Friday, April 4, 2014

Pickles Orders PwC to Investigate Lutfur Rahman

Following Monday’s Panorama investigation Eric Pickles has appointed professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to look into the allegations made about how Tower Hamlets is run. A file is being passed onto the Metropolitan Police for consideration. Pickles says:

“It is a matter of public record that I have long been concerned about a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and alleged mismanagement of public money by the mayoral administration in Tower Hamlets.

Following the receipt of a number of documents, I am now taking legal steps, in the public interest, to appoint inspectors to look into the allegations in respect of Tower Hamlets.

I hope this sends a strong signal that robust processes are in place to investigate allegations of failures in financial management and governance in local government, under the new regime introduced by the Local Audit and Accountability Act which replaces the Audit Commission.

This central action is not undertaken lightly, but localism requires local transparency, scrutiny and accountability, and these vital checks and balances must be upheld.”

Presumably Lutfur reckons Pickles and PwC are a bunch of racists too…

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chantler Ducks Miller ‘Smokescreen’ Allegation

Sir Cyril Chantler told the press conference at the Department of Health that he only found out at 5pm last night that his plain packaging review would be released today. Guido, and Lobby hacks, were told yesterday afternoon that it would not be published for sometime. Then suddenly it was rushed forward. Asked whether he thought he was a ‘smokescreen’ for Maria Miller, Chantler pointedly replied: “I am a paediatrician”. But, of course…

Maria Miller’s Plain Packs Smokescreen

Guido has constructed a news art-ifact to summarise the news flow today. How fortunate that the report into Maria Miller was published just as the government was about to make its big plain packs announcement.

WATCH: Maria Miller’s 31 Second Apology

There are 1.2 million reasons why she didn’t really mean it…

FLASHBACK: Tories Slam McNulty for Miller Style Expenses
“Brown has to get a grip on what his ministers are up to…”

David Cameron is said to have offered Maria Miller his ‘warm support’ this morning. Rewind to 2009 and the Tories were piling the pressure on Labour Minister Tony McNulty for claiming £60,000 for a home that his parents lived in. Bob Blackman, now an MP, said:

“It is extraordinary. I cannot see that it’s right to provide a home for your parents and ask the taxpayer to pay for it. I think he has badly let down the residents that he represents and I welcome them taking their revenge at the ballot box.”

Maria Miller has been moaning that her own investigation was political motivated because Labour grassed her; yet it was Tory MP Greg Hands (now a whip) who reported McNulty to John Lyon, then the Commissioner for Standards, saying arrangements must be “above reproach”. Look how cross he was then:

“I think Gordon Brown has to get a grip on what his ministers are up to. Sixty thousand pounds of taxpayers’ money has been claimed in expenses on Mr McNulty’s parents’ home in Harrow – clearly something has gone wrong here.”

McNulty lost his job and his seat. Miller has claimed £30,000 more than him and gets a slap on the wrist. “I have accepted the committee’s report in full and I will apologise”, she chuckled.

READ: Standards Committee Report into Maria Miller in Full

report

Click to read.

The Standards Committee report finds “We are concerned that Mrs Miller did not pay as close attention to the rules of the House”. Contrary to the rules Miller “increased the facility on her mortgage on at least two occasions without consulting the House”, and she is also found to have “not only claimed for the entire mortgage interest charged, but appears to have claimed slightly more than that interest.”

The report noted that “Miller’s interactions with House tends to show a pattern in which officials would press her for information”, Miller offered minimal information herself. Tellingly “most of Mrs Miller’s mortgage claims were justified”, but not all. “If the Commissioner had been able swiftly to establish the facts … this might have been a relatively minor matter” – Miller blocked it. Most damningly the Committee found “Mrs Miller has also breached the current Code of Conduct by her attitude to this inquiry.”

They warn that the “system relies” on MPs “responding to Commissioner’s inquiries fully and frankly, rather than trying to argue a case in a legalistic way… It should not have required our intervention to produce the material and explanations required to complete the investigation.”

