Politics latest news: Pensions triple lock 'difficult to justify', says Tory ex-chancellor – live updates – The Telegraph

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The Conservative Party should review its long term commitment to the state pension triple lock because it is “difficult to justify”, Lord Hammond has said. 
The Tory former chancellor said he expects the Government will stick to the triple lock and agree to increase benefits in line with inflation at the Autumn Statement on November 17. 
But he said he believed “there is a case for looking again at the way we treat pensioners” in the “longer run”. 
He told GB News: “I do think in the longer run there are two issues. One is around pensions. Is it really right that we should always uprate by the highest of wages, prices or two per cent and I think that is quite difficult to justify and not all pensioners are poor.
"So I think there is a case for looking again at the way we treat pensioners and possibly for distinguishing the poorest pensioners from the great body of pensioners, some of whom are really quite comfortably off."
The promise to stick to the triple lock, which states that state pensions will rise by the highest of inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent, was set out in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto.
Thank you for joining me for today’s politics live blog. 
I will be back early tomorrow morning. 
Labour MP Kate Green has officially stood down. 
The Treasury has just issued the following statement: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer has this day appointed Katherine Anne Green to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead."
Ms Green is going to be the next deputy mayor of Greater Manchester. There will now be a by-election in the Labour safe seat of Stretford and Urmston. 
Here is Sir Keir Starmer’s tweet from yesterday on the matter: 
Kate Green has been a tireless advocate for the people of Stretford and Urmston for 12 years.

As the next deputy mayor of Greater Manchester, she will continue to deliver for her local community.

Kate, I look forward to working with you in your new role.
Jeremy Hunt has said delivering the Autumn Statement will be "one of the biggest responsibilities" he has had in his lengthy political career. 
Praising the "brilliant local businesses" in his South West Surrey constituency, the Chancellor said: "Delivering the Autumn Statement will be perhaps one of the biggest responsibilities I have undertaken in public life and I will be thinking hard how to help every single one of them."
Mr Hunt made the comments in a column for his local paper, the Farnham Herald. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said he will "believe it when we see it", when asked about Russia withdrawing from the Ukrainian city of Kherson.
It would be a "significant psychological blow" for Russian troops if they left the southern city, he said.
He was speaking at a meeting of ministers from the Joint Expeditionary Force nations in Edinburgh.
Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, held talks with the Royal College of Nursing today. He said the meeting was "constructive". 
Constructive meeting with @theRCN covering a number of topics.

Nurses do an incredible job & I regret some union members have voted for strikes.

My priority is to keep patients safe and minimise disruption – my door is open & we have agreed to meet again shortly.
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, has said he believes "most people understand there will need to be both tax rises and spending cuts" in the Autumn Statement. 
He said that "once again we need to put our national finances back on an even keel".
Writing for his local paper, the Farnham Herald, Mr Hunt said: "I think most people understand there will need to be both tax rises and spending cuts if we are to tackle inflation and keep down the cost of mortgages and the weekly shop."
Lord Hammond, the Tory former chancellor, said he expects the Government to keep the triple lock on state pensions and commit to increasing benefits in line with inflation at the Autumn Statement on November 17. 
But he said keeping the triple lock in the longer run would be "quite difficult to justify". 
Asked during an interview on GB News if the UK can afford the two moves, he said: "Well, first of all I expect that Jeremy Hunt’s judgment in this statement will be that we have to go ahead with both maintaining the triple lock and the uprating in line with inflation just because of the huge pressure that people on low incomes are under from rising prices and high inflation. 
"But I do think in the longer run there are two issues. One is around pensions. Is it really right that we should always uprate by the highest of wages, prices or two per cent and I think that is quite difficult to justify and not all pensioners are poor so I think there is a case for looking again at the way we treat pensioners and possibly for distinguishing the poorest pensioners from the great body of pensioners, some of whom are really quite comfortably off."
Rishi Sunak spoke to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky this morning, Downing Street has said. 
No10 said they "agreed that any Russian withdrawal from the occupied city of Kherson would demonstrate strong progress for the Ukrainian forces and reinforce the weakness of Russia’s military offensive, but it was right to continue to exercise caution until the Ukrainian flag was raised over the city".
A No10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister praised the bravery of the Ukrainian armed forces and reiterated the UK’s unwavering military, economic and political support. He expressed his horror at the ongoing Russian drone strikes on civilian areas and confirmed that the UK would continue providing further military aid, including another 1,000 surface-to-air missiles and more than 25,000 extreme cold winter kits for troops." 
The spokesman added: "The Prime Minister and President Zelensky agreed to remain in close contact to make progress on these issues and ensure Ukraine succeeds as a sovereign and democratic nation." 
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, has written to the Cabinet Office to demand meaningful negotiations after its members voted for strike action (see the post below at 12.24). 
