Two days of Parliament and a nice quiet start to the conference recess. That’s what this week promised… and immediately failed to deliver. As Ministers jetted off for meetings around the world, and Keir Starmer popped over the Channel to see the French President, the Prime Minister’s plans to water down climate change targets were leaked to the BBC and he was bumped into making his speech on Wednesday night. Well done to whoever it was on the internet who first came up with the ‘Seven Deadly Bins’ pun that’s been used by at least three political podcasts already this week. Yes, we have indeed stolen it.
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 🚨
The Prime Minister was bounced into setting out a new “realistic approach to reaching net zero”, on Wednesday night when an announcement planned for later this week was bought forward after it was leaked to the BBC. In his speech he argued that the UK has defaulted to “an approach which will impose unacceptable costs on hard-pressed British families”, and that whilst the UK “will still meet our international commitments and hit Net Zero by 2050”, he will deliver “sensible green leadership” with a “space for a more honest, better debate”. The announcement, intended to open up a key battle ground with Labour ahead of the next General Election and appeal to the Conservative Party’s core vote, delays the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035; means households will only have to make the switch to heat pumps when they’re changing their boiler, and not before 2035; scraps plans to force homeowners to make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes within two years, rules out a ban on new oil and gas in the North Sea, and further rules out a series of early-stage [Editor’s note: never going to happen anyway] proposals floated in recent years with regards to household recycling and additional environmental taxes. He has pledged to announce further details in the coming weeks, with the Chancellor and Energy Security Secretary also due to bring forward comprehensive new reforms to energy infrastructure.
Keir Starmer travelled to Paris for talks with President Macron, and kicked off what he described as a “very constructive” meeting by gifting him an Arsenal shirt ahead of the North London derby on Sunday. Starmer stated that it was his first opportunity to highlight how much he values the UK-France relationship, particularly on prosperity and security; and pledged to strengthen the relationship if elected as Prime Minister. It follows his recent address at the Global Progress Action Summit in Montreal, where he also vowed to seek a “much better” Brexit deal with the EU, which is due for review in 2025. Starmer argued there is “more that can be achieved across the board” between the UK and EU but ruled out rejoining the customs union, the single market or the EU if Labour win the next General Election.
In a surprise move, the Bank of England maintained the interest base rate at 5.25%. On Wednesday, the Monetary Policy Committee voted by 5-4 in favour of leaving rates unchanged, bringing an end to 14 consecutive rises since the start of the tightening cycle in December 2021. The decision followed an unexpected fall in inflation, which slowed to 6.7% in the year to August, down from 6.8% in July. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said inflation is expected to drop further this year but warned “there is no room for complacency.” Chancellor Jeremy Hunt added that the UK was “starting to see the tide turn against high inflation” and the Government was on track to halve inflation this year.
Coming Up Next Week 📆
Lib Dem Conference kicks off in Bournemouth tomorrow, with a packed agenda of speeches and motions taking place every day. The headline acts to look out for will be: Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP (12.35 on Saturday), Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP (12.35 on Sunday), Work & Pensions Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP (16.10 on Monday) and Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey’s speech closing the conference (1430 on Tuesday).
Cabinet Ministers, Tory activists and lobbyists will be heading up to Manchester next weekend for Conservative Party Conference which starts on Sunday 1st October. An ASLEF Union train strike the day before and another on the conference’s last day, 4th October, is going to make travel fun for all those attending…
The Week in Stats 📉
174 – number of schools affected by RAAC
5.3p – average price increase per litre of petrol between July and August
£650k – the cost of missed appointments to the NHS every month
485 – puppies smuggled into the country in the past year (and 110 pregnant doggos!)
