Sturgeon told she 'cannot use general election as de facto Indyref2'

Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, is pictured in Downing Street on November 26 - Victoria Jones /PA
Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, is pictured in Downing Street on November 26 - Victoria Jones /PA

Alister Jack has rejected Nicola Sturgeon's proposal to use the next general election as a "de facto referendum" on Scottish independence.

The Scottish Secretary said an election cannot be used to measure support or opposition on one question because people do not "vote on one specific issue in a manifesto".

Asked if an "electoral contest" could be used to give an indication on support for independence, Mr Jack told the Scottish Affairs Select Committee this afternoon: "No, because I don't believe that people vote on one specific issue in a manifesto and I also, if you are talking about the de facto referendum that the First Minister is proposing at a general election, I don't see there being a mandate for something, you can't have a mandate for something that we now know you legally do not have any power over."

Mr Jack compared a pledge to deliver independence to a pledge to remove the UK's Trident nuclear weapons from Scottish territory.

He said: "The Scottish Government can no more - although they put it in every manifesto that they want to remove Trident from Faslane - they no more have the power to take away our nuclear deterrent than they do to break up the United Kingdom and that is very clear and the justices agree with me on that."

The Supreme Court ruled last week that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold a second referendum without the permission of the UK Government. Ms Sturgeon responded to the ruling by vowing to use the next general election as a "de facto referendum" on independence.

You can follow the latest updates below. 

04:00 PM

That is all for today...

Thank you for joining me for today's politics live blog.

I will be back early tomorrow morning.

03:43 PM

Scottish Secretary: General election cannot be used as 'de facto referendum' on independence

Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, has rejected Nicola Sturgeon's claim that the next general election can be used as a "de facto referendum" on Scottish independence.

Asked by the SNP's Pete Wishart during an appearance in front of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee if an "electoral contest" could be used to give an indication on support for independence, Mr Jack said: "No, because I don't believe that people vote on one specific issue in a manifesto and I also, if you are talking about the de facto referendum that the First Minister is proposing at a general election, I don't see there being a mandate for something, you can't have a mandate for something that we now know you legally do not have any power over."

He added: "The Scottish Government can no more, although they put it in every manifesto that they want to remove Trident from Faslane, they no more have the power to take away our nuclear deterrent than they do to break up the United Kingdom and that is very clear and the justices agree with me on that."

03:37 PM

Alister Jack says there could be a second Scottish independence vote in the future

Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, said the circumstances could arise in the future where a second vote on Scottish independence could be held.

Asked if there is a route to Indyref2, Mr Jack told MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee: "To answer your question directly, yes, of course there could be another referendum in Scotland.

"The Union is voluntary and that is evidenced by the fact there was a referendum in 2014 and back then there was consensus between the two governments of Scotland, between pretty much all the political parties and there was consensus across civic society and that was clear then, that was the position then, and that led to agreement to hold a referendum.

"So, could that position where there is a sustained majority, let me put it that way, could that sustained majority position be achieved again, yes, it could be."

He added: "We don’t believe we have reached it now. We believe that the majority of Scots do not want to have a referendum. Instead they want us to focus on rebuilding the economy after Covid, on delivering on the structural funding we are doing…"

03:04 PM

Health Secretary arrives at No10 for strike action meeting with PM

Health Secretary Steve Barclay arrived in Downing Street just before 3pm ahead of a meeting with the Prime Minister and NHS leaders.

Mr Barclay entered No10 with chief executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard as the health service faces a winter of strike action by unions.

The Health Secretary did not make any comments to journalists as he arrived.

03:01 PM

Downing Street defends charitable status for private schools

Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of trying to price families out of private schools after he vowed to retain Jeremy Corbyn's policy of scrapping their charitable status.

The Labour leader has said he would use the extra tax revenue to fund a schools catch-up programme (you can read that story in full here).

