A Tory Said What: March 2021

I thank the shadow Secretary of State for his welcome. As it is International Women’s Day, it is a shame that he does not have a female colleague by his side at the Dispatch Box.

Helen Whately (MP for Faversham and Mid-Kent and Minister for Social Care), 8th March

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth had submitted an urgent question in the House of Commons for Matt Hancock to make a statement on the recommended 1% pay rise for NHS staff. Despite the question being directed towards the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, he did not turn up to answer the question. Instead, it fell upon Helen Whately to answer the question.

Responding to why it was that she was answering the question and not Mr Hancock, Ms Whately appeared to try to score a point on International Women’s Day and questioning why he did not have a female colleague at his side. I have seen the youtube clips of this exchange and there is a female on the Labour front bench but not right next to the Show Health Secretary. I have never been on the floor of the Commons chamber so I cannot say if this individual was in the Minister’s line of sight.

It is a shameless attempt of whataboutery here I feel. I fail to see the relevance of International Women’s Day when the question, in particular, was addressed to the Health Secretary. Matt Hancock basically did not turn up and there was nothing stated as to why he did not. Isn’t it just good manners for whoever is asked a question to actually answer it?

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lyndesy Hoyle interrupted her, taking it fairly personally as he insisted, ‘I think we just need to get back into reality. I do not think we need the personal slights. The shadow Secretary of State is entitled to ask for an urgent question and I have granted it, so you are questioning me, not the shadow Secretary of State.’

'Actually, talking of anger, it is probably not very helpful for many of those on the Opposition Benches to be fuelling a level of anger by calling a pay rise a pay cut. We are being absolutely clear that NHS staff are getting a pay rise. I also say to the right hon. Member that we need an NHS Test and Trace system to control the virus and we need NHS staff.'

Helen Whately (MP for Faversham and Mid-Kent and Minister for Social Care), 8th March

Staying with the NHS pay rise session in Parliament and the Minister made this comment in response to Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn who argued they are being given a pay cut as a result of the pandemic. It irked some anger from the Minister who insisted that the recommended 1% pay rise is just that, a pay rise and not a pay cut.

Let us look at that claim. 1% increase in pay is in cash terms a pay rise, that is true. However, with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicting inflation to be 1.5% then even with that 1% rise, pay does not go as far as it did the year before. That is also a fact. Both statements are true. While it is in cash terms a pay rise, in real terms, it is a pay cut.

'I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 8th March

On the day that Schools returned and the first part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown began to be implemented, he held a Downing Street briefing. Given it was what everyone was seemingly talking about, he was undoubtedly going to be asked about THAT Meghan Markle interview. Perhaps responsibly on his part, the Prime Minister did not want to get involved and came out with this comment.

Upon seeing this comment I had to ask myself, really? Does Boris Johnson really have ‘the highest admiration for the Queen’? This is the man who headed the government that was found by the Supreme Court to have deliberately misled the Queen into unlawfully proroguing Parliament in 2019 just because he could not get it to agree to something he wanted. Would someone lie to a person they claim to have ‘the highest admiration’ for? I wouldn’t have thought so.

Insofar as there have been teething problems — and there's no question that there have been — we are fixing those now with some temporary technical things that we're doing to smooth flow, which I think are very, very sensible. And I'm sure that it can all be ironed out, sorted out, insofar as the EU objects to that, with goodwill and with imagination, and that's what we intend to bring to it and I'm sure that our friends will as well

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 8th March

It is a fairly wordy response from the Prime Minister. He was asked in the Downing Street briefing about the UK Governments decision to ‘unilaterally’ extend some of the grace periods in the Northern Ireland protocol.

Commenting on the exchange, BBC’s Lewis Goodall commented that the Prime Minister’s comments appeared to undermine the real struggles that businesses in Northern Ireland were experiencing with the hope that it can just be ‘ironed out’, simple as that. Worryingly, he also commented that there appeared to be very little goodwill left. He would be proved right as a week later, the EU declared they were suing the UK for breach of international law.

