Daily Briefing: 12 October
The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made his first appearance from the Despatch box yesterday, as he answered MPs’ questions on the tragedy in Syria and gave his response to the Russian bombing campaign in the country. He argued that Aleppo is close to obliteration and claimed that the “wells of outrage are growing exhausted”.
Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development secretary, called for the debate and urged Johnson to consider all his options against the Russians, including enforcing a no-fly zone. Johnson appeared to heed his advice, refusing to rule out the option but qualifying the statement with the remarks “we can’t commit to a no-fly zone unless we are prepared to shoot down [Russian] planes and helicopters.”
But it was not these comments that caused the most diplomatic fury. Instead, Johnson’s calls for the Stop the War Coalition to protest outside the Russian embassy were met with fury from his Russian counterparts. The Foreign Secretary appeared to be highlighting what he believes to be the Coalition’s hypocrisy, as it organises mass rallies for any British involvement in conflict, but does not protest outside the Russian embassy when they have committed what the Foreign Secretary believes to be a war-crime by bombing a Syrian hospital.
The Russian envoy in the UK was quick to retaliate to the Foreign Secretary’s remarks, tweeting to the Ministry of Defence “What have you achieved so far? Russia’s record on Syria is thousands of freed villages, thousands of tons of humanitarian aid. What’s Britain’s?”
Meanwhile, heavy bombing in Aleppo resumed last night and looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that George Osborne’s flagship pension reforms have backfired and could cost the taxpayer billions of pounds a year as people stop saving for retirement. The OBR argued directly against the central claim of the government that the measures would save money and said the changes would ultimately cost the government close to £5 billion a year more. Theresa May’s government is now under pressure to scrap the policy, in what would be further repudiation of the Cameron/Osborne era.
The FT reports that the cabinet is apparently split over government plans to put workers on company boards to represent the interests of lower paid workers. Theresa May has been vocal about her support for the policy, announcing it before the summer recess and then reiterating her intentions in her speech to the Tory party conference. But the plans have been met with strong resistance from business leaders and one senior cabinet figure who predicted that “it’s not going to happen”.
Theresa May has moved to dampen fears about the government’s transparency over Brexit, agreeing to hold a “full and transparent” Commons debate before the Article 50 exit clause is activated. May had come under increasing pressure in recent days to clarify her position on the role of parliament in Brexit negotiations, with senior figures from both the Tories and Labour warning her against by-passing parliament. However, crucially, May has not promised to allow MPs a formal vote on the issue and pressure looks set to continue.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
Fujitsu announced yesterday that it is to cut 1800 jobs across the UK. The electronics group is the biggest Japanese employer in the UK, with a total of 14,000 workers. However, the group has denied that the decision to cut 14 per cent of its UK workforce is down to Brexit, instead arguing it is part of its “general transformation programme” designed to help the firm compete globally.
The buy-to-let sector in the UK has seen a surge despite government efforts to curb the market. New figures revealed by Rightmove have shown a rising number of properties being listed for rent and a large increase in purchase enquiries from would-be buy-to-let landlords. Rightmove found that rental listings had increased by six per cent in the three months to September and in London had surged by as much as 15 per cent.
The budget airline Monarch has welcomed a £165 million investment from majority shareholder Greybull Capital. The struggling airline needed the fresh capital to renew its membership of the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) scheme, which protects and refunds travellers if a travel firm collapses. The investment is the biggest in Monarch’s 48-year history.
Just after midday on Tuesday, the FTSE100 hit its highest ever level during trading, peaking at 7,129.83. However, the index narrowly missed out on finishing at an all-time high as it stumbled in late trading, finishing the day 0.4% lower at 7,070.88 points.
The fall in sterling further boosted the FTSE as the pound continued its dismal performance post-Brexit vote. The currency slipped further on Tuesday, falling to below $1.22 and €1.10 respectively. This fall represented a more than two per cent drop against the dollar, taking the pound to its lowest level since 1984 and representing an 18 per cent drop since the Brexit vote.
Animalcare Group, Diurnal Group, Proactis Holdings
Etalon Group Ltd GDR (Reg S), Tissue Regenix Group
Ashley (Laura) Holding, FinnAust Mining, New World Oil And Gas, Project Finance Investments Limited
International Economic Announcements
(10:00) Industrial Production (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(21:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
In The Guardian, Jill Abramson looks at the facts surrounding Hillary Clinton’s treatment of the women who accused Bill Clinton of rape. She argues that Trump’s tactics of attempting to divert the spotlight away from his own grotesque comments by throwing the attention on these women is both devious and dishonest.
Daniel Finkelstein in The Times asks the question that we appear to ask of every new prime minister: “Can May find a strategy to fix broken Britain?” On this occasion, Finkelstein is focusing on the government’s industrial policy and whether it can revive parts of the economy (and the nation) that earlier attempts have failed to reach. He concludes that macro circumstances may be the downfall of the new PM’s strategy, quoting Richard P. Rumelt, who has argued that “it is hard to show your skill as a sailor when there is no wind.”
ON THIS DAY
In 1984 the IRA carried out a bomb attack on the Conservative Party conference in Brighton. Five people were killed, including Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry.
House of Commons
Scotland, including Topical Questions
Prime Minister’s Questions
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Stalking (Sentencing) — Alex Chalk
Opposition Day Debate
(8th allotted day) Parliamentary scrutiny of the UK leaving the EU
Gypsies and traveller policy — Andrew Selous
House of Lords
Discussions with local authorities in the North East of England about the devolution of powers — Lord Beith
Deployment of the UK’s £17 million contribution towards the management of the migration situation in France — Baroness Sheehan
Recommendations of the FCO report ‘Children in Military Custody’ and the UNICEF report ‘Children in Israeli Military Detention’ — Lord Hylton
For what purpose the Government intend to use the information ascertained from the newly introduced question in the school census on pupils’ nationality. — Earl of Clancarty
Bus Services Bill [HL] — Report stage (day 1) — Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
BBC’s new charter — Lord Ashton of Hyde
No business scheduled