It has emerged today that Sir James Dyson has moved his primary residency back to the UK from Singapore.
The Evening Standard’s Joe Murphy has a theory as to why.
Here are some more lines from the Downing Street lobby briefings.
- The prime minister’s spokesman refused to deny reports saying Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, advised Boris Johnson to change his mobile phone number. (See 9.25am.) After the Telegraph and the Times reported this last night, some No 10 sources were insisting that this was not true. (See here, or here.) But No 10 is obviously not confident denying these stories formally and on the record. Asked about the story, the spokesman just said: “As you know, we don’t get into the details of the advice provided between a cabinet secretary and a prime minister, and so I’m not going to do that in this instance.”
- The spokesman said No 10 would “very shortly” follow up on the PM’s promise yesterday to release details of his text messages relating to Covid contracts. The spokesman said Johnson “stands by what he said in the house”. But he would not say exactly what would be published. In PMQs, in response to a question about whether he would “publish all personal exchanges on these contracts before the end of the day”, Johnson said that he had “nothing to conceal” and that he was “happy to share all the details with the house”.
Downing Street has announced that it is holding an inquiry into the leak of the prime minister’s text messages to Sir James Dyson. Yesterday No 10 said there were no plans for an inquiry. But at today’s lobby briefing, which has just ended, the PM’s spokesman said that the Cabinet Office would now be holding an inquiry. It is understood that the police are not involved.
Explaining the U-turn, the spokesman said:
We have instructed the Cabinet Office to look into this. The position has changed from yesterday. It was correct at the time yesterday. But, as usual, we keep these things under review and we’ve now decided to undertake this internal inquiry.
You might have assumed that only Johnson and Dyson had access to these messages. But, according to Alex Wickham in his London Playbook briefing this morning, Johnson forwarded his text messages “to a small circle of senior aides serving in Downing Street last year”.
I will post more from the lobby briefing soon.
An Australian MP from the governing Liberal party has blasted the British government’s “amateurish” tactics to influence trade talks between the two countries, suggesting post-Brexit negotiating inexperience could be behind the “megaphone” diplomacy, my colleague Daniel Hurst reports.
Robin Swann, health minister in the Northern Ireland executive, has voiced concern about the supply line of medicines to Northern Ireland as a result of a looming Brexit regulatory barrier, PA Media reports. PA says:
Under the terms of Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland protocol, the region is to operate under different regulatory rules for medicines and medical devices than the rest of the UK.
Northern Ireland currently secures 98% of its supplies from Great Britain.
A one-year grace period delaying the implementation of this aspect of the protocol is due to expire at the end of the year.
Swann told his assembly scrutiny committee this morning that the EU’s ill-fated attempt to suspend a part of the protocol in January, amid a dispute with vaccine manufacturers over exporting jabs out of the bloc, had impacted efforts to prepare for the end of the grace period.
“It is something that concerns me and that’s why we have been engaged quite significantly in regards to this,” he said.
“The derogation period for medicines was one of the longest that was actually agreed at the start which gave us to the end of this year actually to get things sorted out and in a better place.
“Everyone thought that work was progressing well until the EU triggered article 16 over vaccines – that unnerved people, that unsettled people and that has, I suppose, increased the level of concern that we’re seeing, especially from the smaller and the more intricate suppliers of medicines and medical devices.”
The UK is pressing the EU to agree to a further year extension of the grace period on medicines and medical supplies.
Here is the full report (pdf) from the special committee set up by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission covering what it describes as “historical inequalities in commemoration”.
And here is an extract.
Founded over a century ago to commemorate the First World War dead of the British Empire, from the outset the IWGC’s [Imperial War Graves Commission’s] work was defined by the principle of equality of treatment in death. Whatever an individual’s rank in social or military life, whatever their religion, they would be commemorated identically – with their name engraved either on a headstone over an identified grave or on a memorial to the missing. While that principle was admirable, and in Europe effectively achieved, this report finds that the promise of equality had limits elsewhere.
In conflict with the organisation’s founding principles, it is estimated that between 45,000 and 54,000 casualties (predominantly Indian, East African, West African, Egyptian and Somali personnel) were commemorated unequally. For some, rather than marking their graves individually, as the IWGC would have done in Europe, these men were commemorated collectively on memorials. For others who were missing, their names were recorded in registers rather than in stone.
