PMQs Live: Boris Johnson quizzed over ‘broken promises’ on social care & transport

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·13-min read
PMQs Live: Boris Johnson quizzed over ‘broken promises’ on social care & transport
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Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of a series of “broken promises” over transport and social care during a series of heated exchanges at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

The Labour leader compared the Government’s treatment of the working class to a “Covent Garden pickpocket operation” as Mr Johnson insisted he had the full confidence of MPs in his party.

It follows a difficult two-week period for the Government as Downing Street faced a series of rebellions over sleaze, social care and the decision to scrap Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab insisted that Mr Johnson was on “great form” after a rambling, incoherent speech given to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday provoked alarm among MPs.

The address, in which Mr Johnson compared himself to Moses, digressed into a story about a visit to Peppa Pig World and forgot his place, sparked criticism among MPs who accused him of failing to take business seriously.

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14:41 , Laura Sharman

This live blog is now concluded.

Social care reforms a ‘working-class dementia tax’, says Starmer

14:40 , Laura Sharman

Boris Johnson is fronting a ‘pickpocketing operation’ to introduce a ‘working-class dementia tax’ via his social care reforms, according to Sir Keir Starmer.

The Labour leader repeatedly pressed the Prime Minister over whether people would have to sell their homes as a result of the Government’s care plans for England.

MPs want to introduce an £86,000 cap on lifetime care costs from October 2023.

But a policy paper last week showed that only personal contributions would count towards that cap for people who received financial support from a local authority for some of their care.

Following a Tory rebellion over the issue this week, Sir Keir raised concerns over the policy at Prime Minister’s Questions.

He said of Mr Johnson in the Commons: “The only thing he is delivering is high taxes, high prices and low growth. I’m not sure the Prime Minister should be shouting about that.”

Reduced Christmas food range due to supply chain issues, MPs told

14:37 , Laura Sharman

There will be a reduced range of food items available to buy this Christmas due to supply chain issues, MPs have been warned.

It comes amid new European Union border identity checks which could lead to 17-mile tailbacks at Dover.

Speaker announces review on MPs taking babies into chamber

14:35 , Laura Sharman

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has requested a review into whether MPs can take babies into the chamber.

It comes amid an outcry over Labour’s Stella Creasy being told she can no longer have her three-month-old son with her.

Labour MP Stella Creasy speaking in the chamber of the House of Commons, in London, with her newborn baby strapped to her (House of Commons/PA)
Labour MP Stella Creasy speaking in the chamber of the House of Commons, in London, with her newborn baby strapped to her (House of Commons/PA)

Letters of no confidence ‘not a question for me’, says PM’s spokesperson

14:12 , Daniel Keane

The prime minister’s spokesperson has fielded questions from lobby journalists.

Asked about whether Mr Johnson was concerned about reports that some Conservative MPs had submitted letters of no confidence in his leadership, his press secretary replied: “That wouldn’t be a question for me, and, again, I’m not going to comment on anonymous briefings.

“The Prime Minister is entirely focused on delivering his ambitious agenda.”

Asked if Boris Johnson had spoken to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady about whether he had received letters, the press secretary said: “No.”

Kwarteng dismisses fracking as energy option

14:05 , Daniel Keane

Kwasi Kwarteng dismissed fracking as an energy option in the UK to due to issues linked to “earthquakes”.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) said there is “enough gas under the ground in the UK to have us totally supplied for the whole country for 150 years”.

Mr Kwarteng replied: “We looked at fracking, there were issues with respect to effects on the Richter Scale, earthquakes, that sort of thing, people objected to that and we imposed a moratorium on it.”

He offered to hold further talks with Mr Wilson.

Labour accuses government of ‘Whitehall power grab’ over transport plans

13:56 , Daniel Keane

Labour said Transport for the North is being scrapped for “all intents and purposes” in a “Whitehall power grab”.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “The funding that was promised has not been delivered.

“The powers that were promised to the North of England for our metro mayors, our council leaders, and for the people of the North to finally get control have been snatched away by this centralising Government.”

He asked where money and plans for new transport projects will come from, and asked what the implications are for the staff of Transport for the North.

Mr McMahon added: “We know this is a Whitehall power grab, and we also know what it will mean in practice, no new projects, just more smoke and mirrors”.

