Election campaigns to resume after dukes death

Election campaigning will resume this week after a pause following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Elections to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and for councillors, mayors and police and crime commissioners in England are being held on 6 May.

Campaigning will resume after tributes are paid to Prince Philip on Monday in the House of Commons, Holyrood and the Senedd.

It will pause again on Saturday, the day of the duke’s funeral.

Conservative Party co-chair Amanda Milling said: “The respectful pause to campaigning will end on Tuesday morning.”

Labour said it will allow leafleting following tributes in Parliament on Monday with a “full return to campaigning” on Tuesday.

The party said campaigning would be suspended again on 17 April – the day of the duke’s funeral – “to allow members to join a day of reflection”.

“These arrangements have been agreed with the UK government,” it added.

Political parties suspended their campaigning for elections after the duke’s death at Windsor Castle on Friday morning.

Parliament will return a day early from recess on Monday so that MPs can honour Prince Philip, with the House of Commons sitting at 14:30 BST for tributes.

Peers – who were due to return to the House of Lords on Monday – will also start their proceedings with a humble address of condolence to the Queen.

The Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Senedd will also be recalled on Monday for tributes.

Politicians across the UK have paid tribute to Prince Philip, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson praising his “extraordinary life”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the UK had “lost an extraordinary public servant”, while Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sent her condolences to the Royal Family.

Governments LGBT advisory panel disbanded

The government’s LGBT advisory panel has been disbanded after three members quit last month, the BBC can reveal.

A government spokesman said a replacement for the panel, which was set up under Theresa May’s premiership, “will be set out in due course”.

Some members told the BBC they had been willing to stay on when their terms ended on the 31 March.

A Conservative backbencher has accused the government of a series of “unforced errors”.

It’s understood the panel has not formally met senior government representatives since last year, although government sources say there has been communication with officials.

Equalities Minister Liz Truss has now written to the remaining members thanking them for their “constructive input”.

In the letter, seen by the BBC, Liz Truss said: “I will also be shortly making an announcement concerning the International LGBT Conference and convening a new body that will take international LGBT rights forward.”

The panel was set up as part of an LGBT Action Plan, established under Theresa May. It was to advise ministers “on issues and policies concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

Three advisers quit last month over the government’s handling of LGBT rights and amid claims it was “dragging its feet” on a pledge to ban so-called conversion therapy.

The first to resign, Jayne Ozanne, accused ministers of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT people.

She said it was “such a shame” that Ms Truss was disbanding the advisory panel.

“It was a force for good, where the needs of LGBT people could be heard and understood.

“This does nothing to rebuild trust or reassure LGBT community of their grave concerns,” she added in a Twitter message.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, who leads the all-party parliamentary group on Global LGBT+ rights, said government delays and inaction mean the prime minister is “in breach of promise on causes he supports”.

“The government is led by one of the most socially liberal, live-and-let-live leaders in our history,” he said, “yet it is making a series of unforced errors that will serve to wholly unnecessarily alienate LGBT+ people and do untold damage to his reputation”.

If the prime minister wanted to establish the values of Global Britain on human rights then “it is hardly the moment to dispose of your experts,” he added.

Conversion therapy

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of campaign group Stonewall, who was one of the remaining panel members, said: “Many key commitments from the UK LGBT Action Plan remain incomplete, including delivering an effective ban on conversion therapy, and the pandemic has only deepened the inequalities LGBTQ people experience, particularly in mental health.”

Stonewall was “keen to continue working with the government to progress LGBT+ rights”, she added, and she urged the government to ensure the new advisory panel included experts on “both domestic and global LGBT+ policy”.

In her letter to the panel, Ms Truss said: “I am pressing ahead with our commitment to ban conversion therapy in order to protect LGBT people from these abhorrent practices. I look forward to announcing these measures shortly.”

A government spokesman said: “The LGBT Advisory Panel was created under the previous administration and the term of all panel members ended on 31 March.

“The Minister for Women & Equalities has written to panel members to thank them for their contributions, and plans for a replacement for the Panel will be set out in due course.”

Tories close probe into Delyn MP Rob Roberts unacceptable conduct

An MP who was accused of multiple allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards parliamentary staff is facing no further action from his party.

