At the London Tech Week event Rishi Sunak is now taking questions from journalists.
Asked about Boris Johnson, he says Johnson asked him to do something that he was not prepared to do, because he “didn’t think it was right”.
He says Johnson wanted him to either over-ruled the House of Lords Appointments Committee, or to make promises (to the MPs offered peerages by Johnson, who wanted to delay their resignations until later, so as not to cause byelections).
This is the first on-the-record explanation we have had from Sunak about the rift with Johnson over the honours list.
There is a round of applause for Sunak when he says this. (This is highly unusual in a Q&A like this.)
Sunak is now taking questions at the London Tech Week. He is in a Q&A with Demis Hassabis from Google’s DeepMind.
He says the UK was at the forefront of inventions during the industrial revolution. Going forward, he says regulation is key; you need a balance between regulation that supports innovation but also puts appropriate protections in place.
“The UK has a track record of getting that balance right,” he says.
And he says creative industries will be an important component of tech in the future. He says that is another areas where the UK is strong.
This is from Sky’s Rob Powell.
Rishi Sunak is speaking at London Tech Week.
In his opening remarks, he said the tech world was changing very quickly, and that the government could not afford to rest if it wanted to exploit the opportunities available.
The UK was the third country in the world for unicorns (tech start-ups worth $1bn), he said. It was third in the world behind the US and China.
Sunak also said the UK was the best country in the Europe for raising capital for tech. He went on:
What’s the single most important reason innovators like you should choose this country? The answer is leadership. Do you trust the people in charge to really get what you’re trying to do
With this government, and with me as your prime minister, you can judge us not by our words, but our actions. It’s this government that’s building the most pro-investment tax regime, that’s increasing public R&D investment to record levels, that’s making our visa system for international talent one of the most competitive in the world, but overhauling our listing rules to make it easier for companies to raise public funding and changing our pension rules to unlock new private capital.
Sunak said AI offered great opportunities. But it had to be developed in a way that was safe, he said, and he highlighted three government initiatives to achieve this.
First, he said the government was working with companies to ensure they give early access to their models, so they can be evaluated.
Second, the UK will host an international conference on AI regulation, he said.
And, third, he said the government was investing in AI to ensure that it could be used to benefit public services.
Good morning. At the end of last week Boris Johnson, and two of his most loyal supporters, resigned their Commons seats, unexpectedly and without any need to do so, triggering byelections that could destabilise Rishi Sunak’s government. Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams offered no proper explanation for what they were doing, and Johnson (wrongly) claimed that he was being forced out because the privileges committee is due to publish a report saying he misled parliament. (He could have stayed in the Commons to defend himself, and only losing a recall election would have forced him out for good.) Johnson’s resignation statement attacked the privileges committee, but the three resignations were also an implicit declaration of war against Sunak by a former PM whose only hope of returning to the political frontline rests on Sunak losing the next election.
In this situation, what does Sunak do? Go on the offensive and seek to marginalise Johnson even more? Or calm things down, avoid antagonising the Johnson faction even further, and hope that mainstream party opinion will unite behind the leadership. Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has been giving interviews on behalf of the government this morning, and he made it clear that No 10 is adopting the latter strategy. Here are some of his messages.
The people who served on that committee were asked by the House of Commons collectively to do a particular job. It’s a job that has required careful work on their part and no little effort to make a series of significant judgments.
So I have respect for the work that they have done. And I think that we need to respect again the integrity of the process, and wait until the report is published before then debating its conclusions and the consequences.
The second thing that I want to say is that I do deprecate the fact that they are now in a position where, as reported, they have to seek or have been granted additional security. As someone who’s been through that position myself in the past then I extend my sympathy to them and their families at this point.
Gove did not explain why the MPs on the committee feel they are under threat. It is because Johnson has accused it of acting like a “kangaroo court”, and suggested that it is ruling against him as part of some shadowy establishment plot to undermine Brexit, and because some Tory MPs, notably Jacob Rees-Mogg, have said much the same. The committee is meeting this morning to finalise its report into Johnson.
Elections are part of political life. It’s also the case I think that you do best in elections when you concentrate on good government.
And we are united behind Rishi Sunak in making sure that we demonstrate that the priorities that the British public have are those which govern every waking moment that we have.
- Gove declined to criticise Johnson, Dorries or Adams explicitly. Asked repeatedly on the Today programme to acknowledge Johnson’s faults, he said he preferred to remember his achievements, and in another interview he refused to criticise Dorries or Adams for standing down.
I’ve offered Boris advice in the past. He hasn’t always taken it. And so therefore, I think Boris will make his own mind up.
Some Tories want Sunak to declare that Johnson cannot stand again as a candidate, while Johnson’s supporters are saying blocking him would be unacceptable. It is not surprising that No 10 currently seems to be sitting on the fence on this one.
We should hear from Sunak on the topic of Johnson soon. Here is the agenda for the day.
9am: Rishi Sunak gives a speech on AI at the London Tech Week conference.
Morning: The Commons privileges committee meets in private to discuss the final version of its report on claims Boris Johnson misled MPs about Partygate.
11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby conference.
After 3.30pm: MPs debate Lords amendments to the retained EU law (revocation and reform) bill. Later there will be a debate on Public Order Act regulations, followed by a general debate on the principle of excluding MPs from the parliamentary estate if they are deemed a risk to staff because of accusations they face.
4pm: James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, gives evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee on the integrated review.
Also, Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, will be campaigning today in Mid Bedfordshire, ahead of the byelection caused by the resignation of Nadine Dorries.
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Published: 2023-06-12 08:27:11