Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs
I know Zac Goldsmith and I like the guy, but the plain fact is that Zac is a political failure. Worst of all of is that he’s not only failed but betrayed the people of Richmond, who like the rest of London, voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe. How can Goldsmith represent the opinion of the people of Richmond in parliament when he is the poster-boy for the Brexiteers and is urging the Government daily on its catastrophic course? The fightback can begin in Richmond tomorrow; Zac has to go.
“Zac is crap”… pic.twitter.com/iGiM4bDlv9
One conclusion that could be drawn from the result of the vote is that, even though quite a lot of MPs (Tories and Labour) dislike Tony Blair, they hate the SNP even more.
The motion has been defeated by 439 votes to 70, a majority of 369.
And this is from the SNP MP Peter Grant.
Voting on #Chilcot Lab whips out in full force. “Not a whipped vote” soinds as true as “Saddam has chemical weapons”.
This is from the Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, who is backing the motion.
Disappointing to see Labour & Conservative whips blocking the lobbies to discourage their MPs from voting for the #Chilcot motion!
MPs are voting now on the SNP’s Iraq/Blair motion. (See 9.12am.)
The Iraq/Blair debate has just finished.
Mike Penning, the defence minister, concluded by saying the government did not see the need for a new inquiry and would not be backing the motion.
Here is the key exchange between Rachel Reeves and Robert Chote earlier where Chote said Brexit could cost the country £12bn a year.
RR: You estimate the cumulative increase in borrowing as a result of the referendum between 2016-17 and 2020-21 as £58.7bn. Is it fair to interpret that figure as the cost of Brexit?
RC: Well, we’ve made a series of judgments as you can see. I’m wary of adding up nominal numbers because the more years you add up, the larger the number you get and that’s not necessarily terribly helpful. If you look at the overall level of the change in the budget deficit, before any policy measures, it’s about 1.1% of GDP. The Brexit element of that is about 0.5% of GDP. So that would be one way of thinking of it.
Q: You have created a big headline saying the economy will be badly hit because fewer people will come here because of Brexit.
Chote says the OBR has to make an assumption about what migration will be. It sets out its reasoning.
Q: What is the trend in net migration since the end of June?
Chote says he does not have those figures.
Q: Will your forecast be 100% wrong?
Yes, says Chote. That is in the nature of forecasts.
Labour’s John Mann is asking the questions now.
Q: Do average Germans leave more to their children?
Here are some more lines from Robert Chote’s evidence.
From the FT’s Chris Giles
OBR chief Robert Chote tells MPs that higher immigration boosts size of economy but does not necessarily lift living standards significantly
Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP, is asking the questions.
Q: Could there be any positive results from Brexit?
I will go back to the Iraq debate for the vote. In the meantime I will be listening to Robert Chote, the Office for Budget Responsibility chair, who is giving evidence to the Treasury committee.
He has just suggested that Brexit could cost £12bn a year.
Chote: annual cost of Brexit is half a percentage point of GDP. @RachelReevesMP trying to pin him down on a number, he kind of accepts £12bn
Here is my colleague Jessica Elgot’s story about the opening of the Blair/Iraq debate.
Austin says Alex Salmond’s judgment has also been at fault. In particular, Austin criticises him for not backing the military intervention in Kosovo.
Labour’s Ian Austin is speaking in the debate now. He says the SNP have just tabled this debate to divide the Labour party. He says there are much better issues they should be talking about.
The Chilcot report should lay to rest claims that Tony Blair was motivated by deceit.
You can be for or against the war. But it is not true to say that Tony Blair lied about it.
Julian Lewis, the Conservative chair of the Commons defence committee, is speaking now.
He says the most serious charge against Tony Blair is that he went to war despite being warned that it would trigger internecine warfare in Iraq.
This is an opportunity in this motion to introduce another check and balance into a system which is clearly deficient, a process to create a precedent where any future prime minister will know that he or she will have to account for his actions not just to history, but to this House of Commons.
A long time ago I made a speech in this House where I suggested to Mr Blair that he might answer to a higher power than this House. I understand that he found this offensive.
On the issue of misleading parliament, there is nothing in the Chilcot report that I can see points to deliberate deceit but there were clearly occasions when more information or better information could have been presented.
