Matt Hancock Acted Unlawfully Over Pandemic Contracts

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56125462

Matt Hancock acted unlawfully when his department did not reveal details of contracts it had signed during the Covid pandemic, a court has ruled.

Smug ‘entitled’ Tory prick, Hancock. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

A judge said the health secretary had “breached his legal obligation” by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed.The public had a right to know where the “vast” amounts spent had gone and how contracts were awarded, he added.The government said it fully recognised the “importance of transparency”. But Labour claimed the government’s awarding of contracts was “plagued by a lack of transparency, cronyism and waste”. The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has struck deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Wholesale failure’

Campaign group the Good Law Project and three MPs – Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, Green Caroline Lucas and Lib Dem Layla Moran – took legal action against the department over its “wholesale failure” to disclose details of the contracts agreed.Under the law, the government is required to publish a “contract award notice” within 30 days of the awarding any contracts for public goods or services worth more than £120,000.The Good Law Project also claimed that the government breached its own transparency policy, which requires the publication of details of public contracts worth more than £10,000.In his ruling, Mr Justice Chamberlain said: “There is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the secretary of state breached his legal obligation to publish contract award notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.”There is also no dispute that the secretary of state failed to publish redacted contracts in accordance with the transparency policy.”The judge said the health secretary had spent “vast quantities” of public money on Covid-related goods and services during 2020.”The public were entitled see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded,” he added.He said this was important so that competitors of those awarded contracts could understand whether the obligations had been breached.

The judge also said publishing the details allowed bodies such as the National Audit Office, as well as Parliament and the public, to “scrutinise and ask questions about this expenditure”.Mr Justice Chamberlain acknowledged that the situation faced by the DHSC during the first few months of the pandemic had been “unprecedented”.He said it was “understandable that attention was focused on procuring what was thought necessary to save lives”.But he added that the DHSC’s “historic failure” to publish details of contracts awarded during the pandemic was “an excuse, not a justification”.However, the judge dismissed the Good Law Project’s argument that there had been a department-wide “policy of de-prioritising compliance” with the law and guidance.

‘Cronyism’

“This judgement is a victory for all of us concerned with proper governance and proof of the power of litigation to hold government to account,” the Good Law Project said in a statement. “But there is still a long way to go before the government’s house is in order.”The DHSC said the government had been “working tirelessly” to deliver what was needed to protect health and social care staff during the pandemic.”This has often meant having to award contracts at speed to secure the vital supplies required to protect NHS workers and the public.”A spokeswoman added: “We fully recognise the importance of transparency in the award of public contracts and continue to publish information about contracts awarded as soon as possible.”For Labour, shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves called the judgement “troubling and unsurprising, and a perfect example of how this government believes it is one rule for them another for the rest of us”. She added: “This government’s contracting has been plagued by a lack of transparency, cronyism and waste and they must take urgent steps to address this now – by winding down emergency procurement, urgently releasing details of the VIP fast lane, and publishing all outstanding contracts by the end of the month.”

source: BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56125462

BBC Under Ofcom Investigation For Bias

BBC Bias (dis)Content Warning by domestic empire

The national broadcaster is frequently criticised for abandoning impartiality to act as a government mouthpiece. Ofcom considers accusations substantial enough to require investigation of the Corporation’s practices.

Source: Breaking: BBC under Ofcom investigation for bias

Disability groups are deeply concerned about a dangerous mental capacity bill rushed through parliament

The Tories have quietly pushed through a bill that seriously weakens the rights of people deemed lacking mental capacity.

The government has succeeded in quietly pushing through a bill that seriously weakens the rights of 300,000 people with learning difficulties, brain injuries and autism.

The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill – which passed in the House of Commons on Tuesday, without key amendments that would have added vital safeguards – has received little media attention or public scrutiny, but disability organisations like mine are worried it could undermine key freedoms that, instead, urgently needed to be strengthened.

The Tories first announced last summer that they would seek to pass a reform to the Mental Capacity Act 2005. While disabled people and their organisations are in agreement that reform is needed, the bill presented was immediately flagged as a dangerous threat to the rights of people deemed to be lacking mental capacity.

Last year Inclusion London started a petition asking people to support our call to protect the freedoms of people receiving care and support. The petition has nearly 200,000 signatures. But despite criticism from disabled people, advocates, lawyers, professionals, and academics, the bill continued its rapid passage through Parliament without pause.

The Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, wrote to us in an attempt to mitigate some of our concerns and invited us to meet with her in early February. Neither the letter nor the meeting convinced us that the bill will adequately protect disabled people’s human rights, and our key concerns remain.

There are serious conflicts of interest as to who has the power to make important decisions about a person’s deprivation of liberty inherent in the bill, and this could mean that people are forced to live in care homes or be physically or medically restrained if it’s an easier or cheaper option for a local council or service provider.

There are also issues with access to advocacy and the right to information. Not everyone will have the right to an independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA) – there’s an assumption friends or relatives can act as an advocate. This should never be the default option, everyone should be entitled to an IMCA. Not all relatives will act in an individual’s best interests nor can they be expected to understand a complex system.

Finally, there has been a very short period of time for members of the public to voice their thoughts or concerns with the bill. The government failed to put the bill into easy read format, to make it more accessible to people with learning difficulties, until just two weeks ago. Easy read is a format designed for the people most likely to be affected by the bill.

Repeated requests for accessible information about the bill have been ignored over the last 6 months. One can only conclude that people with learning difficulties have been disregarded as valid stakeholders in this process. This is an unacceptable situation and one that would be politically and culturally unacceptable if applied to other communities.

We believe it’s unacceptable that the government ignored all requests to pause, engage and listen to our key concerns. Two hours for MPs to debate the Mental Capacity Amendment Bill is just the latest example of poor law-making that will weaken the human rights of disabled people in some of the most vulnerable situations.

Via Ellen Morrison | leftfootforward.org

Ellen Morrison works for Inclusion London, which supports deaf and disabled people’s organisations across the capital.

Police spies infiltrated UK leftwing groups for decades

A Socialist Workers party demonstration outside the Labour party conference in Brighton in 2000. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA

Photograph: Chris Ison/PA


Guardian Exclusive: database shows 124 green, anti-racist and other groups spied on by undercover police.

Police deployed 24 undercover officers to infiltrate a small leftwing political party over a 37-year period, the Guardian can reveal. The database lists 124 groups that have been spied on by undercover police officers since 1968. The database is incomplete as the full list of groups that were spied on has yet to be established.

The list so far compiled, however, suggests police spies overwhelmingly monitored leftwing and progressive groups that challenged the status quo, with only three far-right groups infiltrated – the British National party, Combat 18 and the United British Alliance.

Undercover officers spied on 22 leftwing groups, 10 environmental groups, nine anti-racist campaigns and nine anarchist groups, according to the database.

They also spied on campaigns against apartheid, the arms trade, nuclear weapons and the monarchy, as well as trade unions. Among those spied on were 16 campaigns run by families or their supporters seeking justice over alleged police misconduct.

Continue reading at the Guardian source:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/15/undercover-police-spies-infiltrated-uk-leftwing-groups-for-decades

Groups spied on by undercover police – search the list
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/ng-interactive/2018/oct/15/uk-political-groups-spied-on-undercover-police-list