The Conservatives said they had “strongly rebuked” Delyn’s Rob Roberts for his “unacceptable” conduct.

But a woman who Mr Roberts had asked to “fool around” with him said it was like “he’s gotten away with it”.

She said he should have had the whip removed. The party said it did not take decisions on the whip.

Mr Roberts was asked to comment.

The female former intern told BBC Wales: “It’s not one incident but multiple and he’s a threat to our safety.

“He’s gotten away with it, and that’s not acceptable.”

She added that the outcome of the party’s investigation brought “the morals and values of the Conservative Party under scrutiny if they are unwilling to stand up against sexual harassment and stand on the side of women – especially in the current climate.”

She also criticised their decision of “keeping him within the party and giving such a minimal punishment”.

The intern claimed that “at no point” was she contacted as part of the Conservative Party’s investigation.

Removing the whip means that an MP is thrown out of their party.

In response, the Conservative party said it does not make decisions on the whip and that no official complaint was received by the party from anyone who claims to have been sexually harassed.

It added that complaints made to the party were not directly from individuals involved, but came from third parties.

Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians had previously called for the Conservative Party to remove his party whip.

Mr Roberts was warned about future conduct by the party’s co-chairman and was instructed to do safeguarding and social media training.

In July, messages seen by BBC Wales showed Mr Roberts inviting a 21-year-old female intern who was working in Parliament to “fool around” with him.

The intern had told BBC Wales the messages had made her feel “really vulnerable”.

He also admitted asking out another House of Commons employee, which led them to move position.

At least two complaints were made about Mr Roberts to Parliament’s independent complaints and grievance scheme (ICGS).

The Conservative Party had said the MP’s conduct was completely unacceptable and launched a party investigation into his behaviour.

On Thursday evening, a Conservative Party spokesperson said: “The investigation into Rob Roberts has concluded.

“Rob Roberts’ conduct was found to be unacceptable under the party’s code of conduct and he has been strongly rebuked.

“Mr Roberts has apologised for his behaviour and was instructed to undertake safeguarding and social media protection training.”

The party have said complaints about Mr Roberts were examined by a panel constituted under the party’s code of conduct, which was chaired by an independent QC.

Mr Roberts was elected as the Conservative MP for Delyn in north Wales in December 2019.

His seat was a gain from Labour in the so-called Red Wall and had been previously held by Labour MP David Hanson since 1992.

Last year, the MP said he recognised the request to ask the staffer out “was inappropriate” but had not commented on the messages sent to the intern.

Baroness Shirley Williams: Former cabinet minister dies aged 90

Veteran politician and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Shirley Williams has died at the age of 90, the party has announced.

She was hailed as a “Liberal lion and a true trailblazer” by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey.

Originally a Labour MP, she was part of the “Gang of Four” who quit the party to found the Social Democratic Party.

She was a leading member of the 1970s Labour government and one of the first women cabinet ministers.

She later went on to support the SDP’s merger with the Liberal Party, which led to the creation of the Liberal Democrats in the late 1980s.

Her career in politics spanned more than 50 years, after she first entered Parliament as the Labour MP for Hitchin in 1964.

She retired from political life in 2016, after leading the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

The Lib Dems said she died peacefully in the early hours of Monday.

Sir Ed said she had been an “inspiration to millions,” and news of her death was “heartbreaking for me and for our whole Liberal Democrat family”.

“Political life will be poorer without her intellect, her wisdom and her generosity,” he added.

“Shirley had a limitless empathy only too rare in politics today; she connected with people, cared about their lives and saw politics as a crucial tool to change lives for the better.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described her as “a kind and thoughtful member of the once radical centre left”.

“Even when we disagreed – as we often did – she had the gift of sounding so completely reasonable at all times.

“I spent many happy hours sparring with her on Question Time. She will be much missed.”

Baroness Williams served in several ministerial roles under the premiership of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, before landing her first cabinet job in 1974 as the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection.

When Wilson resigned as Labour leader in 1976 his successor, Jim Callaghan, made her Secretary of State for Education and Science.

She lost her seat in the 1979 election when Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher came to power following the so-called Winter of Discontent.

After this, she found herself increasingly out of step with the Labour Party on issues including defence and her support for the UK’s membership of the European Union.

