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Press releases

Rishi Sunak Welcomes Strong Trade Relations with Saudi Arabia

Rishi Sunak Welcomes Strong Trade Relations with Saudi Arabia

The Prime Minister met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia at the G20 Summit (Alamy)

7 min read

The Prime Minister met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia at the G20 Summit today to discuss UK-Saudi cooperation on security and economic stability. 

Rishi Sunak met with Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss how the two countries can work together to stablilise energy markets after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked a global increase in energy prices. 

A Downing Street spokesperson said the leaders shared concerns over threats to peace and security in the Middle East, including Iran’s destabilising activity in the region.  

The Prime Minister welcomed "strong trade relations" and "defence and security collaboration" with Saudi Arabia, but noted the importance of further progress on social reforms in the country, including on women’s rights and freedoms. 

Sunak has changed the UK’s tone on China during his visit to the G20 Summit in Bali this week, telling reporters there should be a "peaceful resolution" to the China-Taiwan situation. 

“My view on China is straightforward. I think that China unequivocally poses a systemic threat –well, a systemic challenge – to our values and our interests and is undoubtedly the biggest state-based threat to our economic security," he said.

The stance is a stark departure from his short-lived predecessor Liz Truss, who planned to update Boris Johnson’s 2021 Integrated Review, an overview of the UK’s security and international policy, to designate China as a “threat”.

Sunak used the opening sessions at the gathering of world leaders in Bali to condemn Putin’s “barbaric” war, urging Russian troops to “get out of Ukraine”.

As the G20 Summit continues in Bali and the Chancellor braces the UK for recession, here’s everything you need to know:

Rishi Sunak refuses to apologise for Liz Truss’s mistakes

The Prime Minister refused six times today to apologise for decisions made by his predecessor Liz Truss, which caused serious economic disruption.

He admitted "mistakes were made" by Truss and former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, and when asked by Sky News whether he was sorry, said: "What I want to do now is fix them."

Truss and Kwarteng’s mini-Budget announced £45bn of unfunded tax cuts and controversially abolished the top rate of income tax – a decision which they then U-turned on after mortgage rates soared and there was a run on the sterling. 

After months of political and economic stability, Sunak also admitted to the BBC that the UK’s reputation has “taken a bit of a knock”.

Sunak told ITV that top City bankers should limit pay rises to help fight against inflation – in contradiction with Truss’s previous commitment to scrapping the cap on bankers’ bonuses.

He said: "In a situation like this I'm sure executives of most companies will be thinking about pay settlements for senior management, for their workers, and making sure they are fair.

"That is what everyone would expect and I'm sure that's what most companies are doing."

Bankers' bonuses hit £20,000 on average this year, according to the TUC, which is £5,000 higher than last year.

Multiple current ministers have “bullied staff”, FDA chair says

Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab has received multiple allegations of bullying (Alamy)

Dave Penman, chair of the FDA union, told Sky News on Tuesday that concerns had been raised about the conduct of multiple ministers in Sunak’s government.

He confirmed that the behaviour constituted “bullying”, and added that reports such as these had been an issue over several previous administrations and was a "constant in government".

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has faced multiple allegations of bullying in recent weeks, and The Guardian reported on Monday evening that Raab was warned about his behaviour during his time as foreign secretary by the department’s permanent secretary Simon McDonald.

Sunak has stood by his deputy, who is also justice secretary, and said on Monday that he does not "recognise that characterisation" of Raab in the reports.

Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy told Sky News she had heard "a number of rumours this was a pattern of behaviour" relating to Raab while she was shadow foreign secretary.

UK unemployment rises as real wages fall

Pub
(Alamy)

As the UK heads for a recession, the jobless rate has risen, while wages are still lagging behind record-breaking inflation.

Although wages grew by their fastest rate in more than 20 years, increasing by 5.7 per cent in the year to September, when adjusted for inflation average wages fell by 2.7 per cent.

The unemployment rate crept up to 3.6 per cent in the three months in September, from 3.5 per cent in August, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), while the total number of people unable to work due to long-term illness is also at a record high at 2.5 million.

Responding to the figures, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said tackling inflation was his “absolute priority” in his upcoming Autumn Statement.

But shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said today’s figures “press home the knock-on impact of 12 years of Tory economic mistakes and low growth”.

Kent and Hampshire county councils warn of potential bankruptcy

The long-term viability of the local government sector has been plunged into uncertainty after two of England’s largest Tory councils have warned they may go bankrupt due to huge holes in their budgets.

Kent leader Roger Gough and Hampshire leader Rob Humby wrote a joint letter to Sunak in which they said: “We cannot sit by and let two great counties sleepwalk into a financial disaster.”

They offered the Prime Minister an ultimatum between offering councils better funding after decades of cuts, or changing the law to remove “outdated and under-resourced” obligations on town halls to provide non-essential services such as libraries.

Noting adult and children's social care as the biggest area of concern, the letter said: “Without a fundamental change either in the way in which these two services are funded, or in our statutory obligations, all of upper-tier local government will soon go over the cliff edge.”

Health secretary to meet NHS unions to avoid strike action

Nurses strike
NHS nurses voted last week for strike action (Alamy)

Health Secretary Steve Barclay will meet with unions on Tuesday for talks aiming to avoid a wave of strikes in the NHS this winter.

Last week, the majority of the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) more than 300,000 members voted in favour of the biggest-ever NHS strike action by the end of the year.

The meeting will include representatives from several unions including the RCN, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unite, Unison and the GMB.

NHS Providers interim chief executive Saffron Cordery urged both sides to find a deal, and said the "last thing" the NHS needed was prolonged industrial action, claiming “we understand the frustration felt by nurses following years of below-inflation pay settlements”.

The UK is facing a huge increase in strikes this winter across multiple sectors, with members pushing for better pay and working conditions amid rising cost of living.

Fresh ONS figures on Tuesday revealed that more than half a million working days were lost to strike action in August and September – the most in over a decade.

World population hits eight billion

The world's population has hit eight billion according to the United Nations, only 11 years after reaching seven billion. 

The UN says it could take 15 years to reach nine billion and the doesn't expect the figure to reach 10 billion until 2080.

Although the world population is three times the size it was in 1950 due to longer life expectancies, population growth is at its slowest rate in over 70 years.

In Parliament...

Ahead of the Autumn Statement on Thursday, proceedings in the Commons are starting at 11:30am today with questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt. 

This will be followed by an Opposition Day debate in the afternoon on a subject to be announced. 

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