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Owen Paterson to fight to avoid suspension for breaking lobbying rules

Owen Paterson

Owen Paterson to fight to avoid suspension for breaking lobbying rules

Owen Paterson, the Tory MP found to have committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules, will fight to clear his name and to avoid a 30-day suspension from the Commons that could trigger a byelection.

Paterson hopes to launch an appeal against parliament’s sleaze watchdog by seeking a judicial review of its decision, and it is likely other Tory MPs will aid him by voting against a motion to enforce it.

The former environment secretary was found on Tuesday to have breached paid advocacy rules, two years after the Guardian published documents revealing how he lobbied for two companies he was paid a total of up to £112,000 a year to advise – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary standards commissioner, concluded her investigation by finding that Paterson made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) relating to Randox and the testing of antibiotics in milk; seven to the same agency concerning Lynn’s Country Foods; and four to ministers at the Department for International Development about Randox and blood testing technology.

A follow-up investigation by the standards committee, which contains MPs from different political parties including several Conservatives, revealed Paterson used his parliamentary office on at least 16 occasions for business meetings with his clients between October 2016 and February 2020. The committee also found he sent two letters relating to his business interests on taxpayer-funded Commons-headed notepaper and failed to uphold the seven “principles of public life”.

“No previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests,” the committee said in its final report, which was unanimously endorsed by all its members – apart from Sir Bernard Jenkin, who recused himself given he is a close friend of Paterson’s.

Paterson, the MP for North Shropshire, was revealed to have emailed FSA officials in November 2016 and praised Randox’s “superior technology”, which the committee said was an attempt to “confer a benefit on Randox, to whom he was a paid consultant”. Other messages sent by him to the FSA in November 2017 promoting Lynn’s Country Foods were found to be potentially directly beneficial to the company.

The committee said Paterson should be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days, meaning a recall ballot would be triggered. This would mean that if 10% of his constituents signed a petition demanding a byelection, one would automatically be called.

Notionally, motions to censure politicians based on recommendations from the standards committee require a formal vote, but one is not normally called, and it goes through “on the nod”.

But Paterson said the investigation was biased and “offends against the basic standard of procedural fairness”, adding it played a “major role” in driving his wife, Rose, to kill herself last summer.

He said: “Parliament’s internal system of justice needs to operate properly within the principles of natural justice.” Paterson is expected to contest the committee and commissioner’s report when the government calls a vote on the floor of the Commons next week on adopting their findings.

One ally of Paterson’s said he had been “stitched up”. They said: “He’s already lost everything. His reputation and seat are the only things he has left, so he’s going to fight this.”

The MP also said they were certain colleagues would join Paterson in voting against the motion to suspend him. They said the fact the commissioner and the committee had declined to take oral evidence from 17 witnesses was evidence of a dodgy investigation. However, the committee said it already had written statements from them.

Downing Street offered no direct criticism of Paterson, with Boris Johnson’s spokesman saying “the standards regime is a matter for the House of Commons” and that the prime minister was “mindful of the pain faced by the Paterson family”. The spokesman also refused to confirm he thought the standards commissioner and committee’s system of scrutinising MPs’ behaviour was fit for purpose.

Another veteran Conservative backbencher said Paterson’s lobbying “would have been fine, if he wasn’t being paid”, adding: “These rules are in place for a reason. What was he thinking?”

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UK’s Truss defends economic plan that sent pound tumbling

UK’s Truss defends economic plan that sent pound tumbling

British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Thursday defended her economic plan and shrugged off the negative reaction from financial markets, saying she’s willing to make “difficult decisions” to get the economy growing.

In her first public comments since the government’s announcement of billions in uncosted tax cuts roiled markets and drove the pound to record lows, Truss said Britain was facing “very, very difficult economic times.” But she said the problems were global and spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She spoke after the Bank of England took emergency action Wednesday to stabilize U.K. financial markets and head off a crisis in the broader economy after the government spooked investors with a program of unfunded tax cuts, sending the pound tumbling and the cost of government debt soaring.

Truss told BBC local radio that “we had to take urgent action to get our economy growing, get Britain moving and also deal with inflation.”

“Of course lots of measures we have announced won’t happen overnight. We won’t see growth come through overnight,” she said. “What is important is that we are putting this country on a better trajectory for the long term.”

