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Rich get the government to do what it is paid for

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Issue 2771
Eric Pickles
Tory MP Eric Pickles (Pic: Department for Communities and Local Government)

Two Tory rogues from the past are embroiled in a row over political influence over contracts.

Former chancellor Philip Hammond has been accused of threatening to try and issue a legal injunction against an official body.

It rebuked him for using his ­government connections to assist a bank he now advises.

Lord Pickles, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), said the panel had delayed publishing its verdict into a probe into Lord Hammond of Runnymede after he warned he was considering the action.

Lord Pickles is better known as Eric Pickles, part of David Cameron’s ­cabinet from 2010 to 2015.

He previously served as chair of the Conservative Party.

Hammond had written to the second most senior official at the Treasury on behalf of OakNorth, a bank he is now paid to advise.

The Tory peer sent an email to top civil servant Charles Roxburg in July last year highlighting a “toolkit” developed by OakNorth Bank that the government could use to assess potential borrowers.

Lord Hammond joined the advisory board of the bank in 2020, a year after he left government.

He was ordered by Acoba to avoid contacting officials on behalf of OakNorth Bank to influence policy or secure business for two years.

A new law will allow one of the Tories’ biggest donors to keep bankrolling the party for life, despite having reportedly lived in the Bahamas for a decade.

John Gore, has given almost £4.2 ­million to the Conservative Party, making him the Tories’ number one donor despite having spent “more than a decade away” from Britain.

Now Boris Johnson’s Tories are ­bringing a new Elections Bill, which allows donors who live in tax havens to fund political parties indefinitely.

Currently donors can only fund parties from abroad for 15 years—but this will be abolished under the Elections Bill, which returned to the Commons on Monday.

The most recent Companies House records for Gore, published this year, list him as resident in the Bahamas.

Over a million migrants denied benefits

More than 1.3 million immigrants in Britain are barred from receiving benefits, such as Universal Credit and even free school meals for their children, according to a think-tank report.

The report, published last week by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), found “considerable evidence” that No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) visa conditions had led to “destitution and financial hardship”.

IPPR calculated that 1.31 million people currently hold NRPF visas, following a freedom of information request to the Home Office.

This is a significant increase on previous estimates of 1 million.

During the pandemic NRPF visa holders who were sacked from work were unable to claim the meagre benefits to which other workers were entitled.

The system, first introduced under Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1999, now applies to nearly every immigrant who is on a time-limited visa.

The report added that European citizens who did not apply in time for permission to remain under the government’s EU Settlement Scheme deadline of 30 June this year would find themselves barred from receiving vital social security support.

People arriving from Hong Kong under the programme for holders of UK-issued passports, are also barred from receiving public funds for their first five years in the country.

Large numbers of migrants with valid asylum claims—including, potentially, people fleeing Afghanistan—could also in future fall under the category.

Workers’ unpaid overtime in Britain is now worth the equivalent of £219 billion a year in free labour. It has risen from an average of six hours a week in 2019 to seven hours in 2020, to almost eight hours in 2021. The figures come from a new study by the ADP Research Institute. Activity can range from working over breaks and starting early or staying late to regularly put in several hours of extra work each day for no additional pay. One in four British workers are giving away more than ten hours per week for free to their employers.

The government has brought in a new offence of animal theft, focused on dogs. This was allegedly needed to deal with a huge increase in dog thefts during lockdown. There is no evidence that there has even any significant increase, in recent years. There may have been a slight increase in 2020, but there were probably fewer dog thefts than in 2017 or 2018.

Don’t dare squat my second home, or else

British people who have second, third or fourth homes in Spain are engaging what the BBC calls “hard men” to remove squatters from their properties.

One holiday home owner, Michael Regan, told the BBC that he had been informed there were squatters in his holiday home.

Then “People advised me to hire a company that specialises in negotiating with squatters to get them out.”

Enter FueraOkupas—literally translated as “Get out squatters.”

The company started work three years ago and now gets 150 calls a day, says director Jorge Fe.

Regan agreed terms—a fee of £3,000.

“Dealing with these kinds of people is like a children’s game for us, we have champion fighters on our team,” says Jorge Fe. After several visits from Jorge Fe and his heavies, the squatters left.

FBI using your phone to spy from the sky

The US FBI’s spy plane programme targeted a man in Florida last year with nearly constant surveillance. They logged more than 400 hours in the air with a fleet of aircraft registered to what appear to be front companies.

The fleet of FBI planes, often small aircraft, are outfitted with high-tech video cameras and tracking devices known as “cell‑site simulators” that trick mobile phones into connecting to the FBI’s device rather than to a legitimate cellphone tower.

The revelations came in the case of Muhammed Momtaz Alazhari, an alleged supporter of the Islamic State, who federal prosecutors said was plotting a terrorist attack in the Tampa Bay area.

Alazhari has pleaded not guilty to one count of providing material support to terrorists and two firearms charges.

His lawyer has argued that any supposed evidence from the aerial surveillance should be struck out as it was obtained without a warrant.

Things they say

‘It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower’

Ben Wallace, defence secretary

‘But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It’s just a big power’

Wallace moves on to the US

‘I am pleased to say that at this stage we see no need to consider compulsory redundancies as part of this process’

Labour general secretary David Evans avoids picket lines at Labour Party conference over sacking Labour staff

‘Concentrate on a handful of those already announced’

Labour PR people complain that the 200 policies Keir Starmer has announced are too many

‘Reintroducing a pledge card of announcements’

Their inspired solution to the problem



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