Category Archives: Vested interests
Drone footage and satellite images have recently revealed that thousands of British cattle reared for supermarket beef are being kept at some sites in outdoor pens, known as corrals, sometimes surrounded by walls, fences or straw bales. Although the cattle will have spent time grazing in fields prior to fattening, some will be confined in pens for around a quarter of their lives, until they are slaughtered. Disease spreads easily in such conditions and traces of the medication needed to prevent or treat the animals will be present in the meat offered for human consumption.
Who owns these companies? Who are the directors? Do they donate to party funds?
Why are there no official records held by DEFRA on how many intensive beef units are in operation?
Government regulations say that an environmental permit is needed if you operate any of the following:
-an industrial facility,
-or other business that produces potentially harmful substances, eg:
-a landfill site, a large chicken farm, a food factory
Why is government not requiring an environmental permit before their construction – and indeed consulting those in their neighbourhood?
A small section of a group of intensive units photographed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism/ Guardian
Though environment secretary Michael Gove said, in a parliamentary statement. “I do not want to see, and we will not have, US-style farming in this country”, it’s here.
The Guardian and Bureau last year revealed that 800 poultry and pig “mega farms” have appeared in the British countryside in recent years, some housing more than a million chickens or about 20,000 pigs.
Following the revelations, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, pledged that Brexit would not be allowed to result in the spread of US-style agribusiness.
Readers who want to know the extent of this problem and the location of megafarms for dairy, pigs and poultry, may find this information by looking at the interactive maps produced by Compassion in World Farming: The snapshots show information about intensive pig rearing in Gloucestershire, where the writer lives.
A Moseley reader draws attention to research by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism establishing that the UK is now home to a number of industrial-scale fattening units with herds of up to 3,000 cattle at a time. Sites in Kent, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were identified, the largest farms fattening up to 6,000 cattle a year.
The practice of intensive beef farming in the UK has not previously been widely acknowledged – and these findings raise questions over the future of British farming.
Richard Young, Policy Director at the Sustainable Food Trust, said: “Keeping large number of cattle together in intensive conditions removes all justification for rearing them and for consumers to eat red meat…
“More than two-thirds of UK farmland is under grass for sound environmental reasons and the major justifications for keeping cattle and eating red meat are that they produce high quality protein and healthy fats from land that is not suitable for growing crops.”
George Monbiot recently pointed out that the Commons report on the Carillion fiasco is one of the most damning assessments of corporate behaviour parliament has ever published. It trounces the company’s executives and board and laments the weakness of the regulators.
But, as Prem Sikka said in his April article, it scarcely touches the structural causes that make gluttony a perennial feature of corporate life.
Both agree that the problem begins with an issue the report does not once mention: the extreme nature of limited liability. Sikka points out that this system, under which executives are only financially accountable for the value of their investment, has also benefited frauds and led to the self-enrichment of executives at the expense of workers, consumers, creditors, pensioners and citizens.
Monbiot adds that the current model of limited liability allowed the directors and executives of Carillion to rack up a pension deficit of £2.6 billion, leaving the 27,000 members of its schemes to be rescued by the state fund (which is financed by a levy on your pension – if you have one). The owners of the company were permitted to walk away from the £2 billion owed to its suppliers and subcontractors. (Left: the former Carillion chief executive Keith Cochrane in Westminster after appearing before the Commons work and pensions select committee)
Monbiot continues: “There is no way that fossil fuel companies could pay for the climate breakdown they cause. There is no way that car companies could meet the health costs of air pollution. Their business models rely on dumping their costs on other people. Were they not protected by the extreme form of limited liability that prevails today, they would be obliged to switch to clean technologies”.
So what is to be done?
Prem Sikka (right) proposes that the bearers of unlimited risks and liabilities should be given rights to control the day-to-day governance and direction of companies.
He advocates including employees and citizen/consumers on company boards – because both ultimately have to bear the financial, health, social and psychological costs associated with environmental damage, pollution, poor products, industrial accidents, loss of jobs, pensions and savings. Through seats on company boards, they could secure a fairer distribution of income, challenge discrimination, curb asset-stripping and influence investment, training and innovation.
Across the 28 European Union countries (plus Norway), most have a statutory requirement for employee representation on company boards – unlike the UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Malta and Romania.
George Monbiot proposes a radical reassessment of limited liability.
