Politics latest news: Boris Johnson paid nearly £2.5m advance for US speeches

Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, is pictured leaving 10 Downing Street on May 25 last year - Matt Dunham/AP
Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, is pictured leaving 10 Downing Street on May 25 last year - Matt Dunham/AP

Boris Johnson has received an advance payment worth almost £2.5 million from a US-based agency for future speaking engagements.

The former prime minister declared in the latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests, published today, that he received £2,488,387 on January 3 this year.

The payment was “an advance for speaking engagements arranged via the Harry Walker Agency” which is based in New York.

Mr Johnson said that he had consulted the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) - a jobs watchdog for former ministers - about the arrangement.

You can follow the latest updates below. 

04:00 PM

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03:43 PM

Downing Street: Russia should not be allowed to compete at the Paris Olympics

Downing Street said it does not want Russia to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The issue of preventing Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the 2024 Games was raised during Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the UK, his office said.

The Prime Minsiter’s Official Spokesman said Russia should not be allowed to compete and the UK had been been "very clear" with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the issue.

While Russia was invading another country it "should be treated as a pariah state and should not be able to legitimise its illegal war in Ukraine".

The spokesman said: "We, and indeed many other countries, have been unequivocal on this throughout and we want to ensure that we continue to speak with one voice on this and make that clear to the IOC."

03:26 PM

No10 stresses no decision made on jets for Ukraine

Downing Street stressed that no decision had been taken yet on whether to supply UK jets to Ukraine.

"I think you can see from the steps that we are taking that we are willing to put Ukraine in the position where, once we have reached the goals of training pilots, they are able to fly these type of jets," the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said.

"What we have not made a decision on is whether we send UK fighter jets. Obviously there is an ongoing discussion among other countries about their own fighter jets, some of which are more akin to what Ukrainian pilots are used to."

But the supply of British planes is being "actively" considered by Ben Wallace, the spokesman said.

"We’ve confirmed there will be a training programme for Ukrainian pilots and the Defence Secretary is actively looking at whether we send jets," the spokesman said.

03:14 PM

PM asks Defence Secretary to look at what fighter jets UK 'might be able to give' to Ukraine

Rishi Sunak has asked Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, to look at what fighter jets the UK "might be able to give" to Ukraine in the future.

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has tasked the Defence Secretary with investigating what jets we might be able to give.

"But to be clear this is a long term solution rather than a short term capability which is what Ukraine needs most now."

02:45 PM

Boris Johnson calls for UK to give fighter jets to Ukraine

Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, has called for the UK to give fighter jets to Ukraine now following Volodymyr Zelensky's plea for "combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom".

Mr Johnson said in a statement: "It is time to give the Ukrainians the extra equipment they need to defeat Putin and to restore peace to Ukraine.

"That means longer range missiles and artillery. It means more tanks. It means planes. We have more than 100 Typhoon jets. We have more than 100 Challenger 2 tanks. The best single use for any of these items is to deploy them now for the protection of the Ukrainians - not least because that is how we guarantee our own long-term security."

02:42 PM

Former MP found guilty of six counts of fraud

Former Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara has been found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of six counts of fraud over expenses claims made while he was in office in 2019.

02:31 PM

Home Secretary: Prevent programme 'needs major reform'

The Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme needs "major reform" to "better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinning them", Suella Braverman has told MPs following the publication of a major review (see the post below at 14.05).

The Home Secretary told the House of Commons: "The review is unflinching. Prevent needs major reform. Prevent needs to better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinning them."

She added: "Prevent has shown cultural timidity and an institutional hesitancy to tackle Islamism for fear of the charge of Islamophobia. These are false charges that spread fear and misinformation within communities."

02:05 PM

Prevent programme 'not doing enough to counter non-violent Islamist extremism'

The Government’s anti-terror programme is not doing enough to tackle "non-violent Islamist extremism", a major review has found.

The findings of the long-awaited assessment of the Prevent programme – which aims to stop people turning to terrorism – was published today and recommended a series of reforms.

Led by former Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross after being ordered by former home secretary Priti Patel in 2019, the review found Prevent "is not doing enough to counter non-violent Islamist extremism" and "has a double standard when dealing with the Extreme Right-Wing and Islamism".

Among the findings in the wide-ranging review, the report said: "Challenging extremist ideology should not be limited to proscribed organisations but should also cover domestic extremists operating below the terrorism threshold who can create an environment conducive to terrorism."

01:34 PM

MPs deserve £162,000 package and a medal when they lose elections, committee suggests

MPs who lose elections should be given bigger payoffs to help them land new jobs, a parliamentary committee has suggested.

