Category Archives: ECONOMY

Tory Rank-And-File “Not Comfortable” With Whips’ Threats To Red Wall MPs

Boris Johnson finally went through with a Cabinet reshuffle this week, but failed to promote ambitious 2019 intake MPs to ministerial roles (Alamy)

6 min read

This week’s long-awaited reshuffle was dominated by a series of sackings at cabinet level, but a lack of promotions for 2019 MPs at the junior ranks means Downing Street has to use other levers to keep the ambitious new Tory intake on side.

With the carrot of a future career not available to Number 10 to help stave off rebellions, the government looks ready to use the stick of funding cuts to keep new “Red Wall” MPs in line. It has prompted concerns among Tory MPs about a threat to the democratic process.

One backbencher told PoliticsHome: ​​”There’s been threats made to a few people that they won’t get funding for projects if they don’t side with the government. I get that the whips are there to try and maintain discipline and get you to vote with them.

“But to try and hold back an entire area or prevent regeneration just to get you to vote for something you clearly don’t like, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with.”

During votes where the government is threatened by a sizeable rebellion, such as on Covid regulations over the past 18 months, government whips have warned potential rebels bids for levelling up cash could be compromised.

This week The Guardian reported whips were accused of telling some in Tory-held marginals they could lose “critical defence” funding from party headquarters worth up to £10,000.

It means with many divisions and contributions made in the Commons, the MPs from the so-called “Red Wall” face a personal battle between conflicting priorities.

One is an insatiable hunger for promotion. It has not gone unnoticed that within the 107 new Conservatives elected two years ago are an ambitious group who want to leave the backbenches as soon as they possibly can.

For many of them in the North and the Midlands there is an awareness they need to work hard to retain the seat they took off Labour – without Brexit on the ballot paper, the more they can talk about delivering tangible results, the better. 

They will have seen what happened with Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley Mayor, where after winning for the Tories in 2017, he saw investment piled into the region. Off the back of the re-opening of the local airport, he romped home to a repeat victory in May’s elections.

The MPs who won seats in the area in 2019 can see a path for themselves to return to Parliament along the same lines, which is why the prospect of the Towns Fund and other “levelling up” cash is so enticing.

More aware of the Red Wall battle of priorities than anyone else is the Tory whips’ office, which has tailored its threats and bribes to the 2019 intake accordingly.

As one Tory MP said: “I don’t think (the whips’ behaviour) is unique to the new intake. However, I think the new intake are probably those that have been targeted the most just because that’s where the levelling up funding is mainly targeted – the towns that we’ve not held before.”

Another MP ideologically opposed to raising taxes told PoliticsHome that privately they were almost “reduced to tears” voting for the health and social care levy bill.

However, fear of retaliation from the whips’ office in the form of missing a promotion overruled principle.

One MP also opposed to the National Insurance hike, said previous encounters with the whips’ office, in which levelling up funding was threatened, scared them from siding with the 10 Tory rebels. 

A senior Tory has told PoliticsHome that as well as funding the potential to receive trade envoy positions, larger offices in Parliament and ministerial visits to constituencies have also been dangled in front of MPs.

Veteran Tories have noticed the whips’ office has been notably “aggressive” to the new intake, and the Telegraph reported that MPs were complaining of “hardcore bullying” tactics used to keep members in line.

One MP told PoliticsHome if whips perceive even a hint of consideration to rebel – whether it happens or not – “any chance of promotion will be gone for a while”.

Earlier this year the Telegraph reported newly-elected Tory MPs were warned their political careers would be over if they rebelled on the genocide amendment to the Trade Bill, helping to stave off an embarrassing defeat for the government and a potential diplomatic row with China. 

But the carrot of promotion can no longer be used, because in the reshuffle Johnson prioritised getting the people in place to push through his domestic agenda, rather than moving 2019 MPs up through the rankings.

