It's Friday, it's been a long and difficult week. I've got a hangover and a blank blog page staring at me. Lets see what can be cobbled together and if it hangs together. Firstly, it's a big day for Napo:-
Further to the e-mails from Napo earlier in the week, Yvonne Pattison (Co-Chair) and Ian Lawrence (General Secretary) will be attending tomorrow's cost hearing at the High Court along with our legal team. As well as determining who pays the costs, the Court will also be asked to rule on the scope of information that can be released about what the Secretary of State says he will do to address the safety concerns around TR, which we consider you have a right to know. We do not know when judgement will be made following the hearing and whilst we will update members as soon as practicable, it is likely to be next week.
We thank you for your continued understanding.
Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, and the Officers' Group
We thank you for your continued understanding.
Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, and the Officers' Group
As usual, Netnipper sums the situation up nicely:-
I see Napo are in court tomorrow asking for their costs and permission to disclose what Grayling has promised to do regarding safety. What a bizarre situation: a judge to rule on whether safety issues should be in the public domain, whether the public and probation staff, the potential victims, have a right to know the risks they may face. And if the judge says 'No', what then? What duties does Napo have to inform its members and the wider public of the risks? Would IL act in contempt and go to prison on behalf of his members?While we await to see exactly what the aborted legal challenge has achieved, I hope tabbycat won't mind my republishing this contribution from the Napo Forum:-
A Negotiator's analysis:
So, Napo launches a Judicial Review which is listed for Hearing on 10/12 then drops it two days before on 8/12. The MoJ grabs the microphone, makes the soundbite, and issues a statement," We are pleased Napo have backed down before they could waste even more time and money". Following that, some Probation staff and Napo members take to social media, express despair, anger, frustration, and criticise Napo. Some express criticism of the positive spin put by Napo on what's happened - presumably seeing it as a pyrrhic victory for Napo; or, no victory at all.
I think that there in merit in taking a step back and making an overview. Readers of my posts, and those who know me, will recognise that I am no apologist for Napo HQ, nor an insider. A dispassionate analysis from a Negotiator's point of view is of benefit here.
I make the following points.....
i) Napo HQ needs to learn to be cute enough to anticipate the kind of "Heads we win, tails you lose" self-congratulatory revisionist PR soundbite which the MoJ has issued in this instance. Then, either i) to get in first or ii) to respond swiftly, appropriately and effectively, taking back the ground lost. Something on the lines of Mandy Rice Davies', "Well, they (the MoJ) would say that, wouldn't they?" following by an evidence-fuelled rebuttal would have been in order.
ii) Applications for Judicial Review or Employment Tribunal Hearings are commonly settled out of Court and the Hearing date vacated. It happens even as late as the Hearing date itself and outside of the doors to the Courtroom. The pressure of the listing creates compromise and ground won for the Applicant. It is not a loss to them.
iii) I was a Napo JNC Rep for many many years. I also handled Local Disputes and IRs (Individual Representations). My Probation Area was for a very long time a command-control one, autocratic, targeting Branch Officers and individuals, interpreting heterodoxy as heresy, disciplining on the basis of this, and failing to see Positive Deviancy when it occurred. Consultation and negotiation was difficult in this climate. An arsenal of skills and tricks were needed to make any gains. One card which I learned to play was the Brinkmanship card: it won ground and got gains, concessions and compromises many times. It was also useful for Napo in this Judicial Review route journey in getting gains at two points: i) the Judge's Directions and ii) the undertakings which Grayling and the MoJ have had to make in settlement. None of these gains would have been made without the pressure of the Hearing and the authority of the Court.The thing is, can we believe anything Chris Grayling says when we know he's not got a strong grasp of his brief, knowledge of the law is not one of his strong points and he's got form for misleading the House of Commons. This from the Law Society Gazette:-
I hope that some might reconsider their first thoughts in this case. Negotiating takes real skills and some of the harshest criticism always comes from "friendly fire". Please give some credit where it is due. On a final and personal note: my Napo membership is due and this may be my last, or near-final post. I don't know yet. My thanks to my readers, be they fans or critics.
Grayling admits misleading parliament as JR reforms defeated again
The government has lost another three votes in the House of Lords on judicial review reform - as it emerged that lord chancellor Chris Grayling has admitted misleading the House of Commons during a debate last week.
Crossbencher Lord Pannick persuaded enough Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers to rebel against the government last night on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. Pannick’s proposed amendments introduced judicial discretion over whether parties intervening in judicial reviews should pay costs, what financial information applicants should disclose and whether to grant permission in certain cases. All three were backed by peers and will return to the House of Commons for further consideration, probably after Christmas.
The commons has already rejected amendments voted for last month in the Lords, bringing on a period known as ‘ping-pong’ between the two houses. But during yesterday’s debate it emerged that Grayling had given wrong information during the course of discussions on 1 December in the Commons.
In a letter to Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox, who voted against the government, the justice secretary admitted he had ‘inadvertently’ suggested that clause 64 of the bill contains a provision for the court to grant permission for JR where conduct was highly likely to have not made a difference in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Graying’s letter added: ‘I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that that is not the case. No such exceptional circumstances provision exists in this clause.’Ian Dunt on the politics.co.uk website feels it's all unforgivable, especially as it's Grayling's own bill:-
Grayling's nadir? Judicial review bill falls apart as minister admits he misled Commons
Chris Grayling's plans to dismantle judicial review were left in tatters yesterday after a letter emerged showing he misled the Commons over the reforms just as the same measure was being debated in the Lords. The extraordinary scenes led the Lords to once again vote against the government, triggering a period of 'ping pong' between the chambers.
