Trending Boris Johnson’s “Lies” -10 million views and rising

Six opposition parties in the Commons are urging the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to allow a vote on an inquiry into Boris Johnson’s “consistent failure to be honest” in statements to MPs.

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 5 April

Dave’s “Not Dodgy”

Environment Secretary George Eustice defends ex-PM David Cameron over lobbying scandal…

(MP for Camborne and Redruth)

[No comment yet from Dave’s great pal Hugo? And is it just Dave or the whole party?- Owl]

Kate Ferguson www.thesun.co.uk 

A CABINET minister yesterday defended former PM David Cameron over the lobbying scandal.

Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted Mr Cameron had not “broken any rules”.

Mr Eustice told the BBC: “It is acceptable because people have worked within the rules.”

Mr Cameron is under fire for messaging Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for millions in Covid bailouts for finance company Greensill Capital.

Mr Eustice also defended Health Secretary Matt Hancock for having shares in his sister’s company which won NHS contracts.

He said: “There is nothing wrong with ministers having financial interests provided they declare them.”

Boris Johnson has ordered a lawyer-led review into the Greensill affair.

Meanwhile, a string of parliamentary inquiries have been set up into lobbying and second jobbing at the top of government.

But Mr Eustice downplayed talk of major reform.

He said it might be right to “consider tweaks to policy” but that, fundamentally, the system was a “pretty good one”.

But Labour’s Rachel Reeves said Mr Cameron had plunged his party into a fresh Tory sleaze scandal.

Shadow minister Steve Reed said the lobbying scandal was something “you would associate with a tinpot dictatorship”.

Boris Johnson says he agrees with Lord Pickles as more inquiries are launched over David Cameron Greensill scandal

NHS England chair faces demands to explain role in Greensill lobbying

The Conservative peer who chairs NHS England is facing demands to explain why he helped arrange for Greensill Capital to lobby senior health service bosses, with Labour describing his role as “shocking”.

Denis Campbell www.theguardian.com 

David Prior is facing questions over a meeting he organised between the now collapsed finance firm’s founder Lex Greensill and the overall boss of the NHS and its chief financial officer.

Lord Prior – a former Tory MP, health minister and Tory party deputy chair – also helped to facilitate a meeting at which Lex Greensill was able to lobby Lady Harding, the Tory peer who chairs NHS Improvement, the health service’s financial regulator.

That encounter led to Greensill being able to meet the chief executives of a number of NHS hospital trusts whose support he was seeking for a scheme to let the NHS’s 1.4m staff in England be paid daily by Greensill, via an app called Earnd, rather than monthly in what Labour said was a latter-day “junk bonds” exercise.

Harding is best known as the boss of the government’s heavily-criticised £37bn test and trace programme.

Calls for clarity about Prior’s involvement with Greensill come amid continuing controversy about the roles played by David Cameron, the former prime minister, who was a lobbyist for and senior figure at the firm, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, who backed the payments system it wanted to introduce across the health service.

Cameron has been under fire for weeks for lobbying an array of ministers and civil servants, both for Greensill to be able to access emergency government funding during the Covid pandemic and for the NHS to adopt the scheme involving health service pay.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Shockingly, meetings were convened by NHS England chair and former Cameron health minister Lord Prior with senior NHS officials, and fellow Tory peer and NHS leader Dido Harding facilitated further meetings with Trust chief executives.

“Trusts may have spent valuable time considering the adoption of this untested scheme and did so because the secretary of the state and the most senior NHS figures succumbed to Cameron and Greensill’s lobbying.”

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on health, said: “Conservative party cronyism must not be allowed to interfere with the daily running of the NHS. I expect all details of Lord Prior’s engagement with Lex Greensill to be made public, allowing proper scrutiny to take place.”

The Sunday Times disclosed how Prior arranged for Lex Greensill and his close colleague Bill Crowther, an ex-head of government procurement under Cameron, to meet Julian Kelly, NHS England’s chief financial officer, in July 2019 at a meeting which Sir Simon Stevens – the service’s chief executive – attended for 15 minutes at the peer’s request.

