Newslinks for Thursday 15th April 2021

Six inquiries into Greensill, as Johnson pledges probe will get ‘maximum possible access’

“Boris Johnson vowed today that the probe into David Cameron’s lobbying for Greensill would get the “maximum possible access” to get to the bottom of the row. Yesterday The Sun revealed how the PM has launched an investigation into access to contracts after Mr Cameron’s calls, texts and drinks with ministers after leaving Government. A probe of all departments will look into whether the former PM had special treatment with getting access to top ministers when he went on to work for a finance firm after leaving Downing Street, which later went bust. The PM said today that Nigel Boardman, who will lead the probe, will get access to whoever he wants to ask whatever questions he needs to find out what went on.” – The Sun

  • Tories close ranks to ‘block broader inquiry into scandal’ – The Guardian
  • Affair exposes opaque UK lobbying rules – FT

More:

  • Prime Minister ‘intervened’ in Saudi football club bid after being ‘personally lobbied’ by Crown Prince – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Lobbying: a modest proposal. Let’s register any time anyone meets a Minister or MP – anywhere, anyhow.

Crackdown on mandarins’ second jobs

“Britain’s most senior mandarin has warned that Whitehall officials with second jobs threaten the “integrity and impartiality” of the civil service as he launched a hunt for new conflicts of interest. Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, laid bare his “acute concern” in a letter to the heads of all Government departments on Wednesday. He ordered them to search their ranks for high-level civil servants with external paid roles that may be problematic, setting the end of this week as the deadline. It came amid a growing row over Greensill Capital, the lender that collapsed last month, and the access its founder enjoyed to the heart of government during David Cameron’s administration. Mr Cameron then joined the finance firm after leaving office and directly lobbied the Chancellor on its behalf.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Top civil servants given 48 hours to come clean over private sector jobs – The Sun
  • Ministers and civil servants could be denied honours if they break lobbying rules – Daily Mail

More:

  • Senior civil servant held Greensill role while still in government – FT
  • Former Met Police chief drawn into scandal – Daily Telegraph

Downing Street Deputy Chief of Staff and senior SpAd thrust into the spotlight

“Boris Johnson’s deputy chief of staff is facing accusations of a potential conflict of interest over her part-ownership of a company that advises governments, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kazakhstan. Baroness Finn owns 35 per cent of a company set up by Lord Maude of Horsham, a former Cabinet Office minister, which advises foreign governments about economic and public sector reform. FMAP Limited has £1 million worth of assets. Lord Hammond, the former chancellor, Nick Hurd, a former Home Office minister, and Nick Boles, a former minister for skills, all work for the company as senior advisers. It commissioned Bill Crothers, the government’s former chief commercial officer, as a subcontractor providing advice on procurement between 2017 and 2019.” – The Times

  • Peer behind PM’s Whitehall review defends links to Greensill director – The Guardian
  • Second mandarin is caught up in lobbying furore – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: PMQs sketch: “Tory sleaze” puts fresh heart into Starmer

Wragg calls Cameron’s conduct ‘tasteless, slapdash and unbecoming’…

“David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital was condemned by Conservative MPs yesterday, who said it tarnished the former prime minister’s reputation. Cameron’s actions were branded “tasteless, slapdash and unbecoming” by William Wragg, chairman of the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee. He promised an inquiry into the “revolving doors” between Whitehall and the private sector, meaning that Cameron now faces three investigations into his lobbying activities. The Treasury select committee, also chaired by a Conservative MP, has announced an inquiry into the collapse of Greensill Capital. Boris Johnson has also ordered Nigel Boardman, a lawyer, to conduct an independent investigation on behalf of the government.” – The Times

 …as the former Prime Minister and Sunak prepare to give evidence

“Former prime minister David Cameron and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are set to be called to give evidence to parliamentary inquiries into the Greensill Capital scandal. The House of Commons Treasury select committee on Wednesday launched an inquiry into “lessons” from Greensill, the supply-chain finance group that collapsed last month, and Sunak is expected to appear before it. Cameron is likely to give evidence to the Commons public accounts committee, or the public administration and constitutional affairs committee. The moves by these committees to pursue hearings into the Greensill scandal came after the Conservatives used their majority in the Commons to reject Labour’s call for a special parliamentary investigation.” – FT

