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Damian Green qualifies for £17,000 pay-off, Cabinet Office confirms – Politics live

This article titled “Damian Green qualifies for £17,000 pay-off, Cabinet Office confirms – Politics live” was written by Andrew Sparrow (now) and Claire Phipps (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 21st December 2017 19.46 Asia/Kolkata

The press conference is starting now.

It is going to begin with the signing of a defence cooperation treaty.

UPDATE: This is from the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn.

Updated

Here are two articles on Damian Green worth reading.

From Adrian Wooldridge’s Bagehot column in the Economist

In some ways Mr Green was a classic second-division politician, sensible and reliable but never a man to make the weather. He liked to present himself as the solid embodiment of middle-class common sense, which might be one reason why he got on so well with Mrs May. He also specialised in pouring oil on troubled waters. But in other ways he was more interesting. He was brought up in a council house in South Wales and nevertheless won a place at Balliol College, Oxford. He remained on the left wing of the Conservative Party through thick and thin, and even contemplated leaving the party in the early 1980s for the breakaway Social Democrats, because he worried that Margaret Thatcher might tear the country apart. This columnist, though a few years younger than Mr Green, remembers seeing him in Balliol College Junior Common Room looking and sounding almost the same as he does today, a member of that strange breed of politicians, of which William Hague is the archetype, who arrive at university fully formed as middle-aged fogies.

From the Evening Standard’s editorial

When Mrs May became PM last year she ripped out all the inner wiring that had made the Cameron Government function — getting rid of virtually the whole Downing Street staff and Cabinet Office ministerial team, for no other apparent reason other than that her own advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, didn’t much like them.

All the lessons that had been learnt over the previous six years were lost. Unsurprisingly, the result was paralysis — and no real domestic achievements. It was an approach that culminated in the most disastrous manifesto in modern UK history. In the election aftermath, the Cabinet forced Mrs May to fire her advisers and Mr Green was hired to pick up the pieces. Although a university contemporary, he was not especially close to her. But as a rational, calming voice at the centre Mr Green was welcomed by an exasperated Civil Service. Now that he’s gone there is no one around Mrs May with any enduring bonds of loyalty to her — the new, competent team recruited to No 10 hardly knew her at all before they got the call-up.

Theresa May’s press conference in Poland

Theresa May is about to hold a press conference in Poland.

There is a live feed here.

Green qualifies for ministerial pay-off worth almost £17,000, Cabinet Office confirms

Despite being effectively sacked, Damian Green will receive a pay-off of nearly £17,000, the Cabinet Office has confirmed.

Under the legislation which governs these things, the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991, all minister who lose their jobs and don’t get a new post within three weeks – it seems pretty likely Green will not – receive three months of salary as a severance payment.

Green was entitled to a ministerial salary of £69,844, but under a voluntary pay cap scheme for ministers, received £67,505. A quarter of that will net him £16,876.25.

This system is in effect for all ministers, no matter whether they resign, are sacked or reshuffled. The one caveat is that they must be under 65. Green is 61, but when Michael Fallon stepped down as defence secretary he had recently turned 65, so got nothing.

Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, has put out this statement about the Metropolitan police’s decision to refer the Green case to her. (See 12.39pm.) She said:

We can confirm that we have received a referral from the Metropolitan police service that explains their belief that offences under the Data Protection Act 1998 have been committed by former MPS officers.

As the UK’s data protection regulator, we’ll be looking at whether individuals acted unlawfully by retaining or disclosing personal data.

These are serious allegations and we are investigating to determine whether the law has been broken and what further action is necessary including potential criminal prosecution.

Under the Data Protection Act, anyone who is prosecuted and found guilty could face an unlimited fine.

Elizabeth Denham.
Elizabeth Denham. Photograph: PR

In Edinburgh there were emotional scenes at the final first minister’s questions of the year as Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie spoke about the fire at Cameron House Hotel in her constituency, which killed a young couple and injured several others earlier this week.

Fighting back tears, Baillie called on the first minister to ensure that lessons are learnt once the investigation into the fire is completed, or if a need to enhance building standards regulations becomes apparent.

A young couple on a winter break from London, Simon Midgley and Richard Dyson, died as the fire ravaged the Loch Lomond-side resort.

Clearly also moved by the tragedy, Sturgeon conveyed her deep condolences the families of the young men who died, and asked the chamber to join with her sending their thanks to the emergency services involved. She added the investigation should be allowed to run its course but gave her assurance that any lessons would be fully applied.

