Tag Archives: equipment

Now the Tories have given £240 million to a firm linked to religious extremists for PPE

It’s only money: Boris Johnson has no problems with handing over fistfuls of our cash to rich religious extremists. His problem is using it to help poor people. And were the contracts even honoured?

After all the criticism for awarding major contracts to firms run by their friends, you’d expect the Tories would have gone back to competitive tendering for their biggest PPE contract.

Not a bit of it!

Instead, they gave nearly a quarter of a billion pounds – for the supply of full-body overalls – to a firm founded and run by leading members of a hardline, conservative religious sect which preaches that the outside world is morally corrupting, according to Byline Times.

Unispace Global Health was also awarded a £103.7 million contract for the supply of examination gloves. Among the contracts so far revealed by the Tory government, these two represent the largest amount of taxpayer cash handed to a single firm for the supply of PPE during the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the firm’s bosses is linked to the world leader of the Exclusive Brethren, a subset of the Plymouth Brethren, who avoid contact with non-Brethren as much as possible, because the outside world is morally corrupting.

Apparently their ideology finds a way to allow commerce with the “morally corrupting” outside world, though.

Perhaps the Tories agree with their worldview. After all, “morally corrupt” seems an apt description of their procurement strategy.

And, was the contract even honoured? I seem to recall a lot of concern over the lack of PPE during April and May, when these contracts were awarded.

Source: Government Awards £240 Million PPE Deal to Firm Linked to Religious Sect – Byline Times

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Tory corruption? Party supporters get £180m of OUR money to supply PPE. But will they?

Michael Gove: this minister (who once got caught making a joke about rape on the radio, by the way) is in charge of handing out procurement contracts for PPE. They seem to be going to his friends but we’re being told it’s all perfectly fair and above-board.

You’d think the Tories would have learned their lesson after Liz Truss was caught handing £150 million to a Board of Trade crony for face masks that don’t work.

But no – the UK’s corrupt-to-the-core Tory government won’t learn because it will never face any consequences.

So Tory ministers have handed a further £180 million of our cash to supporters of their political party, on the grounds that it is paying for more PPE (personal protective equipment) that will be used to help treat people with Covid-19.

Will it arrive? I don’t know. If it does, will it work? I doubt it.

Seven contracts – worth £65 million alone – were handed to businessman David Meller’s firm Meller Designs.

Not to be confused with the former Tory minister David Mellor, this Tory donor handed £65,000 to the Tories over the last 10 years, so the contract represents a markup of 1,000 times his outlay.

How did he get his contract to provide gowns, gloves, masks and hand sanitiser? Well, he provided thousands of pounds’ funding for Michael Gove’s failed Tory leadership bid and Gove is now in charge of PPE procurement but perhaps you see no connection there.

According to the government, ministers are not involved in the selection process because there is a “robust” system to ensure that orders are of high quality and meet safety standards.

That’s what they said about Ms Truss’s friend and his face masks, wasn’t it?

Some members of the public are sceptical about the Tories’ protests:

Are the Tories still using emergency powers to avoid scrutiny of these contracts?

If so, I would have thought the emergency was over.

There’s certainly grounds for suspicion of foul play; the firms themselves may say they submitted their tenders in good faith but the Tory decision-making process deserves scrutiny.

But we know what they’ll say:

First it’ll be “now is not the time”, and then it will be “it’s all in the past”. Consequence-free.

Source: Tory backers ‘handed £180m worth of contracts’ to supply the Government with PPE – Mirror Online

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Nurses protest outside Downing Street because they STILL don’t have proper PPE

More than half a year after Boris Johnson was warned of the dangers of Covid-19, nurses still do not have adequate protective equipment.

That’s why they held a protest outside Downing Street yesterday (June 3) – to demand better protection, and higher pay.

The government – as you may have come to expect – isn’t interested.

It isn’t an unreasonable request – especially for black, Asian and minority ethnic staff who have been proven to be more susceptible to the virus.

The campaign group Nurses United wants a 10 per cent pay rise for nurses and enhanced PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic, after a report by Public Health England (PHE) revealed that more than 10,000 nurses, midwives, and nursing associates had contracted COVID-19, and a disproportionate number of BAME NHS staff have died.

