Tag Archives: Stephen

DWP says there’s no need to review its safeguarding procedures. The late Stephen Smith might disagree

Remember the Department for Work and Pensions’ rejection of a petition demanding an independent review of its safeguarding procedures, after the death of Jodey Whiting?

The department had ignored its own safeguarding procedures no less than five times before Ms Whiting committed suicide in February 2017.

But the DWP said it had no plans for an inquiry into its treatment of claimants – and destroyed a report on other safeguarding failures – in only 18 London job centres – rather than allow it to become public after a Freedom of Information request was submitted for its release.

Only days after this became public knowledge, we learned that Stephen Smith – the man who was reduced to a state similar to concentration camp victims due to starvation caused by deprivation of benefits – had died.

He had succumbed to pneumonia which he had contracted as a result of DWP sanctions.

Now we find that the DWP had ignored the advice in not just one, but two letters from Mr Smith’s doctors, in its determination to find him fit for work in the fact of the evidence that he was not.

This is what one GP wrote in October 2017, after listing the serious health issues suffered by Mr Smith, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cervical spondylosis, osteoarthritis and the fact he had been fitted with a urinary catheter because of ongoing urinary issues:

“These medical conditions adversely impact upon his mobility and upon the activities used to assess eligibility for ESA and PIP. The nature of these chronic problems is such that they will worsen over time and mean that his mobility and functionality is impaired on a daily basis.

“Mr Smith will be in pain on standing and at the commencement of walking. Whilst on the balance of probability, he would be able to walk 20 metres, in my opinion, he could not mobilise a distance of twenty metres repeatedly without needing to stop due to pain and breathlessness.

“It is my opinion that not only could Mr Smith not walk 20 metres without pain or exhaustion, he coult not do it repeatedly or within a reasonable time period.

“In terms of cooking, his very limited respiratory tolerance, and his difficulties with lifting means that in practical term anything other than straightforward microwave cooking is likely to be beyond his physical capabilities.

“The need to monitor and change his catheter requires medical input and it would therefore be reasonable to describe Mr Smith as requiring assistance with toilet needs.

“The identified restrictions affecting Mr Smith’s mobility and daily living activities have been present for more than three months and, given the nature of his medical complaints, are likely to remain beyond the next nine months.”

Despite this expert advice, the DWP’s pen-pushers decided they knew better and found him fit for work, so in January 2018 another GP wrote to them again, as follows:

“Following a recent Work Capability Assessment this patient, in contradiction of my own knowledge of the patient over time, clinical assesment and medical certification, was found fit for work related activity.

“Because of my patient’s health condition there would be a substantial risk to my patient’s health if he were found not to have limited capability for work related activity.”

(Source: Revealed: Warnings about dying Stephen Smith that were cruelly ignored by the DWP – Liverpool Echo)

There was indeed a substantial risk to Mr Smith’s health. It was called the Department for Work and Pensions, and it led to his eventual death.

It’s a clear case of corporate manslaughter but nobody is facing any recriminations over it at all. The DWP says it is an “operational matter” and refuses to comment on it in any way other than that “lessons will be learned”, or some such blather.

Will any lessons be learned? We may find out the answer sooner than the DWP would like – ironically, from a man with almost the same name as the deceased.

Steve Smith had a stroke 11 years ago which left him paralysed from head to toe down the left side of his body.

The life-threatening condition struck while he was on holiday in Turkey. He also had a brain haemorrhage and spent six weeks in hospital abroad where surgeons had to cut away his skull and operate on his brain.

After flying back to England, he was given a year to recuperate by his employers but after his condition failed to improve he lost his job.

After years in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance – and with no sign of improvement in his condition – it seems the DWP has arbitrarily decided he is fit for work and shut down his ESA claim.

You can read about his ordeal here.

Will he be the next victim of a government department that seems free to condemn people at will, and with impunity? And what can be done to get justice for people like Jodey Whiting and Stephen Smith?


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Steve Barclay is the new Brexit Secretary. Who’s he?

“Who’s Steve Barclay?” I hear you cry.