It was about competence, not creativity, with delivery-focussed ministers moved upwards – Liz Truss’ rewarded for signing a raft of trade deals, Nadhim Zahawi for the vaccines rollout.

Despite several attempts the PM has failed to come up with a coherent set of policies behind the slogan of “levelling up”, which is why Michael Gove has retained his cabinet position and been put in charge of this top priority.

Having effectively lost 18 months due to the pandemic, a Downing Street source said “we’re in a real rush to get things done”.

The new party co-chair Oliver Dowden is said to have told staff at their headquarters they must prepare for going to the polls from now on, saying: “You can’t fatten a pig on market day.”

To get there though the government will have to make tough choices, as revealed by the recent cut to Universal Credit and the rise in National Insurance to pay for the NHS backlog and social care.

Both of those passed this week with little Commons opposition despite widespread criticism, partly due to the fact the threat of a reshuffle was still hanging over MPs.

A party official told PoliticsHome much of the new intake are ambitious but still politically naive – with many having no Westminster experience prior to 2019 – and could have been easily bought off by Downing Street through very junior ministerial positions or fairly inconsequential titles like a trade envoy.

But those jobs did not materialise, despite many believing they had been promised them, and it is unlikely another reshuffle will be conducted before voters return to the polls.

Johnson’s comments to his new-look cabinet on Friday morning were described by Number 10 as a “half-time pep talk”, prompting further speculation an election will be called in May 2023.

And though a spokesman said no decision had been made, it looks as though the team he has assembled now is the one tasked with delivering the PM’s plan to shape post-pandemic Britain and deliver another election success.

The question for some on the back benchers is what it will cost them at a local level along the way.

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Beer, Fizzy Drinks And Meat Supplies Threatened By CO2 Shortages, Ministers Warned

2 min read

Exclusive: The government is bracing itself for supplies of beer, fizzy drinks and meat to be hit by a severe shortage of CO2, with supermarkets and restaurants expected to be affected in the coming days.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was warned on Thursday that shortages of CO2, caused by the closure this week of two major fertilizer plants, would affect manufacturers across food and drink industry, PoliticsHome understands.

CO2 is used in the production of beer and fizzy drinks, and is also vital in meat processing.

The British Poultry Council’s Richard Griffiths said the gas is used in slaughterhouses, as well as the packaging and chilling of chickens, and warned that the industry was “very rapidly heading into a downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling.”

He told PoliticsHome: “After five to seven days we’ll start to see sigificant problems in processing birds.”

The two plants in question, owned by CF industries and located in Durham and Cheshire, are believed to account for somewhere between 40 and 60% of the country’s CO2 supplies.

Griffiths urged ministers to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production in order limit the disruption of supplies to supermarkets and hospitality businesses as much as possible.

The government may have to bail out the two plants to avert a deeper crisis, he said.

CF industries said they were forced to close them due to soaring gas prices and gave no indication of when they will resume production, Bloomberg reported.

Defra has not responded to PoliticsHome’s request for comment.

The CO2 shortage is set to compound ongoing disruption to food and drink supplies caused by chronic shortages of lorry drivers, processors, and other workers in the UK’s supply chains.

The labour shortages, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus and Brexit, have resulted in household names like McDonald’s, Gregg’s, and the Co-op running out of certain items in recent weeks, with the disruption expected to worsen in the coming weeks in the run-up to Christmas.

The government last week responded to the ongoing disruption by setting up a cross-departmental group “to monitor labour supply chains.”

Chaired by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Stephen Barclay, it will meet once a week and be attended by ministers from DEFRA, the Home Office, Department for Transport and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

However, ministers are still refusing to make it easier for British companies to hire lorry drivers and other workers from Europe by adding them to the Shortage Occupation List.

Multiple trade bodies have said doing so would help abate the labour shortages in the short-term. However, the government has told employers to recurit British workers instead.

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Parliamentary scrutiny of trade agreements must no longer be an afterthought

4 min read

International agreements ought to be subject to at least the same levels of scrutiny as the laws we make in Parliament.

