Tag Archives: conflict

Conflict of interest call for Esther McVey to be removed from DWP

Labour expressed ‘grave concern’ about Esther McVey because HSE prohibition notices are an area covered by the DWP [Image: Alastair Grant/AP].

The government wants you to think there’s nothing to this.

Esther McVey, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, was a director of a company served with health and safety prohibition notices in the past – and this is problematic because it’s an area covered by the DWP.

The Tories are saying it’s no big deal – but this is a 180-degree about-face from the situation when she became Employment Minister.

That was in 2013 – 10 years after the notices were served on JG McVey and Co because of unsafe scaffolding. Ms McVey’s brief would have included oversight of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) but that element of her job was removed after her connection to the infringements became clear.

So the question is simple:

If it was sufficient reason to prohibit Ms McVey from responsibility for the HSE then, why isn’t it sufficient reason now?

This seems to be a subject the government is keen to avoid – and the message appears to have been passed down to its compliant media.

When Barry Gardiner raised the subject on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, presenter Sarah Smith tried to shut him up.

Quite rightly, he stuck to his guns, as this clip from the Skwawkbox blog shows:

The issue seems to be clear: If Ms McVey was incapable of preventing breaches of Health and Safety law as a company director, how can the public have faith that she can correctly carry out her duty in that respect, as Secretary of State?

The Departmental spokesperson’s claim that the compliance notices were handled “to a satisfactory standard at the time” is neither here nor there.

We have no evidence that Ms McVey understood the reasons for the enforcement notice – and, after being a part of a government that participated in a wholesale “bonfire” of “red tape”, that she ever understood the need for such things.

How can we expect her to do her duty properly?

Better not to risk any wrong decisions. Better not to give her the opportunity. Better to admit Ms McVey’s appointment was a mistake.

But Theresa May doesn’t have the right qualities. She has too much arrogance and not enough courage.

So we must wait for the mistakes to happen and highlight any cover-ups that may follow.

Labour has called on Theresa May to rethink the appointment of Esther McVey as work and pensions secretary because McVey was a director of a demolition company served with health and safety prohibition notices, an area covered by her department.

Jon Trickett, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, has written to the prime minister saying he had grave concern about McVey’s promotion in this week’s reshuffle because of the two notices served on the firm in 2003 owing to unsafe scaffolding.

The notices from the Health and Safety Executive were against JG McVey and Co, a now-closed firm run by McVey’s father. Esther McVey was a director of the company from February 2003 to March 2006.

In July 2003, HSE inspectors issued an immediate prohibition notice, stopping work at a demolition site in Liverpool after workers were seen using scaffolding without proper protective edge rails. In September that year, work was halted on the site for the same reason.

In 2013, McVey was made employment minister in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), a brief which initially included oversight of the HSE. However, after her connection to the infringements came to light, that element of the job was removed.

As work and pensions secretary – a job she gained after Justine Greening opted to leave the government rather than take on the brief – McVey now has overall responsibility for workplace health and safety among her duties.

Source: Calls for Theresa May to reconsider Esther McVey’s move to DWP | Politics | The Guardian


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Cameron cold-shoulders calls to limit commercial corruption of MPs

Cameron's attitude to Parliamentary corruption: When he brought in the Lobbying Act, it ensured that rich corporations had unfettered access to MPs and the Prime Minister, while effectively banning the public from speaking out against it.

Cameron’s attitude to Parliamentary corruption: When he brought in the Lobbying Act, it ensured that rich corporations had unfettered access to MPs and the Prime Minister himself.

The Labour Party is banning its MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies, to ensure that their only interest is their duty to their constituents.

Labour MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates have been put on notice that, from the coming General Election, the party’s standing orders will be changed to prevent them holding such second jobs.

The measure, which Ed Miliband has confirmed will be included in the party’s manifesto, would ensure no Labour MP holds a paid directorship or consultancy.

Labour is also consulting on legislative measures including placing a strict cap – similar to one that exists for members of the US Congress – on any additional money they can earn beyond their salary as representatives of the people.

Mr Miliband’s actions follow a series of allegations over recent years, about how MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have risked a conflict of interest by seeking or taking paid work from outside organisations.

Most recently, former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw (Labour) and Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) were secretly filmed apparently offering their services to a private company for cash.

It is claimed Mr Straw – a major figure in New Labour – said he had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 a year.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who is chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, is reported to have told reporters posing as representatives of a fake Chinese firm that he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world.

Mr Miliband has written to Tory leader David Cameron, challenging him to impose on Conservative MPs the same restrictions as are being placed on Labour’s.

