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Ex-Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells to give evidence at inquiry into Horizon IT scandal | Business News

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells will give evidence to the next phase of the inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal.

She served as chief executive from 2012 to 2019, and has faced questions about why hundreds of subpostmasters were wrongly convicted of fraud and false accounting under her watch.

Scrutiny grew after she was depicted in the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office – and she gave back her CBE after the programme sparked public anger.

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‘How do you feel about ruining people’s lives?’

When she returned her honour, Ms Vennells had said: “I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence.

“I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded.”

Alan Bates, a former subpostmaster who has led the campaign for justice, will also be giving evidence to the inquiry when it resumes in April – as well as Lord Arbuthnot, who fought on behalf of subpostmasters during his time as an MP.

Read more:
Who are key figures in scandal?
Former sub-postmistress has wrongful conviction quashed
Alan Bates to refuse ‘offensive’ compensation offer

More on Post Office Scandal

Lead claimant Alan Bates (centre) speaking outside the High Court in London, after the first judgment was handed down in claims against the Post Office over its computer system. Picture date: 15 March 2019
Image:
Alan Bates (centre) speaks outside the High Court in London in March 2019. Pic: PA

Former business secretary Sir Vince Cable and current Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who previously served as postal affairs minister, will also testify.

The scandal, which was ongoing from 1999 until 2015, represents one of the largest miscarriages of justice in UK legal history and more than 100 subpostmasters have had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Many more are yet to be cleared and the government has come under fire for the compensation awarded to victims.

Glitches in the Horizon IT system used by the Post Office meant money looked as if it was missing from many branch accounts when in fact it was not.

XL bully ban comes into force as police chief urges owners to comply with authorities | UK News

It is now a criminal offence to own an XL bully dog in England and Wales without an exemption certificate.

Unregistered pets can be seized and owners fined and prosecuted, with a police chief urging owners of the illegal animals to comply with officers if their dog is taken because their behaviour may influence a court’s decision to have it put down.

Around 40,000 of the large bulldog-type American breed are believed to have been registered before the deadline yesterday, but there may be thousands more without certificates.

National Police Chiefs’ Council dangerous dogs lead, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Mark Hobrough has urged members of the public to report any XL bully owners not following the rules so officers can assess the animals.

Seized dogs will be taken to kennels before a court decides if they should either be destroyed or deemed not a danger to public safety.

ACC Hobrough said: “I would encourage strongly people to be compliant if that were the situation with their own dogs because one of the very tests that is made about a dog or an owner (in court) is that the dog is not aggressive, but also that the owner is fit and responsible and not aggressive also.

“So if either of those things were not complied with, then there would be no option for a court then but to destroy the dog.”

The recent ban may spark higher demand for kennels and cause “logistical challenges” for officers, ACC Hobrough said, with police forces “actively looking to enhance” the numbers they can hold.

There are 137 dog legislation officers across the country, with at least one in every force.

The total number of XL bullies, estimated by animal groups, has ranged between 50,000 and 100,000, the RSPCA has said.

Read more:
How experts predict XL bully ban will change things in 2024

Figures show between 2001 and 2021 there were three fatal dog attacks a year, compared with 23 over the two-year period after that, with XL bullies said to be behind many of them.

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Are new XL bully rules enough?

The breed was added to the Dangerous Dogs Act on 31 October last year when restrictions came into force dictating the dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs also became illegal as of 31 December 2023.

Owners of XL bully dogs in Scotland will also be subject at a later date to the safeguards after the Scottish government replicated legislation in place south of the border.

A decision on whether to add to the list of banned breeds in Northern Ireland would be for locally elected ministers.

People with dangerously out of control dogs can be jailed for up to 14 years and banned from owning animals, and their pets can be put down.

UN agency chief ‘shocked’ as UK and others pause funding over claims staff involved in Hamas attack | World News

The head of the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) has said the decision by nine countries to pause funding for the aid agency is “shocking”.

The suspension of funding by countries including the UK and US followed allegations UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel.

“These decisions threaten our ongoing humanitarian work across the region including and especially in the Gaza Strip,” commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini said.

