Are Britain’s Green guardians clueless on future investments for this country post Brexit?


Safeguarding UK green interests or clueless watchdogs?The five new trustees of the Green Purposes Company – James Curran,Trevor Hutchings, Tushita Ranchan,Robin (Lord) Teverson and Peter Young. Pic Credit: Green Purposes Company


At the end of last year this blog published a highly critical piece on the sale of the Green Investment Bank which brought a  mint of money for the City and uncertainty for those who want to see a carbon free future.

The  blog was based on the findings of the National Audit Office report into the sale which showed the taxpayer had lost out yet again and the biggest beneficiary was the  Aussie private equity investment bank Macquarie for £1.6 billion  which had a bad rating on green issues and its subsidiary Thames Water is better known for polluting the Thames and failing to repair  burst water mains.

As reported before  business secretary Greg Clark let the bank get away with a non binding public statement to finance green projects for the next three years and instead set up a trust – the Green Purposes Company  -which could shame the new owners if they fail to keep to their pledge.  In theory they have powers to prevent changes to GIB’s green purposes, but this does not extend to control of, or input to, investment decisions.

The five trustees are independently appointed and include James Curran, former chief executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency: Lord Teverson, a former Liberal Democrat energy spokesman and Peter Young, an environmental management consultants But they are not paid to monitor such a big private equity company .

Hardly surprising the Commons Public Accounts committee has backed the scepticism of the National Audit Office. In a report  it condemned the way it was sold

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Committee Deputy Chair said:

” The manner in which it was sold off is therefore deeply regrettable. Government did not carry out a full assessment of the Bank’s impact before deciding to sell, nor did it secure adequate assurance over the Bank’s future role.

This was a UK initiative but the rebranded Green Investment Group is not bound to invest in the UK’s energy policy at all, nor to invest in the kind of technologies that support its climate objectives.”

But since the sale there has been worse  disclosures.

Mps on the environment audit committee decided to grill two of the trustees, Peter Young and Lord Teveson, and the head of the company, Edward Northam. They were equally sceptical.

Here is an extract of some of the trustees response ( or lack of) to MPs written   questions.

5. How will leaving the EU affect the UK’s ability to leverage investment into low-carbon and environmentally friendly projects in the UK?
No response
6. What options are there for the UK’s future relationship with the European Investment Bank? What would be the implications for green investment in the UK?
No response
7. Given the work being carried out by the EU’s High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance,where should the UK’s newly created Green Finance Taskforce concentrate its efforts?
No response

At the oral hearing both the head of the company and the two trustees were closely questioned by the chair, Mary Creagh; Green MP Caroline Lucas; Tory MP. Zac Goldsmith among others and they did not seem impressed. They were offered excuses why the new Aussie owners had hardly invested in any new projects and until the company revealed that the trustees have a budget of £100,000 a year ( small feed for a multi billion pound company) to monitor developments by the company head, were even reticent to discuss that.

You can get the text of the  full hearing or watch it here.

It is hardly an impressive performance and seems to suggest the first fears expressed on this blog are well justified. The government has dumped Britain’s green investment future and it will be interesting to see if the trustees really do have any teeth to do much about it.


Gove takes the lead in a Whitehall Brexit spending spree to bypass Parliament

michael gove

Michael Gove – top of the great Brexit spenders- and first to use a dodge to bypass Parliament.


The government is planning a Brexit spending spree  this year without any say by Parliament.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money will be spent  setting up   bodies  to replace work done by the European Union some using a Whitehall  wheeze devised by a Treasury mandarin to get round  scrutiny by MPs.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is poised to be the first to use the new  system to allow ministers to spend large sums of money on Brexit without the approval of Parliament.

Very simply the dodge involves turning on its head a procedure called an accounting direction – normally used  when a senior mandarin -wants to challenge spending by a minister as illegal or questionable. It was most famously used when a senior civil servant questioned aid to pay for  Malaysia’s Pergau Dam – when he discovered the money was being authorised by Margaret Thatcher as part of a secret defence deal. It was also used to question extra costs on the Millennium Dome under Tony Blair. More recently a civil servants challenged the government paying for a survey requested by a UKIP council in Kent.

