Dominic Cummings accuses Boris Johnson of spreading 'further misinformation'
Dominic Cummings has hit back at Boris Johnson's partygate defence, accusing him of spreading “further misinformation”.
Mr Cummings, who was the former prime minister’s de facto chief of staff in Downing Street during most of the pandemic, alleged some of Mr Johnson’s claims were “obviously false”.
In the evidence Mr Johnson submitted to the privileges committee, he described his involvement in a gathering held in the No10 gardens on 20 May 2020.
The former prime minister said he attended the event for less than half an hour where he thanked groups of staff, before going back to his office to speak to the late Queen.
He said while there was food and drink at the gathering, he did not believe this meant it was against the Covid rules.
Mr Johnson says that he can “categorically state” that “no-one at the time expressed to me any concerns about whether the event complied with the rules or guidance”.
He says that at the time he “believed that the gathering was consistent with the rules and guidance” and he still believed that to be the case.
Mr Johnson notes Mr Cummings’ claims that he - along with Lee Cain, the then Downing Street director of communications - had warned Mr Johns that the event would be against the rules.
But Mr Johnson said he does not recall any conversation with Mr Cain about the event, and while he did speak to Mr Cummings that afternoon “he did not mention the event, let alone express any concerns” that it would be a breach of the rules.
Mr Johnson goes on to argue that Mr Cummings “cannot be treated as a credible witness”, adding: “It is no secret that Dominic Cummings bears an animus towards me, having publicly stated on multiple occasions that he wanted to do everything that he could to remove me ‘from power’.”
Mr Cummings, writing on his Substack blog on Tuesday afternoon following the publication of Mr Johnson’s defence, took aim at his former boss.
He says that Mr Johnson’s claims that the Downing Street garden party was not against the rules is “not just obviously false, it’s further misinformation from him”.
Mr Cummings says: “Officials were fined therefore the cops concluded it was against the rules, as [Lee] Cain and I warned that morning, and which is referred to in emails given to Sue Gray.”
Ms Gray noted in her partygate report that, after receiving an invitation to the garden party, Mr Cain emailed Martin Reynolds - who was Mr Johnson’s private secretary, to say: “I’m sure it will be fine - and I applaud the gesture - but a 200 odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of No10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment”.
Mr Cain said he subsequently spoke to Mr Reynolds and “advised him that the event should be cancelled”, according to Ms Gray’s report.
But she adds that Mr Reynolds does not recall any such conversation. Her report goes on to say: “In addition, Dominic Cummings has also said that he too raised concerns, in writing. We have not found any documentary evidence of this.”
Mr Cummings and Mr Cain both left No10 on November 13, 2020. The pair - who had been among Mr Johnson's closest aides during the pandemic - were said to have lost an internal power struggle at the heart of Downing Street.
Mr Cummings has gone on to become one of Mr Johnon's staunchest critics. He used a parliamentary committee hearing in May 2021 to accise Mr Johnson of being "unfit" to lead Britain while also claiming that tens of thousands of lives had been unnecessarily lost to Covid amid the Government's mishandling of the pandemic.
That's all for today...
Thank you for joining our live political coverage throughout today.
Looking ahead to a seismic day in Westminster tomorrow, Boris Johnson will face a four-hour grilling from the Privileges Committee from 2pm as he takes questions over whether he misled the Commons.
A 52-page submission put together by Mr Johnson and his team was released today, and gives a flavour of the arguments he will be offering up when he appears in front of the seven-strong group of MPs.
Rishi Sunak, who has gone on to succeed him in No 10, faces pressure on his own as the Commons votes on the Stormont Brake - regarded by No 10 as the main selling point of the Windsor Agreement that was struck with the European Union.
While it is difficult to estimate how many Tories will rebel, Mr Sunak will be hoping it commands the support of enough of his backbenchers so that he does not need to rely on votes from Labour Party politicians.
If all of that wasn't enough, what is bound to be a lively Prime Minister's Questions takes place as normal at around midday.
My colleague Jack Maidment and I will be back tomorrow to guide you through it all.
