Natural England – sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – is responsible for ensuring that England’s natural environment, including its land, freshwater and marine environments, geology and soils, are protected and improved.
The Farmers Guardian reported that in 2016 Natural England’s payment record was rated even worse than that of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) as it also failed to deliver the required Countryside Stewardship payments for work already done.
Its performance did not improve in 2016; farmers were kept waiting for their first Countryside Stewardship payment. Though Natural England had pledged to make advance payments to 2016 mid-tier and higher-tier scheme holders between November 2016 and January 2017, with final payments due between January and June 2017, the NFU said exasperated members were calling the union demanding to know why their payments had not arrived. Farmers Weekly understood that ongoing delays in processing payments were because of problems with IT systems and processes at Defra.
A spokeswoman for Natural England declined to comment on the number of 2016 scheme payments already made.
FW added that farmers are yet to receive the first tranche of their 2017 payments for work done. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee was scathing in its criticism of the RPA’s failure to distribute basic farm subsidies whilst requiring prompt applications from farmers (below left).
The extent of the Rural Payments Agency’s failure to pay farmers in England on time and in full is now clear. The RPA paid only 38% of farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme on 1 December 2015—first day of the payment window—compared with over 90% in previous years.
By the end of January this had risen to 76%, but at the end of March 2016 there were still 14,300 farmers (16%) who had not received any payment.
Government agencies should honour their own injunction: don’t leave it too late.
Over 10,000 farmers who had received a payment had not been paid in full. Two thirds of the additional payments made to these farmers were in excess of €1,000 and were first paid in September 2016, over 9 months after the first payment should have been received.
Farmers Weekly reported in February this year that the RPA boss was ‘blasted’ over farm payment delays and mapping.
At a NFU council meeting on 30th January at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, farmers took RPA’s chief executive Paul Caldwell to task over BPS payment delays. More than one in 10 farmers are still waiting, according to an NFU survey (see “Survey uncovers extent of delays” right) – although the RPA’s own statistics suggests that figure is nearer to one in five. NFU vice-president Guy Smith said: “When you look at current payment performance and the levels of outstanding issues from previous years you could describe the RPA as ‘just about managing’.
In March 2017, having received what Miles King described as a ‘verbal beating’ (Countryside Stewardship in front of the EFRA committee) Guy Thompson, Chief Operating Officer, left Natural England and now works for Wessex Water.
Natural England announced in the autumn that it would increase first tranche payments, traditionally paid in the autumn, from 50% to 75%, with the remaining 25% following later, reflecting payment reductions or penalties.
Missing payments have reduced cashflow, leading some to take out bank loans
According to farm leaders, many claimants are still waiting for that first payment, with some now being forced to take out bank loans because of their resulting cashflow difficulties. Max Sealy, NFU county delegate for Wiltshire and a consultant with the Farm Consultancy Group, said some farms were waiting for substantial sums of money for work which they had already completed.
“What we need is clarity on the situation and better communication,” he said. But a Natural England spokesperson declined to clarify how many payments were still outstanding and when farmers could expect to see them.
Farmers who have signed up to Countryside Stewardship, or still have an old Higher-Level or Entry-Level Stewardship agreement, have yet to receive the first tranche of their 2017 payments. Farmers Weekly reports that farmers want to know when they can expect to receive their agri-environment scheme payments, with ongoing delays leading to budgeting problems and growing resentment about the way the schemes are being managed.
The Farmers Guardian then reported that Defra is to transfer delivery of the Countryside (agri-environment) Stewardship scheme from Natural England to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) – more confusion?
NFU Deputy President Guy Smith (right) said:
“The Countryside Stewardship scheme has been plagued by poor delivery from its launch in 2015 and the NFU has been raising these concerns from day one. It seems almost every day we have complaints from members about the muddled application process, wrong maps, moving goalposts, late start dates and delayed payments. All this has undermined farmer confidence in the schemes leading to very poor uptake. Plans to improve delivery have to be welcomed but until we see improved delivery we will withhold judgement.
“I know many farmers will not be reassured that delivery is moving from NE to the RPA, which is notorious among farmers as the organisation which comprehensively screwed up the payment of the as then new Basic Payment Scheme back in 2014. A highly complex new IT system was commissioned to enable farm payments to be moved online. 7 years later the system is still not working properly.
Conservationist Miles King went further, calling for the abolition of the Rural Payments Agency before the introduction of the government’s England Agriculture Policy which is expected to be published this spring: “We need a publicly-funded independent champion for nature (as Natural England was intended to be when it was set up) and a new body which will deliver the public goods for public money”.
Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, has admitted that on March 26th, a British airstrike killed a motorcyclist who rode into its path in Syria by chance. It is the first confirmation of a civilian casualty by UK forces in the fight against Islamic State.
The unintentional death, described by Williamson as “deeply regrettable”, was confirmed during post-strike analyses of drone footage and other imagery.
The official position of the Ministry of Defence until yesterday’s announcement had been that it had seen no evidence of UK airstrikes causing civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria.
A source within the US-led coalition against Isis, however, told the BBC that he had seen evidence that British airstrikes had caused civilian casualties “on several occasions”. “To suggest they have not, as has been done, is nonsense,” the source added.
The coalition has begun an investigation and will issue a report. The airstrike was by a Reaper drone, remotely operated by pilots in the UK or at an airbase in the United States.
The defence secretary admits that RAF jets and drones have conducted more than 1,600 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq and Airwars, a group that has been monitoring civilian casualties, claimed it was likely that between 1,066 and 1,579 civilians had died in the fighting in Mosul. The US and Australia have accepted responsibility for civilian casualties. The coalition has admitted causing just over 350 civilian deaths in Mosul.
The deaths, in particular those of women and children, have helped to turn local populations against coalition forces and fuel insurgencies.
A Wimbledon reader sends news that Amnesty International has cited another civilian death: 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family’s fields with her
grandchildren in Waziristan, northwest Pakistan. ’Out of nowhere’, she was hit during a double drone strike led by the US. Mamana is one of hundreds of civilians accidentally killed by US drone strikes. Strikes that the UK has been playing a crucial part in.
Despite the lack of coverage in many newspapers and on TV bulletins, a petition has been set up, calling for the UK government to launch a full public inquiry into its role in the US’s expanding drones programme:
To join this call for a full public inquiry into Britain’s role in the US’s expanding drones programme, go to https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/uk-stop-helping-deadly-and-secret-us-drone-strikes
Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott & six other Labour MPs voted against aspects of the 2014 Immigration Bill
A Jamaican correspondent asks: “Why did the other 250+ Labour MPs abstain?”
An edited summary follows:
The Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Labour governments themselves developed immigration policies that were very anti-Jamaican and draconian at times. Some New Labour government ministers and MPs (Alan Johnson, John Reid?) were even condemned for their own right-wing rhetoric on immigration.
In 2013, when then Home Secretary Theresa May drafted her immigration policy there was not the tumultuous outrage happening today. But while some raised concerns too many others ignored the severity of May’s proposed legislation. Even the then Labour Party under Ed Miliband displayed little resistance which was no surprise as a number of his own MPs were there in government when Labour developed their own draconian immigration policies to impress the xenophobes.
The idea of making invited West Indian born UK residents stateless was ‘sneaky cruel legislation’ that should never had passed the first hurdle in parliament.
Labour Party MP, David Lammy made some powerful remarks in parliament to Amber Rudd which has gone viral. He has been one of the public faces of anger since the scandal broke.
But where was Lammy’s voice in 2013? 2014? … in 2016? when the immigration legislation was going through parliament? Better late than never?
The correspondent gives details of law-abiding Jamaican immigrants dragged from their home or work place and locked up in detention centres for months, during the last 17 years only to be released with no further action taken. No apology. No compensation for loss of earnings. He adds:
“I am disappointed that too many high-profile figures within the Afro Caribbean community kept quiet over the years. But the biggest disappointment for me has been the response by successive Jamaican governments”.
ITV recalls: The Windrush Generation were invited to help rebuild the UK in the decades following World War II. In June 1948, 492 passengers arrived at Tilbury Dock, Essex, on the SS Empire Windrush after making the 8,000 mile voyage from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands, to the UK.
Many Jamaicans have been damaged greatly at the hands of the UK’s immigration bullying tactics from Jamaica’s elected officials, with the possible exception of Mike Henry. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness was asked recently on British TV about how long he had been aware of the Windrush scandal. His response was “2 months” ago. Had his entire High Commission team in London been so out of touch with these serious issues in the UK?
But despite their underhand anti-Jamaican immigration policies, successive UK governments have never stopped unashamedly raiding Jamaica for its best nurses and teachers. I am certain this recruitment approach by Britain will again intensify following BREXIT.
In 2009, British actress Joanna Lumley stood up for the residential rights of some in the Gurkha community who themselves faced deportation from the UK. Lumley became the public voice for the Gurkhas and used her reputation to great success. She publicly embarrassed then Immigration Minister Phil Woolas and forced a u-turn from the government. Who is our Joanna Lumley?
