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Boris dodges over whether food and fuel shortages will last till CHRISTMAS

Boris Johnson today dodged on whether food and fuel shortages will last until Christmas – as he warned that ‘uncontrolled immigration‘ is not the answer.

The PM insisted chaos at petrol stations ‘is abating’ as he gave an interview kicking off the Tories’ annual conference in Manchester.

But he conceded that many people – particularly in London and the South East – are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption.

He said the country is going through a ‘period of adjustment’ to a higher-wage economy after Brexit

Repeatedly pressed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show over whether Chancellor Rishi Sunak had been right to warn recently that the issues could last until Christmas, Mr Johnson said: ‘Rishi is right invariably in what he says.’ But he stressed it depended on how his comments were ‘interpreted’. 

Mr Johnson also angrily denied that he was imposing too much tax on the country, saying the government had been hit with a ‘fiscal meteorite’ in the form of the pandemic.

He declined completely to rule out increasing taxes again – despite Cabinet ministers warning that the burden is as high as Britons can tolerate. 

And he prayed Margaret Thatcher in aid, saying she would not have kept borrowing money to finance public services.  

Mr Johnson is kicking off Tory conference against the backdrop fuel crisis, which has led to a critical shortage of petrol on forecourts in London and the South East.

Almost 200 troops are preparing to swing into action to help alleviate the situation from tomorrow.

But although the Petrol Retailers Association has reported a ‘distinct improvement’ in the situation, shortages appeared to be worsening in London and the South East.

A poll today suggested the dire situation is inflicting significant damage on the Tories, with two-thirds blaming the government for the carnage.  

The PM insisted chaos at petrol stations ‘is abating’ as he gave an interview kicking off the Tories’ annual conference in Manchester

Boris Johnson (pictured out running in Manchester this morning) is to rush through laws to stop protesters from blocking motorways, as he declares his determination to defend the interests of the 'law-abiding majority'

Boris Johnson (pictured out running in Manchester this morning) is to rush through laws to stop protesters from blocking motorways, as he declares his determination to defend the interests of the ‘law-abiding majority’

Mr Johnson conceded that many people - particularly in London and the South East - are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption

Mr Johnson conceded that many people – particularly in London and the South East – are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption

Under the planned new legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison or unlimited fines

Under the planned new legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison or unlimited fines

The Tories have held on to their lead over Labour in an Opinium poll today despite signs of anger at the government over the fuel crisis

The Tories have held on to their lead over Labour in an Opinium poll today despite signs of anger at the government over the fuel crisis  

Boris admits MORE tax rises might be needed… but claims Thatcher would have backed his plans 

Boris Johnson today refused completely to rule out more tax rises – but claimed Margaret Thatcher would have backed his plans.

Despite senior Tories warning that the burden is as high as the economy can tolerate, the PM would not go further than saying he would avoid more hikes if he possibly can.

And Mr Johnson prayed the party’s former premier in aide, saying Baroness Thatcher would not have kept borrowing money to finance public services.  

Asked during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show to rule out further tax hikes, Mr Johnson said: ‘You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before.’

He added: ‘If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not, nor does Rishi Sunak.

‘Margaret Thatcher would not have borrowed more money now, I’ll tell you that much for free.’ 

In a bad-tempered interview, Mr Johnson said: ‘When people voted for change in 2016 and when people voted for change again in 2019, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skills and chronic low productivity – and we’re moving away from that.’

The premier conceded ‘there will be a period of adjustment’ but added ‘that is I think what we need to see’. 

Asked when he was first warned about the HGV driver crisis, Mr Johnson said there have been shortages ‘for a very long time and it’s a chronic problem’.

Told the Road Haulage Association warned him in June, the Prime Minister replied: ‘We’ve known about shortages in road haulage long before then.

‘They’ve been a chronic feature of the way in which the road haulage industry has worked. What needs to happen now is people need to be decently paid and you need to have investment in their conditions.’ 

Mr Johnson of the crisis: ‘It has been abating and what you’re hearing now from the Petrol Retailers’ Association is that supplies are getting on to the forecourts.’

Mr Johnson defended his Government’s record on the public finances and promised he opposed ‘unnecessary’ tax rises. 

‘We have had to look after the British people with £407 billion of protection for their jobs, for people’s livelihoods,’ he said.

‘It was most beneficial to the poorest and the neediest in society.’

Asked to rule out further tax hikes, Mr Johnson said: ‘You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before.’

He added: ‘If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not, nor does Rishi Sunak.

‘Margaret Thatcher would not have borrowed more money now, I’ll tell you that much for free.’

