Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs
In the run up to the autumn statement Labour will be pushing the chancellor, Philip Hammond, to scrap these cruel ESA cuts to sick and disabled people.
I, Daniel Blake was one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen so I’m very pleased we have teamed up with Ken Loach to urge people to go and watch it at these special screenings taking place before the autumn statement.
For the most part, England’s education system is a bit like its football team – better than many, but hardly top notch.
We comfort ourselves with past success, illusory as that might be, dream of future glory, then collapse into despair when we come across superior play.
Andrew Tyrie tries to wind up. But Bernard Jenkin insists on one more question. What machinery should have been in place to address the point in paragraph 617. (See 5.23pm.)
Chilcot says civil servants did propose government machinery of that kind. A paper went in to Number 10. But it came back with a crucial element missing – ministerial oversight.
Chilcot says you would have to look inside Blair’s heart and mind to know what he thought at the time.
There is a question to be asked about how much a modern prime minister can be expected to absorb, given how much he or she has to take in.
Chilcot says his inquiry team were very determined not to use hindsight when making judgments.
Andrew Tyrie says it looks like a war that was pushed through by one man. Therefore you need to apportion blame accordingly.
Tyrie quotes paragraph 617 in the executive summary, saying: “At no stage did ministers or senior officials commission the systematic evaluation of different options, incorporating detailed analysis of risk and UK capabilities, military and civilian, which should have been required before the UK committed to any course of action in Iraq.” He suggests Blair was to blame for that.
Here is my colleague Luke Harding’s take on the opening of this hearing.
Q: Was the procurement of protective equipment for troops delayed because Blair did not want to admit he had decided to go to war?
Chilcot says you cannot make that connection. He says Blair was reluctant to admit Blair was going to happen. But that did not hold up the acquisition of equipment that would have protected soldiers for IEDs [improvised explosive devices].
Q: What do you think Saddam did with his WMD? Did he destroy them or pass them on to someone else?
Chilcot says he does not for a moment think Saddam gave them to anyone else.
Q: Was Blair’s message to Bush a secret commitment to war?
Chilcot says it is worth asking what would have happened if the UK had not given that commitment.
Julian Lewis: “was decision for war ‘solidarity rather than strategy’?”
Chilcot: “That’s an admirably concise statement with which I agree”
Julian Lewis, a Conservative, goes next. He says he supported the war but made a mistake.
Q: What do you blame Blair for, and what do you absolve him for?
Crispin Blunt goes next.
Q: MPs were given a vote just 24 hours before the war started. That was absurd, wasn’t it? MPs did not want to pull the plug then.
Laurence Robertson, a Conservative, goes next.
Q: What is your single most important finding?
Q: You said Blair was unreasonable. Were others in Number 10 unreasonable?
Chilcot says unreasonable was Andrew Tyrie’s word. Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, was in a tough situation, he says. British policy moved from containment to coercive diplomacy. Coercive diplomacy can lead to one of two results.
Damian Collins, a Conservative, goes next.
Q: You seem to have let off the civil service.
Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative, goes next.
Q: Cabinet members did not want to demand to see the government’s legal advice. Were they cavalier about this?
Asked about Lord Goldsmith’s decision to firm up his advice that the war was legal, Chilcot says one crucial factor was Blair’s declaration that Saddam was in breach of his obligations to the UN. But Blair did not say on what basis he had come to that judgment, Chilcot says.
Chilcot says Blair should have taken advice on this, and thought it through on a factual basis, before making this declaration.
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative foreign affairs commitee chair and a member of the liaison committee, has been tweeting about Chilcot’s evidence.
1/2Taking evidence from #Chilcot on Iraq war lessons. Says Govt’s post conflict Reconstruction Unit not of magnitude scale or authority reqd
Andrew Tyrie tells Chilcot he has been very helpful. He says Chilcot has clarified some points in the report in a way that will help members of the public.
Chilcot says witnesses subjected to the Maxwellisation process respected the confidentiality of the process. And they also responded within a reasonable time, he says. He says one or two asked for extra time, but they had a lot of material to read.
