Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Through the Keyhole With Lindsay Hoyle

If things do take a turn for the worse for Bercow, the favourite to succeed him is Lindsay Hoyle. With all the grace and favour perks that come with the Speakership – including a huge apartment in Parliament – it’s easy to see why anyone would want the job, and Lindsay has a taste for luxury already. Take a look through the keyhole and see what is to live like a Labour MP (turned Deputy Speaker).

Let no one question Lindsay’s taste, he has decorated his house to look like a House of Commons bar. Guido is pretty sure that bar (complete with snooker table) is a replica of a Commons drinking hole. The grand piano is a classy touch too, it goes nicely with the carpet. All in all Lindsay’s humble abode boasts 5 bedrooms, 2 reception Rooms plus a music room, games room and “leisure complex with swimming pool”.

And it doesn’t stop there. Even though Hoyle says he is “seeing so many families” in his Chorley constituency “in dire straits” using food banks, that hasn’t stopped him from applying for planning permission for a grand orangery and “a single storey rear glazed link” to his pool. It is clearly not tough for everyone in Chorley.

Chuka’s Taxing Spin

Chuka Umunna is spinning hard in the Times this morning over Guido’s revelations about his tax avoidance adviser donor. A spokesman for two-faced Chuka says with a straight face:

“There’s no link [between Mr Umunna and Signature Tax]; there are Labour supporters in all walks of life who share the values of the party and donations do not influence policy. The donation has been made and declared in the normal way, in accordance with the rules.”

“No link between Mr Umunna and Signature Tax”, apart from the £2,500 they gave him. Chuka’s spinner says of the donor: “there are Labour supporters in all walks of life who share the values of the party”, Guido wonders if this refers to their penchant for offshore tax arrangements.

Incidentally, Signature Tax itself has a rather odd whiff about it too. No one answers when you call their phone number and their website could have been designed in five minutes by anyone with a laptop. Yet they found £2,500 to bung to Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary…

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chuka Takes Donation From Tax Avoidance Firm

Chuka Umunna has received a £2,500 donation from a firm which advises its clients on how to swerve HMRC rules to help them avoid tax. Signature Tax paid the sum two weeks ago, with the money “received through the Labour Party to support the office of Chuka Umunna”.

According to their website, Signature Tax specialise in “non-DOTAS tax schemes”, structures designed to avoid HMRC’s Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regulations, which require those using tax avoidance schemes to inform the taxman. Accountancy Age explains how non-DOTAS schemes offered by Chuka’s donor bend the rules:

“Some of the (tax avoidance) promoters who used DOTAS numbers as tacit approval from HMRC initially, are now promoting schemes outside the DOTAS system. Some promoters are looking hard at their product lines and designing versions that escape the rules. Those rules have become so prescriptive, advisers say, that the longer they become, the easier they are to find holes in. For example, class action group Rebus claims to know of at least two promoters looking for non-DOTAS versions of old products.”

Signature Tax’s website also offers advice on “off shore” tax arrangements. Chuka has been a staunch opponent of such schemes, famously grilling former Barclay’s boss Bob Diamond over his bank’s offshore subsidiaries and urging him to close them down.

And who can forget when he called “on the chancellor to close in on tax avoidance, close in on tax loopholes and deliver greater tax justice.” Adding that: “It is time to close in on tax avoiders, recoup public money and ensure everyone in society pays their fair share.”

In light of this new information about his donor, will Chuka give the money back to avoid any allegations of massive hypocrisy?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MacShame Uses Rotherham Scandal to Plug New Book

Rotherham’s former Labour MP has broken his silence on the child abuse scandal, from the comfort of the Dordogne:

Or you could just read the 160 page report which covers the time Denis was the local Labour MP and seemingly oblivious to what was happening on his patch and the failings of his friends and allies on the local Labour council.

Far more insightful, and free.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gravy Train Stops at No. 10 for Transport Super Salary
No. 10’s Head of News Heads to Siberia

Three weeks ago Guido reported:

“DfT are offering a budget-busting £770-a-day to their new Director of Communications, which, if he or she works 240 days a year, puts the successful applicant on £184,800. Making them considerably better paid than the Secretary of State. Talk about jumping on the high-speed gravy train…”

Well all aboard for Scot Marchbank, one time Deputy Spokesman to the PM and latterly N0. 10’s Head of News. It’s one heck of a promotion in cash terms and into the Whitehall wilderness in terms of power. Guido is suspicious of the timing. Jumped, or pushed? You choo-choose.