After all the shenanigans with the Internal Market Bill last year, why on earth should I be surprised that it came to that?

I assure hon. Members that we are committed to ending conversion therapy in the UK and we take the issue very seriously. The Prime Minister reiterated recently that we want to end conversion therapy and underlined that the practice has no place in a civilised society”.

Kami Badenoch (MP for Saffron Walden and The Minister for Equalities), 8th March

Kami Badenoch was the penultimate speaker in a Westminster Hall debate regarding LGBT Conversion Therapy. It was these comments that caused headaches for the Government as three Equalities advisors would resign in the coming days.

The first was Jayne Ozanne who launched a blistering attack on the Government. It was prompted by this comment and the way the Minister said they wanted to ‘end’ but not ‘ban’ the practice of gay conversion therapy. Ms Ozanne described Ms Badenoch and Liz Truss as being known as the ‘ministers for inequalities’ in the LGBT community. She also did not ‘believe that they understand LGBT people, particularly trans people. I’ve sat in meetings and I’ve been astonished about how ignorant they are on issues that affect the real lives, particularly of younger people and also accused the government of creating a ‘hostile LGBT environment’. Ms Ozanne did not just quit the Government, she also quit the Conservative Party claiming…

There are many who fear that we are going back to the days of Thatcher, the days of Section 28. The language that I hear from them is of us being woke, or of being loud lobby groups, and what they don’t seem to understand is the reason we have to shout is because we are hurting, because there are people who are vulnerable who are going unheard and unnoticed. I do not believe this Tory government, sadly, have the best wishes of the LGBT community at heart. Instead we seem to have a Trumpesque mode of operation where they’re listening to the right-wing evangelicals and those frankly who want to take us back.

Following Ms Ozanne’s resignation, two more equalities advisors followed. They were James Morton of the Scottish Trans Alliance and Ellen Murray of NITransgender and were both equally critical of the Government.

It took four days for the Government to commit to a ‘ban’ on the practice. That said, Boris Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May have both insisted they would ‘ban’ it in the past but it has been three years since Mrs May first made that commitment. There is certainly the feeling that progress has not been made.

'There are millions of people out of work out of the back of this pandemic. There are lots of people who have had an extremely tough time and who face a period of unemployment. Nurses are well-paid for the job. They have a secure job and they have other benefits. There are many people in this country who look upon professional jobs within the NHS with some envy and we shouldn't forget the fact that some public sector jobs are, in fact, extremely well-paid."

Lord Bethell (Hereditary Peer and Cabinet Minister), 9th March

I don’t normally include Lords in these posts but will make exceptions for those who hold Cabinet posts within the Government. Anyway, the House of Lords were discussing the proposed recommended 1% pay rise for NHS staff when Lord Bethell made these comments.

I can understand the argument that he is making. People have lost their jobs, there are still millions on furlough including myself who may still yet lose their jobs. I understand why those who have lost out may feel a level of ‘envy’. That said, I do disagree with that idea. When you think about what NHS staff have gone through and experienced in the past year with sometimes inadequate PPE, losing so many patients and colleagues, the idea of ‘envy’ does not sit well with me. How many people could do that? I couldn’t and they have the utmost respect for them.

Are NHS staff generally one of these ‘extremely well paid’ jobs that the Lord is referring to? The mean NHS salary in England to dece,ber 2020 was £33,547 . That is, of course, an average. Some NHS employees will earn more than that, others will earn less. In the 2020 figures, the average salary across the UK as a whole according to the ONS is £38,600. So, the average for NHS staff is below the national average.

I also want to bring in my pay. Currently, I am employed on the national living wage which is £8.72 p/h. That rises by 19p to £8.91 for the 2021/22 financial year. That 19p rise is an increase of 2.18%. So, the minimum wage is increasing for the over 25s at more than the proposed 1% pay rise in cash terms recommended by the Government. Let that sink in.

