David Cameron has refused to say how much money he would have made from Greensill Capital had it not collapsed. The former prime minister admitted on Thursday he was being paid a “significant” amount, but said the precise number was “private”.Cameron is reported to have told friends he stood to make £60 million from the company, a figure he dismissed as “absurd”.He was appearing before the Commons Treasury committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the ex-PM’s ultimately unsuccessful lobbying on behalf of Greensill.On Tuesday, the committee released dozens of texts and emails Cameron sent to ministers and senior officials appealing for their help in gaining access for the firm to government Covid loan support programmesThey included messages to Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove, senior officials at the Treasury and the Bank of England, as well as a call to Matt Hancock.The government has said Greensill’s applications were dealt with properly and were ultimately rejected. The company filed for insolvency in March.But there has been criticism of how a former prime minister was able to exploit his personal contacts with former colleagues and officials in the pursuit of commercial gain.Mel Stride, the Tory chair of the Treasury committee, asked how much money Cameron expected to earn from Greensill.He told Cameron it was important for MPs to know if it was “multiple millions of pounds” rather than “tens of thousands” of pounds.Stride told Cameron “many people” would conclude he was lobbying government because hiis “opportunity to make a large amount of money was under threat”.Cameron said: “I was paid an annual amount, a generous annual amount, far more than what I earned as prime minister. And I had shares.“I was absolutely had a big economic investment in the future of Greensill. I haven’t put a number on those things.“I don’t think the amount is particularly germane,” he added. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a private matter.”Cameron earned £150,402 while he served as prime minister.The City watchdog is also launching a formal investigation into the collapse of Greensill. The Financial Conduct Authority said some of the allegations made about the firm were “potentially criminal in nature”.Greensill was the biggest backer of GFG – the owner the UK’s third largest steelmaker, Liberty Steel – and its failure has put thousands of jobs at risk as GFG seeks to refinance.Appearing before the Treasury committee on Tuesday, the firm’s founder, Australian financier Lex Greensill, said he was “truly sorry” and took full responsibility for what happened.Related...David Cameron’s Most Cringeworthy Greensill Lobbying Texts Laid BareIs Boris Johnson’s Thin Queen's Speech A Hint Of An Early Election?
Matt Hancock has refused to answer questions about Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment, which is subject to an investigation by the election watchdog.The health secretary twice totally refused to engage with questions on the issue before being challenged on his responses by Mirror deputy political editor Ben Glaze.In response, Hancock suggested the media should only ask questions that the government decides “really matter”, while insisting the Downing Street press conference he was hosting was only about coronavirus.At previous press conferences, ministers have been happy to answer questions on wider issues affecting the government.It came after the Electoral Commission said “there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred” as it launched a probe into the refurbishment of the prime minister’s flat.No.10 has refused to say whether Johnson sought an initial loan from the Conservative Party to cover a reported £58,000-worth of renovations to his residence in No. 11, which he shares with partner Carrie Symonds and their baby son Wilfred.Political donations have to be declared to ensure there are no questions or concerns over politicians or parties being unduly influenced by those giving them money.Matt Hancock is challenged over not answering difficult questions from journalists The health secretary says "the point of the press conference is the incredibly important progress we're making [on] coronavirus"https://t.co/vQhtrfB0KZpic.twitter.com/S246OSi57l— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) April 28, 2021At a Downing Street press briefing, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg asked Hancock whether a serving government minister who is found to have broken party funding rules should resign.But the health secretary replied: “I know that the prime minister answered lots of questions about this in the House of Commons earlier and given that this is a coronavirus press conference you won’t be surprised I’m not going to add to the answers the prime minister has already given to very extensive questioning, thanks.”Times Whitehall editor Chris Smyth then asked two questions on Covid before enquiring whether the government was still threatening to abolish the Electoral Commission.Hancock replied: “I think we’ll give the third one [question] a miss.”The health secretary was then challenged over his approach by Glaze.The Mirror journalist said: “As culture secretary, you championed the right of the free press and fourth estate to ask difficult questions.“Yet this evening you haven’t engaged with those questions from Chris or from Laura around Tory sleaze.“Now what’s the point in us being able to ask difficult questions if you’re not going to engage with them?”Hancock replied: “The point of the press conference is the incredibly important progress that we’re making about coronavirus, which is without doubt the most important thing facing the country.“And if you’ve listened to the answers, I’m sure you have... you will have one of the most illuminating descriptions of where we are up to scientifically, and operationally and clinically that is available, and I’m very, very grateful to the incredible capability of people who support me as a minister.“It is important there are questions and there were endless questions in the House of Commons earlier on some of the issues that you’ve raised, and you will have seen the appointment of [new independent adviser on ministerial interests] Lord Geidt earlier.“But you’ve also got to concentrate on the big things that really matter.”Earlier this month, Boris Johnson was accused of breaking ministerial rules when he used a televised briefing on the Covid pandemic to launch an “unprompted political attack” on London mayor Sadiq Khan about the Transport for London budget. Related...Election Watchdog To Investigate Boris Johnson's Downing Street Flat RefurbBoris Johnson Can't Be Expected To 'Live In A Skip', Says Sarah VineBoris Johnson Dodges Questions About Who Initially Paid To Refurbish His Flat
Boris Johnson is facing new rules to force him correct misleading statements to parliament after the Commons Speaker backed demands for tougher action to promote honesty in politics.Amid a fresh row over the prime minister’s “lies” to MPs, Lindsay Hoyle supported a proposal for the cross-party Commons Procedure Committee to look into “how perceived inaccuracies could be corrected” as quickly as possible.Johnson faced new charges of misleading parliament on Wednesday as he wrongly claimed Keir Starmer had opposed the Brexit trade deal.The Scottish National Party’s Ian Blackford also used prime minister’s questions to challenge Johnson’s denial that he had said he would rather “let the bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a new lockdown. “Are you a liar, prime minister?’ Blackford asked.Hoyle, who said Blackford’s question was “unsavoury” but in order, has thrown his weight behind fresh moves to correct the record after a meeting with six opposition party leaders on Tuesday.The party leaders had written to the Speaker about multiple occasions where Johnson had made inaccurate statements in the Commons, including on carbon emissions, economic growth, nurses’ bursaries, hospital car parking, NHS spending, the Covid-19 track and trace app, and poverty in the UK.A viral video by filmmaker Peter Stefanovic, highlighting and correcting some of the statements, has been seen more than 13 million times.Under usual parliamentary convention, ministers are required to correct the record at the despatch box as soon as possible if they have been found to have made misleading statements to the Commons.But Johnson has failed to do so on a range of issues, including a false claim that Labour had voted against a 2.1% pay rise for nurses.The PM’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton refused 20 times to correct the record or apologise at the time, relying on the Speaker allowing a clarification by shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.A spokeswoman for the Speaker’s Office said: “Mr Speaker welcomed the meeting and the proposal to ask the Procedure Committee to look into how perceived inaccuracies could be corrected.