In a series of interviews, Truss said her government’s decision to cap energy bills for households and businesses would help tame inflation and help millions of people facing a cost of living crisis.

But it was not that decision that alarmed the markets. It was the government’s announcement on Friday of an economic stimulus program that included 45 billion pounds ($48 billion) of tax cuts and no spending reductions — without an independent economic assessment of the cost and impact.

The Bank of England warned that crumbling confidence in the economy posed a “material risk to U.K. financial stability,” and said it would buy long-term government bonds over the next two weeks to combat a recent slide in British financial assets.

The bank’s former governor, Mark Carney said that the government and the central bank appeared to be pulling in different directions.

“Unfortunately having a partial budget, in these circumstances — tough global economy, tough financial market position, working at cross-purposes with the Bank — has led to quite dramatic moves in financial markets,” he told the BBC.

The pound traded at around $1.08 on Thursday, above its record low of $1.0373 on Monday. It has lost some 4% of its value since Friday.

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Stimulus Packages Provided During Pandemic Triggered Inflation- CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has attributed the rising inflationary rates to the stimulus packages provided to citizens during and after the pandemic.

It added that although this increased spending, it also created global supply challenges.

CBN’s director, Monetary Policy Department, Hassan Mahmoud, said this on Wednesday at a post-MPC briefing tagged: “Unveiling Facts behind the Figures’’.

The Monetary Policy Committee had on Tuesday, unanimously voted to increase interest rate to 15.5 per cent.

“A lot of households and small businesses were injected with stimuluses; the U.S did two trillion dollars, Nigeria did about five trillion Naira, these increased the ability of people to spend.

“But the supply side could not meet up with the demand because that volume of injection was far more than the regular intake for those economies, this made prices go up,’’ he said.

Mahmoud also blamed the Russian-Ukraine war, as well as the resurgence of COVID-19 in China for the rise in global inflationary trend.

“That region accounts for more than 50 per cent of global commodity supply and 38 per cent of global oil and gas supply. The war resulted in some shortages which made prices go up.

“Then the COVID-19 lockdown in China. The country is the largest importer of commodities across the globe,’’ he added.

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China’s yuan slides to 14-year low against US dollar

China’s yuan slides to 14-year low against US dollar

China’s yuan fell to a 14-year low against the dollar Wednesday despite US central bank efforts to stem the slide after U.S. interest rate hikes prompted traders to convert money into dollars in search of higher returns.

A weaker yuan helps Chinese exporters by making their goods cheaper abroad, but it encourages capital to flow out of the economy. That raises costs for Chinese borrowers and sets back the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to boost weak economic growth.

The yuan fell to 7.2301 to the dollar, its lowest level since January 2008. One yuan was worth about 13.8 cents, down 15% from its March high.

The yuan has exceeded expectations it might fall to 7 to the dollar after the Federal Reserve started aggressive rate hikes to cool inflation that is at a four-decade high. The Fed has raised rates five times this year and says more increases are likely.

By contrast, the People’s Bank of China has cut interest rates to boost growth that fell to 2.2% over a year earlier in the first six months of 2022 — less than half the official 5.5% target.

The yuan is allowed to fluctuate up or down 2% from its starting price each day in tightly controlled trading. That prevents big daily swings, but down days can add up to a big change over time.

To shore up the exchange rate, Beijing cut the amount of foreign currency deposits Chinese banks are required to hold as reserves to 6% from 8% as of Sept. 15. That increases the amount of dollars and other foreign currency available to buy yuan, which should push up the exchange rate.

Still, that reserve cut is unlikely to stop a slide that is driven by “a strong U.S. dollar and the expectation of more Federal Reserve hikes,” said Iris Pang of ING in a report.

“Less aggressive rate hike talk” might help the yuan rally, but it might weaken further “if the Fed maintains its very hawkish tone” into next year, Pang wrote.

Chinese officials have previously promised to avoid “competitive devaluation” to gain an advantage in trade.

The yuan sank in 2019 during trade tension with then-President Donald Trump. That prompted suggestions Beijing was trying to reduce the impact of U.S. tariff hikes, but there was no official confirmation. The currency later strengthened.

Other governments also are struggling to manage capital flows under pressure from Fed rate hikes. On Friday, Vietnam’s central bank raised a key interest rate in what economists said appeared to be an effort to stop an outflow of money in search of higher returns.

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