Now Whitehall mandarin Richard Brown has devised a scheme which will allow ministers to get round Parliament by using the same procedure to spend money on Brexit without waiting for legislation to be passed by Parliament. The letter is here. 

It has been sent to 25 ministerial departments, 20 non ministerial departments and over 300 agencies.

It followed a letter from the Treasury and the Department of Exiting the EU which also allowed ministries to raid the contingencies fund without waiting for laws to be passed.

Both senior civil servants are claiming that the requests for extra cash will be known to Parliament as they have informed the chairs pf the public accounts committee and the public administration committee. Some people might think that in all the huge coverage of Brexit they might be overlooked.

Today  Civil Service World reports that a massive £245million has been routed by a supplementary estimate to spend money on Brexit with Michael Gove’s Defra department taking the lion’s share of £67m closely followed by HM Revenue and Customs with £47m and £42m for the Home Office to work out a new immigration system.

On top the permanent secretary of Defra, Clare Moriarty, has asked Michael Gove to approve £16m of cash for a whole series of projects without waiting for legislation.

These are:

The new national import control system for animals, animal products and high risk food and feed. Scheduled to commence building: mid-January 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £7m.
– Delivery of new IT capability to enable registration and regulation of chemical substances placed on the UK market. Scheduled to commence building: February 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £5.8m.
– Delivery of systems for the licensing and marketing of veterinary medicines. Scheduled to commence building: end-January 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £1.6m.
– Development of a new catch certificate system for UK fish and fish products being exported to the EU on Exit. Scheduled to commence: building end-January 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £1.0m.
– Development of a UK system to manage the quota of fluorinated gases and ozone depleting substances required under the UN Montreal Protocol. Scheduled to commence: March 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £0.5m.
– Development of data exchange arrangements to identify the movement of EU and third country vessels in UK waters and the movement of UK vessels in EU or third country waters. Scheduled to commence: April 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £0.1m

This gives a small glimpse of how complicated the change will be. One mistake and Britain could be thrown into chaos as it has relied on the EU for authorisation and will have to sign up for everything again , including international conventions.

Imagine what would happen if there are errors in the licensing of veterinary medicines for example. It could mean that it will be illegal for your pet to get the proper medicine from the vets.

Also it reveals that large sums of taxpayers money are going to have to go on new bureaucracies to administer all this.  So where will be the Brexit dividend?

And all this is being pushed  out ” under the counter” by mandarins and ministers. If the coverage of errors and waste endemic in Whitehall are anything to go by, Britain could easily face total chaos after 2019. It’s going to be a hell raising time as we leave the EU.



Revealed:The over budget safeguarding system that doesn’t know if your kids are safe from sexual predators

disclosure and barring service

Disclosure and Barring Service Pic Credit:


Another day, another waste of taxpayer’s money on a scheme run by private contractors that was meant to cut costs for employers but has ended up with a huge unforeseen bill for the taxpayer.

While the privatised part of the probation service has had to be bailed out by the Justice ministry, at the same time the Home Office is having to pay out hundreds of millions of pounds to keep on track the digitalisation of the Disclosure and Barring Service.

This is the service that provides proof that people working with children do not have criminal records, and aren’t paedophiles so children and vulnerable adults can be safe. The service -like many others- had been run by Capita.

The government in 2012 decided to digitalise the service – promising big savings for employers, and a new updating service transferring the cost to the person seeking the job.

By this year the Home Office thought the number of disclosure certificates needed by employers would drop by a massive 67 per cent as 2.8 million people  seeking work with children would pay out £13 a year for an update of their certificate negating the need for new certificates. The cost of certificates to employers was expected to be cut.

As a National Audit Office report  released recently shows nothing of the sort happened.

Instead only 900,000 people decided to do this. Why? Because normally the employer pays for the certificate so it costs the applicant nothing.

As a result the NAO says: “The update service is losing DBS £9 for every sale. DBS’s 2016-17 Annual Report and Accounts report that the update service costs DBS £22 but is priced at £13 per paying applicant per year. ”

Then the 2,250 profit making firms who check the identities – from GB Group plc and  Atlantic Data Ltd to Capita Resourcing Ltd. make much more money from processing full certificates than checking updates. So they never promoted the service on their websites.

