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Boris Johnson news: Marcus Rashford school meal plea rejected, as PM criticised on energy crisis

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Boris Johnson faced criticism over his handling of the energy and supply chain crises, as exclusive polling for The Independent has found two-thirds of voters say he has performed badly.

In addition, only 41 per cent of people polled for this website by Savanta ComRes said they were confident in how the government was handling the economy – just days before Rishi Sunak was due to set out his budget.

Viewers of Mr Sunak’s Budget speech on Wednesday may not get many surprises because the Treasury has already trailed some £20bn of investment ahead of time.

The spending spree includes some £7bn to “level up” transport outside London, though not all of it is new money; £500m for family support including new Sure Start-style children’s centres; and £5bn for health research and genome sequencing.

Also on Sunday the chancellor rejected a fresh plea from Marcus Rashford to extend free school meals, saying the government had already acted to help children and has now “transitioned to a more normal way of doing things” post-Covid.

Watch: Rishi Sunak rejects Marcus Rashford’s call for free school meals extension

Read More

UK and EU ‘still far apart’ over Northern Ireland deal, as talks shift to London

Rishi Sunak warned £500m package for families won’t make up for cuts

Food banks see demand soar in wake of ‘nightmare’ universal credit cut

 Key points
Exclusive: Two-thirds of voters say PM has botched handling of energy and supply crises
Sunak rejects Marcus Rashford’s call for free school meals extension
UK and EU ‘still far apart’ over Northern Ireland deal, as talks shift to London
£20bn of Budget spending revealed days before speech
Exclusive: MPs avoiding £70,000 a year in congestion and emissions charges by putting them on expenses
Labour demands government bring in Covid plan B measures now ... and Rishi Sunak responds

 UK and EU ‘still far apart’ over Northern Ireland deal, as talks shift to London
08:07 , Jon SharmanTalks are set to continue between the UK and the EU in London next week, despite the two sides remaining “far apart” on crucial issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol, writes Adam Forrest.British officials described talks in Brussels this week as “constructive”, which came after the EU proposed new measures to ease trade barriers stemming from the agreed Brexit deal.But it is understood there is still major divide when it comes to Brexit minister Lord Frost’s demand for an end to the European Court of Justice (ECJ)’s role in trade arbitration.UK and EU ‘still far apart’ over Northern Ireland deal

 £20bn of Budget spending revealed days before speech
08:13 , Jon SharmanRishi Sunak is set to deliver his second Budget speech within a year on Wednesday, but there may be few surprises left when he does so.Some £20bn-worth of spending plans have already been trailed, including £7bn to “level up” transport outside London and £5bn for health research and genome sequencing.Other major items of expenditure include:£500m for family support including new Sure Start-style children’s centres
£3bn for a “skills revolution”
£850m to “breathe life” back into cultural sites
£700m for a new fleet of Border Force patrol boats and other measures
£700m to improve sports and youth clubs
£435m for crime prevention and the Crown Prosecution Service, part of which aims to improve the response to rape and sexual assault cases
Mr Sunak will be on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning so who knows, we may learn of yet more plans.Your correnspondent does wonder how Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons speaker, will feel about all this. He is notoriously hot on demanding ministers announce policy in parliament instead of in the media.You can read more about plans for a “skills revolution” below:Sunak to invest £3bn in skills and education to help workers get better-paid jobs

 Sunak warned £500m package for families won’t make up for cuts
08:32 , Jon Sharman#icymiRishi Sunak has pledged a £500m package to support parents with young children – but he has been warned it is not enough to make up for cuts and closures.Mr Sunak will announce a range of early years investments that will give children the “best possible start in life” at his Budget on Wednesday, writes Adam Forrest.But Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said the government knows the “existing structure is crumbling” and much more was needed to help nurseries, pre-schools and childminders.Rishi Sunak warned £500m package for families won’t make up for cuts

