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Rwanda 2.0 | Jenrick's Exit | BoJo's B*****ks

Rwanda, immigration and a high-profile resignation. No you’re not reading the Weekly Roundup from 17 November again, it’s just still dominating the headlines. This week saw another Home Secretary travelling to Rwanda to sign another Treaty, and another Minister leaving Government due to a disagreement over immigration policy. With Christmas less than 3 weeks away, we can only hope Santa earns enough for him to meet the Government’s new earning threshold for overseas workers.

Welcome to the weekly roundup from Navigate Politics, bringing you all the top news, publications and movements from UK politics over the past seven days, ensuring you’re fully briefed on the top stories ahead of the weekend. If you know somebody who would find this briefing useful, please do forward it on so they can subscribe and get it direct to their inbox each Friday.

Driving the Week 🚨

Jetting off to Rwanda this past week was none other than Home Secretary James Cleverly, following the footsteps of his predecessors, Priti Patel and Suella Braverman, in visiting the country in an effort to get the migrant relocation policy off the ground (or should that be, off the runway tarmac). It followed the Supreme Court ruling that the Rwanda asylum policy, which will see asylum seekers arriving in the UK, settled in the central African country, was ‘unlawful’, stating that it leaves those sent to Rwanda open to human rights breaches. Cleverly’s visit bore fruit with the signing of an updated memorandum to “strengthen UK-Rwanda migration partnership” and to address the Supreme Court’s concerns. It legally ensures that those being relocated to Rwanda are not at risk of being returned to a country where their life would be threatened and ‘enhances the functions of the independent monitoring committee to ensure compliance with the obligations in the treaty, such as reception conditions, processing of asylum claims, and treatment and support for individuals’. Cleverly stated that “Rwanda is a country that cares deeply about supporting refugees” and that it “stands ready to welcome those relocated there.” On his return to London he introduced the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill to Parliament, which the Government hopes to fast-track in order to provide a legal framework that Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers. The Bill disapplies elements of the Human Rights Act 1998 so that it cannot be factored into any court’s decision-making on the topic.

And that’s where the fun ended. Before the legislation could be introduced, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman delivered her long-awaited personal statement to the Commons (she is entitled to such as a departing Cabinet minister). She called for the Prime Minister to ignore the European Convention on Human Rights or risk facing “electoral oblivion” with the introduction of another Bill “destined to fail”. After hours of confusion as to his status, Robert Jenrick resigned as Immigration Minister, stating the legislation “does not go far enough” and that "stronger protections" were needed to end "the merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme”. The blow was followed by reports that more Conservative backbenchers had submitted letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership. Sunak responded with an emergency press conference to the resignation in which he said he believed the resignation was “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation” and stated that if the Bill were to “oust the courts entirely” it would “collapse the entire scheme.” Jenrick’s departure led to a mini reshuffle, with his job split into two as Michael Tomlinson was appointed Minister for Illegal Migration and Tom Pursglove as Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery.

Amidst the chaos, Boris Johnson gave evidence to the COVID Inquiry. The former PM turned up to the inquiry three hours early on his first day to avoid protestors, before undergoing a cool 10 hours of questioning. He admitted that mass gatherings should have been banned earlier than they were to provide a “symbol of Government earnestness” at the beginning of the pandemic; admitted he had underestimated the "scale and the pace of the challenge" posed by the disease; rejected reports he had pursued a "let it rip" strategy and had been prepared to let older people die for the sake of the economy; conceded that he could have done things differently to ensure people were following the guidance; claimed he had a ‘friendly’ working relationship with Nicola Sturgeon during the pandemic; and apologised for describing long Covid as "b*llocks" in a handwritten note from October 2020. He also insisted that he had not deleted vital Whatsapp messages from his phone, despite evidence at the inquiry suggesting he believed he should not have to provide them. Protestors were less than happy, with one stating she was “incandescent with rage” and that she would not feel satisfied “until Boris Johnson owns up to what he’s done”.

Coming Up Next Week 📆

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be giving evidence to the COVID-19 Inquiry all day on Monday. Sunak was Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Pandemic, and it is likely he’ll be asked questions about the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, after previous witnesses said it had not been supported by Government scientists in Downing Street.

In the Commons – The new Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill will be debated by MPs, with the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill and the Finance Bill both also having their Second Readings. Thursday will also see MPs debate knife crime and the implications of the potential merger between Three and Vodafone.

In the Lords – Legislation to cut National Insurance Contributions will be voted on by Peers ahead of its implementation in January, as Peers will also debate topics such as North Korea, Fire Safety, the NHS Long Term Plan, and Organ Donations.

