Rishi Sunak faces 90 minutes of questions from senior MPs on parliament's Liaison Committee

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faced a comprehensive 90-minute questioning session by senior MPs on the parliament’s Liaison Committee, marking the final day he could call a 2 May election. This session was a critical opportunity for MPs to scrutinize the government’s work, particularly on strategic thinking, the economy, public services, and global issues. The Liaison Committee, composed of the chairs of parliament’s select committees, plays a crucial role in promoting effective scrutiny of the government and choosing committee reports for debates.

The session began with Harriet Baldwin, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, questioning Sunak about the leak of the budget’s main policy, the cut to national insurance, ahead of time. Sunak deplored the leaks and expressed his concern that such actions are not in the government’s interest. He also highlighted the importance of having debt under control, especially in the context of the last few years, including the pandemic’s impact.

Rishi Sunak faces 90 minutes of questions from senior MPs on parliament's Liaison Committee
Rishi Sunak faces 90 minutes of questions from senior MPs on parliament’s Liaison Committee

Clive Betts, chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, raised concerns about a potential “fundamental crisis in local government finance,” pointing out that in the last six years, eight councils have effectively declared bankruptcy, compared to none in the previous 16 years. Sunak responded by emphasizing the importance of councils as the backbones of their communities and acknowledged the challenges they face. He also mentioned the significant increase in funding for local government, including a £600m boost in the most recent local government finance settlement, which he argued would provide councils with around 7.5% more spending power in the forthcoming year than they had last year.

The session also covered a range of topics, including illegal migration, the Rwanda scheme, and the UK’s response to China’s cyberattacks. Sunak admitted there was no “firm date” to meet his pledge to “stop the boats” from bringing asylum seekers to the UK, despite it being one of his five priorities at the start of 2023. This admission sparked controversy, particularly with Labour’s Dame Meg Hillier, over the amount of money to be allocated to the Rwanda scheme.

Rishi Sunak faces 90 minutes of questions from senior MPs on parliament's Liaison Committee
Rishi Sunak faces 90 minutes of questions from senior MPs on parliament’s Liaison Committee

The session was not just about domestic issues; it also touched on international matters, with questions about the UK’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the potential restrictions against Chinese state-linked companies operating in Britain. The government’s response to China’s increasing authoritarianism and the sanctions announced against individuals and companies linked to cyberattacks were also discussed.

The Liaison Committee’s questioning of Sunak was a comprehensive examination of the government’s policies and performance, covering a broad spectrum of issues from domestic to international affairs. The session provided an opportunity for MPs to hold the government accountable and to scrutinize its strategies and actions in various areas of governance.

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