She will make a personal statement to the House at midday…

It’s Miller Time – But Look Over There at Hunt

The Standards Committee report into Maria Miller is out at 11am, with the Culture Secretary expected to be ordered to repay £5,000 of the £90,000 she claimed in mortgage payments for a second home lived in by her parents. Labour minister Tony McNulty resigned in 2009 over a similar arrangement and Miller has so far offered no explanation for why she suddenly stopped claiming when the MPs expenses scandal broke. If it was legit at the time why stop?

Oh and she is briefing that she simply ‘forgot’ to change the morgage claims when there was a change in rates. Whoopsy daisy.

It’s the cover-up that makes this the real issue: Miller used her role in charge of press regulation to threaten journalists reporting the story. If as a Secretary of State she is also found to have failed to cooperate with the inquiry into her expenses, how does that not cross the line? And how clever to put out the Plain Packaging statement at the same time as the report.

See also: Maria Miller Sells Second Home for £1 Million Profit, Maria Miller Makes Six Figure Profit on Second Home, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, £90,000 Question for Maria Miller.

UPDATE:

What time was the decision made to rush out the plain packaging announcement to coincide with the Maria Miller report, and why?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hinduja Poachers Turn Passport Gamekeepers

The Home Office can certainly say their choice for the new international enquiry service, which will provide information about visa applications, has plenty of expertise. The “improved service”  to give people advice on going through the visa application process will be delivered by none other than the passport specialising Hinduja brothers’ company Hinduja Global Solutions. Poor Mandy’s phone isn’t going to stop ringing…

Evans: “It’s Amazing What Two Grown People Can Do on Sofas”

Today in court Nigel Evans denied sexually assaulting several alleged male victims, accusing the prosecution of trying to paint him as “a cross between Alan Clark, Oscar Wilde and Benny Hill”. Evans said he could not recall two alleged assaults that had taken place while he was drunk, also dismissing claims he put his hands down another man’s boxer shorts on his sofa as “affection”, arguing that “there was affection between us… As you can see from the texts that are available, [there are] kisses at the end of them”. On the alleged sofa incident, Evans said he was looking for:

“A reaction. Hopefully that he might turn around, that something might have happened, that the pass would be accepted and we might take that further in a direction which we both would be happy… It’s amazing what two grown people can do on sofas, Mr Heywood.”

He says he stopped at the man’s stomach. The case continues…

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pickles “Looking Very Closely” at Rahman Allegations

Tonight’s Panorama investigation into Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman alleged that he personally redirected £6 million worth of grants to projects of his choice, against the advice of council officers and with no explanation. Millions of pounds worth of grants were paid to projects involving the local Bengali, Bangladeshi and Somali communities, which Rahman relies on for re-election. Panorama also revealed the chief reporter of a UK-Bangladeshi TV channel censured by Ofcom for pro-Rahman bias is paid £50,000 a year by Rahman as an adviser. Rahman said it was “against his human rights” to be asked questions in a public meeting.

A source close to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles says of the allegations “we are looking at it very closely”. The most likely measure seems to be appointing an inspector to oversee how Tower Hamlets is run. He’ll be in for a treat…

See also: Loony Lutfur Calls Cops on “Racist” Panorama


Seen Elsewhere

Labour Was Too Slow for the Squeezed Middle | FT
Papers Pan Cam’s Immigration Pledge | ConHome
Deane of St Edmundsbury? | Times
Pay Volunteers and They Become Cheap Labour | Jill Kirby
UKIP Fundraiser Was Jailed for Running Brothels | Times
Bercow Faces Probe Over Pass Mystery | Mirror
Harman Breaks Rules on Paying Staff | Express
Labour Whinge About Sandi Toksvig Joke | Mail
BBC Boss Search in Disarray | Times
Tory Membership Set to Outstrip Labour | Staggers
Three Cheers for the David Brents | Ed Conway


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John McTernan told Channel 4 News

“You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, you don’t win in politics without breaking legs.”



Rob Wilson says:

Without Predujice

Darling

What time will dinner be ready this evening?

Yours

Rob Wilson MP

In the interests of me I am placing a copy of this email in the public domain.


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