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Home Secretary Suella Braverman questions whether international migration rules are ‘fit for purpose’ | Politics News

The home secretary has questioned whether international migration rules and conventions designed more than a century ago are “fit for purpose” ahead of a major speech in the United States.

Suella Braverman suggested a shake-up of international rules could be needed to tackle the migrant crisis.

She warned a failure to address the problem will undermine the “democratic legitimacy” of political institutions.

Ms Braverman has previously stated her personal view that the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights signed in 1950, which she has blamed for hampering efforts to introduce tough policies, such the Home Office bid to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Critics of her approach also questioned its compliance with the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

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‘Will you electronically tag migrants?’

Ahead of her trip, the home secretary said: “Illegal migration and the unprecedented mass movement of people across the globe is placing unsustainable pressures on America, the UK, and Europe.

“We must come together and ask whether the international conventions and legal frameworks designed 50-plus years ago are fit for purpose in an age of jet travel and smartphones.

“I’m going to Washington to discuss this crisis with our American counterparts.

“If we fail to meet these challenges, then our political institutions risk losing their democratic legitimacy.”

Ms Braverman will travel to Washington on Monday and deliver a keynote speech on Tuesday setting out her assessment of the global migration challenges.

She will present a blueprint for how other countries can combat the crisis and claim the UK has led the way in bringing forward innovative approaches to tackle the problem.

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Almost 24,000 people have been detected crossing the English Channel so far this year, despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” – though the figure is down from 2022.

The Rwanda scheme has been bogged down in legal battles, while an attempt to house people waiting for claims to be assessed on a barge in Dorset is paused after Legionella was discovered on board.

Ms Braverman is expected to also use her trip to seek closer co-operation with US authorities on tackling illegal migration and people traffickers.

Rishi Sunak watering down green pledges not a ‘cynical ploy’ but what is ‘right’, says business secretary | Politics News

Rishi Sunak’s watering down of climate pledges is not a “cynical ploy” – but is rather the prime minister doing “what is right”, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said.

Last night, Mr Sunak announced a raft of changes to the UK’s climate pledges, including delaying the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by five years to 2035.

The prime minister explained that he was making the changes as the previous plans were unaffordable and unachievable.

Politics latest: Minister makes dig at Tory peer’s wealth as she defends PM’s net zero rollback

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However, as Sky science and technology editor Tom Clarke explained, the decision seemed to be more about politics – and the general election expected next year – than the climate.

And Ms Badeonch told Sky News this morning: “This is not some sort of cynical ploy.”

“This is the right thing to do, and I fully support the prime minister.”

Mr Sunak defended his change of direction this morning, telling the BBC that the UK’s decarbonising ambitions are “more ambitious than pretty much any major economy in the world”.

The move has been welcomed by some Conservative MPs, who, believing it may be popular with voters, have been calling for green policies to be delayed to avoid exacerbating the cost of living crisis.

But it has been opposed by sections of the business community, opposition parties, and campaigners – including Al Gore.

One of the critics of the move was Lord Goldsmith, a Conservative former minister.

Ms Badenoch said: “I know Zac Goldsmith very well. He is a friend… I fundamentally disagree with what he has said.

“We are listening to the concerns people are raising with us. Most people in this country do not have the kind of money that he has.”

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch speaks, at the BMW Mini plant at Cowley in Oxford, as the company announced plans to build its next-generation electric Mini in Oxford after securing a Government funding package. Picture date: Monday September 11, 2023.
Kemi Badenoch at the MINI plant in Oxford last week

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Last week, Ms Badenoch visited the BMW MINI plant in Oxford as the company announced it would build its next generation electric vehicles there, securing government funding in the process.

She was asked if yesterday’s roll-back was known about when she announced the deal.

The business secretary said: “Well, I had been making representations to the prime minister – he had not made his decision known to all of us.

“But these were conversations that we were having, So I’m quite pleased that this has happened.”

