Tag Archives: Cabinet Secretary

Former Cabinet Secretary contradicts cabinet ministers on size of #Brexit challenge

Lord O'Donnell, the former head of the civil service [Image: Getty].

Lord O’Donnell, the former head of the civil service [Image: Getty].

Didn’t Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (among others in the Conservative Government) say more or less the exact opposite of what former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell is saying here?

I’ll give you a clue: Yes. Yes, he did.

Now you have one more clue than Mr Grayling. He is clearly clueless.

And – as far as plans for exiting the EU are concerned – his government is clearly hopeless.

The civil service is not ready for the enormous task of driving through Brexit, former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell has warned.

The former head of the civil service added his voice to the growing number of former Whitehall leaders and organisations highlighting the daunting problems ahead.

Lord O’Donnell also echoed criticisms that Brexit will “crowd out” the ability of the civil service to perform other key task, after years of severe cuts – without a big recruitment drive.

Source: The civil service isn’t ready for enormity of Brexit, says former Cabinet Secretary | The Independent

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Were pervert MPs protected to prevent embarrassing a Tory government?

Implicated: Leon Brittan [Image: Guardian].

Implicated: Leon Brittan [Image: Guardian].

If The Guardian‘s story yesterday is correct, it seems the Conservative Government of the 1980s was perfectly happy to protect child abusing cabinet members, because the harm they caused to “small boys” was deemed to be less important than “the risks of political embarrassment to the government”.

In fact, the risk posed to children was not considered at all; the only concerns set out in correspondence between then-director general of MI5, Sir Anthony Duff, and then-Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong were dangers to security (national security?) and political embarrassment for the Conservatives.

If that does not make you physically sick with disgust at the attitudes that pervaded the top level of government in the United Kingdom, read it again until it does.

Implicated in the papers are the recently-deceased former Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, along with Margaret Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary, Sir Peter Morrison, former diplomat Sir Peter Hayman and former minister Sir William van Straubenzee.

Note carefully the fact that everybody implicated had a knighthood – indicating just how institutionalised child abuse appears to have been.

The other connection between them is that they are all dead – meaning that, if they did commit crimes against children, all of them escaped justice because they were connected with a Conservative government.

The papers came to light months after an official review concluded that claims the Home Office covered up child abuse allegations in the 1980s – including when Lord Brittan was Home Secretary – were “not proven”, and also several months after the sudden death of Lord Brittan himself – it was claimed he had succumbed after a long battle with cancer but, if so, it is strange that nobody seemed to have heard of it before.

The Cabinet Office is saying that the papers have only come to light now, because they had been kept in a store of “the Cabinet Secretary’s miscellaneous papers” at the National Archive where they had lain, largely uncatalogued and unregistered, with others accumulated over several decades up to 2007.

Do you believe that cover story?

Cabinet Office permanent secretary Richard Heaton wrote to Peter Wanless, head of the NSPCC and author of the official review, in May apologising for a “flaw in the way the Cabinet Office initially responded” to his, and fellow review author, barrister Richard Whittam’s, request for documents, and confirming that three categories of papers had since been identified as potentially relevant.

In a supplement to the review, released online yesterday, Wanless and Whittam said: “We are concerned and disappointed that the Cabinet Office was aware of the separate Cabinet Office store of assorted and unstructured papers, yet informed us that the searches covered all records and files held.”

So there it is. A previous Conservative Government hid evidence of child abuse among its ranks.

And the current Conservative Government obstructed investigations into these historic abuses until after all those involved were dead.

What do you think of that?

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Cameron aide charged over child abuse images – at long last

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

Patrick Rock, a former aide of David Cameron and protege of Margaret Thatcher, has been charged with three counts of making an indecent photograph of a child, and with possession of 59 indecent images of childrenmore than four months after he was arrested on suspicion of child pornography offences.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers assessed the images as Level C, meaning they showed sexual activity between adults and children.

This is the man who, as deputy head of 10 Downing Street’s policy unit, had been working on policies that are allegedly intended to make it harder to find images of child abuse on the Internet.

He was arrested on February 13, only hours after resigning his position with the government. Coincidence?

