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Starmer says ‘sleaze at heart of government’

MPs have today confirmed a second full inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal as the government faces further questions over the ‘revolving door’ with business.

The fresh inquiry will be held by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Tory chairman William Wragg said this morning.

It follows the Treasury Select Committee announcing an inquiry into lobbying yesterday, which is in addition to a separate probe that has been launched by Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, David Cameron says he will “respond positively” to any request to give evidence to MPs about his lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital.

Furious Tory MPs yesterday branded the former prime minister’s actions “tasteless” after he was found to have sent text messages and emails to ministers in an effort to exert influence within government on behalf of the since-collapsed financial services company.

Labour had pushed for a full parliamentary inquiry into allegations of lobbying, but MPs rejected the plan yesterday in the House of Commons.

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Public should be given ‘full and frank’ explanation of Bill Crothers case – Lord Pickles

The public should be given a “full and frank” explanation as to how a top civil servant was allowed to work as a part-time adviser at Greensill Capital while still in Whitehall, according to Lord Pickles.

The chairman of the committee which vets the appointment of senior ministers and officials told MPs the Bill Crothers case highlighted “a number of anomalies within the system”, and that his was not an “isolated” situation.

Mr Crothers, a former head of Government procurement, began working for Greensill as a part-time adviser to the board in September 2015 – in a move approved by the Cabinet Office – and did not leave his Civil Service role until November that year.

Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) chairman Lord Pickles said the public was “entitled” to know the arrangements for second roles being approved by the Cabinet Office, such as in Mr Crothers’ example.

“I mean, if Mr Crothers had decided he wanted to have a milk round or something, I don’t think we would be terribly worried,” he told the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).

“But his particular position, in terms of running procurement and working for a commercial organisation, is something that does require a full and frank and transparent explanation.”

(PA)

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 11:19

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Ousted Myanmar ambassador calls for UK government help

The ousted Myanmar ambassador to the UK has pleaded with the British Government for help as he faced eviction from his London residence.

Kyaw Zwar Minn said he “needed to be careful” following the seizure of the embassy by a military attache, which had come “without warning”.

The former diplomat had called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s elected leader, who was detained after the military seized power in a coup on February 1.

Mr Minn was forced to spend a night in his car last week after junta loyalists barred him from the embassy in Mayfair, central London.

Speaking to reporters from behind the padlocked gates of his residence in Hampstead, north-west London, on Thursday, and asked what he would do over the next few days, Mr Minn replied: “Who can tell? The last time they seized the embassy without warning, so I need to be careful.”

Addressing the UK Government directly, he said: “Help me, help me, help me,” adding that he would give a more detailed response on Friday.

The UK has made an offer of safe haven to the former ambassador, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the “bullying” Myanmar regime for its response.

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 11:05

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Lord Pickles interrupted by digital assistant while talking to MPs

Lord Pickles got into a spot of bother familiar to many Brits who have been stuck working from home during the Covid pandemic.

Many things can go wrong when working remotely on Zoom; from the kids causing chaos, to forgetting to turn yourself off mute when speaking or shoddy broadband.

However Lord Pickles added to the list of home-working gaffes by accidentally getting his digital assistant to speak up for him while he was answering questions for the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) this morning.

While talking, Lord Pickles automated fact-finder told MPs: “Hmmm I don’t know that one.” Fortunately the interruption was a bit of light relief amid the serious topics being discussed this morning…

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 10:46

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Public ‘entitled to know’ arrangements for civil service second jobs – Lord Pickles

Acoba chairman Lord Pickles is giving evidence to the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) this morning.

Among other things, he is being asked about the revelation that Bill Crothers, a former head of Government procurement, began working for Greensill as a part-time adviser to the board in September 2015 and did not leave his Whitehall job until November that year.

He said that the public was “entitled” to know the arrangements for second roles being approved by the Cabinet Office, as with the Bill Crothers case.

“I would expect it to be recorded in a register, I would have expected that register to be transparent, I would have expected the rules to be known,” he told MPs on PACAC.

“So far as I know, the rules have never been published, therefore I have asked them to publish the rules – this is not a satisfactory situation.

“And I think, not only you are entitled to know or I am entitled to know, I think the wider public are entitled to know what these arrangements are, how they apply, what criteria is raised, what checks are raised, what conditions are made on an agreement to do so.”

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 10:27

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Ministers ‘to ban buying pets with cash’ to curb dog thefts

Ministers are planning to ban the purchase of pets with cash in an attempt to reverse a rise in dog thefts during lockdown, it has been reported.

Officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs tasked with sketching out new legislation had found inspiration in an existing ban on selling scrap metal for cash, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Jon Sharman has the details

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 10:18

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Britons in their 30s set to receive Covid vaccine from second half of May

Meanwhile, away from Westminster, there is further good news on the vaccine rollout as people in their 30s could soon be getting jabbed from mid-May.

In England, people aged 45 to 49 have been invited to book their coronavirus vaccine appointment, with all adults to be offered the jab in decreasing age order before the end of July.

Based on current vaccination rates, those aged 35 to 39 could start getting vaccinated before the end of May.

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 09:57

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Another MPs inquiry into lobbying has been launched…

A further inquiry into the Greensill scandal will be undertaken by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Tory chair William Wragg has confirmed this morning.

It follows yesterday’s announcement that the Treasury Select Committee said it will investigate the response of ministers when dealing with contact from Mr Cameron.

Mr Wragg blasted the former PM in the House of Commons yesterday, calling his behaviour “tasteless, slapdash and unbecoming.”

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 09:43

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David Cameron indicates he could give evidence to MPs’ inquiry into Greensill lobbying

David Cameron has said he will ‘respond positively’ if he is asked to answer questions from MP about Greensill Capital.

Mr Cameron, who joined Greensill Capital in a paid role as special adviser in 2018, two years after leaving No 10, was found to have sent text messages and emails to ministers, including the chancellor Rishi Sunak, in an effort to exert influence within government.

The Independent’s political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the details

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 09:27

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David Cameron’s reputation ‘damaged’ by Greensill scandal, says former attorney general

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve appeared on Good Morning Britain this morning to discuss the fall-out from revelations David Cameron sent emails and text messages to try and influence government ministers.

Mr Grieve said: “On the face of it it doesn’t appear to me David Cameron has broken any rules at all but his reputation has been damaged because he has been seen to be associated with a company that also seems to have very close links to government, which have been rather unusual.”

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 09:03

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Government ‘told vaccine passports could be unlawful by rights watchdog’

The government has reportedly been warned by its own equalities watchdog that “vaccine passports” could be discriminatory.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is understood to have told the Cabinet Office that any sort of requirement to produce vaccine documents to enter a public place such as a bar, would create a “two-tier society” in the UK.

Vincent Wood has all the details

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 08:48

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