Tag Archives: regulation

#DWP staff partied hard when they should have been observing #Covid19 #lockdown

Time of her life: Therese Coffey danced (badly) and sang (off-key) as her government removed the Universal Credit uplift that has been a lifeline for millions of people. Then she went back to work after the Tory conference and carried right on partying, according to the Mirror.

We all knew Therese Coffey likes to party hard…

… but it turns out that she doesn’t confine these activities to the Conservative Party conference.

While the rest of us were in Covid-19 lockdown, and hospitality and office parties were banned, she and political staff at the Department for Work and Pensions in Caxton House, London, were raving it up into the early hours of the morning.

And yes – this does include an event last Christmas, according to the Mirror:

The Mirror has been told ‘gatherings’ in Ms Coffey’s office throughout the pandemic were an open secret, with one source saying “even during lockdown, there were parties all the time.”

Bottles of wine and beer were routinely found between staff members’ salads and sandwiches in fridges at the department, to be drunk at the informal, late-night soirees.

A DWP insider said: “There is a constant flow of booze in the office.”

At one such occasion during last year’s festive season, Ms Coffey handed out Christmas presents to her team.

Challenged about these events a DWP spokesperson didn’t deny them. Instead, it was insisted that “DWP officials followed government guidance” while it was also admitted that a core team “regularly worked late into the evening and on a number of occasions they ate takeaway food and drank some alcohol”.

You’ll like the next bit: “No karaoke took place.”

Maybe not, but an occasion in which staff stayed late into the night drinking alcohol and the Secretary of State handed out presents to them is clearly a social event that was clearly banned, according to government guidance.

Unless the government had different guidance for itself than for the rest of us?

The DWP’s constant bingeing can be added to an ever-growing list which includes Downing Street events on November 13 and possibly 20, December 15 and 18, plus one at the Department for Education while Tier 2 rules were in place, and a “boozy celebration” in November 2020 to mark Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review.

Sunak, Johnson, Gavin Williamson and now Therese Coffey: these Tory ministers are turning into a regular Rogues’ Gallery.

Source: DWP staff ‘drank into the night’ in Therese Coffey’s private office during lockdown – Mirror Online

Now the deluge: details of #BorisJohnson #DowningStreetParty events are flying

Flagrant: Boris Johnson asked quiz questions from a TV screen – but flanked by Downing Street staff in breach of Tier 2 regulations that were in force at the time.

We’re having the party now, it seems.

Even as we were all discussing whether the controversy over Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat redecoration would eclipse the scandal over the Downing Street Christmas party (or parties), the drip-feed of new information pattered on. There was this:

And there was this:

(I included the image because it’s both funny and vile in equal measure.)

And then there’s this, which actually blends both of the above:

Boris Johnson was tonight accused of personally breaking Covid laws by hosting a Christmas quiz in No10 last year.

It was December 15 – three days before a gathering now being probed – and the PM was flanked by two members of his top team, although they were not drinking. One was wearing a Santa hat and the other draped in tinsel.

London was then under Tier 2 regulations banning any social mixing between households – which Mr Johnson appeared to have breached by mixing with the aides.

Official guidance also stated: “You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”

The Mirror understands staff were invited to the virtual quiz, raising funds for charity, a couple of weeks earlier.

Our source claimed dozens signed up to take part online but that at 6.30pm on the day many staff decided to take part from No10 instead.

[The] source said many staff huddled by computers, conferring on questions and knocking back fizz, wine and beer from a local Tesco Metro.

In one office, the insider said, there were four teams, each made up of six people.

Sources said the quiz finished at around 9pm, but staff stayed on for two hours or so drinking and chatting. Most stayed in their offices, but a few allegedly moved around the building to mingle with colleagues in a further apparent breach of the rules.

A Downing Street spokesman has tried to whitewash the new revelation by saying it was only a “virtual” quiz – but that doesn’t get Johnson off the hook of breaking Covid-19 regulations that were in place at the time.

Nor does the claim that Downing Street staff were there because they were working late – they could either work or take part in the quiz and it seems clear that they were engaged in the social activity instead. Whether they attended virtually, from their desks, is irrelevant if there were six people clustered around each desk.

Of course, it’s possible the spokesman could have been at that gathering himself, in which case we don’t have any reason to trust what he says.

And some of us thought this was bad:

Or, indeed, this:

One has to question whether the Met Police will have enough evidence to investigate now. I’m guessing the answer will still be no because “We don’t investigate retrospective breaches” – even though breaches by the prime minister should be an exception to any such guideline because of the poor example it sets and the consequent risk to public health.

The Met is already facing possible legal action over its refusal to shift its collective posterior, anyway:

And at the back of all this, but ever-present in the minds of Tory MPs (one would hope) is the fact that the Conservative Party is creeping lower and lower in the national opinion polls…

… and Johnson’s personal popularity, already lower than it had ever been, has dropped even further:

The question now is, how long will the Conservative Party allow its name to be dragged through the mud by a man who, in the words of the former Commons Speaker, “stinks in the nostrils of decent people”?

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POLL: Will people break Covid-19 ‘guidelines’ – amid the rise of the Delta variant – because of Hancock’s affair?

It would be just the excuse that Boris Johnson needs, wouldn’t it?

Covid-19 is back on the rise, across the UK, due to the arrival of the Delta variant that Johnson refused to keep out; he kept our borders open to let it in instead.

But look! Along come pictures of Matt Hancock breaking the rules to have an affair with a former college friend he had installed as his adviser at the Department of Health.

Won’t that trigger another round of rule-flouting, in line with what happened after Dominic Cummings ran off to see that mythical optician in Barnard Castle last year?

That would be just handy-dandy for Johnson, who could then blame rising Covid cases on public stupidity rather than having to admit that he did the wrong thing, yet again.

The idea of the public doing such stupid things is already being touted in the media so he’s probably gearing up his press machine to say it already.

There’s just one snag: because Johnson has already forgiven Hancock, he would be a hypocrite to blame anybody who copied the Death Health Secretary.

I don’t think that would stop him but it is important for the rest of us to bear in mind.

Now you’re thinking about all of the above, shall we have some polls?

Source: Matt Hancock kiss: Covid families warn it could undermine efforts against virus – BBC News

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A week after Brexit, how are the UK and the EU getting on? Not very well, it seems

I was going to leave the headline as a rhetorical question but too many people would have tried to answer without reading the article.

And who can blame them? It all seems a nasty mess at the moment. But are these really only teething problems?

Here comes the list:

The UK and the EU are heading towards a confrontation over financial services after trading in £6 billion worth of euro-dominated shares started moving to European continental stock exchanges in Amsterdam and Paris.

UK financial service providers and banks have lost the so-called passport that gave them the right to operate without restrictions throughout the EU, and now depend on unilateral decisions from European authorities to extend them an “equivalence” based on regulatory convergence, sector by sector.

Bank of England boss Andrew Bailey has said the UK should not become a so-called “rule taker” by mimicking EU regulations just for the sake of obtaining an access to European markets.

To This Writer’s uncultured eye, he seems to be saying we should lose a lot of business. Or is he he suggesting that trade will come back to the UK if businesses see an advantage in trading outside EU regulations?

This is not likely to sort itself out for several years.

Marks & Spencer has discovered holes in the so-called “zero tariff” trade deal with the EU that means its Percy Pig sweets – manufactured in Germany, transported to the UK, and then re-exported to other countries like Ireland – would face taxation and bureaucratic “red tape” costs.

The firm has already dropped hundreds of products, including chocolate fudge pudding and sweet and sour chicken, from its Northern Ireland stores after it saw competitors’ lorries barred from travelling between the mainland and Northern Ireland.

John Lewis has scrapped deliveries of its products to EU countries (although the firm says this is because of a business decision to concentrate on the UK). Debenhams and Fortnum & Masons have also suspended deliveries to Ireland and the EU respectively, blaming uncertainty over post-Brexit trading rules.

Scottish seafood firms are already facing financial difficulty as new post-Brexit rules demand that every single box has to be offloaded from lorries, opened and checked by vets before leaving Scotland – creating five-hour delays per lorry.

And overseas customers are cancelling orders – putting the £1 billion-per-year business in jeopardy.

Expect much more of the same in the future.

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Conservative cronyism rampant as contract awarded to colleagues of Cummings and Gove

Buddy money: The Tories are using emergency procedures to bypass proper tendering procedures and give huge amounts of public money to their friends.

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

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

And apparently there’s a conflict of interest as it seems to involve Eurosceptics working on focus group research related to Brexit – although a Cabinet Office spokesman said this was a bookkeeping issue. Do you believe that?

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

The Cabinet Office has awarded an £840,000 contract to research public opinion about government policies to a company owned by two long-term associates of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings, without putting the work out for tender.

Public First, a small policy and research company in London, is run by James Frayne, whose work alongside Cummings – the prime minister’s senior adviser – dates back to a Eurosceptic campaign 20 years ago, and Rachel Wolf, a former adviser to Gove who co-wrote the Conservative party’s 2019 election manifesto.

The government justified the absence of a competitive tendering process, which would have enabled other companies to bid, under emergency regulations that allow services to be urgently commissioned in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

However, the Cabinet Office’s public record states that portions of the work, which involved focus group research, related to Brexit rather than Covid-19, a joint investigation by the Guardian and openDemocracy has established.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said this was because of bookkeeping methods, and insisted that, contrary to government records, all the focus group research done by Public First was related to the pandemic.

Source: Firm with links to Gove and Cummings given Covid-19 contract without open tender | Politics | The Guardian

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Planning corruption: it seems Jenrick isn’t the only Tory accused of breaking the rules

Robert Jenrick: while he was presenting press conferences about Covid-19, he has also been mired in an apparent corruption scandal.

The evidence is mounting against planning minister Robert Jenrick in the scandal over the Westferry development – and interest in the controversy has revealed further potential corruption.

It seems Robert Jenrick was induced to overturn the refusal of the Westferry planning application after property developer Richard Desmond showed him a promotional video for the £1bn development. Here’s The Guardian:

“What I did was I showed him the video,” Desmond told the Sunday Times, adding that Jenrick had watched it for “three or four minutes”, and adding: “It’s quite long, so he got the gist.”

Jenrick subsequently overturned a decision by a local council and the government’s planning inspectorate in order to approve a 500-apartment, 44-storey development at Westferry Printworks, a former printing plan in east London.

Viewing the video would appear to constitute lobbying by Desmond, potentially giving rise to a conflict of interest.

Labour will use the opportunity of a three-hour opposition day debate on Wednesday to discuss the controversy.

That’s today – June 24.

Meanwhile, according to The Mirror

A Tory former planning minister is reportedly under investigation for failing to declare an interest in a hotel development in his constituency.

Sir Bob Neill wrote a letter to his local council in December 2018, urging them to approve the redevelopment of The Royal Bell – a neglected hotel in his Bromley Constituency.

But he failed to mention in his letter that he was on the payroll of the Substantia Group – the firm handling the planning application for the hotel.

Sir Bob has been paid £50,000 by the firm for “strategic consultancy advice” since 2016, according to the register of members’ interests.

But his links to the firm were not explicitly outlined in the letter.

Shadow Housing Minister Mike Amesbury said: “It beggars belief that a former planning minister would not be aware of the obvious conflict of interest in this case.”

And the Telegraph today reported Sir Bob had intervened in another planning application being handled by the same firm – again without mentioning his paid position.

MPs voted in 2018 for investigations by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to remain secret. Some might suggest that this was an offence against justice, which must be seen to be done.

But it has been reported the Commissioner has launched an investigation into Sir Bob’s involvement in the project after receiving a complaint.

