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Top Stories: "Possible" Chinese Spy Balloons Flown Over UK, Labour Attacks Government Spending

The US shot down four aerial objects in recent days (Alamy)

5 min read

Transport minister Richard Holden has said that it is “possible” China has flown spy balloons over the UK after the US shot down four aerial objects over North America in recent days.

The latest flying object was taken out over Michigan on Sunday on the orders of US President Joe Biden. 

Last week China said one of the balloons had been used for scientific research and had gone off course. 

Holden this morning admitted "it's possible" that spy balloons could have already been flown over the UK. 

"It's also possible that – and I would think likely – that there will be people from the Chinese government trying to act as a hostile state," he told Sky News. 

"We saw it with Russia here in the UK with the Salisbury poisonings and other actions that they've taken.”

He described China as a “hostile state” and  said “we've got to be really robust in our dealings with China".

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed yesterday that the government would be carrying out a security review into spy balloons. 

Labour says government has "frittered away" taxpayer money 

Labour has said the government has “frittered away" taxpayers’ money as they published a report on spending made on publicly funded debit cards. 

The report on Government Procurement Card (GPC) spending found that 14 departments spent at least £145.5m in 2021 on the cards, in purchases that were over the value of £500. 

The party found there were 34,661 transactions in that year on the cards that totalled more than £1,000, and officials spent money at a range of outlets including Amazon (£1.51m), Ikea (£237,683) and Apple (£101,467).

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said that her party would create an “office of Value for Money” to prevent wasted cash. 

"Today's shocking revelations lift the lid on a scandalous catalogue of waste, with taxpayers' money frittered away across every part of government, while in the rest of the country, families are sick with worry about whether their pay cheque will cover their next weekly shop or the next tranche of bills," she said. 

The government has defended the use of the cards, and insisted that if "everything had to be invoiced" rather than using the quicker credit card payments it could drive up costs further and delay procurement. 

"I don't think what we should do is introduce more bureaucracy,” Transport Minister Richard Holden told Sky News.  

GPCs were introduced by Tony Blair’s government in the 1990s.

Conservative chairman says he thinks Russian spy tried to recruit him

The new Conservative Party chairman has said that he believes a Russian spy once tried to recruit him in a London pub. 

Greg Hands claimed that he met the man Alexander Kashitsyn – who he now believes was an agent – at a venue in Fulham while he had been seeking to become MP for that area nearly 20 years ago. 

Speaking to the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, Strippers, Spies And Russian Money, Hands, who was confirmed as the new party chair last week, said that Kashitsyn first introduced himself as a Russian Embassy worker in 2004, and asked for a meeting shortly afterwards. 

“First he’d said he wanted to talk about street-sweeping cleaning or bin collection,” Hands told Channel 4. 

“Then suddenly he asked me to get him a document about the Iranian nuclear programme from the House of Commons Library.”

Mr Hands, who was elected as MP for Chelsea and Fulham in 2010, said he did not help and was “very suspicious”. 

“I thought he was a Russian intelligence officer getting a soon-to-be British Member of Parliament to do something for the Russian state.

“This is sometimes a sort of a classic kind of… a sort of espionage technique.” 

Two years later, Hands was told by MI5 officers that his number had been on the phone of a Russian intelligence operative. 

Channel 4 said the Russian Embassy declined to comment.

Allies of Michael Gove deny Brexit regret after reported summit

Allies of Michael Gove have denied he has any regrets over Brexit, after it was reported he attended a cross-party summit to discuss its “failings”. 

The Observer said on Sunday that Gove had been among the attendees of a two-day meeting last week, which according to documents, looked at “how can we make Brexit work better with our neighbours in Europe?”. 

Those in attendance at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire included the Levelling Up Secretary, as well as Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, former Tory leader Michael Howard, and former Labour cabinet minister Peter Mandelson. 

A source close to Gove has since told The Sun that he “set out the massive opportunities we can seize now we are no longer chained to the EU”.

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