The group is now calling for the government to provide FFP3 respirator/filtration masks for all nurses rather than the surgical masks currently recommended for nurses working outside of high-risk areas.

In response, the Tory government has shrugged.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said the NHS Pay Review Body would make recommendations on the next annual pay increase for nurses from April 2021, and that guidance on PPE had been developed in consultation with the medical royal colleges, based on World Health Organization advice.

That means “no”. The Tories are quite happy to continue putting hard-working medical staff in danger while they try to keep the rest of us alive.

And it doesn’t matter how many nurses die – or walk away in disgust leaving a weakened National Health Service to struggle on.

Source: Nurses take pay and PPE protest to Downing Street | RCNi

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Will the UK send more riot gear to a despotic Trump? Of course. It makes a profit

Sacrilege: Donald Trump had people tear-gassed so he could have this picture taken, outside a church, with a Bible. It seems he hasn’t read the New Testament… and if he stepped inside the church, would he disappear in a puff of brimstone?

Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas K. Lane

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is being urged to ban the sale of riot control equipment to the United States in response to shocking images of police attacking peaceful protesters against the killing of George Floyd.

Trump seems to be entirely out of control. He had peaceful protesters tear-gassed so he could take part in a photo shoot in front of a church, clutching a Bible, in what many people (including myself) may describe as a blasphemy.

This is symptomatic of the attitude he has displayed since public opinion boiled over in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. Many – including media pundits – believe he has turned the corner into dictatorship:

His attitude to the classes seems to support this:

For clarity, let’s have a look at some video clips of what has been going on:

https://twitter.com/LowkeySinistra/status/1267109420955086848

We need these clips by members of the public, too. If we didn’t have them, Ice T would be right:

Look at how news reporters have been targeted:

There have been exceptions, though – and it is important to note them. Not all in the police or the military agree with Trump that peaceful demonstrations should be put down with an iron fist:

It seems US police have been learning “brutality and repression” in specially-funded trips abroad. I make no comment about the country providing the training.

The good news is that, after Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of Mr Floyd, the three other officers involved are also to face criminal charges. It has been said that Tou Thao watched while J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane helped hold the victim down:

And a civil rights investigation has been launched into the activities of Minneapolis police.

Back with the president, it seems the affair has killed Trump’s approval rating among US citizens. Now 54 per cent of them disapprove of him – the highest disapproval rating for any US president.

Trump should be happy – he’s always trying to say he’s top at something, and now he is.

All of this takes us back to the UK’s response to all this. Boris Johnson has been urged to stop exporting arms and riot equipment to the United States, so it cannot be used to harm peaceful protesters in the way we’ve seen in the videos (above):

According to the Independent article, neither Johnson nor any government spokesperson has yet commented on the issue.

This Writer’s opinion? There won’t be any cessation of arms trading with the US – it makes Tory-donor UK firms a fortune every day.

And Trump supporters can’t help shooting themselves in the foot (if only metaphorically). After Piers Morgan tweeted critically about the depths to which Trump has dragged his country, a US Twitter user made it clear that they did not want people from the UK to be involved in that country’s business. The response from a Brit was well-deserved and entirely appropriate:

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Another pack of lies over PIP assessment shows they should ALL be recorded

Some fools are going to say “this is a grandmother-of-10; hasn’t she got enough relatives to help her cope with this benefit cut?”

Silly, silly people – who have probably never had to rely on the charity of their own families. Different people have different circumstances and it is wrong to expect particular results in situations about which you know nothing.

So let’s progress to the substantive issue: the claim that Janet Williams, of Shirehampton, Bristol, lost almost half of her PIP payments because an assessor lied about what happened during an interview.

Ms Williams, 59, has severe arthritis in both knees, and one leg is two inches shorter than the other after three operations, making walking extremely painful.

She has fibromyalgia and a swollen spine, feet and knees, and she also has anxiety, depression and stress.

But after the interview, her Personal Independence Payments were slashed from £148.85 a week to £82 a week – and the Department for Work and Pensions also took away her mobility car.