Downing Street was asked this afternoon if private schools should keep their tax free status. The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said: "Yes. Independent schools have an important role to play in providing further opportunities for children across the country through targeted bursaries and by working with local state schools to share expertise, best practice and facilities, and it’s because of the important educational service they provide that they are exempt from VAT."

02:43 PM

'Their instincts will be authoritarian'

Richard Graham, a Tory MP who is the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary China Group, said Beijing's "instincts" when responding to the outbreak of anti-Covid protests "will be authoritarian".

Told that many Chinese people appeared to have "had enough" of Beijing's zero Covid approach, Mr Graham told Sky News: "I think there is a strong sense of that. I think it is deeply frustrating for anyone having to live in that endless lockdown scenario and I think the combination both of new restrictions imposed on some cities after one or two isolated cases plus everybody being able to see on their TVs that during the World Cup nobody is watching the football games with masks at all I think has proved a really interesting breaking point for many people in urban China.

"We will have to see how flexible the government and Chinese Communist Party's response to this is. It is possible that they could manage this with enough flexibility to satisfy people but their instincts will be authoritarian. "

02:28 PM

Senior Tory MP: Situation in China 'incredibly serious'

Alicia Kearns, the Tory chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the situation in China is "incredibly serious" as people protest against Xi Jinping's Covid policies.

She told the BBC: "I think it is incredibly serious and there have been protests across China, particularluy in central China, for about the last year about these Covid lockdowns and the zero Covid policy of Xi Jinping.

"But the change now is this instruction of political dissidents and the anger that people feel and the outright calls for Xi Jinping to be removed.

"And we should recognise with dozens if not more cameras trained on the faces of every single Chinese national brave enough to protest, these really are amazing acts of bravery because they will be identified by the police forces at some point."

02:05 PM

'People should not be travelling illegally from safe countries'

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman refused to comment specifically on a proposal by 50 Tory MPs to change modern slavery laws to address the migrant Channel crossings crisis (see the post below at 08.47).

"On this issue of people, whether it comes to modern slavery or indeed on people coming from safe countries to claim asylum, it is something we want to look at, but I’m not citing any specific response to this proposal," the official said.

"We recognise that there are a number of countries which are deemed safe and people should not be travelling illegally from safe countries to make their way here."

The spokesman also said: "When people are repeatedly lodging illegitimate claims, when they’re manipulating the system, it is right that we tackle these abuses and as they detract from our ability to provide refuge to those in genuine need."

02:00 PM

Pictured: Suella Braverman arrives in Downing Street today

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is pictured in Downing Street today - Tayfun Salci/Zuma Press Wire
Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is pictured in Downing Street today - Tayfun Salci/Zuma Press Wire

01:25 PM

Downing Street won't 'predict what might happen in future' on onshore wind

Downing Street said it would not predict "what might happen in the future" on onshore wind as Tory rebels urge the Government to lift a de facto ban on new projects.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "You’ll know there are quite detailed rules around onshore wind and what is allowed – it requires developers to consult with communities in advance (of making) a planning application.

"So I’m not going to predict what might happen in the future."

12:45 PM

No10: Arrest of BBC journalist in China 'shocking and unacceptable'

Downing Street said the arrest of a BBC journalist in China was “shocking and unacceptable”.

The broadcaster said cameraman Edward Lawrence was “handcuffed” while covering demonstrations over China’s Covid-19 restrictions, and then “beaten and kicked” by police.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “The arrest of this journalist who was simply going about their work is shocking and unacceptable. Journalists must be able to do their jobs without fear of intimidation.”

12:41 PM

Health Secretary: 'No formal request' made for military help during NHS strikes

Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, said "no formal request has been made" for armed forces personnel to help the NHS during staff strikes.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a London hospital, he said: "No formal request has been made by the Department of Health to the military but of course we will look as part of our normal contingency plans at a range of options.

