No, no, no – this is the claim that was made.”

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more:

Raab briefly admits No 10 event was a ‘party’ — before rowing back

YouTube should do more to protect children, suggests senior Tory

11:00 , Sam Hancock

Our politics reporter Adam Forrest has the following:

YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok officials are being grilled about influencer culture and online harms by MPs on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee this morning.

Committee chair Julian Knight said it appeared YouTube had not done any “substantial research” in ways to improve “ways to protect children” on the platform.

The senior Tory MP Iain Bundred told YouTube’s head of public of policy for the UK Iain Bundred “it sounds like you do absolutely nothing about it”.

Bundred said it was “certainly not the case”. He said YouTube’s child safety policies do not allow “content that endangers the emotional and physical wellbeing of children” – and told MPs that millions of videos that violated the policies had been removed last year.

SNP MP John Nicholson asked why Instagram had not tackled abuse experienced by influencers on the platform.

Tom Gault, public policy lead for Instagram, said: “We listen to our community and the feedback that they give us,” adding: “Last year we tightened our policies around preventing more kinds attacks against public figures … in part due to the feedback we got.”

Patel condemns anti-‘law abiding’ Labour for ‘blocking’ protest laws

11:05 , Sam Hancock

As our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden reports:

BREAKING: Court overturns ruling on Covid contract for Cummings friends

11:08 , Sam Hancock

The Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling that a Covid contract given to a company whose founders were friends of former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings was unlawful.

Last year, the High Court ruled that the Cabinet Office’s decision to award a £550,000 contract to market research firm Public First was unlawful as it gave rise to “apparent bias” because other agencies were not considered.

But today’s ruling concluded that a “fair-minded and reasonably informed observer” would not see the decision as biased, with Mr Cummings saying it was “good news” the Court of Appeal had “seen sense and said I behaved lawfully”.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the full report:

Appeal court overturns ‘unlawful’ ruling over Covid contract for Cummings friends

Hunt implies he could run for Tory leadership if PM resigns

11:38 , Sam Hancock

Jeremy Hunt has implied he may well put himself in the running to be the next Tory leader, but he adds it would “take a lot to persuade” him.

The former health secretary, who now chairs the health and social care select committee, said he had “enjoyed being on the backbenches much more than I thought”.

Speaking to political magazine The House, Hunt said he hoped the government could “weather this storm and there isn’t a leadership election” amid growing speculation over Boris Johnson’s future.

Pundits have speculated now would be an especially hard time for a new leader to take over, due to the various national issues - such as the cost of living crisis - currently playing out under Mr Johnson’s administration.

Hunt, who previously ran for party leader in 2019 following the resignation of then-PM Theresa May, is is one of several senior Tories considered to be a strong contender to replace Johnson. Other names include chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss.

Watch: Labour minister says No 10 drinking culture ‘goes back to PM’

11:38 , Sam Hancock

Ex-Tory leader ‘appalled’ at PM’s failure to tackle No 10 parties

11:50 , Sam Hancock

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague has launched a stinging attack on Boris Johnson, saying he was “appalled” by the prime minister’s failure to tackle the drinking culture at No 10.

As Mr Johnson battles to save his premiership amid the partygate scandal, Mr Hague suggested previous Tory PMs would not have allowed drinks events at Downing Street during a pandemic, reports Adam Forrest.

“I am appalled because I can’t imagine … that being allowed in any government that I have served in, which is quite a few governments,” the ex-leader told Times Radio.

He added: “It’s not something I can picture happening under David Cameron or John Major or Margaret Thatcher without them saying, ‘What the hell do you think you’re all doing? Get back to your desks and put away that drink.’”

Ex-Tory leader ‘appalled’ at Boris Johnson’s failure to tackle drinking at No 10

Watch live as Sajid Javid takes questions from MPs on Covid recovery

11:53 , Ella Glover

‘He’s running’: Pundits react to Hunt signalling a leadership bid

12:13 , Sam Hancock

Political pundits have reacted to a recent interview with Jeremy Hunt, in which he was asked explicitly if he will run to be Conservative leader should Boris Johnson’s position become untenable.

He told The House magazine it would “take a lot to persuade me to put my hat in the ring” and that he had “enjoyed being on the backbenches much more than I thought”.

It seems not everyone is convinced, though.

