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Lobbying watchdog chair says ‘there seem to be no boundaries’

A fourth inquiry has now been launched into the Greensill lobbying scandal as the government faces further questions over the “revolving door” with business today.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has said it intends to launch an inquiry into supply chain financing, which the under-firm was involved in.

Two other Commons committees have already said they are to examine issues arising from the collapse of Greensill Capital, and a separate probe that has been launched by Boris Johnson on the lobbying scandal.

It comes as Lord Pickles says he has “never really come across anything like this” before, after he heard details of a top civil servant Bill Crothers involvement with Greensill Capital.

The chairman of the Acoba committee, which vets the appointment of senior ministers and officials, told MPs this morning that the Mr Crothers case highlighted that it “is just not being clear where the boundaries lay” over commercial employment in Whitehall.

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‘We’re seeing a murkier and murkier picture’ – Starmer

The Labour leader has today claimed there is a “murkier and murkier” picture over the way government contracts are awarded.

Sir Keir Starmer: “What we are talking about here is lobbying of government for massive procurement contracts, involving millions and sometimes billions of pounds.

“Increasingly we are seeing a murkier and murkier picture, whether it’s the way contracts are handed out, the lack of due process or the lobbying which is not a revolving door, it’s an open door now into government.”

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 14:42

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Brexit: UK and EU identify 27 outstanding Northern Ireland-related issues

UK and EU officials have isolated 27 different issues in relation to Northern Ireland’s contested post-Brexit trade arrangements, Ireland’s foreign minister has confirmed.

Simon Coveney said some of the problems related to protocol implementation are more difficult than others and require political solutions, as he holds talks with Boris Johnson’s senior ministers in London on Thursday.

Adam Forrest reports

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 14:31

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NHS will have all the funding it needs – Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson said the Government will ensure the NHS has the funds it needs to tackle the build-up in waiting lists during the Covid pandemic.

Speaking during a visit to Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, the prime minister said: “We do need people to take up their appointments and to get the treatment that they need.

“We’re going to make sure that we give the NHS all the funding that it needs, as we have done throughout the pandemic, to beat the backlog.

“We’ve put about £92 billion already extra into the NHS this year and we’re going to do whatever it takes.

“But the NHS has done an incredible job so far. I’ve no doubt that they’re going to be able to tackle this as well.”

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 14:08

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Sturgeon pledges £2.5bn rise in NHS spending if re-elected

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled her party’s “transformational” manifesto, but said she could go further if Scotland was independent.

She outlined a £2.5bn increase in NHS spending in the next five years if her party is re-elected on 6 May, along with an £800m boost in social care funding.

NHS dentistry charges will be scrapped, at an initial cost of £75m a year and then rising to £100m annually as demand grows, and government-supported childcare will be expanded to one- and two-year-olds.

The rates of income tax will also be frozen over the next parliamentary term if Ms Sturgeon is re-elected, she promised.

She insisted the spending commitments in the manifesto – which total about £6bn – were affordable, saying they come in “slightly below” the central assumptions made for the Scottish Government’s budget for the coming years.

The First Minister, who in the coronavirus era launched the manifesto in an online event from her own dining room, said: “(The UK Government) are using their powers to take Scotland in the wrong direction and they are pressing the accelerator.

“This will make recovery more difficult as they hurtle towards a deeply damaging destination that few people in Scotland want.

“I look around Europe and I see independent countries, of similar size to us, that are among the wealthiest, fairest and happiest in the world.

“If Denmark and Norway and Ireland can do it, then with all our resources and talent, why not Scotland?”

However, Ms Sturgeon pledged she will not push for another referendum on independence until after the pandemic, saying: “That would be a dereliction of my duty as First Minister to dedicate all of my energies to leading us through the crisis.

“But it would also be a dereliction of my duty as First Minister – my duty to this and future generations – to let Westminster take Scotland so far in the wrong direction that we no longer have the option to change course.”

Jane Dalton15 April 2021 13:45

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Lobbying watchdog chair says ‘there seem to be no boundaries’ and system needs urgent reform

Lord Pickles said the public should be given a “full and frank and transparent explanation” of how a civil servant began working for Greensill as a part-time adviser. in a move approved by the Cabinet Office. Ashley Cowburn and Andrew Woodcock report:

Jane Dalton15 April 2021 13:19

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Brexit minister meets with Irish foreign affairs minister over NI protocol

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Lord Frost have met with Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney “as part of regular bilateral engagement”, Downing Street has confirmed.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will meet with Mr Coveney this afternoon, officials said.

Lord Frost is due to meet vice-president of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on Thursday evening.

“The meeting is part of an ongoing process with the EU to resolve outstanding differences on the Northern Ireland Protocol,” Number 10 said.

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 12:46

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SNP offers Scots up to £50,000 to move to the islands

Nicola Sturgeon will offer Scots up to £50,000 to move to the islands, as part of new plans set to be announced by the SNP to deal with rural population decline.

The scheme is set to be unveiled in the SNP’s manifesto launch on Thursday amid concerns over the island depopulation in Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides.

Adam Forrest has all the details

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 12:20

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Hundreds of British Gas engineers lose jobs in row over pay and conditions

Around 500 British Gas engineers have lost their jobs after refusing to sign new contracts which will cut pay while asking staff to work longer hours.

The GMB union condemned the “mass sackings” and alleged the new agreements would see pay reduced by 15 per cent.

Tom Batchelor reports

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 11:54

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We have strict rules in place on lobbying – Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer said today that Labour had “very strict rules in place” to ensure his own shadow cabinet ministers declared meetings with businesses and unions, as the furore over David Cameron’s lobbying for Greenshill Capital continued today.

He said: “We’ve got very strict rules in place for the shadow cabinet with declarations being made.

“What we’re talking about here is lobbying of Government for massive procurement contracts involving millions, sometimes billions, of pounds.

“Increasingly we’re seeing a murkier and murkier picture, whether it’s the way contracts are handed out, the lack of due process, or the lobbying which is not a revolving door but now an open door into Government.”

Asked if ministers should expect to be sacked if they failed to declare meetings with lobbyists, Sir Keir said: “I think it’s absolutely a sackable offence not to declare such meetings.”

Joe Middleton15 April 2021 11:41

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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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