She later quit the party in 1981 – and with leading Labour lights Bill Rodgers, Roy Jenkins and David Owen formed the “Gang of Four” which founded the Social Democratic Party.

With growing support, the SDP went on to secure 25% of the vote at the 1983 general election, as part of an electoral alliance with the Liberal Party.

This only delivered 23 MPs for the fledgling alliance, but then-Labour leader Michael Foot blamed it for reducing his party’s share of the vote and giving Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives another term in government.

The Alliance fought the 1987 election, but failed to boost its representation in the Commons – with almost 23% of the vote amounting to just 22 MPs.

Lord Steel, who led the Liberal Party during the Alliance, said Baroness Williams was a “key figure” in helping it come close to breaking the two-party mould in British politics.

“She was a very, very popular person – much more popular than any of the rest of us,” he told BBC News.

He added that she was a “tremendous public inspirer and communicator, and a real humanitarian”.

It was decided in 1988 that the SDP and the Liberal Party should merge, leading to the formation of the Liberal Democrats in October 1989.

Sir Nick Clegg, who stood down as Lib Dem leader after the 2015 election, said he would “forever be grateful for the support, candid advice and generosity” Baroness Williams showed him during his time in charge of the party.

“Her warmth, commitment to progressive ideals and, above all, her wisdom were a constant inspiration down the years to so many,” he added.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Baroness Williams had been “widely respected across politics and was a tireless champion for the causes she believed in”.

Shirley Williams: Pioneer who tried to reshape politics

Shirley Williams, who has died aged 90, was one of the best-known politicians of her generation.

Her political journey took place in an era in which she was often the only woman on the platform.

As Education Secretary in the Labour cabinet of the late 1970s, she oversaw a profound and controversial programme of change.

Dismayed at her party’s leftward drift under Michael Foot, she dramatically helped form a breakaway centrist party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) – and later became leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Catlin was born on 27 July 1930, into a well-off middle-class family with radical political views.

Her mother, Vera Brittain, was a noted pacifist, feminist and writer, whose book, Testament of Youth, published in 1933, was a graphic description of the effects of the slaughter of the First World War on a generation of women.

In her autobiography, Williams described her mother as a “conscientious but rather remote parent”.

Her father, the political philosopher Sir George Catlin, became a leading figure in the Fabian Society and twice stood for parliament as a Labour candidate.

In June 1940, with the threat of a German invasion, Williams, together with her older brother Edward, was sent to the United States, where she stayed with family friends in St Paul, Minnesota.

While living in the US, she took part in a screen test to play Velvet Brown in the 1944 film National Velvet. In the event the role went to Elizabeth Taylor.

Three years later, she returned home – braving a perilous war-time sea voyage during which, according to her autobiography, she narrowly avoided being gang-raped by a group of sailors.

She became active in Labour politics, embracing the reforming zeal of Attlee’s post-war government and making public speeches while still in her teens.

“I became madly keen on Labour while I was still at school,” she later told the New Statesman.

“I got wrapped up in it all and imagined it would be the dream of my life to become an MP.” She made no secret of her ambition to become Britain’s first female prime minister.

She achieved a place at Somerville College, Oxford, where she read Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and became the first woman to chair the university’s Labour Club.

While there, she combined her academic studies with a passion for political debates, and a frantic social life.

A keen member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, she once played Cordelia opposite the future British Rail chairman, Peter Parker, with whom she had a brief relationship.

The Archers actor, Norman Painting, also appeared in the performance. He later remembered that the young Shirley played her part with the same “uncompromising firmness” she showed as a politician.

From Oxford she went on to study at Columbia University in New York as a Fulbright scholar, where she met her future husband, the philosopher Bernard Williams.

The couple returned to England in 1951, and Williams began a career as a journalist. They married four years later.

She began working for the Daily Mirror before moving to the Financial Times. She was barred from writing editorials on economic policy because – at the time – the FT believed this should be an exclusively male preserve.

After unsuccessfully contesting a by-election in Harwich in 1954, she fought the seat again in the General Election of 1955. Again, she failed to win it.

For three years, she lived in Africa with her husband, teaching at the University of Ghana in Accra, returning to England to fight Southampton Test in the 1959 General Election. Once again, she was unsuccessful.