The FT’s Whitehall editor Sebastian Payne reacted quickly:

Meanwhile, The Daily Mirror’s Whitehall correspondent Mikey Smith said:

Ex-senior No 10 Adviser Dominic Cummings described the interview as “SW1 code” for a leadership bid:

Ian Dunt, an i newspaper columnist, said simply:

Sunak: Of course I believe PM on parties

12:25 , Sam Hancock

Our politics reporter Adam Forrest has the latest on partygate:

Chancellor Rishi Suank has said he accepts Boris Johnson’s explanation that he was not warned in advance about a No 10 drinks party during lockdown in May 2020.

In a broadcast clip, the chancellor said: “Of course I do. The prime minister set out his understanding of this matter last week in parliament. I refer you to his words.”

Mr Sunak added: “Sue Gray is conducting an inquiry into this matter and I fully support the prime minister’s requests for patience while that concludes.”

Asked if the PM should resign if he lied to parliament, Mr Sunak said: “I am not going to get into hypotheticals, the ministerial code is clear on these matters.”

750 million lateral flow tests to be delivered to the UK for January and February

12:35 , Ella Glover

When asked about the impact that changing the isolation rules will have on the demand for lateral flow tests, health minister Maggie Throup said the UK will receive another 750 million lateral flow tests January and February.

Responding to DUP MP Jim Shannon, Ms Throup said: “As we look at policy and make amends like we did last week, it’s only right that we make sure that we can fill those requirements.

“I would like to reassure the honourable gentleman that we can and we have increased the procurement of lateral flow devices, and this month we will be getting another 750 million lateral flow devices into the UK for January and February.”

Wales’ economy minister calls for funding certainty and autonomy from UK government

12:45 , Ella Glover

Wales’ economy minister Vaughan Gething said “funding certainty and autonomy” is essential for wales to build up its economy following Brexit and the pandemic.

Speaking during a press briefing about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, he said UK government policy is leaving Wales with “less say over less money”

He said: “We continue to face many economic challenges, particularly in light of the impact of leaving the European Union and the absence of a UK government plan for replacing EU funding and reducing inequalities across the UK.

“The people of Wales have not provided a mandate for the UK government to hijack money and decisions out of Wales.

“Funding certainty and autonomy will allow us to support the reconstruction of our Welsh economy, tailored to Wales’ needs. Following several years of engagement, we have published our plans with partners on how we can make that work.

“The approach the UK government is taking is a direct threat to this work. It currently leaves Wales with less say over less money.”

Watch as Rishi Sunak walks out of interview after being asked if PM should resign

12:55 , Ella Glover

Asked if he believes the prime minister is telling the truth about the parties that took place during lockdown the chancellor said “of course.”

When asked if the PM should resign, Mr Sunak said he was not going to “get into hypotheticals” and referred to the inquiry being conducted by Sue Gray before swiftly leaving.

PM agrees that ministers who ‘knowingly’ mislead Commons should quit, says No 10

13:05 , Ella Glover

Boris Johnson supports and abides by rules which state that a minister who knowingly misleads parliament should resign, Downing Street has said.

It follows claims by Dominic Cummings that the PM intentionally mislead parliament when he said he was unaware of any parties in Downing Street.

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab this morning said that a prime minister would “normally” be expected to quit if he intentionally misled parliament.

His statement was backed by Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson, who told a regular daily Westminster media briefing: “The ministerial code is very clear on this point, when it comes to knowingly misleading the House, and the prime minister abides by that and we fully support it.”

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the full story:

Boris Johnson agrees that ministers who ‘knowingly’ mislead Commons should quit

Sajid Javid to launch ‘war on cancer’ following pandemic

13:15 , Ella Glover

Sajid Javid has said he is working on a “new vision to radically improve the outcome of cancer patients” across the UK.

Asked what he is doing to improve cancer survival rates, Mr Javid said: “The pandemic has exposed huge health disparities in this country.

“It’s clear to me that we need to go much further on cancer - not only to catch up on cancer referrals, on diagnosis, on treatment and radical innovation, but to improve the persistently poor outcomes that patients in this country have long experienced compared to other countries.

“It’s time we launched a war on cancer and I’m working on a new vision to radically improve the outcome of cancer patients across the United Kingdom, and I’ll have more to say on this in due course.”

Rishi Sunak ends interview abruptly when repeatedly asked about partygate

13:25 , Ella Glover

As per the recent video (12.55pm), Rishi Sunak said he believed Boris Johnson’s explanation over a drinks event in the Downing Street garden – but abruptly ended an interview when repeatedly asked about the partygate scandal.