One backbencher set to defy the Government in tomorrow's vote on the Stormont Brake has told The Telegraph the Star Chamber report commissioned by the European Research Group (ERG) made for "damning reading",
Another eurosceptic backbencher who is set to oppose the regulation said: "This potentially locks us into EU law covering Northern Ireland on a far more permanent footing than the Protocol itself. This is just window dressing for what is legally pointless."
Chris Heaton-Harris: We need Stormont Brake 'sooner rather than later'
The Northern Ireland Secretary said tomorrow's Commons vote on the statutory instrument that activates the Stormont Brake when asked if it represented a "meaningful vote".
Chris Heaton-Harris told the European Scrutiny Committee the measure should be in place "sooner rather than later, because there has been a lot of speculation as to what it does and what it can't do".
"This codifies it in black and white so people can actually see it for itself as a very important part of that democratic check."
'We do have to be pragmatic as Brexiteers'
John Baron, a senior Tory MP who has previously been a prominent member of the European Research Group (ERG), has declared his support for the Stormont Brake.
"I may be in a minority when I say this but I support the Windsor Framework," Mr Brake said during a meeting of the European Scrutiny Committee.
"We do have to be pragmatic as Brexiteers, do we not, in moving this whole debate forward."
Heaton-Harris: 'Genuinely worth' voting for Stormont Brake
Chris Heaton-Harris insisted the Stormont Brake was "genuinely worth" voting for as he appeared before the European Scrutiny Committee.
The Northern Ireland Secretary said: "I'd like to think the Stormont Brake is something that's genuinely worth voting for because essentially not voting for it is by implication voting for the continuation of automatic EU laws without a say for the people of Northern Ireland.
"It's an important part that will be discussed again at Friday on the Joint Committee."
Mr Heaton-Harris added the Protocol was "still in place" and being "amended" by the Windsor Framework.
Jeremy Hunt: New digital currency a 'sensible question'
Asked if a central bank digital currency would have made recent financial turbulence easier or harder, Jeremy Hunt said he "fully accepts that there were risks that have to be managed" if the Bank of England did press ahead with such a scheme.
"The only thing I would say is I don't think that doing nothing, not having a digital currency, is itself a risk-free option. Because in the end cash, and the ability to convert currency to cash, is one of the foundations of our financial system.
"As we move to a digital world that is becoming increasingly cashless, I think it's a sensible question to ask whether actually you need to have a central bank-backed digital currency to create the same stability in the system. If you do that, it needs to be done with guardrails and so at the moment I think the plan is to limit the amounts that people can hold to between £10 and £20,000, and have sensible guardrails.
"We haven't decided if we're going to have one. If we do have one, it won't be put in place till the second half of this decade and it'll be a lot of work to do to get there."
This SNP implosion will put Labour into No 10
For much of the last decade, Scotland has managed to opt out of the normal political rules that govern most countries. There were the eye-watering swings to the SNP at the 2015 general election, writes Tom Harris.
Then there were the double-digit poll leads enjoyed by the nationalists year after year, leads that were not even slightly troubled by the lack of delivery by the Scottish government on a series of vital domestic services.
The benefit of the doubt given to the SNP became the defining – and, for its opponents, the most frustrating – element of the political scene north of the border. Now, it could all be about to change – with dramatic consequences for the politics of the whole UK.
There is no guarantee that even the departure of Nicola Sturgeon from the stage and the car crash of the leadership contest that has followed will consign her party to history, or even to opposition.
But if we have learned one thing about politics in recent years, it is that the lack of a precedent is no guide to what might still happen. And if precedents are your thing, Scottish Labour’s wipe-out in 2015 can be used as a template for what might yet happen to the Scottish nationalists.
Tom Harris: How and why a Nationalist wipeout may loop
Dominic Penna here, The Telegraph's Political Reporter, guiding you through the rest of the day.
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, and Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, are both appearing before respective select committees in the wake of the Budget and the Windsor Framework.
I will keep you updated as both sessions develop.
