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Here is a round-up of all of today’s top news stories from Westminster:
Tens of thousands of railway workers will stage fresh strikes in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, PA Media has reported. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said its members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will strike on 15 and 17 September. The union said more than 40,000 members would take action, which would “effectively shut down” the rail network.
Keir Starmer has denied that Labour’s energy policy amounts to “kicking the can down the road”, but acknowledged that something will have to be done early next year to tackle the crisis in the longer term. During a Q&A on BBC Radio 5 Live, the Labour leader was quizzed on his plans to tackle soaring energy bills beyond the middle of next year, PA Media reported. One listener told him: “The public is more leftwing than the Labour party at the moment.” Starmer replied: “I don’t accept that is kicking the can down the road.”
Boris Johnson has vowed to give his full support to the next prime minister, but could not resist using his penultimate speech to take a potshot at Liz Truss’s energy plans. In an attempt to shore up his legacy just days before he leaves No 10, the outgoing Conservative leader hailed the government’s “accelerated, long-overdue reforms” to make the UK more energy independent and announced £700m for the Sizewell C nuclear plant.
Johnson also said that “only time will tell” what kind of ex-prime minister he will be, and he reiterated that he will give his “full and unqualified support” to his successor. He will leave 10 Downing Street next week when he is likely to be replaced as prime minister by the current foreign secretary, Liz Truss, who leads the former chancellor Rishi Sunak in polling.
The chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, has said energy supplies should not be cut off if people cannot afford their bills, as the Treasury examines a range of options to help consumers cope with the cost of living crisis. Zahawi promised that the government would expand on the £37bn package of aid announced earlier this year to help households tackle soaring energy costs. He told Sky News: “No one should be cut off because they can’t afford their bills.”
Michael Gove has urged Liz Truss to reconsider energy rationing for businesses this winter, after she rejected the idea at Wednesday’s final Tory leadership hustings. Gove said the UK should follow other European countries in urging companies to show restraint in their use of electricity and gas.
Michael Gove dismissed speculation he intends to quit politics, saying he is “definitely planning to stay in parliament”. Sacked by Boris Johnson as the levelling up and housing secretary after privately advising the prime minister to stand down, Gove laughed off suggestions he could become a newspaper editor.
The energy crisis is hitting UK household budgets harder than any country in western Europe, according to analysis by the International Monetary Fund. The difference between the cost burden on poor and rich households is also far more unequal in the UK than other countries. The reason is the UK’s heavy reliance on gas to heat homes and produce electricity at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has sent gas prices soaring. In addition, the UK has the least energy efficient homes in western Europe.
The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, vowed to continue to put pressure on Beijing to end its policies against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, following a blistering report by the outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, who accused China of “serious human rights violations” that may amount to crimes against humanity.
Keir Starmer told listeners to his BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in this morning that he knows what it is like to not be able to pay bills, amid rising concerns over the cost of living crisis. The Labour leader spoke about his own childhood as he was pressed on how his party would help struggling families.
Dozens of charities have demanded the government provide urgent financial support to households dealing with the cost of living crisis and have warned of a “tsunami of need” in the UK. The open letter, signed by 48 charity leaders, warns that an “economic crisis of a magnitude not experienced for decades” will push many formerly comfortable households into poverty and desperation.
Ambulance handover times is the “No 1 priority” for the NHS in England this winter, the health secretary, Steve Barclay, said in a speech this afternoon. Speaking at the rightwing Policy Exchange thinktank, Barclay said just a small number of hospital trusts accounted for almost half of ambulance delays.
That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for today. Thanks for following along. I’ll be back tomorrow morning to continue bringing you all the latest UK politics news.
Tens of thousands of railway workers will stage fresh strikes in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, PA Media has reported.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said its members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will strike on 15 and 17 September.
The union said more than 40,000 of its members would take action, warning it woud “effectively shut down” the rail network.
Talks between the union and rail industry have been ongoing but there has been no breakthrough or new offers from either Network Rail or the operators, the union said.
The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said:
Our members have no choice but to continue this strike action. Network Rail and the train operating companies have shown little interest this past few weeks in offering our members anything new in order for us to be able to come to a negotiated settlement.