Just over 18 months ago, Parliament established a committee in the House of Lords dedicated to the scrutiny of treaties. The International Agreements Committee, which I chair, has now examined 46 agreements, covering areas as diverse as trade, transport, the protection of classified information, energy, police and judicial cooperation. Today we have issued a report reflecting on our experience and proposing further reforms to make parliamentary treaty scrutiny more effective.

In short, we have concluded that following our interventions important progress has definitely been made (particularly on trade agreements), but the government needs to recognise that more needs to be done.

Scrutiny of treaties is essential because international agreements increasingly have a direct effect on daily life in the UK. Modern trade agreements tend to include chapters that affect social policy and the domestic regulatory environment. For example, on food standards, animal welfare, intellectual property protections, and the exchange of data are notable examples. New agreements can also bind future Parliaments by setting out obligations not to change laws or regulations (for example, to maintain certain standards).

International agreements therefore ought to be subject to at least the same levels of scrutiny as the laws we make in Parliament. It makes no sense that the government needs Parliament’s approval to make laws, but not for treaties that can be even more important.

We have a statutory process: the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRAG). It is unsatisfactory and in need of reform. The Act merely requires the government, after laying an agreement in Parliament, to wait 21 sitting days before ratifying it.

While there is a theoretical power for the Commons to delay ratification, it has never been used—and, as we have seen with the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement and the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, even this statutory process can be easily overridden when the government has a sizeable majority.

But the government has agreed a collection of specific commitments in relation to trade agreements. These include: the publication of a response to a public consultation and negotiating objectives before commencing negotiations; private briefings with Ministers and Chief Negotiators during the negotiations; access to the text of the signed agreement a reasonable time before it is laid under CRAG; and facilitation of debates in Parliament.

We have called on the government to formalise these promises in the form of a concordat with Parliament, to ensure that they are respected as the minimum that is necessary.

While welcome and an improvement over the statutory process, these commitments do not amount to a robust scrutiny system, and in fact, there is much to be learned from other models.

The European Parliament, for example, has a veto power over some treaties and the right to propose amendments. When consent is required, it is also regularly consulted throughout the negotiations. Our scrutiny system, by contrast, is structured so that points for formal Committee engagement are set for after key decisions have been taken—therefore, our capacity for influence is limited.

This is felt most acutely when scrutinising trade agreements: we can have parliamentary debates on negotiating objectives, but by then the mandate will already have been set; we can have advance sight of the text of a trade agreement, but only after it has been signed and agreed.

This does not mean that we do not engage with government outside the formal process—in fact, in relation to the trade negotiations with Australia and accession negotiations to the Trans-Pacific Trade bloc (CPTPP) we have already raised questions with Ministers on protections for UK farmers, on animal welfare, environmental standards and intellectual property. However, formalising early engagement by Parliament would send a clear signal that Parliament’s views are important, and that scrutiny is not being treated as a rubber-stamping exercise.

Progress on scrutiny of non-trade agreements has been more limited and many of the agreements we have scrutinised were not notified to us until they were formally laid in Parliament. This reduced the ability to seek expert input and report within the 21-day scrutiny window set by CRAG. Our report therefore asks the government to formally agree to an advance notification system.

Parliamentary scrutiny should not be an afterthought, but should be made an integral part of the overall treaty-making process. And government should recognise if it wants to claim we have a robust and admirable scrutiny system, it should submit itself to just that. The International Agreements Committee will continue to work hard to emphasise the importance and benefits of parliamentary scrutiny to government.


Lord Goldsmith is a Labour peer and chair of the International Agreements Committee.

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BGC welcomes new Secretary of State for DCMS

Standards body the Betting and Gaming Council has congratulated Nadine Dorries on becoming the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said Ms Dorries’s appointment to the Cabinet was “well-deserved” and added it was “vital” that the Government’s ongoing Gambling Review must continue to be an “evidence-led” process.

