Ministry of Justice:Flogging prison expertise to Saudi beheaders and floggers

Chris Grayling: Selling British prison expertise to Saudi beheaders and floggers

Chris Grayling: Selling British prison expertise to Saudi beheaders and floggers

The nasty and brutal punishment (1000 lashes) being meted out to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is rightly being condemned by human rights groups across the world.

What may not be so well-known  is that the British government is currently negotiating to sell prison expertise to the  repressive Saudi judicial regime to make money in order to cut the deficit for the taxpayer.

The man championing this move is none other than Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, well-known for wanting to deny prisoners books and an enthusiastic backer of longer prison sentences and tough prison regimes.

Quietly he has set up a commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice called Just Solutions International. You can download a glossy brochure here.

Mr Grayling is passionate about this. At the launch of the social enterprise he said:

“We are leading the world in our management of offenders and the reforms we are introducing will push us even further ahead of the pack. I’m proud that countries look to us when they want to improve and develop their own systems.”

“This social enterprise will build on our global reputation for innovation while getting best value, as any profits made will be put directly back into improving our own justice system, making it a win-win for hardworking taxpayers.”

What we didn’t know then was where Britain was selling this expertise. However just before Christmas the Ministry of Justice released an interim report on its progress.

It revealed as I report in Tribune :

” JSi submitted a £5.9 million proposal to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Finance to conduct a training needs analysis across all the learning and development programmes within the Saudi Arabian Prison Service.

Also in August, JSi submitted a large-scale bid to the Royal Oman Police (ROP) proposing assistance for the design of a new prison. Discussions are currently taking place with ROP about further learning and development training programmes.”

The document states that Chris Grayling visited Saudi Arabia last September to sign a memorandum of understanding on judicial co-operation with the regime and promote British legal services and Doha in Qatar to promote co-operation. A junior justice minister, Lord Faulks, visited Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan during October, both also seen to be repressive regimes, and signed a memorandum of understanding on judicial co-operation in Kazakhstan.”

I put this to the Ministry of Justice. This was their reply: ” “It is ridiculous to suggest that providing overseas governments with assistance in the development of their criminal justice systems demonstrates support for such atrocious acts. It has been government policy for many years to work with overseas governments and help them develop their criminal justice systems.”

Really! Some people might think the Saudis will be taking comfort from such British support and personal visits from Chris Grayling while continuing these barbaric acts. Also is there not an ethical matter whether the British taxpayer wants the deficit reduced by making profits from a regime that tortures,  publicly beheads ( some 59 in first nine months of last year) and flogs people? It could be said to amount to blood money.

Frankly it suggests that Mr Grayling’s main aim is making money and he couldn’t care about the regimes who pay us and how they treat their own citizens. It also hypocritical. we are condemning ISIS for the same practices. Would Mr Grayling – if ISIS win – be happy to flog them the same British help for running their justice system in the Islamic state?

Also just how wonderful is the British prison system that we are selling. If you look at reports from the Howard League for Penal Reform we have huge problems with overcrowding, suicides and a repressive attitude by Grayling himself. Do we want to export that?

I am wondering how ridiculous the blogger Raif will think it is that the  system that incarcerates and flogs him benefits from British expertise to make money. I also wonder whether Mr Grayling – a  cold hard right Tory – was or is  a supporter of hanging and flogging himself.

Since this blog was published The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, defended to the BBC the sale of British prisons expertise to Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to Andrew Neil one the Sunday Politics Mr Grayling said: “It is right and proper that we as a nation try to work with other nations to improve their systems.”

 Saudi Arabia has been widely criticised, including by the British Government, for sentencing the blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail.  Mr Grayling said he “completely condemns” the punishment.

He added: “This is something I am looking at very carefully.”

Amnesty International campaign poster for rasif Badawi

Amnesty International campaign poster for Raif Badawi

Is Whitehall still letting profit hungry contractors off the hook to rip off the state?

