Investigation launched into appointment process of BBC chairman after Boris Johnson loan claim

More on “one of our (multi-millionaire) chums” – Owl

An investigation will be launched into the appointment of the BBC chairman following reports he helped Boris Johnson secure a loan.

Faye Brown news.sky.com 

William Shawcross, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, said he would review the competition which led to Richard Sharp’s appointment while Mr Johnson was prime minister.

He made the announcement in response to a request from shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell.

He said: “The role of the commissioner is to oversee the public appointments process and ensure appointments are made fairly, openly and on merit.

“I intend to review this competition to assure myself and the public that the process was run in compliance with the government’s governance code for public appointments.”

The Sunday Times reported Mr Sharp was involved in arranging a guarantor on a loan of up to £800,000 for Mr Johnson in late 2020, and that the then-prime minister went on to recommend him for the top job at the BBC.

The government’s paymaster general, Jeremy Quin, told the Commons on Monday Mr Sharp went through an “incredibly robust process” by an independent panel ahead of his appointment and is “absolutely confident” the “usual process” will have been followed.

But the SNP’s John Nicholson, who was on the Culture Select Committee Mr Sharp appeared in front of, said it was “all a bit banana republic” after he said they “grilled him about his £400,000 gift to the Conservative Party”.

“However, he did not disclose his role in getting the man appointing him a huge loan,” Mr Nicholson told the Commons.

Earlier on Monday, the chairman asked for the BBC to review any potential conflicts of interest he may currently have to ensure that “all appropriate guidelines have been followed” since he joined the broadcaster.

“We have many challenges at the BBC and I know that distractions such as this are not welcome,” he said in a statement read out on BBC News.

The review will not look at his links to Mr Johnson’s loan, but in a letter to BBC staff, Mr Sharp clarified some of the details surrounding the Sunday Times report.

He confirmed he introduced multimillionaire Canadian businessman Sam Blyth to cabinet secretary Simon Case “as Sam wanted to support Boris Johnson”.

“I was not involved in making a loan, or arranging a guarantee, and I did not arrange any financing. What I did do was to seek an introduction of Sam Blyth to the relevant official in government,” he said.

“Sam Blyth, who I have known for more than forty years, lives in London and having become aware of the financial pressures on the then-prime minister, and being a successful entrepreneur, he told me he wanted to explore whether he could assist.”

Mr Blyth is a distant cousin of Mr Johnson’s.

Timeline

November 2020:

According to the Sunday Times the loan guarantee was first suggested by Canadian millionaire Sam Blyth during a dinner with Richard Sharp.

Early December 2020:

In early December, Richard Sharp put Sam Blyth in contact with the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case.

Late 2020:

Before the end of the year, Richard Sharp and Sam Blyth met with Boris Johnson for dinner at his country residence, Chequers. They insist the prime minister’s finances were not discussed.

January 2021:

At the start of January, the government announced Richard Sharp as the preferred candidate to be BBC chairman.

The statement was released moments after Mr Johnson said that Mr Sharp “knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances”.

Speaking to Sky News he said: “This is a load of complete nonsense – absolute nonsense.

“Let me just tell you, Richard Sharp is a great and wise man but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – I can tell you that for 100% ding-dang sure.

“This is just another example of the BBC disappearing up its own fundament.”

The BBC reported that Mr Sharp “has agreed with the board’s senior independent director” that the nominations committee will look at conflicts of interest when it next meets and, “in the interests of transparency, publish the conclusions”.

Ms Powell said there also needed to be an independent investigation into the hiring process “to satisfy the public and parliament of its integrity”.

On the commissioner opening an investigation, Labour’s shadow culture secretary said: “The BBC Chair, Number 10 and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport clearly have questions to answer.

“This probe is welcome news and should shine a light on this appointments process and provide reassurance to the public.”

The party has also reported Mr Johnson to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, saying the former prime minister’s financial affairs are “dragging the Conservative Party deeper into yet another quagmire of sleaze”.

