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Cries of ‘cover-up’ over Gray report, as unions call for redactions to protect civil servants

“Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street parties was being edited on Wednesday night amid suspicions that the new police investigation will mean names and key details are left out of her findings. Civil service unions are warning the Cabinet Office that government employees must not be “hung out to dry” by being named as party attendees. However, Labour claimed on Wednesday that unless all evidence gathered in the “partygate” investigation by Ms Gray was made public, then “it will reek of another Downing Street cover-up”. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Ms Gray’s findings would be made public in full, providing an “assurance” was given that the information would not undercut the police probe.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Document following inquiry by senior official has been delayed by dispute over its contents – FT
  • Johnson is expected to apologise once ethics chief Gray submits her report – Daily Mail

More:

  • Backlash over Met’s £1million inquiry as crime soars – Daily Mail
  • A barrister’s verdict on the parties at Downing Street – The Times
  • Rees-Mogg says Johnson would not need to resign if interviewed under caution – Daily Mail

Stand by me, Johnson tells MPs as he pins blame on ‘bad advice’

“Boris Johnson has told Tory MPs that he has received “bad advice” and warned that deposing him could result in a general election as Downing Street gets ready for the publication of a report into lockdown-breaking parties. The prime minister held 15-minute meetings with more than a dozen Tory MPs in recent days as he tries to shore up his support before a potential confidence vote. He has claimed that his successor would have to hold an election to legitimise their leadership and also argued that now is the wrong time to remove him given that Russia is on the brink of invading Ukraine. Johnson is said to have expressed contrition for mistakes that have been made but said he did not personally break the rules. “He said we’re going to get through it, I’m sorry about all this,” one Tory MP said.” – The Times

  • ‘Save Boris’ fightback gathers pace as contrite Prime Minister meets rebel MPs in private – Daily Telegraph
  • Tory MPs poised to send letters of no confidence in PM after ‘partygate’ report – The Guardian
  • Leader holds crisis meetings with rebel MPs as he enters ‘kill-zone’ – Daily Express
  • Government being immobilised by crisis, say sources – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: PMQs sketch: The underdog comes out fighting and attacks his opponent as a hypocrite for hire

‘Spike tax hike and we’ll back you’, Tory MPs tell Johnson

“Tory MPs are urging Boris Johnson to rethink the national insurance hike as he tries to win their backing over Partygate. The Prime Minister has met wavering backbenchers in a bid to shore up support ahead of the publication of Sue Gray’s report into claims of lockdown breaches at No 10. Sources say several have pressed him to delay the national insurance increase and ease the cost of living crisis facing millions of families. The MPs are thought to want Mr Johnson to be ‘more Conservative’ – in return for backing him to lead them into the next election. The campaign for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to put off the tax grab is rapidly gathering momentum. The British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors both yesterday called for it to be scrapped.” – Daily Mail

  • National Insurance rise will push up prices, Prime Minister is warned – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: Parties aren’t Johnson’s only problem – his voters are awaiting real, positive change

>Yesterday:

MPs raise concerns about leak of hike in living wage in last budget

“MPs have expressed “deep concern” over the leaking of price-sensitive information before Rishi Sunak’s budget last year and warned the chancellor his package of measures risked adding to Britain’s already surging inflation rate. The influential all-party Treasury committee called for Sunak to investigate how details of a planned increase in the national living wage to £9.50 an hour were disclosed in the runup to the budget in late October. “We are deeply concerned that the rate of the national living wage was disclosed to ITV in an unauthorised fashion prior to the budget, and we agree with the Treasury that this could have caused confusion in the market as to whether the information was accurate,” the MPs said.” – The Guardian

  • Sunak’s tax-raising Budget helped drive up inflation, say MPs – FT
  • Knives out for Dishy Rishi as he is ‘captured by the Treasury’ on tax – Daily Telegraph
  • Sunak cannot afford a U-turn on social care levy, warn MPs – The Times

Agnew ordered action against banks over Covid loan scheme

“An anti-fraud minister who resigned at the dispatch box this week had ordered officials to take action against banks whose approach to a pandemic loan scheme may have put billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at risk. Lord Agnew of Oulton, the Treasury and Cabinet Office minister who stepped down this week over what he called the Treasury’s “schoolboy errors” in countering criminals, demanded last month that a “strong line” be taken against errant lenders to mitigate losses. In a newly published letter to Lord Smith of Kelvin, the chairman of the state-owned British Business Bank, which ran pandemic credit schemes, Agnew expressed concern about whether banks “are genuinely doing all they can to fight fraud in these schemes”.” – The Times

  • UK faces unintended consequences of post-Brexit financial regulation – FT
  • Pressure grows on Britain to beef up measures to tackle economic crime – The Guardian
  • Target fraudsters or risk losing credibility on Russia, Johnson told – The Times

Ukraine: Wallace understood to have requested range of options from military chiefs

“UK warships and fighter jets could be on the move within days to help thwart a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is understood to have requested a range of options from military chiefs in a bid to match the build-up of Moscow’s forces. The move is significant because it was expected to come only after an attack on Ukraine. But following Nato talks yesterday, thousands of US troops are set to be deployed to Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Washington has asked its allies, including Britain, to help provide additional manpower. RAF pilots and crews have experience of policing the region’s airspace because Typhoons from the 121 Expeditionary Air Wing spent much of 2021 in Romania on manoeuvres.” – Daily Mail

  • ‘Very advanced’ talks of British deployment alongside other Nato allies – Daily Telegraph
  • Kremlin steps up its propaganda war – Daily Mail

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: When it comes to Putin’s Russia, the UK remains the most important European player and NATO is the only game in town.