Somebody once said that the UK had no selfish or strategic interest in Northern Ireland – I dispute that. I think we have an interest in keeping the whole country together as a United Kingdom and therefore to have the protocol work in a way that it meant that there was a risk of a border in the Irish Sea is simply not what was intended when we agreed to it in the withdrawal agreement.'

Jacob Rees Mogg (MP for North East Somerset and Leader of the House of Commons), 9th March

I didn’t realise Jacob Rees Mogg did a podcast. Ok. The Leader of the House was on his Moggcast podcast (yes, it is called Moggcast) when he was asked about the justification for the Governments decision to unilaterally extend some of the grace periods that are part of the Northern Ireland protocol; something he felt was ‘perfectly reasonable’.

His response seems to showcase a lack of awareness and of history. The ‘somebody’ he is referring to is the former secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Brooke who in that role is credited with bringing Sinn Fein to the negotiating table for peace. His November 1990 speech declared that Britain should have no ‘selfish strategic or economic interest’ in Northern Ireland and would even support unification if that is what the people in Northern Ireland wished.

That speech essentially helped pave the way for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which has seen peace on the island of Ireland since then. It is underpinned by that principle. The comments brought into question whether the Minister is fully committed to the 1998 Agreement.

The comments were picked up on in Ireland. Irish SDLP politician Matthew O’Toole said Tory ministers expressing unionist preferences was ‘nothing new…What is new is a Tory minister provocatively undermining an historically significant underpinning statement of UK government handling of Northern Ireland’. He wants to keep the Union together so I can understand it from that perspective but given the speech he is disputing committed Britain to allow the reunification of Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland if it was the demand, it does appear to be the case that he is not fully committed to or does not fully understand the Good Friday Agreement.

Yes, it’s been very expensive…but I think the idea that we would be somehow better off without it is crazy'

Grant Shapps (MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Transport Secretary), 10th March

In the morning media round, the Transport Secretary was asked about the report released by MPs regarding Track and Trace. The report came to the conclusion that the system had ‘no clear impact’. It also urged Test and Trace to ‘wean itself’ off expensive consultants, some of whom reportedly paid £6,000 per day. They also concluded that Test and Trace had never met the target of returning all test results within 24 hours and that contact tracers were being underused.

The Transport Secretary is attempting to deflect the criticisms of Test ad Trace with his suggestion that it is crazy to argue we would be better off without it. That is a misrepresentation of the report. It argues that Test and Trace made ‘no real impact’. When I read that, I do not see it suggesting what the Transport Secretary is saying. It is saying that Test and Trace has not helped much in stopping the chains of transmission and preventing so many deaths which it is meant to be doing.

Basically, the report concluded that the service has been extremely inefficient. In the report Meg Hillier, PAC chair, urged the government to justify the “staggering investment of taxpayers’ money” and former Top Treasury official Nick Macpherson described Test and Trace as the ‘most wasteful and inept’ public spending in history. That is a damning conclusion.

I’m very very surprised by this Labour chaired report this morning, I just don’t this it’s credible to suggest it hasn’t had an enormous impact

Grant Shapps (MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Transport Secretary), 10th March

The Transport Secretary went further in his interview with ITV News as he seemed to suggest that the report conducted by the Public Accounts Committee is not credible because the committee is chaired by a Labour MP. Where is the proof of that assertion? He is trying to defend the Government’s record.

The MP in question is Meg Hillier. She has been a member of the Public Accounts Committee since the 2017 election. The membership of the Committee is chosen by the Government but the chair is elected by the Committee members. So, she has been trusted enough by Government to be on the committee and those on the committee trust her enough to chair it. So, why would you question their credibility with no evidence?

…the team have built this testing capacity from nothing a year ago and so they have done an amazing job and I am incredibly grateful to them

Matt Hancock (MP for Surrey Heath and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 10th March

The Health Secretary was also keen to defend the Test and Trace system after the release of the MPs report. He was speaking to BBC News when he made these comments as he claimed that starting from nothing Test and Trace has done a remarkable job. The report did acknowledge that significant investment was needed to get Test and Trace started.

