From Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokesperson in the Commons:
Advocate general offering to resign from government over internal market bill, BBC reports
This is from the BBC’s Glenn Campbell.
If Lord Keen of Elie is resigning as advocate general for Scotland, and a Ministry of Justice spokesperson in the House of Lords, it may have something to do with Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, telling a committee this morning that something Keen said yesterday was just plain wrong. (See 10.07am.)
PMQs – Snap verdict
Angela Rayner went into PMQs with much expected of her, at least from her own side. Although Sir Keir Starmer has mostly dominated in his exchanges with Boris Johnson, he has been judicious in what he has said, leading to mutterings that Labour needs to be more aggressive and hard-hitting, a tone Rayner was always likely to be more comfortable adopting. Johnson cannot patronise her as a north London lawyer. And many observers think he is uncomfortable facing women at the dispatch box (an assessment accepted so widely that Emily Thornberry made it central to her leadership campaign).
In the event Rayner was refreshingly different, and perfectly creditable, but she did not deliver the drubbing may have been hoping for and Johnson ended the session effectively unscathed. It was not a heroic performance by the PM, and the encounter was more or less a draw, but given how things have been going for him recently at the dispatch box, that counts as a good result.
Like most events on TV that attract strong feelings among viewers, PMQs is harder than it looks, and experience matters, and that probably explains why Rayner did not deliver a knock-out. Her opening line about someone called Keir who could not go go work was lovely but it was a lead-in to a gotcha question (how much do care workers earn?), and to be effective those have to be relatively quick; her spiel went on for too long, allowing Johnson to use up most of his reply engaging with her other points before you noticed that he had not answered the question.
She caught him out with the Care England chief executive’s quote, but at that point you wanted to hear Johnson pressed on why his understanding of what was happening did not square with reality. She later accused Johnson of saying the testing crisis was all the public’s fault when any fair-minded observer would have concluded that that was not he was saying. (There’s a difference between attributing cause and attributing blame.) And although it was interesting to hear the rule of six grouse shooting exemption raised, Rayner’s question should have been reframed. She asked why it was the government’s top priority, but most people will realise it wasn’t. The question is why shooting should have qualified for any exemption at all.
There possibly is some mileage in a class attack on Johnson and his cabinet, but the Red Wall voters did not seem too bothered about his Eton pedigree at the last election and Rayner did not really pull it off this afternoon. But what was striking, though, was having someone who has worked a care worker at the dispatch box up against the PM. There is potential in that, worth exploiting more next time she’s here.
Johnson was better than he has been in recent weeks partly because he dropped his ludicrous attempt to brand Labour as a party of IRA-loving remainers and towards the end he actually seemed relieved by how it had went. He concluded with his familiar tribute to the common sense of the British people, and how that was how coronavirus was going to be defeated. It was half-persuasive the first time he tried it but less so now because last week Johnson explicitly said at his press conference last week that government could not just trust people to “take responsibility for their own health” because they did not understand the risks. He is still struggling to reconcile his innate libertarianism with sensible public health policy.
Nicola Sturgeon has warned that it is “highly likely that cases of serious illness and death will rise in the weeks to come” if community transmission of coronavirus continues, emphasising how important it is for people to limit their interactions “as much as possible to stem that spread”.
At her media briefing, Scotland’s first minister said that there were 267 positive tests yesterday, along with one death, adding that “cases are rising and we absolutely can’t afford to be complacent about that”.
National Records of Scotland published its weekly report today, confirming five deaths mentioning Covid-19 on the death certificate between 7 and 13 September, two of which occurred in a care home and three in a hospital.
As at 13 September, a total of 4,236 deaths by this measure have been registered in Scotland.
The NRS also published analysis which found that, after adjusting for age, people in the most deprived areas were over twice as likely to die with Covid-19 than those living in the least deprived areas. People living in larger urban areas were over four times more likely to die with Covid-19 than those in remote rural locations.
At the briefing, Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish government’s economy secretary, said that she was writing again to the UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, asking him to extend the furlough scheme beyond next month.
The SNP’s Martyn Day asks what Johnson will do to honour the promise he made last year to take a fresh look at the plight of the Waspi women.
Johnson says he will look at this.
And that’s it. PMQs is over.
Dehenna Davison (Con) asks if the government will take all steps necessary to cut crime.
Johnson says it will. It is recruiting more police officers and toughening sentences for serious offenders.
Stephen Doughty (Lab) says problems with testing in Wales originate in England. The government is incompetent. When will the PM get a grip?
Johnson says the opposition is being too negative. The system is continuing to improve. The average distance people have to travel is coming down. More people are being tested than in the rest of Europe. Labour just wants to score political points, he says.
Johnson says the government will work as hard as possible to remove the current restrictions. But to do that, people have to continue to follow the rules.
Rachael Maskell (Lab) asks if the government will extend the furlough scheme.
Johnson says he hopes she is not saying the existing scheme should just be extended. (She signals she isn’t – Labour says it wants to extended only for certain sectors.) He says the government will continue to look at creative ways of keeping people in work.
Steve Double (Con) asks about regional airports, which he says have been hit by the closure of Flybe.
Johnson says the government will continue to consider applications for public service requirements. And it will continue to consider the case for cutting air passenger duty, although he can’t make a commitment now, he says.
Joy Morrissey (Con) asks if the PM agrees the internal market bill will protect the UK.
Johnson says he could not have put it better himself.
(He probably did. It sounded like a question drafted in No 10.)