In a week that saw Theresa May finally convince the European Union to move onto phase two of the Brexit talks as well as suffer a humiliating Commons defeat at the hands of her own backbenchers – you could be forgiven for missing some of the other important stories. Here are seven things that may have been buried by Brexit.
1. High Court Rules Removal Of Homeless EU Citizens Is Unlawful
Figures released on Thursday showed a sharp rise in homelessness in England in the three months to September 2017, with 15,290 households accepted as being statutorily homeless – up 6% from 14,390 in the same period last year. On the same day, the High Court ruled a Home Office policy, which sees EU citizens who are sleeping rough deported from the UK, was unlawful. The government said it was “disappointed” by the judgement, but would not appeal it.
2. Taxpayers’ money wasted on HS2
More than £1.7m of taxpayers’ money was wasted on unauthorised redundancy payouts for HS2 staff, according to a report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. The “shocking” overspend was down to the former chief executive of the government-run organisation offering staff who were unable to relocate from London to Birmingham unauthorised severance deals. New bosses in charge of the flagship £55bn high-speed rail project said they recognised mistakes had been made and “held their hands up”.
3. Suicide rates in prison reach record levels
The House of Commons’ Public Account Committee began examining the prison system after the alarming news that there were 120 self-inflicted deaths of prisoners in 2016 – an all-time high and almost double that of 2012. Around 70% of those who died were known to have an existing mental health condition. Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said the “deep-rooted failures” in the management of prisoners’ mental health were a damning indictment of the government’s record on the issue.
4. Schools are teaching women must consent to sex
Education watchdog Ofsted said its investigations revealed some ultra-conservative, illegal faith schools have been found teaching pupils that women must consent to sex with her husband. The number of unregistered – and therefore illegal – “highly conservative” Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith schools is growing in England, with some distributing “sexist and misogynistic” literature and spreading beliefs that directly clash with UK equality law.
5. May denies Hammond disabled people comment
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Theresa May was asked if she would make Philip Hammond apologise for his claim that lower UK productivity rates were down to an increase in the number of disabled workers. The PM said she would not, as her chancellor had done no such thing – despite it being…on video. Disability charity Scope – who said the letter they wrote to May about the incident was ignored – once again called on Hammond to apologise for his “unacceptable and derogatory” comments.
6. Labour suspend Watford selection
Labour’s selection battle for the key marginal seat of Watford, due to be decided on Thursday, was suspended amid concerns postal ballot rules had been broken. In an email seen by HuffPost UK, Labour’s regional director for East England told the local party “a number of procedural errors did occur such that cannot be ignored”. According to one source, 88 emergency postal ballots were applied for – an unusually high number. The final selection has been postponed until the New Year while further investigations take placec, with February 1 the new date.
7. No.10 gender pay gap exposed
A Cabinet Office list of salaries for senior government staff was released last Friday, revealing Downing Street communications director Robbie Gibb makes £140,000 a year.
His predecessor Katie Perrior, who quit before June’s general election, earned £15,000 less when she was doing the job. Ministers have been accused of failing to take the gender pay gap issue seriously, with Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker accusing Theresa May of “importing inequality into Downing Street”
8. Labour delays inquiry into Kelvin Hopkins misconduct
Labour put off its investigation into alleged sexual harassment by MP Kelvin Hopkins to give the former shadow cabinet minister more time to defend himself. The 76-year-old leftwinger faces separate claims of inappropriate conduct towards a 27-year-old activist and towards fellow MP Kerry McCarthy.
Party member Ava Etemadzadeh alleged that Hopkins sent her an inappropriate text and rubbed his crotch against her after a student event in 2014. The case was due to go before the National Executive Committee’s new sexual harassment panel this week, but the party confirmed on Wednesday that it had now been delayed until the New Year.