Politics latest news: ‘No moral justification’ to refuse independence referendum if SNP wins majority, Sturgeon claims


Nicola Sturgeon said there would be 'no democratic, electoral or moral justification' if the people voted for pro-independence parties - Getty
Nicola Sturgeon said there would be ‘no democratic, electoral or moral justification’ if the people voted for pro-independence parties – Getty
  • Crackdown on mandarins’ second jobs

  • Former Met Police chief drawn into Greensill scandal

  • Allister Heath: Biden’s woke agenda is a catastrophe for the free world

  • Coronavirus latest news: Use ‘garlic-breath’ test to judge if you’re close enough to catch virus, says expert

Boris Johnson will have “no democratic, electoral or moral justification” to refuse Scotland a second referendum if voters return a majority of independence-backing MSPs, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister piled on the pressure as she launched the SNP’s manifesto today, ahead of the May 6 vote.

“After this election, if there is a simple, democratic majority in the Scottish Parliament for an independence referendum, there will be no democratic, electoral or moral justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else to block the right of people in Scotland to decide their own future,” she said.

“Whether or not Scotland becomes independent won’t be decided by me or by the SNP or even by the Scottish Parliament. It will happen only when a majority of people who live here in Scotland are persuaded to vote for it.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out a second referendum, stressing that the 2014 plebiscite was a once in a generation opportunity for Scottish people to have their say, and that it should not be the focus during the pandemic.

However privately, Tories concede that this would be a challenging position to maintain for long if the election does yield a majority for independence parties.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

11:59 AM

Government will act on Hull University’s ‘appalling’ decision to drop literacy standards

Dropping the requirement for university students to demonstrate high levels of written spoken and English is “dumbing down standards”, a minister has said.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan told MPs the Government “will act” on the move by the University of Hull to scrap the need for students to be able to meet literacy standards in assessments.

It came as Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, called the university’s decision “patronising and counterproductive”.

He added: “Is it not better for universities to work with schools and colleges to ensure that all pupils reach the required standards of literacy to secure places on quality degree courses and degree apprenticeships?”

Ms Donelan agreed. “I am appalled by the decision of some universities to drop literacy standards in assessments,” she said. “I think that this is misguided, and, in fact, it is dumbing down standards. That will never help disadvantaged students. Instead, the answer is to lift up standards and provide high quality education.”

The Government “will act on this in line with our manifesto commitments on equality,” she added.

11:55 AM

Third committee announces plans to investigate David Cameron over Greensill

A third committee has confirmed it will carry out an investigation into the lobbying scandal that has erupted around Greensill and David Cameron.

The Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Labour MP Meg Hillier, will call the former prime minister as part of a probe.

The Treasury Select Committee yesterday said it will carry out its own inquiry, after Labour’s motion to create a new committee specifically charged with the investigation failed.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee could go even further and summon several former prime ministers, including Tony Blair. The terms of the inquiry – and witnesses – will be published next week.

11:46 AM

Lobby latest: ‘Heavy lifting’ done by lockdown, not vaccines, says No 10

Boris Johnson believes the “heavy lifting” in reducing the coronavirus infection rate has been done by the lockdowns across the UK, Number 10 has said – despite data suggesting he is wrong.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson had been “very clear that vaccines are having an impact”.

“I think the PHE (Public Health England) data shows they’ve saved around 10,000 lives, and that’s excellent,” the No 10 spokesman continued. “And they are having an effect on hospitalisations and deaths.

“The point the Prime Minister made very clearly – Chris Whitty (England’s chief medical officer) has made similar points – that at this stage, the reductions we have seen, the heavy lifting of that has been done by the excellent work of the British public to abide by the lockdown rules.

“Obviously vaccines have played a part in that and that’s the point the Prime Minister was making.”

Vaccine effect on hospital admissions with Covid-19
Vaccine effect on hospital admissions with Covid-19

11:35 AM

SNP goverment to fund pilot for four-day week

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to provide funding to companies to pilot a four-day working week if an SNP government is elected.

