Members of the National Education Union in England and Wales and the Royal College of Nursing have voted to take strike action in their dispute with the government over pay.
The government’s climate tsar has said a coal mine in Cumbria would never have been approved if his recommendations had been in place.
Chris Skidmore, a Tory MP and chairman of the government’s net zero review, also expressed doubt over whether the coal mine would ever be built.
Speaking at the launch of his review, he said the decision, made by Michael Gove, the Communities and Levelling Up Secretary, in December “would not have been able to happen” if his recommendations had been in place.
The mine near Whitehaven, Cumbria, is the first new UK coal mine to be approved in 30 years and will be used to dig up coking coal for steel production.
Critics believe it would undermine climate targets and that demand for coking coal is declining, but supporters claim the mine will create jobs and reduce the need to import coal.
Its approval is now facing legal challenges, with Mr Skidmore adding: “Let’s wait and see whether this coal mine actually happens – if this report is taken forward it never will.”
A free photo ID scheme has been launched by the government, before a law change comes into force requiring voters to prove who they are to cast their ballot.
New rules will be introduced in time for May’s local elections. People will need to show either a passport, driving licence or one of the new “voter authority certificates” in order to vote.
The controversial legislation made its way through parliament last year, with opposition parties arguing it risked disenfranchising those without ID – who are often from harder to reach communities – and adding unnecessary barriers to democracy.
But the government insisted it would protect the integrity of elections and prevent voter fraud.
The Electoral Commission also warned ministers that bringing in the scheme by 2023 was neither “secure” nor “workable”, according to a Freedom of Information request made by the Open Democracy website.
However, then-levelling up secretary Simon Clarke responded by saying rolling out the rule change before 2023’s local elections provided an “opportunity to learn” before broader elections took place across the whole of the UK.
People hoping to vote using the new IDs will need to go to the government website and enter their National Insurance number, while also uploading a recent digital photo of themselves.
The governor of the Bank of England has told MPs there is still “something of a hangover effect” in the wake of the mini-budget market chaos last year but declared that the hit to mortgages was over.
Andrew Bailey used remarks to the Treasury committee to declare that market conditions had returned to normal after the economic competence of the-then Liz Truss government was called into question – sparking chaos in the bond markets and forcing up borrowing costs.
The damage caused by the so called growth plan, outlined by her short-lived chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng last September, had now been largely eradicated, according to Mr Bailey.
He said: “I hoped that we would see mortgage rates come down, and that has happened, we have seen new fixed-rate mortgage rates have come down since.
“I’m talking there about the lower-risk end of the mortgage market, so loans with a sub-75% loan-to-value, and actually the higher-risk end as well.
“We have seen correcting in that respect and, of course, that benefits people seeking mortgages.”
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With the new year in full swing, the UK is amid a fresh wave of strikes, with transport workers, NHS staff and civil servants taking part in industrial action.
Tens of thousands of workers are staging walkouts in the first months of 2023, seeking better pay and conditions.
It comes after unions launched a series of strikes in December, including the largest NHS strike in history and the biggest walkout of ambulance staff in three decades.
Sky News looks at the industries that are set to strike, when and why…
Mick Lynch, of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, has urged Keir Starmer to avoid being a “vanilla politician” and back workers’ rights.
Speaking outside Downing Street at the protest against the new strikes bill, Mr Lynch said there are “some people missing tonight”.
The RMT general secretary added: “You get this every time you hear me.
“We’ve got Jeremy (Corbyn), he’s with us, we’ve got SNP MPs, we’ve got Caroline Lucas from the Green Party.
“But there’s a big question – where’s the Labour front bench tonight?”
He urged the shadow cabinet to support unions and rip up anti-strike bills on winning an election.
Mr Lynch said the Labour leader should not try to be a “vanilla politician in a vanilla suit”, adding: “Come and stand with us … stand up for socialism, stand up for workers and let’s change this going forward.”
Back to the Commons for a moment, where MPs are still debating the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill ahead of a vote on the legislation.
Conservative MP Chris Loder has told members that union members are “fed up” with being used as “political pawns”.
He said: “I warmly welcome this bill. It’s an important piece of legislation.
“Those of us who are and have been sensible and constructive members of trade unions know that we can still take strike action without closing down the whole network or shutting down an entire operation.