Nothing was mentioned in the press at the time, but days later the Daily Mail started stirring up historical allegations against Labour’s Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt. Coincidence?

It seems suspicions were raised in the Labour Party, because shadow minister Jon Ashworth asked, in the public interest:

  • When were 10 Downing Street and David Cameron first made aware that Mr Rock may have been involved in an offence?
  • How much time passed until Mr Rock was questioned about the matter and the police alerted?
  • What contact have officials had with Mr Rock since his resignation?
  • What was Mr Rock’s level of security clearance?

And, most importantly:

  • Why were details of Mr Rock’s resignation not made public immediately?

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood stonewalled: “Our … actions were driven by the overriding importance of not jeopardising either [the National Crime Agency’s] investigation or the possibility of a prosecution.”

He said: “We judged it was inappropriate to make an announcement while the NCA investigations were continuing.”

David Cameron has declined to comment on the latest development, saying it is a matter for the courts.

He’s changed his tune, hasn’t he?

When Andy Coulson was still facing charges in the phone hacking trial, Cameron couldn’t wait to get on television and make a statement, and never mind whether it was in contempt of court.

All in all, it seems we are facing yet another cover-up bid by this “most open government ever”.

Let us not forget that this happened in the same week that Iain Duncan Smith lost his legal appeal to keep problems with Universal Credit veiled in secrecy.

The DWP had insisted publication of the papers, warning of the dangers likely to be caused by Universal Credit, would have a “chilling effect” on the DWP’s working – a standard defence (see Andrew Lansley’s successful bid to prevent publication of the risk register, detailing problems with his calamitous Health and Social Care Act) that was thrown out by Judge Wikeley in a trice.

The DWP then argued that the order to publish was perverse – that the tribunal responsible had reached a decision which no reasonable tribunal would have reached. Judge Wikeley found that the challenge “does not get near clearing this high hurdle”.

Finally – and most desperately – the DWP tried to argue that the tribunal had not given due weight to the expertise of a DWP witness. Judge Wikeley had to point out that, by law, he cannot substitute his own view of the facts for that taken by the original tribunal.

The DWP was then sent away to consider whether to lodge another appeal.

That’s at least three attempts to hide facts from the public in a single week (it is arguable that Cameron spoke up about Coulson in order to cause a mistrial and prevent him from being convicted of two charges; he cannot say he was unaware of what he was doing, because he has already been rebuked by another judge, earlier this year, for commenting on the trial of Nigella Lawson’s former assistants. In addition, wasn’t it suspicious that Coulson’s defence team immediately leapt up to call for a mistrial ruling, based on the “maelstrom of commentary” Cameron stirred up?) from – as previously mentioned, this “most open government ever”.

There may be more that haven’t become public knowledge.

Does David Cameron really think the public will put their trust in him, with a record like that?

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Labour demands clarity over the Patrick Rock allegations

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

Credit where it’s due: Whatever you think of the Labour Party, its leaders deserve praise for asking the right questions about the Patrick Rock affair.

Mr Rock was arrested on February 13, suspected of possessing child abuse imagery – shortly after he resigned his position working on policies that we all thought were intended to make it harder to find such images on the Internet.

Details of his resignation and arrest were not released to the public, but the media sprang into action and in a matter of days, the Daily Mail ran a major story accusing three leading members of the Labour Party of sympathising with paedophile groups.

It was only after this story had run its course that the major news media made the public aware of Mr Rock’s arrest – and Vox Political was not the only blog that voiced suspicions about the sequence of events.

It seems somebody at Labour was paying attention. Shadow minister Jon Ashworth has asked, in the public interest:

  • When were 10 Downing Street and David Cameron first made aware that Mr Rock may have been involved in an offence?
  • How much time passed until Mr Rock was questioned about the matter and the police alerted?
  • What contact have officials had with Mr Rock since his resignation?
  • What was Mr Rock’s level of security clearance?

And, most importantly:

  • Why were details of Mr Rock’s resignation not made public immediately?

The last question should also refer to Mr Rock’s arrest – but it could be suggested that this is implicit as the details would include the reason for the resignation.