But there was far worse to come. The government appointed Tata to modernise the service and  build a new IT system  and then promptly changed the specification of what was needed. This resulted in delays and led to a one year extension for Capita which was running the service. Payouts totalling £26m had to be made to Tata for the delays and changes.

And then costs rocketed by £229 million and it is now three and half years late. Bizarrely because people have not switched  to the update service the DBS has got extra income worth £304m. Tata and Capita are still making profits. Rewards for failure at a cost to employers.

So who lost out? First employers who were promised cheaper bills – each certificate costs them £56.

But also us. There is one thing the DBS don’t do. After supplying the information about a potential employee, they never check whether the employer does disbar him or her. Since the whole point of this huge process is to protect children and vulnerable adults from predators and violent abusers you might have thought they would check up.

And given the current fashion where people who claim to be sexually abused might not be believed or labelled fantasists – I don’t think we should wait for a horrible incident to find out.




Time to bin Keep Britain Tidy


Time for Keep Britain Tidy to be put in the bin


Nearly three years ago Parliament produced a damning report saying England was one of the worst developed countries in the world for litter and fly tipping. Worse than most of the rest of Europe, worse than Japan and worse than the United States and Canada.

Furthermore this situation has remained the same for 12 years under successive Labour, Coalition and Tory governments. And this is despite tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers money being poured into the former quango Keep Britain Tidy to provide leadership to tackle this problem.

The deregulatory coalition government of Tories and Liberal Democrats  thought they would find a solution by abolishing the quango and turning it into a charity  which now has to raise funds from cash strapped local authorities and big business.

The knee jerk reaction of a Left minded blogger might be to persuade an incoming Labour government to push taxpayer’s money back to Keep Britain Tidy. But after an investigation looking at its precarious finances and its rather lacklustre approach to tackling the problem this would be the worst thing it could do.

The real problem is that successive gutless ministers of all parties  (perhaps they have at the back of their minds that they could take lucrative directorships after leaving politics)  won’t tackle the real cause of much of our litter – the  products of big multinationals like McDonalds and Wrigley’s and the tobacco companies –  who take no or little responsibility for the problem.

There is a parallel here  with  Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – who connive with big multinationals to avoid paying their fair share of tax which would go a long way to providing better public services and a cleaner  public space.

There is a simple solution here either these companies pay up for a clean up or the Government levies a tax on them ( not us) to employ someone else to do it. I bet the firms would come up soon with some innovative solutions to avoid either.

Now why have I concluded that Keep Britain Tidy is a no no solution  despite being told by some people that its  new director,Allison Ogden-Newton is much livelier than her predecessor, Phil Barton.

The charity has a guilty secret. It has a pension deficit of  £4.5m  for a closed scheme on a turnover of just £5m and assets worth £2.5m. For some private companies this  could lead them to cease trading.

The 2015-16 accounts lodged with the Charity Commission say :

 “The pension deficit as at 31st March 2016 is £4.511m. Future contributions to the scheme have been negotiated with the Trustees of the scheme.
The Company is the principal employer and paid approximately £131,000 to reduce the deficit this year. Keep Britain Tidy will continue to make contributions in line with terms agreed at the last triennial review until any new scheme of payments is agreed. In the financial year to March 2017 it will pay approximately £134,000 towards reducing the deficit in addition to the scheme running costs of approximately £72,000.”


The report reveals that the trustees – who would be liable if  Keep Britain Tidy went bust – certify it is a going concern. But to do this they have had to put aside £2m – equivalent to six  months operating costs -to ensure that it stays afloat.


Allison Ogden-Newton, new chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy

When I put this to the charity – who first ignored my request – I got this reply from Ms Ogden-Newton.

