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Rishi Sunak refuses to commit to cutting net migration to level set in 2019 Tory manifesto | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has refused to stick to Boris Johnson’s pledge of bringing annual net migration numbers below 250,000 by the next election – arguing instead that tackling illegal migration is “undoubtedly the country’s priority”.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto committed to making sure “overall numbers come down”. At the time, net migration stood at 226,000, giving an effective target to hit during this parliament.

Speaking to journalists on his way to the G7 summit in Japan, the prime minister acknowledged he had “inherited some numbers”, but refused three times to explicitly recommit to reducing legal immigration into the UK to that level.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a huddle with political journalists on board a government plane as he heads to Japan to attend the G7 summit in Hiroshima. Picture date: Wednesday May 17, 2023.
Rishi Sunak spoke to journalists on a plane travelling to Japan for the G7 summit

Mr Sunak told reporters: “I’ve said I do want to bring legal migration down. I think illegal migration is undoubtedly the country’s priority, and you can see all the work I’m putting into that. But on legal migration as well, we are committed to bringing those numbers down.”

Referring to meetings he held in Iceland earlier this week, the prime minister said conversations with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had resulted in “a big step forward” in his bid to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel.

Mr Sunak said: “That is of practical value to us in stopping illegal migration – sharing intelligence, operational cooperation will make a difference to our ability to stop the boats, tackle organised crime upstream. That’s a very tangible result of the engagement and diplomacy we conducted.”

Explaining his reluctance to put a hard target on legal migration levels, the prime minister said: “The key thing for people is to know [when it comes to legal migration] is why people are here, the circumstances and the terms on which they are here, making sure they contribute, to public services like the NHS for example. Those are all now part of our migration system and they weren’t before.”

Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen
Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen recently met in Iceland

Insiders say Mr Sunak’s focus on tackling illegal small boat crossings rather than putting a specific target on reducing legal migration reflects his pragmatism.

“His motto is deliver on promises and don’t promise what you can’t deliver,” said one government source.

But the PM’s remarks are likely to stoke further tensions in cabinet, where divisions are emerging between those who want to make cutting overall numbers a priority and others who argue such measures could limit economic growth.

Net migration hit a record 504,000 in the year to June 2022 – and official figures to be released within weeks are expected to show net migration increasing between 650,000 and 997,000 in the 12 months since.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said at a speech at the National Conservatism conference this week that the government must bring numbers down before the next election to end Britain’s reliance on foreign workers and ease pressure on public services.

Read more:
What Sunak needs to do at G7 to win over public back home
Japan vows to tighten security for G7 after smoke bomb

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PM addresses immigration in Europe

However, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has suggested to business leaders that immigration controls would be eased to plug gaps in the labour market.

Mr Hunt told the British Chambers of Commerce he was open to adding more jobs to the shortage occupation list, telling business leaders the government would be “sensible and pragmatic”.

There are currently a million job vacancies in the British economy, with about seven million adults of working age not in jobs.

The government introduced a series of schemes and incentives to try to get economically inactive adults back into the workplace at the last budget, ranging from more childcare support for new parents and pension tax breaks for high-earning over-50s.

Nicola Sturgeon: Top prosecutor refuses to say if search of former first minister’s home was ‘deliberately delayed’ until after she left office | Politics News

The head of Scotland’s prosecution service has refused to say whether a search warrant for Nicola’s Sturgeon’s home was “deliberately delayed” until after the SNP leadership contest ended.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, who leads the Crown Office, was questioned by Sky News after it emerged her organisation was made aware of a police request to raid the former first minister’s home two weeks before it was given the green light.

The SNP‘s headquarters in Edinburgh was also raided by detectives.

According to a Freedom of Information request first published in The Sun newspaper, Police Scotland asked prosecutors to sign off the warrants on 20 March – which was one week before Humza Yousaf became SNP leader.

The go-ahead was not officially given until 3 April.

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Search on Sturgeon’s home ends

The Lord Advocate is the most senior law officer in Scotland and sits in the Scottish government cabinet as chief legal adviser.

