Hospitals should not be used as “weapons”

Here are some images of a few of the responses in the Sidmouth Herald to Hugo Swire after his claims that campaigners for Ottery St Mary Hospital are “anti-Tory” and have “weaponised” their campaign (click on images for better view):

  

     

“Optum CEO resigns from top NHS Job, Optum partner replaces him”

“This is an everyday story of the sordid revolving door between US Health insurance company United Health and the NHS.

In the UK, United Health’s subsidiary Optum sells the NHS what it needs in order to morph into a version of United Health – the previous employer of NHS England’s boss Simon Stevens.

With NHS England’s blessing, Optum is all over the NHS, installing their technology & redesigning the NHS through its use.

Optum sells the NHS:

Commissioning support services
Scriptswitch decision support for GP prescribing (which United Health UK acquired in 2009) is in most GP surgeries.
Referral management services
GP Empower (accelerating large scale GP practices

Integrated Care Systems support: “Optum® brings practical hands-on experience having delivered integrated care for over 20 years in the US. Our tried and tested approach has helped systems deliver proven results.” This updates an earlier brochure on accountable care systems/organisations which is no longer available. However NHS For Sale quotes Optum’s now defunct webpage: “We currently operate 26 accountable care organisations in the U.S., and are supporting sustainability and transformation partnerships in the U.K. to manage population health risk and deliver care as an integrated group of providers.”

The overall aim is to control, sideline and override doctors’ treatment decisions – as we can see through NHS England’s consultation on stopping funding numerous elective care treatments and its mandatory Integrated Urgent Care Services specification. This removes patients’ direct access to clinicians and redirects them through NHS 111 to a clinical advisory service that works off the algorithms in a clinical decision support tool.

And now it has its finger firmly in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence pie – the organisation responsible for providing evidence-based guidance and advice to the NHS.

The revolving door that connnects United Health, Optum and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence

This concerns:

former United Health Director Andrew Witty
Lord Darzi (head of the Imperial College department which is partnered with OptumLabs, a United Health business); and
a new public-private partnership in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence called the “Accelerated Access Collaborative“, that’s about pushing new technology and drugs through the NHS.
It puts Optum centre stage in the Accelerated Access Collaborative. Now there’s a surprise. Or not. If you have been following United Health’s relatively rapid takeover of the NHS.

As a result of these shenanigans, we would treat any new recommendation from NICE with a pinch of salt.

Here is a short Witty timeline:

March 2017 – Andrew Witty leaves CEO position at Glaxo Smith Kline
August 2017 – Witty joins UnitedHealth’s Board of Directors
November 2017 – Following the Accelerated Access Review, the Department of Health appoints Witty as head of the Accelerated Access Collaborative. The job is to fast track drugs & technology into the NHS, to start April 2018
March 2018 – United Health announces Witty to be new Optum CEO, to start July 2018
Andrew Witty must have been rumbled somewhere along the line as he graciously resigned from the Government position in March 2018, due to the enormous conflict of interest of him starting as Optum CEO in July 2018. Ignored of course was the huge conflict of interest in hiring Witty in the first place while he was a Director of UnitedHealth.

And who replaced him? Lord Darzi.

Who is Lord Darzi

I am tired of writing about Lord Darzi. He stalks the NHS like a zombie. He was behind the New Labour government’s massive, failed and costly privatisation of elective NHS services in the horrible Independent Sector Treatment Centres – one of which totally messed up my son’s broken wrist – twice, before an NHS hospital fixed it for him.

This is what his nasty scheme has come to now. Regardless, he has returned to push his idea a second time as Accountable Care – with the apparent support of the Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. This time from his perch in the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) at Imperial College, London.

Which, surprise surprise, is an OptumLabs partner.

What is OptumLabs

OptumLabs (launched in 2013) is all about United Health number crunching and framing raw patient data for academics to play with to derive the “best treatments” for patients.

OptumLabs is desperate to pass itself off as pioneering and respectable in the academic research field. But reality of the profit motive and UnitedHealth’s track record of

“deception, manipulation of data and outright fraud”

(see the Ingenix case ) means their number crunching will most likely point to treatments that United Health finds most profitable, not what’s best for patients. And OptumLabs is useful cover to collect patient data.

