Labour demands full investigation from Prime Minister on luxury Downing Street flat refurbishment
Labour have written to the Prime Minister calling for a full investigation, after a statement from the government released quietly through a Parliamentary Question late on Friday failed to reveal the source of the original donor for the Downing Street flat refurbishment, but instead said the Prime Minister himself would be paying for the costs.
The original donor or donors of the refurbishment, reported to be worth up to £200,000, is still unknown, raising serious questions, the Party says, about who paid in the first place and whether there were any conflicts of interests given the recent sleaze scandal unfolding in government.
Labour have written to the Prime Minister demanding he makes it clear who originally paid for the refurbishment, why, when and how – as well as asking the Prime Minister to come clean about the allegations levelled at him by his former Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings that Johnson behaved unethically and possibly illegally in his management of the Downing Street flat refurbishment.
They have also underlined the increasing delay of the Register of Minister’s Interests and the lack of appointment of an Independent Adviser on Ministerial Standards.
Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, wrote:
“The Ministerial Code clearly states ‘Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public’. This has not happened.
“Given we know it only takes a text message from a friend to get the full attention at the top of your government, many people will wonder what personal goodwill could be generated by a secret donation to the redecoration of your living quarters.
“Any external financial aid to a Prime Minister’s lifestyle must of course be fully declared at the time and as the Ministerial Code makes clear, real and perceived conflicts of interest must be avoided.
“I believe there needs to be a full investigation given the gravity of the new accusations from your former Chief Adviser and the serious implications of other irregularities of this concerning episode.”
Labour summons Chancellor to Parliament to explain his role in Greensill scandal
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be hauled before Parliament to explain why he granted Greensill Capital access to a Covid loan scheme for businesses, putting hundreds of millions of pounds of public money at risk.
The Speaker has granted an Urgent Question tabled by Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds asking the Chancellor to explain the process by which Greensill Capital was accredited as a lender for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme (CLBILS) in June 2020.
That decision allowed the lending firm to issue state-backed loans of up to £50 million, with media reports suggesting that eight such loans, totalling £400 million, were issued to Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance group of companies. Greensill’s collapse has plunged GFG into financial crisis, putting 5,000 jobs at risk in across its UK operations, including 3,000 at Liberty Steel.
The Chancellor is also under pressure after text messages he sent to former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron revealed he “pushed” his officials to explore how to help Greensill Capital access the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), a separate Covid loan scheme. The texts also suggest the Chancellor responded directly to Mr Cameron’s overtures and spoke with him over the phone. Labour has warned that the Chancellor’s actions could constitute several breaches of the ministerial code.
Labour will demands answers on:
- The lack of transparency over the Chancellor’s conversations with David Cameron about Greensill’s application to Covid loan schemes.
- The “alternative” he “pushed the team to explore” in his text message of 23 April 2020.
- The discussions he held with the British Business Bank about whether Greensill Capital should get access to the CLBILS after it was rejected for the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).
- The accreditation criteria for the CLBILS scheme, and if they were changed to allow Greensill Capital to access it.
- The fact that Greensill Capital was the only supply chain firm accredited to the CLBILS scheme after it got so much access to the Treasury.
- The Government’s plans to enter into further supply chain financing schemes with Greensill Capital.
Greensill Capital was the only supply chain finance firm approved to administer the CLBILS scheme. The Treasury has admitted it was not regulated by the FCA or the PRA or subject to the capital adequacy and stress tests that applied to other lenders on the scheme to protect public money.
Sunak has been absent from Parliament since the Greensill scandal unfolded, having not appeared in the House since 9 March.
Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:
“The Chancellor can’t keep ducking scrutiny of his decision to put hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer money in the hands of an unregulated lending firm with links to a former Conservative PM. That’s why we have asked him to come to Parliament to explain himself.
“We need to know what he “pushed” his officials to do to help Greensill access one of his Covid loan schemes. And we need to know why he then simply opened the door for them to lend through another one.
“Public money was put at risk by the Conservatives’ crony connections to Greensill Capital. That’s why we urgently need a full, transparent and thorough investigation into this affair.”