The comment is included because of how defensive it sounds. He suggests we need to be grateful but the report suggests that it did not make much of a difference to what has happened during the past 12 months and was highly inefficient. It also suggests that the Health Secretary has no regrets about it and refused to acknowledge that anything different could have been done to make Test and Trace more efficient and more cost-effective for example.

'The hon. Lady is indeed right that we owe a huge amount to our nurses—an incalculable debt—which is why I am proud that we have delivered a 12.8% increase in the starting salary of nurses and are asking the pay review body to look at increasing their pay, exceptionally of all the professions in the public sector. As for test and trace, it is thanks to NHS Test and Trace that we are able to send kids back to school and to begin cautiously and irreversibly to reopen our economy and restart our lives'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 10th March

The first question of Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs) came from Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper and was one of many questions concerning the 1% recommended pay rise for NHS staff including nurses.

The Prime Minister was quick to point towards what he said was a 12.8% increase in the starting salary for nurses. It is a claim that Channel 4 Fact Check took a look at. They concluded that the Prime Minister could accurately say that but only ‘if you ignore inflation and only if you choose the time-frame carefully to leave out years of real-term reductions that came before.

The time frame the Prime Minister was referring to was 2017/18. In that time it is true that some nurses, in bad 5-the lowest pay band have seen such increases. That increase is only in cash terms. So, yes in cash terms they will have been paid more but if inflation rises faster than the cash terms pay then that cash term pay does not go as far and it is in real terms still a pay cut because it does not keep up with inflation.

'This Government of this party of the NHS are on target to deliver 50,000 more nurses in our NHS.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 10th March

During PMQ’s, Boris Johnson made this questionable claim in response to Sir Keir Starmer. He claimed that it was the Conservative Party that is the party of the NHS. Is that objectively true? I have my doubts given that it was the Conservative Party that consistently voted against its creation in Parliament and lost the 1945 election arguing against it due to reasons of affordability. In other words, we would not have had the NHS if the Conservatives had had their way.

There is also his claim that they are on target to deliver 50,000 more nurses for the NHS. While they have had 50,000 applications to study nursing this year and may even achieve that target. The target he was referring to was the one they set at the General Election. At the time, it was inaccurate and relied upon 19,000 remaining in the NHS. The fact that the target was false was proven at the time and the Prime Minister even admitted it himself just days before the vote in an interview with Sophy Ridge.

'The right hon. and learned Gentleman voted against the document in question, which just crowns the absurdity of his point.'

'The last time that we put this to a vote, the right hon. and learned Gentleman voted against it, as I said before.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 10th March

This was the big controversial claim made by the Prime Minister during PMQs. He made the claim twice and for the third successive PMQs, Boris Johnson misled the House.

Keir Starmer had held up a piece of paper insisting that the Conservatives had promised NHS a 2.1% pay rise. When independent fact-checkers Full Fact investigated the issue, they could not say what document it was that Starmer had; the long term NHS funding plan which suggested a 2.1% pay rise which was voted into law or the NHS Funding Bill. The Funding Bill did not commit to any figure.

If it was The NHS Funding Bill, then that was nodded through unopposed. There was no vote. Therefore, Sir Keir Starmer and Labour did not vote against it as the Prime Minister suggested. Labour was not impressed and the Shadow Health Secretary raised it as a point of order just as the Prime Minister left the Commons Chamber. As it was raised in the Commons, for the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Allegra Stratton it was case closed as she refused to answer questions 20 times on whether the Prime Minister lied.

The following day, Speaker Sir Lyndesy Hoyle made a reference to the exchange insisting, ‘All Members of this House are honourable. They must take responsibility for correcting the record if a mistake has been made. It is not dishonourable to make a mistake, but to seek to avoid admitting one is a different matter’. The Prime Minister is yet to correct the record.