Elsewhere, Sturgeon praised former SNP cabinet minister Richard Lochhead’s tireless campaign against inflated delivery charges for his Highland constituents. Lochhead has recently scored some significant successes with his Rip-off Surcharge campaign, which estimates that online shoppers in Scotland pay an additional £36.3million in delivery charges than the rest of the UK every year. The regulation of parcel pricing is reserved to Westminster, and UK ministers last week agreed to review the system. Sturgeon said that she hoped that “this is the last Christmas for consumers in the north of Scotland to be so blatantly ripped off in this unacceptable way.”

Green say he has been ‘overwhelmed’ by support he has received since sacking

Damian Green has posted a tweet saying that he has been “overwhelmed” by the support he has received from friends, colleagues and constituents since he was sacked.

Lords analysis of government Brexit reports says they imply business wants to soften Brexit

The government’s Brexit reports have been published by the Commons Brexit committee. But the committee, which has a narrow Tory/DUP majority, decided to leave out the “sector views” sections, which cover what firms and trade bodies are saying about Brexit, and it has not said much about what the reports actually say.

But the reports were also sent to the House of Lords EU committee. And that committee, which does not have a Conservative majority, has delivered a verdict of sorts on the reports.

It comes in the form of an open letter (pdf) to David Davis, the Brexit secretary, from Lord Jay of Ewelme, the former head of the Foreign Office who is now acting chair of the committee. The letter says the committee staff have reviewed all 850 pages in their entirety and it makes the following points.

  • Davis should publish the reports in full, including the “sector views” sections, Jay says. Jay says there is nothing in the reports that is “negotiation sensitive” and that most of the stakeholder views material (the “sector views” stuff that has been held back by the Commons committee) is material “already in the public domain, including in committee inquiries and reports. He says:

In light of these findings, we can see no reason why the sectoral analyses should not be published in full – they pose no risk to the UK’s negotiating position, and making them publicly available would, in our view, only promote an informed public debate on the options for Brexit. We understand that the House of Commons exiting the EU committee has decided to publish a redacted version of the documents. Nevertheless, we would urge you to publish them in full.

  • The reports show there is a general desire amongst industry to “minimise disruption and uncertainty”, Jay says. In other words, the reports do show there is a general desire amongst business and industry to soften Brexit, the committee’s analysis suggests. Jay says:

Views on particular Brexit options, such as single market membership, differ across sectors, but in most cases there is a wish to minimise disruption and uncertainty.

A number of themes recur in the views of stakeholders. These include: access to EU labour; the minimisation of tariffs and regulatory barriers to trade; data sharing; mutual recognition of qualifications; access to cross-border services; and the importance of EU R&D funding.

  • The reports are “inconsistent in approach” and their representation of stakeholder views is “patchy”, Jay says. There is also “little over-arching analysis” and “no conclusions are drawn with regard to the UK’s future relationship with the EU”.

Updated

Here is more on the government Brexit reports.

From the Labour MP Jo Stevens

From the Labour MP Seema Malhotra

From HuffPost’s Paul Waugh

Met asks information commissioner to investigate disclosure of confidential Green information

Here is the statement from the Metropolitan police about the decision to ask the information commissioner to investigate the release of private police information about what was found on Damian Green’s computer in a police raid. The Met said:

The Metropolitan police service has asked the information commissioner’s cffice (ICO) to investigate the apparent disclosure to the media of confidential material gathered during a police investigation in 2008 by two former officers.

An ex-assistant commissioner and ex-detective constable have both made a number of disclosures to the media, passing on information that they were privy to as part of a police investigation. Due to the length of time that has passed since both officers left the MPS, legal advice was sought regarding the most appropriate action to take.

In this instance it was determined that the most appropriate course of action was to make a referral to the ICO to carry out a further investigation in relation to potential Data Protection Act offences.

The MPS is clear that confidential information gathered during any police inquiry should remain confidential. That is an enduring confidentiality regardless of whether an officer leaves the service.

Gareth Bacon, leader of the Conservative group on the London assembly, has welcomed the news. In a statement he said:

I am pleased to see the Met is taking seriously what appears to have been a gross abuse of trust from former police officers.

If the general public is to have future confidence in the force’s ability to protect sensitive information, this case must be dealt with robustly.

I welcome the commissioner’s strong words this morning and the referral to the IC.