Raab thanks Lissie Harper for campaign

13:47 , Daniel Keane

Justice secretary Dominic Raab has thanked PC Andrew Harper’s widow Lissie for her campaign for mandatory life jail sentences for offenders who kill emergency workers while committing crime.

In a meeting in his Westminster office, Mr Raab told her: “You’ve got a huge amount of support in the country, in the House of Commons, and all because of the tenacity you’ve shown.

“I think you’ve shone a light on something which is really important so I’m just really pleased we can support you and get this done.”

Turning to a Police Federation representative sat nearby, Lissie said: “We’re just relieved I think aren’t we, it’s something we knew we would get to this point because we’re just very determined but I think just the amount of support that people are showing as well just proves how much everyone wants it.”

Newly-married PC Harper, 28, was dragged to his death by a getaway car in August 2019. Three teenagers were jailed for manslaughter.

Lissie Harper and her husband Pc Andrew who was killed in the line of duty (PA) (PA Media)
Lissie Harper and her husband Pc Andrew who was killed in the line of duty (PA) (PA Media)

Miliband: Energy crisis is ‘of government’s own making’

13:35 , Daniel Keane

Ed Miliband claimed the energy supplier situation was a Government “crisis”.

He said: “We’ve seen a failure of policy over a decade, a failure of regulation. The Government making the cost-of-living crisis worse.

“Isn’t the truth this Government cannot be the answer to this energy crisis because it is their crisis and it’s businesses and families who are paying the price.”

Responding, Mr Kwarteng said: “Just as a point of fact, the number is actually 22 companies not 18… actually that shows the incredible resilience of the systems that we have in place.”

Ofgem applies to court to appoint energy administrators for Bulb

13:24 , Daniel Keane

Elsewhere in the Commons, Kwasi Kwarteng has been answering questions from MPs about the ongoing energy supply crisis.

It comes after Bulb, an energy supplier with over a million customer, went into special administration earlier this week.

Ofgem has applied to the court to appoint energy administrators for Bulb, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said.

Answering an urgent question from shadow business and energy secretary Ed Miliband on the Bulb Energy administration, he told MPs: “Last week Bulb informed the Government and Ofgem that they would be leaving the market.

“Ofgem has advised that the supplier of last resort process is not viable for Bulb because of the size of its customer book. Ofgem has with my consent applied to the court to appoint energy administrators.

“If appointed by the court, the administrators will continue operating Bulb under what is called the special administration regime set out clearly in legislation. We will update the House once the court has made its determination.”

Boris: We must not ‘pitchfork away’ investment in China

13:14 , Daniel Keane

Boris Johnson told MPs he does not wish to “pitchfork away” investment in China.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Labour MP Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) pressed the PM on Bradwell B, the proposed nuclear power station at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex, put forward by China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).

Mr Johnson confirmed the Government does not “want to see undue influence by potentially adversarial countries in our critical national infrastructure” and insisted that on Bradwell, “there will be more information forthcoming”.

However, he added: “What I don’t want to do is pitchfork away wantonly all Chinese investment in this country or minimise the importance in this country of having a trading relationship with China.”

SNP leaders claims Johnson is ‘clinging on’ to power

13:06 , Daniel Keane

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the letters are “pouring in” in an apparent reference to the Conservative process to call a leadership contest, as he asked Boris Johnson why he is “clinging on”.

Mr Blackford said the Prime Minister did not address his first question and said he “never” takes responsibility, adding: “This isn’t just about the chaos in the Conservative Party, it’s about the state of the United Kingdom under his failing leadership.

“The prime minister’s officials have lost confidence in him. Tory MPs have lost confidence in him.

“The letters are pouring in. And the public have lost confidence in him. Why is he clinging on when quite clearly he quite simply isn’t up to the job?”

Mr Johnson responded: “I might ask the right honourable gentleman what on earth he thinks he is doing talking about party political issues when what the people of Scotland want to hear is what on earth the Scottish national government is doing, they’re falling in the polls.”

Caroline Lucas quizzes Boris over Cambo oilfield

12:56 , Daniel Keane

Green MP Caroline Lucas quizzed the prime minister of the Government’s plans for the Cambo oilfield and “39 other oil, gas and coal developments”.

She highlighted the hypocrisy of ministers pledging to end coal production at the COP26 conference in Glasgow while pressing ahead with the plans.