And with good reason. I had absolutely no idea until he was named as Brexit Secretary.

It turns out he’s a career Tory politician who joined that party after leaving university in 1994.

He failed to gain Parliamentary seats from other parties twice – in 1997 and 2001, and it is worth noting that the North Cambridgeshire seat he currently occupies is habitually Conservative – he took it over from Malcolm Moss in May 2010.

He also took over as organiser of the Carlton Political Dinner, which raises money for the Conservative Party’s target seats, in 2007. As an MP, he is noteworthy for having been completely insignificant; he was named by ConservativeHome as one of a minority of loyal Conservative backbench MPs not to have voted against the government in any significant rebellions.

Mr Barclay had been a minister of state for health since January this year, a position in which nobody noticed him at all.

It has been reported that he will not be allowed to carry out any Brexit negotiations, meaning the role of Brexit Secretary now exists in name alone.

So it is unsurprising that Owen Jones should have commented on his appointment as follows:

The hollow nature of his appointment attracted comparison with former role-holders David Davis and Dominic Raab:

Others have picked up on the silliness of the situation:

He hasn’t resigned. There’s no reason for him to do so.

He doesn’t have a job description.

But then, why should he? He is a nobody.

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Iceland is jailing bankers – we’re still giving them bonuses

150219icelands-jailed-bankers

Iceland’s Supreme Court have sentenced four bank bosses from Kaupthing bank to serve jail time, according to yournewswire.com.

Bankers Sigurdur Einarsson, former chairman of the board, Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, the former chief executive, Magnus Gudmundsson, the former chief executive of the Luxembourg branch and Olafur Olafsson, one of the majority owners, were sentenced to jail time of between four and five and a half years each.

The court found that they hid the fact that Qatari investor Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Bin Hamad al-Thani bought a stake in Kaupthing, using money borrowed illegally from the bank itself.

Al-Thani’s purchase, a 5.1 per cent share, was announced only a few weeks before the bank collapsed. It was seen as a confidence boost for the bank while rumours circulated that it was in trouble.

These are the heaviest sentences for financial fraud in Iceland’s history. The four will have to pay their own legal costs for the case, which amount to 82 million kronur or approximately 670 thousand US dollars.

You can read the full story on yournewswire.com.

Meanwhile, in the UK – where bank bonus culture continues unabated – the former boss of a huge multinational bank (HSBC) that illegally helped more than 7,000 customers to avoid paying their taxes appears to be under the protection of the country’s prime minister – whose own family (as has been well-established) made its money from advising people on how to avoid paying taxes.

HM Revenue and Customs has identified 1,100 UK citizens who could be prosecuted for avoiding tax – only one person has faced such prosecution.

One of the UK’s most respected newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, has been avoiding the story (allegedly) because it wants to protect a lucrative advertising contract with HSBC.

Our government of Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat MPs is – as far as anybody can see – protecting the people who caused the financial crash of 2007 onwards, along with those who – by withholding the tax money they owe the UK Treasury – have forced unnecessary austerity onto the poorest people in the country.

It is estimated that thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of people have died because of benefit cuts and sanctions that have been administered either by fraud or error.

Yet the Conservative Party is still expected to return nearly 300 members to Parliament on May 8.

Can anybody explain that?

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Will the submarine chancellor surface to talk about tax dodging?

Another Tory crook?

Another Tory crook?

It seems the Tories have nowhere to hide today – now Labour is piling on the pressure over tax dodging and the HSBC scandal.

Ed Miliband suggested the government had “gone into hiding” over the issue at his question and answer session in the West Midlands earlier today, and now Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, has stepped into the fray.

“We’ve now had a week of silence from George Osborne – the submarine chancellor still hasn’t surfaced,” he said.

“It is time he and David Cameron finally started answering questions about HSBC and Lord Green… In this row over tax evasion David Cameron and George Osborne are now guilty of political evasion.”

Earlier, Mr Leslie had said: “We need a full and frank statement from Lord Green explaining what he knew about what was happening while he was in charge of HSBC.