Ashworth added: “We now need to know how many NHS leaders and officials did Cameron and Greensill lobby? How many NHS trusts in total were approached about a scheme that was really a form of usury?”

NHS England declined to say who had asked Prior to arrange access for Greensill. It is thought that he was approached by senior figures at the firm whom he knew from his days working in the City.

Hancock is already under scrutiny for having a drink with Cameron and Greensill, who was an adviser to Cameron when he was prime minister of the coalition government of 2010-15.

The Sunday Times published an email that Cameron sent to Matthew Gould, the chief executive of NHSX, the health service’s digital innovation agency, seeking his help in ensuring that Greensill’s company, in the event of a deal, could access the personal details of NHS workers held in the service’s Electronic Staff Record. Gould replied that “we will certainly look into the ESR question”.

The Guardian asked the Department of Health and Social Care if Hancock had approached Prior or Harding before their respective engagements with Greensill. But it refused to answer and suggested we submit a freedom of information request to pursue that information.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “The wellbeing of NHS staff is the top priority of the department and health secretary.

“Our approach was and is that local NHS employers are best placed to decide how different pay flexibilities fit with their overall pay and reward offer for their staff.”

Dr John Puntis, the co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, which campaigns against NHS privatisation, said: “Prior, Harding and Stevens are all concerned with promoting a digital transformation of the NHS on the unevidenced and highly dubious basis that it will save money and improve care.”

A spokesperson for NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “NHS England and NHS Improvement experts scrutinised these proposals but decided not to go along with them. Had these ideas been taken forward by NHSEI, there would have been a transparent and open procurement process.”

NHS England did not respond when asked why Prior arranged for Greensill and Crowther to meet Kelly and what contact if any Prior had with Hancock, Cameron, Greensill or Crowther before fixing the meeting with Kelly. They also did not respond to a request to disclose details of all relevant communications.

‘Architect of austerity’ used Greensill jets to travel to £120k an hour speaking gigs

David Cameron used private jets owned by Greensill Capital to fly around the world for speaking engagements, the Financial Times has revealed.

www.thelondoneconomic.com 

The former Prime Minister, known as the architect of austerity, would frequently use the “plushy furnished aeroplanes” to travel around the world.

According to the reports he charged at least £120,000 an hour for speaking engagements, a handsome sum which has stuck in the craw of many people on social media this weekend.

Austerity in Britain

Cameron and chancellor George Osborne popularised austerity in Britain after coming to power in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party forum in Cheltenham on 26 April 2009 Cameron declared that “the age of irresponsibility is giving way to the age of austerity” and committed to end years of what he characterised as excessive government spending.

The austerity programme included reductions in welfare spending, the cancellation of school building programs, reductions in local government funding, and an increase in VAT.

Spending on the police, courts and prisons was also reduced.

The Housing Guarantee

A new report by the centre right think tank finds, once again, that the large developers “land bank” and control the “build out” rate so as not to disturb the market price. For example, the six biggest house builders alone currently have roughly 1 million plots in their strategic land banks, nearly the equivalent of the target supply across England over the next five years. 

Question is what to do about it? – Owl

Alex Morton www.cps.org.uk

Since the 1960s, housing supply has fallen steadily each decade, and that attempts to fix this have mostly focused on increasing the number of planning permissions flowing through the system. However, while the 2010 planning reforms led to permissions rising to over 350,000, the number of new homes actually built was just over 200,000.

A new report by the Centre for Policy Studies calls for changes to the planning system to open up the market and allow better access for small and medium sized companies and to diversify the housing supply.

As highlighted in The Housing Guaranteeout today, the top 10 house builders currently build 40% of all new homes, with the top six controlling around 33% of the market. Facing challenges to obtain land, smaller builders face being squeezed out of the system – falling from building around 40% of homes in the 1980s to around 10% now.

