Related video: Labour to outline £29bn plan to avert energy bill rises
Labour’s plan to freeze energy bills for six months would bring a “double benefit” by countering soaring inflation, Sir Keir Starmer said as he prepared to formally propose the £29bn scheme to halt the coming energy price cap hike.
The plan is “fully costed and comprehensive” and would be partially funded by expanding the windfall tax on oil and gas companies, the Labour leader told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Asked why Labour chose a policy that would halt price rises for all households rather than prioritising the poorest, Sir Keir said: “Doing it across the board, that brings inflation down” – highlighting what he called the “double benefit” of slowing price rises while keeping bills lower.
Meanwhile, schools are reportedly discussing three or four-day weeks due to inflationary pressure and teacher pay rises.
Earlier, overwhelmed food banks told The Independent they are unable to cope with unprecedented demand and are being forced to turn away families in need as more people are falling into hardship due to the UK’s cost of living crisis.
Starmer pictured with baby on Exeter trip
Sir Keir Starmer posed for an old-fashioned political photo-op on his trip to Exeter today when he was introduced to the baby of a local man.
He thankfully did not go for the clichéd practice of kissing the baby – an act still popular with campaigning US presidents to this day.
The strange, old tradition is not common in Britain, though David Cameron was pictured kissing a baby on the 2010 general election trail.
Liam James15 August 2022 15:04
Former chancellor criticises Labour’s ‘populist’ energy bills freeze
Former Conservative chancellor Philip Hammond described Labour’s plan to freeze the energy price cap as “a populist response that is untargeted”.
Sir Keir Starmer said a Labour government would stop the planned meteoric rise in energy bills for six months, in a measure he claims would also counter inflation.
Responding to the policy on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme this afternoon, Mr Hammond, now a peer, urged caution from policymakers in case of further rises in energy prices in 2023.
He said: “It’s fine for the government to intervene to support people through a short-term pressure, but the government can’t protect us indefinitely if this is a long term shift in relative prices, so I don’t support Labour’s proposal because it is a populist response that is untargeted. I’m sure everybody would like to have their energy bills frozen this winter, but not everybody needs that support from the taxpayer in the same way.”
Mr Hammond, who was Theresa May’s chancellor throughout her time in No 10, warned that government support for energy bills risks higher inflation. He said: “If we allow inflation to take hold and become entrenched as it was in the 1970s with wages and prices chasing each other upwards, we all know how that game ends. It ends with a brutal recession, rising unemployment, a situation that nobody in this country wants to go back and see happen again.”
He went on “we shouldn’t be under any doubt that there is no magic money tree, that can make long term increases in energy and food costs just go away, that can’t happen”.
Liam James15 August 2022 14:46
Government must ‘get a grip’ on heatwaves, says Labour
Labour called on the government to “get a grip” and plan for the future to prevent heatwaves from causing a “crisis situation” with the water supply.
Asked by reporters in Exeter about hosepipe bans put in place across southern England, Sir Keir Starmer said: “We’re a country that has a lot of rain outside of this midsummer period, and if we had a Government that planned for the future, we wouldn’t be in a situation where we’re having to impose hosepipe bans.
“What has happened in the last few weeks with the heatwave was predictable, but we’ve got a Government that even when something is predictable doesn’t plan for the future and puts its head in the sand.
“I’d like to see the government actually planning for the future and taking responsibility and getting a grip. I think that means using the regulations we have got and bringing in other regulations if we need them to make sure we’re not repeatedly put in this crisis situation.”
After a drought was declared in several parts of England last week amid regional hosepipe bans, the government was criticised for not taking enough care of the country’s water supply.
Tom Bradshaw, deputy president of the National Farmer’s Union, said: “I don’t think anybody is really prioritising the strategic importance of water … That’s something that we need them to really value – the importance of water and underwriting our food security – far more than they do at the moment.”
The independent Climate Change Committee had previously warned that the government was not well prepared for droughts.
Liam James15 August 2022 14:10
‘Queen’s Frigate’ heads to Middle East for 3-year deployment
A Royal Navy warship known as the “Queen’s Frigate” has sailed for the start of a three-year deployment to the Middle East.
HMS Lancaster, which was launched by the Queen in 1990 and named after her as the Duke of Lancaster, left Portsmouth Naval Base for the long-term deployment.
The Type 23 frigate is the second ship from the fleet to be based out of Bahrain. It will see its 200-strong crew rotate every four months.
On its way to the Middle East, HMS Lancaster will conduct patrols with two Nato task forces, firstly in northern Europe and later in the eastern Mediterranean.