Sam Coates: Climate changes may jar with Sunak’s image as a stable leader

The car industry was one of the most vocal critics of the government’s changes, as many had planned to stop selling ICE vehicles in seven years time.

Ford was the most sceptical, saying that the new path undermined the “ambition, commitment and consistency” needed for the UK.

Ms Badenoch pointed out the US car giant made the statement “without even hearing what the announcement was”, and added that Toyota welcomed the move.

When asked about criticism from the chief executive of EON – who claimed the changes would mean people have to live in draughty homes – Ms Badenoch urged the leader of the energy giant to “actually look at what the prime minister announced”.

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UK’s new net zero plans

Daisy Powell-Chandler, the head of energy and environment at polling company Public First, explained to Sky News how the public tends to hold a dim view of parties that water down green policies.

She said: “The public aren’t very keen on that, including Conservative and Labour swing voters.

“Most people think that the government should be doing more rather than less to reach net zero.

“So about three times more people think the government should be doing more on the environment than think they should be doing less.

“And there’s an extraordinary consensus right across the age range. For example, climate change these days is amongst people’s tier one concerns.

“It’s just below things like the NHS, but it’s still up there in the top five on most trackers.”

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Sarah Jones, Labour’s shadow industry and decarbonisation minister, told Sky News that her party would return the deadline for ICE sales to 2030, but would not unpick other parts of the changes announced yesterday.

She said that on heat pumps, for example, the government “has utterly failed” to get close to the previous target, and that it was more important to focus on insulating homes first.

Education secretary under fire for opening ‘Pandora’s box’ on concrete crisis | Politics News

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has come under fire from colleagues for her “unilateral” decision to determine which school buildings need to close as part of the concrete crisis, Sky News has learned.

Ministers elsewhere in Whitehall fear she has opened a “Pandora’s box” by setting a more cautious than necessary standard that could affect a huge array of public buildings, including housing stock, local authority buildings and the military estate.

The education secretary has made clear she took the most cautious of the options presented by officials over which buildings to shut last week.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan arriving in Downing Street, London, for a Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Tuesday June 13, 2023.

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Sky News understands that the decision was signed off by the education team in Number 10 with the PM’s knowledge.

However there was no cabinet office meeting and no ministerial follow-up for days after the issue emerged.

The Department for Education “belatedly” shared the technical advice on why they shut school with others in Whitehall – some of whom disagree it shows a need to shut schools

Ministers are worried they could now face massive disruption and spiralling costs if other public buildings are now held to the same precedent set in the Department for Education.

“This is suboptimal,” said a senior Whitehall figure. “She has made a unilateral decision. It’s not been resolved, and it’s a bit of a mess.”

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Gillian Keegan denies complacency

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Sources close to the education secretary say the decision was never intended to act as a precedent since the school estate is unique. “We are being over-cautious,” said an education source.

There are tens of thousands of school buildings in disparate parts of the country and often do not have easy access to estate managers, monitors or experts who can monitor the state of buildings, and the buildings themselves are unusually crowded.

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However, there is concern elsewhere that the decision by Ms Keegan may nevertheless appear like a precedent, and if other public buildings are not held to the same standard they will have to fix them or face legal risk and political pressure.

Responsibility for the issue will now fall to the Government Property Agency, but ministers are already concerned about the implications for budgets.

“There is a big fear this is going to spiral,” said a Tory source.

Education secretary in four-letter rant over lack of thanks for doing a ‘f***ing good job’ on concrete crisis | Politics News

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan was caught on camera complaining about not being thanked for doing a “f***ing good job” over the unsafe concrete crisis.

After an interview with ITV News in Westminster, the cabinet minister criticised others for being “sat on their arses” and claimed the government had gone “over and above” in addressing concerns relating to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

She said: “Does anyone ever say ‘You know you’ve done a f***ing good job because everyone else has sat on their arses and done nothing.