Launching her party’s manifesto, Ms Sturgeon said: “Before the pandemic struck, many people were already worried about work-life balance.

“We want to do more to support people to achieve a better balance and help businesses employ as many people as possible.

“As part of that, we will establish a £10 million fund to support willing companies to explore and pilot the benefits of a four-day working week.”

11:31 AM

David Cameron was ‘a very successful prime minister’, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

David Cameron was 'a very successful prime minister', says Jacob Rees-Mogg - Getty
David Cameron was ‘a very successful prime minister’, says Jacob Rees-Mogg – Getty

David Cameron was a “very successful prime minister” people should not rush to make judgements, Jacob Rees-Mogg has told MPs.

During business questions, SNP chief whip Owen Thompson called on the Commons Leader to “give a commitment to the House that he’ll ensure within his powers everything possible is done” to get to the bottom of the Greensill scandal.

Mr Rees-Mogg responded: “Obviously committees of this House can make what inquiries that they wish and can set their own terms of reference. But I think it’s a mistake to rush to judgment, particularly in relation to David Cameron who was a very successful prime minister who succeeded in getting the nation’s finances back on order.

“And rushing to judgment is I think not a proper way for this House to operate. We need to have the reviews and consider them and that is what is happening.”

11:24 AM

Lord Frost meets with Irish minister ahead of Brussels trip

Lord Frost has met Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney ahead of his meeting with Maros Sefcovic - Shutterstock
Lord Frost has met Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney ahead of his meeting with Maros Sefcovic – Shutterstock

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Lord Frost have met with Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney “as part of regular bilateral engagement”, Downing Street has confirmed.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will meet with Mr Coveney this afternoon, officials said.

Lord Frost is due to meet vice-president of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on Thursday evening.

“The meeting is part of an ongoing process with the EU to resolve outstanding differences on the Northern Ireland Protocol,” Number 10 said.

10:58 AM

Former prime ministers face being dragged into Greensill lobbying row

Tony Blair could join David Cameron in being grilled by former colleagues - PA
Tony Blair could join David Cameron in being grilled by former colleagues – PA

Former prime ministers who served before David Cameron could be dragged into the Greensill lobbying row, with multiple select committees launching probes into the scandal.

Yesterday, after Labour’s motion to create a new committee charged with a Greensill inquiry was defeated, Mel Stride’s Treasury committee announced plans for its own probe, which could see Mr Cameron brought in for a grilling about his involvement with Greensill Capital.

This morning the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will meet to discuss the scope and remit of a separate inquiry, which could result in Mr Cameron and several of his predecessors facing a similar grilling, the Telegraph understands. The terms of the inquiry – and witnesses – will be published next week.

Yesterday PACAC chairman William Wragg offered to ” take up as the AC-12 of Whitehall” – a reference to the anti-corruption unit in TV show Line of Duty.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron said he would “respond positively” to requests to give evidence “when the terms of reference of each inquiry are clear”.

10:44 AM

Ministers should be sacked over undeclared meetings with lobbyists, says Sir Keir Starmer

Any ministers who did not declare meetings with lobbyists should be sacked, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Speaking to journalists during a visit to south Wales, the Labour leader said: “We’ve got very strict rules in place for the shadow cabinet with declarations being made.

“What we’re talking about here is lobbying of Government for massive procurement contracts involving millions, sometimes billions, of pounds.

“Increasingly we’re seeing a murkier and murkier picture, whether it’s the way contracts are handed out, the lack of due process, or the lobbying which is not a revolving door but now an open door into Government.”

Asked if ministers should expect to be sacked if they failed to declare meetings with lobbyists, Sir Keir said: “I think it’s absolutely a sackable offence not to declare such meetings.”

Matt Hancock this week confirmed he did meet David Cameron and Lex Greensill, but said he had informed officials.