In 1960, she became General Secretary of the Fabian Society, the intellectual socialist movement, a post she held until her eventual election as MP for Hitchin in 1964.

She held a series of minor ministerial posts in the first Wilson government, ending up, in 1969, at the Home Office, where she worked on Northern Ireland issues and helped pass legislation to outlaw capital punishment.

Northern Ireland was a difficult brief for Williams who, as a Catholic, was not trusted by Protestant politicians.

When Labour lost power in 1970, the party began an internal feud between right and left, which was to dominate it for the next 20 years.

The first battleground was over membership of the Common Market, the forerunner of the European Union. Williams was one of a group of more than 100 Labour MPs who signed a declaration calling for Britain to become part of the European Community.

The move was opposed by the left of the party, and by Harold Wilson himself – and Williams threatened to resign from her shadow post in Home Affairs.

Her situation was resolved when the Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath, signed up to the Common Market in 1972.

“I am not as much a passionate European, as I am a passionate internationalist, with a deep sense of the special and unique nature of Britain,” she later said in an interview with the Guardian. “I see staying in Europe as being part of the price of living with reality.”

By this time her marriage to Bernard Williams was collapsing, both under the strain of her political commitments and – it was said – his inability, as an atheist, to come to terms with her strongly-held religious beliefs.

Labour was back in power following the 1974 General Election and Williams, now representing the re-drawn seat of Hertford and Stevenage, was in the cabinet as Minister for Prices and Consumer Protection.

It was a desperate time for the economy. Despite introducing voluntary curbs on price rises, Williams’ term in office saw inflation increasing at more than 10% per annum, triggering industrial unrest as unions fought to keep wage rises at the same level.

By now, she was being spoken of by the press as a possible future prime minister but, as she candidly admitted herself, she lacked many of the qualities needed to achieve her childhood ambition.

Some of her departmental colleagues complained about a lack of organisational skills, her inability to turn up to meetings on time and her indecision over important issues.

When Wilson resigned as Labour leader in 1976 his successor, Jim Callaghan, made Williams Secretary of State for Education and Science.

She was convinced that comprehensive education should play a major part in creating a more inclusive society, and set about the task of abolishing grammar schools with a single-minded enthusiasm.

There was fierce opposition to the plans and critics were quick to point out that Williams had sent her own daughter to the grant-aided Chalfont and Latimer School, which later opted out of the state system rather than abolish selection.

She lost her seat in the 1979 general election when Margaret Thatcher came to power following the so-called Winter of Discontent.

Defeat only served to widen the chasm between left and right in the Labour Party, and Williams found herself increasingly out of step with her party on issues such as Europe and defence.

In 1981, with the Labour left in the ascendancy, Williams quit the party. Together with Bill Rodgers, Roy Jenkins and David Owen, Williams formed the “Gang of Four” which founded the Social Democratic Party.

She soon became an SDP Member of Parliament when she won a by-election at Crosby – a seat that had been in the hands of the Conservatives for more than 30 years.

But the success of the party was short-lived. Only six SDP MPs remained after the 1983 general election, and Williams failed to hold Crosby following adverse boundary changes.

She stood, unsuccessfully, for Cambridge in 1987 and – after successfully campaigning for the merger of the SDP and the Liberals to produce the Liberal Democrats – moved to take a teaching post at Harvard.

There she helped draft the constitutions of Russia, Ukraine and South Africa – as well as meeting, and subsequently marrying, the historian Richard Neustadt. The marriage lasted until his death in 2003.

Williams was created a life peer in 1993, and served as Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords between 2001 and 2004.

Her energy was undiminished by her advancing years. She continued to attend sittings of the House of Lords, making regular contributions to debates.

Her strong Catholic faith led her to oppose gay marriage. In a Lords debate, she said that “equality is not the same as sameness” and that marriage between people of the same sex should not be called marriage, but should have “different nomenclature”.

She was much in demand as a political pundit – notably the BBC’s Question Time, on which she appeared 58 times. She also wrote a regular column for The Guardian.

She officially retired from active politics in 2016, with a valedictory address to the House of Lords. A year later, she was created a Companion of Honour.

Shirley Williams was sometimes criticised for having failed to climb the greasy pole of Westminster politics as high as she might. Her youthful aspiration to become prime minister was never fulfilled.