 Sunak declines to say cutting Sure Start was a mistake
08:51 , Jon SharmanRishi Sunak has declined to criticise George Osborne for slashing funding for Sure Start.The chancellor was speaking on Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday and talking up his plan to spend £500m on family support and children’s centres.He was asked whether Mr Osborne’s prior deep cuts to Sure Start were a mistake, in light of these new plans effectively to copy the scheme.Mr Sunak said: “I think it’s right to judge everyone by the context that they are doing their jobs in.“One thing that my predecessors, not just George, did, was ensure that I actually had a very strong economy and strong set of public finances.“Then, when coronavirus came, which nobody really knew about, I was able to respond in a comprehensive and generous fashion.”Pressed further on whether the Sure Start cuts were an error, the chancellor added: “You can pick on individual things, but overall, what my predecessors did was deliver a strong economy ... which we have now benefited from over the past year.”The new hubs will provide “broader” benefits than Sure Start, he claimed.

 Labour furious about new family centre funding in light of Sure Start cuts
09:00 , Jon SharmanRachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, has reacted with incredulity to Rishi Sunak’s £500m plan for more family “hubs”.She told Sky News: “I would just say to the chancellor, ‘Have you heard of Sure Start? Because that is what your government, over the last 11 years, have cut.’“It’s all well and good saying, ‘We’re going to invest in these family parks’, but thousands of children’s centres and Sure Start centres that were proud features of our communities – especially some of our poorest communities – have long gone.“I think there’s a real feeling that, if you hadn’t taken all that away, imagine what difference it could have made to the lives of young people and to their parents.”

 Sunak forced to admit £7bn transport funding is mostly not new money
09:10 , Jon SharmanJust £1.5bn of the almost £7bn Rishi Sunak has announced he plans to spend on “levelling up” transport outside London is newly promised money, the chancellor has admitted in an interview.Pressed on the detail of this Budget scheme by Sky News’ Trevor Phillips, Mr Sunak said: “The transport money that we announced is a combination of two things.“One, we’ve previously announced an overall envelope to improve how people get around our big cities. We want our cities, whether that’s in the west Midlands, or in Teesside or Greater Manchester, to have the same type of transport settlements that London’s always enjoyed ... We’ve previously announced £4.2bn for that.“What we’ve actually done is top that up, as you said, by £1.5bn, but then, crucially, give out the allocations for in that envelope, where are all the bits going to go.”

 Better street lamps and CCTV part of £435m crime spending plan
09:29 , Jon SharmanAttacks on women are the focus of some £435m of spending on crime prevention in this week’s Budget.Rishi Sunak is expected to pledge millions for better CCTV and street lamps along with £80m in extra cash for the Crown Prosecution Service.The Treasury said part of this would go to improving the response to rape and sexual assault cases.The chancellor said everyone should feel safe at home, on the streets or going out, but acknowledged "this is sometimes not the case, especially for young women".The statement follows widespread shock at the murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens and police forces dealing with hundreds of drink and injection spiking incidents.Funding for victims is also expected to be increased, with the Treasury saying it will be £185m an increase of 85 per cent from 2019-20.Mr Sunak said: "From boosting investment in better CCTV and street lighting, to better home security and support for repeat victims, we are committed to make our streets and homes safe."Additional reporting by PA Media

 Exclusive: MPs avoiding £70,000 a year in congestion and emissions charges by putting them on expenses
09:48 , Jon SharmanMPs who drive into Westminster are avoiding tens of thousands of pounds a year in congestion charges and ultra low emission zone fees by putting them on expenses, an investigation by The Independent has found.Clean air groups have written to parliament’s expenses watchdog asking it to stop MPs avoiding the anti-pollution charges, which are supposed to deter people from driving into central London and adding to its illegal levels of air pollution.MPs expensed nearly £70,000 of congestion charge and ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) fees in the most recent full financial year – and have managed to rack up another £10,000 bill in the two months before this year’s summer recess, writes Jon Stone.MPs avoid £70,000 a year in congestion and ULEZ charges by putting them on expenses