10:40 AM

Government wrong to block lobbying inquiry, says Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer said existing rules 'aren't working' - Julian Simmonds
Sir Keir Starmer said existing rules ‘aren’t working’ – Julian Simmonds

Sir Keir Starmer said the Government’s voting down of Labour’s plans for a parliamentary inquiry into lobbying was the “wrong thing to do”.

Speaking during a visit to Gower, south Wales, he said: “We need more and stronger lobbying rules. What we’ve got is lobbying rules that obviously aren’t working.

“Last night we called a vote to say there should be a transparent, independent inquiry into the increasing sleaze that’s going on in Government.

“The Government voted that down and blocked it. That was the wrong thing to do.”

10:36 AM

Jacob Rees-Mogg defends ‘propriety’ of Government, saying ‘lobbying did not suceed’

Jacob Rees-Mogg defends the review and the “highly respected” lawyer Nigel Boardman, noting he has stood down from Beis while the inquiry takes place.

He says it will also be looked at by a number of committees “with the full power and authority of the House of Commons”.

But Valerie Vaz was “not right” to say that public money was spent on Greensill because “the lobbying was done but the lobbying did not succeed”.

The Commons Leader adds: “That is something that should reassure us about the propriety of the way this Government is run. That who you know and how you are connected does not mean you get what you want.

“That is the test of whether Goverment is operating properly and this Government is operating properly.”

10:28 AM

Ministers ‘think country is stupid’ in appointing Beis non-exec to lead Greensill inquiry

Over in the main chamber, Labour frontbencher Valerie Vaz has attacked the decision to appoint Nigel Boardman to head up the Greensill inquiry.

“I don’t know whether the Government thinks the country is stupid, but asking someone who is serves as a non-executive in the Beis department to lead the inquiry is absolutely incredulous,” the shadow leader said.

The country is “absolutely brimming” with lawyers without governmental contacts, she adds. “Why don’t we have one of them?”

She claims civil servants should not have two jobs at the same time, saying it is “an abuse of power”, adding: “It matters because this is about public money and public money can’t be found for NHS workers, but it can be found for Greensill.”

10:21 AM

Planet Normal: Bilateral deal should replace Northern Ireland Protocol, claims ex-Irish ambassador

The UK and Ireland should broker a bilateral deal to replace the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, a former senior Irish diplomat has claimed, as he accused Dublin of being too close to the EU.

Ray Bassett, who previously served as Ireland’s ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas said he believed the new post-Brexit trading arrangements were fuelling “such a disillusionment” among unionists and should be overhauled.

Mr Bassett, who also served as joint secretary to the British-Irish intergovernmental conference, told The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, which you can listen to using the audio player below, that the implementation of the protocol had been “very heavy handed” and appeared to have “destroyed” good will in Northern Ireland.

Listen to the interview in full below.

Planet Normal Podcast Ray Bassett
Planet Normal Podcast Ray Bassett

10:12 AM

It is ‘sensible’ to have lobbyist on Acoba board, says Lord Pickles

Lord Pickles has defended the appointment of Andrew Cumpsty to the board of Acoba, after it emerged that he is a lobbyist.

The former minister said it “wasn’t a matter for me, it was a matter for the Cabinet Office”, but said “it didn’t seem odd to me” because Mr Cumptsy had not been “engaged in politics”.

Because “I know him, I know him very well,” Lord Pickles had “adopted a process of asking everyone the same question” and ensured he did not “lead” on the process, which included putting forward six names to be selected.

Mr Cumpsty was included because “I wanted to give the option of having somebody with experience of lobbying”, he adds.

“I think he was brave to do it because I felt that sooner or later a newspaper would turn him over… [but] all the information is there and I support the minister’s decision – it was sensible to have someone with experience there.”

10:03 AM

Officials who move into another public sector role should be allowed to lobby, says Lord Pickles

Lord Pickles has said he wants to actually lift restrictions on lobbying in some instances, as long as it is done “in the open”.