Mr Dugher also paid tribute to outgoing Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, as well as John Whittingdale, the minister who had been leading the Gambling Review and who has now returned to the backbenches.

Departmental responsibilities in the DCMS have yet to be finalised, so the BGC is awaiting details on who will head up the Review following Mr Whittingdale’s departure.

Michael Dugher said: “On behalf of the 119,000 people whose jobs are supported by our members – from the high street to hospitality, from tourism to tech – I’d like to congratulate Nadine Dorries on her well-deserved promotion as Secretary of State for DCMS.

“This is an important time for our industry, which generates £4.5bn in taxes for the Treasury and contributes £7.7bn for the economy in gross value added.

“We have been working extremely closely with the DCMS over very many months to help the Government find the right balance in the Gambling Review, so that we continue to drive big changes and higher standards on safer gambling to better protect the most vulnerable, whilst at the same time ensuring that the millions of people who enjoy an occasional flutter perfectly safely and responsibly have the freedom to do so. It is vital the Government continues with its evidence-led approach. 

“We also want to play our part in helping Britain to build back better from the pandemic, as shown by our support for the Government’s Plan For Jobs.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to John Whittingdale, the outgoing minister who was leading on the Review, for his willingness to engage with the industry. I’d like to thank the outgoing Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, for his support, especially when so much of our sector was closed during the Covid lockdowns. I wish Oliver all the very best in his new important role at the Cabinet Office.”

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Advertising Association comment on the appointment of Nadine Dorries MP as Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

2 min read

Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association, commented: 

“We welcome the appointment of Nadine Dorries MP as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and look forward to working closely with her and the team at DCMS to advance the position of advertising as a pillar of the UK’s £110bn creative economy. We would also like to thank Oliver Dowden and his team for their dedicated service on behalf of our country’s cultural and creative sector.

“Advertising is a hugely successful engine of our economy. Every £1 spent on advertising contributes £6 to GDP, and it is predicted that UK adspend will grow by 18.2% this year to reach a total of £27.7bn – the fastest recovery of any major international market. The pandemic has shown how vital advertising is to our national life; however, these impressive figures, and our status as a global hub for exports of advertising, are dependent on a number of factors. This includes ensuring that any further regulation on advertising in areas such as HFSS and gambling is proportionate and must enable the UK’s diverse advertising market to continue to flourish. As the Department progresses with its Online Advertising Programme, we hope it will take into full account the value of the ASA self-regulatory system in setting responsible and well-enforced advertising standards that are so important to public trust in advertising.”





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How the timber industries can help solve the housing crisis

Recognising that the UK must build more homes, quicker, while reducing carbon emissions, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Timber Industries has launched with a new report that aims to provide solutions to the UK’s housing and climate crises.

The report, titled ‘How the timber industries can help solve the housing crisis’, calls on the Government to support the use of wood in construction through policy and procurement, as well as introducing legislation to regulate embodied carbon – starting with mandatory, standardised carbon measurement on all government projects.

Launched today (16 September) at the inaugural general meeting for the APPG, the report makes a series of key recommendations devised to help the Government reach its target of building 300,000 more homes per year, while also significantly boosting the trajectory towards net zero carbon. Crucially, the recommendations call for a new focus on whole life carbon emissions within the Building Regulations and the introduction of thresholds for embodied carbon within construction.

The report urges the Government to give preference to low carbon materials and building solutions for all government projects, pointing to the economic benefits that scaling up the timber and forestry industries would bring. Calls are also made in the report for a more joined-up approach to working with the timber industry to develop an industrial strategy that can align with government policy.

Finally, the report highlights that while the Government has – quite rightly – made building safety a top priority in the wake of the Grenfell fire, the regulations around combustible materials have not always reflected the realities of safe construction using timber. A fundamental differentiation must be made between cladding and structural elements, and the report points towards an evidence-based approach to safety regulations.

