Blog Archives

Grandson Cameron enriched by slavery refuses reparations: offers a ‘jailhouse tease’

A reader from Jamaica, an investigative journalist, the Jamaica Observer, the Guardian and the Metro shed light on the subject for those, like the writer, who only heard a brief radio broadcast reference to David Cameron’s reply/non reply to the Jamaican request for reparations – planning and reconstruction, not cash as reported.

The Metro reports that Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman of the Caricom Reparations Commission, wrote a gracious open letter (full text in the Jamaica Observer) telling David Cameron that he has benefited from slavery on the island through his ancestral links to General Sir James Duff:

‘You are a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors. Successive governments in this land, a place still groaning under the weight of this injustice, have done well during the 53 years of sovereignty, but the burden of inherited mess from slavery and colonialism has overwhelmed many of our best efforts.’

david-cameron-jamaica

David Cameron failed to reply directly to this call for Britain to help with the planning of economic reconstruction and to that made by Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (above). Downing Street stepped in, saying that the prime minister does not believe reparations or apologies for slavery are the right approach.

The right approach?

One of Jamaica’s citizen bloggers comments: “If Cameron was in Jamaica to make some postive announcements like the development of IT academies or the major redevelopment of the Jamaican Railway etc I would have said ‘wise move’. But a bleeding prison? China assists Ethiopia to build a state of the art light rail network and Jamaica gets a new prison from Blighty”.

They wanted bread but you offered a stone:

‘Expertise’ in prison services is the latest British export to hit the headlines, though far from being as rewarding as its arms trade. In the news recently, Just Solutions International, the commercial wing of the Ministry of Justice, has offered the Saudi regime its services.

David Hencke reports, on his blog, that Jeremy Corbyn (about whom our Jamaican correspondent has written perceptively) has challenged David Cameron to explain why the British government can’t cancel this contract with the Saudis to provide training for their prison system, just as it is about to execute a teenage dissident and crucify his body.

Will a resurrected, renamed Ministry of Justice spin-off be assisting in the £25m prison proposed for Jamaica?

As our blogger quotes from the BBC News, more than 600 Jamaican nationals are in UK jails but cannot be deported because of Jamaica’s poor prison conditions. – BBC News, he asks:

“Should the current & former Jamaican government ministers feel embarrassed at the poor archaic prison conditions that they have overseen since 1962? If there is one set of people that the British establishment enjoys disrespecting it is definitely Jamaicans. Whether through law/order, education, immigration/visas, trade and now this . . .

“The real reason behind Cameron’s £25 million gift is no doubt to cut the prison capital and running cost to the UK Treasury”.

And sceptically:

“David Cameron did announce a £300 million fund for infrastructure development across 8 English speaking Caribbean nations. I just hope the Caribbean leaders and their civil servants double check the small print on such pledges. Refer to Number 10 website . . .

“This is a moment for Jamaica’s opposition leader Andrew Holness to take the initiative and say hell no DC. But given Holness was a guest at the last Tory Party annual conference I wonder. . .

“October is black history month in the UK and in Jamaica October has national heritage week. Cameron’s handout is not the kind of bilateral collaboration worth appreciating. Peace”.

Is the new Health and Work Service designed to address medical incompetence and taxpayer malingering?

David Hencke has been reporting that Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud has awarded a contract to Health Management Ltd, subsidiary of US multinational company, Maximus. Doctors will no longer decide when patients should return to work after 4 weeks’ sickness absence.

The company’s press release reveals that this system will first be introduced in Wales, the Midlands and the North. The Scottish government has declined to contract out the work to the private firm and will keep the assessment programme as part of the public service.

fit to rule tests atoshttp://mikesivier.wordpress.com/about/

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud is quoted in a DWP press release emphasising how the scheme will improve economic productivity and get people back to work faster. This ‘high quality new service’ will enable employees, GPs and employers to manage sickness absence better.

It is predicted that the new Health and Work Service will cut sick pay costs to business by £80 million to £165 million a year, as well as increase economic output by up to £900 million a year.

Employees on sick leave will be helped to return to work by providing them with an occupational health assessment when they reach, or are expected to reach, more than 4 weeks’ sickness absence. A case manager will phone to support each employee through the service’s assessment process to ensure their level of need is correctly identified along with appropriate steps to take to get them back to work. A return to work plan will be shared with their employer and GP.

Hencke’s comment

Effectively it will mean you will get a telephone consultation from a call centre and be emailed when you should return to work. If you don’t co-operate you will lose your benefit.

Remembering how disabled people were forced to find work or lose benefits by the French company ATOS, Mr Hencke suspects that that this new system could push the sick back to work before they have recovered.

To read his two articles and his investigation of the working conditions of Maximus’ employees, go to David Hencke’s website.

In 1986 Hencke was Westminster Correspondent covering both Whitehall and Westminster. He won three awards for investigations – the most serious being into the ”cash for questions” scandal which led to the bankruptcy of Ian Greer Associates and reporting the secret undeclared £373,000 home loan given to Peter Mandelson by fellow Treasury minister, Geoffrey Robinson. After working for the Guardian, he moved to the new Fleet Street based Exaro News, a City financed website, covering Whitehall, politics, the City,media, local government and tax issues. He and Francis Beckett (co-authors of ‘The Blairs and Their Court’, are now researching a new book into the Blairs’ post 2007 careers.

“Inappropriate closeness” between media bosses and successive governments

David Cameron exonerated? Suzanne Moore comments on the relationships exposed, tabloid-style:

Cameron rides Brooks’ horse!

Brooks comforted by Blair!

Cameron’s best friend marries Brooks!

Cameron’s brother is head of the chambers that defends Brooks!

Brooks’ lover Coulson hired by Cameron!

David Hencke delves deeper into the findings of the Leveson inquiry, confirming the perceptions often voiced on this site:

Volume Four and Appendix Five deliver ‘one of the most devastating critiques of the incestuous relationship between top politicians and the media I have ever read from a High Court judge in my 27 years of political journalism’. Hencke continues:

‘Leveson attacks what he calls the “inappropriate closeness” between media bosses and successive governments not just now – but for over 35 years. Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron are all indicted in a damning charge sheet.

‘He baldly states “politicians have conducted themselves in a way that I do consider has not served the public interest”.

‘He accuses them of being vulnerable to unaccountable interests, missing clear opportunities to address public concern about the culture, practices and ethics of the press and seeking “to control (if not manipulate) the supply of news and information to the public in return for expected or hoped-for favourable treatment by sections of the press.”

‘He concluded that all this gave rise to “legitimate perceptions and concerns that politicians and the press have traded power and influence in ways which are contrary to the public interest and out of public sight. These perceptions and concerns are inevitably particularly acute in relation to the conduct by politicians of public policy issues in relations to the press itself.”

Though Leveson’s recommendations did not address these concerns, Hencke warns that Cameron or Murdoch cannot be complacent about their respective roles in trading power for influence – which are at the heart of why the mainstream media and politicians are widely distrusted by the general public.

India stops one carriage on the Gravy Train in its tracks

When will senior politicians in the British government decide to have an arms length relationship with currently close defence, banking, construction, pharmaceutical and bioscience corporates, stop rewarding failure, close the revolving door and begin to believe that – long term – honesty is the best policy?

gravy train

For years the name of Agusta Westland has surfaced in our database files.

Reuters now report that India, after terminated the 2010 contract for twelve AW101 helicopters, partly produced in Britain, has recovered 228 million euro bank guarantees. Allegations of bribery (detailed here) had emerged in Italy against executives at Finmeccanica’s helicopter unit, leading to the arrest of former Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland senior executives.

The revolving door between government and multinationals

revolving_doorA 2009 investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence: “Last year 394 civil servants applied to sell their skills to the highest bidder – and 130 were MoD personnel.

ACOBA, the committee which vets such appointments, approved all the applications, although some carried conditions”.

The MoD handed a £1.7billion contract for helicopters to Finmeccanica who then appointed as chairman the department’s top civil servant, Sir Kevin Tebbit, who ran the MoD in 2005. Finmeccanica, owns AgustaWestland.

  • Three years ago this site recorded the award of a £1.7billion contract to former Cabinet minister Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary who became AgustaWestland’s executive senior vice-president of international business.

Another reward for failure?

The Financial Times and so many others – recalled that Hoon left his position with NATO in 2010 after being filmed by Channel 4 Dispatches telling undercover journalists posing as representatives of a lobbying/PR company, that his experience as a minister would help ‘open doors’ for firms wanting to lobby government.

A comment on the Movement for the Abolition of War newsletter: “Ex-defence secretary Hoon, having ensured AW earned millions, is now working for them.”

In March this year, another appointment was highlighted by Exaro News, an online service which investigates issues that are important to both the business world and the public in general, but which are being inadequately covered – or ignored – by the mainstream media.

jackie callcut

jackie callcut text

Yesterday, a blog by David Hencke, an investigative journalist, pointed to an article by Exaro colleague David Pallister which reveals that proceedings investigating alleged corruption involving a middleman and another British businessman and Indian officials are continuing in India and Italy.

Squeaky clean – only ’foreigners’ involved?

cameron singh indiaDavid Cameron in 2013 visited India with 100 business and, as you can read here, praised Westland, saying that any corruption problems about the order were a matter for the Indians and the Italians;

“Britain has … some of the toughest laws in the world, so people know if they do business with British companies, they have protections.”

How odd that must have seemed to Indian listeners – as one of the people under investigation in the corruption scandal was British.

The Indian Parliament has recorded a request for more information and a written answer to MPs says: “MEA (ministry of external affairs) has also been requested to take up the matter with the government of the UK, as well as requesting its co-operation in verifying the allegations, and helping us by providing relevant information relating to the alleged involvement of a middleman and/or of any Indian individual/entity.”

Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, was asked what was happening by David Hencke at a press gallery lunch in Parliament. His reply was that he was “unaware of any request” and repeated the Cameron line (above).

British workers in Yeovil will suffer from various forms of corruption in the higher echelons

Hencke ends by adding the latest news reported by the Times of India, that India has been considering whether to blacklist the company – a decision currently ‘put on hold’. He points out that this arrogant attitude towards corruption – “only a problem for others” – might well have serious repercussions for British workers who assemble the helicopters in Yeovil.

 

Radical change? Long overdue

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude: calamitous errors of judgment – minor and major

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who sees himself as a ‘moderniser’, lauding the government’s IT prowess, has faced several less-than-creditable charges according to his Wikileaks entry. After recruiting Tony Caplin, who recently resigned as head of the Treasury’s Public Works Loans Board, Maude has made a far more serious mistake.

Despite David Cameron’s Davos commitment to ‘reshoring’ British jobs, Francis Maude has appointed an offshore and outsourcing expert, Peter Swann, to supervise the export of jobs of civil servants who provide back-up facilities such as pay roll and contract details to Whitehall offices.

David Hencke records in the Tribune that these jobs handling sensitive personal pay roll details, and possibly criminal and police records, are to be moved offshore by private companies under a Cabinet Office initiative to save money.

A rising star

steria logoUnder Swann’s leadership, Steria, a French international company with a presence in India, has a joint venture with the Cabinet Office: Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL) – its slogan: ‘a Trusted Transformation partner’.

The latest news on Steria’s website is that the Council of the European Union’s General Secretariat has chosen the company to secure its internal communications networks.

SSCL has already taken over back offices across the country for the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Environment Agency. It is now looking at taking over work at the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.

steria values

Within a year, it started a closure programme of sites affecting more than 500 jobs in Sheffield, Cardiff, Newport and Leeds and is looking to relocate the work to India. Other centres such as Blackpool, Newcastle, Peterborough and York will also lose staff.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “It will be a major blow for local economies losing hundreds more jobs . . . The Government should act now to keep these jobs in the UK, rather than attempt to cynically exploit the inferior pay and employment conditions that workers abroad face.”

“We’re all in this together” . . . ?

david henckeEarlier today David Hencke, investigative journalist, The Guardians Westminster Correspondent for many years, named ‘Political Journalist of the Year’ at the British Journalism Awards 2012, posted:

“The government has always claimed that the main reason it is holding down pay in Whitehall, schools and the NHS is because the taxpayer can’t afford it and we need to cut the deficit”.

In 2011, ex-banker living wage, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for Whitehall’s industrial relations, claimed to have safeguarded the very lowest paid and attacked perks given to richer civil servants – at a time when Exaro News revealed that Ed Lester, head of the Student Loans Company, had secured a lucrative – but short-lived – payment ‘package’ where he avoided paying tax or national insurance at source, before he moved to head the Land Registry with a regular tax-paying commitment.

Hencke: “Now in the same organisation a new drama is being played out . . .”

student loans company glasgowThe ostentatious Student Loans Company headquarters in Glasgow

An interesting negotiating ploy by the Public and Commercial Services Union

Hencke related that the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents Whitehall’s lowest paid, suggested that Ed Lester’s successor, Mike Laverty, could forgo a £25,000 a year bonus and redistribute it to the staff, benefiting the lowest paid. He explains:

“The union had calculated that, if all the money available, including a below inflation rise and one off £265 payment (worth £595) for those earning less than £21,000 a year, and a one-off £560 payment to those over £21,000, all 2400 staff could get an increase of more than £600 incorporated into their salaries. The few very lowest paid would get a £960 pay rise to take them up to the nationally-recognised living wage. It would benefit people working in Glasgow, Darlington and Colwyn Bay”.

Mike Laverty is unusual in that he returned some £80,000 to the Treasury last year from a previous redundancy deal when he got his new job, but his reaction to the PCS proposal is not on record.

However, David Hencke understands that the Cabinet Office blocked this move and is insisting that the bonus be paid to one person instead. His verdict will surprise few people:

“This indicates that the government has no intention of protecting the lowest paid and curb bonuses for the rich”.

Plutocracy in the news: the FT has at last noticed that the political-corporate revolving door is spinning at an even more alarming rate

A few days ago Anne sent a link & expressed concern about the news that Dave Hartnett, formerly HMRC chief, has secured a new job at Deloitte.

revolving doorrevolving doorHer misgivings were echoed by Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the public accounts committee, which criticised Mr Hartnett for agreeing the deal with Goldman Sachs, which waived up to £20m of interest penalties on offshore bonus payments.

Earlier, David Hencke of Exaro News reported that Ed Lester, former chief executive of the Students Loans Company,had been appointed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Science to head the troubled Land Registry – despite the SLC’s poor performance, including:

  • problems with lost documents,

  • equipment failures,

  • difficulties with the online application system,

  • and answering only 5% of peak time phone calls.

An accelerating trend

Now the FT politely notes “The trend of ministers and officials leaving for the Big Four seems to be accelerating. PwC announced last week they had recruited Alan Milburn, the former Labour health minister, to advise on change in the NHS, sparking anger from local union leaders”.

Opening with Hartnett, it continues with Paul Kirby, who returned to KPMG after heading the Number 10 policy unit, and Neil Sherlock, the former adviser to Nick Clegg, who has moved to a senior post with PwC, adding that some time ago former home secretaries Charles Clarke and Jacqui Smith also made the move as consultants for KPMG.
Number-crunching:

The analysis from publicly available data shows 18 people have left top positions for KPMG, Deloitte and PwC, a sign of the symbiotic relationship between government and the companies at the centre of recent tax avoidance rows”.

Following the money:

The findings also show the companies themselves have spent a total of more than £1m paying for staff to work within the main three political parties, fuelling claims of a “revolving door” between politics and tax planning . . . Since the 2010 general election the three main UK political parties have received £1.14m in kind from three of the biggest accountancy firms: KPMG, Deloitte and PwC. PwC has given £503,442 to Labour in the form of multiple secondments. It has also given £289,619 of advice to the Liberal Democratsand £12,634 to the Conservative party”.

Under the last two governments, big money has increasingly skewed the decision-making process in favour of the corporate world – meanwhile the electorate suffers higher utility bills and other essentials rise in price, further enriching the few.

 

While Huhne fiddles Britain burns: David Hencke sets media priorities in perspective

His blog mentions – amongst other coverage – the Guardian and Channel Four “mea culpa” interviews with Chris Huhne – one given according to the Standard to the journalist best man at his wedding, adding:

“What next? The creation of a Huhne concerto by piano playing Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to commemorate the event or an Anna Wintour fashion show to raise cash for Vicky Pryce’s convalescence . . .”.

“No matter. My main point is that this is a distraction.

“While all this goes on thousands of people are being forced to move house because of cruel government policies, there is an epidemic of unsolved child abuse cases and the NHS appears to have let patients die unnecessarily on an epic scale.

“Literally While Huhne fiddles Britain burns”.

