My first visit to the Gulf states of Oman and Dubai has been an eye opener and shows how two relatively poor Arab Nations have been transformed by the rise of petrodollar. Both are effective absolute monarchies that still have authoritarian rulers. Yet both have used their new found wealth to benefit their indigenous people.
This may explain why both are stable states and largely popular with the Emirates and Omani population. In Oman the 50 year reign of the late Sultan saw his people benefit from the wealth provided by oil. In 1970 Oman had only three schools now it has nearly 1100. Education and healthcare is free for the 1.5 million Omanis and when they start a family they are given a free plot of land to build a house. The younger generation are bilingual as all pupils learn Arabic and English and all signs are in both languages.
Strict regulations lay down how each house in Oman should be built on a 650 square metre plot.It should be no more than two stories high and occupy a third of the plot with a high wall enclosing a garden and garage .
In Dubai the government also give a contribution to building costs. The main city is ultra modern and full of skyscrapers and modern apartments. In this heavily trafficked city of five lane roads parking is also free – there were some limited parking charges in Oman in Muscat.
What is really jaw dropping in Dubai despite its authoritarian stance on alcohol, gay rights and on insisting how modestly Muslim women should dress is how cosmopolitan it is. The Dubai Mall said to be largest shopping complex in the world with 1600 shops is a complete mixture of people with women in Western Style dress walking among Arab women covered from head to toe. While young men in shorts walk among young Arab men wearing full robes.
Of course expats don’t benefit from the largesse the Emirs show to their own people But professional Westerners benefit from high tax free salaries, cheap petrol and low utilities bills that are becoming more of a rarity in the UK as the wealth gap grows.
As an example my daughter who is a Dubai state school science teacher earns a tax free salary just short of £50 000 a year plus free and efficient healthcare and fuel bills of just £20 a month. Here in the UK the government is boasting that teachers will soon get £30,000 a year before tax and will have huge fuel bills and petrol costs. There is no comparison.
I noticed that Emirates airlines are now targeting Brits in the hospitality sector to work as cabin crew. They are offering tax free salaries,free training,free accommodation and healthcare as part of the package . In the UK the same person will be lucky to get just above the minimum wage working for Wetherspoon.
The situation is not the same for workers from India,Pakistan, and the Philippines who take more menial jobs in construction or as maids to wealthy Arab families. They miss out big time and are on low wages and/or work long hours for little money.
One last interesting point.What happens if you have a car accident with a camel in Oman? According to our guide if it happens in the day the owner will claim it is his most valuable animal and you will have to compensate him handsomely. If it is after dark the camel owner will have to pay for all the damage to your vehicle. The trouble is that owners don’t always admit that is their camel and can be difficult to trace.
This modern museum is a joy to visit and also for my disabled wife Margaret as it is easily accessible and staff extremely helpful.
These artefacts are part of a huge collection of thousands discovered in Crete dating back to 6900 BC of both the early Minoan civilisation and later palace societies housed at Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum.
The wonder of these exhibits is that they were created by people who couldn’t read or write yet perfected some of the most exquisite jewellery and crafted pottery. Most of them were discovered in early tombs because our ancestors believed they would be needed in the afterlife.
The sport section had a dangerous sport that that has died out involving bulls that has died out in ansoort that hasdangerous sport involving
The fertility symbol of a child bearing woman is almost universal to early civilisations.We saw a similar statute in Lima in Peru dating back thousands of years to the civilisation that precede the better known Incas.
The murals come from the Knossos Palace as most of the original ones have been removed or tarted up.The figure was thought to be a prince – originally known as Prince of the Lilies – but now thought to be more likely to be an athlete or a boxer – a sporting hero years before Christ.
Bull leaping as a sport
For a civilisation associated with the Minotaur the sport section had-a fascinating game which has died out. Known as Bull Leaping or Bull Vaulting intrepid athletes would have to grab the horns of a charging bull and leap over it. This rather dangerous sport was open to men and women, showing that sports equality is not a new phenomenon. It existed centuries ago long before the recent prominence given to women’s football and rugby.
In my short visit to Lisbon I intended to visit its Castle. But when i arrived I found queues of tourists running out into the street trying to get in.
I changed my mind but some 150 yards away I noticed a rather shabby building called the museum or museu das artes decorativas. On impulse I went inside.For a modest charge of ten euros I gained admission but was told I had to go on an English speaking guided tour that had just started.The view above is close to the museum.
Expecting another horde of tourists I found instead I was just one of three people -two Brits and one American including myself. It was almost like a private tour.
