It’s the last day before ministers head back to their constituencies for the summer, and they have dumped a whole load of information on the government website: 30 written ministerial statements.
This has needled Labour, who have been quick to point out Theresa May’s previous complaints about this kind of thing. This is May in 2006:
“I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business. I note that today, the last day before the recess, there are 39 written statements by Ministers, with no chance for questions to Ministers. Given his responsibilities to the House, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that in future fewer written statements and more oral statements are made by Ministers?”
And there’s more bad news buried elsewhere, too. Here’s just some of it:
1. An Extra Year of “Arbitrary, Unfair” School Funding
In March, former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan promised to reform the way school funding is distributed by 2017-18, as it is “outdated, inefficient and unfair”.
In a written statement today, new Education Secretary Justine Greening wholeheartedly agreed, calling the currently system “arbitrary, out of date and unfair”.... and quietly postponing its reform until 2018-19.
The formula has previously been criticised as it would shift funds out of deprived inner city areas. There has also been speculation it is an attempt to appease rural Tory MPs, whose constituencies would benefit. So perhaps May has her reasons for postponing it.
Indeed, as The Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh wrote this morning, procrastination is becoming a bit of a theme with the new Prime Minister. May has demurred over the infamous Tory pledge to get migration down to the tens of thousands by 2020, she has pushed off Universal credit till 2022, and child obesity now won’t be dealt with until the autumn.
2. A Tuition Fees Rise
University tuition fees in England will rise to £9,250 per year from 2017. Currently they are capped at £9,000. And this will apply to some students who have already started their courses, too.
Here’s the relevant bit of the statement from Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson:
Fees will continue to rise in subsequent years in line with inflation.
Lib Dem spokesperson Lorely Burt said:
“It is a kick in the teeth to students to tell them that fees are going to rise at the same time as freezing the point at which they have to pay them back. The Government are reneging on the deal reached in 2010 - and that means poorer students paying back more and for longer. We will fight them every step of the way.”
Speaking of the Lib Dems.. last time tuition fees went up we got a video of Nick Clegg making a tuneful apology. Nothing of that sort so far today, but it did emerge that Clegg spent £8000 last March making a Gravesend-themed recreation of Carly Rae Jepson’s “I really like you” in a bid to show his party was “fun”.
3. Cybercrime Almost Doubled The National Crime Rate:
The Office of National Statistics has published some new crime stats. They find there have been 5.8 million incidents of cybercrime in the last year - many more than previously recorded.
This makes one in ten people in Britain the victim of fraud or a cyber crime attack, makes cybercrime Britain’s predominant crime, and is enough to almost double the national crime rate.
Not great news for whoever was Home Secretary at the time...
4. 5,700 Cases Of FGM, And Not A Single Conviction
England’s first annual figures for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have been released. They recorded 5,700 cases between April 2015 and March 2016.
The data was collected by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. It showed that FGM was most commonly practiced on five- to nine-year-olds.
There has never been a single conviction for FGM in Britain, although the practice has been illegal since 1985.
Again, not a great one for the last Home Secretary, whoever that was.
5. An Allegation Of Child Sex Abuse Involving A Mexican Diplomat
In a statement to MPs today Boris Johnson revealed allegations about a Mexican diplomat who had been staying in the UK. They involve “taking an indecent photograph/pseudo-photograph of a child; and using threatening/abusive/insulting words or behaviour to cause harrasment/alarm/distress”, as well as “causing a child aged 13 to 15 to watch/look at an image of sexual activity”.
The statement also reveals that a Saudi Arabian diplomat was accused of human trafficking.
It is not known whether either diplomat has been prosecuted. Lib Dem MP Tim Farron called on the government to release the information. He said:
“Diplomatic immunity should not provide a ‘get out of jail’ card for those perpetrating such serious crimes.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office must clarify whether these people have been prosecuted, whether their diplomatic immunity is still in place and what their current status is.”
6. £300,000 Of Unpaid Parking Fines Incurred By Foreign Diplomats
In 2015 foreign diplomats ran up a hefty £300,000 in parking debt. The worst offenders are in the table above, published by the Foreign Office today.
The mounting unpaid congestion charge debt incurred by diplomatic missions in London between February 2003 and December 2015 was £95,811,650.
In his former role as London Mayor Johnson railed against the congestion charge bill run up by foreign diplomats.