Tag Archives: standards

‘Richie’: Sunak’s referral to ethics watchdog over wife’s vast wealth won’t address the real problem

The paper trail: financial holdings of Rishi Sunak, his wife Akshata Murty and her family are explained in this image, originally published by The Guardian.

How can a man as insanely rich as Rishi Sunak is – through the wealth of his wife and her family – honestly have any understanding of the struggles normal people are suffering as a result of his many decisions to cut their income?

He can’t.

That is the concern that we face after the revelation that the Tory Chancellor did not declare wealth larger than that of the Queen in the register of ministerial interests.

It won’t be addressed by Lord Evans, chair of the committee on standards in public life, because there is no rule requiring him to.

So the referral to the ethics watchdog by Labour’s Tonia Antoniazzi and James Murray may be seen as a pointless waste of time.

Here are the facts, neatly summed up in a couple of tweets:

More information is in the Guardian stories here and here.

According to the second of those stories, the Labour MPs’ referral to the ethics watchdog arises because they are concerned that Sunak’s wife’s holdings may create a potential conflict between his public and private interests.

But the Treasury has already said that Sunak “followed the ministerial code to the letter” in his declarations.

It seems he met the government’s then head of propriety and ethics, Helen MacNamara, to decide what needed to be declared before he joined the Treasury.

However: as This Writer learned only last week, a person can comply with the letter of the law and still be doing something wrong.

It doesn’t surprise me that Labour MPs are trying to tease out the nature of any wrong-doing by Sunak, because it was Labour that mistreated me.

Despite adhering to the letter of its rules on investigating anti-Semitism allegations against me, Labour ignored the requirements of its actual procedures in order to falsify a case against me, and manufactured an incorrect verdict. I had to go to court to have the facts revealed.

Will anything come of an investigation into Sunak? Doubtful. There’s no law against being ignorant of the way the other half live.

But if we know that Sunak is so far removed from the rest of us, we may also draw logical conclusions about his ability to create policies for everybody in the UK, no matter how deprived – or his lack of any such ability.

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Bake Off judge quits Tories over food standards. She was fine with all the other horrific policies

The media – in this case, the Mail – want to draw your attention to the fact that Bake Off judge Prue Leith has ended her membership of the Conservatives over a policy that her Tory MP son supports.

Isn’t it more revealing that she was only upset by the policy that directly affected her?

The Tories could do anything to other people and she didn’t mind at all.

Austerity has killed many thousands – Leith was quite happy about that.

Homelessness and hate crime did not stir her from her work.

She didn’t even bat an eyelid when her son voted to starve English children who have been forced into food poverty by the Conservative Party’s policies.

But the possible arrival of diseased foodstuffs from the United States has outraged her enough to quit her party membership.

I don’t know…

Does she really think the population of the UK need to be protected from low-quality foods, after thinking they didn’t deserve protection from Tory-led austerity, hate and starvation?

Or is it a pose she thinks she has to take as a media personality on a food-related TV show?

Here’s the relevant part of the story:

Prue Leith has quit the Conservative Party after the Government blocked an attempt to enshrine high food standards in law.

A Conservative source told The Mail on Sunday Ms Leith has … cancelled her party membership after growing unhappy with the Government’s stance.

Ms Leith’s son Danny Kruger, the Tory MP for Devizes in Wiltshire, voted with the Government on the Agriculture Bill, defeating an amendment that would have protected British farmers.

And here’s the public reaction:

Yes indeed.

I have never watched Bake Off.

Considering the fact that it has employed a person like Leith, I can honestly say:

I won’t be watching Bake Off in the future, either. Who knows what other abhorrent views are held by the people working on it?

Source: Prue Leith quits Conservative Party in protest at Government’s stance over foods standards | Daily Mail Online

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Brexit: Your Tory MPs have betrayed UK agriculture after promising not to

Chicken: if this one was of the US chlorine-washed variety, do you think Boris Johnson would be soiling his hands with it?

We knew that Tory promises were no good, didn’t we? So we did 14 million people vote for them last December?

I’ve never found an answer for that one.

The usual old chestnut that “the other side were worse” is plainly wrong. Labour’s offer – and leader – was a vast improvement on Johnson and his rabble, as anybody can see.

They can certainly see it now, anyway.

Today’s scandal is that Brexit will now cause a flood of cheap food imports into the UK that will destroy our farming industry and poison our people.

