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David Hencke spent time in the Parliamentary lobby as Westminster Correspondent covering Whitehall & Westminster, winning three awards for investigations – the most serious being the ”cash for questions” scandal which led to the bankruptcy of Ian Greer Associates, one of the country’s biggest lobbying companies and the resignations of two junior ministers, Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith, who have since left politics.
Now freelance, he has remained in Parliament as Westminster Correspondent for Tribune, writing for the Sunday Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, Guardian, Independent, IPPR Journal, The Journalist, British Journalism Review, the Guardian’s Comment is Free, politics.co.uk, new Fleet Street based ExaroNews, and has written a blog, Tory tracker, for Progress.
David Hencke took part in the Fox investigative team for The Friend, a Quaker publication and worked as head of current affairs for for Raw Cut TV and has his own TV company, Brown Envelope TV registered in Edgbaston, Birmingham. He is working freelance to contribute to the Fire Brigades Union campaign to stop privatisation of emergency services and investigating the companies and people behind the privatisation and doing some research for the Unite union on cuts.
See his recent post on the conduct of London’s former fire chair and Barnet councillor, Brian Coleman and the abolition – in the name of localism – of the Local Government Standards board which set standards for England. Now, even if Mr Coleman is convicted, he could stay in office – provided he doesn’t spend three months or more in prison. Mr Hencke comments:
“Frankly this is both damaging to the standards required in local government and to the Conservative Party in particular. It gives the impression that there is one law for Tories, and another for the rest of the public. It chimes well with the recent behaviour of Andrew Mitchell, the former chief whip, who swore at the police, and sits very badly with David Cameron’s initiative on Monday for tough intelligent justice”.
Another item which would be of particular interest to PCU readers is the Silence of the Whistleblowers.
Hencke rightly wrote that confidential evidence on fraud within the Labour and Conservative governments’ Welfare to Work scheme, given by a team of whistleblowers to Parliament’s most powerful committee of MPs, should have become public. It led to a damning report by MPs on the Department of Work and Pensions’ stewardship of taxpayers’ money handed over to profit-making companies such as A4e.
Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said: “The DWP’s arrangements for overseeing and inspecting its contractors were so weak that vital evidence on potential fraud and improper practice was not picked up.” Richard Bacon, Conservative MP and deputy chairman of the committee, said: “Encouraging innovation and fresh approaches is important, but so is ensuring value for taxpayers. Providers cannot be allowed to run wild and free with public money.”
Eddie Hutchinson, former chief auditor of A4e, told the committee in his submission of “systemic” fraud and malpractice at the company. Hutchinson, worked at A4e from October 2010 until May last year, and at Working Links before that. He described what he saw at both companies as “a multi-billion-pound scandal”. However the final report was censored. Hencke asks:
- Have the whistleblowers been threatened?
- Did they decide they had lied to the committee?
- Or is there a blacklist in the auditing profession to prevent people who blow the whistle from getting fresh work?
(It is) a bad day for transparency and democracy when the most powerful committee in Parliament that holds the government to account cannot publish the facts. The government is making matters worse by changing the law protecting whistleblowers to make it even more unlikely they will risk their careers at the moment.