Senior Conservatives have warned the Lords that it will face public outrage and abolition if it goes ahead with a plan to defeat Theresa May over Brexit. A coalition of Labour, Liberal Democrat and crossbench peers will amend the prime minister’s Brexit bill to make clear that EU citizens who were in Britain before the referendum will be allowed to stay in Britain. They are on course to defeat the government, which does not have a majority in the Lords. However, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, the former chancellor, was among Tories to say that peers would face “outrage in public opinion and outrage in the House of Commons” should they attempt to alter the bill.
Labour’s leader in the House of Lords has pledged not to hold up or “frustrate” the triggering of Article 50 – as the Government’s bill moves to the House of Lords for scrutiny. The Bill going through Parliament at the moment is required to give the Government the power to start Brexit negotiations, which Theresa May has said she wants to do by the end of March. Baroness [Angela] Smith pledged no “extended ping-ping” between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but said peers would try to add “legitimate” amendments to the Bill. Labour’s peers have tabled a number of ideas they say could make the Brexit process run more efficiently, including the call for a meaningful vote on the final deal. The Government has no majority in the House of Lords – a first for a Conservative government – meaning that it must rely on the support of peers from other parties and none to clear the way for its legislative programme. Disagreements between the Lords and the Commons can sometimes lead to long delays in legislation being passed as the Bill is sent back and forth between the two houses. The Commons does, ultimately, have the ability to overrule the Lords, though this approach is only used as a last resort.
PEERS provoked anger last night by plotting an assault on Theresa May’s Brexit Bill in the House of Lords. Labour and Lib Dem members of the upper house promised a deluge of amendments to delay the legislation needed to give the Prime Minister power to activate the European Union’s Article 50 departure clause. Their bid to tamper with the Government’s EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is expected to lead to a stand-off between the Lords and the Commons that could upset her schedule of triggering the start of Brexit talks by the end of next month. A string of peers including Lord Newby, the Lib Dem’s leader in the Lords and Labour frontbencher Baroness Chakrabarti yesterday threatened to amend the Bill when Parliament returns from a half-term break on February 20. One potential ambush is expected to include an attempt to force the Lords to vote on whether EU migrants already living in Britain should have their right to stay guaranteed. Commons Leader David Lidington urged peers to respect the overwhelming backing for the Brexit legislation expressed by MPs.
There is an increasing move by pro-EU Lords looking to modify the Brexit Bill with a string of amendments in the unelected House of Lords. Conservative Lord Lamont has said himself that he believes the process of ‘amendments’ which Lords are planning to put forward are really designed to “scupper” the Bill and potentially throw the entire Brexit process into disarray. The Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords, Lord Newby, is talking about changes being made to the Brexit Bill and it being sent back to the House of Commons who already voted for it by a large majority. Though Liberal Democrat and Labour Lords are still publicly that these amendments won’t hold up the process, privately Labour are briefing that they are hoping to modify the Bill and delay the process. The unelected Lords has no right to defy the will of the people who voted for a full, clean Brexit.
Michel Barnier has a dealmaker’s flair for gauging what the other side can accept but as Theresa May prepares to launch Brexit negotiations some EU officials wonder if Brussels’ man can really figure out what she wants. That is a nagging question for European Union leaders who need the veteran French minister and EU commissioner to best the British premier in a grand bargain that will usher Britain out, keep the other 27 member states in and limit the economic harm. “He’s very good at working out what people want, where the landing zones are to get them to agreement,” said one of several people who have worked with Barnier and spoke to Reuters about the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. “He reads a room very well.” Yet some EU officials wonder if he might be “too French” or “too European” to get inside the opposition’s head: “I wonder if he really understands the Brits?” said one fellow negotiator.
Jean-Claude Juncker has strengthened his hand in the Brexit talks by ruling out a second term as president of the European Commission. EU sources said that this would allow Mr Juncker to be a more independent and powerful president because he would not be beholden to a popular vote. He can afford to be tough on Britain in Brexit negotiations and has said that he wanted the “right deal” for the EU. Frans Timmermans, his Dutch deputy, and Michel Barnier, the commission’s French Brexit negotiator, are among early favourites to succeed him. Mr Juncker’s term of office takes him to March 2019, beyond the expected conclusion of Britain’s exit talks, but he told German radio that he would not run in a second election.
