Tag Archives: review

Government is delaying Covid-19 inquiry, say bereaved families threatening court challenge

Satire? This image suggesting the Tories were lying about their Covid-19 strategy may be more accurate now than at the time it was made. Why is an inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic being delayed? Is evidence being altered or destroyed before it becomes illegal to do so?

Families who lost loved ones in the Covid-19 crisis are preparing a court challenge against the Tory government, which they fear is delaying an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic.

Boris Johnson appointed Baroness Hallett to chair the inquiry in December 2021, and has said it would begin in spring this year. But spring is over and no terms of reference have been published nor setting-up-date specified.

Under the 2005 Inquiries Act, an inquiry “must not begin considering evidence before the setting up date” and once an inquiry is under way it is an offence under the Act to destroy or tamper with evidence.

So the longer the setting up date is delayed, the more evidence it is possible for … someone… to alter or destroy.

That’s the concern of the group Covid-19 bereaved families for justice, who are planning a judicial review into the failure.

Elkan Abrahamson, head of major inquiries at Broudie Jackson Canter, who is representing the group, said taking legal action is the “last thing” families want but they may be left with no choice. He said: “In the vast majority of inquiries a setting-up date is given within days or weeks of the chair being appointed, so this delay of over six months is both unprecedented and totally inexplicable.

“The consequences are extremely serious, as it only becomes a criminal offence to destroy or tamper with evidence after the inquiry’s start date. By failing to give one, the Prime Minister is opening the door to key evidence being destroyed.”

Not only that, but a delay like this means it will take longer, and be more difficult, to learn lessons from the pandemic and the government’s failures in handling it.

Perhaps most to the point, though, is this: Boris Johnson has claimed that he needs to stay on as prime minister to “get on” with tackling the issues that matter most to people – but instead he is delaying a vital inquiry.

He can’t say it’s because he had to deal with the challenges to his own leadership because he has already told us he considers them to have been nothing more than a time-wasting sideshow; he should have been handling the issues that matter – not diverting time and energy to his own self-preservation.

All the government has been able to say is that the inquiry’s terms of reference will be published shortly. Nothing has been said about the setting-up date.

So, what’s really going on here? And do we need a judicial review to establish what’s really going on at the heart of our government?

Source: Bereaved ready to take Government to court over Covid inquiry delay

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Smoking: Boris Johnson can’t impose plan to raise age of sale for one simple reason

Here’s where the bluff and bluster of Boris Johnson hits painful reality.

He has vowed to improve the nation’s health after the pandemic exposed entrenched social inequalities, worsened by poor diet and smoking.

A plan to cut smoking has been published today, proposing to raise the age at which cigarettes may be bought by one year each year, after ex-charity boss Javed Khan was asked to review the issue by ministers.

But there is one big reason why it won’t happen – comprised of two big problems.

Firstly, raising the legal smoking age over 18 would see a Conservative government telling adults they are not free to make bad decisions – and they are ideologically opposed to that.

After all, the smoking electorate may decide that voting Conservative is a bad decision – and stop doing it.

Secondly, it would look extremely bad for a prime minister who was fined for breaking lockdown rules and spent tens of thousands of pounds on a gold wallpapered renovation of Downing Street to lecture us on poor choices.

Expect this policy choice to be quietly retired. Smoking may create huge burdens for the NHS but Johnson won’t be the PM who stops it.

Source: Why Boris Johnson is intent on pouring cold water on new plans to raise the smoking age in England

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Labour is consulting members on policy so here are a few ideas

The excuses man: no doubt Keir Starmer is already looking for excuses to get out of adopting the common-sense policies his party members want.

Blairgruppenfuhrer Starmer is launching a national review of Labour Party policy and is seeking input from his (remaining) party members.

This is actually a good idea – although This Writer has a few doubts about whether he will adopt the policies that have the most support or will simply cherry-pick whatever suits his own extremely right-wing opinions.

If you are (still) a Labour Party member and have been asked to take part in this consultation – but are struggling to put your ideas into words – feel free to dip into the following. It’s not an exhaustive list but I think it’s a good start:

General policy

Renationalisation of the NHS.

Nationalisation of the electricity, water and railway companies.

End to the sanctions system and a proper welfare benefit to be given to the sick, disabled and unemployed so they can afford to eat, heat their homes and live with dignity.

Restoration of union strength so they can fight real exploitation by big business.

End of precarity and zero hours contracts.

