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Christopher Pincher – live: Tory party suspends ex-whip as investigation launched

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Conservative MP Chris Pincher has been suspended from the parliamentary party and will be subject to a sexual misconduct investigation over allegations he drunkenly groped two men, it has been announced.

Boris Johnson has agreed that the whip should be suspended from Mr Pincher while he is investigated by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, a Tory spokeswoman said.

A Downing Street source suggested the prime minister agreed after speaking to a Tory MP who was with one of the men allegedly groped by Mr Pincher.

Earlier, No 10 admitted it knew of “unsubstantiated” claims against the MP when Mr Johnson promoted him – but said it had no reason to block the appointment.

Mr Pincher resigned yesterday, saying he “drank far too much” at a private members’ club and “embarrassed himself”.

Labour, as well as other Tory MPs, had demanded he be suspended.

The only two women Tory MPs to chair Commons select committees, Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, called for a policy of “zero tolerance” for any such alleged conduct.

Key Points

  • Chris Pincher suspended from Tory party

  • No 10 confirms it knew of claims against ex-deputy chief whip when he was promoted

  • Resignation shows Tories are ‘mired in sleaze’, says Labour

  • Mystery MP who saw Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds in ‘compromising situation’ revealed

23:10 , Liam James

That’s all for The Independent’s live coverage of politics for today. Our politics desk will be bringing you more over the weekend but for now you can catch up with the latest here.

Mystery MP who walked in on Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds in ‘compromising situation’ revealed

22:40 , Liam James

The mystery MP who walked in on Boris Johnson and then-girlfriend Carrie Symonds in an allegedly ‘compromising situation’ when he was foreign secretary is Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns, The Independent can reveal (Simon Walters reports).

Downing Street said that Burns “flagged up” the couple’s relationship to Foreign Office officials after finding them “having a glass of wine together” alone in Mr Johnson’s Commons office as foreign secretary in 2018.

Mr Burns, one of Mr Johnson’s most loyal supporters, had a “sixth sense” that their relationship was “one to watch”, said a senior No 10 source.

Mr Burns raised the matter with Mr Johnson’s close aide Ben Gascoigne, who worked for him at the Foreign Office and is now No 10 deputy chief of staff.

MP who walked in on Carrie and Boris Johnson in ‘compromising situation’ named

The Conservative MPs forced to quit, lose the whip or jailed

22:10 , Liam James

A string of scandals has engulfed the Tory party under Boris Johnson’s leadership. Round-up from PA News:

Disgraced Tory MPs who quit, lost the whip or are behind bars over sleaze scandals

Chris Pincher: PM ally who campaigned to ‘save Boris’

21:30 , Liam James

“Pincher by name, pincher by nature,” one Tory MP said of the former deputy chief whip forced to resign amid allegations he groped two men at a private members’ club.

The prime minister is now facing claims that Downing Street was warned about Chris Pincher even before he was given his latest government job in February’s reshuffle.

Especially as last night was not the first time the MP has been forced to resign from the whips’ office.

That was in 2017, when he faced accusations, which he denied, from a former Olympic swimmer and Conservative candidate.

But in times of crisis all prime ministers need allies.

Kate Devlin profiles the twice resigned whip who is being investigated for sexual misconduct:

Chris Pincher: PM ally who campaigned to ‘save Boris’

Watch: Tory whip suspended from Chris Pincher after formal investigation launched

20:40 , Liam James

The team at Independent TV have composed a disgestible version of the developments in the Chris Pincher scandal. Get up to speed if you missed the past few hours:

Comment: After hearing news of ‘groping’ Tory MP Chris Pincher, I have only two words

20:10 , Liam James

“Not again,” said Tom Peck when he heard the allegations against Chris Pincher.

The Independent’s political sketch writer remembers the last time the (now twice) former deputy chief whip resigned his post over sexual misconduct allegations:

After hearing of ‘groping’ Tory MP Chris Pincher I have only two words | Tom Peck

Tories suffer three council by-election defeats

19:30 , Jane Dalton

The Conservatives have suffered a hat-trick of council by-election defeats, continuing a recent run of poor results that has led them to shed seats to various opponents.