Follow live: ‘Ironclad’ intel shows UN agency staff links to Hamas

“UNRWA is the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza, with over two million people depending on it for their sheer survival,” Mr Lazzarini said.

“Some 3,000 core staff out of 13,000 in Gaza continue to report to work, giving their communities a lifeline which can collapse anytime now due to lack of funding,” he added.

He suggested UNRWA would be “forced to suspend its humanitarian response” if funding was not reinstated.

In the wake of the allegations, the Foreign Office said it was “temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA whilst we review these concerning allegations”.

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Israeli senior adviser says 12 UN members just the ‘tip of the iceberg’

It comes after a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was “documented, clear and ironclad” information showing 12 UNRWA staff members were part of the Hamas force that broke into Israel and killed 1,200 civilians.

Mark Regev said a lot of the information that led to the accusations was shared by Hamas on social media.

“Hamas went live on social media and boasted a lot of the material, so you actually see the faces and the people involved in a lot of the crimes,” he told Sky News.

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Wayne Brown: West Midlands Fire Service chief fire officer found dead at home | UK News

The chief fire officer at West Midlands Fire Service has been found dead at his home amid claims made about his qualifications for the role made on social media.

In a statement from Greg Brackenridge, chairman of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “We are devastated to report that our chief fire officer, Wayne Brown, was this morning found dead at his home address.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious by West Midlands Police.

“All our thoughts and love are with his family, his friends and his colleagues.

“We ask everyone that his family and his colleagues are given time and space at this tragic time.”

West Midlands Police said: “We can confirm that we attended an address in Birmingham this morning where the body of a man in his 50s was sadly found.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious and we are liaising with the local coroner.

“A formal identification will take place in due course.”

Allegations about Mr Brown had been made on social media this week, and the fire service had begun an investigation.

A statement from the service said: “We are aware of claims referencing our Chief Fire Officer and West Midlands Fire Service.

“Formal enquiries and processes, in line with our Fire Authority’s constitution, are now ongoing in relation to the matters raised. We will undertake this thoroughly and fairly.

“In the meantime, we will not be commenting further.”

Suella Braverman meets Met chief amid Tory row over protest article | Politics News

Suella Braverman has met the head of the Metropolitan Police to offer the force her “full backing” ahead of controversial pro-Palestine protests taking place this weekend.

On Wednesday, the home secretary wrote an article for The Times newspaper – which was not signed off by Number 10 – attacking the force for “playing favourites” with left wing protesters, and accusing them of “double standards”.

It followed her earlier remarks describing the demonstrations as “hate marches”.

Politics live: Sunak warned to ‘tread carefully’ over Braverman row

Ms Braverman’s comments have ignited a row within the Conservative Party, with some backing the home secretary, while others are calling for her to resign or be sacked.

Opposition parties also accused her of picking a fight with the police, and demanded she be ousted from the Home Office.

Now in an apparent climb down, the minister has met with the head of the force, Sir Mark Rowley, with a source close to Ms Braverman saying she “emphasised her full backing for the police in what will be a complex and challenging situation and expressed confidence that any criminality will be dealt with robustly”.

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‘We can’t enforce taste or decency’

The prime minister has been under increasing pressure to take action over Ms Braverman’s comments about this weekend’s protests that coincide with Armistice Day.

While the pro-Palestinian march is not set to take place until almost two hours after the nation holds a two-minute silence, and is not due to go to past the Cenotaph in Whitehall, some – including the home secretary – have branded the event offensive and inappropriate.

Sir Mark was summoned to Downing Street earlier in the week to discuss policing of the march with Rishi Sunak, who vowed to hold the most senior office in the UK “accountable” for what happens on Saturday.

But, despite airing his own concerns about the protest – calling it “disrespectful” – the prime minister conceded there was “a right to peacefully protest” and the march could go ahead.

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Met Police chief ‘accountable’ over protest

The Met chief stood by his decision to let the protest take place throughout the week, saying the “legal threshold” to stop it on security grounds “had not been met”.

However, despite the statements from both Mr Sunak and Sir Mark, the home secretary took to the papers to express her anger at the force’s actions – and publicly contradict her party leader.

After causing a rift within the Conservatives – brought into sharp focus by WhatsApp messages leaked to Sky News – Ms Braverman now appears to be attempting to smooth over relations with the Met.