He points out that a recent paper by the US law professor Michael Simkovic proposes that companies should pay a fee for this indemnity, calibrated to the level of risk they impose on society. He adds, significantly, that as numerous leaks show, companies tend to be far more aware of the risks they inflict than either governments or the rest of society. Various estimates put the cost that businesses dump on society at somewhere between 4% and 20% of GDP
His own ‘tentative’ and ingenious proposal is that any manager earning more than a certain amount – say £200,000 – would have half their total remuneration placed in an escrow account, which is controlled not by the company but by an external agency. The deferred half of their income would not become payable until the agency judged that the company had met the targets it set on pension provision, workers’ pay, the treatment of suppliers and contractors and wider social and environmental performance. This judgement should draw on mandatory social and environmental reporting, assessed by independent auditors.
If they miss their targets, the executives would lose part or all of the deferred sum. In other words, they would pay for any disasters they impose on others. To ensure it isn’t captured by corporate interests, the agency would be funded by the income it confiscates.
Monbiot then says “I know that, at best, they address only part of the problem” and asks, “Are these the right solutions?
- support them,
- oppose them
- or suggest better ideas.
He ends: “Should corporations in their current form exist at all? Is capitalism compatible with life on earth?”
A Liverpool reader draws attention to the news that Philip May, husband of the UK prime minister, works for Capital Group, the largest shareholder in arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, whose share price has soared since the recent airstrikes in Syria, employs. It is also the second-largest shareholder in Lockheed Martin – a US military arms firm that supplies weapons systems, aircraft and logistical support. Its shares have also rocketed since the missile strikes last week.
Selected evidence of the revolving doors between Whitehall appointments, their family and friends and the ‘defence’ industry in our archives, in chronological order:
Michael Portillo, the secretary of state for defence from 1995 to 1997, became non-executive director of BAE Systems in 2002 before stepping down in 2006.
Lord Reid, secretary of state for defence from 2005 to 2006, said in 2008 that he had become group consultant to G4S, the security company that worked closely with the Ministry of Defence in Iraq.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, the chief of staff from 2006-2009, retired from the RAF last year and will become senior military adviser to BAE Systems in January.
Sir Kevin Tebbit, under-secretary at the MoD, became chairman of Finmeccanica UK, owner of Westland helicopters in 2007 and has a variety of other defence related appointments.
Major-General Graham Binns left the military in 2010 and became chief executive of Aegis Defence Services, a leading security company.
David Gould, the former chief operating officer of the MoD’s procurement division, became chairman of Selex Systems, part of Finmeccanica in 2010.
Lady Taylor of Bolton was minister for defence equipment for a year until 2008 and became minister for international defence and security until Labour lost the general election in May.In 2010 she joined the arms contractor Thales, which is part of the consortium supplying two aircraft carriers that are £1.541bn over budget.
In 2010 Geoff Hoon, the ex-Defence Secretary caught attempting to sell his services to fake lobbyists back alongside Stephen Byers. When he was an MP, military helicopter company AgustaWestland were awarded a billion-pound order. Now out of Parliament, Hoon earns his way as the company’s Vice-President of international business.
Andrew Tyler (above, right), the British Defence Ministry’s former procurement chief, became chief operating officer of Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), responsible for the procurement and support of all the equipment used by the British Armed Forces. Siemens’ Marine Current Turbines unit appointed Andrew Tyler as acting CEO in 2011 and in 2012 he became the chief executive of Northrop Grumman’s UK & European operations; NG is a large American global aerospace and defence technology company. Above, still from a video made at a 2015 Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair
Then Business Secretary Vince Cable was one of 40 MPs on the guest list for a £250-a-head gathering in 2015 at the Hilton hotel on Park Lane. he gave a speech at the event organised by trade organisation ADS, the trade body for UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industries arms fair..
Ministers were wined-and-dined in 2015 by the arms trade at a £450-a-head banquet on Tuesday night just hours after parliament’s International Development Committee said the UK should suspend all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
In 2017, some of the senior politicians or members of their families lobbying for the nuclear industry were listed on this site (Powerbase source):
Three former Labour Energy Ministers (John Hutton, Helen Liddell, Brian Wilson)
Gordon Brown’s brother worked as head lobbyist for EDF
Jack Cunningham chaired Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum
Labour Minister Yvette Cooper’s dad was chair of nuclear lobbyists The Nuclear Industry Association.
Ed Davey, Lib Dem energy minister’s brother worked for a nuclear lobbyist. When failed to be re-elected went to work for the same nuclear lobbying firm as his brother.