Adam Forrest has the story:

Rishi Sunak ends interview abruptly when repeatedly asked about partygate

BREAKING: PM ‘categorically’ denies Cummings’ garden party claims

13:33 , Sam Hancock

Boris Johnson has said he “categorically” was not warned that a garden party in No 10 at the height of lockdown would breach the Covid rules.

Asked whether he could resign over the scandal, as six of his own MPs have urged, the prime minister said: “We’ll have to see what [the internal inquiry] says.”

Follow our policy correspondent Jon Stone’s breaking report:

Boris Johnson ‘categorically’ denies party claims but does not rule out resigning

PM repeatedly denies knowing No 10 garden party broke Covid rules

13:49 , Sam Hancock

Here’s Adam Forrest with a bit more detail on what the PM is claiming:

Boris Johnson has “categorically” denied anyone warned him that a drinks gathering he attended in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 could be in breach of lockdown rules.

Asked if he had lied in parliament, Mr Johnson: “No,” adding: “Nobody told me the event was, as you say, against the rules … that we were going to do something that wasn’t a work event.”

Asked if again if was rejecting Dominic Cummings’ claim he was warned against the event, he said: “I can tell you categorically that nobody told me, and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules.

“Because frankly I can’t imagine why on earth it would have gone ahead, why it would have been allowed to go ahead.”

He added: “My memory of this event, as I’ve said, is going out into the garden for 25 minutes for what I implicitly thought was a work event, and talking to staff, thanking staff … That is what I’ve said to the [Sun Gray] inquiry. We’ll have to see what they say.”

Mr Johnson said he had seen the email from his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds inviting staff to a “bring your own booze” event. “I saw it the other day – I only saw it when it emerged,” he said.

Asked if he could resign if he was found to have misled parliament, he said: “Let’s see what the report says … we’ve got to wait for the outcome of the report.”

Watch: PM says ‘nobody told me’ Downing St party was unlawful

13:50 , Sam Hancock

Boris Johnson ‘renews apology’ to the Queen

13:53 , Sam Hancock

More from our politics reporter Adam Forrest now:

Boris Johnson sighed, looked down and shook his head when about Downing Street having to apologise to the Queen over No 10 leaving events the night before Prince Philip’s funeral last April.

Asked if it was a moment of “shame”, Mr Johnson said. “I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened. And I can only renew my apologies to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgements that were made, and for which I take full responsibility.”

He added: “I am heartily, heartily sorry for misjudgements that were made in No 10.”

‘End of the road’: Labour responds to PM’s claim he didn’t lie

14:13 , Sam Hancock

Despite Boris Johnson “categorically” denying he knew about a pre-planned drinks party in No 10, critics are continuing to wage a war on the PM.

Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, has said it is clear Johnson “knows it’s the end of the road”.

“He’s the prime minister, he set the rules, he didn’t need anyone to tell him that the party he attended broke them,” she said in a statement released by her party’s press office.

“If he had any respect for the British public, he would do the decent thing and resign.”

It comes after at least six of his own MPs called for the same outcome.

PM ‘heartily sorry for misjudgments made in No 10’ during lockdown

14:42 , Sam Hancock

Last bit from Boris Johnson’s tense interview this afternoon. Asked if he thinks he can survive partygate, the PM said: “I understand people’s feelings and I understand why people feel as strongly as they do about this issue ... I repeat my apologies for what happened. I’m heartily, heartily sorry for misjudgments that were made in No 10.”

He swiftly moved on to the UK’s Covid recovery, saying the government was “focused nonetheless on taking the country forward in the way that we are” - coming out of the pandemic “faster than any other comparator country”.

Continuing on the same line, he added: “We need to get on and do much, much more: we need to help people with the cost of living, we need to tackle issues at our borders, we need to fix the Covid backlogs, we need to rebuild the economy.

“We have a huge agenda of work and that is what this government is going to get on and deliver.”

Johnson was quizzed during a visit to a north London hospital (Ian Vogler)
Johnson was quizzed during a visit to a north London hospital (Ian Vogler)

Sturgeon: Scotland Omicron restrictions to end on Monday

14:50 , Sam Hancock

Over to Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said all of Scotland’s Covid restrictions introduced in response to the Omicron variant will be brought to an end next Monday.

Speaking at Holyrood, the FM said nightclub closures and the requirement for table service in hospitality will be scrapped. Attendance limits on indoor events will also be lifted.