On Committee Corridor – It’s a busy week for Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton next week. On Tuesday, he will be asked questions by MPs for the first time, as he appears in front of the European Scrutiny Committee. He’s also giving evidence to the Lords European Affairs Committee on Thursday. Science Secretary Michelle Donelan, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, Scotland Secretary Alister Jack and Wales Secretary David TC Davies are all also due to be giving evidence to Committees next week.

COP28 concludes on Tuesday.

The Week in Stats 📉

£290m - Cost of the Government’s scheme to send illegal migrants to Rwanda.

-17% - Fall in the number of new year-on-year zero-emission car registrations in the UK in November.

9.1% - Grocery inflation in November, down from 9.7% according to Kantar’s latest research.

1.3% - Year-on-year rise in the cost of Christmas dinner, also according to Kantar.

22 - Conservative MPs who rebelled on an amendment to  the Victims and Prisoners Bill to establish a body to administer the compensation scheme for victims of the contaminated blood scandal, causing the Government to lose by 4 votes.

57.7% - Proportion of UK stock market shares owned by overseas investors in 2022 – a record high.

5.99% - Average two-year fixed mortgage interest rate, falling below 6% for the first time since June.

Other Political News 📰

Alongside illegal migration, the legal sort was also in the Government’s sights. Home Secretary James Cleverly set out plans to ‘slash migration levels’ by raising the earning threshold for overseas workers by nearly 50% from its current position of £26,200 to £38,700, and significantly tightening the rules around workers bringing their dependents to the UK. He also announced an end to the 20% salary discount for shortage occupations, and replaced the Shortage Occupation List with a new ‘Immigration Salary List’. Although overshadowed by the week’s later psychodrama over Rwanda, the proposals represent the most radical overhaul of migration policy in years.

Eternally overshadowed, Keir Starmer delivered a major speech on Labour’s economic platform. He described how a Labour Government would create “a new economic consensus”, based on the ‘Securenomics’ theory that Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves unveiled in Washington DC earlier this year. However, he warned that Labour would not “quickly turn on the spending taps” and would instead seek to initially grow the economy through removing blockages that “choke the supply side of our economy”; reforming the tax regime and skills system, and publishing a new industrial strategy; and increasing flexibility in the labour market while banning zero hours contracts and fire and rehire practices.

The UK officially joined the Horizon Programme, with Science Secretary Michelle Donelan jetting to Brussels to mark the association ceremony. While there, she met with EU Research and Innovation Commissioner Iliana Ivanova and began a ‘concerted push for UK businesses and researchers to seize the enormous opportunity’. 

Russia has been targeting British politicians and institutions to ‘interfere in UK politics and democratic processes’, the Foreign Office announced. In a statement in Parliament, Foreign Minister Leo Docherty described how units of the Russian intelligence services had been “involved in a range of cyber-espionage operations” targeting MPs, peers, civil servants, journalists and non-government organisations with a “clear intent…to meddle in British politics”. To this end, he announced that two Russian individuals had been sanctioned and the Russian ambassador summoned to the Foreign Office to explain.

Around the World 🌍

COP28 continued this week, as nations and delegates gathered in the UAE to discuss progress on climate targets. Most notably from the conference this week was the comments made by COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, who allegedly last month claimed there was no science behind the phasing out of fossil fuels (NB: Jaber is also the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company). This was swiftly followed by an emergency press conference by the President, who assured that the comments were misrepresented and that the phasing out of fossil fuels is essential. The first Global Stocktake was also revealed this week, demonstrating that the implementation of the Paris Agreement in 2015 is ‘lacking across all areas and not where it should be’, with current trajectory meaning the world will not keep to its 1.5 degrees target. It called for a systems transformation, with a whole-society, whole-economy approach to lower greenhouse gases and building climate resilience.

Denmark’s Parliament passed a law that bans the ‘inappropriate treatment’ of religious texts. The move is seen as an attempt to deescalate international tensions, after Denmark has seen a series of protests and burnings of the Qur’an, that led to outrage amongst Muslim-majority countries. Passing with 94 votes to 77, the Bill means that offenders will now face either a fine or up to two years in jail. Sweden, who has also seen a similar surge in protests and burnings, is currently debating a similar Bill.

Germany failed to set in place a budget for 2024 before the end of the year, following a period of uncertainty in the country. Talks between the ruling coalition have been ongoing since November, when Germany’s constitutional court declared that the proposed budget broke laws against taking on new debt. Since then, the Government have been trying to plug an estimated €17 billion gap, with the three parties in the coalition disagreeing on where to see spending cuts. The failure to agree on a new budget means the country will have to begin the new year on a temporary budget, freezing spending.