Lord Clement Jones who was Nick Clegg’s General Election Party Treasurer was a nuclear industry lobbyist.
Tory Peer Lady Maitland is board member of nuclear lobbyist Sovereign Strategy.
Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher’s press spokesperson, has been nuclear lobbyist for over 25 years.
Lord Jenkin was a paid consultant to nuclear industry.
MEP Giles Chichester is president of nuclear lobbyists EEF.
Concerns about the ‘cosy relationship between the government and the arms trade’ are expressed well by CAAT:
A disturbing number of senior officials, military staff and ministers have passed through the ‘revolving door’ to join arms and security companies. This process has helped to create the current cosy relationship between the government and the arms trade – with politicians and civil servants often acting in the interests of companies, not the interests of the public.
When these ‘revolvers’ leave public service for the arms trade, they take with them extensive contacts and privileged access. As current government decision-makers are willing to meet and listen to former Defence Ministers and ex-Generals, particularly if they used to work with them, this increases the arms trade’s already excessive influence over our government’s actions.
On top of this, there is the risk that government decision-makers will be reluctant to displease arms companies as this could ruin their chances of landing a lucrative arms industry job in the future.
At first and at a distance only the provenance of the attack was questioned.
Jeremy Corbyn raised the point that some opposition groups, backed and funded by the UK, had also used chemical weapons, as has been reported many times and Richard Bruce added, “this funding was a grave mistake which prolonged the agony for the Syrian people”.
The Prime Minister said that because the opposition forces did not use helicopters or barrel bombs this was not possible. Richard comments:
“I presume she imagines we are all idiots? There were no helicopters or barrel bombs in the First World War – but plenty of deadly gas was used. There are many ways of delivering chlorine gas and nerve agents which do not require attacks from the air. Even a timed explosive device planted on the ground could do the same job because gas disperses in the wind, which is how its use became problematical in war.”
His MP Rob Seely who had refused to take action on cases of poisoning by agricultural and industrial organophosphates in Britain presented by Richard, received a letter from his constituent, ending:
“Now we have a scenario in Salisbury where a chemical, reported to be manufactured by mixing two of those insecticides, has begun an international disaster, though when those poisoned by organophosphates in the UK report even worse symptoms, they are ignored and told they are imagining them.
Yesterday, Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord, spoke to a BBC interviewer on why he thought the chemical weapons attack on Douma was a false flag: “We need unequivocal proof that this attack was done by Assad’s forces – I’m not at all convinced at the moment”. He went even further on the BBC – see the video. On Talk Radio he added: “All the reports are coming from people like the White Helmets, who have a history of doing propaganda for the opposition forces in Syria. The WHO reports are coming from doctors who are also part of the opposition”.
Today British and American journalists walking around the streets of Douma can find no shred of evidence to confirm that a chemical attack has taken place
Oxygen loss, not chemical poisoning
Dr Rahaibani, who was on the spot, spoke to journalist Robert Fisk about the ‘false impression’: “I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”
A fabrication or a hoax
Pearson Sharp, an American journalist with OAN who gained access to the war-torn town of Douma, where the US, France and the UK alleged that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians, reports from Douma that he found “no evidence” of a chemical weapons attack: “We were brought in with a government escort and shown the areas where the chemical attack allegedly happened. We were able to speak with residents in the area. We were even able to visit the hospital where the White Helmets showed the videos of people being hosed down.
“When I asked them what they thought the chemical attack was, they told me — all of them — it was staged by the rebels who were occupying the town at that time. They said it was a fabrication or a hoax. When I asked why, they told me it was because the rebels were desperate and needed a ploy to help the get the Syrian Army off their back so they could escape.”
Salisburygate: “My old Home Office instincts tells me this was a political game that quickly got out of control”
“The diplomatic mess caused by Prime Minister Theresa May is embarrassing. Not that the wider British public would realise this thanks to pro-May coverage in the media”.
So says an article received from a Jamaican contact, about the political fallout from the alleged nerve agent Salisbury attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Accusing the Russian government and expelling diplomats thereafter – based on flimsy evidence – was incompetence of an amateurish level.
The fact that she was not willing to share any hard evidence with colleagues and Jeremy Corbyn was classic May. During her time as Home Secretary, senior staff would complain of May’s bunker-type mentality and withholding key information and decisions even from her own junior ministers and key relevant staff.