“However, it is important to stress this point,” she added, “notwithstanding the improving situation, the level of Covid infection circulating in the community is still high. So to minimise the risk of us getting the virus it would be sensible for all of us to remain cautious in our social interactions at this stage.”

Adam Forrest has more:

Scotland’s Omicron restrictions to end on Monday, says Nicola Sturgeon

Letter PM sent to girl, 7, who postponed birthday party goes viral

15:16 , Sam Hancock

A letter that Boris Johnson sent to a seven-year-old member of the British public in 2020, thanking her for postponing her birthday party due to Covid, is doing the rounds on social media.

Many are arguing that the document, sent on 21 March, shows the PM was well aware of the rules he claims not to have understood properly when, two months later, there was a drinks party held in his back garden.

“I think mummy and daddy might have to cancel my party,” Josephine wrote to Johnson in a note, “but I don’t mind because I want everyone to be OK.”

Alongside his reply, which he shared on Twitter, the PM told anyone reading that Josephine “sets a great example to us all”.

From sarcasm to anger, here’s what people are saying about the latest gaffe in partygate:

UK nations set out post-Brexit fisheries vision

15:22 , Sam Hancock

A fisheries update now, as the UK government and three devolved administrations set out their agreed vision for a sustainable fishing industry.

Ministers from around the UK are seeking views on their Joint Fisheries Statement, which describes legally-binding policies to manage the fishing sector and for which a consultation will run until 12 April.

It sets out plans for an “ecosystem-based” approach to fishery management with a commitment to protecting and, where necessary, recovering fish stocks.

The plan also aims to reduce the impact of fishing on the marine environment, as well as support the industry.

“The Fisheries Act has given us the powers to implement our own independent fisheries policy, improve our marine environment and make decisions based on the health of our fish stocks and not vested interests,” environment secretary George Eustice said, adding: “We have taken back control of our waters.”

SNP rubbishes Johnson’s claim he didn’t know party broke rules

15:29 , Sam Hancock

Ian Blackford has questioned the PM’s latest “excuse” for No 10 parties, claiming “no one should have to tell [him] what the rules are - [he] put them in place”.

It comes after Boris Johnson “categorically” denied claims made by Dominic Cummings that he knew of a drinks party being held in his back garden and that he pushed for it to go ahead in the face of Covid restrictions.

“Boris Johnson’s comments that nobody told him that his boozy lockdown party was against the rules are utterly staggering,” Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said. “He is taking the public for fools with these increasingly ludicrous excuses.”

In a tweet, he added: “When will Tory MPs finally remove him from office?”

Watch: ‘You’re taking the mickey’: Sky’s Beth Rigby grills PM over partygate

15:30 , Sam Hancock

New bill potential after Lords block ‘draconian’ protest laws

15:38 , Sam Hancock

The government will have to draw up a new bill to bring in “draconian” protest laws backed by Priti Patel, following a series of humiliating defeats in the House of Lords.

Peers stripped some of the most controversial clauses out of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill after the government attempted to add them at a late stage of scrutiny, reports our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden.

Defeated plans to give police the power to stop and search peaceful protesters without suspicion, make “locking on” an offence and create protest banning orders had not been debated by MPs. A proposed offence of disrupting key national infrastructure, including airports and newspaper printers, was also voted down.

Government forced to draw up new bill after Lords defeat ‘draconian’ protest laws

‘Pork pie plot’: Tory MPs ‘meet to discuss PM’s mess'

16:08 , Sam Hancock

As the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reports:

Watch: James O’Brien compares Tory govt to Eastenders in epic monologue

16:10 , Sam Hancock

Government must go ‘further’ to prepare for climate impacts

16:20 , Sam Hancock

Stepping away from partygate momentarily. The UK government must go “further and faster” to prepare for the impacts of warmer temperatures caused by the climate crisis, according to its own analysis.

The new report said “stronger or different” government action was needed to tackle more than 30 climate-related risks in the next few years, including over coastal flooding, public water supplies and health, reports Zoe Tidman.

The government’s UK Climate Change Risk Assessment also said it would cost billions every year to deal with the impacts of the climate emergency by the mid-century.

UK government says it must go ‘further and faster’ to prepare for warmer planet

Latest Covid figures revealed

16:29 , Ella Glover

A further 94,432 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am Tuesday, according to government figures.