“No signs of that, no?”

Rayner gets new role in reshuffle – follow politics latest

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s shadow schools minister, said her comments were a “staggering admission that Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have done nothing to address a problem that they have known about for years”.

“The education secretary has displayed staggering arrogance for saying she deserves a pat on the back for the chaos that is gripping our schools on their watch,” he said.

“Families, school leaders and school staff deserve an immediate apology for these appalling comments.”

Ms Keegan is due to be interviewed on the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge on Sky News tonight at 7:30pm.

A Number 10 source said her comments were “wrong” but the prime minister “has full confidence in his education secretary”.

Thousands of pupils face disruption at the start of term this week following a last-minute order to fully or partially close 104 schools because of concerns about RAAC.

Pupils face being taught in temporary classrooms, on different sites or even forced into pandemic-style remote lessons.

Mr Sunak has acknowledged hundreds more schools in England could be caught up in the crisis as he faced accusations he failed to fund a programme to replace ageing classrooms while chancellor.

The prime minister said that 95% of England’s schools were unaffected, leaving open the possibility that more than a thousand could still be impacted by concerns about RAAC.

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Mr Sunak said: “New information came to light relatively recently and it’s important that once it had, that the government acted on it as swiftly as possible.

“Of course I know the timing is frustrating, but I want to give people a sense of the scale of what we are grappling with here: there are around 22,000 schools in England and the important thing to know is that we expect that 95% of those schools won’t be impacted by this.”

But critics have accused the Tories of a “shambolic” handling of the situation, saying concerns about the material have been well known for years.

RAAC is essentially a lighter-weight form of concrete, used to build roofs, schools, colleges and other buildings from the 1950s until the mid-1990s.

Experts have long-warned the material has now reached the end of its shelf life and is liable to collapse.

Earlier Jonathan Slater, who was secretary at the Department for Education (DfE) from May 2016 to August 2020, claimed the Treasury had failed to fully fund school rebuilding schemes – including during Mr Sunak’s time at the helm.

He said up to 400 schools a year need to be replaced, but the DfE only got funding for 100, despite the government knowing there was a “critical risk to life”.

Mr Sunak dismissed that criticism as “completely and utterly wrong”.

But Labour insisted he “bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle” – saying funding for rebuilding schools has been slashed over the years.

Analysis published by the party found that spending on school rebuilding between 2019 and 2020 was at £765m, but this fell to £560m the following year.

Spending dropped again to £416m in 2021 to 2022, the party said.

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Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said: “The defining image of 13 years of the Conservative-run education system will be children sat under steel girders to stop the roof falling in.

“Rishi Sunak bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle: he doubled down on Michael Gove’s decision to axe Labour’s schools rebuilding programme and now the chickens have come home to roost – with yet more disruption to children’s education.”

Defence secretary Ben Wallace to stand down at next election | Politics News

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has revealed he will step down from his post at the next reshuffle and quit as an MP at the next election.

Mr Wallace, the longest-serving Conservative to head the Ministry of Defence, said in an interview with The Times: “I’m not standing next time.”

He added that he will not force a by-election by resigning “prematurely” – as fellow allies of Boris Johnson have done.

Mr Wallace further confirmed he would leave the cabinet at the next reshuffle, which the prime minister is expected to hold this September.

Sky News reported that he was considering the move on Saturday.

“I went into politics in the Scottish parliament in 1999. That’s 24 years. I’ve spent well over seven years with three phones by my bed,” he told The Times.

When asked what the devices were for, he replied: “Secret, secret and secret.”

Read more:
Why Ben Wallace’s days were numbered – analysis

Ukraine-Russia war latest: Wagner troops cross border to Belarus, says Kyiv

It comes following controversy last week when the defence secretary told a NATO summit press conference that the UK was not an “Amazon” delivery service for weapons to Ukraine.

