- Tory MP under investigation over watching porn in Commons
- Rishi Sunak threatens oil and gas giants with windfall tax
- Angela Rayner joined in joke about flashing her legs, claim Tories
- SNP abandons census deadline after quarter of Scots fail to respond
- Russia-Ukraine latest news: Vladimir Putin ‘could dig in’
A “very small minority of men” in Parliament “behave like animals”, a Cabinet minister has claimed, amid growing calls for a Tory MP accused of watching pornography in the Commons to be stripped of the whip.
Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, said that in a political career spanning 20 years “all the men that I have worked with have been respectful, courteous and supportive”.
But she said there are some men who “fall short and there are some bad apples who are out of order, who behave like animals and are bringing Parliament into disrepute”.
Ms Braverman, the Government’s chief legal adviser, said she wants to see the “most severe reprimand” if the pornography allegations are proven to be true.
She joined Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, in calling for the anonymous MP to have the Tory whip removed.
The allegations were made by two female MPs at a meeting with senior party figures on Tuesday evening. The claims are now being investigated.
Follow the latest updates below.
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Minority of men in Parliament ‘behave like animals’
Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme, that a ‘very small minority of men” in politics “behave like animals”.
She said: “My personal experience, I have been a member of Parliament now for nearly seven years, I have been in the Conservative Party and in politics for 20 years.
“My personal experience, I have to say is that on no occasion have I been made to feel uncomfortable and all the men that I have worked with have been respectful, courteous and supportive.
“There is, however, a very small minority of men, and it is men, who fall short and there are some bad apples who are out of order, who behave like animals and are bringing Parliament into disrepute, to be honest.
“So I don’t think we should be saying there is a pervasive culture, that is not my experience. There are certain individuals who are behaving in an unacceptable way.”
‘We would really need to see a situation where the whip should be removed’
Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, said she wants to see the “most severe reprimand” if allegations a Tory MP watched pornography in the House of Commons are proven to be true.
Asked what that reprimand could entail, Ms Braverman said: “Well, I think that we would really need to see a situation where the whip should be removed. I am ashamed that this person is carrying a Conservative rosette and I think they really do need to be subject to a recall and be no longer holding their privileged position as a member of Parliament.”
Suella Braverman ‘shocked and appalled’ by claims about Tory MP
Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme that she was “shocked and appalled” by allegations of a Tory MP watching pornography in the House of Commons.
Ms Braverman, the Government’s chief legal adviser, said: “Like everybody I am shocked and appalled. I am not aware of the details but over the last 24 hours I keep running through my mind how and why someone would be so brazen… so reckless, so stupid, so appallingly badly behaved to be watching porn in the work place, in broad daylight, in the presence of colleagues.
“What would possess them? It is totally unacceptable.”
Labour responds to Government decision on Brexit checks
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, has accused the Government of leaving UK businesses “stuck in limbo” after ministers decided to delay the introduction of post-Brexit import checks on EU goods (see the post below at 13.18).
He said: “The Conservative Government has delayed the implementation of post-Brexit border checks on many occasions, leaving businesses stuck in limbo.
“Moving towards the use of smarter technology at the border will help but ministers have had years to prepare for this and their decision-making is still chaotic and confused as they stumble from one announcement to another. Businesses need certainty for them to be able to deal with supply chains and to export.”
Sajid Javid: ‘The culture of Westminster needs to change’
There have been several instances of inappropriate & sexist behaviour recently in Parliament. It is shameful.
Parliamentarians are public servants and it is their duty to set an example of character and integrity. The culture of Westminster needs to change.
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) April 28, 2022
Keir Starmer calls for ‘culture change’ in Westminster
Speaking on a visit to Workington in Cumbria, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “We’ve all got a responsibility to change the culture in Parliament.
“If you look at the awful things that were said about Angela Rayner, the rank sexism and misogyny, and it’s not just Angela Rayner, there are too many examples, too many women have experienced that same sexism and misogyny.