Chris Grayling: His £400m gift to contractor's profits sparked a pathetic clampdown pic courtesy: BBC

Chris Grayling: His £400m gift to contractor’s profits
sparked a pathetic clampdown pic courtesy: BBC

Remember the major row over  justice secretary Chris Grayling’s “poison pill ” contract to privatise the probation service. This allowed  the successful bidders to walk away with up to £400m profit on a ten year contract should an incoming Labour government have the temerity to cancel it if they won the next election.

Grayling  not so innocently said that this was just normal Whitehall practice. Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee said it was “It is not value for money. It is unacceptable and must be challenged before the event.”

She demanded something be done and now the Treasury have responded. They have written to every accounting officer of every ministry and every government agency laying down new guidelines. You can read the letter here and see my news article in Tribune this week.

In my view the response is particularly pathetic and certainly not nearly hard-hitting enough to protect taxpayer’s money.

Of  course accounting officers are reminded that they must consider value for money and must be able to justify such decisions but it does include some  remarkably helpful  “get out “clauses that allow such deals to continue.

One  says they should consider: “whether it is likely that, if the public body terminates the contract for policy reasons, the supplier would have a legal case to claim even without the clause being in the contract.” Well it might but I would be amazed if a judge allowed them to keep all projected profits.

They are also expected just to ask rather than instruct companies “whether the market be willing to bid without such clauses, particularly when outsourcing for the first time, or establishing a new market.” And they should ask whether such a deal is “normal practice in this area of business.”

To me this seems an open invitation for private contractors to say, of course it is, where if they had a private contact with another private firm, they would lucky to get all the money back if the other company just collapsed.

It is only that the Government cannot go bankrupt that they are in a position to negotiate such terms.

Now of course accounting officers could refuse to sign such one-sided contracts in the first place and demand the minister in charge directed them to do so. But in fact remarkably few permanent secretaries and chief executives  ever do this. They can be counted on the fingers of one hand in any financial year.

Once again this coalition government is running the country for the benefit of private companies not for the taxpayer or even to the benefit of the ordinary public.

 

 

Zac Goldsmith presses Theresa May for meeting as she says ” not yet” to an overarching inquiry

Theresa May has finally officially replied to a request from now 139 MPs for a Hillsborough style overarching inquiry into historic child sex abuse.

In a more emollient letter to the original seven MPs  who called for the inquiry she is indicating that she will give serious consideration to an inquiry – but not until all the current police investigations are completed.

The full story and texts of the letters between Theresa May and Zac Goldsmith are on the Exaro website today.

Zac Goldsmith has responded by writing a letter to the home secretary.

“The next step is for us to meet you, along with other interested members of Parliament, to discuss the issue more fully.

“It would make sense for this meeting to happen sooner rather than later, and we would therefore appreciate it if you could let us have a date as soon as possible.”

It is also revealed that Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has gone further than David Cameron and rejected any inquiry into historic child sex abuse saying such a move is  ” a waste of money”.

The letter from Theresa May is encouraging in that she feels she has to  fully respond to a demand from 138 MPs of all parties and is obviously anxious to say that she will thoroughly examine the case after police investigations are completed. But Zac Goldsmith is right to press her much further. His call for an urgent meeting so she can hear the full facts from possibly as many as 138 MPs is exactly right.

As for Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, he obviously believes that  finding justice for child sex abuse victims  is less important than cutting taxes. Frankly this is unsurprising from him – the man who slashed compensation payments for innocent victims of criminals, doesn’t believe prisoners should have any right to read books,and would quite happily see people stripped of legal representation in the courts if they can’t afford it. He belongs to the wing of  what Theresa May once called ” the nasty party.”.

Revealed: How Francis Maude and Chris Grayling are actively working to remove jobs from Britain to some risky terrorist destinations

Francis Maude: Actively encouraging off shoring Whitehall jobs

Francis Maude: Actively encouraging off shoring Whitehall jobs

David Cameron and George Osborne have been boasting how many new jobs their new economic recovery has created.