Classic May is – make a big statement then retreat into the background leaving others, such as her media friends, to spin information to crazy levels.
In Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, was correct to challenge May’s assertions of the Russian government’s involvement.
Most of the British media, the government and Labour backbench MPs mocked his stance, labelling him a traitor, not fit to become PM and a Vladimir Putin stooge. But Corbyn – like many of us – has seen far too often where governments and law enforcement officials have got their initial claims on high profile incidents so wrong. e.g. Hillsborough, Manchester bombing, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Jean Charles de Menenez, Jill Dando, Rachel Nickell, Stephen Lawrence etc.
Given that the alleged foreign state sponsored incident happened on British soil, Home Secretary Rudd – who has oversight over national security – has said very little. The last time Rudd directly accused the Russian government was early March. Ben Wallace is Rudd’s junior minister responsible for national security matters; he too has been silent.
My old Home Office instincts tells me this was a political game that quickly got out of control. The fault lies not with Amber Rudd but Downing Street. Hence the silence from Rudd and Wallace: and why in recent days Rudd has deflected from Salisbury and promised to target wealthy Russians residing in the UK.
The reason why the May government is not receiving any flak for this diplomatic blunder is that the media would rather play down a diplomatic incident, than admit that Corbyn’s cautious instincts were correct.
Full marks to Corbyn and the Labour front bench for standing their ground and challenging Theresa May directly over Salisbury.
SEVEN POINTED QUESTIONS
After the Iraq lies the public has a right to question their government on any statements relating to serious national security issues:
- How is it that over 125 countries did not join May and expel any Russian diplomats?
- Why did May say that the Skripals’ health was in such danger that they might never fully recover? Only days later both came out of intensive care and are recovering well.
- Why has the UK prevented Russian Embassy officials from visiting the Skripals in hospital? Why have they denied a visa to Yulia’s cousin Viktoria to visit them from Russia?
- Why has May blocked international observers from inspecting the alleged nerve agent?
- Why have May and Amber Rudd said very little in Parliament over the past 14 days?
- Why did Boris Johnson claim that he was told by government scientists at Porton Down that the source of the nerve agent used was Russian, only for the Chief Executive to deny such claims?
- Why has there been no joint press conference held by May, Rudd and Johnson to answer media questions?
“The government will never admit to their error of judgment as that would be political suicide. So expect May, her ministers and media pals to play out this false narrative right up to the May local elections”.
The rational case against metro mayors ably set out by Richard Hatcher, George Morran and Steve Beauchampé, has been shattered for the writer by the media-feeding chaotic, emotion-led, vicious, counterproductive squabbling in the Labour & Conservative ranks.
Still, evidently, a tribal people, we appear to need the ‘high-profile leadership’ extolled by Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities , largest funders Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Lord Sainsbury) and Catapult network, established by Innovate UK, a government agency. (see report cover right)
As yet, the announcements made by the West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street, respected even by most opponents of the post, with a business record seen as a guarantee of efficiency, are provoking little dissension.
Dan Jarvis, who is expected to win the Sheffield election becoming Britain’s seventh metro mayor, intends to continue to sit in the House of Commons to work for a better devolution deal and speak for the whole county. (map, regions in 2017)
His desire to stay in parliament while serving as a mayor is thought, by the author of FT View, to reflect a recognition that the real authority and power of these positions is limited:
- The six mayors have no say on how taxes are raised and spent.
- Outside Greater Manchester, the mayors have little control over health policy.
- Major spending decisions on transport policy are still taken by central government.
Days after taking office in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s announcement of a new fund to tackle the region’s homelessness problem was backed by ‘a chunk’ of his own mayoral salary.
Andrew Carter points out that England’s mayors are highly constrained in their control over local tax revenue and how it is spent, compared with their counterparts in other countries.
FT View describes this extra layer of government as yet merely creating cheerleaders, adding:
“Voices alone will not be enough to shift economic and political power to the regions. England’s mayors need more control. If the government is serious about devolution, the mayors need the powers to match that ambition”.
Could well-endowed, unsuborned metro mayors out-perform successive corporate-bound national governments?
On 1 April 2018 the government will introduce the first Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs), which are to act as partnership bodies incorporating hospitals, community services and councils into the NHS in England.
The Health Service Journal reports that ACOs organisation, a corporate joint venture with GPs, will bring together most of a local area’s NHS services under a single budget, run directly by one big organisation – the ACO. which are to act as partnership bodies incorporating hospitals, community services and councils
Government intends to pass laws allowing ACOs to be set up (see above) without an automatic vote in Parliament.
