Tag Archives: David Cameron

UK: David Cameron ‘must answer for Russian oligarchs’ donations’


Ed Miliband particularly questions £160,000 donation Tories accepted from wife of former Russian finance minister.

, political correspondent
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, made his comments on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1. Photograph: BBC/ReutersThe Labour leader, Ed Miliband, made his comments on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1. Photograph: BBC/Reuters

David Cameron has questions to answer over the money he is taking from Russian oligarchs, Ed Miliband has said.

The Labour leader particularly questioned the £160,000 donation the Conservatives accepted from the wife of a former Russian finance minister, who won an auction offering the chance to play tennis with Cameron and the London mayor, Boris Johnson.

Over the past week, the Tories have been under scrutiny over donations from people linked to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The US and EU have imposed sanctions in reaction to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine.

Figures from the Electoral Commission show that the Conservatives have banked more than £161,000 from people with links to the Kremlin, and Labour has calculated that the Tories have received almost £1m from Russians in general.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, Miliband said the money should be returned.

“David Cameron does have questions to answer on the money that he’s taking from Russian oligarchs, on the bidding for a tennis match, all of that stuff. Frankly, he can’t stand up one minute and say that ‘this is the biggest issue and we’re going to take the right action’. He’s got to really look very, very carefully at who he is getting money from.”

Labour has called for Cameron to cancel his tennis match with Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of Vladamir Chernukhin, who was Putin’s deputy finance minister in 2000. She won the auction last month, but some MPs, both Labour and Conservative, have questioned whether the prime minister should accept the money while attacking the Kremlin over the Ukraine crisis. Cameron has told parliament that if Putin “does not change his approach to Ukraine … then Europe and the west must fundamentally change our approach to Russia”. A Tory spokesman said last week that no date had been set for the match but that “all donations are transparent and permissible under the rules set out by the Electoral Commission”.

Miliband also criticised the reaction of the EU to the Ukrainian situation, saying national leaders need to get more involved in discussions about sanctions against Russia. The UK has been pushing for tougher penalties against Russian business sectors, such as banking, defence and energy, but so far the sanctions have been limited to individuals and firms specifically linked to Putin and his government.

“We need action. We need a European Council,” Miliband said. “The heads of government of Europe should be meeting, they shouldn’t have been leaving it to foreign ministers. We need to raise the sanctions on Russia, on individual corporations that have been part of what happened around the big decisions that have been made. We need action on this.”

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, joined calls on Sunday for Russia to face the axe as hosts of the 2018 World Cup as part of tougher sanctions over the shooting down of flight MH17.

The Guardian.

Nick Clegg says Russia should not host World Cup 2018


Fifa has ruled out calls for boycott after the shooting down of MH17, insisting the tournament could be ‘a force for good’.

Nick Clegg believes it would be 'unthinkable' for the World Cup 2018 tournament to go ahead in Russia. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesNick Clegg believes it would be ‘unthinkable’ for the World Cup 2018 tournament to go ahead in Russia. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Nick Clegg has joined calls for Russia to face the axe as hosts of the 2018 World Cup as part of tougher sanctions over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The deputy prime minister said it was “unthinkable” at present that the tournament could go ahead in the country blamed by the west for supplying arms to the separatist rebels accused of causing the deaths of all 298 on board.

Football’s world governing body Fifa this week ruled out calls from some German politicians for Russia to be boycotted, insisting the tournament could be “a force for good“.

But Clegg told the Sunday Times that allowing it to go ahead without a change of course by president Vladimir Putin would make the world look “so weak and so insincere” in its condemnation of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for the rebels.

The EU has added another 15 individuals and 18 entities to the list of those subject to asset freezes and ambassadors in Brussels are expected to extend the punitive actions to state-owned banks’ access to capital markets and to the arms and energy sectors.

Clegg said however that sporting events should also be part of the package of measures – including the cancellation of Russia’s first F1 Grand Prix, which is due to take place in Sochi in October.

“Vladimir Putin himself has to understand that he can’t have his cake and eat it,” he said.

“He can’t constantly, you know, push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point, destabilise a neighbouring country, protect these armed separatists in the east of Ukraine and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup.

“That’s why I’ve come to the view that if he doesn’t change course it’s just not on, the idea that Russia will host the World Cup in 2018.

“You can’t have this – the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

“Not only would Vladimir Putin exploit it, I think it would make the rest of the world look so weak and so insincere about our protestations about Vladimir Putin’s behaviour if we’re not prepared to pull the plug.

He said that despite F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s insistence that there was no case for abandoning the Grand Prix, “the question marks I’m raising will only increase over the next coming weeks and months, over the summer and up to the Grand Prix, about Russia’s entitlement to host these major events.

“Vladimir Putin is a past master at attending these sporting events and, sort of, pretending almost as if everything’s utterly normal and nothing untoward is happening around him.

“And if anyone needed any reminding of how dangerous this conflict is in the heart of Europe, just ask any of the family and relatives of those loved ones they lost in that plane incident last week.”