'That was a delightfully concise question, but the hon. Member is wrong about the difference between Erasmus and the Turing project. Unlike the Erasmus scheme, which overwhelmingly went to kids from better-off homes, the Turing project is designed to help kids across the country, of all income groups, get to fantastic universities around the world.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 10th March

The Prime Minister was asked about the new Turing Project by SNP MP for East Renfrewshire Kirsten Oswald. The Turing Project is the Government’s exchange scheme that is meant to replace the Erasmus scheme which allowed students to live and study at a university abroad for a semester or a year.

The Turing Project launched during this week but in terms of the support offered to students between it and the Erasmus Scheme which it is replacing, it left some questions. The new scheme would provide financial support up to £490 per month compared to the £630 from Erasmus. It also does not provide any support for travel cost or tuition fees whereas the predecessor gave all students up to £1,135 for travel costs as well as offering free tuition.

The Prime Minister insists that the scheme will be targeted to students across all income groups. That said, with the level of financial support being lower than the Erasmus+ scheme, I cannot see how that having any other impact than having more ‘kids from better-off homes’ studying abroad because they would assumedly be less needing of the financial support being made available to them.

'I am proud of what the Government have done to increase the wages of care workers across the country, with record increases in the living wage. This country is unlike most other countries in the world in the speed with which we have vaccinated care home workers and their elderly charges'.

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 10th March

The Prime Minister had this to say when he was asked by the Labour MP for Wirral South Alison McGovern why there were 375,000 care workers employed on zero-hour contracts. The question the MP asked is below but is what the Prime Minister said above really addressing the question he has been asked? Has he actually answered the question? The answer on both counts is no.

In this House, we all know the importance of the people who have looked after our vulnerable loved ones over the past year when we have been unable to do so, so will the Prime Minister explain to me why in this country we have 375,000 care workers on zero-hours contracts?

'This is the start of building back greener. This is the start of 6000 jobs in the UK, using British jobs, British manufacturing, and of course British wind to power UK homes with renewable energy by 2030.'

Paul Scully (MP for Sutton and Cheam and Minister for Small Business), 11th March

The Small Business Minister was in Middlesbrough promoting the Governments plans for 6,000 new hobs as part of their £95m investment into renewable energy in Teeside. These comments he made on Sky News though raised some eyebrows.

Like Jacob Rees Mogg in January with his ludicrous comments on British fish, we now have Wind. It is everywhere! What on earth makes wind British? If it is the turbines that generate the energy and it is in British territory then fair enough but it just sounds odd.

'I do think that most nurses get it that if they have partners, husbands, they get it. They understand that is a very important decision we had to make and it was also an incredibly expensive decision to the public purse'.

Nadine Dorries (MP for Mid Bedfordshire and Minister of State for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety), 11th March

Nadine Dorries was appearing on BBC Radio4 Women’s Hour when she made the claim that most nurses understand why they have not been given a bigger pay rise. That was because they would seemingly prefer to have two wages coming in (if their partner had been furloughed for example). As part of her justification, she referred to a conversation she had with a manager of a vaccination centre.

Just one? That isn’t very representative and it has some sexist connotations. Is every nurse female? No. Is every nurse married? No. What about single nurses who live alone? The view that nurses are always female and married is a view that does not belong in the 21st century.

‘if you have a huge and emotive issue like this affecting people’s decision making, I don't think that would be a good outcome'

Tobias Ellwood (MP for Bournemouth East), 11th March

The Bournemouth East MP was discussing the NHS pay rise situation on Sky News when he tied it to the local elections that are due to take place in May. He expressed his hope that the independent recommendation could be sped up as it really does sound like he’s worried that could cost them seats in the polls.

