Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick failed to disclose a meeting set up by Conservative lobbying forum, breaching government-transparency rules

They don’t like transparency, do they! – Owl

  • Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick failed to disclose a meeting with members of the housing industry.
  • The meeting was set up by The Enterprise Forum, a Conservative lobbying forum.
  • Government rules say ministers’ meetings with external organisations must be disclosed.

Henry Dyer news.yahoo.com

Boris Johnson’s housing secretary failed to disclose a meeting with representatives of the housing industry set up by a top Conservative lobbying forum, Insider can reveal.

Official transparency records published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government contain no detail of such meeting attended by Robert Jenrick, the department’s top minister.

But social media posts by The Enterprise Forum, the lobbying group that set up and attended the meeting, and other attendees show that Jenrick spoke with representatives of the housing industry on March 23 via video call.

Jenrick gave a speech on “the government’s priorities on planning, local infrastructure and housing” before taking questions from attendees.

One attendee said Jenrick set “a new record for how many questions a speaker got through during this roundtable session.” Another attendee said how Jenrick “agreed to engage with our industry” on a matter they had raised in the Q&A.

The Ministerial Code is clear that “Departments will publish quarterly, details of Ministers’ external meetings.”

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by The Enterprise Forum or any other attendees.

Members of the Enterprise Forum can pay more than £2,500 per year for access to meetings set up by the group.

‘Administrative error’

The government say the failure to declare the meeting was an “administrative error.”

A government spokesperson told Insider: “The Secretary of State met with The Enterprise Forum on 23rd March 2021, where he delivered a speech on the Government’s future plans on planning, local infrastructure and housing.

“The transparency return was not declared at the time due to an administrative error by the department, however we are currently working on rectifying this issue and the meeting will be reflected in due course.”

In November 2019, Jenrick had also failed to declare a meeting with a housing-scheme developer, Richard Desmond, who lobbied Jenrick over dinner to fast-track his scheme’s application to save him £50 million.

Other so-called administrative errors by the Department of Health and Social Care saw 27 meetings by a health minister go undeclared for more than a year, Byline Times reported in June.

‘The rules on lobbying are seriously broken’

Susan Hawley, executive director at Spotlight on Corruption, told Insider that there needed to be powers to sanction departments for failing to disclose lobbying meetings.

“There is increasing consensus that the rules on lobbying are seriously broken, and that this is exacerbated by departments abjectly failing to disclose accurate and timely information about who is lobbying who and about what. This is seriously undermining trust and confidence in politicians,” she said.

“Serious consideration needs to be given to an independent regulator to oversee lobbying, with power to impose sanctions on departments for failing to disclose information properly. It should not be left to investigative journalists to ferret out this information, as valuable as that is.”

Rose Whiffen, research officer at Transparency International UK, told Insider that compliance with transparency rules can be “patchy.”

“It is commonplace for government to discuss policy ideas with outside interests, but there should always be full transparency over who gets access to – and potential influence over – decision makers. Ministers are supposed to declare any discussion concerning official business, but compliance can be patchy,” she said.

“There needs to be a comprehensive and consistent approach to transparency declarations across government. The body responsible for ensuring these rules are followed, the Independent Advisor on Ministerial Interests, should be given the power and resources to proactively investigate any failure to comply.”

Devon and Cornwall daily Covid infections still in thousands

More than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the space of two days across Devon and Cornwall, but new infections have started to decrease.

“Enhance your response” (whatever that means) – Owl

Edward Church www.cornwalllive.com

In the wake of an unprecedented surge in cases in the two counties which played host to thousands of extra tourists, as well as several festivals, in recent weeks – it remains to be seen if this trend will continue.

Saturday’s figures showed 1,143 new coronavirus cases across the two counties, with 443 in Cornwall, 68 in East Devon, 71 in Exeter, 43 in Mid Devon, 40 in North Devon, 221 in Plymouth, 57 in South Hams, 65 in Teignbridge, 66 in Torbay, 31 in Torridge, 38 in West Devon.