£600k – compensation to be given to every Postmaster who was wrongly convicted of stealing cash due to faulty IT systems
5.25% – Bank of England base rate, after the Monetary Policy Committee voted 5-4 to maintain it at that rate
75 – Running tally of MPs so far confirmed standing down or deselected at the next General Election
Other Political News 📰
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden has spent the week at the UN General Assembly in New York, where he called for countries to visibly and vocally recommit to the Sustainable Development Goals, as the half way point is reached. He held meetings with business leaders, delivered a speech to the Security Council on Ukraine, attended a reception hosted by President Biden at The Met, met with Eric Adams, Mayor of New York and is due to deliver his big speech to the General Assembly at 8pm GMT this evening. Nice work if you can get it. He was joined by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly who met with world leaders and co-convened an event on how artificial intelligence can help increase the impact of international development, chaired by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The UK has now delivered more than 300,000 artillery shells to Ukraine and is committed to delivering ‘tens of thousands more artillery shells this year', the MOD announced this week. The announcement was made by the Defence Secretary at the 15th meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, alongside Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, with the two emphasising the 'UK’s unwavering commitment to providing vital munitions to help Ukraine defend itself'. The UK has also now delivered 12,000 anti-tank weapons, thousands of air defence missiles, self-propelled artillery, and more than 200,000 pieces of non-lethal equipment, including extreme cold weather clothing, mine detection equipment, and industrial strength generators to the war-torn country.
The Government is considering imposing minimum service levels in hospitals during strikes Steve Barclay announced on Tuesday. Launching a consultation on the proposals, the Health Secretary criticised this week’s “co-ordinated and calculated strike action”, which he said “will create further disruption and misery for patients and NHS colleagues”. The BMA responded to argue the Government has “deliberately run down the health service over the last 10 years” and is attempting to “stifle the right for doctors to act collectively and fight for better pay and conditions in their workplace”. Junior doctors are currently on strike until Saturday morning, with a further 72 hour strike planned from 7am on Monday 2nd October.
The UK will provide £160m of funding for climate support for developing countries, Energy Minister Graham Stuart MP announced at the UN Climate Ambitions Summit in New York on Thursday. The package will go towards supporting energy-intensive industries in developing and emerging economies to cut emissions, through measures ranging from the deployment of clean hydrogen-based fuels for steel production to the creation of biomass-powered refrigeration.
Around the World 🌍
The UN General Assembly saw 145 heads of state and governments travel to New York for the 78th meeting. Topics such as the war against Ukraine, the refugee crisis and the climate crisis were high on the agenda, as members agreed on a declaration to boost efforts to provide universal health coverage for all by 2030, including an agreement with the aims of preventing the repetition of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; launched a high level dialogue on Financing for Development; and adopted a declaration to accelerate actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Also at the Assembly: President Zelenskyy called for members to veto Russia’s position as a permanent member of the UN and accused Russia of weaponising food and energy; the Iranian President criticised Western powers for ‘an overt attempt’ to undermine security in the Middle East; Palestinian President Abbas used the platform to argue that there will be no peace until Palestinians are granted full rights, causing criticism from Israeli representatives; and Commonwealth Ministers met to agree that Gabon be suspended from the Commonwealth following the coup in the country last month. (Seemingly a long way off this year’s ‘reigniting global solidarity’ theme for the Summit)
India suspended issuing visas to Canadian citizens following an escalated row this week. The tension started on Monday, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that there are “credible reasons” to believe that India may have been behind the killing of Sikh separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was designated as a terrorist by India, in British Colombia in June. Trudeau again repeated the claims on Thursday, leading to India suspending visas from Canadian citizens, including those in a third country on the basis of “security threats”. Both countries have expelled a diplomat from the other country and Canada has reduced its personnel in India after some diplomats were receiving threats on social media.
Speaking of India, the Indian Parliament has passed a Bill the guarantees a third of seats will be taken by women in the Lower House of Parliament and State Assemblies. The results of the Bill are not expected to be seen for a while however, as it will be implemented only after the completion of the next census, including the redrawing of boundary constituencies, which could take several years.
Latvia approved a new broad new coalition Government, confirming Evika Silina, of the centre-right New Unity Party as the new Prime Minister. Silina is expected to follow in the footsteps of her predecessor Krisjania Karins, who will now serve as Foreign Minister, as a critic of Russia and supporter of both the EU and NATO military alliance. Silina’s appointment now means that all three Baltic states will be led by female Prime Ministers.
Egypt’s main liberal opposition movement, the Free Current coalition, confirmed it would not nominate a presidential candidate in next year’s election, after its frontrunner was jailed. The frontrunner, Hisham Kassem, has been found guilty of defaming a former minister and sentenced to 6 months in jail and fined.