"The priority for me is to continue the dialogue with the trade unions, with the RCN – I’ve been extremely clear that my door is open.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay at the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research during a visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
Health Secretary Steve Barclay at the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research during a visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London - Kirsty O'Connor/PA

"They have raised a range of issues, not just pay, but also about working conditions, patient safety. And so I’m very happy to continue that dialogue with the RCN.

"But alongside that, it’s right that, with NHS England colleagues, with hospital leaders, that we look at our contingency plans and ensure we’re as best prepared as we can be, recognising that there will be impacts on patients if the strikes go ahead."

12:35 PM

No10 'considering' bid to lift ban on onshore wind

No10 said it is "considering" an amendment put forward by Tory backbench MPs to lift a de facto ban on new onshore wind farms.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "As we said last week and as we do with all Bills making their way through the House, we consider amendments as they are put forward.

"We discuss with MPs on both sides of the position. That is a normal part of government business."

12:31 PM

No10 tells Beijing: 'Freedom to protest must be respected'

Downing Street has told Beijing that "freedom to protest must be respected" after anti-Covid demonstrations erupted in China over the weekend.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "We urge the Chinese authorities to respect those who decide to express their views on the current situation.

"Freedom to protest must be respected. We will continue to raise our human rights concerns with the Chinese government at all levels as part of a frank and constructive relationship."

11:49 AM

Rishi Sunak previously committed not to relax ban on onshore wind

It now looks like the Government is preparing a potential climbdown on onshore wind in the face of a growing Tory revolt (see the post below at 08.08).

However, any decision to lift the current de facto ban on new onshore projects is likely to spark a backlash among some Conservative Party members because of a commitment made by Rishi Sunak during the Tory leadership race in the summer.

He said in July that he would not relax the ban.

"Wind energy will be an important part of our strategy, but I want to reassure communities that as Prime Minister I would scrap plans to relax the ban on onshore wind in England, instead focusing on building more turbines offshore," he said.

11:28 AM

Government to tell people to turn their boilers down

Households will be told to turn their boilers down to 60C in an £18 million government drive to lower energy bills.

It will form part of a two-pronged strategy spearheaded by Grant Shapps, the Business Secretary, which will also involve middle-income families being handed “eco” grants to make their homes more energy efficient.

As part of the campaign, which will be launched in the coming weeks, households will be given technical tips to cut their energy this winter.

Advice includes telling households to turn down radiators in empty rooms and to draught proof their windows and doors.

You can read the full story here.

11:08 AM

Foreign Secretary: 'Arrest of BBC journalist in China deeply disturbing'

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11:06 AM

George Osborne: 'There’s a general sense the Government is not in control'

Rishi Sunak is in a "dangerous" position because his Government does not appear to be in control of events as the nation faces numerous challenges and sources of disruption, George Osborne has said.

The Tory former chancellor told Channel 4's Andrew Neil Show: "Since Rishi Sunak’s claim to government is competence... he does need to, and his ministers need to defuse all of these different issues.

"The queues - things like passports, driving licences - that is out there every day in people’s daily experience. It really annoys... it’s an enormous daily frustration.

"There’s the strikes not just on the railways, we’ve got a nurses strike coming up. We’ve got the problems of the protesters on the roads, we’ve got the small boats across the Channel.

"There’s a general sense the Government is not in control of events and that’s so dangerous for a government."

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10:53 AM

Wes Streeting accuses ministers of 'playing the blame game' over nursing strikes

A report in The Times overnight suggested ministers are planning to "wait for public sentiment to turn against striking nurses" this winter amid a dispute over pay.

Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow health secretary, has responded this morning and said that the Government does not "have a plan to fix the NHS, so instead they’re letting strikes go ahead and blaming nurses".

He said: "It is outrageous and dangerous. Patients need a government that is willing to negotiate an end to these strikes.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, is pictured during a visit to the London Ambulance Service station in Waterloo, London earlier this year - Dominic Lipinski /PA
Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, is pictured during a visit to the London Ambulance Service station in Waterloo, London earlier this year - Dominic Lipinski /PA

"The Conservatives are more interested in playing the blame game than fixing the problem. This is not a game and it is patients who will pay the price.