“There are also mounting questions for ministers, which continue to go unanswered. Did David Cameron and George Osborne discuss tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green? The Prime Minister failed to answer this four times in the House of Commons.

“Why did they appoint Lord Green as a Tory minister months after the government received these files? Why have we only had one prosecution out of 1,100 names? And why did George Osborne and the Treasury sign a deal with the Swiss in 2012 which prevents the UK from actively obtaining similar information in the future?

“It is time we finally had answers from David Cameron and George Osborne.”

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Labour soars ahead with plan to tackle tax avoidance

Labour's proposals follow the revelations of tax avoidance on a massive scale at HSBC Bank while it was run by Stephen Green - who later became a Conservative lord and minister.

Labour’s proposals follow the revelations of tax avoidance on a massive scale at HSBC Bank while it was run by Stephen Green – who later became a Conservative lord and minister [Image: Daily Mirror].

In a clear response to the HSBC tax avoidance revelations, Labour is setting out its plans to tackle the issue if elected into office after May’s general election.

With campaigners and non-government organisations calling for a “Tax Dodging Bill”, Labour has announced that its first Finance Bill will act to tackle tax avoidance – and was due to set out the measures in an Opposition Day Debate today (Wednesday, February 11).

Labour’s motion notes that just one out of 1,100 people who have avoided or evaded tax have been prosecuted following the revelations of malpractice at HSBC bank, which were first given to the government in May 2010, after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government had taken office.

It also calls upon Lord Green and David Cameron to make a full statement about his role at HSBC and his appointment as a minister in 2011.

The proposed Finance Bill includes plans to:

· Introduce penalties for those who are caught by the General Anti-Abuse Rule

· Close loopholes used by hedge funds to avoid stamp duty

· Close loopholes like the Eurobonds loophole which allow some large companies to move profits out of the UK and avoid Corporation Tax

· Stop umbrella companies exploiting tax reliefs

· Scrap the “Shares for Rights” scheme, which the OBR has warned could enable avoidance and cost £1bn and is administered by HMRC, and so ensure HMRC can better focus on tackling tax avoidance

· Tackle disguised self-employment by introducing strict deeming criteria

· Tackle the use of dormant companies to avoid tax by requiring them to report more frequently

Labour’s measures to tackle tax avoidance will also include:

· Ensuring stronger independent scrutiny of the tax system, including reliefs, and the government’s efforts to tackle tax avoidance

· Forcing the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to produce publicly available registries of beneficial ownership

· Making country-by-country reporting information publicly available

· Ensuring developing countries are properly engaged in the drawing up of global tax rules

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “David Cameron and George Osborne have totally failed to tackle tax avoidance in the last five years. They have failed to close the loopholes we have highlighted, and the amount of uncollected tax has risen under this government.

“I am determined that the next Labour Government will act where the Tories have failed. We will close loopholes that cost the exchequer billions of pounds a year, increase transparency and toughen up penalties – and we will act in our first Finance Bill.”

Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour’s Shadow Exchequer Secretary, said: “The Tories and Lib Dems should back our motion to show that they are serious about tackling tax avoidance and evasion. We have a clear plan for our first Finance Bill after the election – they need to back that or explain why they don’t.”

This is a terrific move by the Labour Party. It seems clear that Labour was planning to tackle tax avoidance in any case – and should gain recognition for that alone, after the Coalition Government spent the last five years blowing hot air at us and doing nothing.

But it’s not perfect. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, wrote yesterday evening: “There is no commitment to extra funding at HMRC. Nothing will happen without that.

“There is no direct reference to the tax gap and making explicit that these issues are meant to close it. Whilst HMRC works with the current deficient version of the tax gap this problem cannot, again, be resolved.

“I want a general anti-avoidance principle, not a revised General Anti-Abuse Rule, but penalties sure as heck help.

“There is no mention of the extra resources needed to make sure Companies House works properly, which is as important as the changes in dormant company reporting.

“There is no mention of BEPS implementation or action on things like permanent establishment and controlled foreign companies.

“And there’s no Office for Tax Responsibility as yet (although the hint of one has, I note appeared, so I am hopeful).”

