Swire currently in Lebanon talking up our military involvement in the country

“The press office of Prime Minister-deisgnate, Saad Hariri, on Thursday indicated that the PM received today at the Center House a British delegation from the Conservative Middle East Council CMEC, in the presence of the British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling.

The Chairman of CMEC Sir Hugo Swire said after the meeting:

“This is the second day of our trip to Lebanon. We had a series of interesting meetings. We started today by meeting with the head of the army general Aoun and we were able to talk about the assistance that the United Kingdom is bringing to the Lebanese military. We had an extremely good meeting with the president as well this morning, and then with Speaker Berri, to learn more about the political situation. We just met with Prime Minister Hariri, who was able to talk not only about domestic matters but also about the wider regional challenges for the country and how the United kingdom can do more, particularly in fulfilling some of his ambitions in terms of revitalizing the economy and the infrastructure.

We believe the United Kingdom can do a lot more in that prospect. We are already helping hugely on training the military, on an education program which is coming under a lot of challenge because of the Syrian refugees issue, but we want to do more now on the commercial side as well to make sure that all the people of this country prosper and play a part in the future.”


Report that Randall-Johnson was with Swire and Minister of Health at Ottery St Mary

“If you thought Health Secretary Matt Hancock was a safe pair of hands for the NHS after Jeremy Hunt think again. Comedy antics ensued when the Hancock turned up at Ottery hospital. First he hid, then he hurried.

Matt may well have been doing a favour for a rich mate, East Devon money-bags MP Hugo Swire, but at what price, making him appear a hapless lacky to East Devon’s Tory elite.

Hugo by-passed the Department of Health to take Matt hospital surfing. They went to Budleigh Salterton Hospital, before popping into in Ottery.

East Devon Councillor and Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee Councillor Claire Wright was on hand, along with some residents, to ask the Health Secretary some questions.

Unfortunately, he was holed up solely with a number of East Devon Tories, including Sara Randall Johnson, chair of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee. East Devon MP, Mr Swire and his aides were also present.

Have a read of Claire’s account. It certainly seems weird, so does the behaviour of the communication people of the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.

‘Why was he so frightened about talking to a dozen residents, and the local county councillor?’ asks Claire.

‘I had been quite encouraged that he was visiting the hospital and wanted to hear from him that he will protect Ottery’s and other hospitals. After all, Mr Hancock commands the NHS and also NHS Property Services, which now owns many hospital buildings in the area.

‘They are all at risk of possible closure and sell-off due to the lack of funding available to pay the enormous rents NHS Property Services demands.

‘But his cowardly escape bid simply gave the impression of a man who does not wish to be even remotely accountable.’

But that’s not all. Here’s the response of an East Devon constituent, as posted by Channel 5 News Health Correspondent Catherine Jones (check out the picture).

[There follow many hilarious comments on Swire’s justification for his actions and a You Tube video of Hancock doing a karaoke version of “Can’t Stop Me Now]


“Government accused of covering up schools cuts with misleading figures”

“The government has been accused of attempting to cover up school budget cuts in England, after the UK’s statistics watchdog said it would investigate ministers’ use of spending figures that included private school fees to fend off criticism.

The UK Statistics Authority said it had received complaints about a recent claim, made by the Department for Education and the schools standards minister, Nick Gibb, that the UK’s spending on education was the third highest in the world.

But the claim, based on OECD figures, was revealed by the BBC to include university student tuition loans as well as the fees paid by private school pupils, which fall outside the DfE’s budget.

The department also faces scrutiny over its continued use of a claim that there are 1.9 million more children in schools rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding than at the time of the 2010 election.

“The UK Statistics Authority and the Office for Statistics Regulation are investigating the concerns raised, and will publish their findings shortly,” a spokesperson for the regulator said.

Last Friday saw a protest by more than 2,000 headteachers over school funding cuts in England. In response, the DfE defended its record, and included the statement: “The OECD has recently confirmed that the UK is the third highest spender on education in the world, spending more per pupil than countries including Germany, Australia and Japan.”

Gibb later repeated the same claim during an interview on the BBC, and the DfE published the statement in a blog on its website.

But the OECD data was comparing education spending as a percentage of national output, and included government spending in England and elsewhere along with university tuition loans for students as well as fees paid by pupils at private schools.

The OECD figures also include government spending on education in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which in most cases is devolved to national assemblies in those countries and is not counted within the DfE’s budget.

Jules White, the headteacher of a secondary school in West Sussex who helped organise last Friday’s protest, said the DfE was attempting to cover up the “savage cuts that have been made to school budgets” .

“At every stage, the government and Department for Education has refused to acknowledge an overwhelming independent body of evidence which clearly confirms that the cuts have gone too far,” White said.

“Ministers have now been caught out and we appeal to them to stop the pattern of using dreadfully misleading information which is unfair to educational professionals and most crucially to parents and pupils.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has estimated that funding per pupil in England fell by 8% between 2010 and 2018, with 66,000 more children in state schools this year than the year before but with 5,000 fewer teachers. …”


6th richest country in the world: “Nearly 1 In 10 School Staff Are Bringing In Food, Tampons And Pens For Children In Need”

“Stories about teachers paying out of their own pocket for student’s food and teaching materials, are nothing new, but a study has now shown the extent of the practice in UK schools in 2018.

More than 50 per cent of classroom-based support staff have revealed they are spending their own money on items for children at school, ranging from tampons and toilet paper to pens, pencils, books, and toys for break time.

And nearly one in 10 said they were forced to bring in food from home to feed hungry children: many reported seeing pupils attending school without having eaten breakfast, or without any money for food at break times. …”


6th richest country in the world: “Fuel bills and council tax pushing people into debt the fastest – charity warns “concerning” bill rises are ruining lives”

“A debt help charity is seeing growing numbers of people falling behind with fuel bills and a resurgence in the proportion of clients with high-cost credit such as payday loans.

StepChange Debt Charity said the proportion of clients in arrears with council tax is also “stubbornly high”.

In the first half of 2018, 13.1% of all new clients were behind on a gas or electricity bill compared with 11.4% in the first half of 2017.

The charity said the increase coincides with some companies having already raised prices this year.

While some customers could potentially reduce their bills by switching, those facing financial difficulty may be nervous of the complexity of price tariffs and wary of being caught out and put in an even worse financial position, StepChange said.

It wants more utility providers to establish flexible repayment schemes, as well as sharing effective good practice on working with people who are struggling to pay to minimise their costs. …”