An investigation into allegations about the private life of Labour MP Keith Vaz has been suspended by the House of Commons sleaze watchdog “for medical reasons”, the Press Association reports. The halting of the probe was revealed in an update of the list of ongoing inquiries on the parliamentary commissioner for standards’ website, and her office did not give any more details. In 2016, the Leicester East MP issued a public apology to his wife and children, and quit as chairman of the Commons home affairs Committee, following reports in the Sunday Mirror that he paid two male escorts for their services. The PA story goes on:

The probe by the standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson will determine whether Vaz was guilty of a conflict of interest as he headed the home affairs committee’s review of vice laws at the time of the allegations regarding male escorts.

The watchdog was also looking into whether the former Europe minister has caused “significant damage” to the reputation of parliament.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, has also criticised the government for the lack of analysis in the Brexit reports.

Here is Tom Brake, the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, on the publication of the government’s secret Brexit reports.

This is the biggest case of the dog ate my homework the world has ever seen.

We’ve been given binders of old information, extracts from Wikipedia, and a few choice quotes, and yet nothing at all on how Brexit will hit each sector.

Now the government’s woeful failure to prepare for Brexit has been laid bare in front of the whole country. The mess this government are making of negotiations shows why the people must be given the opportunity to exit from Brexit.

On Twitter, Brake also argued that if Damian Green deserves the sack, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, should do too.

Tom Brake.
Tom Brake. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

Here is some more reaction to the publication of the secret government Brexit reports. Open Britain, which is campaigning for a soft Brexit, has put out this statement from the Labour MP Pat McFadden.

The knots the government has tied itself in over publication of these reports says more about the state of politics and the government’s paranoid state of mind than it does about Brexit. There is little or nothing in them that couldn’t be learned from the annual reports of different trade bodies yet we were asked to believe that somehow revealing how many cars were made in Britain every year was an act of national treachery.

The government’s most ardent supporters on the select committee voted not to reveal the sections which showed the industry views of Brexit and what they hoped the outcome of the talks would be. You have to wonder what they have to fear.

This whole saga of whether or not there were impact assessments or sectoral studies, and what the difference between them may or may not be, has revealed that breezy busking won’t cut it when people’s jobs and livelihoods are on the line. Winging it should not be a matter of principle. The best way through this is to know as much as we can and put jobs and prosperity before the ideology that has driven much of the positioning up until now.

And this is from Eloise Todd, chief executive of Best for Britain, which is campaigning to keep open the option of reversing Brexit. She said:

These reports are the most useless and shoddy piece of work a government department has ever produced. Even the Iraq Dodgy Dossier had some useful information in it.

These are a shoddy mess that a sixteen year old wouldn’t be proud of. It is a masterclass in copy and paste.

David Davis has been shown up for the charlatan he is. He needs to consider his position.

Pat McFadden
Pat McFadden Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

This is from Sky’s Jason Farrell, who is with Theresa May on the trip to Poland.

Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, has told the London assembly that the release of private police information about what was on Damian Green’s computer has been referred to the information commissioner, LBC’s Theo Usherwood reports.

Here are some tweets from journalists and specialists who have been looking at the government’s Brexit reports.

From the Guardian’s Dan Roberts

From the Centre for European Reform’s John Springford

From the New Local Government Network’s Adam Lent

From the BBC’s Ross Hawkins

From MailOnline’s Tim Sculthorpe

But there is one dissenting voice. These are from the Institute for Government’s Jill Rutter.

At the regular Number 10 lobby briefing we had a few details confirmed about the process behind Damian Green’s departure.

Theresa May’s spokesman said the report was first received by May on Monday, and she then passed the findings to Sir Alex Allan, the former senior civil servant who is now her adviser on ministerial appointments.

Alex Allan reported back to the prime minister yesterday to say that he agreed with the conclusions and the fact that there had been breaches of the ministerial code, the spokesman said.

On a replacement for Green, he said there was unlikely to be an announcement before parliament goes into recess later today, meaning it will presumably happen in the New Year.

No cabinet committees which would have been chaired by Green are due to meet before mid-January, he added.

On the other investigation into a minister over alleged inappropriate behaviour, about trade minister Mark Garnier, there is no news as to when that might come.

“Once we are in a position to give you the findings, we’ll do so,” the spokesman said.

A street cleaner in Downing Street.
A street cleaner in Downing Street. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

A very quick skim through the Brexit reports suggests their news value is minimal, if not non-existent.

They all seem to start with a blurb that includes this paragraph.

