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    Nigel Farage defends flying to US two weeks after becoming Clacton MP

    Nigel Farage has defended his decision to fly to the US just weeks after being elected in Clacton, to support Donald Trump after the former president survived an assassination attempt.When asked by Emily Maitlis on The News Agents if he was giving all his time to his new constituency, the Reform UK MP responded: “I’m allowed to come to America on a trip like this, particularly in these circumstances.”In a speech after his general election victory, Mr Farage pledged that he would “speak up” and provide a challenge in government.Mr Farage wrote in the The Telegraph that he would travel to Milwaukee to support his “friend” Mr Trump “as we head into the later stages of an era-defining election.” More

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    UK Covid inquiry to finally lay bare failures of government and politicians during pandemic

    Support trulyindependent journalismFind out moreCloseOur mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.Louise ThomasEditorThe UK government’s failures to properly prepare for a pandemic are expected to be laid bare on Thursday as the UK Covid-19 Inquiry publishes its first report.Inquiry chair Baroness Heather Hallett will report on how well the UK was able to face a deadly outbreak in the run-up to 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic swept across Britain.The report is expected to highlight the UK’s focus on preparing for a flu pandemic instead of a coronavirus pandemic.Lady Hallett may highlight how austerity measures led to public health cutbacks.She could also comment on preparations surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE) and a government focused on Brexit.Key politicians, scientists and health experts appeared as witnesses during the first module of the inquiry – which is titled Resilience and Preparedness.Former health secretaries Matt Hancock and Jeremy Hunt were put under the spotlight during oral evidence sessions, alongside former prime minister Lord Cameron and former levelling up secretary Michael Gove.Matt Hancock was put under the spotlight More

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    Labour MP tells Keir Starmer he would swim through vomit to scrap two-child benefit cap

    Labour MP John McDonnell urged Sir Keir Starmer to scrap the two-child benefit cap and “lift 300,000 children out of poverty”.Addressing the Commons on Wednesday (17 July), the Hayes and Harlington MP said: “I was in this House when the Tories introduced it, it was introduced as part of the stigmatising of all those on benefits. “I did a speech, I actually think I said I’d swim through vomit to vote against this piece of legislation, and some of the nauseous speeches from the Tories at the time almost meant I would have to.“It was (an) appalling form of attack on the poorest within our communities. I think we just need to lift that stigma, lift that impact, but we need to do it quickly. More

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    UK smoking ban: How will it work and who will be affected?

    Support trulyindependent journalismFind out moreCloseOur mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.Louise ThomasEditorThe new Labour government confirmed its commitment to uphold plans for a UK smoking ban in the King’s Speech on Wednesday.The measure, which will raise the legal smoking age by one year, every year, means anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 will never be able to purchase tobacco legally.It will also impose limits on the sale and marketing of vapes.While the policy was first introduced by former Tory prime minister Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to see it through to legislation.The bill gained cross-party support when it was first introduced by Sunak and has been dubbed the “greatest piece of public health legislation in a generation”.MPs voted in favour of the bill by 383 votes to 67 in April. However, the bill was dropped as the general election was called before it could make its way through the legislature.Following the King’s Speech, here we take a look at the current British smoking laws and how they could change:People currently under the age of 14 will never be able to smoke legally under new proposals More

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    Keir Starmer addresses safety of politicians after assassination attempt on Donald Trump

    Sir Keir Starmer repeated President Joe Biden’s words and called for the temperature of democracy to be lowered as he paid tribute to late MPs Jo Cox and Sir David Amess.The prime minister said he had shared his “revulsion” with Donald Trump during a phone call, after a gunman tried to assassinate the former US president.Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday (17 July) Sir Keir said: “While our thoughts at this time are of course with President Trump and the American people, we cannot think that this is something that only happens elsewhere.“We must heed the words of President Biden to lower the temperature of our democracy, work across our disagreements and find each other’s common decency.” More

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    Rishi Sunak makes joke about how he became prime minister and lost election

    Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak made a joke about how he became prime minister and lost the general election, as he responded to the King’s speech.The former prime minister, offering advice to MPs tipped with a bright future, joked in the Commons on Tuesday (17 July): “On the Government benches life comes at you fast.“Soon you might be fortunate enough to be tapped on the shoulder and be offered a junior ministerial role, then you’ll find yourself attending cabinet, then in the cabinet and then when the prime minister’s position becomes untenable you might end up being called to the highest office.“And before you know it you have a bright future behind you and you’re left wondering whether you can credibly be an elder statesman at the age of 44.” More

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    King’s Speech – latest: Starmer and Sunak debate Labour policies after housing and trains reform announced

