Sun, 29 January 2023

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By Andrew McCormick
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Keir Starmer Lays Into Tory Economics at PMQs, Christmas Rail Strikes, Another Tory MP To Quit

Keir Starmer Lays Into Tory Economics at PMQs, Christmas Rail Strikes, Another Tory MP To Quit
6 min read

Keir Starmer has accused the government of "crashing" the economy after new OECD figures showed the UK was headed for a significant period in recession.

During the first PMQs clash since last week's the Autumn Statement, Starmer claimed that households were now facing a record tax burden because of "12 years of Tory failure and 12 weeks of Tory chaos".

The Labour leader said the government was in "total denial" after new OECD figures showed the UK economy is expected to contract more than any other G7 nation next year.

"It's like a football manager bottom of the league at Christmas, celebrating an away draw three months ago, and it won't wash," he said.

Pointing to his party's analysis of the financial plans unveiled by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last week, the Labour leader said the tax raising measures would hit the average household with £1,400 in extra taxes.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the government's fiscal policies, saying: "In four weeks I’ve strengthened the economy, we’ve put more money into the NHS and schools and delivered a deal to tackle illegal migration."

Starmer also criticised the government's failure to reform non-dom tax status in the recent budget, saying that tightening up the rules would raise a further £3.6bn in tax revenues.

"Scrapping the non-dom status would allow us to train 15,000 doctors every year - that's what Labour would do," he said.

In a seeming reference to a report from The Guardian which revealed that the Prime Minister is registered with a private GP practice, Starmer added: "We can carry on handing out tax breaks to the super-rich or we can live in a society where people don't have to go private to get a doctor's appointment."

But Sunak, who has previously faced criticism over his wife's own tax affairs, defended the tax regime by quoting former shadow chancellor Ed Balls who had claimed altering the rules would "end up costing Britain more".

Supreme Court rules Scotland can't hold independence referendum without Westminster's approval

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold a lawful independence referendum following a reference from Scotland's Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC.

Delivering the court's ruling in the matter this morning, Supreme Court president Lord Reed dismissed a claim from the UK Government that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case, but ultimately agreed with its case that legislating for a referendum is a reserved matter.

Bain had argued that holding an advisory referendum would not in itself have an immediate impact on the constitution of the UK and so should be within the scope of devolved powers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she wants a referendum to be held on 19 October next year, but the UK government has not given formal consent for the vote to go ahead. 

Sturgeon has vowed to continue her fight to get an independence referendum and will consider the next General Election a "de facto" vote on the union, with the SNP campaigning on that issue alone.

"The next national election scheduled for Scotland is the UK general election - making that both the first and most obvious opportunity to seek what I describe as a de facto referendum," she told a press conference following the Supreme Court ruling. 

"In this case, for the SNP, that will be to establish majority support in Scotland for independence, so we can then achieve independence."

Rail strike action announced ahead of Christmas

The country’s biggest rail union has announced a further eight days of strikes, including four in the lead up to Christmas. 

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union will take part in a series of 48-hour strikes, and there will also  be a ban on overtime. 

The action announced yesterday will take place on December 13,14, 16 and 17, as well as January 3, 4, 6 and 7.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said this morning that “we need more talking from the unions with the employers and less announcement of strikes”. 

He told TalkTV that Transport Secretary Mark Harper is due to meet union leaders later this week, and added: “But the essential discussions have to occur between the rail operating companies, Network Rail, and the unions.”

William Wragg announces he will stand down at next election

A Conservative MP and vice-chair of the 1922 committee of backbenchers has announced he is standing down at the next election. 

William Wragg, who has represented Hazel Grove since 2015, announced his retirement from the House of Commons yesterday. 

Wragg, 34, tweeted that representing the Greater Manchester seat has been a “privilege” and promised to “continue to represent constituents to the best of my ability in the meantime”. 

His announcement came just hours after the MP for Norwich North and former work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith said that she will not seek re-election

Smith said on Tuesday that she feels “it is the right time to step back, for me and my young family”. 

MPs to question NHS England on increases in cancer waiting times

A one-off health select committee session at 3pm on Wednesday will explore tackling increases in waiting times for NHS cancer services following as data shows performance does not yet meet targets.

MPs will question witnesses about winter pressures on services, the 10-year plan for cancer and ask for an update on implementing recommendations made in the Committee’s report on cancer services. 

Committee Chair Steve Brine has urged health secretary Steve Barclay to announce a date to publish the Government’s 10-year cancer plan.

The committee’s panel analysed five Government commitments relating to cancer, with its Report rating all as either “Requires Improvement” or “Inadequate” overall. 


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