A further 116,000 casualties (predominantly, but not exclusively, East African and Egyptian personnel) – but potentially as many as 350,000 – were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all. Most of these men were commemorated by memorials that did not carry their names – in part because the IWGC was never furnished with their names or places of burial by the military or colonial authorities, in part because it chose to diverge from its principles in the belief that the communities these men came from would not recognise or value such individual forms of commemoration.
This report finds that in the 1920s, across Africa, the Middle East and India, imperial ideology influenced the operations of the IWGC in a way that it did not in Europe, and the rules and principles that were sacred there were not always upheld elsewhere. As a result, contemporary attitudes towards non-European faiths and differing funerary rites, and an individual’s or group’s perceived ‘state of civilisation’, influenced their commemorative treatment in death.
Here are some of the passage from Ben Wallace’s opening statement about the failure of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to commemorate African, Asian and other soldiers from what was then the British empire who died in the first world war.
- Wallace, the defence secretary, apologised for the failure to commemorate these soldiers properly. He said:
On behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Government both of the time and today, I want to apologise for the failures to live up to their founding principles all those years ago and express deep regret that it has taken so long to rectify the situation. Whilst we can’t change the past, we can make amends and take action.
- He said there was “no doubt” prejudice played a part in the fact that more than 100,000 soldiers were not commemorated properly. (See 11.50am.) He said:
The IWGC [Imperial War Graves Commission] relied on others to seek out the bodies of the dead and where it could not find them, it worked with the offices of state to produce lists of those who did not return and remained unaccounted for. Given the pressures and confusion spun by such war, in many ways it is hardly surprising that mistakes were made at both stages.
What is surprising and disappointing, however, is that a number of the mistakes, the number of casualties commemorated unequally, the number commemorated without names and the number otherwise entirely unaccounted for is not excusable.
There can be no doubt prejudice played a part in some of the commission’s decisions.
In some cases, the IWGC assumed that communities of forgotten personnel would not recognise or value individual forms of commemoration. In other cases, they were simply not provided with the names or burial locations.
In some circumstances, there was little the IWGC could do, with neither bodies nor names, general war memorials were the only one way in which some groups might be commemorated at the time.
Nonetheless, there are examples where the organisation also deliberately overlooked the evidence that might have allowed it to find those names.
In others, commission officials in the 1920s were happy to work with local administrations on projects across the empire that ran contrary to the principles of equality in death.
- Wallace, a former soldier, said true soldiers were “agnostic to class, race or gender”. He said:
True soldiers are agnostic to class, race or gender because the bond that holds us together is a bond forged in war. When on operations we share the risk, we share the sorrow and we rely on each to get through sometimes the toughest of times.
The friendships I made in my service are still strong. Those common bonds were what lay behind the imperial war grave commission’s principles and it is truly sad that on the occasions identified by the report those principles were not followed.
I feel it is my duty as a former soldier to do the right thing by those who gave their lives in the first world war across the Commonwealth and take what necessary steps we can to rectify the situation.
Wallace said the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will search out inequalities, and act on what it found.
It will renew its commitment to equality in commemorations, he said.
And it would act to ensure the hidden history of former empire communities, and their contribution in the two world wars, is brought to life, he said.
Wallace says when the Imperial War Graves Commission was set up, it was supposed to commemorate all soldiers equally.
But this did not happen, he says. He says there were cases where it deliberately overlooked evidence that might enable the discovery of names of the dead.
He says after the first world war in parts of Africa, the Middle East and India, the dead were not treated equally.
He said the graves of up to 54,000 soldiers, who were mostly Indians, east Africans, west Africans, Egyptians and Somalis, were not marked by individual headstones.
Some were only remembered in inscriptions or in registers, and another 116,000 personnel, mostly east Africans and Egyptians, were not named, or even commemorated at all, he says.
He says there is no doubt that prejudice played a part in that.
In the Commons Ben Wallace, the defence secretary is now making a statement about the failure of the Commonweath War Graves Commission to properly commemorate black and Asian solidiers.
Here is my colleague Rajeev Syal’s preview story about this announcement.
The section of the public accounts committee hearing devoted to Greensill is now over.