How the government is allowing the Japanese to profit from captive London and Brummie commuters

 

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

Earlier this month the Department of Transport extended its recommended list of bidders to run Britain’s railways to a privatised rail company in Japan.

It shortlisted East Japan Railway as a minority partner with the Dutch state rail company Abellio, in the consortium West Midlands Trains Ltd as one of three groups bidding to take over the West Midlands franchise next October. which provides commuter services into London and Birmingham including my home town of Berkhamsted.

But more significantly it decided that East Japan Railway would qualify as an approved bidder for any other franchise up for grabs until 2020.

The Telegraph presented  the bid as a move by a company at the cutting edge of technology as it provides some of  Japan’s bullet train services.

But anyone thinking those on the crowded commuter routes will be whisked in by a super bullet train service should think again.

The story is in fact the exact opposite once you study the company’s latest annual report.

What it shows is that the bedrock of the company’s regular income is its commuter services around Tokyo not its bullet trains. And the prospect for making any more money out of them is a tad bleak.

It reveals that the company is currently facing a downturn in its commuter services serving Tokyo partly caused by a declining population and is looking to expand abroad. It currently provides no services outside Asia – where it is helping develop a mass transit rail system for Bangkok and improve train services in Indonesia.

The annual report says: “Generally, Japan’s declining population is seen as unfavourable for the transportation industry. However, our performance in fiscal 2015 proved that, even in an era of population decline, we can grow revenues by steadily implementing various measures.”

These include developing stations and encouraging more retired people to use local trains as the number of commuters decline.

With lower fares in Japan than the UK, the move could give the operator access to the lucrative London commuter market and it could also offer its services to maintain and build new trains for the British market.

So in other words commuters using London Midland trains to get into Birmingham and London Euston will be contributing to  profits which can be repatriated to Tokyo to offset the declining  Japanese market.

Which makes an investment in London Midland a one way bet for the Japanese since the current Tory government will ensure fares rise every year and the growing population in the UK will all help boost profits.

I would not be surprised to see government ministers in the transport department helping themselves to directorships and consultancies with the company a couple of years after they have stepped down from their posts. After all they have done them a great favour.

I have written about this in Tribune. The three consortia bidding are:a consortium run by London and West Midlands Railway Ltd, a subsidiary of Govia Ltd (a joint venture between Keolis and Go-Ahead Group)’ West Midlands Trains Ltd, currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Abellio Transport Group Ltd with East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd as minority partners; and MTR Corporation (West Midlands) Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of MTR Corporation (UK) Ltd which runs the Hong Kong rail system.

The new London Midland operator will take over in October this year.

Top lawyer faces storm over ” perceived conflict of interest” in government job

David Isaac Pinsent Masons

David Isaac: Controversy over his planned appointment to chair the Equality and Human rights Commission

Nicky Morgan education secretary Wikipedia

Nicky Morgan : education Secretary who recommended his appointment as preferred candidate

 

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A row will break out when Parliament returns over the government’s choice for the new chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Women and Equalities Committee have delayed approving the government preferred candidate, David Isaac, a lawyer earning over £500,000 a year because of a “ perceived conflict of interest “ between his new job and his  firm’s financial interests.

The chairs of both committee, both experienced ex ministers, Harriet Harman and Maria Miller, have decided to summon Nicky Morgan, the education secretary who has responsibility for equalities; Sir David Normington, Commissioner for Public Appointments and Sue Gray,Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team at the Cabinet Office, to a hearing as soon as possible after Parliament returns. I have written about this in Tribune magazine..

The row followed the disclosure during a pre- appointment scrutiny hearing  before Easter that Mr Isaac, a partner in lawyers Pinsent Masons, would keep a equity share holding in the firm while being the new chair. The British law firm has global ambitions.

Pinsent Masons has substantial government contracts  in fields covered by the commission and Mr Isaac would stand to get a share of the profits from these contracts. He earns £500,000 a year as an equity partner compared £50,000 as part time chair of the commission.