What they haven’t told you is that their Cabinet colleagues are actively working to strip Britain of existing jobs and replace them with new cheap skate jobs overseas, including some countries which have high risks of riots and terrorist attacks. And further the new jobs will mean the transfer of personal data on staff, possibly police and criminal records and the transfer of patient details from GP to GP to a foreign country.

I have written about this in Tribune magazine this weekend. But the two ministers are being very crafty – they are leaving it to a private company to sack the former civil servants and  transfer your records  and appointing a man who can hold both a Whitehall job and a private sector post at the same time to hand the companies the power to do it.

 

Peter Swann: the man enabling Steria to outsource jobs to his own company's high risk terrorist destination

Peter Swann: the man enabling Steria to outsource jobs to his own company’s high risk terrorist destination

The man is Peter Swann – or Peter S as he likes to hide under his Linked In entry unless you know him well. His entry shows he is currently Director of Crown Oversight at the Cabinet Office under Francis Maude and his job description according to his own Linked In Entry is “transforming the delivery of Civil Service back office functions to over 500,000 staff across the UK and in all Government Departments.”

 His other simultaneous job is  executive director of Aon Risk Solutions which in his words is famous for ” relocating corporate Head Office functions and aligning this strategy to Aon’s captive offshore arrangement and existing outsourcing contractual arrangements.”

 To put it simply he is an outsourcing and off shore fanatic whose company has had a 43 per cent rise in dividends this year. Incidently  his firm provides a Terrorist Tracking Tool and up to date world guide on the dangers of strikes, riots and terrorist attacks in dodgy foreign countries. Download the map here.

So it should be no surprise that within a year a French firm, Steria, have now taken over all the back room jobs for the Department of Work and Pensions, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency and is now looking at bidding for the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Again the move is subtle, Whitehall has created a new UK company to do it, 75 per cent owned by the French. It came one year after the Department of Health ensured that Steria also took a majority holding in a NHS data  company providing the ” invisible information” through NHS Shared Business Services, including patient information to GPs and clinical recall services.

And now Steria is arranging that jobs currently in Newport, Cardiff, Sheffield and Leeds are destined to be replaced by ones abroad and staff in Newcastle, Blackpool,Peterborough and York are facing the sack. An analysis of Steria’s accounts – which they are required to disclose under EU law- reveals that they make the most money out of their British operations – but their biggest off shore operation is in India with lesser ones in Morocco and Poland. They also derive 39 per cent of their income from the public sector,

 So what will be Sheffield’s loss could well be Pune and Chennai in India’s gain. And here’s the irony  Peter Swann’s company, Aon, rates India as a high risk country for riots, commotion and terrorism, while Sheffield is low risk. It is also amazing that to save money our justice secretary, Chris Grayling, and Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, are quite happy for Steria to do what they like with our personal data. I bet they don’t take such risks with their own personal security. Perhaps both of them should be removed to exile in Pune.

 

Chris Grayling: A Despicable Political Thug and Mugger

Chris Grayling? Pic courtesy:The Sun

Update: The cuts in criminal injuries compensation came will come into force  on Tuesday November 27. You know which MPs to  blame by logging on to the link below.

Labour’s attempt to block these horrendous cuts being imposed by Chris Grayling and Helen Grant  was  defeated on Wednesday November 7  by 289 votes to 209 – with Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs rushing into the lobbies to support the cuts. A new passionate supporter of the cuts emerged – former prisons minister Crispin Blunt – who admitted the cuts were being made so victims of crime pay their share of the deficit. And he claimed David Cameron supported this move.

Helen Grant defended the removal of compensation to children and adults attacked by illegal breed dogs and dogs owners could not control them – by saying motorists did not have to compensate people they accidently ran over. Other speakers who backed the change included David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enflield, southgate and Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enflield, North.