She was left housebound.

At an appeal tribunal, the assessor said Ms Williams had refused to be examined; Ms Williams herself said the woman had decided not to carry it out because she could see that Ms Williams was in pain.

The assessor also said Ms Williams had said she could walk a mile to her GP surgery; Ms Williams said she had not been asked that question.

These claims could have been resolved easily – if the DWP habitually ensured its assessments were recorded.

But that’s the last thing the DWP wants – which is why it has demanded that assessments may only be recorded on a Neal CD Interview Recorder which claimants must buy at a cost of £1,400 each.

How many benefit claimants do you know with that kind of many going spare?

So Ms Williams must go without her benefit and her car.

And the DWP can gloat in the knowledge that it has got away with this trick yet again.

Source: Gran-of-10 ‘cut off outside world’ after DWP almost halved her PIP benefits – Bristol Live

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Tory-run DWP’s impossible demand over recording of assessment interviews

Do you think this is corrupt?

The Department for Work and Pensions has demanded that anybody who wants their benefit assessment interview recorded must pay £1,400 for specialist recording equipment.

The Tory-run government department says people applying for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) must buy a NEAL CD Interview Recorder, costing £1,400, or the evidence won’t be accepted.

This creates an impossible dilemma for claimants. If the interview isn’t recorded, they can’t challenge the DWP on a decision based on lies.

But if someone can afford to splurge £1,400 on recording equipment, why do they need to claim benefits?

At least, that will be the question asked by the DWP.

But the real question should be this: People have been demanding the opportunity to have assessments recorded for at least six years. Why hasn’t the DWP invested in the equipment itself?

This is especially perplexing as demand for such recordings increased from nine, according to Mark Hoban in 2013, to thousands, according to iNews in 2016. But the DWP had still failed to invest in the necessary equipment.

Back in 2013, Mr Hoban said the benefits had to be balanced against the costs.

At the time, I suggested that the costs would be offset by the savings from having to hold fewer appeal tribunals. Today, we can add savings from fewer benefit reviews.

Another time (in an article I can’t locate at the moment), I pointed out that all assessors have all the equipment they need to provide adequate recordings – because they all use laptop computers that are capable of recording sound.

The only obstacle is the DWP’s own refusal to accept such evidence.

So it seems clear that the whole issue of recording PIP assessments has been unnecessarily complicated by the DWP and the Conservative government running it.

The Labour Party has promised to change the system – and we have an election coming up on December 12.

Will you vote the Tories out and help bring sanity back into the benefit system?

Source: Disabled benefit claimants ‘told they must fork out £1,400 to record interviews’ – Mirror Online

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The sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia was no accident. Truss should end it

Dimwit: Liz Truss.

Liz Truss’s claim to have “inadvertently” approved the sale of military hardware to Saudi Arabia should be enough to have her sacked for incompetence – but there is a better use for her.

The decision has put the International Trade Secretary in contempt of the Court of Appeal, which ordered the Tory government not to approve any new licences to Saudi for use in Yemen and to retake all the decisions on existing licences in a legally compliant manner.

It seems clear that these orders have been ignored by a government department that has a “longstanding and shameful” policy of maximising arms sales regardless of the consequences.

As Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade points out in his Independent article:

This surely discredits the government’s tired old mantra that the UK supposedly has some of the most “rigorous” and “robust” arms export controls in the world.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015 the UK has licensed £5.3bn worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including fighter jets, bombs and missiles. These weapons have played a central role in the brutal war, which has created the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.

The extent of the UK government’s support was on display last week when a Saudi military delegation was invited to London by Truss’s department for Defence & Security Equipment International 2019 (DSEI), the biggest arms fair in the world.

While at DSEI, Saudi representatives will have been welcomed by UK civil servants and lobbied for further sales by the world’s biggest arms companies. Nobody will have dared to utter a word about the abysmal state of human rights in Saudi Arabia or the human cost of its bombardment of Yemen.

At the heart of discussions will have been the prospect of further fighter jet sales. Since 2016, the government has been in negotiations with the Saudi Royal Family and the UK’s largest arms company, BAE Systems, to secure the sale of 48 Eurofighter jets.

