Nepotism, £1,000/hr consultancy …. yes, it’s a new Tory cabinet!

Johnson has appointed his previously Remain brother to his cabinet, and now …

The new home secretary, Priti Patel, holds a £1,000-an hour contract with a global communications firm that supplies products and services to the UK government, the Guardian can reveal.

Patel, who was appointed on Wednesday by the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, as a part of a wholesale gutting of the cabinet, has been working for Viasat for the past three months as a strategic adviser earning £5,000 for five hours’ work a month.

She recorded the role on the MPs’ register of interests, and the contract is due to expire on 31 July.

Viasat, a Californian company with a UK base in Farnborough, supplies services and products to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MoD works in collaboration with the Home Office on numerous projects, including the Innovation and Research Insights (IRIS) Unit, which sets up technology-based contracts for both departments.

Patel, who was forced to resign from government two years ago for failing to disclose secret meetings with Israeli ministers, is understood to have been advising Viasat on a matter relating to India.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2019/jul/25/boris-johnson-new-cabinet-prime-minister-chairs-first-cabinet-as-critics-say-party-now-fully-taken-over-by-hard-right-live-news?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Government ministers appeal ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Swire will be happy! One of his jobs in the Foreign Office was to promote arms sales to Saudi Arabia and in his current post as Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council he will want to keep his Middle East pals happy too!

“Ministers have asked the courts to set aside a landmark ruling that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful, a legal manoeuvre that prompted Jeremy Corbyn to accuse the Conservatives of prioritising military exports over civilian lives.

The government has applied for a stay of last month’s judgment pending an appeal, according to Campaign Against Arms Trade, which is fighting the case, at a time when conflict between the Saudis and Houthi rebels in Yemen has intensified.

That appears to contradict assurances given to MPs by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, that Saudi arms sales would be halted after the ruling pending a review. At the time, 57 export licences were under consideration.

Corbyn said: “This makes a mockery of their own commitment to halt all new sales while a review takes place into civilian casualties. Nothing could be clearer: the government’s priority is to sell arms, not to protect the rights and lives of Yemeni people.”

Thousands of civilians have been killed since the civil war in Yemen began in March 2015. Indiscriminate bombing by a Saudi-led coalition is blamed for about two-thirds of the 11,700 civilian deaths in direct attacks.

At the time of the ruling, Fox told MPs that while the government considered the implications, “we will not grant any new licences for export to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners which might be used in the conflict in Yemen”.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said he believed a stay could be used to allow sales to continue. “The court found that the government acted irrationally and unlawfully in allowing these arms sales. If a stay is granted then it will result in more unlawful arms sales and more atrocities.”

The Department for International Trade said it was not going to grant any new export licences to Saudi Arabia which could be used in Yemen in the light of the court of appeal judgment, although existing export licences are unaffected. But a spokesman added it was seeking to overturn the ruling: “We disagree with the judgment and will be seeking permission to appeal.”

British arms that could be used in Yemen by the Saudis have to be signed off by the foreign secretary and the international trade secretary before a licence can be granted. Since the war began, the UK has sold at least £4.7bn-worth of arms to Riyadh.

Last month’s judgment by the court of appeal held that the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor and leadership rival Boris Johnson, and Fox had illegally signed off on Saudi arms exports because they failed to properly assess the risk to Yemeni civilians.

Three judges held that ministers had “made no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict, and made no attempt to do so”.

Last month, it emerged that Johnson had recommended that the UK allow Saudi Arabia to buy bomb parts expected to be deployed in Yemen in 2016, days after an airstrike on a potato factory had killed 14 people.

Lawyers for the government have asked the court of appeal for leave to take the case to the supreme court and to set aside the existing judgment until the appeal process is exhausted.

On Friday, Corbyn and the Westminster leaders of four other parties – the SNP’s Ian Blackford, the Lib Dems’ Vince Cable, Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru and Caroline Lucas from the Greens – called on Hunt and Johnson to hold a parliamentary or public inquiry into how the arms sales have been allowed to continue.