The party lost two contests on Thursday to the Liberal Democrats and a third to Labour.

The Tories have now made a net loss of 11 council seats since the local elections at the start of May.

With the latest defeats, the Lib Dems won a seat in the Bridlington North ward of East Riding council, which had become vacant following the death of the previous Tory councillor.

The second Lib Dem gain came in the Bernwood ward of Buckinghamshire council, where they took a seat in a by-election triggered by the resignation of its Conservative incumbent.

The Tories dropped to third place, behind the Lib Dems and the Greens.

Labour gained a seat from the Conservatives in the Midway ward of South Derbyshire council, following the resignation of a former Tory councillor.

In a bumper set of council by-elections on Thursday, the Conservatives also held seats in Croydon and Wyre, while Labour gained a seat from an independent in Middlesbrough and held seats in Liverpool and Newark & Sherwood.

The Conservatives have clocked up 12 losses and one gain since the start of May, giving them a net loss of 11 council seats overall, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

Of the 12 losses, five have been to the Lib Dems, three to Labour, two to the Greens and two to independents.

The one Conservative gain was a seat on Wyre Forest council that was previously held by the Health Concern party, who did not stand in the by-election.

Putin jokes and defence spending rows: Inside Boris Johnson’s turbulent trip overseas

19:10 , Liam James

Boris Johnson looked and sounded exhausted at the end of his nine-day trip overseas. Nine days of strange, somewhat stilted conversations with world leaders. Nine days of rows about biofuels and military budgets. Nine days of questions about Tory MPs trying to oust him.

Asked if he was looking forward to getting home, the prime minister allowed himself a sigh and a smile. “I can’t tell you how much … there’s no place like home.”

But unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, there is no respite for the PM back at the farm. As he kicks off his ruby slippers at Downing Street, he knows his troubles have not magically disappeared.

Adam Forrest followed the prime minister on his lengthy foreign trip. He reports here:

Putin jokes and defence spending rows: Inside Boris Johnson’s turbulent trip overseas

Migrant Channel crossings reached high last month

18:50 , Jane Dalton

More than 3,000 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK in June - the highest monthly total this year.

Some 3,136 made the crossing on 76 boats in the 30-day period, with journeys taking place on 19 of those days, according to PA analysis of government figures.

Of the 12,690 people who made the journey in the first half of this year, the second-highest month for crossings was 3,074 in March.

After navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies, 2,871 made the crossing in May; 2, 143 in April; 1,322 in January and 144 in February, according to Home Office figures for the first quarter of the year and data from the Ministry of Defence.

The highest month on record since 2018 was for 6,971 crossings in November 2021.

The total for 2022 so far is more than five times the number recorded between January and June 2020 (2,493) and more than double the six-month tally for the first half of last year (5,917).

The figures indicate 51,824 people have made the crossing since 2018.

Home Office figures show 28,526 crossed in 2021, compared with 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018.

Angela Rayner says Boris Johnson ‘dragged kicking and screaming’ into action against Chris Pincher

18:30 , Liam James

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the prime minister was forced into suspending Chris Pincher as a Conservative MP over groping allegations.

She said: “Boris Johnson has been dragged kicking and screaming into taking any action at all. He just can’t be trusted to do the right thing. This whole scandal is yet more evidence of his appalling judgement.

“It’s time for Conservative MPs to show this chaotic prime minister the door before he can do any more damage.”

Mr Johnson was said to have been waiting for a formal investigation to begin before suspending Mr Pincher but later relented.

A Downing Street source suggested the prime minister changed his mind after speaking to a Tory MP who was with one of two men allegedly groped by Mr Pincher.

Mr Johnson was speculated to have been reluctant to take action against Mr Pincher inpart due to the ex-deputy chief whip’s part in efforts to save the prime minister at the height of the Partygate scandal.

