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Boris Johnson news - live: Tories rally to defend MP who exposed himself to woman, as DWP benefits suicides 'cover-up' emerges

Boris Johnson’s police minister Kit Malthouse has defended Tory MP James Grundy, who is facing calls to resign after a video emerged which showed him exposing himself woman in a pub. Mr Malthouse suggested it was merely a youthful indiscretion.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of dealing in a “secretive” way with reviews into cases of benefit claimants who have gone on to take their own lives. Labour said the department was keeping the process “hush, hush”.

It comes as the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said chancellor Rishi Sunak will have to hike taxes – or entrench austerity – to pay for a spending splurge in the upcoming budget.

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What are the red lines that could block a Brexit trade deal?


It looks like someone’s red lines will have to turn pink, or we’re headed for a no-deal disaster at the end of 2020.


EU ministers have signed off on a 46-page mandate for trade talks beginning next week – and chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK must agree to a “level playing field” on rules and regulations or there won’t be any deal. “We will not conclude an agreement at any price,” he said.


No 10 – due to publish the UK’s mandate on Thursday – decided to issue a response in five tweets. Downing Street demanded “autonomy” to set its own rules and claimed the EU had forged a deal with the US “without the kind of level playing field commitments ... they have put in today’s mandate.”


Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has taken a closer look at both sides’ demands.

 

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DWP reviews into benefit claimants’ deaths kept ‘hush-hush’, says Labour


The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of dealing in a “secretive and unsatisfactory way” with reviews into cases of benefit claimants who have gone on to take their own lives.


Labour MP Stephen Timms, chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the department had been looking to keep the reviews “hush, hush”.


It comes after the DWP had been found to have destroyed reviews into suicides that took place more than five years ago, citing data protection laws.


Timms said he was “sympathetic” to families of loved ones who feared a cover-up. “I think families should be entitled to see these reports. The law does not specify five years or six years, and I think this kind of information should be held for longer.”


The MP also told the BBC that his committee plans to write to the DWP about the issue of reviews into cases where benefit claimants have taken their own lives to call for “clarification and improvements”.


Timms said: “I think all of this raises very troubling questions for the department. For a long time they refused to address them at all. Now they’re starting to address them but in a very secretive and unsatisfactory way.


“I think for a long time they were very reluctant to accept that what they were doing had contributed to these deaths at all.


“I think they are now being forced to own up to the fact. That is happening, but they're doing it very reluctantly and very slowly and trying to keep the thing as hush-hush as possible, and it’s not good enough.”

Tory minister defends MP who exposed himself – dismissing incident as youthful indiscretion


The police minister Kit Malthouse has defended a Tory MP facing calls to resign after a video emerged which shows him exposing himself to a woman in a pub.


James Grundy, the new MP for Leigh since December, has apologised for the 2007 incident at the Rams Head Inn in Wigan. Footage obtained by LBC captures Grundy lowering his trousers and lifting his shirt to expose his genitals, as requested by a woman heard off camera.


“I’m sure there are lots of things people have done when they teenagers that they may not have contemplated would surface,” Malthouse told Sky News.


“He’s a young man, and he was even younger then.”

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Chancellor will have to raise taxes or entrench austerity, says IFS


Rishi Sunak will have to hike taxes or entrench austerity to pay for a spending splurge in the upcoming budget, according to a respected think tank.


The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said Sunak will have to abandon fiscal commitments in the Tory manifesto – or increase taxes next month – if he wants to avoid cuts to day-to-day spending.


Some £54bn would be needed to reverse cuts to public spending outside of health since 2010, the think tank said, which is still 26 per cent lower than a decade ago.


The IFS also warned that cuts to some benefits that would leave poorer families worse off were working their way through the system.

 

Sunak must 'recognise that more spending must require more tax', says respected think tank

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