    King travels in royal coach to state opening of parliamentSupport trulyindependent journalismFind out moreCloseOur mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.Louise ThomasEditorSir Keir Starmer has vowed his government agenda can counter the “snake oil charm of populism” and declared the end of the “era of politics as performance”Following the King’s Speech, the prime minister and Rishi Sunak are debating the contents of the government’s new set of proposed policies. The new Labour government’s plans include “getting Britain building” by delivering 1.5 million homes and nationalising the country’s railways, King Charles has announced. In the first State Opening of Parliament under a Labour government since 2009, Charles set out the legislation being prioritised by Sir Keir and his ministers.He outlined around 35 draft laws including a national housebuilding programme, a a workers’ rights bill, and removing the VAT exemption for private schools to help fund 6,500 new teachers.The Planning and Infrastructure Bill will seek to allow for land to be bought more cheaply for building, while a new public body, Great British Railways (GBR), will oversee the rail network, and give all English councils new powers to franchise local bus services. Local governments could receive more powers and a law to ensure all government budgets get advance independent scrutiny. Show latest update 1721228107Labour announces host of new tech rules – but does not reveal much-hyped ‘AI bill’Many within the technology and AI industries had expected that the King’s Speech would bring the introduction of new regulation and governance over artificial intelligence. But it included only passing references to the technology – focused on ensuring that it did not conflict with workers’ rights – and no new legislation specifically focused on it.As such, it remains largely unclear how much and in what ways the government intends to regulate AI.But it did announce a host of other new tech-focused changes, including pledges to strengthen the UK’s cybersecurity and resilience, as well as take greater advantage of data to boost economic growth, through new Bills announced in the King’s Speech.Our technology editor Andrew Griffin has the full story:Salma Ouaguira17 July 2024 15:551721228030PM declares ‘this is a new era’Sir Keir Starmer has told the House of Commons “this is a new era” of politics and promised to serve everyone. The prime minister said: “I have said that we would serve everyone, whether they voted for us or not, and I meant it,” the Prime Minister said.“So let me say directly to the benches opposite, if you are invested in the success of your community, we will work with you.“This is a new era. We are turning a page, returning politics to service, because that is what the people of this country want to see from their politicians, and service is a stronger bond than political self-interest.”Salma Ouaguira17 July 2024 15:531721227847Starmer pledges ‘no more gimmicks or wedge issues’Sir Keir Starmer has pledged that his government will deliver “no more gimmicks” during the King’s Speech debate at the Commons. He said: “Mr Speaker, we will have time, over the weeks, months and years, to debate the measures in this King’s Speech and the choices of this Government.“But I defy anyone on those benches or elsewhere to look at the ambition and purpose or intent and not to perceive a return to the serious business of Government.“No more wedge issues, no more gimmicks, no more party political strategies masquerading as policy.”Salma Ouaguira17 July 2024 15:501721227696Labour MP and SNP leader launch attack on child povertyA Labour MP and Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, have quizzed Sir Keir Starmer on child poverty after the King’s Speech. Sarah Owen, the MP for Luton North, said: “I thank the Prime Minister for giving way during his excellent speech outlining the hope and renewal within this King’s Speech, much needed in constituencies like mine in Luton North where over 45 per cent of children are growing up in relative poverty.“What reassurances can the Prime Minister give me and my constituents that he personally takes this issue very seriously and that his government will address it?”Mr Flynn then asked: “Thank you, Mr Speaker, very grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way on his newly announced task force, which of course Beth Rigby was announcing on Twitter as we were all within this chamber.“Mr Speaker, can the Prime Minister outline how many children will remain in poverty while that task force undertakes the work, which will ultimately lead to the same conclusion that we are proposing to scrap the two-child benefit cap?”In response, Sir Keir said he was “grateful” for the their interventions before adding: “no child should be growing up in poverty.”( More

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    Digital Information and Smart Data Bill: Government pledges to boost data services

    Support trulyindependent journalismFind out moreCloseOur mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.Louise ThomasEditorLabour has announced sweeping new rules on technology – though not widely-expected new laws on artificial intelligence.Many within the technology and AI industries had expected that the King’s Speech would bring the introduction of new regulation and governance over artificial intelligence. But it included only passing references to the technology – focused on ensuring that it did not conflict with workers’ rights – and no new legislation specifically focused on it.As such, it remains largely unclear how much and in what ways the government intends to regulate AI.But it did announce a host of other new tech-focused changes, including pledges to strengthen the UK’s cybersecurity and resilience, as well as take greater advantage of data to boost economic growth, through new Bills announced in the King’s Speech.A reported fully-fledged AI Bill was not announced during the State Opening of Parliament, but the King’s Speech set out how the Government would “seek to establish the appropriate legislation to place requirements on those working to develop the most powerful artificial intelligence models”.In response to the ever-increasing risk of cyber attacks, the new Labour Government said it would introduce the Cyber Security and Resilience Bill, which would give greater power to regulators to push more firms to implement better cybersecurity defences.It said the Bill would expand the remit of existing regulation and put regulators on a stronger footing, as well as increasing the reporting requirements placed on businesses to help build a better picture of cyber threats to the UK.It would be joined by a new Digital Information and Smart Data Bill, which would enable new, “innovative” uses of data to help boost the economy.Under the new legislation, digital verification services would be established, the Government said, which would include digital identity products to help the public quickly and securely share key information about themselves as they use online services in their everyday life.The Bill would also legislate for the creation of a National Underground Asset Register to enable planners and excavators instant, standardised access to pipe and cable data around the country.It would also enable the creation of so-called “smart data” schemes, which would allow for the secure sharing of customer data, upon their request, with authorised third-party service providers.The Government said the Bill would modernise and strengthen the data protection regulator – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – and that the legislation would also help scientists and researchers make better use of data for their work.Carla Baker, senior director of government affairs for the UK and Ireland at cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks, said she welcomed the “renewed focus” on cybersecurity and the “vital role it plays in driving economic growth and building resilience among critical sectors of society”.“Recent high-profile attacks targeting the NHS, defence and other critical sectors of our economy have demonstrated the impact that malicious actors can have on our national security, as well as the operation of key functions of society and our economy,” she said.“Maintaining the security of the critical national infrastructure in the face of the continually changing threat landscape must be a priority, and we welcome the announcements today.“It will be vital that the Government work with industry to ensure that security requirements in the legislation are fit for purpose and strike the right balance between building resilience and fostering innovation.“If we are to achieve sustained economic growth in the UK, organisations cannot be burdened with overly prescriptive requirements. The Government must take a co-ordinated approach to developing policy interventions that protect critical sectors of society and drive economic growth, and refrain from producing guidance with overlapping or conflicting requirements.“We must build our cyber defences. The Government has to take a principles-based approach to security and ensure that security requirements are developed in a co-ordinated and sustainable manner.”Additional reporting by agencies More