Some 438 deaths within 28 days of a positive death were also recorded, bringing the total to 152,513.

More than 52 million people have now received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and nearly 48 million have received a second dose.

As for booster shots and third doses, the government said 36,54,483 have been administered.

https://twitter.com/UKHSA/status/1483469924710367233?s=20

MP calls for families to be granted ‘immediate access’ to the digital data of deceased loved ones.

16:54 , Ella Glover

DUP MP Ian Paisley has proposed a Bill that would give families "immediate access" to the digital data of their deceased loved ones.

It would help prevent families from having to take costly or uncertain legal action against digital platforms,” he said.

He said it would give loved ones access to a “lost archive” of their deceased loved ones lives and would ensure digital data is available to investigators.

He told the Commons: "My Bill would create a law where the default position would be that the next of kin of a deceased or incapacitated person would automatically gain access to the contents of the digital platforms held in the deceased person’s name on their digital device."

He added: "It will allow the next of kin the automatic right to access to a person’s digital device and place a responsibility on the tech companies to unlock devices for those next of kin who do not have the access codes for devices left by the deceased.

"It will avoid unnecessary legal action by the next of kin.

"It will remove forever the unnecessary wall that will unlock - for many - happy memories and access to what they thought was lost, archive material about their loved one.”

MP calls for families to be granted ‘immediate access’ to the digital data of deceased loved ones.

16:54 , Ella Glover

DUP MP Ian Paisley has proposed a Bill that would give families "immediate access" to the digital data of their deceased loved ones.

It would help prevent families from having to take costly or uncertain legal action against digital platforms,” he said.

He said it would give loved ones access to a “lost archive” of their deceased loved ones lives and would ensure digital data is available to investigators.

He told the Commons: "My Bill would create a law where the default position would be that the next of kin of a deceased or incapacitated person would automatically gain access to the contents of the digital platforms held in the deceased person’s name on their digital device."

He added: "It will allow the next of kin the automatic right to access to a person’s digital device and place a responsibility on the tech companies to unlock devices for those next of kin who do not have the access codes for devices left by the deceased.

"It will avoid unnecessary legal action by the next of kin.

"It will remove forever the unnecessary wall that will unlock - for many - happy memories and access to what they thought was lost, archive material about their loved one.”

Climate change has ‘saved lives’ says Conservative peer

17:10 , Ella Glover

Conservative peer Lord Lilley, who has been linked to the climate sceptic think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, hailed the “good news” that climate change has "prolonged or saved the lives of over half a million of our fellow citizens,” PA reported.

It came as data released by the Office for National Statistics showed temperate-related deaths caused by cold winters had decreased since 2001.

Such deaths fell by 555,103 or an average of 27,755 deaths a year between 2001 and 2020 thanks to rising temperatures.

Raising the figures in Parliament, Lord Lilley, who sits on the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, said: "Isn’t that good news, that climate change has prolonged or saved the lives of over half a million of our fellow citizens?"

Ghana ‘has not engaged’ in talks with UK over ‘migrant processing facility'

17:25 , Ella Glover

The Ghanaian government has denied any involvement in talks with the UK over plans to host a migrant processing facility to help tackle the migrant crisis.

The alleged plans were reported by the Times on Sunday.

Commenting on the reported plans, Downing Street said it was “not helpful” to talk about ongoing discussions with countries but it was “right we talk to international partners” about fixing the asylum system.

However, Ghana’s ministry of foreign affairs flat-out denied that they had any such plans.

It said: “The ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration wishes to state categorically that Ghana has not engaged with the UK on any such plan and does not intend to consider any such operation in the future.”

Javid says he is optimistic restrictions will be ‘substantially reduced’ next week

17:54 , Ella Glover

Health secretary Sajid Javid has said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Covid-19 regulations can be “substantially reduced” next week.

Mr Javid told MPs it was likely “we have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations”.

This, along with the UK being the most boosted country in Europe with the most anti-virals per head, he said, will see likely restrictions loosened next week.

The government is set to review its so-called plan B measures on 26 January, which apply to England, and include mandatory mask wearing in certain places as well as working from home where possible.

“I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than absolutely necessary,” the health secretary added.

Jon Stone has the full story:

Sajid Javid says Covid rules likely to be ‘substantially’ relaxed next week

Cummings to give evidence to Sue Gray for party-gate inquiry

18:07 , Ella Glover

Dominic Cummings will give evidence to senior official Sue Gray as part of her inquiry into the parties and gatherings attended by MPs during the coronavirus lockdowns, PA has reported.