 “Our Annual Accounts have been audited by RSM UK Audit LLP and a clean audit opinion has been given. Standard audit procedures include an assessment of Keep Britain Tidy as a Going Concern and this specifically includes an assessment of our ability to meet the agreed pension scheme contributions. No issues were raised in this respect.
 “We have an agreed schedule of contributions between Keep Britain Tidy and the Pension trustees in order to address the pension deficit and this has also been submitted to the Pensions Authority whom have accepted this plan.
 “To that end we and the relevant authorities consider our agreed repayment programme to be satisfactory and sustainable for both the fund and Keep Britain Tidy.”
Now that is all well and good – but I don’t believe it doesn’t restrict its activities. It has got some income from the 5p levy on plastic bags ( notably £500,000 from Lidl) but as a Defra paper reveals most private companies use the levy to fund other worthy causes whether it is the Alzheimer’s Society, the Woodland Trust, animal welfare or Kew Gardens.
The other major reason why Keep Britain Tidy does not seem to be working well was shown up when MPs questioned the former chief executive at the Commons communities and local government committee.
 He was taken apart by MPs of all parties in an evidence  session.
He produced figures which he couldn’t defend, evidence that MPs found flawed and finally admitted that Keep Britain Tidy refused to talk to the tobacco industry. Given cigarette stubs are a source of litter MPs found this extraordinary.
Clive Betts MP

Clive Betts MP, chair of critical House of Commons report on the state of England’s litter.

Clive Betts, the Labour chairman of the committee, also made this observation.

 ” Frankly Keep Britain Tidy was not a main part of our report or inquiry,. We were more interested in some of the innovative work down by local authorities to tackle fly tipping and litter.”
 Now this is really damning with faint praise given Keep Britain Tidy was meant to be the leadership body.
Since then nothing has improved much. A House of Commons library briefing on litter last July said this :
“Levels of litter in England have hardly improved in over a decade and 81% of people have said they are angry and frustrated by the amount of litter in the country. Local government net expenditure on street cleaning (which includes but is not limited to clearing litter) in 2015/16 was £683 million.”
It also clear that by dividing up responsibility between four Whitehall departments doesn’t work. Perhaps the Cabinet Office should take over responsibility for a national litter strategy. At the moment neither Keep Britain Tidy nor the various ministries seem capable of negotiating with a paper bag.


Have the Tories already sold our future green investments down the dump?


Safeguarding UK green interests?The five new trustees of the Green Purposes Company – James Curran,Trevor Hutchings, Tushita Ranchan,Robin (Lord) Teverson and Peter Young. Pic Credit: Green Purposes Company


The present government has two song sheets. One is that Britain must big up everything we do to become a ” world leader ” after Brexit. The second is that we must do everything we can to cut the deficit – whether it is fresh benefit cuts or selling off anything the government owns as fast as possible..

The two came into conflict recently with the sale of the Green Investment Bank – and the deficit cutters won. The story of the sale of the Green Investment Bank is told in a recent report by the National Audit Office. Unfortunately the detail  did not lead to much coverage in mainstream media which is why I am writing about it now. I have written a news story for Tribune magazine.

The deal which has allowed the sale to go ahead to Australian private equity bankers Macquarie for £1.6 billion is at the lower end of the its worth and without waiting for returns from big wind farm projects which are still under construction with public money.The NAO said this could have netted another £63m. This is the same company, by the way, that owns Thames Water, responsible for some of the worst pollution in the River Thames and also locally on the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal (see an earlier blog).

The companies  behind the sale did very well. The business department paid out a £1.1m success fee to Bank of America Merrill Lynch and a retainer of nearly £300,000 for completing the sale – part of a bill for £4.5m to sell the bank.

Macquarie picked up the bill for another £5m success fee paid  to UBS by the Green Investment Bank itself to handle the sale.

The Department appointed Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) to act as its legal adviser for the sale. HSF’s fee increased from £1 million to £2.36 million owing to the extended period required to complete the sale, the need for advice on restructuring GIB, the retained assets, the special share arrangements and judicial review which failed to challenge the sale.

Altogether Macquarie paid over £10m of the state bank’s fees to get their hands on the state bank. But what did they get in return?

An article in the This is Money website gives us a clue. It shows the government removed the restriction that the Green Investment Bank should only concentrate on the UK so Macquarie  could make money  worldwide and ignore the UK if it wanted. Greg Clark, the business secretary, personally signed this concession.

Macquarie of course denies this pointing out that it had invested £38m in a West Yorkshire waste from energy  from waste project and insisting it will be a big player in the UK and Europe.

But events since the take over suggest otherwise – and there is no guarantee either that it will continue to focus only on green energy. Greg Clark let the bank get away with a non binding public statement to finance green projects for the next three years and the setting up of a trust – the Green Purposes Company  -which could shame the new owners if they fail to keep to their pledge.