The committees were promised that there would be “Chinese Walls” created to ensure Mr Isaac would have no say over any new contracts but were not satisfied and asked to see documentation to ensure that this was the case.

The committees then consulted their panel adviser on the matter and got nowhere.

As the letter  from the committee chairs to Nicky Morgan says: “The Committees sought information from the panel assessor who will have considered in detail potential conflicts of interest as part of the process that determined Mr Isaac is an ‘appointable candidate’.

“ However, we were told that under the terms of the Liaison Committee and Cabinet Office guidance such documents could not be released to the Select Committees either in part or in full. As a result, the committees were unable to undertake one of their purposes as set out by the Liaison Committee terms of reference: “scrutiny of the quality of ministerial decision-making”.

A spokesperson for the Government Equalities Office said: “David Isaac has an impressive track record and brings a range of experience both from his work on LGBT issues and human rights and as an experienced lawyer. We believe that as chair of the EHRC he will be a strong and effective advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.

“We are confident there are no actual or perceived conflicts of interest. All possible conflicts were explored during the recruitment process, which was overseen by the Office of the Commissioner of Public Appointments. In addition, as is usual with significant appointments such as these, there will be a clear framework in place to avoid any potential perceived conflicts.”

His biography on Pinsent Masons says :

“David is a partner and head of the Advanced Manufacturing & Technology sector. He specialises in providing clients with strategic advice on major public and private sector UK and global commercial and outsourcing projects.

Independently recognised for his wealth of knowledge and experience, David leads teams of lawyers on major projects for amongst others DWP, the Home Office,  Transport for London and BP plc. He lectures and writes extensively on IT and legal matters. He is Chair of Modern Art Oxford, a Director of the Big Lottery Fund and a Trustee of both the Human Dignity Trust and 14-18 Now.  He was Chair of Stonewall from 2003 to 2012 and a Trustee of The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund from 2005 until it spent out in 2013.”

How EU law hobbled Parliament investigating worst mis-selling scandal in history

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The scandal of the mis-selling of Personal Protection Insurance is well known as one of the worst financial scandals in history.

Some 12 million people have received £22.5 billion in compensation from  unnecessary Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) schemes sold to gullible people.

And to compound it a National Audit Office report  (NAO) last week highlighted how cold calling claims management companies had ripped off £3.8 billion and £5 billion of the compensation paid for work which could be done by claimants for free.

What might also shock people – particularly in the current debate over whether we should quit the European Union – is the revelation by the NAO  that it could not complete the investigation  to its satisfaction because a European Union directive banned Parliament from getting confidential information. I have written about this in this week’s Tribune magazine.

The situation is this. As well as finding out the scale of the problem the NAO wanted to know -on behalf of you the taxpayer – whether the public watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority had done its job its ensuring the many banks and financial organisation had smartened up their acts to prevent a repetition.. Particularly as they are fears that there could be a new scandal involving the mis-selling of annuities and pension schemes.

The FCA had collected this information but refused to hand it over to Parliament’s watchdog.. The reason it turned out is that the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 combined with EU law restrictions prevents them obtaining the information from the FCA.

As the NAO said: “ This limits our ability to reach a judgement on the FCA’s value for money, as we could not carry out a full assessment of the effectiveness of the FCA’s actions…. we have only limited evidence on how the FCA’s actions have changed firm behaviour, and how effective its redress schemes have been in providing compensation to consumers.”

The NAO tried to get around this by contacting some 20 banks and financial companies and asking them to volunteer to disclose the information. Fifteen did reply but five including two of the companies with the largest number of complaints, Barclays and British Gas Services, declined to provide any information.

The 15 who did reply included HSBC Bank plc; Lloyds Banking Group; MBNA Limited; Nationwide Building Society; NFU Mutual Insurance Society and Santander UK plc.

