Rishi Sunak set to be grilled by UK public as pressure mounts

Keir Starmer calls on Israel to abide by international law

Rishi Sunak is set to be grilled by the UK public as pressure continues to mount on the prime minister in one of the most challenging weeks of his premiership.

Mr Sunak is facing questions from undecided and swing voters in County Durham during the People’s Forum event, which kicks off at 8pm on GB News.

It comes amid a week when the PM is enduring two tricky by-elections, opposition to his Rwanda plan, and the release of official figures revealing whether the country has slipped into a recession.

Meanwhile, Labour is facing mounting pressure for their continued support of Rochdale’s by-election candidate after he claimed Israel deliberately relaxed security to allow Hamas to carry out their 7 October attack, to provide grounds to invade Gaza.

Azhar Ali has apologised for his “deeply offensive” remarks – yet it has prompted questions about Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s claim the party has changed since the antisemitism crisis that engulfed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

In a recording obtained by the Mail on Sunday, Mr Ali was heard telling a meeting: “They deliberately took the security off, they allowed … that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.”

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‘Rwanda cares deeply about supporting refugees,’ argues Home Office minister

Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom told peers: “Rwanda is a country that cares deeply about supporting refugees.

“It works already with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and hosts more than 135,000 refugees and asylum seekers, and it stands ready to relocate people and help them rebuild their lives.”

He said earlier in his remarks: “We consider that the terms of the treaty, which had been carefully agreed with the Government of Rwanda and will be binding in international law, to be sufficient to ensure that those relocated under the partnership will be offered safety and protection with no risk of refoulement.

“The Government has conducted its own assessment as to the safety of Rwanda… This evidence draws on a wide range of sources, in addition to the institutional expertise of the Home Office, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, as experts on the bilateral relationship between the UK and Rwanda.”

He added: “The Home Office has reviewed a wide range of sources, including evidence from the UNHCR via an established process for assessing countries safety, this is therefore the most appropriate assessment on which to rely.

“It would not be right for our ability to deliver this policy, which is key to our commitment to stop the boats, to be left solely dependent on a further independent assessment by an external body like UNHCR.”

Tara Cobham12 February 2024 19:15

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Silence is golden for Labour on ‘conspiracy theory’ Rochdale candidate

Labour’s Rochdale by-election candidate was not around for interviews on Monday – with no sign of activity at the campaign HQ in the town.

And MPs and senior Labour figures who last week backed Azhar Ali, have also not been available for comment – though the party is standing by their candidate.

Mr Ali, Labour’s candidate following the death last month of sitting MP Sir Tony Lloyd, has apologised after a recording emerged of him in a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party appearing to suggest that Israel deliberately lowered its guard to use the Hamas terror attacks as a pretext to invade Gaza.

Tara Cobham12 February 2024 19:00

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‘Unbelievable’ government has to be reminded to comply with international law, hears parliament

Parliament has heard it is “unbelievable” the Government has to be reminded of the need to comply with international law.

Labour frontbencher Lord Coaker said: “Whatever our view on the various amendments we are totally and fundamentally opposed to the whole Bill.”

He added: “Any Bill, any law that we pass of course should be compliant with international law.”

He went on: “I am astonished, astounded, I find it unbelievable that His Majesty’s Government has to be reminded of the fact that we want our Government to comply with international law.

“I would have thought that would have been a statement of the obvious.”

Responding, Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom said: “The overriding purpose of this Bill is to ensure that Parliament’s sovereign view that Rwanda is a safe country is accepted and interpreted by the courts to prevent legal challenge, which seek to delay removals and prevent us from taking control of our borders.”

Tara Cobham12 February 2024 18:45

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Legislating Rwanda is safe ‘doesn’t make it so’, says Lord Alton

Human rights campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool said legislating that Rwanda is safe “doesn’t make it so”.

He said: “Just saying that an apple is a pear doesn’t make it such. Saying a dog is a cat doesn’t make it such. It may be your opinion but it isn’t true.”

Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said: “I am arguing that this is an absurd Bill. It is nasty, it is inhumane and I don’t want any part of it.”

President of MigrationWatch UK, Lord Green of Deddington, said: “The reality is that the Government has lost control of our borders.”

The independent crossbencher and former ambassador added: “And there is deep public anger I regret to say but there is. It seems to me, therefore, it’s for the Government to take action to bring all this under control and for us to give some advice as to how that could best be done.”

But former ambassador and crossbench peer Lord Kerr of Kinlochard said: “In think we are dealing with a Bill which it is very hard to make acceptable.”

Human rights campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool said legislating that Rwanda is safe ‘doesn’t make it so’

(PA Archive)

Tara Cobham12 February 2024 18:30

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Former Bank of England chief economist tells Hunt: ‘Invest more, don’t cut taxes’

The former chief economist at the Bank of England has said Jeremy Hunt should invest more, rather than cutting taxes in next month’s Budget.

