Politics latest news: Deal to resolve ‘critical’ CO2 shortage ‘imminent’, says minister – Telegraph.co.uk

A deal to get CO2 production back up and running could be struck as early as today, a minister has said, as the Government races against time to prevent food shortages.

Pig farmers have warned they will have to slaughter animals on their land for render because of a growing backlog at abattoirs and processing plants, sparked by the closure of two fertiliser plants last week, which supply 60 per cent of the UK’s commercial carbon dioxide.

The British Retail Consortium said it expected to see food shortages by the end of the week, while pork suppliers warned of “farmageddon” within 10 days. 

But Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, said he was hopeful a deal would be agreed today, following “candid” and “fairly frank” conversation with Tony Will, the American owner of CF Industries. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has also been involved in talks as it “may come at some cost” to the country.

Asked if the Government was prepared to subsidise a foreign company, he said he was “looking at different ways we can provide support”, and insisted any support would be temporary.

The Government was “averse” to nationalising the company, but he was “prepared to look at every solution” to get production back up and running, Mr Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

He told Sky News: “It’s pretty imminent – this week, we will have a very clear plan to get CO2 production back up again… I am very confident, hopeful, we can sort it out by the end of the week.”

Asked if that would include a subsidy, he told Times Radio the deal would “address” the high cost of natural gas. “The carbon dioxide situation is critical,” Mr Kwarteng added.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

BBC ‘orders more Telegraphs than Guardians’

The BBC “orders more Telegraphs than the Guardians now”, Tim Davie has said. 

Challenged about the left-leaning nature of the corporation, the director-general said “someone is running a story” about this. 

“I look forward to getting the data – I have no idea whether that is true though,” he added. 

BBC in ‘real fight’ to retain talent who are lured away with ‘transformational wealth’

The BBC is losing talent because global broadcasters are able to offer “transformational wealth”, Tim Davie has told MPs. 

The director-general said the brain drain was “not just people going to Times Radio – it’s the big deals with the Phoebe Waller”Bridges”, saying it is “absolutely red hot out there”. 

He added: “We are in a global game now…. the demands have never been greater and there are the possibilities of transformational wealth.

“The BBC needs to do things differently,” he added, saying the broadcaster should become “not just a making shop but an inventing and owning shop” to protect its IP. 

“It’s a real worry for us and we are in a fight,” he added. 

Establishing the political leanings of Sage scientists ‘is important’, says BBC boss

Tim Davie has indicated that the BBC might highlight the political leanings of those who help set policy, such as Government scientists. 

Steve Brine, the Conservative MP, asked if BBC presenters should challenge Sage members, who”arguably make policy more than backbench MPs do”, as to their political affiliations.

The director-general said there was “no restriction as to the line of questioning” – but Mr Brine said he had never seen such questions asked during an interview. 

Mr Davie then noted that a lot of research is carried out prior to covering reports, to ensure they are not partisan, adding: “I don’t subscribe to exactly the formula you set out [but] these things are important.”

Stripping BBC investment ‘will send broadcaster into spiral’, warns DG

The BBC must not be “stripped” of investment to ensure it can compete against Netflix and other competitors, the director general has said. 

Tim Davie told MPs “the existential threat” to the BBC is relevance, saying that while it was “rock solid” in terms of its perception as valuable institution, he wanted “every household to get value” through a “deep connection” with multiple services including radio, digital and the educational strand Bitesize. 

“To preserve that we need investment – investment that is good value still,” he said. “Netflix, Spotify – they have had price rises of 20-30 per cent this year – we have gone up one per cent.”

He added: “We need to make sure we are not stripping the service, because we will then be into a spiral.”

Just under 7pc of of people evading BBC licence fee

Just under seven per cent of people are evading their BBC licence fee, chief operating officer Leigh Tavaziva  has said. 

Current rates are at 6.95 per cent, and are updated at the end of every financial year. 

Addressing how many over-75s who are no longer eligible for a free TV licence are yet to pay, she said as of May 31 2020, there are “260,000 over-75 licence fee holders yet to set up a new payment plan”, but nine out of ten over-75s have now set up their payment plan correctly.

She said: “We will continue to work hard with our over-75s, in the autumn we will be carrying out customer care visits to start to be able to engage with the individuals we haven’t been able to speak to.”

UK at ‘tipping point’ for future of media industry, warns BBC boss

Tim Davie has said it is too early to “give you chapter and verse” on the implications of the promotion of Nadine Dorries as Culture Secretary on the BBC. 