Tories: you voted for this. Brexiters: you voted for this. Indeed, many farmers voted for this.

Here’s what they promised:

But (as Si Anderson puts it in earthy terms above), yesterday evening’s (October 12) vote in Parliament ensures that the Tories will be able to compromise those protections, just to get a deal with the United States:

Farmers and food campaigners were defeated on Monday night in their attempts to enshrine high food safety and animal welfare practices in British law.

Several prominent backbench Tory MPs rebelled against the government to vote for amendments to the agriculture bill that would have given legal status to the standards, but the rebels were too few to overcome the government’s 80-seat majority and the key amendment fell by 332 votes to 279 after an often impassioned debate.

The government argued that giving current standards legal status was unnecessary as ministers had already committed to ensuring that UK food standards would be kept in any post-Brexit trade agreements.

However, critics fear that the lack of a legally binding commitment in the agriculture bill will allow future imports of sub-standard food that will undercut British produce and expose consumers to risk.

Be honest; given Johnson’s record of u-turning on his promises, this means chlorinated chicken for dinner. It will be cheap at the shop, but it will cost us our entire agriculture industry.

And that is what Boris Johnson intended from the start – before the 2016 referendum, even – it seems.

Here’s what we’ll be getting:

Boris Johnson and his cronies won’t be getting chlorine-washed chicken, of course – they’ll be able to afford the higher-quality meats. But you will be in danger.

Opponents of Brexit have taken the opportunity to remind us all of Boris Johnson’s words in 2016 – so we can remind him at the appropriate time…

… not that it will make a difference. He does what he likes. You voted for that, Tories. You voted for it, Brexiters.

Here’s how it’s panning out:

Just to rub salt into the wound, it seems support for remaining in the EU is rocketing, with 57 per cent of the nation now in favour of it.

What a shame. After three years of fighting over it (up to the election in 2019), that debate is over. The Brexiters got what they wanted and you have been shafted. Nobody currently in power will do anything to reverse the decision.

Still, there remain a few optimists who think there will be recourse to law if harm can be shown as a result of this decision:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Tory ministers are above the law.

The police and CPS actively avoid investigating any allegations of crime or wrongdoing by our elected government.

And Dominic Cummings could go on a murder spree in Barnard Castle and he would still walk free at the end of it.

But you can bet that a lot more people will suffer because of last night’s decision by Parliament to poison our farming industry, and our people.

Source: MPs reject calls by campaigners to enshrine food safety in UK law | Politics | The Guardian

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Tory lies about Universal Credit are STILL being used – to harm vulnerable benefit claimants

‘Not all correct’: It turns out that the DWP’s ad campaign didn’t set the record straight… in other words, it was crooked.

A keystone of the Tory claim that Universal Credit makes lives better has been ruled misleading by an advertising watchdog – but is still being used to trick people into signing up for the failed “benefit”.

The claim – that “people move into work faster” under Universal Credit “fails to meet the basic standards of truthfulness and honesty that we demand of soap powder commercials”, according to Paul Morrissey, in a letter to The Guardian.

It was featured in a series of adverts that appeared in Metro and MailOnline.

But not only has it been used 67 times by Conservative MPs defending Universal Credit in Parliament (as well as in countless media interviews), it also indicates that officials in the DWP “seem to have been willing participants in attempts by the government to manipulate the evidence… rather than providing an objective analysis of its impact”, according to fellow scribe Alan Spence.

The claim breached the advertising code under rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.11 (Exaggeration) – and the DWP has been “neither able to satisfactorily explain its actions or apologise for the harm they will have caused to the people who may have moved on to Universal Credit as a result”, according to Raji Hunjan, CEO of Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, the first anti-poverty charity to complain about the adverts.

She said the ruling had come too late, as the ad campaign has ended.

So Z2K has launched a public campaign calling for an apology from the DWP and an independent investigation into how and why these adverts came to be authorised.

Ms Hunjan wrote: “It is vital that we the public can trust government departments to be telling us the truth, particularly in being clear about their strategies to ensure that the social security system works as a safety net to reduce the numbers of people now living in poverty in the UK.

“Instead of using taxpayers’ money on a failed PR campaign, the DWP must now start engaging meaningfully with the widespread evidence of the impact of welfare reform on pushing people into poverty.”

Do you think it will?

This Writer would rather see punitive action taken against those within the DWP – and the Conservative Party – who thought it would be a wizard wheeze to publish a pack of lies.