"If the Conservatives have given up governing, they should step aside so Labour can clear up their mess."

10:35 AM

IDS criticises Rishi Sunak over 'robust pragmatism' on China

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has criticised Rishi Sunak's apparent pivot to a softer stance on China this morning.

The Prime Minister will use a speech this evening to set out his foreign policy approach and he will advocate adopting a position of "robust pragmatism" when dealing with nations like China (see the post below at 10.02).

Sir Ian told the Telegraph: "I don’t agree that we want 'robust pragmatism' - what we have to recognise is China is posing a greater and greater threat to the way we live our lives.

"It’s guilty of genocide in Xinjiang, it’s guilty of cracking down on Christians, it threatens Taiwan, and it is damaging the world economy by its ludicrous position of Covid lockdowns.

"China poses a threat to every element of what we do. Just exactly how much more evidence does the Prime Minister need to see that his pledge in the summer to recognise it was a threat now needs to be acted on?"

10:02 AM

Rishi Sunak to pledge 'robust pragmatism' in first foreign policy speech

Rishi Sunak will deliver his first major foreign policy speech at the Guildhall in London this evening as he addresses the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet.

The Prime Minister is expected to say his approach to "standing up to our competitors" will be based on "robust pragmatism" instead of "grand rhetoric".

The comments are likely to be viewed as a veiled criticism of Boris Johnson whose foreign policy was built on the slogan of "Global Britain".

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets some of the staff working at the Darlington Economic Campus in Darlington on November 25 - Simon Walker/10 Downing Street
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets some of the staff working at the Darlington Economic Campus in Darlington on November 25 - Simon Walker/10 Downing Street

The PM is expected to say: "Our adversaries and competitors plan for the long term. In the face of these challenges, short-termism or wishful thinking will not suffice.

"So we will make an evolutionary leap in our approach. This means being stronger in defending our values and the openness on which our prosperity depends.

"It means delivering a stronger economy at home – because it is the foundation of our strength abroad. And it means standing up to our competitors, not with grand rhetoric but with robust pragmatism."

09:53 AM

Shapps accuses unions of 'grandstanding'

Grant Shapps has accused trade unions of "grandstanding" as he urged them to focus on resolving industrial disputes without strike action.

The Business Secretary said previous transport secretaries had spoken with the unions, but this did not appear to have stopped them from announcing a "whole new set of strikes".

Mr Shapps, who was transport secretary earlier this year until he was replaced by Anne-Marie Trevelyan in Liz Truss’s government before Rishi Sunak appointed Mark Harper to the role, insisted it is "not true" that "if only we sat down and spoke this would all be over" because the unions are "still striking".

He told Sky News: "The unions seem absolutely intent on causing the maximum disruption to hard-working people in this country. It’s time for them to stop grandstanding and, you know, get this thing settled."

09:32 AM

What are the current rules on building onshore wind farms?

Onshore wind construction plummeted after the introduction of onerous planning rules by David Cameron’s government in 2015, and no major projects have been completed since then.

Between 2016 and 2021, only 11 wind farms were granted planning permission, accounting for 20 turbines, and installed capacity was just 2.6 per cent of that developed between 2009 and 2014.

Under the 2015 rules, onshore wind farms can only be built on areas that have been designated by local authorities – a task only 11 per cent of councils have undertaken.

Planning authorities must also have "fully addressed" any impacts identified by a local community, which experts say effectively gives veto power to anyone who objects.

09:11 AM

'No policy reason' why PM cannot lift ban on onshore wind - Clarke

Simon Clarke, the former Cabinet minister, said he believes there "no policy reason" why the Government could not accept his amendment to the Levelling Up Bill and lift the de facto ban on new onshore wind projects.