>Yesterday:

Email trail pins order for Afghan animal airlift on Johnson

“Leaked emails appear to contradict Boris Johnson’s claim that he did not authorise the evacuation of more than 160 stray cats and dogs from Afghanistan. The prime minister had said it was “complete nonsense” to suggest that he intervened to help Pen Farthing, founder of the animal charity Nowzad, secure safe passage out of Kabul in August. However, a Foreign Office whistle-blower released emails yesterday suggesting Johnson personally approved the rescue mission, which is said to have frustrated efforts to save Afghans. In the emails, submitted by Raphael Marshall, a former civil servant, to the foreign affairs committee, an official brought up Nowzad while discussing another animal charity that wanted special treatment.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: My godson, the whistleblower, and the Nowzad animals. If the Prime Minister didn’t authorise their removal, who did?

£100million of taxpayers’ cash to be used to turbocharge nuclear plant development

“Some £100million of taxpayers’ cash is to be used to turbocharge development of a nuclear plant. While the UK grapples with the energy crisis, the planned £20billion Sizewell C in Suffolk could produce 3.2 gigawatts of low carbon electricity. That is enough to power six million homes and support 10,000 jobs. The project is being developed by France’s EDF and a controversial Chinese partner. It is a near replica of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which is more than five years into construction. And it would help to reduce Britain’s exposure to volatile gas prices. The £100million commitment to EDF from Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will be revealed today.” – The Sun

  • Plan could see taxpayer take a stake in atomic power generation for first time in more than a decade – FT

Threat of benefit cuts to force unemployed into ‘any job now’

“Jobseekers will have their benefits cut sooner if they do not consider sectors battling staff shortages in a plan to get half a million more into work. Sanctions will kick in after a month for those who do not consider taking jobs in unfamiliar sectors to fill vacancies for delivery drivers, supply chain logistics and other roles affected by a lack of staff. At present people have three months to find a job in their preferred sector, but ministers are reducing this under an “any job now” plan that they say will help those on benefits as well as the wider economic recovery. Officials insist that they will work with companies to ensure that job centres get better at matching benefit claimants with local vacancies to give them the best chance of finding a suitable role.” – The Times

  • Street joins forces with Burnham to demand education powers – The Times

It’s not up to Dorries to scrap licence fee, says BBC

“The BBC has hit back at Nadine Dorries’s pledge to scrap the licence fee as it revealed that prosecutions for evasion would double this year. The culture secretary tweeted that last week’s licence fee settlement would be the last in the BBC’s 100-year history. But Tim Davie, the director-general, said Dorries did not have the power to unilaterally overhaul the funding model. “I don’t think it’s for one person to decide the funding model of the BBC,” Davie told the Commons public accounts committee yesterday. “We need to go through a disciplined process with the public involved.” Davie added that he had been blindsided by Dorries’s tweet. “More long-term observations about the future of the licence fee and our model, while utterly appropriate actually coming towards the end of the charter, were a surprise,” he told MPs.” – The Times

  • BBC spy story case will not be heard behind closed doors, Government warned – Daily Telegraph

‘Liz woos India’: Post-Brexit trade deal with India could be bigger than agreement with America

“A post-Brexit trade deal with India could be bigger and better than an agreement with the United States, experts have said. The Government is laying on the charm to try to seal a deal with New Delhi as part of a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific. Boris Johnson has sent his senior lieutenants, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and trade chief Anne Marie Trevelyan, to charm the Indians in recent months. New analysis by the Resolution Foundation (RF) think-tank finds the UK stands to make more money with a tilt towards India than America. Sophie Hale, an RF economist, said a trade deal with India could bring in megabucks – but is also very risky… India is expected to become the world’s third biggest market for imports by 2050 – providing massive opportunity for British exports.” – The Sun

  • EU ready to sue Britain as furious Brexit trade row breaks out – Daily Express

Comment:

  • It’s time to turn Brexit to Britain’s advantage – Iain Martin, The Times

News in Brief:

  • Stop pretending the UK is transphobic – Debbie Hayton, UnHerd
  • The EHRC delivers – Olivia Hartley, The Critic
  • The phoney war: what’s really going on between Boris and Putin – Owen Matthews, The Spectator
  • ‘Learning for the Future’ is the product of an educational echo chamber – David James, CapX