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Cameron, Blair and their ‘grubby deal to censor Iraq inquiry’

Cameron, Blair and their ‘grubby deal to censor Iraq inquiry': Key evidence has been held back in return for ex-PM’s neutrality at election, claims former foreign secretary

David Owen has accused Tony Blair and David Cameron of striking a secret deal to prevent the Chilcot Inquiry publishing key documents about the Iraq war. The former Foreign Secretary said extracts of letters between Mr Blair and President George W Bush have been held back to save the ex-Prime Minister’s reputation.

It is believed the documents may shed light on the allegation that Mr Blair had already agreed to go to war up to a year before the 2003 invasion. In a speech, Lord Owen made the  astonishing claim that Mr Cameron had backed Mr Blair’s decision to block the publication of the letters in return for his ‘neutrality or tacit support’ at the next general election.

The peer also pointed the finger of blame at Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, accusing him too of blocking the publication of the documents.  The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq conflict was set up four years ago but has yet to report. Read more

Tim Shipman | The Daily Mail | 31st May 2013

The homeless aren’t ‘negative impacts’ – they are living victims of policy

Homelessness is not a problem. Homelessness is many problems woven together into a human calamity and a social catastrophe: lack of housing; lack of jobs; lack of money; lack of social support; lack of mental health care; but above all, lack of compassion where it matters.

The past week has vividly illustrated the complexities of the issues. Already the eviction notices have begun to arrive for arrears on the new “bedroom tax”, as prompt as they were predictable. Freedom-of-information requests to 107 local authorities have revealed that 86,000 households in council or housing association properties have been forced to look for one-bedroom homes, of which only 33,000 have become available in the past year.

Charities are reporting vast increases in requests for help and their caseloads as squeezed incomes and benefits combined with rising living costs lead to increased debt and arrears. Caps to housing benefits arrive nationally in September to exacerbate the crisis. Read more

Ally Fogg | The Guardian | 30th May 2013

HSBC money-laundering investigation letters spark questions over rushed fine

After a decade of investigations, US authorities last September decided to move “as quickly as possible” to fine HSBC on money laundering charges that the Treasury Department concluded were the most “egregious” it had ever seen, according to newly released documents.

A series of emails and letters released to Public Citizen, a Washington-based advocacy group, paint a partial picture of the Treasury Department trying to catch up after a hard-hitting Senate report had blasted the British bank and a New York regulator had threatened to revoke the license ofanother British institution, Standard Chartered.

Bart Naylor, a policy advocate at Public Citizen, said the documents posed questions about why the Treasury Department wanted a quick resolution to the HSBC scandal. “Why all of a sudden do they want a resolution after 10 years of investigation? Was Treasury pre-empting more vigorous action by the Justice Department? These are questions that need to be answered,” he said. Read more

Dominic Rushe | The Guardian | 30th May 2013

Humaneness of badger cull to be judged on noise of dying animals

The noises made by shot badgers and comparisons with harpooned whales will be among the measures used to assess the humaneness of badger cullsin England, a government document seen by the Guardian reveals.

The paper also acknowledges that none of the shooters will have experience of killing free-running badgers and that the requirement to target the heart and lungs is untested. Anti-cull campaigners have reacted furiously to the heavily redacted document, which is marked “protect”.

“With such large-scale killing in our countryside, it is simply unacceptable that the government is continuing to be so evasive about how suffering will be measured during the pilot culls,” said Mark Jones, executive director of the Humane Society International UK, which obtained the document through the Freedom of Information Act. Read more

Damian Carrington | The Guardian | 30th May 2013

The FCA’s astonishing lack of MI on whistleblowing

It’s not unusual to get freedom of information requests knocked back by the regulator under FoI cost of compliance rules. Public and regulatory bodies are able to reject FoI’s that would cost over £450 (18 hours work at £25 per hour) and communications staff are often quick to pounce on anything but the most tightly written FoI to try and escalate the potential costs above the limit.

However, we were very surprised to have a recent pretty simple FoI request made by our regulation reporter Natalie Holt rejected by the Financial Conduct Authority on this basis. She asked for the number of whistleblowing reports made to the FSA in both the 2011/12 and 2012/13 financial years and also the number of whistleblowing reports in 2012/13 that resulted in enforcement action.

The request was made after FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley made a big deal about the use of whistleblowing at a Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards hearing earlier this year. He went as far as floating the idea of offering large cash incentives to encourage more people to report foul play to the regulator. Read more

Paul McMillan | Money Marketing | 30th May 2013



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