Labour demands “swift and decisive action” to tackle sexual harassment across the education system
Labour is demanding “swift and decisive action” to tackle sexism across the education system, following over 8,000 reports of sexual harassment and abuse being posted on the Everyone’s Included website.
Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green MP and Shadow Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Minister Jess Phillips have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to call for an independent inquiry and new national strategy to tackle sexism and sexual harassment across the education system.
Their letter states that the: “Government has resisted calls for a national strategy, failing to take the necessary steps to protect students and support education providers to put robust processes in place,” citing previous research which found a third of girls at mixed sex schools have experienced sexual harassment, while at university an estimated 50,000 incidents of sexual harassment and abuse are taking place each year.
Labour is calling for a strategy to equip education providers with the guidance, policies and training needed to ensure that staff are confident creating a zero tolerance to sexism and sexual harassment, in identifying and responding to reports of sexism, sexual abuse and harassment.
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“It is extremely concerning to see these reports of sexual harassment and abuse across the education system.
“Ministers have let young people down with their dangerous and irresponsible resistance to calls for a strategy to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in the education system.
“Swift and decisive action is urgently needed to ensure every school, college and university is equipped with the training and processes needed to protect every child and root out sexist attitudes before they are taken into adulthood.”
Jess Phillips MP, Shadow Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Minister, said
“The Government have known the scale of sexual harassment and abuse in schools, colleges and universities for years and have done nowhere near enough to tackle this endemic problem.
“Every student is entitled to an education free from the threat of sexual violence or harassment. The Government must act urgently to ensure our education system never tolerates or allows for such behaviour or attitudes, and all students are protected.”
Labour warns of future exodus of health workforce without pay rise for NHS staff
Labour highlights the shocking numbers of healthcare staff leaving the profession, as they continue their efforts to secure a pay rise for NHS staff.
A pay rise for NHS staff is urgent to avoid staff leaving after the pandemic. Labour has highlighted the shocking numbers of healthcare staff leaving their roles for better pay, conditions, and work life balance in recent years.
Data on NHS staff leaving their roles in 2018/19 and 2019/20 (provided as a result of a written parliamentary question) and compared to figures for 2010/11 (published by NHS Digital) reveal a stark increase in numbers leaving the NHS due to early retirement, health reasons, work/life balance, and because they could get a better reward package elsewhere.
Comparable data for the duration of the pandemic is not available, but Labour warns that without a pay rise for NHS staff, there could be an exodus from the health service in future.
The data obtained by Labour shows:
- The total number of nurses and health visitors leaving the NHS in 2019/20 was 31,587 – up 50 per cent on the number who left in 2010/11.
- 3,013 nurses and health visitors resigned from the NHS due to work/life balance in 2019/20, the highest level in the last 10 years and 9% higher than in 2010/11.
- 575 nurses and health visitors resigned from the NHS for health reasons in 2019/20,5% higher than those leaving for health reasons from 2010/11. This number is also 10% higher than it was in 2018/19.
- More nurses and health visitors are retiring because they are at retirement age – 4,361 in 2019/20 – up 6% on 2010/11, and up 4% on 2018/19, showing signs of an aging workforce.
- 448 nurses and health visitors left the NHS because they could get a better reward package elsewhere in 2019/20, 2%higher than those leaving for this reason in 2010/11.
The NHS entered the pandemic with 100,000 staff vacancies, including shortages of more than 10,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses.
Commenting on the figures, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Justin Madders MP, said:
“These figures should be ringing alarm bells loud and clear that Ministers need to change course and start listening to and valuing the NHS workforce.”
“Years of pay freezes, record vacancies and relentless pressure are having their effect with hard pressed staff voting with their feet.”
“The last year has seen NHS workers perform heroically but for many the offer of a real terms pay cut will be the last straw so Government need to urgently reconsider their approach otherwise the exodus we have seen in recent years will become a flood.”
Labour redoubles calls for a fair NHS pay rise as figures show 300,000 staff worked unpaid overtime during Covid crisis
Jonathan Ashworth has redoubled Labour’s efforts to secure a fair pay rise for NHS workers after figures revealed an increase in the number of NHS staff working unpaid overtime during the Covid crisis.
The latest figures from the NHS staff survey reveal over 300,000 staff worked unpaid hours in the past year. Almost 13,000 more staff reported working overtime compared to 2019, suggesting over a million hours of unpaid overtime were worked during the pandemic.