And today (August 29), 1,099 new cases were reported – 369 in Cornwall, 65 in East Devon, 52 in Exeter, 76 in Mid Devon, 82 in North Devon, 190 in Plymouth, 51 in South Hams, 77 in Teignbridge, 89 in Torbay, 34 in Torridge and 14 in West Devon.

While these figures are high, this follows a trend of the week-on-week total of infections beginning to fall.

For five days in a row, the total has decreased across Devon and Cornwall. For Devon alone, this has happened six days in a row now.

Cluster data published on Saturday (August 28) showed seven-day infections still at their worst in Newquay for the week up to August 23, which you can read about here. Having hosted of some 50,000 extra people from Boardmasters Festival, the town remains the Covid hotspot of the UK.

The effect of Boardmasters on the figures is expected to fall in the coming days and weeks.

However, both Devon and Cornwall – including busy tourist town Newquay – have been visited by thousands of extra tourists this bank holiday weekend. The effect of this will be seen in the next week or so.

The majority of new infections have been in the younger age groups – possibly skewed by Boardmasters.

Despite the fall in infections, Devon and Cornwall are still being handed ‘enhanced’ measures to combat Covid. You can read more about what that means here.

As well as this, tourists bosses in Cornwall have told visitors to put off their stay in the county unless they’ve tested negative for the virus.

The vaccine has helped keep hospitalisations and Covid-related deaths low.

Accurate to Friday (August 27), of the adult population, 78.8% in Cornwall, 83.2% in East Devon, 67.9% in Exeter, 81.6% in Mid Devon, 81.3% in North Devon, 73.8% in Plymouth, 80.2% in South Hams, 82.8% in Teignbridge, 78.3% in Torbay, 81.9% in Torridge and 83.4% in West Devon, have had a second dose of a vaccine.

However, while the numbers have come down – some people are still dying with the virus.

As Friday, there had been Devon 12 deaths with Covid in the past seven days, as well as seven in Cornwall, six in Plymouth, and five in Torbay.

Boris Johnson is warning Devon and Cornwall to ‘act responsibility’, but his policies left us in this mess

Wealthy London townies think they are so clever. Stick a Devon or Kernow bumper sticker on their shiny new Range Rovers and us bumpkins on the peninsula will not have a clue you’re a grockle.

By David Parsley inews.co.uk

We’re wise to that one in these parts. See a flash car with a local green and white or black and white flag on the back, and we know that’s almost certainly a second homeowner bringing Covid down with them.

We may be the playground for the rich, but the region feels entirely neglected by those politicians that love to frolic among their loaded business friends down here. 

On Friday night health minister Nadine Dorries told local MPs the counties would become an “enhanced response area”. She instructed locals to wear masks and socially distance, while at the same time claiming this did not constitute Covid restrictions. School pupils are likely to be forced to wear masks at school from this week. The hospitals are limiting visiting times and allowing just one relative in at a time. Those sound like restrictions to me, minister.

Before the summer the south-west peninsula had done a remarkable job containing Covid, consistently showing the lowest rates of anywhere in England. Now it’s been put in special measures.

The feeling down here is that we were doing just fine before Boris Johnson insisted on bringing world leaders and 20,000 hangers-on down to Carbis Bay in Cornwall. Following the G7 Summit in June, rates around the areas where Johnson enjoyed a non-socially distanced barbecue with the likes of Presidents Biden, Marcon and Chancellor Merkel rocketed by more than 4,000 per cent. 

Downing Street ordered a Covid risk assessment before that summit, but for some reason it is not keen to share it. I know as I have asked No 10 to produce it on three occasions. Each request has been refused. 

Of course, we will never be sure unless No 10 is forced to publish it, but many may believe its reluctance to do so is because it contained a warning of a sharp rise in Covid cases as a result of the global leaders’ shindig. 

G7 was part one of what is turning out to be a miserable summer for both Devon and Cornwall.

Instead of sticking to the mask wearing and social distancing advice, Johnson went in the opposite direction. He permitted 53,000 largely unvaccinated young adults to mosh together at the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Newquay earlier this month. 