Source: Jenrick under growing pressure after fresh Desmond revelation | Politics | The Guardian

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Latest phase of Tory ‘hostile environment’ would force charities to help deport people sleeping rough

The Conservative government has been caught trying to persecute foreigners and some of the UK’s most vulnerable people – yet again.

The scandal centres once again on the Home Office, which has been trying to pressgang homelessness charities into becoming border guards.

The plan – euphemistically titled the Rough Sleeper Support Service (RSSS) – is to get charity outreach workers to pass on the personal details of homeless people to the Home Office where, if they were found to be from foreign countries, enforcement officers would deport them.

The scheme deliberately ignores data protection and privacy laws by demanding that personal information be passed to the Home Office regardless of whether the subject gives their consent.

This breach of national and international law was imposed to make it easier to deport people. A Home Office email stated that this would be harder if individuals were allowed to withdraw consent for their information to be used in this way, as would be permitted legally.

There has been pushback from charities who have refused to agree a data-sharing deal – that breaks the law – with the Home Office and local authorities.

This Writer wonders whether charities were also being gagged with non-disclosure agreements foisted on them by the Home Office – a Conservative government trick we have encountered before.

It seems odd that the first time this atrocity came to public attention was after the human rights charity Liberty received answers to a Freedom of Information request.

And Liberty was not pleased. According to the charity’s Gracie Bradley:

“It’s disgraceful that the Home Office, local authorities, and charities are attempting to turn trusted homelessness outreach workers into border guards. Homelessness charities must refuse complicity in the hostile environment.

Bradley said referrals will likely result in immigration enforcement action.

She said ministers should be concentrating on combating the root causes of homelessness rather than targeting rough sleepers. “Consent and data protection should also be at the heart of our interactions with public institutions,” she added.

[A] Public Interest Law Centre spokesman added: “Despite its name, the new RSSS offers no ‘support’ to homeless migrants living in the UK. It is a ‘hostile environment’ measure in all but name.”

Shockingly, the Tories have been unrepentant, now that their plan has been revealed.

A Home Office spokesman actually told the Guardian: “This enables individuals to access support or assists them in leaving the UK where appropriate.”

Assists them? They can only be assisted to leave the UK if they have been asked whether they want to – and it seems perfectly clear that the Home Office does not intend to seek any such permissions.

This is yet another atrocity from the home of the “hostile environment” and Home Secretary Sajid Javid should be hauled before Parliament to explain his department’s flagrant abuse of the law.

If he fails to account for his department’s actions, then we will have yet more proof of the Conservative Party’s prejudice against anybody who isn’t rich and privileged.

Source: Secret plan to use charities to help deport rough sleepers | Politics | The Guardian

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Guardian article reveals scale of Labour prejudice against those accused of anti-Semitism

Jeremy Corbyn: He seems to be the only member of the Labour Party who is immune from false allegations of anti-Semitism.

As This Writer warned, it is now clear that one only has to be accused of anti-Semitism to be “kicked out” of the Labour Party, thanks to the hysteria whipped up by those who see advantage in it.

Jessica Elgot’s recent article in The Guardian referred to “cases” that are “pending” – not people who have been found to be anti-Semites; just those who have been accused. And look at the reaction.

A “party source” is quoted as saying the “antisemitism subgroup” of Labour’s National Executive Committee means “we have the potential to kick people out super fast”. Apparently justice is not a concern.

What kind of person makes such a suggestion?

And what kind of newspaper publishes it as evidence that Labour is taking appropriate action?

The corruption in this system is clear. Allegations of anti-Semitism are being made dishonestly – not to rid Labour of racists but to “kick out” members their accusers simply do not like.

Why else would the NEC have included, in its sheet of charges against me, a directive for the panel hearing my case to find me guilty, no matter what the evidence says?

I have now sent my defence to the Labour Party – all 194 pages of it – and there will be a hearing at some point in the future. I have absolutely no confidence that the interests of justice will be served by it.

That is one reason I am crowdfunding for legal action in a genuine court. I believe this is the only way the facts of the matter will be revealed.

I have a JustGiving page and you are invited to visit it and contribute to the cause.

The Labour Party deserves better than the fake justice its members are being offered.

Leaked Labour disciplinary papers have laid bare the scale of the challenge the party’s governing body faces in tackling antisemitism.

Around 70 cases are believed to be pending. However, the papers reveal only a minority were considered by the NEC because of time constraints.

Another party source said action would ramp up considerably within weeks. “The new code of conduct means we will not have to go to the full NEC disputes committee, but a smaller antisemitism subgroup. It will mean we have the potential to kick people out super fast, instead of waiting months for a full disputes meeting and just getting through 11 of 70.”

Source: Leaked Labour papers reveal scale of challenge to tackle antisemitism | Politics | The Guardian

Visit our JustGiving page to help Vox Political’s Mike Sivier fight anti-Semitism libels in court


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More than 150,000 people to get boost in disability benefit after Tories sneak out humiliating climbdown

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

This is to be welcomed.

But take note of the fact that the BBC report (below) doesn’t mention the fact that Esther Mcvey sneaked out her announcement after the close of Parliamentary business for the week.

Nor is anything said of the fact that this was a humiliating climbdown for the Tories.

Still, it’s good news for the public.

And if this is an indication of Esther McVey’s future at the DWP, then perhaps she is to be welcomed after all.

But I doubt it.

Ministers have backed down in a row over paying higher disability benefits to 164,000 people by saying they will not contest a High Court decision.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said she would not appeal December’s judgement over payments to people with mental health conditions.

Ministers had sought to limit those suffering psychological distress from claiming higher rates of benefits.

Campaigners said this was “crude and unfair” and welcomed the U-turn.

The government introduced regulations last March stating that people who could not travel independently on the grounds of psychological distress, as opposed to other conditions, were not entitled to the enhanced mobility rate of Personal Independence Payment.

Ministers pressed ahead with the proposals despite criticism from an independent tribunal in 2016 but the High Court ruled shortly before Christmas that they were “blatantly discriminatory”.

The government was expected to challenge the ruling, having previously said reversing the changes would cost an extra £3.7bn by 2022.

But Ms McVey, in one of her first major announcements since joining the cabinet last week, ruled out fresh legal action in a written statement to Parliament.

The Department for Work and Pensions will now go through all affected cases to identify anyone who may be entitled to more as a result of the judgement.

All payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual claim.

Source: U-turn in disability benefits row


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Brexit is bad for business as pharmaceutical firm expects to pay £70m because of it

A scientist prepares protein samples for analysis at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey [Image: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters].

New regulation processes, labs and approval systems for 1,700 GlaxoSmithKline products – necessitated by Brexit – will cost this single company up to £70 million, the firm’s president is saying.

That’s just one company.

Admittedly, not all firms will be affected in a similar way or to a similar degree – but if only a few large concerns like GSK are affected, what will they conclude about doing business in the UK?

And remember, this is not the only impact that Brexit is going to have, starting immediately on March 29, 2019.

Right before I started writing this article, This Writer published a piece about the effect of leaving the EU-VAT area.

Many other adverse effects have already been demonstrated, and others are being identified every week, if not every day.

Brexit is bad for business. And that means it’s bad for the UK.

Up to £70m will have to be diverted from developing new cancer drugs in order to prepare for the impact of Brexit, Britain’s biggest maker pharmaceuticals of has warned.

In a stark intervention over the extra costs being incurred, Phil Thomson, president of global affairs at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), made clear that something approaching the figure would have to be spent whatever the outcome of trade talks.

In evidence to the Commons health select committee, he said he would rather be spending the money on the company’s efforts to find new, life-saving cancer treatments.

He said the company estimated that 1,700 of its products would be directly affected by a chaotic Brexit, with new regulation processes, labs and approval systems costing “somewhere between £60m and £70m”.

Source: Brexit to swallow £70m meant for developing cancer drugs, says GSK | Politics | The Guardian


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