The National:

Welcome to the latest edition of The Worst of Westminster, brought to you by political reporters Steph Brawn and Hamish Morrison. You can sign up to receive this in your inbox for free every week here.

The energy price cap is down, but don't get your party poppers out. It's not all that it seems.

Meanwhile, there's more rule-breaking from the Prime Minister and one of his predecessors has been bad-mouthing Social Security Scotland.

But first, a record asylum cases backlog...

Asylum backlog reaches new heights

Shocking figures from the Home Office revealed the backlog of asylum cases in the UK hit a record high at the end of June with a staggering 175,000 people left in limbo.

Nearly 140,000 had waited more than six months for a decision as of the end of June – another record high and a spike of 57% from June 2022.

If that wasn’t enough, Home Office spending on asylum in the UK in 2022/23 stood at £3.97 billion, nearly double the £2.12bn in 2021/22.

Amnesty International branded the statistics “utterly disgraceful”, as they showed more than 71,000 Afghan, Eritrean, Iranian, Iraqi, Yemeni, Sudanese and Syrian people fleeing conflict are currently waiting for the Home Office to decide their asylum claim.

READ MORE: Police probe 'homophobic' abuse of Patrick Harvie on Scottish street

There are also more than 1000 Ukrainian nationals in the asylum system waiting for a decision.

The rise in asylum applications waiting for an initial decision is “due to more cases entering the asylum system than receiving initial decisions”, the Home Office said.

It also emerged this week the Home Office considered drafting in overseas workers using a visa waiver in the event of an outbreak of an infectious disease on the Bibby Stockholm barge - which is moored in Dorset – according to freedom of information disclosures obtained by The Guardian.

After opening on August 7, the first asylum seekers were evacuated just four days later due to legionella being found in the water pipes.

The notes of meetings stated: “Visa waiver scheme being worked on by Home Office to cover surge staffing in the event of an outbreak. Visa fast track approved, waiver to be discussed (June 14).”

Energy bill misery

Good news and bad news here … but mostly bad actually. Regulator Ofgem is set to reduce the energy price cap in October, with bills set to be £151 lower than current rates and £577 down on last winter.

But reduced support from the UK Government and an increase in the standing charge is going to leave millions forking out more than they did last winter.

Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said he couldn’t offer any certainty that things will ease this winter for people financially.

Tory nuclear and networks minister Andrew Bowie tried to convince us the price cap falling was “positive” news but was left red-faced when he got into a spat on the matter with the BBC’s Naga Munchetty.

READ MORE: Greens and SNP mark second year of 'beneficial' Bute House Agreement

A visibly irritated Munchetty pressed Bowie multiple times on whether he felt it was right the standing charge was going up, to which he continued to insist it was a matter for Ofgem and the thing to focus on was that “the price of energy is falling”.

She pointed out the fall in the cap would be offset by the standing charge rise, to which Bowie disagreed despite calculations by the Resolution Foundation proving households that consume less than four-fifths of typical gas and electricity consumption will see higher bills this winter. He hadn’t seen those though, apparently.


  • Earlier this year you may remember Rishi Sunak failed to declare his wife’s shares in a childcare company which stood to benefit from new government policy. Well, it now turns out in doing so he breached the MPs code of conduct. According to Daniel Greenberg, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, he was “confused” by rules on declaration and apologised. It’s okay, it’s not like he’s running the UK or anything …
  • Ex-prime minister Gordon Brown took issue with Social Security Scotland in an interview with The Scotsman, branding it a “waste of money” and insisting it was set up for “status reasons”. First Minister Humza Yousaf said the comments were “highly partisan” and unfair to people working hard for Scotland’s separate agency, which is often regarded as being more respectful than the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • MPs who lose their seat at the next General Election will now receive double the financial support while winding-down payments - designed to help departing MPs close their office and manage the departure of staff - will now be available to those who step down at the election as well. MPs received two months’ wages after losing their seats at the previous General Election, but the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) – which governs MPs’ expenses – has ruled that should be increased to four months.