The Acoba boss tells MPs of PACAC that he wants to look more closely at the links between officials and academia, noting that former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell was “rather offended because we rapped him over the knuckles for not applying” when he took up roles after leaving public office.

He added that he will “also be looking at people who move from government into another form of the public sector”, who might need to talk to ministers.

“This will raise all kinds of questions about what is permissible and what is not,” he added. “Obviously they can’t come down to London and go around to a coffee shop… but if it’s done in the open and recorded and with officials that is something I want to look at.”

09:53 AM

UK’s ethics regime has ‘lagged behind’ during pandemic, says Lord Pickles

The UK’s ethics regime has “lagged behind” because of the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, Lord Pickle has said

The Acoba boss says ethics should be built it into the system so things “move along at a reasonable speed”, reiterating that a memorandum of understanding could be “the building blocks” of change.

He says transparency is essential.

“We talk about lobbyists… it’s almost like it’s organised crime. There is nothing wrong with lobbyists – what is wrong is with unregulated lobbying, secret lobbying, people getting an undue advantage.

“Our entire political careers have been built by lobbying of some sort,” he adds. “But where it becomes wrong is where it is not properly regulated and is transparent.”

09:42 AM

Revolving door culture has created ‘assumption of being looked after’, says Lord Pickles

Lord Pickles has said the “revolving door” of senior civil servants joining business has seen cohort after cohort assuming them will be ‘looked after’.

He told MPs of the PACAC committee that the culture had created an “entitlement” in which one “cohort looked after the cohort that just left, in assumption that the cohort coming up would look after them”.

Reforming existing laws such as expanding the ban on jobs could end up costing “millions of pounds without any real material benefit”, suggesting taxpayers “might not get any change out of £30-40m a year in gardening leave.

“What we need to demonstrate is that if you break the rules there are consequences, and there are a number of consequences without going to thermo-nuclear option.

The “neglected part of the Nolan principles is all about leadership”, he adds.

09:35 AM

‘No evidence’ that people are being made consultants to avoid scrutiny

Lord Pickles has said he has “no evidence” that any individuals have been made a consultant rather than a Spad to avoid scrutiny.

Asked this point, he told MPs of the PACAC committee it was “an interesting thought”, noting it “would be a very serious thing that would have happened and quite a short sighted thing.”

But he added: “I have no evidence to suggest that has taken place.”

His earlier suggestion to instigate a procedure whereby anyone working for or with government could be done “quite quickly while more fundamental reforms take place”, Lord Pickles notes.

“Most people are compliant,” he adds.

09:26 AM

Public ‘entitled’ to know about officials’ second jobs, says Lord Pickles

Acoba chairman Lord Pickles said that the public was “entitled” to know the arrangements for second roles being approved by the Cabinet Office, as with the Bill Crothers case.

“I would expect it to be recorded in a register, I would have expected that register to be transparent, I would have expected the rules to be known,” he told MPs on PACAC.

“So far as I know, the rules have never been published, therefore I have asked them to publish the rules – this is not a satisfactory situation.

“And I think, not only you are entitled to know or I am entitled to know, I think the wider public are entitled to know what these arrangements are, how they apply, what criteria is raised, what checks are raised, what conditions are made on an agreement to do so.

09:10 AM

Possibility of Greensill-level scandal ‘didn’t cross my mind’, says Lord Pickles

Lord Pickles giving evidence to PACAC this morning
Lord Pickles giving evidence to PACAC this morning

William Wragg then asks Lord Pickles where he thought the scandal would arise.

The Acoba chairman explains that 34,000 people left the civil service in 2020, but his body received just 108 applications for scrutiny on those appointments.

“There are some departments like the Ministry of Defence have a very clear system pretty well established. There are others that are less well established,” he says.

Lord Pickles tells the MP there need to be “proper procedures” introduced to create “consistency”.

“The possibility of something like Greensill, if I’m honest, didn’t really cross my mind.”