The letter states: “I write … not just as leader of the Labour Party but as someone who believes that we all need to act to improve the reputation of our Parliament in the eyes of the British people.

“The British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others.”

He added that Labour “is also consulting on legislation to make this a statutory ban, as well as imposing a strict cap on all outside earnings by MPs”.

Vox Political applauds this move by Mr Miliband and Labour.

Long-term readers may remember this site’s e-petition, on the government’s website, to ban MPs from speaking or voting in debates on matters which could lead to them, companies connected with them or donors to their political party, gaining money.

Labour’s move goes further than that, by banning MPs from having any financial connection with commercial operations and interests.

It seems unlikely that Mr Cameron will do the honourable thing, though.

He has removed the party whip from Rifkind, but said he has no control over the chairmanship of the Intelligence committee. Rifkind has stated that he will not willingly step down from it.

Cameron said he approves of MPs having second jobs.

He said Labour would allow someone to be a trade union official but not “to run the family shop” or something similar, which is a gross misinterpretation of the issue.

This is not about running family shops; it is about taking money from huge corporations, to impose commercial priorities on the nation to the detriment of the general public. But Cameron will never admit that, or speak out against it.

He supports it.

US verdict on DWP’s privatised sick note service – David Hencke

Their doctors will say you're not sick: The DWP's new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren't good enough for the Department. It's bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are healthy, no doubt.

Their doctors will say you’re not sick: The DWP’s new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren’t good enough for the Department. It’s bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are healthy, no doubt.

Vox Political discussed the appointment of Maximus as the provider of the new ‘Health and Work Service’ – Lord Freud’s latest scheme to stop people claiming ESA by forcing them back to work before they’ve had a chance – in July.

In brief, the company masquerading as ‘Health Management Ltd’ is a front for MAXIMUS, an American company that is already a Work Programme provider here in the UK, meaning there is a clear conflict of interest as described in the previous article. Also, the scheme represents the expansion into the workplace of the bastardised biopsychosocial model of sickness assessment used by the DWP, which we already know is useless.

Now David Hencke has stepped into the fray to tell us what Maximus’ own employees think of the company that will be rolling out its ‘service’ in “Wales, the Midlands and the North before it hits the more affluent South” in the early stages of its 63-month contract.

“If you feared it was going to be a cheapskate alternative to your GP – aimed at using low paid, untrained, overworked people in call centres while maximising its profits for overpaid bosses you are right,” wrote Mr Hencke. “The customer or claimant seems the least of their concerns.”

He quotes several examples, including the following, which is particularly ironic considering the circumstances: “‘At MAXIMUS there is little to no room for advancement or growth. …This company makes unreasonable demands for staff to complete work and unreasonable deadlines. This company does not support personal time off due to family/personal issues.’ (so they won’t sympathise with you if you are sick)”

Take a look at the rest of the article of Mr Hencke’s site.

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When will the BBC get its priorities right?

Covered by the BBC: Today's rally against the violence in Gaza.

Covered by the BBC: Today’s rally against the violence in Gaza.

It seems the BBC is delighted to carry out saturation coverage of popular demonstrations against injustice – as long as they are taking place in a foreign country and not right here in Blighty.

Compare the huge amount of coverage being given to today’s (Saturday) rally for Gaza in London, where “tens of thousands” of protesters have turned out to protest against the deaths of almost 2,000 people since “violence” broke out between the Israeli government and Palestinian Hamas terrorists (as far as VP is concerned, both sides are terrorists) around a month ago (picture above)…

… with the almost nonexistent coverage of a 50,000-strong march and rally against UK Coalition government austerity policies that have killed tens of thousands of people – if not more than 100,000, by now. Think of the Department for Work and Pensions and the 10,600 deaths caused by its policy on Employment and Support Allowance – in less than a year. Here’s a picture of that event, that wasn’t shown by Auntie.

Not covered by the BBC: The anti-austerity rally that attracted as many people - if not more - to complain about austerity measures that have led to at least five times as many deaths.

Not covered by the BBC: The anti-austerity rally that attracted as many people – if not more – to complain about austerity measures that have led to at least five times as many deaths.

It would be wrong to say that the Israel-Gaza protest is not worthy of coverage, because it is.

But when one realises that the BBC – considered the greatest public-service broadcaster in the world – habitually ignores evidence of much greater harm taking place on its own doorstep (literally, in the case of the anti-austerity march – it started outside the main entrance of New Broadcasting House), one is forced to ask very uncomfortable questions about the priorities of its policy-makers and their intentions, in depriving us of vital information about our own country.

