Politics latest news: ‘There’s no money left’ to lift two-child benefit cap, says Labour frontbencher

Lucy Powell

Lucy Powell insisted there was ‘no money left’ for Labour to undo the two-child benefit cap

Credit: Oli Scarff/AFP

There is “no money left” to lift the two-child benefit cap, a Labour frontbencher has said amid a growing revolt in the party.

Sir Keir Starmer has faced a backlash from his own MPs after confirming he would keep the the limit if elected despite promising to overturn it during his 2020 leadership campaign.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, termed the policy – first introduced by George Osborne – “heinous” earlier this year, while Angela Rayner, Sir Keir’s deputy, has also criticised it in the past.

Speaking to Times Radio, Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, said: “It is a really difficult situation that we find ourselves in with the economy having been crushed and the economy being tanked after 13 years of the Conservative government, where our political hopes and aspirations meet headlong into hard economic realities.

“And we can’t do everything that we would want to do in the first term of a Labour government, because quite honestly, there’s no money left, to coin a phrase, and we have to take that responsible position.”

In 2010, Liam Byrne, a former Labour chief secretary to the Treasury, left a note in a desk for his successor which stated “Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck!” Mr Byrne insisted the message was meant as a private joke.

Follow the latest updates below.

  • Live Reporting

  • Related Stories

Hydrogen heating revolution feared over before it has begun

The boss of British Gas has hit back at claims hydrogen will not play a major role in the future heating of homes days after Grant Shapps suggested it was no longer seen as a realistic option.

Chris O’Shea, chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, warned that ruling out hydrogen boilers for domestic use risks derailing the push towards net zero and pushing up bills.

His comments will be seen as riposte to Mr Shapps, the Energy Security Secretary, who told journalists that the technical challenges of switching millions of homes from natural gas boilers to hydrogen looked too great. 

Along with electrically powered heat pumps, hydrogen boilers have been suggested as a green alternative to gas boilers because burning hydrogen produces no carbon dioxide. 

Matt Oliver: Will hydrogen prove a Boris Johnson pipe dream?

No further update on transgender guidance

Downing Street declined to give an update on whether transgender education guidance that has been widely expected to arrive by Thursday, the end of the school term, would still do so.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t have anything to update from what I said yesterday. If the timings change, we will let you know.”

The spokesman added: “There’s still work ongoing, given it’s a sensitive area.”

Illegal Migration Bill will help stop the boats – but requires Rwanda, says No 10

The passage of the Illegal Migration Bill is an “is an important part of our work to stop the boats”, No 10 has said as it pointed to the ongoing legal challenges affecting the Government’s flagship deportation scheme.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “Obviously, it needs to be paired with the Rwanda partnership which is being challenged in the courts.

“It’s right that we have this power in place so it can be utilised swiftly and we remain confident we will be successful in the challenge in the Supreme Court.”

The spokesman added that when the Bill receives Royal Assent, it will make “powers available” to Suella Braverman to start detaining people – but does not “require” the move.

Bibby Stockholm to house migrants within next two weeks

The Bibby Stockholm barge which arrived this morning (see 7.55am) will start to house asylum seekers within a fortnight, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman has confirmed.

He told reporters the boat was “undergoing final inspections upon arrival”.

“That’s the last part of the process ahead of the first group of asylum seekers moving into the vessel later this month.”

The Bibby Stockholm barge was brought to its moorings at Portland Port today

Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Rival protesters seen remonstrating with each other in Portland, Dorset this morning

Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Five Labour mayors challenge ‘rushed’ ticket office closures

Five Labour metro mayors led by Andy Burnham are planning legal action to prevent “rushed” plans to close ticket offices en masse.

The Rail Delivery Group has insisted staff at the offices will be moved onto station platforms and concourses in order to “modernise” customer service, with the closures coming in response to Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, urging operators to cut costs.

However Mr Burnahm, the Greater Manchester Mayor, said the policy would close more than 2,000 jobs.

“It’s just not the case that this is about redeploying staff. This will be a serious reduction in the level of support available to people when they are travelling,” he said.

“It will further erode what remains of trust in travelling on our trains and we think it is the wrong move at the wrong time. We’re very worried that these plans are being railroaded through. Today we are confirming that as five mayors representing millions of people across England, we are fighting back.”

Rishi Sunak chairs final Cabinet before recess

Rishi Sunak sat next to Jeremy Hunt, his Chancellor, as he began Cabinet by welcoming the passage of the Illegal Migration Bill

Credit: Simon Walker/10 Downing Street

New Deltapoll surey puts Labour 24 points ahead

🚨🚨New Voting Intention🚨🚨
Labour lead is twenty-four percentage points in the latest results from Deltapoll.
Con 24% (-4)
Lab 48% (+2)
Lib Dem 11% (+2)
Other 17% (-1)
Fieldwork: 14th – 17th July 2023
Sample: 1,000 GB adults
(Changes from 7th-10th July 2023) pic.twitter.com/1wXKMcJ3N2

— Deltapoll (@DeltapollUK) July 18, 2023

Jeremy Corbyn: Labour MPs ‘seething with anger’ over two-child policy

Jeremy Corbyn has claimed Labour MPs are “seething with anger” at Sir Keir Starmer over the two-child benefit cap policy.