The director general told MPs: “The worst thing I can do is start second guessing them before I have met them.. I would hope that we deliver this settlement on the timings we talked about.”

He said negotiations about the licence fee renewal was “constructive”, but warned that the country is “at a tipping point for the UK media market, and the creative industries”.

Mr Davie said: “Do we want to support a domestic, thriving UK market or not? We have made that case in data – not in speeches – in data.” 

BBC is in ‘battle’ to protect impartiality in the media

The BBC is “in a battle” to create a space in which all views can be heard and healthy debate conducted, the director general has said. 

Tim Davie told MPs: “We need to be comfortable with different opinion – I do worry about institutional group think, I do.

“We need to make sure groups of people making decisions, the ground of  we attack to the BBC come from a wide economic background, have a diverse range of views. That is essential to us – it is mission critical.”

This stance “puts us in a very different place to where the rest of the world is heading in my view, which is a dangerous place around partial media,” he added.

“We are in a battle for this – we are not perfect… but to facilitate a pace where we can properly debate these issues.”

BBC boss: It’s getting tougher to leave political opinions at the door

It is getting “tougher” for people to leave their political opinions at the BBC’s door, Tim Davie has admitted. 

Asked if he had hired anyone to the senior BBC team who supported Brexit, the director-general told MPs: “I don’t know. We are hiring people all the time. I don’t know where my top team is on Brexit. We don’t talk like that.”

Discussing the challenge of hiring journalists from across the political spectrum, he said: “It’s absolutely appropriate to leave (political views) at the door. That is what we do. And, by the way, we have done it pretty well for 99 years.

“I think it is just tougher now, by the way. The culture wars are raging. I think we have got a real battle on our hands. I walk a tightrope every day on this. But we have got to fight for this. It is not an easy choice.”

BBC News boss’ surprise exit ‘absolutely nothing to do with Jess Brammar’

Jess Brammar’s appointment has sparked controversy Credit: PA

Fran Unsworth’s departure from the BBC has “absolutely nothing to do with Jess Brammar,” the corporation’s director general has said. 

Ms Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news, is to leave in January. 

Tim Davie told MPs the two things were “not in the slightest” related. He added: “It has nothing to do with the latest incident. After 41 years.. this is a planned move. It has absolutely nothing to do with Jess Brammar.”

He also defended the decision to hire Ms Brammar, saying once people “enter the building, impartiality is sacrosanct”, but that people should not be excluded on the basis of historical tweets. 

Mr Davie, who confirmed he had stood as a Conservative councillor but was never successful, warned that the row could have wider repercussions if people felt no one who had ever expressed opinions could be hired, noting that the BBC had recently hired individuals from The Telegraph and elsewhere.

Jess Brammar appointment ‘not tainted’ by row, insists BBC chairman

The appointment of Jess Brammar as executive editor of the BBC’s news channels has not been “tainted” by the row sparked after a former Downing Street adviser objected. 

Richard Sharp, the new chairman of the BBC, told MPs that additional considerations had been undertaken “in light of some of things discussed in relation to Martin Bashir… reputational importance… impartiality, balance etc”.

He suggested that concerns about her appointment were raised because “there were some people who didn’t fully understand the changing nature” of the BBC’s structure. 

Asked about the appropriateness of board member Sir Robbie Gibb’s intervention, Mr Sharp said “people are entitled to their fears and concerns, that doesn’t mean they are right”. 

Asked if her appointment had been “tainted”, he insisted the process “followed the right protocols”, but declined to comment on private communication. 

‘Cowardly attack on democracy’: Labour left attack plans to overhaul leadership election

Westminster is rife with rumours that Labour’s leadership team will shake-up the way future leaders are elected – sparking fury and concern among some of the left of the party. 

Sir Keir Starmer – who is under pressure from unions – is mulling plans to overhaul the reforms introduced by Ed Miliband for nominating candidates. 

John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, attacked plans to “bounce [this] through conference”, saying it is “critical Labour MPs make it clear they reject this proposal and reassert right of members to elect leader”. 

Zarah Sultana, the Corbynite MP for Coventry, claimed it was a “cowardly attack on democracy”, adding: “It would radically reduce members’ say and hand wildly disproportionate power to MPs in Westminster.”

And here is what the now-independent MP Jeremy Corbyn has to say: 

Removing the current system of electing Labour’s leader – again reducing the members’ vote to one third, while increasing the vote of MPs to one third – would be deeply undemocratic.