“We’ve all got a responsibility. That requires a culture change and culture change has to be led from and modelled from the top.”
Keir Starmer urges Tories to ‘take action now’ against MP accused of watching pornography
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said the Conservative Party should “take action now” against the Tory MP who allegedly watched pornography in the House of Commons.
He said: “I think it’s very good that we’ve got an independent system and obviously that requires anonymity.
“This is an unusual case because the Tory Party knows who this individual is. I think that they should deal with it and deal with it sooner rather than later and take appropriate action.
“So, nothing wrong with the independent process, but I think the Tory Party, they know who this is, they should take action now.”
Keir Starmer ‘deeply concerned’ by Labour accusations
A female MP has accused a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet of making a lewd comment about her (see the post below at 09.08).
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said: “I’m deeply concerned to hear these suggestions and these allegations.
“There is a complaints procedure and I want everybody to have the confidence to use that complaints procedure because I would want to get to the bottom of this and do something about it.”
Labour responds to Rishi Sunak’s windfall tax comments
Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow climate change secretary, has responded to Rishi Sunak’s comments about imposing a windfall tax on oil and gas giants (see the post below at 12.25).
He said: “As energy prices for families rocket, Rishi Sunak’s words show that the government is simply running out of excuses to oppose a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.
“The truth is that oil and gas companies are spending their record profits on billions in dividends and share buybacks.
“All the while that the Government resists a windfall tax, the British people pay the price in the energy bills crisis they face.
“It’s time the Government dropped their threadbare excuses, did the right thing and put a windfall tax on oil and gas producers to bring real help to the British people.”
Parliament officially prorogued
The current parliamentary session has officially come to a close.
Parliament has now prorogued until May 10 when the new parliamentary session will kick off with the Queen’s Speech which will set out the Government’s future agenda, including legislative plans.
Britain abandons post-Brexit physical checks on food
Jacob Rees-Mogg today announced the Government is further delaying the introduction of some post-Brexit border checks on EU food imports (see the post below at 11.27).
The Telegraph understands that Mr Rees-Mogg wants to make the “suspension of physical checks permanent”:
Britain will never introduce post-Brexit physical checks on fresh food and plants being imported from the EU, under radical new plans being drawn up by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The Brexit Opportunities Minister plans to digitise all checks and paperwork at the border forever amid the worsening cost of living crisis.
Mr Rees-Mogg has delayed the next wave of import checks for a fourth time, risking a row with ports which have spent millions building new facilities to inspect goods.
A Whitehall source said Mr Rees-Mogg wants to make the “suspension of physical checks permanent” after pushing back the introduction of the next checks until the end of 2023.
They added the UK will move from “costly physical checks to developing our digital border policy which will be much better for supply chains and consumers”.
You can read the full story here.
Boris Johnson backs appointment of Ben Stokes as England captain
Ben Stokes has been named the new captain of the England men’s Test cricket team (you can read the full story here).
Downing Street said Boris Johnson “wholeheartedly” supported the appointment.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “Firstly the Prime Minister would want to congratulate Ben as England men’s test captain. It is an appointment he backs wholeheartedly.
“He is an inspirational player, an example to many people and the Prime Minister is confident he will lead England’s men’s team back to where it should be.”
Downing Street defends Brexit checks decision
Jacob Rees-Mogg today announced the Government is further delaying the introduction of some post-Brexit border checks on EU food imports to the UK (see the post below at 11.27).
Downing Street said it would be “wrong” to impose the checks as planned from July as businesses already face disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising energy costs.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “It is our view that it would be wrong to impose these new administrative requirements on businesses at this time.
“We know that given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the recent rise in global energy costs have had a significant effect on supply chains that are still recovering from the pandemic.
“Of course we want the process for importing goods from the EU to be safe, secure and efficient and we want to harness innovative new technologies to streamline processes and reduce friction.”
