18th July 2008
Charity Commission Publishes Smith Institute Inquiry Report
The Charity Commission - the independent regulator for charitable activity in England and Wales - has published its inquiry into the Smith Institute, reconfirming that the Institute is a charity and that it is capable of operating for the public benefit. Among the issues investigated were "Whether the Institute is carrying out political activities inappropriate for a charity by supporting: a) party politics - in particular the Labour Party; b) development or promotion of HM Treasury or wider Government policy; or c) promotion of the aspirations of political figures". The Report includes conclusions that: "sufficient steps had not been taken to identify or manage the perception that the Institute was unacceptably linked to and supported the Labour Party or that it inappropriately promoted Government policy"; "it is also understandable how the perception arose that the Institute was focussed on or was connected to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer [Gordon Brown]. However, there is no evidence to suggest that he had been involved in using the Institute to further his political aspirations"; and that "the trustees were not sufficiently engaged to ensure the proper supervision of the charity, given the nature of its activities, work programme and the political environment in which it operates". The Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, Andrew Hind said “Trustees of charitable ‘think tanks’ have a responsibility to ensure the political neutrality of the work they do. When a charity operates close to the political environment, it must safeguard its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced". Read the Report
18th July 2008
Electoral Commission Calls to Extend UK Parliamentary Election Timetable
The Electoral Commission has published three reports on the local elections in Wales and England and the London GLA ballot. The English elections report calls for the future UK Parliamentary election timetable to be increased to 25 days, from 17 days.The London report identified a number of concerns about the use of electronic counting, including "Apparent discrepancies between the numbers of ballot papers recorded as having been issued and the numbers scanned".
17th July 2008
London Mayor's Forensic Audit Panel Report Identifies Failings
The investigation into the London Development Agency has recommended streamlining for the organisation after it "identified failings in the [London Development Agency’s] leadership, governance and basic controls". The team's report, commissioned by Mayor Boris Johnson and chaired by Patience Wheatcroft, also suggests huge potential efficiency savings of over £7 million within the Greater London Authority by cutting "waste and unecessary bureaucracy" Johnson said. The Report details the "overall conclusion that the former LDA Board was ineffective" contributing to the "failure to develop appropriate systems for selecting and monitoring projects", that it "lacked clarity and remit...and became “fat and siloed”. It is no wonder the LDA became referred to as “the Mayor’s chequebook”,". Download the Report
17th July 2008
MPs Curb 'John Lewis' List Spending
MPs have rejected the Conservative party's motion to get rid of the so-called "John Lewis" list for furnishing second homes, but agreed to Government plans that would limit spending to £2,400 within the overall £24,000 allowance for running a second home. Read more of the debate in the House
17th July 2008
Darling Finally Ditches 2p Fuel Duty Increase
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has postponed the two pence per litre increase in fuel duty that had been planned to come into force at the start of October. The move comes as oil prices have been causing fuel price misery for motorists and hauliers. Darling said "The global credit crunch and sharp rises in world oil prices have pushed up prices at the pump. Today's decision will help motorists and businesses get through what is a difficult time for everyone". The Government's decision means that main road fuel duty rates remain at 50.35 pence per litre. Read all about it
16th July 2008
EU Ombudsman Crticises 'Maladministration' of MEPs over Expenses Disclosure Complaint
EU Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has given his Decision to a compaint from a journalist dating back to 2005, reinforcing the earlier view of "maladministration" levelled against the European Parliament in disclosing MEP's expenses. The case concerned the accounts of Malta's MEPs and the denied request to information on the grounds that this was considered personal data. During the investigation by the Ombudsman, a draft Recommendation had been issued in September 2007 advising that the European Parliament should reconsider the application for access to data and grant the complainant's request. Read the Decision
15th July 2008
Straw Puts Forward Lords Reform White Paper
The Government has published the White Paper on further reform of the House of Lords. The Ministry of Justice models propose how the chamber could work,with membership wholly or 80% elected. Jack Straw said "The established primacy of the House of Commons in Parliament should remain, and forms the core of the proposals, which outline how reform of the second chamber could be achieved. In our view, the proposals are a unique opportunity to create a more legitimate, effective and representative chamber". Read the statement from Jack Straw and download the White Paper.
14th July 2008
Brown Toughens Up on Knife Crime
Gordon Brown has laid down outline plans to deal with knife crime through a combination of "enforcement, prevention and prosecution". Speaking at his regular press conference, the Prime Minister made it clear that "if you carry a knife our objective and determination is that you will be caught; you will be prosecuted; you will be punished," the PM said. Read all about it
14th July 2008
Government Consults on Draft Immigration & Citizenship Bill
The Home Office has announced a tough new approach to foreign nationals who want to become British citizens, through the draft Immigration and Citizenship Bill which has been published today and is open for consultation. Proposed rules would require all migrants to speak English, obey the law and will speed up the granting of citizenship to those that contribute to the community. Full access to benefits and social housing will also be reserved for citizens and permanent residents, through the suggested measures. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said "In recent months we have listened to people across Britain and the message is clear - they want those who want to make Britain their home to speak English, to work hard, and to earn the right to stay here. We are making the biggest changes to our immigration system for a generation, and part of that is making sure those who stay in the UK make a positive impact on their local community".
14th July 2008
State Funeral for Thatcher Planned
Former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is understood to have been granted the honour of a full state funeral upon her death, it is being reported. Baroness Thatcher, now 82 years of age, would receive the first state funeral for a former PM since Winston Churchill in 1965.