Thursday, July 7

Boris Johnson ‘surprised’ after Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells him of impact his wrong comments had – UK politics live | Politics


Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells Boris Johnson she ‘lived in the shadows’ of his wrong comments for over four years

Accompanied by her family and the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe came face to face with Boris Johnson for the first time since her release in March, reports PA.

Siddiq said that after six years of “unjust and unlawful imprisonment” the British-Iranian dual national deserved to “hear directly” from Johnson about why it took so long to get her home.

In 2017, Johnson, then foreign secretary, wrongly claimed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016. Following his remarks, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing where his comments were used as proof that she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

When asked if Johnson would be apologising to Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a spokesperson for the prime minister said:

I think it is important to remember that it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her unfair detention, and the decision to release her was always in their gift. However, I would point back to the prime minister’s words, his answers to questions on this before and he has previously apologised for his comments in 2017.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe, daughter Gabriella leaving 10 Downing Street, central London, after a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and daughter, Gabriella, leaving 10 Downing Street, central London, after a meeting with Boris Johnson. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Siddiq, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said the prime minister looked “quite shocked” after Zaghari-Ratcliffe told him how his words affected her and that she had “lived in the shadow” of them for the past four and a half years.

“I was really proud she did say that,” added Siddiq. “She wanted to make it clear to him that she’s happy now, she’s grateful, she appreciates the fact that she is home now, but there was a time when the words had a big impact.”

The Prime Minister “enjoyed” meeting Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq told broadcasters waiting outside No 10.

She said:

I think he enjoyed meeting her, I think he found it interesting and I think it wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before, in a sense.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said:

I don’t think it was an abrasive meeting. We are here in happier circumstances than in previous meetings. I’m glad we are.”

Ratcliffe said there was not necessarily “closure” for the family after the meeting, as he reiterated his call for Boris Johnson to give evidence to the commons foreign affairs committee inquiry into the handling of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

Ratcliffe added:

I did mean it when I said, please do try and give evidence. He said he would look at it.

“I think he has been a part of our case in different roles, it is important his perspective is shared honestly with parliament.”

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill has told MLAs the public is hoping that Northern Ireland’s elected parties have “the maturity and courage” to take responsibility, adding that “there is absolutely no reason we should be in a rolling crisis, even for one second”.

It is the job of politicians to “properly fund” the healthcare service and to agree a three-year budget and invest in the health service, she said.

Speaking to media outside of Downing Street, MP Tulip Siddiq said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe feels “guilty” of her return to Britian, as others remain in the “same conditions” she endured in Iranian prisons, reports PA.

Siddiq told broadcasters:

Nazanin kept making the point that people who went in quite soon around the time that she went in, they are not home yet and she is home and she feels very guilty about that. She wants them to be back as well and she can’t sit here and enjoy her life knowing there are people going through the same conditions that she went through.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells Boris Johnson she ‘lived in the shadows’ of his wrong comments for over four years

Accompanied by her family and the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe came face to face with Boris Johnson for the first time since her release in March, reports PA.

Siddiq said that after six years of “unjust and unlawful imprisonment” the British-Iranian dual national deserved to “hear directly” from Johnson about why it took so long to get her home.

In 2017, Johnson, then foreign secretary, wrongly claimed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016. Following his remarks, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing where his comments were used as proof that she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

When asked if Johnson would be apologising to Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a spokesperson for the prime minister said:

I think it is important to remember that it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her unfair detention, and the decision to release her was always in their gift. However, I would point back to the prime minister’s words, his answers to questions on this before and he has previously apologised for his comments in 2017.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe, daughter Gabriella leaving 10 Downing Street, central London, after a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and daughter, Gabriella, leaving 10 Downing Street, central London, after a meeting with Boris Johnson. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Siddiq, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said the prime minister looked “quite shocked” after Zaghari-Ratcliffe told him how his words affected her and that she had “lived in the shadow” of them for the past four and a half years.

“I was really proud she did say that,” added Siddiq. “She wanted to make it clear to him that she’s happy now, she’s grateful, she appreciates the fact that she is home now, but there was a time when the words had a big impact.”

Northern Ireland taxpayers face footing a £94,000 weekly bill for MLAs and ministers, even if the assembly is not sitting.

The figure comes as DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party is set to block the election of a new speaker at the Stormont assembly. The Belefast Telegraph reports he will not re-enter the Executive until issues surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol are resolved.

Without a speaker, the assembly will be prevented from carrying out business, and will come at a high cost for taxpayers.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said he is sending a “clear message” to the EU and the UK government about resolving issues with the Northern Ireland protocol.

PA reports:

His party is set to block the election of a new speaker at the Stormont assembly, which would leave the devolved legislature unable to function.

The new 90 MLAs met for the first time in the Stormont chamber on Friday after last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly election saw Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party for the first time.

The first order of business was for MLAs to sign the roll of membership, before the sitting was suspended for lunch.

