Tag Archives: lawyer

Former government lawyer becomes first person ever convicted of ‘upskirting’

A former lawyer for the Tory government has become the first person to be convicted of upskirting – surreptitious filming or taking photographs under an individual’s clothing without consent.

Daren Timson-Hunt was involved in Brexit negotiations as head of the EU Exit and Goods Legal team.

Daren Timson-Hunt pleaded guilty last week to “operating equipment” beneath another person’s clothing while at Embankment underground station on 1 July.

The 54-year-old followed a woman who left a Northern Line train at the station, Westminster Magistrates Court heard.

He then waited at the bottom of a flight of stairs and waited until the woman climbed to the top of the steps before pulling his phone out.

Another passenger saw Timson-Hunt hiding his phone under his leg to take a photo of the woman.

This seems to be further evidence that members of the Tory government – from the prime minister right down to employees working for one of its departments – believe the law doesn’t apply to them.

The sooner we get rid of the lot of them – and bring them all to account before the law – the better.

Source: Upskirting: Government lawyer becomes first person ever convicted under new law after underground train incident | The Independent

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Labour’s top lawyer quits – over Panorama ‘anti-Semitism’ documentary?

Gordon Nardell has quit as Labour’s top lawyer. To whom should I address my lawsuit over the party’s false anti-Semitism claims now?

That might seem a facetious question, but the circumstances of his departure suggest a grimly serious side to it, as it has been alleged that he has gone in advance of revelations about Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations against party members.

Here’s The Independent:

Sources suggested Mr Nardell’s departure was linked to an upcoming episode of the BBC programme Panorama, which is said to contain further damaging allegations about antisemitism.

One Labour MP said they understood Mr Nardell had been warned that it would be impossible for him to return to his career as a barrister if he remained with Labour much longer, given the “reputational damage” he faced.

The quote in that article by a Jewish Labour Movement representative is also very interesting as it implies that Labour has protected people accused of anti-Semitism, when we know that in fact that party has witch-hunted and persecuted anybody who has even been mentioned in connection with it.

So I don’t hold out much hope for the Panorama documentary. It seems it will be criticising Labour for the wrong reasons.

You get that impression also from the fact that the Independent mentions the re-suspension of Chris Williamson as though it were a good thing.

This particular issue has now attracted the attention of leading intellectual, left-wing icon and – most importantly in this instance – Jew, Noam Chomsky. He spoke to independent journalist Matt Kennard about it:

It won’t stop the screamers because they are irrational – but it is good evidence for those of us who think before leaping to poor conclusions. Right?

EXTRA: Reports are reaching me that Mr Nardell has left Labour because he came to the end of a fixed-term contract. It would seem very strange to me if his contract was not extendable, therefore his reasons for leaving may still deserve exploration. It will all come out in the wash, I’m sure. Let’s see what happens next.

EXTRA EXTRA: According to PoliticsHome, “A Labour source said: ‘Gordon took the decision to return to his practice as a barrister.'” That seems to indicate he didn’t leave as a result of his contract ending; he left because he chose to leave, and that means we may be justified in questioning the reason. And that throws the focus back on Panorama.

Source: Labour antisemitism: Party plunged into chaos as top lawyer quits role | The Independent

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‘Top’ libel lawyer ridiculed all over Twitter after threatening tweets

Presumably Mark Lewis thought it was a good idea to approach people like me with messages on Twitter threatening us with court action.

He was wrong. But I bet he makes the same mistake again.

On the evening of February 20, I got home from a hospital trip with Mrs Mike and her mum to be greeted with the following messages:

That last comment was a good idea because I had no intention of responding at all.

What kind of lawyer contacts his intended victims on Twitter?

The wrong kind, apparently. I took a bit of legal advice, which may be summed up in this short Twitter (again) thread by Shaun Lawson:

So there were no grounds for legal action in the original behaviour of the people being contacted (I had written my own article, followed with a piece about the kind of people who support Ms Riley and Ms Oberman – based on their own tweets, so it’s still not actionable) – and Mr Lewis was apparently trying to trap us and provoke us into something actionable.