I would also like to see the DWP broken up and a return to the more supportive ethos of the former Department for Social Security.

For that, we need a Labour government.

That’s a fact we can all trust.

Source: Untangling the lies told about universal credit | Letters | Society | The Guardian

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Diversion tactics: The ‘political declaration’ on Brexit is a disaster – why is nobody talking about it?

Hilary Benn: Why is he apparently the only MP demanding clarity on BoJob’s political declaration?

While MPs have decided to take the extraordinary measure of sitting on a Saturday to decide whether to support Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, it seems no-one wants to talk about a document that is just as dangerous: Boris Johnson’s political declaration, setting out the future relationship the Tory government wants to have with the EU.

Fortunately, Labour’s Hilary Benn has tweeted about it:

As I type this, Theresa May – formerly the worst prime minister in the history of the UK – is saying there should not be a new referendum just because people don’t like the result of the first. That is misleading.

The intention of any new referendum would be to ensure that the people of the UK are getting what they want.

The information trickling like molasses from Downing Street suggests strongly that we are not.

Is that why Boris Johnson wants to deny us the democracy that would provide clarity on this?

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Press regulator rules Jewish Chronicle WRONG to have called Vox Political writer ‘Holocaust denier’

What was it the Jewish Chronicle was saying about the Labour Party being an “existential threat” to Jewish people?

From a purely objective viewpoint (of course), it seems clear that the main threat to Jewish people is coming from rags like the Chronicle, making false claims about perfectly decent people like me.

It stirs up distrust in the community, you see.

And people like Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard should not be allowed to get away with it. This is why I am raising funds to take those who have libelled me to court, so a financial penalty can be imposed on them that is of equal weight to the damage they have caused. Regular readers of This Site will be aware of the existence of my JustGiving page, and I apologise for having to keep mentioning it, but if you have contributed already, please consider making a further donation, or ask a friend to do so.

The Jewish Chronicle had accused me of Holocaust denial, following up on an article in another newspaper (on which judgement is pending). I took the matter to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which announced a ruling. This happened two weeks ago, but I had to wait for the all-clear to mention the fact. Here it is:

The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the article to say that he had said he “could not
comment” on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust because he ‘didn’t
know’. A commenter on the website had been listing incidents of anti-Semitism on the Left, and
had referred to a leaflet which he said omitted Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors, and put
the number of deaths from the Holocaust at thousands, rather than millions. In response to a
comment about the leaflet, the complainant had said “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’
instead of ‘millions’ because I don’t know, but the Nazi holocaust involved many other groups
as well as Jews, and it seems likely that the SWP was simply being ‘politically correct’”. He said
he was referring to not knowing why the leaflet made this claim, rather than to not knowing the
number of Jews who died.

The publication denied that the article was inaccurate. In respect of the ‘thousands or millions’
claim, its interpretation of the comments thread was plausible, and there was no significantly
inaccuracy.

The complainant had not expressly said that he “could not comment on whether thousands or
millions of Jews died in the Holocaust”. There was no reference in the discussion surrounding the
leaflet to “whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust”, because the leaflet had
explicitly not referred to Jews among the victims of the Holocaust. The publication was entitled to
give its own interpretation of what the complainant had meant by his comments. However, the
article did not make clear that it was reporting the publication’s interpretation of the
complainant’s comments. This represented a failure to take care, in breach of Clause 1(i). The
article gave the impression that the complainant had said something which he had not, on a
subject liable to cause widespread offence.

As with MailOnline previously, IPSO has let me down as far as punishment is concerned.

The Jewish Chronicle gets off with a light slap on the wrist: “Having upheld the complaint… the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The publication had offered a clarification which set out the complainant’s position in relation to the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and on the meaning of his comments. This clarification made the complainant’s position clear, and addressed the article’s misleading presentation of his comments. This was sufficient to meet the terms… and should now be published.”

A full clarification, admitting that the paper had misled readers and apologising to me, would have been more appropriate.

And there are other outstanding matters that will now require a court ruling – which is why I am appealing for funds.

But for now, the score stands thus: Vox Political – TWO        Libellous newspapers – NIL.

Please be sure to share this information far and wide.

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


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One down: Press regulator rules against MailOnline in Vox Political ‘anti-Semitism’ case

This is a welcome victory.