As the government has already made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist. The government’s sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. This report brings together information about the sector in a way that is accessible and informative. Some reports aggregate some sectors in order to either avoid repetition of information or because of the strong interlinkages between some of these sectors.

Each report then summarises the size and nature of a sector of the economy, including reference to its relationship with EU regulation. But there does not seem to be any reference to the potential difficulties posed by Brexit, and in each document the section entitled “sector views”, which presumably says what relevant firms and trade bodies are demanding from the government post Brexit, has been redacted by the committee.

Brexit committee publishes government’s secret Brexit sectoral analysis reports

The Brexit select committee has just published most of the government’s secret Brexit reports. They were supplied to the committee after the Commons voted for Brexit impact reports to be published, although the government subsequently said that proper impact reports did not exist. These are described as sectoral analysis reports instead.

The Brexit committee has published 39 of them. You can read them all here.

But you may well have better things to do. As Jessica Elgot reported earlier this month, MPs and peers who have read the documents have not been impressed.

Related: MPs and peers criticise tight security around Brexit impact reports

Theresa May has been meeting the new Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, in Warsaw.

Theresa May meeting the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Theresa May meeting the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters
Theresa May with Mateusz Morawiecki at a welcoming ceremony in front of the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw.
Theresa May with Mateusz Morawiecki at a welcoming ceremony in front of the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw. Photograph: Agencja Gazeta/Reuters

ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston, has written a good blog about the sacking of Damian Green on his Facebook page. Earlier this month he reported, on the basis of what he was told by his sources, that Green would survive. In the blog he explains what changed.

I understand that at the time, the keeper of the government’s conscience, Sue Gray of the Cabinet Office, had only one example of Green making a misleading press statement about what he knew about the computer porn. And just one inaccurate statement could have been seen as an accident.

Green was expected by the prime minister to cling on because this one example of misleading the press could be seen as cock-up not conspiracy.

But after I reported that Green was likely to survive, Gray was made aware of a second similar statement – and that established the lethal pattern of Green being systematically economical with the truth.

Which sealed his fate.

Peston also argues that the departure of Green changes the balance of power in Theresa May’s administration.

Whitehall, and in particularly the cabinet secretary, Heywood, have reasserted their authority, having for months looked like affection-starved poodles.

Green’s exit also shines a new light on the political troika – the chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, the former chief whip and now defence secretary Gavin Williamson, and the current chief whip Julian Smith – who live and breathe to serve HER.

They did not die in a ditch to save Green. In fact their colleagues tell me they actively want to see the back of what they see as the “old men” like Green in the cabinet, so that the government can be remade in their “new Tory generation” image.

This is from ITV’s Joe Pike.

Last month ICM did some polling for the Guardian to find out what people think of various types of sexual misconduct that MPs have been accused of. We weren’t asking about Damian Green, or any other individuals, and of course Green denies watching pornography on his office computer or propositioning Kate Maltby. But the findings were interesting because they show how seriously people take these matters. Voters are more unforgiving than some people might expect.

I wrote the findings up here. And Britain Elects helpfully turned them into a graphic.

Theresa May not replace Damian Green as first secretary of state, the BBC reports.

Having a first secretary of state is very much optional for a prime minister. As Wikipedia points out, it’s a title that for many years was not used. Margaret Thatcher never had one, and when May first became prime minister she felt about to do without one. There are plenty of other people who can stand in for the prime minister if necessary at PMQs; in the past it used to be a job for the leader of the Commons.

Theresa May is not expecting to announce a replacement for Green until after parliament returns in January, a government source said.

The prime minister flew out this morning to Warsaw this morning, away from the crisis which forced her to sack her deputy, but has landed in Poland in the midst of another storm.

Her visit, with five senior cabinet ministers, comes less than 24 hours after an unprecedented decision by the EU to censure Poland for a “serious breach” of its values.

Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, Boris Johnson, Gavin Williamson and Greg Clark are all meeting their counterparts in Poland for a trip aimed at wooing the Polish government seen as key allies in post-Brexit trade talks, given their desire to retain close security cooperation.

The timing is awkward so soon after the EU decision. Downing Street has said May will raise concerns about potential for political interference in the judiciary by Poland’s hard-line conservative government.

In Warsaw, May will announce a new joint UK-Poland treaty on defence and security cooperation, only the second such treaty the UK has signed, after one with France. The governments will also jointly launch UK-funded offensives to combat alleged Russian state-sponsored “disinformation”. Johnson is set to fly on to Moscow after his meetings in Warsaw.