The letter from Grayling to Tory MP Geoffrey Cox, who voted against the government when the measures were debated last week, saw the justice secretary admit he got a fundamental aspect of his reforms wrong. He wrote:
"I inadvertently suggested to you that clause 64 contains a provision for the court to grant permission to proceed with a judicial review where conduct is highly likely to have not made a difference if it considered there were exceptional circumstances to do so. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that that is not the case. No such exceptional circumstances provision exists in the clause."
The admission is remarkable because it goes to the heart of the judicial review reforms. The entire function of the reform package is to remove judicial discretion from cases and increase control from Whitehall. Grayling's error suggests that he either knowingly lied in order to try to get his bill past the Commons or that he fundamentally misunderstood the function of his own legislation.
Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, who led the debate against Grayling last week, told Politics.co.uk:
"This highly embarrassing admission from Chris Grayling shows that after nearly a year of debating this bill he fails to understand its basic principles. Nick Clegg's loyalty to his Tory masters is touching but is now once again exposed as misguided and ill-judged."
The letter emerged just as the Lords were considering the same measures in response to the Commons vote to reject their amendments. It is extremely rare for a bill to fall apart so dramatically during a parliamentary debate because of the incompetence of the minister presiding over it. Justice minister Lord Faulks valiantly tried to salvage the debate for the government, telling peers the admission was "clearly regrettable", but it was difficult for him to make the case for the reforms once it became clear the Commons had voted on the basis of false information.
I'll round this off with another example of just how far we can trust Chris Grayling's word, how we are all being misled by the government and how Parliament is being treated with disdain. This is from the Financial Times:-
Five government departments awarded G4S and Serco fresh work during a period in which Whitehall “gave the impression” that all business with the two outsourcing companies was on hold until the outcome of a review.
The Cabinet Office was widely understood to have barred Serco and G4S from winning new government work until they had they undergone a period of “corporate renewal” after both companies were referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging on electronic monitoring contracts. But an investigation by the Commons public accounts committee found that the two companies were quietly awarded 14 pieces of additional work worth £350m in the probation period that ended in February for Serco and in April for G4S.
The committee found that “the quantum of additional work that was awarded to the companies during the period was not clearly communicated to parliament at the time”. It demonstrated that the government remained overdependent on G4S and Serco, which were in a “quasi-monopoly position” and therefore “too big to fail”.
Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, said “the impression the government left was that all business with these two companies was on hold until the outcome of a review”. “Instead, what we uncovered was that they had given extensions and new contracts,” she said.
The Department of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Ministry of Defence and HM Revenue & Customs all gave the companies new work during the period of apparent purdah.
The contracts came despite a statement by Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, in October in which he said the government was investigating all contracts held by the companies worth more than £10m. “We will not be awarding the companies any new contracts unless or until those audits are completed to our satisfaction,” he said.
The Cabinet Office told the committee it was unable to blacklist companies from new contracts because of EU procurement restrictions. It said it believed “the “government worked within legal and operational necessity constraints to limit work placed with both companies”.
Both G4S and Serco remain under investigation by the SFO for overcharging on contracts to electronically tag prisoners, including offenders who had died. Serco also lost a contract providing out of hours GP services in Cornwall after it was found to have altered performance data and remains under investigation by City of London police for manipulating figures on contracts to escort prisoners to court.
The cross-party committee said that too often “the ethical standards of contractors had been found wanting”. “A culture of revenue- and profit-driven performance incentives has too often been misaligned with the needs of the public who fund and depend on these services,” it said.
But the watchdog also urged the government to pay more attention to contract management given that the private sector delivers about £90bn of services on behalf of the public sector — almost half of public sector expenditure. Although Ms Hodge welcome government initiatives to improve monitoring in the wake of the tagging scandal, she said the improvements “were on the margin”.
A Serco spokesperson said yesterday: “Since the events of 2013 Serco has put in place a corporate renewal programme that was positively assessed by the Government Oversight Group, and has strengthened internal management systems and governance. There has also been significant changes within the senior management of the company.”
G4S said: “We are pleased to have been able to contribute to the inquiry. We welcome improved contract management processes and more effective engagement with contracting government departments. We think this will lead to improved services and greater value for money for the taxpayer.”I couldn't resist popping this in. A contributor neatly illustrates what it all actually means and puts it into some kind of context for us:-
"My client is pleased to have been able to contribute to the investigation and trial. He welcomes improved policing techniques (like warning gullible pensioners about people like him on Crimewatch UK), more effective engagement with victims (as they have now seen his e-fit on the telly), and he thinks this will lead to improved services (a better patter to get into Mrs Boggins house for her savings) and greater value for money for the taxpayer (as now he's had a chance to learn from his experiences he won't get caught next time, thus sparing society the cost of a prison cell).... And so, Your Honour, it only remains for the Court to let him off with a pat on the head and a pound out of the poor box...”