But in the words of somebody much nastier than me: It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it may well be the end of the beginning.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld my complaint against MailOnline, that it misrepresented me in an article accusing me of Holocaust denial and other examples of anti-Semitism.

It is the first adjudication among five complaints against news organisations that made similar allegations against me on or around February 4. You’ll see the issues when you read the full adjudication below. IPSO was supposed to publish it on the organisation’s website last Thursday but, for some unaccountable reason, this has not happened. As I have assurances that it is not being challenged, I’m going ahead and publishing it here.

The ruling regarding the alleged statement about a “cabal of Jewish advisors” to Tony Blair is wrong; I did not suggest that anyone could be justified in suggesting that Mr Blair was influenced in such a way – I stated that anyone hearing such a claim could be justified in being concerned about it, at least until they were presented with the evidence on the matter. There is, therefore, a world of difference between what MailOnline – and now IPSO – attributed to me and the fact of the matter, and claims that the publication’s interpretation of my words is reasonable are false. I will have to pursue this in the courts.

The punishment is completely inappropriate. Ordering MailOnline to do something it had already offered to do – and which I had rejected because it was not enough – is frankly pathetic. MailOnline has been found to have been inaccurate in its reporting of me and should be forced to admit that it was wrong and apologise.

IPSO’s view is that “the Committee decided that the footnote clarification was sufficient on this occasion… [and] there is no requirement for MailOnline to publish the decision; it will be published on our website. Again, were the Committee to have considered that the breach of the Code was such that [publication of] an adjudication was required, the publication would have been required to publish this in a position determined by the Committee.” Weak.

The ruling in my favour over the false claim of Holocaust denial is very interesting, as the original allegation came from a leaked Labour Party report on me. Labour has raised several charges of anti-Semitism against me – among which, Holocaust denial is notable for its absence. But the Information Commissioner’s Office has ordered the party to provide me with all the information it holds about me, after it was found to have broken the law by failing to honour a Subject Access Request I sent out in February – so I will see the information that led to the news outlet’s claim (or I will know that Labour has not sent all the information required of it).

That will have a huge bearing on the outcome of Labour’s investigation. As the party has been caught lying about me, this casts a shadow over all its other claims.

But the main benefit to come from this will arise when I launch my court cases against the organisations that have lied about me but are not subject to IPSO regulation. Having a ruling in my favour here will weigh heavily against my opponents in that arena.

But I need the funds to be able to do that, which is why I have a JustGiving page dedicated to that purpose.

If you want to help put an end to frivolous, lying accusations of anti-Semitism, please visit the page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mike-sivier and donate some cash. I’m hoping to raise £25,000 and have a long way to go.

Here’s the IPSO adjudication:

