Boris Johnson suggests he is digging in on rail strikes, telling cabinet they must stay the course live

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12.35pm BST

Treasury says triple lock means state pension rise next year likely to be ‘significantly higher’ than inflation

In response to a parliamentary written answer , Simon Clarke , chief secretary to the Treasury, has confirmed that the government will apply the pensions “triple lock” again this year. The mechanism, which was suspended last year because the impact of Covid meant it would have had a distorted impact, says pensions will go up in line with earnings, or inflation, or 2.5% – whichever is higher.

Clarke said:

Next year, the triple lock will apply for the state pension. Subject to the secretary of state’s review, pensions and other benefits will be uprated by this September’s CPI which, on current forecasts, is likely to be significantly higher than the forecast inflation rate for 2023/24.

This is from Josephine Cumbo , the FT’s global pensions correspondent.

12.18pm BST

Momentum, the Labour group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn and his agenda when Corbyn was party leader, says Keir Starmer’s attempt to ban fronbenchers from RMT picket lines (see 9.31am and 11.40am) shows the party has “lost its way”. A spokeperson for Momentum said:

The Labour party was founded to represent the interests of workers. But under Keir Starmer’s leadership, the party has lost its way. Instead, it is Socialist Campaign Group MPs out there on the picket lines with rail workers who refuse to accept cuts to their pay and conditions, in a time of spiralling inflation. That’s the basic solidarity that the Labour name demands.

It has also posted this on social media.

Updated at 12.21pm BST

12.13pm BST

RMT leader Mick Lynch says proposal to let agency staff fill in for striking rail workers unworkable ‘nonsense’

In interviews this morning Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, reaffirmed the government’s intention to change the legislation to allow firms to use agency workers to fill in for staff who are on strike. (See 11.14am.) As we report in our overnight lead on the strike, Whitehall sources say No 10 and the Cabinet Office are pushing for this, rather than the business department.

Yesterday, the TUC and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) put out a joint statement opposing the idea “in the strongest possible terms”. They said it was unworkable.

This morning Mick Lynch , the RMT general secretary, also dismissed the idea, which he described as “nonsense”. He said:

I don’t know how bringing in untrained, non-safety critical, inexperienced workers into a dangerous environment like the railway – with high speed trains, there are high voltage distribution systems, there are rules and regulations that have the power of statute – how that will help anyone, whether they are a passenger or a worker or manager or whatever?

I don’t see how the use, the deployment of students or people who have got no work experience that are working for an agency will help anyone to resolve this situation, so as usual [Grant Shapps is] just spouting nonsense given to him from some policy unit which doesn’t help to resolve the situations which are in front of us.
Mick Lynch on a picket line outside King’s Cross station in London this morning. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Updated at 12.35pm BST

11.51am BST

And here is the Tory response to Labour MPs joining RMT picket lines. This is from Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair.

And this is from the Conservative party’s Twitter account.

11.47am BST

Labour has said that the chief whip, Alan Campbell, will wait until the strike action is over before deciding what disciplinary action to take against frontbenchers and PPSs who have joined RMT picket lines despite being told not to. (See 11.40am.) A party spokesperson said:

Unlike the government, our focus is firmly on the public. The Tories are in charge, and they failed to fix it. The responsibility for this week’s chaos lies firmly with them. Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps must U-turn on their refusal to even meet with Network Rail and the RMT to urgently find a solution.

Updated at 12.33pm BST

11.40am BST

Labour whip joins parliamentary aides in defying order from Starmer not to join RMT picket lines

Some leftwing Labour MPs have joined RMT picket lines today – despite Keir Starmer’s office saying frontbenchers should stay away (see 9.31am) – and posting pictures on Twitter.

Earlier I posted a tweet from Kate Osborne , who joined an RMT picket lined despite being a parliamentary private secretary (PPS), which means she is covered by the order for frontbenchers not to join picket lines. (See 9.42am.) This is from Navendu Mishra , who as a whip is also covered by the instruction from Keir Starmer’s office.

This is from Ian Lavery, a former Labour party chair.

This is from Richard Burgon , secretary of the Campaign group in parliament, which represents leftwing Labour MPs.

This is from Zarah Sultana.

This is from Beth Winter.

This is from Paula Barker, who as a PPS is under orders not to be on a picket line.

This is from Kim Johnson, another PPS.

Tahir Ali says at some point he will be on a picket line.

And Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader who is currently suspended from the parliamentary party, has posted this on Twitter expressing his support for the RMT.

11.14am BST

Shapps claims, if he got involved in talks with RMT, that would not make settlement of dispute more likely

Grant Shapps , the transport secretary, gave a round of interviews this morning about the rail strike. Here are the key points.

  • Shapps implied that, if he were personally to get involved in the talks with unions, that would not make a settlement of the dispute any more likely. He told Sky News:

If I thought there was even a one in a million chance that my being in the room would help sorted it out, then I’d be there. Mick Lynch is the head of the union, the RMT, and he said last month he would never negotiate with a Tory government.

Shapps also claimed that if he were in the room, that would undermine the talks. Asked why, he explained:

Because these are highly technical negotiations, they involve 20-plus areas of reform which are required which are extremely technical.