Brexit could lead to the end of European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted. The EU chief said he feared Britain would divide the remaining 27 members by making different promises to each during negotiations. Mr Juncker, who also announced he would not be seeking a second term as European Commission president, vowed to stop Britain from making separate trade deals with member states. ‘The other EU 27 don’t know it yet, but the Brits know very well how they can tackle this,’ he said. ‘They could promise country A this, country B that and country C something else and the end game is that there is not a united European front. ‘Do the Hungarians and the Poles want exactly the same thing as the Germans and the French? I have serious doubts’. Britain will trigger formal divorce talks with the EU by the end of March. It will be a major test for the bloc which is also facing challenges as a result of the refugee crisis and the election of Donald Trump as US president.
Theresa May’s Government will not protect John Bercow from calls for him to resign as Speaker, sources have revealed, as new questions emerge over his financial conduct and impartiality. Ministers will be free to back a vote of no confidence against the House of Commons chair rather than being asked to abstain by the whips if a motion is brought before MPs. The decision will increase pressure on Mr Bercow as it emerged a group of Conservative MPs plan to raise the issue of his resignation repeatedly in the House of Commons until his position becomes untenable. The tactic was used to force Speaker Michael Martin out of office following the MP’s expenses scandal. Mr Bercow is caught up in a row over his role after the Sunday Telegraph reported that he backed Remain in the EU referendum and following his outspoken decision to publicly ban Donald Trump from Parliament, sparking questions about his impartiality.
John Bercow’s future as Speaker of the House of Commons has been plunged further into doubt after it emerged that government ministers will be allowed to back a vote of no confidence in him. The campaign to remove Mr Bercow gathered pace yesterday after it emerged that he publicly revealed that he voted Remain in the EU referendum, despite strict rules of impartiality attached to the role of Speaker. It led Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Conservative chancellor and a leading Brexit campaigner, to back calls for Mr Bercow’s resignation. In a sign that there is no appetite within Theresa May’s government to protect the Speaker, David Lidington, the leader of the Commons, said that there would be a strong reaction from MPs.
COMMONS Speaker John Bercow was fighting to save his job tonight after his support for Britain’s EU membership was exposed. Tory MPs warned that the parliamentary official was “no longer impartial” after a recording of his remarks revealed his backing for the Remain side in last year’s EU referendum. One former minister claimed Mr Bercow was already “getting close to the end” of his term in the key Commons post. And Tory Cabinet minister David Lidington predicted that the Speaker will face a “strong reaction” from MPs for his remarks while insisting that the Government would keep out of the row about his future. An Early Day Motion proposing that the Commons had lost confidence in Mr Bercow was tabled last week following concern at his outspoken attempt to block US President Donald Trump from delivering an address to MPs and peers during his proposed state visit this summer.
A Tory backbench MP who tabled a motion of no confidence in the Commons Speaker has said it is not possible for John Bercow to act impartially during Brexit debates in the Commons. James Duddridge, a former Government whip and junior Foreign Office minister, tabled the motion over Mr Bercow’s controversial veto of a speech in Parliament by Donald Trump. Mr Bercow has again been in the headlines after video emerged in which he reportedly revealed his voting stance on Brexit during a question and answer session with students at Reading University on 3 February. In the footage, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, he reportedly said: “Personally, I voted to Remain. I thought it was better to stay in the European Union than not
The public is broadly split on the subject of Donald Trump’s forthcoming state visit to the UK, a new poll for The Independent has found. Forty-five per cent of the public agree that Commons Speaker John Bercow was right to block Mr Trump from speaking in Parliament, compared with a smaller 39 per cent who disagree. However, 47 per cent say that when he comes he should meet the Queen – despite widespread opposition to his policies. A majority of people disagree with the President’s “Muslim ban”, which was cited by Mr Bercow when he said he would be “strongly opposed” to a visit by Mr Trump to the House of Commons. A minority of the public does support the policy, however – with 29 per cent backing a similar travel ban for the UK. The figure rises dramatically to three-quarters when polling just Ukip voters. Older members of the public are also rather more likely to agree that the UK should introduce its own such ban than younger members – just 15 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds agree with the policy against 35 per cent of over-65s.