Italy pulled out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as confirmed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's administration. The country was the only major Western nation to sign up to the BRI, in 2019, after the launch of the controversial project by President Xi Jinping in 2013. The decision follows moves from the Italian Prime Minister to centre her foreign policy as more pre-Western and pro-NATO than her predecessors.

Senate Republicans blocked an emergency spending Bill in the US, stopping aid for Ukraine and Gaza and support for Israel. Senators voted 49-51, with every Republican Senators voting against the Bill, alongside other figures such as Independent Bernie Sanders, citing concerns over the ‘inhumane military strategy’ in Israel. Republicans expressed concern that the Bill, which had in it provisions for $20bn in border security, did not do enough to combat the excessive illegal immigration across the US’ Southern border with Mexico.

Also in the US this week, the Republican field of candidates appearing at the final presidential primary debate has shrunk to just four: Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy. Current frontrunner, Donal Trump will, like always, not appear in the debate.  

Highlights from Parliament 🏛

A Conservative rebellion by 22 MPs on Monday night lost the Government a vote on a Labour amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, and will force the Government to set up a new body to run a compensation scheme for victims of the contaminated blood scandal within three months of the Bill passing. The vote passed by just four votes, leading to cheers and applause on the opposition benches. Barely an hour later the Government suffered an even bigger rebellion when 26 of its MPs voted against a motion on electric vehicles, although it passed with Labour’s support. Let’s just say party discipline isn’t looking too strong in the Conservative Party at the moment.

The Labour Party held Opposition Day debates on safety in town centres and executive bonuses in the water industry. Despite damning motions to ‘condemn the Government’s failure to tackle town centre crime’, and ‘regret that 13 years of successive Conservative Governments have broken the water industry’, the Government continued its tactic deployed in recent years of not forcing a vote on the motion in an attempt to reduce the legitimacy of the motions.

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill passed its second reading in the Lords, designed to create a new regime to increase competition in digital markets through the CMA. Whilst the opposition may clear their continued support for the Bill – and it will pass with relative ease – there are a number of areas of contention, including around protection of intellectual property, consumer rights issues, and rights of redress – which will likely dominate the debate in the coming months.

The Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill was also examined by Peers during its first committee stage debate in the Lords. The debate focused on the accreditation of goods from CPTPP parties, trademarks and performers’ rights.  

Committee Corridor 📜

There are serious doubts over whether the State Pension is being paid accurately, so concludes the Public Accounts Committee in a report this week which highlighted DWP estimates that 210,000 people may have been underpaid a total of £1.3bn of State Pension, amounting to an average back payment due of £5,000 each. The report also ‘makes renewed calls for the Government to act to substantially reduce the level of fraud and error in benefit spending.'

The Government “has not learnt lessons” from concerns raised over the development of the National Disability Strategy, so argues a report by the Women and Equalities Committee, which described the Government’s NDS as a ‘list of un-coordinated and largely pre-existing short-term policies’ and called on ministers to ‘work with disabled people to develop the strategy into a ten-year plan with clear targets’.

Soil health should be put on the same footing as water and air quality within government policy, according to a new report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. The Committee has called for statutory targets on soil health, alongside the existing water and air quality targets, by 2028.

The Government should urgently introduce a raft of measures to restore and stabilise Stormont, so argues the Northern Ireland Committee’s report, aimed at trying to break the deadlock and restore the Northern Ireland Executive. Under the proposals, the NI Assembly Speaker would be elected by a two-thirds majority of MLAs, the First and Deputy First Minister would be rebranded ‘Joint First Ministers’, and joint First Minister elections would be open to any party – also be elected by two-thirds majority of MLAs.

The Bank of England and HM Treasury should address data privacy and financial stability concerns before considering the implementation of a retail Central Bank Digital Currency or ‘digital pound’, the Treasury Committee argues in its report out last weekend. As part of its recommendations, the Committee urged the Government to alleviate privacy concerns that organisations or the Government could misuse personal data to monitor or control how users spend their money.

The lack of progress and economic impact of the Edinburgh Reforms has left them feeling like a “damp squib”, according to another report released by the Treasury Committee. In advance of the report, the Government sent a progress update on the implementation of the changes which said it had completed 21 out of the 31 reforms in the first year. However, analysis by the Committee finds six of the actions marked as ‘delivered’ are not yet complete, and that a further six should not be considered as reforms. The Committee has called on the Government to prioritise reforms that will make the most difference to the UK’s economic growth, and those that prevent harm to consumers and businesses.