09:05 AM

Lord Pickles: I was warning of scandal for some time – but this is not what I expected

Lord Pickles says he has been warning of a scandal for some time “but this is not where I expected it to come from”.

He says before the Greensill scandal came out he had conversations with ministers and they “are taking it seriously”. There are “not loopholes” but areas that are not covered by Acoba across Goverment, which should “fall within an umbrella of some kind”.

Former Labour frontbencher John McDonnell asks who has raised these matters with, and Lord Pickles says “the proper channels”. He confirms he has not gone as high as secretary of state or prime ministerial level.

“I have been concerned, I have made some suggestions… and we are starting to work these up.”

He adds that “not for one moment did I anticipate anything like Greensill” but he had been “considerably worried about what has been going on below Acoba level” for some time.

“The Greensill thing has raised all kinds of other things that I should take seriously and this committee should take seriously and anybody who has an interest in ensuring respect for public life.”

08:58 AM

Lord Pickles defends role of Acoba

Lord Pickles was a minister under David Cameron - Geoff Pugh
Lord Pickles was a minister under David Cameron – Geoff Pugh

Lord Pickles has defended the role of Acoba, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, but insisted it is not a watchdog.

Asked “what is the point” of the body he is in charge of, he told MPs: “The point of Acoba is to put together conditions and delays to ensure the integrity of government is protected.

“But there is a misunderstanding, which I find deeply irritating. Acoba is not a watchdog, not a regulator. It has a very limited and defined role.”

Acoba is charged with considering applications for new jobs made by former ministers, senior civil servants and other Crown servants.

08:52 AM

‘Doesn’t seem to have been any boundaries’ between business and civil service, says Lord Pickles

The revolving door: Lord Pickles says there doesn't appear to have been "any boundaries"
The revolving door: Lord Pickles says there doesn’t appear to have been “any boundaries”

Lord Pickles says the focus should be less on “civil servants going out to get experience” but on outsiders coming in.

He tells MPs that the “kind of constraints we put on them” should be looked at “really carefully”.

He adds: “Every government for the past 20-25 years – it’s true of Lady Thatcher, true of Major, certainly true of Tony Blair and Brown – were all seeking to get people into civil service with business experience.

“So I understand how we got to this circumstances, but I don’t think it excuses the final result.”

But “part of the problem we have got is that it has not been clear where the boundaries lay – in fact, I hope this doesn’t seem rude -there doesn’t seem to have been any boundaries at all.”

08:47 AM

Lord Pickles: Bill Crothers’ second job very unusual

Lord Pickles said he hadn't 'really come across anything quite like [Bill Crothers' second job] before'
Lord Pickles said he hadn’t ‘really come across anything quite like [Bill Crothers’ second job] before’

Asked by David Jones about the “very glaring conflict of interest” about Bill Crothers’ dual jobs, Lord Pickles quotes PG Wodehouse, saying: “my eyebrows did raise a full quarter inch”.

He adds: “I haven’t really come across anything quite like this before.”

Asked if Mr Crothers’ secondment needed approval, Lord Pickles said he would have expected to be recorded and “have gone through a process at which at least the Nolan principles would have been applied”.

He adds: “I sincerely hope there was a record of this and it wasn’t just on the say-so of an individual”.

“If Mr Crothers had decided he wanted to go for a milk round or something I don’t think we would be particularly bothered,” he adds. “But his particular position, in terms of running procurement and working for a commercial organisation, is something that does require a full and frank and transparent explanation.”

08:43 AM

Lex Greensill not actually a special adviser, despite business card claims, says Lord Pickles

Lex Greensill does not appear to have been a special adviser, Lord Pickles says – but this is one of the “anomalies” in the system.

The financier had a business card describing himself as an adviser to Number 10, but if he had been a Spad he would have been covered by the remit of the watchdog Acoba.

There are some simple steps that could be taken now, he adds. “Rather than trying to create a very elaborate system, somebody in Mr Greensill’s place, somebody offering advice on the procurement of health equipment, should at least sign a memorandum of understanding which would outline their responsibilities.”

This should be published “so everybody understands where they are,” he adds. “That needs to be put in place.”

Longer-term, there should be focus on contracts given the “high churn among the upper echelons” of the civil service.

08:40 AM

Paid second jobs for senior officials ‘seems to be a new thing’, says Lord Pickles

Lord Pickles says it is “not unusual” for a civil servant to have a second job but says it is not normally at this level – or paid.

“It is relatively common for someone lower down to have a second job – they might be involved in a small cottage industry,” he adds.

“The level that Mr Crothers was, the kind of way the system would have been used would have been to allow them to say offer them advice, to say Citizens Advice or some other voluntary organisation – to sit on the board of a housing association or local authority,” he adds.

This would not be problematic because they would not be paid, but Bill Crothers’ job with Greensill was surprising “with regard to that excuse,” Lord Pickles tells MPs.

Former civil servants “also shared my surprise”, he adds. “This seems to be a new thing.”

08:36 AM

Greensill has highlighted ‘anomalies’ in oversight system, admits Lord Pickles

William Wragg has called to order the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is hearing from Lord Pickles today.

The Tory MP confirms that the PACAC will commence an inquiry “into the topical matters around Greensill”, the details of which will be published next week.

He then welcomes the former minister and turns immediately to the questions of Acoba’s oversight in light of Greensill.

Lord Pickles says the watchdog’s “only involvement” on the matter is with Bill Crothers, but says he feels “slightly embarrassed” because “most of the fuss” came after he wrote to the former civil servant about why he did not seek advice.

“It appears he was not isolated in that position”, says Lord Pickles. “It also highlights a number of anomalies in the system, which require immediate address.”

08:29 AM

Boris Johnson ‘correct’ to say lockdown, not vaccines, have cut cases

The Prime Minister is “correct” in saying lockdown measures have had the main impact on reducing Covid-19 infections, an honorary associate professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences has said.

Boris Johnson said earlier this week that, although vaccines have helped, lockdown restrictions have done “the bulk of the work” in getting numbers down.

Asked about his comments, Dr Julian Tang told Sky News: “At the moment the lockdown is causing the main impact in the reduction of number of cases and deaths”, but said the vaccine rollout is “encouraging”.

He added: “We’ll see that impact once you start to open up indoor spaces. If one in two people have antibodies, that immune barrier will reduce that spread of the virus in the indoor environment where the ventilation is poorer and where people are closer together unmasked and talking and breathing the same air.

“So I think that the Prime Minister is correct in that respect.”

08:25 AM

What’s on the agenda today?

Today is shaping up to be another interesting day in Westminster and beyond – here is what to expect.

From 9:30am: Lord Pickles to give evidence on his watchdog Acoba to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Also from 9:30am: International trade questions in Commons.

10:30am: Universities minister Michelle Donelan responds to an Urgent Question on compensation for university students

11:20am: Jacob Rees-Mogg sets out business for the week

12pm: European Parliament trade and foreign affairs committees to vote on Brexit deal

From 12:30pm: The domestic violence bill is debated until 5pm

7:30pm Lord Frost meeting European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic for Brexit talks in Brussels

08:15 AM

Have your say: Should all former prime ministers be called over Greensill?

Prime ministers including Tony Blair, Sir John Major, Gordon Brown and Theresa May could be hauled in front of MPs, to give evidence on their lobbying activities.

Commons committees including Mel Stride’s Treasury and William Wragg’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee are expected to confirm a list of witnesses that could stretch back many tenures, in a bid to get to the bottom of the murky world stirred up by David Cameron’s interventions for Greensill.

Nick Clegg, Mr Cameron’s deputy who now works for Facebook, could also be summoned.

Some of those in the frame have been curiously quiet in recent days – but many have been outside the tent for several years. The current ban on lobbying is two years – but even if it’s extended to five, as has been suggested, that exempts the majority of ex-PMs.

So should there be a cut-off point for who should be called – or should all living prime ministers be expected to give evidence? Have your say in the poll below.

08:04 AM

Risks of blood clot ‘pretty trivial’ compared with Covid, says Sir John Bell

The potential risks of developing blood clots from a coronavirus vaccination are “pretty trivial” when compared with those posed by contracting Covid-19, a scientist has said.

Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s Regius Professor of Medicine, told Sky News that blood clotting events being linked to vaccines are “extremely rare”.

He added: “The best way, if you want to have a bad clotting problem, is to get Covid.

“And if you don’t get a vaccine you’re going to get Covid, and if you get Covid you’ll have a very, very much higher risk of getting a bad clotting problem.

“So, the clotting problems of the vaccine are pretty trivial compared to the real risks of getting clotting problems if you get Covid.”

Event likelihood - AstraZeneca vaccine risk comparison
Event likelihood – AstraZeneca vaccine risk comparison

08:03 AM

Exclusive: Three further figures implicated in Greensill scandal

Lord Hogan-Howe was a paid adviser to Greensill while working in Whitehall  - PA
Lord Hogan-Howe was a paid adviser to Greensill while working in Whitehall – PA

A trio of revelations in the Greensill scandal have been revealed by Telegraph colleagues this morning.

Sir John Manzoni, the civil service chief understood to have been responsible for signing off on Bill Crothers’ position at Greensill, also held a secondary private sector role while in the civil service.

The Telegraph has also discovered that a third senior civil servant, Stephen Kelly, held roles in three private companies at the same time as a position within government. The private sector roles had been approved.

And it can be disclosed that the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Hogan-Howe was a paid adviser to Greensill at the same time as working at the heart of Whitehall.

Read the full story here.

07:31 AM

Testing reveals further South African variants in London

Further testing in London is revealing more cases of the South African variant, an expert has said.

There are now three areas in the capital undergoing surge testing, including two in the south of the city and one in the north.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director of Public Health England, said that more genetic sequencing of positive coronavirus tests had identified cases of the South African variant in the capital.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re finding cases because we’re doing more genetic sequencing of PCR positive tests of coronavirus which we’re seeing across the city.

“And that is identifying a low prevalence, a low number of cases, but we are finding cases of the South African variant.

“And in addition, we’re surging to identify additional cases belonging to the south London cluster, which we’re investigating in Lambeth, Wandsworth and Southwark. So we’re doing this very proactively.”

07:28 AM

Vaccine passports could create ‘two-tier society’, warns equality watchdog

Vaccine passports could discriminate against some groups, causing a “two-tier society”, the UK equality watchdog has warned.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission says certificates to prove who has been vaccinated could help to ease restrictions “in principle”.

But they could create a “two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights”.

Blanket mandatory vaccination policies are “likely to be unlawful”, it added.

The independent commission says Covid status certificates – sometimes called Covid passports – could discriminate against marginalised groups where take-up of the vaccine is lower, as well as the small number of people who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons.

07:25 AM

Focus on ‘hands, face, space’ guidance is wrong, says expert

Open doors and windows are key - Arcaid Images
Open doors and windows are key – Arcaid Images

The Government has placed the wrong emphasis on “hands, face, space”, an expert has said, as he calls on the public to use the “garlic-breath distance” as an indication for Covid transmission instead.

Dr Julian Tang is a consultant virologist at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and author of a new study published in the British Medical Journal that urges governments and health leaders to “focus their efforts on airborne transmission”.

He told Sky News the previous focus on hand washing and sanitising was not correct, saying: “The emphasis is wrong. So the message ‘hands, face, space’, we think should be really ‘space, space, hands’. The way this virus transmits is really through conversational distance, within one metre.

“When you’re talking to a friend or sharing the same air as you’re listening to your friend talking, we call it the garlic-breath distance. So if you can smell your friend’s lunch you’re inhaling some of that air as well as any virus that’s inhaled with it.