A source close to her said: “The home secretary and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police met this afternoon to discuss the policing of demonstrations to be held tomorrow, on Armistice Day.

“The commissioner outlined plans to continue working to maintain public order, ensure compliance with the law and maintain the safety of participants, police officers and the general public.

“The home secretary emphasised her full backing for the police in what will be a complex and challenging situation and expressed confidence that any criminality will be dealt with robustly.”

Will climbdown be enough to keep Braverman in post?

Rob Powell Political reporter

Rob Powell

Political correspondent

@robpowellnews

While we haven’t yet heard directly from Suella Braverman, the language being used by a source close to the home secretary this evening suggests something of a climbdown and an attempt to make amends with the Metropolitan Police.

After accusing officers of being too lenient with pro-Palestinian protestors earlier this week, we’re now told she has “emphasised her full backing” for the force and “expressed confidence that any criminality will be dealt with robustly”.

That is a marked change in tone from the broadside levelled at the Met just days ago.

So what’s going on?

Downing Street and the broader government machine have made no secret of their unhappiness with the home secretary’s latest intervention.

While the prime minister is said to still have confidence in Ms Braverman, senior ministers have distanced themselves from their colleague and Number 10 has pointedly briefed that it did not sign off the article.

In other words, there was a distinct impression that this time she may have gone too far and, as such, put her job at risk.

Could the threat of being sacked have forced this change in tone? Maybe. But there’s also the practical context to this.

The home secretary’s controversial remarks risked undermining officers and inflaming tension at protests tomorrow. So this could also be a somewhat belated attempt to calm the situation down.

But whether it will be enough to actually keep Suella Braverman in her post remains to be seen.

Earlier on Friday, the Met released details of the “significant” operation it planned to run in London over the weekend to ensure Remembrance services are protected from disruption by both the march and any counter-protests, which some fear may be held by the far right.

The force said more than 2,000 officers will be on the streets, an exclusion zone had been set up around Whitehall – where Sunday’s main Remembrance event will take place – and putting a 24-hour police presence around the Cenotaph.

In a lengthy statement, they added: “We’ll be using an extensive set of powers to prevent any disruption whatsoever to Remembrance events, policing the demonstration as it passes through parts of the capital, while protecting our communities from those intent on inciting hate, violence and disorder.”

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Braverman asked if she will resign

Shortly before news broke of Ms Braverman’s meeting, the prime minister also issued a statement saying he had been “reassured” by the police over their operation that Remembrance services would be protected.

Met Police chief wants law change to tackle extremism in light of ‘jihad’ protest chants – but No 10 has ‘no plans’ | Politics News

The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police says laws for tackling extremism may need to be redrawn in light of pro-Palestinian protests around the Israel-Hamas war.

Sir Mark Rowley said it was for politicians to decide on “the line of the law” and for the police to enforce it.

However, he said recent events were “illustrating that maybe some of the lines aren’t quite in the right place”.

Politics live: Sunak to make Middle East statement in Commons

The commissioner’s remarks came just an hour after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said there were no plans to make any legislative changes after the protests in recent weeks.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman met with Sir Mark earlier on Monday to challenge him over the decision not to arrest protestors chanting “jihad” in a video of a Hizb ut-Tahrir protest which surfaced over the weekend.

The force posted on social media that specialist counterterrorism officers had not identified any offences arising from the clip.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, a source close to Ms Braverman said “there can be no place for incitement to hatred or violence” on UK streets and police should “crackdown on anyone breaking the law”.

But despite criticism from her and other ministers about the lack of arrest, a Downing Street spokesman said he was “unaware” of any plans to toughen up legislation to aid the police in acting.

Speaking after his meeting with the home secretary, Sir Mark defended officers’ actions, saying the force was “absolutely ruthless in tackling anybody who puts their foot over the legal line”.

But he said the police were “accountable for the law – we can’t enforce taste or decency but we can enforce the law”.

The commissioner said the conversation with Ms Braverman had been “really constructive”, but finished around “the line of the law”.

He added: “It is our job to enforce to that line, it is parliament’s job to draw that line, and… maybe events of the moment are illustrating that maybe some of the lines aren’t quite in the right place”.