'I entirely agree with the hon. Lady—she is absolutely right. Everybody in this country should feel free to walk the streets at night safely and securely, and women should be as free to do that as men. The best way to ensure that is by tackling crime, making our streets safer and getting the extra 20,000 police on the street. There is nothing more reassuring than seeing a police officer in uniform when walking the streets, and that is a comfort that we in this country hope to be able to continue to take, and to take more of, as more police join the various forces up and down the country. I never thought I would agree so wholeheartedly with a question from the hon. Lady.'

Jacob Rees Mogg (MP for North East Somerset and Leader of the House of Commons), 11th March

Who is the ‘hon. Lady’ Jacob Rees Mogg never thought he would agree with? Zarah Sultana, the Labour MP for Coventry South. She had asked if Parliamentarians should be avoiding victim-blaming narratives and instead emphasise being on ‘tackling violence against women and girls and the norms that too often sustain it’.

The Leader of the House felt the best way would be to tackle crime and getting the extra 20,000 police officers on the street. He was referring to the General Election manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 ‘extra’. I think it would have helped had the Conservatives not cut 21,000 police officers since 2010. While getting more police on the streets may help, it does not make up for that shortfall. In the wake of the Sarah Everard case where it is a police officer accused of allegedly kidnapping and murdering her followed by what happened in Clapham Common, I think this incident may well undermine confidence in the police.

Were we to have a debate to praise our sovereign lady, it would take up all the legislative time available in the House, so all I will say is:
“God save our gracious Queen! Long live our noble Queen! God save the Queen! Send her victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us, God save the Queen. O Lord our God arise, Scatter her enemies, And make them fall: Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On Thee our hopes we fix: God save us all!”

Jacob Rees Mogg (MP for North East Somerset and Leader of the House of Commons), 11th March

During the Business of the House session, Mr Rees Mogg was asked about having a debate on the monarchy in the wake of the backlash to that Meghan Markle interview. The question was asked by Tory backbencher Edward Leigh and he closed by claiming the UK nearly had a president as head state ‘which we very nearly had under Tony Blair’. I cannot find what he was referring to there so if anyone knows then please leave a comment.

How did Jacob Rees Mogg respond? By singing the national anthem! That is unusual surely for someone to do that in the House of Commons in the middle of a parliamentary session, isn’t it?

For a matter of fairness and also to protect people's jobs in the public sector we set out a targeted approach to public-sector pay which we thought was proportionate, fair and reasonable'

Rishi Sunak (MP for Richmond-Yorkshire-and Chancellor of the Exchequer), 11th March

The Chancellor was giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee when he defended the Government’s recommended pay increase for NHS staff. Mr Sunak stresses that he wanted to give them some form of pay rise even when other parts of the public sector are not. Ok, while it is a pay rise in cash terms, when inflation is factored in, it is still a pay cut in real terms.

I am not going to say more on this but do you think after everything NHS staff have endured and experienced in the last year, is what the Chancellor proposed proportionate, fair and reasonable?

I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding. I think some people who have got the idea that people with asthma, with severe asthma, are not being vaccinated. That’s not right. Anyone who is clinically vulnerable for any reason, including the asthmatic are in the priority groups'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 12th March

In a video posted through the Downing Street official Twitter account, the Prime Minister answered an online ‘Ask the Government a Question’. The Prime Minister to his credit, I think was trying to reassure people over potentially false claims and provide clarity, something the charity Asthma UK were asking for.

However, it runs contrary to what Asthma UK put on their website once they received an update. Unless you were sent a shielding letter, or had an emergency hospital admission for asthma or ever prescribed three courses of steroid tablets in a three-month period and under the age of 50, then you were not included in the JCVI priority groups 1-9. So, not all asthmatics are in the priority groups as the Prime Minister said. That was picked up on by Professor Alice Roberts

Lord Frost knows the Protocol, which the EU still hasn’t ratified, was originally not intended to be permanent. It can and must be replaced, for the sake of good relations in the province. He knows he has to insist the EU recognise the Withdrawal Agreement was very clear the Protocol would be ‘superseded’ and the Political Declaration even referenced ‘alternative arrangements to replace it'

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (MP for Chingford and Woodford Green), 12th March

Supporting David Frost in an article for the Telegraph in an article entitled, ‘Lord Frost is absolutely right to be getting tough with the bullying EU’. In the quotes above, the former Conservative Party leader claims that the EU did not ratify the Northern Ireland protocol. It was part of the Withdrawal Agreement which the EU did ratify. They are yet to ratify the trade deal though. He also claims that the protocol can be ‘superseded’. It can be but subject to what the people of Northern Ireland wish.

