London politics latest LIVE: Grant Shapps says RMT claim he wrecked negotiations is ‘a total lie’

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London politics latest LIVE: Grant Shapps says RMT claim he wrecked negotiations is ‘a total lie’
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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that the RMT’s accusation that he “wrecked” strike negotiations is “a total lie”.

Earlier on Wednesday, the union had claimed that Mr Shapps was refusing to allow Network Rail “to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members”.

In response, Mr Shapps said: “This is a total lie from the RMT and its general secretary. I have had absolutely nothing to do with either the issuing of a letter from Network Rail, the employer, to the RMT - or any request to withdraw it.

“I understand that the letter makes no mention of 2,900 redundancies, but I do know it confirmed Network Rail would be introducing desperately needed reforms for the industry after the union chose strike action instead of further talks.

“The RMT continues to deflect from the fact that the only people responsible for the massive public disruption this week is them.”

Train passengers are suffering more disruption from strike action as talks resume in a bid to resolve the bitter dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Follow the live updates below.

That’s the end of our live coverage

14:48 , Elly Blake

That’s all from us today on the politics live blog.

Join us again next Wednesday for more PMQs coverage. Have a good afternoon!

Downing Street: It would be ‘reckless’ to raise public pay in line with inflation

14:33 , Elly Blake

Downing Street said it would be “reckless” to raise public sector pay in line with inflation.

Asked why a big boost to pensions next year would not increase inflation, the PM’s official spokesman said: “I’m not going to jump ahead to what it will or won’t be next year in terms of pensions.

“Most commentators recognise that the primary risk from current high levels of inflation that becomes embedded through the labour market, and through wages, there’s not the same risk of this spillover effect to private sector wages from any increase to the state pension age.”

Asked if the Prime Minister is worried about fuelling intergenerational resentment, he said: “We will keep explaining to the public why we think this is the right approach, and we are confident that the public will understand that it would long term have a bigger impact on their take-home pay if we were to take actions – reckless actions – now that could spike inflation.

“It’s important to stress that does not mean we do not want to reward public sector workers with a pay rise, we do, it’s just we must make sure that we don’t do anything that has a knock-on impact which feeds into this global inflationary spiral that there is the potential to see.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg says there will be dashbaord to show how much EU law reformed

14:04 , Elly Blake

Cabinet Office minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said a dashboard will be made available to the public to show on a quarterly basis how much EU law has been reformed.

Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg, whose portfolio includes Brexit opportunities and Government efficiency, said: “As we maximise the benefits of Brexit and transform the UK into the most sensibly regulated economy in the world we must reform the EU law we have retained on our statute book.

“Only through reform of this retained EU law will we finally be able to untangle ourselves of nearly 50 years of EU membership.”

He went on: “I am pleased to announce that today we publish an authoritative catalogue of over 2,400 pieces of legislation spanning over 300 individual policy areas.

“This catalogue will be available on through an interactive dashboard. It will be updated on a quarterly basis so that the public can count down retained EU law as the Government reforms it.”

He added: “The publication of this dashboard offers the public a real opportunity. Everything on it we can now change.”

PM defended schemes to relocate Afghans

12:58 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson defended schemes to relocate Afghans after Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said only two of 3,000 applications have been processed since April.

The MP for Brighton, Pavilion said: “It’s emerged that there is a backlog of 23,000 applications under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), with just two of 3,000 applications for refuge by Afghans who worked for Britain processed since April.

“Yet at the same time staff working on the Arap scheme have been slashed by a quarter since December. This is an incredible betrayal of the Afghan people who put their lives on the line to work for our country.”

She asked if should could send specific cases to the Prime Minister, if he would put more resources into the scheme, and if he “lift the cap” on the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme.

The Prime Minister said: “I’m afraid that she is underestimating what this country is already doing for the people of Afghanistan. I think on armed forces day we should celebrate Op Pitting that brought 15,000 out, and of course I am very happy to look at the cases that she wants to raise and we will do our best for them and for their families.

“But this House should be in no doubt of the generous welcome that we continue to give to people from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Ukraine, from Hong Kong, we have a record to be very proud of.”

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) another topic to come up during PMQ

12:52 , Elly Blake

The Prime Minister faced calls to make sure all women in England can make a single annual payment for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) prescriptions as soon as possible, instead of by April next year.

Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP for Swansea East who has campaigned for greater access to HRT, said: “I am sure the Prime Minister is as thrilled as I am that you, Mr Speaker, signed the wellbeing of women menopause pledge last week to show support for women in this place.

“So will the Prime Minister follow Mr Speaker’s example and ensure better access to treatment for women in England by introducing a single annual payment for HRT now?

“Not make them wait until April 2023, a full 18 months after it was first promised.”

Boris Johnson said access to HRT was a “very important issue”, adding: “I know that the Health Secretary is accelerating the work of the HRT taskforce to give people up and down the country the reassurance and the treatment that they need.”

‘We can be proud of the way we have reduced CO2 emissions’, says Boris

12:48 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson said it “makes no sense” to be importing coal “when we have our own domestic resources”.

Conservative MP Chris Green (Bolton West) said: “For much of Britain levelling up means the revitalisation of British industry and the jobs that goes with it.

“Many countries around the world such as Germany and China get a competitive advantage by burning lignite, the dirtiest form of fossil fuel.

“So does my right honourable friend share my concerns about the ethics of holding back British industry and exporting and magnifying our carbon emissions overseas all in the name of net zero?”

Boris Johnson: “I think we can all be proud of the way we have reduced CO2 emissions in this country.

“But plainly it makes no sense to be importing coal, particularly for metallurgical purposes, when we have our own domestic resources.”

Rwanda policy ‘not been ruled unlawful by any UK court’, says Johnson

12:46 , Elly Blake

The Prime Minister said the Government will continue with the Rwanda policy, after a Tory backbencher suggested “taking back control” from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Conservative former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said: “Taking back control is to apply to the ECHR too, isn’t it?”

Boris Johnson replied: “I think he should wait for the Deputy Prime Minster (Dominic Raab) who will be saying a little bit about that in just a moment, but I can tell him that when it comes to the Rwanda policy that we are pursuing, that policy has not been ruled unlawful by any UK court, nor so far by any international court.

“We will continue with that policy.”

PM told Labour MP to ‘get off the picket line’ to support working people

12:42 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson told a Labour MP to get off the picket line “if she wants to support the working people of this country”.

Labour MP Kate Osborne (Jarrow) said: “Tens of thousands of people were marching through London last weekend protesting against this out-of-touch Government.

“Rail workers are on strike, Royal Mail workers, NHS workers, teachers and even barristers are on the verge of taking industrial actions. All workers are struggling to cope with the worst cost-of-living crisis in history.

“Ministers are planning to boost city bosses pay whilst demanding wage restraint for everyone else. So can the Prime Minister tell me, when is he going to stop meaningless soundbites and instead start supporting working people across our country?”

Mr Johnson said: “If she wants to support the working people of this country, can I suggest she gets off the picket line… and has a word with her leader, and supports the travelling public of this country who want to see a reduction in their costs of transport, which this Government is delivering.”

Keir Starmer: ‘Get on with your job'

12:35 , Elly Blake

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “There’s a huge problem facing the country and all he’s interested in doing is blaming everyone else. Can’t he hear the country screaming at him, get on with your job? Whilst he blames everyone and anyone, working people are paying the price.”

He added: “Come on, only one of them can be right, is it his Treasury minister who says every worker needs a pay cut or is it his chief of staff who says every banker needs a pay rise?”

Boris Johnson replied: “Under this Government five million public sector workers are getting a pay rise, we’ve increased the Living Wage by £1,000, we’ve increased Universal Credit so that people get £1,000 more.

“Thanks to the fiscal fire power that we have, we’re putting £1,200 more into every one of the eight million most vulnerable households in the country, that is what we can do because of the tough decisions that we have taken.

“What we’re also trying to do is cut the cost of transport which is a big part of people’s weekly outgoings by reforming our railways. That’s what we’re trying to do, but he’s standing with the strikers and lifting the cost of transport for everybody, that’s the reality.”

Ian Blackford: ‘UK doing worse than our European neighbours'

12:32 , Elly Blake

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked the Prime Minister if his Government “bears any blame” for the fact that the United Kingdom is doing “much worse than our European neighbours”.

Mr Blackford told the Commons UK inflation is now at a “40-year high”, adding: “After 12 years in Government, the Tories have left the UK economy in the doldrums and pushed millions of people into poverty.

“So, can I ask the Prime Minister, does he think his Government bears any blame for the fact that the United Kingdom is doing so much worse than our European neighbours?”

Boris Johnson replied: “Actually, I think the whole House knows, and the whole country knows we have got a global inflationary problem, but this Government has the fiscal firepower to deal with it.