Boris Johnson agreed to suspend grope claim MP after hearing close account of allegations

18:03 , Liam James

A Downing Street source has suggested Boris Johnson agreed to Chris Pincher’s suspension after speaking to a Tory MP who was with one of two men allegedly groped by the resigned deputy chief whip.

“The account given was sufficiently disturbing to make the PM feel more troubled by all this,” the source told the PA news agency.

The prime minister was said to have been waiting for a formal investigation to begin before suspending the whip.

No 10 earlier said the prime minister thought Mr Pincher’s alleged behaviour was “unacceptable” but considered the matter closed after his resignation.

PM and Ardern agree looser travel rules for young

17:50 , Jane Dalton

More opportunities will be made available for young people to travel between the UK and New Zealand to live and work.

Boris Johnson and his Kiwi counterpart Jacinda Ardern signed an agreement to extend the Youth Mobility and Working Holiday schemes, as she visited Downing Street.

The maximum age for applicants will be raised from 30 to 35, and the maximum length of stay will be increased from various durations to three years.

Kelly Tolhurst, Conservative MP for Rochester, has been appointed new Tory deputy chief whip

17:34 , Holly Bancroft

Former housing minister Kelly Tolhurst has been appointed as the new Tory deputy chief whip following the resignation of Chris Pincher, Downing Street has said.

 (PA)
(PA)

UK export agency halts fossil fuel investments

17:20 , Jane Dalton

Environmental campaigners have cautiously welcomed a decision by the UK’s export finance agency to stop making new investments in fossil fuels overseas.

UK Export Finance has in the past been criticised for providing funds for British businesses exploiting oil and gas abroad – effectively subsidising fossil fuels and driving climate change, writes Jon Stone;

UK’s export support agency stops investing in new fossil fuel projects

Pincher suspended from Tory party

17:10 , Jane Dalton

Breaking news: Boris Johnson has agreed that the Conservative whip should be suspended from Chris Pincher while the MP is investigated by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, a Tory spokeswoman has said.

Whip withdrawn from Pincher after launch of sexual misconduct investigation

What does removing the whip mean?

16:50 , Jane Dalton

The penalty is a disciplinary measure. Joe Sommerlad explains all you need to know about punishment for misbehaving MPs:

What does removing the whip mean? All you need to know about punishment for MPs

MP who quit over porn ‘can’t believe’ Pincher not suspended

16:05 , Jane Dalton

A former MP who quit over watching pornography in Parliament, has said the Conservatives cannot show “double standards” and must remove the whip from former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.

Neil Parish, the former Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, who formally resigned in May, suggested he believes the party whip could be withdrawn from Mr Pincher before the end of Saturday.

Mr Parish, whose actions re-ignited questions over sleaze in Westminster, was adamant the whip should be withdrawn from his former parliamentary colleague.

“The first thing they did to me, and I made a huge mistake, is that they withdrew the whip. There cannot be double standards,” he said.

“My belief is that Christopher Pincher has things to be answered for, the whip must be withdrawn and he has the opportunity then to go before the parliamentary standards board to see what his conduct actually was - those that were affected can also give evidence.”

The MPs forced to quit, lose the whip or jailed as Tories ‘mired in scandal’

15:30 , Jane Dalton

A string of scandals has engulfed the Tory party under Boris Johnson’s leadership. Round-up from PA News:

Disgraced Tory MPs who quit, lost the whip or are behind bars over sleaze scandals

Top Tory women call for code of conduct for party’s MPs

14:55 , Jane Dalton

More on the two senior female Conservative MPs who have warned of “serious reputational damage” if the party is seen to turn a blind eye to some misdemeanours:

Senior Tory women call for code of conduct for party’s MPs

Disgraced ex-whip could net almost £8,000 in severance pay

14:25 , Jane Dalton

Christopher Pincher is entitled to a severance payment of almost £8,000 as a result of his resignation as government deputy chief whip, writes Andrew Woodcock:

Pincher could net almost £8,000 in severance pay after quitting government job

Shadow Commons leader calls for Pincher investigation

14:15 , Jane Dalton

Shadow leader of the House of Commons Thangam Debbonaire said the allegations of sexual misconduct against former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher must be investigated.