In a new report, a cross-party group of MPs pointed to the more generous German system – where parliamentarians can receive a resettlement package of up to £162,000 on leaving office – as a potential model.

The administration committee said the House should also consider presenting departing MPs with a “medallion of service” at a special reception with family and friends.

You can read the full story here.

12:41 PM

Boris Johnson receives £2.5m advance payment for speaking engagements

Boris Johnson has declared an advance payment for "speaking engagements" from a US-based speaking agency worth almost £2.5million.

The updated Register of Members' Financial Interests, up to February 6, which was published today showed Mr Johnson "received £2,488,387.53 as an advance for speaking engagements arranged via the Harry Walker Agency" which is based in New York.

Mr Johnson said in the declaration that he had "consulted ACOBA about this arrangement". ACOBA is the jobs watchdog for former ministers.

12:20 PM

SNP demands PM apologise for 'damage' done by Liz Truss

Stephen Flynn, the SNP's leader in Westminster, asked Rishi Sunak if he regretted Liz Truss's time in No10 after the former prime minister's return to the political frontline this week.

Mr Flynn asked: "In recent days the former prime minister said that she did not regret her time in office. Does the Prime Minister regret her time in office?"

Mr Sunak replied: "I am grateful to all my predecessors for the contribution that they make to public life..."

Mr Flynn then asked Mr Sunak to apologise for the economic challenges experienced during Ms Truss's time in office.

He said: "Let's reflect upon the damage that was caused. £30 billion wiped off the UK economy. Pension funds brought to the brink of collapse. The pound reaching parity with the dollar. And interest rates for mortgage holders right across these isles soaring.

"The former prime minister won't apologise for the damage that she has caused. So on behalf of the Tory party will he apologise for her?"

Mr Sunak said: "On the first day that I took office I said that mistakes had been made but what we have done is to ensure that right now, he mentioned the pound, the pound at a multi-month high, borrowing costs restored back to where they should be an economy stabilised and a clear plan to halve inflation and grow the economy.

"That is what the Conservatives are delivering in government and we continue to deliver as well for the people of Scotland."

12:13 PM

Sir Keir Starmer: Vladimir Putin must stand trial at The Hague

Sir Keir Starmer asked Rishi Sunak if he agreed that "when the war in Ukraine is over, Putin and all his cronies must stand at The Hague and face justice".

The Prime Minister said that the Labour leader was "absolutely right that we must hold those to account for the horrific crimes they have committed".

Sir Keir also said that "Russia should pay for the destruction it has caused" in Ukraine through Russian assets which have been frozen.

Mr Sunak said the UK will "stand united with Ukraine until we ensure the defeat of Vladimir Putin's unprovoked, unsanctioned aggression and that we will make sure that Ukraine is not only victorious but that we bring peace to its people".

12:08 PM

PM and Labour leader agree on importance of 'international effort' to help Ukraine

Sir Keir Starmer said that he and Rishi Sunak had both seen "first hand the brilliant work our military is doing in Salisbury to train Ukrainians to defend themselves".

He asked the PM if he agreed that a continued "international effort is the only way to ensure Putin's defeat".

Mr Sunak agreed and said that the UK has been a leader on the world stage in terms of leading efforts to help Kyiv.

12:06 PM

Sir Keir Starmer: 'Vital that we all continue to stand together in full support of Ukraine'

Sir Keir Starmer said that "this House is honoured today to be addressed by President Zelensky".

The Labour leader said Mr Zelensky symbolises the "bravery" of the Ukrainian people.

He asked Rishi Sunak if he agreed that it is "vital that we all continue to stand together in full support of Ukraine".

Mr Sunak said that "we will continue to stand with them, united, as one Parliament and one United Kingdom".

Sir Keir said Vladimir Putin must be defeated in Ukraine.

12:02 PM

Rishi Sunak hails 'unbreakable friendship' between UK and Ukraine

PMQs is now underway.

Rishi Sunak started by praising Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukraine.

He said the extension of UK training for Ukrainian forces to include fighter jet pilots was "testament to the unbreakable friendship" between the two countries.

11:54 AM

Zelensky leaves No10

Volodymyr Zelensky has just left 10 Downing Street and he is now making his way to the Houses of Parliament.

11:47 AM

Rishi Sunak still expected to attend PMQs

We are still expecting Rishi Sunak to be in the House of Commons at noon for Prime Minister's Questions despite the fact that he and Volodymyr Zelensky have only just arrived at No10.

