Thursday, 31 October 2013

Conflict of incest: Energy minister Ed Davey and the brother who advises the energy industry

In 2012, upon being appointed to the Cabinet, Energy Secretary Ed Davey declared his brother's close links to the energy industry. Henry Davey is a partner at the energy department of leading London law firm Herbert Smith and has handled huge deals for the likes of Petrobas, Centrica and EDF. He has also been involved in briefing reports on Feed-in Tariff cuts for solar power and UK electricity market reforms.

Henry Davey is a corporate partner at Herbert Smith, where he leads the oil and gas team and has been advised on multi-million pound deals for corporations such as Petrobas. His website biography reads: “Henry has over 20 years' experience in the international energy industry, where he has advised on mergers and acquisitions. His practice encompasses energy mergers and acquisitions including electricity generation, distribution and transmission assets.”

The law firm, based in the City of London, claims it specialises in the acquisition and disposal of both upstream and downstream assets in the oil, gas and power markets. Henry Davey is credited for the following deals:

• Macquarie Bank on its acquisition of Wales & the West Gas Distribution Network from National Grid Transco in the UK for £1.2 billion

• EDF on the trading contracts relating to the acquisition of British Energy

• MidAmerican/Northern Electric on the £1.2 billion swap of its UK electricity and gas supply and metering businesses to Innogy for the acquisition of Yorkshire Electricity's distribution business

• Seeboard on the sale of their UK metering business to Invensys

• OFGEM on the establishment of the UK's offshore electricity transmission network

Other clients listed by Herbert Smith include BG Group, BP, Chevron, EDF, ENRC, Essar Group, Gazprom Neft, Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui, Rio Tinto, Sojitz and Tata Group.

Department of Energy and Climate Change officials insist that the relationship will not compromise Ed Davey's work on energy issues in the Cabinet. A spokesman said (in February 2012): "He has provided his Permanent Secretary with a full list of his interests, including details of his brother’s employment, which will be published in the List of Ministers’ Interests. Appropriate safeguards are being put in place to avoid any conflicts of interest."

Click Green/Mail Online/BBC News

Friday, 18 October 2013

Dr Martens for sale

The family owners of Dr Martens are on the verge of a £300m windfall as part of a deal to sell the famous boot brand to a private equity firm. Permira, which already owns high street names including New Look and Hugo Boss, is understood to be in advanced talks with the Griggs family, owners of Dr Martens since 1960.

Brighton 1986

Sources close to the deal said it could be completed within a month and it would be the second time the company has been put up for sale in the last two years. R Griggs Group held an auction last year but failed to attract high enough bids, despite interest from major investors and businesses.

Bill Griggs took control of the business in 1960 after reading an advertisement placed by Germans looking for investment in their air-cushioned sole. Originally the boots were designed as workwear for men but the comfortable soles made them a big hit with housewives. The first Dr Martens boots in the UK came out on 1 April 1960 and were popular with uniformed workers. They soon found their way into youth subculture and have become synonymous with skinheads, mods and punks. Over 100 million pairs of Dr Martens shoes were sold between 1960 and 2010.

Profits are expected to hit £30m this year with boots, shoes and accessories sold in 63 countries across the world, a decade after the company almost went bankrupt. It was saved by moving work to China and shutting down UK factories, leading to hundreds of job losses.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Ministers u-turn on slimmer standards regime

Ministers have been accused of politicising the standards regime after trade union members were singled out in a u-turn on the recently slimmed down standards regime. The Department for Communities & Local Government has issued new advice to councils emphasising that codes of conduct should require members to declare if they are members of a trade union just over a year after it scrapped the same legal requirement.

Announcing the new advice, local government minister Brandon Lewis (Con) said that “for too long residents have been kept in the dark about what union affiliations their councillors hold”. However, standards experts have pointed out that a requirement to declare trade union members existed as recently as 14 months ago but were scrapped by Mr Lewis’ government.

Paul Hoey, a standards adviser and the former head of strategic relations for the Standards Board for England, said it was incorrect for the government to herald this as a “new requirement”. He said: “It was actually a requirement under the previous code of conduct which the government got rid of last year.”

The national code of conduct which did require councillors to declare trade union membership, among other things, was scrapped last year along with the Standards for England board after ministers battled to introduce a lighter touch standards regime.

The government’s new guidance and illustrative code of conduct indicates a rethink on the part of ministers, although Mr Hoey warned that councils could ignore the latest advice. He added: “The government can say what it likes in guidance but people don’t have to do it. In fact, some councils did keep that requirement [about trade union membership] in and that was the sort of thing that Bob Neill was criticising as gold plated just a few months ago.”

DCLG’s official update aimed squarely at trade union members comes shortly after it lost a legal battle with the Public and Commercial Services union. The advice was also published two days before the opening of the Labour conference where the party’s links to trade unions are expected to come under scrutiny. 

