Today’s daily politics briefing
Boris Johnson misled parliament over the publication of coronavirus contracts, a court order suggests.
The prime minister had claimed that the contracts, which are subject to a legal challenge and cronyism allegations, were in the public domain.
However, a High Court order on Friday shows that the government had only published “608 out of 708 relevant contracts”.
Gemma Abbott, the legal director of the Good Law Project, said: “Unless contract details are published, they cannot be properly scrutinised — there’s no way of knowing where taxpayers’ money is going and why.”
Elsewhere, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has set up a £35 million fund to support frontline nurses if they strike over the government’s “pitiful and bitterly disappointing” 1 per cent pay hike for health workers.
Keir Starmer branded the government’s proposal “insulting”, while shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it was “cowardly” for Rishi Sunak not to announce the decision in his Budget on Wednesday.
Speaking on Friday, health minister Nadine Dorries defended the government’s proposal by saying that “the 1% offer is the most we think we can afford”.
Williamson considers five-term school year in England
Education secretary Gavin Williamson is considering a five-term school year in England to help students catch up on lost learning.
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the details:
Rory Sullivan5 March 2021 15:11
Welsh health minister says communication from Downing Street has ‘fluctuated’
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething has accused Downing Street of not holding enough meetings with the UK’s devolved administrations.
Mr Gething said at a news conference on Friday that it would be “better for all of us” if regular meetings were arranged.
Speaking of a “fluctuation” in communications from the UK government, he told reporters: “We haven’t had a regular pattern of the Prime Minister engaging directly with the other national governments of the United Kingdom,”
“What has improved, though, from a long period of radio silence effectively from the UK Government, for a number of months now there have been regular meetings that Michael Gove has chaired, and those have been useful.”
Rory Sullivan5 March 2021 14:52
‘No serious path’ to Sturgeon’s resignation, says former Labour first minister
As noted earlier, former first minister Henry McLeish has advised Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond to stop their heated public row.
The former Labour MP added – in the wake of their separate appearances before a Holyrood inquiry – that he saw “no serious path” leading to Ms Sturgeon’s resignation.
Rory Sullivan5 March 2021 14:32
Starmer blames vaccine rollout for Labour’s dip in polls
Labour leader Keir Starmer has suggested the vaccine rollout is behind Labour’s recent drop in the polls.
He told reporters: “I think during a pandemic like this people want the government to succeed and you see that reflected in the polls.
“Of course we’ve got a lot of work to do – I accept that – but I think in the middle of a pandemic, particularly with the vaccine rollout, people do want the government to succeed.”
His remarks follow a YouGov polls for the Times which says Tory support is up four points to 45 per cent, while Labour support is down four points to 32 per cent.
Rory Sullivan5 March 2021 14:10
Scottish Tories ‘distinct’ from UK Conservatives, says Ross
Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Tories, has said that he – and not Boris Johnson – is in charge of the Conservatives’ Holyrood election campaign.
He said: “I lead the party in Scotland, it is the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, it is distinct from the UK party.
“I’m the leader, I’m standing for election to Holyrood with my colleagues and it is our manifesto that is agreed in Scotland by me… and my team.”
Rory Sullivan5 March 2021 13:50
PM ‘misled parliament’ over Covid contracts, court order shows
Boris Johnson misled parliament over the publication of coronavirus contracts, a court order appears to show.
The prime minister had claimed that the contracts, which are subject to a legal challenge and cronyism allegations, were “there on the record for everybody to see”.
But a final order handed down by the High Court on Friday says the government had in fact only published “608 out of 708 relevant contracts”.
Jon Stone5 March 2021 13:31
Northern Ireland protocol undermines principle of Good Friday Agreement, says Jonathan Powell
The Northern Ireland protocol has upset the balance created by the Good Friday agreement, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff has warned.
Jonathan Powell said he understood why the economic border imposed by the protocol angered unionists, but added that Brexit created an “insoluble problem”.
He said that “Brexit was always going to have an impact on the Good Friday Agreement” if the UK left the single market and the customs union.
Mr Powell added: “If you put the border on the island of Ireland you’re going to disrupt the rights of nationalists and republicans who under the Good Friday Agreement could feel Irish, or British, or both.
“If you put it in the Irish Sea then you’re obviously infringing the rights of the unionist community.”
Rory Sullivan5 March 2021 13:16
Online Budget calculator: What the changes mean for you
See how the latest freezes, cuts and hikes announced in the Budget will affect your wallet.
Jane Dalton5 March 2021 12:49
Defence review outcome due this month
Boris Johnson will announce the outcome of the government’s review of foreign, defence, security and development policy on 16 March, Downing Street says.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it would be followed by the publication of a detailed paper on 22 March, setting out the Ministry of Defence’s plans to modernise the armed forces.
Jane Dalton5 March 2021 12:45
Independence referendum could take place in late 2021, SNP says
As mentioned earlier, the SNP has indicated that an independence referendum could be held in Scotland “as early as late 2021”.
Joanna Taylor has the story:
Rory Sullivan5 March 2021 11:57