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Boris Johnson has been accused of “rampant cronyism” after it emerged that a major Høyre donor was made a peer and a junior government minister on Thursday – months after he failed to become an MSP in the Holyrood elections in May.
Financier Malcolm Offord, who has gifted £147,500 to the Tories, was appointed parliamentary under secretary of state at the Scotland Office, led by Scotland secretary Alister Jack. Since he is not an elected official, Mr Offord had to be given a lifetime peerage to assume the role.
The move has angered some politicians in Scotland, with one SNP MP, Stewart Hosie, describing it as showing “contempt for democracy”.
It comes amid fresh allegations, by the Institute for Government (IfG) think-tank, that certain government departments are failing to live up to transparency commitments around who they are meeting with.
Analysis of data between July 2015 og mars 2021 found the Foreign Office, Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to be the worst performers, according to IfG, which added Priti Patel’s department had published the required data on senior officials’ meetings in just three of 23 quarters between the 2015 election and March 2021.
Reduced butcher numbers could lead to ‘mass cull’ of pigs
Some commentary from a meat industry official now, who said he believes the UK is heading into an “acute welfare disaster very quickly” with the country facing a “mass cull of animals”.
Rob Mutimer, chairman of the National Pig Association, told BBC Radio 4’s I dag programme the issue had gotten “very considerably worse over the last three weeks”.
Due to butcher shortages, he said pig farms of all sizes are running out of space to keep their animals “which is a real worry coming into winter”.
Asked what a culling situation would involve, han sa: “It involves either shooting pigs on farm, or taking them to an abattoir, killing the animals, and actually disposing them in the skip at the other end of the chain. So these animals won’t go into the food chain. They will either be rendered, or if not, sent for incineration. So it’s an absolute travesty.”
Mr Mutimer added that his pigs are usually around 115kg when they go to slaughter, but are now getting up to around 140kg.
“The pens and the sheds and everything just weren’t designed for animals of this size and we’re really heading into an acute welfare disaster very quickly," han sa.
Meat industry renews concerns about Christmas supplies
The government is “continuing to work closely” with the pig industry amid an apparent shortage of butchers which could impact food supplies over Christmas, en rapport antyder.
Ministers are considering plans to ease visa restrictions for up to 1,000 foreign butchers, i følge Tidene, which added that home secretary Priti Patel had so far resisted the move to recruit non-UK workers.
A spokesman for the Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told the PA news agency it was aware of labour shortages.
“We understand the importance of seasonal labour and we are aware of the challenges that the pig industry has faced in recent months because of the Covid-19 pandemic and labour shortages, and Defra has been working closely with the pig and processing sectors during this time," han sa.
Tidene reported the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said the industry is short about 15,000 arbeidere, with has forced its members to just focus on keeping supermarkets stocked with basic cuts of meat.
A BMPA spokesperson was quoted as saying: “We really should have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards this year and so far we haven’t, so there’ll be shortages of party foods and things like pigs in blankets. Anything that is labour-intensive work could see shortages.”
It comes amid sustained disruptions to the UK economy, which have reportedly been bubbling away for months, including labour shortages, new immigration rules affecting HGV drivers, Brexit and the lingering effects of Covid.
Home Office and other govt departments ‘failing to meet transparency commitments’
Government departments have been accused, igjen, of being dishonest when it comes to reporting meetings taken by senior government ministers.
The Institute for Government (IfG) think-tank said its analysis of data published between July 2015 og mars 2021 relating to who ministers, civil servants and special advisers meet and hospitality received, showed that some departments are not meeting their transparency commitments.
IfG found the Foreign Office, Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to be the worst performers, citing instances of the wrong data being published, as well as incomplete and late data.
It said the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office did not publish any information on meetings held by ministers or officials between September 2020, when it was first set up through a merger, and September this year. And it said the Home Office has published the required data on senior officials’ meetings in just three of 23 quarters between the 2015 election and March 2021.
The Treasury described the purpose of five meetings held by its permanent secretary between July and September in 2018 only as “meeting”, according to the think-tank.
A report from IfG says: “Departments’ transparency releases on senior leaders are often late, of poor quality, and are sometimes difficult to find. Things have got worse during the pandemic, but performance was already patchy.”
PM hands ministerial job to banker who gave Tories £147,500
Financier Malcolm Offord, who has gifted £147,500 to the Conservative Party, has been appointed as a junior minister at the Scotland Office.
Since he is not an elected official, he will be given a lifetime peerage so that he can assume the role.
The move has seen Boris Johnson accused of “rampant cronyism”, with Fiona Hyslop, an MSP for Linlithgow, noting the irony of Mr Offord’s recent failed bid to became an MSP.
“You have more chance becoming a Tory Scotland Office minister if you are rejected by voters in a Scottish election than elected by them,"Twitret hun.
The Scottish Greens also hit out at the prime minister, with its MSP Gillian Mackay branding the decision “a disgrace,” reports Rory Sullivan.
Opposition parties condemn decision as ‘rampant cronyism’
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