Conservative former health secretary Sajid Javid has spoken of his anger that Andrew Bridgen or any MP would “seek to connect” the UK’s Covid vaccine policy with the Holocaust.
Bridgen lost the Conservative whip earlier this month for tweeting an article questioning the safety of the vaccines and adding “this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust”, PA reported.
Javid, who served as health secretary between June 2021 and July 2022, a crucial time for the vaccine rollout, hit out at Bridgen in the House of Commons during a debate to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
He told the Commons:
In this debate, we should all reflect on our roles as policymakers, because we know the sickening pattern of atrocities all too well.
We are right to reaffirm our commitment to ‘never again’, but we must also as parliamentarians do more to prepare the political foundations and the policy framework to prevent the next atrocity.
Our commitment to the truth must also be reinforced at home, including in how we counter misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Javid, who secured the debate, added:
Right now in the UK, we have seen a rise in anti-vaccine protesters carrying signs reading ‘vaccine holocaust’ and wearing the Star of David. I must say, it does anger me that any member of this House would seek to connect the Holocaust with UK public health policy.
MPs across the chamber could be heard to say “hear, hear” as Javid appeared to condemn Bridgen.
Bridgen caused widespread outrage when he retweeted an article questioning the safety of vaccines, with the MP adding: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”
Nadhim Zahawi gives HMRC approval to speak to tax investigation
Nadhim Zahawi has given HMRC approval to speak to the investigation into his tax affairs, a source close to the Tory chairman has told the Press Association.
More on this as it comes.
An independent MP who lost the Tory whip after appearing to compare Covid vaccines to the Holocaust is suing Matt Hancock for criticising his remarks.
Andrew Bridgen is suing the former health secretary for £100,000 over a tweet in which Hancock accused Bridgen of spouting “antisemitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories” over the vaccine.
Bridgen was widely condemned for making the comments, by MPs and campaigners from all parties.
The MP for North West Leicestershire threatened to take legal action against Hancock if he did not publicly apologise within three days. He said in a tweet posted on 13 January that Hancock had “still not removed his defamatory tweet falsely alleging that I am antisemitic. I will allow Matt three days to apologise publicly for calling me an antisemite and racist or he will be contacted by my legal team.”
He tweeted on Thursday:
I can confirm that Matt Hancock had a legal letter before action from Bad Law team on my behalf regarding defamation on Monday.
The legal action is being supported by the Reclaim party and the Bad Law Project.
The project, which is linked to the Reclaim party leader, Laurence Fox, claims to oppose “political ideology disguised as law”.
A spokesperson for Hancock said:
What Matt said was obviously not libellous and he stands by his comments.
Rather than wasting his time and money on an absurd libel case he will undoubtedly lose, let’s hope Bridgen does the right thing and apologises for the hurt he’s caused and keeps his offensive view to himself in future.
Speaking at Chequers where he has been holding a cabinet awayday, Rishi Sunak said he would await the result of the investigation into Dominic Raab following reports the bullying probe contains at least 24 complainants.
Downing Street confirmed in December that Raab was facing eight formal complaints over alleged bullying, six of them from his first stint at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), one from when he was foreign secretary and one from when he ran the Brexit department.
But the Guardian understands that all but two of the formal complaints involved multiple accusers, and that the total number of complainants is thought to be at least two dozen, and could be more than 30.
I appointed an independent investigator to have a look at that matter, I’ll await for that independent investigator to complete that investigation and report back to me.
Sunak says ‘no issues were raised’ about Zahawi’s tax affairs before appointment
Rishi Sunak has said that no issues about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs were raised with him when he appointed him as Conservative party chairman.
Because new information came to light over the past week, that’s why I decided to ask the independent adviser to fully investigate this matter. When I appointed Nadhim Zahawi to his current job, no issues were raised with me about that appointment.
Sunak has sought to put down suggestions he was aware that Zahawi paid a penalty to HMRC prior to his appointment as the Conservative party’s chair on 25 October 2022.
The prime minister initially told the House of Commons last week that Zahawi had already addressed the matter “in full”. But after the Guardian revealed on Friday that a penalty had been paid, the prime minister’s spokesperson refused to confirm that Sunak had been told of this detail by Zahawi or officials.
Speaking to broadcasters at Chequers today, Sunak maintained he will wait for the results of the investigation into Zahawi despite the chief executive of HMRC Jim Harra saying there are “no penalties for innocent errors”. He said:
I’m not going to pre-judge the outcome of the investigation, it’s important that the independent adviser is able to do his work.
That’s what he’s currently doing, that’s what I’ve asked him to do and I’ll await the findings of that investigation.
The head of the UK’s intelligence, cyber and security agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, will step down at the end of his tenure later this year, it has been announced.
Fleming has been director of GCHQ since April 2017. He will continue to lead and oversee work at the agency until the summer, GCHQ said in a statement.
In line with normal practice, there will be an internal civil service competition to identify a successor.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has said the government’s dropping of key reform commitments made in the wake of the Windrush debacle is “yet another betrayal of the Windrush generation”.
It comes after Suella Braverman confirmed she has dropped three key reform commitments made after a formal inquiry by Wendy Williams examined the scandal under which the Home Office erroneously classified legal residents, many of whom arrived from Caribbean countries as children in the 1950s and 1960s, as immigrants living in the UK illegally.
There were still “huge failures to pay compensation to those who were so badly wronged”, Cooper said in a statement.
Four years after Wendy Williams’ review, just eight of its recommendations have been fully implemented and now some have been dropped altogether, including important safeguards to strengthen the borders inspectorate.