“This whole debate is about balancing the right to strike with the right of our citizens to have access to key services when they need them, the right of citizens to get to work, the right of citizens, of children, to get to school, the right of small business owners to still continue their business.
“The union members who feel pressured to strike, union members who believe that eight days’ strike in quick succession is too much, those union members who believe that having six days to respond to a ballot referendum instead of the standard 14, those hard-working union members also want this tempered and they want their needs and their rights recognised as well, rather than the ideological ones of trade unions.
“Because they are fed up. Union members are fed up of being used as political pawns.”
It was confirmed earlier tonight that members of the National Education Union in England and Wales will take strike action in their continuing dispute with the government over pay.
Teachers in England and Wales will walk out on various dates in February and March – with all NEU members striking on 15 and 16 March.
But what will happen to schools on these days – and could they stay open?
It has been suggested that agency staff and volunteers could be used to cover classes for teachers who take part in industrial action, with schools expected to remain open where possible.
Updated guidance from the Department for Education calls on headteachers to “take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible”.
While the decision to open, restrict attendance or close academy schools lies with the academy trust, the DfE said it is usually delegated to the principal, and the decision for maintained schools rests with the headteacher.
The latest guidance reads: “It is best practice for headteachers to consult governors, parents and the local authority, academy trust or diocesan representative (where appropriate) before deciding whether to close.”
Headteachers are entitled to ask staff whether they intend to strike, it added.
The guidance, issued on Monday, advised that “schools or groups of schools may wish to consider building up a bank of cover supervisors”.
It also stated that statutory guidance arrangements allow schools to use existing members of the school volunteer workforce to provide supervision on strike days so long as they have relevant Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
Schools can also “identify other new volunteers who could support existing staff or volunteers for whom relevant checks have been carried out”.
However, the DfE recognised that schools affected by strike action might “need to temporarily prioritise places” due to low staff numbers.
Professor Alan Trench today said the UK is in “unchartered territory” after Westminster moved to block Scotland’s gender reform bill.
He said the Section 35 procedure, which prevents the bill from proceeding to Royal Assent, has “never been used before”.
“Although it looks like it is a prohibition from Westminster, like any order or decision of a secretary of state it is open to legal challenge,” Professor Trench told the BBC.
He added there is “little doubt” the Scottish government would want to challenge this move by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack in court.
We reported earlier as Scottish Secretary Alister Jack made an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, which will prevent the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from proceeding to Royal Assent.
In response, the Scottish Conservatives said Mr Jack had ” little option” but to do so, accusing ministers of trying to rush through the legislation “at breakneck speed”.
The party’s equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton said: “I hope rather than turning this issue into a constitutional football, the first minister [Nicola Sturgeon] will now revisit this legislation.”
She added: “As the secretary of state for Scotland makes clear, this was not a decision he wanted to take but, given that the GRR Bill impinges on the operation of UK-wide equalities legislation, he was compelled to intervene.
“In their desperation to force this legislation through Holyrood before Christmas, the Scottish government ignored the warnings that the bill would have implications beyond Scotland’s borders.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour said the move was “shameful”.
Monica Lennon, the MSP for Central Scotland, said the decision was “made for cynical political reasons”.
Ms Lennon added: “A bad day for democracy, devolution and for human rights.
“Anyone thinking the Tories care about women’s rights or the interests of LGBTQ people is deluding themselves.”
Protesters gathered in their hundreds to demonstrate outside Downing Street tonight, as MPs debated a controversial new bill on strikes.
Mick Lynch, of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, was in attendance – as was former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union and Unison were also present at the rally, which comes ahead of a vote on the proposed law.
The legislation would see the right to strike restricted by imposing minimum service levels.
Under the draft Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, bosses would be legally able to fire employees who ignore a “work notice” ordering them to work on days of industrial action.
Protesters chanted “f*** the Tories” and “the people united will never be divided” and others banged drums as they gathered in Westminster.
Clare Keenan, from the PCS, described the bill as an “attack on my human rights and those of my fellow workers”.
She said: “You can’t make people go to work five days a week and having to use food banks and removing their ability to protest.
“It’s just a hurdle that they’re putting in the way to stop workers from taking industrial action.”
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