A BBC website reports that campaigners has been given permission to challenge a government health policy in the High Court. They will pursue a judicial review against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England over plans to create ACOs. Campaigners say it risks privatisation, but this is denied by ministers. The group bringing the case to court says an act of Parliament would be needed for the changes.
The DHSS said the claims would be resisted and it is irresponsible scaremongering to say ACOs were supporting privatisation. A spokesman said: “The NHS will remain a taxpayer-funded system free at the point of use; ACOs are simply about making care more joined-up between different health and care organisations. “Our consultation on changes to support ACOs is entirely appropriate and lawful”.
Dr Kailash Chand, an honorary Vice President of the British Medical Association, claimed ACOs could be a “Trojan horse for privatisation” adding:
“At worst, they are the end game for the NHS.”
The British Medical Association union warned: “Combining multiple services into one contract risks the potential for non-NHS providers taking over the provision of care for entire health economies.”
And the Commons Health Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative) said: “There is a great deal of anxiety out there that this is going to be a mechanism for privatising the NHS.”
It’s official: arms trading countries note: “Wars and conflicts are driving hunger in a way never seen before”
In 1991, the writer stopped standing orders to the largest charities after making a report with cut & pasted text and photographs from their own newsletters (pre-computer), documenting a three-year cycle:
- poignant appeals every Christmas for money to help war-torn Sudan, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
- followed by a cease-fire and aid for the victims
- and rebuilding destroyed schools and hospitals
- followed by renewed conflict and destruction
- and further appeals
Only one aid charity said, throughout this period, “there can be no development without peace”.
The reports were sent to the various headquarters and all replied courteously, agreeing that the accounts were correct and giving lip-service to the peace cause. Though there are still low-level conflicts in Sudan, following the first attack on Iraq and the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, there have been increasing levels of death and destruction in the Middle East.
Thousands of air strikes on this region – execution without trial – are killing people. destroying buildings, roads, bridges and damaging the water and electricity supplies. All rarely reported in the mainstream British media – perhaps because the government aids the American ‘coalition’-led onslaught, using ‘special forces’ deployed without parliamentary agreement.
Peter Hitchens summarised our country’s recent record:
“We are not morally perfect ourselves, with our head-chopping aggressive Saudi friends, our bloodstained Iraq and Libyan adventures, and our targeted drone-strike killings of British citizens who joined IS”.
60% of the 815 million chronically hungry people—those who do not know where they will get their next meal—live in areas experiencing armed conflicts.
Jessica Corbett has written an article following the release of the World Food Program (WFP) Global Report on Food Crises on Thursday, which found that “conflict continued to be the main driver of acute food insecurity in 18 countries—15 of them in Africa or the Middle East.”
Addressing the U.N. Security Council by video on Friday, World Food Program (WFP) executive director David Beasley reported that, largely due to armed conflicts, there has been “a staggering and stomach-churning 55 percent increase” in the number of acutely hungry people worldwide over the past two years, according to the head of the U.N. food agency. Millions of people are severely, even desperately, hungry.
Our friend and ally
The globe’s largest arms companies sold $370.7 billion worth of military equipment last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). The United States dominates the trade, accounting for $209.7 billion of the global total in 2015.
A warning about mounting conflict in the Sahel
Addressing the U.N. Security Council by video on Friday, David Beasley issued a specific warning about mounting conflicts in Africa’s greater Sahel region, noting, “In the five core countries of the Sahel—Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania—acute malnutrition has risen 30 percent in the past five years.”
– but no reference to the potential consequence of the encirclement and taunting of Russia
As Peter Hitchens said, we have no real quarrel with Russia: “We have made it up out of nothing, and now we are losing control of it. If Britain really wants a war with Russia, as our Government seems to, then Russia will provide that war. But it will not be fought according to the Geneva Conventions. It will be fought according to the law of the jungle”. He asks:
“Before we embark on this, could someone explain why we actually want such a war? We are a minor power on the edge of Europe. What national interest does it serve? What do we gain from it? And will we win it?”
David Beasley said that the Global Report shows the magnitude of today’s crises, but also that “if we bring together political will and today’s technology, we can have a world that’s more peaceful, more stable, and where hunger becomes a thing of the past.” His vitally important message:
“The fighting must stop now and the world must come together to avert these crises happening right in front of our eyes”.