MP cleared of sexual harassment charges

  • By 0016811658
  • 12 Dec, 2017

Panel completes investigation following recent allegations

A former shadow cabinet minister – who found himself accused of sexual harassment – has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis was among a number of Parliamentarians to have been caught up in allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

In the case of Mr Lewis, a party supporter alleged last month they had been groped during an event which took place during Labour’s conference in Brighton during the autumn.

The MP, who had quit the frontbench earlier this year ahead of an EU vote, had always denied the allegations made against him.

“I am very pleased to be able to put this behind me and move on,” he said.

“I believe it right and proper that the Labour Party treats all allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct seriously.

“I want to express my gratitude to my wife, friends and constituents who have supported me during recent weeks.”

In a statement this week, a Labour Party spokesman said: “After consideration of statements provided by the complainant and the respondent, the National Executive Committee's sexual harassment panel has ruled that on the balance of the evidence the matter should not be referred to a full hearing of the National Constitutional Committee.”

Investigations into the conduct of a number of other MPs are ongoing. In light of the fact that several allegations are said to relate to Parliamentary staff, it has been suggested that Parliament’s employment model may need to be reviewed to provide better protection for employees.

Bowsers

By 0016811658 19 Jan, 2018

Housing developers building new homes near music venues will be responsible for addressing noise issues under new government proposals.

The Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “unfair” that the burden is on long-standing music venues to solve disputes.

According to the plans, developers will be responsible for identifying and solving any sound problems if granted permission to build, and avoid music venues, community and sports club and churches “running into expensive issues as a result of complaints from new neighbours”.

The news comes after reports that independent music venues were being asked to pay for changes to noise volume or shut down.

The National Planning Policy Framework will now be amended to include the “Agent of Change” principle.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Music venues play a vital role in our communities, bringing people together and contributing to the local economy and supporting the country’s grass roots music culture.

“I have always thought it unfair that the burden is on long-standing music venues to solve noise issues when property developers choose to build nearby.

“That’s why I consulted on this in February last year as part of the housing white paper. I am pleased to finally have an opportunity to right this wrong and also give more peace of mind to new residents moving into local properties.”

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, added: “I am thrilled strengthened planning rules will ensure grassroots music venues are protected when new housing is built. These venues give emerging artists a platform to hone their craft, connect to their audience and get discovered.”

By 0016811658 18 Jan, 2018

British families are being urged to steer clear of unregulated advice in relation to Inheritance Tax (IHT) and care home fees, amid concerns that non-professional advisers are increasingly encouraging Britons to partake in ‘risky’ schemes.

A report in The Telegraph suggests that unregulated advisers will often skip over the finer details of these complex matters in “high pressure” seminars geared towards getting individuals to place their family homes into a trust for a hefty fee.

Arrangements that place residential properties into a trust upon the death of a homeowner are indeed common in the UK.

However, such arrangements are usually drawn-up after death, as opposed to during an individual’s lifetime, experts are warning.

Despite this, unregulated advisers are reportedly targeting people who wish to protect their wealth by promising that placing their property into such a trust will prevent them from having to pay care fees later in life.

This sounds like an attractive prospect – particularly as average nursing home fees in the UK currently exceed £1,000 a week.

However, legal experts are rightly warning that attempts to avoid care fees through the means encouraged could be against the law – and may land individuals who have been duped in trouble with their local council.

Worse still, in many cases, Britons are being charged “extortionate fees” for the privilege of getting involved with such risky schemes – which may not always work – financial advisor Louise Morris, Director at AV Trinity, has warned.

Reports suggest that unregulated advisers and Will-writing firms have also been pushing IHT avoidance schemes – even in cases where there is little chance that a victim’s estate will exceed the £325,000 tax-free threshold or ‘nil rate band’ above which IHT needs to be paid.

Britons are being urged to be extra-cautious and to only approach licensed, regulated solicitors when seeking advice in relation to care home fees, IHT and estate planning.

By 0016811658 17 Jan, 2018

Landlords who own four or more mortgaged properties are still keen to expand their property portfolios, despite significant regulatory changes introduced in September last year.

According to research from mortgage lender Accord, demand for buy-to-let mortgages was strong throughout the course of 2017 – and 32 per cent of all applications came from so-called ‘portfolio landlords’.

“We have seen a significant demand for buy-to-let mortgages from both experienced and first-time landlords this year,” said Chris Maggs, Commercial Manager at Accord.

“2017 was a year of remortgaging for landlords who reaped the benefit of some exceptional mortgage rates, and 2018 is likely to be no different,” he said.

This is despite the fact that significant changes to the mortgage application process now require portfolio landlords to prepare substantial tax and administrative information in relation to their property portfolio before they can get another mortgage.

In September 2017, the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) phased in new rules which require mortgage lenders to thoroughly assess their rental income – and to perform ‘stress tests’ to determine how they would handle a potential interest rate increase.

Before these can be undertaken, landlords need to supply detailed tax and financial information, which they must take great care in preparing, as any errors noted by the lender may result in a rejection of their mortgage application.