The DUP has also said that it will not nominate for the position of deputy first minister, which will prevent the forming of a new executive, as part of its protest against the protocol.

Unionists oppose the post-Brexit treaty because of the economic barriers it creates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Speaking shortly before the plenary session began, Jeffrey said:

I am here with my assembly team today for the first sitting of the assembly. My members will be signing the roll and taking their seats for the first time.

“As I have made clear this morning we have taken the decision not at this stage to support the election of a speaker. I believe that we need to send a very clear message to the European Union and to our government that we are serious about getting this protocol sorted out.

“Because of the harm it is doing, undermining political stability, damaging the agreements that have formed the basis of political progress made in Northern Ireland, to our economy, contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, this matter needs to be dealt with.

“While others sit on their hands we are not prepared to do that. We need decisive action taken by the government.

“The choice is clear: if the European Union is serious about protecting the political institutions and the Belfast agreement, and its successor agreements then they know what to do.

“Equally the same message is there for our own government as well. The ball is firmly at the foot of the government.”

Leader of the Alliance party, Naomi Long, warned Sir Jeffrey not to “overplay his hand” in negotiations with the UK government over the protocol.

She said:

When you play with fire, you will get burned.

“We saw this with Brexit where the DUP had influence, they overplayed their hand and they ended up with the mess that we are now in and they’re now asking us all to fix it.

“They are playing with fire again, because the institutions in Northern Ireland cannot survive in the way they are being abused.

“The people who need these institutions most and who need stability in Northern Ireland are unionists, so I would caution Sir Jeffrey about assuming that, in another election, there will be willing partners to go into government beyond it or indeed willing people to fight a further election.

“We have just had an election.

“It’s incumbent upon us all to accept the outcome of it and to make it work.

“That’s our job as politicians.

“I think the DUP is playing a very dangerous game with the institutions and with the future of Northern Ireland.”

Jeffrey was not in the chamber for the first assembly meeting as he has chosen to retain his position as an MP, despite being elected as an MLA for Lagan Valley a week ago.

Instead, former party MP Emma Little-Pengelly has been co-opted to replace her leader on the Stormont benches.

As the largest party, the new 27 Sinn Fein MLAs took their position on the benches on the right-hand side of the speaker’s chair for the first time.

It is entitled to nominate its Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill as first minister, but she will not be able to take up the role without the DUP nominating a deputy first minister.

Under the rules of the devolved power-sharing administration, both roles are equal and one cannot be in office without the other.

Since last week’s election, O’Neill has repeatedly called for the DUP to re-enter the executive so it can begin to tackle challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis and spiralling hospital waiting lists.

The foreign affairs committee has announced that on Tuesday it will hold its first evidence session as part of our inquiry into the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s approach to state level hostage situations, starting with former ministers Jeremy Hunt and Alistair Burt.

Boris Johnson is meeting today with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was held hostage in Iran over an unpaid debt for six years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has arrived at Downing Street with her family and MP Tulip Siddiq for a meeting with Boris Johnson.

Asked how they were, her husband Richard told the media:

Much happier times.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe did not respond to reporters’ questions on what she would talk to the prime minister about.

The family and Siddiq posed for photos outside the front door with their seven-year-old daughter, Gabriella, joking to reporters:

You can only take one photo.

A demonstration is taking place outside Stormont as the first plenary session takes place.

The trade union Unison organised the gathering calling for members of the legislative assembly from all the parties to work together to deliver for the public.

Anne Speed from Unison said the first order of business in the assembly should be dealing with the cost-of-living crisis and workers pay.

While the cost of living is going up and up, key workers pay is not, and our members are facing into real terms pay cuts.

They need to see an executive put in place urgently to put this issue right.

Today Unison workplace reps will be at Stormont to deliver the clear message to all MLAs that they must work together to deliver for them at this critical time.

Unison will continue to call for all parties to take the key actions needed to advance their position of our members and their families.

Sinn Féin accuses DUP of ‘holding public to ransom’ over Northern Ireland protocol row

Sinn Féin has accused the DUP of “holding the public to ransom for their Brexit mess” after DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson confirmed his party would not nominate a speaker or ministers as part of its opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol.

Without a speaker, the assembly will be prevented from carrying out business.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill tweeted:

Today is the day we should be forming an Executive to put money in peoples pockets and to start to fix our health service. The DUP have confirmed they will punish the public and not turn up. They are disgracefully holding the public to ransom for their Brexit mess. Shameful.

— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) May 13, 2022

Sorcha Eastwood of the Alliance party said the DUP are “punishing us all”.

6 years ago, the DUP backed the wrong horse. They gambled on a monumentally significant referendum that gave us brexit. NI voted to remain, but now, 6 yrs later, they are punishing us all because they have buyer’s remorse. Shameful. DUP care not one jot about NI or its people

— Sorcha Eastwood MLA (@SorchaEastwood) May 13, 2022

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said it is “disgraceful”.

