Dods at Party Conference 2019

Labour | Conservatives | SNP

10 August 2019
prison

Boris Johnson is expected to unveil plans to increase the number of places in British prisons amid concern overcrowding is hampering rehabilitation efforts.

Allies have said the new PM will scrap the plans made by David Gauke, the former justice secretary, to abolish jail sentences of six months or less for all but the most serious criminals, a move designed to cut prison numbers. ​ A government source told The Times: “Boris wants to put rocket boosters under the prison-building programme. “He’s talking about a new mega-prison, he’s trying to release cash. “Prisons are overcrowded. We need better facilities and a better environment where prisoners can do more purposeful activity. It’s all part of making prisons more purposeful.” Britain’s prisons are operating at 97% capacity and there are fears that overcrowding is fuelling record violence. T he number of assaults in prisons in the year to March, the most recent data available, reached 34,425, the highest recorded, and there were 10,311 assaults on staff....
9 August 2019
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has ordered civil servants to “urgently and rapidly” ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

The Prime Minister said laying the groundwork for leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement was now the Government’s “top priority”. Mr Johnson set out the change of pace in a letter to all Whitehall staff. He said the move would allow ministers to turn their focus to “vital issues that affect people’s lives” such as the NHS, education and crime.  “My approach to Brexit is simple, and I want you to be in no doubt about it,” he wrote. “We must restore trust in our democracy, and fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people, by coming out of the European Union on 31 October. “We will be leaving on this date, whatever the circumstances.  “I would very much prefer to leave with a deal – one that must abolish the anti-democratic Irish backstop, which has unacceptable consequences for our country. “But I recognise this may not happen. That is why preparing urgently and rapidly for the possibility of an exit without a deal will be my top priority, and it...
9 August 2019
female soldier

Fewer than five women have taken up the opportunity to become infantry soldiers – more than nine months after all Armed Forces roles were made open to them.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had heralded the rule change as a watershed moment, with a senior commander saying the Army “will be more effective in war” because of it. But a Freedom of Information request revealed that so far only a handful of female soldiers have switched to infantry roles since October 2018. And the figure could be as little as one, as the MoD say they have rounded it up so as to “protect personal information”. Insiders have defended the small numbers, saying they never expected there to be lots of women moving to infantry, the largest branch of the Army, and one focused on ground close combat. Women were unable to serve in any combat roles until David Cameron lifted the ban in 2016, with the Royal Armoured Corps the first branch to open its doors, followed by the RAF. But a whole raft of jobs were still closed off until last year, when the then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced all were now open to female soldiers, including the Royal Marines and...
9 August 2019
Brian Roy

Scottish Labour has been plunged into fresh turmoil after the party's general secretary resigned.

Brian Roy broke the news to stunned staff at the party's Glasgow HQ on Friday morning. His decision to quit after five years at the helm comes at the end of a week in which civil war erupted after John McDonnell declared a Labour government would not try to block a second Scottish independence referendum. The comments were a break with official party policy and put him at odds with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who said they would not back "indyref2" earlier this year. Mr Leonard then re-iterated his position following talks with the Shadow Chancellor, while Labour MSPs at the Scottish Parliament issued a statement condemning the party's UK leadership.  However, Labour insiders insisted Mr Roy's departure had nothing to do with the row. The outgoing general secretary, the son of former Labour MP Frank Roy, said: "After 12 years working...
9 August 2019
Car manufacturing

Uncertainty surrounding the Brexit  timetable has been blamed after the UK economy shrunk for the first time in more than six years.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed that in the second quarter of 2019, GDP contracted by 0.2%. It is the first time growth has fallen into negative figures since 2012. The setback came as a surprise after the economy grew by 0.5% in the first three months of the year, prompted by a rise in manufacturers stockpiling ahead of the initial 29 March Brexit deadline. Labour said the "dismal" numbers were a result of the Prime Minister's insistence that the UK will leave the EU "do or die" on 31 October. But the Government insisted growth was slowing around the world, and that the fundamentals of the UK economy remain strong. Rob Kent-Smith, head of GDP at the ONS, said manufacturing output fell while the construction sector had weakened between April and June. He said: "Manufacturing output fell back after a strong start to the year, with production brought forward ahead of the UK's original departure date from the EU." A further shrinking of GDP in the third...
9 August 2019
DWP

The UK Government’s regressive two-child limit is no longer simply a pernicious policy, it is a failed one, says Alison Thewliss MP. 

