Liz Truss rejects claims from Tories that privileges committee inquiry into Johnson won’t be fair – UK politics live

No 10 refuses to endorse Tory claims privileges committee inquiry into PM could be ‘kangaroo court’

Downing Street has refused to endorse Tory claims that the privileges committee investigating claims Boris Johnson lied to parliament about Partygate will function as a “kangaroo court”. (See 9.35am.)

Asked if Boris Johnson saw the committee like that, a No 10 spokeperson said Johnson would not use that language. The spokesperson also endorsed what Liz Truss said this morning about trusting the committee to conduct the investigation fairly. He said:

I think the foreign secretary was asked about this this morning and she was clear that we trust the committee to take its responsibilities seriously.

Asked if Johnson had any concerns about the committee appointing Harriet Harman, the former Labour deputy leader, as its chair, the spokeperson said that was “entirely a matter for the committee”.

Some Tories, including the Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis, have questioned whether Harman can be an impartial chair because of past comments on Twitter about the case.

Three tweets were highlighted in a report by the Daily Telegraph last month. The most awkward was one posted in April where she reposted a tweet from Alastair Campbell, the former Tony Blair communications chief, saying: “They broke their own emergency laws. They lied.” Harman appeared to endorse this with a comment saying these were “laws to save lives that they broke”.

In a second tweet Harman posted polling figures on the proportion of people who think Johnson lied about Partygate, and queried why more people thought he lied about Partygate than thought he should resign over Partygate. Arguably this just shows Harman’s adherence to the ministerial code, which says ministers who lie to parliament should resign.

And in a third tweet, posted in response to the news that Johnson and Rishi Sunak were fined over Partygate, Harman said this amounted to an admission they misled parliament. But it is accepted that Johnson did mislead MPs when he said the rules were followed at all times. What the privileges committe has to establish is whether Johnson misled MPs intentionally.

Bill of rights bill could be ‘seriously damaging to protection of human rights across Europe’, MPs and peers say

The government’s bill of rights bill, which would repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with similar human rights legislation giving British judges more scope to diverge from European court of human rights rulings, could weaken human rights across Europe, MPs and peers claim.

The joint committee on human rights, which includes members from the Commons and the Lords, made the point in a long letter to Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, raising numerous concerns with the bill.

The bill was only published last week. But most of the proposals it contained featured in a government consultation document published at the end of 2021, and they were reviewed in detail by the committee in a report published earlier this year.

In her letter, Joanna Cherry (SNP), the acting chair, said the main concern of the committee was that the bill would “weaken the protection of human rights in the UK”. She went on:

The serious implications of the government’s proposals on the international plane were recently highlighted to the committee during a visit to the institutions of the Council of Europe, including the ECHR [European court of human rights], in Strasbourg. It was emphasised to us that the HRA is viewed internationally as a gold standard and a model example of how human rights can be effectively embedded into domestic law and practice. Any weakening of the mechanisms in the HRA could damage the UK’s reputation internationally and weaken the government’s position when seeking to ensure other states uphold their human rights obligations.

Moreover, we were left in no doubt that the UK’s status as a leading member of the Council of Europe and one of the founders of the ECHR [European convention on human rights] means that any reforms to the HRA that suggest we are wavering in our commitment to the convention’s protections could be a green light for other, less committed nations to weaken their own human rights protections. This would be seriously damaging to the protection of human rights across Europe at a time when Russia has already shown contempt for the principles of the Council of Europe by invading Ukraine, resulting in its expulsion from the organisation. The committee urge the government to think carefully before proceeding with a Bill that could have such undesirable international ramifications.

SNP politicians have cited today’s new polling on Scottish independence (see 11.20am) as evidence that a referendum would be very winnable.

This is from Humaz Yousaf, the health and social care secretary in the Scottish government.

New independence poll putting Yes at 49% & there are 1 in 10 undecided. That is why Unionist politicians are desperate to talk process & avoid the substance of the argument, they know the positive case for Scotland being a normal independent country will beat Project Fear.

— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) June 30, 2022

And this is from Keith Brown, the SNP’s depute (Scots for deputy) leader.