“He hoped such a measure would improve transparency in House of Commons proceedings.”The Procedure Committee said: “The committee will consider any request it receives to look at the matter of ministerial corrections in the new session of parliament.”The Greens’ Carolline Lucas, who joined Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey and Blackford for the meeting, said rules for honesty at the despatch box are designed for a less “Trumpian” era.“He is a serial liar. This is a man who isn’t just lying occasionally, he is routinely lying at the despatch box and that makes it impossible for MPs to hold him to account,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.Johnson sparked anger among Labour MPs when he said of Starmer in PMQs: “Last night our friends in the European Union voted to approve our Brexit deal – which he opposed.”The Prime Minister lied. Labour did not oppose the deal with the EU as Johnson claimed in PMQs. We voted for the Trade and Co-operation Agreement to prevent no deal, and we will build on it in the future.#PMQs— Rachel Reeves (@RachelReevesMP) April 28, 2021Shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves said Johnson had “lied” because her party did not vote against the Brexit trade deal bill late last year – and in fact voted for it.A spokesperson for Starmer told HuffPost UK: “This is yet another example of Boris Johnson misleading parliament. Labour voted for the government’s Brexit deal and the Prime Minister should come back to Parliament to correct the record.”A No.10 spokesperson said: “It’s a matter of public record that they did vote in favour of that, but the broader point is Keir Starmer has consistently backed a second referendum and said he would vote to remain.”She denied that the PM had been “sloppy” with his language, adding “I think he was very clear in the comments.”Related...New Adviser On Standards Cannot Launch Investigations Into Boris Johnson Or His Top TeamElection Watchdog To Investigate Boris Johnson's Downing Street Flat RefurbWhy Boris Johnson’s Sleazy-Does-It Water Torture Shows No Sign Of Ending Soon
Boris Johnson’s ministers are facing legal action over claims his government misused public funds to pay for Tory party “political messaging” ahead of local elections. The Good Law Project has triggered proceedings in a letter to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and has told HuffPost UK the “Trumpian” government is using public money to “feather the Tory party nest”. Ministers are trying to boost the Tories’ chances in town hall elections next month by blurring the divide between the “dissemination of government information and party political campaigning”, the campaign group says. It says government-funded videos, which often feature the Conservatives’ “Build Back Better” slogan and the No 10 crest, are “virtually impossible to distinguish” from political campaign videos on the ruling party’s website.It comes as Johnson faces a slew of allegations of “Tory sleaze”, with the prime minister himself texting billionaire James Dyson pledging to “fix” tax problems for the manufacturer if they would make ventilators. Gemma Abbott, legal director of the Good Law Project, told HuffPost UK: “Make no mistake, this is Trumpian stuff. And is all the more egregious given that we are just weeks away from the biggest set of local elections this side of a general election.“This issue goes to the very heart of our democracy. The British public should not be paying to further the electoral ambitions of the Conservative Party. We will not allow this misuse of state resources to go unchallenged.” Lawyers pick out the “Build Back Better” slogan, used both on the masthead of the Conservative Party website and in government communications, and replicated as “Bus Back Better” and “Build Back Greener” in separate publicly-funded campaigns to underline investment in buses and energy projects. Lawyers highlight several recent government videos which it says “carry the distinct look and feel of a party political broadcast”.They include:Sleek ads promoting Union connectivity projects in Scotland and Wales, where devolved administrations are electing new governmentsAn ad for two new offshore wind ports in the Humber and on Teesside, where key mayoral elections are taking placeA video marking a long-planned and previously-promoted boost to the minimum wage on April 1Governments are legally required to have a policy for how they maintain a clear dividing line between informative communications, and electoral materials, so that they cannot use state resources to maintain their grip on power.The Good Law Project is calling on the government to outline its policy and how it has been adhered to. The letter from the campaign group to Gove says: “The government has disseminated publicly funded videos and other media purporting to provide information to the public concerning government initiatives and policies, but where it is very difficult to see the public benefit of the information.We’re building back greener, with a £95 million investment to create two new offshore wind ports in the Humber and on Teesside, building the next generation of offshore wind turbines whilst creating 6,000 new green jobs.➡️ https://t.co/58dR4LaLTipic.twitter.com/arPAKQdFSc— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 11, 2021“Instead the material would appear (in effect if not in purpose) to beprimarily material that promotes a political party, reflecting andsupporting the party’s political messaging.” The Cabinet Office has said the slogan “articulates the government’s priority to support economic recovery”. It also says the government issues guidance to communications officers on material that may be political and says that videos outlined to the government predate the election campaign period. The House of Commons Library says that the convention for civil servants to avoid any communications that could influence voters is three weeks ahead of an election. Voters go to the polls across the UK on May 6, but due to the pandemic many will be casting a postal ballot earlier. The civil service code also says civil servants must remain politically impartial and cannot “act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes”. The legal challenge follows strong criticism of Johnson hijacking a press conference on Covid to launch a political attack on London mayor Sadiq Khan, who is running for a second term against Tory candidate Shaun Bailey. A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “‘Build Back Better’ articulates the government’s priority to support economic recovery, increase job opportunities and level up across all four corners of the UK.“The government issues guidance to ensure that civil servants act with political impartiality, in line with legislation and the civil service code.”Related...No.10 Refuses To Deny Boris Johnson Wanted To Let Covid ‘Rip’ In AutumnDoes Boris Johnson’s ‘Bodies’ Remark Explain His Deadly Delay On The New Year Lockdown?Boris Johnson Denies He Was Prepared To See 'Bodies Pile High'