David Warburton, MP for Somerton and Frome, and chair of the APPG, commented: “We are at a vital junction, where the imperative to build more homes is converging with the urgent need to reduce carbon across all of our markets. Now is the time to put forward policies that will enable us to build a more productive and low-carbon housing sector.

“By levelling-up the existing timber and forestry supply chain, and making greater use of modern methods of construction, we can deliver more quality homes – and we can do this sustainably and at pace.” 

Over the next Parliamentary session, the APPG for the Timber Industries will undertake a programme of activity to enable the timber industries to work with Parliamentarians to raise awareness of the vital contribution that the industries make to the UK economy and UK trade.  It will also focus on the importance of the timber industries achieving net zero 2050 and the opportunities which exist to support sustainable timber construction in the UK.

For more information and to download the report ‘How the timber industries can help solve the housing crisis’, please visit the CTI website.

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GGF ready for Members’ Day

The Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) is looking forward to Members’ Day 2021 – a virtual event for GGF Members that consists of nine webinar presentations and panel discussions plus two open forums.

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Leading advocate for women in construction appointed Vice President of CIOB

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has appointed its latest Vice President, Sandi Rhys Jones OBE FCIOB FWES MCIM.

In 2023 Sandi will become the 120th President of CIOB. Her Presidency will follow on from that of Mike Foy OBE FCIOB who became CIOB President earlier this year, and Datuk Seri Michael Yam FCIOB who will become President in 2022. 

Sandi Rhys Jones is a businesswoman and non-executive director, starting in the industry many years ago as a journalist for Construction News and then working for technical and professional organisations before co-founding RhysJones Consultants.   

Sandi was appointed OBE in 1998 for promoting women in construction. She became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building in 2002, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sheffield Hallam University in 2005 and became a Fellow of the Women’s Engineering Society in 2015.  

A passionate advocate of the importance of the built environment to society, and in particular the role of women in construction, Sandi has been a member of many government and industry initiatives, from chairing a working group to implement the Latham recommendations on diversity in 1996 through many others including Egan, the Movement for Innovation, the Housing Forum and the Wolstenholme Review ‘Never Waste a good Crisis.’ 

For the past ten years Sandi has led the national mentoring programme of the Association of Women in Property, which has a unique focus on working across disciplines in the construction world including clients – improving corporate as well as individual performance and increasing understanding between the various roles and responsibilities in the construction and development process.  

Sandi has worked for a wide cross section of businesses and organisations in construction, both in the UK and overseas, including many years for FIDIC, the International Federation of Consulting Engineers, and Local Authority Building Control. She has also held several non-executive director positions in commercial, public and not for profit organisations and as an employer appreciates the need and the challenge of delivering Social Value in a competitive industry.   

Commenting on her appointment as Vice President of CIOB, Sandi said: 

“I am privileged to be part of CIOB, an organisation that combines a broad and open culture with professional commitment, and to be given the opportunity to help carry forward its objectives. Construction is a people business, as well as a technical one, that affects the lives and wellbeing of everyone – including ourselves. We must find a way of bringing about the changes that attract and keep more people, from all backgrounds, particularly younger people who feel passionately about the major challenges of climate change and inequality.  We also need the story tellers, who can change the narrative about the positive role of building, not only within the industry but on wider platforms.”  

Caroline Gumble, Chief Executive of CIOB, said: 

“I’m very much looking forward to working with Sandi and to welcoming her, not just as our new Vice President, but as the 120th CIOB President, taking on the role from Michael Yam in 2023. Sandi will make an incredibly valuable addition to CIOB’s community, leading the way on many important issues for CIOB and the wider industry. With her breadth and depth of knowledge of the industry and her understanding of its place in society, her contribution will be key in helping to deliver CIOB’s ambitions for improving sustainability, diversity and quality standards for the construction industry worldwide.”