I absolve him from a personal and demonstrable decision to deceive Parliament or the public—to state falsehoods, knowing them to be false. That I think he should be absolved from.
Hamilton says the SNP are fighting “an old war” with this motion and raising allegations that have already been dismissed, he says.
Hamilton says it would be a mistake to assume all the lessons of Chilcot have been learnt.
And he says this may become relevant if Theresa May ever has to come to the Commons to make the case for war.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, asks about the Observer story saying the Chilcot inquiry was set up to avoid blame.
Hamilton says he is not aware of the story. And he does not believe the Chilcot report was set up to mislead the public.
Hamilton says the foreign affairs committee decided that the fears about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction were well founded on the basis of the intelligence then available.
He says the committee rejected claims that the intelligence had been manipulated for political purposes.
Fabian Hamilton, the shadow foreign minister, is responding now for Labour.
He says he voted against the Iraq war. But he says people who voted for it voted for it it good faith.
Skidmore says David Cameron, the then prime minister, was right to say after the Chilcot inquiry was published that it would be wrong to draw the wrong conclusions. It would be a mistake to rule out all future interventions, he says.
He says the government does not see the need for any further inquiries into Iraq.
Ken Clarke, the Conservative former chancellor, says the Cameron government did improve the decision-making process. But he says they did not go far enough. The decision to intervene in Libya was not agreed by cabinet, he says. And he says cabinet ministers should have access to national security advice before decisions of this kind are taken in cabinet.
Skidmore says the decision to intervene to protect Benghazi in Libya was taken in an emergency.
Skidmore says since the Iraq war the government has improved the way it takes decisions of this kind.
Skidmore, like Salmond earlier, has been quoting from Sir John Chilcot’s evidence to the liaison committee earlier this month.
You can read the transcript of Chilcot’s evidence here (pdf).
Chris Skidmore, the Cabinet Office minister, is responding to Salmond on behalf of the government.
He says the Chilcot inquiry had total access to government material.
Salmond says soon there will be no MPs left who remember the Iraq debate.
This motion gives the Commons the chance to set up a mechanism to make sure the same thing does not happen again.
Salmond says the Chilcot report shows that we have a system of non-accountability.
He says the recent story in the Observer shows that it was set up to avoid casting blame.
Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, says his committee is already planning to make recommendations in relation to what the Chilcot report recommended.
He says that, if the Commons votes for the SNP motion, his committee will conduct the new inquiry that the motion proposes. (See 9.12am.)
Salmond says MPs have heard a lot recently about checks and balances in political systems, particularly in the light of what has happened in the US.
Here is the summary from Glen Rangwala’s report (pdf).
From late 2001 to March 2003, Tony Blair made three inter-related statements repeatedly to the House of Commons: (1) that no decision had been taken to use military force against Iraq; (2) that military action could be avoided by Iraq’s disarmament of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; and (3) that regime change was not the goal of government policy.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry, published on 6th July 2016 – the Chilcot report – has demonstrated conclusively and authoritatively that each of these three statements was untrue, and that its falsity was known to Mr Blair. The evidence presented in the Chilcot report shows that Mr Blair was deliberately misleading the House of Commons. According to Erskine May (24th edition, p.254), making a deliberately misleading statement in the House constitutes a grave contempt of Parliament.
Michael Gove, the Conservative former justice secretary, says Salmond is wrong to say that the “I will be with you, whatever” memo was a firm commitment to support Bush. Gove says the memo makes it clear that Blair’s support was conditional.
Salmond says the point he is making is that MPs and even ministers were not told about this commitment.
The Glen Rangwala report is on Alex Salmond’s website here (pdf).
Salmond says, if Jeremy Corbyn were free to do so, he would be voting with the SNP today.
Labour’s Ann Clywd says the Kurds believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Salmond says that was not the case presented to parliament. Blair told MPs that there was a real and present threat to the UK, he says.
Salmond quotes from what Sir John Chilcot said about Blair when he gave evidence to the liaison committee recently.
Labour’s David Hanson says Chilcot told the same committee that he did not think Blair had deceived the public.