This poll clearly shows why the Westminster parties are running scared of a referendum – the independence campaign is getting into gear and building momentum and they clearly have no positive case to make for continued Westminster rule.

With the highest favourability rating of any political leader in Scotland, the public continue to put their trust in Nicola Sturgeon to deliver on their priorities and build a better nation for all.

And these are from Stephen Kerr, the Scottish Conservative MSP, effectively arguing the opposite.

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have repeatedly said they are holding their pretendyref because it’s the will of Scots, and the will of Scots must not be denied.

Poll today: Only 40% agree. 53% don’t want Sturgeon to go ahead. Will Sturgeon listen?

— Stephen Kerr MSP (@RealStephenKerr) June 30, 2022

A poll in the Scotsman showed only 44% of people would vote “Yes” in an Indyref2. 8 years and non-stop arguing for it from the SNP, and they’re down 1%.

8 years of Scottish Taxpayers money and Parliament time wasted.

— Stephen Kerr MSP (@RealStephenKerr) June 30, 2022

53% of Scots do not favour holding independence referendum next year, poll suggests

Libby Brooks

Libby Brooks

New polling has found that a majority of Scots (53%) do not think there should be an independence referendum in October next year, with just 40% backing the idea.

The polling for the Scotsman was carried out by Savanta ComRes between 23 and 28 June – Sturgeon announced the proposed referendum date of 19 October 2023 on 28 June.

It also found that 41% opposed holding a referendum without the relevant powers being granted by the UK government through a section 30 order, with 37% in favour – which is the route proposed by Sturgeon on Tuesday when she announced that the supreme court has been asked to rule on the legality of such a vote.

The polling suggests that Sturgeon and the SNP will face a significant challenge in the coming months not only in persuading voters to accept their timetable, but also in shifting support for the question being asked: should Scotland be an independent country?

The Scotsman polling put support for no at 51% and yes at 49%, once undecideds are removed.

Meanwhile, a YouGov survey for the pro-union group Scotland in Union this morning found around one-third of people in Scotland support the plan for a second referendum next year, and only one-fifth chose a referendum as one of the most important issues that the Scottish government should prioritise over the next two years.

And in another interview Liz Truss refused to endorse Boris Johnson’s claim that “toxic masculinity” helped to explain Vladimir Putin’s conduct and that he would not have invaded Ukraine if he were a woman. Asked if she agreed, she told Times Radio:

[Putin is] clearly is capable of very, very evil acts … I don’t pretend that I can conduct a psychological analysis on him, nor do I think it’s helpful …

I think that both women and men are capable of terrible and appalling acts.

In her interviews this morning Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, also restated her belief that Russia should be forced out from all of Ukraine, including Crimea, which it has occupied since 2014. She told the Today programme:

All of Ukraine that has been invaded by Russia is illegally occupied. And, ultimately, the Russians need to be pushed out of all of that territory, and certainly what we shouldn’t be doing as friends and allies [of Ukraine] … is implying that there are any trade-offs or any bits of Ukrainian territory that could be traded away or compromised on.

Asked whether Russia could be pushed out of all of Ukraine within a foreseeable timeframe, she replied:

It is realistic, and that is why we are supplying the extra lethal aid we’re supplying.

Truss has consistently said that Russia should be forced to leave the whole of Ukraine, including Crimea. But there have been concerns that this sets an unrealistically high bar for victory, because the Ukrainians might be willing to agree a peace settlement that does not involve Russian withdrawal from Crimea.

Truss says west needs to ensure Taiwan has ability to defend itself against China

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has said western countries should provide more support to Taiwan so that it can defend itself against a possible attack by China.

In interviews this morning, she said the west must “learn the lessons from Ukraine” and ensure sovereign nations “have the capabilities that they need”.

She told Times Radio:

The fact is Ukraine wasn’t in a good enough position to defend itself, that made it a target for Russia. That’s what we, as a free world, need to do is make sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself, that we continue to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait.

These are things that we’re discussing with our allies and working on with our allies.