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 02821-18 Sivier v MailOnline
Summary of Complaint
1. Mike Sivier complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that MailOnline breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Journalist accused of anti-Semitism and ex Militant member among the far-left activists who have been let back into Labour after Corbynistas tightened their grip on the party”, published on 4 February 2018.
2. The article reported on “secret documents” seen by a different publication, which showed that the Labour Party had allowed “far left activists” back into the party. It said that the complainant was being given back his membership after being “expelled…over claims he had posted anti-Semitic abuse online”. The article said that the complainant “reportedly said it ‘may be entirely justified’ to say Tony Blair had been ‘unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers’”, and that he also “said he was ‘not pretending it was a big problem’ if Jews were omitted from a list of Holocaust survivors”. It went on to say that, according to the other publication, the complainant “claimed ‘I’m not going to comment’ on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust as ‘I don’t know’”.
3. The complainant said that he had not been “expelled” from the Labour Party: he had been suspended while an investigation was carried out into allegations that he had posted material which might be interpreted as anti-Semitic – not for posting “abuse”. He said that another commenter on his website had stated that a Labour politician had said that Tony Blair was “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”. He said that, without further context, it was impossible to analyse this claim; he had replied saying “I would point out that (without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being ‘unduly influenced’ by a ‘cabal of Jewish advisers’ may have been entirely justified”.
4. The complainant said that the other comments reported had been distorted by being removed from their context, and denied that they were anti-Semitic. A commenter on the website had been listing incidents of anti-Semitism on the Left, and had referred to a leaflet which he said omitted Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors, and put the number of deaths from the Holocaust at thousands, rather than millions. The complainant denied having said that he didn’t know whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust. Rather, in response to a comment about the leaflet, he had said “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of ‘millions’ because I don’t know,
but the Nazi holocaust involved many other groups as well as Jews, and it seems likely that the SWP was simply being ‘politically correct’”. He said he was referring to not knowing whether the leaflet made this claim, rather than to not knowing the number of Jews who died. He had gone on to say “Nobody has said anti-Semitism on the left doesn’t exist…But it isn’t organised and is mostly the work of aberrant individuals”. The commenter had then accused the complainant of “pretending that there isn’t a problem”. The complainant had replied “I’m not pretending there isn’t a problem, I’m just not pretending it’s a big problem”. His comment that he was “not pretending it was a big problem” had been referring to the problem of anti-Semitism on the Left in general, and not to the omission of Jews from the list.
5. The publication denied that the use of the word “expelled” was significantly misleading; the article did not suggest that the complainant had been permanently removed from the party, as its entire premise was that he and others had been readmitted. It nevertheless removed this word from the article and substituted the word “suspended” in its place. It also denied that the term “abuse” was misleading since the allegations related to the posting of content which might be interpreted as anti-Semitic. In addition, the publication said that it had accurately reported the complainant’s comments in relation to the “cabal of Jewish advisers”.
6. The publication said that the article was entirely accurate in reporting the complainant’s other comments; the interpretation that had been made of the comments was reasonable. It acknowledged that the complainant may have a different interpretation of the comments, and offered to publish a footnote clarification as follows:
Since first publication Mr Sivier has contacted us and asked us to point out that his refusal to comment on the issue of why the SWP flyer referred to “thousands” rather than “millions” was a reference to the choice of wording by the SWP on their flyer and not a reference to the number of victims of the Holocaust. He also says that the reference to there not being a “big problem” was directed to the general issue of anti-Semitism on the left and not the specific issue of omitting Jews from the list of Holocaust survivors. Mr Sivier denies making any comments that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic and we are happy to make his position clear.
It also offered to publish a standalone clarification on its website as follows:
An article on 4 February entitled “Journalist accused of anti-Semitism and an ex Militant member among the far-left activists who have been let back into
Labour after Corbynistas tightened their grip on the party” reported on allegedly anti-Semitic comments made by mike Sivier. We now understand that Mr Sivier denies that these comments could be interpreted as anti-Semitic and we are happy make his position clear.
7. The complainant denied that the article contained a reasonable interpretation of his comments. In reference to the claim regarding the number of Holocaust victims, his original comment had made clear, through the use of quotation marks, that he was referring to the use of the words in the leaflet, rather than to his own beliefs. The commenter had said that the complainant was “defending the indefensible, and pretending that there isn’t a problem” with anti-Semitism on the Left, and it was in response to this that he had said “I’m not pretending there isn’t a problem, though. I’m simply not pretending it’s a big problem”.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 1 (Accuracy) i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator. iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for. iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
8. The Committee noted that the article had reported claims about the complainant which had previously been published elsewhere, and had presented them in this light. However, the comments which the article reported on were publicly available, and the publication was responsible for reporting them accurately.
9. The article had originally stated that the complainant had been “expelled” by the party. The Committee acknowledged that, read alone, this might suggest that he had been permanently barred. However, the sub-headline indicated that he had been ‘suspended’, and the article made clear that he was eligible to be readmitted; indeed, this was the premise of the article. In these
circumstances, stating that he had been “expelled” was not significantly misleading, and there was no failure to take care over this claim. Similarly, it was not misleading for the article to say that the complainant had been expelled “over claims” of “abuse”: the suspension had related to allegations of anti-Semitic comments made online, which the publication was entitled to characterise as “abuse” when the basis for this was made clear. In addition, the newspaper had not stated as fact that he had in fact engaged in “abuse”, but had stated that he was suspended “over claims” of such behaviour. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.
10. In response to a commenter referring to comments by a Labour politician stating that Tony Blair was “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”, the complainant had written “(without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being ‘unduly influenced’ by ‘a cabal of Jewish advisors’ may have been entirely justified.” This comment was accurately reported by the publication, and it was entitled to rely on the words the complainant had used. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
11. The complainant had not directly said that he was “’not going to comment’ on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust as ‘I don’t know’”. There was no reference in the discussion surrounding the leaflet to “whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust”, because the leaflet had explicitly not referred to Jews among the victims of the Holocaust. The publication may have inferred this meaning from the complainant’s comments, but it reported this as something he had said. The article did not make clear that it was reporting the publication’s interpretation of the complainant’s comments; they were presented as direct quotations. Because the comment thread was publicly available, this represented a failure to take care, in breach of Clause 1(i). The article gave the impression that the complainant had said something which he had not, on a subject liable to cause widespread offence, a clarification was required to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
12. As set out above, the complainant had suggested that omitting Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors in a leaflet may have been for “’politically correct’” reasons. However, he had not explicitly stated that omitting Jews from the list was “not a big problem”, as the article said Claiming that the complainant had said this, when his comments were publicly available, his represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1(i). Because the article gave the misleading impression that the complainant had made a claim that he had not made, it required clarification to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
13. The footnote clarification addressed the two inaccuracies identified in the article, and made clear the complainant’s position with respect to these two points. It was therefore sufficient to address the inaccuracy and avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii). The Committee welcomed the offer of a standalone clarification; however, the footnote correction was sufficient to address the inaccuracies in the article, and the Committee did not require a standalone correction in this instance.
Conclusions
14. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i).
Remedial action required
15. The publication had offered a footnote clarification which set out the complainant’s position in relation to his comments. This clarification addressed the inaccuracies within the article, and was sufficient to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii). It should now be published.