Sir Keir’s predecessor told LBC Radio: “I have spoken to quite a lot of Labour MPs about it… Not so much on the front bench, but I have spoken to many about it, and they are seething with anger, particularly as commitments have been made regularly by the party that we would take children out of poverty.

“Even the Blair government, which Keir Starmer often quotes, did do a great deal to lift children out of poverty by not having a two-child policy.”

Comment: ‘Rishi needs to realise that the point of a degree is not to give you a job’

There are, it has to be said, a lot of useless degrees out there. Take PPE at Oxford University. What does that really give you except the arrogance to think you can run the country? I guess the idea is that you know all about Philosophy, Politics and Economics, but do you? writes Suzanne Moore.

Yes, I am looking at you Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Matt Hancock, Ed Balls, Peter Mandelson and a great many of my esteemed colleagues. It’s a generalist’s degree originally designed as a way into the civil service for those who did not want to do classics.

It certainly provides bang for its buck, producing generation after generation of bright and supremely confident graduates, who feel entitled to run the world.

For lesser mortals, a degree may involve a whole number of experiences that may, or may not, lead to hedge funder-like salaries. Sunak’s latest big idea is to clamp down on the number of what he calls “low value” degrees. These are courses that do not lead to a large proportion of graduates going into post-grad study, or starting businesses, or getting well-paying jobs.

Suzanne Moore: A final nail into the coffin of social mobility

Left-wing Labour mayor quits party with broadside at Keir Starmer

The Left-wing Labour mayor of the North of Tyne has quit the party and accused Sir Keir Starmer of not engaging in “grown-up politics”.

In the latest sign of the growing rift between the Labour leader and the party’s socialist wing, Jamie Driscoll lambasted him for not being “interested in hope and change” for the country.

Mr Driscoll had hoped to run for the new North East mayoral position next year, but his candidacy was effectively blocked by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC).

In a two-page letter, he told Sir Keir: “It is not grown-up politics to say Britain is broken and then claim things are now so difficult we will abandon any plan to fix it. That is mental gymnastics worthy of Olympic gold.”

Genevieve Holl-Allen has more here

Conversation, conversation, conversation

Sir Tony Blair giving opening remarks at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’s Future of Britain Conference in Britain. Both Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, and Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, will appear at the event this afternoon.

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Nine lives at No 10

Grant Shapps pets Larry the Downing Street cat before going into No10 for the final Cabinet meeting prior to recess

Credit: Anna Gordon/Reuters

IDS: Government must protect vulnerable in small boats crackdown

The Government must protect the vulnerable during its crackdown on illegal Channel crossings, Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said.

In an article for Conservative Home, the former Conservative leader said: “The key to overcoming this problem which the Bill now throws up is to find a way to ensure that victims of slavery exploited in the UK can continue to receive protection from removal and support during the temporary, statutory recovery period. This will ensure that victims can still have confidence to come forward, report exploitation and bring offenders to justice.

“The Government, I believe, understands that these arbitrary powers could end up creating unintended consequences, particularly such as the failure to cooperate by the victims because of their fear of what would happen to them.

“This recognition is why Ministers have offered up the addition of separate guidance that would make it clear that anyone who is given a positive initial referral decision is then given a 30-day period in which to co-operate with the police, during which they would not be subject to the provisions of the Bill.”

Sir Iain added: “The Conservative Government was the first to create the offence of modern-day slavery, and should now ensure that it remains capable of protecting those who are vulnerable, whilst cracking down on those who seek to abuse the rules.”

Ben Wallace: We will pay for tanks but not more troops

Britain must pay for tanks, not more troops, the Defence Secretary has said ahead of a major announcement on the military’s plans in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Ben Wallace said reversing cuts to the size of the Army would have meant sending troops into battle equipped with “pitchforks” instead of high-tech weapons because of the constraints of the defence budget. 

He made the comments ahead of the publication of the Defence Command Paper today, which has been updated from its original publication in 2021 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The paper outlines how the military will modernise and adapt to the “changing global picture” as well as prioritise investment in science and technology. 

Danielle Sheridan, our Defence Editor, has more here

Jeremy Corbyn refuses to rule out London mayoral run

Jeremy Corbyn has refused to rule out running against Sadiq Khan as an independent candidate for Mayor of London in next May’s election.

The former Labour leader has sat as the independent MP for Islington North since his suspension from the party in 2020 amid a row over the scale of antisemitism.