Grant Shapps continues his dereliction of duty by staying in his bunker and shackling the rail industry from making a deal with us. We will continue to negotiate in good faith, but the employers and government need to understand our industrial campaign will continue for as long as it takes.
The news follows announcements by Aslef and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association of strikes by their members in the coming weeks.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss vowed to continue to put pressure on Beijing to end its policies in Xinjiang, following a blistering report by the outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, who accused China of “serious human rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims that may amount to crimes against humanity.
Truss said in a statement that the UN’s long-awaited report provided new evidence of “the appalling extent of China’s efforts to silence and repress Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang”. She also said London would continue to act with international partners to “bring about a change in China’s actions, and immediately end its appalling human rights violations in Xinjiang”.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s statement following the publication of @UNHumanRights chief @mbachelet’s report on Xinjiang, shedding further light on China’s human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims 👇 https://t.co/CV9Hho3Esp pic.twitter.com/v2OJVz1s5W
The UN’s 45-page report concluded: “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
The damming report was welcomed by rights activists and families of the victims in China’s Xinjiang region. But they also called on governments around the world to establish formal and independent investigations into the matter.
Steve Barclay also said NHS trusts needed to prioritise the three cancers that account for two-thirds of the diagnosis backlog – skin, prostate and gastrointestinal.
He said integrated health trusts should prioritise “new cancer pathways”, such as pharmacy and community referrals. He said:
Alongside ambulance delays, the second dominant health issue is clearing the Covid waiting list backlog. Over the summer, the two-year waiting lists were virtually eliminated with a final 2,000 cases set to be resolved by the end of September.
The health secretary added that patients “need to be able to exercise choice at the very start of their care”. He said the NHS needed to make better use of its app for patients to make appointments.
The health secretary wants to “stimulate a conversation” about backroom staffing in the NHS, he said in a Policy Exchange speech about preparing for the winter.
Steve Barclay claimed there were 53,000 staff in organisations across the NHS in England, “where the majority are not providing direct patient care”, in addition to hospital and GP management.
My point is this is not just an issue of cost. It is also about effectiveness. Because too much management can be a distraction to the front line.
Staff at the centre need to streamline the administrative burden of those on the front line and not risk adding to it.
If we are to reprioritise back office costs to the front line, there needs to be more transparency.
Barclay added he had ordered a digital assessment of staffing in the NHS, telling the audience:
It will stimulate, I hope, a conversation within the NHS about how priorities and resourcing is best aligned.
Ambulance handover times is the “number one priority” for the NHS in England this winter, the health secretary, Steve Barclay, has said in a speech this afternoon.
Speaking at the rightwing Policy Exchange thinktank, Barclay said that just a small number of hospital trusts accounted for almost half of ambulance delays.
Targeted help over the summer has been focused on these trusts, including building capacity in emergency departments, introducing pre and post cohorting and observation areas, supporting emergency department triaging and the risk assessment across the hospital as a whole.
However, he said that not all of the issues were in the control of the hospitals and instead sat with ambulance trusts, integrated care boards, care homes and NHS England itself.
We currently have over 12,000 beds occupied by patients who are medically fit to discharge. This is also resulting in poor patient outcomes, in particular with the frail and elderly because patients often deteriorate if left in a hospital bed for too long.
Boris Johnson has promised a £700m investment package if Sizewell C nuclear plant is to be built.
He said it would be “madness” not to go ahead with the project, claiming that, if the plant was operational now, it would slash national fuel bills by £3bn.
The GMB union national secretary Andy Prendergast has welcome Boris Johnson’s promise of funding for Sizewell C as a “belated step in the right direction”.
“With energy prices going through the roof and all bar one of our nuclear power stations due to go off line by the end of the decade, this does at least provide some assurance on our energy security,” he said in comments reported by PA Media.
“Years of political failure to make the right decision on new nuclear means we are woefully unprepared for the energy crisis facing us today. This same inertia has resulted in a failure to secure our domestic gas supply. The real-world consequences of this lack of political courage are higher bills and risk of blackouts this winter.”