The recent publication of data by the UK Government setting out the impact of the UK Government’s regressive two-child limit is, for many of us, food for thought. I hope Ministers are taking the time to reflect on what is now beyond doubt; that this is no longer simply a pernicious policy, it is a failed one. I am as appalled today about the two-child limit and rape clause as I was when I stumbled across it in George Osborne’s 2015 Budget. This is a rule that restricts entitlement to benefits to two children in a family, allows no dispensation for changes in personal circumstances, and forces women who give birth to a third or subsequent child through a sickening rape clause exemption process. It is evil to its core. The devastating impact of the two-child limit is illuminated by the recent data. So far, 161,000 households across Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit Full Service have been impacted, representing an increase of almost 90,000 between 2018 and 2019. That translates to...
9 August 2019

The reverse charge VAT should be held off until 2020, writes NFB. 

A letter from 15 trade federations has been sent to Sajid Javid MP, the chancellor of the Exchequer, asking for the 1 October 2019 introduction of domestic reverse charge VAT to be delayed until April 2020. Reverse charge VAT means that the customer receiving the service will have to pay the VAT to HMRC instead of paying the supplier. The reverse charge applies through the supply chain where payments are required to be reported through the Construction Industry Scheme. Making the payment of VAT the responsibility of the customer rather than the supplier, there is no opportunity for the supplier to avoid paying VAT. The NFB, together with the other trade federations, has highlighted the effect the change will have on cash flow and administration costs for an industry already facing increased material and labour costs. The guidance issued by HMRC was delivered late, is not clear and leaves some questions unanswered. A delay before introducing the charge would give the industry and...
9 August 2019
John McDonnell

John McDonnell should stop freelancing and stick to Labour's agreed policy on a second Scottish referendum, argues Ian Murray MP.

A key component in the recipe that is party politics is collective responsibility. It ensures that when a decision is made in Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet it is collectively promoted by all, regardless of personal view. This is particularly true of party policy. That’s just the rule.  That was partly the reason why I, and many of my colleagues, were so shocked and angry that John McDonnell appeared at the Edinburgh Festival and freelanced on Labour policy on a second independence referendum. Now, I could go into all the arguments about the detail of the policy and why he was wrong to say a future Labour government would grant a second independence referendum, but the point is that he is not entitled to a personal opinion. He must follow party policy or propose changing it through the proper processes or resign. The Shadow Chancellor can’t just make up policy off the cuff. He was rightly slapped down by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. The policy of the Scottish and UK Labour...
9 August 2019
Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid has unveiled plans to make billions of pounds available for public services as speculation mounts that a general election could only be weeks away.

The Chancellor announced that a review of Whitehall spending will be "fast-tracked" so that departments will be prepared for Brexit on 31 October. It means the planned three-year comprehensive spending review will be postponed until later next year. Mr Javid said the move would mean that government departments would have the certainty they need to prepare for the looming Brexit deadline. The announcement, which will allow Boris Johnson to deliver on big-money spending pledges on the NHS and schools, comes amid reports that he is planning to hold a snap election within days of the UK finally leaving the EU. Mr Javid, said: “We will get Brexit done by 31 October and put our country on the road to a brighter future. "The Prime Minister and I have asked for a fast-tracked spending round for September to set departmental budgets for next year. "This will clear the ground ahead of Brexit while delivering on people’s priorities." But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused the Government of...
9 August 2019
The Kabba Mecca

This week, which marks the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca and Eid al-Adha, the Bishop of St Albans writes on the importance of interfaith dialogue, saying there is little doubt that religious persecution is increasing around the globe.

I am sometimes asked why I use my role in the House of Lords to speak up for other faiths as well as Christianity. In response, I usually describe the nature of the Established Church and explain that bishops are not just concerned with the interests of Anglicans, but seek to serve and care for all people and especially those whose voices are suppressed or marginalised, whether in England or elsewhere. The Bench of Bishops in the House of Lords is the only group which can claim something akin to a ‘constituency’. Each one of us serves in a diocese and as such we are out and about on a daily basis. We have a presence on the ground in virtually every community; many of our churches run food banks, lunch clubs, toddler groups, have bereavement visitors and even debt advice centres. Within the Diocese of St Albans, which covers Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, I am in regular contact with the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Buddhist communities which live here. This week, which sees the...