Clegg said the threat of withdrawing the World Cup would be “a very potent political and symbolic sanction”.

“If there’s one thing that Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it’s his sense of status.

“Maybe reminding him that you can’t retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking.”

He did not rule out the UK as an alternative host given its recent history of putting on successful global sporting events.

“We’ve got the stadiums, we’ve got the infrastructure, and we’ve got the public backing and enthusiasm to host it,” he said.

“That’s a decision for other people. But I’m not saying this just as a, sort of, British land grab to snatch the World Cup from under Vladimir Putin’s nose.”

He joined David Cameron’s criticism of the French deal to supply warships to Russia, saying it would be “wholly inappropriate” for it to proceed in the present circumstances.

“Whilst I can entirely understand that the French may have entered into that contract with the Russians in entirely different circumstances, it is wholly inappropriate to go ahead with that now,” he said.

“And as you know, the Prime Minister has reviewed the outstanding licenses that we have got to make sure that we deliver what we unilaterally announced back in March, which was that there would be no exports from Britain of arms products which could in any way fuel or fan the flames of the conflict in Ukraine.”

He said he had been assured by business secretary Vince Cable that “great care” was taken to check the remaining licences.

Clegg predicted that any adverse effects on EU member states of tougher economic sanctions against Russia would be “probably not very significant” and urged all countries to consider the wider benefit.

“We are now moving, I think, towards a situation – and both the prime minister and I would be united in this – in saying to other European Union leaders, look, even if this incurs short-term political damage to this economy or that economy, this sector or that sector, there is something bigger at stake here and it is the stability of the European continent.”

Clegg said the furore over the £160,000 paid in a Tory fundraising auction by the wife of a Russian oligarch who was a minister in Putin’s first government for a game of tennis with Cameron and Boris Johnson mostly demonstrated the need for reform of political party funding.

“They need to make their own judgments,” he said, when asked if his coalition partners should meet Labour demands to repay the money.

“But all parties … continue to be damaged because of the haphazard way which we have to go around fund raising,” he added – calling on both main parties to stop blocking reform.

The Guardian.

Britain must speak up for democrats in Hong Kong


Originally posted on Cut to the Chase - Noah Sin's Blog:

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Published on Independent Voices on 1st July 2014. An edited version was published in print in the iPaper on 2nd July 2014. Also published in The Gulf Today on 3rd July 2014.

Tens of thousands of protesters have braved blistering heat and then pouring rain this week to take to the streets of Hong Kong. Their mission: to secure democracy for a city of seven million people.

This is a city left behind. Ever since the former colony’s return to China, Hong Kong has been characterised as the last page of an era that belongs to the history books – the era of empire. Most Britons are ignorant of the fact that Britain – the signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration – remains legally liable to the implementation of the handover, including the protection of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

This is a people let down. When Margaret Thatcher bowed to…

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UK: Arms export licences for Russia still in place despite claims of arms embargo


David Cameron told MPs on Monday: 'Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.' Photograph: Pool/ReutersDavid Cameron told MPs on Monday: ‘Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.’ Photograph: Pool/Reuters

More than 200 licences to sell British weapons to Russia, including missile-launching equipment, are still in place despite David Cameron’s claim in the Commons on Monday that the government had imposed an absolute arms embargo against the country, according to a report by a cross-party group of MPs released on Wednesday.

A large number of British weapons and military components which the MPs say are still approved for Russia are contained in a hard-hitting report by four Commons committees scrutinising arms export controls.

Existing arms export licences for Russia cover equipment for launching and controlling missiles, components for military helicopters and surface-launched rockets, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles, body armour, and military communications equipment, the committee says. They also include licences for night sites for weapons, components for operating military aircraft in confined spaces, and surface-to-surface missiles.

The MPs demand tighter controls on weapons sales to authoritarian regimes, saying that more than 3,000 export licences for arms worth £12bn were approved for 28 countries cited by the Foreign Office for their poor human rights records. They include Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.

Sir John Stanley, former Conservative defence secretary and chairman of the Commons arms control committees, said there was evidence that appeared to directly contradict the prime minister’s claim that he had already stopped all arms exports to Russia.

Stanley told the Guardian that the prime minister’s statement appeared to be a “major policy change”.

Stanley had already written to Philip Hammond, the new foreign secretary, asking him to explain why, according to official figures given to the MPs, of 285 current licences for Russia, only 34 had been suspended or revoked.

They cover items worth at least £132m but almost certainly significantly more since equipment approved by “open licences” is not counted individually.

Stanley referred to a carefully-worded statement to the Commons by William Hague on 18 March, when the then foreign secretary said the UK would immediately suspend licences just for items “destined for units of the Russian armed forces or other state agencies which could be or are being deployed against Ukraine”.

In the Commons on Monday Cameron told MPs: “Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.”

The prime minister added: “On the issue of defence equipment, we already unilaterally said – as did the US – that we would not sell further arms to Russia; we believe other European countries should do the same.”

