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  1. Downing Street drop plans to curb Lords powers
  2. Retail sales rose at fastest rate for 14 years in October
  3. Conservative MPs join forces with opposition parties to urge ministers to pause disability benefit cuts set to be introduced next April.
  4. Ed Balls says Bank of England's independence should be curbed

Live Reporting

By Jackie Storer and Alex Hunt

All times stated are UK

  1. Thursday round-up

    Here are some of the stories making the political news today.

  2. Obama: Brexit should be 'smooth and orderly'

    Obama and Merkel

    US President Barack Obama says he hopes Brexit will be "conducted in a smooth and orderly and transparent fashion - and preserve as closely as possible the economic and political and security relationships between the UK and EU".

    Mr Obama made the comments during a press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    He said he continued to believe that "the EU remains one of the world's great political and economic achievements".

    Those achievements "should not be taken for granted" but needed to be nurtured, cultivated, protected and fought for, he said, in contrast to the divided Europe of the previous century.

    He stressed the importance of working together and "upholding the principles that have resulted in unprecedented prosperity and security throughout Europe and around the world".

  3. UKIP grouping denies misspending EU funds

    Nigel Farage

    A European Parliament group dominated by UKIP MEPs has denied claims it misspent EU funds on UK campaigns.

    An audit leaked to Sky News said the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe broke rules because the funding must be spent on European Parliament business.

    If the findings are upheld, the ADDE could be asked to repay about £150,000.

    An ADDE spokesman accused the European Parliament of "harassment" over the audit and said most of the funds spent had been "fully eligible".

    Read more

  4. Article 50 architect: Civil servants don't believe in Brexit

    Tom Moseley

    Political reporter

    The man who wrote Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty thinks most civil servants do not believe Brexit is a good idea.

    Lord Kerr, who campaigned for Remain, also claimed the vote to leave the EU had been down to a "perception of an immigration problem" in areas with low levels of immigration.

    He was speaking at an Institute for Government debate about how governments should make policy with the UK divided following the referendum.

    Calling for a return to "evidence-based policy", he said: "That's the difficulty now, when the principle concern of Whitehall is the delivery of a policy that Whitehall doesn't believe in."

    Lord Kerr, a former UK ambassador to the USA and British representative to the EU, spoke in favour of immigration.

    Quote Message: We native Brits are so bloody stupid that we need an injection of intelligent people, young people from outside who come in and wake us up from time to time. I speak as a Scot, who served this purpose for you English for generations.”

    Lord Kerr urged politicians to speak up in favour of immigration, adding: "We are heading for a very, very hard and unpleasant Brexit because it rests on a fundamental preconception which none of the main parties are brave enough to address."

    But Rachel Wolf, a former adviser to David Cameron, said it was "dangerous and wrong" for politicians to see the Brexit result as "ungrateful" voters overrulling them. 

    She said immigration was an "incredibly important issue" for many people, and voters were not stupid to be concerned about it.

  5. Half of voters expect UK economy to deteriorate - poll suggests

    Almost half of voters think the UK economy will get worse over the next year, a new survey suggests.

    Some 47% of those questioned by Ipsos Mori said they expected the economy to deteriorate, compared with 26% who thought it would improve.

    The overall economic optimism score of minus 21 is the third-worst recorded in the monthly index since March 2013.

    But with a week to go until Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement, the public appears happier with the government's handling of the economy, with 51% saying it is doing a good job, and 30% a bad job.

    Almost four out of 10 (39%) were satisfied with the chancellor's performance - 12 points higher than predecessor George Osborne's last rating - while fewer than three in 10 (28%) were dissatisfied, the survey added.

    Almost half (46%) preferred Mr Hammond to his Labour shadow John McDonnell (28%) as best chancellor.  

    • Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,013 adults between 11 and 14 November. 
  6. Tory peer: Overseas students policy 'a complete mess'

    Overseas students debate

    House of Lords


    Overseas students

    Peers now move on to a debate on the application of immigration policy to overseas students at UK universities and colleges.

    Conservative peer Lord Lucas is leading the debate and begins by saying that after the vote to leave the EU "we are setting out to woo the world".

