Posts Tagged ‘Chris Grayling’

Vox Political: Government Refusing to Release Report into Badger Cull

November 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has an article on a story in today’s Independent that Cameron and co. are refusing to release a report showing whether or not the badger cull has been money well spent. Mike’s article is at
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/02/government-refuses-to-release-report-into-whether-badger-cull-is-waste-of-money/

I think it’s probably fair to say that this is a tacit admission that it hasn’t. If it had been any good, the government would have had absolutely no problem whatsoever with releasing the report. Indeed, they’d be shouting from the rooftops about how it supports their policy.

As with the figures for human deaths caused by Ian Duncan Smith’s attack on the welfare state, it’s obviously a real embarrassment for them. They aren’t going to release it, and not to a group campaigning on behalf of badgers. This would not suit Chris Grayling’s idea that somehow, government documents should only be released to the appreciative few, who merely want to know how government decisions are taken, rather than criticise them.

There are so many of these stories, about reports being suppressed and information not given to members of the public, who have requested it under FOIA, that frankly I think I should have a special symbol for stories on Tory governmental secrecy. A governmental gag, perhaps?

Vox Political on Chris Grayling’s Attempt to Destroy the Freedom of Information Act

November 1, 2015

The Tory MP Chris Grayling this week announced the government’s plans to place severe restrictions on information released under the Freedom of Information Act, on the risible grounds that newspapers were using it to get stories. In Grayling’s view, the information given under the Act should only be used by people trying to understand how government decisions are reached, not to challenge those decisions.

It’s a high-handed, arrogant and authoritarian attitude to the release of government documents. Mike has written this article, Flailing Grayling makes a mess of his Freedom of Information lie, pointing out how utterly specious Grayling’s argument is. He begins

How clever of Chris Grayling to wrap his big lie about Freedom of Information around a small truth (he probably thought).

Yes – it is true that information gained via FoI requests have been used to create news stories.

But – and this is a major, major but – only because the information that had been revealed was of public interest.

Look at This Writer’s FoI request about benefit claimant deaths. That came from a genuine interest in having updated information after the government itself released death figures in 2012.

It could be argued that the government turned it into a news story by refusing to provide that information. The obvious question is: Why? What’s so bad about these figures that the government wants to hide them?

Of course, Grayling is attempting to curb the Freedom of Information Act, because he and his masters in the Tory party find the material contained in them acutely embarrassing. It exposes every lie they’ve made about Britain becoming richer, happier and healthier. And especially their vile attitude to the disabled and the deaths that have resulted from their welfare policies.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/10/29/flailing-grayling-makes-a-mess-of-his-freedom-of-information-lie/. Go and read it.

Vox Political: Labour Should Not Let Disabled People Die Just to Curry Favour with Press

March 11, 2015

This is another piece of Mike’s that needs to be reblogged. In his piece, Why are disabled people being asked to die for Labour’s election hopes, Mike reports how Liza van Zyl, a campaigner against the work capability assessment system and the deaths it has caused, was told by the Labour MP Owen Smith that Labour did not support any change to the current work capability assessment. They were afraid that it would damage Labour’s chances of getting into power by allowing them to be attacked as soft on benefits. The article begins

… Especially when it won’t improve those hopes?

Extremely disturbing news has reached Vox Political, courtesy of Liza Van Zyl on Facebook. Extremely long-term readers may recall Liza was the lady who received a visit from police who claimed she had committed a criminal act against the Department for Work and Pensions, just before midnight on October 26, 2012 – being that she had been highlighting the deaths of sick and disabled people following reassessment by Atos and the DWP for Employment and Support Allowance.

Fortunately for those who still have to undergo these assessments, she was not discouraged and has continued to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves. However, she is currently suffering severe disenchantment with the Labour Party, as she recounts below:

“We heard from Owen Smith MP today [Saturday, March 7] (a member of the left wing of the of the Labour Party leadership) that it is important for disabled people to continue to die, lest any commitment by Labour to scrap the Work Capability Assessment generate a negative response in the press and affect Labour’s general election chances.

“He said that while he personally doesn’t like the WCA, his Labour colleagues will not support scrapping it because of fears it will play badly with the right wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances… I’ve since been contacted by other disabled people who’ve raised the issue with their Labour MPs, and the response has been: Yes, the WCA isn’t nice but if Labour commits to scrapping it, it would appear to be ‘soft on welfare’.

