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UK politics – live: Rayner and Dowden clash at fiery PMQs as Sunak branded a ‘pint-sized loser’

Angela Rayner branded Rishi Sunak a “pint-sized loser” during a fiery session of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Labour’s deputy leader used the session to tackle the government on its housing record, accusing ministers of delaying justice on no-fault evictions in the rented sector.

She also accused Oliver Dowden, the deputy prime minister, of having “stabbed” the Tories’ “biggest election winner” Boris Johnson in the back in order to get his “mate into No 10”.

“Has he finally realised that when he stabbed Boris Johnson in the back to get his mate into No 10 he was ditching their biggest election winner for a pint-sized loser?” she told MPs in the Commons, following reports that Mr Dowden was among senior Tories call for a summer election.

Elsewhere, the prime minister is on a visit to Germany. He held a joint press conference with chancellor Olfa Scholz, where he praised Germany for increasing defence spending.

Key Points

Outrage as Reform UK deputy leader says Britain should ‘absolutely’ let migrants drown in the Channel

13:59 , Matt Mathers

The deputy leader of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK has sparked outrage after saying Britain should ‘absolutely’ let migrants drown in the English Channel.

Ben Habib, the party’s Wellingborough parliamentary candidate, said asylum seekers attempting to reach Britain in small boats should “suffer the consequences” in a widely criticised interview on Wednesday.

Full report:

Reform UK deputy leader says UK should ‘absolutely’ let migrants drown in the Channel

We won’t tolerate foreign spying attempts – Sunak

13:45 , Matt Mathers

Both Germany and the UK will not tolerate foreign spying attempts, Rishi Sunak and Olaf Scholz said.

The prime minister said there was “very little I can say”, after two men were charged with spying for China following an investigation by counter-terrorism police.

He added: “What I can say more generally and more broadly is defending our democracy, our democratic processes, and institutions is an absolute priority and we won’t tolerate any activity that undermines that.”

Through a translator, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “It is very important that we good intelligence services, good public prosecutors, good police work and that every body works closely together, also beyond borders. We cannot tolerate espionage carried out against our country, regardless from where it comes.”

Three people were arrested this week in Germany, suspected of spying for China and facilitating the transfer of information on technology with potential military uses.

Sunak: ‘Entirely reasonable’ for US to ask European countries to increase defence spending

13:35 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak said it was “not new” for US presidents to call for more European defence spending, which he said was “entirely reasonable”.

Asked if he was convinced of Donald Trump’s commitment to Nato, Mr Sunak said: “We cannot expect Americans to pay any price, to take any burden if we in Europe are not ourselves prepared to make those sacrifices and make those investments.”

The prime minister said it was important for Europe to demonstrate commitment to in turn keep the US committed to Nato and cited the UK and Germany’s track record of meeting their funding commitments.

We can increase defence spending and cut taxes, Sunak insists

13:25 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak has insisted the government will be able to cut taxes while increasing defence spending, saying it was a “priority” to bolster the nation’s defences.

Asked by broadcasters whether prioritising defence would impact other commitments, Mr Sunak insisted there was “record investment in our public services”.

He added: “We have made a choice and I am not shying away from that choice. All governing is about prioritising. I have decided to prioritise defence because I think that is the right thing to do for our country.

“I am not going to get into writing the next manifesto here and now, but what I am confident about is that if you have a strong plan for the economy as we have and that plan is working, we stick to that plan we will be able to continue increasing defence spending.

“It is a completely funded plan. We have got a very clear idea of how to reduce civil service headcount which has grown considerably over the last few years, and we can bring that back and use that to fund what I announced yesterday.

“And alongside that, continue to invest in public services and cut people’s taxes.”

 (REUTERS) (REUTERS)

(REUTERS)

70,000 job cuts will return Civil Service workforce to pre-2019 levels – Sunak

13:15 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak said the reduction in civil service headcount that accompanies his plan to raise defence spending to 2.5 per cent by 2030 is a return to 2019 levels.