The PCS said that unless it receives "substantial proposals" from the Government it will agree next Friday on a programme of "sustained industrial action". 
Mr Serwotka said: "The Government must look at the huge vote for strike action across swathes of the Civil Service and realise it can no longer treat its workers with contempt. 
"Our members have spoken and if the Government fails to listen to them, we’ll have no option than to launch a prolonged programme of industrial action reaching into every corner of public life.
"Civil servants have willingly and diligently played a vital role in keeping the country running during the pandemic but enough is enough."
Approximately 100,000 civil servants who are members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union have voted for strike action over pay, pensions and jobs. 
It includes Border Force officials and passport workers at the Home Office, driving test examiners at the Department for Transport and Job Centre workers at the Department for Work and Pensions. 
Huw Merriman, the rail minister, said the Department for Transport’s new ministers have “changed the tone” in the bitter dispute involving railway workers over jobs, pay and conditions.
Asked if he planned to meet trade union leaders, the former Transport Select Committee chairman told the Railway Industry Association’s annual conference in central London: “I’ve always taken the view – and I’ve worked with trade unions through the select committee role – that the only way you get through industrial action is to talk, is to have positive relations, not to make a political issue of it.”
He said the Government is “willing to aid” the talks between the unions, train operators and Network Rail “in any particular way”. 
“So whilst there are no current plans for me to go in the room because that hasn’t been requested, myself and the Secretary of State (Mark Harper), I think we’ve changed the tone in terms of how we feel about trade unions,” he said.
Mark Drakeford will use the British-Irish Council summit today to push Rishi Sunak on providing more help during the winter period to people struggling because of the cost-of-living crisis.
Wales’ First Minister is set to meet with the Prime Minister this afternoon and said he welcomes “the return of constructive dialogue with the Prime Minister”.
The summit would have been the first in-person meeting between the two leaders but Mr Drakeford is having to attend virtually due to testing positive for coronavirus earlier in the week.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The First Minister will discuss a range of issues with the Prime Minister later this afternoon.
“In particular, the First Minister will raise the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis and the additional actions that are required to help people deal with the very difficult challenges over the winter period.
“The First Minister also welcomes the return of constructive dialogue with the Prime Minister.”
The boss of retail giant Next has called on the Government to let more foreign workers into the UK as he warned post-Brexit immigration policies were hurting the economy.
Lord Simon Wolfson, who was a prominent Brexit supporter, told the BBC that it was "not the Brexit that I wanted" given the immigration clampdown that has compounded worker shortages in Britain.
He said: "We have got people queuing up to come to this country to pick crops that are rotting in fields, to work in warehouses that otherwise wouldn’t be operable, and we’re not letting them in. And we have to take a different approach to economically productive migration."
The Conservative peer added: "In respect of immigration, it’s definitely not the Brexit that I wanted, or indeed, many of people who voted Brexit wanted."
The Northern Ireland Secretary has insisted that cutting the pay of all Stormont MLAs, rather than singling out DUP members, is “fair and proportionate” as he claimed a targeted approach would likely result in a legal challenge. 
Chris Heaton-Harris announced yesterday that all MLAs will see their pay reduced by 27.5 per cent as Stormont is currently mothballed because of the failure to restore powersharing. 
Sinn Fein has suggested that only DUP MLAs should be targeted for the pay cut. It is the DUP’s opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol which has prevented an Executive being formed. 
But Mr Heaton-Harris told BBC Radio Ulster: "There has been legal opinion taken in the past by former secretaries of state that demonstrate it would be unbelievably difficult and judicially reviewed.
"I’d be judicially reviewed if I didn’t do it in a fair and proportionate way, which is what this is."
Matt Hancock appears to be in for a rough ride in the I’m A Celebrity jungle as it emerged a number of his colleagues have downloaded the show’s app so they can vote for him to do trials. 
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has suggested "quite a lot of people" in the House of Commons and House of Lords have downloaded "a certain app" after the former health secretary made his bow on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!.
You can read the full story here
Rishi Sunak is expected to set out his commitment to restoring powersharing at Stormont "as soon as possible" when he opens today’s British-Irish Council summit. 
The Prime Minister is due to say: "The British-Irish Council is a vital East-West body under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, an agreement that I am deeply committed to. 
"We all want to see power sharing restored as soon as possible. I’m determined to deliver that."
The PM will also say he wants to be "pragmatic" and "work together in our shared interests" as countries face "huge challenges from global economic headwinds".
Rishi Sunak will be in Blackpool this afternoon to take part in the British-Irish Council summit. He will be the first prime minister to attend the summit since Gordon Brown in 2007. 
Mr Sunak will be joined at the event by Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, and he will also meet Micheal Martin, the Irish Taoiseach. 