“The similarities of these responses (and given that Owen Smith is a frontbench shadow sec of state and therefore presumably is up to date on party strategy) indicates that this is an agreed line or represents an actual decision. This is profoundly disturbing, given that a great many Labour MPs know in detail exactly what suffering and deaths the WCA is responsible for among their own constituents: Tom Greatrex organised a powerful meeting of Labour MPs with Chris Grayling two years ago. Dame Anne Begg is herself a disabled person, as are other MPs.

Mike asks the question when this decision was taken, and why didn’t left-wing MPs like John McConnell, Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn protest?

He also makes the good point that this policy will not benefit the Labour party, but will actually harm it. Disabled people and their friends and families also vote, and they won’t support a party that continues to let their loved ones die, all for its own cynical political advantage. The opinions of the right-wing press can be discounted. Their readers won’t vote Labour, and so there is no point courting them.

He also points out that if, as he hopes, Labour does decide to scrap the work capability assessment, then its silence on this policy in order to win the election also makes it guilty of the same misrepresentation and lies that have resulted in public distrust of politicians generally as self-interested liars.

Mike also points out that he has written to Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow minister for welfare, and Ed Miliband about this issue before, only to be met with stony silence. He has suggested that people should write to the very same right-wing press, of which Labour seem so afraid, to point out how their refusal to change the WCA will stop then and others like them from voting for the party. He himself is perfectly willing to draft the letter.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/10/why-are-disabled-people-being-asked-to-die-for-labours-election-hopes/. Go there to let him know what you think about this policy.

From Private Eye 2010: Cameron Privatises NHS Nursing Agency

January 20, 2015

I’ve got a stack of stories on the government’s attack on the NHS, and the failings of the workfare companies from old copies of Private Eye that I’ve been meaning to post for some time now. I didn’t get round to it, because I’ve been too busy with other things. Now that I’ve finally got them out the way, I can get round to posting some of them, at least.

In their issue for the 1st – 14th October 2010, Private Eye published this report into the government’s privatisation of the NHS nursing agency, NHS Professionals, in their ‘In the Back’ section.

Private Nursing
What a SWIIS!

Many commentators were surprised by the Tories’ recently floated plan to privatise NHS Professionals, the government’s non-for-profit nursing agency.

It was set up to save NHS hospitals some of the big money they were spending with agencies, so selling it off could in the long run end up costing the NHS (and taxpayers).

The Conservatives may feel more warmly disposed towards private nursing agencies since Dev Dadral gave the party £60,000 this year to help them with the election., Dadral’s enthusiasm for the Conservatives also included a £25,000 donation to Chris Grayling, now a work and pensions minister.

Dadral of course owns the SWIIS employment agency, which has a substantial nursing agency business. His firm recently won multi-million pound nursing agency contracts with the NHS in Scotland and Wales; and if NHS Professionals is sold off, he may get the chance to win some more.

As you can see, that has all the hallmarks of the Tory administration right from the beginning. The privatisation of a section of the NHS because it actually saves taxpayer’s money, for the profit of private businesses run by Tory ministers themselves and their donors. For a very full list, see the meme produced on this point giving the names and faces of every Tory and Lib Dem minister, who stands to profit from the privatisation of the NHS, produced by Another Angry Voice, and reposed by many other left-wing bloggers, like Mike at Vox Political, since.

And as any fule kno, the title is something of a pun, as Dadral’s firm, SWIIS, is similar to the word ‘swiz’, meaning a ‘chiz’ or swindle, according to that great polymath, Nigel Molesworth. Which exactly describes every one of the government’s policies, chiz, chiz, chiz.

From 2013: Private Eye on the Cruelty, Stress and Anxiety of the Fitness-to-Work Tests

April 8, 2014

atoskillsgraf

Atos may be pulling out of the Fitness-to-Work tests, but they’re still in charge of the Personal Independence Payments and the tests themselves will still be administered, as the Void has pointed out on his post about it today. I found this article from Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ section attacking the tests for the harmful stress inflicted on the sick and disabled in the issue for 8th – 21st March 2013.

Fitness to Work Tests

Sick Joke

More stories are emerging of the extreme distress and hardship caused to sick and disabled people wrongly found fit to work by Atos, the French private contractor, and consequently denied benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Last week the Eye was alerted by lawyers to the case of a woman with fragments of bullet and shards of her skull permanently lodged into her brain, who was deemed by Atos to have no care needs or mobility problems – despite a change in her mental state leading to extended periods of unconsciousness.