Meanwhile, Tory chairman Oliver Dowden risked setting hares running by insisting his job is to make sure the party machine is ‘ready to go’ for an election.

He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday: ‘The Prime Minister told me to make sure that the Conservative Party machine is ready to go for an election whenever it comes.

‘But also to make sure that I, as the Conservative Party chairman, am a strong voice for the Conservative Party chairman, am a strong voice for the Conservative Party and for conservative values.’

Asked if there would be an election in 2023 – a year ahead of schedule – Mr Dowden said: ‘Right now, we are absolutely focused on getting on with the job of making sure that we deliver for the British people.

‘I can assure you that the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Home Secretary – they are not speculating about elections – day in, day out, sleeves are rolled up, they are focused on delivering what matters to people.’

As the conference starts, Mr Johnson has announced he will rush through laws to stop protesters from blocking motorways, as he declares his determination to defend the interests of the ‘law-abiding majority’.

Under the planned new legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison or unlimited fines. 

The move follows complaints from the police that they have lacked sufficient powers to stop eco-protesters from the Insulate Britain group from bringing some of the country’s arterial roads such as the M25, M1 and M4 to a standstill.

Some drivers have been stranded in gridlock while taking relatives to hospital or transporting vital supplies. 

The PM has vowed to ‘give the police the powers they need to stop their reckless and selfish behaviour’.

‘The right to protest is sacrosanct, but there is no right to inflict chaos and misery on people trying to go about their lives,’ he said. 

Under the legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison. Pictured: A protester occupying an M25 roundabout is detained

Under the legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison. Pictured: A protester occupying an M25 roundabout is detained

It comes after the separate road chaos caused by the fuel crisis, which has led to a critical shortage of petrol. Pictured: Activists block the road near to the junction 3 of the M25

It comes after the separate road chaos caused by the fuel crisis, which has led to a critical shortage of petrol. Pictured: Activists block the road near to the junction 3 of the M25

The move follows complaints from the police that they have lacked sufficient powers to stop eco-protesters. Pictured: Protesters from Insulate Britain block the A20 in Kent

The move follows complaints from the police that they have lacked sufficient powers to stop eco-protesters. Pictured: Protesters from Insulate Britain block the A20 in Kent

In other developments as the Tory conference begins today: 

  • Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi condemned Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner for describing Tories as ‘racist’ and ‘scum’, telling the MoS that such ‘demonising’ language was ‘dangerous’, citing the 2016 murder of Labour MP Jo Cox as an example of the risks of incendiary speech;
  • Mr Zahawi also said that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had shown ‘terrible judgment’ by calling for a tax raid on private schools;
  • Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries prepared to throw down the gauntlet to the BBC over its impartiality as it emerged one of the Corporation’s former senior bosses has joined the controversial Chinese tech firm Huawei;
  • Three Labour MPs are considering defecting to the Conservatives after becoming disillusioned by Sir Keir’s leadership, while allies of Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the Labour leader had a year to improve the party’s poll ratings or face being ousted;
  • Mr Johnson faced calls from Labour to apologise after telling the BBC to ‘never mind’ cancer outcomes and life expectancy – but to ‘look at wage growth’ instead.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week unveil the crackdown on motorway protests, with tougher sentences introduced by amending the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

While National Highways has been granted injunctions to prevent people from obstructing roads, officers cannot arrest people for flouting the court orders because it is a civil not a criminal matter.

The new laws are expected to be on the statute book by the turn of the year.

An offence of ‘obstructing a highway’ already exists, but carries only a maximum fine of £1,000.

The proposed increased penalties will mean police can remand protesters in custody after charging them, and create a criminal record for them.

Insulate Britain – which is demanding the Government pay for all homes in the country to be insulated by 2030 – has brought major roads to a standstill with ten protests in less than three weeks. Around 450 arrests have been made.

A senior Government source last night said: ‘We can’t have Labour councillors and crusties making life hell for mothers on the school run and van drivers making vital deliveries.

‘The law does not currently reflect the serious disruption caused by these dangerous actions.’

Ms Patel said: ‘The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy but we will not tolerate guerrilla tactics that obstruct people going about their day-to-day business. 

‘That is why we will increase the maximum penalty for disrupting a motorway to an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison – or both.

‘While the Labour Party stand on the side of these so-called ‘activists’, the Conservative Party will always back the law-abiding, hard-working majority in this country.’

Mr Johnson outlined his hardline stance as he arrived at the Tory Party conference last night. Pictured: Protesters from Insulate Britain block the A20 in Kent on September 24

Mr Johnson outlined his hardline stance as he arrived at the Tory Party conference last night. Pictured: Protesters from Insulate Britain block the A20 in Kent on September 24 

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