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Abuse of DVSA staff increases by more than 50 per cent in a year. Why?

Body-worn cameras will be trialled by DVSA.

What is the matter with everyone? Have we all suddenly decided we’re entitled to treat other people like dirt?

Are we copying our government’s behaviour – for example, to the unemployed and disabled?

Or is there another, underlying reason?

The latest organisation revealed to have been hit by the abuse epidemic is the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which employs driving examiners, vehicle testers and roadside enforcement staff.

Between April 2016 and March this year, more than 300 staff suffered physical or verbal abuse while doing their jobs – an increase of more than 50 per cent on the previous year.

According to the organisation, attacks on staff have included:

• verbal abuse and death threats;
• damaging staff cars and offices;
• serious physical assaults;
• lorry drivers trying to run DVSA enforcement cars off the road; and
• failed driving test candidates driving off with their examiner still in the car, against their will.

The DVSA is launching a campaign to stop the abuse, which it describes as “completely unacceptable”.

At driving test centres, learner drivers who swear at or verbally abuse staff will be forced to:

•use a different test centre the next time they take a test; and
•take future tests with an extra supervisor present.

Anyone who threatens or assaults examiners, drives off with an examiner still in the car, or damages DVSA property will:

•be reported to the police; and
•face the strongest possible penalties.

Although it is extremely rare, driving instructors sometimes try to influence the results of a driving test by harassing or threatening examiners. They face being:

•banned from specific driving test centres;
•removed from the approved driving instructor register.

At the roadside, at operator sites or authorised testing centres, DVSA will:

•record any abuse from commercial drivers and vehicle operators as evidence for any investigation by the traffic commissioners – they have the power to suspend or take away driving licences and operator licences; and
•report serious incidents to the police.

In some busy sites, enforcement staff are starting to trial body-worn cameras to capture evidence of abuse.

 

There’s no excuse for abuse against people who are simply trying to make our roads safer.

But is this campaign a good idea? Or does it go too far?

Your opinions are invited.


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Torygraph Launches Scathing Attack On Commons Standards Commissioner After Rifkind/Straw Ruling

Painful though it is to agree with the Torygraph, the paper is absolutely right to go for Kathryn Hudson’s jugular in its editorial about her ruling on the Rifkind/Straw cases.

It seems that, rather than investigating MPs and uncovering wrongdoing, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is more interested in defending them against any investigation or criticism.

Where the Telegraph editorial questions whether she is fit to hold her post, This Writer would question whether that post should be dissolved altogether and potential wrongdoing by MPs referred to the police – preferably to be investigated by a force not directly connected to the Member in question or Parliament itself.

In her ruling, Kathryn Hudson, criticised the journalists who broke the story, commenting: “The distorted coverage of the actions and words of the Members concerned has itself been the main cause of the damage.

“If in their coverage of this story, the reporters for Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph had accurately reported what was said by the two Members in their interviews, and measured their words against the rules of the House, it would have been possible to avoid the damage that has been done to the lives of two individuals.”

But the Telegraph retorted with its own scathing editorial this week, saying the “sorry tale” of both ex-MPs proved “beyond doubt” that those in the Commons could not be trusted to regulate themselves over lobbying.

