Politics latest: 'Where is the home secretary?' – Labour attacks Braverman no show, as minister claims record net migration is 'temporary' (2023)

Key points
  • Net migration figure hits new peak
  • Ali Fortescue: However they spin it, migration figures are still going in wrong direction for government
  • Tom Cheshire: It'sthe equivalent of roughly adding the population of Glasgow to UK
  • 'Where is the home secretary?' - Braverman fails to show up for questions in the Commons
  • Sunak denies he let Braverman 'off the hook' over speeding row

  • Johnson facing questions over 'about a dozen' COVID gatherings - reports
  • Live reporting by Faith Ridler and Katie Williams


Truss in Commons as she asks for confirmation Norfolk hospital will be built

Former prime minister Liz Truss is in the Commons listening to Health Secretary Steve Barclay's statement on the new hospitals programme.

The MP for South West Norfolk asked for confirmation the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn will be completed by 2030.

"As he knows the hospital is in a poor state, parts of it are being held up by stilts the concrete is crumbling," she says.

"This announcement will come as a huge relief to residents and will be extremely welcome."

Mr Barclay confirms it will open by 2030.


Labour: Is the government burying bad news?

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, begins with an unexpected jibe at Suella Braverman.

He says it is strange that so many Tory MPs namechecked in Steve Barclay's statement are present - when Mr Streeting only received the statement with a moment's notice.

"I'll just assume that they sped to the chamber faster than the home secretary down the motorway."

Mr Streeting then accuses the government of attempting to "bury bad news" after the UK's net migration figures hit a new record high.

He goes on to say that the NHS is "crumbling" after 13 years of Tory government, saying the Conservatives are prone to "overpromising and underdelivering".

Mr Streeting refers to raw sewage being on ward floors, and rats that have been spotted running through the hallways.

"The pledge to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 is simply not going to happen," he says, stressing that they "simply aren't new".

"We've had more new health secretaries than new hospitals."


'We must prepare NHS for 75 years to come': Health secretary unveils new hospital plan

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is on his feet in the Commons, where he is giving the second of two statements on new government policy.

He begins a statement on a new hospital programme by saying as we celebrate 75 years of the NHS, the UK must prepare for 75 years to come.

"At the heart of this is the new hospitals programme," Mr Barclay said. "The biggest hospital programme in a generation."

He confirms that 40 new hospitals will be built by 2030 – as previously promised in the 2019 manifesto.

Mr Barclay then turns to the issues around RAAC - Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete.

"Seven hospitals in England have been constructed only or in major part with RAAC," he says, adding that they are not safe to operate after 2030.

Two of these – the West Suffolk Hospital and the James Paget Hospital – are already part of the new hospital programme, he says.

Mr Barclay adds the five others have expressed interest in joining – but are not yet part of it.

He then confirms the new hospitals programme will be extended to include those built with large amounts of RAAC.

The minister says the aim will be to rebuild them completely by 2030.

He describes this as a "huge commitment" to strengthen the NHS.

Total investment for the programme is now over £20bn, he says.

He says one phase of the new hospital programme is completed, with another two cohorts now ready to proceed and "be fully funded".

Of cohort four, he says four hospitals are on track to be completed by 2030.

"The remaining seven hospitals will also proceed as part of the new hospitals programme," he says, but "not all work will be completed by 2030.

Mr Barclay says this is down to disruption due to the pandemic.


Barclay begins statements in the Commons

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is up in the Commons now and is due to make two statements.

Later, he will make an announcement on new hospitals.

But the first is on the news GPs will be required to give patients the option to travel further for healthcare or go to a private alternative under plans to cut NHS waiting times.

You can read more on that story below...


No apology from Number 10 for failing to deliver migration manifesto pledge

Downing Street today declined to apologise for failing on delivering the 2019 Conservative manifesto vow to bring net migration down after the introduction of post-Brexit border controls.

Asked whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would like to apologise, his spokesman said work is still under way to "bring those numbers down".

Net migration has soared to a new record high of 606,000 for the year ending December 2022.

"We've set out a significant package to do that just this week as well as all the work that goes alongside stopping the boats," the spokesman said.