Surgeons are going ‘days at a time’ without performing operations because of the winter beds crisis in the NHS. The Royal College of Surgeons said its members are spending 12-hour shifts unable to do their job as thousands of operations are cancelled. Cancer patients, previously protected, have now been forced to wait for vital surgery to remove tumours. Patients having more routine surgery, such as hip replacements, are seeing their procedures cancelled up to four times. Yesterday Sir Robert Francis, who chaired the inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, in which hundreds of people died of neglect between 2005 and 2009, warned the NHS is in much the same situation as it was then. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he said: ‘The system is running extremely hot at the moment and it’s only working at all because of the almost superhuman efforts of the staff of the NHS. ‘And it can’t carry on like that indefinitely without something going, or risking going, badly wrong.’
Surgeons are “kicking their heels” because of delays to operations caused by a shortage of beds, two health groups have warned. The “shocking waste” of surgeons’ time is partly down to the lack of social care for elderly patients outside hospitals, they said. Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, blamed cuts aimed at driving productivity for causing greater inefficiency in some areas. In a letter to the Sunday Times, they said: “Because of bed shortages, staff including surgeons are now sometimes left kicking their heels, waiting for beds to become available so they can operate. “Too often managers, nurses and doctors waste time trying to find somewhere to look after patients. At a time when the NHS is being told to make the most of its resources, this is a shocking waste.” Bed occupancy should not exceed 85% for safety reasons, but overnight inpatient beds were routinely 89% occupied, they said.
An NHS trust is closing a children’s ward at night and paying for private ambulances to take them to a different hospital. Parents and politicians branded last month’s move farcical and outrageous. The trust spends £14,000 a month moving the kids from the 20-bed ward at Bassetlaw Hospital , Worksop, Notts. One team of paediatric paramedics were drafted in from Essex, 150 miles away, and put up in a hotel. The closure is the latest incident revealing the fragility of the NHS , which is growing at the slowest rate since 1955. Millions of patients face the longest ever waits for casualty care, beds, cancer treatment and operations. At least 780 patients spent more than four hours waiting in A&E in January – probably the worst month in 13 years.
A HIGHLY contagious vomiting bug is blighting hospitals and schools across the UK leaving some parents fearing for their children’s lives. At least 100 people are thought to have been struck down by a horrendous vomiting and diarrhea sickness illness sweeping across the nation. Public Health England have sounded the alarm revealing 93 schoolchildren and their parents have been stricken with the sickness. The nasty virus is understood to be either dysentery or shigellosis, which spreads due to poor hygiene. Both bugs are highly contagious and can be caught by touching germs left on doorknobs, everyday surfaces and toilets. One victim of the bug was one-year-old James Logan, who collapsed into fit and fell unconscious for 40 minutes. His horrified mum, Charlotte Cullum, 24, called medics who rushed him to hospital for treatment. He was hospitalised for three days and is now in recovery.
Jeremy Corbyn may quit as leader before Labour fights the next general election, the party’s new campaign manager has admitted. Ian Lavery said Labour had “plenty” of potential leaders waiting in the wings should Mr Corbyn choose to stand down “of his own volition” if he decides “it’s not for him” in 2020. It came as another Labour shadow minister claimed leaked polling on possible replacements for Mr Corbyn was intended to improve Labour’s messaging in the north of England ahead of two crucial by-elections. Mr Lavery said he was “pretty confident” Labour could hold its seats in the Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central by-elections, but described the possibility of losing only as a potential “hiccup”.