It does raise the question of whether he knew exactly what he was signing up to when he voted for both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade deal. The political declaration states that alternative arrangements are something to be ‘considered’. It is my honest view that if there anything better then that would already be in place. The reference to ‘superseding’ in the Political deceleration relating to the Protocol but to the relationship between the EU and the UK. That agreement that supersedes it had to state what parts of the protocol it would be replacing.

At the time of the Withdrawal Agreement, he was against scrutinising it properly arguing, ‘We’ve had more than 100 hours in committee over the last 3 and a half years. If there is anything about this arrangement that we have not now debated, thrashed to death, I would love to know what it is.’ Looking at what he has written here in an attempt to paint the EU as the bad guys, it would appear he did not understand what they were agreeing to because the feeling is if there was anything that could supersede the protocol, it would be in place.

‘Most certainly, not’

‘We absolutely support the right to peaceful protest. Of course make your protest, but can we try to do it in a way that's slightly more balanced than the law will currently allow?

Viktoria Atkins (MP for Louth and Horncastle and Safeguarding Minister), 14th March

What was Victoria Atkins denying in her interview on The Andrew Marr show? It was being put to her that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that was due to go through Parliament the next day aims to stop protest. Marr had listed off clauses 54, 56 and 60 that would amend the 1986 police powers act so police could impose more restrictions. The clauses in particular, if you look at the Parliamentary report on the clauses says the following:

Clause 54 to 56 and 60 would amend police powers in the Public Order Act 1986 so police can impose conditions on protests that are noisy enough to cause “intimidation or harassment” or “serious unease, alarm or distress” to bystanders.

Marr put it to her that protest naturally makes noise and have an impact, that’s why they happen and are effective and it appeared the Government aiming to take action on protests it doesn’t like happening. The Minister denied that.

However, as Marr rightly pointed out to the Minister, protests do create noise. It is part of the atmosphere of them, even the peaceful ones. Have you ever heard of a quiet protest making a difference? The Minister insisted that the government were looking for something that is more ‘balanced’ but such wording does create the impression that the government are looking to clamp down on protests they do not like.

Labour are voting against tougher sentences for child murderers, sex offenders, killer drivers and measures that protect the vulnerable

Amanda Milling (MP for Cannock Chase, co-chair of the Conservative Party and Minster of State without portfolio), 14th March

The Labour Party had announced that they would be voting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would be debated for the second time and voted on in Parliament over the next two days. It came in the wake of the shocking scenes at the Virgil held for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common. That prompted the co-chair of the Conservative Party, Amanda Milling to attack Labour for their stance with the above Tweet.

Just looking at it, she has seen they’re voting against it. She will assumedly have read what Labour have said about why they are going to vote against the bill. Instead, she and other Tories using the attack line take an absolute approach to the situation in order to gain political points by saying they’re automatically against all of the above that she points. It is a misrepresentation of Labour’s position.

The Bill itself was described by Amnesty International, ‘The apparent excessive use of force by met Police officers is a stark and timely warning about precisely why Parliament must not allow yet more police powers to quash public protest’. The Tory Minister was also corrected by Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy who outlined his parties positioning and rationale, ‘Your 296 page Bill mentions “memorial” 8 times but fails to include “woman” once. Labour is calling for you to drop the draconian attacks on protest and work with us to tackle the epidemic of violence against women.’

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