“And this is why we say that masking is fine, social distancing is fine, but the indoor airborne environment needs to be improved and that can be done with ventilation.”

07:15 AM

Brexit: Lord Frost travels to Brussels to thrash out ‘significant differences’ on Northern Ireland

David Frost will dine in Brussels - PA
David Frost will dine in Brussels – PA

Lord Frost is to attempt to resolve “significant differences” on the Northern Ireland protocol during talks with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic today.

Ahead of Thursday evening’s meeting in Brussels, an EU spokesman said they would “take stock of ongoing technical work” on the protocol.

A UK Government spokesman said there were still “significant differences” which needed to be resolved if they were to rebuild confidence in the agreement among communities in Northern Ireland.

“This meeting is part of our ongoing engagement with the EU to work through the outstanding issues with the protocol, in order to restore confidence on the ground, reflect the needs of communities and respect all dimensions of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” the spokesman said.

“The discussions so far have been constructive but there are still significant differences that need to be resolved. Both the UK and EU are continuing to engage with business, civil society and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland to understand the issues they are facing.”

07:10 AM

Former official damns Boardman inquiry with faint praise

A senior former official has said people in public life must follow “principles” of good behaviour, rather than simply following the rules.

Sir David Normington, the former permanent secretary at the Home Office, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “One thing we have heard a lot of is the behaviour in following the rules – but it’s not just about the rules, it’s about the principles of standards in public life.

“We need good behaviour in public life, not just the following of rules. It’s exactly why Simon Case, [the Cabinet Secretary], is doing the right thing by checking there are no other examples of this and, I hope, nipping this in the bud.”

But Sir David damned the Boardman inquiry with faint praise.

“It’s all we have got and we have… to trust Mr Boardman to carry out a thorough inquiry,” he said.

“I would have preferred it to be out in the open, a more thorough inquiry, but since that isn’t going to happen we have to trust Mr Boardman.”

Timeline: Greensill collapse
Timeline: Greensill collapse

07:05 AM

Civil servants must be scrutinised when taking new jobs, says former mandarin

It is “essential” that the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments scrutinises appointments of top civil servants when they leave Whitehall, according to former Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington.

On the Bill Crothers situation, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re not just talking here about any old civil servant.

“We’re talking about someone who was responsible for commercial dealings in government and had oversight of relations with a large number of major contractors and the handling of lots of public money,” he said.

“It’s essential that the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments is allowed to scrutinise those appointments and give its advice.”

Lord Pickles, chair of Acoba, is due to give evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee this morning.

07:04 AM

‘Absolutely baffling’ that senior official ‘evaded scrutiny’ on Greensill job

A former permanent secretary at the Home Office has said it is “absolutely baffling” that Bill Crothers was able to “evade scrutiny” over his second job at Greensill.

Mr Crothers, who had been the government’s chief procurement officer, joined financial firm Greensill Capital as an adviser while still working in Whitehall.

Sir David Normington, who was the most senior civil servant at both DfE and the Home Office over the course of a decade, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “When I heard it I thought it was absolutely baffling – I have never come across anything like it.”

He said he would be “very surprised” if Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, who gave officials until 5pm yesterday to come clean, found any other instances within Whitehall.

“It is essential that people like that when they leave CS are subject to scrutiny and rules which mean they can’t take up appointments immediately,” he added.

Profiles Greensill scandal
Profiles Greensill scandal

06:48 AM

Cabinet Secretary launches crackdown on mandarins’ second jobs

Britain’s most senior mandarin has warned that Whitehall officials with second jobs threaten the “integrity and impartiality” of the civil service as he launched a hunt for new conflicts of interest.

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, laid bare his “acute concern” in a letter to the heads of all Government departments on Wednesday.

He ordered them to search their ranks for high-level civil servants with external paid roles that may be problematic, setting the end of this week as the deadline.

It came amid a growing row over Greensill Capital, the lender that collapsed last month, and the access its founder enjoyed to the heart of government during David Cameron’s administration.


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