Mr Zelensky is not expected to attend PMQs. He is due to address parliament later this afternoon.

11:34 AM

Zelensky welcomed into No10 by applauding staff

Volodymyr Zelensky and Rishi Sunak have now arrived at 10 Downing Street.

The two leaders posed in front of the famous black door to shake hands.

They were then welcomed into No10 by applauding staff.

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky wave on the steps of 10 Downing Street - Victoria Jones /PA
Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky wave on the steps of 10 Downing Street - Victoria Jones /PA

11:10 AM

James Cleverly announces fresh Russian sanctions

James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, has announced a fresh round of sanctions against the Russian military and some Kremlin figures.

The sanctions package hits six entities the Foreign Office said provided military equipment such as drones to the Russia government, as well as eight individuals and one entity linked to Russian financial networks.

Mr Cleverly said: "Ukraine has shown Putin that it will not break under his tyrannical invasion. He has responded by indiscriminately striking civilian areas and critical national infrastructure across the country. We cannot let him succeed. We must increase our support."

10:56 AM

Rishi Sunak personally welcomes Volodymyr Zelensky to the UK

10:33 AM

Tory chairman 'can't see circumstances' where general election would be held this year

Greg Hands, the new Tory chairman, said he "can't see circumstances" in which there would be a general election this year.

He told LBC Radio: "Well, I can't see circumstances where it would be this year, in 2023.

"Obviously, constitutionally, it’s possible to have a general election this year, but I think the expectation is it will be in 2024."

A general election must take place before January 2025.

10:22 AM

Northern Ireland Protocol an 'existential threat' to the Union - DUP leader

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, said the longer the Northern Ireland Protocol is in place "the more it will harm the Union itself" as he responded to the Supreme Court's decision to dismiss a legal challenge on the post-Brexit trading arrangements (see the post below at 09.58).

Sir Jeffrey, who attended the judgment hearing in London, said: "A solution to the protocol was never going to be found in the courts, but the cases have served to highlight some of the reasons why unionists have uniformly rejected the protocol.

"The Government must consider this judgment, their own arguments to the court and take the steps necessary to replace the protocol with arrangements that unionists can support.

"The protocol represents an existential threat to the future of Northern Ireland’s place within the Union. The longer the protocol remains, the more it will harm the Union itself."

09:58 AM

Legal challenge over lawfulness of Northern Ireland Protocol dismissed by Supreme Court

A legal challenge to the Northern Ireland Protocol post-Brexit trading arrangements has been unanimously dismissed by the Supreme Court.

A group of unionists and Brexiteers had sought to challenge the legality of the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Arguments had been considered by the UK’s highest court at a two-day hearing last year after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling in Belfast High Court dismissing the legal challenge.

A panel of five Supreme Court justices rejected the challenge this morning.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (left), Baroness Kate Hoey (second right), and former first minister Dame Arlene Foster (right) outside the UK Supreme Court in London this morning - Aaron Chown /PA
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (left), Baroness Kate Hoey (second right), and former first minister Dame Arlene Foster (right) outside the UK Supreme Court in London this morning - Aaron Chown /PA

09:56 AM

Labour: New Tory chairman will not make 'any difference' to 'chaos' in Conservative Party

Stephen Doughty, Labour's shadow minister for Europe, claimed this morning that Greg Hands will not make "any difference" to the "chaos at the heart of the Conservative Party".

Asked if Labour feared Mr Hands' arrival as Tory chairman, he told Sky News: "Rishi Sunak is having a reshuffle barely a hundred days into office and we have seen the chaos of the last year with multiple prime ministers, multiple ministers.

"It continues to be chaos at the heart of the Conservative Party. I don't think Greg Hands is going to make any difference to that.

"I think what people want is serious, strong and stable leadership and that is exactly what Keir Starmer offers."

09:39 AM

More ambulance staff vote to strike

Strikes by ambulance workers are set to extend to a region that has not so far been involved in industrial action in the bitter dispute over pay and conditions.

Approximately 1,000 members of the GMB union in the East of England Ambulance Service, including paramedics, call handlers and emergency medical technicians, have voted to strike.

The GMB said the ambulance service is the only one not to have been on strike so far during the dispute.

09:19 AM

Reader poll: Do you think Greg Hands will do a good job as Tory chairman?

09:05 AM

New Tory chairman defends cost of Whitehall shake-up

Greg Hands, the new chairman of the Conservative Party, has defended the cost of Rishi Sunak's Whitehall reorganisation and reshuffle.

The Prime Minister decided to break up the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in order to form four new departments.

