Sunak gets grilled

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As I write, prime minister Rishi Sunak is midway through his epic pre-recess questioning session at the hands of the liaison committee.

The liaison committee is made up of the chairs of other select committees and nominally “considers the overall work of … committees, promotes effective scrutiny of government and chooses committee reports for debates”. The inquisitors take it in turns to try and force a news line out of the prime minister, with each senior MP’s questioning typically running between 5-10 minutes.

This afternoon, the prime minister is facing questions on strategic thinking in government, the economy and public services, and global issues. As far as Sunak is concerned, it’s his job to look on top of his brief and across the detail on all manner of topics — something we know the PM prides himself in.

But we can still expect a few uncomfortable moments — certainly if Sunak’s previous liaison committee appearances are anything to go by. In recent times, the PM has been asked if he ever “lies awake at night” worrying about inequality; and if there is any firm date to fulfil his “stop the boats” pledge (there isn’t, apparently).

Kicking off today’s proceedings, then, Conservative MP and Treasury select committee chair Harriett Baldwin probed the PM about rising debt. Getting debt falling is famously one of Sunak’s “five pledges”.

Asked if the national debt will soon return to pre-pandemic levels, contrary to forecasts, Sunak responded: “Yes, I’d like to believe so”. The PM was then questioned about his government’s leaky spring budget — the key proposals of which somehow found their way onto the pages of the government’s favourite papers ahead of time.

Asked how this might have happened, Sunak insisted he “deplores these leaks”.

Next up, Clive Betts, chair of the levelling up, housing and communities committee, asked the PM if there is a “fundamental crisis in local government finance”. Sunak replied by saying councils have “around 7.5 per cent more spending power this forthcoming year than they did last year”. Betts quickly interrupted, however, to note that that increase is “in the context of a 30 per cent cut in spending power in the last 13 years”.

As Sunak’s grilling continues into the afternoon, you can expect clips of the best/most blockbuster moments to appear on‘s “House of Commons Latest” page here.

Beyond the committee corridor, Politics@Lunch’s featured article today dives deeper on the almost 100 MPs set to leave parliament at the next election of their own volition. has published a neat interactive map, which allows you the check the status of any MP — be they whipless, standing down, deselected or standing again at the next election.

Mapped: All the MPs standing down at the next election as total nears 100

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As a parent of two girls at mobile phone age, or there or thereabouts, it is something I think about a lot

— At the liaison select committee today, the prime minister says he is thinking “a lot” about whether the government could do more to protect children from the impact of mobile phones and social media.

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