‘Clearly there is more to do’
Downing Street was asked at lunchtime if Boris Johnson believes the recent rows over sexism in Parliament will put women off of becoming involved in politics.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “I think the Prime Minister does want to encourage more women to come forward into politics at all levels and it is clear that these sorts of instances, be it misogyny or sexual harassment, simply put people off, understandably.
“Whilst there have been some improvements and there are processes in place, clearly there is more to do.”
Downing Street pours cold water on prospect of windfall tax
Rishi Sunak yesterday threatened energy companies with a windfall tax on their profits unless they “support the economy” by increasing investment in UK energy supply (you can read the full story here).
The Chancellor said that, unless big firms do more to protect energy security, levying a windfall tax was “something I’d look at”.
His comments raised eyebrows in Westminster because the Government has repeatedly rejected Labour calls to impose a windfall tax.
Downing Street has now said it does not believe the policy is appropriate right now but it does remain “on the table” for the future.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “I think you would expect us to keep all options on the table on this. We recognise that as ministers have set out we don’t think this particular approach is the right one but it is right that we keep all options on the table because these companies must step up to invest and we all want to work with them to do that. We think that is the best approach and we will continue to discuss how to achieve that.”
Tory MP charged over motoring offence
Jamie Wallis, Conservative MP for Bridgend, has been charged with failing to stop after a car crash in November last year.
South Wales Police said the 37-year-old had also been charged with failure to report a road traffic collision, driving without due care and attention and leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position following the crash in Llanblethian, Cowbridge, in the early hours of November 28.
He is due to appear before Cardiff Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday May 10.
Parliament prepares to prorogue
The House of Commons sitting has been suspended ahead of the ceremony to prorogue Parliament.
MPs are waiting for the business in the House of Lords to conclude before receiving a message from the Lords commissioners to begin proceedings.
The current parliamentary session will close this afternoon. The new parliamentary session will then begin on May 10 with the Queen’s Speech.
Labour supports two-day suspension for Liam Byrne
Labour said it supported the proposed two-day suspension for Liam Byrne.
A party spokesman said: “The Labour Party fully supports the recommendations of this independent report, including the proposed sanction.”
Liam Byrne apologises
Liam Byrne, the Labour MP, said he had apologised to the complainant in his case and the situation had been a “valuable lesson for me and one I am determined to learn”.
In a statement he said: “Two years ago at the beginning of lockdown, following a workplace dispute that led me to send the complainant home… I did not resolve the dispute correctly with a proper disciplinary process, and having nevertheless extended the complainant’s contract, thereby failed to fulfil my obligations as an employer and Parliament’s Behaviour Code.
“This constituted an ostracism which was a breach of Parliament’s Behaviour Code which I strongly support, and caused distress for which I am profoundly sorry. I have apologised in full to the individual concerned.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the panel for recognising the genuine remorse I felt about the impact on the individual concerned, the steps I have already taken to ensure this never happens again along with the work still to do, and for concluding that I did not deliberately act to delay the investigation.
“This has been a valuable lesson for me and one I am determined to learn as me and my team seek to offer the best possible service and voice for the residents of Hodge Hill.”
Labour MP facing two-day suspension from Commons
Labour former minister Liam Byrne should be suspended from the Commons for two days for bullying a staff member, a disciplinary panel found.
Following an investigation by an independent investigator, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone upheld an allegation of bullying against Mr Byrne by a former member of his constituency staff made under Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).
The Independent Expert Panel which considered the punishment for Mr Byrne said the Birmingham Hodge Hill MP abused his position of power and ostracized the staff member by ceasing personal contact with him for several months and denying him access to his Parliamentary IT account.
The panel said Mr Byrne “sought to present his actions as a reasonable HR strategy” but added: “We disagree. It was bullying.
“He should, as he now accepts, have tackled any misconduct through a proper disciplinary process not by ostracizing the complainant.”
The panel recommended that Mr Byrne should be suspended for two sitting days on condition that he also make a written apology to the complainant; and undertake training and take action to address the causes of his behaviour and weaknesses in the management of his office.
