5th December 2008
No Charges against Peter Hain over Electoral Donations
The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that Peter Hain will not face charges relating to donations made to his 2007 campaign to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Stephen O'Doherty, the reviewing lawyer from the Special Crime Division said "Although Mr Hain did not report all regulated donations to the Electoral Commission within the 30 days stipulated by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, in order to prove a criminal breach of the Act the Crown must first prove that Mr Hain held the position of either a 'regulated donee' or, if operating via a 'members association' he was the 'person responsible for dealing with donations to the association'. The evidence in this case shows that Mr Hain's campaign was run through an organisation named 'Hain4Labour' which was made up of members of the Labour Party. That organisation had its own bank account and the funds for Mr Hain's campaign were solicited for that account and cheques donated were made out to that account. Those were all characteristics of a 'members association' as defined in the Act. Mr Hain was not a signatory to that account and did not direct where funds should be spent. In light of this evidence, I have concluded that Mr Hain was not the 'regulated donee' and nor was he the person responsible for dealing with donations to the association under the terms of the [Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act]".
4th December 2008
Bank of England Reduces Base Rate
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has voted further to reduce the official Bank Rate by 1 percentage point to 2.0%. At its December meeting, the Committee considered the volatility in inflation associated with the movements in VAT against the prevailing rate and the risk of undershooting, in the medium term, the 2% consumer price index inflation target. Responding to the rate cut, Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman John Wright said “This historic rate cut sends out the right message to the banks to lend fairly to small businesses. One in three of our members are still reporting trouble accessing finance so this move is very welcome. The burden is now on the banks to pass this cut on to their customers. This cut will provide a welcome piece of mistletoe to give a kiss of life to the economy when it needs it most”.
4th December 2008
Read the full text of the Queen's Speech which includes planned Bills on: Banking; Savings Gateway Accounts; Children, Skills and Learning; Health; Policing and Crime; Welfare Reform; Coroners and Justice; Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction; Business Rates Supplements;Borders, Immigration and Citizenship; Equality; Child Poverty; Constitutional Renewal; Marine and Coastal Access; Political Parties and Elections.
4th December 2008
Commons Speaker Statement over Damian Green Office Search
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin told MPs in the Chamber that he "was not told the police did not have a warrant" to search Damian Green MP's office, continuing that "I have been told that the police did not explain, as they are required to do, that the sergeant was not obliged to consent or that a warrant could have been insisted upon...I regret that a consent form was then signed by the serjeant at arms without consulting the Clerk of the House". The Speaker said that in new protocol to be issued, from now on "A warrant will always be required when a search of a Member’s office, or access to a Member’s parliamentary papers, is sought. Every case must be referred for my personal decision, as it is my responsibility". The Speaker confirmed that "the matter of the seizure by police of material belonging to the hon. Member for Ashford [is being referred] to a Committee of seven senior and experienced Members, nominated by me, to report as soon as possible". Read the full statement
3rd December 2008
Scottish Devolution Commission First Report Published
Scottish Devolution's Calman Commmission has published its first 'staging' report saying that evidence collected from throughout the country suggests Scots support devolution within the Union. Chairman Sir Kenneth Calman, said “some things have come through loud and clear from the evidence so far. Devolution has been a great success: the Scottish Parliament is well established in Scottish life, and devolution is working well in practice. At the same time some functions are an integral part of the Union and can only be dealt with at the UK level: for example defence and national security, international representation, an integrated single market". The Commission was set up through a Resolution from the Scottish Parliament in December 2007 which called for the establishment of "an independently chaired commission to review devolution in Scotland". The motion was supported by the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties and was opposed only by the Scottish National Party. The Commission first met in April 2008. Download the First Report here
2nd December 2008
Tory Video of Damian Green Office Search Released
The Conservative Party has released video footage of the police searching Damian Green’s Parliamentary office on Thursday 27th November. The footage shows Andrew Mackay, Senior Parliamentary and Political Adviser to David Cameron, entering Mr Green’s office. Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary said the footage documents “a dark day for democracy”, and stressed Mr Green was “guilty only of doing his job”. View the short video here, together with the video comment
1st December 2008
Cameron Attacks Brown over Damian Green
David Cameron has urged Gordon Brown to make his opinions clear on the issue of Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green’s arrest last week on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office. Christopher Galley, a Home Office official, had also been previously arrested in relation to the same alleged offences as the MP, and he was released on bail. Writing in the News of the World about making public information that the Government wanted to keep secret, the Conservative leader said “When it comes to vigorous opposition, if this approach had been in place in the 1990s, then Gordon Brown would have spent most of his time under arrest. He made his career from passing on Whitehall leaks” and continued that "On the rights of MPs to hold government to account, of course no one is above the law. But in a democracy there is an important line to be drawn when it comes to acting in the public interest". The Member for Ashford denies any wrongdoing, and his home and offices in Kent and the House of Parliament were searched by police. The Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin is understood to be preparing to make a statement on Wednesday about why police had been allowed into Mr Green's parliamentary office. For more details read the Guardian's Q&A.
1st December 2008
'Payback' Offenders to Wear High Visibility Jackets
As part of a Government drive to ensure the public can see punishment being carried out in the community, from today offenders working on community payback projects must wear branded high-visibility jackets. Launching the jackets, Jack Straw Secretary of State for Justice said "Community punishments like unpaid work can be more productive than prison in getting offenders to stop their criminality. But public confidence in these punishments is lower than it should be, not least because they are less visible than they should be. The public, the taxpayer, has an absolute right to know what unpaid work is being done to payback to them for the wrongs the offender has committed. These high visibility jackets with the distinctive logo 'community payback' are one way in which I am trying to open up this part of the criminal justice system".
27th November 2008
London Mayor Moves to Scrap Congestion Charge Extension
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has taken a step towards scrapping the city's Western Extension congestion charge following an informal consultation on the future of the zone which could see the extension removed in spring 2010. The informal public consultation carried out over a five week period received almost 28,000 responses with 67% per cent of individual respondents and 86% of businesses supporting the removal of the zone. Johnson said “During the election I promised Londoners a genuine consultation on the future of the extension. I promised that I would respect their opinions and I promised that if clear support for a particular way forward emerged then I would act on that opinion. Londoners have spoken loud and clear, and the majority of people have said that that they would like the scheme scrapped. As a Mayor that keeps his promises I am instructing Transport for London to begin work on the process of a formal consultation on the removal of the Western Extension". The Western Extension was launched on 19 February 2007.
26th November 2008
European Commission €200bn Recovery Plan Announced
The European Commission has presented a €200bn Recovery Plan based on getting the European economy kickstarted in the short-term, boosting demand, saving jobs and helping restore confidence. The Plan calls for every Member State to take major national measures and a timely, targeted and temporary fiscal stimulus in 2009-2010 of 1.5% of EU GDP. Commission President Barroso said "If Europe acts decisively to implement this Recovery Plan, we can get back on a path of sustainable growth and pay back short-term government borrowing. If we do not act now, we risk a vicious recessionary cycle of falling purchasing power and tax revenues, rising unemployment and ever wider budget deficits". Read the Communication and Barroso's Speech.