See full list of MPs who blocked Labour ‘s opposition here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121107/debtext/121107-0004.htm

Portrait of a nasty political mugger Pic courtesy: The Sun

One of the most despicable decisions coalition was taken last week in Parliament. But you won’t have read it in the papers.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, and chief advocate of the law and order brigade of the Tory Party decided that muggers, rioters , thugs, burglars,and thieves who maim their victims can now safely do this in the knowledge  that the injured person won’t get a penny of compensation from the state. And many more seriously injured people will get their compensation cut.

Chris Grayling mugging the innocent public? Pic Courtesy; thief.org.uk

And just to make sure the victims really squirm –  if their injuries mean they can’t go to work for more than six months they won’t get their loss of earnings made up by the state – they’ll have to live on a minimal state benefit of £85.85 a week. Those victims who have not been in full time work for three years will be considered shirkers and won’t get a penny. And if the NHS can’t give you any counselling, forget it, you’ll have to pay privately, Grayling has withdrawn any payments to private providers.

This wonderful new version of compassionate Conservatism is brill news for the criminal classes and bad news for victims. For while rightly he is making criminals contribute to the taxpayer funded compensation scheme – some of the injuries innocent members of the public suffer at the hands of muggers won’t qualify for compensation.

Let me spell it out in graphic terms. If a thug breaks your jaw or  fingers , cuts off one of your toes,burns your hand with a cigarette, breaks your ribs,impairs your speech, you’ll no longer get any compensation. Mr Grayling in a private letter to Tory MPs defends such damage as ” emotional” and not worth any compensation.

If your assailant causes some permanent brain damage , punctures your lungs,  smashes your elbow or knee ,Mr Grayling thinks your compensation should be cut by up to 60 per cent. A mugger has to rape you and permanently reduce you to a paraplegic state for life  for you get the full compensation.Even that has its qualifications. Don’t believe me – see  the list at http://bit.ly/RKvxPX 

If you can’t control your dog or have an illegal breed and  it attacks a child or a postman the injured person can’t claim any state compensation either. These payments are described as ” anomolous ” by Mr Grayling. This  comes at a time when another ministry, Defra, is trying to tighten up the law on dangerous dogs. And all because Grayling is worried that the criminal injuries compensation scheme is costing too much and he must save £4m a month. The changes are fully debated in an excellent House of Commons research paper – see http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06451.

But there something even worse about this sick decision which shows why Grayling is on par with the criminals he says he loathes.

Rather than openly get this debated in the House of Commons – which you might expect given the consequences for the general public – he chose to get it through Parliament by using an obscure regulatory committee – with the result that not a single lobby correspondent noticed it was happening.

John Redwood; Decent Tory silenced by Grayling Pic courtesy:getwokingham.co.uk

This is the equivalent of  a mugger or rapist using a dark alleyway to ply their trade -knowing if it was done in broad daylight many more people will notice. But he is even worse than that. When this was last debated a number of loyal Tory MPs, notably ex-minister, John Redwood, and Angie Bray refused to support it – they have been silenced by their removal from the committee scrutinising it.

Like any  common gangster he recruited loyal gang members – people desperate to get promoted into ministerial  jobs – to do his dirty work. He wasn’t even there when the deed was done.

Helen Grant; From respectable solicitor to political gangster’s moll?: Pic Courtesy: Helen Grant MP website

Instead he  used his deputy Helen Grant, like a gangster’s moll, to push through the changes last Thursday with the help of  a Tory whip, four parliamentary private secretaries to Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers, a Tory Party vice chairman and a wimpish president of the Liberal Democrats.