Proper help for small and medium-sized businesses, as these employ more people, serve their local communities better and add needed competition and commercial variety to communities.

End the ban on council housing and start building them and proper affordable homes.

Proper support for rural communities, including better bus services, affordable homes for locals, and the restoration of village shops to keep them living communities.

Set up a workers’ chamber in parliament to counteract the domination of millionaires. This to be composed of working people elected by working people.

Tax

End corporate tax havens.

Tighten the non-dom tax laws so that the people claiming it really do live abroad.

Education

Take academy schools back under state control because they are failing.

Racism

Re-admit and make formal apology to the vast number of decent Labour party members falsely accused and smeared as anti-Semites. Many of these were Jewish, which indicates a strain of anti-Semitism in their accusers.

Labour also needs to reconnect with its traditional Black and Asian supporters. It thus needs to show that it takes tackling racism seriously. This can be done simply by pursuing traditional Labour anti-racist policies without taking on the excesses of Critical Race Theory.

Foreign Policy

No more wars in the Middle East. These have failed, and were never more anything than an excuse to spread western geopolitical power by invading and looting these countries. We have destroyed nations like Libya and Iraq and left sectarian violence, destruction and chaos. These wars contributed massively to the refugee crisis and created the conditions for the emergence of ISIS. They are also the real reasons the peoples of the Middle East despise us. It has nothing to do with any innate quality of Islam.

End arms sales to foreign despots and butchers. This should include Israel, until they withdraw from Palestine and make a just, democratic peace with them.

I know; it’s less a list than a mini-manifesto. But these are great ideas.

What would you propose to give the UK a better future than it’s currently facing?

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Lords cave in on undemocratic Tory laws ahead of closure of Parliament

Have you got your ID? If not, you won’t be able to vote in Parliamentary elections across the UK or local elections in England after the Tory government succeeded in restricting the number of people allowed to exercise their democratic right, affecting millions of people. Are you among those targeted by this?

A mass of undemocratic and despotic new laws are to come into being after cowardly Lords gave up their opposition to corrupt Tory government plans.

The Nationality and Borders Bill is to receive Royal Assent after peers gave up their principles.

It means Priti Patel’s plan to send asylum-seekers to live in Rwanda, rather than the UK, will be put into practice just as soon as she can get all the mechanisms in place, and never mind that it costs more than sending these people to live at the Ritz.

It will also become a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally. This is hugely contentious because Patel has closed down all legal routes for asylum-seekers to enter the UK. The daughter of refugees herself, she has literally pulled up the ladder behind her, as the saying goes.

Fortunately, it seems other organisations have more backbone than the Lords. According to the BBC,

More than 200 organisations, including Oxfam and Save the Children, said they would challenge its outcomes, calling it “anti-refugee”.

The Elections Bill has been passed by both Houses of Parliament, meaning the Tory government will be able to restrict whether you are allowed to vote or not, based on whether you have a particular form of photographic identification. Millions of people don’t.

Meanwhile, the 15-year limit on rich UK citizens living abroad being allowed to vote will be scrapped.

The undemocratic upshot of these two measures will be that it will be much easier for people living overseas to vote – and without any barriers like photo ID, while it will be much harder for domestic citizens to do the same.

The Tory government is also seizing control of the Electoral Commission, meaning oversight of the way electoral law is administered will no longer be independent and your corrupt government will be able to twist the way elections are run in order to suit itself.

Finally, a bid to deprive even more people of access to justice has been passed: the Judicial Review and Courts Bill will stop the funding of bereaved families’ legal representation at inquests involving public bodies. If This Writer understands correctly, it means that if somebody dies because of a failure by such an organisation, their families will be unable to seek justice from those responsible unless they are independently wealthy (which seems unlikely).

Parliament is being prorogued today (Thursday, April 28), having been back in session for only a matter of days after the Easter break. It will not meet again until May 10, when a new session will begin with a Queen’s Speech laying out Boris Johnson’s plans for the following year or so.

Some legislation has been carried over to the new Parliamentary session, including the long-awaited and controversial Online Safety Bill, which will seek to criminalise certain abusive and antisocial behaviours on the Internet and regulate online companies in line with those measures.

The big surprise for many people must be the silence from Opposition leader Keir Starmer. He should be trumpeting that a Labour government will reverse the corrupt and undemocratic measures in these new laws but instead it seems he supports them.