‘Canberra Caterer’ Missed Catering Scandal on Her Watch
Expensive Scandals on CV of Potential Commons Chief Exec

The limited defenders of Carol Mills, who go under the name ‘friends of Bercow’ in the press, point to her experience running the Department for Parliamentary Services of the Australian parliament, as well as the enormity of the ‘Chief Executive’ role of the Common’s clerk – who essentially runs the parliamentary estate. Leaving aside allegations of spying on both politicians and hacks alike, apparently Mills would make an excellent Chief Executive if the role was split. Yet, does her track record really back up that claim?

In February of this year Mills was forced to admit that the DPS had missed an ongoing catering fraud. She told a Senate hearing it “was likely” that “inappropriate practice” had been going on for two years through a $550,000-a-year contract. It was found that W Catering had been using parliamentary facilities to cater for other events they were running, outside of parliament. There was political consternation over the fact that instead of calling in the cops, Mills took the decision to bring in “an external organisation look at all the material that I could find in terms of the accounts, the proceedings, etc.” At a cost to the taxpayer, natch.

Nor was this the first time that Mills had reached for the expensive outside consultants instead of dealing with matters through traditional internal channels and the law. Back in 2012, after a major security breach on her watch that saw an intruder enter the Parliament and get within touching distance of the Aussie PM, Mills shifted the blame by commissioning a $30,000 report by an external bureaucrat. Again, it turned out to be a matter for the police to deal with, but not before the money was wasted. 

Missed fraud scandals and security breaches don’t look great on Mills’ CV, but how she ultimately dealt with these problems – expensively – will really irritate MPs. Lots to discuss at a pre-selection hearing…

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Government Front Group Hires Lobbyist to Lobby Government

Save the Children is an organisation that gets 53% of its money from the government. You probably think of it is as a charity, yet it’s funding structure looks more like a quango that does a little fundraising on the side.

The group, that is dependent on handouts from the government, is looking to recruit somebody with a lavish salary and pension to lobby the same very government.

Round and round the money goes…

Homer’s Odyssey

As the government try to blame Labour and Labour forget they were ever in government, one element of the £224 million Raytheon row is the role of Lin Homer. As regular readers will remember, this is just the latest in a string of successes for the £180,000 a year civil servant, who first hit the headlines in Birmingham with electoral practices “that would disgrace a banana republic.” Then on to positions running immigration where her “catastrophic leadership failure” resulted in a £20,000 performance bonus and a move to Transport. There a disastrous franchise letting process, that cost taxpayers £100 million, qualified her for the biggest executive job in the civil service – collecting the nation’s taxes as head of HMRC. Last year her response to a critical PAC report was described as “woefully inadequate”. Keith Vaz says he will be haul Homer in front of his committee to ask how and “why she sanctioned such a defective agreement”. The warning signs were there…

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tricycle Theatre Indirectly Funding Pro-Israeli Hawks

London’s Tricycle Theatre was accused of anti-Semitism last week after it banned Britain’s annual Jewish Film Festival because the organisers had refused its demands to return a donation from the Israeli embassy. Awkwardly for the anti-Israel Tricycle, as of today they are themselves indirectly funding a staunchly pro-Israeli organisation which is campaigning in support of the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Money from Tricycle paid to the Jewish Chronicle for a weekly advert is to be donated by the paper to the Friends of Israel Initiative, a hawkish charity described to Guido by one source as the “bomb the f**k out of the enemy lobby”. JC editor Stephen Pollard says: “The Tricycle’s board will no doubt be delighted to know that its money will now be going, weekly via the JC, to support that important objective.” Top trolling.

Burnham ‘Owes’ Tax Efficient Lobbyist Aide £20,000

The Times and Mail are on the case of Andy Burnham’s health lobbyist aide Kevin Lee over his tax arrangements, a story Guido broke over two years ago. Readers will remember how back in 2011 this blog revealed how Lee was being paid as Burnham’s spinner not on a normal PAYE contract, but through his company, Lee Communications. Since Labour advisers are paid for by taxpayer-funded ‘Short Money’, this seems particularly creative. And the murkiness doesn’t end there.

When Burnham was Health Secretary, Lee Communications raked in hundreds of thousands of pounds in NHS cash, which is somewhat ironic given Burnham’s apocalyptic warnings about the Tories privatising the health service. Lee also splashed himself all over the internet boasting about his connections with Burnham and his expertise in public affairs. He was a health lobbyist with NHS clients.

As if Burnham employing Lee’s company and giving him a parliamentary pass permitting a health lobbyist access to parliament was not suspicious enough, Lee also “loaned” £20,000 to Burnham’s failed leadership campaign. Burnham has never managed to explain why he gave a lobbyist donor unfettered access to the parliamentary estate. As for that £20,000 loan, did Burnham ever pay it back? Let’s see if he can clear it up once and for all two years on…


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