    He says that both higher education and further education in the UK incorporate large elements of world leading courses and institutions that have a long standing respect overseas.

    They "absolutely" ought to be central to the government's post-EU referendum plans he says, but warns that government is "making a complete mess" of policy in this area and is subsequently losing market share.

    He also tells peers that universities are "not as collaborative as they could be".

  7. Minister: Government committed to making work pay

    Causes of child poverty debate

    House of Lords


    Lord Freud

    Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud winds up the debate.

    He commends peers for their community-led work and says approaches where "people are part of a solution" are the most desirable. 

    He reassures peers that the government is "committed to making work pay" and tackling the "root causes" of child poverty, "not just the symptoms". 

  8. What does Theresa May need to do to keep her backbenchers on side?

    By Gary Connor

    Westminster Hour

    Radio 4's Westminster Hour

    Theresa May

    Theresa May's government is riding high in the opinion polls at the moment but could be vulnerable in Parliament. 

    When she replaced him as prime minister in July, Mrs May also took on David Cameron's small Commons majority, and all the problems that come with it.

    The government's "working majority" - calculated when you take away the non-voting Speaker, deputy speakers and Sinn Fein members, as well as the two seats left vacant by the resignations of Conservatives Zac Goldsmith and Stephen Phillips - is just 14, meaning the prime minister needs to work extra hard to ensure her MPs back her, and her policies.

    If Labour, the SNP and other smaller parties work together on an issue, they need only to attract a handful of unhappy Conservatives - seven - to their side and the government risks defeat.

    Mrs May is widely regarded as one of the more "unclubbable" politicians, admitting when running for leadership of the Conservative party that she did not "go drinking in Parliament's bars" and preferred to get "on with the job".

    That has put her at a disadvantage, says The Spectator's Katy Balls, because she does not have a ready-made network of supporters.

    "Unlike George Osborne, who was constantly meeting with MPs and having drinks parties, Theresa May has never really courted her party like that," she says. "They need a bit more TLC almost, to stay behaved. They're not getting that, which allows them to go a bit more rogue."

    Read more

  9. Brexit: More people recognise fictitious MEP than real ones

    Wales' four MEPs - Derek Vaughan, Nathan Gill, Jill Evans and Kay Swinburne - at the time of their election in 2014
    Image caption: Wales' four MEPs - Derek Vaughan, Nathan Gill, Jill Evans and Kay Swinburne - at the time of their election in 2014

    A fictitious MEP was recognised by a greater percentage of people than three real ones, a survey has suggested.

    The made-up Elwyn Davies was second only to UKIP MEP Nathan Gill in name recognition, ahead of Jill Evans, Derek Vaughan and Kay Swinburne.

    The figures emerged in the 2016 Welsh Election Study.

    Cardiff University's Professor Roger Scully said voters were "unlikely to notice" the loss of MEPs after Brexit.

    But Mr Vaughan, a Wales MEP since 2009, said it is "difficult" for MEPs to get recognition.

    Read more

  10. MPs vote on ESA cuts

    House of Commons


    The debate concludes and the SNP motion to pause the cuts to Employment Support Allowance is put to a vote.

    The result is expected at 3:40pm.

    House of Commons division
  11. Government support will compensate for cuts

    Employment Support Allowance

    House of Commons


    Penny Mordaunt

    Proof we have listened and understood the arguments will be in our actions, Work and Pensions Minister Penny Mordaunt says.

    She relates the actions the government is taking to alleviate the impacts of the cuts. This includes £83m from the flexible support fund to be used for work related costs.

    She also mentions that the government has introduced the job centre plus travel card and extended the hardship fund to those who are homeless or suffering from mental health conditions. 

    In response to a question from Conservative David Burrowes, the minister says the funds she outlines will compensate for the loss of WRAG payments. She adds that the support will be in place before the cuts come into force. 

  12. Labour: Social mobility 'a game of snakes and ladders'

    Causes of child poverty debate

    House of Lords


    Baroness Sherlock

    Shadow work and pensions spokesperson Baroness Sherlock opens by saying that child poverty in Britain is "far too high". 