Q: Did any of the witnesses offered the chance to respond to the draft report water it down?
Chilcot says the inquiry thought it was important that witnesses had the chance to respond to the draft. This process (Maxwellisation) was essential for fairness. But it also improved the report, he says.
The Chilcot hearing has resumed.
Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative, asks if Chilcot thinks the war was lawful.
Responding to Enda Kenny’s comments at the Dublin summit a Downing Street spokesman said that the prime minister had been clear the UK did not want to see a return to borders of the past.
The arrangement that currently exists has served both sides of that border extremely well and we have no desire, and neither does the Irish government, to change that. We want to have constructive dialogue with all member states, a mature debate about the key areas as we negotiate an exit from the EU. What’s important is that it’s as smooth a transition as possible.
Enda Kenny’s warning that the UK’s negotiations with the EU states over Brexit could turn out to be vicious is perhaps a portent of things to come. Clearly given the importance of Anglo-Irish relations, the border with Northern Ireland, the billions in trade across the Irish Sea, the government in Dublin is worried about the prospect of a fresh diplomatic war breaking between the EU and the UK whenever Theresa May triggers article 50.
Another significant part of the Taoiseach’s contribution today during the all-island summit on Brexit in Dublin was Kenny suggesting that his British counterpart might press the exit button before the spring. Was Kenny hinting that pressure to get to an earlier Brexit from within the Tory Party was pushing the UK out the EU door before the Spring of 2017? Or indeed was the Irish premier sending a warning signal to London about the perils of doing so without negotiations having been properly started and exit strategies properly thought out?
The hearing has adjourned for at least 15 minutes because the MPs have to take part in a vote.
Chilcot says the cabinet should have received formal written advice from the attorney general about whether the war was legal. And there should have been a discussion about it.
It was not acceptable just to ask the attorney if war was alright, and to accept his word, Chilcot says.
Here is the start of the Press Association story about the Chilcot hearing.
Tony Blair did long-term damage to trust in politics when he put forward a case for war that went beyond the “facts of the case”, the author of the scathing official report into the Iraq War has said.
Sir John Chilcot, who has remained silent on the report since its publication in July, told a panel of senior MPs be believed it would take many years to repair the harm the former prime minister’s actions had caused.
Chilcot says it is for parliament and parliamentarians to enforce their own rules.
Q: Who knew about the letter Tony Blair sent to George W Bush saying he would be with him, whatever.
Just people in Number 10, says Chilcot. He says the cabinet secretary did not know about it. David Manning, Blair’s foreign policy adviser, and Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, knew about it but tried to persuade Blair not to send it, he says.
Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative, goes next.
Q: Who is in charge of ensure cabinet procedures are followed?
Chilcot says during Suez Anthony Eden instructed the cabinet secretary, Norman Brook, to destroy all papers about the secret deal with France. He says Brook did this. But he also recorded the fact he had done so.
Chilcot says he would advise all permanent secretaries in Whitehall now to insist on their right to give advice, and their right to be heard. And they should also insist on having their advice recorded, even if it is not accepted, he says.
Chilcot says he remembers asking Jack Straw why the cabinet did not challenge Blair more over Iraq.
He says Straw told him that Blair had rescued his party, and that he had achieved a dominance that allowed him to override collective responsibility. Blair had been right before, so people thought he was right on this, Chilcot says.
Iain Wright, the Labour MP, goes next, asking if Blair was running a “sofa government”.
Chilcot says that is part of the problem.
Here is Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh on the hearing.
Imagine writing 2.6m words. And then being asked about every one of them. That’s Chilcot right now.
Potentially the world’s toughest viva
Blunt says Chilcot’s evidence coincides with the publication of Sir Jeremy Greenstock’s book.
Q: Greenstock says the government did not realise how little influence the UK had over US policy.
Chilcot says it was not the whole purpose of the report to satisfy bereaved families.
But he says that the fact that have welcomed it has been very welcome.
Q: Lord Butler thought his report into Iraq was tougher than people realised. Are there any things in your report that you thought the media should have made more of?