The Commons public accounts committee last month blamed ministers for the “misery and hardship” suffered by claimants, saying that while Atos (which has earned more than £100m a year over the past four years for its “work capability” contract) was getting assessments disastrously wrong, the government was doing nothing to check or improve reliability.

Nor was there any sign of improvement, with Cizizens Advice reporting an 83 percent increase in the past year in the number of people asking for support on appeals against decisions. Charities and legal advisers also complain that people with long-term, incurable or terminal conditions often face repeated assessments to prove how unwell they are, despite supplying doctors’ and consultants’ evidence that their health or condition will never improve.

Those most in need of help, meanwhile, are about to get another kicking from the government as, from next month, legal aid is withdrawn in the vast majority of benefit cases. The government is reneging on a promise from former lord chancellor Kenneth Clarke to allow free legal support in “point of law” cases at the first-tier tribunal level – the state of the tribunal process where most cases remain.

Clarke had said he was concerned about the impact on disabled people making their initial appeal against a decision by the DWP on their benefit entitlement But not so Chris Grayling, his successor, who wants to save £350m a year in legal aid by 2015 by axing free advice for most cases involving child custody, divorce, medical negligence, immigration, employment, housing debts and benefits. According to Grayling’s own figures, an estimated 623,000 people will lose out. A number of legal advice centres have already closed as the proposed cuts are already taking effect on law firms and centres, which can only claim legal aid after dealing with the case.

As one lawyer told the Eye: “What this means, in reality, is that some very ill and distressed people will simply not have the capacity to challenge appalling decisions.” Benefits tribunals will meanwhile get clogged up with badly prepared or even meritless appeals – and the only beneficiary will be Atos.

A few weeks ago Bristol’s lawyers joined a one-day strike protesting against the cuts to legal aid. It should be unacceptable that over half a million people – 623,000 – should be denied justice simply because they cannot afford it. It goes against the clause in Magna Carta, in which the king promises that he will not ‘deny, delay or sell justice’. Even earlier, English kings like Henry I sought to present themselves as a ‘lion of justice’. One of the ancient legal courts was set up by Richard II – the same Richard against whom the peasants revolted and who was overthrown by Henry Bolingbroke, Henry IV – to provide better access to justice for his subjects. This shows just how much contempt and respect the Tories have for the concept of impartial justice, which doesn’t distinguish between people on grounds of their class or economic background. And the stoppage of legal aid after Kenneth Clarke’s promise to the contrary is just another example of a broken Tory promise.

As for Atos earning £100m a year over four years, during which time as many as 55,000 people a year may have died after being assessed as fit for work, and denied benefits – this is also monumentally unjust and iniquitous. Clearly, Grayling is afraid that widespread access to legal help by some of the victims of the assessment just might stop or severely hinder the policy. Hence the government’s decision to stop free legal advice.

As for Atos stating it’s getting out of assessments, I wonder if they also share Grayling’s fear, and are getting out while the going’s good. It looks like they’re afraid that if they continue administering the assessments, one unfairly assessed claimant or group of claimants may win and the company be faced with fines, damages and compensation payments. And that might seriously hurt their profits, not to mention whatever they believe passes as their business reputation.

Private Eye on the Government’s Proposal to Introduce Secret Courts

July 20, 2013

I’ve recently linked to Another Angry Voice’s blog post attacking the government’s proposal to introduce secret courts. Last year Private Eye also ran a piece in its edition for the 21st September – 4th October. The article ran as follows:

‘Secret Courts

Open and Shut Cases

The first lesson the apologetic David Cameron should learn from the Hillsborough inquiry is that there can be no justification for his plan to press ahead with a new raft of secret courts.

While the scale of the cover-up by the authorities in the wake of the football tragedy was breathtaking, the fact that police and other agents of the state can lie and fabricate damning evidence while burying other material that doesn’t help their case has been a long and unhappy feature of our justice system.

It is often only because of a tireless campaign by families, sometimes working with dedicated lawyers, trawling through boxes of evidence and material, that the injustice is finally put right-not before many lives have been destroyed. Non-disclosure of material which could prove someone’s innocence, of police, scientific or state malpractice, have long been major factors in these cases.

Such cover-ups happen even when the courts are open to public scrutiny and defendants or those challenging the state and their lawyers have rights of access to evidence. Imagine how much easier it would be behind closed court doors.

