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Nigel Farage says Coutts has offered to reinstate his bank accounts | Politics News

Nigel Farage has said Coutts has offered to reinstate his personal and business accounts.

The former Ukip leader said he was seeking compensation from the private bank.

Mr Farage said “the fight goes on” as he outlined his desire for a face-to-face meeting with the bank’s bosses in a bid to understand how many other people had been affected by account closures.

The former MEP claimed his bank account was unfairly shut down by Coutts, owned by NatWest Group, because it did not agree with his political views.

NatWest has since announced an independent review, with lawyers probing the closure of Mr Farage’s account and other instances of de-banking by Coutts.

Speaking on his GB News programme, Mr Farage said: “The new chief executive of Coutts, Mo Syed, somebody who has held very senior positions within that bank, is now the boss and he has written to me to say I can keep both my personal and my business accounts.

“And that’s good and I thank him for it.”

Coutts has not publicly confirmed that Mr Syed is the new chief executive.

But Mr Farage said “enormous harm” has been done to him in the last few months.

Read more:
Key points from Coutts dossier on Farage
What are PEPs and can banks close their accounts?

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Farage: ’10 banks turned me down’

Farage seeks compensation

Mr Farage added: “It has taken up a huge amount of my time and it has cost me, so far, quite a lot of money in legal fees so I have today sent a legal litigation letter to Coutts where I want some full apologies, I want some compensation for my costs, but – more important than all of that – I want a face-to-face meeting with the bank’s bosses.

“I want to find out how many other people in Coutts or NatWest have had accounts closed because of their political opinions, and I want to make sure this never happens to anybody else ever again.

“So the fight goes on.”

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Former Ukip leader campaigns to tackle account closures

The media storm around Mr Farage’s account closure led to the resignation of NatWest chief executive Dame Alison Rose after she admitted being the source behind an incorrect BBC story about Mr Farage’s Coutts account, followed by Coutts boss Peter Flavel.

Mr Farage has launched a campaign to tackle account closures, which has received support from ministers and Tory MPs.

Westminster Accounts: Liz Truss paid £15,770 an hour for second jobs – as outside earnings of MPs revealed | Politics News

MPs with second jobs have an average wage of £233 per hour, Sky News can reveal.

The typical rate for MPs is 17 times the national average – and over 22 higher than the minimum hourly wage.

The highest hourly rate for a current MP goes to Liz Truss, who got £15,770 per hour.

Westminster Accounts

Ms Truss’s most lucrative work since leaving Number 10 has been a speech in Taiwan. She was paid at a rate of £20,000 per hour – nearly 1,500 times the UK average hourly wage – for her insights into global diplomacy.

Even higher than Ms Truss is Boris Johnson, who resigned as an MP last month. His hourly rate comes in at £21,822, but having left parliament, he is free to work without having to publicly record his earnings.

The leaderboard of the MPs with the 20 highest hourly rates in this parliament reveals a clear pattern: 18 have government experience, suggesting a ministerial background is valued by some employers.

Use this interactive Westminster Accounts table to see how many hours each MP has worked in second jobs, and the equivalent hourly rate they have received:

Westminster Accounts – search for your MP with our interactive tool

The Westminster Accounts project – produced in association with media company Tortoise – has analysed the data MPs provide about how much time they have worked on second jobs in this parliament.

The MP who records the highest hours outside their work as a backbench MP is Douglas Ross, the leader of the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament.

He recorded working 3,869 hours on top of his role as an MP: 3,739 hours as an MSP, 89 hours for the Scottish Football Association as a referee, and the rest refereeing in other roles.

Mr Ross is standing down as an MP at the next election to concentrate on his work in Scotland, but political double-jobbing of this nature is not routinely considered controversial in Westminster.

Read More:
Powerful group of Tory MPs scrutinised by expenses watchdog
Labour calls for ‘urgent investigation’ into Tory donor
Westminster Accounts – the story so far

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Tory MPs probed by expenses watchdog

Dr Dan Poulter is the MP who spends the most amount of time in a non-political job. The Conservative and NHS hospital doctor works in mental health services. He has registered 3,508 hours since the 2019 election.

The MP registering the most hours in the private sector is barrister Sir Geoffrey Cox, who put the tally at 2,565.

The highest Labour name in this list is the shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who has worked nearly 1,000 hours for 45 different organisations. He has worked almost 700 hours in second jobs since the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer announced a policy to ban them in the aftermath of the Owen Paterson scandal.