Shapps said the call of him to get involved personally was a “red herring” publicised by Labour. He said when Labour was last in government, ministers did not get involved in industrial disputes with firefighters and postal workers; they left it to management. Not gettting involved was “standard practice” for ministers, he claimed. And he said in the 1970s, when unions leaders were invited into No 10 for “beer and sandwiches”, labour relations did not work out well.

  • He said the government’s emergency committee, Cobra, would be meeting this week to consider the impact of the rail strike.
  • He said he expected fewer than 20% of trains to be running today.
  • He claimed that Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, was “determined to turn himself back into one of those 1970s union barons”. (The frequent reference by ministers to union barons – see 10.14am – is evidence that the government is run by a journalist. No one else talks about union barons. It is classic journalese. Unlike real barons, who sit in the House of Lords, the union ones hold office because they are elected by their members.)
  • Shapps confirmed that the government would change the law to allow firms to bring in agency workers to minimise the disruption caused by strike action
  • Shapps said the government was still committed to legislating to force train companies to operate a minimum level of service during strike action.
Grant Shapps at cabinet this morning. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

10.39am BST

Network Rail boss denies ministers urged it to cap pay offer

On the Today programme this morning Andrew Haines , chief executive of Network Rail, argued that, if modernisation could be used to make the railways more effective, he would be able to offer rail workers a much more generous pay rise. But unions were opposed to modernisation, he claimed. Giving examples, he said:

We have people who won’t share the same van, so we send two vans to site … They block for nearly a year the introduction of an app so that we can communicate with our own staff, [they’re] blocking the introduction of new safety planning tools, restricting the use of new technology, not turning on a forward-facing camera in a car or a van that they’re driving, [we’re] having to roster people in whole teams regardless of the size of the task, not being able to move people from work that’s not necessary to work that is necessary.

When this was put to Mick Lynch , the RMT general secretary, he said all of those items were being discussed. He said the union was willing to negotiate change. But it wanted a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, he said.

As my colleague Emily Dugan reports, in his Today interview Haines also denied being told by ministers to cap the pay increase being offered to rail workers at 3%. He said:

The government recognises there’s so much productivity available in the industry that for the right deal we could go above that. So 3% would be a constraint if we weren’t able to achieve any productivity.

Related: Network Rail boss denies ministers urged it to cap pay offer

Updated at 12.34pm BST

10.14am BST

Johnson signals he will not give in to RMT rail demands, telling cabinet they must ‘stay the course’ and push through reforms

Boris Johnson opened cabinet this morning with a message saying reform in the rail industry was essential. In the past we normally only found out what the PM said at cabinet when No 10 (or other ministers) briefed it out, but for the last few weeks Johnson has been using cabinet as a photo opportunity and he has invited in a camera crew to record his opening spiel. Here are some of the points he made this morning, from what was broadcast by Sky News.

  • Johnson claimed the government was making bigger investments in railways than any previous government. The integrated rail plan alone was worth £96bn, he said. It was “truly transformational”, he claimed.
  • But he claimed that investment would not be possible without reform. He said:

But if we’re going to do these colossal investments, as we are and as we must, we’ve got to have reform … It cannot be right that some ticket offices, I think, are selling roughly one ticket per hour. We need to get those staff out from behind the plate glass onto the platforms interacting with passengers, with customers, in the way that they want to do.

And we need the union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies and get on with it.

  • He said the country had to get ready to “stay the course” because reforms were essential. They would cut costs, he argued.

We need, I’m afraid, everybody – and I say this to the country as a whole – we need to get ready to stay the course. Because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways, are in the interest of the travelling public. They will help to cut costs of fare payers up and down the country.

‘Stay the course’ sounded like a Thatcherite declaration that he was not going to give in to the union demands at any point. But whether the government retains the appetite for a no-compromise approach if disruption continues over the summer may be another matter.

  • Johnson said that if the modernisation programme did not go ahead, ticket prices would get more expensive. He told cabinet this morning:

If we don’t do this, these great companies, this great industry, will face further financial pressure, it will go bust and the result will be they have to hike up the cost of tickets still further so that people don’t use the railways at all or use them much less than they used to.

And that will, I think, be a disaster for this country and for our economy.

And he was a bit more blunt on this point in a quote released by No 10 overnight in the press notice previewing what he would be saying. This quoted Johnson as saying:

I want to be clear – we are not loading higher fares on passengers to carry on paying for working practices that date back in some cases to the 19th century.

This line is interesting because until now the government has attacked the strike largely on the grounds that it will cause intense inconvenience to commuters. But this argument links the strike, and rail reform, to the government’s longterm plan to help people with the cost of living.
Boris Johnson addressing cabinet Photograph: Sky News

Updated at 10.48am BST

9.45am BST
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, arriving at Downing Street for cabinet today. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

9.42am BST

The Labour MP Kate Osborne , who is parliamentary private secretary to the shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle, has joined an RMT picket line, in defiance of the orders from Keir Starmer’s office. (See 9.31am.) Asked if she would face disciplinary action, Pat McFadden , the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News: “That’s a matter for the whips and for Keir Starmer.”

Read more – THE GUARDIAN


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