Rishi Sunak Tells PMQs He's “Shocked” At Mone Allegations, NHS Pay Talks Off Table, Tory Rebellion On Access To Cash
Rishi Sunak said he was "shocked" by the allegations against Baroness Mone as he confirmed the peer no longer has the Conservative whip (Parliamentlive.TV)
Rishi Sunak has said he was “shocked” to hear the allegations against Baroness Mone after the peer asked to take a leave of absence from the House of Lords as she denies lobbying for £200m of PPE contracts on behalf of a company she has links to.
Speaking at Prime Minster’s Questions on Wedensday, Sunak said Mone no longer has the Conservative Party whip as she faces investigation over her actions around the firm PPE Medpro.
“Like everyone else I was absolutely shocked to read about the allegations,” he told MPs.
“It’s absolutely right that she is no longer attending the House of Lords and therefore, no longer has the Conservative whip.”
Sunak said he hopes the issue is “resolved promptly”, after reports by the Guardian newspaper this week that she and her children personally benefited to the tune of £29m from the government contracts.
Just hours earlier, Health Secretary Steve Barclay defended Sunak for not withdrawing the Tory whip from the peer sooner.
He told Sky News: "She has taken the leave of absence. Matters in terms of the whip are always for the chief whip and that's a long-standing convention, but she's taken a leave of absence from the House of Lords so she's not able to go to the House of Lords, and it's right that these issues are investigated and that's what the department is doing, and that's what the House of Lords authorities are doing.”
Keir Starmer criticises Rishi Sunak over backing down on housebuilding
Labour leader Keir Starmer used PMQs to attack the prime minister's decision to scrap key planks of his planning reforms.
"The Conservative Party promised the country it would build 300,000 houses a year. This week, without asking a single voter, the Prime Minister broke that promise by scrapping mandatory targets. What changed?," Starmer said.
Sunak accused the Labour leader of having not read the detail of what the government has agreed to, saying they are still “protecting the greenbelt” and investing millions to develop brownfield sites.
Starmer added: “As always the Blancmange Prime Minister wobbled. He did a grubby deal with a handful of his MPs and sold out the aspirations of those who want to own their one home.”
He was accused on “engaging in petty personality politics” and not focusing on the substance by the PM.
Government will not re-open NHS pay talks ahead of nurse, paramedic and midwife strikes
Heath secretary Steve Barclay has dismissed the prospect of reopening pay talks with unions for NHS staff after it was confirmed that thousands of ambulance workers and other healthcare workers will strike later this month.
He said he is open to talking about improving working conditions, but that salary increases are set by an independent body.
He insisted the "Prime Minister has stood his ground" in the dispute, but that there was "still a question" on whether ambulance services would cover all emergency callouts during strikes.
Unions have said staff will respond to life-threatening incidents, known as a “cat one” call, but Barclay said officials planned to meet on Thursday to discuss extending coverage to “cat two” callouts, which cover heart attacks, strokes, epilepsy and burns and that category three and four calls are "still very important".
"Clearly, if those are not covered because of the strikes, that places huge pressure," Barclay told Times Radio.
"Of course, we can look at what contingency plans we can put in place, but they're never going to cover the same amount as having 3,000 ambulances on the day, which is roughly what we have on a typical day.
"There is a risk if we can't get ambulances to people."
Minister denies Strep A antibiotics shortage
Barclay has denied there issues with supply of antibiotics from manufacturers to tackle the outbreak of Step A, saying that although some GPs may have shortages while stock is moved around, there is no wider issue with getting hold of the drugs.
"I checked with the team last night – we have an established team in the department that does this on a permanent basis – and they reassured me we have good supply," Barclay told Sky News.
"The medical suppliers are required to notify us if they've got shortages.
"GPs can have particular surges if they've got a lot of demand in an area, and that's quite routine, we can move the stock around our depots.
"As of last night when we checked [with suppliers], they said they could reassure us that they've got good stock and were moving that around to meet demand.
"Obviously parents are concerned at the moment because they see the stories.
"One in five children have this – Strep A – naturally, complications are very rare, but it's important that we're vigilant."
Access to cash could be the next Tory rebellion
The government is facing a fresh rebellion, just days after they were forced to back down on policies around housebuilding and onshore wind.
Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh, alongside consumer group Which? has drafted amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill which is gaining support from Tory backbenchers ahead of a vote today over access to free cash in remote areas as banks and the Post Office shut their branches, Politico London Playbook reported.
More than 20 Tories MPs from across the party, including former leader Iain Duncan Smith and ex-Cabinet ministers Priti Patel and David Mundell, are supporting the amendment.
The number of rebels might not pose great risk to the government's majority, but it is a further example of the difficulties Rishi Sunak has as Prime Minister to take his party with him.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay defended Sunak over accusations he has shown weak leadership.
"The fact that the Prime Minister has taken a very strong stand in terms of the priority of getting inflation down," he told Sky News.
Barclay added: "I think it's important that we listen to colleagues, that is our parliamentary process. It's important that we do these things with local consent."
Stephen Flynn elected SNP’s new Westminster leader with Mhairi Black as deputy
Stephen Flynn asked his first questions in the Commons as the SNP’s new Westminster leader, after he was elected to replace Ian Blackford last night.
The Aberdeen South MP defeated Alison Thewliss for the top job at the party's AGM, where Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP Mhairi Black was made his new deputy, taking over from Kirsten Oswald.
Leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon said that Flynn and Black would make a "formidable team".
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Flynn paid tribute to his predecessor, calling Blackford a “giant of the independence movement” who had “served within diligence and duty for five years”.
Sunak congratulated Flynn on his appointment and said he looks forward to a “constructive debate with him across the despatch box.”
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