He also said Kyiv might be wise to let its supporters “see gratitude”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak later pushed back against the comments, saying Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had “expressed his gratitude for what we’ve done on a number of occasions”.

Mr Zelenskyy, speaking at the same event in Lithuania, also responded: “I believe that we were always grateful to the UK.”

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PM quizzed on Ukraine gratitude

Following the news of his departure on Saturday evening, Mr Wallace took to Twitter in an attempt to clarify his “Amazon” comments.

In a series of tweets posted in Ukrainian, he said his remarks were “somewhat misinterpreted”.

“I said that Ukraine sometimes needs to realise that in many countries and in some parliaments there is not such strong support as in Great Britain,” he wrote.

“It was a comment not about governments, but more about citizens and members of parliaments.”

He added that he meant to say Britain’s relationship with Ukraine is not “transactional” but more of a “partnership”.

Speculation about the defence secretary’s fate has been mounting for weeks, with officials inside the Ministry of Defence wondering who might replace him.

It also comes following a failed UK bid to make Mr Wallace the next head of NATO.

The 53-year-old last month ruled himself out of the race to replace Jens Stoltenberg after apparently failing to get the backing of the US.

Mr Wallace told The Times that a desire to spend more time with his family, including his three children, was one of his reasons for leaving politics.

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Asked what he would do next, he replied: “I’m quite happy to go and work at a bar,” or “just do something completely different.”

Wallace’s career in the corridors of power came after he left school at the age of eighteen – before a “short stint” as a ski instructor in Austria.

He then served as a captain in the Scots Guards and worked in the aerospace industry before entering politics in 1999.

Mr Wallace was once tipped as a potential candidate for Tory leader and prime minister.

But he ruled himself out of the race to replace Boris Johnson last summer and instead backed eventual winner Liz Truss.

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‘UK missiles have been used in Ukraine’

He then said he would not stand in the contest to replace her and revealed he was “leaning towards” backing a return by Mr Johnson to the post.

Mr Wallace had been facing the prospect of effectively losing his constituency of Wyre and Preston North at the next general election under boundary changes – meaning he would have needed to stand in another seat to remain as an MP.

The MP also revealed in his interview with The Times that, on the eve of the war in Ukraine, he discussed Britain supplying weapons to Kyiv – using whiskies as a code.

Referring to secret talks with his counterpart Oleksii Reznikov, he said: “the Nlaw [anti-tank missile] was Glenfiddich and Harpoon anti-ship missiles were Islay.

“I would text him saying ‘I’ve got some whisky for you’ or ‘the whisky is on its way’. We just picked codewords, minister to minister.”

Ben Wallace ‘considering resigning’ as defence secretary in expected autumn reshuffle | Politics News

Ben Wallace – the longest-serving Conservative defence secretary – is considering leaving government in an anticipated autumn reshuffle, Sky News understands.

It follows a failed UK bid to make Mr Wallace, 53, the next head of NATO and as the prime minister reportedly prepares to refresh his top team ahead of next year’s election.

The possible departure of the defence secretary – a close ally of former prime minister Boris Johnson – was first revealed by The Times.

A source told Sky News that Mr Wallace would likely make a decision on whether to stay or go next month. If he chooses to leave then he would also stand down as an MP.

It is thought that any such move would be a personal decision and nothing to do with Rishi Sunak or any issues related to the Conservative Party.

Speculation about the defence secretary’s fate has been mounting for weeks, with officials inside the Ministry of Defence wondering who might replace him.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a foreign office minister and former defence minister, Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, and Jeremy Quinn, a cabinet office minister who is also a former defence minister, are among the names being speculated on.

“Not sure who will replace (him) but Jeremy Quinn a strong possibility,” one source said.

The Times said John Glen, chief secretary to the Treasury, was the frontrunner.

Hugely popular within the party, Mr Wallace is the longest, continuously-serving minister in government, having survived five prime ministers since 2014, including as security minister and then – for the past four years – overseeing the Ministry of Defence.