Mr Ashworth’s letter was sent to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood. He is Britain’s top civil servant and not a Tory politician; as such he is duty-bound to provide answers that serve the interests of the nation, rather than the Conservative Party.

He’d better get it right, too – as this story unfolds and more information is revealed, we will be able to judge the validity of Mr Heywood’s response.

It would be unfortunate for his career if it became clear at a later time that he had tried to protect anybody. Closing ranks to look after your own people is a human response – but inappropriate at high levels of government.

When senior government advisors come under suspicion, it is right that everyone connected with them should be investigated as well.

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Carving up the NHS is Cameron’s vanity project

The more we find out about Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill – his bid to privatise the NHS – the more childish it all seems.

This has been a week of shocks for the architects of the Bill, starting with the revelation that a Conservative ‘insider’ had described Mr Lansley as “a disaster” who, far from winning over critics of the Health Bill, has managed “to further annoy and alienate NHS staff”, and that a Downing Street briefing had called for him to be “taken out and shot”.

“Health reform should have been carried out by stealth,” said one strategist, according to an article in The Times.

It seems that many of Mr Lansley’s changes could have been carried out without primary legislation, thereby avoiding the glare of the public spotlight and all the adverse publicity that has come with it. Nevertheless, the idea of fundamental changes to our greatest national institution taking place covertly is outrageous and Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, seeking reassurance that “there will be no such covert attempt to bring about fundamental change in the ethos or the care offered by our National Health Service”.

In fact, changes have already been implemented by the government – at considerable cost to the taxpayer – without waiting for the Bill to finish its passage through Parliament and get Royal Assent. Apparently these things are mere formalities for our Coalition leaders (who, let’s not forget, are composed of members of two political parties who could not win the confidence of a majority of the electorate on their own).

But a judicial review, to establish the legality of these moves, is now a distinct possibility.

The decision to implement as much as he has without waiting for the bill’s royal assent is a “flagrant flouting of parliament”, according to Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. But while a U-turn would be embarrassing, failing to do so would be worse, she argued.

Andrew George, the Lib Dem MP and member of the health select committee, put it like this: “It will now cause havoc either way, but going ahead is even more catastrophic”.

Even Tory commentators have turned on the Bill. Craig Barrett, writing in Tory blog Egremont, said: “The fact that many of the reforms do not even require primary legislation makes the resulting headache look embarrassingly self-inflicted. Without a proper mandate, it looks undemocratic.

“For the good of the NHS, Andrew Lansley must admit defeat and head to the backbenches.”

Hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, midwives and others have called for the government to abandon this proposed legislation before it does great harm to the NHS. The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing have voiced concerns, and the Royal College of GPs wrote last week to Mr Cameron to ask for the bill to be scrapped. The Faculty of Public Health became the latest healthcare body to call for the Bill to be dropped, “in the best interests of everyone’s health”.

Downing Street has insisted that Mr Lansley and his reforms have the Prime Minister’s full support, though.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron said his government was increasing its spending on the NHS, while the Labour administration in Wales was making cutbacks. It is easy to dismiss this criticism, though – the cutbacks in Wales are entirely due to cuts in funding from Mr Cameron’s own Westminster government.

The government has offered more than 100 concessions in an effort to get the Bill passed, but this did not stop the House of Lords passing another amendment when peers discussed it on Wednesday.

So – as one can see – there’s a huge amount of opposition to this Bill. It is seen as undemocratic. Only a tiny minority of healthcare professionals want to see it implemented, and they tend to belong to the administrative side – the bean-counters and pen-pushers, rather than the medical practitioners themselves. And Mr Lansley’s time as Health Secretary has been a “disaster”.

Why, then, do both he and our comedy Prime Minister persist with it?

Well, it’s their vanity project, isn’t it?

It’s their attempt to write their names into the history books – the biggest change to the National Health Service since it was created in 1948 and, they hope, the blow that will lead it into a long-drawn-out death, to make way for private health companies and block millions of people from receiving health care of any kind in the future. You just won’t be able to afford it.

In short, they want to graffito “David and Andrew were here” across the face of Britain’s biggest and best-loved national institution, and they’ll do it at any cost.

Childish.