Sky News approached Ms Bain as she departed Tuesday morning’s cabinet with First Minister Humza Yousaf.

She did not reply when asked if the Crown Office “deliberately” delayed issuing warrants until after the SNP contest and entered her car when asked if she personally was aware of developments in the case.

Sky News' reporter Connor Gillies approaching Dorothy Bain in Edinburgh
Sky News’ Scotland correspondent Connor Gillies approaching Dorothy Bain in Edinburgh

The Crown Office said it received a “draft warrant” before it was “finalised” on 3 April.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “COPFS understand the interest in this case but to protect the fair administration of justice we urge restraint in public comment.

“It is standard that any case regarding politicians is dealt with by prosecutors without the involvement of the Lord Advocate or Solicitor General.

“COPFS will continue to work with police on this ongoing investigation.”

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I had ‘no prior knowledge’ of raid

‘Revelation will raise eyebrows across Scotland’

Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay said: “There appears to be no evidence of any undue influence or interference in this process.

“However, the lack of answers to these questions only serves to fuel public concerns about the decision-making taking place behind closed doors.

“The whole murky saga brings into sharp focus the untenable dual role of the Lord Advocate, both as head of the prosecution service and the Scottish government’s most senior lawyer with a place at the cabinet table.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “This is a very interesting revelation that will lead to raised eyebrows across Scotland.

“Whilst I accept that the Lord Advocate may not have had a direct influence on the timing, this story underlines why we need to have a serious discussion in Scotland about separating the role of the Lord Advocate to ensure that there is no perception of conflict of interest can ever occur.”

Former chief executive of the SNP, Peter Murrell returning to his home in Uddingston, Glasgow. Mr Murrell was arrested earlier this month by police investigating the SNPs finances, and questioned for more than 11 hours before being released pending further investigation. Picture date: Thursday April 20, 2023.
Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, former chief executive of the SNP

Read more:
Scottish Tory leader condemns SNP ‘secrecy, spin and cover-ups’
Nicola Sturgeon says SNP crisis is beyond her ‘worst nightmares’
Who is at the centre of the police probe into the SNP?

Long-standing SNP chief executive Peter Murrell was arrested and later released without charge pending further investigations amid the probe.

A £100,000 luxury motorhome was removed from the home of Mr Murrell’s elderly mother in Fife.

SNP stalwart Colin Beattie quit as party treasurer hours after he was arrested and released as part of the same investigation.

Police Scotland say the probe, dubbed Operation Branchform, continues.

Nursing strikes to go ahead after health secretary ‘refuses to negotiate on pay’ | Politics News

Talks to avert the nursing strike on Thursday have failed after the union leader behind the action accused the health secretary of refusing to discuss pay.

Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said on Monday night: “I needed to come out of this meeting with something serious to show nurses why they should not strike this week. Regrettably, they are not getting an extra penny.”

Earlier, No 10 had indicated Steve Barclay, the health secretary, would not be willing to negotiate a new pay offer for nurses, but it was thought other aspects of the nurses’ employment could be up for discussion.

Rail strikes will go ahead this week – politics latest

However, the union had made it clear that pay would have to be on the table if the government wanted to avert the strike action on Thursday.

Ms Cullen told Sky News she went into the meeting with “hopes” but the government “was true to its word – they would not talk to me about pay”.

She said Mr Barclay “showed total belligerence this afternoon, he closed his books and walked away”.

“I did most of the talking, there was very little talking coming from the other side of the table, except to keep repeating to me that he has accepted the independent pay review body recommendation,” she said.

The union is demanding a pay rise of 5% above the RPI rate of inflation, which was 14.2% in October, but Ms Cullen has hinted that she could compromise if the government negotiates on pay.

Ministers have repeatedly insisted they can’t afford to give inflation-busting pay rises and say they have accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendation of a £1,400 rise.

Read more:
Strikes every day before Christmas – which sectors are affected and why
Public sector pay rises – who decides and how?

Nurses ‘left out in the cold’

Ms Cullen said nurses’ pay has dropped by 20% in the past decade, so what they are looking for is “pay restoration”.

“They are not asking for their pockets to be lined with gold, they never have and they never will,” she said.