There are signs that some involved in the Yemen conflict are eager to escape a conflict that has become a quagmire, described by the UN as causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. In the past days, it emerged that a key Saudi ally, the UAE, has quietly begun pulling out its forces as western opposition grows.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/08/uk-ministers-challenge-court-ruling-on-saudi-arabia-arms-sales?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Secretive group which wants to privatise NHS is funding Conservative Party (and Swire’s choice for PM)

Swire is a lead supporter for Dominic Raab – named below

“A secretive think tank which called for the NHS to be scrapped while its heads pour millions into the Conservative Party – and its MPs’ – coffers is being funded by big tobacco, an investigation has found.

British American Tobacco is one of the groups funding the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a free market think tank which is notoriously close-lipped about its donors.

The IEA has been an outspoken critic of public health measures for tackling smoking, obesity and harmful drinking, and past funders include organisations affiliated with gambling, alcohol, sugar and soft drinks industries. …

It has close links to the Conservative Party and the chair of its board of trustees, Neil Record, donated £32,000 to health secretary Matt Hancock between 2010 and 2018.

Dominic Raab – who, alongside Mr Hancock, is aiming to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader – also has close links with the IEA, speaking at its 60th anniversary event, and promoting an annual essay competition as recently as last month.

When asked about these links by the BMJ, a spokesperson said Mr Raab has “always been a strong supporter of public health initiatives to make the UK healthier and reduce pressures on the NHS”.

While Mr Hancock is among the biggest beneficiaries, 30 Tory MPs including David Davis, Liam Fox and David Willets have received cash or hospitality from Mr Record or fellow trustee Sir Michael Hintze.

In total MPs have declared funding to the value of £166,000 from the pair since 2005, and they have donated £4.3m to the Conservative Party.

The BMJ investigation identified a 1999 document listing UK supporters of the IEA, including British American Tobacco, Rothmans UK Holdings, Tate and Lyle, Whitbread, and Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland.

When the authors followed up with key organisations to see which were still actively funding the IEA, British American Tobacco confirmed it was still donating. …”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/big-tobacco-funding-conservatives-nhs-hancock-raab-davis-a8916561.html

Swire’s pal takes ‘leave of absence’ from Lords to pursue his Russian ties and so avoids register of interests

Swire and Lord Barker went into business together asper his entry in his register of interests:

“From 12 December 2016, partner in Eaglesham Investments (not yet trading) which was set up to focus on renewable energy projects. (Registered 22 May 2018)”

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/190423/swire_hugo.htm

Note that for 17 months Swire did not put this (still dormant) company on his register of interests and Owl wonders what exactly this company is for.

Sunday Times:

“… Lord Barker is the independent chairman of En+ Group, a Russian aluminium and power company part-owned by the oligarch Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Putin.

In February, Barker took a leave of absence from the Lords, meaning he no longer has to register his interests. He is still allowed to use his title, however.

Barker was involved in discussions with the US government over sanctions imposed on the company in April 2018, a process that led to them being lifted in January after Deripaska reduced his shareholding and independent directors and trustees were appointed. …”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

Another Devon Tory MP with his snout in the trough

This man appears to have army experience but no business experience – what exactly does he do for £350 per hour?

“… A company that marketed a failed bond scheme that lost savers £236m has been funding an MP’s private salary.

Johnny Mercer receives £85,000 from Crucial Academy, a company ultimately funded by Surge Financial Limited.

Surge Financial Limited took 25% commission for marketing bonds by London Capital and Finance (LCF), which is now in administration.

Mr Mercer – who is facing calls from investors to quit as an MP – said he had done nothing wrong.

The Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View is a non-executive director of Crucial Academy, which trains military veterans and aims to find them employment.

Mr Mercer, himself a former Army officer, is contracted to work 20 hours per month, a rate of more than £350 per hour.

The basic annual salary for an MP is £79,468, and they also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office.

According to Mr Mercer’s register of members’ interests, his only other regular income is the £85,000 per year from Crucial Academy. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-47884273