Labour leader Keir Starmer launched Labour’s campaign for the May elections last week, declaring “a vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses.”
Under the Government’s current pay proposals, nurses and other NHS staff who were promised at least a 2.1% pay rise will instead see a real terms pay cut of hundreds of pounds. This follows a real terms pay cut of more than £2,300 in the average salary of a nurse and health visitor under the Conservatives since 2010.
The survey also reveals that less than one third of nurses and midwives are satisfied with their current pay levels, suggesting widespread opposition among NHS staff to the Government’s current proposals.
Jonathan Ashworth said:
“The whole country saw the heroism of our nurses and NHS staff during this pandemic. And the whole country is watching as this injustice continues. Our NHS staff deserve a fair pay rise.
“Whether you live in London or Lancashire, you can send a message to the Conservatives in May that a pay cut for our NHS heroes is an insult. A vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses.”
Keir Starmer’s message to our NHS workers: You deserve a pay rise
During the pandemic it’s been our amazing NHS who’ve kept our country going, kept us safe, and looked after our loved ones.
They’ve been there on the frontline, putting their lives on the line. They’re the very best of Britain.
My Mum was a nurse. My sister was a nurse. My wife works in the NHS. I know what it means to work for the NHS. And if I were Prime Minister I would give them a fair pay rise that they deserve.
However, this week we learned that the Conservative Government is planning a real term pay cut for NHS staff. The mask has finally slipped.
After all we’ve been through together, after clapping for our carers, this is nothing short of an insult. It sends a very strong message to the British public.
Under my leadership, Labour will stand with the NHS and with our key workers. We will argue for a better deal, for fairer pay.
The NHS protected us, now it’s time to protect them.
Labour responds to revelations on Public First contract links to Gove and Cummings; calls for urgent action on cronyism
Labour have today called for urgent action from the government to tackle cronyism, after a judicial hearing into a contract awarded to agency Public First revealed influence from both Michael Gove and the Prime Minister’s former special adviser Dominic Cummings.
During a judicial hearing brought by the Good Law Project today, it was revealed that, despite a previous denial, both Gove and Cummings were linked to the appointment of Public First to a major contract, without tendering and without a formal contract in the first instance. This was retrospectively awarded on 5 June 2020, four months after the initial “hand shake” agreement.
Labour have also written directly to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster demanding urgent answers on the revelations, and calling for the seventh time, for the government to reveal who won contracts through the Cabinet Office’s “VIP” fast lane for procurement.
Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, responding to the revelations, said:
“Today’s findings are troubling and unsurprising, and a perfect example of how this government believes it is one rule for them another for the rest of us.
“It is appalling that the government not only dismissed these very credible claims of connections influencing this contract as ‘nonsense’ – but also that it took a judicial review to bring to light what should be publicly available information on how taxpayer money is being spent.
“This government’s contracting has been plagued by cronyism and waste and they must take urgent steps to address this now – by urgently winding down emergency procurement, releasing details of the VIP fast lane, and publishing all outstanding contracts by the end of the month. This cronyism must stop.”
Labour sets out Covid-debt plan to turbocharge British Business Recovery
Labour today sets out new plans to back British businesses, as it calls on the Government to help ease the Covid-debt burden faced by firms across the country.
Calling for the establishment of a British Business Recovery Agency, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, says Labour’s priority is to “help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”
British business is currently weighed down by £71 billion of Covid debt through Government-backed loans during the crisis – with the Chancellor encouraging banks to begin asking for repayments in March. New analysis by Labour reveals that 850,000 business are at risk of closure in the next three months, putting 2.4 million jobs at risk.
Labour’s plan would ease the debt burden on business, secure the economy and help British business to rebuild by:
- Converting the Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) scheme into a ‘student-loan style’ arrangement, so that businesses only have to start repayments when they are making money.