She told Radio 4’s The World At One : “He hasn’t had the whip removed and there’s no sign at the moment of these allegations being investigated by the Tory party.

“So yes, he’s resigned as deputy chief whip and what next? What does that say to victims if there’s no further action?”

The fact that Mr Pincher has not been removed from the Conservative Party “is part of a wider culture, which comes from the top I’m afraid, of tolerance of poor behaviour”, she said.

“The responsibility is now on the Prime Minister, the Tory Prime Minister and those propping him up to demand, expect and enforce the highest standards of behaviour”.

Minister plays down claim Dublin-London relations ‘never been so bad’

13:52 , Jane Dalton

A Conservative MP has insisted “Dublin are our closest partners in Europe” despite Ireland’s deputy leader saying relations have never been so bad with UK ministers.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said that in his political lifetime, he had “never seen relations as bad” with UK ministers.

But Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns told reporters: “We want to engage with Dublin, we want to engage with the EU. We’re very clear that we want a negotiated solution to the protocol.

“But in the absence of a wider mandate, from vice-president Sefcovic [European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic] we have really little alternative other than to pursue that legislative route that we’re doing now.

“Dublin are our closest partners in Europe. We share so many things in common, we have so many interests and challenges that we face together and we want to face those in friendship and in partnership.”

Mr Varadkar said the UK was “not being even-handed” when it comes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Boris Johnson 'considers Pincher matter closed’

13:18 , Jane Dalton

Downing Street has suggested that Boris Johnson considers the matter of Chris Pincher closed following his resignation.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “He’s [Chris Pincher] resigned that position so I’m not aware of any sort of Government investigation.”

The official repeatedly stressed that the former deputy chief whip was no longer a minister.

He said: “[The Prime Minister] has accepted his resignation, but again I think I’ve been clear that he would encourage anybody who feels as though they need to make a complaint to do so.

“I’ve said that he believes that the behaviour was unacceptable, which is why he’s accepted the resignation.”

Boris Johnson believes Pincher behaviour unacceptable – No 10

13:13 , Jane Dalton

Boris Johnson believes the behaviour of former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, who quit after allegedly “groping” two men, is unacceptable, Downing Street says.

Asked whether the Prime Minister operates a zero-tolerance approach to allegations of sexual misconduct among members of the team, a No 10 spokesman said: “Of course, the Prime Minister thinks that that sort of behaviour is unacceptable and he would encourage those who wish to make a complaint to do so.”

The official said he would not agree with the characterisation that Mr Johnson did not take sexual assault claims seriously, saying: “The Prime Minister does think he’s (Mr Pincher) done the right thing in resigning and has accepted that resignation.”

The spokesman said Mr Johnson and Mr Pincher exchanged messages, though he refused to give details of the private exchange and said he was not expecting the Prime Minister to write a letter.

Female Tory MPs call for Pincher to be suspended

13:05 , Jane Dalton

Tory MPs Karen Bradley and Caroline Nokes, the only two Conservative female chairs of select committees, have written to the chief whip suggesting former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher should have the party whip removed.

In their letter to Chris Heaton-Harris, they call for a “zero tolerance policy” on sexual misconduct following an “inconsistent and unclear approach” by the party to such incidents.

The letter said: “The party and, by extension, the Government are at risk of serious reputational damage by the current approach. We urge you to act swiftly to introduce a code of conduct for all Conservative members of Parliament which is clear in terms of the expectations of behaviour and which can be applied in a fair, independent manner so as to avoid any suspicion of bias.

“In the meantime we ask that you employ a policy of zero tolerance on these issues and to ensure a thorough investigation is carried out in each and every case. Once an investigation has been completed, a decision should be taken about returning the whip, but in the meantime anyone subject to such an investigation should not be allowed to sit as a Conservative MP and represent the party in any capacity.