The new series of Strictly Come Dancing may still be a long way off yet, but rumours about who will be taking part are already in full swing. A number of famous faces have been listed as potential contestants in the press, ahead of the 19th series of the hit BBC ballroom show. It’s been reported that bosses are hoping to stage the series as normal – including a studio audience, the return of Strictly’s Blackpool special and a full 13-week competition – after the pandemic forced a number of changes the the regular proceedings in 2020. As excitement for that possibility builds, let’s take a closer look at all the names currently in the mix for Strictly 2021...Gregory PiperThe actor has been propelled to new levels of fame after taking a central role in the most recent series of Line Of Duty as bad cop and organised crime group member Ryan Pilkington. According to The Sun, his name is on a shortlist of stars bosses are hoping to sign up for the new series of Strictly, with the tabloid claiming he would be a “dream signing”. Tom MaloneThe Gogglebox star recently announced his departure from the hit Channel 4 show after deciding to “explore new opportunities”. Tom has plenty of dance credentials, as he has been a professional break dancer since he was 14, and even appeared in a Strictly opening number as one of the B-Boys.He recently told the Daily Express he would “love” to do Strictly, saying: “If the opportunity came up to go on Strictly as a contestant, I’ve never done Ballroom in my life, so it’d be interesting to see how as someone who breaks, I’m used to dancing upside down, how those two worlds could come together.“And, how I could use skills from breaking in Ballroom or if there is even anything you can use from breaking in Ballroom.”If he does end up taking part, Tom would make history as the first Goggleboxer to ever appear on the Strictly dance floor.Chris WhittyIt was recently reported Strictly bosses were hoping to secure a high-profile name who has aided the nation through the coronavirus crisis for the new series. According to The Sun, Chris, who is the Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, was “top of the list”. Jonathan Van-TamChris’ colleague JVT was previously linked to a role on Strictly, but appeared to rule himself out during an interview with ITV News earlier this year. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer said: “I think it would be rather like watching Jumbo [the elephant] on ice. But I don’t want to spoil the bookmakers’ books, so I’ll say no more than that.”However, he has the backing of professional dancer Janette Manrara, who told Channel 5′s Jeremy Vine: “If we had Ed Balls, we’ve had Ann Widdecombe, then why not? Bring him on. “It comes down to height and styles. I feel like he could be really good in ballroom because he’s quite elegant.”Alex Beresford The Good Morning Britain presenter became one of the most-talked about figures of the year when he stood up to Piers Morgan on the ITV breakfast show in March.The Sun later claimed BBC bosses were keen to sign Alex – who competed on Dancing On Ice in 2018 – up for Strictly, with the presenter later addressing the rumours on Twitter. “Do I need to brush up on my 2 step and shuffle?” he tweeted. Laura TobinAlex’s fellow GMB star Laura has also been rumoured for the upcoming series, with The Sun reporting that both of their names were “in the mix”.John BercowStrictly has a long history of casting political figures past and present, and this year it looks like they are courting the former Commons speaker for the new series. The Sun claimed bosses had approached him about taking part in the past, but are keen to convince him to say yes this year.Maya JamaMaya’s name has long been attached to Strictly Come Dancing, and last year she revealed she’d turned the show down on a number of occasions in the past. However, in an interview with Hello! magazine, the former Radio 1 DJ admitted she “loves a dance” and “wouldn’t say no forever”, so could 2021 be her year?Martin and Roman KempThe Spandau Ballet musician recently revealed he’s keen to take part in Strictly, telling The Jonathan Ross Show: “I think it’s one of the best shows on television, I absolutely love it.“Would I do it? Maybe, but I’d only last one round. My knees are so bad. I’m sure I’d be out first round.”His son Roman was less keen after previously auditioning, with the Capital Radio DJ saying: “I would like to do it, they did ask me. I ended up going, it’s like an audition… if I’m totally honest, I had a great time, but it’s too much effort. It’s so hard. It’s so hard.”TikTok starsWe’ve already seen YouTubers like Joe Sugg and Saffron Barker pave the way for a different kind of celebrity on Strictly, and the show’s star booker recently revealed she is now looking at TikTok as a hunting ground for potential contestants. Talent executive Stefania Aleksander told The Mirror: “In order to do my job is just knowing a broad range of celebrities. It’s not just about actors, actresses.“In order to entertain all genres, it’s about investing some time in learning about them.“Social media is a whole world that I immersed myself into to learn about.”READ MORE:Oti Mabuse Claims Her Days On Strictly Come Dancing Could Be NumberedStrictly Come Dancing Winner Abbey Clancy Reveals The One Part Of Show She 'Hated'Vernon Kay Reveals The Reason Why He'll Never Appear On Strictly Alongside Wife Tess Daly
When Jess Phillips read out a list of 118 women killed by men in the past year in the House of Commons, artist Henny Beaumont only recognised one name: Sarah Everard.Like women across the country, Beaumont felt deeply moved by Everard’s story, but was “shocked and saddened” to realise there were many victims she didn’t know on the list, which was read out during the International Women’s Day debate in March. Beaumont then listened to Mina Smallman talk about how little public outrage there had been over the murders of her two Black daughters – Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46 – in June 2020. “I decided to do what I could to try and redress this imbalance,” Beaumont tells HuffPost UK, “to remember and honour the memory of all these murdered women.” Beaumont committed to painting a portrait of each of the women on the list read out by Phillips. She hopes her project, Disappearing Women, will “put faces to the names, to show others these are real people who lost their lives”.The project hasn’t been easy. “Obviously it’s very upsetting thinking about the sudden and violent loss of these women, but I keep in mind it’s nothing compared to what their families have experienced,” Beaumont says of the experience.“It feels very positive to do something for the families, to show them that their loved ones are still remembered and cared about.”Beaumont has painted 26 of the 118 women so far. Learning about their stories, she’s been struck by how often a women is was killed by someone she knew, or was in a relationship with. She creates the portraits using images of the women found online. Where there’s no image, she paints flowers and the name of the woman. She’s also been contacted by a number of the families, thanking her for remembering their lost loved one or offering an image for her to paint. Gerald Winter, the brother of murdered Tracey Kidd, who died in March 2020, told her: “Thank you for doing this, not just for my sister, but for all the poor women that go through domestic violence.”“I’ve been very moved by the responses I’ve had from the families who’ve contacted me and the support for this project on social media, it’s been very heartwarming,” says Beaumont.“There are a lot of people who care hugely about this issue.”Beaumont is releasing the portraits on Instagram and Twitter five days a week. She’s also working with the Femicide Census and Justice for Women’s Centre, to create an ongoing and permanent memorial to the women lost to male violence, which will continue beyond the 118 women killed this year.Beaumont is raising funds to support the work of the two groups, or asking those moved by the illustrations to consider donating directly to Women’s Aid. If you’ve been impacted by domestic violence, you’ll find a list of helplines at the bottom of this article. Useful helplines for domestic violence:If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact:The Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge: 0808 2000 247In Scotland, contact Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234In Northern Ireland, contact the 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414In Wales, contact the 24 hour Life Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327Respect helpline (for anyone worried about their own behaviour): 0808 802 0321Related...'Women Are Not The Problem Here': MPs Pay Tribute To Sarah EverardOpinion: We Have A Chance To Get Serious On Stalking. The Government Aren’t Taking ItOpinion: For Survivors, Sarah Everard’s Death Isn’t Just A ‘Moment’Is Boris Johnson The Right Man To Help Women?
