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Keir Starmer accuses Rishi Sunak of being in ‘total denial’ about the state of the country in PMQs clash | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer has attacked Rishi Sunak over the “shocking state” the Conservatives have left the country in during the cost of living crisis.

The Labour leader said living standards were on the floor after 13 years of “Tory failure”, as he pressed the prime minister on what he will do over rising energy bills.

Speaking at PMQs he said: “After 13 years of Tory failure, the average family in Britain will be poorer than the average family in Poland by 2030. That’s a shocking state of affairs. If the Tories limp on in government we are going to see a generation of young people learning to say Auf Wiedersehen in Polish, aren’t we?”

Politics live: Starmer attacks Sunak over cost of living crisis

Mr Sunak blamed the rise in the cost of living on the war in Ukraine, adding: “And I just remind the honourable gentleman what we are doing to ease people through that.”

But Sir Keir said it’s “not as complicated as he pretends” as he called on the PM to “get rid of the loopholes in his botched windfall tax and finally choose family finances over oil profits”.

“Oil and gas companies are making vast, unexpected profits whilst working people face misery of higher bills,” he said.

“He can boast all he likes but companies like Shell didn’t pay a penny in windfall tax last year and they’re still not paying their fair share now.”

The windfall tax was raised to 35% in November which Mr Sunak said is “comparable, indeed higher than other North Sea nations”.

But whether companies are paying this tax is complicated as often they get credits for investments within the UK to bring their payments down – something opposition MPs have branded a “loophole”.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer probed Mr Sunak on the UK’s problems with growing the economy

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Sir Keir said energy bills are due to go up by £900 in April and questioned what action Mr Sunak will take to make them cheaper.

Mr Sunak accused the Opposition leader of making “inflationary, unfunded spending commitments” and running out of taxpayers’ cash to fund Labour’s promises.

Sir Keir hit back with a reference to the economic damage caused by the PM’s predecessor.

“The dictionary definition for unfunded commitments is last year’s kamikaze budget. The only country in the G7 still poorer than it was before the pandemic, and he stands there pretending it’s all fine. Total denial about the damage and decline that he is presiding over.”

Labour ‘running out of other people’s money’

During PMQs, Sir Keir also called on the prime minister to scrap the non-dom tax status and use it to fund better childcare provision.

He added: “It is not just bills or housing, families are paying over a thousand pounds a month just to send their child to nursery. If he scrapped his non-dom status, he could start to fund better childcare, put money back in people’s pockets and get parents back to work.”

Sir Keir said it “seems a pretty simple choice” and asked: “So what is he going to choose? Wealthy tax avoiders or hardworking parents?”

Mr Sunak replied: “He has already spent the money he has claimed he would raise from that policy on five different things. It is the same old Labour Party, always running out of other people’s money.”

PM ‘letting generation down’ over housing

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Starmer and Sunak clash over housebuilding

The fiery session also saw the pair clash over housebuilding targets, with Sir Keir raising the fact that the Home Builders Federation estimate housebuilding is going to fall to its lowest level in 75 years.

The Labour leader said a recent Tory rebellion forced Mr Sunak to scrap targets for new homes and called on him to change course.

He told MPs: “He can change course on this, he can bring back targets and planning reforms or he can duck that fight and let a generation down, which is it?”

In response, Mr Sunak said the UK had record levels of housebuilding – a claim that has previously been rebuked by the Full Fact charity.

They said in November that Mr Sunak’s assertion that a record number of new homes had been built did not “appear to be correct” and no data could be found which backed it up.

Speaking after PMQs today, the prime minister’s spokesman said they would have to check what Mr Sunak was referring to in today’s encounter.

Gavin Williamson was right to resign, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says – with Rishi Sunak’s judgement likely to be probed at PMQs | Politics News

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has said Sir Gavin Williamson was right to resign from the cabinet over bullying claims.

