MPs are now voting on the first Lords amendment to the EU (withdrawal agreement) bill.
Just before the debate ended the SNP’s Phillipa Whitford challenged a point made by Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, earlier. Barclay said EU nationals living in the UK after Brexit could always print out the Home Office email saying they had settled status. (One of the Lords amendments said they should be given a physical document proving they have the right to be in the country.) But Whitford told MPs that the email specifically says it is not proof of someone’s status.
These are from my colleague Lisa O’Carroll.
According to ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston, senior figures in Downing Street are strongly opposed to the former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell, who is now head of radio and education at the BBC, or anyone like him becoming the corporation’s next director general. In a blog Peston says:
According to a well placed Downing Street source, if the BBC’s board and [BBC chairman David] Clementi “try to put someone like Purnell in [as DG], we will put in a chairman whose first job is to fire him…The likes of Purnell [would be] ‘dead on arrival’”.
This is a reference to the former Labour minister, James Purnell, who is the BBC’s director of radio. It is not clear yet whether Purnell is a candidate to succeed Hall.
And what is more, [Dominic] Cummings and his colleagues are actively searching for possible director general candidates they regard as sympathetic to their aims for the corporation.
It is not unusual for governments, or anyone else in politics, to brief on an unattributable basis, but since Boris Johnson became PM there has been an increase in the number of unattributable briefings coming out of No 10, often involving threats to Johnson’s opponents. Quite often what is being threatened never actually happens. For example, we were told that Johnson would do anything to avoid having to request a Brexit extension from the EU in the autumn, but in the end he meekly complied with the legislation saying he had to.
That might mean that the threat was bogus in the first place. Or it might meant senior source making the threat subsequently got over-ruled by Johnson himself.
Some people think journalists should not be reporting this stuff. But if this is what someone important is saying in private, and the journalist who hears it to be at least half serious, then it does seem as if there is quite a good case for letting the public know. Anyone who doesn’t realise that there are some in No 10 who harbour deep hostility towards the BBC should read my colleague Rowena Mason’s scoop about Dominic Cummings.
Lisa Nandy has welcomed the nomination she has received from Chinese for Labour. (See 1.14pm.)
Boris Johnson to hold ‘People’s PMQs’ on Facebook at 5pm
Boris Johnson is doing another of his Facebook People’s PMQs this afternoon.
It was also a very poor guide to what Boris Johnson was doing to do next. “We will not accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop,” Johnson told his Facebook audience in September. But in the end he did end up proposing a Northern Ireland-only Brexit arrangement that, while not technically a “backstop”, is as good as.
MPs debate Lords amendments to Brexit bill
In the Commons MPs are now debating Lords amendments to the EU (withdrawal agreement) bill.
Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, is speaking for the government. He confirms that the government wants to overturn the defeats inflicted on the government when the bill was on the Lords.
He insists the government remains committed to maintaining protections for unaccompanied child migrants who want to come to the UK to join family members.
But he says there is no need for the amendment from the Labour peer Lords Dubs that was passed in the Lords committing the government to maintaining these arrangements.
Nandy confirmed on final ballot for Labour leadership after securing third affiliate nomination
Lisa Nandy will now definitely be on the ballot for the Labour leadership, HuffPost’s Paul Waugh reports. Nandy already had the backing of two unions this morning, the GMB and the NUM, but now a tiny socialist society affiliated to Labour, Chinese for Labour, has backed her. That means that she has the three affiliates she needs, accounting for at least 5% of the affilates vote, to be on the final ballot.
PMQs – Snap verdict
Boris Johnson was remarkably bad. It did not matter very much, because his MPs were hugely supportive, and the nation as a whole, like the Commons, is not paying much attention to Jeremy Corbyn at the moment, but under a different Labour leader the prime minister’s glib complacency and lack of attention to detail when supposed to be defending the record of his government could – in fact, should – become a liability.
Corbyn started by asking about the way bonuses are clawed back for people on universal credit, prompted by the story about this happening to Greggs staff. Johnson clearly did not have a clue what Corbyn was talking about, but he would not say so, and instead blamed Corbyn for the way he framed the question. When Corbyn used his second question to explain, Johnson still failed to address the point. Then Corbyn branched out and asked various questions about universal credit, and poverty generally. It is hard to imagine Theresa May not having an answer about Greggs in her folder somewhere (she was never brilliant at PMQs, but she was always prepared), and when asked about UC, she was able to engage in discussion about the detail. Johnson was reduced to firing out headline bullet points about the government’s record on employment and poverty. He had a reasonably good joke up his sleeve about Tory MPs being happy to endorse Corbyn as the best Labour leader, but overall he was very poor, and only lifted by the fact that Tory MPs are still willing to cheer him unconditionally.
At some point Conservative backbenchers will start to assert their independence. But there is not much evidence of that yet, and some of the sycophancy on display this afternoon (see 12.02pm and 12.19pm) was gruesome.
One other point was interesting. Immediately after the general election, Johnson was keen to assert that he was leading a brand new government. Yet today, when challenged about the Tory record over the last 10 years, Johnson was happy to defend it with claims (some questionable – see below) about employment and poverty. He was back to sounding like a continuity PM, not a fresh start one.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader at Westminster, asks if the commitment to allow “unfettered access” for goods going from Northern Ireland to Britain after Brexit also applies to goods going the other way.
It does, says Johnson.
Amanda Solloway, a Conservative, asks about period poverty. She says she remembers the embarrassment of not being able to afford tampons when she was a teenager.
Johnson says free period products are being made available at schools now.
She says, when the UK leaves the EU, the government will be able to cut VAT on period products.
Labour’s Alex Cunningham says Teeside men have the same life expectancy as people in Ethiopia.
Johnson says this is a good point. He says the inequality in life expectance in the UK is a “disgrace”.
Labour’s Diana Johnson says Johnson wants to be known as Brexity Hezza. So will he support the Humber docks in the way that Michael Heseltine supported the development of docklands in London.
Johnson says this project is being considered. And he says a free port might help too.
Labour’s Marsha de Cordova asks about Wandsworth council’s special educational needs provision. Does Johnson agree every child with special educational needs deserves a good education?
Johnson says more money is going into SEND. Ofsted is the guarantor of SEND education, he says. But Labour wants to abolish Ofsted, he says.
Labour’s Holly Lynch says the north needs HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Will the HS2 review be published this week?
Johnson says it is right to look at the value the country could get from HS2. He says the Oakervee review will be published in due course.
UPDATE: This post has been corrected because it was Holly Lynch who asked the question, not Cat Smith as originally stated. Sorry for the mistake.
Caroline Nokes, a Conservative, asks about algae in the Solent, and its effect on house planning in her constituency.
Johnson says he will use a “ministerial dyno rod” to sort out this problem.
Alex Chalk, a Conservative, asks about a renewable energy firm in his Cheltenham constituency.
Johnson says the government is looking to a replacement for the renewable heat incentive.