The Cabinet Office has insisted Mr Sharp was appointed “following a rigorous appointments process”.

This included assessment by a panel of experts and “additional pre-appointment scrutiny by a House of Commons Select Committee”, according to a statement released yesterday.

Voting record – Simon Jupp MP, East Devon

Since becoming a PPS Simon is no longer a free agent. He is obliged to toe the party line. Though you can see from his voting record that he has generally been doing that anyway. – Owl

As a result of COVID-19, some MPs were less able to vote in Parliament in certain periods, and this will be reflected by absences in their voting record.

www.theyworkforyou.com

How Simon Jupp voted on Foreign Policy and Defence #

Last updated: 18 May 2022. Learn more about our voting records and what they mean.

How Simon Jupp voted on Constitutional Reform #

Last updated: 14 March 2022. Learn more about our voting records and what they mean.

How Simon Jupp voted on Business and the Economy #

Last updated: 8 December 2021. Learn more about our voting records and what they mean.

How Simon Jupp voted on Welfare and Benefits #

Last updated: 18 May 2022. Learn more about our voting records and what they mean.

How Simon Jupp voted on Taxation and Employment #

Last updated: 18 May 2022. Learn more about our voting records and what they mean.

Council lifts the lid on ‘heart-wrenching’ mould misery 

A family in Exmouth whose children were bullied at school because their damp and mouldy bedrooms made their uniforms smell have been helped by the district council and landlord.

Becca Gliddon eastdevonnews.co.uk

East Devon District Council (EDDC) said it decided to lift the lid on the ‘heart-wrenching story’ of the privately-renting family in a bid to encourage tenants to seek support and ‘not suffer in silence’.

The family – from an unnamed area of Exmouth – were left living in a damp home, with black mould growing up their bedroom walls and ceilings.

The council said condensation had begun running down the walls ‘with an overwhelming smell of damp infesting the home’.

mould

The bathroom wall was covered in black mould. Photo: EDDC.

The children had only one set of school uniforms, which were washed every day – but the youngsters were bullied by other pupils when the clothes failed to properly dry because the family could not afford to use the tumble drier.

Instead, the kids’ clothes were dried in front of a heater in the living room and started smelling when the heating stopped working properly

EDDC said the family’s ‘willing landlord’ made changes to the property once he was made aware of the damp.

After the family contacted the council, it was found they were eligible for financial help to cope with the cost-of-living crisis – finding funding for extra school uniform, food and white goods.

The investigating officer at EDDC said: “We learnt the resident had just one set of school uniforms for their children, which was being washed every day.

“Although they had a tumble dryer the family couldn’t afford to use it so were drying their clothes on a heater in the living room.

“Not only this, but they also couldn’t get the heating to work properly.”

They added: “We gave general advice about condensation and heating, and referred the resident to the resilience team who found that they were eligible for money towards school uniforms, white goods and food.”

Exeter Community Energy gave practical advice on energy efficiency so the tenant could save money on their energy bills, EDDC said.

The investigating officer said: “As well as this, we recommended the tenant wrote to their landlord so our team could arrange to do a full inspection of the property with the landlord – this resulted in the installation of an electric extractor fan in the bathroom and kitchen to remove moisture, reducing condensation.

“The landlord altered the worktops in the kitchen, so the tumble dryer could be installed and used properly also and showed the tenant how to use the heating.

“All the area affected by mould were also cleaned and re-painted.”

The district council said the damp and mould season has coincided with scores of residents struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, and concerns over how to afford to heat their homes.

EDDC urged tenants to inform landlords if they are struggling with home repairs in rented properties.

The council said its environmental health private sector housing team receives at least one call a week from tenants reporting damp and mould problems.

Councillor Dan Ledger, EDDC portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said: “It was really nice to know our officers were able to help this family in need who didn’t know what to do to fix the issue in their home.