Salmond says the Chilcot report did not say what should be done about the evidence that Blair misled people in advance of the war.
He says the SNP has released a report from a Cambridge academic Dr Glen Rangwala, which details the contrast between Tony Blair’s public statements to parliament and people with the private correspondence to American president George W Bush.
The report concluded that following Blair’s repeated statements to parliament that no decision had been taken to use military force against Iraq, that military action could be avoided by Iraq’s disarmament and that regime change was not the goal of government policy; that these statements were then negated by Blair’s private note to President Bush that bluntly stated “I will be with you whatever”.
Salmond says there are 179 MPs in the Commons now who were in the Commons at the time of the Iraq war.
He finds it easy to remember that number, because is the same as the number of British servicemen and women killed in Iraq.
Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, is opening the debate.
He says the SNP motion is supported by MPs from seven parties.
MPs will start the debate on the SNP Blair/Iraq motion very soon.
Here is the Guardian’s preview story.
As usual, I missed the two questions from Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, because I was writing the snap verdict. So here is a summary.
Robertson asked about the crisis in Aleppo.
What can the UK and international community do to end the suffering of the people of Syria?
I can assure him the government is pressing hard, is doing everything we can, we have consistently looked at what might be the possible solutions … There’s an important message to send to Russia that they use their influence with the Assad regime to stop these appalling atrocities in Aleppo and let aid through.
The SNP’s Hannah Bardell asks about a constituent killed in Israel. What more can be done to put pressure on Israel so the family gets justice?
May says the Foreign Office is working on this case.
Michael Tomlinson, a Conservative, says he was disappointed by Donald Tusk response to his letter. Will she raise it at the next EU summit?
May says she hopes this will be addressed at an early stage. But article 50 has not been addressed, she says.
Labour’s David Lammy says the corporate governance green paper stressed the importance of diversity. So why did the culture secretary block the appointment of a black woman to the Channel 4 board. Is there no black person in the country suitable?
May says she does not know about this issue, but will look into it. She says these decisions are based on who is right for the job.
May says she recognises the role played by creative industries in the economy. An extra £1bn is being invested in broadband.
Labour’s Ronnie Campbell asks what plans May has to make super economic zones.
May welcomes Campbell back to the Commons. (He has been ill.) She says she will look at this. She wants an economy that works for everyone.
Suella Fernandes, a Conservative, says the UK will have a “fantastic opportunity” to benefit from world trade after Brexit. The Legatum Institute has produced a report on this, she says.
May says she believes absolutely in the advantages of free trade. But she wants to boost trade with other countries before we leave the EU too.
The SNP’s Kirsten Oswald asks about church visitors having a problem with visas.
May says we have a clear visa system. The home secretary will look at this case, she says.
May says the government is putting more money into the NHS. Labour’s former health secretary said putting more money into the NHS would be irresponsible, she says.
(She is referring to something Andy Burnham said before the 2010 election.)
Peter Lilley, a Conservative, says he is glad May wants to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK. So is May disappointed that Jean-Claude Juncker, in a letter to MPs, has put process ahead of the rights of EU nationals.
(It was Donald Tusk, not Jean-Claude Juncker.)
Labour’s Stephen Timms says the govenrment promised to half the employment gap for the disabled. The ESA benefit cut was proposed because support for people to get into work was supposed to be increased. But that extra support isn’t there. So shouldn’t the cuts be halted.
May says its the support package that enables people to get into work. Labour should be celebrating the fact there are 600,000 more disabled people in work.
The Conservative Claire Perry says there is a concern about employment rights being eroded after Brexit. Will the government ensure employment rights keep pace with changes in the workplace?
May says employment is changing. Technology is the driver in many places. That is why Matthew Taylor, head of the RSA thinktank, is doing a review of employment rights. That shows the Conservatives are the party of working people.
Snap PMQs verdict: A good PMQs for the factcheck brigade – there were statistics aplenty flying about – but it was a rather less illuminating one for everyone else. Corbyn and May both put in solid, quality performances – I scored it a draw – but they were talking across each other, and mostly did not engage with each other’s points. PMQs used to be the highpoint of the week in the Commons, but May v Corbyn is starting to feel a bit missable. Corbyn was at his best talking about the “disgrace” of 4m people living in poverty, and his response to May’s jibe about Labour borrowing was a good one. May seemed most comfortable attacking Labour over welfare, but it was also interesting hearing her respond to Corbyn’s question about social care. He raised the same issue last week, but today May seemed more willing to acknowledge that there is a problem with the system. Corbyn has clearly identified a weakness.