  • Watchdog Lord Pickles prepares to vent frustration on civil service ‘double jobbing’ – Daily Mail
  • Will Greensill lobby scandal turn Heir to Blair into Dodgy Dave? – The Sun
  • Where’s Blair? – BBC Newsnight, Twitter

David Aaronovitch: Government revolving door is out of control

“Under New Labour there was a renewed effort to open up senior ranks of the civil service to people with skills from outside, particularly in HR and finance. David Cameron continued the trend. No one seriously believes you could or should go back to the old monastic days. But the revolving door created an obvious series of problems concerning trust and probity. Bodies such as Acoba have for some time been criticised by select committees for their lack of effective powers. Nor is there any accessible central record of where civil servants come from and where they go to afterwards. Yet far from the most senior civil servants holding out for more transparency and reining in the desire of impatient politicians to cut corners, in recent times they have seemed intent on shaving the edges themselves.” – The Times

  • The public needs to know how this was allowed to happen – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • Greensill’s fantasies lost touch with reality – Iain Martin, The Times

Care home staff could be required to have Covid vaccine, says Hancock

“Staff in care homes could be required to have a Covid-19 vaccination, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has confirmed, saying only around half of the facilities have enough people vaccinated to provide minimum protection against the virus. Inoculation could become a condition of employment from this summer, Hancock said, as he announced a five-week consultation and revealed staff vaccination rates were still below 70% in 27 different areas of the UK, despite care workers being in the highest priority category for jabs. “We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to Covid-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe,” Hancock said. “Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of Covid-19… Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.”” – The Guardian

  • Vaccine passports could create ‘two-tier society’, equalities watchdog warns – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Richard Sloggett in Commment: There will be no levelling up for Britain if there’s no levelling up for health. Here’s a plan to deliver it.

Pints ordered in pubs will be slapped with calorie counts, leaked ‘nanny-state’ plans reveal

“Nannying health chiefs are to slap calorie counts on pints ordered in pubs, leaked plans seen by The Sun reveal. Matt Hancock’s Health department has horrified Cabinet colleagues with orders to force bigger pub chains to reveal the amount of calories in all beer, wine and spirit served in their bars. Menus or even pump labels would have to carry the information. The push would also see all alcohol sold in shops have to publish calorie information and a health warning by law. All pre-packaged booze labels would have warnings about drinking from Professor Chris Whitty, as well as the risks of drink-driving and the amount of calories. The Government’s own figures say that there will be a £92 million hit to the already Covid-ravaged booze industry – but “the benefits to consumers has not been quantified”.” – The Sun

Plan for temporary Chamber during Parliament restoration will be axed in favour of Zoom debates, Rees-Mogg suggests

“A £1.5bn pound plan to relocate MPs to a “temporary Chamber” in Westminster while Parliament undergoes a major restoration will be axed in favour of Zoom debates, Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested. Mr Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, told Tory backbenchers on Wednesday night that Parliament should use video calls to beam members into the historic Chamber while other parts of the Palace of Westminster are restored, and that a full decamp to an expensive temporary facility should be avoided. Plans by the Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority previously suggested that MPs move to Richmond House and the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, with debates taking place in a temporary Chamber costing around £1.5bn. Mr Rees-Mogg told the 1922 Committee there would instead be a minimalist restoration, focussing on fire risks and essential works and cutting the total bill.” – Daily Telegraph

Tugendhat blasts Boris Johnson’s failure to hit back at China’s attacks on MPs

“A top Tory has unleashed a blistering attack on Boris Johnson’s failure to hit back at Communist China’s attacks on British MPs. Tom Tugendhat – one of five politicians slapped with sanctions by Beijing for speaking out about genocide – slammed ministers for not taking the threat “seriously enough”. n a blistering attack, he said Parliament’s online security is weaker than Gmail, and begged Downing Street to finally wake up to the threat posed by the Red Dragon. Mr Tugendhat, who was targeted with sanctions, claimed to have been the victim of Chinese “psyops” – psychological operations – including spoof emails to fellow MPs… During the urgent question, Conservative former minister Tim Loughton called the sanctions placed on him and other parliamentarians by China “laughable”.” – The Sun