Northern Ireland Secretary: Windsor Framework 'not perfect' but a 'massive improvement'
Rishi Sunak's Windsor Framework is "not perfect" but it represents a "massive improvement" on the current post-Brexit border arrangements in Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris said.
The Northern Ireland Secretary told the European Scrutiny Committee: "When the Prime Minister introduced the Windsor Framework he did state that it was not perfect but actually I would say from the point from which we came this is a massive, massive improvement in how things will operate for Northern Ireland."
Mr Heaton-Harris said the framework "strips away, disapplies, hundreds of pages of EU law as they apply to Northern Ireland at this point".
He added: "It does maintain some aspects, just under three per cent we reckon, of existing EU law as it applies through the Northern Ireland Protocol."
Senior Tory MP: New Brexit deal will leave Northern Ireland 'subjugated to EU law'
Sir William Cash, the Tory chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, asked Chris Heaton-Harris why MPs should vote for the Windsor Framework tomorrow when under the terms of the deal Northern Ireland citizens will still be "subjugated to EU law".
Mr Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said that the new deal includes a "fundamental bunch of changes to the old protocol" which should remedy problems caused by the existing post-Brexit border arrangements.
Northern Ireland Secretary: Brexit deal 'an important opportunity for a turning point'
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, is appearing in front of the European Scrutiny Committee this afternoon to face questions on Rishi Sunak's new Brexit deal.
He said that his "primary objective" is to get the Stormont Executive and Northern Ireland Executive "up and running" but the "day to day application" of the Northern Ireland Protocol had stopped this from happening.
He told MPs: "The Windsor Framework represents an important opportunity for a turning point for Northern Ireland. The framework protects the economic rights of the people in Northern Ireland and provides us with the basis to move forward together as one united country."
Sir Keir Starmer demands 'radical change' in Metropolitan Police
Sir Keir Starmer is addressing a press conference in central London this afternoon as he responds to the Casey Report on major failings in the Metropolitan Police.
The Labour leader said he will be "relentless in demanding progress and change" as he said he wanted to see the police change "from a force to a service, with public service values at its heart".
Sir Keir said the the police must change from "standing above communities to standing with them".
He said he will "expect radical change in the Met, no excuses".
Ex-Cabinet minister Simon Clarke: Boris Johnson 'placed reasonable reliance on the advice he received'
Lest we forget, the extremely anodyne “event” for which he and the then Chancellor were fined took place between meetings. Some other very inappropriate events did occur, most especially on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral - but this occurred when Boris was at Chequers.
— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) March 21, 2023
Boris Johnson's evidence: The 13 key points
My colleague Camilla Turner, The Telegraph's chief political correspondent, has gone through Boris Johnson's 52-page submission to the Privileges Committee and pulled out 13 key points.
You can read the analysis in full here.
Boris Johnson: Knowledge of what was happening in No10 was 'imperfect and mostly second-hand'
Boris Johnson said his knowledge of what was happening in 10 Downing Street when he was prime minister was "imperfect and mostly second-hand".
In his written submission to the Privileges Committee, Mr Johnson said: "As Prime Minister, I am reliant on advice from officials. There is nothing reckless or unreasonable about that. I was focused on difficult decisions concerning the pandemic (as well as other business that the Prime Minister needs to address), my diary is packed, No. 10 is a complex environment, and I was constantly in and out of the building.
"My knowledge of what was going on at any given time was imperfect and mostly second-hand. A Prime Minister cannot be expected personally to investigate matters such as these. I had to rely on, and was fully entitled to rely on, what I was told by my senior, trusted advisers."
'This did not sound to me like a breach of the Rules or the Guidance, let alone a party'
Boris Johnson said he trusted the assurances of his former director of communications Jack Doyle that a mid-pandemic Christmas gathering at No10 was "within the rules".
He said: "I had no basis to disbelieve Jack’s account of the event. The assurances provided by Jack Doyle must also be understood within the context within which we were working. The staff at No. 10 regularly were working around the clock.
"On 18 December 2020 the media department were working late into the night on the difficult messages we would be giving to the public: in particular, that we were going to have to go back into lockdown and, in many cases, families would be unable to spend Christmas together. They were also preparing for both a Deal and No Deal Brexit.
