As it happenedended1652472482

Boris Johnson news – live: PM to visit Northern Ireland amid protocol row at Stormont

Sinn Fein said DUP’s blocking of the election of a speaker at Stormont was ‘shameful’

Boris Johnson promises ‘compassion’ to get people through cost of living crisis

Boris Johnson is set to visit Northern Ireland next week as the deepening crisis over the protocol could leave the NI Assembly unable to function.

The prime minister’s planned visit for Monday comes after the DUP blocked the election of a speaker at Stormont.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he is sending a clear message to the EU and UK government over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Speaking before the first meeting of the new Assembly, he said: “I am here with my Assembly team today for the first sitting of the Assembly. My members will be signing the roll and taking their seats for the first time.

“As I have made clear this morning we have taken the decision not at this stage to support the election of a speaker.”

The decision has been strongly criticised by the other four main parties at Stormont, including Sinn Fein’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill who called it “shameful”.

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PM to visit Northern Ireland amid protocol row at Stormont

Boris Johnson is set to visit Northern Ireland next week as the deepening crisis over the protocol could leave the NI Assembly unable to function.

The prime minister’s planned visit for Monday comes after the DUP blocked the election of a speaker at Stormont.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he is sending a clear message to the EU and UK government over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Speaking before the first meeting of the new Assembly, he said: “I am here with my Assembly team today for the first sitting of the Assembly. My members will be signing the roll and taking their seats for the first time.

“As I have made clear this morning we have taken the decision not at this stage to support the election of a speaker.”

The decision has been strongly criticised by the other four main parties at Stormont, including Sinn Fein’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill who called it “shameful”.

The developing story can be read here:

1652457655

UK and Norway agree ‘historic’ pact for ‘security and prosperity'

The UK and Norway have signed a new joint declaration stating the countries will work together to boost “security, sustainability and prosperity” in Europe and beyond.

PM Boris Johnson and his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Store made the agreement in London today, where they were said to have “underscored their full support” for any choice by Nordic partners to enhance their security in fear of aggression by Russia.

Boris Johnson appears pumped for his meeting with Norway’s PM

It comes after leaders in Finland announced, less than two months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, that they backed the country joining Nato. Sweden is also expected to decide on joining Nato in the coming days.

According to No 10, Mr Store observed that the new “historic” declaration will mean Norway co-operates “more extensively with the UK than any other country in the world”.

Mr Johnson [R] with Jonas Gahr Store at Downing Street

Downing Street said the leaders agreed on the need for Nato allies to back Ukraine politically, taking a “unified approach” that “avoids giving [Vladimir] Putin licence to further twist the knife in the wound”.

The new joint declaration on the UK-Norway relationship focuses on seven key areas: security and defence; global challenges; energy, economic and investment co-operation; climate change and environmental issues; research and innovation; culture and education; and strategic dialogue and institutional exchanges.

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External candidates ‘will be considered for civil service senior jobs'

All senior civil service jobs are to be advertised externally following recruitment changes taking effect today, the government announced.

Ministers said the move will help source a more diverse range of leadership candidates, and allow for jobs to be moved out of London.

All 7,000 senior civil service positions will be covered by the new policy.

It follows news that PM Boris Johnson is tasking his Cabinet with cutting about 90,000 civil service jobs, which has resulted in unions warning of potential nationwide strike action.

The government is looking at ways of moving senior civil servant jobs out of London

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay, who has written to cabinet ministers to outline the changes, said: “Civil servants do a great job delivering public services for people up and down the country, and just like in any high-performing business in the private sector, employees thrive when there is diversity of leadership.

“The pathway to achieving this aim is to ensure the civil service is able to select from amongst the widest possible pool of talent so we can hire the highest calibre staff. This will also contribute to our commitment to levelling up opportunity across the UK by moving roles out of London.

“We want to reduce the size of the civil service so it comes back down to the levels we had in 2016 but it remains important that, when we do recruit, particularly for leadership roles, we are able to bring in the best possible candidates for every position.”

1652461257

Wakefield CLP executive committee members resign en masse

The entire executive committee of Wakefield’s local Labour group has resigned in a row over the party’s candidate selection for an upcoming by-election.

The by-election has been triggered by the resignation of Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan after his conviction for sexually assaulting a boy.

The Constituency Labour Party’s (CLP) executive say they are quitting in protest at the lack of a local candidate.

Members have also accused the National Executive Committee (NEC) of allegedly not keeping to the party’s rules about by-elections.