The evidence of backsliding comes from the trustees. In theory they have powers to prevent changes to GIB’s green purposes, but this does not extend to control of, or input to, investment decisions.

The five trustees are independently appointed and seem to be sound environmental figures. They include James Curran, former chief executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and Lord Teverson, a former Liberal Democrat energy spokesman.But they are not paid to monitor such a big private equity company and a check on the website of the Green Purposes Company does not give much comfort either.

It reveals the first project  is in Sweden – with a 300 million Euro investment in what will be Europe’s largest onshore wind farm joint with the US listed company GE which is in financial trouble in the United States.

The second is in a £30m investment in solar power in India – admittedly with a UK solar park company, Lightsource, partly owned by BP. The company is concentrating on green power in the Middle East, Asia and Europe as part of its partnership with BP.

And the third investment will  be a 136 million Euro energy from waste scheme in Dublin, jointly run by a New Jersey incineration company, Covanta.

So far the new bank has invested £38m in the UK and over £400m (partly with GE) abroad.

The NAO conclude in their report  the future direction of GIB’s investment focus and its relationship with the trustees remain untested. From the first four projects it seems quite clear that the UK will be on the sidelines. The 436 million Euro investments will be great news for Donald Trump’s ” America First ” policy but not such great news for Theresa May.


The top Tory power grab that turns their party members into mere pawns

Rob Semple and Theresa May

Rob Semple, chair of the Conservative Party Convention, and Theresa May – the ” Old Elizabethans” Pic credit: Twitter


Update December 21: Since writing this piece I have discovered that the Conservative Home website, had already raised  objections to the power grab a few days after the convention. The link to their story is here .

 It is good news  for democrats everywhere that  some Conservatives are challenging this. For avoidance of any doubt my Conservative source and myself were unaware of this when I published the story.

While  the public and press have been absorbed in Tory battles over Brexit the top hierarchy in the Conservative Party have mounted an extraordinary power grab behind the scenes that strips their ordinary members of any meaningful say in the running of their organisation.

On November 25 the party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution. For policy nerds I attach the document sent out by Rob Semple, chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board. I have also written about this in Tribune magazine.

Masquerading as ” small suggestions to bring us into the 21st Century “the convention agreed to rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates and scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts. Instead on line voting would be used for all top posts in the party.

The changes will go for final approval next March at a meeting of the Conservative Convention and will be put to MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee in Westminster the same month.

The Tories are hoping that by removing the word constituency from the constitution it will encourage people to form wider associations – which has had some success in Kent where six associations in the Thanet area have combined. But it also reflects the dire state of activists in some Tory constituency associations – where a number have now fallen to fewer than 50 members and operate from a P O Box address.

 The change in selection proposed in the constitution gives power to the candidates committee of the Board of the Party – whose members are appointed rather than elected. The new wording is:“The selection of all candidates, including Parliamentary, Police Commissioners, Elected Mayors and local government candidates shall follow a process in accordance with rules and guidance published from time to time by the Committee on Candidates of the Board of the Party.”

Not surprisingly the proposals have been  vehemently attacked  by Tory members who quite naturally believe if they join a political party – they should have some say in its policies and be able to choose their own candidates.

John Strafford, chairman of  Conservative Campaign for Democracy. said: “If these proposed changes are not voted down you might as well say The Conservative Party: The End”

 “And if MPs don’t take any action to stop these proposals they will find the only activists campaigning for them at the next general election will be themselves.”

 I did contact Conservative Central Office last week  for a comment but there has been no response and there does not appear to be a press release.

And in addition the review  into the failed General Election campaign by  Sir Eric Pickles, the former MP and chairman – probably about to be made a peer by Theresa May – contains one extraordinary overlooked proposal.

It suggests the Tory Party – which wasted £4.5 million on consultants to the failed campaign this year – could hand over lock, stock and barrel – the running of the next campaign to a private company.

This frankly is an extraordinary state of affairs in British politics for the 21st century.

Two parties – Labour and the Liberal Democrats – will fight the next general election with  the largest number of members and supporters  they have had for ages- reflecting a democratic revolution.

The top Labour Party people will be elected by the membership – there is an election for the National Executive Party going on now. So will the candidates.

