Robert Jenrick is expected to announce today £5bn of funding to remove flammable cladding. But significant questions remain. For a start, it has not been confirmed whether the figure is a new lump sum or a top-up on the existing £1.6bn pledged. And it is understood that grants will only be available to remove dangerous materials on blocks over 18m tall, with loans for the rest. Campaigners have reacted angrily at this arbitrary line drawn between leaseholders in one building and those in a slightly taller one. Labour has pointed out again that ministers have promised 17 times since the Grenfell fire that leaseholders would not be made to pay. Yet, over three years later, here we are asking ministers to show us the money.
18 Labour peers yesterday defied the Labour whip by voting in favour of banning the authorisation of rape, torture and murder by public bodies under the so-called ‘spycops’ bill. The legislation would allow public bodies ranging from MI5 to the Food Standards Agency to authorise agents to commit crimes while undercover. Former shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti moved that the amendment banning the most serious criminal conduct – rejected by MPs last month – be reinserted into the bill. It was voted down by 311 to 143. The Labour frontbench has said voting CHIS down would “weaken national security and human rights” and had ordered its peers to abstain. 17 joined Chakrabarti and voted in favour, including Blairite ex-minister Andrew Adonis and Stewart Wood, a former adviser to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.
Meanwhile ministers have been accused of making a “mockery of democracy” after they blocked a straight vote in the Commons on the ‘genocide amendment’. It would have allowed survivors of genocide to ask the High Court to rule on whether a UK trading partner is committing or has committed genocide. Tory backbenchers were furious after it was grouped with a separate Labour amendment, imposing human rights audits before trade deals are signed, meaning that to rebel they would have to had support the Labour-sponsored plan. At the same time a vote on a government-backed amendment watering it down was allowed. Despite this manoeuvring, the government only saw off the rebellion by 15 votes. Lord Alton said last night that he is preparing to retable the amendment.
HeartUnions week continues and Frances O’Grady has written for LabourList making the case that public services must be at the heart of the Covid recovery and welcoming the speech from Rachel Reeves on Monday. The TUC general secretary points to the success of the vaccine roll-out as demonstrative of the value of public services. And, while criticising the public sector pay freeze, she explains that the trade union confederation’s vision goes beyond pay. Labour MP Andy Slaughter also put pen to paper for LabourList yesterday, backing the call from Reeves to extend the Freedom of Information Act in light of the rampant Tory cronyism seen in public procurement during the pandemic.
A host of questions were raised by the latest announcement from Matt Hancock yesterday on the (slowly) evolving Covid border policy. In particular, many are wondering just how the ten-year prison sentence, threatened for those who lie on their passenger form, will work. Nobody seems to know what they would be charged with, and former Tory MP and attorney general Dominic Grieve told BBC Today that the courts are “simply not going to impose” the sentence. Nick Thomas-Symonds has this morning said he is “of course in favour of there being a significant penalty” but the Shadow Home Secretary added that this eye-catching announcement should not be a “substitute for an effective quarantining system”. Watch out for Prime Minister’s Questions at 12pm today. Labour leader Keir Starmer has plenty to go on. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.