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Newslinks for Friday 16th April 2021

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Pickles calls for ‘urgent reform’ of Whitehall second job rules

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“An anti-sleaze chief has called for “immediate” reform of rules governing civil servants’ second jobs, warning there not do not seem to be “any boundaries at all” between Whitehall and the private sector. Lord Pickles, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) which vets jobs that ministers and mandarins accept after leaving Government, declared there were “anomalies which are simply not covered by an ethics regime and they should be”. He raised the alarm on Thursday that the example of Bill Crothers, who received Cabinet Office approval to work for scandal-hit lender Greensill while still a senior civil servant, was not an “isolated” case. Disclosing that “my eyebrows did raise the full quarter inch” when he heard about former Whitehall procurement chief Mr Crothers’ dual roles, he said: “I look forward to receiving a full explanation in due course.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • He brands internal Cabinet Office conflicts process an ‘excuse’ for avoiding check – Daily Mail
  • Tougher lobbying rules on table to head off claims of cronyism – The Times
  • Whitehall ‘livid’ over lack of records on top mandarins’ second jobs – The Sun
  • Labour backlash as it emerges lobbying firm chief is on board of business appointments watchdog – Daily Mail

More:

  • Hancock received shares in family firm that won lucrative NHS contract – The Independent
  • The full list of six inquiries – The Guardian
  • Are there 22 more Greensills? Fears of a lobbying timebomb – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Lobbying: a modest proposal. Let’s register any time anyone meets a Minister or MP – anywhere, anyhow.

…as more civil servants dragged into row

“One of the most senior civil servants in the health department is on secondment from an American healthcare giant that has recently taken over NHS services covering 500,000 patients. Tim de Winter, the deputy director of the government’s Test & Trace programme, has signed a one-year contract that allows him to return to the private sector later this year. Simon Case, the head of the civil service, has instructed senior staff to declare any second jobs by the end of the week after it emerged that Bill Crothers, the former head of procurement, was allowed to combine roles at Greensill Capital with one of the most senior positions in the Cabinet Office. In September, de Winter will go back to working at Operose, a subsidiary of US health insurer Centene. He has given up all his responsibilities at Operose during the 12 months he is employed by the government.” – The Times

  • Second Cabinet Office adviser hired by company while in civil service – Daily Telegraph
  • Prisons boss who took job with jail firm – Daily Telegraph
  • Whitehall official’s failure to declare role broke rules, watchdog says – FT

Paul Goodman: Civil service may yet dodge ‘hard rain’ reform

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“However, while the pack vanishes over the hill, view-hallooing as the politicians come into sight, another animal may slip unseen from its lair and get away: namely, the fox of civil service reform. Individual civil servants are set to feel the lash. Just as there will be a tightening-up of ministers’ reporting requirements for engagement with lobbyists, so there will be one on senior civil servants who work on outside projects. That Bill Crothers, head of Whitehall procurement, was also allowed to act as a part-time adviser to Greensill has ensured this will happen. Nonetheless, individuals are one thing and institutions another. What has happened to Dominic Cummings’s ambitions for civil service reform and how will the Greensill revelations affect what happens next?” – The Times

  • Greensill is but one small part of the parasitic monster feasting on the Government’s Covid largesse – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • Cameron passed a lobbying act, but it was never meant to curb corruption – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

>Today: John O’Connell in Comment: Lobbying, and an unacknowledged problem – namely, groups funded by the taxpayer that lobby for even more

ConHome columnist Holden claims that on Covid SpAds ‘were running the shop’

“Questions over checks and balances in government have been raised after political special advisers (spads) were accused of “running the shop” in a meeting with civil servants about handing out emergency pandemic funds to charities. MPs raised concerns about the process run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to decide how much money from a £750m pot should be given to other departments to allocate to voluntary and community organisations last April. Quoting private correspondence from DCMS in a meeting of the public accounts committee on Thursday, MPs said it seemed as if some bids had initially been “red-listed” by civil servants – meaning they were deprioritised after “scoring very low” on internal assessments – before being approved by ministers.” – The Guardian

Rees-Mogg urges Britons to ‘save our pubs’

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“Britons have a duty to buy alcohol, soft drinks and food to help ‘save our pubs’ by heading to down to local beer gardens, according to Jacob Rees-Mogg. The Commons Leader also suggested MPs could ‘lead by example’ in supporting the hospitality sector across the country. Mr Rees-Mogg’s rallying cry came days after lockdown easing in England saw people able to enjoy visits to pub gardens. Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield) raised data suggesting spending in pubs in his constituency on Monday was only at 43.9 per cent of pre-Covid 19 pandemic levels – and asked for a debate on support for the industry.” – Daily Mail