 Labour demands government bring in Covid plan B measures now ... and Rishi Sunak responds
10:07 , Jon SharmanLabour has called on government to bring in its so-called “Plan B” restrictions to tackle the surge in Covid cases, writes Adam Forrest.Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Boris Johnson must listen to scientific advisers asking for tougher curbs – including the mandatory wearing of masks in public places and a return to work-from-home guidance.“We think we should follow the science – if the scientists are saying wear masks and work from home we should do that,” Ms Reeves said on The Andrew Marr Show.Labour demands government bring in Covid plan B measures now

 Exclusive: Two-thirds of UK voters support tax rises for action on climate crisis
10:26 , Jon SharmanTwo in three voters in the UK support tax rises to pay for measures to mitigate the climate crisis, exclusive new polling for The Independent has found.Rishi Sunak is under pressure to avoid tax hikes from Conservative MPs sceptical of the government’s net zero plans as he prepares to deliver his Budget on Wednesday, writes Adam Forrest.But the idea of raising taxes to deal with the climate emergency has widespread support from the British public, a survey by Savanta ComRes has revealed.Two-thirds of UK voters support tax rises for action on climate change

 Sunak says inflation out of his control
10:36 , Jon SharmanRishi Sunak has indicated that a rise in inflation was due to factors he could not control.He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "If you take the last inflation number, which was just over 3 per cent, which is obviously higher than we normally target, and you look at what's causing that, the bulk of that increase is down to two things."One of those is the fact that as economies have reopened rather rapidly after coronavirus, that has put pressure on global supply chains, and then the other part of the increase is very much just down to energy prices."Both of those factors are global factors. We're not alone in experiencing those problems, I don't have a magic wand that can make either of those things disappear."PA Media

 Sunak rejects fresh free school meals plea from Rashford
10:55 , Jon SharmanRishi Sunak appeared to reject calls from Marcus Rashford to extend the free school meal programme during his Sunday morning media round.In a letter to The Sunday Times, England and Manchester United footballer joined with supermarket chiefs in asking ministers to push the scheme into the school holidays.But Mr Sunak told The Andrew Marr Show: "So we put in place some measures to help families during coronavirus, that was the right thing to do, and in common with the other things that have now come to an end, whether it was furlough or other things, that's right that we've transitioned to a more normal way of doing things."But we have actually already acted, is what I'd say to Marcus and everyone else. We've put in place something called the holiday activities program, which provides not just meals but also activities for children during holiday periods for those families that need extra help."That is a new programme, it was announced earlier this year, it's being rolled out across the country, and I think that can make an enormous difference to people."

 Full story: Rishi Sunak rejects Marcus Rashford’s call for free school meals extension
11:29 , Jon SharmanRishi Sunak has rejected calls from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to extend the government’s free school meal programme, writes Adam Forrest.The campaigning England star and supermarket bosses have called on ministers to push the scheme into the school holidays in a joint letter ahead of the Budget.But Mr Sunak appeared to rule out any further support for meals – saying the government had “transitioned to a more normal way of doing things” after extra money put in place during the Covid crisis.Rishi Sunak rejects Marcus Rashford’s call for free school meals extension

 Exclusive: North’s rail ‘betrayal’: HS2 to run on existing track in shoestring plan for Yorkshire route
11:58 , Jon SharmanHS2 trains will be forced to slow down and run on existing tracks between Yorkshire and the Midlands as part of government plans to scale back the major project, The Independent understands.Fears have long been growing that the scheme’s eastern leg is to be significantly trimmed or even scrapped as part of the upcoming integrated rail plan, writes Colin Drury.The Independent has now learned that a new station in Leeds and a new line connecting the city to South Yorkshire are both likely to be given the go-ahead – but, from there, trains heading south will have to run on existing track for much of the way to Birmingham.HS2 will run on existing track in shoestring plan for Yorkshire route

 ‘Years lost and millions wasted’: How HS2’s eastern leg came to hang in balance
12:17 , Jon SharmanFor Boris Johnson, it is a transport scheme that appeared oven-ready to deliver solutions to his two biggest challenges, writes Colin Drury.The eastern leg of HS2 connecting Leeds and Sheffield to Birmingham and London would, advocates say, help level up vast swathes of the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East while also reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.Already £140m has been spent compulsorily purchasing homes along the route. Tens of millions more have been ploughed into surveys and studies.‘Years lost and millions wasted’: How HS2’s eastern leg came to hang in balance

 Rishi Sunak admits £7bn transport pledge has only £1.5bn of new money
12:36 , Jon Sharman#icymiRishi Sunak has admitted that his £7bn pre-Budget pledge for new transport projects contains only £1.5bn of new money, writes Adam Forrest.Extra spending will go on train and tram upgrades in England’s cities, Mr Sunak said as he seeks to fend off protests that pledges to the north and Midlands are being broken.Pressed on how much of the money was new, the chancellor conceded £4.2bn had previously been announced. “What we’ve done is top that up by £1.5bn,” he told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday.Rishi Sunak admits £7bn transport pledge has only £1.5bn of new money

 Vaccines minister insists Covid-19 ‘plan A’ is working
12:46 , Jon SharmanThe new vaccines minister Maggie Throup says the government’s current approach to the surge in Covid-19 cases is working – refusing to say whether “plan B” measures could be introduced.Speaking to LBC, Ms Throup refused to say whether further restrictions such as mandatory masks or work from home guidance. “The data right now shows that ‘plan A’ is working.”Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said earlier today that ‘plan B’ was not yet needed. However, some elements of the tougher measures are already in place – warning the public about the rising risk of coronavirus, and giving extra help to areas suffering “enduring transmission”.Minister have thus far resisted more interventions, which would include mandatory face masks and advice to work from home.

 Nike suspends trainer recycling programme over Brexit costs
13:11 , Jon SharmanNike has suspended its Reuse-a-Shoe recycling scheme in the UK as the recycling industry grapples with high costs related to Brexit, writes Kate Ng.Customers looking to send their old shoes off for recycling can still collect a recycling bag from Nike stores to be sent to one of the brand’s four distribution centres in Belgium.But now, they must pack the items themselves and pay for postage, which was previously paid for by Nike.Nike suspends trainer recycling programme over Brexit costs

 Sunak won’t commit to wearing face mask in Commons
13:30 , Jon SharmanRishi Sunak has refused to commit to wearing a mask inside the crowded Commons chamber.The chancellor dodged questions on whether he though cabinet colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg was right to say Tory MPs did not have to wear face coverings because of they had a more “convivial, fraternal spirit” than Labour.But he suggested it was “appropriate” for MPs to decide to go without a mask in the Commons. “The government guidance is for people to make decisions based on what they think is appropriate based on the circumstances they are in.”“Every workplace is going to be different depending on how many people are there, how long you’re there for, whether you know the people or not.”

 Sunak reveals pre-Budget speech rituals
13:49 , Jon SharmanRishi Sunak has revealed his "pre-game routine" will be to have a Twix and a can of Sprite before delivering his Budget on Wednesday.The chancellor, who has a self-confessed "sugar problem", and has previously said he was a "total coke addict" – before clarifying that he meant the fizzy drink, not the class A drug – was asked on Times Radio whether he had any rituals or superstitions ahead of the event.And he said: "I have a general pre-game routine, pre-match routine, for when I have to do parliamentary things which is, look, I have a sugar problem so I tend to have a Twix and a can of Sprite, even though my favourite thing is Coke but I save that for afterwards."But I have a Twix and a can of Sprite which Lisa who runs my office always make sure is sitting there on my desk in parliament, so that is my immediate pre-game kind of booster."Mr Sunak also said his children "have a lot of input generally on the tie selection and I sometimes wear some bracelets that they make".PA Media