What I had stumbled across was a rather quirky museum run by a foundation over five creaking floors of an old palace. It contained a collection of Portuguese furniture and objects de art dating from medieval times to the days of Napoleon Bonaparte. This had been gifted by a wealthy philanthropist and run by the Fundacao Ricardo du Espirito Santa Silva.
Now I know nothing about Portuguese furniture but the place is an eye opener on how the better off furnished their homes over the centuries.
The earliest furniture in the museum is in the heavy Baroque style but according to our guide contains a series of small beds.This was because the Portuguese at that time slept propped up because they believed to lie flat would mean they could die in their sleep.
The half tiled bedrooms reflected the strong Roman Catholic belief with many pictures of the Virgin Mary. Later the style of furniture became much lighter first influenced by Portugal’s relationship with China and a tradition of inlaid marquetry grew up which is still followed by students today.
Two extraordinary facts emerged from the tour. For those who think flat packed furniture is an invention by IKEA and that recycling is a new phenomenon think again.
Early Portuguese furniture could easily be dismantled – chair backs could be replaced with leather of different colours and one settee in the museum could be easily dismantled to become two arm chairs and a table.
And wood could be recycled in the 18th and 19th century. Sturdy wooden crates to transport valuable sugar from Brazil were reused to make furniture.
There is also a fascinating collection of. Small tables that can be converted to play backgammon and chess for family members to. Play during the evening.
There is a fascinating Portuguese website – use Google Translate to read it – with details about the foundation and the museum with pictures of the rooms. The link is www-fress.pt. Unfortunately the place looked as it had seen better days. The cafe was closed but the museum deserves to be better known.
Readers of my blog will be familiar with the scandalous story of the billions owed to 50s born women who both suffered maladministration and direct discrimination over the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66.
But what has emerged over the past year appears to show that this is part of a pattern where pensioners and disabled people are frankly swindled out of their money by the incompetence, maladministration and meanness of top management and politicians who run the Department for Work and Pensions.
Far from the 50swomen being an isolated case where mistakes were made those at the top of the DWP administration appear to have a playbook to deprive people of their rightful pensions and benefits, especially if they happen to be women. Nearly all the cases hit women much worse than men and as I have highlighted before – men have had privileges denied to women – such as the long running auto enrolment scheme that allowed men to have their national insurance contributions paid by the state from 60 to 65 while denying women any such privileges.
One of the worse cases which saved the state billions was a decision not to pay out extra pensions to people whose firms had contracted them out of Serps – an old style second pension- so they lost out of a Guaranteed Minimum Pension still payable in the public sector. A lot will have been women
The blog I wrote on this – despite being fiendishly complicated to explain- attracted over 15,000 hits – yet only two people got any compensation as the DWP made it difficult to claim.
Time to sign this petition
Christopher Thompson, a retired expert on this, has put up a petition to Parliament to protest about this and restore the indexation, but sadly only 311 people have signed. If everybody who read the blog signed it it would force the government to have to explain to Parliament why they did it. So please sign if you can.
Then there was the case of 237,000 pensioners – again a lot of them women – cheated out of £1.46 billion from their pensions – by miscalculations by the ministry raised by former pensions minister, Sir Steve Webb. The department is slowly trying reimburse them – some have decades of extra pension owed -but it will take at least to 2024 before it is completed.
Now Sir Steve has found another scandal which only affects women who should have received credits for looking after children from the late 70s. He has launched a campaign Mothers Missing Millionsto try and get women’s pensions raised to make up the money – in one case a women was not credited with 14 years contributions.
And you have to add the scandal of the 118,000 disabled people put on a lower rather than benefit rate where the ministry has declined to compensate them – only giving money to the one person who complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Even the Ombudsman has been silenced by the ministry who refuse to budge on this issue -leaving him appealling to MPs for help.
Time for an inquiry into the running of the DWP
What I am saying here is if you put all these cases together it is quite clear there is a pattern of underpayment and maladministration where the department do their best to avoid doing anything about it. It is without doubt discriminatory against women and suggests that ministers don’t want to pay them.
It is time women pressed all MPs to take up these issues. There is a strong case for an inquiry into the running of the DWP – there are too many cases for this to be just a coincidence.
Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my investigative work
Happy New Year. Last year My WordPress blog reached 304,297 hits with 218,257 unique visitors – compared to 286,840 hits and 203,099 visitors the previous year.
