- Charities and the Labour party have criticised the government’s planned GBP500m winter hardship fund as a “temporary sticking plaster” that will not help struggling households recover from next week’s GBP20-a-week cut to universal credit.
- Keir Starmer has blamed the fuel crisis on Boris Johnson’s “whack-a-mole” approach to running the country, urging him to plan ahead or risk staff shortages in a string of other industries in the coming months.
- Simon Clarke, the new chief secretary to the Treasury, has been described as “ridiculous” by a fellow senior Tory for arguing that the shortage of HGV drivers has nothing to do with Brexit. (See 10.14am.)
- Johnson has claimed that the Cop26 global climate crisis conference taking place in November could mark “the beginning of the end of climate change”. (See 4.35pm.)
- Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, has launched a strong attack on the UK government, claiming that a combination of ideology, incompetence and malevolence had resulted in the fuel crisis and is leaving the most vulnerable people facing one of the most difficult winters for years.
at 12.02pm EDT
This is from the BBC’s economics and trade correspondent Dharshini David on what the Treasury minister Simon Clarke said about Brexit this morning. (See 10.14am.)
at 12.00pm EDT
The New Statesman’s George Eaton has posted its chart of the day on Twitter, in an apparent response to Simon Clarke (see 10.14am). “The 37 per cent fall in the number of EU drivers in the UK between March 2020 and 2021 compares to a dip of only 5 per cent in the same period for UK nationals, indicating that Brexit is at least partly to blame for the shortage of between 60,000 to 76,000 HGV licence holders in the country,” Michael Goodier writes in the article.
at 12.01pm EDT
Johnson claims Cop26 could mark ‘beginning of the end of climate change’
Boris Johnson has claimed that the Cop26 climate crisis conference taking place in Glasgow in November could mark “the beginning of the end of climate change”. In a video address to the Youth4Climate conference in Italy, which was also addressed by the Italian PM, Mario Draghi, and the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, Johnson said he wanted Cop26 to focus on four big issues, involving coal, cars, cash and trees.
He went on:
We want to move away, as I’ve described, from using coal as the way we generate electricity, we want to move to move towards renewables.
We want all the countries in the world to move off coal. We want everybody to stop using internal combustion engine vehicles, and it can be done, people are moving away from them as we speak.
We want to raise the funds that the whole world needs, the developing world in particular, to tackle climate change – and we need to get up to $100bn.
And we need to plant hundreds of millions if not trillions of trees around the world. If we do all that, we can make Cop26 in November … the beginning of the end of climate change.
Johnson quoted a projection saying that “a child born in 2020 will endure seven times as many extreme heatwaves and twice as many droughts as their grandparents”.
But he also claimed that if the world succeeded in addressing the climate crisis, dire predictions for the future could be avoided. He ended his speech saying:
So without being unduly rhapsodical, when you’re my age, you young folks, you young thrusters out there, you’ll inhabit not a world on fire, but a planet where your phones and your computers and your lights are powered by the wind and the water, the waves and the sun.
You’ll inhabit a world where electric cars glide silently down your streets from California to Cape Town; emission-free, guilt-free jet zero planes will fly overhead; and all of us will be able to deal with whatever the climate throws at us.
So what I’m saying to you is that the situation is dire, it is frightening, but change is possible and it can be done.
Johnson, of course, is always stubbornly optimistic, although even by his standards this sounds excessively Panglossian. For an alternative assessment, do read the Twitter thread starting here from my colleague George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist and environmentalist.
at 12.00pm EDT
Downing Street has announced two minor ministerial appointments.
Malcolm Offord, who runs a private equity firm in Scotland and who has donated more than GBP100,000 to the Conservative party, has been given a peerage and will join the government as a minister in the Scotland Office. Earlier this year he was a candidate for the Scottish Conservatives in the regional list section of the election, but he was not elected.
And Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, a Tory whip in the Lords, has been made a culture minister. He will serve in the department while carrying on his duties as a whip. Before joining the Lords, Parkinson was an official in Conservative HQ and an adviser to Theresa May, as home secretary and then prime minister.
at 11.50am EDT
Councils say they should not have to provide main ‘safety net’ for those in need as ‘very challenging’ winter approaches
The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, has welcomed the new household support fund (see 8.54am) announced today. But it says the main “safety net” for people in need should come from the welfare system, not from local authorities.
