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Greensill 1) Top civil servant Bill Crothers worked for Greensill while in Whitehall

“Senior civil servants are being allowed to work as advisers to private companies under an arrangement authorised by the Cabinet Office. The government admitted yesterday that Bill Crothers, one of Britain’s most senior civil servants, was given permission to work part-time as a director at Greensill Capital while he was still in Whitehall. Crothers spent three years as chief commercial officer, overseeing about £40 billion of taxpayers’ money, for which he was paid £149,000 a year. He took a part-time board advisory role with Greensill Capital, now at the centre of a lobby scandal involving David Cameron, in September 2015 while he was still employed as a civil servant and went on to be a director of the company. In correspondence published yesterday, Crothers suggested that other civil servants had worked part-time for companies, describing his dual role as “not uncommon”.” – The Times

  • Labour steps up pressure over Cameron’s Greensill lobbying – FT

Comment:

Greensill 2) Johnson refuses to back Cameron over lobbying scandal

“Boris Johnson has refused to back David Cameron in the Greensill row, saying that the inquiry into lobbying by the collapsed finance company will have “carte blanche” to get to the bottom of what happened. Downing Street announced this week that Nigel Boardman, a former senior partner at the law firm Slaughter & May, will lead an independent review of the way representations were made to the government by Greensill Capital and the former prime minister, and how contracts were awarded. Yesterday Johnson said: “I’ve asked Nigel Boardman to have a look at this whole issue of supply chain finance and given him carte blanche to ask anybody whatever he needs to find out. I want him to have the maximum possible access so we can all understand exactly what’s happened.” – The Times

Political sketches:

Coronavirus 1) Quarter of Covid deaths not caused by virus, new figures show

“Almost a quarter of registered Covid deaths are people who are not dying from the disease, new official figures show, as the Government was urged to move faster with the roadmap in the light of increasingly positive data. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 23 per cent of coronavirus deaths registered are now people who have died “with” the virus rather than “from” an infection. This means that, while the person who died will have tested positive for Covid, that was not the primary cause of their death recorded on the death certificate. Other data also shows an increasingly positive picture of the state of the pandemic in the UK. Daily death figures by “date of death” reveal that Britain has had no more than 28 deaths a day since the beginning of April, even though the government-announced deaths have been as high as 60.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Hancock claims Covid vaccines will be offered to everyone in their forties ‘in line with supplies’

“Matt Hancock today claimed the Covid vaccine roll-out will expand to everyone in their forties ‘in line with supplies’, leaving millions of adults left to guess about when they will be invited. England’s campaign was today officially expanded to all over-45s after No10 hit its other vaccination milestone three days ahead of schedule, with everyone in the top nine priority groups now invited for their first Covid jab. But with a supply shortage of AstraZeneca forcing the NHS to focus on second doses, ministers haven’t been able to widen the scheme to those under 45. The Health Secretary gave no further details in the Commons today, telling MPs that Number 10 was ‘on track’ to deliver on its ambitious promise of inviting every adult for their first vaccine by the end of July. Just moments after England announced it would press ahead with the drive to reach 3.7m more adults, the NHS booking website crashed.” – Daily Mail

More Covid news:

  • Most Covid hospital cases under 65 as vaccine immunity takes hold – The Times
  • Workers eyeing return to the office after lockdown – The Times
  • Older drinkers risk discrimination says charity, after pub refuses to serve man without smartphone – Daily Telegraph
  • Cost of home Covid tests for travellers halved as companies accused of ‘profiteering’ – The Times
  • Vaccine made for South African Covid variant promising, says Moderna – The Times
  • Thirsty Brits make 14 million pub bookings in stampede to secure beer garden tables – The Sun
  • Holidays to Israel could be back on next month: Foreign tourists will be able to travel to the Middle Eastern country from May 23…but only if they’ve had two Covid jabs – Daily Mail
  • Anti-lockdown Sweden had the highest rate of Covid-19 infections in Europe per capita last week – Daily Mail

Analysis:

  • Concern about blood clots won’t stop Covid vaccines being valuable tools in the virus fight – The Times
  • Enough with the Covid gloom – the worst is behind us – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

Prince Philip: Queen gets back to work days after losing husband

“The Queen pressed on with royal duties yesterday, four days after the death of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. She hosted an audience for the former lord chamberlain Earl Peel, who stepped down as the most senior officer in the royal household last month. The Queen is determined to continue carrying out some solo engagements even as she grieves the loss of Prince Philip, The Times understands. One of the key events in her diary is the state opening of parliament on May 11, when she is due to be accompanied at the Palace of Westminster by the Prince of Wales. The death of the duke has highlighted how members of the royal family have joined the Queen increasingly often on her official engagements.” – The Times