Although she was often caricatured as a “bleeding heart liberal”, one striking political feature was her ability to see both sides of an argument. Another was the lack of the necessary ego, ambition and ruthlessness to rise ever further.

And both characteristics made her an enduringly popular figure on the centre-left of British politics.

Greensill: Top civil servant joined firm before quitting

A top civil servant joined financial firm Greensill Capital as an adviser while still working for the government, a lobbying watchdog has revealed.

Bill Crothers’s part-time position had been “agreed” to by the Cabinet Office, the Office of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments added.

Its chairman Lord Pickles complained of a “lack of transparency” over the situation.

But Mr Crothers said he had been taken on by Greensill in a “transparent” way.

Labour called his dual employment “extraordinary and shocking”.

The disclosure about Mr Crothers – who had been the government’s chief procurement officer prior to being taken on by Greensill – is the latest of several stories involving the now-collapsed financial firm.

It employed former prime minister David Cameron as an adviser from 2018.

The Financial Times and the Sunday Times revealed that Mr Cameron had contacted several ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, to push for greater involvement in government loans schemes for the company.

Boris Johnson has set up an inquiry into lobbying – attempts to persuade governments to change policy – including Greensill’s role.

Government sources said this would also now look at the situation surrounding Mr Crothers.

Mr Crothers, who had already left his job as chief procurement officer but remained a Civil Service employee, joined Greensill as an adviser to its board in September 2015.

The letter from Conservative peer Lord Pickles to leading civil servant Alex Chisholm says: “This was agreed by the Cabinet Office under its internal conflicts-of-interest policy.”

Lord Pickles asks for “guidance on the conflicts-of-interest process” undertaken.

The letter adds: “The lack of transparency around this part-time employment with Greensill may have left the misleading impression that Mr Crothers had wilfully ignored the obligation to seek advice.”

Mr Crothers left the Civil Service in November 2015, two months after taking up his role at Greensill. He became a director of the firm in late 2016.

A letter from Mr Crothers to Lord Pickles, a former Conservative Party chairman, written earlier this week, has also been published.

In it, he says: “I am concerned that there may be a view that I did not follow proper process regarding my role with Greensill Capital.

“I assure you that I completely respect the required process and your office, took steps to comply, and believe that I did so.”

He adds: “I was transparent about the move to Greensill Capital, and it was well known at the time.”

The shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said: “This is an extraordinary and shocking revelation.

“The Conservatives have weakened the rules so much they may as well rip them up and start again.”

The government inquiry in to lobbying is expected to report by the end of June, but Labour says it does not go far enough.

It will use an opposition day debate on Wednesday to force a vote on whether to establish a new Commons select committee to investigate the issue.

Unlike regular opposition day votes which are symbolic, this one would be binding if it passes because Parliament would be deciding if it should do something.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said there would be a response to Mr Pickles’s letter “in due course”.

They added that the “review into Greensill Capital and supply-chain finance” would be “wide-ranging”.

Mr Cameron has said he did not break any codes of conduct or rules on lobbying and that he welcomes the investigation launched by Mr Johnson.

Greensill: Whats the lobbying row about?

The government has defeated Labour plans for a parliamentary inquiry into lobbying, amid a row over contacts between politicians, civil servants and the finance firm Greensill Capital.

It follows revelations that former Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to lobby government ministers, on behalf of the company which collapsed in March.

The government has announced a review but Labour says its scope isn’t wide enough.

David Cameron was prime minister from 2010 to 2016.

During this time, he appointed Lex Greensill as an unpaid adviser, and allowed him to develop a policy that would ensure small firms were paid more quickly. Mr Greensill’s company, Greensill Capital, benefited from this scheme.

After leaving office, Mr Cameron went to work for Greensill Capital and tried unsuccessfully to lobby – in other words, to persuade the government – to give the firm more access to government-backed loans.

Mr Cameron had several meetings with government ministers:

Greensill Capital has now gone bust, throwing the future of thousands of workers at Liberty Steel, a company backed by the finance firm, into doubt.

It has announced a review into decisions made in government around Greensill’s finance scheme and the role of Lex Greensill.

It will be headed by government lawyer Nicholas Boardman and will report back to Boris Johnson by the end of June.

Downing Street says the review will look at “how contracts were secured and how business representatives engaged with government”.