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame confirmed he will stand for a fourth term next year, which if successful would extend his presidency to nearly 30 years. Kagame won the election in 2017, receiving 99% of the votes, though Human Rights Groups have continually criticised the country for lacking free speech and cracking down on opposition.
In Parliament 🏛
The UK’s automotive sector and UK exports were the topics of two general debates in the House of Commons, with the Government having chosen the subjects.
Housing, the NHS and football were all raised by MPs in the Conference Adjournment debate before MPs begun another near-four week long recess to allow for the party conferences to take place.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill finally completed its passage in the House of Lords, with it due to return to the House of Commons on 17 October for MPs to debate amendments that Peers have added to the Bill. There were 16 days of Committee Stage and 8 days of Report Stage in the Lords, with over 1,000 amendments tabled.
The Online Safety Bill awaits Royal Assent, after it passed its final hurdle in the House of Lords. The Government said the Bill will ‘make the UK the safest place in the world to be online by placing new duties on social media companies’.
The Non-Domestic Rating Bill finished its Report Stage in the House of Lords, with its Third Reading due on 16 October. The Bill introduces a range of minor amendments to business rates, and provides for three-yearly instead of five-yearly revaluations.
Committee Reports on Children’s Social Care, the UK and EU’s relationship, and Family Migration were all debated in the House of Lords.
Ukraine was the subject of the final debate in the House of Lords before the House of Lords joined the Commons in recess.
10 Bills were given Royal Assent, and have now entered the statute book. These include the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Act, the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Act, and the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act.
Committee Corridor 📜
The UK Government must ensure nine criteria are met when introducing minimum service levels for the rail industry, states the Transport Committee in its latest report. This includes putting the safety of staff and passengers as the ‘primary consideration’; ensuring passengers with accessibility needs receive the same support as on non-strike days; and having rail services or ‘credible alternatives’ available in all areas of the country that are normally served by the rail network.
Efforts to reduce the ‘disproportionately high number and cost’ of whiplash claims in England are not succeeding, according to the Justice Committee in its report on the subject. The inquiry found there are 349,000 unresolved cases in the Official Injury Claim Service portal, with the Committee urging the Ministry of Justice to investigate this backlog.
The UK’s ability to anticipate conflict and prevent escalation in nations of instability has been weakened by cuts to the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), finds a report from the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. With the CSSF merging with other funds to form the Integrated Security Fund, the Committee regrets a lack of clarity surrounding this transition, and tells the Government to ‘maintain existing levels of transparency and evaluation’.
The Media Bill should be prioritised in the next Parliamentary session, advises the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in its report on the Draft Bill. Highlighting that there may not be another opportunity to significantly reform media legislation in the next 20 years, the Committee said the Bill was ‘critical to the sustainability of Public Service Broadcasters’ and has provided the Government with a series of recommendations to ensure the Bill is ‘firmly in the interests of audiences’.
Political leadership is needed to ensure that development takes place while also protecting the environment, argues the Lords Built Environment Committee following its inquiry into the ‘impact of environmental regulations on development’. Arguing that the current approach is ‘failing to deliver for either side’, the Committee advised that housebuilding targets be given statutory weight, while criticising that nutrient and water neutrality risk measures were placing an ‘effective moratoria’ on housebuilding.
Key Movements 🔁
Jacob Young MP was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, replacing Dehenna Davison MP who resigned due to an ongoing battle with chronic migraine.
Gagan Mohindra MP was in turn appointed an Assistant Government Whip to replace Jacob Young.
Sarah Atherton MP has been nominated for Chair of the Defence Select Committee. Nominations close on 24th October, with a ballot due to take place the next day.
David Jones MP, former Secretary of State for Wales and Brexit Minister, became the latest MP to announce he will stand down at the next General Election.
The Board of Trade received a revamp with an expanded list of advisers appointed and new line-up of CEOs including Rolls Royce CEO Tufan Erginbilgiç, Universal Music Group MD Sir Lucian Grainge, and fashion accessories designer and CEO Anya Hindmarch.