"It is in this context that I understood that members of the Press Office, who were gathered for work purposes in No. 10 leading the Government’s response to Covid-19, had wine and cheese and exchanged gifts at their desk.
"This did not sound to me like a breach of the Rules or the Guidance, let alone a party. Based on the information with which I was provided, this sounded like it was firmly within the work exception, and consistent with the Guidance. Drinking wine or exchanging gifts at work and whilst working did not, in my view, turn an otherwise lawful workplace gathering into an unlawful one."
Ex-PM rejects suggestion No10 staff breached social distancing guidance
Boris Johnson rejected suggestions that Downing Street staff had broken social distancing guidance during the pandemic.
The former prime minister said that No10 is an "old, cramped London town house" and "a balance had to be struck between the essential work we were doing and minimising the risk of transmission".
Referring to the Privileges Committee's interim report on partygate, Mr Johnson said in his written submission: "Various references in the Fourth Report give the impression that any lack of social distancing in No. 10 was in breach of the Guidance.
"If that is genuinely the Committee’s view, it is obviously wrong. Everyone at No. 10 was working together around the clock to fight Covid-19. No. 10 is an old, cramped London town house, with many bottlenecks, and many small rooms. It is not a modern working environment.
"In accordance with the Guidance, a balance had to be struck between the essential work we were doing and minimising the risk of transmission. Although we did our best to give each other as wide a berth as possible, there were times when people inevitably came closer to each other. We tried to keep our distance, but we knew that proximity was sometimes unavoidable, and we knew that this was acceptable under the Guidance."
Boris Johnson says it 'remains unclear' why he received partygate fine from police
Boris Johnson said it remained "unclear" to him why he received a partygate fine and he suggested Rishi Sunak "may feel the same".
However, the former prime minister said that he "accepted the conclusion" of the police that his attendance at the gathering on his birthday in the Cabinet Room was unlawful.
He said in his written submission to the Privileges Committee: "There is one event for which the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak MP, and I were given fixed penalty notices by the Metropolitan Police: the event on 19 June 2020.
"I have accepted the conclusion of the Police that my participation in the gathering in the Cabinet Room on my birthday, which I knew nothing about in advance, was unlawful.
"However, to this day it remains unclear to me – and I believe the Prime Minister may feel the same – how precisely we committed an offence under the Regulations. I have never been provided with any rationale by the Police, in particular how some individuals that attended did not receive a fixed penalty notice."
Former premier accuses Privileges Committee of being 'highly partisan'
Boris Johnson has accused the Privileges Committee of adopting a "highly partisan tone" in the interim partygate report it published at the start of March.
He said in his written submission to the committee: "Finally, it is important to record my disappointment at the highly partisan tone and content of the Fourth Report.
"The Fourth Report appears to record findings of fact... despite the fact that the committee has not yet heard any evidence from me. The Fourth Report is also extremely selective in the evidence cited."
Boris Johnson criticises 'illogical' claims of partygate 'cover up'
Claims of a partygate "cover up" are "illogical", Boris Johnson said as he argued any attempt to conceal rule-breaking in No10 would have been instantly exposed.
He wrote in his written submission to the Privileges Committee: "The Committee’s new allegation is also illogical. Some of those who attended the relevant events wished me ill and would denounce me if I concealed the truth from the House.
"Far from achieving a 'cover up', I would have known that any deception on my part would lead to instant exposure. This would have been senseless and immediately self-defeating."
Mr Johnson took aim at a claim made in the committee's interim report that "the evidence strongly suggests that breaches of guidance would have been obvious to Mr Johnson at the time he was at the gatherings".
Mr Johnson pointed to official photographs and said: "The Committee seeks to rely on photographs of the events. But again, despite the way that those photographs have been weaponised by the media, they in fact provide further support that this was in no sense “obvious”.
"Four of the five photographs relied upon by the Committee are photographs from the official No. 10 photographer. A suggestion that we would have held events which were 'obviously' contrary to the Rules and Guidance, and allowed those events to be immortalised by the official photographer is implausible."