 Conservative MP urges Johnson to deliver on devolution
14:09 , Jon SharmanJake Berry, who chairs the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs, called on Boris Johnson to deliver on his promise of devolution.The Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen and former northern powerhouse minister spoke about foreign direct investment on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.He said: "Frankly after the Covid pandemic, the government doesn't have enough money on its own to make the commitment to level up these communities and we want to see new businesses with good highly paid jobs ... locating in the regions of the UK."He added: "It's really important the prime minister delivers on his promise of devolution, so you have mayors who can go out and talk to the world..."I do think Andy Burnham has done a good job in Greater Manchester in the area of attracting foreign direct investment."PA Media

 Exclusive: Johnson’s government has handled energy and supply crises badly, say two-thirds of voters
14:28 , Jon SharmanTwo in three people think Boris Johnson’s government has botched its handling of the energy and supply crises which have seen firms collapse and empty supermarket shelves, exclusive polling for The Independent has found.The same survey found the majority of voters are “not confident” about the prime minister’s handling of the economy, as his chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to set out his Budget plans next week, writes Adam Forrest.Some 64 per cent of voters said the government has handled the country’s supply chain problems and lorry driver shortages “badly”, according to the survey by Savanta ComRes.Two-thirds of voters say government has handled energy and supply crises badly

 Opinion: The Budget is a golden opportunity to set out an economy that works better for consumers – they should take it
15:00 , Jon SharmanThe strong economic recovery following the initial shocks of the pandemic defied most expectations, writes Rocio Conta.Yet there are concerning signs that our bounceback is starting to falter. The economy remains smaller now than in February 2020, and the rate of growth has slowed considerably since earlier this year.Some consumers have managed to increase their savings in the past 18 months, but many haven’t been so fortunate. For them, the result is an erosion of living standards, exacerbated by the recent rises in the price of fuel, energy and food.Opinion: The Budget is a chance to set out a better economy for consumers

 Will Rishi Sunak lose his battle to avoid winter lockdown?
15:19 , Jon SharmanThere is a wearily familiar pattern to Boris Johnson’s public statements during the Covid crisis, writes Adam Forrest.The prime minister tells us he hopes there will be no need for a lockdown, then belatedly bows to the data and announces another round of restrictions.Will the same cycle play out during a fourth wave this winter? The astute political commentator Gary Neville is in little doubt about what happens next.Will Rishi Sunak lose his battle to avoid winter lockdown?

 Opinion: What’s really happening in the Budget? These are the signals so far
15:36 , Jon SharmanThe autumn Budget is on Wednesday, when we will get the usual tsunami of numbers about the economy and public finances, together with a string of things that the government is spending money on, writes Hamish McRae.That will be followed by a series of protests from the various lobby groups about the underfunding of their areas of interest, plus another set of protests from other lobbyists about the rising burden of taxes to pay for all this.There is nothing wrong with all this. Quite the reverse, for it is a key part of the whole democratic process that public spending and taxation should be scrutinised in this way. But the noise of the competing interest groups drowns out the signals that might tell us what is really happening.What’s really happening in the Budget? These are the signals so far | Hamish McRae

 Labour demands government brings in Covid plan B restrictions now
15:55 , Jon Sharman#icymiLabour has called on Boris Johnson’s government to bring in its so-called “plan B” restrictions to tackle the surge in Covid cases, writes Adam Forrest.Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said ministers must listen to scientific advisers asking for tougher curbs – including the mandatory wearing of masks in public places and a return to work-from-home guidance.“We think we should follow the science – if the scientists are saying work from home and masks, we should do that,” Ms Reeves said on The Andrew Marr Show.Labour demands government brings in Covid plan B restrictions now

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