Mr Cummings, the PM’s former chief aide, alleged that Boris Johnson misled Parliament after being told an event on May 20 2020 would breach coronavirus guidance.

Mr Cummings has alleged the Prime Minister misled Parliament after being told an event on May 20 2020 would breach coronavirus guidance.

In an explosive blog post, Mr Cummings said he would “swear under oath” that an email sent by “a very senior official” warned the “bring your own booze” event broke Covid rules.

He wrote: “The events of 20 May alone, never mind the string of other events, mean the PM lied to Parliament about parties.

“Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened.”

The PM has denied this and earlier said “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules” to the “best of my recollection”.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill a ‘magnet for judicial review’ says Tory MP

18:35 , Ella Glover

Conservative MP Richard Drax accused Boris Johnson of “driving a coach and horses straight at our core supporters” via new legislation to recognise that animals have feelings.

The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill recognises that animals are sentient beings, able to feel pain and joy, and creates a body to ensure UK ministers take account of their welfare needs when drawing up and implementing policy.

Mr Drax told the Commons: “This is a bad Bill, an unnecessary Bill, and a Trojan horse for those who have no understanding and sadly in some cases despise the countryside and all that goes on in it.”

He went on to sat that the UK “left the EU in order to pass our own laws” but that the Bill “is even more intrusive than the former legislation under EU law”.

He added the Bill would be a “magnet for judicial review” and warned about a committee it would establish, saying: “I and many others fear that those with different agendas, often partisan and politically motivated, will hijack this committee and its role to attack activities like shooting and fishing.”

PA

Government will vote against making misogyny a hate crime after House of Lords backs new law, Dominic Raab suggests

18:35 , Ella Glover

The government will vote against making misogyny a hate crime when the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is brought back to the commons, Dominic Raab suggested.

The amendment, brought by Tory peer and former victims commissioner Baroness Newlove, would require police to record crimes motivated by hostility towards the sex or gender of the victims, and make judges take it into account when sentencing offenders.

He told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “We looked at [the amendment] very seriously, the Law Commission went and looked at it for quite some time and came to the view it would be counter-productive and not effective as a measure, so we want to take the most effective measures.

He said the government was taking other measures to “make women feel more supported”, including extending time limits for reporting domestic assaults, and criminalising “breastfeeding voyeurism”.

Our Home Affairs editor Lizzie Dearden has the full story:

Government will vote against making misogyny a hate crime, Dominic Raab suggests

First week of 2022 saw Scotland’s worst ever A&E wait times

18:55 , Ella Glover

The first week of 2022 saw Scotland’s worst ever accident and emergency wait times recorded, according to NHS figures.

Almost a third (32.6 percent) of the 21,163 patients attending A&E waited more than four hours before they were admitted to the hospital, transferred or discharged.

Of the 6,902 patients who waited longer than four hours, 2,079 waited over eight hours and 690 people spent more than 12 hours at A&E before being seen.

Commenting on the figures, health secretary Humza Yousaf told the PA news agency: “Today’s figures have undoubtedly been impacted by Omicron-related staff absences, with health boards reporting a 31 percent increase in coronavirus absence compared with the previous week.

“On average, 7,174 NHS staff were absent per day for reasons related to Coronavirus, or around 4.0 percent of the NHS workforce. Additionally, Covid-19 general occupancy was 1376; 44 percent higher than at the same point the previous week (January 2) and 161 percent higher than at the same point two weeks previously (December 26).

“These figures are a reminder of the unprecedented challenges our NHS continues to face including high levels of people whose condition has deteriorated during the pandemic due to the backlog of waiting lists and the significantly faster rate of increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations this year compared to last January.

“Although the next few weeks will undoubtedly continue to be the most difficult very challenging, I would expect to see an improvement in performance next week and in the weeks ahead.

“To support the workforce and maximise capacity, we have introduced a range of measures including new remote monitoring tools to support people with Covid-19 to stay safely at home. We have also expanded capacity in NHS 24 so they can help more people and further alleviate pressures on the rest of NHS and social care.”

Matt Hancock’s swim in Serpentine ‘broke rules’, says angry club member

19:41 , Ella Glover

Matt Hancock’s decision to go for an impromptu swim in London’s Serpentine Tuesday morning was “against the rules,” a member of the lake’s swimming club has told The Independent.