Let us hope the BBC receives a large amount of correspondence remarking on this discrimination.

If you want to contact the BBC and ask why it prioritises a foreign conflict that has cost a fraction of the number of lives lost here in the UK due to government policy, here’s how you can do it:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/complain-online/

Phone: 03700 100 222 *
03700 100 212 * (textphone)
*24 hours, charged as 01/02 geographic numbers

Post:BBC Complaints
PO Box 1922
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Jobs for the boys – and a possible conflict of interest – in new government contract

[Image: Ktemoc Konsiders - http://ktemoc.blogspot.co.uk/]

[Image: Ktemoc Konsiders – http://ktemoc.blogspot.co.uk/]

The Coalition government has named the company that is to carry out its new programme to discourage people from claiming incapacity benefits – and, like all Coalition decisions, it is a disaster.

The contract for the new Health and Work Service in England and Wales will be delivered by Health Management Ltd – a MAXIMUS company.

This is triply bad for the United Kingdom.

Firstly, MAXIMUS is an American company so yet again, British taxpayers’ money will be winging its way abroad to boost a foreign economy, to the detriment of our own.

Next, MAXIMUS is already a Work Programme provider company in the UK. The Work Programme attempts to shoehorn jobseekers – including people on incapacity benefits – into any employment that is available, with the companies involved paid according to the results they achieve (on the face of it. In fact, it has been proved that the whole system is a scam to funnel taxpayers’ money into the hands of private firms as profit, whether they’ve done the work or not). Health and Work, on the other hand, is a strategy to slow the number of people claiming incapacity benefits with an assessment system – think ‘Work Capability Assessment’ designed to fast-track sicknote users back to their jobs.

We know from the government’s original press release that it has failed to reach its target for clearing people off incapacity benefit, so it seems that Health and Work has been devised to make more profit for MAXIMUS by ensuring that it can claim fees, not only for the number of incapacity benefit claimants it handles on the Work Programme, but also for the number of employees it ensures will NOT claim incapacity benefits.

It’s a win-win situation for the company and a clear conflict of interest – logically the firm will concentrate on whichever activity brings it the most UK government money. MAXIMUS may claim there are ‘Chinese walls’ to prevent any corruption, such as one activity being carried out by a subsidiary, but this must be nonsense. MAXIMUS will do what is best for MAXIMUS.

Thirdly, we have a new layer of bureacracy to torture sick people who only want peace and quiet in order to get better. Look at what Vox Political had to say about the scheme when it was announced in February:

“‘The work-focused occupational health assessment will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.’

Health doesn’t get a look-in.

“No, what we’re most probably seeing is an expansion of the “biopsychosocial” method employed in work capability assessments, in an attempt to convince sick people that their illnesses are all in their minds. Don’t expect this approach to be used for people with broken limbs or easily-medicated diseases; this is for the new kinds of ‘subjective illness’, for which medical science has not been prepared – ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia and the like.

“People with these conditions will probably be sent back to work – with speed. Their conditions may worsen, their lives may become an unending hell of pain and threats – I write from experience, as Mrs Mike spent around two years trying to soldier on in her job before finally giving up and claiming her own incapacity benefits – but that won’t matter to the DWP as long as they’re not claiming benefits.”

That previous article was wrong, in fact. There is a health angle to this.

It is a plan to stitch us all up.

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What a shame the UN can’t end extreme hypocrisy

D'oh! David Cameron realises he has just described as problems all the conditions he is trying to create in the UK, after his speech to the United Nations. This photograph used because I couldn't find one of him sticking his own foot in his mouth.

D’oh! David Cameron realises he has just described – as problems – all the conditions he is trying to create in the UK, after his speech to the United Nations. This photograph used because I couldn’t find one of him sticking his own foot in his mouth.

The title refers to today’s comments by comedy Prime Minister David Cameron, who has stated that the United Nations needs a new set of international development goals to eradicate extreme poverty.

If he believes in this so fervently, why is he hell-bent on reinstating extreme poverty here, in his home country?

Before I go on, I should make it clear that I know poverty – as defined in the UK – is very much different from poverty in, for example, Africa. I know there are some in this country who would be very quick to get on their soapbox and warn that going without food indefinitely isn’t the same as going without a computer.

That’s all very well, but the fact is that changes made by the currently government will increase poverty massively, pushing hundreds of thousands of people below our extremely arbitrary poverty line. We will see increased malnutrition, and we will see a huge increase in diseases caused by lack of food, such as rickets (which is, itself, already on the rise).