No thanks!

I noticed activity on my Twitter feed had picked up and checked it out. Some of it was from the usual stormtroopers* of the anti-Semitism witch-hunt, but it very quickly became clear that these were being ignored.

Instead, other Twitter users were responding to the threat against me by reporting Mr Lewis to both Twitter itself and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which had already fined him £2,500 for a previous transgression:

https://twitter.com/j43kfr05t/status/1098319656027328517

Some pointed out that Mr Lewis was apparently trying to bully minors:

https://twitter.com/LabLeftVoice/status/1098344677563133953

After a while, the ridicule took on a festive tone. People were really enjoying taking down this alleged expert:

https://twitter.com/JOShUAkANE013/status/1098347604059045888

https://twitter.com/rdudley55/status/1098647231505276931

Perhaps the most embarrassing part of this is that some in the mainstream media have taken all this seriously.

The Guardian reported: “The Countdown presenter Rachel Riley and former EastEnders actor Tracy Ann Oberman are preparing legal action against up to 70 individuals for tweets relating to their campaign against antisemitism in the Labour party, according to the pair’s lawyer.

“Mark Lewis, who made his name representing phone-hacking victims, said he is contacting people who have either posted allegedly libellous claims about his clients or repeatedly sent them large numbers of messages, which he says is tantamount to harassment.”

Wrong way round. If I recall correctly, they were doing the harassing.

“At the end of last year he and his partner moved to Israel, citing the level of antisemitism in Europe.”

https://twitter.com/saeed6ali/status/1098562045820186624

Perhaps this is a serious attempt at using the law to bully perfectly decent people, but it is clear that the people behind it cannot be taken seriously.

I’ll take it seriously when I see a reason to do so. Right now, I don’t.

*If anyone wants to claim anti-Semitism because mention of “stormtroopers” calls the Nazi variety to mind, be assured that no such comparison is possible. Nazi stormtroopers were successful in the horrible things they did – at least, during the first few years they were around.


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Snoopers’ Charter: Lawyers’ have been fighting to protect legal privilege

court

The article quoted below is from July. Does anybody know what happened with this?

In yet another case of lawyers vs politicians, the legal profession’s concerns about the Snoopers’ Charter are going to be debated in the House of Lords today.

The legal profession has long resisted the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter, which will allow the government to ‘snoop’ on our communications.

The fear is that the anti-terrorism legislation will end up undermining legal professional privilege (a client’s right to talk to his lawyer in confidence), something solicitors and barristers alike feel very angsty about.

Source: Snoopers’ Charter: Lawyers’ fight to protect legal privilege reaches the House of Lords – Legal Cheek

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“Isn’t the DWP’s lawyer a cheeky madam?”

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

The headline is a paraphrase of what This Writer’s legally-minded friend actually said, but once you’ve read this article you’ll understand why.

Readers of This Blog will be aware that the DWP released some data about the number of people who died while claiming incapacity benefits, in response to my Freedom of Information request of May 28, 2014 – nearly 15 months after I asked for it.

You should also be aware that the information in the DWP’s release of August 27 was incomplete. However, the DWP withdrew its appeal against my FoI request and tried to claim that it had fulfilled its obligations.

Does anybody think This Writer was going to accept that?

For clarity, here’s what I received from the Information Commissioner at the end of April/beginning of May:

“The Commissioner’s decision is that the Department for Work and Pensions has incorrectly applied section 22 to withhold requested information.

“The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation.

  • To disclose the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died since November 2011 until May 2014, broken down into the following categories:

– Those that are in the assessment phase
– Those that were found fit for work
– Those that were placed in the work-related activity group
– Those that were placed in the support group
– Those who have had an appeal completed against a Fit for Work (FFW) decision”

I sent an email to the First-tier Tribunal (information rights) asking it to issue directions to the DWP for the full information to be provided immediately, under its case management powers. I wrote:

“The Information Commissioner’s decision was for the Department for Work and Pensions ‘to disclose the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died since November 2011 until May 2014’, meaning the date of my request, May 28. The DWP has provided information only up to February 28, 2014. Withdrawal of the appeal indicates that the information I requested – up to May 28, 2014, should be forthcoming, but I note that the updated decision sent by the DWP along with the withdrawal of the appeal states: ‘You will note that those statistics have now been published in a way which provides all of the information you requested.’