Asked if this meant providing arms, Truss said:

There are different ways of doing that, and Finland and Sweden have joined Nato as a way of making sure that they are defended. Ultimately, it is making sure that those countries have the capabilities that they need.

Boris Johnson at the Nato summit in Madrid this morning.
Boris Johnson at the Nato summit in Madrid this morning. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

We are now told that Boris Johnson’s press conference at the end of the Nato summit in Madrid is not likely to start until 1.45pm UK time.

UK household incomes suffer longest run of declines on record

Figures out today show that UK household incomes have now fallen on average in real terms for the fourth quarter in a row. Incomes have gone up, but inflation has risen even more, which is why in real terms they have been cut.

This is the longest sustained fall in household disposable income since the 1950s, when this sort of data first became available, Bloomberg says.

My colleague Graeme Wearden has more details on his business live blog.

Johnson claims there is growing global support for cutting food tariffs

Boris Johnson has floated the prospect of food tariffs being reduced to help people with the cost of living.

Speaking to reporters accompanying him on his trip to the Nato summit, he said there was a “new impetus” around the world to cut food tariffs.

Asked if the cost-of-living crisis is going to get worse before it gets better, Johnson said:

I wouldn’t want to put it in exactly that way. But what I would say is that it is going to continue to be an issue for a while. But I do think that we will find solutions.

He went on to say cutting tariffs had been discussed at the G7 summit.

Look at the things we’re doing already to get food supplies going. Very interestingly at the G7, there’s a new impetus to cut food tariffs – [there is] $750bn [$617bn] worth of food tariffs around the world.

Biden is now going to cut $178bn dollars [£146bn] worth. That would be a good thing – including on pet food, by the way. We’ve got food tariffs we don’t need.

Asked for examples, Johnson said: “Do we in the UK need to have tariffs on oranges? We don’t grow many bananas in the UK, I don’t think.”

This is not the first time Johnson has publicly floated the case for cutting food tariffs. In his recent speech on housing, he said he could not see the case for the UK having tariffs on olive oil imports, for example, because there is no domestic olive oil industry that needs protecting.

Boris Johnson insisted the idea of an early election “hasn’t occurred to me” but refused to rule out calling a snap poll, PA Media reports.

Speaking to reporters accompanying him on his trip to the Nato summit, Johnson said he would not “start talking about politics” at a time when he was dealing with cost-of-living pressures and the war in Ukraine. PA says he repeatedly failed to rule out the prospect of going to the country before the next scheduled election in 2024.

Referring to his former career as a journalist, Johnson told the reporters:

Do you know what, I’ve realised where I’ve been going wrong with all this.

I’ve got to recognise that years and years ago, I used to do the kind of jobs that you all do now, and it was a great, great life and a great privilege.

What you are able to do is offer opinion, commentary, analysis, predictions about politics, about individuals and so on.

I think I’ve got to recognise I’m no longer a member of that sacred guild.

It would be a demarcation dispute for me to cross over and start talking about politics.

I’ve got to talk about my programme for government, about policy, and what I’m doing to take the country forward.

Asked whether he was ruling out an early election he said:

I’m just saying, I don’t comment on those sorts of things. The idea hadn’t occurred to me, if you really want the truth, because I’m focused on getting through the cost-of-living pressures, developing and improving, widening, our plan for a stronger economy, and making sure that we continue to offer leadership on some of the tough global issues the world faces.

Asked if he was leaning towards a snap election he said:

I am not offering commentary, what I’m trying to get over to you is that I’m here to comment on policy, on the agenda of government.

(The journalists weren’t asking him for commentary. They were just asking him a straightforward question.)

Boris Johnson with Joe Biden (right) at the Nato summit in Madrid this morning.
Boris Johnson with Joe Biden (right) at the Nato summit in Madrid this morning. Photograph: JJ Guillen/EPA

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who chairs the Commons standards committee, and who was chair of the privileges committee too until he resigned because he felt his public comments about Boris Johnson would cast doubt on his ability to chair a fair inquiry into the PM, has rubbished the claims highlighted by the Daily Telegraph. (See 9.35am.)