Jacob Rees-Mogg announces another delay to some Brexit import checks
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, has announced the Government is further delaying the introduction of some post-Brexit border checks on EU food imports to the UK.
The checks, which had already been delayed three times, were due to be rolled out from July.
But in a written statement to Parliament, Mr Rees-Mogg said changes will now not be made until the end of 2023.
He said: “British businesses and people going about their daily lives are being hit by rising costs caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and in energy prices. It would therefore be wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports and to supply chains at this point.
“The remaining import controls on EU goods will no longer be introduced this year – saving British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs.”
The minister said the Government will publish documents in the autumn setting out a new regime of border import controls with the aim of putting them in place by the end of 2023.
UK starts work on ‘enhanced’ trade deal with Switzerland
The UK Government today started work on a new “enhanced” trade deal with Switzerland.
Boris Johnson welcomed Ignazio Cassis, the President of Switzerland, to Downing Street this morning for talks.
The Government said the aim of the deal will be to boost two-way trade between the two countries.
The Department for International Trade is now launching an eight-week consultation to ask for the views of businesses and the public ahead of the start of formal negotiations.
Pictured: Boris Johnson meets Swiss President Ignazio Cassis in Downing Street
‘He could end up having a recall petition in his constituency’
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said a Tory MP who allegedly watched pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons chamber could be suspended from Parliament if the claims are proven to be true.
Mr Wallace was asked during an interview on LBC Radio if he believed the Tory whip should be withdrawn from the MP.
He said: “I think that is one of the sanctions. I think we will leave it to the investigation. It could be worse. If the Commons authorities feel it is egregious enough he could end up having a recall petition in his constituency or be suspended from parliament.
“There’s lots of different ways. But withdrawing the whip is a certain possibility, it would be something I would support that he loses the whip, if that is the case, but let’s see how the facts develop in the investigation.”
Ben Wallace defends Government’s Covid response
Ben Wallace has defended the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis after the High Court ruled its early policies on care homes were unlawful (you can read the full story here).
The Defence Secretary told Sky News: “Let’s cast our minds back. This is really important to remember. I remember… there was a clamour for assistance, we were learning incredibly fast about this virus, it was coming thick and fast, there were massive concerns about the scale of infection, the death rates…”
He added: “We are having a full inquiry to get to the bottom of all of the lessons learned, to have a look at what happened.”
‘I certainly think they should lose the whip’
The Defence Secretary said a Tory MP who allegedly watched pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons chamber should lose the whip if the claims are correct.
Ben Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I certainly think they should lose the whip. There is a whole range and a raft of measures that can be taken against someone.
“One of them is losing the whip, the other one is, for example, they could be subject to a recall petition.
“I am not sure about the exact rules but that is for the authorities of the House of Commons to investigate.
“I wouldn’t want to get ahead of it because I don’t know the true circumstances, as in exactly to what extent what was being looked at etc. But fundamentally there are a range of measures, if it is proven, then measures and discipline should be administered.”
Ben Wallace: ‘Of course I would like more money for my department’
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, last night called for more defence spending as she said the West has overseen a “generation of underinvestment” which led to the invasion of Ukraine (you can read the full story here).
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said this morning that he would like to see the Ministry of Defence budget increased but insisted current funding levels are sufficient.
Mr Wallace said the Treasury is reimbursing the MOD for the cost of the equipment it is donating to Ukraine and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has been “incredibly supportive”.
Asked if he would like more funding, Mr Wallace said: “I think if you had any secretary of state of any department sitting on your sofa and asking them if they would like more money for their department, of course I would like more money for my department.”
Mr Wallace said he is “absolutely set” from a budget point of view for this year and next year but there will likely be questions about funding beyond that.
Ben Wallace hints UK could help Ukraine push Russia out of Crimea
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has suggested the UK could continue to provide military aid to Ukraine if it tries to push Russia out of Crimea.
He told Sky News that the “international community believes Russia should leave Ukraine” following its “illegal” annexation in 2014.