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Tories review all contracts with P&O Ferries and DP World over 800 axed jobs

Amazingly, the UK’s Conservative government is actually doing the right thing – so far!

The government is reviewing all its contracts with both P&O Ferries and parent company DP World after the shock firings of 800 staff over Zoom – exactly as This Site demanded over the weekend.

I didn’t believe a Tory government would actually do it. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, I am forced to applaud Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) for putting the contracts at risk:

“For our part we’re reviewing all Government contracts with P&O Ferries as a matter of urgency and with DP World and, where possible, we’re looking to use other providers if indeed there are any contracts where the UK Government is involved; I believe at this point that they have been historic in nature rather than current,” Shapps said.

Not only that, but Shapps went further. He said the companies could face criminal prosecution and unlimited fines:

“It’s been quite clear that it’s been handled by the company absolutely disastrously, which is why we’ve asked the Insolvency Service to look at the notification requirements and consider if further action is appropriate – especially if, as we’re concerned, the relevant notice periods weren’t given, the relative consultation didn’t take place,” Shapps said.

“And I can inform the House that that would be a matter for criminal prosecution and unlimited fines as well,” he added.

And he said he was taking steps to remove the companies from influencing UK maritime affairs:

“We’re considering further steps we can take to remove P&O Ferries’ influence from British maritime, including positions on any advisory boards because again I don’t want to see that company, with the way the management has behaved, advising the way that British maritime is shaped and rolls out.”

Safety checks have been ordered on P&O ships – and they will be blocked from sailing if they fail.

And there are concerns that new agency workers from India are being paid just £1.80 per hour, although P&O has said this is not true.

Source: Transport secretary urges P&O Ferries to repair damages or face ‘unlimited fines’ over shock sackings – upday News UK

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The attack on #courts and #democracy was a #Tory #manifesto promise. Didn’t you know?

RIP democracy: this image of Boris Johnson in a Hitler moustache was stuck to the door of the Conservative office in Beverley, near Hull, earlier this year.

This is nothing new:

Funny how The Times has only just learned of the Johnson government’s plan to overrule court rulings, in December 2021, when it was in the Conservative manifesto for the December 2019 general election almost two years ago!

Yes, Boris Johnson backpedalled for a little while, but that’s a classic Tory tactic; they lure you into a false feeling that everything’s going to be all right and then they stab you in the back.

If it’s good enough for them when they’re electing leaders, then they’re not going to see any reason not to do it to you. Right?

It is an offence against democracy and a step into elected dictatorship – but you knew that already because This Site told you.

So did the nearly 14 million people who voted for it. Right?

Wrong?

They didn’t know?

They just voted Tory because they wanted to get out of the European Union so badly they didn’t care what else happened over the next five years?

Oh, wow. And – hey! – The Times could have told them all about it back in 2019 but didn’t?

That’s a real shame.

It’s also the reason people are told, time and time again in their lives, to RTFM.

In this case, it means Read The F-ing Manifesto!

Too late now.

Because this is one manifesto promise that Boris Johnson is hell-bent on keeping.

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#PritiPatel #bullying: can anyone explain the logic of #HighCourt ruling against union’s legal challenge?

Priti Patel and Boris Johnson. You can imagine what he’s saying to her right now: “Keep smiling because I think we’ve got away with it!”

There’s something about this judgement that isn’t quite right.

The High Court has rejected a legal challenge by civil service union the FDA against Boris Johnson’s ruling that Priti Patel’s bullying of civil servants did not break the Ministerial Code.

Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Mrs Justice Steyn, said that Johnson had not “misdirected himself” (misinterpreted the meaning of the Ministerial Code) when coming to his decision.

The judge said: “The question for this court is whether the prime minister proceeded on the basis that conduct would not fall within the description of bullying within paragraph 1.2 of the ministerial code if the person concerned was unaware of, or did not intend, the harm or offence caused.

“Reading the statement (made by Johnson) as a whole, and in context, we do not consider that the prime minister misdirected himself in that way.”

So the question was whether Patel could be said to have bullied someone if she was unaware of – or said she was unaware of – the harm or offence she caused.

Paragraph 1.2 of the Ministerial Code states: “Ministers should be professional in all their dealings and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect. Working relationships, including with civil servants, ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and parliamentary staff should be proper and appropriate.”

It makes no mention of whether a minister’s intentions have any bearing on whether their behaviour may breach the code; therefore Patel’s intentions were irrelevant.