In his current role, he has been a leading voice pushing the UK and its allies to do ever more to support Ukraine.

Mr Wallace is also known for speaking his mind and using colourful language that has on occasion generated unfortunate headlines.

It happened at a major NATO summit this week when he revealed to a group of journalists that he had told Ukraine the UK was not an “Amazon” delivery service for weapons and that people “want to see gratitude”.

It prompted Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, to say in a press conference at the summit in Lithuania: “I believe that we were always grateful to the UK.”

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Zelenskyy has ‘expressed gratitude’, Sunak says

Mr Zelenskyy then, rather comically, asked his defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, who was sitting in the audience, whether there was a problem with his relationship with Mr Wallace.

“Why don’t you extend words of gratitude to him?” the president said. Breaking into English, he added: “Call him, please, today.”

Yet, the point Mr Wallace had been trying to make had been a valid one – a bit of friendly advice to a country he respects about the need to consider the political reality in certain nations where not everyone is supportive of giving more weapons and money to Ukraine.

The defence secretary has spent much of his time in office battling for more funding for the armed forces at a time of growing threats and after decades of cost-saving cuts.

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Ben Wallace is said to be considering resigning as defence secretary. Pic: AP
Mr Wallace is the longest, continuously-serving minister in government. Pic: AP

This has on occasion created tensions with Mr Sunak, first when he was chancellor and then as prime minister.

The two men are not known to have a close relationship but the strong support for Mr Wallace within the Conservative Party will make him difficult to sack.

The defence secretary turned down the chance to run for prime minister last year even though he had been the clear favourite to replace Mr Johnson.

Another consideration for Mr Wallace is the fact that he will effectively lose his constituency of Wyre and Preston North at the general election under boundary changes.

It means, to stay on as an MP, he would need to become the Tory candidate in another seat – which could be done should he choose to stay.

BBC presenter should only be named after ‘full’ investigation, says justice secretary | Politics News

A Cabinet minister has suggested the BBC presenter who has been suspended for allegedly paying for sexually explicit images of a teenager should only be named once a “full” investigation has taken place.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk agreed there was a “public interest” in the broadcaster being named but said it would not be appropriate to do so “immediately” or until a “full investigation” had taken place.

The BBC has been rocked by allegations that one of its presenters – reportedly a “household name” – paid a 17-year-old thousands of pounds for sexually explicit images.

The presenter, who has since been suspended, reportedly paid £35,000 for the photographs, which the mother has claimed was spent on funding the now 20-year-old’s drug habit.

The Sun reported that the presenter allegedly first requested images from the young person in 2020 when they were 17-years-old and has made a series of payments over the years.

BBC presenter claims latest: BBC to meet police today over scandal

In a statement on Sunday, the BBC said the presenter had been suspended after it had received new allegations of a different nature in addition to their own enquiries.

It has also now been in touch with external authorities, the corporation said.

Mr Chalk described the allegations as “very serious and very concerning”.

Asked whether there was a public interest for the broadcaster to be named, Mr Chalk told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “This is quite a difficult, nuanced legal issue. I’m not going to criticise them at this stage because it will depend on all sorts of things.

“So, for example, if an allegation were made against you and it was of an extremely serious nature, then I don’t think it would necessarily be appropriate to name you immediately until there had been a full investigation.”

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BBC suspends male presenter

“And that is why, if I may say so, it is really important that time is of the essence because there is a public interest in this, I accept that.

“But equally there is a public interest in ensuring that people aren’t defamed as well.”

He added: “So it is a matter of fact and degree. Not every single immediate allegation would need to lead to that person being unmasked, so to speak.

“But the process does need to continue so there is sufficient detail in that investigation to potentially justify that important step.

“Once the allegation is publicly made and that individual is unmasked, the consequences can be very serious, to say nothing of the potential legal knock-on implications.”

‘Presenter made panicked calls’

According to reports, the family first made a complaint to the BBC in May, asking the broadcaster to make the man “stop sending the cash”.