The deal, which appears to have been put on hold following the court verdict and the international condemnation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, is thought to be worth £10bn. With that kind of money on the table, government ministers have been prepared to act as cheerleaders for the arms industry.

Mr Smith says 60,000 Yemeni people have already died. If this £10 billion deal goes through, many thousands more are also likely to perish.

Because Tories believe money is more important than lives.

That is the only explanation that allows us to understand why the Conservatives are willing to put themselves in contempt of the UK courts (and consider what this portends for the Supreme Court’s decision on Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament, next week).

I don’t want to be complicit in the murder of thousands more innocent people, encouraged by my government.

The only way to stop it, it seems, is to ensure that the dimwit who has been allowing it is made to do what she should have been doing in the first place.

Let’s see Liz Truss stay in post, for now – but only to show us how she is putting the Court of Appeal’s order into practise, and the concrete results arising from it.

Source: How is it possible for the government to claim it sold military equipment to Saudi Arabia ‘accidentally’? | The Independent

Why isn’t Liz Truss in jail for illegally selling arms to a foreign country?

Liz Truss: She used to be Justice Secretary – does she now believe herself to be above the law?

Tory ‘big cheese’ Liz Truss has apologised to the Court of Appeal for “inadvertently” selling hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. Why isn’t she in jail?

The courts have ruled that it is illegal to sell equipment of this kind to Saudi Arabia, as it could be used to help murder innocent people in Yemen.

But Ms Truss did it anyway.

And she seems to think saying “sorry!” will get her off the hook for it.

That is not good enough.

If she is saying she did it by accident, then she is admitting that she is incompetent, and should resign her position as a government minister at once.

But we all know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, so Ms Truss should also submit herself – and all evidence relating to this matter – to the courts so her crime – because that’s what it is – may be judged and she can be ordered to serve the sentence required by the law.

Or is this merely further evidence that this Boris Johnson government considers itself to be above the law and that it only applies to plebs like the rest of us?

Source: Tory minister apologises for ‘accidentally’ approving illegal sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia | The Independent

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NATO and the Economic Exploitation of Eastern Europe – Beastrabban\’s Weblog (and Russell Brand)

NATO expands: On the left, the situation in 1990; on the right, the scene in 2009 - NATO expanded right up to Russia's borders.

NATO expands: On the left, the situation in 1990; on the right, the scene in 2009 – NATO expanded right up to Russia’s borders.

Isn’t it interesting, how concepts coincide?

Only last night I read, in Russell Brand’s Revolution: “When Mikhail Gorbachev, who it turns out was a lovely fella who bent over backwards to prevent nuclear war and deserved to be remembered for more than that birthmark on his head, allowed a unified Germany to enter NATO, a hostile military alliance, on the condition that ‘NATO would not expand one inch to the east,’ the US agreed. Then they expanded right into East Germany, likely giggling as they went. This dunderheaded truculence persisted under every US regime change… Clinton in his tenure expanded NATO right up to Russia’s borders. Chomsky says all this aggro we’re having today in the Crimea and Ukraine is because of these unreported acts of military expansionism by the West.”

Now here’s the Beast: “I … found this little piece in ‘The View from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 45, reproducing statements from elsewhere that NATO was being used to exploit the former eastern bloc countries that have joined it after the fall of Communism. Although over a decade old [bolding mine], it’s relevant now as we are in period of diplomatic tension with Russia over the civil war in Ukraine. This has been presented as a case of pro-Western Ukrainian patriots attempting to free themselves from Russian domination. The reality is somewhat murkier, as the pro-Western side themselves were guilty of considerable corruption. It also includes open Neo-Nazis.”

The stories quoted are about NATO bullying eastern European countries into selling off their national economic assets to foreigners and spending huge amounts of money on US-manufactured military hardware, under threat of losing a place in NATO military committees and command structures.

The Beast writes: “This makes you really wonder what the reality behind the ousting of President Yanukovych in Ukraine really was, and who was supposed to benefit: the Ukrainian people, or Western multinationals.”