It’s time to stop attacking Labour members’ democratic rights – and take the fight to the Tories

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 21, 2021

Key Boris Johnson ally joins DLUHC – but we still don’t know how to say it

Boris Johnson’s former personal secretary is to join Michael Gove at the newly beefed up Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). 

Danny Kruger, one of the 2019 intake, is joining the team as Mr Gove’s parliamentary private secretary – which he described as a “v junior non ministerial post”. 

The jury is still out on exactly how to pronounce DLUHC, however. 

Eddie Hughes, one of the new Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) ministers, says the DLUHC has not yet decided how to pronounce DLUHC pic.twitter.com/gXH8v6Cn8j

— Tony Diver (@Tony_Diver) September 20, 2021

Weekly Covid deaths rise 30 per cent in a week

A total of 857 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending September 10 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate – up 30 per cent on the previous week.

That means a total of 160,374 deaths have occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.

The highest number on a single day was 1,484 on January 19. During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 on April 8 2020.

Travel ban expected to be dropped for British travellers who have had AstraZeneca jab 

US chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci has suggested that British travellers who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca (AZ) jab will be allowed into the United States. 

Dr Fauci told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t believe there’s any reason to believe that people who have received the AZ vaccine should feel that there is going to be any problem with them.”

But asked if he expects that anyone who has had other vaccines approved by the UK Government will be able to travel to the US, Dr Fauci told the programme: “I can’t account for every vaccine that has been approved by the UK.

“I am not sure about all of them but the specific one about AZ, given that we have a substantial amount of information on the AZ vaccine – again without being definitive about it – I would predict that there would not be a problem there.

“The final decision goes with the CDC.”

Ask away: Join our Q&A on the energy crisis tomorrow

If you have any burning questions about the mounting energy crisis that you feel are going unanswered, we are on hand to help. 

Just fill in the form below and join our Q&A session tomorrow.

Watch: Climate change protesters walk out in the middle of M25 (again)

Climate change protesters have disrupted traffic on the M25 this morning yet again – but the police were on-hand to stop them from making a morning of it. 

Ministers including Boris Johnson have warned that the likes of Isolate Britain are undermining their own cause. 

Watch the moment they stepped out in front of speeding cars below. 

Heart racing. Insulate Britain just rushed onto the main carriageway of the M25, blockading both sides near J10 Cobham. Police then launched into a sprint race to grab and drag them onto the hard shoulder. Road now reopened. Vid by @PaigeFCollier pic.twitter.com/rRa92kZtLn

— Rachael Venables (@rachaelvenables) September 21, 2021

Afghan data breach makes chances of escape ‘pretty slim’, claims former minister 

The data breach at the Ministry of Defence is a “terrible” mistake and “it makes people’s lives very difficult,” Conservative MP Johnny Mercer has said.

The former minister and army veteran told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “this Afghan relocation programme has been behind the curve the entire time”, adding the breach will “have a profound impact on the people who are still left in the country.”

The chances of the people on this email list making it out safely were “pretty slim”, he added. 

“Moving around Afghanistan is pretty difficult for the people I am speaking (to). The Taliban have presented this united polished front but the reality is that they are a collection of tribes who run the country.

“Three weeks after the end of our withdrawal from Afghanistan no-one has been given the information of how we actually get people out and that is what I am interested in.”

US-UK trade deal ‘not on the back-burner’, minister insists

A trade deal between the UK and US is “not on the back-burner”, the Business Secretary has insisted. 

Speaking to reporters on his flight to New York, Boris Johnson played down hopes of a speedy breakthrough on free trade talks, telling them Joe Biden “has a lot of fish to fry” and he would rather wait to “get a deal that really works for the UK than get a quick deal.”

Asked about these comments, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “What the Prime Minister said… is that it’s much better to take our time to get a really good deal with the US, than simply to rush the process and get a bad deal.”

Asked about timings for a potential deal, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am not privy to those discussions. I am hopeful we can get there but I can’t give you a time.

“Trade deals can take very different amounts of time, I can’t possibly guess how long this particular one will take.”

CO2 shortage will cause gaps in shelves ‘in about 10 days’

Shelves have already had gaps this summer because of a shortage of HGV drivers Credit: Reuters

Shoppers may notice that products are missing from supermarket shelves “in about 10 days”, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation has said.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ian Wright described the potential shortages of CO2 supply as “a real crisis” and said “the just-in-time system which underpins both supermarkets and hospitality industry is under the most strain it has ever been in the 40 years it has been there”.