Corbyn says the government has no credibility on the deficit because it is going up. There are 4m people in poverty, he says. It’s a disgrace. Philip Hammond spoke for more than 50 minutes but he did not once mention the NHS or social care. Why was there no extra money for social care?
May says there is no doubt that social care is under pressure. There are 1m more people over 65 than in 2020. That’s why the government is putting more money into social care. It is also important that councils and hospitals work together. There is some good practice and some not so good practice.
Corbyn says wages have stagnated, home ownership is down and queues at food banks are growing. Why is the government cutting in-work support by £2bn.
May says housebuilding fell under Labour. She says she and Corbyn do not agree on welfare. It is important to remember those benefiting from it, and those paying for it. Corbyn believes in a welfare system where people can live on benefits, she says.
Jeremy Corbyn starts by wishing people a happy St Andrew’s Day too. The autumn statement revealed the failure of the government’s economic strategy, he says. Does May accept the long-term economic plan was a failure.
May says the IMF says this will be the fastest growing advanced economy in the world. Unemployment is down, and there are a record number of people in employment.
Mark Menzies, a Conservative, asks about a road in his Fylde constituency.
May says there is going to be a significant sum of money from the developer for this.
The Green MP Caroline Lucas says having your cake and eating it is not a serious strategy for Brexit. How can MPs vote for Brexit when she gives no clarity of her plans? Is it arrogance or incompetence?
May says she has been very clear about wanting to get the best possible deal for trading with and in the single market.
Theresa May starts by wishing everyone a Happy St Andrew’s Day.
Loud cheer for Theresa May as she takes her seat in the Commons for #PMQs. She’s flanked by Philip Hammond and Welsh Sec Alun Cairns.
And here is the full line-up of MPs on the order paper.
This is from Sky’s Adam Boulton.
PMQs is starting soon.
PMQs 5 mins away. George Osborne just arrived, taken up a seat on the backbench next to Stephen Crabb. Gives him a slap on the shoulder.
In a speech to the Institute of Directors today Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, will float the idea of London getting a special Brexit deal. Stressing the importance of London businesses being able to continue to recruit skilled workers from abroad, he will say that he is urging the government to ensure that firms can continue to hire these workers after Brexit. But, if the government does not adopt a UK-wide solution to this problem, he will call for London to get a bespoke Brexit deal.
He will tell the summit:
London’s businesses must retain access to the skilled workforce they need in order to grow – it’s absolutely essential to protecting jobs, growth and tax revenues across Britain over the next decade.
I will keep pushing the government to recognise this vital need in their negotiating position – but it doesn’t look like they are listening.
You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here.
As for the rest of the papers, here is the Politics Home list of top 10 must-reads, and here is the ConservativeHome round-up of today’s political stories.
Boris Johnson has sparked a fresh Cabinet row by calling for a Brexit amnesty for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants.
During a No10 meeting chaired by Theresa May, the Foreign Secretary renewed his controversial former policy when he was London Mayor to give residency rights to any illegals who have escaped detection for 10 years …
The party’s education spokesman Tulip Siddiq has been secretly recorded admitting Labour still ‘hasn’t made a decision’ on whether to block Article 50, which begins the process of leaving the EU.
She said she was ‘minded to vote against it’ – and revealed the issue was being widely discussed by her fellow MPs …
The worst-kept secret in fashion is out: Samantha Cameron, wife of the former prime minister, is launching her own fashion label.
It will be called Cefinn, and the first 40 pieces will be on sale soon at Selfridges and Net-a-Porter. Mrs Cameron is seeking to cast off her image as political spouse and heiress in much the same way as Victoria Beckham reinvented herself as a fashion designer after life as a Spice Girl.