This is consistent with then-advisor on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan’s, advice at the time: “Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals. To that extent, her behaviour has been in breach of the ministerial code, even if unintentionally.”

But Johnson’s ruling relied entirely on Patel’s intentions. He said Patel was “unaware” of the impact she had and he was “reassured” she was “sorry for inadvertently upsetting those with whom she was working”.

In response, Sir Alex immediately resigned his advisory role. He was not prepared to continue working for Johnson in the knowledge that the prime minister was willing to allow breaches of the Code in such a way.

And we see now that the High Court has ruled in favour of Johnson, saying he did not misdirect himself into thinking that her conduct did not fall under the description of bullying if Patel had been unaware that it was having that effect – which is odd, because his statement clearly shows that this is exactly what he said.

So the judges’ decision is wrong, it seems.

Also – strangely – the decision does not seem to take account of the main thrust of the defence put forward by Johnson’s lawyers, which was that the Ministerial Code is a “political document”, “does not create or impose any legal duties on ministers or the prime minister”, is “not required by law” and its contents “not regulated by law”.

The court’s decision shows that it does, it is, and it is – and the FDA union seems well pleased with that result, saying the high court had confirmed the prohibition on bullying, discrimination and harassment in the ministerial code is justiciable in the courts.

This Writer doesn’t see how that helps, if the High Court is just going to rubber-stamp Johnson’s decisions, no matter how illogical they are.

Dave Penman, the union’s general secretary, said the court had determined that “the prime minister did not acquit the home secretary of bullying” and he “did not reject the findings of Sir Alex Allan that her conduct amounted to bullying”.

If that were true, then wouldn’t the court have said that the Ministerial Code was indeed breached and Patel should resign? Bullying is, by definition, unprofessional, improper and inappropriate.

Still, if nothing else it means This Site and others can call her a bully with impunity.

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Will ‘legacy’ benefit claimants get £1,500 in backdated Covid-19 ‘uplift’ after High Court challenge?

The High Court has begun to consider whether it was unlawful of the Conservative government to deny claimants of ‘legacy’ benefits the £20 uplift it gave to people on Universal Credit.

The court granted permission for a judicial review on April 27, but the case has been much-delayed, with the hearing postponed from September to November 17, and then the second day being moved to November 19 – but it is happening.

The case has been brought by two recipients of Employment and Support Allowance who used Legal Aid to instruct law firm Osbornes Law.

A press release from the firm states:

Despite them having an equivalent entitlement to the ‘standard allowance’ of UC, simply because they were in a different part of the system, 1.9 million people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been without this increase, which many have called a ‘lifeline’.

Claimants of Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance have also been excluded.

Many have argued that this is unfair, including the Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee: “It’s simply not right for people to miss out on support just because they happen, through no fault of their own, to be claiming the ‘wrong’ kind of benefit.”

We are pursuing this legal challenge based on the proposition that the pandemic means those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs.

This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.

Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.

If the Department for Work and Pensions loses, the more-than-two-million people affected could each be entitled to up to £1,500 in backdated extra payments.

The start of the case was marked by a huge show of support for the case outside the High Court, by groups including Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Unite Community, the MS Society, SNP MPs Marion Fellows and David Linden, and Labour MPs Debbie Abrahams, Marsha de Cordova and John McDonnell:

The outcome of the case is unlikely to be announced on Friday (November 19).

Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long coming out as the judgement in the libel case between Rachel Riley and former Jeremy Corbyn aide Laura Murray. That was heard in May and the verdict is still unknown, half a year later.

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High Court showdown for Johnson over his claim that Priti Patel is not a bully

Priti Patel and Boris Johnson: allies against the civil service?

At a time when Boris Johnson is mired in accusations of corruption, he is being forced to defend, in court, his corrupt support for a bullying cabinet minister.

Priti Patel was found to have bullied civil servants in three government departments by the then-government adviser on ministerial standards, Alex Allan, last year.

But Johnson, as Prime Minister, had the final say on whether she could be said to have breached the ministerial code and – despite clear evidence that she had – cleared her.

If he had found against her, she would have had to resign as Home Secretary. But he said any impression of bullying felt by civil servants was unintential, and Patel supported the assertion.

This was not good enough for the FDA – the union representing senior civil servants – and the High Court will hold a judicial review of the matter on Wednesday and Thursday next week (November 17 and 18).