“We understand the need for discretion where an allegation is being investigated by the police but would ask that you properly police your request for those involved in such investigations to stay away from Parliament, including not using their proxy votes in party votes.”

Having the whip removed means an MP is suspended from the party and may sit as an independent.

‘Unsubstantiated claims’ against Pincher when PM promoted him, No 10 says

12:39 , Jane Dalton

Downing Street was aware of “unsubstantiated allegations” against Christopher Pincher at the time Boris Johnson promoted him to deputy chief whip, but they were not deemed sufficient to block the appointment, No 10 has revealed.

Andrew Woodcock has this breaking story:

‘Unsubstantiated allegations’ against Pincher at time he was appointed, No 10 says

Jacinda Ardern arrives at No 10 for meeting

12:15 , Zoe Tidman

New Zealand’s prime minister has arrived at Downing Street for a meeting with Boris Johnson.

Jacinda Ardern was greeted at the front door by the British PM, where the pair shook hands.

New Zealand’s leader has arrived at No 10 for a meeting with Boris Johnson (AFP via Getty Images)
New Zealand’s leader has arrived at No 10 for a meeting with Boris Johnson (AFP via Getty Images)

Michelle O’Neill makes Sinn Fein history with Battle of Somme wreath

11:52 , Zoe Tidman

Staying on Michelle O’Neill for a moment, the Sinn Fein vice president has laid a wreath in Belfast in memory of those who died at the Battle of the Somme.

While lord mayors have laid a laurel wreath on the anniversary of the First World War battle in previous years, this is the first time a member of the party’s leadership has taken part.

Read more here:

Michelle O’Neill lays wreath for Battle of the Somme anniversary

Sinn Fein says UK not doing enough in cost of living crisis

11:39 , Zoe Tidman

Moving away from the latest Westminster scandal for a moment, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill has accused the UK government of not doing enough to support the public in the cost of living crisis.

“What the British government have done to date is not good enough. It does not cut the mustard, it does not support people enough,” the party’s vice president said.

“So, what we need to see is an executive formed and the British government need to tax the big companies and put the money into people’s pockets.”

Questions over Chris Pincher’s appointment

11:20 , Zoe Tidman

Chris Pincher was appointed as the second-in-command in the Tory whips office in February alongside the chief whip, Chris Heaton-Harris.

Politico’s London Playbook reported Boris Johnson was made aware of allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Mr Pincher before the appointment.

No 10 declined to comment on the claims.

Lib Dem chief whip says Chris Pincher cannot remain as MP

11:02 , Zoe Tidman

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain has said it is “difficult to see” how Chris Pincher can remain as an MP.

“This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable in parliament or anywhere else,” she said.

“There now needs to be a full investigation and in the meantime Chris Pincher should have the Conservative whip withdrawn.”

End to Chris Pincher’s third time in whips office

11:08 , Zoe Tidman

As mentioned before, this is not the first time Chris Pincher has quit the whips office.

He resigned as a junior whip in November 2017 following a complaint that he made an unwanted pass at the former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.

Having referred himself to both the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure, he was brought back by Theresa May as deputy chief whip in January 2018.

When Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019, he was moved to the Foreign Office as minister for Europe and the Americas before returning to the whips office for a third time earlier this year.

Chris Pincher has been appointed to the whips office three times (PA)
Chris Pincher has been appointed to the whips office three times (PA)

‘Speaks volumes’ Pincher is still MP, Labour says

10:34 , Zoe Tidman

A Labour MP has said it “speaks volumes” Chris Pincher has not lost his parliamentary seat yet:

Read Chris Pincher’s resignation letter in full

10:14 , Zoe Tidman

Chris Pincher submitted his resignation letter on Thursday.

You can read it in full here:

‘Groping’ Tory MP’s resignation letter in full after ‘he drank far too much’

Minister on whether Pincher should keep whip

09:54 , Zoe Tidman

Simon Hart said he knows “what [he] would like to see happen” when asked whether Chris Pincher should keep the whip.

He avoids giving a straight answer, but the Sky News presenter says: “It sounds to me like you think he should lose the whip”.

