Raab bullying investigation to begin as deputy PM refutes complaints – live

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Keir Starmer says Tories ‘always clobber working people’ during PMQs

An investigation into alleged bullying by deputy prime minister Dominic Raab is to get under way imminently after the appointment of a senior employment lawyer to head the inquiry.

Downing Street said that barrister Adam Tolley KC will be able to interview potential witnesses and have access to documents relating to the case including emails and WhatsApp messages.

And he will be able to discuss extending the scope of the inquiry with prime minister Rishi Sunak if fresh allegations emerge.

Mr Sunak’s official spokesperson said that Mr Tolley’s findings will be published in full. It will be for the lawyer to decide whether to make recommendations of sanctions if he finds against Mr Raab, but the PM will have the final say on any punishment, which could include dismissal from the government.

Elsewhere, Mr Sunak refused to end Britain’s controversial non-domicile tax status, claiming it would cost too much money to change the rules after being challenged on the issue by Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs today.

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Brexit: Jeremy Hunt fails to deny he was source for ‘UK seeking Swiss-style deal’ claim

Quizzed by MPs, the chancellor said “I do not support, I have never contemplated” tearing up threadbare Boris Johnson’s deal, despite it being blamed for a big slump in GDP and cross-Channel trade.

But Mr Hunt failed, repeatedly, to deny he or an aide in the Treasury briefed journalists ahead of last weekend’s story which has reignited the Conservative wars over Europe.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports:

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 15:33

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Hunt says he does not support Britain rejoining the EU’s single market

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has insisted he does not support Britain rejoining the European Union’s single market as he denied being the source of suggestions the government was favouring a Swiss-style deal.

He told the Commons Treasury Committee: “We support the trade and cooperation agreement, we think it is an excellent agreement that was negotiated by Boris Johnson and David Frost.

“We do not support, we would not contemplate, I do not support, I have never contemplated any agreement which means moving away from the TCA, that means we are not negotiating or deciding the regulations that we want as sovereign equals, paying unnecessary money to the EU or indeed compromising on freedom of movement.

“That has always been my position as chancellor.

“With respect to the story in the Sunday Times, if you’re saying was the Treasury, was I, the source for any suggestion we should seek to renegotiate the TCA to move it towards an agreement more like the agreement with Switzerland, the answer is no.

“If you are saying do I believe that we could remove the physical barriers to trade in the way that happens on the Franco-Swiss border, the Norway-Sweden border, maybe in a way that is relevant for the N I P issues … that’s been my public position for some time.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 15:18

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Royal Mail workers’ strike to go ahead on Thursday and Friday

Royal Mail workers will strike over the Black Friday shopping period after union leaders rejected an 11th hour pay deal aimed at averting industrial action.

Royal Mail said it had tabled a “best and final offer” aimed at resolving its dispute, including an enhanced pay deal of up to 9 per cent and a new profit share scheme for employees.

But the CWU said on Wednesday that the 48-hour strike involving around 115,000 postal workers will go ahead – referring to the pay offer on Twitter as a “surrender document”.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 14:51

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Dominic Raab bullying inquiry to begin after investigator revealed

Downing Street said that barrister Adam Tolley KC will be able to interview potential witnesses and have access to documents relating to the case including emails and WhatsApp messages.

And he will be able to discuss extending the scope of the inquiry with prime minister Rishi Sunak if fresh allegations emerge.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 14:30

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The full exchange: Blackford faces Sunak as independence referendum denied

The full exchange: Blackford faces Sunak as independence referendum denied

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 14:20

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Royal Mail makes ‘best and final offer’ to try to resolve dispute

Royal Mail says it has its “best and final offer” amid at resolving a long running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have held a series of strikes in recent weeks which the company said had cost £100 million.

A fresh 48-hour strike is set to be held on Thursday and Friday.

Royal Mail said its revised offer includes “extensive improvements” that have been made during the negotiations with the CWU, including an enhanced pay deal of up to 9% over 18 months, offering to develop a new profit share scheme for employees, and making voluntary redundancy terms more generous.

The company said it was also committing to no compulsory redundancies until the end of March 2023 at the earliest.

The company added it was offering to buy out a number of legacy allowances, make Sunday working voluntary and staggering the introduction of later start and finish times over three years.

Seasonal working proposals would also be changed so that employees would work around two hours less a week in the summer, and two hours more in the winter.