Andy Haldane said boosting spending is “what the UK needs right now” rather than tax cuts for households.

He told Sky News: “Tax cuts tend to support… spending by households rather than investment and what the UK needs right now is investment.

“So if it were me spending my pound, it would be not on tax cuts, but rather on investment of various types, whether investment in technology or innovation or investment in people, in their training. We are falling short on both fronts.”

Archie Mitchell 12 February 2024 18:15

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Minister admits fresh Navy embarrassment ‘unacceptable’ as warship fails to set sail

Security minister Tom Tugendhat has admitted it is unacceptable that both of Britain’s multi-billion pound aircraft carriers have failed to leave port this month for vital military exercises.

Read the full article from Tom Watling here:

Holly Evans12 February 2024 17:45

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Tory and Labour peers warn of belief Bill could set dangerous precedents for Government

Both Tory and Labour peers warned of their belief that the Bill could set dangerous precedents for the Government.

Tory peer Lord Tugendhat said: “I have been a member of Parliament for a very long time on and off, and I have been a member of the Conservative party for some 66 years when I counted it up, and I do have to say that I find it quite extraordinary that the party of Margaret Thatcher should be introducing a Bill of this kind.”

The Conservative grandee, whose nephew is security minister Tom Tugendhat, claimed the Bill could have an impact on the UK’s perception as a “marvellous place to do business because of our great respect for the rule of law”.

Lord Tugendhat added: “What we are being asked to do really represents the sort of behaviour that the world associates with despots and autocracies, not with an established democracy, not with the Mother of Parliaments. It is a Bill we should not even be asked to confront, let alone pass.”

Labour former justice secretary Lord Falconer of Thoroton meanwhile told peers: “Suppose the prime minister has a friend or a crony on the House of Commons who is convicted in a court of corruption of some sort, and then the prime minister presents a bill to Parliament saying it it the judgment of Parliament that ‘Snooks MP’ actually wasn’t able to present this new evidence to the criminal court that convicted him, so it is the judgment of Parliament that Snooks MP is innocent.

“That is the route that this particular Bill takes Parliament down.”

Tara Cobham12 February 2024 17:30

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Former Tory leader: ‘Appropriate for parliament to substitution its own opinion for Supreme Court’s’

Former Tory leader Michael Howard said the Supreme Court’s finding that Rwanda is not a safe place to send asylum seekers was not one of fact, but one of opinion, reports political correspondent Archie Mitchell.

Lord Howard said that it is then entirely appropriate “for parliament to substitute its own opinion… that is what this bill does, and that is why I support it”.

The Tory grandee, who led the party in Opposition during the early 2000s, also said: “The plain fact is that we are a parliamentary democracy. That means that Parliament is sovereign, and the reason why so many of us cherish that overarching principle is that we attach high importance to something called accountability.”

Former Tory leader Michael Howard said the Supreme Court’s finding that Rwanda is not a safe place to send asylum seekers was not one of fact, but one of opinion

(PA)

Archie Mitchell, Political Correspondent12 February 2024 17:22

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Lord Tugendhat: ‘Extraordinary that the party of Margaret Thatcher should be introducing a bill of this kind’

A Conservative peer has said it is “extraordinary that the party of Margaret Thatcher should be introducing a bill of this kind”.

Opposing the Rwanda bill, Lord Tugendhat said: “We in this country boast frequently that Britain is such a marvellous place to do business, because of our great respect for the rule of law.”

And he added that it would be “very difficult to sustain that argument” if the Safety of Rwanda Bill became law.

“It does seem to me that we are going against a fundamental interest, not just in terms of this issue, but in terms of our wider reputation,” Lord Tugendhat said.

Archie Mitchell 12 February 2024 17:15

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Baroness Chakrabarti: Rwanda bill ‘threatens rule of law and international rules-based order’

Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti said the Rwanda bill “threatens both the domestic rule of law, especially the separation of powers, and the international rules-based order”.

The barrister and human rights activist led calls for the Government to heed advice from the UN about whether Rwanda is safe before beginning deportations, adding: “I will assume that the Government does not want to put the executive of the United Kingdom on a collision course with our Supreme Court or our international legal obligations.

“So amendments in this group seek to offer a way through the stalemate for people of good will from all sides of your Lordships House.”

Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti criticised the plan the send asylum seekers to Rwanda

(PA)

Lady Chakrabarti said the proposals would mean no one was removed to Rwanda under the Government’s plans “unless two conditions are met”.

She added: “The first condition is that there is advice from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees) that Rwanda is now safe, for example as a result of the successful implementation of promised reforms and safeguards to the asylum system there.

“The second condition is that this advice has been laid before both Houses of Parliament.”

Archie Mitchell 12 February 2024 16:58

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