The BBC confirmed in a statement that it had “first became aware of a complaint in May” and that it “takes any allegations seriously” and has “robust internal processes in place to proactively deal with such allegations”.

However, despite the complaint being raised in May, the presenter was still on air a month later, leading the family to grow frustrated.

On Monday, fresh claims emerged in the Sun that the BBC star called the young person to ask “what have you done?”.

He then allegedly asked the person to speak to their mother and urge her to stop the investigation, the paper added.

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Mr Chalk said suggestions the BBC allowed the presenter to stay on air despite the allegations were “astonishing”.

“If that is right, then it is astonishing and you would have expected robust action to have been taken much more quickly.

“I don’t know precisely what was said, and that is why there needs to be a full discussion of this in the fullness of time.”

On the internal BBC investigation, Mr Chalk said: “I want them to get on with it.”

Why is the police involved?

The BBC is set to meet the Metropolitan Police today about the allegations.

The Sun reported that the first payments for sexually explicit photos were allegedly made when the teenager was 17.

While the legal age of consent in the UK is 16, it is a crime to make or possess indecent images of anyone under 18.

The Met said last night it “received initial contact” but “no formal referral or allegation has been made”.

“We will require additional information before determining what further action should follow,” the spokesperson said.

UK would back fast-track for Ukraine to join NATO, foreign secretary says | UK News

The UK would back a fast-track for Ukraine to join NATO, the foreign secretary has signalled.

France also appears to favour the idea, according to Paris’s top diplomat.

How to advance Ukraine’s membership to NATO even as its forces fight Russia’s invasion will be one of the key decisions expected to be made by alliance leaders at a major summit next month in the Baltic state of Lithuania.

Putin boasts of ‘nuclear triad’ in speech – follow Ukraine war live updates

Any nation wanting to join NATO is meant to complete a plan of action to ensure its armed forces meet certain standards and are properly funded.

But this requirement was waived when Finland and Sweden asked to join last year and could be dropped again.

James Cleverly, the British foreign secretary, said all allies recognised that the Ukrainian armed forces are already adapting to meet the alliance’s entry standards.

“We have seen Ukraine evolve and evolve incredibly quickly,” he told journalists at a press conference on the sidelines of a conference in London on Ukrainian reconstruction.

He said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had told allies at a recent informal meeting of foreign ministers in Norway that “many of the requirements” of the so-called membership action plan (MAP) were already being delivered.

“The reform of their armed forces is happening whilst engaged in conflict,” Mr Cleverly said.

“I think the UK’s position would be very, very supportive if we moved on from the membership action plan, recognising that the offer to both Finland and Sweden didn’t require that and the Ukrainians have demonstrated their commitments to reform – the military reform required for NATO membership – through their actions on the battlefield.

“I think all NATO allies recognise that.”

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Catherine Colonna, France’s foreign minister, indicated her country was thinking along the same lines.

“I can see a possibility that the MAP is not any longer a stage of that route, that roadmap to accession,” she said, speaking in English to reports at the Ukraine conference.

Speaking in French, she said a lot of time had passed since NATO first spoke about an “open door” policy towards aspirations by Ukraine and Georgia to join back in 2008.

“Perhaps we won’t require the “Membership Action Plan” mechanism – perhaps not, I say, perhaps not – which was planned in 2008,” she said.

“We are a long way from 2008. Time has passed, the situation is quite different.”

Nurses’ strike: Health Secretary Steve Barclay says he is ‘left with no choice but to proceed with legal action’ | Politics News

The government will take a nursing union to court in an attempt to stop its latest strike action.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are due to walk out for 48 hours from 8pm on Sunday night until 8pm on Tuesday 2 May after rejecting the latest pay offer from the government.

But Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has written to RCN boss Pat Cullen, saying the union’s current six-month strike mandate runs out at midnight on 1 May.