I consider that to be either a mistake or a joke that is in extremely poor taste.
“Furthermore, the decision notice orders the DWP to disclose the number of people who died, broken down into categories including:
  • ‘Those that were found fit for work”
    and
  • ‘Those who have had an appeal completed against a Fit for Work (FFW) decision.’

“In its response, the DWP provides only information on those found fit for work, or with an appeal completed against a fit for work decision, who died within an extremely limited period of time after the decision was made and their claim was ended. That is not what I requested, nor is it what the Information Commissioner’s ruling demands. In withdrawing its appeal, the DWP has agreed to provide the number of people who died between December 1, 2011 and May 28, 2014 – including all those who died between those dates after a ‘fit for work’ decision, not just those yielded up by the ‘regular scans’ mentioned in the footnotes to the statistical release provided on August 27.

I await those figures. I will not accept any excuses about the cost of producing them. By withdrawing its appeal, the DWP has undertaken to provide them, as demanded in the Information Commissioner’s ruling of April 30. I note that, in its own words, the DWP has also tried to claim that it has provided ‘all the information… requested’.  Therefore I have reason to believe the DWP will not honour this demand unless it is compelled to do so.

“I note also that the vagueness of the DWP’s statistical release, dated August 27, 2015, has created considerable confusion. Is the number of individuals who died after completing an appeal (tables 2.5 and 2.6 in the release) to be considered as being in addition to those who died after a fit for work decision (tables 2.3 and 2.4)? Are the former statistics merely subsets of the latter? How many of the appeals were granted and how many were refused? Considering this is the part of my original request that the DWP itself asked me to change, it seems odd that the answers provided have been made as difficult to understand as possible. The Department for Work and Pensions is a government organisation and therefore staffed by public servants whose job it is to make matters as easy for the general public as possible. Clearly whoever wrote this statistical release has forgotten their duty to the public and needs to be reminded of it – and the figures must be amended to make them as clear as possible.

“Reference to the DWP’s other statistical release of August 27 casts doubt on the veracity of the information in table 2.1, which claims to provide the total number of individuals who died while claiming IB/SDA and ESA. However, the figures in the statistical release entitled Mortality statistics: Out-of-Work Working Age benefit claimants do not make sense. Death figures per year for 2009-2013 are provided for the total incapacity benefits population (IB/SDA and ESA) and also separately but if the separate totals are added together, the sum is greater – every year – than the number claimed for the incapacity benefits population as a whole – by 80 in 2009, 50 in 2010, 640 in 2011, 1,880 in 2012 and 1,330 in 2013. Whilst I accept that combining the separate benefit populations will produce a number greater than that of the total incapacity benefit population, because claimants were being migrated across from IB/SDA to ESA, almost as soon as ESA was set up, I do not accept that any benefit claimant can die twice. They can only die once, and they would have been claiming only one benefit when they did so. Therefore the total number of deaths claimed in Mortality Statistics: ESA, IB, and SDA is questionable.

“Table 2.2 in Mortality Statistics: ESA, IB, and SDA sets out the ‘total number of ESA off-flows with date of death at the same time’. This table includes a group marked ‘Unknown’. Reference to the footnotes shows that “Where the claimant is not in receipt of anybenefit payment, such as ESA (Credits only), then the phase is shown as unknown. This is unsatisfactory. If a group is mentioned, then the population of that group should be explained completely.  Comments that it includes people on National Insurance credits only do not explain why they are only receiving those credits. This is particularly important because reference to Mortality statistics: Out-of-Work Working Age benefit claimants shows that, between 2012 and 2013, the population of this group decreased from 207,390 to 172,670 – a fall of 17 per cent – while the number of deaths increased from 1,550 to 1,810 – a rise of 13 per cent. As these people were not in the support group of ESA, their mortality rate should be the same as that of the general population, indicating only 394 deaths in 2012 and 328 in 2013. The fact that the actual mortality rate was nearly six times as high creates serious cause for concern about the incapacity benefits system – although, again, as the figures provided by the DWP appear to be questionable, it may be that none of these figures are reliable at all.