UK aid spending on girls’ education around the world is set to be cut by a quarter despite being a priority for Boris Johnson, a charity has said.Foreign secretary Dominic Raab was accused of “sneaking out” the details on how the Foreign Office (FCDO) would allocate £8.11bn of the aid budget – 80% of the total spend – in the next year in a statement to parliament.He did not reveal how much had been cut but analysis of the spending allocations for 2021/22 by Save The Children suggests spending on eduction for girls would be reduced by 25% compared to 2019/20 levels.The charity also estimated that spending on humanitarian preparedness and response would be cut by 44%.While directly comparable figures are difficult to find, the Commons international development committee (IDC) separately estimated similar levels (41%) of cuts to humanitarian preparedness and response.Spending on Covid and global health was set to rise 12% compared to 2019/20, but would be 14% lower than last year, Save the Children said.The charity based the figures from the FCDO’s reporting to the International Aid Transparency Initiative, using education projects marked as “gender policy” to obtain the figures on girls’ education.It said the cuts left the government’s reputation for international leadership in aid “in tatters”.Here’s what @DominicRaab’s statement on #UKAid doesn’t say - the size of the cuts for some key sectors. Humanitarian response down nearly half since pre-pandemic and girls’ education down a quarter despite being a “priority”. pic.twitter.com/E00ALeS4LF— Al Russell (@awjrussell) April 21, 2021The IDC said that girls’ education getting the second lowest allocation by thematic area was “disappointing”.It comes after the UK scrapped its commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, cutting it to 0.5%.The government is attempting to make the cuts without holding a parliamentary vote, amid the threat of defeat at the hands of rebel Tory MPs.Commenting on Raab’s statement, Save the Children CEO Kevin Watkins said: “UK aid for humanitarian responses has been cut by almost half since before the pandemic and girls’ education, despite being a stated priority of the prime minister, has been cut by a quarter.“When every other G7 nation is stepping up in the face of a global pandemic and increasing their support for the poorest and most vulnerable people, the UK is alone in choosing to step back, even as it prepares to host the G7 summit.“These cuts will trim UK borrowing by a fraction, but devastate lives across many of the world’s poorest countries.”IDC chair Sarah Champion said: “To sneak out a written statement at the end of the day shows a lack of respect for both parliament scrutinising these cuts and the aid organisations that are hearing about the spend for the first time only now.“To say the statement is scant on detail is an understatement. Whilst we now have limited understanding on the areas the government is prioritising for its shrinking aid pot, we are still awaiting guidance on country-by-country allocations.“People’s lives are directly impacted by these decisions and it is shocking that they still don’t have clarity they need.”The Labour MP for Rotherham also said the committee “condemns in the strongest possible terms the magnitude of the aid cuts”.“With our economy set to rebound sharply this year, the logic for the cuts to the world’s poorest is making less sense as time goes on,” she said.Tory former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “These words hide the most draconian cuts ever made by Britain and they affect many countries where Britain has a deep and abiding relationship.“There is little detail but we know that the cuts are close to 50%.“This is a statement that should have been made to MPs in the House of Commons, rather than slipped out at the end of the day in a written communication.”In his statement, Raab also revealed that aid to China will be slashed by 95% to less than £1m, although Champion said the fact the country was getting any money was “disappointing”.Setting out the allocations, Raab said the government wanted to ensure that FCDO’s aid spending brought “maximum strategic coherence, impact and value for taxpayers’ money”. “The resulting portfolio marks a strategic shift, putting our aid budget to work alongside our diplomatic network, our science and technology expertise and our economic partnerships in tackling global challenges,” he wrote. “We will focus on core [government] priorities for poverty reduction, including getting more girls into school, providing urgent humanitarian support to those who need it most, and tackling global threats like climate change, Covid recovery and other international health priorities. “Based on OECD data for 2020, the UK will be the third largest donor within the G7 as a percentage of GNI [national income].”Sam Nadel, Oxfam’s head of policy and advocacy, said: “For millions of people around the world, today’s announcement will mean no clean water, no food when they are hungry and no medicines when they are sick.“Ministers should urgently think again – keeping our promises to the world’s poorest matters more than ever in the midst of a global pandemic.”Anti-poverty organisation One said the announcement makes “clear the government’s words are not matched by actions”.UK director Romilly Greenhill said: “The cuts reveal a government which makes bold declarations about the importance of investing in girls’ education and preventing future health crises, but takes a scythe to the very projects needed to deliver on these ambitions – all in the midst of a pandemic and the same year we’re due to host major summits on these issues.“The promised new era of British leadership is going to be very hard to deliver whilst we’re turning our back on the world’s most difficult challenges.”Related...Exclusive: Raab Says UK Wants Trade Deals With Nations That Violate Human RightsRishi Sunak Cuts UK 0.7% Foreign Aid Commitment
Amazon and other multinational companies that shift profits to “avoid tax” in the UK should not benefit from Rishi Sunak’s post-Covid super deduction, MPs have said.Senior Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge is leading cross-party moves to ensure multinationals that shift profits to lower tax countries do not benefit from the taxpayer subsidy, designed to boost investment as the UK recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.The super deduction announced by the chancellor in March’s Budget would allow companies to reduce their tax bills by up to 25p for every £1 they invest in plant and machinery, according to the Treasury.Sunak hopes the 130% super deduction will boost business investment by £20bn a year and contribute to the UK’s economic recovery.But analysis by campaigners TaxWatch suggests the likes of Amazon could use the super deduction to “entirely wipe out” their UK tax bill, which is already low as the company’s European operations are based in Luxembourg.Hodge has teamed up with senior Tory MP Andrew Mitchell to propose a cross-party amendment to the finance bill, which will put the super deduction in law. She told HuffPost UK her super deduction amendment would ensure “our taxpayers’ money is not used to subsidise companies that deliberately avoid paying UK corporation tax”.The former minister said: “We just think it is wrong that companies should be eligible for the super deduction scheme if they deliberately create financial structures which have no other purpose than to avoid tax, and if they deliberately export their profits.“The way in which you can show that is by getting them to report their earnings country-by-country so you can see where the economic activity took place, and therefore where the profits were made, and therefore where they should be taxed.”She added: “What really riles taxpayers - obviously it riles people that they don’t pay their tax - but what is absolutely unacceptable is that we should then subsidise them further with taxpayers’ money,” she said.“It is just the pits, and most people think that, and the government should wake up and listen to them.”The amendment would force large multinationals that want to access super deductions to make public their country-by-country reporting on global activities, profits and taxes.The government in 2016 accepted a cross-party amendment to force those companies to produce country-by-country reports, but the government at the moment only requires them to be submitted to HM Revenue and Customs, rather than be made public.Separately, Hodge and Mitchell also want to make it easier to prosecute so-called “enablers” who design tax avoidance schemes. Hodge argued that while individuals benefiting from such schemes are punished if they are found to be illegal, those that design them often get away “scot-free”.She said: “If we start holding those enablers to account then you would much more quickly get rid of these egregious tax avoidance schemes which are constantly marketed.”Mitchell told HuffPost UK: “We should really be moving towards a position where those who devise and set up these schemes are treated as guilty as those who use them.”Amazon said it created 10,000 new jobs across the UK last year and has invested more than £23bn in the UK since 2010.It paid £293m in direct taxes last year, as its sales surged 26% to £13.7bn.Related...Boris Johnson Must Cancel India Trip Amid Covid Variant Concerns, Labour SaysDavid Cameron’s Greensill Lobbying Was ‘Acceptable’, Minister ClaimsRishi Sunak's Budget Explained In Two Minutes
Liberal MP William Amos apologized, saying he forgot to switch off his camera as he changed clothes in his office during a video meeting.