Mr Wallace said: “We don’t recognise it and we have constantly said that Russia should leave Ukraine sovereign territory so that hasn’t changed.”
Asked if the UK is contemplating continuing to support Ukraine should it push into Crimea, Mr Wallace said: “There is a long way to go before Ukraine… I think what I would certainly say is we are supporting Ukraine’s sovereign integrity, we have done that all along, that of course includes Crimea and Donetsk.
“But first and foremost let’s get Russia out of where they are now in its invasion plans.”
‘We have to help the Ukrainians get the limpet off the rock’
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said he believes Russia could try to “dig in” and secure any territory it has gained in Ukraine as he said the UK must continue to help Kyiv “get the limpet off the rock”.
He told Sky News: “It is certainly the case that Putin, having failed in nearly all his objectives may seek to consolidate what he has got, sort of fortify and dig in as he did in 2014 and just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country of Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions.
“So I think it is really about if we want this to not happen, we have to help the Ukrainians effectively get the limpet off the rock and keep the momentum pushing them back.”
MP accuses shadow cabinet member of making lewd comment
A female MP has accused a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet of making a lewd comment about her.
The MP, who spoke anonymously to the BBC, described a conversation she had with a Labour frontbencher at an event.
The shadow cabinet member allegedly described her as a “secret weapon” because “women want to be her friend” and men want to sleep with her.
The MP is said to have decided not to make a formal complaint.
A Labour spokesman told the BBC that the party “takes all complaints extremely seriously” and they are “fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate action is taken”.
Ben Wallace warns of ‘poisonous’ mix in Parliament
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, was asked during an interview on Times Radio if he had ever witnessed sexism in Parliament.
He told Times Radio: “What I have witnessed is, what I think is the fundamental problem of Westminster, is the overall culture is that, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people working long hours in a place with bars, and for some people, under lots of pressure for all sorts of reasons, and that mix becomes poisonous and I think we see all sorts of problems.
“That’s been going on for decades. And it’s not easy to fix. But I think you know, these things are problems. But also, you know, remember, Parliament reflects society, and all of us in our lives going about day to day business, see things that are unacceptable in our lives and that’s no difference in Parliament.”
‘My advice to any MP is actually avoid the bars’
Ben Wallace said “we’ve seen lots of problems in the bars [in Parliament] over the decades” including “fights”, “sexist comments” and “propositions”.
The Defence Secretary told Times Radio: “I mean, my advice to any MP is actually avoid the bars, you know, finish your day’s work and go home.
“But you know, that that is part of the ultimate challenge around Parliament that I think needs to be fixed. And you know, in the armed forces, I have a similar challenge, which is often in those high pressure environments where people mix and then alcohol is consumed, you end up in a place where people do things, either they regret, or things that is totally unacceptable.”
Ben Wallace calls for change in ‘culture’ in Westminster
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said he believes the “culture” in Westminster needs to change as he expressed concerns about MPs visiting bars in Parliament.
He told Sky News: “This is a problem I think about the overall culture of the House of Commons. It is late sitting, long nights with bars and that very often leads, and it has done for decades, to behavioural challenges and problems, whether that is too much drink…”
He added: “We all know what happens when you mix long hours, drink and pressure environments.
“I think it is really important that we think about ways to change the culture in the House of Commons so it doesn’t happen.”
Ben Wallace: ‘No place for pornography in any work place’
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has said there can be no excuse for watching pornography in the House of Commons.
He told Sky News: “There is no place for pornography in any work place. People are there to do their job.
“I know that the chief whip has referred that complaint to the panel or the conduct authority and will look into that and if there is any action to be done then there should be action taken.
“I don’t think there is any excuse. You don’t sit in your workplace looking at pornography.”
Good morning and welcome to today’s politics live blog.
Parliament is due to prorogue later today as the current parliamentary session draws to a close ahead of the Queen’s Speech on May 10.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, is on the morning broadcast round for the Government.
I will guide you through the key lines.
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )