Friday 16 July 2010

Ipsa inquiry

Ipsa has confirmed to Lobbydog that it has launched an investigation into how a letter of complaint from a senior Tory made it into the hands of a journalist.

The letter was from Solicitor General Edward Garnier and was sent to Ipsa to complain about the way they had not given any notice before slashing the amount he could claim to rent his second home.

But after it arrived at Ipsa it apparently found its way into the hands of Mail on Sunday journalists - who wrote this story.

With Cameron's attack on Ipsa at PMQs this week MPs will have more and more confidence in taking the body on.

Liam Fox needs to honour British nuclear veterans...

I’ve done some stuff on the British nuclear test veterans before and there has been a development this week worth highlighting.

The British Government set off 20 odd nuclear devices in Australia and the South Pacific in the 50s and 60s, with 20,000 servicemen taking part in the tests.

Most of the soldiers were British but there were also some from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

Around 1,000 mostly British veterans who say they are suffering from various forms of cancer and other illness as a result of radiation exposure during the tests are now trying to claim compensation from the Ministry of Defence.

The MoD is staunchly refusing to accept responsibility or pay out, but diplomatic papers revealed this week that the British Government was prepared to fork out £20m to help settle the claims of Australian veterans.

You can see the papers yourself at the website Nuclear Test Shame, and link on to read the full story.

The whole thing has obviously infuriated Brits who can’t work out why their own Government won’t give them recognition - they are calling it a betrayal.

A scandalous on-going saga that Liam Fox needs to address.

British Ambassador's letter to US Senate

This is the full text that the British Ambassador in Washington sent to Senator John Kerry about the Al Megrahi case, and rumours he was released as part of a deal with BP.

Dear Chairman,

I am writing to you about continuing speculation in the media over the circumstances in which the Scottish Executive decided last year to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds. While only the Scottish Executive is able to provide the full details, I wanted to write to you to explain the facts as understood by the British Government.

First, the view of the new British Government is that Megrahi's release was a mistake. As the Prime Minster's spokesman said today, "the Prime Minister at the time said that he believed the decision to release Megrahi was wrong, and that he understood the concerns that had been raised about it." The British Government deeply regrets the continuing anguish that his release on compassionate grounds has caused the families of Megrahi's victims in the UK as well as in the US.

However under UK law, where Scottish justice issues are devolved to Scotland, it fell solely to the Scottish Executive to consider Megrahi's case. Under Scottish law, Megrahi was entitled to be considered for release on compassionate grounds. Whilst we disagreed with the decision to release him, we have to respect the independence of the process. As the Inquiry by the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament concluded in February, the Scottish Executive took this decision in good faith, on the basis of the medical evidence available to them at the time, and due process was followed.

I am troubled by the claims made in the press that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal involving BP, and that the medical evidence supporting his release was paid for by the Libyan government. Both of these allegations are untrue. The British Government worked with British business to promote legitimate commercial interests with Libya, as we do with many other countries. But there was no link between those legitimate commercial activities and the Scottish Executive's decision to release Megrahi. And as the Scottish Executive has stated, the prognosis issued by the doctor quoted recently in the press (Karol Sikora) did not feature in their consideration of Megrahi's case. He was released on compassionate grounds based on medical advice from other doctors that he had three months to live. This is common practice in the Scottish legal system.

I fully understand the concerns expressed by your colleagues in the Senate over Megrahi's case. The families of a great many American and British victims continue to suffer as a result of this terrorist atrocity. However, we have to accept that there is now no mechanism for requiring a person who has been released on compassionate grounds to be returned to prison if they have survived for longer than the prognosis at the time.

I hope that this letter helps to set the record straight and correct inaccuracies which are harmful to the UK. I and my staff are available to discuss this in greater detail should you find this helpful.
Yours sincerely,

Nigel Sheinwald

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Clarke needs a good fight...

I hope Michael Howard comes out and has a swipe at Ken Clarke about his prisons speech last night.

As you may have heard Clarke said there was no correlation between a rising prisons population and lower crime.

It’s not that I think Clarke is wrong necessarily, but because the Notts MP needs some sort of assault from the right of his party to be at his best.

And if it’s not one of the old dinosaurs, Howard or Tebbit, then who else is there?

Who are you and what have you done with Mandy?

Has Peter Mandelson’s book actually been written by Peter Mandelson? From the stuff put in The Times so far this week I’m not so sure

It seems to be lacking a certain cutting edge and wit, an arrogance perhaps – whatever that thing is that makes Mandy able to be smarmy and endearing at the same time.

And if it’s not smarmy and it has no wit then what does it have – there are no revelations in telling us again that Gordon Brown is a bit of an oddball, which seems to have been the thrust so far.

Today’s offering, that Brown hated Blair and wanted him to leave Number 10, left an air of irrelevance around the whole memoir.

Surely there must be some more up to date morsels in there which The Times can share – perhaps about how the Milibands pull each other’s hair when they argue or how Ed Balls sleeps with his eyes open or something.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Blunt blunted

I’ve a feeling that Justice Minister Crispin Blunt is in a bit of a spin about proposals to offer anonymity to rape suspects.

The coalition have already moved their position on this one – from a policy which offered people charged with rape anonymity to one which offered people arrested for rape anonymity, but only until they are charged.

Labour women are making a feminist stand on the issue, but there is actually little support for the coalition’s current position from its own benches – many don’t see why rape suspects should get protection that other suspects are denied.

While people these days might argue that MPs don’t have real life experience, there are certainly enough lawyers in the House to make an informed judgement on the issue.

So if the coalition want to move anonymity forward it sounds like they are going to have to further alter their own position.

That might mean possibly dropping it altogether, surely too embarrassing to consider, or maybe going totally in the other direction and giving anonymity to people arrested for any offence, but only until they are charged.

Either way the original idea looks like a dud and the situation will need spinning to avoid it looking like a defeat.

Monday 12 July 2010

Oh dear...