He said that poultry production will begin to erode very seriously by the end of this week, with the same being true of pig production and the making of bakery goods. Meat packaging is probably only about a week behind, he added.

He said: “We probably have about 10 days before this gets to the point where consumers, shoppers and diners notice that those products are not available.”

Energy firms will not get ‘blank cheque’ for taking on customers, says minister

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary Credit: Reuters

Large energy companies who take on customers from firms that collapse this winter will not be handed “a blank cheque”, the Business Secretary has vowed.

Kwasi Kwarteng told BBC Breakfast: “Any support for those larger companies will be in terms of working capital, will be a loan, it won’t be just a grant, it won’t be just a blank cheque.

“It will be something where – if we do have this facility, if we do have this policy – they will be expected to pay back the loans, whereas in the case of a bailout, that’s what it is.

“It’s just a bailout where you grant money, taxpayers’ money, and the taxpayer doesn’t see any return from that.”

Price cap may rise – but firms won’t be able to set their own fees, says Business Secretary

The Business Secretary has not ruled out the energy price cap rising in April next year, but insisted companies will not be able to “set whatever fees they want”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast,  Kwasi Kwarteng said: “There are always fears that the price cap may go up, but, of course, it can also go down. We don’t know, frankly, what the gas price is going to be in six months’ time.”

He added: “I’d love to be able to inform you six months ahead of time what the energy prices will be.

“All I’m saying is that we are going to have a cap, we’re not going to go back to the world where a few … companies essentially can set whatever fees they want, whatever prices they want. That’s not something that I want to see again.”

Business Secretary: People may pay more for gas this winter

Gas prices are set to rise Credit: PA

The Business Secretary has insisted there are “lots of schemes in place which protect [the poorest] from price increases”, amid criticism for the timing of tax increases and benefit cuts as energy prices rise.  

Kwasi Kwarteng rejected the suggestion that National Insurance would be part of the problem because it doesn’t “kick in” for another six months. 

“I fully accept that gas prices being where they are there is a risk that people will be paying more on their gas bills,” he added. “But there are lots of scheme that protect the most vulnerable customers. 

“Going forward we want to see a more stable market.”

Green levies will not be paused, says Business Secretary

Green levies will not be paused because they have been a “British success story”, the Business Secretary has said, amid pressure to scrap them.

Some energy companies have called for the levies – which fund renewable energy subsidy schemes – to be dropped to ease pressure in the industry.

Asked on Sky News whether he had considered doing away with the scheme, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “No, I haven’t. You’ll appreciate that’s an issue for the Chancellor, because it’s a fiscal tax.

“But I think the green levies is pretty much in its infancy and, actually, we’ve been very successful at moving away from fossil fuels, to renewable sources of power, and that’s a British success story.”

Business Secretary: It could be ‘very difficult winter’

The Business Secretary has admitted it “could be a very difficult winter” with a number of pressures on family budgets, including removing the uplift of Universal Credit.

Kwasi Kwarteng insisted National Insurance was not a “winter issue” as the rise won’t come into effect until next April, but the “global energy spike” would be challenging, which is why the price cap would remain in place. 

“We’ve got the warm home discount, we’ve got winter fuel payments, which are again focused on the most vulnerable customers,” he added. “So, we’re completely focused on helping vulnerable customers through this winter, particularly with regard to energy prices.”

Pushed on the issue of Universal Credit, he said: “It’s a difficult situation, it could be a very difficult winter.

“That’s why, as energy minister, I’m very focused on helping people that are fuel poor. Universal Credit, you will know, is an issue for the Chancellor and the Work and Pensions Secretary, I’m speaking to them a great deal about it.”

CO2 deal to be struck ‘today’, so food production can resume this week, says Business Secretary

There have been warnings of a ‘farmaggedon’ if CO2 production does not restart Credit: iStockphoto

A deal to address the country’s carbon dioxide shortage could be struck “today” so that food production can resume in the next couple of days, the Business Secretary has said. 

Kwasi Kwarteng has said he had spoken to both the boss of CF Industries and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, about this, noting that the issue was the cost of natural gas had risen above the price of ammonia and CO2.

Asked if the Government was prepared to subsidise a foreign company, he said he was “looking at different ways we can provide support”, and insisted any support would be temporary.

“It may come at some cost, we are still hammering out the details,” he added. He was “averse” to nationalising the company. 