The absence of a powersharing executive at Stormont means that Northern Ireland will not be represented by any politicians at the talks, with the head of the civil service there, Jayne Brady, attending instead.
It will be Mr Sunak’s first in-person meeting with Mr Martin and it is being viewed as a potentially major moment in the push to improve the Northern Ireland Protocol as talks between the UK and the EU continue. 
Peter Kyle, Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has accused Matt Hancock of having "dragged dyslexia into the realms of failure". 
Mr Hancock has said his appearance on I’m a Celebrity is about promoting dyslexia awareness. But Mr Kyle, who has dyslexia, said the former health secretary’s actions mean that "dyslexia is being attached just to failure again". 
He told Times Radio: "The thing that’s quite hurtful for me, is that I want dyslexia to be associated with success because those of us who have overcome the barriers that dyslexia or severe dyslexia puts in our way, I think that we can point to attributes that we’ve gained from that experience that actually helped us in life. 
"But once again, Matt Hancock has just sort of dragged dyslexia into the realms of failure. He’s there because he failed as a politician elsewhere. We know why he’s there. So it hurts me that dyslexia is being attached just to failure again, when I really want us to have a debate and switch the debate to those of us who have neurological challenges in one way or another, to point to the attributes that can come with it, the positive things that can come from it and also the pathways to success that it opens up for so many of us those are the things I wanted to be associated with and unfortunately, Matt Hancock has dragged it into the gutter."
The number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England from a "decision to admit" to actually being admitted has risen to a new record high.
New NHS England data shows that 43,792 people waited longer than 12 hours in October, up 34 per cent from 32,776 in September and the highest number in records going back to August 2010.
Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: "Millions of patients are waiting months and even years for treatment, often in serious pain and discomfort. In an emergency, patients are left waiting hours for an ambulance or entire days in A&E. For many this means being unable to work and putting their lives on hold.
"The NHS is now approaching winter with the longest waiting times in its history and record shortages of staff. NHS staff are slogging their guts out but there simply aren’t enough of them.
"Labour will ensure patients are treated on time again. We will train a new generation of doctors and nurses, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status."
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, declined to say who he believes may be more deserving of a pay rise as he was asked about the pay demands of public sector workers. 
He told LBC Radio: "I wouldn’t choose between anybody like that because they are all unique. And, actually, you’re talking to a former rail minister and I used to be one who used to enjoy his occasional beer with the heads of the unions.
"I can’t say it was a great meeting of political minds, but I am, truly, a great believer in dialogue."
He added: "These are different choices in different areas with different budgets."
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said he will be obliged to call an election after January 19 if a new Stormont Executive has not been formed.
"I’ll still have that legal duty, and that still stays with me," he told BBC Radio Ulster.
Rishi Sunak is going to delay introducing the long-anticipated cap on care costs as the Government looks to save money at the Autumn Statement, according to reports.
The Prime Minister has accepted a two year delay to 2025 having initially suggested an "indefinite" delay to introducing one of Boris Johnson’s flagship policies, according to The Times, in a move which could save billions of pounds.
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, today refused to be drawn on the report, telling Times Radio: "I think I’m gonna wait for the Autumn Statement…"
Delaying fresh Assembly elections in Northern Ireland will provide space for UK ministers to "work some magic" and do a deal with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol, a Cabinet minister has suggested. 
The UK Government is legally required to call elections after efforts to restore powersharing at Stormont failed. Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, yesterday announced that he was pushing back the deadline for calling a fresh vote. 
Explaining the decision this morning, he told Times Radio: "There is a proper purpose to this relatively short move to the right for elections, which is to create some time and space for me to sit down with all of the political parties and try and get them back into the Executive but also to solve, or try to help solve, the one big problem that is causing this impasse in Northern Ireland, which is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is affecting what’s going on. 
"So to give time and space to my colleagues in the UK Government to talk to the European Commission and hopefully work some magic."
The 17.6 per cent pay rise being sought by nurses is "remarkably high", according to Chris Heaton-Harris. 
The Northern Ireland Secretary told Times Radio: "These are challenging times in economic terms for this country and in fact for a big chunk of the Western world, I think the IMF said a third of the economies are now in recession around the globe. 
"There is an independent NHS Pay Review body, which have given one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, that’s equivalent to four, five per cent for most nurses, and that’s on top of a three per cent rise last year, when public sector pay was frozen. And on top of also wider government support to help the cost of living. 
"So I want people in public service to be rewarded appropriately, everybody else does as well. But there’s a much wider economic context as well."
Asked if 17 per cent was "appropriate", he said: "17 per cent is, I’d say, remarkably high."
Labour has accused the Northern Ireland Secretary of creating "more instability" in Northern Ireland by "changing his mind" on holding fresh Assembly elections. 
Peter Kyle, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said: "The problem is he keeps changing his mind. That creates more instability and instability in Northern Ireland is the last thing you want. 
