Politics latest: Infected Blood Inquiry chair's message to Rishi Sunak at end of evidence session draws applause (2023)

Key points
  • Rishi Sunak says infected blood scandal 'appalling' as he gives evidence to inquiry
  • PM says government will act 'as quickly as possible' on compensation - but is heckled as he fields questions
  • Inquiry chair's message to Sunak at end of evidence session draws applause from audience
  • Jon Craig: PM sat like a naughty schoolboy being given a stern lecture by the headmaster
  • Number 10 says Dame Alison Rose did 'right thing' by resigning as NatWest boss over Nigel Farage bank account leak
  • 'NatWest got this one wrong' - Sir Keir Starmer offers sympathy to Farage
  • Junior doctors announce four-day strike
  • Live reporting by Ben Bloch and (earlier) Faith Ridler


That's all for today

Thank you for joining us in the Politics Hub today for another eventful day in Westminster.

Here's what happened:

  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave evidence at the Infected Blood Inquiry this afternoon where he was laughed at and heckled after refusing to pay compensation before the completion of the inquiry later this year;
  • Politicians welcomed the news that NatWest CEO Dame Alison Rose resigned overnight after leaking inaccurate information to a BBC journalist about his banking situation - and calls continue for action to stop banks closing accounts based on personal views;
  • To that end, a "de-banking" summit took place this morning, with City minister Andrew Griffith reiterating to banks that a client's personal views are not a reason to close their account;
  • Junior doctors announced another strike, this time for four days in August, in a long-running dispute over pay;
  • The consultation over the closure of rail ticket offices was extended until September.

Join us again tomorrow from 6am for another day in UK politics.


Tomorrow's papers today

The very sad passing of music legend Sinead O'Connor is covered by almost all newspapers tomorrow, with some very poignant splashes.

Some political stories also appear on the front pages - let's take a look at those below:

The Daily Telegraphreports on the investigation launched by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) into NatWest after now-former boss Dame Alison Rose gave inaccurate information about Nigel Farage's banking situation to a BBC journalist.

It also quotes an opinion piece Mr Farage has penned for the bank, calling on the whole board of NatWest to quit.

The i paper also reports on Mr Farage's banking difficulties and calls from business leaders to stop banks denying accounts to people.

The Daily Mailhas obtained a letter from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Justice Secretary Jeremy Hunt asking the Solicitors Regulation Authority to launch an investigation into alleged misconduct by migration lawyers.

The Guardiansplashes on a poignant photo of the late Sinead O'Connor, and also writes that the PM is being accused of damaging a UK business - meaning NatWest - with unattributed briefings given to newspapers calling on the then-CEO Dame Alison Rose to resign.

The Financial Timesalso splashes on NatWest's difficulties, writing about how its share price has dropped and how its board is facing calls to resign.

The Daily Expresssplashes on a story about senior Tories calling for inheritance tax to be scrapped.

And The Timesreports on warnings that "ghost children" - those absent from schools - will turn to crime.

It follows detailed Sky News reporting on the scale of children missing from schools across the UK - you can read more here.


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Frequent SNP Holyrood rebel says 'toxic environment' in party - and blasts 'extremist' policies

A long-time SNP MSP has said the environment in the party is "toxic" at the moment and claimed some in the senior leadership roles have not spoken to him in over a year.

Fergus Ewing, who represents Inverness and Nairn in the Scottish parliament, also said his party has been pursuing "extremist" policies, citing the controversial gender self-ID policy, among others.

Mr Ewing has become outspoken in his criticism of the SNP leadership in recent months, accentuated by his outbursts from the backbenches against policies including highly protected marine areas (HPMAs), the failure to dual the A9 and the deposit return scheme.

Speaking to the Holyrood Sources podcast, the former minister said: "The atmosphere in Holyrood is not particularly happy now within the SNP group, I'm afraid to say.

"So much so that frankly there's many people in the cabinet and the leadership that haven’t uttered a word to me or vice versa for well over a year.

"It's very sad, and I do think they would have done better to have listened to people like me when I set out very detailed, logical, rational objections to some of the policies they have been pursuing."

He added that he doesn't "give a damn", saying: "I'm there to do a job for Scotland, I'm in a privileged position of being a representative of a major, hugely important part of Scotland and if people don't like me or if they don't like my ideas, well that’s just tough.

"I've reached the stage now where I can see very clearly that I know what needs to be done, I respect others that disagree with me, but I’m certainly not going to be deterred simply because there's a bit of a toxic atmosphere amongst the SNP group in Holyrood."

Mr Ewing also said he does not believe the independence campaign could secure a referendum in the next few years due to "extremist" policies, such as gender self-ID, HPMAs and the deposit return scheme.

