As it happenedended1648090996

Boris Johnson news - live: PM rebukes Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s trolls, as Tories demand NI rise delay

She ‘should not have to face any sort of abuse,’ PM’s spokesperson said

Related: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says she lost trust in government to bring her home

Downing Street condemned social media abuse targeted at Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe today after she said her release from an Iranian prison should have happened “six years ago”.

Trolls attacked the British-Iranian national online, saying she should be grateful and suggesting that she was at fault.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said she “should not have to face any sort of abuse, social media or otherwise” and that “she is rightly able to voice her opinion on any topic she wishes.”

Earlier, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said people criticising Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe have got it “so wrong”, after she said on Monday that the government took too long to pay a £400 million debt to Iran that dated back to 1979.

Meanwhile, ahead of the chancellor’s spring statement tomorrow, at least five ministers are reportedly urging Rishi Sunak to defer his planned 1.25 per cent National Insurance hike.

The senior Tories are concerned about “stagflation” – high inflation, economic stagnation, and higher unemployment – according to The Telegraph, at a time when living costs are already sky-high.

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Boris Johnson ‘desperate’ to visit Ukraine despite risk

PM Boris Johnson is “desperate” to visit war-torn Ukraine, Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden said.

He argued the visit would be important so that Mr Johnson “see what’s going on, on the ground”.

UK security officials are reportedly “having kittens” over the idea of Mr Johnson travelling to Kyiv for talks with president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Mr Dowden told LBC: “Well, I think the prime minister is desperate to go to Ukraine and has throughout this conflict felt a real – as the British people have done – a real emotional connection with the suffering of the Ukrainian people.”

Read the full story here by Adam Forrest

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Paul Scully put on the spot over ‘fire and rehire’ filibuster

Business ministry Paul Scully was grilled this morning over his filibustering against a Bill that sought to outlaw exploitative “fire and rehire” tactics.

Susanna Reid, presenter of Good Morning Britain, read out an article that says Mr Scully spoke for so long in the Commons that the session ran out of time for the legislation be considered further.

It comes just hours after Mr Scully claimed that P&O Ferries could be prosecuted if it’s deemed that its firing of 800 seafarers – to hire agency workers from India on £1.80 an hour – is deemed illegal under English and maritime law.

Ms Reid said, reading the Guardian article: “‘One minister spoke for 40 minutes in the chamber ensuring the private member’s bill ran out of time and would not progress beyond its second reading. The minister – Paul Scully.’”

Addressing him, she said: “You’re the person ... the TUC are saying you are siding with bad bosses.”

He said: “First of all, I could have spoken for five minutes and we would have still ran out of time.”

Mr Scully said Labour’s Barry Gardiner – who proposed the Bill – spoke longer than him.

He also defended his actions by saying that the Bill would not have allowed firms to be flexible in how they’re structured and would “likely would lead to more job losses”.

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Petrol pump prices dip by fraction of 1p from record high

Fuel prices have dipped by a fraction of 1p from record highs.

The average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts on Monday was 166.6p, down from 167.0p on Sunday.

The average cost of a litre of diesel fell from 179.0p to 178.7p over the same time.

The figures from data firm Experian Catalist come amid speculation that chancellor Rishi Sunak could announce a temporary cut in fuel duty of up to 5p per litre in tomorrow’s spring statement.

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Ministers urge Rishi Sunak to defer National Insurance hike

Five ministers are calling on chancellor Rishi Sunak to defer his planned rise in National Insurance (NI).

They made the last-minute appeal ahead of his spring statement tomorrow.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

The ministers argue, according to The Telegraph, that the planned increase – to how much workers and employers pay in NI from next month – could put the UK economy at risk of “stagflation”.

This is a combination of high inflation, economic stagnation, and higher unemployment – also known as recession inflation.

Mr Sunak’s proposed NI hike also comes amid a wider living cost crisis relating to food, energy, fuel, rent, and council tax.

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Greenpeace urges Sunak to boost renewable energy fund

Activists armed with solar panels and rolls of insulation have demanded that the government makes more funding available for renewable energy.