“It seems clear that the Department for Work and Pensions has produced two statistical releases that do not stand up to scrutiny, in an attempt to ‘fob off’ information requesters like myself with claims that the Department has provided ‘all the information… requested’. This is utterly unsatisfactory and this government department must be called to account.”

The Tribunal’s Registrar wrote back as follows:

“By withdrawing the appeal, DWP made themselves subject to the requirement of the Information Commissioner’s decision notice that they were to provide you with all the information that you asked for.  The Tribunal no longer has the ability to use rule 5 as the appeal has ended.  The Tribunal does have power is to reinstate the appeal if a party asks the Tribunal to do so.  You have not specifically asked for that and, in any event, I doubt you would want that to happen because with the way things currently stand you should receive all the information you sought.

“Enforcement of the Information Commissioner’s decision notices is dealt with by the Information Commissioner’s Office.  If you are concerned that you have not yet received all the information, you should contact the Information Commissioner’s Office to ask them to enforce their original decision notice.”

It seems clear that this is intended to be taken as confirmation that the DWP has a duty to provide all the information that was requested – and it is now up to the Information Commissioner to hold the DWP to account. If the information is not forthcoming within a very limited period of time, the Department will be in contempt of court.

That did not stop the DWP’s lawyer – who I will not embarrass by naming here – from writing to the Information Commissioner’s Office as follows:

The DWP holds no information within the scope of the ICO’s order which has not been disclosed.  They hold no data for the period February to May 2014 (though we will in future), but there is no finding in the ICO’s decision which says we did hold data for those particular months.  The DWP have disclosed everything the ICO has directed.  The Appellant seems to have misinterpreted what DWP have disclosed, and our clients’ will be writing to him in an attempt to clarify any misunderstandings.

Does anybody believe that? Now you can see why our legally-minded friend called the DWP lawyer a “cheeky madam”.

The most recent information in the request is from more than 15 months ago, at the time of writing. Let’s look back to the DWP’s ‘ad hoc’ statistical release of July 2012. Didn’t it include figures from the previous November, no more than eight months previously? It therefore seems likely that the DWP lawyer is being economical with the truth. The claim that there is no finding in the ICO decision which says the DWP held data for those months is irrelevant, and the claim that the DWP had disclosed everything the ICO had directed is a lie. You only have to look back at the direction itself (you don’t have to go far – it is quoted at the top of this article) to see that.

I have written a response – seen by all three other parties, as follows: “The decision is perfectly clear. The DWP has withdrawn its appeal against it. Now the DWP must comply fully, or find itself in contempt of court.”

Now we have to wait for the Information Commissioner’s response. Note that I have pointed out that clarification of the DWP’s very poorly-phrased statistical releases is required; hopefully the commissioner will reinforce that with a direction for the Department to comply.

You will, of course, be updated on further developments.

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‘Failing Grayling’ could cost the Tories hundreds of thousands of votes – Left Foot Forward

Almost where he belongs: But Injustice Minister Chris Grayling should be behind bars - not in front of them.

Almost where he belongs: But Injustice Minister Chris Grayling should be behind bars – not in front of them.

According to Left Foot Forward: 82 per cent of people in the legal sector say they would be less likely to vote Conservative in the general election if justice secretary Chris Grayling is not removed from his post.

The poll was conducted by new social networking site www.mootis.co.uk which focuses on the legal services sector. Many of the 350,000 people working in this sector are traditional Tory voters.

Grayling was defeated at least seven times in the courtroom last year, over policies aimed at reducing compensation for asbestos victims, cutting legal aid and banning books in prison… [his] career has been marked by controversies, including a scandal over expenses claims and a botched set of statistics on violent crime. In 2010 he was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by gay rights charity Stonewall after he was recorded saying that B&B owners should have the right to bar gay couples.