He called on First Minister Humza Yousaf to "detach himself from this dalliance with the Greens", describing it as the "most serious thing" he should do.

A party spokesperson said: "The SNP is by far the biggest group at Holyrood, so there may be differences of view from time to time. We will continue to work hard to earn the trust of people throughout Scotland."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: "The climate emergency is the biggest environmental crisis that this generation and all future generations will ever face. You only need to look to the wildfires and heatwaves engulfing Europe to see the devastating impact.

"With Scottish Greens in the government, we will not apologise for the climate action we are taking, whether it is boosting recycling, banning new incineration or investing in our iconic wildlife and nature. Social justice and environmental justice go together."


Consultation on ticket office closures extended to 1 September

A consultation on ticket office closures which was due to end today has been extended to 1 September, the Rail Delivery Group has announced.

Train operators unveiled proposals earlier this month for mass closures of station ticket offices after Transport Secretary Mark Harper urged them to cut costs.

Consultation on the plans was announced on 5 July by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which said staff would move out of ticket offices, adopting new "customer help" roles already in place on many parts of the railway.

The RDG said the proposals would mean more face-to-face support was available across the network to choose the cheapest tickets and advise on journey planning, as well as support those with accessibility needs.

The plans have drawn fierce criticism from groups representing passengers and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).

Network Rail chairman Lord Peter Hendy told the BBC today: "I think the extension of the consultation is a sign that actually government and the operators want to hear more from passengers.

"There are obviously some loud voices - I have seen some of them on the media this morning."

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "While this is a matter for the industry, it is right that train operators have listened to feedback and extended their consultations, following continued engagement with stakeholders, including accessibility groups.

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"Following the consultations, independent passenger bodies will continue to play a vital role in assessing and shaping proposals."

You can read our story on the initial announcement here:


Yousaf says he is 'keen' to have safe drug consumption room in Glasgow - but Westminster controls drug policy

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf said today he is "keen" to have a safe consumption room for drugs in a location such as Glasgow - despite the UK government having rejected relaxing drug laws weeks ago.

Mr Yousaf reiterated the desire today ahead of the anticipated publication of the latest official yearly drug death statistics for Scotland.

In 2021, 1,330 people lost their lives from drug misuse, which was the second highest figure on record.

Such safe consumption rooms would allow drug users to inject under the supervision of medical professionals and using clean needles, and the facilities would also provide services to help people deal with addiction.

Speaking on a visit to a social enterprise project in Cockenzie, East Lothian earlier today, Mr Yousaf said: "I won't prejudge these figures but there is still a long way to go in driving down those numbers.

"We don't want to see any drug deaths, of course, we don't, but we have to accept that those numbers are far, far too high.

"So, we'll do everything we can to work cross-party, cross-society where we can, [to] pilot innovate approaches.

"We're still very keen to see a safe consumption room, for example, in Glasgow."

The idea was first suggested seven years ago, with plans drawn up by Glasgow's health and social care partnership.

However, the UK government is responsible for drug policy, and when the Scottish government said earlier this month that it wanted to decriminalise drugs, the idea was rebuffed within an hour.

A Home Office spokesperson said at the time: "Illegal drugs destroy lives and devastate communities. We are committed to preventing drug use by supporting people through treatment and recovery and tackling the supply of illegal drugs, as set out in our 10-year drugs strategy."


Listen: NatWest CEO resigns, Lloyds profits and Rolls-Royce shares surge

Ian King reports on the fall-out of Coutt's closure of Nigel Farage's bank account which has resulted in some changes to the sector and a big meeting at the Treasury this morning.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Lloyds banking group Charlie Nunn joins Ian to discuss half-year profits.

Listen and subscribe to the Ian King Business Podcast here


Minister to raise claim woman was sexually assaulted by officers with police watchdog

By Tim Baker, political reporter

Policing minister Chris Philp is to contact the police watchdog following a Sky News investigation in which a woman claims she was drugged and sexually assaulted in police custody.

Mr Philp was referring to home editor Jason Farrell's reporting of Zayna Iman's experience with Greater Manchester Police (GMP). Two other women have made allegations about GMP's actions.

After being arrested and held in custody for 40 hours, Zayna believes she was drugged and assaulted by officers - and when she asked for CCTV footage of her detention, several hours of tape were missing.

A former GMP superintendent, Martin Harding, examined the evidence from GMP and told Sky he believes the 38-year old "was raped by an officer and [believes] the organisation is covering it up".

Mr Philp told Sky he was going to speak to the Independent Office of Police Conduct and make them sure they are aware of the case.

"I can't direct them to do a particular thing, but I'm going to draw this case to their attention today," he said.