But the  cash rich Conservative Party will basically turn itself into an unelected commercial organisation – where investors and private companies will decide the presentation of policies for the people.

The contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council.

The Tories go into the election as a small clique with their members little more than cannon fodder.

A libertarian academic suggested to me that the Tories had turned politics back four centuries – to the days when the Elizabethans and the Dutch Indies companies – used private investors to  create a joint enterprise to rule parts of the globe and general populus had no say. What an achievement in 2017.





Unreported by the national media: How some bosses can help if you are one of 2 million people enduring domestic abuse

Elizabeth Filkin

Elizabeth Filkin: chair of the steering group of the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse


This week the BBC hosted an extraordinary conference on how business and public employers can act to help employees if they are suffering the living hell of domestic abuse.

The conference attracted big names. Lord Hall, director general of BBC; Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police Commissioner; Amber Rudd, the home secretary (by video); Ben Page, chief executive of ipsos MORI;Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, Chief of Defence People;Victoria Atkins,Home Office minister for crime and directors from accountancy giant, Grant Thornton, and Vodafone, the mobile phone provider.

It also was addressed by a remarkably brave woman,Serena, who told her story of both child sexual abuse and an adult abusive relationship, which led her unsympathetic employer to sack her and the actor and series producer of TV drama Holby City, whose story line included an abusive gay relationship which ended up with one partner being beaten up.

The event was organised by an organisation you have probably never heard of – the Employers’ Initiative  on Domestic Abuse – run by Elizabeth Filkin, a no nonsense figure who as Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards once took on Peter Mandelson and Keith Vaz over allegations of bad behaviour..

People might think what has business got to do with people’s personal lives – but what was noticeable was the firms that are backing the initiative had got involved after a traumatic event involving their staff.

Cressida Dick told the extraordinary story of how a very competent senior police officer in the Met rang her own switchboard to report that she was  a victim of domestic abuse. The police commissioner read out her testimony and described how she , though finding it an extremely difficult thing to do, is now coping with it

Another  big accountancy firm became involved after an employee jumped off London Bridge and committed suicide because they couldn’t cope with domestic abuse.

And a person attending from a hotel group told me they got involved after a young man attending a function was sexually abused when sleeping off the effects of too much alcohol on their premises. He went to the police, they decided they should join an organisation that dealt with abuse.

The BBC’s involvement comes some 18 months after the shock of the Jimmy Savile scandal – and ironically the conference was held in the same room where Tony Hall pledged to take action in the wake of Dame Janet Smith’s devastating findings on the issue.

Ad the Ministry of Defence actually tackles predators as well both those serving in the forces and those in the families of serving officers.

But they are the good ones. Ben Page told the conference that HR departments ” talked the good talk ” but often didn’t take any action or did not know how to to take action. Only one in twenty medium and large companies have a policy to deal with domestic abuse.

He described the present situation as akin to the position on mental health – which had been ignored by firms but was now accepted as an issue. He was an optimist saying ” In 10 years time all the misogynists will be dead ” – a point challenged by Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley, who takes up domestic abuse issues, and is regularly trolled by people on the net.

Probably his most interesting admission was as chief executive of an organisation employing 1400 he did not know or had never come across a case of domestic abuse among his staff. He admitted that could not be the case.

His report makes a number of recommendations which could be included in the government’s new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill- including removing the minimum qualifying period for domestic abuse victims to get flexible working and introducing  ten days paid leave a year for domestic abuse victims. The latter, he admitted, would lead to protests from the Tory right. I can just imagine MPs like the nappy change refusnik Jacob Rees Mogg having apoplexy.

The government is obviously keen on employers sharing responsibility. But below the surface there are huge issues of resources, the fate of women refuges, austerity, pressure on local authorities and the police and social services to handle this huge problem.

I shall return to some  of these issues in future blogs. But one point needs to be made. This conference was covered by none of the national media – not even the BBC who hosted it. Only The Telegraph and ITN did show some interest. And that is despite energetic efforts made by conference  organisers.

There is an interesting parallel. In the media industry – only the BBC and ITN – have  signed up  to the group which now numbers over 150 companies who are trying to help victims of domestic abuse.

So the entire national  and regional press and the major social media sites believe there is no problem with domestic abuse among their thousands of employees. A likely story. No wonder they didn’t cover it.