Furious Raab joins US to slam ‘malicious’ Russian ‘CosyBear’ hack attack

“Furious Dominic Raab teamed up with America today to slam “malicious” Russia for hacking into a US tech firm and “undermining democracy”. The Foreign Secretary lashed out at President Putin’s Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and pointed the finger at them for a wider campaign of terror and hacking against Britain and the US. And both parties blamed Russia for a series of cyberhacks – including on US tech firm SolarWinds. It allowed a number of public sector organisations – including Government departments – to be targeted through the hack, the Foreign Office said today. The group, which is part of a wider network of Russian intelligence services, have repeatedly tried to gain access to Governments across Europe and NATO members too.” – The Sun

  • West condemns ‘malign’ Moscow – The Times
  • Putin blocks foreign warships from entering Black Sea amid Ukraine war fears – Daily Express

>Yesterday:

Lord Frost back in Brussels to discuss Northern Ireland Protocol…

Northern Ireland

“Lord Frost is back in Brussels for the first time since he struck the Brexit trade deal at the end of last year. The former chief negotiator and now Cabinet Minister is in town for talks with his opposite number, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic. The main course for the dinner discussions at the commission headquarters is the Northern Ireland Protocol. Brussels has begun legal action against the UK for its unilateral extension of grace periods on customs checks for parcels and food entering Northern Ireland from Britain. The commission says this is a violation of an international treaty, while the UK says it is not only lawful but a move made in good faith. Differences between the EU and UK over the implementation of the Protocol are too deep to be solved over a three-course dinner in the Berlaymont building.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He is ‘standing firm to protect its place in the UK’ – Daily Express

…as MEPs back UK trade deal as efforts mount to ease Brexit tensions

“EU lawmakers endorsed the bloc’s trade deal with the UK on Thursday, in a vote that Brussels hopes will help boost relations as diplomatic efforts intensify to ease tensions in Northern Ireland. Two key European Parliament committees approved the UK-EU “trade and co-operation” agreement, paving the way for a future final ratification vote by the assembly. The deal — which provides tariff-free trade on most goods — has been in provisional effect since January, after being struck at the end of 2020 just in time for Britain’s departure from the EU single market. MEPs said the endorsement was an important step for relations ahead of a dinner on Thursday evening between EU Brexit commissioner Maros Sefcovic and his UK opposite number David Frost, where the two politicians will take stock of recent tensions concerning Northern Ireland.” – FT

  • EU states believe MEPs have handed UK leverage in Brexit talks – Daily Telegraph

Sturgeon’s ‘transformational’ NHS spending rise is less than the Tories’ plan, says IFS

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“Nicola Sturgeon’s “transformational” increase in Scottish NHS spending is less than the rise planned by the Tories in England and may not be enough to keep up with demand, an impartial analysis of her election manifesto has concluded. The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the SNP’s promise to increase front-line health spending by £2.5 billion over the next five years would lead to an annual rise of 2.1 per cent above inflation. But the analysis said this was less than the 3.4 per cent increase planned by Boris Johnson’s government for the English NHS and slower than what may be needed to keep up with cost and demographic pressures – even before the Covid pandemic. The IFS also warned that the array of spending pledges unveiled by Ms Sturgeon had a “significant net cost” and questioned how they will be paid for given her promise not to increase income tax rates over the next parliament.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Nationalist manifesto promises fresh independence push and free dentistry – FT
  • First Minister pledges four-day week but won’t say how she’ll pay for it – The Sun
  • SNP-run council accused of ordering cleaners to tidy streets in Sturgeon’s seat ahead of Sarwar visit – Daily Telegraph

Alba:

  • Could Salmond’s ‘supermajority’ talk harm the Scottish independence cause? – The Guardian

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: On my radio show, I asked Salmond who he would side with out of Putin or Biden. Can you guess his answer?

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Anger at Westminster as Scottish Tories put SNP’s referendum pledge at the heart of their campaign

News in Brief:

  • Scotland’s mid-life crisis – Ruth Davidson, UnHerd
  • Politics is nothing without the pub – Marie le Conte, CapX
  • Britain is in danger of repeating its post-war mistakes – Matt Ridley, The Spectator
  • Is grammar elitist? – Alexander Larman, The Critic

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