Dozens of charities have demanded the government provide urgent financial support to households dealing with the cost of living crisis and have warned of a “tsunami of need” in the UK.
The open letter, signed by 48 charity leaders, warns that an “economic crisis of a magnitude not experienced for decades” will push many formerly comfortable households into poverty and desperation.
Describing the challenges facing support organisations, the letter says food banks are “working flat out”, community centres are planning to provide winter “warm hubs”, and disability charities are providing cash to those who can no longer wait. But it warns many support organisations will close as charities cannot afford to keep building open.
The letter was organised by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations and signatories include the National Children’s Bureau, National Voices and Disability Rights UK. It further warns of crises in mental health provision and increased suicide rates while predicting more children will enter care and that animal charities will struggle to cope with abandoned pets.
“We are calling on the government to urgently deliver meaningful financial support to those in the greatest need, directly to households and through the benefits systems that already exist to provide support.”
Liz Truss, the favourite to become the UK’s next prime minister, has said a damning UN report that Beijing had committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province “shames China”.
The report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said: “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
Truss, in her role as foreign secretary, said the report “provides new evidence of the appalling extent of China’s efforts to silence and repress Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang”.
“It includes harrowing evidence, including first-hand accounts from victims, that shames China in the eyes of the international community, including actions that may amount to crimes against humanity.
“This includes credible evidence of arbitrary and discriminatory detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations of reproductive rights, and the destruction of religious sites.” She said UN members now needed the chance to consider the report fully.
The Chinese government, which attempted until the last moment to stop the publication of the report, said in an official response that it was “based on the disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces” and that it “wantonly smears and slanders” China and interferes in the country’s internal affairs.
Victims and human rights groups have said governments around the world should establish formal independent investigations into human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
This is Tom Bryant picking up the UK politics live blog for an hour from Tom Ambrose
Boris Johnson has vowed to give his total support to the next prime minister, but could not resist using his penultimate speech to take a potshot at Liz Truss’s energy plans.
In an attempt to shore up his legacy just days before he leaves No 10, the outgoing Conservative leader hailed the government’s “accelerated, long-overdue reforms” to make the UK more energy independent and announced £700m for the Sizewell C nuclear plant.
But he disparaged fracking, which Truss has pledged to lift the ban on, and hydrocarbons, another energy source his likely successor wants to exploit through further drilling in the North Sea.
“If we could frack effectively and cheaply in this country, that would be possibly a very beneficial thing. I’m just, I have to say, slightly dubious that it will prove to be a panacea,” Johnson said on Thursday.
“I would much rather that we focused on the things where we are brilliant, and where the environmental damage is really minimal.”
Johnson later added: “Tell everybody who thinks hydrocarbons are the only answer and we should get fracking and all that: offshore wind is now the cheapest form of electricity in this country … Of course it’s entirely clean and green.”
The chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, has said households should not be cut off if they cannot afford their energy bills, as the Treasury examines a range of options to help consumers cope with the cost of living crisis.
Zahawi promised that the government would expand on the £37bn package of aid announced earlier this year to help households tackle soaring energy costs. He told Sky News: “No one should be cut off because they can’t afford their bills.
“I am working with the [energy] companies … to make sure those people who are really struggling get that help both financially and personally.”
Consumers are not automatically cut off if they do not pay energy bills, but UK charities have warned a group urging consumers not to pay this winter that there could be serious consequences.
Zahawi said he was “deeply concerned” about vulnerable people living in freezing conditions this winter because they cannot afford to turn their heating on.
Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, said the £700m announced for Sizewell C “could insulate huge numbers of draughty homes, and cut next year’s bills, instead of being thrown on to the slow-burning financial bonfire that is EDF, to increase our bills for decades”.
The contrast between these lumbering white elephants and the dynamic, cost-cutting, innovative technologies in the renewables sector could barely be more striking.
While this down-payment on failure shows the government hasn’t noticed, the market has, and investors have fled the nuclear sector.
To get Sizewell done, the government would have to step in and add the enormous costs of building reactors to the enormous costs consumers are already paying for their electricity.
The “Boris bill” would be the prime minister’s legacy, he added.