Shaun Davies, chair of the LGA’s resources board, said:
Councils have demonstrated throughout the pandemic that they are best placed to understand local needs and reach their most vulnerable residents. This funding recognises the vital role of local welfare support and is a positive step to enable councils to continue to provide much-needed support to low income households at risk of poverty and financial hardship throughout the winter.
The end of the universal credit uplift and other Covid-related support could combine with rising fuel and food costs to make this a very challenging winter for many low income households, in particular those with children. The mainstream benefit system will need to provide the principal safety net for them, enabling councils to target additional, discretionary support to those who need it most.
It is our view that the GBP20 per week uplift in universal credit should be retained for as long as it is needed, to support low-income households to recover from the pandemic and to prevent unsustainable costs falling on councils.
The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that the household support fund is effectively a revised version of a Covid funding scheme already in place that comes to an end today. Last year the government launched a winter grant scheme (pdf), starting in December, that distributed money to councils for them to use to help people struggling to pay for food, heating or other essentials. As winter ended, the scheme was extended under a new name, the local support grant. That scheme ends today.
But the DWP claims the new scheme is more generous. It says GBP429m has been spent in England under the old version from December until now, and that GBP421m has been allocated under the new scheme just for this winter – although the DWP has not specified exactly how long that funding is expected to last.
The new scheme is also intended to help a wider group of people. Under the old versions, 80% of the money was supposed to go to families with children. The new one is intended to offer more help to adults without children, the DWP says.
Further guidance to councils on how the money should be spent will be released soon.
at 11.08am EDT
The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England has jumped 18% in a week, in a sign that new cases of coronavirus are once again on the rise, PA Media reports. PA says:
A total of 191,771 people tested positive at least once in the week to September 22, up from 162,400 the previous week, according to the latest test and trace figures (pdf).
It is the biggest week-on-week percentage increase since mid-July, which was the last time there was a major spike in Covid-19 cases in England.
The latest numbers are still well below the level reached during the second wave of the virus, however.
In an interview with Times Radio Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, agreed with Simon Clarke (see 10.14am), saying that it was “lazy” to blame Brexit for the shortage of HGV drivers and that other EU countries have driver shortages too. He said Covid was the key factor. He explained:
Even if we allow visas, I don’t know where we’re gonna get these drivers from.
The truth is, the lockdown was an unmitigated disaster in economic terms, because some of our institutions didn’t really think through the consequences of locking down everything they did.
So there was no driver training and examination taking place really, overall, [for] well over a year, which means there were no new drivers coming into the system.
The fuel poverty charity National Energy Action says that the new household support fund announced today (see 8.54am) will not stop vulnerable people being “at dire risk of premature death” this winter. Adam Scorer, the NEA’s chief executive, said:
The massive devastating increases in energy prices will drive over 500,000 more households into fuel poverty, leaving them unable to heat or power their homes. Just when they were needed most, the uplifts to universal credit are also being withdrawn and inflation is soaring.
The new household support fund will provide some welcome support for those that can access it, but on its own it is not enough to halt the erosion in incomes and deal with rising prices. Without a wider package of support – keeping UC uplifts and more rebates to protect those on the lowest incomes from spiralling energy prices – vulnerable people are still at dire risk of premature death this winter.
Harriet Harman says Met chief should resign to restore confidence of women in the force
Harriet Harman has also written to Dame Cressida Dick telling her that why she thinks she should resign and to Priti Patel, the home secretary, demanding seven changes to Met police procedures that would strengthen safeguards for women against the threat posed by violent officers. She has released both letters.
at 8.13am EDT
Harriet Harman, the Labour MP who chairs parliament’s joint committee on human rights, has called for Dame Cressida Dick’s resignation as Met police commissioner following the conviction of Wayne Couzens for the murder of Sarah Everard.
Harman told Times Radio:
You sense that she [Sarah Everard] never would have got in that car if she hadn’t believed, and [Couzens] wasn’t, a police officer. And women have to be able to trust the police, they shouldn’t be in fear of them, and women’s confidence in the police will have been shattered by this.