The former health secretary was pictured swimming in the water with Tory colleagues Robert Buckland MP and Lord Bethell following a run in Hyde Park.

However, the Serpentine Swimmers’ Club tweeted that swimming is “strictly for members only” and “no guests [are] permitted”.

The member, who did not wish to be named, told The Independent: “[Mr Hancock] definitely broke the rules because you’re not allowed to swim if you’re not a member and you’re not allowed to have guests in.”

The added: “The rules are there for a reason – you have to do a 25m test and you have to accept responsibility to be a lifeguard if you see someone in distress. These rules are agreed with the Royal Parks.”

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock insisted that club members at the lake had invited the former health secretary to join them.

Adam Forrest has the full story:

Matt Hancock’s swim in Serpentine ‘broke rules’, says angry club member

Government ad campaign to turn public against phone security attacked as ‘alarmist’ and ‘scaremongering’

19:57 , Ella Glover

A government campaign aimed at turning the public against phone security has been attacked as “alarmist” by critics.

The campaign, backed by the Home Office and named ‘No Place To Hide’, aims to encourage social media companies to stop using end-to-end encryption.

That technology ensures that messages can only be read by their recipient and sender, with even the company relaying them unable to see their contents.

The government has repeatedly argued that such security is hindering law enforcement work, and the latest campaign seeks to suggest that companies such as Facebook are covering up child sexual abuse and other crime by protecting those messages.

But critics called the campaign “alarmist” and “scaremongering”, and suggested that its plans would actually leave children more vulnerable than before.

Andrew Griffin reports:

Government ad campaign to turn public against phone security attacked as ‘alarmist’

Exclusive poll finds more than half of Tory voters do not believe PM is telling truth on partygate

20:23 , Ella Glover

An exclusive poll for The Independent found that almost two-thirds of voters (65 per cent) and more than half (54 per cent) of Conservative supporters do not believe the PM’s claim he thought the 20 May 2020 drinks in the Downing Street rose garden was a “work event”.

An overwhelming 80 per cent of those questioned by Savanta ComRes - including 73 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2019 – agreed that under Johnson there was “one rule for the government and another for everybody else.

And almost three-quarters (73 per cent) – including 60 per cent of Conservative voters – said they were angry about the reports of repeated drinks parties in No 10.

Andrew Woodcock reports:

Nobody told me drinks event was against rules, says Boris Johnson

Government accused of having ‘no plan’ to reduce Channel crossings as Ghana denies offshoring talks

20:30 , Ella Glover

Government accused of having ‘no plan’ to reduce Channel crossings

The government has been accused of having “no plan” to curb Channel crossings as it emerged that reports ministers were in talks with Ghana about creating an offshore processing hub in the country were false.

As reactions trickled in, Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “Nothing has changed. There’s no plan. The government has completely failed to tackle what is a real issue […] and the people who bear the brunt of this danger are those who are being illegally trafficked themselves.”

Our social affairs correspondent May Bulman has the full story:

Government accused of having ‘no plan’ to reduce Channel crossings

UK should recognise Somaliland as its own country, Tory MP says

20:40 , Ella Glover

Former education secretary Gavin Williams called on the government to recognise Somaliland as its own sovereign state in the Commons on Tuesday evening.

Somaliland is considered by most countries to be part of Somalia, but it has its own de facto government based in the city of Hargeisa

Mr Williamson told MPs: "We have seen the people of Somaliland pay a price for the defence of this nation both in the First World War and the Second World War.

"If you go to Somaliland you can see the Commonwealth war grave cemeteries of where so many Somalilanders gave their lives to the defence of this country and also beating fascism on the Horn of Africa.

"I think there is a debt of honour that we owe the people of Somaliland to restore the freedom to them that they actually fought to preserve for us as well."

He added: "This is a country that has incredibly proud links with this country. This is a country that when we have been in need and when we have asked for help, they’ve responded by sending their young men to defend our values and our freedoms."

Voices: The government likes to talk tough over Channel crossings – but all we have seen are ridiculous proposals

20:59 , Ella Glover

As the latest leak reveals ministers explored potentially using sonic weapons to deter asylum seekers, our social affairs editor May Bulman asks why such proposals to tackle the issue keep appearing:

The government only has ridiculous proposals to stop Channel crossings | May Bulman

Thanks for reading!

21:06 , Ella Glover

That’s it for today’s live coverage of UK politics.

Come back tomorrow for more rolling updates.

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