We pointed out some time ago Optum’s invidious position as a provider of commissioning support services, able to direct Clinical Commissioning Groups to commission Optum products. Now they have their fingers in the NICE pie too.”

https://calderdaleandkirklees999callforthenhs.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/optum-ceo-resigns-from-top-nhs-job-optum-partner-replaces-him/

Report: Accountability in Modern Government: recommendations for change

The report referred to in the post below deserves attentive reading:

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Accountability_modern_government_WEB.pdf

Finally a way to publicly scrutinise Local Enterprise Partnerships and other quangos?

Owl says; But will the likes of Diviani (LEP) and Randall-Johnson (CCG) be in favour of more (or rather, any) scrutiny?

“Meg Hillier has told Public Finance that audit of local government spending needs to be more “transparent” for an increasingly “savvy” British public.

“I think the British public are much more savvy about things – they don’t trust the authority to spend things well,” she said to PF.

Since the Audit Commission was formally dissolved in 2015 “there isn’t the same level of transparency locally”, Hillier said.

Local authority finances “used to be well demonstrated,” she said, “so I think [making them more transparent again] is just something that we need to keep pushing on.”

Although she said it was “early days” and did not wish to say who she had been speaking to, she said she saw devolution as an opportunity to improve closer examination of how public money was spent.

“At metro mayor level or at a bigger regional level there is an opportunity for value for money audit and analysis because there are certain discreet pots of money coming down for very particular projects, so it’s easier to track it through from the day to day budget value for money,” she said.

Hillier was speaking to PF after the shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne told the Labour Party conference last month: “We will give local authorities public accounts committees to improve local government spending decisions.”

Local PACs was one of the Labour Party’s pledges in its 2015 manifesto so that “every pound spend by local bodies creates value for money for local taxpayers”.

Hillier said she was not able to give a clear view on what her vision for the extra layer of scrutiny of local government finances would be but did not believe local PACs were necessarily the answer as they would require “huge infrastructure”.

“I am not advocating we go out and set up lots of mini NAOs [National Audit Offices] – there is a bit of realism in this,” she added.

But Ed Hammond, director of Centre for Public Scrutiny, which has long been an advocate of local PACs, told PF that there is an “urgent need” for such bodies.

“Local PACs will be bodies led by elected councillors, empowered to follow the public pound across a local area, cutting across different organisations to get a real picture of the value for money of public services,” he suggested.

“In a world of increasingly complex decision making, and with greater pressure on finances, there is an urgent need for these bodies to give the public the assurance they need on the services they rely on.”

An Institute for Government report, out on Monday,

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Accountability_modern_government_WEB.pdf

said that government should “review the case for setting up local Public Accounts Committees” to “provide new capacity to local government to scrutinise performance across the breadth of services offered in a region”.

These could initially be trialed in mayoral combined authorities, the IfG suggested.

Local PACs were discusssed in an IfG-led Twitter discussion on the report.

@ben_guerin
We also need to scrutinise links between local public services like health and social care: review case for setting up local PACs, initially in mayoral combined authorities #IfGaccountability

The Conservative mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority James Palmer believed there was already enough local authority financial scrutiny in place.

Although, he suggested if more fiscal devolution was handed down to metro mayors then “that of course must come with the necessary level of local governance and scrutiny”.

“Whether that comes in the form of a local public accounts committee is of course a discussion that would need to be had as part of further devolved powers.”

Northern metro mayors recently called for post-Brexit EU replacement funding to go straight to the regions, bypassing Whitehall.

Chief executive of the Localis think-tank Jonathan Werran recently wrote a blog for PF on the future of fiscal devolution – see here:

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/opinion/2018/10/running-out-road-time-change

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2018/10/pac-chair-seeking-ways-beef-local-government-spending-scrutinyq

Pigs and troughs …. MP outside interests and payments: some snouts much deeper in the trough than others)

They get £75 – £150 for filling out Parliamentary surveys about what they think!!! Each one taking 30-60 minutes!!!

“Posh watches, football tickets and VIP trips – what your MPs get for free
Expensive gifts, football tickets, all-paid trips abroad, second salaries and fat dividends – all the perks and benefits enjoyed by your local MP.

Second jobs, cash for surveys and income from company shares, donors and second homes – these are just some of the ways your local MP makes extra money.

Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall’s political elite – in line with the rest of parliament – routinely lay out in full their financial affairs for all to see to maintain openness and transparency.

Some through their powerful connections, seniority and expertise gain more than others – whether that be a gift from a wealthy client, cash donations from the private sector, wages from another high-flying job or all-paid for trips abroad to promote UK affairs.

