Friday, March 1

Queen’s speech: Prince Charles to set out government’s plans at state opening of parliament – live | Politics


Prince Charles, Prince of Wales arriving at the Sovereign’s Entrance ahead of the State Opening of Parliament. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Johnson refuses to assure Irish PM that UK won’t unilaterally abandon Northern Ireland protocol

The Irish prime minister, Micheál Martin, urged Boris Johnson in a phone call this morning not to take unilateral action over the Northern Ireland protocol. (See 10.26am.) Downing Street has just released its version of the call, and it makes it clear that Johnson refused to give Martin the assurance he wanted about not abandoning the protocol.

A No 10 spokesperson said:

Following last week’s Northern Ireland assembly elections, [Johnson and Martin] both agreed on the vital importance of restoring the devolved institutions, both the assembly and executive, as soon as possible. The prime minister said that the UK government would remain in close contact with the parties following initial engagement yesterday.

The prime minister made clear that the situation in respect of the Northern Ireland protocol was now very serious. The balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement was being undermined and the recent elections had further demonstrated that the protocol was not sustainable in its current form.

Despite repeated efforts by the UK government over many months to fix the protocol, including those sections related to the movement of goods and governance, the European Commission had not taken the steps necessary to help address the economic and political disruption on the ground.

The prime minister reiterated that the UK government would take action to protect peace and political stability in Northern Ireland if solutions could not be found.

The Prince of Wales has now arrived at the Houses of Parliament ahead of the State Opening.

Also Read  Game-changing hydrogen could play a big role in the energy transition

As Caroline Davies reports, the Prince of Wales will be reading out the Queen’s speech on behalf of his mother. It will be the first time Charles has performed this role at the ceremony, and a harbinger of what we can expect at some point in the years ahead when he takes the throne.

The Queen, who is 96, has only missed the State Opening twice before, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward in 1959 and 1963 respectively.

The Queen is understood to be watching the proceedings on television from Windsor Castle, PA Media reports. She will have her weekly phone audience with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday.

The Regalia – the Imperial State Crown, the Cap of Maintenance and Sword of State – were transported to the Palace of Westminster in three state limousines ahead of the Queen’s speech, PA Media reports. In past years the symbolic items would have travelled in a carriage but this year vehicles are being used and a state limousine will also carry the royal party later.

The Imperial State Crown being driven from Buckingham Palace prior ahead of the State Opening of Parliament today.
The Imperial State Crown being driven from Buckingham Palace prior ahead of the State Opening of Parliament today. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

This is what Sarah Jones, the shadow policing minister, said about plans for the public order bill briefed before the Queen’s speech this morning.

Home Office ministers should be asking themselves why they are taking no action to tackle the shameful collapse in prosecutions, put more rapists behind bars or crack down on criminal fraudsters scamming the vulnerable.

After more than a decade of Tory government, victims of crime are being let down. The government is completely out of ideas, and it is communities across the country who are paying the price.

And this is from Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns at the human rights group Liberty.

These rehashed measures to crack down on protest in today’s Queen’s speech are yet another power grab from a government determined to shut down accountability.

Protest is a right, not a gift from the state – and measures like these are designed to stop ordinary people making their voices heard. Parliamentarians and the general public rejected these dangerous measures when they were first rushed through in the policing bill, but the government has refused to listen.

From restrictions on protest to scrapping the Human Rights Act, this is all part of the government’s continued attempts to rewrite the rules so only they can win, and prevent ordinary people from having their say.

Members of the Household Cavalry at the Sovereign’s Entrance ahead of the State Opening this morning.
Members of the Household Cavalry at the sovereign’s entrance before the state opening this morning. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

There is no end to the ingenuity of the British tabloid press and, having campaigned aggressively for a fresh Durham police investigation into Beergate, this morning the Daily Mail has run a story criticising Keir Starmer for saying he will resign if said investigation shows he has broken the law. The Mail headline is based on comments from an unnamed government source, the digital minister Chris Philp and a barrister called Francis Hoar saying Starmer’s intervention amounts to putting the police under pressure.

Rachael Venables from LBC points out the hypocrisy inherent in the paper’s approach.