 

VERY bad decisions by government – 29: privatising the work of the Audit Commission

eric pickles23jpgBefore referring to the decision of Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles to scrap the Audit Commission, protector of the ‘public purse’ which pays for local government, health, housing, police, fire and rescue and other public services, David Hencke questions the wisdom of doing this.

Will its work be done more effectively by private companies which are part of that corporate-political nexus (‘cosy relationships’) deplored by the Vested Interest in Politics people and the public in general?

Hencke says:

david hencke2“Basically Pickles wants to leave it to local councils, health trusts and the new NHS commissioning bodies to police themselves by appointing their own auditors, taking away a whistleblower hot line to the Audit Commission, and allowing big accountancy firms free rein to up their charges by picking off individual councils. It also allows even more cosy relationships to be built between the auditor and the local council and leaves whistleblowers nowhere to go”.

The Commission has already had to start outsourcing

In March last year it awarded the following contracts to:

  • Grant Thornton (UK) LLP, a total notional value of £41.3 million a year covering four contract areas in the North West, West Midlands, London (South) Surrey & Kent, and South West;
  • KPMG LLP a total notional value of £23.1 million a year covering three contract areas in Humberside & Yorkshire, East Midlands, and London (North);
  • Ernst & Young LLP a total notional value of £20 million a year covering two contract areas in Eastern and South East; and
  • DA Partnership Ltd a total notional value of £5 million a year covering one contract area in the North East & North Yorkshire.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has come to some damning conclusions on what the government is about to do – see Hansard. Points include:
  • The government claims it will save £137m a year but the MPs say the figure is more likely to be £2.4m.
  • The audit regime will be fragmented and more complex.
  • The proposals for self-appointment of local auditors risk compromising the independence of audit.
  • There are risks of duplicating governance structures, losing economies of scale in audit fees, diminished quality of audit and increased tendering costs
It also stresses that there must be provision to enable auditor removal, whistleblowing and public interest reporting.

There is a full report by Hencke on the Exaro News website.

 

What is the true intention of some states and 700 private company members of the ITU?

Is the UN’s ITU agency ‘striving to improve’ or to ‘restrict’, ‘regulate’ and ‘monetise’ access to information and communication technologies – ICTs – at the UN-convened World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai?

ITU logoITU cover-brochureThe ITU states that it is committed to connecting all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their means, to protect and support everyone’s fundamental right to communicate. It is the only UN agency to have both public and private sector membership, including the 193 Member States, ICT regulators, leading academic institutions and some 700 private companies.

Three alarming sets of allegations:

John C Abell, the New York Bureau chief of London-based Wired, which covers innovation in science, culture and business writes in his Reuters blog:

  • “The ITU is weighing proposals from many of its 193 member nations. Some of these proposals ‑ such as decentralizing the assignment of website names and eliminating Internet anonymity ‑ would make enormous changes to the organization and management of the Internet  . . .

David Hencke warned last month that world’s most repressive regimes, named as including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria – and sadly after the Arab spring, Egypt  – want to ‘hi-jack’ the ITU for their own ends.

He added that they are canvassing over 80 other developing countries, including African and Asian dictatorships, to back a new UN Treaty which would legitimise the right of governments to limit who can access the internet and to support the introduction of a” Sender Pays” model, which would charge a person if his/her e-mail was read by anybody in another country.

The other hi-jacking attempt could be from “a group of unnamed European telecommunications companies who want to profit from this by introducing charges for using the net, including sending e-mails and talking on Skype – being well aware that the decline in post and international calls means the end of an income stream”.

Going to Work, a project of the TUC, makes similar points on its website. It adds that:

“So far the proposal has flown under the radar, thanks to the secretive nature of the ITU, but its implications are so serious that we must act quickly to show the ITU and its member countries that citizens will not stand by while our right to communicate freely is undermined”.

“The proposal would give governments and companies all over the world the ability to:

  • Restrict access to the internet to approved uses
  • Monitor everything done online
  • Change the way we pay for the internet, potentially marginalising civil society and developing countries.

Going to Work concludes:

“An internet totally controlled by government and big business contradicts the very essence of what the internet represents – open and free access for all. The new rules would affect us all, but would hurt people in poorer countries and those living in dictatorships even more.

“Add your name to the global petition we’re running in conjunction with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and ask our government representatives who will attend this conference to reject these changes that will seriously and permanently restrict internet freedoms”.