“And that is, I think, a benefit to the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, and I think it’s a matter of fact that taxes are actually highest of all in Scotland.”

PM claims 25 Labour MPs were on picket lines ‘defying instruction’ from leader

12:28 , Elly Blake

There were roars from the Conservative benches as Sir Keir Starmer said “now we have got the biggest rail strikes in 30 years”.

Sir Keir asked: “If he is genuine about preventing strikes, will the Prime Minister tell this House how many meetings he or his Transport Secretary have had with rail workers this week to actually stop a strike?”

The Prime Minister replied: “This is the Government that loves the railways, that invests in the railways, £96 billion we are putting into the integrated railway plan.”

Boris Johnson also claimed that 25 Labour MPs out on the picket line were “defying instruction” from Sir Keir, and suggested Labour was backing strikers not “strivers”.

Keir Starmer: PM has not ‘lifted a finger to stop these strikes'

12:26 , Elly Blake

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The Prime Minister of this country and his Transport Secretary haven’t attended a single meeting, held a conversation or lifted a finger to stop these strikes.

“But I did note that on Monday they did find time to go to a lavish ball where the Prime Minister sold a meeting with himself for £120,000… If there’s money coming his way, he’s there.

“So rather than blame everyone else why doesn’t he do his job, get round the table and get the trains running?”

Boris Johnson replied: “We are making sure that we do everything we can to prevent these strikes. He knows it is up to the railway companies to negotiate, that is their job. We’ve spent £16 billion looking after the railways throughout the pandemic, that’s cost every household £600.

He added: “We know why he won’t condemn the strikes, we know why even now he hasn’t got the gumption to call out his MPs for going out to support the pickets. The reason his authority is on the line in this matter is that they take £10 million… that’s the fee the learned gentleman opposite is receiving for the case he is failing to make.”

MPs wear blue ribbons for anti-bullying initiative

12:22 , Elly Blake

Some MPs are wearing blue ribbons in the Commons on Wednesday to mark an anti-bullying initiative.

Labour MP Luke Pollard tweeted: “You’ll notice a lot of MPs wearing blue ribbons at #PMQs today.

“It’s part of an anti-bullying initiative. Don’t face it alone”.

Pictured: Boris Johnson at despatch box

12:17 , Elly Blake

 (PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
(PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

PM and Starmer clash over rail strikes and by-elections

12:15 , Elly Blake

Opening Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer paid tribute to candidates standing in by-elections this week.

He said: “In particular, the plucky Conservative candidate for Wakefield, he is standing even though his own colleagues think he is so useless they held a vote of no confidence in him.”

As Tory MPs looked on puzzled, Sir Keir added: “Does the Prime Minister hold any personal interest in seeing if the public will vote for a Tory that even his own side don’t think is up to it?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I have absolutely no doubt that the people of this country and the people of Wakefield, and the people of Tiverton and Honiton would much rather vote for a solid Conservative Government than for a Labour Party, their enablers and acolytes in the Liberal Democrats, the karma chameleons of British politics.”

The Prime Minister added that Sir Keir “hasn’t even got the gumption to speak out against the rail strikes”.

PMQs has started

12:00 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson has started Prime Minister’s Questions.

It began with Mr Johnson talking about the new Windrush Day national monument at Waterloo station. He also thanked the Armed Forces for their services to the country, as well as welcomed a deal with Moderna.

Mr Johnson said he would travel to Rwanda to the Commonwealth Heads of government summit later.

He was also challenged about allegations he tried to get his now wife Carrie Symonds, a job in government while he was foreign secretary.

Labour MP Chris Elmore (Ogmore) asked: “Has he ever considered the appointment of his current spouse to a Government post or to any organisation in one of the royal households?

“Be honest Prime Minister: yes or no?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I know why the party opposite wants to talk about non-existent jobs in the media because they don’t want to talk about what’s going on in the real world.”

Mr Johnson has denied the claims.

Pictured: Boris Johnson leaving No 10 for PMQs

11:51 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson (PA)
Boris Johnson (PA)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Good morning

11:26 , Elly Blake

Good morning, this is the Standard’s politics live blog where we will be bringing you the latest updates from the heart of Westminster.

In just over half an hour’s time, Boris Johnson will take on questions from Keir Starmer and MPs in PMQs.

On the agenda is likely to be the national rail strikes, which have caused travel misery for millions of people.

Also likely to come up is tomorrow’s by-elections in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield.

Follow our live coverage here.

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