She said nurses are living “beneath the breadline” and “can no longer afford to be in the profession”.

“We have been left out in the cold by our secretary of state,” she said.

During the meeting, Mr Barclay told Ms Cullen that pay increases for nurses would take money from frontline services, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said.

“Mr Barclay said he would continue to engage with the RCN as we move into the pay review process for next year and on non-pay related issues,” the spokesperson added.

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Public sector pay review is fair, says chancellor

Mr Barclay was under increasing pressure to settle a deal after strikes by ambulance staff and some NHS workers in Scotland were called off today, as members of two unions voted to accept the Scottish government’s recent pay offer.

Unite and Unison members cancelled the planned industrial action following negotiations with Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the intervention of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The new deal means NHS workers in Scotland would remain the best-paid in the UK, with workers getting pay rises ranging from £2,205 to £2,751.

For the lowest paid it would be a rise of 11.3%, with an average rise of 7.5%.

However, nursing strikes will still go ahead in Wales after last-minute talks to resolve the dispute over pay also collapsed on Monday.

The first nurses’ strike will take place on 15 December and, should no resolution be found afterwards, a second strike day will take place on 20 December.

Ms Cullen said she expected further strikes to go ahead next year unless the government is willing to discuss pay.

Nurses are among hundreds of thousands of workers striking this winter across many sectors.

Earlier, the RMT union voted to reject an offer from Network Rail aimed at averting a series of rail strikes in the coming weeks.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, accused Mr Barclay of “spoiling for a fight”.

He said: “They want to blame nurses, blame paramedics, blame NHS staff for challenges in the National Health Service which are the direct fault and responsibility of 12 years of Conservative mismanagement – frankly, I think it’s disgusting.”

Archie Battersbee: Supreme Court refuses to intervene in life-support battle for brain-damaged boy | UK News

The parents of brain-damaged 12-year-old Archie Battersbee have failed to persuade the Supreme Court to intervene in his life-support treatment battle.

The boy’s mother and father, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, had asked Supreme Court justices to give them more time to carry on their fight, possibly taking it to the UN.

But the judges’ decision means the hospital trust can now legally withdraw his medical treatment at any time.

The family’s lawyer has told Sky News Archie’s parents still plan to try to take the case to the UN or the European courts.

It comes after the Court of Appeal earlier this week upheld the High Court’s decision to withdraw life-support treatment for the boy.

The Supreme Court said it “has great sympathy with the plight of Archie’s devoted parents and recognises the emotional pain which they are suffering” but after careful consideration has refused to give them permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Mr Battersbee and Ms Dance want the UN to consider Archie’s case, arguing it has a protocol that allows “individuals and families” to make complaints about violations of disabled people’s rights.

More on Archie Battersbee

They claim the UN could ask the UK government to delay the withdrawal of life support while a complaint is investigated.

Archie's parents Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance
Archie’s parents Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance

Archie has relied on mechanical ventilation since being admitted to hospital on 7 April, after being found unconscious with a ligature around his neck at home in Southend, Essex.

Doctors treating him at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, say he is brain-stem dead and continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests.

Barts Health NHS Trust wants to withdraw treatment and was last week granted permission to do what the High Court ruled was best for Archie.

Undated handout photo of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee. A High Court judge is preparing to make decisions about the future of the 12-year-old boy who has not regained consciousness after suffering brain damage in an incident at home more than a month ago.
Archie was a keen gymnast

The court ruled in favour of removing life support in June after a test showed he was dead.

On Monday, Court of Appeal judges said doctors could lawfully stop providing the treatment and the youngster could be disconnected from a ventilator.

The family argue that stopping treatment would be in breach of the UK’s obligations under Articles 10 and 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children.

12-year-old Archie Battersbee. A High Court judge is preparing to make decisions about the future of the 12-year-old boy who has not regained consciousness after suffering brain damage in an incident at home more than a month ago
Archie suffered severe brain damage

These international obligations say states must take all necessary measures to ensure disabled people enjoy equal rights and that governments should do all they can to prevent the deaths of children and young people.