Those deep inside the inner Whitehall circle are REALLY pulling in the mega bucks.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson was recently thrown back in the spotlight after it was revealed he’s being paid £22,916.66 a month until July 2019 by the Daily Telegraph – an annual pay packet of £274,999 – to write articles.

Plymouth Live lifts the lid on the latest round of financial declarations, dated October 1, unveiled by Parliament.

Johnny Mercer – Plymouth Moor View [Conservative]

The Tory backbencher declared in parliament’s latest financial log he’s landed a second job earning £85,000 a year – in return for 20 hours work a month.

Ex soldier Johnny has taken up the role of non-executive director for military veterans support company Crucial Academy Ltd.

That’s on top of his paycheck as a member of parliament – £77,379 – taking his total annual earnings to £162,379.

Mr Mercer, who employs his wife Felicity Cornelius-Mercer as his Principal Secretary, has also publicly declared he was paid £300 by the BBC in March this year for a three-hour appearance at the BBC Free Thinking Festival.

He also had accommodation and travel funded by the Bahrain Embassy from April 5 to 9 this year so he could attend the opening of the UK/Bahrain Naval Base, meet with Government Ministers, as well as members of the Federal National Council and senior business figures in order to build on the ‘bilateral relationship’.

Luke Pollard – Plymouth Sutton and Devonport [Labour]

Mr Pollard – elected in the 2017 snap General Election – has declared he owns a house in Plymouth worth more than £100,000.

Gary Streeter – South West Devon [Conservative]

Mr Streeter, who employs his wife Janet Streeter as a part-time Junior Parliamentary Researcher, has made extra cash filling out online Government surveys.

The senior Tory politician also declared a £3,500 watch bought for him as a Christmas present from Plymouth millionaires Michael and Diane Hockin.

Mr Streeter’s cash for surveys

9 October 2017, received £150 for completing July and September 2017 parliamentary panel surveys. Hours: approx. 90 mins (45 mins each).

20 November 2017, received £75 for completing October 2017 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: 45 mins.

5 January 2018, received £100 for completing November 2017 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

5 February 2018, received £100 for completing January 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

14 March 2018, received £75 for completing February 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

19 April 2018, received £75 for completing March 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

25 May 2018, received £75 for completing April 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

29 June 2018, received £75 for completing May 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

13 August 2018, received £75 for completing June 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

Sarah Wollaston – Totnes [Conservative]

Ms Wollaston, Tory chair of the Liaison Committee and the Health Select Committee in the House of Commons, had no financial declarations to declare.

Anne Marie Morris – Newton Abbot – [Conservative]

The former lawyer owns two flats in London and a house in Surrey which generate income.

The Tory MP has a non-paid for position for marketing consultancy firm Manteion Ltd.

She is also a ‘non-practising’ member of the Law Society of England and Wales, the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.

Ms Marie Morris is also an unpaid director of the Small Business Bureau.

From March 2017, she became a non-paid director of the Genesis Initiative; a body that seeks to represent small business interests of European businesses.

Ben Bradshaw – Exeter [Labour] note: it does not say here that Mr Bradshaw donates all recent MP pay rises to charity

The Labour MP has made extra cash each month filling out ‘opinion’ surveys.

Mr Bradshaw is also a member of the Humboldt Advisory Board, at Humboldt University, in Berlin.

He wrote in his financial declaration: “Where possible, I attend annual Advisory Board meetings in Berlin, the costs of which are met by the university.”

Mr Bradshaw’s cash for surveys

Payment from ComRes, Coveham House, Downside Bridge Road, Cobham KT11 3EP, for opinion surveys:

12 June 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

22 August 2017, payment of £50. Hours: 30 mins.

22 September 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

29 September 2017, payment of £150. Hours: 1 hr.

17 November 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

14 March 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins

16 April 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

22 May 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

25 June 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

23 July 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

27 August 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

13 September 2018, payment of £100. Hours: 30 mins.

Geoffrey Cox QC – Torridge and West Devon

Geoffrey Cox has been MP for Torridge and West Devon since 2005 and is said to be the highest earning MP in the House of Commons, thanks to his other role as a barrister.

Mr Cox has declared hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees paid to him by solicitor firms in return for hundreds of hours worth of work over the last year.

He owns a cottage and farmland in West Devon and owns shares in an international law firm and a property company.

Geoffrey Cox’s vast legal fees

Payments from Messrs. Janes, solicitors. Address: 17 Waterloo Place, London SW17 4AR: 8 December 2017, received £24,750 for legal services provided between 1 September 2016 and 1 October 2017. Hours: 40 hrs approx.