Labour has criticised the scope of the review – which is not expected to have any legal powers.

It called for a special cross-party Commons committee to investigate instead. However, the government rejected this in a vote in Parliament.

Mr Cameron refused to comment for weeks but then issued a statement about his involvement with Lex Greensill and Greensill Capital, defending his own actions.

He admits he should have contacted the government “through only the most formal of channels” when lobbying for a financial firm.

But he denies that he broke any codes of conduct or any government rules on lobbying.

The current rules state that “on leaving office, ministers will be prohibited from lobbying government for two years”.

Mr Cameron stood down as prime minister in July 2016 and joined Greensill in August 2018.

Acoba says that all former ministers are required to contact it for advice before accepting new jobs, although they are not obliged to act on its advice.

Mr Cameron’s statement does not say when he first met Lex Greensill – although he says that he was brought into the government in 2011 on the recommendation of the late Lord Jeremy Heywood, one of the most senior civil servants in Whitehall.

A Sunday Times investigation claims many in Whitehall had serious reservations about Mr Greensill, and about the value of his early-payment scheme.

Mr Cameron’s statement does not specify how much he was paid when he went to work for Greensill Capital. He had shares in the company, but he denies claims that he told friends he was set to earn as much as £60m from them.

Nor does Mr Cameron declare whether he lobbied any other ministers.

It has been revealed that a senior civil servant took a part-time job as an adviser at Greensill Capital in 2015, while he was still on the civil service payroll.

Bill Crothers says that his appointment was “agreed” to by the Cabinet Office.

But the body that advises on what civil servants and politicians can and can’t do after they leave government (the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, or Acoba) has complained of a “lack of transparency” over Mr Crothers’ case.

Questions had been asked before about the sustainability of Greensill’s business since at least 2018.

But the final blow came last July, when one of its insurance companies withdrew cover that protected some of Greensill’s investors.

Liberty Steel, Britain’s third-largest steel producer, employing 3,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales, was receiving financial backing from Greensill.

Its future is now in doubt.

Holyrood bills to be challenged by UK government

The UK government is to challenge parts of two bills passed by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs unanimously approved the bills relating to children’s rights and local government last month.

But UK ministers are concerned the legislation could place obligations on them and, if so, would be beyond the scope of Holyrood’s devolved powers.

The UK government is referring both to the UK Supreme Court for a ruling.

It means they will not receive royal assent, which allows them to become laws, until the UK’s highest court has considered the challenge.

One of the bills incorporates the European Charter of Local Self-Government into Scots law, while the other seeks to incorporate the incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

After every bill is passed by the Scottish Parliament there is a four-week period where the UK government can consider whether to use powers in the Scotland Act 1998 to challenge the planned law.

Nicola Sturgeon has described the challenge as “jaw dropping”.

In a tweet, the first minister added: “The UK Tory government is going to court to challenge a law passed by the Scottish Parliament unanimously.

“And for what? To protect their ability to legislate/act in ways that breach children’s rights in Scotland.

“Politically catastrophic, but also morally repugnant.”

But a UK government source said: “This delay to the legislation could easily have been avoided.

“Sadly, it appears the Scottish government are more interested in stirring a constitutional row than getting the UNCRC bill into law at the first opportunity.”

A UK government spokesman said: “The UK government law officers’ concerns are not about the substance of the legislation, rather whether parts are outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.”

To challenge the scope of Holyrood’s law-making powers in the middle of an election campaign is a politically explosive decision by the UK government.

The timing was not entirely in their gift because the Scottish Parliament’s decision to pass the two bills last month created a four-week window for them to consider action.

One UK government source told me the legal challenge was “regrettable” but “avoidable” if the Scottish government had listened to their concerns and made some changes.

The UK government insists it has no objection to the policy content of the bills, only to their potential to limit UK decision making in Scotland – which would be beyond Holyrood’s powers.

An SNP source said changes were not required because the bills had passed the scrutiny of both Scottish government and Scottish Parliament lawyers.

Each side accuses the other of picking this fight. It will now be for the UK Supreme Court to settle – a process that will put the legislation on hold and fuel the constitutional debate in the Holyrood election campaign.

Greensill: The questions still facing David Cameron

David Cameron broke his silence on Sunday to release a statement on the lobbying controversy swirling around him – but the former prime minister’s critics say he still has questions to answer.

The representations he made to ministers and officials on behalf of failed finance firm Greensill Capital are now to be investigated as part of a government review.

It was on Friday, 19 March – more than three weeks ago – that the Financial Times first reported on businessman Lex Greensill, the former prime minister – and access to the current government.

Since then, via the FT and the Sunday Times, Labour and some disclosures by those under intense scrutiny to explain their actions, a growing picture has begun to emerge.

But before we plunge into the detail, why does any of this matter?

Forget the individuals concerned; forget what the rules are.

Over the years, the decades, the names change, the parties in government change, the regulations change.

In the end, one question stands above the others: Does it pass the sniff test? Does it feel right?

Mr Cameron clearly believes it doesn’t, as he admits in his statement: “As a former prime minister, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.”

Here’s what you need to know before we start.

When David Cameron was prime minister, Lex Greensill, an Australian banker, became an adviser in Downing Street.

Two years after Mr Cameron left No 10 in 2016, Mr Greensill hired him as an adviser. The relationship, reversed.

And what marketable assets do former politicians have? They know how government works. And they know who works in government.

So they are often hired as lobbyists – people who attempt to influence the government.

Lobbying, by individuals, businesses, charities and trade unions, is part of the normal functioning of a democracy.

But can you pay for better access, by hiring those with great contacts? The clear evidence is you can. And so how transparent is this?

How many people can text the chancellor and a get reply?

Mr Cameron can, and Mr Cameron did.

How many can go for a “private drink” with the health secretary?

Mr Cameron can, and Mr Cameron did.

Every time further revelations about this ex-prime minister’s quiet words and a private drink have emerged, we’ve asked for an interview with him.

Every time, he has said no.

Then on Sunday evening, out of the blue, Mr Cameron released a lengthy statement to the Press Association news agency.

Minutes earlier, I had put the finishing touches to a list of questions I would ask Mr Cameron if he ever agreed to sit down in a front of a camera.

This piece was instantly rendered obsolete by the statement. Such is the journalist’s lot.

But how many of my hypothetical questions did he answer?

Mr Cameron does not specify a date for their first meeting in his statement.

Mr Cameron says it was the late Lord Jeremy Heywood, at the time the most powerful man in Whitehall, who brought Mr Greensill into government in 2011.

“In bringing him in, Jeremy was acting in good faith to solve a real problem – how to ensure companies in supply chains, particularly SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises], could access low cost credit,” says the former PM.

He does not address this.

Mr Cameron says: “The false impression has been created that Lex Greensill was a close member of my team, meeting with me on a regular basis. The truth is, I had very little to do with Lex Greensill at this stage – as I recall, I met him twice at most in the entirety of my time as prime minister.”

Mr Cameron does not give a specific day and date in his statement, but says: “The idea of my working for Greensill was never raised, or considered by me, until well after I left office. I took up the position as a part-time senior adviser to Greensill Capital in August 2018.”

“I was not a director of the company, and was not involved in the oversight of management, or the day-to-day running of the business. I was contracted to work for the company for 25 days per year,” says Mr Cameron.

Mr Cameron owns up to making “representations” to government ministers on behalf of his employer, Greensill, which fits most people’s definition of lobbying, but he does not use the term “lobbying” in the statement.

He says: “My responsibilities included providing geopolitical advice to the leadership, helping to win new business, speaking for the company at conferences and events, and helping with plans for international expansion.

“As part of my work, I assisted with presentations made by the company overseas, including in the US, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and the Gulf. While visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in January 2020 to advise on their forthcoming chairmanship of the G20, I also – with Lex Greensill – met with a range of business and political leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

The former PM does not reveal his salary.

He does not say how much his shares would have been worth, had Greensill not collapsed. But he does hit back at press reports suggesting he had told friends they could be worth as much as £60m.

He says: “My remuneration was partly in the form of a grant of shares. Their value was nowhere near the amount speculated in the press.”

Nothing on this in the statement.

Mr Cameron insists he complied with all the rules and codes of conduct on lobbying, in his contacts with Rishi Sunak – and that his interventions did not succeed in changing government policy.

But he adds: “I have reflected on this at length. There are important lessons to be learnt. As a former prime minister, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.”