Police investigating child sex abuse should have a licence to practise similar to the system for firearms officers, Amber Rudd, the home secretary, told the College of Policing this morning. She said:
It is important that only those who are absolutely qualified to perform critical roles dealing with the vulnerable are deployed to those situations.
And that is why the Home Office and the College of Policing have been working closely together to develop a licence to practise.
Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, is speaking today at a summit in Brussels on education in emergencies. Brown is the UN’s special envoy for global education and, in a powerful speech, he will say that the International Criminal Court should prioritise investigating crimes against children.
Here are the key points.
This is no world for a child. Now that the International Criminal Court has, to its credit, been persuaded to announce just this month that it will take seriously and give priority to crimes against children as war crimes and crimes against humanity, 2017 must be the year when we end impunity for the systematic violation of children’s rights.
I can think of nearly 10 countries – from Syria, Iraq and Libya to South Sudan, Nigeria and Afghanistan – where atrocity crimes have been committed against children that have so far gone unpunished.
I believe evidence is now mounting of a war crime perpetrated by Russian-Syrian operations when a school in Idlib was bombed and 30 pupils and teachers were killed on October 26th.
New video imagery offers us additional verification that damage to the school complex in the village of Haas was caused by airstrikes.
In the 1960s the world fought for black civil rights; in the 1970s and 1980s over apartheid; and in the 1990s and beyond over the rights of the disabled, women and LGBT persons.
Now it is time to put centre stage the civil rights struggle for children – for an end to the casual and routine violation of children’s rights; for the right of boys and girls not to be in the front line of war; for schools not be used as instruments of war; for children’s rights to education to be upheld at all times, irrespective of borders, and for us to end exploitation in child labour, child marriage and child trafficking, in favour of education.
With 500,000 children under siege in Syria and Iraq, an International Criminal Court investigation into the abuse of children in Libya, evidence mounting of a war crime committed in October against schoolchildren in Idlib, Syria and a total of 30million children displaced, 2016 will go down as the year in post-war history when it has never been more unsafe to be a child.
No child in Syria’s conflict zones is safe, not even in hospitals or the recently-opened underground classrooms. The evidence grows of war crimes against girls trafficked out of Libya. In Nigeria, millions of girls live in fear of Boko Haram and will not go to school. With child marriage, child trafficking and child labour on the rise – and with thousands of girls having vanished on the routes from the Middle East to Europe – it can now be more dangerous to be a girl or a boy out on the streets than a soldier in the trenches.
I propose a New Deal for the world’s children for 2017.
The United Nations, the World Bank and all other international institutions should sign up to a new determination in which:
According to a YouGov poll for the Times (paywall), support for independence in Scotland has now fallen for the first time below the 45% level achieved in the referendum in September 2014.
The poll puts support for independence at 44%, and support for Scotland staying in the UK at 56%. The paper’s report goes on:
John Curtice, Scotland’s leading polling expert, said the Times data was the first poll to suggest that the “yes” vote has fallen below the level of September 18, 2014.
He said it showed that the SNP’s strategy of linking independence so closely to EU membership had eroded support for the core policy.
It was Tony Blair’s government that got rid of the principle of “double jeopardy” in English law (the principle that you cannot be put on trial for the same crime twice). So there is something appropriate about the fact that, although the Chilcot inquiry effectively cleared Blair of lying to MPs as he made the case for war, the Commons is going to debate a motion saying that Blair did mislead parliament and that this should be investigated.
The motion has been tabled by the SNP and this is what it says:
That this House recognises that the Chilcot Inquiry provided substantial evidence of misleading information being presented by the then Prime Minister and others on the development of the then Government’s policy towards the invasion of Iraq as shown most clearly in the contrast between private correspondence to the United States government and public statements to Parliament and to the people and also in the presentation of intelligence information; and calls on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, further to its current investigation into the lessons to be learned from the Chilcot Inquiry for the machinery of government, to conduct a further specific examination of this contrast in public and private policy and of the presentation of intelligence, and then to report to the House on what further action it considers necessary and appropriate to help prevent any repetition of this disastrous series of events.
At a time when Blair is planning his political comeback, it is high time that this parliament and its committees at long last brought this dark stain on UK foreign policy to a close by investigating how such grave misleading occurred and taking the appropriate action to avoid it happening again.