“In this case, we worked with a very willing landlord who wanted to help as much as we did, once they knew there was a problem at the property.

“A big part of officers’ jobs is to help tenants communicate issues when they either don’t know how to themselves, are embarrassed or are worried, so need support contacting their landlords.”

Cllr Ledger added: “We would like to encourage anyone who is having damp or mould issues, or any other repair problems, to contact their landlord or letting agent. And if they still need help, your council is here to help you.”

An spokesperson for the council said: “One of EDDC’s many roles is to help residents struggling with the cost-of-living – which is why its financial resilience team plays such a crucial role in assessing and offering advice, as well as direct support to make sure residents can get the best help available – that they would otherwise not know about.

“The team works with various partner organisations and are experts in knowing who can help when and referring residents in need.”

‘Wild camping ban on Dartmoor is a threat to us all’

Martin Shaw, Chair East Devon Alliance www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

The High Court ban on “wild camping” on Dartmoor is a threat to us all. A right enjoyed over many decades shouldn’t be abolished by the stroke of a judge’s pen. Like most people who visit the moor, the vast majority of campers act responsibly and respect the environment. Dartmoor is a national park, protected by law for the enjoyment of all, and the national park authority rightly defended the right to wild camp.

This case also involved an abuse of multimillionaire power. Hedge fund manager Alexander Darwall, who with his wife Diana brought the court case, purchased 4,000 acres of Dartmoor twelve years ago and organises pheasant shoots and deerstalking on them. Mr Darwell seems to think that having made millions from handling other people’s money, he can trample over the rights of the public to enjoy Devon’s most precious open space.

The compromise supported by the Totnes Tory MP Anthony Magnall (who accepted £5,000 from Mr Darwall), that wild camping will still be allowed where landowners opt in to a scheme administered by the park authority, involves a bureaucratic waste of public money and restricts where people can camp. This “stitch up”, as campaigner Guy Shrubhole, of campaign group Right to Roam calls it, is no substitute for the right to camp freely.

Richard Foord, our own Liberal Democrat MP, was on the ball, immediately tabling a motion in Parliament calling for a change in the law to protect this. Green MP Caroline Lucas followed this up with a private member’s bill. Echoing other campers’ comments, Richard said, “As a child, I wild camped on Dartmoor when training for the Ten Tors expedition and for the Duke of Edinburgh award. Without these experiences I would not have joined the army or trained to be a mountain leader.“

Yet Mr Darwell is not the only financier disrespecting our environment this month. Rishi Sunak, our near-billionaire prime minister, took an official plane from London to Leeds – a two-hour train journey – just for a photoshoot. 

Mr Sunak tells us he’s committed to stopping global heating, but actions speak louder than words. He then flew up North again to promote some of the successful bids for the “Levelling Up Fund”, while other ministers sped off to all the regions where bids had been approved. In East Devon, the bid for Exmouth, represented by Tory Simon Jupp, was approved, while that for Seaton and Axminster, in Richard Foord’s constituency, was rejected. As he commented, we have been taken for granted yet again.

The only silver lining that I can see – since the Tories have shamelessly used the Levelling Up money to boost their chances in marginal seats – is that it means that while they’re still hoping Simon Jupp can sneak back in the general election, they’ve written off their chances of unseating Richard, who is making a great impression as our district’s first non-conservative MP.

Unfortunately we’ll have to wait for the election, and our chance to pass judgement on this sorry excuse for a government, until 2024. But there is hope in 2023 – in May we elect our district councillors, and I can tell you that the excellent local coalition of the East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats and Greens is firing up to regain control. They have made a great start in reforming EDDC after 45 years of Tory misrule – including a real priority for climate action in all that the council does – and deserve to be re-elected.

The next month will see conversations in all wards about who will stand for the council. Some sitting councillors will stand down and many of the Tories deserve to be removed by the voters, so we are looking for fresh faces. If you think you could contribute to EDDC, do contact a sitting councillor or one of the parties in the coalition.