Boris Johnson replied that the UK is “powering past coal” and ending fossil fuel reliance for energy generation by 2024.

Boris: We are delivering for Londoners

12:49 , Daniel Keane

Sir David Evennett, the Conservative MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, asked the prime minister if he will continue to implement his 2019 manifesto.

He said that levelling up must include London.

The prime minister replied: “We are delivering on our agenda for the people of London... making sure Londoners do not suffer from the crazed outer London tax that would see motorists penalised by the Mayor for driving into their own city.”

PM defends decision over Valneva contract

12:33 , Daniel Keane

Hannah Bardell, the MP for Livingston, challenged the Government over its decision to cancel its contract with Valneva.

She quoted vaccine tsar Dame Kate Bingham’s criticism of the move, and asked Boris Johnson to meet with her and the Scottish business who were due to deliver the vaccines.

The prime minister says he was “personally very disappointed” that approval could not be secured, adding that he will ensure she gets “the relevant meeting”.

“Is everything okay prime minister?”, asks Starmer

12:19 , Daniel Keane

The heat has turned up a notch in the Commons as Sir Keir compares Mr Johnson’s treatment of the working class to a “Covent Garden pickpocket operation”.

Referring to his speech to business leaders at the CBI, he says: “ His backbenchers say it’s embarrassing, a senior figure in Downing Street told the BBC it’s ‘just not working’.

“Is everything okay prime minister?”

Mr Johnson responds: “l’ll tell you what’s not working is that line of attack. We’re delivering for the people of this country.”

Sir Keir: Johnson has lost his place in his notes again

12:16 , Daniel Keane

The prime minister attacked Sir Keir over his previous opposition to HS2 when it was first proposed.

Mr Johnson said: “It turns out that the Labour leader campaigned against HS2. I took a decision that it was the right thing to do for the long-term interests.

“How can they possibly trust that man?”

Sir Keir responds: “I think he’s lost his place in his notes again. All he’s delivering is high taxes and low growth.”

Starmer: PM has ‘broken his promises’ over social care

12:08 , Daniel Keane

Prime minister’s questions has begun.

Sir Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of “breaking his promise” over social care by watering down proposals over the tweak to legislation earlier this week.

Mr Johnson said he was “taking away the anxiety” for millions of people over having to sell their homes to fund their care.

In an apparent show of solidarity after empty benches last week, there were rowdy cheers from Tory MPs as the prime minister took to the dispatch box.

Sir Keir teased: “I see they’ve turned up this week!”

What has been going wrong for the PM?

12:05 , Daniel Keane

Boris Johnson will shortly welcome questions from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

But before questions begin, we take a quick look at the challenges facing the prime minister:

- Leadership. On Monday, Boris Johnson gave a speech to business leaders in which he referenced a trip to Peppa Pig World, mimicked a car engine noise, compared himself to Moses and lost his place for an awkward 21 seconds. It was not brushed off as Johnsonian eccentricity; rumours have instead swirled about his fitness to govern.

- Social care. Nineteen Tory MPs voted against the government on social care reforms, which will mean that only the amount a person personally contributes to their care costs will count towards the £86,000 cap.

- Sleaze: The Government has faced heavy criticism for its handling of the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal. The row triggered a debate over MPs’ second jobs.

- Transport: The downgrading of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail sparked fury in the North of England, particularly among MPs in red-wall seats whose majorities are on a knife-edge at the next General Election.

PMQs: What can we expect?

11:55 , Daniel Keane

Boris Johnson faces a difficult test on Wednesday afternoon as MPs stream into the House of Commons.

A series of damaging headlines over his handling of the sleaze scandal, the downgrading of transport infrastructure plans in the North of England and a backlash over changes to social care legislation have trimmed his party’s poll lead and sparked fresh questions over the trajectory of his leadership.

Rumours that Tory MPs have already submitted letters of no confidence to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, will cause alarm in Downing Street. Only 15 per cent of sitting MPs would need to submit a letter to trigger a vote of no confidence in the PM.

One MP told the Daily Telegraph: “Is this the start of more of that? If the next month is like the last month, and horror stories continue, more letters will be submitted."

As such, Sir Keir Starmer is likely to grill the prime minister over his control of the party and probe ministers’ changes to social care and transport plans.

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