London politics latest: Angela Rayner and Oliver Dowden in Covid Inquiry PMQs clash as Rishi Sunak heads to US

Deputy PM Oliver Dowden has clashed with his Opposition counterpart Angela Rayner at Prime Minister’s Questions.

The deputy party leaders went head-to-head on Wednesday in place of Rishi Sunak, who is in the US for meeting with business leaders and senior figures in Congress, and Sir Keir Starmer.

Ms Rayner started off by taking aim at the Covid-19 Inquiry, saying the Tories had “set up the inquiry to get to the truth” then “blocked it” from getting information they had asked for.

She said: “Speaking of the last election, the Tory manifesto promised to end the abuse of the judicial review, how’s it going?”

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden replied: “Let me just remind (her) of a few facts about the Covid inquiry.

“We set up the Covid inquiry, we have provided it with more than 55,000 documents so far.

“We have given it all the financial resources it needs so that we can learn the lessons from the pandemic, but Mr Speaker in Wales they also had a pandemic, and what have the Labour-run Wales authorities done there? No independent inquiry in Wales.

“As ever one rule for Labour and another for everyone else.”

The clash comes as new polling shows Labour could be on track to win 470 seats at the next general election, compared with 129 for the Conservatives.

However, the first survey of voters done under new constituency boundaries, due to be introduced later this year, suggests Labour’s popularity is diminishing.

Ian Paisley brings Gene Simmons to Parliament

13:28 , Rachael Burford

Kiss star Gene Simmons said he witnessed “controlled chaos” during his “insane” visit to the Houses of Parliament.

The rocker, in the UK for the band’s End Of The Road tour, was a guest of DUP MP Ian Paisley and received a private tour before making his first trip into the Commons chamber.

Simmons, speaking in central lobby, told the PA news agency: “What I just saw in there was controlled chaos. It was the clash of wills but respectful - the right honourable so and so, it was fascinating.

“In America, it’s like the middle finger is a salute. I think Americans can take a big lesson in civility in how to make democracy actually work and still respect the other side.”

Asked if he had visited Parliament before, Simmons said: “Never to Parliament - taught it to my students, but never was physically here and I will tell you, touching a piece of granite that’s over 1,000 years old is insane.

“America is so young and has no sense of history, everything over there is just fast, immediate, instant gratification and there’s no time to sit there and just gaze, I mean, look where you are - it’s insane.

“We’re standing on, in terms of democracy, hallowed ground.”

Kiss’ Gene Simmons ‘steals the show’ at PMQs

13:18 , Rachael Burford

MPs rushed out of the Chamber after a subdued PMQs.

Many it seems wanted to get a quick selfie with Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, who had been watching proceedings from the public gallery.

Whitehall reopens after suspicious package scare

13:13 , Rachael Burford

Police briefly closed Whitehall and cordoned off Downing Street this afternoon after reports of a suspicious package.

All roads have now been reopened.

Downing Street: Aid will be diverted to help Ukraine flooding victims

13:08 , Rachael Burford

Humanitarian aid to Ukraine will be diverted to the area affected by destruction of the Kakhovka dam, Downing Street has said.

More than 40,000 people are at risk of losing their homes to flooding after a giant Soviet-era dam was blown up in eastern Ukraine,

A No 10 spokesman said the Government will continue to look at what support the country needs and provide further aid if it can.

“Our intelligence community is currently looking at the incident and it’s too soon to make a definitive judgment but we’re clear that if it is indeed an (intentional) act it shows blatant disregard for the lives of the thousands of people in that local area,” the official said.

“We’ve already provided a lot of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, working closely with the UN and the Red Cross.

“My understanding is that some of that aid will be diverted to that area to assist those who are having to leave their homes.

“Of course we will continue to look at what humanitarian support Ukraine needs and provide it if we can.”

Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 7, (AP)
Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 7, (AP)

SNP: PM ‘trashing the economy just a wee bit slower than predecessor’

12:41 , Rachael Burford

The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader said the Government’s biggest achievement was “trashing the economy just a wee bit slower than their predecessor”.