See the exchange here:

Minister hints Chris Pincher could lose Tory whip today

09:38 , Zoe Tidman

A Cabinet minister has suggested Chris Pincher will lose the party whip, Kate Devlin reports.

Labour, as well as other Tory MPs, have called for this after the MP was accused of groping two men while drunk.

Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary, hinted that he agreed and suggested such a move could happen later today:

Chris Pincher who resigned over ‘groping’ claims could lose Tory whip, minister hints

Minister cannot confirm if alleged Pincher assault under investigation

09:33 , Zoe Tidman

A government minister has said he is unable to confirm whether the alleged assault by former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher of two fellow guests at a Conservative private members’ club is currently being formally investigated.

“It is early days yet. I don’t know the answer to that because it only came to light around 8pm last night,” Simon Hart told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Government response to Chris Pincher allegations ‘disgrace’, Yvette Cooper says

09:16 , Zoe Tidman

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she believes Chris Pincher should have the whip suspended after he was accused of assaulting two guests at a private member’s club in London.

“These allegations are really serious. This is about sexual assault,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“It comes after we’ve had the Wakefield and Tiverton by-elections, which were also as a result of serious incidents involving Conservative MPs.

“So, the idea that the response that we’ve seen that the prime minister thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning and there’s no need for an investigation, well, that’s a total disgrace.”

2017 allegations against Chris Pincher

08:59 , Zoe Tidman

It is not the first time Chris Pincher has been embroiled in an alleged sexual misconduct scandal.

The Tory MP stood down from the whip’s office in 2017 after being accused of making an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative activist Alex Story while dressed in a bathrobe.

Conservative Whip refers himself to police over behaviour claims

He was later cleared of breaching party rules following a sexual harassment probe, which also looked into allegations against another MP Stephen Crabb (pictured below):

Two Tory MPs cleared over sexual harassment claims

Boris Johnson says snap poll not on the cards

08:39 , Zoe Tidman

In other news, Boris Johnson has dismissed the idea that he could call a snap poll before the next scheduled election in 2024.

Asked in an interview with LBC radio whether the idea of an early election is ridiculous, Mr Johnson replied: “Totally, totally.”

Alleged assault makes him ‘very sad’, Tory minister says

08:21 , Zoe Tidman

A Tory minister has said the alleged assault by Chris Pincher made him “very sad”.

Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary, suggested the Tory MP could lose the whip by the end of the day.

“Let’s let today play out, let the chief whip do his duty today, and then I think we might be having a very different conversation as the day goes on,” he told Sky News.

Other Tory party scandals

07:55 , Zoe Tidman

Here is a reminder of some other scandals to hit the Tory party in recent months:

Unnamed Tory MP accused of rape

Tory MP accused of rape can vote in Boris Johnson no-confidence ballot

Now-former Tory MP admitted watching pornography in House of Commons:

Neil Parish quits as MP after watching porn in Commons in ‘moment of madness’

Ex-Tory MP jailed for sexually assaulting teenage boy:

Disgraced former Tory MP who sexually assaulted boy jailed for 18 months

Tory MP suspended after two women make harassment complaints:

Tory MP David Warburton suspended amid harassment allegations

Boris Johnson ‘must answer how Chris Pincher can remain a Conservative MP’, Angela Rayner says

07:37 , Zoe Tidman

Here is more from Labour’s deputy leader on Chris Pincher’s resignation:

UK crackdown failing to stem flow of Russian dirty money through London, MPs warn

07:14 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Boris Johnson’s pledge to crack down on Russian dirty money in London will fail because of a lack of funding and expert staff, MPs have warned.

The prime minister’s “rhetoric” in quickly pushing through the Economic Crime Act – following the Ukraine invasion – is not matched by the “reality” of resources available, a foreign affairs committee report said.

The committee also demanded to know if action will be taken against wealthy foreign investors handed fast-track residency “without due diligence” before the scheme was hurriedly scrapped.

Rob Merrick reports.