Chilcot says he was on the Butler inquiry. It had to report quickly, and it did not have access to all the information.
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative chair of the foreign affairs committee, is asking the questions now.
Chilcot says that it was helpful having the inquiry conducted by people with experience of government. (Chilcot himself is a former permanent secretary.) He says he is not sure an inquiry led by a judge would have had that perspective.
Tyrie says Chilcot’s evidence has been clear. He says Chilcot has given clearer arguments than he did in the executive summary of his report.
Q: A number of very important things were said to the Commons at the time that could not be reasonably supported by evidence at the time. And that has eroded trust, hasn’t it?
I think when a government or the leader of a government presents a case with all the powers of advocacy that he or she can command, and in doing so goes beyond what the facts of the case and the basic analysis of that can support, then it does damage politics, yes.
Q: Was it wrong to fuse the terrorism with the wider nuclear threat?
Chilcot says the evidence does not suggest that Saddam would have supplied weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to terrorist organisations.
Tyrie is now asking about Blair’s claim that Saddam could have obtained nuclear weapons within months.
That was not the case at the time, says Chilcot.
In his report Chilcot effectively cleared Tony Blair of lying to MPs and to the public about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. The report was very critical of Blair in other ways, but it did not accuse him of acting in bad faith.
From what we’ve seen so far, it looks as if some of the MPs on the liaison committee are using this hearing to try to get Chilcot to admit that he was wrong.
Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative, goes next.
Q: Was Blair more interested in evaluating the evidence, or in making the case for war?
Tyrie says it seems to him that it was unreasonable for Blair to conclude there was a threat to the UK.
Chilcot says he would rather not use that word.
Q: Was there a threat to the UK at the time it went to war?
Chilcot says there was a threat, but it was in the future. It was not imminent.
Andrew Tyrie, the commitee chair, opens the question.
Q: Did we need to go to war because of an imminent threat?
All Commons select committee chairs sit on the liaison committee but only some of them will be taking place this afternoon. Here is the list of those who will be asking questions.
Andrew Tyrie MP (Chair), Treasury Committee (Con)
Inquiries may be going out of fashion – the government has shelved two, Orgreave and Leveson part two, in the past two days – but this afternoon we’re effectively getting an inquiry into an inquiry, because the Commons liaison committee is taking evidence from Sir John Chilcot. They will be asking him about his marathon Iraq inquiry which finally reported in the summer.
You can watch it here, on Parliament TV.
It’s three times faster to use an EAW and it is four times less expensive for us to be able to do that as well …
A substantial majority of our cases have some sort of international connection. The crime which we prosecute tends to be more and more global …
This is a historic moment for the construction industry and the men and women who work in it. From January 2017, construction workers will for the first time have one united powerful union on their side at work. Bad bosses and construction firms employing sharp practices should beware.
The Conservative government must acknowledge its mistakes. They must set out how they will deal with the problems caused by staffing cuts and chronically low morale leading to the crisis in staff retention. They must set out how they will cut the endemic use of drugs in our prisons. And they must set out a coherent strategy on how to increase education in prisons to reduce reoffending. Above all we need a clear plan on how they intend creating a prison system that works.
Here’s a Guardian video about the real Daniel Blakes.
That PMQs did not seem to inspire many of the usual Twitter commentators, but here are some verdicts that have been posted.
From the New Statesman’s Anoosh Chakelian
Few fireworks at #PMQs – Corbyn has gone back to scattergun approach, raising several important issues, but failing to drive points home.
PMQs – Final verdict: The only story that anyone will remember from today’s PMQs will be what Theresa May had to say about Fifa. It is probably fair to say that a British politician can never go wrong whacking Fifa – with left or right, tabloid or broadsheet – and May milked this for all it was worth. It was an easy hit, but you can’t blame her for taking it.
Should Jeremy Corbyn have asked about Fifa? If Alastair Campbell was in charge of his PMQs planning, doubtless it would have been question number one. But this is not Corbyn’s style and, if he had tried to set himself up as a Fifa-bashing poppy patriot, it would probably have sounded phoney.