Sir Gavin’s departure on Tuesday evening came shortly after an ex-civil servant – who claimed the MP told them to “slit your throat” – made a formal complaint.

A Number 10 source told Sky News it was Sir Gavin’s decision to resign following further allegations being laid at his door.

He is understood to have spoken to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the early evening to offer his resignation.

Sunak to face grilling over Williamson appointment – Politics latest

In his resignation letter, the former cabinet minister vowed to clear his name of wrongdoing – and said he “refutes the characterisation of these claims”.

“I recognise these are becoming a distraction for the good work this government is doing,” Sir Gavin wrote to Mr Sunak.

Sir Gavin – who had already been sacked by Theresa May and Boris Johnson – has also been accused of sending expletive-laden messages to former chief whip Wendy Morton where he complained about being refused an invitation to the Queen’s funeral.

He was also the subject of claims he bullied a former official at the Ministry of Defence and engaged in “unethical and immoral” behaviour while he was chief whip.

Probed on whether Sir Gavin was right to resign, Ms Keegan told Sky News: “Yes, I think it is.

“He said it was a distraction and it is a distraction because we’ve got really sort of serious things that we need to navigate – navigating these economic times is going to be quite tricky.”

She added: “I think Gavin did the right thing by resigning.”

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Williamson vows to clear his name

Discussing the allegations Sir Gavin is facing, Ms Keegan noted that “it is inappropriate to use anybody’s mental health against them”.

She added that Sir Gavin had “apologised” for the “unacceptable” messages sent to a colleague.

Late last night, Sir Gavin said he would not be taking severance pay, tweeting: “This is taxpayers’ money and it should go instead toward the government’s priorities like reducing the NHS’s waiting lists.”

Mr Sunak’s will face PMQs this afternoon, hours after his ally Sir Gavin quit over the bullying claims.

Accepting the resignation “with great sadness”, Mr Sunak told Sir Gavin: “I would like to thank you for your personal support and loyalty.”

Read more:
Gavin Williamson quits after formal complaint over ‘slit your throat’ remark
Sunak believes Williamson’s account of events on the allegations he faces

The prime minister’s judgement is being questioned after it emerged that he appointed Sir Gavin to a senior role despite being aware of an investigation related to his behaviour.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said yesterday’s events show “yet another Tory government has descended into chaos”.

“This is yet another example of Rishi Sunak’s poor judgement and weak leadership. It is clear that he is trapped by the grubby backroom deals he made to dodge a vote, and is incapable of putting country before party,” she said.

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New Williamson bullying complaint

While Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This should be the third and final time Gavin Williamson is forced out of the cabinet.”

She continued: “Rishi Sunak has serious questions to answer about why he appointed Gavin Williamson, then stood by him instead of sacking him. His promise to lead a government of integrity has now been left in tatters.”

Senior Tory MPs have alleged to Sky News that Sir Gavin “has been bullying for most of his career” and that his behaviour has “always been well known”.

One senior Tory MP, who was in cabinet with Sir Gavin, told Sky News: “He’s a bully no two ways about it, it’s well known, it’s always been well known.

“His only talent is bullying. It was a mistake for Rishi to give him a job. More people will be happy if he goes than if he stays.”

The senior MP also claimed Sir Gavin, who was chief whip under Mrs May “modelled his whipping style” on US drama House of Cards.

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Williamson language is ‘appalling’

Another senior Tory MP was even more disparaging of Sir Gavin, calling him “an absolute little sh***” who “should never have been allowed in government”.

The MP called his appointment to Mr Sunak’s cabinet “beyond the pale” adding: “I’d be surprised if the Cabinet Office didn’t warn the PM there would be a dim view taken if he was given a job.

“I have no idea on earth why anyone would employ him, he’s been bullying for most of his career.

“The spider in the box, the idea he’s got something over somebody… it astonished us all when he got into cabinet.”