Mhairi Black told the Commons: “When the Prime Minister took office he said he would put economic stability and confidence at the heart of this Government.

“Today, UK interest rates are one of the highest in the G20 and mortgage rates are rising nearly back to where they were after the former PM crashed the economy.

“Is it not the case that this Government’s biggest achievement is that they are trashing the economy just a wee bit slower than their predecessor?”

Dowden responds that the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has “upgraded” Britain’s growth forecast. adding: “And one month ago, the whole nation came together celebrating that wonderful moment of pomp, pageantry, and pride in our nation, and what did she describe it as? I quote, a pantomime.

“Well, the real pantomime is the SNP in Scotland.”

 (Sky News)
(Sky News)

Unpaid carers ‘saving more than entire NHS budget'

12:35 , Rachael Burford

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey calls for the Government to give carers “the financial support they deserve”.

He tells the Commons about his constituent Karen - a carer for her husband who has dementia.

Carers like Karen save the government more than the entire NHS budget, Davey tells MPs.

Dowden replies that Government has provided £2.3billion for social care support, and is committed to “putting people at the heart of social care”.

Labour slammed for Just Stop Oil links

12:28 , Rachael Burford

Dowden has accused Labour of being influenced by Just Stop Oil.

The party has taken around £1.5million in donations from Dale Vince, who has also funded the climate protest group.

Last year, Mr Vince said he had donated “around £10,000” to Just Stop Oil.

Dowden sayd: “While we are driving down inflation and energy bills, Labour is taking £10,000 from Just Stop Oil protesters, adopting their policies, blocking new production that would force the importation of more foreign oil and gas.”

Just Stop Oil in Parliament Square (Just Stop Oil)
Just Stop Oil in Parliament Square (Just Stop Oil)

Dowden Defends Schools Record

12:21 , Rachael Burford

The Deputy PM defended the Government’s record on schools, and says a register of missing children remains under under review.

He adds the Government has provided £4billion extra funding for schools this year, with the same planned next year.

This has resulted in the “highest reading standards in the western world”, he says.

Children Missing From School

12:18 , Rachael Burford

Rayner presses the Government on children who have gone missing from school since the pandemic.

She asks why did the ministers abandon plans for a register of missing children?

School leaders have called for a concerted effort to trace the children who have failed to return to school following Covid and get them back into the classroom, amid fears some may have left the country.

Judicial Review Questions

12:11 , Rachael Burford

Angela Rayner kicks off with a quick question about the Tory manifesto pledge to end the abuse of judicial review.

"How's it going?" she asks, in reference to the Government’s legal woes with the Covid inquiry.

Last week it brought a judicial review against the Covid Inquiry over its demand that it hand over a swathe of unredacted documents including Boris Johnson’s Whatapps.

Dowden responds by saying the government has provided every document related to the inquiry, while protecting those that are "wholly and unambiguously irrelevant".

Labour ‘on course for a landslide’

12:05 , Rachael Burford

PMQs is taking place just hours after new polling suggested Labour is on course for a landslide victory at the next general election.

However, the party’s margins are falling across the country, according to the first megapoll under new constituency boundaries to be introduced later this year.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party could win 470 seats compared with 129 for the Conservatives, the internationalist Best for Britain campaign group said.

The analysis is based on a survey by pollster Focaldata, which asked 10,140 people in Great Britain between April 20 and May 9 which party they would vote for if a general election were held tomorrow.

The findings are likely to pile pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in the US today.

Although he could take some comfort from predictions that Labour’s majority could be at risk across the country.

Labour’s vote share would be at about 35 per cent, 12 percentage points ahead of the Tories, the modelling showed.

But that is lower than last autumn when polling gave Labour a 42 per cent share.

Even in a worst-case scenario for Labour, it would still be the biggest party in a hung Parliament, according to the analysis.

Tug of War

12:02 , Rachael Burford

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle kicks off PMQs by confirming the House of Commons beat the House of Lords 4-0 in a tug of war competition on Tuesday.