He added:

The DUP have no mandate for this as they told everyone during the election debates that the Assembly would continue.”

Ireland’s taoiseach Micheal Martin has said that it is “unsatisfactory” and disappointing that the DUP will block the election of an assembly speaker.

The people elected an assembly, the assembly should meet, and then the assembly should form an executive.”

“Yes there are issues that unionism has raised with us in respect of the protocol, but those issues should not prevent the establishment and convening of the assembly and the formation of the executive.”

Downing Street hasn’t ruled out compulsory redundancies under Boris Johnson’s plans to slash tens of thousands of jobs from the civil service.

A No 10 spokesperson said he was not aware of any talks being planned with civil service union FDA.

He said:

It’s always important for the civil service to make sure we’re as efficient as possible and there’s no duplication in our work.

We’re obviously living in a period where we see regular technological and innovative change that allow us to work differently and adapt to new methods.

We’ll want to look closely at where we can incorporate new technology into how the civil service works and make sure we’re as efficient as possible for the future.

Pressed if the prime minister does not think there will be a strike, the spokesman said: “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.”

Downing Street did not rule out compulsory redundancies under Boris Johnson’s plans to slash tens of thousands of jobs from the civil service.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “I’m not going to pre-empt specific measures.”

He said a lot of the cuts are hoped to be done through “natural wastage”.

Asked about the meeting with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the spokesperson for the prime minister said:

We’ve said previously that the prime minister was open to meeting both Nazanin as well as Mr (Anoosheh) Ashoori.

“It is something we have been trying to arrange. I’ve set out that he is going to welcome her to Downing Street to discuss her ordeal in Iran.”

The official said the meeting was “something we’ve worked together on to make happen”.

Asked whether Johnson would be apologising to Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the spokesperson replied:

I think it is important to remember that it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her unfair detention, and the decision to release her was always in their gift.

However, I would point back to the prime minister’s words, his answers to questions on this before and he has previously apologised for his comments in 2017.

The Northern Ireland assembly is now sitting for the first time since the 5 May election, which saw Sinn Féin become the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time.

The leader of DUP, Jeffrey Donaldson, has said his party will not support the election of a new speaker, which will prevent the proper functioning of the devolved government in Northern Ireland.

More to follow.

Boris Johnson to meet Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to discuss her ordeal in Iran

The Guardian’s political correspondent Peter Walker has tweeted that Boris Johnson is meeting with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was held hostage in Iran for six years, and her family at No 10 later today.

Boris Johnson meeting Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe & family at No 10 later today. No media allowed – even the photos will be done by in-house govt vanity photographers.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 13, 2022

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was only released after a fraught six-year long campaign by her husband to persuade the UK to pay a £393.8m debt owed to Iran.

A senior official in HM Revenue and Customs has told staff he is sorry they first heard about planned job losses from the media.

Jim Harra, permanent secretary at HMRC, sent a message to staff on Friday morning which said:

You may have seen media reports this morning about the government’s decision to reduce the size of the civil service over the next three years. I am sorry that you have learned this from the media rather than from me or civil service leaders.

The cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, Simon Case, wrote to all permanent secretaries yesterday saying that the Prime Minister has asked for a plan to return civil service workforce numbers to 2016 levels over the next three years. This means reducing the current workforce by around 91,000 over that timeframe, from across all departments and arm’s length bodies.

The civil service must consider how we can streamline our workforce and equip ourselves with the skills to be an even more effective, lean and innovative service that continues to deliver for the people we serve.

Harra said no decisions have been taken yet on how jobs will be lost or how it will impact on HMRC’s work, but that plans would be produced over the next month.

The government has refused to mandate ethnicity pay gap reporting, citing “significant statistical and data issues”.

In February, the House of Commons women and equalities committee called for legislation to introduce the metric for companies with over 250 employees, a requirement which has existed for the gender pay gap since 2017.

Instead of a mandate, the government offered guidance to those employers who choose to report their ethnicity pay gaps on a voluntary basis. These include the distinction between different ethnic groups in reporting, and advice for employers in regions with statistically low numbers of people from ethnic minorities. The response backtracked on an earlier commitment in which the government said it ‘believes it is time to move to mandatory ethnicity pay reporting’.

The committee’s report found that the introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting would help address pay disparities between employees from different ethnic backgrounds.

The chair of the women and equalities committee, Caroline Nokes, said:

In February, we made clear to the government that the necessary systems and structures to report on the ethnicity pay gap are already in place. Introducing mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for larger businesses would set the ball rolling reducing inequalities between different ethnic groups.

The government’s nonsensical response- which claims that gathering the necessary data would be too difficult, and then promptly outlines how this could easily be addressed- is disappointing. It makes clear that what is lacking in this administration is not resource or know-how, but the will or care to foster a fairer and more equal society.





Source link