European Research Group of Tory MPs criticises Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal
Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal does not restore Northern Ireland’s place in the union, a group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs has warned, ahead of a crunch vote on Wednesday.
The European Research Group (ERG) criticised the Windsor agreement struck with the EU, saying that it falls well short of delivering what the Prime Minister promised.
But in a boost to No 10 its chairman, Mark Francois, suggested that the 30-strong grouping may not take a unanimous decision to oppose the pact in the Commons.
In a statement, he said: "The star chamber’s principal findings are: That EU law will still be supreme in Northern Ireland; the rights of its people under the 1800 Act of Union are not restored; the green lane is not really a green lane at all; the Stormont brake is practically useless and the framework itself has no exit, other than through a highly complex legal process."
You can read the full story here.
Boris Johnson hits out over 'unprecedented and absurd' partygate allegations
Boris Johnson has attacked the "absurd and unprecedented" partygate claims made against him as his evidence to the Privileges Committee was published.
He said in his written submission: "The Committee also now appears to be alleging that it was in some way reckless for me to rely on assurances that I received from trusted advisers. That allegation is unprecedented and absurd.
"I was the Prime Minister of the country, working day and night to manage the Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It was self-evidently reasonable for me to rely on assurances that I received from my advisers."
Boris Johnson: 'No evidence at all that supports an allegation that I intentionally or recklessly misled MPs'
Boris Johnson said he accepted that the House of Commons "was misled by my statements" on partygate but when those statements were made "they were made in good faith".
The former prime minister said it was "clear" from the Privileges Committee's investigation that "there is no evidence at all that supports an allegation that I intentionally or recklessly misled" the House of Commons.
He said in his written submission to the committee: "I accept that the House of Commons was misled by my statements that the Rules and Guidance had been followed completely at No. 10. But when the statements were made, they were made in good faith and on the basis of what I honestly knew and believed at the time.
"I did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House on 1 December 2021, 8 December 2021, or on any other date. I would never have dreamed of doing so."
Referring to the Privileges Committee's investigation, he said "it is clear from that investigation that there is no evidence at all that supports an allegation that I intentionally or recklessly misled the House".
He added: "There is not a single document that indicates that I received any warning or advice that any event broke or may have broken the Rules or Guidance. In fact, the evidence before the Committee demonstrates that those working at No. 10 at the time shared my honest belief that the Rules and Guidance were being followed."
Boris Johnson repeats partygate apology
Boris Johnson's written evidence to the Privileges Committee begins with a repeated apology over the partygate scandal.
The former prime minister said: "As I made clear to the House of Commons on 25 May 2022, I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch at No. 10. The revelations in Sue Gray’s report shocked the public, and they shocked me.
"I therefore begin by renewing my apologies to the British people for what happened on my watch. It is now clear that over a number of days, there were gatherings at No. 10 that, however they began, went past the point where they could be said to have been reasonably necessary for work purposes.
"That should never have happened, and it fills me with sadness and regret that it did."
Boris Johnson's evidence to Privileges Committee published - read it in full
Boris Johnson’s partygate evidence to the Privileges Committee has just been published.
The document is 52 pages long. You can read it in full here:
Tories cut Labour poll lead – but are warned not to bring back Boris Johnson
Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has more than halved in the past week, the latest opinion poll suggested as a Tory pollster warned against bringing Boris Johnson back.
Sir Keir Starmer’s party saw support fall by five points to 45 per cent, according to the survey by Deltapoll. The Conservatives saw their share increase to 35 per cent – up eight points.
Rishi Sunak saw his net approval rating rise by two points – to minus nine per cent – while Sir Keir’s net rating fell by five points to seven per cent.
You can read the full story here.
'There is no more negotiating to be done'
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has told the DUP that the new Brexit deal "is done".
He said: "I don’t really understand what the DUP were expecting was going to happen. They can have their position on this if they want, but the deal is done, it is absolutely clear.