31 December 2017, received £3,000 for legal services provided between 4 and 7 November 2017. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

31 January 2018, received £5,000 for legal services provided between 1 December 2017 and 31 January 2018. Hours: 8 hrs approx.

16 May 2018, received £4,500 plus VAT for legal services provided between 1 September 2017 and 31 May 2018. Hours: 9 hrs approx.

13 June 2018, received £5,750 plus VAT for legal services provided between 14 March and 22 May 2018. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

Payments from Messrs. Travers, Thorp, Alberga, Attorneys. Address: Harbour Place, 2nd Floor, PO Box 472, 103 South Church Street, Grand Cayman KY1 1106: 5 February 2018, received £40,000 for legal services provided between 1 September 2017 and 18 February 2018. Hours: 60 hrs approx.

Payments from Bachubhai Munim & Co Advocates & Solicitors, 312, Tulsiani Chambers, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021: 27 November 2017, received £85,387.50 for legal services provided between 14 February 2017 and 12 November 2017. Hours: 170 hrs approx.

31 July 2018, received £12,500 (no VAT) for work undertaken between 1 November 2017 and 30 June 2018. Hours: 25 hrs.

15 November 2017, received £3,333.33 from Registrar of Criminal Appeals, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, for legal services provided between 1 January 2016 and 15 December 2016. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

Payments from Oracle Solicitors, 182-184 Edgware Road, London W2 2DS: 15 December 2017, received £119,733.33 for legal services provided between 1 July 2016 and 30 November 2017. Hours: 350 hrs approx.

15 May 2018, received £119,733.33 for legal services provided between 1 May 2016 and 30 April 2018 and continuing. Hours: 300 hrs approx.

31 August 2018, received £88,602.67 plus VAT for legal services provided between 1 March and 9 July 2018. Hours: 300 hrs.

Payments from LK Baltica Solicitors, 4th Floor, Kings Buildings, 16 Smith Square, London SW1P 3HQ: 14 March 2018, received £2,500 for legal services provided between 1 and 31 March 2018. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

13 April 2018, received £3,000 for legal services provided between 1 March and 30 April 2018. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

15 May 2018, received £6,737.50 for legal services provided between 1 February and 30 April 2018. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

16 July 2018, received £2,475 plus VAT for work undertaken between 1 April and 30 June 2018. Hours: 5 hrs.

Payments from Messrs Rainer Hughes, Oak House, 46 Crossway, Shenfield, CM15 8QY: 16 July 2018, received £1,000 plus VAT for work undertaken between 21 September and 12 December 2011. Hours: 2 hrs.

Mel Stride – Central Devon

Tory Paymaster General Mel Stride holds a stake of more than 15 per cent in Venture Marketing Group Ltd – described by parliamentary files as a ‘publisher, organiser of exhibitions and conferences.’

Peter Heaton-Jones – North Devon [Conservative]

Tory Mr Heaton-Jones’ only declaration is that he owns a house in Wiltshire worth more than £100,000.

Sir Hugo Swire – East Devon [Conservative]

Sir Hugo has had several ministerial roles, most recently as Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Since 2016, the senior politician has earned thousands every month in prominent positions outside Parliament and holds shares yielding tens of thousands of pounds in a honey firm.

He employs his wife Alexandra (Sasha) Swire, as Senior Researcher/Parliamentary Assistant.

Sir Hugo’s outside appointments and earnings – in his own words

From 9 November 2016 until 1 June 2018, Adviser to KIS France, a manufacturer of photo booths and mini labs. Address: 7 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 38130 Echirolles, France. I was paid £3,000 every month for this role.

Hours: 8 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

From 15 November 2016, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. Address: Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX. From 1 April 2018 I expect to be paid £2,083 every month until further notice. Hours: 10 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

16 November 2017, received £25,000 for acting as adviser to Apiro Real Estate Fund 1 Limited Partnership, 1 Connaught House, Mount Row, London SW1K 3RA. Hours: 10 hrs. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

From 18 June 2017 until 4 June 2018, non-executive director of ATG Airports, Newton Road, Lowton St Mary’s, Warrington WA3 2AP. From 5 February 2018, I was paid £2,500 every month for this role. Hours: approx. 4.5 hrs per month. Any additional payments are listed below. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

24 November 2017, received £10,086.72. Hours: 15 hrs.

From 19 March 2018 until further notice, Non-Executive Chairman of the British Honey Company, Unit 3 Vista Place, Coy Pond Business Park, Ingworth Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 1JY. I will receive shares with a value of £50,000, in lieu of two years’ payment. Hours: expected to be about 5 hrs a month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

Neil Parish – Tiverton and Honiton [Conservative]

Mr Parish declared he’d had all his expenses covered by the Conservative Friends of Israel to go on a ‘fact finding political delegation’ to Israel from April 8 to April 13 this year.