This is nonsense and a sign they’re scared of being caught out. The committee members are thorough, fair and meticulous. They’re advised by the former head of the tribunal service. But this is what Johnson always does, throw over the rules or the body that adjudicates on them https://t.co/RawRyE1x7e

— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) June 30, 2022

It is at least arguable that calling the Committee of Privileges a “kangaroo court” is itself a contempt of parliament.

— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) June 30, 2022

And Gavin Barwell, the Tory peer who was chief of staff to Theresa May when she was PM, says that if Johnson does not like the format of the privileges committee inquiry, other types of inquiry are available.

Liz Truss rejects claims from Tories that privileges committee inquiry into Johnson won’t be fai

Good morning. Boris Johnson will be holding a press conference later at the end of the Nato conference and although he has been preoccupied in recent days with a war in Europe and the threat posed by Russia to UK security – this morning he has announced £1bn in extra military aid for Ukraine – there is no escaping Partygate. Yesterday the Commons privileges committee held its first meeting to plan its inquiry into claims that Johnson lied to MPs and – in what could be a highly significant move – it decided to effectively invite No 10 staff to give evidence anonymously.

If, as reports suggest, some junior Downing Street officials are aggrieved about the way they were treated during Partygate, and if they can provide evidence that Johnson knew much more about parties taking place or rules being broken than he told the Commons, then this whistleblower provision could prove fatal to the prime minister.

The prospect has certainly alarmed Johnson’s allies. In their splash for the Daily Telegraph, Christopher Hope and Tony Diver say Johnson’s allies fear he is being stitched up and that the committee will a “kangaroo court”. They report:

Allies of the prime minister accused the House of Commons’ privileges committee of relying on “hearsay evidence”, after MPs ruled that witnesses will be granted anonymity …

By questioning the integrity of the investigation, it is likely that Downing Street is preparing to challenge any negative findings made by the committee. It also raises the prospect that the prime minister would refuse to resign if he is found to have misled parliament …

Even though a report by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant, on Downing Street parties kept identities of witnesses secret, one No 10 source said it would be difficult for Mr Johnson to challenge anonymous evidence which effectively could be hearsay.

The insider said: “How can a ‘defendant’ question/cross-examine anonymous evidence?”

An MP friend of Mr Johnson added: “It is bonkers. Going on hearsay evidence of it is not in the spirit of it. How can you interrogate someone who has not turned up? If you don’t trust the process, how can you trust the result? It is a disservice to the House of Commons.”

The Telegraph’s sources do not seem to understand the difference between hearsay evidence and anonymised evidence. Hearsay evidence is second hand evidence (“I did not hear the PM say ‘How was the party in the press office last night?’ at the meeting hours before telling MPs there were no parties, but I’ve heard from a friend he did say that.”) Anonymised evidence is just normal evidence, but where the identity of the person providing it is not widely disclosed. Yesterday the committee said it would accept anonymised evidence, but only subject “to the chair [Harriet Harman] being able to identify the individual’s identity in conjunction with committee staff, as well as the relevance and probity of their evidence”.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, was giving interviews this morning and on the Today programme she was asked if she backed the Telegraph’s campaign for justice for the Downing Street One. She knocked the question away, and would not endorse the “kangaroo court” objections published by the paper. Asked if she was satisfied the committee would give Johnson a fair hearing, she replied:

I trust the privileges committee to look at the evidence properly and make the make the judgement appropriately and we need to allow that process to continue.

Asked again if Johnson would get a fair hearing, she replied:

I trust implicitly my parliamentary colleagues to listen properly to the evidence and make the right decision.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.20am: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, speaks at a British Chambers of Commerce conference.

10.50am: Maroš Šefčovič, the EU’s Brexit negotiator and European Commissioner vice president, speaks at the EU/UK forum conference.

11.45am (UK time): Boris Johnson is due to hold a press conference at the end of the Nato summit.

12pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions in the Scottish parliament.

4.15pm: Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, speaks at the end of a day-long conference on the future of Britain organised by his thinktank.

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