“Since then we’ve seen a very sifnigiant rise that isn’t sustainable or needed,” the PM said at a press conference in Berlin with German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

He said chancellor Jeremy Hunt had conducted a detailed exercise that “gives us the confidence that we can release the savings needed to fund our defence plan combined with an uplift in R&D spending which we had already budgeted for.”

But he also said: “We are making a choice to prioritise defence with both of those decisions and i believe that’s the right thing to do because whether we like it or not the world is more dangerous now than at any moment since the Cold War and it falls on leaders whether that’s Olaf, whether that’s me to do what’s necessary to keep our continent safe and stand up for our values.”

He called the plan the “biggest strengthening of our national defence in a generation” and said it was “fully funded” and based on Britain having a strong economy.

It is understood that two-thirds of the uplift in defence spending will be paid for by reducing the civil service headcount to pre-Covid levels.

The government has announced plans to cut the equivalent of 70,000 jobs – with £2.9bn of savings being redirected to the defence budget.

Sunak praises Germany for hiking defence spending

13:04 , Matt Mathers

As we reported earlier this morning, Rishi Sunak is visiting Berlin to strengthen UK-Germany military ties.

At a joint press conference with German chancellor Olaf Scholz, the PM praised Germany for increasing its defence spending.

He said: “At this dangerous moment, the bond between our two nations is stronger than ever. We meet as a war rages on our continent and new threats are rising around the world.”

He congratulated Mr Scholz on his leadership and taking the “historic decision” to increase Germany’s defence spending.

“We stand here today together as the leading defence spenders in Europe,” he added.

He continued: “Together we have acted to meet this movement. We have taken greater responsibility for our collective security and today we are going even further, opening a new chapter in the security relationship between our two nations.”

Joint press conference between Sunak and Scholz (REUTERS)Joint press conference between Sunak and Scholz (REUTERS)

Joint press conference between Sunak and Scholz (REUTERS)

Watch: Start of PMQs descends into chaos as Tory MP attacks Labour with long-winded ‘garden tax’ question

12:52 , Matt Mathers

PMQs descends into chaos as Tory MP attacks Labour with long-winded tax question

Watch: Labour’s Angela Rayner calls Sunak a ‘pint-size loser’ as she claims Boris Johnson was Tory party’s ‘biggest election winner’

12:50 , Matt Mathers

Labour’s Angela Rayner calls Rishi Sunak a ‘pint-size loser’ in Tory election dig

Dowden asked who caused ‘instablity’ in economy

12:49 , Matt Mathers

Deputy prime Minister Oliver Dowden has been asked who he believes caused instability in the UK economy.

During PMQs, Labour MP Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) said: “Earlier on in the session (Mr Dowden) said that when the prime minister and chancellor took office they restored stability to the UK economy, who does he think caused the instability?”

Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden replied: “They might want to forget it but I remember the day the Conservatives came into office in 2010 and what was the note left on the desk of the chief secretary – ‘there is no money left’.

“That is the challenge that we have addressed through the prime minister and chancellor successively.”

Ministers urged to condemn reports of mass graves at Gaza hospitals

12:46 , Matt Mathers

Ministers were urged to condemn reports of mass graves at bombed out hospitals in Gaza as war crimes.

Mhairi Black, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, told the Commons: “Two years ago when mass graves were discovered in Ukraine, this House united in condemnation and rightly treated this graves as evidence of war crimes, which Russia must be made to answer for.

“Yesterday, Palestinian officials uncovered two mass graves outside the bombed hospitals in Gaza. These graves also constitute as war crimes don’t they?”

Deputy prime Minister Oliver Dowden replied: “Well of course we would expect the democratic government of Israel to investigate any allegations of misconduct and that is exactly what they do, and it is exactly what the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister urge them to do.

“But I find it quite extraordinary that she seeks to draw parallels between the legitimate war of self defence of Israel and the conduct of Russia.”

Watch the exchange below:

Labour MP shares altered image of Sunak next to tall colleague after ‘pint-sized’ jibe

12:44 , Matt Mathers

A Labour MP has shared a photoshopped image of Rishi Sunak next to one of his very tall colleagues after Angela Rayner called the prime minister “pint-sized”.