The six biggest house builders alone currently have roughly 1 million plots in their strategic land banks, nearly the equivalent of the target supply across England over the next five years.

The report sets out three key reforms that the think tank argues must be made to address the systemic failures in the current system and support delivery of more homes:

–        Changing permissions to delivery contracts based on an agreed timeline. Where house builders cannot deliver this, they would have to pass the land on at an agreed price to local SMEs. This would mean as land came forward for development, it was actually translated into new homes.

–    A renewed emphasis on the Housing Delivery Test, ensuring councils are assessed on the basis of numbers of homes built, not on planning permissions granted – and are penalised if they are not delivering for their community. This would increase not just the number of homes built, but their speed, diversity and quality.

–    Introducing panels of local house builder SMEs that public sector land is sold to, with challenging delivery targets to ensure the quality and diversity of local housing supply, and support competition within the sector.

Over time, these reforms would modernise the new build housing market, making it more transparent, and ensure the flow of land actually turns into new homes via a clear and obvious build-out trajectory. It would mean a higher delivery of housing and a greater role for SMEs as well as higher overall supply. 

Cameron lobbied for access to NHS data at peak of first virus wave

David Cameron lobbied the NHS for access to doctors’ and nurses’ personal data weeks into the coronavirus pandemic.

By Redrow Homes www.thelondoneconomic.com 

The revelations, published in the Sunday Times, throw fresh scrutiny on the former prime minister’s work for the controversial financier Lex Greensill.

Cameron, 54, is embroiled in a ballooning lobbying scandal, after it emerged that he urged ministers to give collapsed lender Greensill Capital access to Covid-19 loan schemes.

An email, published by the newspaper, reveals that Cameron also sought to exploit the pandemic to promote a Greensill payment scheme which he claimed would “help all NHS employees’ welfare, morale and wellbeing”.

Cameron had been lobbying for the product, a new app called Earnd, for six months with little success, with take-up by NHS hospital trusts and staff minimal.

On 23 April, as Boris Johnson was recovering from Covid-19 and the NHS struggle to cope with 700 daily virus deaths, Cameron sent an email to Matthew Gould, the head of NHSX – the digital arm of the health service.

He told Gould, 49, that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was “extremely positive” about Greensill’s “innovative” proposal to pay NHS staff daily advances on their salaries through Earnd.

Cameron – who helped millions in share options with Greensill – had already brought the Australian to lobby Hancock over drinks.

In the email, the ex-Tory leader revealed his “ask”; Greensill’s app would be “much slicker if it can obtain access to employee data in ESR” – referencing the Electronic Staff Record, which holds information on 1.4 million key workers.

Earnd, he told Gould, “addresses one of your key priorities: helping all NHS employees’ welfare, morale and wellbeing”. 

He added: “This is of such potential importance in contributing to the priority of doing all we can to help NHS employees at the current time… I think some help from you would go a long way.” 

The email introduced Gould to Bill Crothers, a Greensill director who had run government procurement under Cameron.

“Finally, and importantly,” Cameron signed off, ‘once this is all over, it would be great to see you again — maybe for lunch? Let’s stay in touch!”

In response Gould – who also served under Cameron and was a school friend of George Osborne – said he would “certainly look into the ESR question”.

Earnd eventually entered a contract with ESR to supply software that would use the personal details of NHS staff, to allow claims for early payment to be verified – and signed a deal with a firm co-owned by Hancock’s department to roll the app out to “all” NHS organisations.

But just 450 people signed up, despite the deal giving Earnd access to the records of as many as 400,000 people.

Greensill went bust last month, putting 50,000 jobs at risk globally, including 5,000 in the UK. The Earnd app also filed for administration, owning at least £400,000 to NHS-affiliated groups. 

A spokesman for Cameron said: “These discussions were about the mechanics to ensure Earnd was delivered for NHS workers in a smooth and efficient way.” A Greensill family representative added Earnd was never supposed to make a profit from the NHS: “Lex is devastated that the Earnd project didn’t succeed.”