Westminster Accounts at a glance: use the table below to see how much money has gone to parties, MPs and APPGs in the form of donations and earnings since the 2019 election – and the individuals or organisations behind the funding.

Jill Rutter, the former top official now with the Institute for Government, questioned whether MPs were required to record their outside hours in the correct way, given that MPs often register four or five hours when giving an overseas speech would take them out of the country for several days.

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She said: “I think we can probably rely on [this system] to answer the question ‘How long does a particular task take?’ – I don’t think we can rely on it to answer the question about ‘How unavailable does that make you?’

“If you give a speech in London, you put down an hour-and-a-half. That’s probably pretty fair.

“But the same speech given in Chicago or Calcutta, it’s an hour-and-a-half of the speech, but actually you were away from the country quite a long time. So if we want to say how available are you as an MP, the system is really not very good for that.”

SNP’s Westminster group submits accounts on time to avoid losing £1.2m in public funds | UK News

The SNP’s Westminster group has filed its audited accounts ahead of a deadline, the party has said.

The party faced missing out on £1.2m in public funds if it failed to meet the 31 May cut-off.

AMS Accountants Group took charge of the SNP’s books earlier this month after it was revealed in April that previous auditors Johnston Carmichael quit in September 2022 following a review of the firm’s client portfolio.

First Minister Humza Yousaf admitted he was unaware of the situation until he became party leader following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation.

With the accounts submitted on time, the SNP should benefit from so-called ‘short money’ – public funds paid to opposition parties at Westminster to support their parliamentary work.

On Wednesday, Peter Grant MP, the SNP’s Westminster group treasurer, said: “I’m pleased to confirm that the annual return for the SNP Westminster group’s ‘short money’ for 2022/23 has received a clean audit certificate and has been submitted, on time, to the parliamentary authorities.

“Throughout this process, SNP MPs have remained focused on standing up for Scotland and supporting our hard-working staff.

“We will continue to hold the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour to account for the damage their policies are inflicting on Scotland.”

The SNP’s next deadline is to file the whole party’s audited accounts with the Electoral Commission by 7 July or risk being fined. AMS Accounting is also carrying out that work.

Read more:
Nicola Sturgeon says SNP crisis beyond her ‘worst nightmares’
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross criticises SNP ‘secrecy, spin and cover-ups’
Arrests, a luxury motorhome and a power couple’s fall: The inside story of SNP police probe

News of Johnston Carmichael quitting as auditors emerged as a police investigation into the SNP’s funding and finances ramped up.

Ms Sturgeon’s husband, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, was arrested as part of the probe along with ex-treasurer Colin Beattie. Both men were subsequently released without charge pending further inquiries.

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Sturgeon: Last few weeks ‘very difficult’

Police Scotland launched Operation Branchform in 2021.

The long-running inquiry is linked to the spending of around £600,000 raised by supporters to be earmarked for Scottish independence campaigning.

It is understood there have been complaints the ringfenced cash may have been used improperly by being spent elsewhere.

Officers from Police Scotland stand beside by police tape and a police tent outside the home of former chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Peter Murrell, in Uddingston, Glasgow, after he was arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the party. Picture date: Wednesday April 5, 2023.
Image:
Police outside Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell’s home

Police have searched the SNP headquarters and Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell’s home as part of the investigation. A luxury £100,000 motorhome was also seized from outside the home of Mr Murrell’s mother in Dunfermline, Fife.

The SNP said it has been “cooperating fully” with the investigation and would “continue to do so”.

Home Office ‘demonising’ illegal immigrants by shutting down bank accounts in new crackdown | Politics News

Illegal immigrants will have their bank accounts shut down in a new crackdown by the Home Office – who have been accused of “demonising” asylum seekers.

The Home Office announced it began sharing data with the financial sector on Thursday so it can refuse to open new bank accounts and close existing accounts of people who are in the UK illegally.

It said making it difficult for illegal migrants to access financial services is “an important tool to help deter illegal migration” as it prevents them from working illegally or using the benefits system.

Human rights charity Amnesty International UK accused the government of using private companies to impose its “hugely damaging, immigration policy”.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty’s refugee and migrant rights director, told Sky News: “This is one of many ways the government has co-opted private bodies and civil society into its miserable, and often hugely damaging, immigration policy.

“It is part of an exercise in socially excluding and isolating a mass of people regardless of their individual circumstances – including where those culpable for why people are in these circumstances are human traffickers, other abusers and even the Home Office.

“It’s clear ministers do not care about who they harm or how because they’ve sold themselves to whipping up suspicion and even hate by constantly demonising migrants to excuse their woeful mismanagement of the immigration system.”