Grayling is the first Lord Chancellor in 440 years who is not a trained lawyer. Mootis Chairman Bill Braithwaite QC said that it was clear that the vast majority of legal sector workers ‘are fed up of Grayling and are prepared to turn their back on the Conservatives if he remains as Justice secretary’.

Hilary Meredith, CEO of Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd in London and Wilmslow said: “It is time for failing Grayling to go. He is the most inept Justice secretary in living memory. The vast majority of lawyers would accept that cuts needed to be made to the legal aid bill but the ham-fisted way in which he has gone about his business has made a mockery of our legal system.”

Meanwhile, former Tory MP Jerry Hayes has also laid into the Justice secretary over his attempts to limit access to judicial review. In an astonishing attack, Hayes described Grayling as “a s*** which will have to be flushed” after the election.

Read the rest of the article on Left Foot Forward.

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If DWP lawyers don’t attend tribunals it means benefit claimants AREN’T cheating, Daily Mail!

Daily Fail Logo

The Fail has struck again with a comically inaccurate piece about benefit appeal tribunals.

“Benefits claimants cheats (sic) are able to keep money they are not entitled to because government officials fail to turn up to legal hearings,” thundered the piece by MailOnline political editor Matt Chorley, who should know better – both in terms of grammar and logic.

“The Department for Work and Pensions sent lawyers to just four per cent of tribunals held last year to rule on decisions to cut benefits.

“It means that in many cases people are able to successfully argue in favour of keeping their money, because the government has failed to turn up to challenge it.”

No – that’s not what it means.

If the DWP has made a decision not to send lawyers to defend the cancellation of a claimant’s benefit, it means they expect the facts to speak for themselves – or they do not believe they have a high enough chance of success to justify the expense. Logically this would mean they believe the claimant is correct and deserves the money.

So the real story is that tribunals are finding 49.613 per cent of benefit claimants who appeal to them have been wrongly stripped of benefits by poor DWP decisions (explanation below).

The story goes on to say that “official figures also show that the DWP is more likely to win cases if it manages to send someone to the tribunal”. This does not support the Fail‘s claim that cheats are winning cases; it corroborates the fact that the DWP sends lawyers when it believes it can win a case but legal representation is necessary.

The facts are buried deeper in the story, where we find (in figures borrowed from the Daily Telegraph) that between April and December 2013, only 4.3 per cent of cases had an official from the DWP – and claimants won their case in 41 per cent of those. That’s 1.763 per cent of the total.

When there was no presenting officer from the DWP, that figure rose to 50 per cent – half of the remaining 95.7 per cent of tribunals. Half of 95.7 per cent is 47.85 per cent. Add that to the 1.763 per cent and you have the percentage of claimant wins.

It still means the DWP is winning more than half of its cases!

The scandal is that it is causing unnecessary hardship to around 124,400 people, if the Fail is right in saying there were 250,000 benefit tribunals last year.

And Fail readers know it, if the story’s Comment column is any indicator. Keith Hudson writes: “They only turn up if they think they will win or that the Tribunal will rule in their favour anyway. The true waste of money is in the number of appeals that the DWP force through to this stage knowing full well they’ve broken the rules.”

This is also the view of ‘Pixie’, who writes: “WOW DM you need to revise that first sentence! There are plenty of people who appeal who are NOT cheats!”

And so on, down the line. This is the legendary right-wing Daily Mail comment column, yet even here people are turning against the pro-Tory attitude pushed by the mainstream press.

With Iain Duncan Smith appearing on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, this is another opportunity to point out the huge amount of damage being caused by his fatally – and the term is used literally – flawed policies.

That’s if the Beeb has the bottle to allow such a question.

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Bad apples?

Meet the new boss: Richard Caseby - no connection with any 'bad apples' at News UK or the DWP. Let's hope it stays that way.

