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Lord Goldsmith says PM had ‘no role’ in controversial Afghan animal airlift
Boris Johnson had “no role” in airlifting animals out of Afghanistan, a foreign minister has insisted, calling the idea “absurd”.
Speaking in Parliament, Tory MP Lord Goldsmith for Richmond Park said he would have been “appalled” if the Prime Minister “had been embroiled in such minutiae”.
Acknowledging there was a ‘confusion’ with correspondence indicating that Mr Johnson had directly approved the evacuation of cats and dogs with the Nowzad charity from Kabul, the Tory peer stressed that it had been ‘a period particularly complicated”.
The Prime Minister has dismissed claims that he personally intervened in the matter, calling it “total rhubarb”.
The case sparked accusations that animals had been favored over humans, with thousands of people trying to flee the Taliban being left behind.
But answering a question in Westminster about the controversy, Lord Goldsmith insisted that had not been the case.
He told his peers: “People, not animals, were the priority during the evacuation of Kabul.
Practical support for a donation-funded private charter flight organized by Nowzad founder Paul “Pen” Farthing to get his staff and animals out had been authorized by Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, said Lord Goldsmith.
PM ‘expressed deep concern’ to Putin over his activity near Ukrainian border
Boris Johnson had a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin this afternoon after visiting Ukraine on Tuesday.
In a reading, Downing Street said it “expressed deep concern at the ongoing hostile Russian activity on the Ukrainian border”.
The statement added: “The Prime Minister stressed that any further Russian incursion into Ukrainian territory would be a tragic miscalculation.
“The Prime Minister underlined that, within the framework of NATO’s open door policy, all European democracies have the right to aspire to NATO membership. This right fully applies to Ukraine. He also reiterated that NATO is a defensive alliance.
“Leaders agreed that aggravation was in no one’s interest. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of dialogue and diplomacy, and the need to include Ukraine in the talks.
Nadine Dorries: Tory MPs are ‘selfish’ for submitting letters of censure
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has described Tory MPs calling for a no-confidence vote against Boris Johnson as ‘selfish’, attempting to dismiss them as ‘a handful of egos’.
The Prime Minister’s fierce ally tweeted: ‘The defining mission of the Prime Minister and this government is to bring the whole of the UK up to speed.
“On the very day we set out the steps to get there, a handful of egos want to do everything for them. It’s selfish, doing Labor’s job and it really doesn’t help their constituents.
End of Brexit agri-food checks at NI ports
Stormont Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has ordered a halt to Brexit agri-food checks at Northern Irish ports required under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Sir Gary Streeter becomes the latest MP to submit a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister
Sir Gary Streeter has become the latest Tory MP to say he submitted a letter calling for a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson after Sue Gray’s partygate update.
The South West Devon MP wrote on Facebook: ‘I cannot reconcile the pain and sacrifice of the vast majority of the British public during lockdown with the attitude and activities of those working in Downing Street.
“As a result, I have now submitted a letter requesting a motion of no confidence from the Prime Minister.
“I did not take this decision lightly. I do not intend to say more about it.”
Don’t level London, Boris Johnson has warned
Boris Johnson was today warned not to pit London against the North as the Government unveiled its long-awaited plans to level the country, writes David Bond.
As the Prime Minister is under pressure from the party storm, ministers hope the white paper on tackling inequality across Britain will boost support for Mr Johnson and help the Tories hold on to seats of the red wall they won in the 2019 general election.
But prominent economist Lord O’Neill, a former Treasury minister, and Mayor Sadiq Khan said funding for the capital and the South East should not be diverted to boost other areas.
London receives more public spending per person than any other area, according to Treasury figures, but has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic – with economic activity in the capital falling further compared to the rest of the country and higher unemployment rates.
Writing in the Standard, Lord O’Neill said: “It’s not about giving London a smaller slice of the pie, it’s about creating a bigger pie overall, in which more people across the country can share.”
Our full story here.
Andy Street says leveling politics ‘will resolve imbalances in UK’
Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said the white paper would “finally resolve the imbalance of opportunity across the UK”.
He added that he had ‘laid out a clear plan for how he will build on the progress we have already made in the West Midlands to improve people’s chances in life’.
Mr Street said: “Before the pandemic, we already had the fastest growing economy outside of London, with record house builds, record works and record investment in public transport.
“But with Covid hitting us for six years, we needed the White Paper to help get us back on track, and that’s exactly what it will do.”
Energy regulator ‘could let suppliers raise their bills by 50%’
Energy regulator Ofgem is expected to allow suppliers to hike bills by 50% for the average household when it announces the next energy price cap on Thursday, experts have warned.
In its final update before Ofgem’s decision was announced at 11 a.m. Thursday, consultancy Cornwall Insight said the 22 million households whose energy bills are linked to the price cap can expect their bills to hit £1,915 from April.
The figure will also later rise to as high as £2,329 for the typical user in October, Cornwall Insight said.
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram: Leveling Up White Paper lacks new ideas and funding
Liverpool area mayor Steve Rotheram said the Leveling Up white paper lacked fresh ideas and funding.
He said: “If ‘leveling up’ was supposed to be the prime minister’s defining mission, I’m sorry to say it will be mission impossible with this light mush on offer.
“While there were some encouraging bits, it’s largely a rehash of things we’ve heard before. Overall though, it sounds like a recipe cooked up during Veganuary – something sorely lacking in meat.
Mr Rotheram said he was disappointed that the document appears to have been drafted more in consultation with residents of the “Westminster bubble” than with leaders in the North.
He added: “The race to the top must address the entrenched structural inequalities that exist between regions of the UK. The White Paper seems to accept this principle but offers no plan or new resources to achieve it.