This figures does not include hits on my Facebook and Linked In sites which means the numbers are actually much higher though more difficult to exactly measure. Nor does this include my articles on Whitehall and Westminster for Byline Times. Byline Times is worth subscribing to for all the other independent journos who contribute to it.
Thanks to everybody who chose to read my stories and special thanks to those who kindly donated to my site. Last year I raised some £5600 via WordPress plus another £1600 through Paypal before charges.
The two campaigns I run on this site – the demand for full restitution for the 3.6 million women who lost out when the pensions age was raised from 60 to 66 – and valiant whistleblowers fighting for justice in the NHS and at the nuclear facility in Sellafield – attracted the most interest.
The Department for Work and Pensions emerged as the most hated ministry by pensioners and benefit claimants.
DWP most hated ministry
The biggest hit on the site was not from my campaign for the #50swomen but from the blog exposing the millions of people who have been swindled by the DWP out of a Guaranteed Minimum Pension. Here I was helped out by a retired expert on the issue Christopher Thompson who has tirelessly pressed ministers and the Commons DWP committee to do something about it. This attracted 15,281 hits.
Four blogs on the 50swomen campaign attracted over 10,000 hits – the highest being my report of the WASPI meeting at the Labour Party Conference which attracted 12,405. Myreport on the proposed remedies for the women by the Parliamentary Ombudsman which I and many women see as a betrayal attracted 10,054 hits. An opportunity to download the summary of the changes attracted 4,400 people to do so – adding a little to more transparency given only a selected few were supposed to see it.
Dr Day case was followed across the world
On the the whistleblower front I decided to do a daily report on the Dr Chris Day case – the appalling story of a junior doctor who lost his training place because he tried to expose patient safety dangers at an intensive care unit at Woolwich Hospital where two patients had already died. This was really old fashioned journalism when people used to cover courts regularly – in this case an employment tribunal – making the proceedings publicly accountable. It paid off not only with a big following of the blog here but thousands of people followed it on Linked In including doctors from Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and Brazil. He lost the tribunal despite the health trust destroying 50,000 emails relating to its case that should have been examined by the tribunal. But the good news is that the British Medical Association is backing his appeal.
There is similar interest -including internationally – in the tribunal case of Alison McDermott who was commissioned by Sellafield to review its human resources policies and found appalling shortcomings and also in India and the UK in the fight by Dr Usha Prasad, the former cardiologist at the Epsom and St Helier University Trust, who was sacked after refusing to change a report on an ” avoidable death” there that should have been reported to the coroner. My thanks to two retired cardiologists, Dr David Ward and Jane Somerville for their help on these cases.
Whistleblower cases call into question the employment tribunal system
These cases have thrown up serious questions about the competence and bias of employment judges and called in question the entire running of the employment tribunal system and its failure to keep records of cases. I am now beginning to be inundated with dissatisfied people who feel they have been cheated by going to an employment tribunal.
This year has been a frustrating year for whistleblowers and for women seeking a just solution to maladministration and direct discrimination over the raising of the pension age. But there is no reason to stop reporting this – though I will be taking a long break at the beginning of this year only to come back reinvigorated.
One final point. A very small minority of people are trying to put up comments on this blog using false names from fake email addresses. I see some national newspapers are no longer going to put up comments on the web from people who don’t declare who they are. So from this year I will no longer carry comments from people who do this.
Please donate to this blog to allow me to continue my reporting.
A serial killer haunts the streets of the Rhondda Valley. Bent Police who torture suspects and beat up a whistleblower colleague come to the Rhondda on a mission to get rid of evidence. In North Wales two children escape the clutches of a care home run by a paedophile only to be murdered later. And in London a far left group backing the miners strike is run by a control freak hypocrite with a penchant for sexually abusing young women.
This is a riveting and horrific tale and there is hardly a sympathetic character in the book. Only Terry Vaughan, a local policeman who joined the force to escape the Valleys and is described as a ” wet behind the ears sheep-shagger ” by his bent superiors emerges as a hero in the tale.
The author, Roger Cottrell, is a former investigative crime reporter and was a young Trotsykite on the Central Committee of the Worker’s Revolutionary Party during the miner’s strike. Now a script writer for TV and film in Ireland and a university academic this is part of a ” work in progress” trilogy.
For those, like me, who love to frighten themselves watching edgy Scandi Noir on BBC 4 on a Saturday night this tale is a perfect fit. Indeed the author has already written a script.