Sir Mark pointed to recent reports from the Counter Extremism Commission and the Law Commission “talking about how the law needs to change to be stronger in dealing with extremism”, adding: “I know the home secretary and her colleagues are really charged by that and thinking hard about that.”

But pushed further on what changes he wanted to see, the commissioner said: “The law that we have designed around hate crime and terrorism around recent decades hasn’t taken full account of the ability of extremist groups to steer round those laws and propagate some pretty toxic messages through social media, and those lines probably need redrawing.”

He also said there were “lessons to be learnt” from other forces who had “more assertive” frameworks, but he concluded: “That is for politicians and parliament to draw the line. I am focused on… enforcing the letter of the law.”

Suella Braverman to challenge Met Police chief after man filmed chanting ‘jihad’ during protest | UK News

The home secretary will challenge the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police over the force’s decision not to arrest pro-Palestine protesters calling for a “jihad” against Israel.

Suella Braverman will tell Sir Mark Rowley later “there can be no place for incitement to hatred or violence” on UK streets and police should “crackdown on anyone breaking the law”.

Some ministers have condemned the police for their handling of rallies in London and other cities including Birmingham, Cardiff and Belfast over the weekend in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Politics latest: Terror arrests made in UK since start of Israel-Hamas war

The force said officers had also reviewed a video of a Hizb ut-Tahrir protest showing a man speaking into a microphone in front of a banner reading “Muslim Armies! Rescue the People of Palestine”.

The main speaker asks: “What is the solution to liberate people from the concentration camp called Palestine?”

A man standing to the side of the speaker, but neither on a platform nor speaking into the microphone, can then be heard chanting words including “jihad, jihad”, as can some others attending the rally.

Responding to the post on social media, the Met said specialist counter-terrorism officers had not identified any offences arising from the clip.

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Tensions over London protests

In a statement, the force said: “The word (jihad) has a number of meanings but we know the public will most commonly associate it with terrorism.

“Specialist officers have assessed the video and have not identified any offences arising from the specific clip. We have also sought advice from specialist Crown Prosecution Service lawyers, who have reached the same conclusion.

“However, recognising the way language like this will be interpreted by the public and the divisive impact it will have, officers identified the man involved and spoke to him to discourage any repeat of similar chanting.”

Jihad can mean struggle or effort, but it has also been taken to refer to holy war.

Read more:
Man arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after London pro-Palestine march

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Sir Mark was already scheduled to meet Ms Braverman later today.

A source close to the home secretary said: “The home secretary is already due to meet the Metropolitan Police commissioner tomorrow (Monday) to discuss the ongoing Israel-Gaza protests and will be asking for an explanation over the response to incidents which took place on Saturday.

“There can be no place for incitement to hatred or violence on Britain’s streets and, as the home secretary has made clear, the police are urged to crack down on anyone breaking the law.”

Earlier, immigration minister Robert Jenrick said people chanting “jihad” on the streets of the capital were “inciting terrorist violence”.

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‘Terror arrests made in UK’, says Jenrick

He told Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “Chanting ‘jihad’ on the streets of London is completely reprehensible and I never want to see scenes like that. It is inciting terrorist violence and it needs to be tackled with the full force of the law.

“Ultimately, it’s an operational matter for the police and the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) whether to press charges.”

He added: “Arrests have been made… There have been arrests since the beginning of this situation… There have been arrests under terrorist legislation. And we want to do everything that we can to protect British Jews.

“But this is a broader question beyond just legality. It also is a question about values. And there should be a consensus in this country that chanting things like ‘jihad’ is completely reprehensible and wrong and we don’t ever want to see that in our country.”

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‘From the river to the sea’ explained

Jewish safety organisation the Community Security Trust criticised the Met, saying that “in trying to communicate complex and nuanced legal issues” on social media “they gave the impression of legitimising obnoxious and hateful behaviour that may or may not be criminal but nevertheless causes profound concern to British Jews and many other people”.

In a message on the Hizb ut-Tahrir website, explaining why it decided to hold demonstrations on Saturday outside the Egyptian and Turkish Embassies in London, the group said Palestinians have been subject to “brutal oppression” and called on Egypt and Turkey to unite in “rescuing their Palestinian brothers and sisters”.

BT Group chief executive Jansen to step down next year | Business News

BT Group has kicked off a formal search for a successor to Philip Jansen, its chief executive, as he weighs a number of job opportunities in the US.

Sky News has learnt that BT is working with the search firm Spencer Stuart on a process to identify a successor to Mr Jansen, who took on the role in 2019.

City sources said this weekend that Mr Jansen had signalled to BT’s board that he was likely to step down at some point in 2024.

An announcement about the succession process could be made within weeks and potentially as early as next week, when BT holds its annual general meeting, they added.

Mr Jansen is understood to be undecided about whether to continue his executive career or pursue chairmanship roles.

In recent days, there has been speculation that he could return to Worldpay – the payments group he ran prior to his appointment at BT – after its $18.5bn (£14.4bn) purchase by the private equity firm GTCR.

One source said Mr Jansen had also recently turned down an offer of a CEO role at a major US technology company.

Investors’ attention will turn to the likely candidates to succeed Mr Jansen, with BT’s board said to have been engaged.

A number of external figures are already said to have been approached by Spencer Stuart, while frontrunners are expected to include Marc Allera, who runs BT’s consumer business, and Alison Kirkby, the boss of Swedish telecoms group Telia Company.

Ms Kirkby is already a non-executive director on the board of BT.

BT Group logo. Pic: BT Group
Image:
An announcement about the succession process could be made within weeks. Pic: BT Group

Mr Jansen’s departure will come roughly five tumultuous years after he took up the post, replacing Gavin Patterson.

The BT chief is said by people close to the company to be disappointed at the performance of its shares during his tenure, with the stock closing on Friday at 122.5p, giving it a market capitalisation of just over £12bn.

There has been growing speculation about a takeover bid for BT, prompting the board – led by chairman Adam Crozier – to hire defence advisers.

Patrick Drahi, the French-Israeli billionaire, controls roughly 25% of BT, having built the stake through his vehicle Altice UK during the last two years.

The government would carefully scrutinise any foreign bid for the company, given its critical role in Britain’s national infrastructure.

Deutsche Telekom, the German telecoms giant, also holds a 12% stake in BT, and has indicated its interest in a future deal of some kind.

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Mr Jansen has engineered a reshaping of the company, announcing that its workforce would shrink by as many as 55,000 people by the end of the decade amid a boom in artificial intelligence and as its full-fibre broadband rollout comes to an end.

He has sanctioned an acceleration of its investment in high-speed broadband, setting a target of connecting 25 million homes by the end of 2026.

He has also crunched its underperforming Global and Enterprise units together to form a single division, BT Business.

Last month, Sky News revealed that Mr Jansen’s £1.1m salary would be frozen until he retired from the company.

The decision was subsequently confirmed in its annual report.

He was paid about £3m last year.

BT has been contacted for comment.

Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson resigns | Business News

The Royal Mail chief executive is to step down, parent firm International Distributions Services has announced.

As first reported by Sky News, Simon Thompson had been in talks to leave the company after his credibility was challenged by MPs who recalled him for questioning at the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee. He was accused of giving “inconsistencies” in evidence before the committee.

The company said it was in “advanced stages” of appointing a new chief executive and Mr Thompson will remain with the business until 31 October as part of the transition.

The former state-owned company was locked into a bitter dispute with employee members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) which ended last month when an agreement on pay and employment terms was settled.

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Royal Mail boss admits parcels are prioritised over letters

The settlement of that dispute has been listed as a reason for Mr Thompson to leave now.

“The changes we have made, the infrastructure we have put in place, and the agreements negotiated with our trade unions mean that Royal Mail now has a chance to compete and grow,” he said.

“That is what I have always wanted, and it is now the right time to hand over to a new CEO to deliver the next stage of the company’s reinvention.”

Mr Thompson took on the chief executive role just over two years ago in January 2021. Prior to his appointment he served as a non-executive director of the board since 2017.

He thanks his team for their support in what he acknowledged as a “difficult and important time of change”.

Royal Mail is owned by International Distributions Services plc (IDS) who also own an Amsterdam-based logistics company General Logistics Systems.