Christian Wakeford, who defected to Labour in 2022, shared on X an image of the PM next to Daniel Kawczynski MP , altered to exaggerate the height difference between the two.

Mr Kawczynski is 6ft 9 in while the PM is 5ft 6in.

Rayner accuses government of delaying justice on no-fault evictions

12:29 , Matt Mathers

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has accused the government of delaying justice for those being served no-fault evictions.

During Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Rayner said: “He clearly thought he could spend all week obsessing over my living arrangements and didn’t even bother to read-up on his own government’s Bill this afternoon.

“The reality is, he caved into vested interests on his backbenches and delayed justice for people like Natalie. This week the housing minister said there is no solid date for banning no fault evictions, the housing secretary (Michael Gove) now says it won’t happen before an election, so if he can give us a date, can he name it now?”

Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden replied: “I can name the date for (Ms Rayner), today. It’s today that this house will be voting on it. And I’m confident that in line with our manifesto we will deliver on that commitment.”

 (Sky News) (Sky News)

(Sky News)

Rayner calls Sunak a ‘pint-sized loser’

12:22 , Matt Mathers

Rayner claims Tories have replaced their best-ever election winner with a “pint-sized loser”.

She also accused deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden of stabbing Boris Johnson in the back.

She says that after 14 years the Tories have failed renters, failed lease-holders and failed mortgage-holders.

 (Sky News) (Sky News)

(Sky News)

Tories have caved to vested interests – Rayner

12:17 , Matt Mathers

Rayner claims Dowden has spent all week reading about her living arrangements but failed to get up to speed on no fault evictions.

Labour deputy claims her opposite number and his colleagues have “caved” to vested interests.

She might claim Commons as her main residence – Dowden

12:14 , Matt Mathers

Dowden replies saying it is a pleasure to have another exchange with Rayner.

He notes it is one of several between the two deputies and jokes that if there are any more she might claim the Commons chamber as her residence.

On the issue of no fault evictions, he adds, MPs will be voting on the matter later today and insists the government is taking action.

Rayner uses first question to tackle Dowden on housing

12:11 , Matt Mathers

Rayner uses her first question to tackle Dowden on the government’s housing record.

She says that Natalie from Brighton has been served with two no fault eviction notices in 18 months.

Rayner asks Dowden when the Tories will start tackling the issue instead of focusing on her living arrangements.

12:06 , Matt Mathers

PMQs is now under way.

Stay tuned for live updates as Angela Rayner faces Oliver Dowden.

PMQs kicks off shortly

11:58 , Matt Mathers

PMQs will kick off shortly – we’ll bring you all the action as it happens.

You can also watch the exchanges live on our YouTube channel (below)

Angela Rayner faces Oliver Dowden in a crunch battle of the deputies.

Watch live: Rayner and Dowden step in for Sunak and Starmer during PMQs

Watch: Civil service cuts will pay for £75bn in defence, says Grant Shapps

11:57 , Matt Mathers

402 people detected trying to cross Channel on Tuesday – Home Office

11:47 , Matt Mathers

Some 402 people were detected crossing the English Channel on Tuesday, according to provisional figures from the Home Office.

The cumulative number of arrivals by small boats in 2024 now stands at a provisional total of 6,667.

This is 20 per cent higher than the total at the equivalent point last year, which was 5,546, but slightly lower (down 0.4 per cent) than the total at this stage in 2022, which was 6,691.

Some seven boats were detected on Tuesday, which suggests an average of around 57 people per boat.

There were 29,437 arrivals across the whole of 2023, down 36 per cent on a record 45,774 arrivals in 2022.

File photo: Footage from BBC News shows migrants in small boat at Dunkirk on Tuesday morning (BBC)File photo: Footage from BBC News shows migrants in small boat at Dunkirk on Tuesday morning (BBC)

File photo: Footage from BBC News shows migrants in small boat at Dunkirk on Tuesday morning (BBC)

Labour declines to match 2.5% defence spending by 2030

11:37 , Matt Mathers

Labour has declined to put a date on defence spending reaching 2.5 per cent of GDP.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, said her party would boost spending “as and when we can” if it won the next election.