Put together in the mix, an ambitious graduate local reporter nicknamed ” Clever Trevor” with a drug habit in the Rhondda; an ambitious woman hack on the Sun and News of the World and those senior bent police officers, all on the trail of a serial killer who murders paedo victims and young women who support the miner’s strike. It also a cover up of a paedophile ring involving Westminster politicians. To add a literary angle the mysterious killer who taunts the police goes by the name of Azazel, the fallen angel who joined Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno creeps into the story.
For those who remember this era the background of the miner’s strike with pickets stoning coaches bring in scabs, and police from the Met roughing up striking miners in the back of vans, is very familiar. Added spice comes when striking miners smash up Rhondda’s police station and the police wreck a miner’s club in retaliation.
Some references in the book are more than just fiction. There is the murder of a black social worker Americk Fraser for trying to expose a paedophile ring operating in the London borough of Lambeth. He was handcuffed to shopping trolley, doused in lighter fuel and set ablaze and dumped in the Thames. In real life Bulaq Forsythe a black social worker was murdered for trying to expose a paedophile ring in Lambeth. He didn’t die in such horrendous circumstances But he had notes linking the South Vale Care Home in South Norwood to paedophiles. The Met Police launched an investigation into his death but nothing came of it. Now we know from the official Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and a recent internal inquiry there was widespread child sexual abuse in Lambeth.
Similarly the North Wales care home where the boys absconded in the book had for years been part of a paedophile ring and its ring leaders in the 1980s included the late North Wales Police chief superintendent Gordon Angelsea. He was never exposed until a National Crime Agency investigation secured his conviction in 2016. All the stuff about Masonic links and the police co-operating with care homes is based on grim fact.
And Liam O’Leary, the head of the Workers Revolutionary League, is based on the now long dead Gerry Healy, the head of the WRP, who is said to have sexually abused 26 women and employed two thugs to impose discipline in the far left organisation.
This is indeed a very dark book but made more menacing because a lot of the fiction in the tale has a basis in reality. It has a very dramatic ending which I won’t spoil by revealing but it is very cinematic. Read it if you can stomach it.
Jaded Jerusalem by Roger Cottrell. Available from Amazon £12.99
Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my investigations.
Last week the House of Lords Conduct Committee recommended Baroness Mary Goudie, a Labour peer, be suspended for six months from Parliament for entering a consultancy with an Irish eco company, which was declared late and providing advice to the firm who they should lobby in Parliament.
Normally this blog would condemn utterly any public figure who sells their expertise in Parliament for financial gain but there seem to be some rather peculiar circumstances in this case that make this judgement unduly harsh. Yes Baroness Goudie should be punished for breaching the Nolan code of conduct but her actions pale into insignificance compared to the behaviour of the bust company itself.
Obviously the role of the company is outside the remit of the House of Lords Conduct Committee but researching the history of this short lived firm reveals an extraordinary saga of events and Baroness Goudie seems to be left taking the rap.
For a start the case against her has been brought SIX years after the event in Parliament and FOUR years after a petition in the Dublin High Court forced it to go bankrupt. And the complainant has turned up with six year old emails, her consultancy contract worth 20,000 Euros over 10 months and internal corporate details of what she promised to do for them. It would suggest the person was either a member of the firm or knew someone there.
Parliamentary meetings never took place
She did plan to facilitate a meeting in Parliament where the directors could lobby an MP who belonged to an all party group on funerals and bereavement and write to the permanent secretaries of DEFRA and the Ministry of Justice. But the meeting never took place and the MP met the directors of ecoLegacy without Baroness Goudie being there. And there is no trace of any letter ever being written to the permanent secretaries.
Wrongly used the House of Lords library to help company
She wrongly used the House of Lords library to prepare a report for use by the company but as to be explained later it really didn’t tell them anything as the firm was using a new untried technology for cremation. Nor did she use debates in the Lords to promote the firm but was very late in registering her interest.
Now if we examine the firm its management record is appalling. It describes its business as “Provider of alternative processes to burial and cremation. The company offers burial and cremation alternatives that turn human deceased bodies into calcium and carbon powders and returns the powders in a biodegradable urn and seed which can be grown as a tree, helping families to remember their loved ones who departed.”
This sounds a lovely eco-friendly idea and the directors sought huge sums from wealthy American investors in ” start up ” schemes promising good returns. By the time it went bankrupt according to the Irish Business Post it had raised 7.2 million Euros and was running at a big loss.
The most devastating critique came from an Irish Judge Deirdre Murphy when she heard a petition from The William Jay Gencarella Family Trust, based in the US, in 2018
Her judgement read: “Two founding members of the company Tony Ennis and Brian McKimm, featured extensively in the evidence adduced on the hearing, both on affidavit and on cross-examination, but neither provided direct evidence to the court. The hearing was not so much “ Hamlet” without the prince as “ Two Gentlemen of Verona” without the two gentleman. During the course of the hearing there were allegations and counter-allegations that both had misappropriated company funds over the years. The court has the impression that in many respects the hearing of this petition was a proxy war between the two founding members, in which the petitioner has been ill-served and was liable to suffer collateral damage.”
She “appointed Declan Taite as liquidator to EcoLegacy Ltd which she said had been “brought to its knees” by the “mismanagement and intransigence” of one of its founders, Tony Ennis.
In another case before a judge in Dallas, Texas, three groups, Fox Bend Development Associates, Ltd., Fred and Michele Secker, and Jeffrey Hicks Trust 2005, sought to sue ecoLegacy. The citation reads: ” that Ennis made fraudulent misrepresentations and omitted material facts in soliciting Plaintiffs to invest a total of $3,250,000 into ecoLegacy. Plaintiffs assert claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violation of Texas and federal securities laws, and costs and attorneys’ fees. “
Ennis got the case dismissed because there was an arbitration agreement built into the contract.
Was the project just a piece of Irish baloney?
The question must be asked whether the whole scheme was just a piece of Irish baloney. One engineer who worked on the project called Remo says it was not and could have succeeded but was brought down by disputes between directors. All this makes the crimes of Baroness Goudie seem small beer. if this is the Lords Conduct Committee suspension template, I can only think the alleged behaviour of Lady Mona on behalf of Metpro, the PPP supplier now being sued by the government, would see her banned for five years.
The other big question is whether Baroness Goudie knew about all these shenaghins. The main court drama came after she had finished her consultancy. If one looks at her website, it looks as though eco-funerals were never at the top of her agenda. Instead she is known internationally as a women’s rights and peace campaigner holding a number of distinguished positions. On the balance of probabilities, I think not. The problems in the company were not her fault but she should have checked it out more thoroughly rather than relying on a ” trusted friend”. It was a clash of egos that bought ecoLegacy down. It was more ego than eco.
Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my forensic reporting.
FreshUpdate: MPs on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee have taken up this story by writing to Rob Behrens asking for an explanation of the proposed remedy that has been sent to six complainants. Read the letter in fullhere.
The letter from Tory MP William Wragg, the chair, reads: ” We have received reports that women affected by the changes are expected to receive minimal, if any, financial compensation…
“I would therefore be grateful if you could clarify:
whether any decisions around financial remedies have been taken or communicated to thoseaffected;
whether there have been any changes in the expected timeline for the final report; and
whether there have been any changes in who will be eligible for compensation.”
In what must be the biggest betrayal of complainants since the Ombudsman was set up by Harold Wilson in 1967 Rob Behrens has put out proposals to deprive the vast majority of 1950s born women from any compensation for the maladministration suffered by being not personally informed about the rise in the pension age from 60 to 66.
The six people who complained will get £1000 each and another 600 who complained to the Ombudsman could get the money if the Department for Work and Pensions deign to pay them which on its present record seems unlikely. For the rest there is nothing.
This proposal is a far cry from the promise made by Angela Madden, the leading figure from Waspi, who told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in September that payments of £10,000 to £20,000 each were a possibility for women who had missed out. See here. She has continually urged people to rely on the Ombudsman to sort this out – though recently has suggested a direct approach to the DWP to get a fair settlement because of the numbers of women dying.
A big emphasis has been highlighted by Waspi on making sensible demands and not going for full restitution – now on the basis of direct discrimination- as pushed by Backto60 and now by former judge Jocelynne Scutt, in her report.
Well this is the provisional settlement Waspi has got and it has not been worth the wait. Confidential proposals, seen by these blog, reveal this betrayal. It reads:
The Ombudsman’s proposed remedy -guaranteed £1000 offer to six people
“Our provisional view about remedy is that DWP should:
• publicly acknowledge maladministration in its communication about changes to State Pension age resulting from the 1995 Pensions Act and maladministration in its complaint handling
• publicly apologise for the impact that maladministration has had on the sample complainants and others similarly affected
* pay each sample complainant £1000 compensation for the injustice they have suffered
• establish and fund a compensation scheme to provide equivalent compensation [ie £1000] to anyone else who has suffered the same injustice as the sample complaints because of maladministration in its communication about State Pension age and its complaint handling
• provide an adequate and proportionate financial remedy to anyone who can evidence they suffered financial loss because they lost opportunities to make different decisions due to maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age
• provide an adequate and proportionate financial remedy to anyone who can evidence they lost opportunities to add qualifying years to their National Insurance record because of DWP’s maladministration in not adequately using research and feedback about people’s understanding of the new State Pension to improve its service and performance.”