Food security should be a central tenet of the Government’s long-awaited Land Use Framework, the Environment Audit Committee has argued in its report on ‘environmental change and food security’. The Committee stated that the Framework must set out how land will balance producing food in a sustainable way that supports a resilient food system, while also responding to environmental change. Where feasible, the Committee recommends that land should be shared between competing uses, including food production, carbon sequestration, restoring nature and growing energy crops.

Key Movements 🔁

Robert Jenrick MP has resigned as Immigration Minister, citing “strong disagreements with the direction of the Government’s policy on immigration” as the reason.

Tom Pursglove MP has been appointed Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery, and Michael Tomlinson KC MP Minister for Illegal Migration – splitting up the portfolio previously held by Jenrick.

Robert Courts MP has replaced Michael Tomlinson as the new Solicitor General.

Robbie Douglas-Miller OBE has been appointed Minister for Biosecurity, Animal Health and Welfare and has been granted a Peerage to carry out his new role.

Dr Samir Shah has been announced as the Government’s preferred candidate for the BBC Chair. He will appear before MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for pre-appointment scrutiny.

Harriet Aldridge has been appointed Chief Executive of the Government Internal Audit Agency.

Martin Jones has been announced as the Government’s preferred candidate for the role of His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation. He has been Chief Executive of the Parole Board since 2015.

Alexandra McKenzie has been appointed British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam.

Dame Judith Hackitt has been appointed as the interim Chair of the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

Tony Eastaugh has been appointed the new Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner. He was previously Director General for Immigration Enforcement and a commander in the Metropolitan Police.

Chief Constable Rob Nixon has been approved as a non-judicial member of the Sentencing Council, with Policing experience.

Professor Seena Fazel has been appointed as a member of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, for three years from 1 October 2023.

This Week’s Polls 📊

Immigration continues to creep up the list of the public’s priorities, according to a new YouGov poll. A new wave of its ‘most important issues’ question now finds immigration in second place overall – tied with health on 41%, but behind the economy on 54%. Among those who voted Conservative in 2019, 66% chose it as one of their top issues, with 38% saying it was the most important issue. For Labour voters however, immigration came joint-fifth at 19%, with 4% considering it to be the single most important issue facing the nation.

4 in 10 private renters are paying £1,200 a year above the advertised rate, so finds new Survation polling. It also revealed that 38% of new renters live in homes with damp or mould; 45% were forced to pay more than one month’s rent upfront; 17% were charged a fee to view a potential property; and 1 in 5 were asked to show their CV.

Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ Westminster voting intention poll finds Labour leading by 16%, with 40% of respondents believing a Labour Party majority would be the most likely outcome if a General Election were held in the next six months. A further 13% expect a Labour-led minority Government, 17% expect a Conservative Party majority, while another 11% expect a Conservative-led minority.

Think-Tanking 💭

The Resolution Foundation published a report entitled ‘Ending Stagnation’ which it calls a ‘new economic strategy for Britain’.

The Centre for European Reform published a briefing on EU climate and energy policy after the energy crunch.

Demos published a report on upgrading the UK’s industrial infrastructure to unlock technological transformation for growth, and a report on safeguarding the UK’s water system.

The Fabian Society published a report on how the NHS can work with people to keep them healthy.

Policy Exchange published a report on school strikes demanding a ceasefire in the Israel/Palestinian conflict and a report on property ownership in the UK.

The IFS published a report describing patterns of financial help from family received by first-time buyers.

You’ve Got to Laugh 😂

Unsuccessful execution, leaving a lot to be desired and a significant proportion not playing ball… no that’s not describing the Government’s attempts this week to tackle illegal migration, it’s about the Christmas Tree outside Parliament, after the annual light turning on event didn’t quite go to plan… Eventually the lights did all get switched on, and all worked well, with the Prime Minister probably hoping for a similar turnaround in his own fortunes. H/t to Zoë Crowther for the video and pictures.

Take That, The Spice Girls, One Direction, we’ve all become used to popular bands breaking up due to personal or artistic differences, but this week saw the breakup of one of the most influential of them all… the Sunak-Dowden-Jenrick grouping (or ‘Cabinet Thunder’ according to ChatGPT). The three had written a joint op-ed in 2019 in support of Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, and had risen through the ranks together, resulting in Sunak as PM, Dowden as Deputy PM, and Jenrick as… Immigration Minister. We can only now wait and see what Jenrick’s solo career holds in store.


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