Indeed so incensed am I about this that I am going to list all their e-mail addresses in the hope that they get a verbal mugging. I don’t believe in physical violence- but they deserve a stern magisterial dressing down for mugging the British public. (see e-mails at end)

They guilty gang are: Helen Grant  (Conservative Justice Minister, Maidstone & Weald); Rebecca Harris (Conservative, Castle Point); John Howell (Conservative, Henley, PPS to Andrew Lansley); Jessica Lee (Conservative, Erewash, PPS to Dominic Grieve); Tessa Munt (Liberal Democrat, Wells, PPS to Vince Cable); Bob Neill (Conservative Party Vice-Chairman & new member of Justice Committee, Bromley & Chislehurst); and Lee Scott (Conservative, Ilford North, PPS to Chris Grayling)  Michael Ellis (Conservative, Northampton North); David Evennett (Conservative, Bexleyheath & Crayford, Government Whip);

The hapless wimpo Liberal Democrat who stood by at the scene of the crime is  Tim Farron (President of the Liberal Democrats,Westmorland & Lonsdale) .

Labour  members to their credit, led by Rob  Flello, Labour’s justice minister, opposed the move and those against it included David Blunkett, the former home secretary.

Of course Mr Grayling won’t be worried personally by any changes – his work routine avoids meeting any potential muggers outside the House – and he has a government provided chauffeur driven car to take him from his large well guarded detached home in Ashstead, Surrey to London.

The email addresses are: helen.grant.mp@parliament.uk, rebecca.harris.mp@parliament.uk  howelljm@parliament.ukjessica.lee@parliament.uktessa.munt.mp@parliament.uk ,bob.neill.mp@parliament.ukscottle@parliament.uk michael.ellis.mp@parliament.uk, david.evennett.mp @parliament.uk.

And the abstaining Lib Dem is tim@timfarron.co.uk .

But perhaps you should complain direct to Chris Grayling. His e-mail is chris.grayling.mp@parliament.uk.

Dole queues – What dole queues? The huge divide among the unemployed

Dole queues -growing rapidly in Labour, falling in some Tory and Lib seats Pic:courtesy Daily Mail

Ever wondered why with  dole queues at their highest levels since 1996, in many areas pubs and restuarants are heaving, the West End theatres full and motorways crowded with traffic? The answer is provided in an extraordinary analysis by the House of Commons Library of the latest claimant figures released by the government (see http://bit.ly/x6wWxw).

Far from  the picture painted by David Cameron’s infamous slogan ” We are in it together” the United Kingdom is as divided over who is on the dole and who isn’t as it is over bankers’ bonuses and public sector worker pay freezes. And it is not just the differences between the disproportionate numbers of young people-under 24- on the dole and an older generation in work.

It is  the fact that across  the nation the number of people claiming job seekers’ allowance is now dividing area against area and becoming party political. Put it simply the government – whether it intended to or not – is dumping on areas that voted Labour and leaving many coalition seats- Liberal Democrat and Conservative alike – completely unscathed from the grim dole reaper. In fact -taken year on year in some Tory and Lib Dem seats unemployment claims are, believe it or not, actually FALLING.

Am I making this up?  No it is all in the report. The Commons library report looks at dole claimants and breaks them down by constituency -taking as its base the economically active – those aged between 16 and 64 – and working out how many people in the constituency are unemployed.

It then ranks them all. The top 15 dole  constituencies-with the exception of three- are all Labour seats. And the other three are in Northern Ireland. The bottom 15 are all Conservative or Liberal Democrat. And the difference is stark . In Labour held Birmingham,Ladywood, – the Number One seat for dole claims- more than one in five people are claiming. In Liberal Democrat held West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, the figure is 1 in 100 and falling for the long term unemployed.

Among prominent politicians John Redwood and David Cameron both have miniscule numbers on the dole- and the overall jobless claims are falling in Redwood’sconstituency despite a rise in youth unemployment. While Liam Byrne, the shadow works and pension secretary, and ex union leader Jack Dromey have some of the highest. There is more on this in an article by me and Rajeev Syal on the Guardian Society website (see http://bit.ly/xvUv8M ) and by me in Tribune (http://bit.ly/z3dAhM).

Perhaps it can be best illustrated by comparing Liam Byrne constituency with Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Works and Pensions.

Liam Byrne’s Birmingham Hodge Hill  seat has the second highest number of dole claimants in the UK with 7257  claiming benefits – 1750 for over a year – and a rise of 723 – 250 on the long term register.