Comment:

Tax raids target poorest families on universal credit

“HM Revenue & Customs has cut payments to hundreds of thousands of universal credit claimants during lockdown in an aggressive tax raid on the country’s poorest families. Officials have targeted almost 50,000 low-earners per week because they were mistakenly overpaid tax credits as long as 17 years ago. In many cases they were not at fault and had no way of knowing they were receiving too much. It means as many as half a million struggling families are having to survive with significant cuts to their income, even with the £20 uplift to universal credit introduced at the start of the pandemic. Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader who was the architect of universal credit, said using the benefits system to claw back tax in this way was “a major mistake” that was “causing profound difficulties”.” – The Times

Iain Duncan Smith: Universal credit is held back by failures of the past

“Throughout the pandemic universal credit has been a lifeline for millions. Today, some six million people are signed up, compared with three million this time last year. The benefit’s original design as a digital platform, which equips it with the flexibility to respond to changes in household circumstances, as well as its protections against fraud, enabled the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to administer critical financial support to families facing desperate hardship — all from the safety of people’s homes. And yet, as exposed by The Times today, remnants of the clunky legacy system continue to hold universal credit back from reaching its potential. Conditional to the introduction of universal credit was the mistaken view of the Treasury that it should account for the failings of the tax credit system introduced by Gordon Brown.” – The Times

More comment:

Britain follows as Biden says US troops will leave Afghanistan

“Britain will withdraw nearly all its troops from Afghanistan after President Biden said last night that US forces would leave by September 11. About 750 British soldiers are stationed in the country and sources said that they would struggle without American support because of a reliance on US bases and infrastructure. Some of America’s 2,500 troops will withdraw over the coming months, with the last soldiers due to leave 20 years to the day after the attacks on the US that led to the War on Terror and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. It will end America’s longest war. Britain has also drawn up plans to hand over control of “Sandhurst in the Sand”, the academy in Kabul where troops help to train Afghan soldiers, to the government.” – The Times

Gmail safer than parliament’s system, spies told Tugendhat

“A senior MP has claimed that spies at GCHQ told him parliament’s email system was less secure than Google’s gmail service as he warned that China was attacking the UK’s democracy. Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said that more needed to be done by parliament and the government to defend democracy and freedom of speech. Tugendhat, who was targeted with sanctions by Beijing in retaliation for British measures imposed over human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, claimed to have been the victim of Chinese “psyops” — psychological operations — including spoof emails to fellow MPs. He said: “I was told by friends at GCHQ — not formally, I admit — that I was better off sticking to gmail rather than using the parliamentary system because it was more secure.” – The Times

Comment:

>Today:

EU countries tell Britain they cannot guarantee extradition of criminals in wake of Brexit

“Twenty European Union states are refusing to guarantee that suspected criminals who are citizens of their country can be extradited to the UK. Ten EU countries have declined point blank to allow such extraditions, two will do so only if the suspected criminal agrees and eight have attached other restrictions. The development emerged in recently released documents from Brussels and reflects the fact that Brexit means the UK is no longer part of the European Arrest Warrant. The current setup potentially undercuts the ability for Europeans who are suspected of committing crimes in the UK to be returned to face justice after fleeing to the Continent.Lawyers have warned it could also artificially keep prison populations high as judges may be reluctant to grant bail over fears of European suspects leaving the country and not returning.” – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • As surge in EU exports defies doom-mongers, how I pity the Remainers who have been proved so wrong (and I voted to stay!), Ruth Sunderland – Daily Mail

>Today:

Census IT fiasco as people who have already completed survey are repeatedly urged to do so

“An IT fiasco is causing Census field workers to repeatedly knock on the doors of people who have already returned the survey, it has emerged. Members of the public have voiced concerns over the “diabolical” rollout of the 2021 survey after being issued with reminders to complete it both by post and in person despite having already filled it in. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) told The Telegraph a person can fill in the survey up to 10.30pm and will then be marked as completed on the system the following day. But some say they have been visited multiple times since submitting it on or before Census day, on March 21. The ONS claimed it was “not aware” of this happening, but tweets from members of the public to the Census 2021 Twitter account and letters to The Telegraph reveal the extent of the problem.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: