Category Archives: Contracts

Bethell sacked – for destroying evidence in ‘government by personal email’ scandal?

Lord Bethell: he previously claimed he never used his private accounts for official business. Now he has been sacked by the Tory Government – as This Site suggested. Is he about to face court action too?

Before we start, it should be made clear that Boris Johnson has given no reason for sacking Lord Bethell as a health minister in his Cabinet reshuffle.

That being said, Bethell is a key figure in a major – ongoing – scandal in which government decisions may have been made using personal email and/or WhatsApp accounts in order to avoid public scrutiny.

Bethell had claimed that he never used his private email or telephone accounts for official business – but then replaced his mobile phone before it could be searched for information relevant to £85m of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) deals that are subject to a legal challenge.

The government is expected to disclose Bethell’s correspondence on those matters – by email, WhatsApp and SMS – as part of legal proceedings issued by the Good Law Project.

The Health Secretary has a responsibility to preserve and search documents for information relevant to the case from the point at which judicial review proceedings were issued in late 2020, under the government’s “duty of candour” – and the phone was replaced in early 2021.

The government has admitted it made no effort to issue Bethell with a preservation notice requiring him to save documents, claiming that ministers’ official correspondence was routinely saved as a matter of course. However, this did not cover government business conducted by private means.

It seems Bethell has not reactivated his WhatsApp, SMS and private email accounts from that phone, although there is nothing to stop him from doing so. Efforts are being made to recover information in those accounts from his mobile phone provider.

I wonder if those efforts have borne fruit and Bethell’s departure from government is happening ahead of more serious proceedings in the courts.

Whatever happens there, this development indicates that Boris Johnson’s government is not as immune to public scrutiny as he has previously tried to suggest.

The prime minister has often shrugged off criticism after serious complaints were made about his own misbehaviour and that of his ministers, but at least three of the worst offenders – Gavin Williamson, Robert Jenrick and now Bethell – have been ejected in the reshuffle.

Is Johnson going for plausible deniability – putting distance between himself and Bethell so he won’t be caught in the backlash if serious wrongdoing is exposed?

While people were dying of Covid-19, your government used the crisis to rip you off. Watch this film

Once more, with feeling (I’ve used this image many times): the PPE used in UK hospitals at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic is pictured bottom right. Instead of buying proper PPE from trusted providers, the Conservative government created a special back-channel to funnel cash to their cronies in return for faulty or unusable trash.

It’s less than seven minutes long and you need to know what it has to say.

The information in it is accurate – as far as it goes. This Site has published some of the facts before.

But this film, which was apparently projected against the walls of Parliament, puts it all in a nutshell.

Here it is:

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Inflation is expected to hit four per cent – but is it really all down to Covid?

The Bank of England: don’t believe its claims about inflation.

The Bank of England reckons inflation will hit four per cent – twice as much as the target level – as the UK recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

But do we believe the claim?

The Bank of England says the increase reflects “higher energy and goods prices, which in turn reflect rising commodity prices, transportation bottlenecks, constraints on production and strong global demand for goods”.

I can understand that demand across the world for goods that have been under-produced because of pandemic-related lockdowns will push prices up.

But energy prices – in the UK at least – are increasing at a time when the companies are recording their highest-ever profits, most of which go to bosses and shareholders. Consumers are being bled dry by greed.

And what about the inflationary effect of all the money Boris Johnson has been spaffing off to his Tory friends on the pretext of awarding Covid-related equipment supply contracts, for which he’s had nothing in return?

Oh – and flags. Don’t forget the fortune the Tories have paid for flags:

The point about wages is well made. Back when This Writer was a sprog, Tories used to complain that pay increases pushed up inflation. Now it is happening after a period of prolonged pay depression.

I understand teachers’ pay has fallen at about the same rate as that of nurses.

The message is clear: any increase in inflation is due to Tory economic mismanagement. But they’ll make you suffer for it.

So if you have been able to save up some money – as many of us are said to have done while lockdowns kept us indoors, then it’s a good time to invest in solar panels for your roof. They will provide all your electricity needs and you will be able to sell some of it back to the grid.

Apart from that, keep your money in the back and enjoy the interest rate boost when it comes. Considering what the Tory government will do to you in the future, you’ll need it!

Source: Bank of England warns inflation will hit 4% this year but holds interest rates | Interest rates | The Guardian

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How will minister be punished for replacing phone before it could be searched?

Lord Bethell: he previously claimed he never used his private accounts for official business so we know he’s a liar. Shouldn’t he be sacked by the Tory government?

The answer is that Lord Bethell probably won’t be punished at all.

But if he were involved in a criminal investigation (and he might as well be – as the awarding of many deals for supply of Personal Protective Equipment to Tory chums and/or donors who were incapable of providing it seems extremely crooked) and he ditched the evidence, he would be charged with a crime.

Here are the facts:

Labour has called for an inquiry into the use of WhatsApp within the government, after it emerged a health minister replaced his mobile phone before it could be searched for information relevant to £85m of deals that are subject to a legal challenge.

James Bethell, who oversaw the award of Covid contracts, is one of those under scrutiny over the way deals for personal protective equipment (PPE) and tests were allocated at the height of the pandemic.

As part of legal proceedings issued by the Good Law Project, the government is expected to disclose Lord Bethell’s correspondence including by email, WhatsApp and SMS relating to the award of £85m of contracts for antibody tests to Abingdon Health.

The secretary of state has a responsibility to preserve and search documents for information relevant to the case from the point at which judicial review proceedings were issued in late 2020, under the government’s “duty of candour”.

However, a witness statement from a government lawyer revealed Bethell replaced his phone in early 2021 and it may no longer be possible to retrieve the information about his dealings with Abingdon, although efforts are being made to recover them from his mobile phone provider.

The statement said Bethell had used his official email account as well as his private email account to send and receive emails relevant to the contracts, and that he had also used his mobile phone for SMS and WhatsApp messages. But it said Bethell had confirmed that about six months ago his phone was broken and replaced and that his new phone did not contain the phone data.

Government lawyers revealed Bethell had not been issued with a “preservation notice” requiring him to save documents because ministers’ official correspondence was routinely saved as a matter of course. However, this did not cover government business conducted by private means.

What does he have to hide?

When they’re under an investigation with legal consequences, people with nothing to fear don’t destroy the evidence.

And Bethell must know that the information will be available by other means – although logically there shouldn’t be anything to stop him from reactivating his WhatsApp, SMS and private email accounts. Why hasn’t he done so?

The fact that government preservation notices don’t cover business conducted by private means, while government ministers are allowed to carry out government business in that way and are trusted to duplicate it into the public system, is a huge opening for corruption.

And it seems clear that this particular minister has exploited it.

Maybe I’m wrong – and I’ll be happy to apologise of Lord Bethell can provide clear proof that he was not responsible for any wrongdoing.

But I won’t hold my breath waiting for it.

Source: Covid contracts: minister replaced phone before it could be searched | Health policy | The Guardian

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Tory crony contracts: MP gave paid roles to lobbyist

Karl McCartney.

Is this another example of jobs for the Tory boys?

And why was a lobbyist being given access to All-Party Parliamentary Groups?

There needs to be an investigation into this – and the other allegations against Karl McCartney (but there probably won’t be, in Boris Johnson’s unaccountable fascist dictatorship).

A Tory MP handed thousands of pounds worth of paid roles to a lobbyist, prompting calls for tighter rules on cash and influence in Parliamentary groups.

Karl McCartney, the Conservative MP for Lincoln, was until last month, chair or vice chair of seven sport-related All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) – bodies set up to allow MPs to discuss a particular subject or interest.

And on each group chaired by Mr McCartney, Three Lines Sport – a firm run by lobbyist Mark Ramsdale – is listed as Secretary.

According to records held by Parliament, Mr Ramsdale’s firm is paid through sponsorship by at least five of the seven groups, earning him or his firm at least £90,000.

Meanwhile, a Business Insider investigation alleged Mr McCartney had used public money to pay a donor, and had allegedly “concealed” his position as a shareholder of his brother’s firm, Moonlighting Systems.

Source: Tory MP handed paid roles on Parliamentary groups to lobbyist amid football team row – Mirror Online

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Government appeals court ruling that contract with Gove cronies Public First was unlawful

Backhander: if you know the circumstances of the court case against the government over its contract with Public First, then you will know why I’m using this picture. If not, follow the link in the story to read the details.

After spending half a million pounds defending a decision to give a contract worth only slightly more to friends of Tory minister Michael Gove – and losing – the government intends to spend even more on an appeal.

In June, the High Court ruled that a Tory government decision to award a £560,000 contract to Public First gave rise to “apparent bias” and was unlawful.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”

You can read the details of the case here.

Now the Good Law Project – which brought the case to court – has revealed that the government is appealing against the ruling, although the exact grounds for the appeal do not seem clear.

“We think his decision to spend more public money on an appeal is likely to be driven by a desire to postpone a further embarrassing loss in a separate challenge we are bringing,” a statement by the Good Law Project claims.

“We are challenging another lucrative contract awarded to allies of Michael Gove, this time to a company called Hanbury. It was due to be heard later this month but will now be delayed.

“However, the appeal gives us a chance to revivify the arguments … that there was time for a proper competitive tender process and/or no need to give such a long and valuable contract without any tender process.

“All of that having been said, we have to recognise Government spent an extraordinary £500,000+ on a one day hearing below – approximately twice what we managed to raise to fight and win the case. With that in mind, we have decided to reopen our crowdfunding page.”

If you are in a position to donate, you can do so here.

Source: Government is appealing – Good Law Project

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Crony contract to Tory friends was ‘unlawful’ – but government is lying about the decision

Backhander: the Tory government is still claiming there was nothing wrong with the Public First contract but the High Court’s ruling is final – it was not legal.

The High Court has ruled that a Tory government decision to award a £560,000 contract to friends of a Tory minister and advisor gave rise to “apparent bias” and was unlawful.

The Tories are already trying to spin this by saying there was no suggestion of “actual” bias, and the contract was not awarded due to personal or professional connections between Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings and their friends in Public First, Rachel Wolf and James Frayne. She co-wrote the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto and he worked on the campaign to leave the European Union with Cummings.

I don’t know what the Cabinet Office is trying to achieve by saying that. The judge’s ruling is crystal clear: the government broke the law:

Delivering her ruling, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”

Nothing else matters. Public First and the Cabinet Office can say what they like but the decision to award the contract to Tory cronies was not permitted within the law and that is the end of the matter.

This Site has been reporting on it since July last year, when the contract first became public knowledge.

I wrote at the time: “It’s jobs for the boys, the Old School Tie, and every other example of favouritism you can imagine in the Tory government during the Covid crisis!

“They’re using emergency regulations, that allow services to be commissioned quickly, to pass huge amounts of money to their friends.

“And apparently there’s a conflict of interest as it seems to involve Eurosceptics working on focus group research related to Brexit – parts of the work contracted involved research on public attitudes to Brexit, which is dodgy in a Eurosceptic firm – although a Cabinet Office spokesman said this was a bookkeeping issue. Do you believe that?

“The Tories are using the Covid-19 crisis to funnel public money away from vital services and into their friends’ bank accounts.”

And I quoted The Guardian‘s report which is interesting in that it states the contract was worth £840,000. It’s curious that these amounts always fall when people are in trouble over them – and always rise when public money is being used to pay.

One piece of information that should have been a dead giveaway was the fact that Public First’s registered office is a residential address – a house – in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Public First was also behind the disastrous plan to bias (there’s that word again) ‘A’ level results against students who didn’t go to Public Schools like Eton.

The collaboration led to the result we all know:

The algorithm used by Ofqual downgraded 40% of the A-level grades assessed by teachers under the process set after the exams were cancelled, leading to a storm of protest from students, parents, school leaders and teachers, that culminated in a complete government U-turn on Monday and the system being scrapped.

Details of this contract were not made public and Ofqual declined to say how much public money had been spent hiring the firm of Tory cronies. It was only later that the organisation had to admit handing over £49,000 of your money to buy poorer results for your children.

Ofqual’s boss at the time, Sally Collier, later resigned – apparently in shame at having given Public First the contract, and at what that firm did with it.

So now here’s the big question: if the contract to Public First was not legal, shouldn’t that money be paid back?

And if so – by whom?

Say what you like about Public First; the work was carried out. Whether it was carried out to an acceptable standard has not been recorded (and the Ofqual experience casts doubt on that) but somebody did the work that was contracted, and we may expect that it was done in good faith.

So, shouldn’t the government minister(s), who broke the law by awarding the contract wrongly, now pay back into public funds at least the £560,000 quoted in the High Court’s judgement?

Matt Hancock, maybe? Or Boris Johnson?

Source: Government acted unlawfully over firm’s £560,000 Covid contract – BBC News

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Tory corruption: how many Covid-19 contracts went to party donors?

The image above tells a shameful story.

And it’s one the Tory government seems very keen to cover up.

Frances Stanley is said to have been handed a PPE contract worth £14.4 million of public money by the Tories after her husband donated £5,000 to Matt Hancock’s office.

She had no previous professional experience of providing such equipment and subsequently failed to fulfil the contract.

She handed back the government’s £7.2 million deposit – but the episode wasted valuable time when people were dying of a deadly disease for lack of protective equipment.

We don’t seem to know whether her application was handled on the so-called “fast lane” provided to Tory donors in order to help them jump the queue for these lucrative contracts.

But we do know that she is the wife of a Tory donor who received millions of pounds to provide a service she was unqualified to do, and whose failure is likely to have cost many lives.

And it is time we knew exactly how many of these duff contracts have been handed out.

We need a list of all contracts that have been handed to people connected to Tory donors, stating clearly whether these contracts were handed out via the “fast lane” system, how much money was handed over, and whether the contract was fulfilled.

Then we’ll be able to start working out the depth of corruption to which your government sank while your relatives and friends were dying.

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Hancock breached ministerial code with his shares in firm that has NHS contract. Why is he still health secretary?

Matt Hancock: you wouldn’t trust him to pick up a prescription from the chemist, but Boris Johnson made him health secretary. No wonder hundreds of thousands of people have died of Covid-19.

Here’s a great example of Tory corruption: the independent advisor on ministerial standards has announced that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has breached the ministerial code. It’s a sacking offence, so why does he still have his job?

Answer: because standards have slipped to such a low standard under prime minister Boris Johnson that cabinet ministers can get away with anything.

This case concerns a firm called Topwood, run by Hancock’s sister and brother-in-law. It managed to get onto NHS Shared Business Services framework in 2019, just months after Hancock became Health Secretary.

Hancock was then given – it seems he didn’t pay for them – a 20 per cent share in the shredding, storage and security firm, right before it won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal including the shredding of confidential documents.

His failure to disclose that he has shares in the firm was described as a “technical breach” of the ministerial code by Lord Geidt – who has also given Boris Johnson a clean bill of health over the funding of refurbishment work on the 11 Downing Street flat.

Hancock was characterised as having been unaware that he needed to declare this conflict of interest. But ignorance of the law is no excuse – as you or I would soon find out if we were to fall foul of similar rules.

You see the problem?

Labour’s Angela Rayner does. She has pointed out that the decision not to penalise Hancock sets a precedent that cabinet ministers do not have to follow the rules.

She said:

“I have asked Lord Geidt whether he agrees that this precedent of a Cabinet minister being found by an independent investigation to have broken the ministerial code and then not resigning sends a very clear message that the rules don’t apply to Cabinet ministers, with this case therefore damaging public trust in our politics, fundamentally weakening the ministerial code system and giving carte blanche to other ministers to break the ministerial code safe in the knowledge that they will not face sanctions.”

In fact, this has already happened.

Priti Patel was found to have broken the ministerial code in a serious way – she had been bullying civil servants in the various government departments she has darkened with her presence, including the Home Office.

But prime minister Boris Johnson, who has ultimate power to decide whether a breach has taken place, let her off.

The decision prompted former independent advisor on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan, to resign.

The Cabinet Office has tried to laugh off the controversy by saying that new guidelines suggest that ministerial code breaches should be attract a range of different sanctions according to their seriousness, and this was the first case to be examined after the change.

How convenient.

All this shows is that the Johnson government has deliberately let the corruption in.

The removal of a minister after any breach of the code at all was intended to be a strong deterrent – to ensure that ministers stuck strictly to their duties, because even the slightest deviation would attract the harshest penalty.

But now deviants like Hancock are being told they can do what they like.

It is a scandal and you should not put up with it.

But you do, because there is no mechanism within the law by which you can put a stop to it.

Now, who do you think put that system in place?

Source: Letting Matt Hancock keep job after breach ‘gives ministers licence to break rules’ | Evening Standard

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Tory contracts whitewash: the government has cleared itself of favouritism. So what?

Two-fingered response: your family members died because the Tories didn’t get vital supplies for tackling Covid-19 out in time? Too bad! They were handing the money to their mates and that is all that mattered to them.

Politics has suddenly become so busy that a lot of Tory corruption might get swept under the carpet if we’re not careful – like this example of a person appointed by Boris Johnson to probe David Cameron’s lobbying finding the government innocent of favouritism in awarding Covid contracts to Tory cronies:

The report states:

The man appointed by Boris Johnson to probe David Cameron’s lobbying has cleared the government of “favouritism” in the award of £17bn in Covid contracts.

City lawyer Nigel Boardman admitted that some government practices, such as a fast-track “VIP” priority system for firms known to MPs and ministers, gave rise to the “suspicion” of bias.

What do you do if there’s a suspicion of wrong doing? You investigate it.

Did he? Doubtful.

The report said he found no evidence of favouritism. But this is a discussion of cases in which Tory cronies with absolutely no experience of providing the relevant services were offered contracts instead of long-established firms that had been doing just that for years.

It is easy to find no evidence if you’re looking the other way.

Rachel Reeves, who is now Shadow Chancellor, had predicted that the report by Boardman – another Tory crony – would be a whitewash. She responded:

“This barely scratches the surface of the conflicts of interest in government procurement, and the deep and troubling pattern of taxpayers’ money being sunk into crony contracts.

“We need a complete overhaul to tackle cronyism, and an urgent end to emergency procurement measures.”

If such measures are still being employed, then yes – they need to stop. Even Boris Johnson is signalling (for all he’s worth, which is not much if you believe the reports) that any emergency is now over.

And we need to be sure that the money-grubbing that led to 150,000 deaths while Tories handed out useless contracts to their useless friends never happens again.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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Health Warning: Government! is now available
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The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

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