It comes before polls close at 11am this morning in the race to become the Conservative candidate to take on Mr Khan. The two remaining candidates are Moz Hossain KC and Susan Hall, with a result expected tomorrow.

Sir Keir Starmer remains under fire over child benefit cap

Sir Keir Starmer remains under fire over his decision to keep the two-child benefit cap if elected.

Ian Lavery, the Labour MP for Wansbeck, wrote to his party leader urging him to reconsider, asking: “Why should children growing up in larger families be condemned to poverty through no fault of their own?”

As someone who grew up in a large family I know how difficult it can be. As a party we must put tackling child poverty at the heart of everything we do. Scrapping the two child limit would lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, it’s that simple. pic.twitter.com/HHCmHabwqB

— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) July 17, 2023

John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, described Mr Lavery’s letter as “a sincere example of what I believe a majority of Labour MPs & Labour Party supporters are feeling about the issue of the two-child limit”.

“One act can characterise an administration. This should not be allowed to be the defining issue of an incoming Labour government.”

Mr Corbyn added: “If lifting 250,000 children out of poverty isn’t a priority, then what is?”

No 10 ‘acting like North Korea’ to fast-track Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal

Downing Street has been accused of rigging Parliament to drive through Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal after five Tories who threatened to vote against it were “purged” from a committee.

The MPs were removed at the last minute after voicing concerns to government whips about the introduction of new checks on parcels going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Their expulsion sparked uproar among Eurosceptic backbenchers who accused Number 10 of acting like North Korea in an attempt to force home the Windsor Framework.

Mr Sunak’s deal will see red tape imposed on packages being sent across the Irish Sea for the first time since Britain left the bloc three years ago.

Industry leaders warned that the rules would pile extra cost on businesses and lead to many simply deciding to stop supplying Northern Irish customers.

Nick Gutteridge has the full story

Labour’s Lucy Powell: There is no money left

It is a really difficult situation that we find ourselves in with the economy having been crushed and the economy being tanked after 13 years of the Conservative government, where our political hopes and aspirations meet headlong into hard economic realities.

And we can’t do everything that we would want to do in the first term of a Labour government, because quite honestly, there’s no money left, to coin a phrase, and we have to take that responsible position.

We are having to take a long, hard look at what we can absolutely promise to do and so that people can be sure we can afford to do them.

£11.6bn of climate spending ‘will happen and it has to happen’

A Government frontbencher has dismissed suggestions the UK could back away from its £11.6bn climate spending pledge.

Nuclear power minister Andrew Bowie insisted the plan “will happen and it has to happen”, telling Times Radio: “We need to invest in nuclear at pace and at scale, which is why we are doing what we’re doing today, launching our small modular reactor programme, which is incredibly exciting.

“But [we] also continue to invest in large scale gigawatt nuclear plants such as Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C and other projects that will come forward in the future.”

‘The whole thing is a farce… farce with a silent F’

“It’s bent!” shouted Mark Francois. “Bent!” And with that verdict, the Second Delegated Legislation Committee descended into a wild riot of affronted dignity and unparliamentary language, writes Tim Stanley, our Parliamentary Sketchwriter.

How did we get here? This obscure committee was set to wave through something thrilling called the Postal Packets (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2023 – until a Tory member bothered to read it and discovered that it meant that sending a package to Northern Ireland could become unfairly complex.

Sir James Duddridge, in a point of order to the House, recalled that the whips asked him if he’d be likely to vote against this assault on our precious Union. He said: “I might.” In that case, would he like to be replaced? “No.” Would he like to take a week’s holiday? “No.”

Having refused all generous offers – a smarter man would’ve demanded to be made defence secretary – Sir James discovered he’d been removed from the committee by the whips, along with four other Leaver misfits. It was a “sixth-form politics stunt!” Mr Francois told the House in the first of many such interventions.

Tim Stanley: I was there as a procedural farce unfold

Two-child benefit cap is right because there is no money left, says Labour frontbencher

Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, has backed Sir Keir Starmer in his plan to keep the two-child benefit cap if elected.

Sir Keir has faced a backlash from Labour MPs having promised to undo the limit during his 2020 leadership campaign, while Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, has termed the policy “heinous”.

Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Powell said: “There’s no money left, to coin a phrase.”

In 2010, Liam Byrne, a former Labour chief secretary to the Treasury, left a note in a desk for his successor which stated “Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck!”

Mr Byrne insisted the message was meant as a private joke. It has nevertheless tweeted out by Greg Hands, the Conservative Party chairman, as a criticism of Labour’s record on the economy.

Charles Moore: Tom Tugendhat would make a fine defence secretary

By foretelling his own departure, Ben Wallace has opened up the race to be our next Defence Secretary, writes Charles Moore. The post is more important now than it has been for many years, because of the war in Ukraine. 