Same paper, nine days apart. pic.twitter.com/7arxKemtoK

— Rachael Venables (@rachaelvenables) May 10, 2022

n”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/rachaelvenables/status/1523897785942257666″,”id”:”1523897785942257666″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”a2dbdf2b-8b45-4b3b-b2e1-d16cc315b92d”}}”/>

In an interview on the Today programme this morning Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said the claim that Starmer’s intervention would put undue pressure on the police was “wide of the mark”. He said:

My experience of working with the police in very sensitive cases under full glare of public and press interest was that, very quickly, you find your focus taking over and, in a sense, a sort of bloody-mindedness creeps in: ‘This is my case and I’ll decide it, thank you very much, without any help from you.’

So, that sort of pressure actually becomes, in my experience, reinforcing of independence, which I’m sure is what we want.

I don’t think Durham police will be troubled at all by that sort of aspect.

And this is from Jonathan Jones, a former head of the government legal service, on the argument used by the barrister quoted in the Daily Mail splash.

Now I read a barrister says Keir Starmer is “undermining the presumption of innocence” (ie presumably *his own innocence*) by … *protesting his innocence*, but exercising his own choice to resign if the police find otherwise. I give up. I’m going to listen to some Bach.

— Jonathan Jones (@SirJJQC) May 9, 2022

n”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/SirJJQC/status/1523727232203513856″,”id”:”1523727232203513856″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”a2afc5fd-f4b7-4c12-ac95-61405377a5d5″}}”>

Now I read a barrister says Keir Starmer is “undermining the presumption of innocence” (ie presumably *his own innocence*) by … *protesting his innocence*, but exercising his own choice to resign if the police find otherwise. I give up. I’m going to listen to some Bach.

— Jonathan Jones (@SirJJQC) May 9, 2022

Yeomen of the Guard, wearing traditional uniform, walking through the Royal Gallery as they took part in the ‘ceremonial search’ before the state opening of parliament this morning.
Yeomen of the Guard, wearing traditional uniform, walking through the Royal Gallery as they took part in the ‘ceremonial search’ before the state opening of parliament this morning. Photograph: Hannah McKay/AFP/Getty Images

Irish PM urges Johnson to avoid ‘unilateral action’ over NI protocol amid reports ministers might start ditching it next week

Micheál Martin, the taoiseach (Irish PM), has used a call with Boris Johnson this morning to urge him not to take “unilateral action” over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Spoke to Prime Minister @BorisJohnson this morning.

We both agreed on the need to see the NI Executive formed as soon as possible.

On the Protocol, I stressed need to intensify EU and UK discussions, and to avoid any unilateral action.

— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) May 10, 2022

n”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/MichealMartinTD/status/1523949533650108416″,”id”:”1523949533650108416″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”da4cbab2-1e7c-4360-a1bd-51f8b23fffce”}}”>

Spoke to Prime Minister @BorisJohnson this morning.

We both agreed on the need to see the NI Executive formed as soon as possible.

On the Protocol, I stressed need to intensify EU and UK discussions, and to avoid any unilateral action.

— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) May 10, 2022

According to a report in the Times this morning, the government is poised to announce that it will take unilateral action over the protocol, with legislation that would abolish large parts of it. The Times says:

The foreign secretary has concluded that there is little point trying to reach a Brexit deal with the European Union and will move as soon as next week to scrap large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol in British law.

Officials working for Liz Truss have drawn up draft legislation that would unilaterally remove the need for all checks on goods being sent from Britain for use in Northern Ireland.

It would also allow businesses in the province to disregard EU rules and regulations and take away the power of the European court of justice to rule on issues relating to Northern Ireland.

The paper said an announcement could come next Tuesday.

Yeomen of the Guard parading through the Sovereign’s entrance ahead at the Houses of Parliament this morning ahead of the State Opening.
Yeomen of the Guard parading through the sovereign’s entrance ahead at the Houses of Parliament this morning before the state opening. Photograph: Reuters

Johnson would not have to resign over lockdown breaches even if Starmer did, says minister

In his interviews this morning Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, also said he did not think that Keir Starmer should have to resign if Durham police fined him for breaking lockdown rules. Asked whether Starmer was right to say yesterday he would quit if that happened, Malthouse replied:

That’s a matter for him. Look, my view is that this was a very difficult situation with complicated rules that were often changing quite quickly.

