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Sue Gray meeting with PM was about release of partygate names and photos, minister claims

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case sit together at a Cabinet meeting - Getty

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case sit together at a Cabinet meeting – Getty

A “secret” meeting between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray was held to discuss “practical questions” relating to the publication of the partygate report, a minister has claimed.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, suggested the meeting had taken place to hammer out issues like who could be named and whether photographs would be included.

Mr Clarke insisted the private meeting had not damaged the integrity of the report, telling Sky News: “There are lots of practical questions here which need to be bottomed out in terms of for example who can be named in this report and the extent to which photographic evidence can be included.

“It is important that those practical dimensions are resolved. Do I think in any way that the integrity of this report should be questioned? No, because as I say Sue Gray has a reputation which dates back decades in terms of her ability to make judgments without fear or favor and I think she will absolutely deliver on that basis. ”

He added: “I do not believe that this meeting was anything other than a discussion of the technicalities of the process.”

Mr Johnson is under growing pressure to explain the circumstances of the meeting and to set out what was discussed, with Labor arguing that “people deserve to know the truth”. The report is widely expected to be published this week.

Follow the latest updates below.

08:30 AM

Minister rules out return of Universal Credit uplift

A £ 20 a week increase in the value of Universal Credit will not be reinstated to help families struggling with the cost of living crisis, a minister has said.

The extra cash was put in place to help people during the pandemic coronavirus but it was removed in October 2021. Some Tory MPs have urged the Government to increase the value of Universal Credit now to help families cope with rising food and energy prices.

But Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has ruled out bringing the uplift back, telling the BBC: “On that question, we were always explicitly clear that there was a temporary response to the pandemic.

“That is not going to return. The question is how we best now look at the next range of solutions to deal with the challenges we’re facing. “

08:21 AM

Government won’t ‘rush into’ decision on windfall tax

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has insisted the Government is “not going to rush into” making a decision over imposing a possible windfall tax on energy firms.

Asked when Rishi Sunak might decide on the matter, Mr Clarke told the BBC Radio 4 Today program: “That is a question for the Chancellor. We obviously recognize that we are in a situation which is fast developing and we want to make sure that we are supporting people ahead of what will likely be a challenging autumn and winter ahead. “

Mr Clarke said the Chancellor is looking at the cost of living situation “with real urgency and intent” and people can be reassured that the Government is “on the case”.

“We are not going to rush into action, but at the same time nor are we going to sit here and not provide the support that is needed given the severity of the situation,” he said.

08:06 AM

Senior Tory MP: Even Margaret Thatcher imposed a windfall tax

Jesse Norman, the former Treasury minister, said it is “perfectly clear” the Government is going to need to do more to support people in the next few months.

Mr Norman said governments treat taxes with “extreme caution”, particularly windfall taxes as they tend to be “unexpected responses to situations”,

But he said the country is “not in ordinary times” and is actually facing “absolutely extraordinary times at the moment”.

He said his fellow Tory MPs needed to recognize that “even Mrs Thatcher passed a couple of windfall taxes quite early on in her time in office, in her more pragmatic, less ideological phase, because she recognized that she needed to raise the money and that there were some sectors that in particular could afford to make a contribution to the wider public good ”.

08:00 AM

Minister: Energy firms must ‘step up to the plate’

More on a potential windfall tax from Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (see the post below at 08.47).

Mr Clarke told Sky News: “The Chancellor is very clear. We are not philosophically attracted to this but if the situation does not improve in terms of them stepping up to the plate, we can not rule it out.”

Many in Westminster – and in the industry – are likely to pore over the reference to oil and gas giants needing to “improve” their investment plans for new UK energy sources. That would suggest the Government has some kind of metric for determining what is a sufficient level of investment and what is not.

07:47 AM

‘We are certainly not ruling it out’

There is a growing feeling in Westminster that the Government will eventually change tack and impose a tax on the excess profits of oil and gas giants to address the cost of living crisis amid mounting political pressure.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, today gave the firmest hint yet that the Government may be reconsidering its position as he said the nation is facing “extraordinary circumstances”.

He told Sky News: “We are certainly not ruling it out. What I would say is obviously I am not ever instinctively drawn to increasing taxes insofar as it risks deterring investment in new capacity and new jobs.

“But look, these are extraordinary circumstances. We recognize there are extraordinary pressures on family finances and the industry needs to hear the message loud and clear: If investment does not go in, we can not rule out having to do a windfall tax. ”

07:38 AM

PM meeting with Sue Gray discussed ‘technicalities’

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has insisted no political pressure has been put on Sue Gray over the contents of the partygate report.

He told Sky News: “I do not believe that this meeting was anything other than a discussion of the technicalities of the process.

“As I say, it would be genuinely wrong to impugn that there has been any pressure put on the nature of this report, in any way.”

07:34 AM

Minister: Would have been ‘churlish’ for PM to turn down meeting

It would have been “churlish” for Boris Johnson to turn down a meeting with Sue Gray, a minister argued this morning.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was asked why Mr Johnson would attend a meeting with Ms Gray before the publication of the partygate report.

Told that the PM could have turned down an invitation, Mr Clarke said: “Ultimately he could have done. But look, the point here is, I do not think that in any way it would have been improper, indeed it would have been somewhat churlish I think to have declined to have met. “

07:26 AM

‘It is important that those practical dimensions are resolved’

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, suggested the meeting between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray had taken place to examine “practical questions” relating to the partygate report.

Asked about the meeting, he told Sky News: “There are lots of practical questions here which need to be bottomed out in terms of for example who can be named in this report and the extent to which photographic evidence can be included.

“It is important that those practical dimensions are resolved. Do I think in any way that the integrity of this report should be questioned? No, because as I say Sue Gray has a reputation which dates back decades in terms of her ability to make judgments without fear or favor and I think she will absolutely deliver on that basis. ”

07:21 AM

Minister claims ‘secret’ meeting was ‘instigated’ by Sue Gray

There have been conflicting accounts over the circumstances that led to the meeting between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, claimed this morning that the meeting had been “instigated” by Ms Gray.

He told Sky News: “My understanding is that the meeting was instigated by Ms Gray but matters it matters only insofar as that explains that he [Boris Johnson] was not the one instigating it. “

07:17 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today politics live blog.

We are expecting the Sue Gray report on partygate to be published at some point this week and Westminster is braced for what will be a major moment.

A “secret” meeting between Boris Johnson and Ms Gray is dominating the agenda this morning as the PM faces growing pressure to set out why the meeting took place and what was discussed.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is on the morning media round and has been setting out the Government position. Let’s start with his key quotes.

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