Now there are a barrel load of problems in this settlement. There also appears to be some level of deceit over recent pronouncements by the PHSO to Parliament and Waspi to the Daily Express and the Independent. First the proposed settlement. To get even this measly £1000 some 3.6 million 50s women have to both prove they didn’t get a letter and prove they lost opportunities to take different decision or lost out to pay in expensive sums to the DWP to build up their pension. Many of these women who were on the breadline would not have had the thousands of pounds of cash to do this.
Secondly very simply how do you prove you didn’t get a letter? The DWP has said it has no records and DWP’s so called Independent Case Examiner, Joanna Wallace, as I reported earlier -see here – has conveniently destroyed loads of letters she received complaining about this issue after being cleared of maladministration by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. It is almost as though there have been deliberate moves to make sure no evidence was available in advance of the Ombudsman’s decision.
I also found it extraordinary that the Ombudsman has put forward a remedy so quickly after being quizzed by MPs on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee last month. At the time – see my blog here – Amanda Amroliwala, chief executive of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was closely questioned by MPs about the 50swomen investigation and said it could take until March before the full investigation and remedy were published.
To give her the benefit of the doubt perhaps she was so taken aback by the questioning from MPs she may have speeded it up. More suspicious minds might suggest she daren’t tell them what the Ombudsman had in mind because it would create a furore. The only public announcement by the PHSO since then has been it has completed stage 2 of the investigation but still has no remedy in mind.
The other extraordinary behaviour has been by WASPI. An article in the Daily Express on Friday quotes WASPI saying this.
Angela Madden, chair of WASPI, said: “These latest findings confirm the previous conclusion of the Ombudsman that maladministration took place at the Department for Work and Pensions. “But nearly 18 months after the Ombudsman’s first report, we are still waiting for his conclusions on a remedy. This is becoming a lengthy examination of the blindingly obvious.”
Now by then people had been informed of the proposed remedy. Perhaps Angela Madden didn’t know. or perhaps she didn’t want anyone else to know because it is obviously too embarrassing for their campaign.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s press office said they were unable to comment was the investigation was on going.
But John McDonnell, Labour’s former shadow chancellor and a member of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said: ” This offer is completely unacceptable. I shall be raising it immediately with the PACAC committee”. As Shadow Chancellor he had offered a £58 billion settlement over five years. I await a response from WASPI.
In the meantime Rob Behrens, the Ombudsman, according to his posts on Linked In has been literally glad handing with President Zelensky in Kiev at a special Europe wide human rights conference. Someone ought to ask him about the human rights of the 3.6 million 50s women who will now be cheated by him out of any decent settlement. The DWP must be cheering him on.
As a matter of the interest the pension age for women in Ukraine is 60 – six years below the current age in the UK. See this link.
Please donate to Westminster Confidential to continue myinvestigations
A preliminary two day employment tribunal hearing has led to fresh revelations about the national role of one of the NHS’s top law firms, Hill Dickinson, that acted for Health Education England against whistleblower junior doctor, Dr Chris Day, in a case that has now been ongoing for 8 years and was also against the South London Trust Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
Day alleges Hill Dickinson failed to disclose over 200 commissioning contracts between Health Education England and NHS Trusts around England including a contract with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS. The significance is that these contacts proved Health Education England’s status as a second employer of junior doctors.
This is something that Health Education England and Hill Dickinson spent 4 years denying, between 2014 and 2018, at huge expense to the taxpayer in order to argue junior doctors out of whistleblowing protection.
This was in order to stop Dr Chris Day’s case ever being heard. The Tribunal were told that not one of these contracts was disclosed in the litigation and were obtained in 2019 by a freelance journalist, Tommy Greene who was writing about the case in the Telegraph. The scandalous focus of the hearing was that Hill Dickinson profited from not disclosing the contracts in litigation arguing that it was fanciful for Day to assert HEE as an employer of doctors.
The Judge was told that Tommy Greene had also found that Hill Dickinson were paid handsomely to draft the very contracts that were not disclosed most notably the one between HEE and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
The Judge was referred to a complaint to the legal regulator from Sir Norman Lamb and Tommy Greene that set these details out.