Nothing in the statement on this.

In the wake of a string of lobbying scandals, the recently-elected David Cameron announced plans for a crackdown on lobbying. In 2010, he famously declared that the “far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money” had “tainted our politics for too long”. He does not revisit this warning in his statement.

This is far from an exhaustive list of questions.

Labour is calling on the former prime minister to face a grilling from MPs, who will have their own lines of inquiry.

But the fact that the government has now launched an investigation into the affair may mean Mr Cameron’s statement is the last we will hear from him on the subject for a while.

The government inquiry, headed by lawyer Nigel Boardman, is not expected delve into the rules governing lobbying.

Some, such as Labour former prime minister Gordon Brown, say former prime ministers shouldn’t lobby for commercial purposes.

Mr Brown has suggested lengthening the current two-year period former ministers have to wait before they can start lobbying (Mr Cameron waited two years so he did not break that rule).

Is it possible to regulate away personal relationships and contacts?

Lobbying within the rules is perfectly legal, and a half-decent lobbyist will aim to further the aims of their employer, within the rules, by making the most of their contacts.

And so there are questions for far more people than just Mr Cameron:

Former Norwich North MP Ian Gibson dies aged 82

Tributes have been paid to former MP Dr Ian Gibson, who died aged 82 on Friday.

Dr Gibson represented the Norwich North constituency for Labour from 1997 to 2009.

Former colleague and ex-cabinet minister Charles Clarke said he would be “much missed”.

Current Labour MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis, said: “He was admired for his humour, cutting wit, but also his steadfast political conviction as a socialist.”

Mr Lewis said he left behind “a legacy of someone always prepared to speak up for our city and those without a voice”.

Mike Stonard, president of Norwich Labour Party, said his friend was a “tenacious, committed campaigner and consistent advocate for his constituents”.

Dr Gibson’s career as an MP came to an end in 2009 following controversy over his expenses.

Mr Clarke, who served as Norwich South MP from 1997 until 2010, said Mr Gibson “brought to politics a real understanding of science and its contribution to our civilisation.”

Dr Gibson was dean of biology at the University of East Anglia before his first election in 1997.

He used his scientific knowledge to good effect with contributions to debates on medical and biological matters, such as on Gulf War Syndrome, which he urged the government to recognise.

His expertise was rewarded with a place on the Commons’ Science and Technology Select Committee, and in 2001 MPs defied the whips’ choice to elect him as its chairman.

Dr Gibson was forced to leave the Labour Party after the expenses scandal.

He was said to have claimed for a flat which one of his daughters lived in rent-free with her partner.

The Labour Party panel investigating the claims was described as a “kangaroo court” by the then Norwich party chairman.

Retiring from politics, Dr Gibson, who was originally from Dumfries, continued to live in Norwich.

A passionate campaigner for causes he believed in, he was also well known for his love of football and Norwich City.

He had flirted with professional football while at university in Edinburgh and after his move to Norfolk, he played for Wymondham Town and later served as as the non-league club’s president.

In later life he became a member of the Norwich theatre group, The Common Lot.

Tributes to Dr Gibson have come from across the political spectrum.

On Twitter, Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton, said: “I join with so many others in mourning the death of Dr Ian Gibson. He was a true champion of Norwich, a forceful and passionate campaigner, and he will be greatly missed by so many of us.”

Compared with many of his contemporaries, Dr Ian Gibson was not an MP for very long, but in the 12 years that he represented Norwich North he stood out as a strong-willed politician who cared passionately for his constituency.

Whether fighting for under-privileged people, arguing for more science funding, or campaigning against university tuition fees, he always came across as someone who knew his stuff and genuinely cared. He argued succinctly and with humour. When he spoke in Parliament, MPs would listen, and ministers would take his calls.

His stance on issues like tuition fees often put him at odds with the then Labour government, much to the frustration of his friend, neighbour and cabinet minister Charles Clarke who would often plead with him, in vain, to toe the party line.

It was one reason why he had little support from the party leadership when he became embroiled in the expenses scandal.

But even after his resignation, he continued to support local causes and environmental issues. He briefly flirted with the Greens.

He became disillusioned with Labour under Jeremy Corbyn saying he lacked “leadership and style”.

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