All these criticisms are valid and it is to be hoped that Labour will adapt its bill to accommodate them. Even if this does not happen, Mr Murphy himself adds: “Let me stop complaining for a moment because I will probably never be completely satisfied.

“This is a package that indicates commitment to listen and commitment to change. It is a package that looks across the board at the issues of concern. And it addresses a fair range of items into debate. I welcome that, of course. The devil is always in the detail but there is room for manoeuvre in here and many statements are moves in the right direction when those are sorely needed.

“That is what is needed for now, and I’ll take it at that level.”

Do any of the other parties have anything at all to say?

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HSBC – the tax-dodging bank with a Tory chairman

Another Tory crook?

Another Tory crook?

What can we say about the HSBC bank’s activities, in advance of the BBC’s Panorama documentary this evening (BBC One, 8.30pm GMT)?

One: HSBC Bank has been helping thousands of wealthy clients to evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax. A nice dodge for the clients – and a nice earner for the bank!

Two: This is old news. HM Revenue and Customs was made aware of HSBC’s tax-avoiding practices in 2010 but from more than 7,000 British clients, the UK government has prosecuted just one person, despite having identified 1,100 tax avoiders. Didn’t George Osborne say there would be “no safe haven” for these people?

Three: HSBC did not just turn a blind eye to tax evaders – in some cases it broke the law by actively helping its clients. The example on the BBC News website is of a wealthy family who were given a foreign credit card in order to withdraw their undeclared cash overseas. The bank that likes to say “Oui”?

Four: The man in charge of HSBC at the time was Stephen Green. He gave up being chairman of the bank in December 2010, in order to become a Conservative peer and minister of state for trade and investment in January 2011. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Four: Lord Green told Panorama: “As a matter of principle I will not comment on the business of HSBC past or present.” Honour amongst thieves?

Five: Add it all together and we can see that the Coalition government has not only allowed rich HSBC clients to steal money from the UK economy, but has actually colluded in it and rewarded the man in charge of the operation with a peerage and a cushy government job! All in it together, eh?

How unfortunate for the Tories that this has come out just 12 weeks before a general election!

Of course the Labour Party is all over this like a rash. Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury Cathy Jamieson said: “Tax avoidance and evasion harms every taxpayer in Britain, and undermines public services like the NHS.”

She said George Osborne needs to explain why just one person out of more than 1,000 has been prosecuted in five years, and how the then-chairman of HSBC, Stephen Green, could have been appointed a Conservative peer and a Minister by David Cameron just eight months after the Government was made aware of these activities taking place on his watch at HSBC.

“Once again the Tories have been exposed as unable and unwilling to take real action on tax avoidance – little wonder that under them the tax gap has risen, year on year,” was her judgement.

Richard Brooks, author of The Great Tax Robbery (Oneworld, 2013), knows a thing or two about tax avoidance and evasion. He summed up the Coalition government’s collusion on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, referring to an agreement between the UK and Swiss governments, signed in 2007, to bring in “billions of pounds” in unpaid tax.

He said: “David Gauke, Tax Minister, and David Hartnett the senior tax official, started negotiating it straight after they’d received this data from the French authorities, so they knew that there was a mass of evidence of tax evasion at the heart of HSBC.

“They set about negotiating agreement with the Swiss Government which says… that ‘it is highly unlikely to be in the public interest of the United Kingdom that professional advisors, Swiss paying agents and their employees – in other words bankers – will be subject to a criminal investigation by HMRC.’

“So, knowing they’re sitting on all this evidence, they’ve simply washed their hands of it and said ‘we’re not going to prosecute’. And that’s why no-one has come before the courts in five years.”

And yet the Conservative Party is still considered best-able to run the economy.

Admittedly, with only 33 per cent support, more than two-thirds of the country don’t consider the Tories able to run anything at all, but it’s still more support than the other parties are getting.

Why?

They are letting rich people walk off with money that belongs in the Treasury and should be spent on public services.

It all goes to show that you should never – never – allow the Conservative Party to handle public money.

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