The Wakefield by-election was triggered by Khan’s sexual assault conviction

A statement from the Wakefield CLP said: “We asked for local candidates, but there are none. Three prominent council and local Labour candidates, including the deputy council leader didn’t even make it onto the ‘long list’.

“A short list of four was requested by our representative on the panel to give members some choice but the NEC members insisted on just two.”

It added: “Representations to Party Officials at the highest level have got absolutely nowhere with some queries not even answered.

“As a consequence, the constituency executive (comprised of local branch representatives and constituency officers) decided last night to resign en bloc with effect from the Sunday selection meeting.”

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Tories ‘bottling’ out of plans to tackle childhood obesity, says Labour

Labour has accused the Tory government of “bottling” out of its own proposed plans to tackle obesity among children.

PM Boris Johnson has reportedly scrapped his plans of limiting junk food advertising on TV to after the 9pm watershed.

The plans also included a ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals on unhealthy food.

Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s shadow minister for public health, said: “Yet another u-turn. The Tories voted for the 9pm watershed for junk food advertising just weeks ago, but are now bottling it.

“Boris Johnson's desperation to cling onto his job means the ideology of Conservative MPs is being placed above children’s health.”

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Ukrainian refugees visit Boris Johnson at Downing Street

Ukrainian families who have been housed in the UK through refugee schemes have said – after meeting Boris Johnson iat Downing Street – that they “feel safe here”.

The PM greeted a group of around 10 refugees, that had either been housed through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme or through the Ukraine Family Scheme.

Both schemes were set up by the UK government in the wake of the Russian invasion.

A number of Ukrainian families stand on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street

Speaking to the PA news agency, Natalia Kogut, 40, said her family feel “safe” and they are “thankful” for the support the UK government has given Ukraine.

Ms Kogut said she fled Kyiv with her mother Malyna, 64, her daughter Melisa, 11, and her son Akim, 18, and arrived in the UK on 5 March.

The family have since been taken in by an elderly woman who lives in a “big house” in Birmingham, she explained.

Ms Kogut added that her family are worried for her husband, who is still in Ukraine.

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Boris Johnson criticised over anti-WFH op-ed in Daily Mail

Boris Johnson has been criticised for claiming that people working from home (WFH) are more distracted than if they worked from their offices.

The PM wrote in the Daily Mail that businesses should encourage their workers to go back to their workplaces after the vast majority of them had started WFH during the Covid pandemic.

He admitted that – when he works from Downing Street – he “forgets” what he was meant to be doing and struggles with Zoom calls, while he is distracted by the lure of the cheese sitting in his fridge.

Mr Johnson wrote: “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office. I believe people are more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas, when they are surrounded by other people.

“My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee, and then you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

Social media users pointed out that Mr Johnson has largely worked from home during his time as prime minister.

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Sadiq Khan angers Labour frontbench with cannabis law probe

Labour frontbenchers are reportedly “furious” with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for “blindsiding” them with an assessment of laws that outlaw cannabis.

Mr Khan announced, while on a trip to the US – where recreational or medicinal use of cannabis is legal in many states – that he has set up a commission to look at the UK's criminalisation of cannabis possession.

As a Class B drug, possession could lead to five years in prison or an unlimited fine. Mr Khan said the commission, which will be chaired by Lord Falconer, would examine the effectiveness of UK drugs laws on cannabis and the potential for reducing "drug-related harm".

City Hall does not have the power to change the criminal law but could influence the debate.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan walks through a cannabis factory in LA

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper is concerned that his stance will enable the Tories to claim that Labour is soft on drugs, Huffington Post UK reported.

“Yvette is furious about it,” a Labour source reportedly said. “People are just rolling their eyes because it definitely is not the official party line.”

Another told the news outlet: “There is frustration across the frontbench at being completely blindsided by this.

“We’re clear what our position is and our drugs policy position is extremely firm. This is not something that Sadiq can change unilaterally because he doesn’t have the power to do that as mayor. It beggars belief.”

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PM ‘playing politics with kids’ health’ in U-turn over junk food

Boris Johnson has been accused of “playing politics with children’s health” after a government U-turn on plans to restrict junk food advertising and buy-one-get-one-free promotions.

The Department of Health has announced a one-year delay to the proposed ban on multi-buy for unhealthy foods, as well as a 9pm watershed for TV ads, with rumours in Westminster that the plan will eventually be ditched altogether.

Read the full story here by Andrew Woodcock

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In case you missed it: Unions threaten strikes over civil service jobs

Unions have warned Boris Johnson that strike action ballots are “almost inevitable” over government plans to axe 90,000 civil service jobs.

Read more on this story by Ashley Cowburn here

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