"So Chris Heaton-Harris said that there would definitely be elections called the Friday before last and he didn’t call them and then he changed his mind again. 
"But I am going to support him in this action because we need both parties here in Westminster to come together to provide some kind of stability going forward." 
Peter Kyle, Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said nurses "shouldn’t be striking" as he blamed the Government for failing to take action earlier to stop the situation escalating. 
Asked if he supported nurses striking, Mr Kyle said: "They have got the right to strike but actually they shouldn’t be striking. If the conditions were right and the Government had been managing this situation right they would have been speaking to them all over the summer and they would have been trying to deal with the circumstances that have led to this." 
Asked again if he supported the strikes, Mr Kyle refused to be drawn. He said: "I support their right to strike but what I can’t do is say that this strike action is right because it shouldn’t be happening because the Government shouldn’t have allowed it to happen." 
Matt Hancock is facing a parliamentary push to ensure he takes part in a lot of Bushtucker Trials during his time on I’m a Celebrity, a Cabinet minister has suggested. 
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said he believes "quite a lot of people" in Parliament have downloaded the I’m a Celebrity app, apparently to vote for Mr Hancock. The app allows people to choose which contestant they want to take part in challenges.
Mr Heaton-Harris said that he does not watch the programme and he believes Mr Hancock should be "here with us, voting and debating in Parliament". 
Told that based on his debut on the show Mr Hancock could be facing a hard time in terms of taking part in challenges, Mr Heaton-Harris said: "I know the format of the show and I do believe there is quite a lot of people in a building not too far away from here, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, who have downloaded a certain app so they can vote. I am not sure if that is a good thing."
The Northern Ireland Secretary has rejected the suggestion that Northern Ireland is currently politically "rudderless" because of the failure to restore powersharing at Stormont. 
Chris Heaton-Harris told Sky News: "Northern Ireland is not rudderless. In fact that is really quite untrue. What Northern Ireland needs is local, devolved government to work which was set up 25 years ago by the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. 
"The institutions do need to work and when they are working they really do help with peace and prosperity across Northern Ireland." 
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has not denied that the UK Government is "kicking the can down the road" after it extended the deadline for calling fresh Assembly elections in Northern Ireland. 
The Government has argued that delaying elections will provide time and space for the EU and UK to make progress on improving the Northern Ireland Protocol and for parties at Stormont to try to resolve their differences. 
Told that the Government is "kicking the can", Mr Heaton-Harris told Sky News: "It is a can that everybody else wants to kick down the road. Everybody says to me that elections in Northern Ireland at this point in time will just polarise society a great deal more and actually come up with no different results."
Mr Heaton-Harris insisted that there will be an election in Northern Ireland in the first three months of next year.
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said the public finances are "not in the best of shapes" as he responded to the 17.6 per cent pay rise being sought by nurses. 
He told Sky News: "I used to be rail minister and I used to engage with the rail unions a huge amount and actually I do think those discussions are actually generally valuable because politicians, unless we come from the background, in rail I wasn’t a railway man, I needed to understand better the asks, the conditions, the industry itself. 
"So the engagement is definitely worth doing. But public sector finances are not in the best of shapes and we are trying to stabilise our economy, make sure we drive it forward so there are better times ahead. 
"But 17 per cent is a very big ask in public sector terms." 
A Cabinet minister has warned planned industrial action by nurses will "completely disrupt" vital public services that people depend on. 
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, was asked during an interview on Sky News this morning if he believed the strikes are "pointless". 
He said: "I would never say a strike is pointless but this completely disrupts a huge host of public services that are very, very important to the whole nation and dialogue is always the best way."
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said the 17.6 per cent pay rise being sought by the Royal College of Nursing is a "high ask" as he suggested such an increase is "unaffordable" for the Government. 
Asked if nurses will be given more money, he told Sky News: "They are getting some more money. Nurses pay has been set by independent bodies for quite some time and that award has been made and will be paid. 
"I want to say, like everybody would like to, that nurses, doctors, everybody in the NHS, went that extra mile during the time of the pandemic. Actually they were the only group of people who got a pay rise in the public sector in the pandemic, a three per cent pay rise. 
"But the ask of the RCN at 17 per cent is a high ask and I believe even Labour say they can’t afford that."
Good morning and welcome to today’s politics live blog. 
Rishi Sunak is heading to Blackpool today to attend the British-Irish Conference where he is expected to hold talks with the Taoiseach Micheal Martin and the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 
All eyes will be on whether there is progress made on the crunch issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol as Mr Sunak and Mr Martin meet in person for the first time. 
Back in Westminster people are processing Matt Hancock’s first appearance on I’m a Celebrity and continuing to ask what will be in the Autumn Statement on November 17. 
It promises to be another busy day and I will guide you through the key developments. 
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