And now Greece is rolling back the privatisation programme imposed by the West, against hugely unreasonable – yet mounting – opposition from the Troika and Western right-wingers.

The UK, it seems, is on the side of NATO, and – as long as we have a right-wing government – the privateers. This leads to a very worrying question:

When did we become the bad guys?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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More dodgy numbers on jobs for the disabled from the fake statistics machine

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses - or are they?

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses – or are they?

Someone in the Coalition government needs to watch what they’re saying – otherwise people all over the UK might come to unintended conclusions.

Take a look at this: “Over 2,000 more disabled people got the support they needed to get or keep their job, compared with this time last year, official figures released today (22 October 2013) show” – according to a Department for Work and Pensions press release.

It goes on to say that the number of people receiving support under the Access to Work programme between April and June this year increased by 10 per cent on the same period last year, to 22,760. Access to Work “provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, specialist aids and equipment and travel to work support”.

Apparently the new stats show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – 10,390; and more people with mental health conditions than ever before have taken advantage of Access to Work.

The press release also states that young disabled people can now get Access to Work support while on Youth Contract work experience, a Supported Internship or Traineeship; and businesses with 49 employees or less no longer have to pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work. It seems they used to have to pay up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund.

Now look at this: According to a press release from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the number of private sector businesses in the UK increased by 102,000 between the beginning of 2012 and the same time in 2013.

There are now 4.9 million private businesses in the UK, with those employing fewer than 50 employees comprising nearly half of the total.

Some might think this is brilliant; that the DWP and BIS are achieving their aims of boosting private-sector business and finding work within those businesses for disabled people.

But dig a little deeper and a more sinister pattern emerges.

Doesn’t this scenario seem odd to anybody who read, earlier this year, that the DWP was having deep difficulty finding work for disabled people from the ESA work-related activity group?

Or, indeed, to anybody who read the BBC’s report that work advisors were pushing the jobless into self-employment?

Isn’t it more likely that the DWP and Work Programme providers, faced with an influx of disabled people into the programme from the ESA WRAG at the end of last year, encouraged them to set up as self-employed with their own businesses in order to get them off the claimant books?

Does it not, then, seem likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 getting help from Access to Work were offered it as part of a self-employment package that also, we are told, includes start-up money (that admittedly tapers away over time) and tax credits. The attraction for WP providers is that they would earn a commission for every claimant they clear off the books in this way.

So it seems likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 may now be self-employed in name alone and that these fake firms are included in the 102,000 new businesses lauded by BIS.

Is it not logical, therefore, to conclude that these are not government schemes, but government scams – designed to hoodwink the general public into thinking that the economy is improving far more than in reality, and that the government is succeeding in its aim to bring down unemployment?

The reference to jobs for people with mental health problems would be particularly useful for a government that has just appealed against the result of a judicial review that found its practices discriminate against this sector of society.

Some might say that this conclusion is crazy. Why would the government want to release information that directly indicates underhanded behaviour on its part?

The answer is, of course, that it would not. This government wants to convince an undecided electorate that it knows what it is doing and that the country’s future is safe in its hands. But its right hand doesn’t seem to know what its left is doing – with regard to press releases, at the very least.

And let’s not forget that, since the Coalition came into office, 52,701 firms have been declared insolvent and 379,968 individuals. Around 80 per cent of new self-employed businesses go to the wall within three years.

Therefore we can say that, in trying to prove that it is competent, the Coalition government has in fact proved the exact opposite.

So someone really needs to watch what they’re saying – if they don’t want people all over the UK to come to unintended conclusions!

AFTERTHOUGHT: The BIS press release adds that the government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, published with the 2011 budget, included an aim to create “the most competitive tax system in the G20”. By “competitive” the Treasury meant the system had to be more attractive to businesses that aim to keep as much of their profits away from the tax man as possible. It is a commitment to turn Britain into a tax haven and the VP post earlier this week shows that the government has been successful in this aim. What a shame that it also means the Coalition government will totally fail to meet its main policy commitment and reason for existing in the first place: It can’t cut the national deficit if the biggest businesses that operate here aren’t paying their taxes.