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After talks to solve the issue last week failed, Mr Barclay said: “I therefore regretfully provided notice of my intent to pursue legal action with a view to protecting patients, NHS workers and RCN members whilst continuing to seek a way to resolve this through official channels.”

Ms Cullen said the RCN had told the government such action was “wrong and indefensible” but “the threat sadly became a reality”.

In an email to members, she added: “The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them – including in court.

“It’s so wrong for the government to use taxpayers’ money to drag our profession through the courts.

“We’re determined to show that the nursing profession is strong and determined and defend our members’ right to strike.”

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Thousands of nurses are due to strike for the May bank holiday

In a statement released after the news broke, Mr Barclay said he had been “left with no choice but to proceed with legal action”.

He added: “I firmly support the right to take industrial action within the law – but the government cannot stand by and let a plainly unlawful strike action go ahead nor ignore the request of NHS Employers.

“We must also protect nurses by ensuring they are not asked to take part in an unlawful strike.”

Ms Cullen confirmed members would not be asked to walk out if the court ruled against them, saying: “If the government succeeds in silencing members like you and convinces the court to stop part of our strike, then we’ll have no choice but to cut it short.”

She added: “Our strike action has always been safe and legal. We would never ask our members to do anything unsafe or against your professional code.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay to pursue legal action to stop nurses’ strike action | UK News

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said he plans to “pursue legal action” over the Royal College of Nursing’s upcoming strike action.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) working in the NHS in England are preparing to take industrial action for 48 hours over the May Bank Holiday.

They are set to walk out from 8pm, or the start of a night shift on 30 April, until 8pm or the start of the night shift on 2 May.

The action will see nurses in emergency departments, intensive care and cancer wards down tools for the first time.

NHS bosses wrote to Health Secretary Steve Barclay asking him to check the legality of the strike action, before the mandate expires in May.

In a statement, Mr Barclay said: “Following a request from NHS Employers, I have regretfully provided notice of my intent to pursue legal action to ask the courts to declare the Royal College of Nursing’s upcoming strike action planned for 30 April to 2 May to be unlawful.

“The government firmly believes in the right to strike, but it is vital that any industrial action is lawful and I have no choice but to take action.

“Strike action with no national exemptions agreed, including for emergency and cancer care, will also put patient safety at risk.”

Mr Barclay warned nurses that taking part in the action could put their careers in jeopardy.

“This legal action also seeks to protect nurses who could otherwise be asked to take part in unlawful activity that could, in turn, put their professional registration at risk and would breach the requirements set out in the nursing code of conduct.”

But RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, branded the move “nakedly political”.

“Nurses will not be gagged in this way by a bullying government,” a statement said.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen joins members on the picket line outside the Royal United Hospital in Bath, as nurses take industrial action over pay. Picture date: Tuesday February 7, 2023.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen joins members on the picket line outside the Royal United Hospital in Bath in February

“We are clear that court arguments should only relate to 2 May and not 30 April and 1 May.

“The government is now desperate to silence nurses rather than address this properly. We want to be in the negotiating room, not the courtroom.”

A statement from the RCN added: “Bullying nurses and dragging us through the highest courts would not be a good look for the government.

“It would show utter contempt for nursing staff.”

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Intensive care nurses to strike

Steve Barclay MP
Health Secretary Steve Barclay

Mr Barclay revealed his intent to launch legal action after nurses in England rejected an offer of a 5% pay rise last week.

The offer was rejected despite a recommendation by union leaders to accept the deal.

An NHS leader warned that an escalation of action would “endanger patients safety”.

But one union representative refused to rule out the possibility of the RCN and junior doctors coordinating strike action.

Dr Arjan Singh, a member of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee, said: “We have a very close relationship with the RCN and every option is to be considered.”

Mr Barclay told junior doctors striking last week that he was “willing to engage” but insisted their demand for a 35% pay increase is “unreasonable”.