Meet the new boss: Richard Caseby – no connection with any ‘bad apples’ at News UK or the government. Let’s hope it stays that way.

The highly confrontational former managing editor of both The Sunday Times and The Sun has been named as the new director of communications at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Richard Caseby takes over after former comms boss John Shield was hired by the BBC last September.

Gosh, what an incestuous world we live in! The BBC, now confirmed as little more than a mouthpiece for the Conservative Party in its political news content, hires the former press officer for the Tory-run DWP. The DWP then hires an executive from Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, previous home of – oh, yes – former Number 10 press supremo Andy Coulson, currently on trial for criminal offences allegedly committed while he was employed by the same firm!

Murdoch, the government, the BBC – these people like to stick together, and they like to put their people in positions of influence.

There is no evidence – to my knowledge – that could link Mr Caseby to any criminal behaviour at News UK. It is to be hoped that any ‘bad apples’ who worked there did not manage to spoil the whole bunch. It would be wrong to consider him guilty of any wrongdoing merely by association with his previous employer.

And we should not automatically consider him to have been elevated to this position – in which, as a government employee, he should be impartial and not partisan – because he may be ideologically aligned with the Conservatives.

That being said, I shall certainly be watching this character like a hawk.

It seems he has gained a reputation for being “outspoken” and “forthright” – Roy Greenslade in The Guardian recounts an occasion when a columnist for that paper had mistakenly reported that The Sun had doorstepped a Leveson Inquiry lawyer, writing that such activities were equal to “casually defecating on his lordship’s desk while doing a thumbs-up sign”.

In response, Mr Caseby sent a toilet roll to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger along with a note saying: “I hear Marina Hyde’s turd landed on your desk.”

Of his new roll – sorry, role – at the DWP, Mr Caseby said: “Welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit represent the biggest transformation programme in the UK. It is fundamentally about changing culture and behaviour to make sure there is always an incentive to work.

“This is a huge and inspiring communications challenge and I’m delighted to be joining the DWP team to help in the task.”

Clearly he is already getting the hang of the lingo: “tranformation”, “changing culture and behaviour”, and “always an incentive to work” are all DWP catchphrases – probably because they don’t mean anything.

A “transformation” programme can turn a good system into the substance he mentioned in his Guardian note.

“Changing culture and behaviour” does not mean improving standards of living – in fact the evidence shows the exact opposite.

And the idea that DWP cuts mean there is “always an incentive to work” has been disproved to the point of ridicule. Iain Duncan Smith’s changes have hit low-paid workers more than anybody else and wages have been dropping continuously since the Secretary-in-a-State slithered into the job back in 2010.

Universal Credit has been the subject of so many expensive write-offs and relaunches that a campaign was launched earlier this week, called ‘Rip It Up And Start Again’, seeking an end to the fiasco.

This is the arena into which Mr Caseby has stepped.

He’d better tread carefully.

If he puts just one foot wrong, he might just get his head bitten off.

The biggest threat to democracy since World War II – and they tried to keep it secret

Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the 'little' people - the populations they are treading on - are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]

Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the ‘little’ people – the populations they are treading on – are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is bitter pill for anyone to swallow, if they have spent any time defending Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The partnership between the EU and the United States would open America to the kind of free trade deals that have been going on in Europe ever since the original Economic Community was formed – but there is a problem.

It isn’t a problem for businesses; they are in line to get a deal better than anything ever experienced in the world of trade. Citizens and national governments, on the other hand – you, me, and the people who represent us – will be railroaded.

This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments.

In other words, this could be the biggest threat to democracy since World War II.

In the UK, it could be used by shale mining companies to ensure that the government could not keep them out of protected areas, by banks fighting financial regulation, and by cigarette companies fighting the imposition of plain packaging for cigarettes. How do we know? Because these things are already happening elsewhere in the world.

If a product had been banned by a country’s regulators, the manufacturer will be able to sue them, forcing that state to pay compensation or let the product in – even if this undermines health and safety laws in that country.