He ends: this is not only a scandal for the Conservatives, but also for the Afro Caribbean community.
For the past 2 decades too many in the Afro Caribbean community stood still and allowed Labour and Tory governments to demean the contributions of the Jamaican community in particular. A contribution that goes back 400 years.
We should have demonstrated more resolutely from 2013, when it became clear that May’s proposals would affect the Afro Caribbean community the hardest. We didn’t bombard MPs, Ministers and the media with our concerns. We did not protest in our tens of thousands outside Parliament or the Home Office. Our leadership and campaign throughout this episode was pathetic.
We should have fought back stronger with our messaging and activism from when the Jamaica immigrant-bashing first started under the Blair government and has continued up to today.
For that, many of us in the Afro Caribbean community – including me – also need to say sorry to the victims of the Windrush scandal.
Read the article here: https://wingswithme.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/windrush-generation-let-down-by-all-of-us/
See also Derek Laud, broadcaster, former political speech writer and the author of ‘The Problem With Immigrants’ in the FT: “As the son of Jamaican immigrants, I can no longer be a Tory.”
We don’t think enough about local government, one of whose jobs it is to mend potholes. When in our own lives our nearside front tyre is shredded, the pothole, Parris believes, represents “a momentary twitching-back of one tiny corner of a great curtain, behind which lie, no, not potholes, but a million anxious human stories, caused in part by cuts in public spending”.
He adds that accidents due to potholes are usually relatively trivial compared with cuts which for others may have meant:
- the loss of social care in dementia,
- no Sure Start centre for a child,
- the closure of a small local hospital
- or the end of a vital local bus service.
Potholes are a parable for others that matter even more. Unfilled potholes put lives at risk and have become a symbol of the damage done to every walk of life by spending cuts.
All the pressures on those who run government, local and central, are to worry about the short-term. it is usually possible to leave issues like road maintenance, decaying school buildings, rotting prisons, social care for the elderly, Britain’s military preparedness or a cash-strapped health service, to tread water for years or even decades. “They’ll get by,” say fiscal hawks, and in the short-term they’re often right.
- Nobody’s likely to invade us;
- the NHS is used to squeezing slightly more out of not enough;
- cutting pre-school provision is hardly the Slaughter of the Innocents;
- the elderly won’t all get dementia at once;
- there’s little public sympathy for prisoners;
- teachers can place a bucket under the hole in the roof
- and road users can dodge potholes.
Parris continues: “But beneath the surface problems build up. The old get older, and more numerous. Potholes start breaking cyclists’ necks. Care homes start going under. The Crown Prosecution Service begins to flounder. We run out of social housing. Prisoners riot. And is there really no link between things like pre-schooling, sports and leisure centres and local outreach work, and the discouragement of knife crime?”
“When New Labour was elected in 1997 we Tories groaned as it tipper-trucked money into the NHS, school building and other public services. Thirteen years later when Labour left office the undersupply was monetary, the red ink all too visible”.
Parris asks: “Must we forever oscillate like this?
One answer: Green & Labour Party leaders would meet these needs and avoid red ink by redirecting the money raised by quantitative easing.
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.
Media 86: today, BBC news bulletins misled the public: Windrush documents were destroyed during Mrs May’s term as Home Secretary
An archive of landing slips documenting Windrush era arrivals was destroyed in 2010 under the Conservative coalition government when Theresa May was Home Secretary.
Theresa May told MPs during today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, that the decision to do so was taken under a Labour government in 2009.
A former Home Office employee informed a Guardian journalist that thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK, stored in the basement of a government tower block were destroyed in 2010, despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties.
The BBC, though informed of this by Sky journalist Beth Rigby, repeated the PM’s statement which gave the impression that a Labour government had destroyed this archive, several times over a period of five hours.
The BBC has form: a few examples, there are many more:
2017 – The BBC breached accuracy and impartiality rules with a News At Six report by Laura Kuenssberg on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, its governing body has ruled. The complaints were in fact rejected three times by the BBC itself before the matter was escalated to the Trust.
2017 – Constructive criticism of the BBC’s general election coverage
Instead of considering Fisk’s account, said to have been ‘seized on by opponents of western military action in Syria’, the Times’ focus was on damaging Fisk’s reputation; though winner of several international wards and seven times Press Awards Foreign Reporter of the Year.
Pearson Sharp, an experienced American journalist with OAN, gained access to Douma, where the US, France and UK alleged that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians. Like Fisk, he found no evidence of such attacks. See the video here.
MSM has now thankfully seized on the ill-treatment of the Windrush generation and the Commonwealth summit to detract attention from this debunked ’atrocity’.
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.”