Downing Street said the new defence partnership expected to be announced on Thursday would deepen ties that would build on the deployment of British troops to the Polish-Russian border.

May will announce £5m of UK funds to build joint capacity to detect and counter the spread of Russian information operations, some of which will fund Belsat, a Polish-funded TV channel for Belarusians.

A government source said future trade talks would also be on the agenda when ministers meet their counterparts, with the Polish government also likely to raise the future status of incoming EU migrants.

May is first set to meet her Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki at the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw. Williamson and his counterpart are expected to sign the defence treaty mid-morning, followed by a press conference with May and Morawiecki.

During her whistle-stop trip, May is also set to meet British troops and Polish world war two veterans.

Mateusz Morawiecki, the new Polish prime minister.
Mateusz Morawiecki, the new Polish prime minister. Photograph: East News/REX/Shutterstock

Damian Green leaving his home in West London this morning.
Damian Green leaving his home in West London this morning. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

The women’s equality party thinks Damian Green and Michael Fallon should both resign as MPs because of their conduct towards women. In a statement its leader Sophie Walker said:

That Damian Green regrets being asked to quit, despite accepting that he breached the ministerial code, shows how many lessons he still has to learn about taking responsibility for his conduct. If he is not suitable to be minister because of his actions then he is not suitable to be an MP. It is bizarre that both he and Michael Fallon, who also resigned from cabinet, think they retain legitimacy to stay on in parliament. That decision should be given to their constituents, with a proper system of recall introduced so that they can decide whether these men should still be representing them.

After being accused of sexual misconduct, Fallon resigned as defence secretary saying his behaviour in the past had “fallen below the high standards” expected, although he did not give details. Green denied making sexual advances towards the Tory activist who accused him of propositioning her, although in his resignation letter he admitted he had made her feel “uncomfortable” and apologised.

The former Labour MP Andy Sawford is one of various people on Twitter who have been making this point about the downfall of Damian Green.

But Sean Kemp, a former Lib Dem spin doctor, points to the obvious flaw in this thesis.

Government Brexit reports to be published by select committee today

I’m hearing that Brexit select committee will today publish the bulk of the “impact assessments” – or whatever the government would like to call them- today. But they are withholding parts of the documents after a committee disagreement.

The Labour MP Jess Phillips, a prominent campaigner on behalf of the victims of sexual harassment, told Sky News that she welcomed the decision to sack Damian Green. But she said she thought the inquiry took “longer than it needed to”. And she said she thought that the conclusions of the inquiry meant that Green might avoid being investigated by the new body parliament is setting up in the light of the sexual harassment scandal. She said:

The fact that he left for lying, essentially, about pornography on his computer does seem to be the slight get-out to stop potentially the new independent system in parliament that is going to be set up looking into this further. It does seem they are trying to protect him from any future claims of sexual harassment.

Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, will be making a statement to MPs about progress in setting up the new complaints process later.

Jess Phillips
Jess Phillips Photograph: Sky News

Jeremy Hunt’s Today interview – Summary

Here are the main points from Jeremy Hunt’s Today interview.

  • Hunt, the health secretary, confirmed that Damian Green had been sacked because he “lied”. Asked if Green was “sacked”, Hunt said: “Yes, I think that is clear, sadly from the letters that were exchanged.” And, asked if Green “lied”, Hunt replied:

He lied on a particular incident, yes. I think lots of people who understand the context would appreciated why that might have happened. But that doesn’t make it any more acceptable. And I think what this shows is that in our democracy we hold cabinet ministers to the very highest standards of conduct, rightly. But I think we should remember that those are standards that would probably not apply in many other countries. And those standards apply even to cabinet ministers who are the most senior, as he was.

  • Hunt expressed concerns about the behaviour of the police in this episode. He said:

I think if you look at what happened, some of the actions, particularly of a retired police officer, don’t sit comfortably in a democracy, and Theresa May made very clear in her letter that she was very uncomfortable with what had happened and that she was pleased that Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, also felt that which is why an investigation is happening.

  • He praised May as “someone of the most extraordinary resilience in very, very challenging circumstances”.
  • He expressed regret about Green’s departure, describing him as “an outstanding public servant who did an extraordinary job in the various ministerial posts that he did”.

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Damian Green qualifies for £17,000 pay-off, Cabinet Office confirms – Politics live

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