It comes after PM Rishi Sunak pledged to meet the target by 2030.

Ms Thornberry told Sky News Labour would increase spending when the “circumstances allow”.

“We want to move towards 2.5 per cent – it was 2.5 per cent when we were last in power – we’re not going to say we’re going to do it by 2030,” she added.

Watch: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson arrives in court

11:27 , Matt Mathers

Former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson faces 11 historical sex charges in court including rape

11:26 , Matt Mathers

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has appeared in court to face historical sex charges, including one count of rape.

The former DUP leader’s wife Lady Eleanor Donaldson also appeared at Newry Magistrates’ Court to face charges in relation to the same police investigation.

Full report:

Former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson faces 11 sex charges in court including rape

Watch live: Sunak meets Scholz

11:24 , Matt Mathers

Former Labour minister Frank Field dies aged 81 after cancer battle

10:06 , Matt Mathers

Former Labour minister and crossbench peer Frank Field has died aged 81, his family has announced.

Lord Field had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Former Labour minister Frank Field dies aged 81 after cancer battle

ICYMI: Rayner told kitchen renovations offset tax on council house sale

09:58 , Matt Mathers

Angela Rayner is expected to claim that she did not have to pay capital gains tax when she sold her former house due to a kitchen renovation, as the row over her housing affairs rumbles on.

The deputy Labour leader is likely to argue that enhancements she made to her former council house have offset the tax she would have paid had it not been her primary property, according to The Times.

Full report:

Angela Rayner told kitchen renovations offset tax on council house sale

‘Conditions are right’ to increase defence spending – defence secretary

09:55 , Matt Mathers

Defence secretary Grant Shapps told GB News has said that inflation falling and the current conflicts across the world have led to the government’s decision to increase defence spending.

“The conditions are right now, but not only that, the situation in the world. You’ve seen what’s been happening in Ukraine, with (Vladimir) Putin continuing to prosecute his illegal war.

“You’ve seen what’s happening in the Middle East with Iran firing on Israel with 100s of projectiles. I think it’s very important for Britain to play its leadership part.”

Mr Shapps said the funding will go towards a lot of “different things” including munitions, accommodation and new technology.

“Most of all I hope it leverages the countries to come forward and spend their money properly. It’s really important that we show dictators everywhere, people like Putin, that we will not be walked over.

Mr Shapps added that the government will be “cutting the bureaucracy” in defence to help fund the package.

“We have about 60,000 people in MoD, but we’re saying by 2028 we think we can manage with 50,000 people.

“We want people on the front line, not in the offices.” More comments from Mr Shapps below:

ICYMI: Britain to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030, Rishi Sunak announces

09:45 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak has promised to boost Britain’s defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2030 – despite critics raising concerns about how he will pay for the promise.

At a press conference alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister promised an extra £75bn in defence spending over the next six years.

Full report:

Britain to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence by 2030, Rishi Sunak announces

Sunak and Scholz to announce joint development of artillery systems in Berlin

09:42 , Matt Mathers

Sunak’s first visit to the German capital since entering No 10 comes after he faced pressure to visit senior politicians from one of the UK’s most powerful European allies.

The UK and Germany are closely aligned on matters including support for Ukraine and are the two biggest suppliers of military aid to the country after the US, but have so far opted to co-operate through Nato and G7 forums instead of through strengthening bilateral ties.

Full report:

Sunak and Scholz to announce joint development of artillery systems in Berlin

Recap: Why are police investigating sale of Labour deputy leader’s council house?

09:40 , Matt Mathers

Police have launched an investigation into Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner as speculation over whether she broke electoral law continues.

The investigation opened upon “reassessment of information” given to the police by deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, James Daly, about information she gave about her living situation a decade ago.

Here’s everything we know about the row:

Angela Rayner’s council house tax row explained

09:36 , Matt Mathers

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live politics coverage.

Today we are covering Prime Minister’s Questions and other stories from Westminster and elsewhere.

Stay tuned for all the latest updates.