Ten new Export Champions have been appointed for Scotland by the Department for Business & Trade, adding to the 13 appointments made last year.
Lisa Bandari was appointed Ambassador to the Portuguese Republic in succession to Chris Sainty.
Martin Kent was appointed Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific, succeeding Natalie Black.
Lewis Neal was appointed Trade Commissioner for China & Hong Kong.
This Week’s Polls 📊
8 in 10 Britons are dissatisfied with the way the Government is run, according to a recent poll from Ipsos. 86% of the respondents polled agreed that Britain needs a fresh team of leaders, the highest percentage since the agency first introduced the question in 2010. The poll also measured favourability of government leaders – with Rishi Sunak having a favourable rating of 27% and Keir Starmer 30%.
56% believe that Liz Truss was responsible for the economic response to the 2022 mini-budget, including the drop in the pound and increase in mortgage rates, according to a YouGov survey. Across party lines, a majority believe this, including conservative respondents, with 52% believing Truss to be primarily responsible.
38% of teenage boys have watched videos from Andrew Tate, according to a Survation survey conducted. The survey, which covered topics from social media activity to neighbourhood safety broadly among teenagers, also found that 70% of teens who had previously smoked stated that would be less likely to do so if the flavours were less appealing.
50% of GB adults surveyed support (somewhat or strongly) Government delaying its ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, according to a new YouGov poll. Interestingly on the same poll, 45% of surveyed GB adults believe that Government has not been doing enough to meet Net Zero by 2050.
Britons think Labour handles 7 out of 10 key policy issues better than Conservatives, according to a new YouGov poll. Labour appeared best to handle: the NHS (39%), education and schools (33%), housing (32%), unemployment (27%), taxation (27%), the economy in general (25%), and asylum and immigration (23%). The Conservatives appear to surpass Labour in Defence and security (26%). In the same survey, the same was asked in relation to political leader, with Keir Starmer also pulling similar figures.
Onward published a report on coastal towns, highlighting how there are four common challenges that they face – being poorer on average than inland neighbourhoods, having higher crime rates, poorer housing standards, and poorer health.
The Institute for Government released its final report on the UK constitution following an 18-month long review, making a series of recommendations including that Parliament should be given a ‘more extensive scrutiny process for new constitutional bills’.
The IFG also published a report on data in the justice system, noting that data analysis is ‘not playing as large a role as it should in evaluating current policy and driving new initiatives.’
The IPPR shared research on regional inequality, highlighting that the UK’s ‘economy and democracy are not yet designed to help all places thrive’. It says the distribution of wealth, power and opportunity are where citizens most want to see change.
Policy Exchange published a report looking at religious clothing in the United Kingdom, recommending that the Government ensure there is clear guidance on school uniforms and on dress codes in the NHS related to religious attire.
The Resolution Foundation released a report about designing an unemployment insurance scheme to protect living standards and ‘boost economic dynamism’; and published a paper on productivity growth in Greater Manchester and beyond.
The Institute of Economic Affairs published a paper on the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill and why its ‘sweeping new powers threaten Britain’s economy’.
You’ve Got to Laugh 😂
The big political news of the week of course came from across the pond in the US where the cast of hit reality show The Traitors has been announced. Not only will we get to see such legends of reality TV as Love Island’s Ekin-Su and RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Peppermint… they will be joined, inexplicably, by the former Speaker of the House of Commons… one John Bercow. We can only hope, for the sake of all that is good about reality TV, that he is cast as a traitor. If you didn’t see the first series of the British version with Claudia Winkleman last Christmas then stop what you’re doing immediately and binge the entire 12 episodes on iPlayer now.
It all got a bit heated in the London Assembly during Mayor’s Question Time last Friday, when an exchange between Conservative Assembly Member Peter Fortune and the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan all got a bit personal. At the end of his questions on the ULEZ expansion, the Mayor lost his cool, for which he later apologised, sniping: “for someone who reads a lot, he ain’t half thick is he”, much to the consternation of the Chair. Mr Fortune fired back with a jibe about the (reportedly) 5 ft, 5 inch tall Mayor, reminding him that he was “a grown man… well nearly…” Who says local politics is dull…