Mistakes were made and they’re acknowledged and fixed-penalty notices are paid.

I don’t see why anybody, be they so high or so humble, should lose their job.

Malthouse also said that, if Starmer were to resign, that would not mean Boris Johnson (who has already been fined for a breach of lockdown rules) would have to go too. Asked if Johnson would have to follow Starmer’s example, Malthouse replied: “Not necessarily, no.”

Liz Truss ‘preparing to tear up Northern Ireland protocol’

Liz Truss is reportedly preparing draft legislation that would unilaterally scrap key parts of the Northern Ireland protocol removing the need for checks on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.

Tesco chairman says Queen’s speech should include windfall tax on energy companies

John Allan, the chairman of Tesco and a former president of the CBI, has joined those calling for a windfall tax on energy companies. Asked what he would like to see in the Queen’s speech, he told the Today programme this morning:

First of all, I think action to help people cope with a very, very sharp increase in energy prices.

It’s harder for people to mitigate energy than it is with food, and I think there’s an overwhelming case for a windfall tax on profits from those energy producers fed back to those most in need of help with energy prices.

I think that would be the single biggest thing that could be done.

A windfall tax on energy companies is the Labour party’s most distinctive policy proposal. The Liberal Democrats and the SNP also back the idea.

The government is opposed, on the grounds that this might deter investment by the energy companies in the UK. But there have been hints that a U-turn might be possible. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said last month that he would consider the case for a windfall tax if energy companies did not invest in the UK. And William Hague, the former Tory leader, recently said a tax on a genuine windfall was “not a crazy idea” and something Conservatives had done in the past.

Minister says Queen’s speech will tackle ‘hooligan’ protesters amid concerns ‘non-Tory’ bills left out

Good morning. It’s the Queen’s Speech, and overnight the government has flagged up measures that will be included in a new public order bill. My colleague Rajeev Syal has a preview here.

Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, has been doing the morning interview round and he told BBC Breakfast this would allow the government to tackle “hooligan” protesters. He said:

We have seen a number of very, very prolific, persistent offenders who decide to just flagrantly ignore the courts and so we’ll be bringing in a new serious disruption prevention order which we can place on them as individuals to deter them, if you like, from this kind of hooligan way of protesting.

We believe that protest is fundamental to our democracy but it has to be balanced against the rights of others to go about their business, and indeed keeping us all safe. I’m afraid some of the tactics we’ve seen recently haven’t done that.

If you think this sounds more like the kind of language you would hear at a Conservative party conference, than in a speech setting out legislative priorities for the whole of the nation for the next year, then you would not necessarily be wrong. Legislative programmes are inherently party political but, as Jim Pickard and George Parker report in the Financial Times, this one has gone through a particularly rigorous filtering process, with non-Tory measures removed. They attribute this to the influence of David Canzini, Boris Johnson’s newish deputy chief of staff, who has reportedly told ministerial aides to come up with more “wedge” issues that differentiate the Tories from Labour and the Lib Dems. The public order bill is a good example.

The FT says that, as a result some measures that had widespread support, but that that were deemed too regulatory and consensual, and insufficiently Tory, have been dropped. It says:

Legislation to improve UK auditing and corporate governance, provide statutory powers for a technology watchdog, and create a new football supervisory authority — all meant to enhance the operation of business or to enable fairer market conditions — have been dropped from the Queen’s Speech …

With the Bank of England warning last week that the UK is heading for recession, Canzini has told colleagues in recent days that Downing Street believes that “Conservative governments don’t legislate their way to economic growth”, said one official.

The government has dropped plans for a bill which would have created a single agency to enforce employee rights and made flexible working the default option for staff …

One minister said that the aversion by some in Number 10 to new business regulation was part of a “bastard form of Thatcherism” which failed to recognise that good rules could help the operation of markets — for example by stopping corporate scandals.

The FT quotes the Institute of Directors, the business group, as saying this approach is “disappointing”.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: Prince Charles delivers the Queen’s Speech on behalf of his mother at the State Opening of Parliament.

12.30pm: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

2.30pm: MPs open the debate on the Queen’s Speech. Conservative MPs Graham Stuart and Fay Jones will start, proposing and seconding the loyal address, and they will be followed by Keir Starmer and then Boris Johnson.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at [email protected].




www.theguardian.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *