John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: September 9, 2017 Last modified: September 9, 2017

­­­­Persons of interest
MPs have enjoyed free activities from Wimbledon to Glastonbury, according to their latest register of interests. Commons Speaker John Bercow received two tickets for the Royal Box at Wimbledon, worth £8,590. Labour deputy leader Tom Watson also got two cheaper Wimbledon tickets, while Tories Damian Collins and Nigel Adams declared Glastonbury tickets. Meanwhile Theresa May registered a discount card from shoe shop Russell & Bromley. The Prime Minister, whose love of shoes is well ­documented, has worn the retailer’s shoes to Conservative Party conferences and registered a discount card valid from January 2017 to January 2018 – without details of what it ­entitled her to.

The money pit
Political parties were given a record £40.1 million in donations ahead of June’s general election – and the Conservatives received more than all their rivals combined. New figures from the Electoral Commission covering the 11 largest parties show £24.8 million was given to the Tories from April to June, more than double Labour’s £9.4 million, most of which came from the trade unions. The Tory cash injection amounted to around £1 million for every seat they lost, denying Theresa May a majority. Which shows, in the words of the Beatles, that money can’t buy you love?

Nuisance callers
Claims the Conservatives used a call centre in Neath to canvass voters during the general election campaign are being investigated by police. The party had previously denied it had broken electoral law by using the Blue Telecoms call centre. South Wales Police said the probe was of “scale and significance” in a letter to Labour MP Wayne David. The Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed it was “currently investigating the Conservative Party in relation to a possible breach of Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003”. A Channel 4 News report earlier this year claimed the UK Conservatives contracted Blue Telecoms to conduct marketing campaigns ahead of the vote onJune 8. The undercover investigation claimed the workers may have been carrying out paid canvassing, banned under electoral law, as they promoted Tory messages to undecided voters in the weeks before the election. The report claimed calls were made to voters in key marginal seats, including Bridgend, Gower, Clwyd South and Wrexham. The Conservative Party had said it did not break the law by using the company, which it said was hired to carry out legal market research and direct marketing. But Wayne David said that the allegations “are extremely serious and the public need to have confidence in our electoral process… that is fundamental to our democracy”.

Admirable admiral
Royal flunkeys recalled that Prince Philip – now officially retired from his freeloading – did not always win exchanges with overseas dignitaries. He once asked a Brazilian admiral whether he had won all the medals displayed on his chest. The admiral replied: “Yes, sir. Not by marriage.”

Seeing red over green bank
The Government’s pernicious £2.3 billion sale of the Green Investment Bank to the private Australian bank Macquarie Group Ltd has sparked cross-party condemnation. Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, who launched the bank in 2012 while Business Secretary, branded the move “environmentally irresponsible.” He said that the bank “has done an extremely good job in supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon projects. It has managed to attract over £10 billion of private investment in these sectors that would not otherwise have happened.” And Labour business and environment frontbencher Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “This sale and privatisation is wrong. The long-term prospects are at risk, with concerns that Macquarie may asset strip it.” Both are now demanding a rethink as Parliament resumes business. Fat chance of that.

Consultation has appeal
The Court of Appeal ruled that organisations should consult unions before making changes to contracts that will affect their members following a case brought by public service Unison, along with two park police officers — Maurice Vining and Stephen Francis — who had been made redundant by the London Borough of Wandsworth. In 2013, an employment tribunal decided that not only could the two officers bring unfair dismissal claims, but Unison could also bring a claim over the borough’s failure to consult on the redundancies. In December 2015, the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that none of the three parties had any right to bring a claim. The Court of Appeal found the two officers had no right to claim unfair dismissal. However, it also decided that, because of European human rights legislation, Unison could take action against the borough for the failure to consult on the redundancies. It added that the union could also bring a claim if the terms and conditions of contracts or the rights of their members had been affected more generally. Unison said the ruling would make it much harder to ignore unions when changes were being made in the workplace. Prior to the Court of Appeal ruling, employers only had to consult with unions where the law explicitly said they must. The decision means unions may now need to be consulted in decisions about issues, such as holiday pay and working hours, where they affect union members.

Don’t shoot the messenger
Aformer cycle courier who worked for Addison Lee was employed as a worker, not as an independent contractor; he should, therefore, have been entitled to employment rights, including holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage (NMW), an employment tribunal has ruled. Christopher Gascoigne, who worked for Addison Lee for seven years, contended that he should be classified as a worker rather than an independent contract. His claim was supported by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). Employment judge Joanna Wade highlighted Addison Lee’s use of contradictory language in its contract to avoid the courier being treated as a worker. She also said she was saddened that the contract included a clause “designed to frighten him off from litigating”. It stated that he should “indemnify Addison Lee against any liability for any employment-related claim or any claim based on worker status brought by you”. This, said Judge Wade, “suggests they knew the risk of portraying the claimant as self-employed”.

­­­­Impressively packaged
Twenty-five executives, whose remuneration packages were worth £1 million or more in their firm’s latest financial year, shared a total of £49.49 million. They received an average remuneration package of £1.94 million, but the top two each received over £3 million apiece. Steve Pateman only took over the chief executive’s role at retail banker Shawbrook in January 2016, but received £3.51 million. That works out at £67,540 a week. Alex Maloney, chief executive of global insurance group Lancashire, received £3.43 million, the equivalent of £65,870 a week. Nick Varney, chief executive of the Legoland to Alton Towers attractions group Merlin ­Entertainments, saw his package grow by 162.6 per cent to £1.93 million or £37,020 a week. Magic! His rise came on the back of a £1.19 million long-term bonus scheme paying out in 2016 against none the year before. The other two tops spot went to directors of energy group SSE, Alistair Philips-Davies and Gregor Alexander.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.