You have a view that there should be no assessments, no sanctions and unlimited welfare. I have to say to you that the Labour party is drifting away from the views of Labour voters. It’s this party that understands working-class people.
Theresa May has launched a blistering attack on football’s governing body Fifa, which has turned down a request from England and Scotland players to wear armbands featuring poppies when the sides meet on Remembrance Day.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, May said the stance taken by Fifa was “utterly outrageous” and said the strength of feeling across the House of Commons was clear.
As usual, I missed the questions from Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader at Westminster because it comes as I’m writing the snap verdict. He criticised the government for not doing more to stop firms using Scottish limited partnerships to dodge tax and perform criminal acts. He said it is a “matter of public record” that they had been used as fronts for child abuse sites and involved in corruption cases.
According to PoliticsHome, May replied:
It is precisely in order to increase our ability to deal with this criminal activity that we created the National Crime Agency, that we’ve been ensuring we’ve been working on other issues with the City like money laundering and we’re looking at the whole question of how we take effective action to deal with criminal activity … if he wants to talk to me about dealing with criminal activity then I will be able to tell him about the work done over the last six years of this government.
Dame Rosie Winterton, the Labour MP, asks about the shortage of GPs in her constituency.
May says thousands more GPs have come into the NHS in recent years. A programme is in place to encourage that, she says.
John Howell, a Conservative, asks May to welcome neighbourhood planning.
May says this is how local people can have a real say in planning.
Nigel Dodds, the DUP MP, asks May to condemn those talking up the increased risk of violence in Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit.
May says she wants Brexit to be a good deal for the whole of the UK. Those who want to encourage violence “frankly should be ashamed of themselves”.
Labour’s Stephen McCabe asks May to condemn the Fifa decision to stop England and Scotland football playes wearing poppies.
May condemns the decision. She says Fifa should sort its own house out before it starts telling the UK what to do.
Maria Caulfied, a Conservative, asks about Southern Rail. Her constituents have a railway that works for no one, she says.
May says the transport secretary is on the case and working to improve the service.
The SNP’s Christopher Stephens asks about the charges for telephone helplines used by the disabled. May says the government is addressing this and bringing charges down.
Charles Walker, a Conservative, says when people make fun of Christianity, people turn the other cheek. But a gymnast is being hounded for mocking Islam. What are the rules, and what is going on?
May says we value freedom of speech in this country. But we also value tolerance.
The SNP’s Gavin Newlands asks May about the detention of immigrants.
May says the government has done a lot of work on this. But she says that where people are due to be removed from the country, there are times when it is right to detain people. She says Newlands probably does not approve of anyone being detained. She does, she says.
Robert Courts, the new MP for Witney, asks May to congratulate Chipping Norton for winning an award for high streets.
May says when she was a child Chipping Norton was her local town. She remembers going to spend her pocket money there.
Labour’s Jeff Smith asks what is worse: the government losing in the courts over air quality, or the 40,000 early deaths every year from air pollution.
May says there is more to do in this respect. Defra will look at today’s judgment. No one in the Commons doubts the importance of this, she says.
David Warburton, Conservative MP for Somerset and Frome, says his constituency has more cows than any other. Will the government look after the interests of farmers in the Brexit talks.
May says the needs of agriculture will be taken into account.
Labour’s Angela Smith asks about a firm in her constituency worried about the uncertainty over Tata Steel. So when May visits India, will she stress the importance of Tata being a responsible seller of its UK assets.
May says the government has been having discussions with Tata about the future of steel in the UK. Those talks will continue.