He wrote: “Estimate of the probable value (or amount of any donation): (1) Air travel, accommodation and hospitality for myself with a value of £2,500, plus airport transfer and hospitality for my spouse with a value of £600, total £3,100 (2) For my spouse and myself, bus travel and airport VIP service with a total value of £1,300.”

Mr Parish owns a family farm in Somerset and employs his wife Susan Parish, as Junior Secretary.

Sheryll Murray – South East Cornwall [Conservative]

Mrs Murray revealed she’d secured a Tory party donation from Looe Conservative Ladies Luncheon Club amounting to £2,776.91 in 2017.

Torpoint and District Unionist Club also pledged £3,000 that year.

Mrs Murray also declared she went on an all-paid expenses trip to Armenia from 21 September to 24 September last year to attend a ‘Progressivism and Conservatism conference’.

“Airfare and accommodation for me and member of staff with a value of £2,800,” she wrote.

All costs were covered by the Prosperous Armenia Party.

Scott Mann – North Cornwall [Conservative]

Scott Mann attended the Progressivism and Conservatism conference in Armenia in September last year, expenses to the tune of £2,800 covered by Prosperous Armenia Party.

George Eustice – Camborne and Redruth [Conservative]

Mr Eustice declared that he owns a one-bed flat in London.

Sarah Newton – Truro & Falmouth [Conservative]

Sarah Newton had no financial affairs to declare.

Steve Double – St Austell and Newquay [Conservative]

In January, Winchester-based tyre firm Micheldever Tyre Service gave Mr Double two tickets to a football match and threw in hospitality and hotel accommodation in a package worth £600.

The MP is also getting paid £18,990 to act as a policy advisor for Good Faith Partnership LLP in a nine-month contract finishing in December this year.

He also joined Tories on a ‘fact-finding political delegation’ to Israel in April this year – with all his expenses being covered by Conservative Friends of Israel and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Double’s affairs – in his words

Land and property portfolio: (i) value over £100,000 and/or (ii) giving rental income of over £10,000 a year

From 10 May 2018, a flat in St Austell, co-owned with my wife and inhabited by a family member

Shareholdings: over 15% of issued share capital

Bay Direct Media; a direct marketing company

Bay Mailing Services Ltd; a mailing house

Phoenix Corporate Gifts Ltd; a company selling branded merchandise

Family members employed and paid from parliamentary expenses

I employ my wife, Anne Double, as Principal Secretary.

Derek Thomas – St Ives [Conservative]

In 2017, the ex-property developer secured a £3,000 Tory party donation from Tresco island owner Robert Dorrien Smith.

Mr Thomas also secured £16,221 in sponsorship from Aventis Pharma Ltd for healthcare consultancy firm Incisive Health, to drive forward its Diabetes Think Tank initiative.

Since October last year, the MP has also jointly owned land, a house and a shop in West Cornwall with his wife.

Mr Thomas declared that since December 2015, he holds an interest ‘below registrable value’ in Mustard Seed Property Ltd, a community benefit society which provides housing in Cornwall for vulnerable people.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/mps-plymouth-salaries-benefits-parliament-2092453

“Universal Credit Charities ‘Banned From Criticising Esther McVey’ “

“Charities working with Universal Credit claimants have been “banned” from criticising Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, the Times claims.

According to the newspaper, at least 22 organisations – covering contracts worth £1.8 billion – have been required to sign clauses pledging not to damage the reputation of Work and Pensions Secretary and to instead “pay the utmost regard to [her] standing and reputation”.

They must “not do anything which may attract adverse publicity” to her, damage her reputation, or harm the public’s confidence in her, the paper said.

Officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) denied they were “gagging clauses” intended to prevent criticism of ministers or their policies, insisting they were just “standard procedure”.

However a spokesperson confirmed that the contracts did include references to ensure both parties “understand how to interact with each other and protect their best interests”.

A DWP spokesperson said: “It’s completely untrue to suggest that organisations are banned from criticising Universal Credit.