Labour by-election campaigners in Stoke are keeping Jeremy Corbyn away from voters because he is “not a plus on the doorstep”, it has been claimed. The party faces a tough battle in the heartland seat, where leader Paul Nuttall is hoping to become Ukip’s second MP by defeating Labour candidate Gareth Snell. Former shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis, who resigned on Thursday over the Brexit vote, said Labour was “hanging on at the fingernails” in the Leave-favouring regionA source told the Telegraph that Mr Corbyn is “not a plus on the doorstep, that’s for certain”. Mr Corbyn did visit the constituency at the end of January. The Independent has approached Labour for comment. Questioned by Andrew Marr on Sunday morning about Mr Corbyn’s “catastrophic” favourability ratings, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said: “Jeremy knows what he has to do to win an election. This is not the time for a leadership election. He got a second mandate.
Jeremy Corbyn’s centre-left critics are launching a systematic fightback aimed at preventing the Labour leader from ensuring a leftist successor if he steps down before 2020. With renewed speculation about Corbyn’s future on Sunday, when Labour’s election coordinator Ian Lavery said there were “plenty of leaders to pick from”, some MPs were celebrating a series of local victories against candidates backed by the grassroots, pro-Corbyn Momentum group. Few MPs expect an imminent leadership challenge, but by organising in constituencies across the country, they hope to prevent Labour’s annual conference from adopting what some call the “McDonnell clause”, a rule change that would lower the threshold for the number of nominations needed to get a future leadership contender on the ballot paper. It emerged at the weekend that Labour has been road-testing the rising stars of the shadow cabinet, including the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, and the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, in focus groups with members of the public. Labour sources denied that the exercise had anything to do with “succession planning”.
Labour has carried out secret polling to test the popularity of senior figures touted as successors to Jeremy Corbyn. Voters were asked to rate shadow chancellor John McDonnell along with rising stars Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner, according to a document leaked to the Sunday Times. A party source told Sky News the focus group carried out in Manchester last month was evidence of “succession planning” for who could follow Mr Corbyn as leader. The leaked documents also give a scathing assessment of the Labour leader – who voters branded “boring”, “fed up” and “looks like a scruffy school kid”, according to the newspaper. Labour has denied it is vetting potential successors, saying the focus group by its pollster BMG research was routine. The party has denied that Mr Corbyn plans to step down before 2020.
A member of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle has admitted that the Labour leader may step down before the next election. Ian Lavery, the new elections co-ordinator, said there were “plenty of leaders to pick from” should Mr Corbyn decide to quit before 2020, adding that he did not believe it was his plan at present. It emerged last week that Labour had been testing the popularity of potential leaders in focus groups. The party said this was a regular exercise to improve how it put its message across and was not an attempt to replace its leader. However, the crisis in Labour over Brexit has put Mr Corbyn under further pressure.
LABOUR’s newly appointed campaign chief has admitted Jeremy Corbyn could go before the next General Election. Ian Lavery, who only got his job last week, said there were plenty of people to pick from to lead Labour “if and when” the arch leftie decides to quit. But he told the BBC :”There are plenty of leaders to pick from if and when Jeremy decides of his own volition that it’s not for him at the election.” The remarks came just hours after reports the party was conducting secret “succession planning” after disastrous internal polling. Sources claimed BMG Research were testing the public appeal of two rising stars, Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long Bailey, after a damning verdict on the Labour leader. Brits said Mr Corbyn was the most unpopular leader of all parties, looked “bored”, “fed up” and appeared like a “scruffy school kid”. It follows a YouGov poll which found Mr Corbyn had now fallen out of favour with voters of every political party, all age groups and all social groupings.
Life on Mars
SCIENTISTS hoping to solve the mystery of life on Mars have made a significant development in their breakthrough mission to the Red Planet. NASA experts working on the 2020 mission hope to bring back the first Martian rock samples back to Earth. They have now pinpointed three key landing areas on the Red Planet where the rover will collect samples. The automated robot will conduct geological assessments — including testing for past life on Mars — when it lands on he Northeast Syrtis, Jezero Crater and Columbia Hills. Science boffs believe the Columbia Hills is home to an ancient hot spring and the Jezero crater was once the location of a Martian lake. And it’s thought the Northeast Syrtis could have supported life thanks to the hot waters which circulated through the planet’s crust. Deciding where the rover will land marks a big step forward for the mission, which if successful will provide a fascinating new insight into the planet’s history. The samples brought back to Earth will provide the answers to scientists’ questions for decades to come.