Put to Mr Hands that the changes could, on one estimate, cost as much as £100 million, he said: "Well, I think we always have to be careful, extremely careful with public money and making sure that it’s well spent.

"The last time there was what’s called a machinery of government change was in 2016, now seven years ago. I think it is right that these things happen from time to time."

08:44 AM

PM makes 'long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come'

Rishi Sunak said his decision to expand the training the UK will offer to Ukrainian forces represents a "long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come".

He said in a statement: "President Zelenskyy’s visit to the UK is a testament to his country’s courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries.

"Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory.

"I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future. It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come."

08:36 AM

Training for Ukrainian fighter jet pilots will enable them to fly 'sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future'

Rishi Sunak's move to offer Ukrainian fighter jet pilots training in the UK will ensure they are "able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future", Downing Street said.

It is hoped the training will help ensure "Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future".

The specific reference to "NATO-standard" planes will be viewed as a significant moment because it opens the door a little more to the West potentially donating fixed wing aircraft to Kyiv.

No10's argument for not donating fighter jets has been that the UK's planes are too complex and the training takes too long. Today's decision on training would be the first step in potentially removing that barrier.

08:22 AM

Volodymyr Zelensky to visit UK today as Rishi Sunak offers to train Ukrainian fighter pilots

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, will visit the UK today, Downing Street has just announced.

Mr Zelensky will hold talks with Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street, visit Ukrainian troops who are currently training in the UK and he will also address parliament.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak will announce plans to expand the training the UK will give to Ukrainian forces to include sea and air - including fighter jet pilots and marines.

08:20 AM

'I don't take anything for granted'

Greg Hands has an 11,000+ majority in his Chelsea and Fulham seat but there has been some talk that he could be in trouble at the next general election, such is the perilous state the Tories currently find themselves in.

Mr Hands was told this morning that he could be the first chairman of the Conservative Party since 1992 to lose their own seat at a general election.

He told Times Radio: "Well, look, I have been elected in my constituency now five times. I don’t take anything for granted at all. I campaign very hard in my own constituency, I live in the heart of my constituency, I go there everyday, so I don’t take anything for granted at all in my Chelsea and Fulham constituency.

"But looking more widely I am really looking forward to taking the fight against Keir Starmer’s unreformed Labour Party, to the Lib Dems, to the SNP, to all of the opposition parties and laying out very clearly Rishi Sunak’s five priorities as prime minister and the excellent future that this country will have under his premiership. That is what the next general election is going to be all about."

08:06 AM

Greg Hands: 'Lee Anderson is a fantastic asset to the party'

Greg Hands said he does not intend to provide a "running commentary" on some of the past comments made by controversial Tory MP Lee Anderson who was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative Party yesterday.

During a Commons speech in May last year, Mr Anderson suggested people in the UK use food banks because they "cannot cook properly" and "cannot budget".

Mr Hands, the new Tory chairman, praised his party colleague as a "great asset" and as someone with "great integrity".

He told Times Radio: "I’m not going to give a running commentary on things that may have been said in the past. What I will say is that Lee Anderson is a fantastic asset to the party. He is a man of great integrity."

07:52 AM

Conservative Party faces 'difficult' local election results in May - Tory chairman

Greg Hands has warned the Conservative Party faces a "difficult" set of local election results in May as the new Tory chairman attempted to managed expectations on his first full day in the job.

He told Times Radio: "I think they will be difficult local elections this year for the party but I know we have got fantastic candidates, fantastic councillors, fantastic candidates for mayors across the country who are working really hard.

"I am somebody who has spent a long time as a Conservative activist, as a councillor myself so I know exactly what it is like in a time when the national party is not as popular as we would like it to be.

"My job is to deliver the best possible set of results, obviously there will be a lot of local factors going on up and down the country that our councillors and candidates are rightly campaigning on. It will be a difficult set of elections but I am still confident that we will do well."

07:49 AM

Greg Hands vows to make Conservative Party 'battle ready' for general election 'next year'

Greg Hands, the new chairman of the Conservative Party, has vowed to make the Tories "battle ready" ahead of the next general election which he suggested will take place "next year".

Asked if Tory chairman is currently one of the hardest jobs in politics, Mr Hands told Times Radio: "Well, I don’t know about it being the hardest job but it certainly is a very exciting job.

"We have got 15 to 20 months or thereabouts until the next general election, so a great chance to get the party battle ready for what will be a big contest next year against Sir Keir Starmer’s unreformed Labour Party.

"I think it is a great opportunity, a great job, I was delighted when Rishi asked me to do it."