    The Labour peer says that social mobility "is a game of snakes and ladders" in our economy.

    She says society should enable all children to flourish "no matter where they are on the board", and that it would be a mistake to strive for a position where everybody is fighting for a place at the top.

  13. Lib Dem peer: 'Moral imperative' to tackle child poverty

    Causes of child poverty debate

    House of Lords


    Baroness Pinnock

    Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Pinnock says there is "much we can do" to help children have a "fair start in life".

    She suggests that the Pupil Premium should be spent improving outcomes for children from low-income families, and that there should be more investment in local libraries.

    "Poverty is a cost on the national purse", but above all else there is a "moral imperative" to tackle the causes of child poverty, she says. 

  14. Labour supports pausing ESA cuts

    Employment Support Allowance

    House of Commons


    Yesterday, Labour proposed a motion calling on the government to reverse the cuts to ESA.

    Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams says Labour will support the SNP's motion calling for the cuts to be postponed rather than scrapped.

    Debbie Abrahams
  15. Bishop: Government must 'make work pay' for low-income families

    Causes of child poverty debate

    House of Lords


    Bishop of St Albans

    The Bishop of St Albans tells peers that low-income families need to be "economically empowered" in order to manage their budgets and enable them to provide their children the resources they require to "flourish at home and at school".

    The Bishop of St Albans says the government should give greater consideration to the role of income and "must make work pay" for low-income families.

  16. Whiteford: ESA is not a short term benefit

    Employment Support Allowance

    House of Commons


    The SNP's welfare spokesperon Eilidh Whiteford highlights the difference between ESA and Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).

    Under the changes, payments to those in the ESA WRAG group would be reduce to the same level as JSA.

    She argues that JSA is usually a short term benefit and that most claimants come off in a matter of months. On the other hand ESA, she says, is designed to cover additional costs associated with having a disability. 

  17. Gary Connor

    Political Reporter, The Westminster Hour, Radio 4

    Theresa May

    Gary Connor

    Political Reporter, The Westminster Hour, Radio 4

    The PM has a small majority, so how can she navigate her government through the trickiest of times?

    Read more
  18. Man 'blasted' Jo Cox with gun - witness

    Thomas Mair (centre) denies murdering MP Jo Cox
    Image caption: Thomas Mair (centre) denies murdering MP Jo Cox

    A witness at the Jo Cox murder trial has told the Old Bailey that he saw a man with a gun "blast" a woman lying in the road.

    Labour MP Mrs Cox, 41, was shot and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on 16 June.

    David Honeybell said he saw the attack on his way to Mrs Cox's surgery and he described the man walking away "like he didn't have a care in the world".

    Thomas Mair, 53, from Birstall, denies murder.

    He also denies grievous bodily harm with intent, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon - a dagger.

    Mr Honeybell told the jury he was at the library to see Mrs Cox at her surgery when he saw a man with a knife, and a woman lying on the road.

    "He just stood over her, cocked his gun and blasted her," he said. "Walked away like he didn't have a care in the world."

    Read more

  19. Shannon: Benefits system too complicated

    Employment Support Allowance debate

    House of Commons


    Jim Shannon

    DUP MP Jim Shannon says the benefits process is too complicated.

    In his office he has one full time member of staff who is dedicated to helping people with benefits problems, he says.

    He adds that in many cases DWP staff fail to understand the process and give his constituents poor or wrong advice.

    He opposes the ESA changes, and like many MPs who have spoken before him, urges the minister to think again.

  20. Need to escape 'tick-box culture'

    Causes of child poverty debate

    House of Lords


    Lord Mawson

    Crossbench peer Lord Mawson says young people are trapped in a "dependency culture" based on the well-meaning ideas of politicians and their advisers. 

    Lord Mawson calls for a relationship with the state which supports families and helps them escape from a "tick-box culture". 

    He says there is "great opportunity on our housing estates" and tells peers he has met many young people who want to take hold of the "lives of their communities", but the "well-meaning here in Westminster and Whitehall" need to allow them to do so.