It seems that domestic courts are deemed likely to be biased or lack independence, but nobody has explained why they think the secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers will be impartial. Common sense says they’ll rule for the profit, every time.

Now ask yourself a question: Have you ever heard about this?

Chances are that you haven’t – unless you have read articles by George Monbiot (one in The Guardian this week prompted this piece) or have insider knowledge.

The European Commission has done its utmost to keep the issue from becoming public knowledge. Negotiations on the trade and investment partnership have involved 119 behind-closed-doors meetings with corporations and their lobbyists (please note that last point, all you supporters of the government’s so-called Transparency of Lobbying Bill), and just eight with civil society groups. Now that concerned citizens have started to publicise the facts, the Commission has apparently worked out a way to calm us down with a “dedicated communications operation” to “manage stakeholders, social media and transparency” by claiming that the deal is about “delivering growth and jobs” and will not “undermine regulation and existing levels of protection in areas like health, safety and the environment” – meaning it will do precisely the opposite.

Your Coalition government appears to be all for it. Kenneth Clarke reckons it is “Scrooge-like” to inflate concerns about investor protection and ignore the potential economic gains – but if the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement is any yardstick, exports will drop and thousands of jobs will be lost.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has published an early day motion on the issue – signed by a total of seven fellow Parliamentarians so far.

Labour MEPs are doing their best to cut the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ out of the agreement, but they are fighting a lonely battle against the massed forces of greed.

So now ask yourself a second question: Why is the European Commission lying to Britain when we are already halfway out of the door?

Britain is not happy with the European Union or its place within that organisation. People think too much of their national sovereignty – their country’s freedom to do what it wants – is being stripped away by faceless bureaucrats who do not have the best interests of the population at heart. Now the European Commission is trying to foist this upon us.

For Eurosceptics in Parliament – of all political hues – this is a gift. For those of us who accept that we are better off in Europe – as it is currently constituted and without the new trade agreement – it is a poisoned pill.

Are we being pushed into a position where we have to choose between two evils that could have been avoided, if only our leaders had had an ounce of political will and an inch of backbone?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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This Royal Mail privatisation will harm us all

End of an institution: We can all wave goodbye to friendly Postman Pat; the new post-privatisation Royal Mail will be run according to strict for-profit rules and rural areas in particular are likely to suffer.

End of an institution: We can all wave goodbye to friendly Postman Pat; the new post-privatisation Royal Mail will be run according to strict for-profit rules and rural areas in particular are likely to suffer.

Is anybody happy that the Royal Mail is to be privatised?

Personally, I see no cause for celebration. Polls show that 70 per cent of the public are against privatisation – no matter which political party they support – and 96 per cent of the workforce don’t want it either, despite being offered shares in the new company. They’re not stupid. They know that workers in other privatised services have not been able to keep their shares. Will they be able to take the shares with them if they leave?

And what will happen to workforce terms and conditions?

Other people buying shares will have to pay at least £750 to get the smallest stake in the new company – that puts the sell-off well out of the reach of most people in these depressed times. It is a privatisation for financiers, lawyers and accountants. They won’t want to share the profit pot with staff – and profits are at a record high of £400 million per year.

Meanwhile, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government recently nationalised the Royal Mail’s pension fund obligations (its debt) so that taxpayers across the country will have to pay for it. The privatisation means any profits will go to those who can afford to buy the shares. This is bad business. Don’t these two political parties always claim they are the experts when it comes to money? It seems a strange claim to make in the light of such reckless endangerment of public funds.

What of the future? We have seen where privatisation leads, with the flotation of the railways, the energy and water companies on the stock exchange – shares have ended up in the hands of foreign multinationals who have pushed prices up and up, while providing ever-poorer services, and the companies concerned have continued to demand money from the government for any investment; this is because all the profits go to shareholders, who then feel justified in granting huge pay packets to their chief officers.

So the taxpayer continues shelling out for these so-called private utilities while the new owners have the time of their lives at our expense. The workers – and the service – suffer.

This is a change that will affect everyone. I hope everyone remembers who inflicted it on us, when they come to vote at the general election in 2015.