UK crackdown failing to stem flow of Russian dirty money through London, MPs warns

VAT cut ‘proposed by Downing Street to ease cost of living squeeze’

07:02 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Downing Street is working on plans to cut VAT in a bid to ease the cost of living burden on struggling British households, reports suggest.

The Times reported on Thursday that No 10’s chief of staff Steve Barclay had suggested the temporary reduction in the 20 per cent rate of tax in the hope of easing tax bills for millions and blunting the spiralling rate of inflation.

It comes after modelling from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the rate of inflation in the UK, at 9.1 per cent, had reached its highest point since at least February 1982.

But the plans – which would see VAT cut to 17.5 per cent – have reportedly stirred up controversy within the Treasury, due to fears it could overstimulate the economy and stoke the already raging rate of inflation.

Emily Atkinson has more.

VAT cut ‘proposed by Downing Street to ease cost of living squeeze’

PM’s 2030 military spending pledge ‘feeble’, say senior Tories

06:28 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Boris Johnson sought to heal a cabinet rift by promising to hike defence spending to 2.5 per cent of Britain’s economic output by the end of the decade.

The prime minister wrapped up the Nato summit in Madrid with a pledge that could see more than £55bn added to military budgets this decade, following Ben Wallace’s pleas for more money.

However, senior Conservatives said the PM’s ambition remained “feeble” and the target too far off, given the gravity of the immediate threat from Vladimir Putin’s Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood MP, for 3 per cent of GDP to be spent on defence, said Mr Johnson’s end-of-decade commitment was “too little too late”, pointing to current budget cuts set to see 10,000 troops slashed from the Army.

Julian Lewis, chair of the intelligence and security committee, noted that the UK spent between 4.1 per cent and 5.5 per cent of GDP on defence during the 1980s, the last decade of the Cold War.

Tory plotters against Johnson urged not to ‘put gun to PM’s head’

06:11 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Downing Street has warned Tory MPs that they will be “putting a gun to the head” of every future Conservative prime minister if they change leadership rules in a bid to remove Boris Johnson.

The warning came as the prime minister’s supporters attempted to see off efforts by rebel MPs to bring forward the date of a possible second vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson.

One cabinet minister told The Independent that the PM’s critics should bear in mind that the electoral landscape would be very different by the likely date of the next general election in 2024, with economic issues rather than Partygate at the forefront of voters’ minds.

Andrew Woodcock and Adam Forrest report.

Tory plotters against Boris Johnson urged not to ‘put gun to PM’s head’

Pincher’s resignation shows Tories are ‘mired in sleaze’, says Labour

05:40 , Zoe Tidman

Deputy chief whip Chris Pincher’s resignation shows Conservatives are “mired in sleaze”, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has said.

Mr Pincher, who was appointed to the role last February to strengthen party discipline, resigned following a drunken incident in which he said he “embarrassed myself and other people”.

“Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer about why Chris Pincher was given this role in the first place and how he can remain a Conservative MP,” Ms Rayner said.

“The Conservative party is so mired in sleaze and scandal that it is totally unable to tackle the challenges facing the British people.”

Emily Atkinson reports:

Chris Pincher ‘groping’ resignation shows Tories are ‘mired in sleaze’, says Rayner

Chris Pincher resigns over ‘groping’ claims

05:32 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Conservative Party deputy chief whip Chris Pincher has resigned after he is said to have groped two men while he was drunk.

In a resignation letter sent to Boris Johnson, he said he had “embarrassed himself and other people” by drinking too much at the Conservative Party’s private members’ club.

The Tamworth MP said in his resignation letter: “Last night I drank far too much. I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned.

“I think the right thing to do in the circumstances is for me to resign as Deputy Chief Whip. I owe it to you and the people I’ve caused upset to, to do this.”

The Metropolitan Police said it was not aware of any calls to the location where the alleged incident took place and there was no record on its systems of any related reports submitted on Thursday.

Lamiat Sabin reports.

Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher resigns over ‘groping’ claims

04:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

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