And a debate in Parliament where the 2 MPs Justin Madders and Sir Norman Lamb further explored the matter;
Justin Madders stated;
“Health Education England effectively sought to remove around 54,000 doctors from whistleblowing protection by claiming that it was not their employer.”
Sir Norman Lamb stated;
“Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the contract between Health Education England and the trusts, which demonstrates the degree of control that Health Education England has over the employment of junior doctors, was not disclosed for some three years in that litigation? It was drafted by the very law firm that was making loads of money out of defending the case against Chris Day. I have raised this with Health Education England, but it will not give me a proper response because it says that the case is at an end. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is totally unacceptable and that it smacks of unethical behaviour for that law firm to make money out of not disclosing a contract that it itself drafted?”
Dr Day has fought an eight year battle with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Health Education England over protected disclosures about patient safety in the intensive care unit at Woolwich Hospital which associated with two avoidable deaths.
He recently lost a case against the trust despite it being revealed that hundreds of emails and documents had been withheld from him including notes of a crucial trust broad meeting which discussed and decided the fate of his case. Some 50,000 emails involving his case were also destroyed by a senior trust official, David Cocke, during the hearing. He was also due to be a witness in the case but never gave any.
This new hearing has been brought by Dr Day over ” wasted costs” in an earlier hearing after he was pressed to agree to a settlement with the trust which exonerated the NHS or face huge costs which would have lost him his family home.
Day was arguing that had he known the truth he would not have agreed to three separate compromise agreements made with the NHS, one of which protected all lawyers in the litigation from wasted costs stemming from misconduct and another that paid Day a £55k contribution of his legal costs which was only a fraction of what he spent resisting the false arguments in this case on HEE’s employer status.
At this hearing Day asserted that the settlements should be set aside after new information came to light following a freedom of information disclosure to investigative journalist Tommy Greene. The Judge at the hearing was also taken to references made by Tommy Greene and Sir Norman Lamb to fraud and other offences based on a legal opinion that had been instructed by Tommy Greene.
In this hearing the Judge only had to decide whether Day’s wasted cost claim against Hill Dickinson was strong enough to progress to a full hearing where Hill Dickinson would be subject to a disclosure order for all relevant documents and emails relevant to this dispute. Hill Dickinson argue the settlement agreements should prevent the case progressing to full hearing.
The hearing revealed that Hill Dickinson were paid to re-draft contractual agreements for 200 other trusts as well as Lewisham and Greenwich. The contract with highest values was revealed as £79m. As Andrew Allen argued: “The LDA disclosed nearly three years after the 2015 strike out hearing,(an outdated LDA not drafted by Hill Dickinson), showed that the 2nd Respondent[ Health Education England] was responsible for substantial terms under which the Claimant”. This was a position that had been plainly denied on multiple occasions in several courts. Andrew Allen KC continued;
” The entire basis for the strike out application had been false. The argument run by the 2nd Respondent that it was ‘fanciful’ to suggest that the party which substantially determined the terms and conditions of the Claimant’s engagement was or could have been the Respondent was completely wrong.”
Extraordinarily Hill Dickinson claim that the lawyers representing Health Education England in the case did not know about the new agreement and even other lawyers working for Hill Dickinson didn’t know about it.
Andrew Allen KC said: “Had the Claimant known then what he knows now, he would not have entered into an agreement which could stop him applying for costs against Hill Dickinson. It is in the interests of justice to permit the Claimant to progress this application. His full skeleton argument ishere.
Mr Angus Moon KC for the Health Education England argued that the non disclosure of the document was not relevant to Dr Day’s whistleblowing case. made no material difference to his case, and to throw out the agreement would break the finality of all agreements reached in courts. He also warned the press and the public reporting and observing the case that any reference to Hill Dickinson should not suggest that they had done anything wrong. He wanted Dr Day’s application struck out while Mr Andrew Allen, KC made it clear that this should not happen as the preliminary hearing could not investigate nor discuss the actions of Hill Dickinson without a full hearing at the tribunal.
Dr Chris Day’s Crowdjustice page explains more about what this hearing against Hill Dickinson was about with a link to the legal paper including Andrew Allen KC’s skeleton arguments. the link is:
Dr Day has recently published a Linked In article explaining the twists and turns of his 8 years of whistleblowing litigation. The link is here.