One local government standards and legal expert who did not want to be named said the government was politicising the standards regime. Ministers were “compounding the standards mess with more confusion based again on political prejudice, rather than evidence based discussion”, he said. “This is simply bad governance from central government. Even to only the most mildly cynical, it suggests that this government is only interested in ethical standards if it suits their politics.”

A department spokesman could not tell LGC if there was evidence of councillors hiding their trade union membership. The spokesman said there was no link between the timing of the publication of the guidance and the Labour conference and he dismissed suggestions that the publication indicated a politicisation of the civil service.

Unions have criticised the government but also argued the move is meaningless because councillors were proud of their links to trade unions. Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, described the singling out of trade union members as “outrageous” and said it should apply equally to members of any trade body or pressure group.

Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary for public services, said it was a “damp squib” as it was “requiring councillors to declare their trade union membership seemingly oblivious to the fact that they already do. While this is clearly meant to be another Tory attack on trade unions it will achieve very little because trade unions and councillors have nothing to fear from openness and transparency, unlike the Conservative party who won’t even admit how few members they have.”

A spokesman for the DCLG described the standards board as a “a discredited regime that cost taxpayers millions and was the refuge for malicious trouble makers. The new guidance on councillors’ interests makes clear that trade union membership should be declared to avoid conflicts of interest when councils consider issues directly affecting trade unions, such as reviews of taxpayer-funded subsidies”.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said residents had been “kept in the dark about what union affiliations their councillors hold” for too long. “All councillors should disclose all their personal and financial interests on a public register, including registering union interests. Given the public debate about ‘facility time’ and ‘pilgrims’ in local government, it’s vital that conflicts of interest are avoided. These transparency reforms will give local people the confidence that their councillors are putting residents’ interests before their own.”

Ruth Keeling, Local Government Chronicle

Friday, 11 October 2013

22 Reasons for the Bedroom Tax

Because the Badgers are moving the goalposts.
The Ferrets are bending the rules.
The Weasels are taking the hindmost.
The Otters are downing tools.

The Hedgehogs are changing the game-plan
The Grass-snakes are spitting tacks.

The Squirrels are playing the blame-game.
The Skunks are twisting the facts.

The Pole-cats are upping the ante.
The Foxes are jumping the gun.
The Voles are crashing the party.
The Stoats are dismantling the Sun.

The Rabbits are taking the biscuit.
The Hares are losing the plot.
The Eagles are kicking the bucket.
The Rats are joining the dots.

The Herons are throwing a curveball.
The Shrews are fanning the flames.
The Field mice are sinking the 8-ball.
The Swans are passing the blame.

And the Pheasants are draining the oil from the tank-
but only the Bustards have broken the bank.

Carol Ann Duffy

Monday, 7 October 2013

Labour reshuffle - the new shadow cabinet

Labour has just released details of Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet reshuffle. A spokesman says Miliband is keen to point out that he is promoting talented young women. Here are the details:

• Rachel Reeves becomes shadow work and pensions secretary. She was shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

• Gloria De Piero becomes shadow minister for women and equalities.

• Emma Reynolds becomes shadow housing minister. She will attend shadow cabinet. She was shadow Europe minister.

• Tristram Hunt becomes shadow education secretary. He was a shadow education minister.

• Stephen Twigg, the former shadow education secretary, becomes a shadow minister in the justice team, responsible for constitutional affairs.

• Chris Leslie becomes shadow chief secretary to the Treasury. He was a shadow Treasury minister.

• Vernon Coaker becomes shadow defence secretary. He was shadow Northern Ireland secretary.

• Jim Murphy becomes shadow international defence secretary. He was shadow defence secretary.

• Ivan Lewis becomes shadow Northern Ireland secretary. He was shadow international development secretary.

• Maria Eagle becomes shadow environment secretary. She was shadow transport secretary.

• Mary Creagh becomes shadow transport secretary. She was shadow environment secretary.

• Michael Dugher becomes shadow Cabinet Office minister. He also takes charge of political and campaign communications.

• Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, also becomes chair of general election strategy. He will be responsible for election strategy and planning.

• Spencer Livermore, a former aide to Gordon Brown, has been appointed general election campaign director. He will start work later this year.

• Liam Byrne, the former shadow work and pensions secretary, joins the shadow business team, with responsibility for higher education and emerging markets.

• Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, will advise on planning and transition into government.

A Labour spokesman said that of the 32 people who now attend shadow cabinet, 14 (or 44% are women). And around a third of those attending shadow cabinet are from the 2010 intake.


Friday, 4 October 2013

Planetpmc on Flipboard

There's now a new way to keep up with the stories that have grabbed my attention: DECORUM is my 'magazine' on Flipboard, a picturesque journey through the headlines with links to the original articles. It replaces all your Saturday supplements and Sunday magazines but doesn't quite cook you brunch. On the front page is a link to the app for tablets and mobiles which produces a neat little plaything. It's not perfect but will come in useful when time is short. Enjoy!

Planetpmc on Facebook, Twitter and now Flipboard

Also on Flipboard:
The U-turns of David Cameron's government