Nevertheless, Accord has suggested that the new changes have not deterred investment in the market – as many savvy landlords are wisely seeking specialist advice ahead of time.

By 0016811658 16 Jan, 2018

It was revealed this week that a major training provider managed to secure a super-injunction which prevented inspectors from passing a damning report to the Government.

The press reported that Learndirect had managed to prevent the assessment, which was critical of its practices, being published for a four month period.

The revelation came when Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of education watchdog Ofsted, was invited to give evidence to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

She said: “An application was made for an injunction before the election period was up and the court, somewhat bizarrely and without reference to us, granted a super-injunction which made it impossible for any discussion whatever to happen even between us and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

“Why it was granted was baffling. From that application, which was made before the election, through until the judgment was handed down, no part of government could talk to the other part of government about the situation, nor would they have been able to discuss with third parties the handling, because it was not possible to discuss this pending judgment.”

Ms Spielman’s evidence was described as “staggering” by Labour backbencher Meg Hillier, who chairs the influential group of MPs.

Speaking to FE Week following the PAC hearing, Ms Hillier said: “I think we got some shocking revelations today and the description of how the super injunction was used and the fact that the company thought it was acceptable to have an argument with Ofsted like that is shocking.

“I think there are wider issues here about how when you have private sector companies where profit really is the main driver that they will do all sorts of things that would not be acceptable in the public sector like take out super injunctions, like trying to delay inspections, in order to prop up their profits.”

Andy Palmer, the chief executive of Learndirect, said he disagreed that taxpayers’ money had been wasted.

“What we asked for was that the report was not published. I don’t recall asking for such an injunction so as such the departments couldn’t talk to each other about the case,” he said. “I think this was justified because any publication of the report would damage the company.”


By 0016811658 15 Jan, 2018

A female officer has successfully argued that the procedures several police forces were using to recruit dog handlers discriminated against women.

WPC Kim-Louise Carter has won a £15,000 pay-out for indirect sex discrimination after failing the fitness test which formed part of the selection process.

The gruelling exercise involved a 10 mile run, having to carry the canine over an obstacle course and then sprinting another 100 yards.

The Employment Tribunal proceedings initiated by WPC Carter heard that three police forces in England had incorporated this same test into their recruitment process. They argued that it had been designed to replicate the difficult pursuits that successful applicants may encounter as part of their day-to-day job.

However, figures indicated that it resulted in far more male candidates being selected for dog-handling roles in the areas of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon & Somerset. In Gloucestershire, the force where WPC Carter is a serving officer, just four of the 48 dog handlers are female.

The 31-year-old, who was withdrawn from the test and admitted her legs had “felt like jelly” during the exercise, suggested that men had a natural advantage because of their different levels of strength and stamina.

Judge Martha Street, who considered the claim, has ordered all three constabularies to review the exam procedure. Although there is a possibility that the ruling could have wider implications, extending to all forces where similar issues have been raised about whether rigorous fitness tests are discriminating against women applying for certain roles.

“Where a standard test had negative impacts on members of a protected group, here women, then it either needs to be changed or objectively justified,” she said.

A spokesman for  Gloucestershire Police  said the three forces concerned were now reviewing the Tribunal’s recommendations.

By 0016811658 12 Jan, 2018

A landlord has been fined more than £70,000 after failing to protect a number of tenants, it has been reported .

The health and safety fine is one the largest seen in Luton, where the sanctions were handed down.

The Court heard how landlord Alyas Hussain packed tenants into his property despite the significant risk of danger. The house was shown to have a lack of fire doors and fire detectors, as well as obstructions to stairs and exits.

Investigators also found unfinished electric works and exposed wires hanging from ceilings. The gas meter was also capped after a leak was found.

Handing down the fine, the court said: “It is clear to us that these offences are motivated by profit without any recourse to regulations or court processes. The defendant has 2 properties not subject to mortgage and received rent from the HMO in excess of £19,000”

Councillor Tom Shaw, Portfolio Holder for housing, said: “We will not tolerate landlords who rent properties which fail to meet standards. The Council has a commitment to ensure that private landlords in Luton do not take financial advantage of vulnerable tenants and put their lives at risk.

“We will not hesitate to prosecute landlords who show a disregard for the law and their responsibilities towards occupants.”
By 0016811658 11 Jan, 2018

A London-based salesman who challenged his employer at an Employment Tribunal has lost his claims of racial and disability discrimination.

Mr David Evans, who worked at the London branch of US-based tech firm Xactly for several years, told an Employment Tribunal that he was a victim of workplace bullying and racial abuse.

He said that senior colleagues at Xactly would regularly hurl derogatory remarks and racial slurs at him in the workplace, referring to him as “a fat ginger pikey” and more.

The 34-year-old, who has a background in the travelling community, said that many of the remarks made about him – particularly those made by Regional Sales Manager Kevin Henderson – were racist.

He added that various comments made about his weight also amounted to disability discrimination, due to the fact he suffers from a thyroid condition.

Mr Evans described the workplace environment at Xactly’s London office as “one of beer, drinking, infighting, strip clubs and gambling.”

In response, officials representing the company told the Tribunal that Mr Evans had joined in with their “banter” on numerous occasions and had not previously raised any concerns.

Upon examining the claims, the Employment Tribunal found that Mr Evans was not a victim of harassment, as he did not issue any formal complaints about his bosses’ behaviour at the time and was unable to demonstrate a clear link between his illness and his weight gain.

A panel of Judges presiding over the case also found that Mr Evans’ colleagues were unaware that he had links with the traveller community.

Commenting on the case, Judge Joanna Wade, said: “By far the worst allegation is Mr Henderson's ‘fat ginger pikey’ comment. This could have been harassment, but having looked at the context we conclude that it was not.

“The loose connection between the claimant and travellers makes it very unlikely that the comment was intended to upset him and indeed he agrees that Kevin Henderson would not have had that intention.”

“All the indications are that the claimant was not upset [by any of the comments] at the time.”

By 0016811658 10 Jan, 2018

New industry forecasts suggest that transaction volumes in the UK commercial property market will remain above £50 billion for the sixth consecutive year in 2018.

According to leading property body Colliers International, total transaction volumes rose to an impressive £55 billion last year, as investment opportunities in London and further afield continued to attract overseas buyers.

The group says that industrial assets, high-rise office spaces and mixed-use developments have all performed well in recent years – a trend which it believes will continue this year.

Tony Horrell, UK CEO at the group, said that the greater certainty expected to come from Brexit negotiations this year will improve business and investor confidence, inadvertently increasing demand for commercial real estate from both domestic and overseas investors.

“With sterling likely to remain competitive against the US dollar, further new entrants, particularly from Asia, are expected to enter the UK market, attracted by buy-side currency plays,” he said.

“London will continue to benefit from the stock of large lot-size trophy assets, while the growth in UK and pan-European specialist platforms will also attract major institutional, private equity and sovereign wealth investors.”

He added that many investors would be looking for “scale” as they seek to broaden their portfolios all across the country.

By 0016811658 09 Jan, 2018

A City trader whose husband was originally handed half their £5.45million fortune has called for divorce laws to be changed to better reflect the realities of modern-day relationships.

Julie Arnold, a successful businesswoman, has been involved in a landmark legal battle, having challenged the settlement previously made to her husband.

The marriage had come to an end after less than four years, following allegations that Ms Arnold’s then spouse, Robin Sharp, had been unfaithful. A 50:50 settlement was subsequently agreed by the High Court last June.

This week, the Court of Appeal agreed that the size of the pay-out was “intrinsically unfair” and the sum that Mr Sharp will receive was reduced to £2million. This will comprise of the couple £1.1million home and a £900,000 cash sum.

Lord Justice MacFarlane, who had been asked to review the case, had argued that a departure from the principle of an equal division of assets could be justified in this particular case. Notably, the husband and wife had kept their assets separate after marrying and had no children together.

Ms Arnold believes that current legislation has failed to keep pace with changing times, arguing that couples are marrying later in life and remaining together for shorter periods of time compared to when the laws were original drafted.

“Matrimonial law relies on a 1973 Act and distributes wealth based on case law involving a couple who married in 1961 and stayed together for 30 years,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

 “Our life is different now and there will be more and more couples who divorce after shorter marriages before they have children.”

By 0016811658 08 Jan, 2018


A senior BBC journalist has given up her role as the broadcaster’s China editor, citing concerns about the corporation’s gender pay gap.

Carrie Gracie, who took the position several years ago, described the pay culture at her employer as “secretive and illegal”.

Over the weekend it was confirmed that she had quit her role at the BBC’s Beijing bureau last week, although she will not leave the broadcaster altogether, instead resuming her old role in the TV newsroom.

Her dramatic resignation is likely to lead to renewed emphasis on the disparity between what men and woman earn.

While this has been identified as an issue at many large employers, the BBC came under particular scrutiny after being forced to divulge pay brackets for individual stars last year.

Analysis showed that two thirds of the broadcaster’s highest earners were men.

“Salary disclosures the BBC was forced to make six months ago revealed not only unacceptably high pay for top presenters and managers but also an indefensible pay gap between men and women doing equal work,” said Ms Gracie, in a letter posted on her blog.

“These revelations damaged the trust of BBC staff. For the first time, women saw hard evidence of what they’d long suspected, that they are not being valued equally.

“Many have since sought pay equality through internal negotiation but managers still deny there is a problem. This bunker mentality is likely to end in a disastrous legal defeat for the BBC and an exodus of female talent at every level.

“Mine is just one story of inequality among many, but I hope it will help you understand why I feel obliged to speak out.”

Speaking on Radio 4’s The Today programme earlier today, Ms Gracie said she had been overwhelmed by the support she had received after making her announcement.

MPs including Labour’s former leader Harriet Harman and Jess Phillips have spoken up for the journalist, as have BBC colleagues including Emily Maitlis, Mishal Husain and Clare Balding.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average.

“Alongside that, we have already conducted an independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed 'no systemic discrimination against women'.

“A separate report for on air staff will be published in the not too distant future.”

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