Rishi Sunak’s role in the Greensill lobbying scandal will be investigated by MPs.The cross-party Commons Treasury committee will examine the response by the chancellor and his team to lobbying from David Cameron, who tried to secure Covid rescue funding for Greensill Capital.The former prime minister, who was working as an adviser to the firm, last year repeatedly sent text messages to Sunak to try to secure support through the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).It came as Commons public administration committee chair William Wraggg said Cameron’s activities were “tasteless, slapdash and unbecoming”, and said his group of MPs would also be “giving these matters proper consideration”, suggesting a separate inquiry could be launched.Text messages released last week following a Freedom of Information request revealed Sunak eventually rebuffed Cameron’s demands, but only after he “pushed” officials to explore an alternative plan that could have helped Greensill.Greensill has now collapsed into insolvency, rendering Cameron’s reported millions of share options worthless.The Treasury committee said its inquiry would “focus on the regulatory lessons from the failure of Greensill Capital and the appropriateness of [the] Treasury’s response to lobbying in relation to Greensill Capital”.Conservative MP Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said: “The Treasury committee had previously decided to carefully consider these issues as part of its regular and upcoming evidence sessions with HM Treasury and its associated bodies, including the Financial Conduct Authority and Bank of England.“In addition to this, we have now decided to take a closer look by launching an inquiry to investigate the issues that fall within our remit. We will publish further details when we launch the inquiry officially next week.”Earlier, Tory MPs voted down Labour plans to set up a wider-ranging new committee to investigate the Greensill scandal, and the wider lobbying rules.Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves argued a bigger probe was needed and that Boris Johnson’s proposed review was “wholly inadequate” as it was being led by a “good friend” of the Tory government in City lawyer Nigel Boardman.It came after Keir Starmer said the row over Cameron’s lobbying marked the “return of Tory sleaze”.The Labour leader said financier Lex Greensill was brought into the government as an adviser by Cameron, before then hiring the former prime minister to act as a lobbyist contacting Cabinet ministers including Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock.The row has intensified this week after it emerged that the former head of civil service procurement, Bill Crothers, became an adviser to Greensill Capital while still working as a civil servant, in a move approved by the Cabinet Office.Responding at PMQs, Johnson said he shared the “widespread concern about some of the stuff that we’re reading at the moment”.“I do think it is a good idea in principle that top civil servants should be able to engage with business and should have experience of the private sector,” Johnson said.“When I look at the accounts I’m reading to date, it’s not clear that those boundaries had been properly understood and I’ve asked for a proper independent review of the arrangements that we have to be conducted by Nigel Boardman, and he will be reporting in June.”Downing Street meanwhile defended Boardman, describing him as a “distinguished legal expert”.“He was asked to lead this review independently. He has been asked to do it thoroughly and promptly and we trust him to do that,” Johnson’s official spokesperson told reporters.Related...Tory MPs Vote Down Commons Inquiry Into Greensill Lobbying ScandalDavid Cameron Lobbying Review Being Led By 'Good Friend' Of Tory Government, Says LabourKeir Starmer Slams 'Return Of Tory Sleaze' Over David Cameron Lobbying
Tory MPs have voted down proposals for a parliamentary inquiry into lobbying amid the Greensill scandal.Labour had called for a cross-party probe led by MPs, arguing Boris Johnson’s proposed review is “wholly inadequate” as it is led by “a very good friend of the Conservative government” in Nigel Boardman.But the prime minister ordered Tories to vote against Labour plans for the row to be examined by a new parliamentary committee, which would have been able to summon ministers and others to answer questions in public.Labour’s motion calling for a parliamentary investigation was defeated by 357 votes to 262, a majority of 95.Around an hour after the vote, the Commons Treasury committee said it would hold its own inquiry into Rishi Sunak and his officials’ role in responding to lobbying from David Cameron, who tried to secure Covid rescue funding for Greensill Capital, where he worked as an adviser.It came after Keir Starmer said the Greensill scandal marks the return of “Tory sleaze”, amid questions over the former prime minister’s lobbying for the financial firm.The Labour leader said financier Lex Greensill was brought into the government as an adviser by Cameron, before then hiring the former prime minister to act as a lobbyist contacting Cabinet ministers including chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock.The row has intensified this week after it emerged that the former head of civil service procurement, Bill Crothers, became an adviser to Greensill Capital while still working as a civil servant, in a move approved by the Cabinet Office.Opening the Commons debate on a parliamentary probe, shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said Tory MPs would be “part of the government’s attempt to cover up Tory sleaze” by voting against Labour’s plans.She also described Johnson’s planned review as “wholly inadequate”."If the existing lobbying rules were not breached, that is a big part of the problem"Labour's Rachel Reeves wants full parliamentary inquiry with scope "bigger than supply chain financing" to look at lobbying and contacts between government and Greensillhttps://t.co/KjvmhMqxWDpic.twitter.com/xUm91zu18d— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) April 14, 2021Reeves told MPs: “It’s a fact that Nigel Boardman is a very good friend of the Conservative government. “Some may suspect the son of a former Conservative cabinet minister might be unlikely to make waves – but let’s look at his own record.“Boardman has been paid over £20,000 per year as a non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – a department with a real interest in the British Business Bank which lent to Greensill and the British steel industry, where so many jobs are at risk.“Boardman has already whitewashed the government’s handling of public procurement during the pandemic, and I fear he will do the same again with this inquiry.”She added “Boardman’s law firm made £8m advising Carillion”, also telling MPs: “To cap it all off, Boardman was appointed to a prestigious role at the British Museum by David Cameron.“What is being proposed by the government is not remotely fit for purpose. It’s not an inquiry, it’s not independent, it’s an insult to us all.”Reeves also described Cameron’s response to 40 days of inquiries about his involvement with Greensill as “cynical” and “shabby” because it came during the national period of mourning for Prince Philip.She said questions also need to be asked of current ministers, noting: “When it comes to lobbying, it takes two to tango. For every former minister lobbying, there is someone in power being lobbied.”Responding, Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said: “We are opposing the motion today because it seeks to duplicate the work that is already in the gift of parliament and its committees and… work that is already being undertaken by the government.”Downing Street meanwhile defended Boardman, describing him as a “distinguished legal expert”.“He was asked to lead this review independently, he has been asked to do it thoroughly and promptly and we trust him to do that,” Johnson’s official spokesperson told reporters.Back in the Commons, senior Tory MP William Wragg urged colleagues not to “unquestioningly defend the integrity of others if they have doubts or have been asked to do so”.“Whatever little or imperfect integrity we have ourselves, for we are all fallible, it is the only integrity we can seek to protect,” the chair of the Commons public administration committee said.Tory former minister Jackie Doyle-Price meanwhile said Cameron would suffer from the fallout of the scandal whatever the outcome of any review.“The one thing that David Cameron will be concerned about more than anything else is the damage to his reputation that’s been done by this episode, and frankly that will be with him for a very long time,” she said.Earlier, Johnson said he shared the “widespread concern about some of the stuff that we’re reading at the moment”.“I do think it is a good idea in principle that top civil servants should be able to engage with business and should have experience of the private sector,” Johnson said.“When I look at the accounts I’m reading to date, it’s not clear that those boundaries had been properly understood and I’ve asked for a proper independent review of the arrangements that we have to be conducted by Nigel Boardman, and he will be reporting in June.”Related...David Cameron Lobbying Review Being Led By 'Good Friend' Of Tory Government, Says LabourKeir Starmer Slams 'Return Of Tory Sleaze' Over David Cameron LobbyingGreensill Scandal: Whitehall Chief Under David Cameron Took Job With Finance Firm
The leader of the Labour Party has apologised for the “hurt” caused by his visit to a church which has been widely criticised for its attitudes towards homosexuality.Keir Starmer has faced criticism from within his own party after he posted a video online highlighting his visit on Friday to Jesus House for All The Nations church in Brent, north London.He tweeted on Monday that he accepted it was a “mistake” to visit the church, which has opened its premises up as a vaccination centre, but stressed he was “not aware” of the establishment’s views on gay rights.I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit. I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) April 5, 2021“I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit,” the leader of the Opposition tweeted.“I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.”The church’s senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, has previously attracted controversy for his comments on LGBT+ rights – having spoken out against same sex marriage and equality legislation.The Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights had branded Starmer’s visit and subsequent social media endorsement of its work as “unacceptable”.After raising it with the leader’s office, the group said last week that it had received an “unreserved apology” and would be holding a further meeting to ensure it did not happen again.In the now-deleted video, Starmer praised Jesus House as a “wonderful example” of a church serving its community during the coronavirus pandemic – including acting as a vaccination centre.“From rolling out the vaccine to running the local food bank, Jesus House, like many other churches across the UK, has played a crucial role in meeting the needs of the community,” he said.In 2017, Theresa May was criticised when she visited the church, although Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales have both been to the pop-up vaccination centre there in recent weeks without attracting widespread comment.Labour sources said Starmer’s visit was also focused on the vaccination centre – although the video did show him apparently praying with the pastor.Related...Vaccine Passports Could 'Play A Role' For Pubs, As Boris Johnson Relaxes LockdownA Year Of Keir: Will Starmer Pass The May Elections Test?A Year Of Keir: Can Starmer Inject More Passionate Politics Into His Leadership?
Former Welsh secretary Dame Cheryl Gillan has passed away at the age of 68 after a lengthy illness, the Conservative Party has confirmed.Boris Johnson said the former cabinet minister would be “sorely missed” and described her as a “great servant”.“I’m very sad to hear the news of the death of Dame Cheryl Gillan,” he said in a tweet.“She was a great servant to the people of Chesham and Amersham, to the Conservative Party and to the country as secretary of state for Wales.“Always full of wise advice and good humour, she was much loved on all sides of the House of Commons and will be sorely missed.“My sincere condolences to her family and friends.”Always full of wise advice and good humour, she was much loved on all sides of the House of Commons and will be sorely missed. My sincere condolences to her family and friends. (2/2)— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 5, 2021So sad to hear we have lost @CherylGillan one of the warmest and most generous hearted people in the House of Commons. She was a formidable campaigner for autistic people but also the definition of British stoical good humour - an enormous credit to her party and to parliament— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) April 5, 2021An MP since 1992, the noted anti-HS2 campaigner had made a “huge contribution to public life”, said co-chairman of the Conservative Party Amanda Milling.“It was incredibly sad to hear that Dame Cheryl Gillan MP passed away at the weekend,” Milling added.“Cheryl had been ill for some time, but battled her illness with great stoicism and grace.“Cheryl was a dedicated parliamentarian for many decades, serving in the Cabinet and she made a huge contribution to public life and our Party.“Our thoughts and prayers are with Cheryl’s family and friends.”Related...A Year Of Keir: Will Starmer Pass The May Elections Test?A Year Of Keir: Can Starmer Inject More Passionate Politics Into His Leadership?
A Conservative MP has vowed to “walk around London with a pint of milk” as part of an unlikely protest against Covid restrictions.During a Commons debate ahead of a vote on extending emergency coronavirus legislation to October, Sir Charles Walker explained he would rail against the price of milk because “the act of protest is a freedom”.He indicated he had no particular axe to grind about milk, and his choice of the dairy product would be symbolic. If others chose to join his rallying cry, he said, the pint could mean something else, such as fears over their mental health and losing a job.The government is facing a large rebellion from libertarian Tory MPs as the laws will extend months after the reopening roadmap is due to end on June 21. In the event, MPs voted 484 to 76, majority 408, to extend the coronavirus laws.Walker, MP for Broxbourne, said: “As sure as eggs are eggs, we will be back here in six months at the end of September being asked to renew this legislation again. It is inevitable and anyone who thinks it’s not inevitable is deluding themselves.“But this afternoon, I’m not here to talk about eggs. I want to talk about milk.”In the last days of the current lockdown, Sir Charles told colleagues in the chamber he would allow himself “an act of defiance – my own protest that others may join me in”.“I am going to protest about the price of milk,” he said. “Now I’m not sure whether I think the price is too high or the price is too low. I shall come to that decision later. But for the next few days I am going to walk around London with a pint of milk on my person because that pint will represent my protest.“And there may be others who will choose too to walk around London with a pint of milk on their person as well. Perhaps as we walk past each other in the street our eyes might meet. We might even stop for a chat. But I [will be] thinking to myself, and I will continue to think to myself: what will their pint of milk represent? What will their protest be?“Perhaps they will be protesting the roaring back of a mental health demon brought on by lockdown. Perhaps they’ll be protesting a renewed battle with anorexia, with depression, with anxiety, with addiction. Perhaps with their pint of milk they will be protesting the lack of agency in their life, not being able to make a meaningful decision.“Maybe a loss of career, or job, or business. Maybe they will be protesting this country’s slide into authoritarianism or perhaps they’ll be protesting the fact that we allow unelected officials to have lecterns at No.10 to lecture us how to live our lives.”Walker said the milk was of “symbolic importance” to him.He told the Commons: “There might even be people with their pint of milk quietly protesting that the route out of lockdown is too slow, or perhaps even too fast. You see, the point is these people can project what they like, what concern they have, onto their pint of milk.“Now my protest as I said will be about none of those things. It will simply be about the price of milk and, as I said, for the next few days I will have that pint on me. It will be of symbolic importance to me and at the end of the day it will be warm, it will have suppurated, and I can choose whether to drink it or pour it away because it’ll be robbed of its refreshing elegance by the time it’s been in my pocket for 12 hours.“And if I pour it away, that might cause people some concern, but it doesn’t matter because it’s my pint of milk and it’s my protest, and I’m not seeking people’s acclaim, endorsement or support in my protest.”Related...Pub Owners Slam Boris Johnson's Vaccine Passports SuggestionBoris Johnson's Covid Press Conferences To Switch To £2.6m Media Room From MondayWhy Covid Cases Have Stopped Falling And What Could Happen Next
Jacob Rees-Mogg has refused to correct the record in parliament after he falsely accused a HuffPost UK journalist of “editing” a recording.Instead the Commons leader on Thursday said calls for him to apologise for the smear were “huff and puff”.Last week HuffPost UK’s deputy political editor, Arj Singh, published a recording of Dominic Raab telling foreign office staff he was keen to strike trade deals with countries that had poor human rights records.The foreign secretary subsequently confirmed to MPs this was indeed government policy.But speaking in the Commons last week, Rees-Mogg branded Singh a “knave or a fool”.Under the protection of parliamentary privilege, he said baselessly that Raab’s words had been “shockingly distorted by low quality journalism”.“It is a cheat that journalists sometimes use of editing text, editing a recording, and it was done to Roger Scruton by the New Statesman and it’s now been done to the foreign secretary,” Rees-Mogg told MPs.HuffPost UK did not edit the recording passed to us and the article quoted it in full.Scruton, a philosopher and author, won an apology from the New Statesman after the magazine’s deputy editor tweeted “partial” and “truncated” quotations from an interview.Valarie Vaz, Labour’s shadow leader of the House, on Thursday demanded Rees-Mogg apologise for his incorrect claim. But he refused.“Arj Singh is the deputy political editor of HuffPost, he is not a cheat, he is not a knave, he is not a fool, there was no clipping,” she said.“It’s not poor quality online journalism,” Vaz added. “The foreign secretary has admitted it.”She told Rees-Mogg: “He didn’t actually apologise to the journalist in question. I wonder if he could try again and do so today?”Rees-Mogg instead doubled-down on his attack. “I’d encourage all journalists to ensure that quotes fully reflect the audio available, and I hope [Vaz] would agree with that and do the same.He added: “And so let them huff and puff but they will not blow this particular house down.”Jacob Rees-Mogg has again pointedly not repeated his claim that @HuffPostUK doctored this tape of Dominic Raab.But he is refusing to correct the record in the Commons, after making just that accusation last week. pic.twitter.com/rG1EXM68qQ— Arj Singh (@singharj) March 25, 2021In the recording passed to HuffPost UK, Raab said: “I squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world.“If we restrict it to countries with ECHR-level standards of human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future.”HuffPost UK understands the foreign secretary also used the meeting to name countries where the UK had raised human rights issues with key trade partners.Downing Street has similarly refused to apologise for Rees-Mogg’s comments. But Boris Johnson’s spokesperson did distance the prime minister from the leader of the House.“The PM is a staunch believer in the value of the free press and the important role journalists play in our democracy,” he claimed. “These are not comments that the PM would have made.“These comments were made by Jacob Rees-Mogg and I’m confident that he can explain their intended meaning.”Related...Can New Sanctions Really Help Boris Johnson Heal Tory Splits Over China?No.10 Refuses To Say Sorry For Jacob Rees-Mogg's Smear Against HuffPost Journalist
(University of Illinois School of Information Sciences) A new book published by Cambridge University Press explores the complex and dynamic relationships between privacy, governance, and the production, cultivation, and sharing of knowledge. It features several case studies across academia, social media, mental health, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Pub landlords may be able to demand proof of a Covid vaccine from punters, Boris Johnson has suggested. The prime minister said it may be left “up to individual publicans” whether they ask customers for proof they have had a jab before entrance. The roadmap out of lockdown says that beer gardens and outdoor service areas will not reopen before April 12.Pubs will be able to reopen more fully in a later stage of the plan, but not before May 17 and only provided they follow social distancing guideline in place at the time. Now, speaking to MPs on the Commons’ liaison committee, the prime minister has suggested vaccine passports could play a role in the reopening of hospitality. Asked if such a Covid certificate could be required for pubs, Johnson said the “basic concept of a vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us”, and added: “I think that that’s the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.”He told the committee the public had been “thinking very deeply” about such issues.“My impression is that there is a huge wisdom in the public’s feeling about this,” he said.“People, human beings, instinctively recognise when something is dangerous and nasty to them, and they can see that Covid is collectively a threat and they want us as their government, and me as the prime minister to take all the actions I can to protect them.”Hospitality leaders have stressed repeatedly that Covid curbs have been tough for the sector, with thousands of jobs lost and pubs closed. Johnson is under pressure not to stick to the dates in his unlock plan. Some of his Tory backbenchers believe, with case numbers and deaths falling, that ministers should reopen parts of the economy sooner. Amid reports that the virus is resurgent on mainland Europe, Johnson also indicated tougher curbs could be placed on movement from France due to concerns about importing new variants. Under questioning from home affairs committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper, Mr Johnson said there were currently exemptions for hauliers “the people involved in bringing in, for instance, medicines or food to the UK” and then quickly return to France.“There is an issue about whether we decide to apply more stringent measures to them, with the delays that that would entail and the knock-on effects that would entail.“We are certainly looking at that but people should be under no illusions that it would have consequences.”Related...France Could Be Added To 'Red List', Reveals Boris JohnsonQuarantine For UK Holidaymakers 'Should Carry On After Lockdown'This Is Where You (Probably) Will And Won't Need A Vaccine Passport
Boris Johnson was branded “obnoxious” and “warped” after the prime minister told MPs that Britain’s Covid vaccine success was down to capitalism and greed.Reports in The Sun of the PM’s meeting with Tory backbenchers say Johnson lavished praise on pharmaceutical companies for their work on developing Covid jabs.“The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends,” he reportedly said, ahead of a key vote on renewing lockdown restrictions this week.Johnson later said “actually I regret saying it” and asked Conservative colleagues repeatedly to “forget I said that”.It comes as the country marks one year since the first national lockdown and as the UK’s death toll stands at more than 126,000. Labour MP Barry Sheerman said the PM had made “obnoxious comments”. What an obnoxious comment on this day of all days Boris Johnson tells his MPs in private that the the UK has been successful in the vaccine war due to “capitalism & greed” @BBCNews— Barry Sheerman MP (@BarrySheerman) March 23, 2021Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, an organisation which is campaigning for fair distribution of vaccines, was also critical of the PM.He said: “The prime minister will call this comment a slip of the tongue, but it’s an incredibly revealing remark. It shows just how warped his understanding of this crisis is.“We have a vaccine because of massive public investment and the remarkable work of scientists at publicly-funded universities. We’ve rolled it out because of our incredible National Health Service.“Greed, however, drove big pharma to privatise this work and withhold doses from millions worldwide to protect their profits. And, if Boris Johnson keeps letting it happen, there’ll be more coronavirus mutations that could send us back to square one.”More than 28 million people have receive a first vaccine dose in the UK but the PM has also warned MPs that a third wave was “inevitable”.Downing Street has to declined to comment on the PM’s meeting with backbenchers. Related...'Dramatic' Link Between Covid Deaths And Obesity, New Study ShowsSenior Tory Warns Against Forcing Care Home Staff To Have Vaccines
Dominic Raab has confirmed the UK wants to strike free trade deals with countries that do not meet European human rights standards.The policy was first revealed last week by HuffPost UK after we were leaked a clip of the foreign secretary explaining his position to staff. In the recording, he said the government didn’t want to exclude countries from trade deals solely because they fell below European Convention on Human Rights standards.To restrict deals to countries that meet these standards would mean missing out on “the growth markets of the future”, Raab told Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office staff.After Raab’s comments were reported by numerous news outlets, including The Times, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg used parliamentary privilege to claim wrongly that HuffPost UK had “shockingly distorted” Raab’s words.He accused this website of “low quality journalism” and called deputy political editor Arj Singh “either a knave or a fool”.But Raab has now repeated his position during a Commons statement in which he announced sanctions on four Chinese officials deemed responsible for human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.The foreign secretary’s exchange with SNP international development spokesperson Chris Law came after Downing Street refused to apologise for Rees-Mogg’s remarks, despite rebuking him over the language he used.In the Commons, Law said: “Last week the prime minister published a long awaited integrated review which stated ‘our first goal is to support open societies and defend human rights as a force for good in the world’.“Yet despite this the prime minister wants to forge closer ties to some of the worst human rights violating states in our world.“Moreover, in the immediate aftermath of the [...] publication, the foreign secretary lamented that restricting trade because of human rights abuses would mean missing out on growth markets.“The foreign secretary’s words last week do not chime with today’s statement – his insistence that the UK will seek to do trade deals with countries that violate standard, enshrined in the European convention of Human Rights, the very last drawn up by British officials after the horrors of the Second World War, mark yet another record low for this UK government.”Raab replied: “I made clear we would never do an FTA [free trade agreement} with a country that had a human rights record that is beyond the pale.”He went on: “[Law] raises the question as to whether we would ever trade with countries who do not have ECHR-level human rights.“I would just put it to him that he has never once [...] suggested that we should tear up any of the free trade deals that we do with countries that still have the death penalty, which of course wouldn’t comply with ECHR.“If he wants to keep making this argument, could he tell me which of the FTAs, whether it’s Korea, Japan, or is it negotiations with the US, that he is opposed to?”Raab’s leaked remarks last week had proved particularly controversial as they came on the day Boris Johnson was accused by Tory MPs of going soft on Beijing. The prime minister had announced hours earlier that the UK would seek “deeper trade links and more Chinese investment” as part of a landmark foreign policy review.Related...Exclusive: Raab Says UK Wants Trade Deals With Nations That Violate Human RightsNo.10 Refuses To Say Sorry For Jacob Rees-Mogg's Smear Against HuffPost JournalistJacob Rees-Mogg Accused Of Misleading Parliament With Claim About HuffPost Reporter
Boris Johnson has been told to justify seeking a six-month extension to “authoritarian” lockdown powers in England, amid a Commons rebellion from Conservative MPs.The government is expected to receive approval from MPs to extend measures within the Coronavirus Act until October.But senior Tories from the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) have raised concerns over how such a move is consistent with the prime minister’s pledge to restore the country’s freedoms as the vaccine programme rolls out.Former minister Steve Baker, the CRG’s deputy chairman, said he expects to vote against the measures on Thursday.Asked about the size of the Conservative rebellion, Baker told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News: “It’s very difficult to say until we’ve seen the exact detail of what the government is tabling and how the votes will come.“Let’s be absolutely clear, because it seems Labour and the SNP will vote for any old authoritarianism these days, it looks like the Government will get their business with an enormous majority.“But I do think it’s important that some of us do seek to hold the government to account with these extraordinary powers.”Baker, in a separate statement, also said: “With so many vulnerable people now vaccinated, people may ask why the restrictions the government is bringing in this coming week are tougher than they were last summer when we didn’t have a vaccine.“The detention powers in the Coronavirus Act are disproportionate, extreme, and wholly unnecessary.“Renewing them would not be reconcilable with the Prime Minister’s guarantee that we are on a ‘one-way road to freedom’ by June 21.”CRG chairman Mark Harper, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, also challenged the Government’s thinking on its road map to recovery.He said “reasonable people” would wonder if the Government had struck the right balance in continuing present guidelines curbing family gatherings through Easter.Harper wrote: “Staying with your family won’t just be illegal for Easter weekend, it will be unlawful until May 17 at the earliest – whatever the data say. The road map is ‘dates, not data’.”He questioned “draconian” powers in the legislation, adding the police response in the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard last weekend had been partly the result of “poorly drafted” emergency pandemic laws.But defence secretary Ben Wallace defended the government’s plans, telling Sky News: “The final mile is the most important thing for us all, make sure we buckle down, get through the different stages the prime minister set out.“At each stage we will be taking assessments from the science, from where we are in the pandemic, and take the steps required.“It is not a one-way street. Just because we are seeking to extend the powers doesn’t mean we are deaf to how facts change on the ground.”For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said there are powers within the Act which need to be debated to assess if they are necessary.She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “What the vote is this week is about the road map, about easing the road map, it’s about statutory sick pay, it’s about the ban on evictions, all measures that we’ve pushed for, we certainly won’t be standing in the way of the government in getting this legislation passed.”Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth expressed frustration at MPs not being allowed to table amendments and offered to work with senior Conservatives to find a way to do this.Elsewhere, Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), warned a “very large number” of at-risk people could develop a “serious” Covid-19 infection if restrictions are lifted now.He said between 90% and 95% of people who are at high risk have been vaccinated, but mostly with one dose, which does not provide full protection.He told Sky News: “If you lift restrictions, even though most people who are at risk have been vaccinated, the proportion who have not still represent a very large number of people who could end up with serious infection.”Dr Mary Ramsay, Public Health England’s head of immunisation, also told the BBC: “I think it’s very important that we don’t relax too quickly.”Related...Saturday Was A Record Day For Vaccines In The UKWhat To Know About So-Called Post Pandemic Stress Disorder