A Navy spokesman said: “Once in Bahrain, the 200-strong crew – including a Royal Marines boarding team and Wildcat helicopter flight – will trade places like-for-like with a second crew in the UK every four months.
“Known as ‘forward deploying’, it spares ships the month-long voyage to and from the Middle East, allowing more time to be spent on patrol, with maintenance carried out in the Gulf rather than back in the UK.
“Lancaster’s sailors have trained extensively for their new mission, not least a six-week assessment package in March and April off Plymouth.”
Liam James15 August 2022 13:49
Boris Johnson only doing ‘urgent’ work on holiday, No 10 admits
No 10 has now admitted that Boris Johnson will only work from his holiday in Greece if it is “urgent”, hours after former minister Brandon Lewis said the prime minister’s work ethic was not waning in the final days of his premiership.
Rob Merrick has the full story:
PM spotted in Greece shortly after returning from break in Slovenia
Liam James15 August 2022 13:30
Removal vans arrive at No 10
Large removal vans have arrived outside No 10 Downing Street as Boris Johnson’s premiership enters its final weeks.
The prime minister is currently on holiday in Greece, his second summer break in a fortnight.
Liam James15 August 2022 13:08
Boris Johnson ‘continuing to work’ while on second holiday in two weeks, senior Tory claims
A senior Conservative MP has defended Boris Johnson‘s work ethic and claimed he is “continuing to work” while away on his second holiday in two weeks (Jon Stone writes).
The prime minister, who has less than a month left in office, has now reportedly jetted off to Greece for a week – shortly after returning from an earlier trip.
The holidays are taking place despite surging inflation and the threat of a looming recession.
But speaking on Monday former Cabinet minister and ex party chairman Brandon Lewis defended Mr Johnson, rejecting any suggestion that he had “thrown in the towel”.
“Even when you are not in the office in Downing Street you are working,” he told LBC radio.
PM spotted in Greece shortly after returning from break in Slovenia
Liam James15 August 2022 12:28
Iran’s response to Salman Rushdie stabbing ‘truly sickening’, says David Lammy
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy comments by an Iranian government official about the assault on author Sir Salman Rushdie were “truly sickening”.
Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman of Iran’s foreign ministry, denied involvement by Tehran and implied that Sir Salman brought the attack on himself.
Mr Lammy said: “It is truly sickening that the Iranian government has the audacity to blame Salman Rushdie and his supporters for the brutal attack on his life.
“Salman Rushdie is an inspirational writer and a courageous defender of our values. Any attack on him is an assault on free speech and liberty.
“The UK government must urgently put diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government to withdraw and apologise for these shameful comments.”
Sir Salman was attacked on Friday at an event in New York state. Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder.
The prime minister has condemned the attack.
Liam James15 August 2022 12:06
Editor of leading Tory blog comes out for Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak is the sensible choice for Tory leader, the editor of Conservative Home, a blog for party members, said.
Paul Goodman, a former Tory MP who now runs the blog, advised Tory members who cannot decide on a candidate to go with MPs and back Mr Sunak, who won every round of preliminary voting.
Mr Goodman said Liz Truss’s plans for the economy could prove damaging at a sensitive time.
He said: “Broadly speaking, Sunak wants to stick with the present plan and Truss wants to change it. In the medium term, she is right: we can’t just carry on with the near-zero interest rates, quantitative easing, zombie economy model of the last ten years.
“But in the short term, Sunak is right. The combination of tax cuts, higher spending and politicians fiddling with the Bank of England’s mandate during uncertain times could spook the markets. Wanting higher rates in principle is a good thing; getting them in practice quite another, if it guarantees, lengthens or deepens recession.”
Liam James15 August 2022 11:36
Hundreds of bus routes will be axed if pandemic-era funding withdrawn, say mayors
Bus operators will axe hundreds of routes unless government funding introduced to keep services running during the pandemic is continued past its scheduled end-date in October, according to metro mayors in northern England.
Half of routes will be affected “in some form” with many losing “all services” after 7pm, the four mayors claimed in a joint letter to Boris Johnson, Nadhim Zahawi, the chancellor, and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary.
The letter was signed by Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North of Tyne, Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire, and Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region.
They wrote: “In each of our regions, bus operators have now notified that they intend to withdraw hundreds of bus routes.”
They went on: “Without action, the changes to bus provision will have a devastating effect on the communities affected, add to the cost of living crisis and will compromise the aims of the National Bus Strategy introduced just last year.”
The mayors added that there is “still time to prevent this”, calling for funding to be maintained “in a form which will allow a more managed transition into a new ‘post-pandemic’ bus network”.
Liam James15 August 2022 11:17