"They’re going to find that tomorrow when the British Government vote this through anyway, the deal is done. There is no more negotiating to be done.
"What people really want to know, not how the DUP are going to vote tomorrow, but when they’re going to nominate a deputy first minister and get back into government."
DUP MP: 'We have to continue the fight'
Sammy Wilson, the DUP's chief whip at Westminster, said the party will "continue the fight" against the Northern Ireland Protocol as the DUP prepares to vote against Rishi Sunak's new Brexit deal tomorrow.
Mr Wilson told Good Morning Ulster: "We insisted that the protocol was not acceptable and that negotiation had to be undertaken to revise it and remove it.
"We got the negotiation, but we didn’t get the outcome so we have to continue the fight, and we will continue the fight."
Majority of Tory activists believe partygate probe is unfair
Almost three in five Tory activists - 59 per cent - believe Boris Johnson did not deliberately mislead MPs about partygate.
A survey of the Tory grassroots conducted by the Conservative Home website found 30 per cent believed the ex-PM did deliberately mislead the Commons. About 11 per cent said they did not know.
Meanwhile, a clear majority of Tory activists - 59 per cent - said they believe the Privileges Committee probe into partygate is unfair while 29 per cent believe it is fair.
Pictured: Ministers arrive in Downing Street for weekly Cabinet meeting
Rishi Sunak: Rwanda flights will start 'when the court process has concluded'
Rishi Sunak has said flights carrying migrants to Rwanda will begin once court proceedings have concluded as he rejected suggestions ministers could press ahead with the flights this summer.
When it was put to him that Home Secretary Suella Braverman had suggested flights will start this summer, the Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: "No, that’s not what she said, and what she said actually was that, when the court process has concluded, then we’ll be able to start flights as quickly as we can.
"But ultimately we have to go through the court process, policies being challenged. We won the first battle of those and we’ll continue to defend the policy."
Poll: Clear majority believe Boris Johnson misled MPs over partygate
A clear majority of people - 70 per cent - believe Boris Johnson did mislead MPs over partygate, according to a new poll from Savanta.
A survey conducted between March 17-19 found 40 per cent said Mr Johnson “definitely” misled MPs and 30 per cent said he “probably” did.
One in 20 respondents - five per cent - said they were certain Mr Johnson did not knowingly mislead the Commons over partygate.
The publication of the poll came as Mr Johnson prepares for a four hour grilling in front of the Privileges Committee tomorrow.
The committee is investigating whether Mr Johnson misled Parliament over his partygate denials. Mr Johnson has denied misleading MPs.
European Research Group to meet this morning to decide verdict on Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal
The European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs is due to meet this morning at 10.30am to hear from its so-called "star chamber" of legal experts who will set out their verdict on Rishi Sunak's Windsor Framework.
The ERG is then expected to hold a press conference to announce whether it will vote for or against the Prime Minister's new Brexit deal on Wednesday.
Many Tory Brexiteers have said in the past that they were likely to be guided on the matter by what the DUP does. Its decision yesterday to announce its MPs will vote against the deal may well prove instructive for the group.
The deal will clear the Commons even if the ERG rebels because Labour has already pledged to support the Government. But any Tory revolt would take the shine off Mr Sunak's new deal with the EU and deal a blow to his authority.
You can read the story on the DUP's decision here.
Lib Dems claim Tories 'blew a hole in our public finances'
Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokeswoman, accused the Tories of having "blown a hole" in the nation's finances as she responded to today's borrowing figures (see the post below at 08.02).
She said: "This Conservative Government blew a hole in our public finances and made hard-working families pay for it through unfair tax rises, higher mortgage bills and soaring inflation.
"The Chancellor could have taken action in last week’s Budget to put our economy on the right track, but instead we saw a total lack of ambition and no economic plan.
"Instead of just sitting on its hands, this Government should invest to grow our economy and give people and businesses proper help by cutting their energy bills."
Chancellor: Lower inflation the key to reducing government borrowing
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, said government borrowing will fall when inflation shrinks as he responded to today's figures published by the Office for National Statistics (see the post below at 08.02).