Snap PMQ verdict: A satisfyingly serious and grown-up exchange which did not really amount to a clear win for either Corbyn or May, but which did credit to them both. Corbyn used all six questions to ask about welfare, but he moved from one topic to another, with varying success. May was at her weakest at the start, when Corbyn asked about cuts to universal credit which are coming down the line, which will effectively undo the tax credit cuts U-turn announced by George Osborne, but these calculations are complex, and hard to explain, and although May did not address the point at all, Corbyn did not drive his point hard home. He was more passionate, and effective, on benefit sanctions, but at this point May may had a solid response which involved accusing Labour of being opposed to any form of sanction or fiscal discipline in welfare spending. Corbyn finished with a dignified plea on behalf of parents who had difficulty affording funeral costs for children who die, and this prompted a semi-consensual response from May, who said funding was already available. So, overall, a bit of a draw.
Corbyn says the housing benefit bill is going up. He has urged the government to abandon the employment and support allowance cut. What evidence is there that imposing poverty on people helps them into work.
May says there are more disabled people in the workplace. If Corbyn thinks the housing benefit bill is too high, why did he vote against the government measures to cut it.
Corbyn says Oxford University found this week a link between rising use of benefit sanctions and the rising use of food banks. He asks May to review the punitive sanctions regime.
May says it is right to have a system that make sure benefits go to those who should get them. But it is also important to ensure that people who can work do. Corbyn wants unlimited welfare, she says.
Corbyn says it is ungallant of May to blame the former chief whip. He says David Cameron abandoned cuts to working people through tax credits. But the same cuts will come in through universal credit. Why is she sticking with these cuts?
May says at least her former chief whip as a job.
Jeremy Corbyn starts by congratulating the Labour MP Conor McGinn who helped his wife deliver a baby recently.
He says May promises to stand up for just managing families. But work allowances will be cut. Won’t the cuts to universal credit leave millions worse off.
Rehman Chishti, a Conservative, asks the government to take forward the Lower Thames Crossing.
May says there were 47,000 responses to the consultation on this. The government will reply in due course.
Labour’s Stephen Doughty says there is no clarity on access to the single market. And foreign steel is being used in British projects. When will the government stand up for British steel?
Theresa May says the government does stand up for steel. And it wants the best possible Brexit deal.
Corbyn sporting a red poppy nice + early this year – not like the old days…
This is from Labour’s Tom Blenkinsop.
The Independent’s Tom Peck agrees.
Five mins til #PMQs. Someone should turn the heating on. Freeeeeezing in here. No idea why.
PMQs will start at 12pm.
This is from the Daily Mirror’s Ben Glaze.
Commons Chamber very cold today. Insert your own “hot air” gag here … #PMQs
Ireland’s version of the CBI – IBEC – has raised an overlooked problem for Anglo-Irish trade when Theresa May triggers article 50 and the UK leaves the EU.
Danny McCoy, IBEC’s CEO, told the Guardian that while freedom of movement may still be guaranteed under the Anglo-Irish, pre-EU common travel area, freedom of labour could be under threat.
We share the labour market with the United Kingdom and we did so before joining the EU. If the break-up of the EU involves restrictions on labour market access, that could be the most significant business consequence of Brexit.
For instance with Ireland staying as a full EU state, how can you distinguish between other EU states and us? How can we be treated any different from our Polish or Estonian fellow EU citizens in Britain when it comes to the UK labour market?
Irish premier Enda Kenny has predicted that negotiations between EU states over Britain’s exit from Europe “could turn vicious.”
Sounding a sombre note as he wrapped up the first session of an all-island conference on Brexit’s impact on Ireland, the taoiseach also urged fellow EU countries not to become “obsessed” over what Britain may nor may not get in the discussions.
If you go to Downing Street, if you drop in there it’s fine, but sometimes when friends call they can overstay their welcome.
Arron Banks, the Ukip donor and leading leave campaigner, was on the Today programme this morning (see 9.40am) but he has been giving other interviews too. He’s got a book about the EU referendum to plug, The Bad Boys of Brexit, which was serialised in the Daily Mail.
Speaking to BBC 5 Live, Banks, who was the co-founder of Leave.EU, said the only regret he had about the campaign was that he commissioned polling into the impact of the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox a week before the vote. He told the programme:
There’s only one thing I regret [about the Brexit campaign]: that we internally polled the death of Jo Cox. We had a big polling operation going at the time and we polled whether her death had an effect on voters’ perception of leave or remain, and obviously there was massive media coverage of that.