Britain has gained credit in that war by being so ready to help. But the conflict has also exposed how behind the times is our military thinking and how weak is our industrial base to support it. We tend to think about large armies, large ships and manned aircraft. Ukraine has developed unmanned combat with incredible speed and ingenuity and we, though a much richer country, have lagged behind. We have not always been able to produce fast enough the kit that Ukraine needs.

‘Mr Tugendhat has the right background… His capacity to think geopolitically was a noted British skill in imperial days’

Credit: Isabel Infantes

Although No 10 has made considerable strides in looking at Britain’s place in global security issues and in understanding the range of future threats, the level of knowledge of these subjects across government and party remains thin. It used to be axiomatic that the Tories understood defence and security; no longer. 

One who clearly does is Tom Tugendhat. When he became party leader last year, Rishi Sunak confirmed him in his post as security minister, even though he had been one of his opponents in the earlier contest. This was quite big-hearted, since Mr Tugendhat had ultimately supported Mr Sunak’s main rival, Liz Truss, in that battle. It was also a sensible move by the Prime Minister.

Charles Moore: Tom Tugendhat can help Britain truly lead

Call me a do-gooder all you like – we need net zero, says minister

The nuclear minister has dismissed previous suggestions by the deputy Conservative Party chairman the public are “sick to death” of  being lectured by “do-gooders” about net zero.

Challenged on the remarks by Lee Anderson, Andrew Bowie told Times Radio: “I’m a good friend of Lee’s and whether or not he calls me a do-gooder or not is up to him, but we need to act.

“I think the vast majority on the side and indeed the Government is very much of the view that we need to crack down and combat climate emissions.

“Look at what’s happening across Europe and North America. We need to take action but it’s not just about climate change, it’s for economic reasons.”

Ben Wallace has ‘had enough’, claims former head of Army

A former head of the Army has claimed Ben Wallace has “had enough” of rows over military spending.

Lord Dannatt said Mr Wallace, who will quit as Defence Secretary at the next reshuffle, spent the majority of his time in Government fighting “a pretty bloody battle with the Treasury”.

“Last year, when we had a very many number of prime ministers, we had Jeremy Hunt calling for three per cent of GDP to be spent on defence,” the peer told Times Radio.

Ben Wallace is to stand down from his position at the next reshuffle after four years as Defence Secretary

Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

“We had Liz Truss when she was PM calling for it, we’ve got Rishi Sunak talking about 2.5. At the present moment, we’re only just over two per cent.

“If we want to take the defence of our country and our contribution to Nato and European security seriously, we have got to be spending more money on defence. I think frankly at the end of four years he’s had enough. I don’t criticise him, I criticise the stance the Government has taken for not being prepared to increase the amount of money we spend on defence.”

Breaking: Bibby Stockholm arrives on Portland

The Bibby Stockholm barge, which will house around 500 migrants off the Dorset coast for 18 months under a deal with a shipping company, has arrived on Portland:

The barge was greeted by a small group of protesters, holding signs including the slogans “black lives matter” and “refugees welcome, stop the far right”.

Protesters gather at Portland Port to demonstrate against the arrival of the Bibby Stockholm.

The migrant barge is currently being towed towards Portland and is expected within the next couple of hours. @itvwestcountry pic.twitter.com/i1eg8c6x6l

— Max Walsh (@MaxWalshITV) July 18, 2023

Small boats Bill to become law as Lords challenges defeated

Rishi Sunak’s plan to combat small boats is to become law after it was passed by the Lords in a series of narrow victories for the Government, writes Charles Hymas, our Home Affairs Editor.

Tory peers turned out in numbers to support the controversial legislation, defeating amendments demanding tighter time limits on the detention of unaccompanied children, greater protections for victims of modern slavery and six month delays in the deportation of migrants.

The Illegal Migration Bill gives the Home Secretary powers to detain and swiftly deport any migrant arriving illegally in the UK to their home nation or a third country such as Rwanda, which is subject to legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

The Lords’ votes came after the Government refused any more concessions and overturned the peers’ nine amendments in the Commons to send the bill back to the upper house. It will now go for royal assent to be enacted this Summer after weeks of “ping pong” between the two houses.

Read the full story here

Good morning

Dominic Penna here, The Telegraph’s Political Reporter, guiding you through another day in Westminster.

The Conservatives could lose all three of the by-elections taking place on Thursday, a minister admitted this morning.

Andrew Bowie, the nuclear minister, was speaking as the Tories seek to retain Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip as well as the traditionally safe seats of Somerton and Frome and Selby and Ainsty. 

Asked whether his party faced a trio of defeats, Mr Bowie told Times Radio: “Of course it’s possible we could lose all three – but it’s also possible that we might win all three.

“I’m an optimist, I’m a Scottish Conservative and Scotland football fan. I have to be an optimist.”