Monthly Archives: October 2011

Jim Pickard

One of the remaining mysteries over Adam Werritty was the identity of the final donor to Pargav. This morning’s Times said the accounts only identified “Barclays PR” (contributing £30,000) as the donor. Barclays Bank said it was not the source, indicating that the money came through the private account of a Barclays customer.

Mick Davis, chief executive of Xstrata, the FTSE 100 mining company, is a close friend of both Michael Lewis and Poju Zabludowicz, two donors whose identities had already been made public. (Zabludowicz chairs Bicom, the pro-Israel lobbying group, and Lewis was deputy chair of Bicom a few years ago.) The South Africa-born executive is head of the United Jewish Israeli Appeal, a charitable body in the UK. Read more

Kiran Stacey

As Westminster waits for the publication of Sir Gus O’Donnell’s report into whether Liam Fox broke the ministerial code as a result of his friendship with Adam Werritty, Number 10 is drip-feeding new revelations into the public domain.

The latest is that Werritty met other defence ministers: specifically Gerald Howarth and Lord Astor. We don’t know when, where or how often though. Read more

Jim Pickard

When Britain signed up to some of the world’s toughest carbon-reduction targets earlier in the year there was a major get-out clause.

It was announced that the targets would be reviewed in 2014 to make sure the EU was moving in line with the UK. If Europe was not hitting its targets Britain would be allowed to miss its own. This was described then as the “rip-chord” to make sure Britain remained competitive.

George Osborne took the credit for the decision – during his conference speech – prompting some commentators to think this was a new policy.

Now Mr Osborne is once again seeking to ensure that his name is attached to a separate government initiative to alleviate the impact of a major green policy. In next month’s growth review (or ‘mini-Budget’) he will announce measures to help the energy-intensive users, such as steel companies and chemicals firms, hit by the Read more

Kiran Stacey

Liam Fox, former defence secretary

Liam Fox

There was an intriguing report this morning on civilsociety.co.uk (no, me neither, but stick with me) about a technical, but significant change to the way in which the Charity Commission investigates charities.

According to the report, Kenneth Dibble, the commission’s head of legal services, told an audience of charity lawyers that it would stop carrying out so-called “regulatory compliance investigations” – the type of inquiry that snared Atlantic Bridge, the charity set up by Liam Fox and  run by Adam Werritty.

The commission found earlier this year that Atlantic Bridge’s activites were more political than charitable, and rather than face the consequences of that (such as having to pay more tax), the charity shut down. Read more

Jim Pickard

I wrote back in May that the government was dragging its heels over a statutory register of lobbyists - and that ministers hoped to legislate next year after a lengthy consultation. The issue is now back on the agenda after Foxgate.

But one Lib Dem source has told today’s Guardian that there has been some resistance. In a candidate for ironic quote of the week, he said: Read more

Jim Pickard

Here is the statement earlier from an unhappy Jon Moulton, the venture capitalist, who says he won’t get involved in this kind of thing again:

Before the last election I had made several, on the record, donations to support Dr Fox following a request to do so from a Conservative Party fundraiser. After the election I was asked by Dr Fox to provide funds to a non-profit group called Pargav involved in security policy analysis and research and after obtaining written assurances as to its activities I provided personal funding to Pargav. Neither I, nor any of my associates, have sought or received a benefit of any form from Pargav. I have not received an
account of Pargav’s activities, nor have I been involved at all with Pargav, since funding. I will not be doing this again.

Jim Pickard

The only surprise about Liam Fox’s resignation is that it took so long to occur given that he must have had some idea of how Adam Werritty, his adviser, was being funded. Payments took place from a handful of business groups – including a billionaire who funds a pro-Israel lobbying group.

One of the donors told us today that he had been asked by Fox himself to fund the company, Pargav, which provided flights and hotels for Werritty. Another said he was unhappy to have found out how the money had been spent, given that he was told it would go towards a “security policy analysis research organisation“. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Here is what Liam Fox wrote to David Cameron:

Dear David

As you know, I have always placed a great deal of importance on accountability and responsibility. As I said in the House of Commons on Monday, I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my Government activities to become blurred. The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days. I am very sorry for this.

 Read more

Kiran Stacey

One of the many mysteries surrounding the Liam Fox/Adam Werritty controversy is what exactly Sir Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary is supposed to be investigating.

Sir Gus took over the internal investigation into the relationship between the two men and their links with defence contractors earlier this week, but as yet, no terms of reference have been published.

Number 10 has told us repeatedly, “All unanswered questions will be answered.” Read more

Martin Stabe

The proposals for reducing the number of Scottish MPs in Westminster by seven seats, put out to consultation today by the Scottish Boundary Commission, does the Government no favours.

The FT’s initial analysis of the Boundary Commission for Scotland proposal (which can also be seen on our interactive map) suggests both Coalition parties are likely to lose out, with the only Scottish Tory and three of the 11 current Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs likely to lose their seats as a result of the boundary changes.

Among the Lib Dems, this could provoke a tussle between party grandees Charles Kennedy and Danny Alexander, whose adjacent constituencies could be merged into a new “Inverness and Skye” constituency. Alternatively Kennedy, Alexander and John Thurso could all compete for the new seat of “Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty”, which has boundaries cutting across all three MPs’ existing constituencies. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Paul Burstow

Paul Burstow

Back in the late summer/early autumn of last year, Southern Cross began trying to get in touch with the new social care minister, Paul Burstow. Jamie Buchan, the chief executive, wrote a letter in August warning Burstow the company was in trouble.

The language was careful of course – this letter could have become public under Freedom of Information rules, so Buchan would not have wanted to say anything that spooked investors and made the situation worse. But the message was clear: the company is in trouble and we need to talk to you about it. Read more

Jim Pickard

Jim Murphy, shadow defence secretary, has backed a call by a Labour backbencher for the authorities to investigate Adam Werritty.

We can’t have someone claiming to be a government adviser and in so doing being open to the allegation that he has broken the law. It is right this is investigated,” Murphy told me tonight. Read more

Elizabeth Rigby

David Cameron really is trying to push this female friendly line.

On the eve of his ‘Women in Business’ event at Downing Street, and less than 48 hours after his announcement that he is going to make forced marriages illegal, the prime minister is now pushing plans to change rules on royal succession. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are planning to employ more political special advisers than Gordon Brown, in spite of promising to limit their numbers. Mr Clegg is to recruit six more special advisers to help the Liberal Democrats cope with the pressures of government, increasing the party’s firepower in Whitehall.

But the decision means that the coalition government will now employ some 80 special advisers – based on the latest data – compared with the 78 employed by Gordon Brown’s administration.

“No doubt we will get a bit of flak about this but I think it will genuinely make for better government,” said one ally of Mr Clegg. The coalition agreement spoke of limiting the number of so-called “Spads”.

Mr Clegg has argued – with backing from organisations like the Institute for Government – that he needs more support to carry out his functions as deputy prime minister. Read more

Kiran Stacey

At today’s PMQs, we saw a first: it was the first time that Ed Miliband attacked Cameron on the economy, and won – well almost.

Provided with the ammunition of some terrible employment figures, Miliband had an ideal quote with which to bash the prime minister:

The prime minister justified his economic policy by saying unemployment would fall this year, next year and the year after. Isn’t it time he admitted his plan isn’t working?

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Yesterday we brought you 11 questions which would help to illuminate the activities of Fox and Werrity. Here are another seven.

1] Adam Werritty was in Dubai in June this year. If it was “in a private capacity” – as the government has said – then why did he book into a hotel describing his position as “office of Dr Liam Fox”. And why was the meeting initially presented as a coincidence?

2] Allies of Fox are now telling sympathetic journalists that Werritty’s funding came from various international Atlanticist philanthropists. If so, why was he the director of six companies? And why has the MoD admitted it doesn’t know who Werrity’s “clients” are? Does he not have any clients after all? If he has independent funding from Tory donors then why has he held meetings with lobbyists?

3] Is Michael Hintze, founder of the CQS hedge fund, one of them? Werritty has been using a desk at CQS’s office in London, according to today’s Telegraph. Sources close to Hintze told the Telegraph that he regularly offered office space to “charities” he supported. Does he mean Atlantic Bridge, which has ceased to exist after criticism from the Charity Commission?

4] On Monday Fox said that the Sri Lanka Development Trust was a “mechanism that would allow reconstruction funding to occur through the private sector”. He said that when he entered government he passed control of it to Werritty and other unnamed associates. Why is SLDT not registered as a company or a charity in the UK? Is it registered somehow in Sri Lanka?

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Over at the Spectator blog, Fraser Nelson makes a heartfelt defence of Liam Fox, suggesting the defence secretary has made “full disclosure“: ordinary people are asking “what the big deal is“, he suggests. Perhaps. But others may want answers to some or all of the following questions:

1] Was it a co-incidence that Adam Werritt was a “health adviser” when Liam Fox was Tory health spokesman? And again that he was a defence adviser when Fox became Tory defence spokesman and then defence secretary?

2] When Liam Fox said that Werritty was “not dependent on any transactional behaviour to maintain his income” what did it actually mean in plain English?

3] Werritty has run six companies over the last decade – but they have only made £20,000 in profits over that period. Why were they set up? What did they actually do?

 Read more

Jim Pickard

It did seem too much to ask that the mandarin known as GOD (for his initials, supposedly) would be replaced by one mere mortal.

Instead when Sir Gus O’Donnell will leave the Civil Service at the end of the year – as was announced this morning- the job will be divided into three.* Read more

Kiran Stacey

Peers begin debating the NHS reform bill on Tuesday in the House of Lords. The big worry for the government is that they will vote for the Owen/Hennessy amendment, which would refer the bill to a separate committee for further consultation, delaying its passage by several months.

Earl Howe, a health minister, met Lord Owen yesterday as they tried to bash out a compromise, but the talks failed and Lords Owen and Hennessy tabled their amendment as planned, with one minor tweak: that the new committee should report by December 19, rather than next February.

The government is not taking this lightly. Earl Howe sent a letter to peers just 20 minutes before today’s debate started. The letter shows just how concerned minister are about the prospect of such a delay. Here are the key passages: Read more

Jim Pickard

The Ministry of Defence last night put out a list of 40 meetings between Werritty and Fox which include 18 overseas and 22 in London.

Those abroad are:

4-6 June 2010: Singapore: conference attendance . Adam Werritty attended Dialogue.

7-8 June 2010: Abu Dhabi & Dubai: Meeting with goverment representatives. Adam Werritty present in Dubai on personal business. Not present in any official meetings

2-3 July 2010: Tampa, Florida: Meetings at CentCom, Adam Werritty not present. Adam Werritty present at SofS’s informal dinner (3 July) with COMCENTCOM (COMISAF Desig) General Allen in steakhouse Read more