But a NAO spokesman said: “The information we got from the others while helpful, didn’t enable us to carry out a full assessment of the effectiveness of the FCA’s actions.”

What  is the EU doing putting  the interests of banks above people and Parliament. The NAO is now asking the Treasury to pass a law allowing it some access to this information but it will have to bow to EU law on how much can be revealed.

I am not a supporter of Brexit but it seems to me there is something very wrong here that needs changing. I am surprised that the vociferous campaigners for a No vote have not latched on to this – even if it is in the small print of the report. The NAO is obviously an independent source with no axe to grind over Europe. But it has provided campaigners who say we are not in control of our country with a very potent example on a very serious issue.

 

Did Boris steal Ken’s best ideas for London?

The site Londonlovesbusiness is rather an extraordinary place to find an interview with Ken Livingstone which is actually sympathetic to the former Labour mayor and critical of Boris Johnson.

But two articles  by Robyn Vinter in the past week give Red Ken a lot more credit than Blue Boris. You can find them here  and here . The second include a statement from Boris’s spokesman  listing all the things Boris says he has done for the capital.

Basically the articles say it was Red Ken who originally put forward the idea for Crossrail, London Overground. the Olympic Games and  what became to be known as Boris Bikes.

And there is also an extraordinary claim by Ken that you won’t find much evidence in City Hall archives that he was responsible for any of them.

The reason is he says is: “One of the things Boris’s team did once they won in 2008 was go through all the dates and records and websites at City Hall and remove my name from all of them and it took some time doing that.”

We have all heard that history is always written by the victors but to  change the actual archives used for people to research history is a step too far.

Given we have a key election for Mayor this year I put up links to these articles so people can judge for themselves before casting their vote.

 

 

 

Revealed: How The Metropolitan Police Covered-Up For Rupert Murdoch’s News International – Joe Public

This is an extremely important revelation by Bellingcat and Byline given that the Met Police have had at last to hand over huge numbers of documents to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel which is investigating his death. It suggests a wider conspiracy by the Met Police involving more people.
It is also good news that this is one of the first projects that has been ” crowd funded” by Byline showing the need for journalists to be given time and resources to investigate very serious scandals that are in the public interest.

Inforrm's Blog

Mazher-Mahmood-010A Bellingcat and Byline investigation can for the first time reveal Scotland Yard had intelligence Mazher Mahmood was corrupting police officers as far back as the summer of 2000.

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Alastair Morgan to @RupertMurdoch “You are in a unique position to help us finally lay Daniel to rest.”

This comes at a time when the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel , chaired by Baroness O’Loan has made a fresh appeal for people to come forward -particularly journalists – with fresh information which should be supported. No one should have such a hideous crime on their conscience.

The Criminal Media Nexus

1DMAM1Today, on the anniversary of his brother’s brutal murder in 1987, Alastair Morgan makes an impassioned appeal to Rupert Murdoch to fully co-operate with the Independent Panel Inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan, chaired by Baroness O’Loan.

The full text of the letter Alastair just hand delivered to Rupert Murdoch is here . But the personal appeal towards the end is particularly striking:

The work of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel is almost entirely dependent on disclosure and I am appealing to you today – on the 28th anniversary of my brother’s murder – to ensure that News Corporation discloses all relevant material in confidence to the Panel.

Daniel’s murder, the police corruption and the ensuing years of failed investigations have been agony for the whole family. Daniel’s children have grown up without a father and my mother is now 86 years old. We need to know the truth about what…

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News: Phone Hacking, Jules Stenson and Neil Wallis Charged with voicemail interception during period 2003 to 2007

Crown Prosecution Service continue phone hacking investigation in wake of trial by charging two more senior figures but drop cases against six others

Inforrm's Blog

Jules-StensonNeil WallisThe Crown Prosecution Service has announced today that it has authorised the Metropolitan Police to charge Jules Stenson, former features editor of the News of the World and to summons Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of the News of the World on a ‘phone hacking’ charge.

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