These statements are at odds with the information given to MPs on his committees, Stanley made clear.

The MPs also say the government “would do well to acknowledge that there is an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights”.

It asks the government to explain why it has approved arms exports to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories including for “anti-riot/ballistic shields”, components for combat vehicles, small arms, sniper rifles, and military communications equipment.

The MPs say they have been unable to complete a report of its detailed scrutiny of government policy since 2004 on the export to Syria of dual-use chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

They say the government has refused to disclose the names of the companies to whom export licences were granted unless the MPs undertook to take evidence from the companies in private.

They describe the Labour government’s decision to approve five export licences to Syria for chemicals which could be used for weapons between July 2004 and May 2010 as “highly questionable”. The decision of the coalition government to approve two export licences for dual-use chemicals to Syria in January 2012 after the civil war had started in Syria in 2011 “was irresponsible”, the report adds.

It says the most significant change in the government’s policy on arms exports over the past year is the dropping of the wording in the arms sales criteria that: “An export licence will not be issued if the arguments for doing so are outweighed … by concern that the goods might be used for internal repression”.

That wording “represents an important safeguard against UK arms exports being used for internal repression” and should be reinstated, the MPs say.

The government “should apply significantly more cautious judgments when considering arms export licence applications for goods to authoritarian regimes which might be used for internal repression”, the report by the four Commons committees concerned with arms exports – business, defence, foreign affairs and international development – concludes.

On Tuesday night a UK government spokesperson said: “This government has never exported missiles or missile parts to the Russian military. The UK has granted an export licence for the Brazilian navy which enables their vessels to be repaired in 23 countries around the world, including Russia. This covers a wide range of equipment, including components for navy vessel missile launchers but these are exclusively for use by the Brazilian navy and not by Russian forces.”

The spokesperson added: “In March the former foreign secretary announced the suspension of all export licences to the Russian armed forces for any equipment that could be used against Ukraine. This report covers exports in 2013 before the suspension was in place. The majority of export licences that remain in place for Russia are for commercial use but we are keeping all licences under review.”

The spokesperson continued: “We will not a grant a licence where there is a clear risk the equipment might be used for internal repression.”

The Guardian.

Fracking Britain: without debate, the Government imposes its ‘right to rule’


Anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss - but as far as the Government is concerned, dissent is unimportant. Photo: Manchester Friends of the Earth via Flickr.Anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss – but as far as the Government is concerned, dissent is unimportant. Photo: Manchester Friends of the Earth via Flickr.

The UK Government’s policy is to frack at all costs, against public opinion and compelling evidence of environmental damage and poor returns, writes Paul Mobbs – a timely reminder that as far as the Government is concerned, it has a God-given right to rule over us, no matter what we think or want.

I’m sitting in the café at St. Mary’s Church, Putney . When travelling to London there are a few non-corporate cafés I frequent. Normally Friends House, or few places on the edge of central London.

On my recent travels through London I’ve been trying to get here as it’s a nice place to sit and ponder – with its own unique and prophetic story to tell.

For the past three days I’ve been at the Frack Free South Wales gathering. In Wales I met a lot of people who, just a few months ago, didn’t know about ‘fracking’ and the Government’s project to carve-up the country for hydrocarbons exploration.

Despite an uncooperative and often indifferent mainstream media, we’ve got the message across at the grassroots.

Many more people now know there’s a problem with unconventional energy sources; and that there will be no public debate on its implementation or its impacts upon health and the climate.

Now I’m trying to get people, especially the ‘fractivists’ carrying the movement, to focus on ‘what comes next’ – to be proactive instead of reactive.

What happens next?

The Government’s strongly anti-environmental / pro-fossil fuels agenda has been coming for some time. As I’ve been talking about for a year or so, we just have to trace the influences on policy to see where it’s come from and where it’s heading.

It started with David Cameron’s recruitment of the Australian lobbyist Lynton Crosby – the architect of Cameron’s new policy to “get rid of the green crap”. That grew into a set of policies which made the environment expendable in order to maintain, forlornly, the great mantra of ‘growth’.

To learn more, there are many parallels with the dismantling the ‘green agenda’ in Australia, and also Canada. [update - the day after writing this happened]

What I’ve tried to get people to understand is that we’ve been here before – where social movements sought to oppose a seemingly insurmountable political agenda.

If we want to understand ‘what happens next’ there are two relatively recent examples we can learn from.

The GMO lesson

Firstly, the campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops, the response of the agribusiness lobby, and how that influenced Government policy.

In 1996 I got a list of the sites across Britain where genetically modified crops were being tested from the Health and Safety Executive – and put it on my web site.

A short while later, spontaneously, people started to pull up the crops. One of the groups I subsequently became involved with was genetiX snowball, which drew many influences from the peace movement.

genetiX snowball was a great campaign… Then came the civil injunctions from the High Court. Continue reading