He told Times Radio: "I think the current situation with onshore wind is so tough that it does amount to a de facto blanket ban on any new onshore sites coming forward.

"I absolutely believe that there is no policy reason why the Government can’t support this. I very much hope that the Prime Minister will find a way to allow this to happen because I think it would be genuinely the right thing to do."

09:05 AM

Ex-Cabinet minister: Ban on onshore wind not 'right or sustainable'

Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary, said he believes his amendment to lift the de facto ban on new onshore wind developments is simply an attempt to "change Government policy for the better".

Asked if he was leading a rebellion, the Tory MP told Times Radio: "It is an attempt to change Government policy for the better and that is the prerogative of a backbench MP."

Mr Clarke said he believed his amendment is "perfectly fashioned to split the difference between our current outright ban on onshore wind which I don't think is either right or sustainable and I think what Labour’s position would be which would be to allow onshore wind but with fewer community consent safeguards".

08:54 AM

Government must be 'responsive' to voters on clean energy - Davis

David Davis said he is against "liberalising" the law on building new onshore wind farms and the Government must ensure voters are on board with clean energy developments as the nation pushes for Net Zero emissions by 2050.

The senior Tory MP said: "I am not in favour of this so-called Tory rebellion in favour of liberalising the law on wind farms. I have got one right next to, nearly as close as the camera, to my house... it ruins the skyline but so what.

"The more important point here is we have got offshore windfarms now coming. We have got to be sure that when we head towards hitting Net Zero that we do it in a way that takes the population with us, takes the nation with us.

"That applies to whether it is wind farms or massive solar farms now... fine, let's go down that route but let's make it at least responsive to the ideas of local people."

08:47 AM

'There is no bigger deterrent'

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, said there would be "no bigger deterrent" to people making the Channel crossing in a small boat than the prospect of being swiftly returned to their country of origin.

Mr Davis is part of a group of Tory MPs pressing for changes to be made to the law to allow for such action to be taken.

He told Sky News: "We are focusing on the one that is quickest to fix. This one, if the Government puts through emergency legislation... there is a very, very strong argument for doing this, it would be a very short Bill.

"It would go through and basically we would say to the Albanian population now anybody else who comes across the Channel will be sent back and when that starts to happen, there is no bigger deterrent... than if somebody in your village pays thousands of pounds to a human trafficker and then ends up back in the village three weeks later."

08:36 AM

David Davis claims Home Office is 'misinterpreting' asylum laws

A group of more than 50 Tory MPs are urging Rishi Sunak to change modern slavery laws in order to tackle the migrant Channel crossings crisis.

The MPs want the laws changed so that people who are believed to be "bogus asylum seekers" can be returned to their country of origin. They want “economic migrants” travelling from “safe countries” such as Albania to be deported more quickly.

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, arranged a letter on the subject. This morning he claimed the "Home Office itself has not been interpreting the asylum laws correctly".

He told Sky News: "At the end of the day the blame for this lands with the Albanian gangs who bring them here, not the Albanians themselves... but the simple truth is that the Home Office is interpreting asylum laws to say if you are in Albania, not if the government is oppressing you which is what asylum laws are like...  but if they are facing gangsters, criminal activity and so on in their own country.

"That is a misinterpretation of the asylum laws. it was never designed for that."

08:28 AM

Shapps: 'There will be more' onshore wind

Grant Shapps, the Business Secretary, has given another hint that the Government is preparing for a climbdown on onshore wind (see the post below at 08.09) as he said "there will be more" of the wind farms "over time".

He told Sky News: "We already have quite a lot of onshore wind. There will be more over time, particularly where communities are in favour of it, and that is, I think, the key test for onshore wind – giving some benefit to communities locally."

08:25 AM

Business Secretary warns against inflation-busting pay rises

Grant Shapps, the Business Secretary, has suggested that no public sector worker will receive a pay rise in line with soaring inflation as he warned of the risk of fuelling a wage-price spiral.