Background note: Hill Dickinson is a 212 year old law firm, founded in Liverpool and now a big international firm. Its famous cases included acting for the White Star line, owners of the Titanic when it faced claims in the US courts after it sunk and for Cunard, owners of the Lusitania torpedoed by a German U boat in 1915.It also employed one of the first women to become a solicitor, Edith Berthen, in 1927.
|Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my forensic reporting
Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has asked the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) to intervene on his behalf and summon the heads of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Environment Agency to appear before them to explain why they are ignoring his findings and refusing to compensate people.
The plea came during a hearing of the committee last week to examine the organisation’s progress and future plans to handle complaints. The committee also heard how the Ombudsman was hamstrung by the failure of the Cabinet Office to pass new legislation to give him greater powers and the latest progress in the 50swomen maladministration claim. More about this below. All these issues highlight weaknesses I have raised in previous blogs.
The DWP case involves 118,000 disabled people who suffered from years of benefit maladminstration . I wrote about this in August- see here. The complaint came from Ms U – via the London borough of Greenwich welfare rights office- who was put in the wrong lower category of the employment support allowance despite being in very poor physical and mental health with little or no savings The Ombudsman ordered the Department to pay her £7500 compensation and five years of arrears totalling £19,832.55 plus interest.
A National Audit Office investigation found that 118,000 people were in the same boat and should have been compensated alongside her following the Ombudsman’s ruling. But the DWP decided only to pay her and ignored everyone else. The pay out would have run to millions of pounds and the DWP decided it would ignore the Ombudsman because legally they can.
The second case involves one family but it is one of the most egregious cases I have heard in Whitehall. The case has been going on for 12 years and involves admitted maladministration by the Environment Agency over the issue of a water licence for a micro hydro project in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. The Earl family who renovated a tumbledown watermill to use for the scheme was supposed to receive substantial compensation decided by an independent assessor appointed by the Environment Agency. who bungled their case. The money owing could amount to £3m as interest has piled up and the EA has refused to follow through the Ombudsman’s finding for years.
MPs also raised the issue of the Ombudsman’s lack of powers. John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor and a Labour member of the committee, has tabled a question to the Cabinet Office asking why they have not introduced legislation to do this. The issue is raised in an earlier blog here.
Mr McDonnell asked Robert Behrens:”Can you explain the practical implications of the Government’s lack of support for legislative reform? How does that hold you back from adhering to the Venice principles, which the Government have signed up to ?”
He told him: “Two of my counterparts have the power of own-initiative investigation. In cases like Windrush, the maternity scandal in hospitals or the issues with mental health, we could go out and look at an issue without it being complained about. We could resolve that issue before it went to a long-standing independent or public inquiry. The peer review panel said that other ombudsman schemes in Europe use that and have used it in Covid to good effect.”
He went on: “If you have 16 public service ombudsmen in the United Kingdom, it means that people do not know where to go. It means the profile of my office and other offices is lower than it would otherwise be. That is not satisfactory in terms of being the only organisation in the public service that provides redress free of charge to citizens. That is very important.”
He added that he saw no reason why a government could not introduce a bill to do all this straight after the next general election.
MPs Question chief executive on 50swomen pension investigation
Amanda Amroliwala, chief executive of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was closely questioned by three MPs, Ronnie Cowan, SNP, John McDonnell and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, both Labour, on the maladministration complaints over the delay in paying 3.6 million 1950s born women.
On Stage 2 of the report, which has already been leaked on this website see here, she said: “We have not finalised that stage of the report yet. We are in the process of receiving and analysing the very extensive comments that we have had from the Department and from the complainants who have brought the complaints to us”
Under further questioning she added: “We are looking at how those will need to change the provisional views that are not yet public but that some individuals have had sight of. We will do that as soon as possible.” She would not commit a date for this report and the proposed remedy will be published except ” hopefully” between January and March next year. She was also quizzed on the level of compensation. Ronnie Cowan pointed out it could be anything from nothing to £10,000 but if it was maladministration only the top level was much less than £10,000 .She would not be drawn on how much this is likely to be.
John McDonnell reflected the frustration among MPs about the long delay in the Ombudsman producing a final report. “You can understand the scale of interest and concern there is amongst Members of Parliament. You will have seen that from the early-day motions. There is not an MP without a constituent who has been affected. The concern that people have is because of the age of many of our constituents. Some of them have already passed away. Others may not be here to receive any form of redress, if we delay beyond the next quarter of next year.”
There is another elephant in the room that was not discussed. If the DWP is refusing to pay 118,000 benefit claimants their compensation, why should they pay any of the 3.6 million 50swomen a penny beyond the six test cases who complained?
Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my reporting.