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Why we need a new housing regeneration agency

Curo’s Mulberry Park scheme in Bath | Credit: Curo and Andrew Sykes

Victor da Cunha, Chair

A national regeneration agency could breathe new life into some of the UK’s most out-of-date housing, making it fit for the 21st century.

As long-term custodians of affordable housing, Housing Associations have to get the balance right between investment, day-to-day maintenance and housing management.  It’s never been straightforward, especially when homes take about 30 years to recover their build costs. But all of this is set to get much harder in the future as we start to fold in the emerging costs of decarbonising the housing stock, meeting a more demanding decent homes standard and retrofitting additional safety measures in communal areas, none of which were required at the time the homes were built.

This major strategic challenge for the whole sector can be addressed with a new approach to delivering and funding regeneration.

If you add the additional cost burdens to some already under-performing, out-of-date housing which has reached the end of its envisaged life, one must come to the conclusion that some properties would be better off being knocked down and replaced with more fit for purpose modern homes.

The Homes for the South West group, which I chair, is a coalition of 11 housing associations which are collaborating to address the urgent housing shortage in our region.  As a group we understand the difficulties of regeneration well.  For example, at my own organisation Curo, based in Bath, we have one of the most varied and complex housing portfolios in the country from beautiful listed properties built in the 1750’s to less well thought out houses and blocks built quickly after the war and it’s these homes that pose the biggest challenge. We’re demolishing two small blocks already. We’d like to do more, but because of low value locations, the significant costs of demolition, the costs of relocating the tenants and buying out the small number of leaseholders, it’s very challenging – financially it requires far too much subsidy and impacts on our wider asset investment plans.

If that were not enough, regeneration has in recent years been given a bad name by critics who say it’s all about displacing local people, rather than a way of improving their living conditions. This negativity has to change if we’re to respond to the growing housing quality crisis in some of our older, poor-performing housing stock. We should of course acknowledge that housing associations have a key role to play in improving perceptions of regeneration. We must win the argument on each scheme by engaging with each resident to explain how regeneration will benefit them. 

If we want to be able to direct investment into homes and make them fit for the future, it’s essential we find a way of replacing the properties which cannot be sensibly invested in at all or where intervention will only kick the problem down the road for someone else to have to deal with in later years.

It’s time to take this sort of strategic, bold action, creating an accountable body for the regeneration of the homes and neighbourhoods that are in need.

That’s why it’s time to establish a new regeneration agency to help deal with the worst housing in the country.  They should set up clear national consumer standards which must be followed.  With their existence, we should expect universal standards for engagement, homes and placemaking.

It wouldn’t necessarily cost more overall. Government has already announced £11.5b for new affordable housing.  Allowing some of those funds to support the regeneration of estates which cannot be brought up to standard makes perfect sense, especially if it would help reduce the pressure on greenbelt development, always a vexed political issue.

Government could also top-slice some of the money set out in its manifesto to decarbonise social housing and some of the money ring-fenced for fire safety works. Pooling these budgets from differing departments could stretch them and add value if it were added to the affordable housing programme – what a step change that would help create.

My message is simple. It’s time to take this sort of strategic, bold action, creating an accountable body for the regeneration of the homes and neighbourhoods that are in need. In partnership with the residents who live there, the local planning authority and housing associations, a regeneration agency with the ability to use government funding flexibly could be the perfect answer.

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Join us for the next meeting of the APPG for Management

The next meeting of the APPG for management will take place tomorrow (14th September) on the topic of EDI; fair, inclusive work.

Vice-Chair of the Group, Lord Karan Bilimoria, will lead a panel including Dr Naeema Pasha of Henley Business School, and Rebecca Florisson of the Work Foundation.

The group will discuss the barriers that organisations face in driving forward equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the role that individual managers need to play in addressing these challenges. We will also consider the role public policy has to play.

The event will take from 10:30am- 11:30am virtually.

If you would like to attend, please contact: [email protected] 

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