The FDA’s claim is that the assertion that Patel’s actions were unintentional could allow other ministers “to avoid the consequences of their behaviour in future by pleading that it should be the intent of their actions which is important, not the consequences”.

And there could be wider constitutional implications, with the government arguing that the ministerial code should remain separate from the courts and overseen by an elected politician.

It is an untenable position. By corruptly abusing his position of oversight, Johnson has brought the application of the ministerial code into disrepute; he is unfit to manage it.

That’s what This Writer expects the High Court to say.

Johnson will reject the ruling and then he’ll have precipitated another constitutional crisis.

What then? Fun and games…

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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DWP tries to blame Royal Mail for PIP delays but do we believe it?

It’s a sad consequence of having to fight a court case that I don’t have as much time for some of the subjects that made This Site’s name – such as the persecution of benefit claimants by the DWP.

This particular issue is one on which I have personal experience, though – as, I dare say, has anybody who has had to deal with DWP letters.

My case differs from that outlined by Disability News Service, though – in that the DWP contacted Mrs Mike to tell her that her PIP review was due, and could she return the form within a month of the date of the letter?

The letter arrived no less than 10 days after the date on it. That left three weeks to get the review done.

It is not enough time. Not only do PIP claimants have to navigate the form, which is worded in an open way but which is marked according to very specific requirements, but they must also seek corroborating evidence from carers, community helpers and healthcare professionals.

All of this takes considerable time.

As her carer, I knew that we needed to seek expert help in writing the form, so I contacted Citizens Advice and was immediately told that I would have an appointment to talk to someone in a few days’ time – and that I should seek an extension on the deadline at once.

I can’t say that conditions are the same across the UK – I live in Wales – but once I managed to get through to DWP (there was an inevitable wait of more than an hour) the department could not have been happier to extend the deadline.

I think I was given a couple of extra weeks.

I therefore advise everybody to do this – especially if receiving a letter with a deadline that appears to have been delayed in the post. It makes the argument between DWP and the Royal Mail irrelevant.

And I needed the extra time. Mrs Mike has a condition that can only get worse, but it wasn’t until I spoke to somebody else about it that I realised the extent to which her condition had degenerated.

Help I had provided as a favour when she was feeling particularly bad had become a habit – meaning that he condition has worsened – and the very shape of our days had changed as these accumulated.

The changes had been so gradual that I had not taken them into account – but they mean a great deal when dealing with the DWP.

I therefore advise everybody going through a benefit review to seek expert help from Citizens Advice or an organisation that is similarly qualified.

Finally there was the question of corroborating evidence. I provided a letter, as Mrs Mike’s carer, describing the obstacles she faces getting through the day, and the ways I have to help her.

We sought letters from community organisations and some professionals but received no interest in return.

And we contacted Mrs Mike’s doctor, too. This seemed likely to be problematic. “Oh, you’ll get no help there,” people said. “Doctors have been discouraged and disincentivised by the DWP! If you do get a letter, they’ll charge you a fat wad of cash!”

Not a bit of it was true.

We received a letter in due course, containing a printout of Mrs Mike’s medical history and a medical opinion that was adamantly in favour of her receiving the highest degree of benefit available to her.

Finally, when it was time to post the completed form, I took it to the post office and paid extra to ensure that the DWP would have to sign for it, to confirm receipt.]

This is very important. I know from personal experience and the experience of others that the DWP finds it easy to claim non-receipt – as it did in the case of the claimant in the DNS story.

This cannot happen if you have evidence that somebody signed for it. It bypasses any concerns about whether delays were caused by the Royal Mail or the DWP because it provides proof of delivery within the time stated.

The decision took about a month to come back. It confirmed Mrs Mike’s benefit would continue at the highest rates possible.

So that is my advice for anybody going through the benefit review process:

  1. Seek expert advice on filling out the form because they must provide specific information that the DWP must see before it awards any points.
  2. Contact the DWP and ask for an extension on the deadline if its letter arrived late.
  3. Seek evidence from anybody who has experience of the claimant’s disability. The worst that can happen is they decline to provide it. Don’t be put off asking your doctor.
  4. When you post the form back, make sure the DWP has to sign for it to confirm that it has been received.

These are measures that work.

They deprive the DWP of any excuse to blame another organisation for delays in processing a claim.

And they ensure that your benefit payments are disrupted by any nonsense if the DWP claims that you haven’t returned your form.

Source: DWP and Royal Mail dispute cause of PIP delays – Disability News Service

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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