Harman said the Met needed a “whole plan of action” to change attitudes. She said: “I don’t think Cressida Dick can actually take that plan forward and therefore she needs to resign.” Harman went on:
Any currently serving officer against whom there is an allegation of violence against women should be immediately suspended, there should be a change in the vetting procedures, there should be independent investigation.
All of these are big changes, which are necessary. They cannot be seen through by the current Metropolitan police commissioner.
at 8.14am EDT
UK’s new GBP500m winter hardship fund branded as ‘sticking plaster’
Charities and the Labour party have criticised the government’s planned GBP500m winter hardship fund as a “temporary sticking plaster” that will help struggling households recover from next week’s GBP20 a week cut to universal credit, my colleagues Patrick Butler and Jasper Jolly report.
Starmer says Labour’s policy to raise minimum wage to GBP10ph is ‘minimum for now’
Here is a summary of the main points from Keir Starmer’s six interviews this morning.
- Starmer said that Labour’s policy to raise the minimum wage to GBP10 per hour was “a minimum for now”. At the party conference he faced strong criticism from the left for not backing GBP15 per hour. Asked about this, he replied:
We set out that it should be immediately GBP10, which is a 12% increase and roughly about GBP2,000 a year more than those on the minimum wage get now and so that’s a significant step in the right direction. It’s a minimum for now, it should be immediate but it would make a big difference to those on the minimum wage.
And believe you me, I have close relatives working in the care sector, I know what it means to live on the minimum wage, I know how desperately they need a Labour government to change things.
- He defended his decision to say that he was “100% behind Jeremy Corbyn” when Corbyn was leader, despite criticising him now, saying he was being loyal. He said:
I’m a member of the Labour party, a Labour MP, and like every member of the Labour party and every MP we support a Labour government. A Labour government is always better than the alternative.
- He claimed that no opposition has set out the fiscal rules it will follow so clearly ahead of an election. He told the Today programme:
I can’t remember a leader of the opposition setting out in such clear terms fiscal rules way ahead of an election so people can see them and pick over them and know exactly where we are going as a Labour party.
John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, says Starmer’s claim is false because Labour did the same thing four years ago.
- Starmer claimed the “vast majority” of Labour members in the conference hall yesterday supported him. Asked about the heckling he received, he said:
When your party changes, when your party dusts itself down and faces the electorate, there are some people who don’t like that. But if you saw the hall yesterday, the vast majority of people were absolutely with me.
- He said it was essential to discover how the police officer who killed Sarah Everard was able to “slip through the net”. And he said “thousands upon thousands of police officers doing a fantastic job are absolutely sickened by this”.
- He said Lord Mandelson has no formal role in the party. Asked on LBC about the person who heckled him with the question “Where’s Peter Mandelson?”, Starmer said he wished he had been quicker yesterday, and responded: “In your head.” He went on:
[Mandelson has] got no formal role at all and I personally haven’t spoken to Peter in some time. But look, I’m not going to pretend I don’t take … I have all sorts of conversations with people, I’m very happy to do so, so I’m not pretending there aren’t people I don’t talk to.
- Starmer said that his speech yesterday, which has been criticised as too long, was timed to last one hour, but went on for an half and a half because of all the standing ovations and clapping.
- He said it was time for a female James Bond.
at 7.19am EDT
Although the Treasury minister Simon Clarke claimed this morning that Brexit was not a factor in the HGV driver shortage (see 10.14am), almost seven out of 10 voters disagree, according to Opinium polling published at the weekend.
This is from the Labour MP Karl Turner, a shadow justice minister, on Simon Clarke’s comment about Brexit not being a factor in the HGV driver shortage on the Today programme this morning. (See 10.14am.)
The Child Poverty Action Group has also criticised the new household support fund (see 8.54am) as inadequate. This is from its chief executive, Alison Garnham.
Ministers are right to worry about low-income families, but now isn’t the time for stop-gap measures. Grants offer no stability to millions of struggling households, and will leave far too many out of pocket when the GBP20 universal credit cut hits. Investment in local support is necessary and welcome – but unless government drops the GBP20 cut, families will still face a living standards crisis this winter and beyond.