Asked if he agreed with Transport Secretary Mark Harper that the Government cannot afford inflation-busting pay rises, he told Sky News: "Yeah, I mean, we’ve seen how this works before. You have to go back several decades, but high inflation, if you then feed the high inflation and high settlements, you end up in a spiral where it never ends and that’s what happened in the 1970s.

"We’re very determined not to be in that situation now. It won’t benefit anybody."

08:22 AM

No 'immediate plans' to call in Army during NHS strikes - Shapps

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government does not have any "immediate plans" for the Army to step in to help run the NHS during a possible winter of strikes.

Reports have suggested officials are drawing up contingency plans which would see members of the armed forces doing things like driving ambulances.

Mr Shapps said he does not think it is "correct" to say the military will be brought in, other than to note the Government "always looks at contingency plans".

He told Sky News: "There aren’t any immediate plans to do that. And actually the NHS has got some pretty well-versed planning in place for all manner of disruption. Of course, ideally, I’d love to see those strikes averted. I don’t think anyone wants to see strikes in our NHS. It harms everybody and is to no one’s advantage."

08:18 AM

Shapps: Hancock may have concluded political career 'pretty much done'

Matt Hancock last night secured third place in I'm a Celebrity (you can read the story here) and all eyes are now on what the former health secretary will do next.

His former Cabinet colleague, Grant Shapps, said this morning Mr Hancock may have now concluded that his political career is "pretty much done".

The Business Secretary told Times radio: "I do think… that his true position should have been in Parliament this last few weeks, and serving his constituents.

"You know, it’s often said that… politics is showbusiness for ugly people. He should be with us uglies back in the House rather than the jungle down under."

Asked if that means Mr Hancock should leave politics, Mr Shapps said: "I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to him about it but I suspect he may have already reached that conclusion. Why would you go off and spend all that time in the jungle if you were going to carry on in Parliament? I’m only speculating.

"But I do think the right place for him to be is in Parliament looking after his constituents. It’s a very hard job to do if you’re completely out of touch. And I think he may therefore have come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done."

08:11 AM

Business Secretary insists Government and Tory rebels on same page on onshore wind

Grant Shapps was asked directly if the Government could accept Simon Clarke's amendment to lift the de facto ban on new wind farms.

The Business Secretary told Times Radio: "I haven't studied the detail of it and what it would mean yet. One way or the other it strikes me it is not really a row. We are all basically saying the same thing: You need local consent if you are going to have wind power on shore because it can be quite a big imposition on the local environment.

"That seems to me to be what I have said, what Simon Clarke has said as the proposer of this amendment, it is what the Prime Minister has said. I just don’t recognise this is being presented at all."

The Business Secretary's comments will be viewed as a signal that the Government is preparing to move on the issue in order to avoid a damaging Tory rebellion.

08:09 AM

Grant Shapps signals Government climbdown on onshore wind

Grant Shapps, the Business Secretary, has signalled a potential Government climbdown on onshore wind.

There is currently a de facto ban on new onshore wind farms - in place since 2015 - but a growing number of Tory MPs are pushing to lift the ban and replace it with a system which would allow projects to get off the ground as long as there is adequate public consent.

Mr Shapps was asked if he sympathised with the position of those Tory MPs who want to change the current rules and he told Times Radio: "The fact that a backbencher has an amendment in is literally something that happens every single day in Parliament and his amendment which is saying something like local people should have final say is actually exactly what Rishi said when he last spoke on it and indeed what I have said on it in the past which is it is important that where wind farms go onshore that there is a degree of local consent. So, I hardly see it as a row."

08:05 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today's politics live blog.

A Tory row over new onshore wind farms is dominating things in Westminster this morning as Rishi Sunak tries to avoid a damaging rebellion.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is preparing to deliver his first big speech on foreign policy later today.

I will be on hand to guide you through the key developments.