The Home Office had an opportunity to put its apology to the Windrush victims into action, but it is tragic that the Home Secretary hasn’t learned the lessons of that appalling scandal.
A woman invited to parliament to attend the opening of an exhibition was asked to scratch off an old “stop Brexit” sticker from the top of her laptop before entering, the Guardian has been told.
Anna Betz, 66, a retired social worker, was told she had to remove the sticker in case she held the computer in the air to stage a protest.
Betz, who was eventually allowed on to the parliamentary estate after covering the sticker on her laptop with a piece of masking tape, said she was baffled by the security procedures.
Parliamentary authorities defended the protocols, saying “political or offensive slogan materials” were prohibited inside.
The incident happened on Monday evening at the main public entrance to parliament as Betz arrived for the opening of an exhibition about a research project on which she had worked connected to tackling memory loss, hosted by the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Daisy Cooper.
Lord Pickles, co-chair of the body overseeing a new £100m UK Holocaust memorial, said he is “desperate” to finally start building, given the dwindling number of survivors.
On Wednesday, the prime minister said he would legislate to work around a court ruling preventing the memorial and learning centre being erected on the Grade II listed Victoria Tower Gardens beside the Houses of Parliament. The scheme has been in development since 2014 but has been mired in controversy.
Pickles, who co-chairs the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation with former Labour education secretary Ed Balls, said the death of the Auschwitz survivor Zigi Shipper last week on his 93rd birthday, only increased the urgency to start work, nine years after the plan was first proposed by David Cameron.
“Given the numbers now dying I really am desperate to begin construction,” he said. More than 100 survivors have died in the past two years, according to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
Rishi Sunak’s move should clear the way for planning consent to be granted by the planning minister, Lucy Frazer, but opponents of the location, including Westminster city council, appear ready to renew objections.
HMRC data shows the value of unpaid taxes rose by almost £5bn during Nadhim Zahawi’s brief stint as the chancellor.
In the three months between July and September 2022, the value of unpaid taxes owed grew to a whopping £47bn, an increase of £4.9bn on the previous quarter, according to the figures that were uncovered by the Liberal Democrats and published in the Mirror.
The Lib Dems accused the Conservatives of “allowing eye-watering amounts of taxes to go unpaid” whilst the “underfunded” NHS struggles to cope.
Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said:
Families around the country who work hard and play by the rules will be rightly furious to see billions of pounds in taxes being poured down the drain. It’s little wonder the Conservatives are failing to crack down on those failing to pay their fair share, when Nadhim Zahawi spent his time as chancellor negotiating his own settlement with HMRC.
Deputy prime minister and justice minister Dominic Raab’s plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a homegrown bill of rights have been dealt another blow with the publication of the European court of human rights annual report today.
Raab has expressed concern about the undue influence wielded by the court on UK domestic matters. However, today’s report shows that per capita, the ECHR dealt with fewer applications from the UK than anywhere else in Europe in 2022.
The court delivered 1,163 judgments in 2022, of which just four concerned the UK. Of the four, only two judgments found at least one violation of the human rights convention.
At the end of 2022, there were 74,647 applications pending before the ECHR; 99 of those – 0.12% – concerned the UK.
On Wednesday parliament’s joint committee on human rights urged the government to drop the bill of rights plans, warning that the introduction of this legislation could lead to more rather than fewer cases ending up in ECHR.
The Lib Dems have responded to the statement to MPs by the Cabinet Office’s permanent secretary Alex Chisholm that the government expects to pay up to £222,000 in legal fees to help Boris Johnson defend himself against claims he misled parliament over Partygate.
The Lib Dem chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, described the news as a “sleazy new low” for the government and called for taxpayer support for Johnson’s legal fees to end.
While the British people battle with a cost-of-living crisis, this Conservative Government seems more interested in helping Boris Johnson with his cost-of-lying crisis. This is a sleazy new low for this government, dragging politics into the gutter.
People will be outraged that hundreds of thousands of pounds of their money will be used to defend a lying lawbreaker who disgraced the office of prime minister.
The organiser of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Windrush generation’s arrival in Britain has also condemned Braverman’s announcement.
Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 network, told PA Media it was a “slap in the face”. He added: “This June marks 75 years of the contribution made to Britain by the Windrush generation and their descendants.
“For the home secretary to be backsliding on government commitments to set right the injustices of the Windrush scandal – particularly in this anniversary year – is a slap in the face for those communities.
“Suella Braverman should make a clear commitment to right the wrongs of the Windrush scandal.”
Suella Braverman’s decision to row back on key commitments made in the wake of the Windrush scandal has triggered more criticism.
PA have a statement from the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI), who said it was a “missed opportunity” not to increase the powers of the post.
Braverman announced on Thursday that a recommendation, made following an inquiry into the Windrush scandal, that the ICIBI should have their powers bolstered would not be acted on by the Home Office.
David Neal, the current chief inspector, said in a statement: “I am disappointed the home secretary has decided not to progress recommendation 10, since this presented an ideal opportunity to take stock and examine a number of issues relating to the independence and effectiveness of the ICIBI.”
He added: “This is a missed opportunity to look at increasing powers regarding the publishing of reports as explicitly recommended by Wendy Williams.
“It is disappointing as well that no role and remit review will examine Wendy Williams’ recommendation that a duty be placed on ministers to justify the non-acceptance of ICIBI recommendations and that the chief inspector will not be able to work closely with a migrants’ commissioner when formulating his inspection programme, as the home secretary has also decided not to proceed with recommendation 9.”