UK-US Surveillance Regime was Unlawful ‘For Seven Years’

image

The legal challenge was the first of dozens of GCHQ-related claims to be examined in detail by the IPT. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

 Courtesy of Owen Boycott @ The Guardian:

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

Advocacy groups said the decision raised questions about the legality of intelligence-sharing operations between the UK and the US. The ruling appears to suggest that aspects of the operations were illegal for at least seven years – between 2007, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced, and 2014.

The critical judgment marks the first time since the IPT was established in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. It said that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the legal challenge at the IPT.

An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.

Article 8 relates to the right to private and family life; article 10 refers to freedom of expression.

The decision, in effect, refines an earlier judgment issued by the tribunal in December, when it ruled that Britain’s current legal regime governing data collection through the internet by intelligence agencies – which has been recently updated to ensure compliance – did not violate the human rights of people in the UK. Continue reading

UK Bail-in Powers Implementation

Courtesy of Gov.uk, because they care:

1. Introduction

The Special Resolution Regime (SRR) established in the Banking Act 2009 (“the Banking Act”) confers a number of resolution powers on the Bank of England and HM Treasury. The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 (the 2013 Act) confers on the Bank of England a further option for the resolution for banks, building societies, investment firms, and certain banking group companies: the bail-in stabilisation option.

Since the financial crisis, a wide-ranging programme of financial sector reform has been underway at domestic, European and international levels. The government set up the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB), charged with considering structural and related non-structural reforms to the UK banking sector to promote financial stability and competition. It reported in 2011, and one of its key recommendations was the introduction of a bail-in tool. Bail-in powers were also recommended by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS) in its June 2013 report. The Financial Stability Board’s (FSB), ‘Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes’ – endorsed by the G20 – has recommended that resolution regimes put in place a bail-in tool in order to improve the toolkit for dealing with the failure of large, globally systemic banks.

Bail-in involves shareholders of a failing institution being divested of their shares, and creditors of the institution having their claims cancelled or reduced to the extent necessary to restore the institution to financial viability. The shares can then be transferred to affected creditors, as appropriate, to provide compensation. Alternatively, where a suitable purchaser is identified, the shares may be transferred to them, with the creditors instead receiving, where appropriate, compensation in some other form. Continue reading

Cut benefits? Yes, Let’s Start With Our £85bn Corporate Welfare Handout

image

Courtesy of Aditya Chakrabortty @ The Guardian:

Last week, as the Tory faithful cheered on George Osborne’s new cuts in benefits for the working-age poor, a little story appeared that blew a big hole in the welfare debate. Tucked away in the Guardian last Wednesday, an article revealed that the British government had since 2007 handed Disney almost £170m to make films here. Last year alone the Californian giant took £50m in tax credits. By way of comparison, in April the government will scrap a £347m crisis fund that provides emergency cash for families on the verge of homelessness or starvation.

Benefits are what we grudgingly hand the poor; the rich are awarded tax breaks. Cut through the euphemisms and the Treasury accounting, however, and you’re left with two forms of welfare. Except that the hundreds given to people sleeping on the street has been deemed unaffordable. Those millions for $150bn Disney, on the other hand, that’s apparently money well spent –whoever coined the phrase “taking the Mickey” must have worked for HM Revenue.

Politicians and pundits talk about welfare as if it’s solely cash given to people. Hardly ever discussed is corporate welfare: the grants and subsidies, the contracts and cut-price loans that government hands over to business. Yet some of our biggest companies and industries operate a business model that depends on them extracting money from the British taxpayer. The operators of our supposedly privatised train services are kept afloat by billions in public money. Or take the firm created by billionaire Jeff Bezos: last year it emerged that Amazon had paid less in corporation tax to the UK than it had received in government grants.

The bill for corporate welfare is huge – and largely hidden. We know a lot about the people who claim social welfare: we know how much each benefit costs the public, the government sets strict rules for eligibility – and we even have detailed estimates for how much cheating goes on. Between them, Whitehall, academia and NGOs have churned out enough surveys on social welfare claimants to fill a wing of the Bodleian library. But corporate welfare? The government has itself acknowledged: “There is no definitive source of data about spending on subsidies to businesses in the UK.” The numbers are scattered across government publications and there is not even any agreement on what counts as a corporate handout. Continue reading

The Royal Family are Exempt From Freedom of Information Requests and Can Veto BBC Programmes. Why Do We Put Up With This?

image

Courtesy of Yasmin Alibhai Brown @ The Independent:

As you know by now, Prince Andrew has been accused by a woman known as Jane Doe 3 of being “forced” by Jeremy Epstein to have sex with him when she was a teenager.
He was named in court documents in the US, although not as a party, and the tabloids have been full of further salacious claims. Buckingham Palace forcefully denies these allegations.

The story will not end there, but for now that is all we can say on this particular scandal. It should, however, raise questions about our monarchy, its role and position, the devious, secret way it operates.

The Magna Carta is now 800 years old. In June 1215, rebellious Barons got King John of England to sign a charter that guaranteed them status and entitlements and protected the Church from royal interference. The document did not give every subject fundamental equality and rights. It was a charter by and for the upper classes. Still, there will be events marking this much mythologised moment throughout 2015.

OK, so let join in with this latest national commemoration, part truth, part fantasy. It may encourage us all to contemplate and renew our faith in liberty, freedoms, fundamental human rights and democracy, which came much later.

But how is that possible when the family at the top of the social structure undermines every one of the ideals and principles that our nation proclaims at home and abroad? The incantations sound hollow and meaningless. Continue reading

Stoke NHS Hospital Scanning Contract Won by Private Firm

image

Courtesy of The Sentinel:

A CONTRACT to diagnose illnesses in thousands of patients has been handed to a private firm even though the NHS offered to do the work for seven million pounds cheaper.

The scans for cancer and other conditions are performed on a state-of-the-art machine at the Royal Stoke University Hospital partly paid for by public donations.

But it is to be operated by staff from Alliance Medical which has been given the scanning service in Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and Lancashire by the Government.

A competing NHS bid led by Royal Stoke’s trust was turned down by NHS England which had put the work out to tender.

They are now set to remain following the award of the 10-year contract worth an estimated £80 million.

Health campaigners said the move was motivated by political dogma to get the private sector more involved in public services.

It comes as a bitter row continues over the decision to put £1.2 billion of cancer and end-of-of-life care on the market.

Most of the cash for the £3 million machine came from a bequest plus a £1 million Keele University research grant – but £250,000 was donated by the public.

Ron Alcock, aged 75, from Cheadle gave £1,000 after the death of wife Jeannette of leukaemia in 2009.

He said: “Because of Mr Cameron’s policies private firms are coming more into the NHS.

“That scares people that it will be privatised and could deter them from raising money for things in future.” Continue reading

New Consumer Debt Reaches Seven-Year High in UK

image

Courtesy of Hilary Osborne @ The Guardian:

Consumer helplines have sounded a warning after Britons ran up their highest level of new debt in November for nearly seven years, with the month’s borrowing on credit cards, loans and overdrafts hitting more than £1.25bn.

National Debtline and StepChange said the figures from the Bank of England showed a worrying rise in consumers’ reliance on credit, and warned they expected a rush of people seeking help when the first credit card bills of the year started to arrive.

Banks and credit card companies have been jostling for business with offers to attract new customers: loan rates have plummeted while balance transfer deals on credit cards have become increasingly generous.

The £150bn UK credit card industry is to come under investigation this month by the Financial Conduct Authority over accusations of aggressive marketing after the watchdog suggested it had been pushing “payday loans with plastic”.

Borrowing

image

Continue reading

No Surge of Romanian and Bulgarian Migrants After Controls Lifted

image

European flight destinations on a board at Otopeni airport near Bucharest on 1 January 2014. Photograph: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters

Courtesy of Alan Travis @ The Guardian:

A quarter of a million Romanians and Bulgarians are now living and working in Britain, more than 80% of whom arrived before labour market restrictions on migrants from their countries were scrapped 12 months ago, say academics.

The Oxford University-based Migration Observatory said the growth in the Romanian and Bulgarian populations of the UK had remained at the same steady pace for the last seven years.

The lack of a surge in migrants from the two EU countries after seven years of transitional controls were lifted on 1 January 2014 confounds predictions by Ukip’s Nigel Farage and others that 5,000 Romanians and Bulgarians would arrive “each week, every week” for several years.

The migration experts said the latest labour force survey figures showed that the overall population of Romanians and Bulgarians in the UK rose from 205,000 in September 2013 to 252,000 in September 2014, an increase of 47,000. This followed a similar rise of 45,000 in the corresponding period in 2012-13.

Madeleine Sumption, the Migration Observatory director, said: “The growth in the Romanian and Bulgarian population of the UK has been steady for the last seven years, despite transitional controls that limited their access to the labour market and welfare state in the UK. The end of these controls do not seem to have had a very significant effect.” Continue reading