Sunak says he and government taking allegations about Michelle Mone and PPE contracts ‘incredibly seriously’ – UK politics live | Politics

Sunak says he and government taking allegations about Michelle Mone and PPE contracts ‘incredibly seriously’

Rishi Sunak has said that he takes the allegations about Michelle Mone, a Tory peer, and PPE contracts “incredibly seriously” – but that because of the National Crime Agency investigation he cannot comment further.

Speaking to the media on a visit to Scotland, Sunak was asked for his response to Lady Mone’s admission yesterday that she lied about her involvement in the firm PPE Medpro. He replied:

The government takes these things incredibly seriously, which is why we’re pursuing legal action against the company concerned in these matters.

That’s how seriously I take it and the government takes it.

But it is also subject to an ongoing criminal investigation. And because of that, there’s not much further that I can add.

Key events

Ben Wallace is not the only senior Conservative with an article in one of today’s papers. The Daily Mail has splashed on an an article from Esther McVey written in her capacity as “minister for common sense” (sic) in which, as the Mail puts it in its approving editorial, she sets out her plans to “end the idiotic waste and bureaucracy that sap our instutions of effectiveness”.

In her article, McVey does not make any firm proposals that would save the taxpayer money, other than suggesting that she would like to stop councils paying heating bills for their staff if they choose to work from home. The Mail recently claimed this practice was costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Fortunately, a much better example of public sector waste is available. Labour claims that Covid-related fraud has cost the taxpayer at least £7bn, and it believes some of this money could be recovered under plans it announced at party conference. Michelle Mone, the former Tory peer linked to PPE contracts being investigated by the National Crime Agency, denies wrongdoing, but admitted in a BBC interview yesterday that she could benefit from the £61m in profits made from the deal.

McVey does not mention the scandal over PPE contracts in her article (the Mone ones were just some of many that triggered claims the taxpayer was being fleeced), but, helpfully, the Mail has chosen to run the two stories side-by-side on its front page.

Mail splash Photograph: DM

Perhaps it’s a subtle example of subversive page design? Or perhaps the paper is just hoping that readers won’t notice the juxtaposition, and won’t conclude that McVey should be launching her new war on waste closer to home?

Israel’s ‘killing rage’ in Gaza will fuel conflict with Palestinians for another 50 years, says former defence secretary Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace, the former defence secretary, has accused Israel of engaging in a “killing rage” in Gaza and argued that the tactics it is using to combat Hamas “will fuel the conflict for another 50 years”. He has made the case in an article published in the Daily Telegraph which is more probably critical of Israel, and particularly its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, than anything that has been said by cabinet ministers or shadow cabinet ministers since its war with Hamas started.

Wallace, who served as a soldier in Northern Ireland and who quit government at the end of August after a four-year stint as defence secretary, said that the lesson from the Troubles was that “radicalisation follows oppression” and that ultimately a political solution was needed.

Here are the main lines from his article.

  • Wallace suggests Israel’s response to the Hamas massacre has been excessive, immoral and illegal. In its front page write-up, the Telegraph says Wallace is saying that Israel “risks losing legal authority” for the war in Gaza, but Wallace seems to be going further, and saying that Israel has already broken international law. He strongly condemned the Hamas massacre, and defended Israel’s right to retalitate, but he said:

I absolutely defend Israel’s right to defend itself.

But I also believe strongly in our obligations under the Geneva Conventions and expect all signatories to uphold them. Going after Hamas is legitimate; obliterating vast swathes of Gaza is not. Using proportionate force is legal, but collective punishment and forced movement of civilians is not.

We are entering a dangerous period now where Israel’s original legal authority of self-defence is being undermined by its own actions. It is making the mistake of losing its moral authority alongside its legal one.

If (Netenyahu) thinks a killing rage will rectify matters, then he is very wrong. His methods will not solve this problem. In fact, I believe his tactics will fuel the conflict for another 50 years. His actions are radicalising Muslim youth across the globe.

When all this is over, and the IDF withdraws from what is left of Gaza, there will still be Hamas. All the action will have achieved is the extinction, not of the extremists, but the voice of the moderate Palestinians who do want a two-state solution.

International sympathy will have expired and Israel will be forced to exist in an even greater state of siege.

There isn’t a single soldier who served in Northern Ireland who didn’t curse, at one time, the events of Bloody Sunday under his breath. The hours spent in the bogs of South Armagh, or the back streets of West Belfast were testament to a conflict that had been ignited by the events on that day in 1972.

It took more than two decades for the Troubles to come to an end and it did so when nationalists recognised that the IRA didn’t have its wellbeing and economic interests at heart and when British governments accepted that while you could deliver security you couldn’t arrest your way out of the problems and political schisms. As sure as night follows day, history shows us that radicalisation follows oppression.

Northern Ireland internment taught us that a disproportionate response by the state can serve as a terrorist organisation’s best recruiting sergeant. For many, watching the events in Gaza unfold each day makes us more and more uncomfortable.

What I am saying is Israel needs to stop this crude and indiscriminate method of attack. And it needs to combat Hamas differently.

Israel needs to recognise it has time on its side. It holds all the cards – from control of the air to control of the border. It is easy to wonder what has happened to the wise Israeli politicians of old. They would have never missed the signs of the attack nor would they have surrendered to political blackmail from militant illegal settlers. They would have never played footsie with Putin, while Russian money fuelled the Iranian rocket and drone industry. They understood balance in the region and practically wrote the book on “divide and rule”.

The Israeli ambassador defiantly states there can be no two-state solution. She is wrong. There must be. It has been the answer ever since the creation of modern-day Israel.

The path to peace, just like in Northern Ireland, means we have to keep trying and do all we can to marginalise the extremes. With the Oslo accords we came close to realising a two-state solution. Now is the time to re-energise that process.

Ben Wallace.
Ben Wallace. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Miriam Cates being investigated by parliamentary commissioner for standards

The Conservative MP Miriam Cates has been placed under investigation by parliament’s standards watchdog, PA Media reports.

The backbench MP is facing claims that she has caused “significant damage to the reputation of the house as a whole, or of its members generally”, according to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Daniel Greenberg, who lists active investigations on his website.

It is not known what the investigation relates to.

The details of investigations are kept confidential until the inquiry is concluded and those under investigation are barred from discussing the allegations.

Cates was elected as MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge in 2019 and has become a leading figure of the rightwing New Conservatives group alongside fellow backbencher Danny Kruger.

She has also been outspoken in her concern about declining fertility rates in Britain, calling for policies to promote marriage and having children.

She is one of eight MPs being investigated by the commissioner, including deputy speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing, the veteran Conservative Sir Bernard Jenkin and the Reclaim MP Andrew Bridgen.

DUP reportedly ‘rules out deal to restore power sharing at Stormont before Christmas’

The DUP has ruled out agreeing a deal to restore power sharing at Stormont before Christmas, the BBC’s Gareth Gordon reports. He says the government had been hoping to reach a settlement before the start of the parliamentary recess tomorrow. But he quotes a DUP spokesperson saying: “The DUP is condition-led not calendar-led.”

Michelle Mone should not return to House of Lords, says Tory minister

Lord Callanan, the energy efficiency minister, has said he hopes his former colleague Michelle Mone “sees sense” and does not return to the Lords after Mone admitted she lied in denying involvement with a company that held UK government PPE deals during the Covid pandemic, Peter Walker and David Conn report.

Labour wants to cut maximum NHS waiting times to 18 weeks, says shadow health secretary

Good morning. It is the final week before Christmas, the Commons rises tomorrow afternoon for the holiday recess, and politics is starting to wind down. Today we were expecting to see David Cameron take questions from the Commons foreign affairs committee, but that hearing has been postponed because Cameron is flying to Kuwait for the funeral of the emir, sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah. We’ve got 12 ministerial announcements today as departments start to clear the decks. Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer are both doing visits this morning, where they will do pooled media clips, and there is a range of questions they may get asked about.

Starmer is this morning visiting a hospital where he will highlight the plans announced at conference to fund more NHS overtime, including more weekend working, to cut waiting lists. In an interview on the Today programme this morning Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said by the end of its first time, Labour wanted to cut maximum waiting times to 18 weeks. He said:

I would hope that by the end of the first term of a Labour government we will have seen a serious reduction in NHS waiting lists. By the end of the first term of a Labour government, I would want the maximum waiting times for operations down to 18 weeks. That’s our commitment.

Streeting said he would be “depressed and furious” if the government has not resolved the junior doctors’ pay dispute in England by the time of the general election. But he stressed that Labour would not immediately give junior doctors the 35% pay rise they are seeking to restore their real-terms pay to what it was in 2008. Streeting said that, for Labour, restoring fair pay for doctors would be “a journey, not an event”. He said:

But he again stressed that Labour would not be able to immediately meet the demand for a 35% rise made by the British Medical Association.

I think we’ve got to see the road back to fair pay as a journey, not an event. The public finances are a complete mess. There are, as a result, much harder choices to be made.

And so we’ve got to sit down and try and agree a negotiation and compromise.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak is visiting a military base in northern Scotland.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

Morning: Keir Starmer is on a visit in West Yorkshire.

2.30pm: Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

Afternoon: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, issues a written statement about council fundings. It is one of 12 ministerial statements coming today, as departments release overdue statements head of tomorrow’s Christmas recess.

Also, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, is holding talks with the main parties in Northern Ireland about resuming power sharing.

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