The postal delivery company had been under pressure to implement modernising reforms after reporting millions of pounds of losses. In October it announced a process to make 5,000 to 6,000 roles redundant by August.

The financial hit of industrial action was estimated to have been £200m in the first nine months of IDS’s financial year to the end of December.

But the CWU general secretary laid the blame on Mr Thompson.

“Simon Thompson is one of the key individuals responsible for the financial crisis that Royal Mail Group has created over the course of the last year.”

“The chief executive was also one of the key people responsible for the appalling mantra of ‘it’s our business to run’ – which saw the employer openly attack its own workforce on a relentless basis, including developing a culture of imposition and creating service quality and USO [universal service obligation] failures on a scale which threatens the future of the company,” Dave Ward said.

“However, we recognise that the chief executive was only one of the senior leadership team responsible for the unacceptable actions and behaviours of managers across the UK throughout this dispute. Further change in Royal Mail group’s leadership team is vital.”

Royal Mail was also subject to a disruptive cyber attack and reported a breach of customer data in the past year.

Nurses’ strike: Critical care exemptions in place for 28-hour walkout, RCN chief insists, ahead of industrial action | Politics News

National exemptions are in place to provide critical care during strike action by nurses, a union leader has insisted, telling Sky News staff would never leave patients unsafe or create more risk.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen was speaking to Sophy Ridge On Sunday ahead of a 28-hour walkout by members over pay.

The government has warned strike action without mitigations “clearly does put patients at risk”.

The industrial action will run from 8pm on Sunday until 11.59pm on Monday night after voting to reject the latest government offer.

Politics latest: Union leader says nurses are pushed to the brink

The union initially said it would not agree to derogations – broad areas of care where staffing is guaranteed despite industrial action – fuelling concerns about patients being put at risk.

It led Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) among other organisations to declare a “business continuity incident” until it was confident it could staff its services over the strike.

The RCN subsequently offered assurances after the hospital raised “serious concerns”.

But Ms Cullen told Ridge wider, national exemptions were in place.

According to the RCN website, limited safety critical mitigations would include allowing some staff “to preserve life-and-limb” care in emergency departments and intensive care units.

Ms Cullen said: “Our nurses, as I’ve said time and time again, will never leave their patients unsafe or create more risk that’s already in the system at this point in time.”

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GMB votes to accept NHS pay offer after Unite rejection

Ms Cullen added: “There are national exemptions in place for a range of services, for emergency departments, for intensive care units, for neonatal units, paediatric intensive care units, those really acute services.

“In fact, it was the Royal College of Nursing contacted NHS England to ask for a process to be put in place so that we could make sure that the strike was safe for our patients.”

‘Lives are being put at risk every single day’

Defending the latest walkout she added: “They’re going on strike because patients’ lives are being put at risk every single day, and why? Because we have tens of thousands of vacant nursing posts.”

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NHS executive: ‘Strikes are disruptive’

Health workers across the NHS have gone on strike several times in past months in disputes over pay and conditions.

Unions including Unison and the GMB have voted in favour of a government pay offer to end the strikes, while Unite and the RCN have voted against.

Nurses make up a quarter of NHS staff and are the biggest proportion of the health service workforce.

NHS England warned staffing levels for some areas of the country will be “exceptionally low, lower than on previous strike days”.

Pay offer ‘fair and reasonable’

Warning of the danger of strike action without exemptions for emergency care, cabinet minister Mark Harper told Ridge: “It clearly does put patients at risk, which is why we urge the unions not to go ahead and do the strike.”

Appealing to the RCN, the transport secretary added: “I would urge them to think again and to do what the other trade unions in the health service have done, which is to accept what I think is fair and reasonable pay offer, reflecting the value that we do place on hardworking NHS staff.”

‘I don’t want to see strikes go ahead’

Speaking on the same programme, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer refused to say whether he supported nurses going on strike without exemptions.

He said: “I don’t want to see strikes go ahead.

“The way to avoid strikes is to get in the room with the nurses and resolve these issues.”

A High Court judge ruled on Thursday it would be unlawful for the RCN strike to continue into Tuesday as originally planned, meaning it will now end just before midnight on Monday.