However, the Ministry of Justice is pressing ahead with plans to establish new secret courts, which will allow ministers to apply for special ‘closed material procedures’ (CMPs) in civil courts when it or its intelligence agencies and forces are being sued. It has also recently conceded in the Lords that CMPs could be employed in habeas corpus claims – the ancient law to ensure that people are not unlawfully detained – meaning yet more people will be locked up without knowing on what basis and without the means to contest it properly.

Cleverly, the prime minister used his “liberal” justice secretary Ken Clarke to steer through the controversial legislation, before ditching him for Chris Grayling in the reshuffle to the right. Clarke duly maintained that the measures are needed to prevent sensitive intelligence material provided by friendly states being revealed in open court.

The previous Labour administration always claimed, dubiously, that the US had been outraged at the use of American evidence in the UK courts which showed MI5 officers were involved in the torture and unlawful interrogation of British resident and Guantanamo Bay detainee, Binyam Mohamed. Lord Neuberger, the then master of the rolls, found that the security services had failed to respect human rights, had misled parliament and had a culture of suppression. All this was damning and hugely embarrassing for the service and Labour government which had tried to keep the material secret; and no doubt this is the driving motive behind the new secret court legislation for which MI5 has been lobbying ever since.

Under the proposals an application by the government for a court to sit in secret might itself remain secret as in the discredited superinjunction cases. The public would be prevented from learning about cases like that of Binyam Mohamed and the more recent cases of rendition to Iraq.’

The article then considered the case of another Guantanamo detainee, whose case was reviewed behind closed doors, rather than in open court.

‘It has now emerged that other Guantanamo detainees who were promised an inquiry and investigation into claims that they had ben illegally detained and ill-treated are again being thwarted by the government and authorities.

In January the judge-led Gibson inquiry – which was also to take place behind closed doors – into allegations of wrongdoing by the UKI’s security services was scrapped because Ken Clarke said it would interfere with a new Met police investigation into the Iraqi renditions.

Others making similar allegations were invited to complain formally to the police. But last month human rights lawyer Louise Christian, representing Guantanamo detainee Martin Mubanga, was told that a “scoping panel” which includes director public prosecutions Keir Starmer and senior police chiefs was deciding which cases to prioritise.

Curiously, the panel’s view was that the evidence in Mr Mubanga’s case would be best examined in the first instance “within the wider context of the detainee inquiry”, ignoring the fact tha the Gibson inquiry has been axed – and with no firm plans for any further inquiry.

Ms Christian told the Eye she knew of no precedent where police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which are supposed to be independent of government, postpone criminal investigations for a behind-closed-doors inquiry,m which would not in any event meet international human rights law governing serious allegations. More successful lobbying by the spooks, no doubt.’

Now I doubt that many people have much sympathy for the Guantanamo detainees, the majority of whom are there for very good reasons. There is, however, the wider issue of justice involved here. Justice has to be impartial. It has to operate, even in the cases of individuals accused of the most terrible crimes, regardless of what we think of them. Moreover, the legal safeguards built into these cases also protect wider society. It is to stop the same laws now being used in Gitmo being applied to other British citizens, to prevent Britain becoming a surveillance state where people disappear without knowing the crime of which they have been accused.

The proposal for these secret courts has been compared to the nightmare denials of justice portrayed in Kafka’s novels The Trial and The Castle. These predicted the situation that existed decades later under the Nazis and the Communists. During Stalin’s Terror people disappeared, taken from their homes and families by the NKVD as it then was, for trivial offences of Thoughtcrime. Simply remarking that Stalin appeared ill could and did get people arrested for being imperialist and Trotskyite spies engaged in anti-Soviet activities. Under the Nazis the phrase was ‘Nacht und Nebel’ – night and fog. Their disappearance into the maze of concentration camps without any statement regarding their whereabouts was deliberately calculated to inspire fear. Saddam Hussein operated a similar regime in Iraq. Under Hussein there were a number of laws relating to spying and national security in the Iraqi penal code, which it was illegal even to know about. These laws were invoked to detain and murder political opponents. it was for violation of these codes that the British journalist, Faisal Bazoft, was arrested and then murdered by the Iraqi regime.

If Cameron’s proposal for such secret courts goes ahead, we will have created the type of justice system against which we fought in the Second World War, and which partly supplied the justification for the wars against Iraq.