"It's also important to understand what sits beneath some of those numbers - 114,000 Ukrainians coming over for example, 52,000 British nationals from Hong Kong.

"We think that is something the public can be rightly proud of."

The official added: "At the same time, we need to strike the right balance about supporting our economy with getting those numbers down, so we recognise that numbers up too high."


PM says he did not let Braverman 'off the hook' over speeding ticket

We reported earlier that Rishi Sunak denied he let Suella Braverman "off the hook" when it came to how she handled her speeding ticket.

The prime minister decided not to launch a formal investigationinto his home secretary following reports she asked civil servants if they could find ways for her to do a speed awareness course either privately or without being seen by the public.

Ms Braverman later accepted a fine and penalty points on her driving licence.

Appearing on ITV, Mr Sunak was grilled on the issue and asked whether the events of the past week had annoyed him and been a "distraction".

Read the full details of the exchange in this story from our political reporter Tim Baker...


Migration policy 'takes time to bed in' - Number 10

Measures introduced to reduce the backlog of asylum cases in the UK "take time to bed in", Downing Street has argued, as Home Office figures showed it hit a new record high.

Asked whether Rishi Sunak is concerned that his proposal to deal with the backlog appears to be going backwards, the prime minister's spokesman said: "So obviously some of these approaches do take time to bed in.

"We are making some progress on specific areas. We've doubled the number of caseworkers. The Home Office stats show asylum decisions are up - 35% increase in decisions year-on-year.

"We're seeing a 20% decrease in the asylum grant rate for Albanians, for example. And we're seeing some success with our partnership with Albania.

"But obviously there are more to do and we are confident that things like doubling the number of caseworkers will start to have an impact."


New UK migration figures - at a glance

This morning, the Office for National Statistics released the latest round of migration figures, for the year ending December 2022.

The headline number was net migration - which hit a new high of 606,000.

Curious about what else Home Office data revealed? Let us explain...

  • Almost 1.5 million visas were issued in the year to March 2023 for people coming to the UK for work, study or family reasons - or through a resettlement scheme;
  • Some 487,771 work visas were granted, along with 632,006 study visas -plus 5,046 for dependants joining or accompanying others;
  • In addition, 198,358 were issued under the Ukraine visa schemes, 47,227 were granted to British National (Overseas) status holders from Hong Kong, 31,550 were under the EU Settlement Scheme, and 4,562 were under other settlement schemes;
  • The combined total of 1,472,162 visas in 2022/23 is up 53% from 960,133 in 2021/22 and is the seventh successive record high for a 12-month period since current figures began in 2005.


Tory MP says dependent visa immigration route 'never intended by government'

Former immigration minister Damian Green says it's important to focus on illegal small boat crossings alongside legal net migration, despite the fact they account for a small fraction of arrivals to the UK.

Speaking to Sky News, the Conservative MP said the government has to "focus on everything at once" when it comes to its immigration policy, and it's "not a question of either or".

Mr Green said it is important to stop people making "very dangerous journeys" across the Channel and putting their lives at risk".

But he said the government has also been concentrating on net migration with its plan to reduce what he calls an "unsustainable" number of dependents of international students arriving in the UK.

It is a route of immigration "never intended by the government", Mr Green added.

Ministers need to simultaneously stop "abuses" of the immigration system, as well as attract workers to fill vacancies, he said.


Tributes paid after former Tory MP Lumley dies

Tributes have been coming in for the former Tory MP Karen Lumley, who has died aged 59.

Ms Lumley won the seat of Redditch in 2010, unseating the Labour stalwart Jacqui Smith, and stood down in 2017 due to ill health.

Former health secretary Sajid Javid called her "a fantastic colleague and friend".

And housing minister Rachel Maclean - who succeeded her in the Redditch seat - said she was "proud to have followed in the footsteps of such a charismatic and strong woman".

In the Commons today, Penny Mordaunt paid an emotional tribute to the former Tory MP.

Ms Mordaunt said she was a "larger-than-life character", adding: “She was a force of nature, and a force for good.

"We will miss her, her amazing hairdos, and the joy she brought us all, and we will cherish the memories we have of her."

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