Chris Grayling in Epsom and Ewell has  1007 on the dole – an increase of 44 in a year – with a rise of just 5 people out of work for a year -to just 135.

No wonder perhaps the dole queues do not have the same resonance for the Tories  as Labour. Tory Mps’ surgeries are hardly going to be packed with desperate people looking for jobs – but Labour Mps are going to be overwhelmed. It also has a political impact and might be one reason why Labour is not capitalising on the recession- simply because in some areas it does not exist.

The most interesting point is that Lord Young’s much criticised statement about people never having it so good – is actually true in some Tory areas.

Labour is going to have try much harder to get the point of the horror of the dole queues across to a wider general public – because as it stands the Tories seem to have manipulated a recession that concentrates almost entirelyon their constituencies and affects mainly their voters.

Has Cameron blown it?

Cameron- what's going wrong: Picture courtesy Greenpeace

In an election that began competing with the Icelandic volcano for volatility and unpredictability, it is probably tempting fate to write any epitaph for David Cameron midway through the campaign.

 Yet what has become clear is that Dave has not “sealed the deal” with the electorate and has squandered a ten point plus lead which should have ensured that he easily formed a government on May 7, albeit with a small majority.

If he fails he faces a damning post mortem by his party but the seeds of his own potential destruction have been around before the campaign even started. They lie in the weakest links in his own shadow cabinet- George Osborne, his chancellor, and Chris Grayling, his shadow home secretary.

The  rise in Liberal Democrat support following the first debate is not so surprising when you compare the quality of the two key spokesmen backing Clegg with their Tory counterparts-Vince Cable dominates Osborne and Chris Huhne, a former leadership contender, outsmarts Grayling. The weakest link in the Liberal Democrats was until then Clegg who? Then came his first performance on our TV screens, reinforced by the second.

Osborne has been tainted ever since a Parliamentary investigation into the undeclared funding for his office during the last session (Tenth report  Standards and Privileges Committee. Conduct of Mr George Osborne HC 560) revealed that it had received some £487,000 of donors’ cash to fund his office from high fliers in the city and a scion of the Rothschild family.

What is extraordinary is that these huge sums to fund research and the access he had to brains in the City have failed to produce an economic policy to challenge Labour. Instead there seems to have been a combination of policies that would particularly benefit the donors (the big hike in the threshold for inheritance tax), a rush to introduce public spending cuts and a claim that a £6 billion jobs tax would snuff out the entire economic recovery..

The latter appeared to be holed last week when Sir Terry Leahy, the head of Tesco’s, announced he was not supporting a Tory co-ordinated call to cut the job tax – but was creating 9000 new jobs in the UK despite it. No explanation from Mr Osborne on that one.

Grayling has been effectively marginalised by Cameron during the campaign. He is symbolic of the fault line dividing the attempt by the leader to present a new “green blue” caring Tory agenda and the traditional Tory “ slash and cut taxes” backwoodsman – still the majority of old Tory voters. Expected to toe the new party line on gay tolerance, his mask slipped when he defended a Christian B&B owner turning away a gay couple.

Grayling is an Old Tory in New Conservative clothing – and the electorate are rumbling this. They don’t know where the Tory party really stands or if they are traditional Tories, what they stand for. This made the vacuous “Time for Change” slogan open to easy hijack from Nick Clegg.

Of course, Cameron might just bounce back to squeeze a minute majority by polling day, but time is now against him. Votes can be cast by post from this week so by the time the third debate takes place  it will be too late to sway millions.

The right wing press attack on the Liberal Democrats also had a fatal flaw – the majority of the new voters attracted to Clegg are the internet savvy under 35 generation.They don’t buy the papers anyway, so it would have zilch influence.

Whatever happens in this election – short of a miracle doubling of the Tory lead- Cameron has thrown away the Tories best chance for 13 years.

This blog is also on the Progress website.