People have already died – here in the UK – from the effects of changes wrought by Mr Cameron’s regime.

The BBC website’s report quotes Mr Cameron, who apparently said the UN must focus on ending factors that contribute to poverty, including “corruption [and] lack of justice”.

I bow to his knowledge and experience of corruption, because I believe he leads one of the most corrupt regimes the UK has had to endure in many a year.

Look at last week’s stories about the accounting firms that run the most tax avoidance schemes being allowed to write the law on tax avoidance (could this be because Mr Cameron and his part-time chancellor are well-versed in making money from such schemes? I think it could).

Look at the number of firms benefiting from Andrew Lansley’s changes to the National Health Service – how many Parliamentarians have a financial interest in those companies? (Hint: Many).

This is why I started the petition to ban MPs from speaking or voting on matters in which they have a financial interest* – and I think I touched a nerve there. It was the top-trending e-petition on the government’s website yesterday. From a standing start on Wednesday, it now totals more than 2,000 signatures, with more being added all the time.

As for lack of justice, let’s just remember this is the same David Cameron who is ending the right to Legal Aid for issues including debt, benefits, redundancy and landlord problems. If you’re poor and you end up with these problems, you won’t be able to rely on British justice.

He later added “conflict” and “lack of the rule of law” to his list. For conflict, let’s look at the riots of August 2011 – and hope that we don’t have similar scenes this year, after the effects of his buddy Iain Duncan Smith’s social security changes kick us all in the stomach.

As for the rule of law, I don’t think we’ve had that since the Coalition came into power and started writing laws that allowed its members and their friends to get their snouts in the trough at the expense of those of us who actually support the British economy.

How can cutting Corporation Tax by a quarter, or cutting the top rate of Income Tax by a tenth help our system? The people who benefit from that won’t be spending the extra money they’ll be keeping – they will bank it, most probably in the tax havens that part-time Chancellor Gideon Osborne has been busily creating while telling us he’s doing the exact opposite. This administration is exceptionally well-versed in doublespeak – saying one thing, meaning the opposite – but dismally slow at realising that we all understand exactly what’s really going on.

So: Corruption, conflict, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law. I do, in fact, agree that fighting these scourges on society – preferably by removing the regimes responsible – would greatly benefit the fight against poverty.

Perhaps the UN would like to start right here, in the UK?

Hypocrisy, your name is Iain Duncan Smith!

How this man ever got to be leader of the Conservative Party is astounding but anyone can see why he failed.

Iain Duncan Smith, a man with four children who has spent a sustained period of his life claiming state benefits, has described the UK’s benefits system as “overly generous”. Is he going to return the public cash he received, then? (No, I didn’t think so)

The Sun reports that he said big handouts for jobless parents are resented by their hard-working neighbours. How odious. He’s hoping that, by saying it, gullible members of the public will believe it, rather than thinking for themselves.

According to the article, “Most people get up in the morning, work hard, come back late and can only afford to have one or two children,” said the father of four.

“They look down the road to the house with the curtains closed, no-one going out to work but lots of kids around.” Your house, Iain.

“It’s dividing society.” No – you’re dividing society, Iain.

He added: “Everybody in Britain makes decisions based on what they can afford and how their family life works.” Fine words, coming from a man who lost a job at property firm Bellwinch after six months. I wonder if he was married then (he probably was; he’d been at GEC-Marconi in 1981, prior to Bellwinch, and they wed in 1982). So he knows that life-changing events can happen unexpectedly.

He just refuses to acknowledge this universal fact of life – it would contradict his ideology.

And his ideology is twisted, when it comes to money.

Look at his policy special adviser, Philippa Stroud, who is also being paid by a right-wing thinktank, the Centre for Social Justice, that lobbies his own Department for Work and Pensions!

He knows that the special advisers’ code of conduct stipulates that they “should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their personal judgment or integrity”.

An annex to the code, titled the Seven Principles of Public Life, adds: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”

The code also makes clear that ministers making such appointments, in this case Smith himself, are held responsible for their advisers’ conduct.

He seems to think it’s okay for her to take public money on top of her own salary; he seems to think it’s all right for her to have a job as a senior member of a pressure group that tries to influence his department, when he role within that department is to give him advice on what to do; he seems to think it’s permissible to allow all that and still lecture the nation about what is morally acceptable; and he seems to think he’ll get away with it.

Sadly, as a member of a government that is so twisted its members need help screwing themselves into their trousers in the morning, he’s probably right about that last assumption.

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