He was “prepared to look at every solution” to get production back up and running, Mr Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

Chancellor ‘determined to get public finances on track’ as borrowing overshoots forecasts

UK borrowing shot higher in August to hit £20.5bn after July’s fall, much higher than a consensus forecast of £15.6bn.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said last month’s figure was the second highest August borrowing since records began in 1993, but it is down from £26 billion a year earlier.

The data shows borrowing so far this financial year has reached £93.8 billion since the end of March – £88.9 billion less than the same period a year ago.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, did not engage with the figures published this morning, but issued a statement saying:

“As we Build Back Better from the pandemic, we are continuing with our Plan for Jobs, getting more people into work, supporting businesses, and investing in our public services.

“At the same time, we are determined to get our public finances back on track – that’s why we have set out the focussed and responsible steps we are taking to keep debt under control.”

Business Secretary admits some people won’t be able to afford to heat homes

Supply is not an issue – but cost is, admits the Business Secretary Credit: Reuters

The Business Secretary has conceded that some people might not be able to afford to heat their homes, but insisted that  “the security of supply is not an issue”.

Yesterday Kwasi Kwarteng insisted the lights would stay on this winter and there would be no return to the three-day week – but this has been challenged because of fears that people will have to choose between heating and eating.

He told Sky News it was a “myth” that supply could run out and added: “What I said yesterday was the security of supply is not an issue. We’ve got lots of diverse sources of gas.”

But when it was put to him that some people would not be able to afford to use gas over the winter because of rising prices, he said: “Yes.”

He added: “You are mixing up two things here. There are other reasons why people can’t… it costs a lot of money.”

Afghan data breach ‘deeply worrying’, says minister 

A data breach involving the email addresses of dozens of Afghan interpreters who worked for British forces is “deeply worrying”, the Business Secretary has said. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has ordered an urgent investigation after it emerged that more than 250 people seeking relocation to the UK – many of whom are in hiding – were mistakenly copied into an email from the Ministry of Defence.

Their email addresses could be seen by all recipients, showing people’s names and some associated profile pictures, according to the BBC. 

Kwasi Kwarteng said this was “very concerning,… it is deeply worrying, it will cause a lot of concern among our friends in Afghanistan.”

He added: “It’s very difficult when people know what others have been doing but let’s get to the bottom of it first… it’s a serious situation.”

Government softens stance on Universal Credit cut

Kwasi Kwarteng has again indicated an apparent softening in the Government’s position towards ending the Universal Credit uplift next month. 

Yesterday the Business Secretary skirted the question, about which he was asked repeatedly during a Commons debate, telling MPs it was a cross-government decision. 

Today, Mr Kwarteng again fudged it. 

He told Times Radio it was “not something I talk about”, but “the Chancellor [Rishi Sunak] and Work and Pensions Secretary [Therese Coffey] are talking about it. 

“In this energy situation, our number one priority is to protect vulnerable customers,” he told Sky Nes. “We have the warm homes discount, winter fuel payout- there are lots of schemes to support people who are in fuel poverty.”

Energy crisis ‘not a house of cards’, minister insists, as crunch talks continue

The Business Secretary has said “the next few days are going to be quite challenging” as he battles to resolve the energy crisis. 

Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News talks would continue today with smaller energy suppliers to ensure he has got “a full range of market opinion”. 

The minister argued that the market normally sees five-to-eight firms fail every year and that not every one should expect a bailout – but left the door open to doing so if they are a going concern. 

State-backed loans could be given out to those firms who take on customers from failed groups, saying: “It costs a company to absorb up to 100,000 customers, there may well be provision for some sort of loan – that has been discussed.”

The situation was “not a house of cards”, he added. 

Johnson: I’d rather wait for a ‘great’ UK-US trade deal

Boris Johnson appears to have given up hope of securing a UK-US free trade deal any time soon, saying that Joe Biden, the US president, has other “fish to fry”.

In comments underscoring how many steps remain until a final agreement is struck, Mr Johnson said he would rather wait for a “great” deal than hurry talks.

His official spokesman declined to say he believed a deal could be done and got through Congress before the US midterm elections next November. It means that, more than five years after the Brexit vote, it remains unclear how, when and in what form a UK-US deal – much touted in by eurosceptics – will happen.

Read more on that here.

Good Morning

With the weather feeling increasingly autumnal, the energy crisis looks set to get worse before it gets better. 

Firms are calling for the price cap to be lifted – but there appears to be little appetite for such a move within Government, suggesting there is a high chance more companies will go under. 

Here is today’s front page.