"If they're not investigating it already - which they might be - I want to put it on their radar screens."

The minister said he would also be speaking to GMP about the matter.

Read more here:

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Politicians pay tribute to Irish singer Sinead O'Connor who has died at age 56

Tributes are pouring in from around the world to legendary Irish singer Sinead O'Connor, who has died at the age of 56.

Politicians are also paying tribute, expressing their sadness and sharing anecdotes about how her music touched their lives.

Labour's shadow foreign secretary David Lammy tweeted: "Oh my! How very very sad. Such a soulful, haunting and powerful voice. My heart goes out to her children and family. May she rest in peace."

Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, said: "Oh this is so sad - a pure fearless and soulful voice of truth - as a toddler my daughter would say 'again' over and over whenever I played Sinead singing On Raglan Road - RIP"

Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, wrote: "Nobody deserves to rest in peace more than Sinead O'Connor. An enormous talent, an inspiration but such a tortured soul. Ar dheis Dé go raibh an h-anam [may her faithful soul be at the right hand of God]."

Tim Farron, Lib Dem MP and former party leader tweeted: "Sinead O’Connor. Gutted. Best ever guest on Donald and Davy Stott's chat show."

And Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle wrote: "Very sad news. Her version of Prince's 'nothing compares to you' will never be equalled. RIP"

You can follow dedicated live coverage of this breaking news here:


Over half of Britons say it was inappropriate for Sunak to say Labour on the 'same side' as smuggling gangs

You may recall that yesterday, Rishi Sunak was branded "desperate and pathetic" after accusing Labour of being "on the same side of criminal gangs" smuggling immigrants into the UK.

He made the assertion in a tweet, and it triggered something of a social media backlash.

It turns out, however, that it's not just the Twitterverse (or X-verse?) that was outraged because a YouGov poll today has shown that more than half of Britons think the assertion was inappropriate.

In total, 54% of Britons think the prime minister's tweet was inappropriate, which includes a third (36%) who say it was "completely inappropriate" and two in ten (18%) who say it was "somewhat inappropriate".

Meanwhile, 25% say it was an appropriate thing to say, including 12% who say it was "completely appropriate".

Conservative voters are more supportive of the prime minister, with almost half (48%) saying it was appropriate, which includes a 24% who say it was "completely appropriate" and the same amount (24%) who say it was "somewhat appropriate".

As you might expect, however, a whopping 77% of Labour voters say it was inappropriate, including two-thirds (67%) who say it was "completely inappropriate".

Only 9% of Labour voters say it was an appropriate comparison in any way at all.

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Bereaved parent says she has no faith in Rishi Sunak to deliver compensation

Following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's appearance before the Infected Blood Inquiry this afternoon, we spoke on Sky News to Rosemary Calder, whose 25-year-old son Nicky died in 1999 after being given an infected blood product.

Asked what she made of the PM's testimony, she said: "I wish I had something positive to say. We heard a lot of words. Whether they'll ever follow through on paying compensation, particularly to bereaved parents and children that have lost their parents...

"I like to have hope, but I can't be sure. I only hope that when he goes back now to parliament, he'll take back [inquiry chair] Sir Brian [Langstaff]'s closing words in which he described the traumas that all this community have gone through."

Victim's son 'never knew his father'

Asked about the impact on her family, she said it's been "massive", explaining that her son was a severe haemophiliac (meaning his blood did not clot properly and he required regular transfusions) and was diagnosed with HIV at age 11, followed by hepatitis C when he was 16.

"It was a very worrying, traumatic time over those years," she said. "In fact, I feel fortunate that we had him for another 14 years," she added, but said it badly affected his brother and sister, and led to the break up of her marriage to Nicky's father.

She also said that when Nicky died, he had a son of a year old "who has never known his father".

'We just get fobbed off'

Ms Caldwell went on to say that adequate compensation has been delayed in her case and the cases of many others: "It just adds to the trauma and impact over and over again, and I don't know why they can't realise that."

She said she would have wanted to have heard "some kind of commitment" from Rishi Sunak today to pay compensation, but "we just get fobbed off time and time again".

"Bereaved parents feel that their children's lives didn't matter - they were just tossed aside," she said. "And it's not about compensation as such, it's not about money - it's about getting acknowledgement for those children's lives."

She said although you can't put a price on the life of a child, there has to be "some kind of gesture from the government to recognise those children, to recognise their loss, what they went through, and to recognise what the parents have been through as well".

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She said she has "the utmost faith" in Sir Brian Langstaff who has so far conducted a detailed inquiry.

But she added: "Do I have faith in the government to deliver? I'm afraid not really, no, not at the moment. I'm hoping, but very little faith at the moment."


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