He said: "Borrowing is still high because we’re determined to support households and businesses with rising prices and are spending about £1,500 per household to pay just under half of people's energy bills this winter.
"What will bring these costs right down is lower inflation, which is why it remains one of our top priorities to halve it this year, alongside growing our economy and reducing debt."
Pictured: Boris Johnson enjoys a morning run in central London
Government borrowing hit record high in February to pay for help on energy bills
The Government borrowed a record high amount in February this year in order to fund its energy bills support schemes, new data published by the Office for National Statistics revealed this morning.
Public sector net borrowing was £16.7 billion in February which was almost £10 billion more than was recorded in February 2022.
It is the highest February borrowing figure since monthly records began in 1993. The ONS said it was "largely because of substantial spending on energy support schemes".
A total of £132.2 billion was borrowed in the financial year-to-February 2023. That was the third highest financial year-to-February figure since records began in 1993.
Rishi Sunak defends 'stop the boats' pledge and says 'no illegal migration is acceptable'
Rishi Sunak said "no illegal migration is acceptable" after he was challenged over his pledge to stop small boat Channel crossings.
The Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: "No illegal migration is acceptable, of course not."
Pressed on whether that means stopping all boats, he said: "That’s what we’re trying to do. I don’t think anyone would sit here and say to you that they tolerate any illegal migration. Of course we don’t want to tolerate any illegal migration."
'This is about cutting waiting lists'
Rishi Sunak has defended his Budget decision to scrap the lifetime pensions allowance as he said it will stop doctors from retiring early and therefore help to address NHS treatment backlogs.
The Government has faced criticism over the move to abolish the £1.07 million tax-free cap on pensions, with Labour having vowed to reverse it after labelling it a tax cut for the richest one per cent.
The Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: "This is about cutting waiting lists. You know, at this point, think about it, I’m sure almost every person watching this has in their extended circle of friends and family someone who is waiting for treatment.
"We need our best doctors, our experienced doctors, we need them working, and they want to work, they want to help get the waiting lists down, they want to work longer hours, they don’t want to retire. And because of the pension regime, they were stopped from doing that, it was preventing them from doing that.
"And I want to get the waiting list down and that’s why we’ve made the change that we’ve made, and it’s going to benefit everyone to get health care quicker."
Rishi Sunak: 'There needs to be a change in culture and leadership'
Rishi Sunak has said there needs to be a "change in culture and leadership" in policing as he responded to the publication of the Casey report which highlighted major problems in the Metropolitan Police.
The Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: "Earlier this year, in the case of David Carrick, what we all learned was shocking. It was absolutely shocking, the abuse of power by people who were in a position of trust and exploiting largely very vulnerable women, and that was wrong and I said so at the time.
"I actually went and met with the Police Commissioner from the Met and Louise Casey to discuss this, because it’s right that the police have to restore confidence and trust back into policing. There needs to be a change in culture and leadership.
"And I know that the new Metropolitan Commissioner will no doubt reflect on the findings of Louise’s report, but is already making changes and that’s right, because what was happening before is simply shocking and unacceptable."
Trust in Metropolitan Police 'hugely damaged' - PM
Rishi Sunak said trust in the Metropolitan Police has been "hugely damaged" after a damning review found Britain’s biggest police force is institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic (you can read the full story on the review here).
Asked whether he believed his daughters could trust the police in London, the Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: "Of course we need the answer to that question to be yes.
"Clearly at the moment trust in the police has been hugely damaged by the things that we’ve discovered over the past year."
Rishi Sunak to give Tory MPs free vote on any Boris Johnson partygate punishment
Rishi Sunak has confirmed Tory MPs will be given a free vote on any punishment for Boris Johnson if the Privileges Committee rules against him in its partygate probe.
The Prime Minister said he would not tell MPs how to vote on any sanction for the ex-premier because such a matter is for "individuals, rather than for Government".
Asked if there would be a free vote, Mr Sunak told BBC Breakfast: "Yes, these are matters for Parliament and the House and MPs as individuals, rather than for Government. So that is the general process that we would follow."