Not only has this event been linked directly to at least 5,000 Covid cases in Cornwall alone, Public Health England is understood to be investigating whether it has led to a new strain of the more potent Delta variant. Just in time to infect the half a million or so young revellers at this weekend’s festivals such as those at Leeds and Reading. 

As Professor John Drury – one of the Government’s most senior scientific advisors – has told i: “The Government has basically said ‘it’s safe now, it’s fine, you’re not going to die’. The problem is of course that 100 people a day are dying.” 

There’s little doubt down here that Johnson’s determination to unlock has led to Devon and Cornwall’s under resourced health services being stretched to such a level that the army has been called in to help the ambulance service cope. 

Of the mere four main hospitals serving the 1.3 million residents – you can double that in the summer – Cornwall’s only A&E department in Truro is on black alert and people are being begged to call 999 only if we believe it’s a genuine emergency.

In her letter to local MPs on Friday – via which the additional Covid measures were announced rather than to directly to local people – Dorries wrote that Johnson was giving us five weeks to “act responsibly” or face “further restrictions”.

We have been acting responsibly, Prime Minister. We aren’t the ones who gave permission for 20,000 people from all over the world to descend on Carbis Bay for the G7 Summit or thought it was a good idea to infect as many unvaccinated young people as we possibly could in Newquay.

We didn’t unlock the entire country, end all Covid-precautions, or push our health services beyond breaking point. We didn’t do that Mr Johnson. You did.

‘Merry’ Michael Gove seen dancing ‘alone’ in Aberdeen nightclub

Arms aloft, suit jacket on, Michael Gove has been filmed giving it his all in an Aberdeen nightclub after reportedly trying to avoid a £5 entrance fee by stating that he was the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Rajeev Syal www.theguardian.com 

Footage of the recently separated former Vote Leave supremo throwing shapes at 1.15am at Bohemia nightclub circulated on the internet on Sunday. His hands flailed wildly, and occasionally swung in time to the music, in the clip filmed by a fellow clubber. Friends of Gove denied that he had attempted to avoid paying.

The 54-year-old cabinet minister, who grew up in Aberdeen, was on a trip to see family when he apparently walked into O’Neill’s bar at 1.15am. After last orders were called, Gove was urged by drinkers to join them upstairs at the club Bohemia, where he reportedly stayed until at least 2.30am.

The club night, called Pipe, was described as “an unpredictable mix of the most high-energy UK and global club music scenes”. Adam Taylor, the manager of Pipe, told the Daily Record newspaper that Gove, who had been drinking downstairs, tried to walk past him without paying the entry fee.

“He was saying he shouldn’t have to pay because he is the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I told him that my co-manager, Nina Stanger, was upstairs playing Jungle and going hard. Michael said, ‘I love dancing’ – and did he ever.”

One witness claimed Gove was there by himself. Singer Emma Lament, 30, who had performed an acoustic set earlier in the night, said she “couldn’t believe what she was seeing” when the “merry” MP “rocked up” just before closing time.

She told the Record: “I’m almost sure he was by himself. I heard people saying, ‘He’s a Tory MP.’ Others asked ‘Who’s Michael Gove?’ and were Googling him.” She said Gove was still there at 2.30am, adding: “He really was enjoying himself, I don’t think he left the dance floor the whole time I was there.”

The footage emerged just as the cabinet minister was being tipped to replace Dominic Raab as foreign secretary in a reshuffle later this year or in early 2022.

Gove and the journalist Sarah Vine announced their separation two months ago after 20 years of marriage and are in the process of getting divorced. The pair said they remained close friends and would continue supporting their two children.

A friend of Gove’s confirmed that he had been to the nightclub, but said claims he attempted to avoid paying were not recognised. “He loves Aberdeen and its nightlife,” the friend said.

A statement from the Pipe club said: “Thanks to all the amazing people, and Michael Gove, who made it out for the first Pipe last night. We had a great time going in for four hours straight. Definitely blew some cobwebs away.”