At the Dublin Brexit conference Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, said that he and Theresa May had agreed that they wanted to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic open after Brexit. He said:
I have agreed with the prime minister that there will be no return to the borders of the past. Therefore the retention of an open border is critical. Neither I, nor the prime minister, desire to limit the freedom of people on both sides of the Irish sea to trade, live, work and travel freely across these islands. Therefore we have agreed that the benefits of the common travel area be preserved.
The government’s plan for tackling the UK’s air pollution crisis has been judged illegally poor at the high court, marking the second time in 18 months ministers have lost in court on the issue, my colleague Damian Carrington reports.
This is the second time the courts have found this government guilty for their failure to protect British people from health dangers of the UKs polluted air.
40,000 people die prematurely each year because of our dirty and polluted air. It is time that the government acted and introduced measures that would save the lives of tens of thousands of people.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he would be urging the Irish government to seek out “special status” for Northern Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations with the UK and the other EU states.
Speaking before entering the Dublin Brexit conference, Adams said he was “very disappointed” that the unionist parties had decided not to attend. However, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister and Adams’ party colleague Martin McGuinness stressed that Sinn Fein and the DUP were still working together on issues related to Brexit’s impact.
Moody’s, the credit rating agency, has issued a report today about the impact of Brexit on Britain’s creditworthiness. Here are the key points from its news release.
Moody’s would downgrade the UK’s rating if we were to conclude that the UK’s loss of access to the single market would materially weaken medium-term growth.
A second driver for the UK rating will be the fiscal outlook, on which we expect to obtain significantly more clarity with the upcoming autumn statement, scheduled for 23 November.
Ireland’s foreign minister has denied today’s all-island conference on Brexit’s impact is merely a ‘talking shop’ given the absence of unionist political leaders at today’s discussions.
Charlie Flanagan also said it had been a mistake of Northern Ireland’s first minister and Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster to boycott the conference. He said it was “not helpful” that Foster had claimed at the weekend that Ireland was guilty of stealing away foreign direct investment from Northern Ireland. It was a “missed opportunity” on the part of unionists not to attend the conference, he said.
I am looking primarily to the views of business leaders particularly in the border area, in a border that sees in excess of 30,000 people every day cross to work, to go to college, to go to school or indeed for family relations. It is vitally important in the context of the [Brexit] negotiations next year that the matter of the invisibility of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is not only featured but is both preserved and maintained.
Arron Banks, the Ukip donor and leading leave campaigner, was on the Today programme this morning talking about the state of Ukip. He is not impressed by any of the leadership candidates, but thinks Nigel Farage could return as leader at some point in the future. My colleague Matthew Weaver has the story here.
The Irish government is holding an ‘all island civic dialogue’ on Brexit and its impact on the whole of Ireland in Dublin today.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is the keynote speaker this morning and will outline the challenges for the Republic of the UK leaving the European Union. All the leaders of the nationalist political parties on the island including Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams are attending.
Three weeks today Philip Hammond, the chancellor, will deliver his autumn statement. It will be his first big financial statement as chancellor and his first proper chance to reset economic policy in the light of the Brexit vote. And, according to today’s Financial Times splash, he will announce a “modest” financial stimulus, but also a new “flexible fiscal framework”.
After the Brexit vote the government abandoned George Osborne’s target of getting the budget into surplus by 2019-20. Hammond has yet to say what his replacement target will be, but the FT story makes it clear that his new rules will be more lax than Osborne’s. Chancellors used to pride themselves on their “iron” discipline. Given the uncertainty caused by our departure from the EU, Hammond seems to see being a “rubber” chancellor as more pragmatic.
Mr Hammond told cabinet colleagues on Tuesday to expect only a modest fiscal stimulus, with a programme of new infrastructure spending expected to run to the low billions of pounds a year.
But his new fiscal plan, while aimed at achieving a balanced budget in the next parliament, would allow a greater stimulus package to be unleashed if the current robust rate of economic growth starts to falter.