  • Commons to vote on declaration of genocide in Xinjiang province – The Guardian

Ministers veto reappointment of two women to Channel 4 board

Shield“The government has vetoed the reappointment of two women to Channel 4’s board of directors, including one of only two women of colour, in a sign ministers are continuing to assert their authority over senior media appointments. The decision not to renew the boardroom positions of Uzma Hasan and Fru Hazlitt at the state-owned but privately funded broadcaster was made against the advice of both the Channel 4 board and the media regulator, Ofcom. Both women were recommended for another three-year term on the broadcaster’s board, sources told the Guardian, with such reappointments usually waved through by the government. However, ministers have instead decided to seek new candidates, as part of a wider push that has led to the appointment of Conservative allies to leading media roles.” – The Guardian

EU backs down over legal action ahead of Lord Frost’s crunch Brussels trip

“Brussels has agreed to hold off on its legal action against Britain in the row over trade checks for Northern Ireland. The decision came ahead of a crunch showdown between Brexit minister Lord Frost and EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in the Belgian capital tomorrow. They are due to meet to discuss the ongoing tensions in the region following weeks of violent scenes in Loyalist areas. The European Commission triggered legal action last month after accusing No10 of breaching international law by temporarily suspending EU-ordered checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland. But eurocrats have agreed to give British officials longer to respond to the allegations in the hope a compromise can be found.” – Daily Express

  • UK and Ireland should strike bilateral deal to replace Protocol, claims ex-Irish ambassador – Daily Telegraph
  • Criminal gangs blamed for stoking Northern Irish violence – FT
  • Irish-born DUP peer refuses to take Home Office test for British passport – The Guardian

Comment:

  • The EU must take the blame for Irish chaos – Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Daily Telegraph
  • Muddling through is Johnson’s only strategy to save the Union – Robert Shrimsley, FT

Patel’s detention policies ‘found to breach human rights rules’

“A landmark court ruling has held the home secretary, Priti Patel, accountable for failures in ensuring that deaths in immigration detention centres are properly investigated. Two judges in the immigration court ruled on Wednesday that three of the home secretary’s detention policies breached human rights rules and that she could not frustrate or undermine inquiries into these deaths. The ruling relates to two friends, Ahmed Lawal and Oscar Lucky Okwurime, both from Nigeria, who were in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre when Okwurime was found dead in his cell there on 12 September 2019. Lawal proved to be a key witness, but the Home Office tried to deport him five days after the death before he could provide any evidence. He took the case to the high court and a judge halted his removal.” – The Guardian

  • Home Secretary called ‘cavalier’ by lawyer over bid to remove asylum seeker – FT

>Yesterday: Arminka Helic in Comment: Training on domestic abuse should be mandatory for judges hearing cases involving it. MPs can make this happen.

Labour to force vote in Parliament on Johnson’s plans to cut the Army

“Labour will try to inflict a hammer blow on Boris Johnson’s military reputation today by forcing a vote in Parliament on plans to cut the Army. The PM is slashing troop numbers to their smallest in 300 years. He is pushing ahead with the hugely controversial cut despite promising The Sun on the 2019 election trail he would not cut military numbers. Seizing on the row, shadow defence secretary John Healey told the PM to “back off” from the cutting Army numbers… Under a massive military shake-up, troop numbers will be cut to 72,500 by 2025. The current target for troop numbers is 82,040, although there are actually just 76,350 full timers in the Army. The PM told The Sun back in 2019: “We will not be cutting our Armed Forces in any form. “We will be maintaining the size of our armed Forces because we are increasing funding for them.”” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Sir Bernard Jenkin MP in Comment: The case for renewing our nuclear deterrent is stronger than ever

News in Brief:

  • Delaying her push for an independence vote will leave Sturgeon vulnerable to Salmond – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • Green games: the Prime Minister’s big plan to rebrand Britain – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • The ‘right wing’ case for the NHS – Lincoln Allison, The Critic
  • The last thing Britain’s pubs need is mandatory calorie counts – Matt Kilcoyne, CapX

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Author: Conservative Home


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