- Creating a new British Business Recovery Agency that would manage the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CBILs) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILs) in order to create terms that secure the future of businesses, including employee ownership, preference shares and subordinated debt
Announcing the plans, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP, warns that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s approach risks “crushing British business and the recovery” under billions of pounds of unsustainable debt, leaving many cash-strapped and pushing others towards bankruptcy.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned in December that the debt overhang could lead to tens if not hundreds of thousands of corporate failures in the first quarter of this year, with 40% of businesses reporting their debt as unmanageable.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has also said that as much as £30 billion of public money will have to be written off if the Chancellor presses ahead with his current plans.
Dodds contrasts Labour’s approach with the Government’s sticking-plaster solutions. Her business-backing plan comes after a week in which Labour has called for business rate holidays and VAT cuts to be extended and for a smarter furlough scheme to last until necessary health restrictions are lifted. At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Keir Starmer MP, pushed the Prime Minister repeatedly on support for business ahead of the Budget.
Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:
“Labour would rebuild Britain by backing businesses and supporting families through the crisis and then putting Britain on the path to growth.
“The Chancellor simply offers a return to the same, old policies that left the foundations of Britain’s economy weakened before the crisis. His economically illiterate plans to demand repayments next month risk crushing British business and our recovery under a mountain of debt. He would leave taxpayers on the hook for billions and other firms cash-strapped for years – leading to less investment and fewer jobs.
“Instead of pushing business to the brink, Labour’s plans would protect small firms and give larger ones flexible options to manage debt. We would help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”
Government declines for a sixth time to publish details of companies winning work through its “VIP” fast lane
In Cabinet Office Questions today, the Government declined for a sixth time to publish the details of companies who have won work through referral to a special “high priority” lane during the pandemic.
In November, the National Audit Office reported that hundreds of companies were referred through this route for contracts following tips from Ministers and MPs.
But despite growing concerns surrounding contract cronyism, and being asked by Labour six times, the Government have refused to publish more details of the companies awarded work through this route.
Labour also highlighted how the Government had previously denied the existence of the lane, despite it emerging in the Public Accounts Committee this week that &163;1.7 billion of procurement flowed through the channel.
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy o£f Lancaster Rachel Reeves MP, who raised the issue during Cabinet Office Questions, said:
“With cronyism concerns continuing to mount, this government must urgently publish details of these companies to reassure the public that these contracts were awarded on the basis of what you know, not who you know.
“Waste, cronyism and inefficacy has marred this government’s pandemic procurement, but they seem in no hurry to change that.
“A Labour government would clean up this contracting and make sure procurement works for our public services and the British people.”
650,000 hospitality businesses at risk of collapse before lockdown ends as Labour accuses Ministers of economic negligence
More than a third of hospitality businesses – an estimated 650,000 – fear collapse in the next three months, it has been revealed, amidst reports of the current lockdown lasting until May.
New analysis underlines the cash crisis firms on the high street face, with more than a million food services and accommodation businesses saying they have less than 3 months of cash reserves, and Labour showing that grants for many firms forced to close will be worth half as much as in the March lockdown.
Labour has accused the Government of “economic negligence” if it fails to act – and is calling on the Business Secretary to “be the voice of business, not a mouthpiece for the Treasury” and back businesses in England by urgently outlining how he will support struggling hospitality and leisure businesses to survive the crisis.
Government advisers have recently suggested that businesses including hotels, pubs, hairdressers and beauty salons may remain closed for another three months to help tackle the spread of the virus, but there has been no update from Ministers on the economic support available since 5th January.
Under the current economic offer, the average hospitality or leisure business would receive £11,000 less during the third lockdown than it did during the first – despite being in a significantly worse financial position now.
Analysis by the Labour Party based on the latest ONS survey data suggests that more than 54,000 hairdressing and beauty businesses and more than 650,000 accommodation and food services businesses have little confidence they will avoid collapse, and more than a million will run out of cash reserves in the next three months.
Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers, said:
“The Business Secretary needs to stand up for businesses in government not stand back and leave them to go bust. It’s his job to be their strong voice, not a Treasury mouthpiece.
“A million firms are struggling with a cash crisis threatening jobs and livelihoods just as the vaccine offers hope. The cost of business insolvencies and unemployment on this scale would take a wrecking-ball to our economy.
“If the Government fails to act on this latest evidence, and doesn’t bring forward an urgent, comprehensive plan, they’ll be guilty of economic negligence that will choke off the recovery, and damage our country for years to come.”