The prisons policy of a mischievous demon

8th February 2015

Prisons policy is in the news today.  This is from my 2013 post at FT on custodial sentences:

Here is a thought-experiment: imagine that you have asked some mischievous demon to conceive the most counter-productive way of dealing with crime.

What fiendish scheme would this diabolic agent devise?

The demon could suggest a system:

– where offenders are kept together with more serious and experienced criminals for months or years, and so can learn from them;

– where the offender is taken away from any gainful employment and social support or family network;

– where the offender is put in places where drugs and brutality are rife;

– where the infliction of a penalty can make the offender more, and not less, likely to re-offend; and

– where all this is done at extraordinary expense for the taxpayer.

A system, in other words, very much like the prison system we now have in England and Wales.

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Law and policy round-up: British Bill of Rights, Assange.

8th February 2016

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Here are some interesting links on recent news involving law and policy.

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“British Bill of Rights”

Last week the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Michael Gove appeared before a House of Lords committee to discuss the government’s proposals for repeal of the Human Rights Act and a “British Bill of Rights”.

It soon became clear that the government still has no clear idea what to do.  The “British Bill of Rights” continues to be a grand title on an otherwise blank piece of paper on a desk somewhere in the Ministry of Justice.  The “seven hurdles” for repeal of the Human Rights Act which I posited last May still stand and have not been overcome.

You can watch the appearance here and the transcript of the hearing is here.

A great report of the hearing is by my FT colleague Kate Allen and RightsInfo has a useful analysis.

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Assange

A rather strange and unconvincing “opinion” about arbitrary detention and Julian Assange was released last week by a UN working group.

You can read the report here, though the eight paragraph dissent at the end says all that should be said.

On this report, the best commentary so far has been by Joshua Rozenberg at the Guardian and Carl Gardner at Head of Legal.

My own short “explainer” piece is at the end of this FT news report.

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Falconer refers the MoJ’s criminal legal aid fiasco to the National Audit Office

1st February 2016

The shadow Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer has today referred the Ministry of Justice’s aborted criminal legal aid “reforms” to the National Audit Office for investigation.

Below is a copy of the letter which was sent today.

 

Dear Sir Amyas,

I write to ask the National Audit Office, as the body responsible for scrutinising public spending on behalf of Parliament, to investigate the decision by the Ministry of Justice to pursue its policy of consolidating the criminal legal aid services market through a model known as “dual-contracting”, as well as the Legal Aid Agency’s (“LAA”) handling of the procurement process for the introduction of Own Client and Duty Provider Crime Contracts.

The Government’s proposals for legal aid were first consulted on in June 2013 in the document Transforming Legal Aid: Delivering a more credible and efficient system[1].

As a result of fierce opposition to some of the Government’s plans, the Justice Secretary came before the House of Commons on 5 September 2013 and announced that there would be a further consultation, Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps[2], in relation to two of the original proposals, those to introduce competitive tendering and proposed reforms to criminal advocacy fees.

On 27 February 2014, the Government unveiled its final package of criminal legal aid reforms, which included staged cuts of 17.5% and the introduction of a dual contracting model[3].

There has been considerable opposition to the Government’s proposals and the decision to commence a tender process for 527 Duty Provider Work contracts was the subject of judicial review proceedings.

In March 2015, the LAA set new deadlines for crime duty tender contracts following the Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss the Law Society and practitioner groups’ challenge.

In June 2015, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Courts and Legal Aid, Shailesh Vara MP, published a Written Statement confirming that the government would press ahead with the second 8.75% reduction to litigators’ fees and with the new duty provider contracts[4].

Shortly afterwards, practitioner groups commenced a nationwide boycott of legal aid work under what they describe as ‘derisory’ new rates.  This was suspended after 52 days of protest as a gesture of goodwill following talks with the Lord Chancellor and MoJ officials.

Criminal legal aid firms found out whether they were successful in their bids for new contracts in October 2015.

The procurement process for the new duty provider contracts has been mired in chaos and controversy from its inception.

After repeated delays in announcing the tender results and reports of errors, two separate whistle-blowers – Freddie Hurlston and Paul Staples – came forward alleging that the process had been “shambolic and unprofessional”, with bids being handled by inexperienced, temporary staff and staff being put under pressure.[5]

Despite denials by Ministers, a response from Shailesh Vara MP to questions tabled by Karl Turner MP revealed that almost twenty per cent of the assessment team were temporary staff and that staff working on the bids were not required to have procurement experience.[6]

Following these allegations, the president of the Law Society, Jonathan Smithers, wrote to the Chairs of the Justice Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee expressing concerns that the process had not been robust and calling for an independent review[7].

 A judicial review, sought by the Fair Crime Contracts Alliance, has been launched which was due to open on 7 April and a hearing into more than a hundred individual procurement law challenges was due to begin on 3 May.

On 13 November, the LAA was forced to announce that services under the new contracts, scheduled to start on 11 January, would now start on 1 April 2016[8].

Following speculation at the start of January 2016 that the court action would cease and that the Government would drop its plans, the Law Society asked the LAA to clarify its plans. The LAA maintained that there had been no change in policy[9].   

 On 28 January, the Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, announced via a Written Ministerial Statement that the Government had decided not to go ahead with the introduction of the dual contracting system and to suspend, for a period of 12 months from 1 April 2016, the second fee cut[10].

This is a significant change in policy and one that has taken place very late in the day. Not only will many criminal law firms will have already taken decisions either to expand or to cut staff based on their success in the bidding process but much time and expenditure is likely to have already been spent by the MoJ and the LAA. In addition, the Government has so far ignored calls – by the Law Society and the Labour party – for an independent review of the procurement process.

For the reasons set out above, I hope you will agree that the NAO has an important role to play in ensuring that the interests of the taxpayers have been properly safeguarded in this case.

I copy this letter to the Chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP.

[1] See https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid

[2] See https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid-next-steps

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/transforming-legal-aid-government-response

[4] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/June%202015/10%20June/2.Justice-Legal%20Aid.pdf

[5] http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/whistleblower-claims-legal-aid-contracting-process-flawed/5051581.fullarticle; http://www.legalvoice.org.uk/2015/11/13/duty-tender-shambolic-and-unprofessional-says-second-laa-whistleblower/

[6] http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2015-10-29.14001.h&s=speaker%3A24767+section%3Awrans#g14001.q0

[7] http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/society-calls-for-independent-review-of-duty-contract-procurement/5052209.fullarticle

[8] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/crime-news-provision-of-criminal-legal-aid-services-from-11-january-2016

[9] http://www.solicitorsjournal.com/news/crime/funding-legal-aid/25215/law-society-seeks-clarity-legal-aid-contract-procurement-process

[10] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/changes-to-criminal-legal-aid-contracting

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How Michael Gove won the cabinet row about the Saudi prison contract

31st January 2016

On the morning of Tuesday 13 October 2015 the UK Prime Minister David Cameron had a serious political problem – a problem which seemed to many political observers to have almost come from nowhere.

The problem was about a proposed commercial relationship between the UK’s Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for courts and prisons services in England and Wales, and the government of Saudi Arabia.

The contract – for providing training to the Saudi prison system – had not even been signed and was still at bidding stage. And the value of the deal at £5.9 million was not that significant in the context of UK-Saudi relations.

But somehow the matter was now a pressing political concern – indeed a possible minor political crisis – that could only be resolved by a quick decision of the prime minister.

That morning the Times had reported a cabinet split.

On one side was the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who wanted the MoJ to pull out of the proposal, which he inherited from his predecessor.

On the other side was the Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, who did not want the Saudi government to be upset by the bid being discontinued.

Neither Gove nor Hammond had been long in their respective posts; but their two offices of state are among the most ancient and distinguished.

It is rare for either a Foreign Secretary or Lord Chancellor to be party to any cabinet row, and it was unheard of for them to be rowing with each other.

What made this political row particularly awkward was the way the contract bid was being used by the Labour opposition.

Two weeks before, on 29 September 2015, the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn September 2015 had mentioned the commercial bid in his first speech as leader to party conference:

“Just because I’ve become the leader of this party, I’m not going to stop standing up on those issues or being that activist.

So for my first message to David Cameron, I say to him now a little message from our conference, I hope he’s listening – you never know:

Intervene now personally with the Saudi Arabian regime to stop the beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who is threatened with the death penalty, for taking part in a demonstration at the age of 17.

And while you’re about it, terminate that bid made by our Ministry of Justice’s to provide services for Saudi Arabia – which would be required to carry out the sentence that would be put down on Mohammed Ali al-Nimr.”

It was the first time the contract bid had come to the attention to most politicians and pundits.

Until then it had not been a subject which anyone outside those with a close interest in MoJ affairs either knew or cared about.

There was speculation that information had been leaked to Corbyn by Gove or somebody at MoJ (the truth was more prosaic – Corbyn, with a long-standing record of criticising the Saudi regime, had been briefed by his front bench justice spokespeople about the issue following my post on 25 September 2015 at Jack of Kent).

The contract bid had been cited by Corbyn in aid of his point about the threatened execution of Mohammed Ali al-Nimr, and had it not been for that case, it may not have been mentioned at all.

The Saudi prison bid was now mainstream political news. Cameron was asked about it in that weekend’s interview with Andrew Marr and found it difficult to deflect. It seemed as if the new and controversial Labour leader had scored an unexpected hit at a time he was beset by internal party difficulties (as he is still is).

But the issue then seemed to fade.

A week passed, and the political commentators had many other things to talk about at a time of party conferences.

It looked as if the Saudi prison issue would go as quickly as it came as matter of political importance; maybe Corbyn had had the benefit of some beginners’ luck, and that was all.

And then, two weeks after Corbyn’s speech, the Times splashed on the cabinet split.

The Times is, of course, an excellent news paper and it was a superb scoop by Rachel Sylvester.an outstanding political journalist. But it would also be fair to say that the Times had not shown any interest in the subject before its coverage on 13 October 2015. And then suddenly it was a front page lead, backed up with a comment piece inside.

The Times reported:

A cabinet row has broken out between two senior ministers over the fate of a controversial prisons deal with Saudi Arabia.

Michael Gove, the lord chancellor and justice secretary, was accused of naivety by Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, over his demand that a £5.9 million deal with Saudi Arabia be scrapped. The dispute became so entrenched that it was raised at a meeting of the National Security Council, The Times has learnt.

In the comment piece it was contended:

“Saudi Arabia’s brutal prison regime is getting help from the British taxpayer. We should stand up to Riyadh and cancel it

There was just one line in Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech that got under ministers’ skins — the Labour leader’s call to scrap a deal between the Ministry of Justice and the Saudi prison service. It is the source of a Whitehall row that illustrates the growing tension within government between morality and pragmatism in Britain’s relations with the rest of the world.

The bid for a £5.9 million contract to provide “training-needs analysis” for the Saudi penal system was approved by Chris Grayling, the former justice secretary, as part of a drive by the ministry to sell services abroad. It was submitted in April, by the department’s commercial arm, Just Solutions International (JSI). Michael Gove, who succeeded Mr Grayling in May, has scrapped JSI to focus resources on “domestic priorities”. Crucially, he also wanted to pull out of the Saudi deal, insisting that the government should not be helping a regime that uses beheading, crucifixion, stoning, amputations and lashings to keep its citizens in line. However, he was blocked by Downing Street, on the advice of the Foreign Office.”

That there was tension between the MoJ and the foreign office over the contract bid was not in fact news.

The estimable Alan White had expressly revealed this at Buzzfeed on 17 September 2015 – 12 days before the Corbyn speech:

BuzzFeed News understands that Gove wanted to terminate the entire contract but this was blocked by other government departments who feared that it would damage relations with the Saudis.

And this revelation in turn was simply making plain what was implicit in a ministerial statement of the day before. The MoJ wanted to ditch the deal but was being prevented by “wider government interests”.

Once the Times splashed the story, events began to accelerate.

The able Labour front bench justice spokesperson Andy Slaughter applied for and was granted an “urgent question” on the floor of the house of commons. The deadline for tabling such a question was 10am; the Speaker’s Office would then inform party whips and the department of the question by 11am. The prime minister’s office would have been told about the same time.

The next day would also be the prime minister’s questions, and it would be a topic which Corbyn would be sure to raise.

Suddenly it seemed that the cabinet split would be the subject of commons debates – and debates on the very issue which the new Labour leader had been seen to have scored a point.

Cameron had to take a decision quickly, and he did.

The MoJ were not involved in the decision that day – indeed, whilst Cameron was making his mind up, the department’s senior civil servant was being questioned by a parliamentary committee and his answers presupposed no decision was imminent.

The decision was then announced as the answer to a question at the 11am lobby briefing, which according to the Press Association was worded as follows:

The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman told reporters: “This bid to provide additional training to Saudi Arabia has been reviewed, and the Government has decided it won’t be proceeding with the bid.”

She added that the decision was based on an examination of the “priorities” for the Ministry of Justice and a decision to “focus on some of the domestic priorities we want to do in terms of reforms here”.

“Having looked at it further again, we have established that we can withdraw at this stage, there will be no financial penalty and consequently that decision has been taken.”

According to the detailed account the next day by Francis Elliott, the political editor of the Times, the sequence of events was then as follows:
 

The coverage was raised at the routine morning meeting in No 10, at which Mr Cameron and his de facto deputy, George Osborne, consider the day ahead. Ordinarily the prime minister takes soundings from trusted aides and civil servants before giving a judgment. Yesterday, however, he closed down the discussion quickly, deciding that it was too sensitive an issue to be aired at the later meeting.

Instead Mr Cameron is understood to have phoned Mr Hammond, asking him to set out the case for keeping the contract between the commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice and the Saudi government.

Insiders say that he well knew what the reply would be: for months Mr Hammond, supported by Theresa May, the home secretary, has been making the case that it is better to engage with Saudi Arabia than walk away and that the contract was an important part of a wider effort to reform Saudi’s judicial and police institutiions.

He did not call Michael Gove, the justice secretary, who has been arguing for the commercial deal to be ditched, but asked officials to check whether any financial penalties would be incurred should Britain pull out, and was told there would be none.

Faced with having to make a decision between his warring cabinet colleagues, Mr Cameron was acutely aware that he was a little more than 24 hours from a clash with Jeremy Corbyn at prime minister’s questions today.

This description of Cameron’s sequence of priorities in his decision-making seems rather unfortunate though revealing: first the political imperative, then the commercial cost, and then finally whether it was the right thing.

But a decision was made, and a cabinet row (and a political embarrassment) averted.

It is perhaps too early to reckon the real effect of the decision. The Saudi ambassador resorted to the Telegraph to vent his displeasure (which in turn indicated a loss of influence – it is hard to imagine that a Saudi ambassador needing to do that ten years ago). In domestic politics, the dropping of the contract bid has already become a feature of the political narratives of both Corbyn and Gove, as well as being a further mark against the record Gove’s incompetent predecessor as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling.

Both Corbyn and Gove deserve the political credit for the MoJ’s Saudi’s prison bid being dropped in the way it was.

Both politicians exerted pressures at just the right time. Had it not been for Corbyn’s mention of the commercial proposal in his conference speech, and the likelihood that he would bring the matter up again, the bid would not have had the keen attention of Cameron that it received.

And had it not been for Gove forcing the issue in cabinet (with the Times somehow getting the story) then there would not have been the row for Cameron to resolve so urgently.

But the preconditions for this political row had been in place before the Corbyn speech. And these had been set months before by Gove; his escalation of the matter to cabinet level in the wake of the Corbyn conference speech was  just the final move in a sequence of decisions and deft manoeuvers which started months before.  So when the explosion came, it was clear that it would be at the expense of the Foreign Office.

The key decision by Gove was to close the commercial arm of the MoJ – known as “Just Solutions International” but also to continue with just one main project, the Saudi prisons bid.

Initially, part of the reason for the bid’s continuation was that it was supposed that there was a “penalty” for withdrawing, though this excuse fell away when I asked a series of questions about the penalty’s existence and enforceability.  But when that fig-leaf fell away it became clear that “wider” government considerations were obliging the MoJ to continue. This is what picked by Alan White at Buzzfeed a week before the Corbyn speech.

To anybody who then cared, it was clear that the MoJ wanted out of the bid and was distancing itself as much as possible.  It was open knowledge.

At this stage it was not certain that the bid would continue: no final award decision had been made.

The MoJ thereby might have gone through with performing the contract, whilst controversy about the Saudi human rights record was likely to keep reigniting.

What Gove seems to have been ensuring was not that the bid would be dropped – that was unexpected – but that the blame for the MoJ performing it would be deflected as much as possible to the Foreign and Home Offices. And had it not been for Corbyn, that would have been the most likely outcome.

But when Corbyn did make that speech, then it appears that this manoeuvring was put to a slightly different use, and this is how Gove stoked and won a cabinet confrontation.

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Just Solutions International caused a £1.1 million loss to the Ministry of Justice

29th January 2016

It now can be revealed that “Just Solutions International” – the Ministry of Justice commercial venture promoted by former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling – caused an overall £1.1 million LOSS to the MoJ.

JSI was closed by Grayling’s successor Michael Gove last October.

From a National Audit Report [Edit: Now Online]:

The total income generated by JSi was less than £1 million. The main contracts delivered by NOMS, under the JSi brand, between 2012 and 2015 were for training Royal Oman Police officers (£255,000), consultancy on prison design in Libya (£128,000) and contracts in Nigeria (£130,000), Australia (£89,000) and the Seychelles (£34,000).

The cost of setting up JSi exceeded the income generated by completed contracts. We estimate that JSi’s costs were approximately £2.1 million from 2012 until its closure, including £239,000 on consultancy services. Therefore JSi made a net loss of approximately £1.1 million in this period. This is due, in part, to the decision to withdraw from prospective arrangements with Saudi Arabia and Oman. 

The NAO has now provided this press release:

Investigation into Just Solutions International

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published the findings from its investigation into Just Solutions International (JSi), which was the commercial arm of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). JSi aimed to help improve justice systems across the world by selling products and consultancy services. In September 2015 the Ministry of Justice announced the closure of JSi. Shortly after this announcement the NAO received correspondence raising concerns around the transparency of JSi’s activities and requesting that we investigate.
The key findings of this investigation are as follows:

· Just Solutions International (JSi) was created in 2012 to exploit commercial opportunities arising from National Offender Management Service (NOMS) activities relating to IT, training and consultancy services. The target market was primarily overseas governments originally facilitated through the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) then directly with overseas governments from 2014. JSi aimed to make a commercial return on work contracted from overseas governments.

· JSi was established as a brand within the NOMS Commercial Development Group (CDG) after the NOMS board rejected a proposal to establish JSi as a company. A number of consultants were engaged from 2010 to 2014 to undertake pilots and develop business cases that formed the basis of JSi.

· In establishing JSi, NOMS followed the current guidance from HM Treasury, the National Archives and the Cabinet Office where this guidance was available. The Cabinet Office guidance is limited because it does not cover the question of whether a company is the most appropriate form for new operations.

· The total income generated by JSi was less than £1 million. The main contracts delivered by NOMS, under the JSi brand, between 2012 and 2015 were for training Royal Oman Police officers (£255,000), consultancy on prison design in Libya (£128,000) and contracts in Nigeria (£130,000), Australia (£89,000) and the Seychelles (£34,000).

· The cost of setting up JSi exceeded the income generated by completed contracts. The NAO estimate that JSi’s costs were approximately £2.1 million from 2012 until its closure, including £239,000 on consultancy services. Therefore JSi made a net loss of approximately £1.1 million in this period. This is due, in part, to the decision to withdraw from prospective arrangements with Saudi Arabia and Oman. The NAO also note that had JSi not been created, NOMS would have committed funding to support wider international engagement with countries to support FCO and wider Government objectives.

· In September 2015 the Secretary of State for Justice closed JSi and decided not to pursue any commercial activities in Oman. In October 2015 JSi withdrew from the bid for work with Saudi Arabia. This followed the launch of a judicial review into JSi and significant media and political interest in the proposed work with Saudi Arabia. There were no financial penalties for withdrawing from contract negotiations with Saudi Arabia.

· JSi is now closed and NOMS does not plan to perform further work for overseas governments on a commercial basis. NOMS will continue to receive visits and requests for assistance from overseas governments through FCO and other UK departments for the achievement of cross-government objectives.

Notes for Editors

1. This report is a National Audit Office Investigation. The NAO conducts investigations to establish the underlying facts in circumstances where concerns have been raised with us, or in response to intelligence that we have gathered through our wider work.

2. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at the NAO’s website. Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.

3. The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Sir Amyas Morse KCB, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 810 people. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of £1.15 billion in 2014.

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FT post on Home Office, Saudi Arabia and the need for a ‘safe space’

13th January 2016

My latest FT post is now up, on the the Home Office using the jargon of “safe spaces” so as to avoid disclosing the nature of its relationship with the Saudi internal ministry.

FTHO story

SafeSpace

And this glorious comment:

CommentoftheDay

You can read the full post here.

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David Bowie as a paralegal

11 January 2016
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Before he was famous, the young David Bowie worked in the heart of legal London in what we would now call “litigation support”.
 
He did this at Legastat, which was (and still is) at 57 Carey Street, just by Lincoln’s Inn and behind the Royal Courts of Justice.
Legastat
He was, in effect, a paralegal – bundling, copying, and so on.
 
One can imagine him looking at a future laid out of a thousand High Court bundles, saying: Sod this, I am off to be Ziggy.
 
Of course, a co-worker would have then dismissed Bowie’s dream with “there is no future in dressing funny”.
 
And outside, in their robes and wigs, a judge and barrister would walk past…
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The damning Commons justice committee report on the criminal courts charge

20th November 2015

One of the most illiberal and misconceived measures adopted by the Ministry of Justice – perhaps by any government department in recent years – was the criminal courts charge.

Today the Commons justice committee has published a short but critical report. You should read it – the web version is here and a PDF is here.

The MoJ cannot easily ignore this; and it may be that is the point.  It is very helpful for a Tory-majority select committee to give “cover” to the MoJ in reversing this measure.  Indeed, you can easily imagine the polite conversation:

“Hello Bob”

– “Hello Michael.”

“Thank you for taking my call, Bob. Very kind. How are you?”

– “In good form Michael, mustn’t grumble. How are you?”

“I am well, thank you ever so much for asking. So thoughtful of you.  But I do need a little help. Dreadful policy inherited from Chris. We need to shift it, but we do need some cover.”

[Pause.]

– “I know, perhaps a damning report?”

“What a great idea, Bob, oh yes please. I knew you would think of something.”

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I am certain no such conversation actually took place (and I am only being satirical).  The charge is so awful that being critical of it needs no external influence.

And if the MoJ does now proceed with the charge’s abolition (or fundamental change) then – following the MoJ’s delay last week of the botched criminal legal aid procurement – it would seem that almost every distinctive policy of Grayling at MoJ has now been reversed or improved.

 

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Whatever happened to the Leveson Inquiry website?

19th November 2015

I looked today for the Leveson Inquiry website, which contains all the evidence and the full report (2012).

And it was not there.

I was sure that there was one, wasn’t there?

Ho ho.

Anyway, someone established the site was indeed blank.

It had been blank since 2 November 2015.

What seems to have happened was that the redirect had disappeared to the National Archive copy.

So it is still there, somewhere, if you care to look for it.

And the Leveson Report is now – officially – a matter for an archive, just three years after it dominated UK media debate.

 

 

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George Osborne’s National Spider Plan

17th November 2015

And so inspired by Jennie Rigg’s brilliant tweet, here are extracts from George Osborne’s speech today, with “cyber” replaced with “spider”.  

And it makes just as much sense.

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…And that’s what I want to talk to you about this morning. For government has a duty to protect the country from spider attack, and to ensure that the UK can defend itself in spiderspace.

Today I want to set out how we are fulfilling that duty. I will explain how we have invested in Britain’s spider security in the past five years, and to set out our plan for the next five.

The national spider plan I am announcing means investing in defending Britain in a spider-age. It is a key part the Spending Review I will deliver next week.

[…]

It is one of the many spider threats we are working to defeat.

Getting spider security right requires new thinking. But certain principles remain true in spiderspace as they are true about security in the physical world.

[…]

But GCHQ has a unique role. It is the point of deep expertise for the UK government. It has an unmatched understanding of the internet and of how to keep information safe.

It is a centre of capability that we cannot duplicate, which must sit at the heart of our spider security.

[…]

I can tell you today that right now GCHQ is monitoring spider threats from high end adversaries against 450 companies across the aerospace, defence, energy, water, finance, transport and telecoms sectors.

In protecting the UK from spider attack, we are not starting from zero.

In 2010, at a time when we as a new government were taking the most difficult decisions on spending in other areas, we took a deliberate decision to increase spending on spider.

We set up the National Spider Security Programme and funded it with £860 million.

And for the past five years we have been creating and enhancing the structures and capabilities that Britain needs to defend itself in spiderspace.

[…]

We have ensured that our military systems are properly secured from spider attack.

We have built the National Spider Crime Unit so spider criminals are brought to justice.

We established the Computer Emergency Response Team for the UK, and the Spider Information Sharing Partnership so companies could share what they knew.

We developed clear guidance for businesses, including the Spider Essentials scheme, which already has over a thousand companies accredited.

[…]

We built spider security into every stage of the education process. We established Spider First and spider apprentices to make sure that we got the talent we needed coming into the field.

And we undertake exercises so we know what to do when there is a serious spider incident.

[…]

We have built a world-class range of tools and capabilities that Britain needs to stay safe from spider attack.

We are widely regarded as top or near top in the world.

But nice though it would be to sit on our laurels, the truth is that we are not where we need to be. We are not winning as often as we need to against those who would hurt us in spiderspace.

The truth is that we have to run simply to stand still.

The pace of innovation of spider attack is breathtakingly fast, and defending Britain means that we have to keep up.

At the heart of spider security is a painful asymmetry between attack and defence.

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A few years ago mounting a sophisticated spider attack meant having all the skills that each stage of the attack required, from gaining access to the network to designing the payload that was to go into it.

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Last summer GCHQ dealt with 100 spider national security incidents per month. This summer, the figure was 200 a month. Each of these attacks damages companies, their customers, and the public’s trust in our collective ability to keep their data and privacy safe.

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We will be boosting the capabilities of the National Spider Crime Unit, so that – in partnership with their counterparts around the world – they attack the assumption among too many that spider crime is risk free, and comes with little risk of consequences.

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And we will build in the National Spider Centre a series of teams, expert in the spider security of their own sectors, from banking to aviation, but able to draw on the deep expertise here, and advise companies, regulators, and government departments.

Building the National Spider Centre will be a hugely ambitious and important undertaking that reflects this government’s commitment to making the UK secure in spiderspace.

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If we do not act decisively, the skills gap will grow, and limit everything we want to achieve in spiderspace. 

So we will launch an ambitious programme to build the spider skills our country needs, identifying young people with spider talent, training them, and giving them a diversity of routes into spider careers.

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As all of you who work in the sector know, what is needed are specific spider security skills, building on particular talents.

And we need to tackle this problem on a number of fronts including in our universities. But we need to make sure there are other routes into the spider workforce.

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Of course, we need not just great skills but great British companies as well.

If Britain is to be a world leader in spider, and stay at the cutting edge of spider technology, we need the innovation and vigour that only these companies can offer.

We need to create a commercial ecosystem in which spider start-ups proliferate, get the investment and support they need, and are helped to win business around the world.

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I am glad that there is already so much happening in this space; I am happy we have the founders of Spider London with us today.

And I am delighted that Paladin Capital has just announced it is establishing a dedicated spider fund in the UK; we can be proud that they have chosen London as its base.

We will build on this energy. We will help commercialise the extraordinary innovation in our universities. We will provide training and mentoring for our spider entrepreneurs.

We will be establishing two spider innovation centres – places where spider start-ups can base themselves in their crucial early months, and which can become platforms for giving those start-ups the best possible support.

I have talked before about an arc of spider excellence – stretching from this building, through Bristol and Bath to Exeter – to make the South West a world leader in Spider Security.

Today I can announce that one of the two innovation centres will be here in the South West of England, in Cheltenham, reflecting the extraordinary talent in this place, and our aspiration that this talent should help drive our spider sector.

Government can itself provide a huge boost for British spider start-ups, if it can be smart enough to marshal its procurement in a coherent way.

This should be a win-win – our spider start-ups need endorsement, investment and first customers.

And government, from our military and GCHQ to the Government Digital Service and the NHS, need to be able to procure excellent spider security hardware and services.

So I can announce today that we will create a £165 million Defence and Spider Innovation Fund, to support innovative procurement across both defence and spider security.

It will mean that we support our spider sector at the same time as investing in solutions to the hardest spider problems that government faces.

Of course, our involvement with industry on spider goes well beyond the spider sector. We need to make sure that Britain has the regulatory framework it needs, particularly in the sectors we define as the Critical National Infrastructure.

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Our vulnerability as a nation in spiderspace goes well beyond the critical national infrastructure.

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We have a collective interest in the spider defences of individual companies across the British economy.

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If we are to tackle the asymmetry between attack and defence, then we need to establish deterrence in spiderspace.

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Part of establishing deterrence will be making ourselves a difficult target, so that doing us damage in spiderspace is neither cheap nor easy.

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We need to destroy the idea that there is impunity in spiderspace.

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We reserve the right to respond to a spider attack in any way that we choose.

And we are ensuring that we have at our disposal the tools and capabilities we need to respond as we need to protect this nation, in spiderspace just as in the physical realm.

We are building our own offensive spider capability – a dedicated ability to counter-attack in spiderspace.

We have built this capability through investing in a National Offensive Spider Programme.

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The threats to our country in spider space come from a range of places – from individual hackers, criminal gangs, terrorist groups and hostile powers.

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To those who believe that spider attack can be done with impunity I say this: that impunity no longer exists.

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That means they need to be prepared for hybrid conflicts, played out in spiderspace as well as on the battlefield. A 21st Century military has to operate as effectively in spiderspace as it does on land and sea, in the air and space.

Our commitment to spending 2% GDP on defence means we can invest in a military that is spider trained, spider secure, and spider enabled, with the ability to fight in every domain of future conflicts.

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We need to keep fighting to preserve a free, open, peaceful and secure spiderspace.

Agreement that international law applies in spiderspace has been an essential first step.

And we need international norms of behaviour in spiderspace, so that freedom is matched by responsibility.

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We need our police forces to work together to ensure that less and less of the world is a hiding place for spider criminals.

And we need to help our partners develop their own spider-security – as we share a single spiderspace, we collectively become stronger when each country improves its own defences.

For the past five years we have been investing in the spider security of our partners as well as our own.

We have helped establish the outstanding Global Spider Security Capacity Centre in Oxford. In the coming years we will step up these efforts, mindful that we are bound together in spiderspace.

The national spider plan that I have announced today is bold, far-reaching and transformative in numerous ways.

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But it will make Britain one of the best protected countries in the world; it will give our companies and citizens the tools they need to stay safe from spider attack; and it will create jobs and prosperity.

With the ability and dedication of GCHQ’s staff, our new National Spider Centre, and the ideas and skills across our country, our plan will make sure that Britain remains a world leader in spider, and give Britain an important edge in the global race.

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