Sturgeon says it would be ‘outrage’ for UK government to block Scotland’s gender recognition reform bill

Nicola Sturgeon told the press conference in Edinburgh that it would be an “outrage” if the UK government blocked the Scottish gender recognition reform bill, and that that would show “complete contempt” for the Scottish parliament. This is from the Mirror’s Ashley Cowburn.

Nicola Sturgeon says it would be an “outrage” for Rishi Sunak to block gender reforms.

The First Minister said it will show
“complete contempt” for the Scottish Parliament.

She says a Section 35 Order is a procedure not used in a quarter of a century.

— Ashley Cowburn (@ashcowburn) January 16, 2023

Key events

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David Carrick, the police officer today exposed as a serial rapist, was an armed protection officer who for a period worked in parliament. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons speaker, has written to MPs and parliamentary staff saying that, although none of Carrick’s offences took place on the parliamentary estate, he has asked the Metropolitan police for assurances that the failures that allowed Carrick to work at the Commons will not be repeated.

In his email Hoyle said:

Carrick is guilty of shocking and heinous crimes and our thoughts are first and foremost with the many women he abused and harmed.

Although none of these offences took place on the parliamentary estate, I know how troubling and unwelcome it is that Carrick was allowed to work among us.

I want to reassure you that throughout the year I have been in regular contact with the Metropolitan police service about their review of the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, ‘Operation Leven’. I am seeking clear reassurance from the Metropolitan police that their system failures which enabled Carrick to work in parliament will never be repeated.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, says he does not think the UK and the EU are close to a deal on the Northern Ireland protocol. He said:

It was clear from our conversations with James Cleverly last Wednesday when he visited Belfast that there are still substantial gaps between the two sides.

There is still a lot of ground to be covered. I don’t think we are close to a deal at this stage.

Our position remains unchanged. We need to get an agreement that restores Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and its internal market.

UK and EU say ‘scoping work’ for potential solution to Northern Ireland protocol will continue in ‘constructive’ spirit

James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, and Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice-president and EU Brexit negotiator, have issued a joint statement about their talks this morning about the Northern Ireland protocol.

It is almost identical to every other statement on these talks issued by the two sides since October, when Rishi Sunak became prime minister. Pre-October statements were quite similar too, but relations are more friendly, and the talk readouts a bit more upbeat under Sunak than under Boris Johnson or Liz Truss.

In other words, the statement tells us nothing new. It says:

The two sides discussed the range of existing challenges over the last two years and the need to find solutions together to tackle comprehensively the real-life concerns of all communities in Northern Ireland and protect both Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market and the integrity of the EU’s single market.

They agreed that this scoping work for potential solutions should continue in a constructive and collaborative spirit, taking careful account of each other’s legitimate interests.

James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, says he’s been put on the Russian government’s sanctions list.

I’ve been sanctioned by the
Russian government.

Good.

If this is the price for supporting Ukrainian freedom, then I’m happy to be sanctioned #SlavaUkraini

— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) January 16, 2023

That’s a bit late, you might think. Almost 300 British MPs were hit by Russian sanctions in April last year, as were 41 British journalists last summer, including several from the Guardian.

Here is the latest polling from YouGov, on voting intention and who would make the best PM.

Critics of Rwanda asylum plan win right to appeal against court judgment saying policy is lawful

Government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda will be considered by the court of appeal after high court judges gave the go-ahead for their ruling that the policy is lawful to be challenged, PA Media reports.

Summary of Downing Street lobby briefing

Here is a summary of the main points from the Downing Street lobby briefing.

This is an appalling case and the prime minister’s thoughts are with all of his victims. We have been clear, there is no place in our police forces for officers who fall so seriously short of the acceptable standards of behaviour and are not fit to wear the uniform.

Police forces must root out these officers to restore the public’s trust, which has been shattered by high-profile events such as this.

The Home Office is pushing for improvement and has recently announced a review of police dismissals to ensure the system is fair and effective at removing officers who are not fit to serve, following a range of concerns including those set out in the publication of Baroness Casey’s interim report into the culture and standards at the Metropolitan police.

  • Downing Street rejected Keir Starmer’s criticism of the way GP services are delivered. Starmer has called for GPs over time to be employed directly by the NHS, instead of being self-employed, and said that patients should be able to self-refer to specialists in some cases, instead of having to go through a GP. But the spokesperson said a government review in 2019 concluded that the GP partnership model should stay and that abolishing it would “carry significant costs”. And he said self-referral “already happens in number of low-risk cases”. NHS England was considering if this could be expanded, he said. But he said it would not be appropropriate to remodel primary care provision wholesale.

We would continue to call on teachers not to strike given we know what substantial damage was caused to children’s education during the pandemic and it’s certainly not something we want to see repeated.

We would hope they would continue to discuss with us their concerns rather than withdraw education from children.

We have seen very clearly that the Ukrainian armed forces have been very effective with the equipment that we have provided to them. I think there is a plethora of evidence for that and we are confident they will do so again.

Regulation watchdog criticises government for not publishing anti-strikes bill impact assessment

Ministers have been criticised by a government regulation watchdog for not publishing an impact assessment about the anti-strikes bill.

The bill, which is officially known as the strikes (minimum service levels) bill), is getting its second reading debate – the main parliamentary debate in the Commons – this afternoon. Normally an impact assessment should be available before MPs vote on the bill, but the IA for this bill has not yet appeared.

In a statement, the regulatory policy committee (RPC), an independent body set up by government to advise ministers about regulations, said:

The RPC notes that the strikes (minimum service levels) bill was introduced into parliament on 10 January 2023. Second reading is scheduled for today (16 January). Government departments are expected to submit IAs to the RPC before the relevant bill is laid before parliament and in time for the RPC to issue an opinion alongside the publication of the IA. An IA for this bill has not yet been submitted for RPC scrutiny; nor has one been published despite the bill being currently considered by parliament.

The government may be sensitive about publishing an IA because an IA published last year into a similar bill (which has been replaced by the current one) concluded that making minimum service levels mandatory could lead to more rail strikes not fewer, increased disruption short of strike action and exacerbated staff shortages.

Government’s net zero tsar criticises decision to approve new coal mine in Cumbria

Helena Horton

Chris Skidmore, the government’s net zero tsar, has criticised Rishi Sunak’s decision to open a new coal mine in Cumbria.

Launching his new net zero review at King’s College London this morning, the Tory MP said: “If the recommendations from my review were put into practice, the coal mine would never have taken place.”

This is because the review recommends that, for infrastructure, net zero is taken into account during the planning process and that clear cost-benefit analysis takes place. He believes the coal mine would have failed all these tests.

Speaking in front of the energy minister Graham Stuart, who endorsed the coal mine decision, Skidmore said: “I personally think the coal mine is a mistake.”

He also said he thought the coal mine would “never take place” because “it is going through the courts at the moment” and a judgment would probably be made against it.

Skidmore said the country was running out of time to meet net zero carbon emissions, and that there was “a real danger to the UK economy” if the investment opportunities were not seized and other countries secured them instead.

Stuart told the audience the government would publish its response to the review as soon as possible. Skidmore said he expects a government response by the end of March.

No 10 plays down speculation UK and EU close to deal on Northern Ireland protocol

At the No 10 lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson played down speculation that the UK-EU talks on the Northern Ireland protocol are about to go into the “tunnel” – dipomatic-speak for the moment when the negotiators shut down all briefing to the media, because talks are intensifying and an agreement is close. Asked how the discussions were going, the spokesperson said:

As we’ve said on a number of occasions, there are still gaps in our position that need to be resolved in order to address the full range of problems created by the protocol.

Asked if the government was optimistic about a breakthrough, he said:

I’m not going to get into characterising in that way whilst we are still having these important discussions. I think the public will understand that for sensitive issues like this since right negotiations are able to take place in private.

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