Greenpeace held a demonstration this morning outside the Treasury ahead of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement tomorrow.

The charity tweeted: “We're at the Treasury, and we’ve given it a green makeover. We’ve brought solar panels and insulation with us to tell @RishiSunak and @BorisJohnson: boost renewables and make our homes greener to #GetOffGas now!

“Freeing our country from gas dependence means we can disarm Putin, tackle soaring bills, fuel poverty and address the climate crisis.

“Instead of waiting till 2050 for new North Sea oil and gas projects to deliver, we have green solutions ready now.

“If we give greater funding for renewable energy and make our homes greener, we can eliminate our need for Russian gas this year, and save people money on their bills.”

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Met should find ‘speedy solution’ to end partygate - minister

Business minister Paul Scully urged Scotland Yard to get a move on with its “partygate” investigation, after the force said detectives were interviewing “key” witnesses.

Police are investigating events that were held at Downing Street during strict coronavirus lockdown. PM Boris Johnson has been forced to admit that he had attended some of them.

Downing Street hosted a number of events during Covid lockdown

“I think we all want to bring it to a head, draw a line under it, whatever the Metropolitan Police find. They need to come up with a speedy resolution,” Mr Scully told LBC.

He added: “If people are found to be breaking the law, punish them with a fixed penalty notice or whatever it is … there are so many things going on in the world that are affecting people on a day-to-day basis that’s what we want to be concentrating on.”

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PM’s WhatApp messages ‘prior to April 2021 not available’

Historical private emails and WhatsApp messages on Boris Johnson’s phone are not available, it is confirmed.

The Cabinet Office admission comes amid the partygate investigation and ahead of a future inquiry into the PM’s handling of the pandemic.

Good Law Project’s challenge of ministers’ “persistent use of private communication channels” for “matters of national importance” has reached the High Court.

The lawyers said: “The fact that none of his phone messages were retained when his phone was decommissioned in 2021 is utterly baffling, deeply regrettable, and leaves us all asking the obvious question – why?”

The unavailability of the messages was confirmed by Cabinet Office chief operating officer Sarah Harrison.

She said: “In April 2021, in light of a well-publicised security breach, the Prime Minister implemented security advice relating to a mobile device.

“The effect was that historic messages were no longer available to search and the phone is not active.”

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Home Office issues 12,400 visas to Ukrainian refugees

Some 12,400 visas have been issued under the Ukraine family scheme as of 5pm on Monday, the Home Office said.

A total of 32,500 applications have been submitted so far, according to provisional data published on the department’s website.

Home secretary Priti Patel

Critics have urged home secretary Priti Patel to expand the scheme, as the visas are available only to Ukrainian refugees that already have family members in the UK.

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Boris Johnson visiting Ukraine now ‘would be nonsensical’

It would be “nonsensical” for Boris Johnson to visit Ukraine, a senior government official has told The Independent.

Mr Johnson is “desperate” to pay a trip to war-torn Ukraine to “experience what is happening there”, the Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden has confirmed.

But the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) official said the prime minister’s time “would be better spent addressing Home Office dysfunction” over the Britain’s response to the refugee crisis.

Read the exclusive story by Anna Isaac, Adam Forrest, and Kim Sengupta here

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‘Dozens’ of Tories to reject Nationality and Borders Bill

Dozens of Conservative MPs, including former Cabinet ministers, are reportedly poised to join opposition parties in voting against the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill today.

The Tory MPs want to force the government into scrapping its plans to process asylum seekers potentially thousands of miles from the UK.

They have also signed a letter calling for the amount of time asylum seekers have to wait before they can work in the UK to be halved to six months, Politics Home reported.

Ministers have said that the Bill would make the immigration ‘fairer’

Labour MPs have questioned the extent of the government’s support of Ukrainian refugees when having proposed the legislation that critics have widely referred to as the “anti-refugee Bill”.

The Bill will be returning to the Commons after it had underwent 20 defeats in the House of Lords.

The government claims the Bill would “increase the fairness of the system”, “deter illegal entry into the United Kingdom”, “breaking the business model of people smuggling networks”, and “remove more easily those with no right to be in the UK.”

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