“Ms Hudson’s credulity towards MPs raises questions about whether she is fit to hold her post,” leader writers wrote, “yet her performance is laudable in comparison with the egregious work of the Standards Committee.

“Far from accepting any error by Sir Malcolm or Mr Straw, or any flaw in the rules they so nimbly stepped around, the committee suggests that the failing here lies with the public for not properly “understanding” the role of MPs.

It continued, saying: “That is bad enough. Worse are the committee’s words on the press. It is only because of investigative journalism that the conduct of Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw became known to the voters they were supposed to serve.

“Yet the committee’s report amounts to a warning to journalists not to carry out such investigations in future, promising to ‘consider further the role of the press in furthering…understanding and detecting wrongdoing’.”

Source: Daily Telegraph Launches Scathing Attack On Commons Standard Commissioner After Rifkind/Straw Ruling

Rifkind and Straw didn’t break lobbying rules – it seems they only offered

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Not the only Tory suspected of wrong-doing.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Not the only Tory suspected of wrong-doing.

Parliament’s standards commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, has let former MPs Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw off the hook after they were accused of corruption – but is this because they only offered to break the rules, rather than actually breaking them?

Rifkind and Straw were filmed secretly by Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary programme, speaking with an undercover reporter posing as a representative of a fake Hong Kong firm, ‘PMR’.

This representative asked Sir Malcolm if he would be able to provide advance information on HS3 – the mooted high-speed train route linking the northeast of England with the northwest.

He was recorded saying: “I could write to a minister… And I wouldn’t name who was asking… But I would say I’ve been asked to establish what your thinking is on X, Y, Z. Can you tell me what that is?”

Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said on the programme: “It’s absolutely clear in the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament that they have to be open and frank in all communications and yet he was saying on that clip that he would be able to write to ministers, and he wouldn’t have to say who exactly he was representing.

“Well that would be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct and an example of, here, an experienced Member of Parliament rather using their privileged position as a public servant in trying to get access to information which would benefit individuals and this company in a way that I think the public would find totally unacceptable.”

But of course, he didn’t actually do it, because PMR was a fictitious company.

Jack Straw was filmed telling an undercover reporter how he managed to get Ukrainian law changed in order to allow another company to run its business more easily there – a perfectly legal and reasonable activity, according to Dispatches.

But then he said that EU regulations had been hampering the business so he “got in to see the relevant director general and his officials in Brussels” and got the regulations changed. He said: “The best way of doing things is under the radar.”

Sir Alistair Graham pointed out, on the programme: “That’s worrying because that’s saying ‘I can do these things without transparency’ – without the
openness and frankness that the MPs’ Code of Conduct is expecting is the normal behaviour from Members of Parliament.”

But, again, he didn’t actually do anything “under the radar” because PMR was a fictitious company.

So Ms Hudson cleared both former MPs of any wrong-doing – and gave both Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph (with whom the programme had run its investigation as a joint affair) a lashing.

“If in their coverage of this story, the reporters for Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph had accurately reported what was said by the two members in their interviews, and measured their words against the rules of the House, it would have been possible to avoid the damage that has been done to the lives of two individuals and those around them, and to the reputation of the House.”

This seems unreasonable as Dispatches actually filmed both these people making their claims, and measured them against the words of Sir Alistair Graham – and there was plenty of qualification in the voice-over, explaining what was permitted by the rules and what was not.

What was she really saying? That Rifkind and Straw had to carry out their suggestions before they could be accused of anything? Wouldn’t that be leaving things a little late? Fixing the barn door after the horse has bolted, to quote a well-known phrase?

Remember, this is the standards commissioner who was reluctant to examine the case of George Osborne, who paid mortgage interest on his paddock with taxpayers’ money before selling it off with a neighbouring farmhouse for around £1 million and pocketing the cash.

She refused to look into it, saying she had already investigated the case – but an examination of her report revealed no mention of the million-pound paddock at all.

Prime Minister David Cameron was said to have welcomed the commissioner’s whitewash, in a BBC report.

But Channel 4 is standing by its story and has asked broadcasting watchdog Ofcom to investigate the programme. Channel 4 says the programme raised legitimate questions and, in all honesty, this is true.

Let’s hope the result of this investigation takes Ms Hudson down a peg or two. She is long overdue for it.

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Health Warning: Government! is now available
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