“As with all arrangements like this, they include a reference which enables both parties to understand how to interact with each other and protect their best interests.

“This is in place to safeguard any commercial sensitive information for both government and the organisation involved.”

The news comes one day after HuffPost UK reported 580,000 benefits claimants could lose out on payments in the next phase of the Universal Credit rollout.

The figures led to urgent demands for the government to halt Universal Credit, which has been besieged by criticism from both the Labour Party and disability and welfare charities.

So far this week, Universal Credit has also been criticised by Iain Duncan Smith, who said the benefits reform needs an additional £2bn to operate as planned, and former prime minister Sir John Major.

“If you have people who face that degree of loss, that is not something the majority of the British population would think of as fair, and if people think you have removed yourself from fairness then you are in deep political trouble,” he said.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/universal-credit-charities-esther-mcvey_uk_5bc03f4ce4b0bd9ed55891a5?guccounter=1

“Judge who jailed fracking protesters with ‘excessive’ sentence has family links to oil and gas firm”

“A judge criticised for handing prison sentences to three fracking protesters has family links to the oil and gas industry.

Judge Robert Altham jailed Simon Blevins, 26, Richard Roberts, 36, and Richard Loizou, 31, over their demonstration at a Cuadrilla site.

The trio, known as the “Fracking Three”, are believed to be the first environmental activists to be imprisoned for public nuisance since 1932.

Critics have claimed the punishment was “manifestly excessive”. Now the Daily Mirror can reveal the Altham family business supplies the Irish Sea oil and gas industry.

J.C. Altham and Sons is believed to be part of the supply chain for energy giant Centrica, which has invested tens of millions of pounds in fracking.

Judge Altham’s sister, Jane Watson, put her name to an open letter in favour of fracking, which said, “It’s time to give shale a chance” and claimed it would create jobs.

The judicial code of conduct states a judge’s impartiality may be questioned if family members are “politically active” or have “financial interest” in the outcome of a case.

Lawyers for the protesters are trying to overturn their sentences. Loizou’s mum Sharron, 62, told the Mirror: “I was completely shocked when he was jailed, the sentence is incredibly harsh. We were expecting community service or a suspended sentence.

“It’s quite scary that in this country you can be jailed for a peaceful protest.” …

Soil scientist Blevins and piano restorer Roberts were given 16-month jail terms while teacher Loizou got 15 months last month.

Sentencing at Preston crown court, Judge Altham said: “Only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment.”

The judge’s parents John and Linda, 86 and 84, are ­directors of J.C. Altham & Sons.

His sister Jane, 54, is managing director of the firm, which supplies ships’ stores, including food, tools, rigging equipment and clothes. The firm’s website says it is a “specialist supplier to offshore gas and oil platforms”.

Three oil rigs in the East Irish Sea – near Altham’s base at Heysham, Lancs – belong to British Gas owner Centrica, which has ploughed tens of millions of pounds into fracking firm Cuadrilla.

In 2015 Jane’s name and that of her firm appeared on an open letter backed by 119 businesses.

It urged Lancashire County Council to permit fracking and create a “£33billion supply chain”.

The campaign was led by North West Energy Task Force, which allegedly received financial support from Cuadrilla and Centrica. The NWETF was later rebranded as lobbying group ­Lancashire For Shale.

LFS has praised Judge Altham’s decision saying: “Justice was served effectively.”

But more than 200 academics signed an open letter calling for a judicial review of the “absurdly harsh” sentence. About 200 supporters of the trio marched outside HMP Preston, where they are being held, at the weekend. The trio’s lawyers have approached the Court of Appeal and asked for an expedited hearing.

It means they could be freed within weeks if Judge Altham’s sentencing decision is ruled unsafe. Kirsty Brimelow QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, has taken their cases pro-bono. She said: “These men should not be in prison at all, the sentence is manifestly excessive.”

Judges are expected to tell defence and ­prosecution lawyers if they feel their impartiality in a case may be called into question.

A spokesman for the Judges’ Council said: “There are longstanding principles, set out in case law, which guide how judges approach possible conflicts of interest. They ensure that when hearing a case, a judge will be mindful of possible conflicts of interest and can draw relevant matters to the attention of parties in the case.”

Judge Altham did not wish to add anything to the Judges’ Council’s statement.

Sister Jane, a former police officer whose husband Stephen is the Chief Constable of South ­Yorkshire Police, declined to comment today. …”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/judge-criticised-jailing-fracking-protesters-13396324