The MP went on: “Thoroughly incompetent, thoroughly pathetic. He’s a nasty piece of work, who adds no value whatsoever. Rishi thinks he owes him, he doesn’t. If Gavin Williamson is the answer I don’t know what the hell the question is.”

Sky News has approached Sir Gavin for comment.

Sir Gavin’s third stint in the cabinet was by far his shortest, having made his return to the government only two weeks ago, when Mr Sunak appointed him as a minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office.

Truss to face Starmer at the despatch box in PMQs and brief her cabinet on her first full day as prime minister | Politics News

New Prime Minister Liz Truss will go head-to-head with Sir Keir Starmer for the first time today as the pair cross swords in Prime Minister’s Questions at noon.

On Tuesday, in her first speech as prime minister, Ms Truss said the UK would “ride out the storm” caused by the war in Ukraine and promised a package of reforms to “transform Britain” including measures to boost growth and put the NHS on a “firm footing”.

She also pledged to tackle soaring energy bills as an immediate priority. She is expected to announce a plan to freeze bills later in the week.

Liz Truss announces her cabinet – Politics latest

It has been reported that the freeze will be around £2,500 – more than £500 above the current price cap but £1,000 less than the limit due to be imposed in October.

Labour leader Sir Keir will likely probe Ms Truss on her prospective energy proposals at PMQs.

His party has called for the energy price cap to be frozen now, which would be paid for introducing a new windfall tax on oil and gas companies’ profits without a “major tax loophole” it claims the government’s current windfall tax has.

After giving her speech outside Number 10, Ms Truss then appointed her cabinet team who will gather for their first meeting this morning.

Supporters of leadership rival Rishi Sunak – including former justice secretary Dominic Raab, former transport secretary Grant Shapps and former health secretary Steve Barclay – were removed from their senior government positions.

Loyal allies of Ms Truss were rewarded for their long-term support, including friend Therese Coffey who was promoted from work and pensions secretary to health secretary and deputy prime minister.

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Big promises from the new PM

Elsewhere, former business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was elevated to chancellor – and Sky News understands in the first few hours of the job he summoned the bosses of Britain’s biggest banks for talks today.

Posting on social media, Mr Kwarteng said being offered the position was “the honour of a lifetime”.

Read more: Who is Kwasi Kwarteng?

Former attorney general Suella Braverman was appointed home secretary following Priti Patel’s departure, while James Cleverly was promoted to the position of foreign secretary which Ms Truss had previously held.

Mr Cleverly had worked as a minister in the foreign office for two years, acting effectively as Ms Truss’s deputy.

Former minister of state for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg was promoted to business secretary, while Former Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis’s loyalty to Ms Truss saw him awarded the justice brief.

Former chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and policing minister Kit Malthouse was given the education beat, while former international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will deal with the autumn of planned railway strikes in her new role as transport secretary.

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Who are Liz Truss’s top three cabinet members?

The PM’s press secretary said Ms Truss had appointed a cabinet “which represents the depth and breadth of talent in the Conservative Party” and which will “unify the party, get our economy growing and deliver for the British people”.

More junior ministers are expected to be appointed today.

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Read more: The conundrum facing Liz Truss could trigger ‘existential threat’ to Conservative Party
Truss needs to put her gaffe-prone days as foreign secretary behind her if she wants international respect

Shortly after making her first address outside Downing Street, the new PM made her first call – as promised – to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In a statement after they had spoken, Ms Truss said: “Ukraine can depend on the UK for support in the long term.”

Meanwhile, in a post on social media, President Zelenskyy said he thanked Ms Truss for the UK’s continued support for Ukraine and invited her to visit the country.

Ms Truss also spoke to US President Joe Biden.

President Biden offered his congratulations, saying he looked forward to “deepening the special relationship between our countries and working in close cooperation on global challenges, including continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression”.

Ms Truss said she and Mr Biden discussed working together on shared challenges such as the economic impact of the war in Ukraine and promised to build on “UK-US links”.