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How many Tory ministers helped out collapsing firm?

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From Tory corruption to how they are killing bees Troublemaker looks at the week’s news
Tory minister Nadhim Zahawi shares joke with David Cameron

Nadhim Zahawi shares a joke with David Cameron Picture: Alamy

Businessman Sanjeev Gupta thanked Tory minister Nadhim Zahawi for his “personally instrumental” role in enabling Greensill Capital to make taxpayer-backed Covid business support loans, in a letter released by the government.

Greensill collapsed last year, ­sparking a lobbying scandal involving the former prime minister David Cameron.

The Serious Fraud Office also launched an investigation into more than £300 million of loans to businesses linked to GFG Alliance, the metals conglomerate run by Gupta.

Last year the National Audit Office said the government-owned British Business Bank gave Greensill Capital access to the scheme without ­subjecting the firm to detailed checks, leaving ­taxpayers facing a £335 million loss.

It has emerged that in October 2020, Gupta sent a letter to Zahawi, then a minister in the business department thanking him for getting the bank to approve Greensill’s access to the loan scheme. In the letter, Gupta went as far as inviting Zahawi, who was ­promoted to education secretary in the autumn, to a “small gathering” at his steelworks in Rotherham to mark the Greensill loan success.

The letter was sent days before a formal investigation into Greensill and the loans to GFG-linked firms was launched. The government’s business department says Zahawi “did not respond to the letter, nor did he make any subsequent visit to a GFG Alliance site”.

A former Conservative health minister has been rebuked by the Westminster lobbying watchdog for ­setting up a meeting between a pharmaceutical company and the Covid-19 vaccines minister at the time. Steve Brine, the former public health minister, who was paid £200 an hour as a “strategic adviser” to Sigma Pharmaceuticals arranged and sat in on a meeting between its executives and Nadhim Zahawi. At the time Zahawi was in charge of the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Two months after the meeting in February 2021 Sigma was awarded a £100,000 contract to deliver lateral flow tests to pharmacies.

Paying the media piper

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a non-profit corporation funded by the US Congress, has poured over £2.6 million into seven British media groups over the past five years.

The NED was “created to do in the open what the Central Intelligence Agency has done surreptitiously for decades”, the New York Times reported.
NED money has gone to British groups Bellingcat, Finance Uncovered and openDemocracy, as well as media freedom and training organisations Index on Censorship, Article 19, the Media Legal Defence Initiative, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

They may have nothing to do with the CIA, but why have they taken this tainted money? Allen Weinstein, the director of the research study that led to the creation of the NED in the 1980s, remarked in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

Tories new graduate tax

The government has frozen the salary threshold at which graduates start repaying student loans, denting the take-home pay of university leavers in England from April. Graduates earning £30,000 a year will pay an additional annual repayment of £113. Higher education minister Michelle Donelan said last Friday that the loan repayment salary threshold would remain at £27,295 for the next tax year rather than rising by 4.6 percent in line with average earnings, as is current policy. Or essentially a tax rise.

Energy efficiency measures have saved the average household about £1,000 a year in energy bills, and further insulation and home improvements could halve future bills. That’s according to the Regulatory Assistance Project. But the future savings are unlikely unless the government focuses on insulation, as the savings so far have come from efficiency improvements in electrical appliances and boilers. So the solution is…insulate Britain.

A rocket launched by super-rich Elon Musk’s space exploration company is on course to crash into the Moon and explode. The Falcon 9 booster was launched in 2015 but after completing its mission, it did not have enough fuel to return towards Earth and instead remained in space. It was part of Musk’s SpaceX programme, a commercial company that ultimately aims to get humans living on other planets.

Sugar lobby sweetens Tories to kill bees

A Tory minister has approved the use of a pesticide that can harm bees. Environment secretary George Eustice has authorised the emergency use of a product containing the chemical thiamethoxam.

The decision came despite expert advisers finding pollution from the pesticide would damage bees and river life, and requirements for its use had not been met. In 2018, the European Union and Britain imposed an almost total ban on thiamethoxam because of the serious damage the chemical could cause to bees.

At the time of the ban, Michael Gove, who was the environment secretary then, said Britain was in favour as it couldn’t “afford to put our pollinator populations at risk”. But British Sugar has successfully applied for an exemption to allow the banned pesticide to be used in England this year because of the threat posed by a virus that could hit its production and revenues.

Serial negligence at auditors KPMG

Troublemaker regular, auditor KPMG has been rocked again by evidence of its negligence. The regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, has fined the firm £4,300,000, reduced to £3,010,000 because it admitted some wrongdoing, for its handling of its audit of the Bargain Booze owner Conviviality.
The KPMG partner in charge of the audit, Nicola Quayle, was also fined £110,000.

Conviviality was the owner of brands including Wine Rack and the high end wine retailer Bibendum. It also distributed drinks to chains including JD Wetherspoon, Yates and Slug and Lettuce.

It was worth £500 million and had 4,000 staff, but collapsed into administration. KPMG did not spot Conviviality’s lies that it had exceeded earnings targets. It failed to check adequately for fraud.

KPMG also received a near-record fine of £13 million for misconduct related to a conflict of interest in the sale of the bed company Silentnight to a private equity firm.

Things they say

‘Boris is like Samson in the Temple, determined to pull everything down before he goes, like a tot with a temper tantrum’

Ivo Dawnay, Johnson’s brother in law

‘A clear-out of the Cabinet as well as advisers, with all the neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd exiting immediately’

Sunday Telgraph editor Allister Heath on what he thinks can save Boris Johnson

‘Labour membership in my constituency is falling and that’s a good thing’

Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves

‘Labour now has a totally different mentality towards business’

Reeves again

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