Simon Thompson, Royal Mail’s chief executive said: “Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers, which would now see up to a 9% pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. This is our best and final offer.

“Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears that the CWU’s approach is to just take. We want to reach a deal, but time is running out for the CWU to change their position and avoid further damaging strike action tomorrow.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 14:10

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Think twice before you repeat gossip from Westminster – take it from someone who knows

“There’s no smoke without fire, the saying goes – and yet, in the Westminster village, you could argue that it’s actually all just smoke with plenty of mirrors. If success in politics is simply perception and optics, then the currency that underpins it is gossip, Salma Shah writes.

“Recently, a friend revealed that I was the subject of a scurrilous rumour. To save blushes, I won’t specify – but you can guess the nature of this malicious gossip was suggesting inappropriate behaviour. The rumour is untrue and upon hearing it I laughed heartily. It was even funnier to hear fake details that were supposed to make this rumour plausible – told by someone I’d never met – to a close friend of mine as if it were gospel truth.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 13:50

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Home Office top civil servant unsure if £140m Rwanda policy is value for money

Britain has already paid Rwanda £140 million but the Home Office’s top civil servant is still unsure whether the stalled asylum policy is value for money.

The Government department’s permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told MPs it remains the case that the plan to send migrants to the east African nation “could be value for money and it could not be”.

It is more than seven months since former home secretary Priti Patel announced the deal in a bid to curb Channel crossings but the plan has been hampered by legal challenges.

Asked whether he thought the policy was value for money, Mr Rycroft told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday: “I keep that judgment under constant review, as you would expect, and the circumstances have not changed sufficiently for me to change my judgment which, from April, was that we did not have evidence it would be value for money.

“The UK has paid £120 million plus an additional £20 million for set-up costs to the government of Rwanda and it remains the case it could be value for money and it could not be.

“I think it is worth underlining the purpose of the scheme is deterrence, is prevention. The success of the scheme will not be measured in how many thousands of people will be relocated to Rwanda but more by how many people do not make the dangerous crossing of the Channel.”

On April 14, Ms Patel signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement with Rwanda for it to receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally”, and therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.

But the first deportation flight, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges.

The legality of the policy has since been contested in the courts, with ministers and campaigners awaiting a ruling from High Court judges on the case.

Since the deal was announced, 36,858 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel, according to provisional Ministry of Defence figures.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 13:33

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Starmer accuses PM of being ‘weak’ in face of party and business interests

The Labour leader told the Commons: “The failure of the last 12 years and the chaos of the last 12 weeks are compounded by the decisions he is taking now. He won’t follow Labour’s plan to scrap non-dom status. Instead, we have got an NHS staffing crisis.

“He won’t follow Labour’s plans to make oil and gas giants pay their fair share, instead he hammers working people.”

Sir Keir added: “Too weak to take on his party, too weak to take on vested interests, 12 long years of Tory government, five prime ministers, seven chancellors. Why do they always clobber working people?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “He talks about leadership, this summer I stood on my principles and told the country what they needed to hear even though it was difficult. When he ran for leader, he told his party what they wanted to hear.

“Even now, he says one thing and he does the other. He says he cares for working people, but he won’t stand up to the unions. He said he’d honour Brexit but he tried to have a second referendum, and now he tries to talk tough about immigration but he promised to defend free movement.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 13:06

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Passengers face more disruption without settlement, rail union warns

Rail passengers will face more and more disruption unless a settlement is reached in the long running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions, a union chief has warned.

More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.

There will also be an overtime ban across the railways from December 18 until January 2, meaning RMT members be taking industrial action for four weeks.

RMT assistant general secretary John Leach said members are “desperate” and have been left with no option but to take industrial action.

He said he hopes UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper “puts his shoulder behind the wheel and gets a deal moving” when he meets with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on Thursday.

Mr Leach told TUSEN Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Let’s hope that the third secretary of state down in England in less than six months has got something better to say than Grant Shapps and Anne-Marie Trevelyan before him and actually puts his shoulder behind the wheel and gets a deal moving.

“There’s a deal that can be done here, we’re professional negotiators, our members just want a pay rise, they haven’t had one for two or three years and this will be nearly the fourth coming up.

“They’ve just got to commit themselves to fairness for our members, but if they don’t then we’re going to see more and more disruption like this and we are determined to see this through for our members.”

Asked how long strikes could go on for, he said: “We will do what we need to do and take this forward.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain23 November 2022 12:56

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