Banks will not be required to check customers’ documents for their migration status but the Home Office will share details of illegal migrants and banks can then check their personal current account holders against the list.

Anybody with outstanding immigration applications or appeals will not be affected, the government added.

The initiative is part of the government’s push to curb the number of migrants coming to the UK.

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Why asylum seekers are ditching their claims

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said: “Access to key banking services, including current accounts, is crucial in aiding those here unlawfully to gain a foothold in British society.

“As the prime minister has set out, we are committed to going further and faster to prevent the abuse of our laws and borders.

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“Illegal working causes untold harm to our communities, cheating honest workers of employment and defrauding the public purse.

“Only those known to be here unlawfully or those who have absconded from immigrational control will have their details shared, with robust safeguards in place to prevent wrongful account closures.”

Read more:
Starmer says Sunak has ‘lost a grip’ on party after MP lobbying sting
Home Office confirms plan to house asylum seekers on giant barge

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, from the RNLI Dover Lifeboat following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Thursday April 6, 2023.
Image:
A group of migrants arrived in Dover on Thursday

Banks will only close accounts when the Home Office has made further checks to ensure the person is still in the UK without permission to stay.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak initially announced the plan in December 2022 to re-start data sharing as part of the government’s approach to tackling illegal working and immigration.

The government announced on Wednesday it plans to house more than 500 asylum seekers on a barge in Dorset, with the local council and Tory MP considering legal action to stop it from going ahead in the beauty spot.

Westminster Accounts: Chair of ethics watchdog says MPs should exercise more ‘due diligence’ over donations | Politics News

The chair of parliament’s ethics watchdog has said MPs should be forced to exercise more “due diligence” over donations, in response to Sky News’ Westminster Accounts project.

Sky News and Tortoise Media have launched a new database of MPs’ second jobs and donations – the first time they have all been collated in one place.

MPs have been accused of failing to provide “sufficient” transparency after our investigation struggled to uncover basic details about who is behind major donations.

Among the top donors to individual politicians are companies where little detail was provided in the MPs’ declarations about who they are, who is in charge and where they are based.

Search for your MP using the Westminster Accounts tool

Speaking to Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates, Lord Pickles said MPs should have to know and declare a named individual as the originator of a donation, even if the funds come from a company.

“It wouldn’t take very much to just to sort this out,” said Lord Pickles, who is the chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

More on Westminster Accounts

The Westminster Accounts

“There is a degree of due diligence that members of Parliament are not required currently to do under the rules, but basically should be, which is pretty straightforward, which is ‘why is this organisation giving me money and do they expect anything in return’?”

Lord Pickles said it “wouldn’t be unreasonable to put together some guidelines for MPs to be able to answer some just very basic questions”.

“It doesn’t mean to say they have to do a line-by-line scrutiny of the company or employ expensive accountants to do so, but to be able to answer just one or two questions like who has given this money and who is the controlling thought behind that company and why they’re doing it.

“And just to simply say this money is to be used for this, there are no restrictions. Or this is to conduct research in a particular area. This isn’t actually going to put an enormous burden on members of parliament, and I think it will remove an awful lot of worry.”

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MPs lacking ‘sufficient’ transparency

Sky’s Westminster Accounts investigation has discovered that nobody had heard of a company donating hundreds of thousands to Labour MPs on a visit to its registered address, while the office of another company that donates to 24 Tory MPs was shut and apparently out of action.

Read More:
Westminster Accounts: 14 MPs given over £250,000 each in campaign donations since the last election
Rishi Sunak says ‘transparency really important’ as focus turns to MPs’ second jobs

When asked for comment, some of the MPs concerned were reluctant to discuss the details until after the stories were published.

Lord Pickles said there “isn’t enough transparency” and it “wouldn’t take a big effort” to improve this.

Praising the Westminster Accounts project he said: “I’ve loved what you’ve been doing.

“I’ve played around with the toolkit that you’ve provided. I would have thought from even the casual observer that you’ve not demonstrated or attempted to suggest there’s something sleazy about this.

“All you’ve suggested is that there should be a degree of transparency as to why the money is needed.”

Westminster Accounts: MPs challenged to provide more transparency over the source of donations | Politics News

MPs have been accused of failing to provide “sufficient” transparency after a Sky News investigation struggled to uncover basic details about who is behind major donations.

Among the top donors to individual politicians are companies where little detail was provided in the MPs’ declarations about who they are, who is in charge and where they are based.

When asked for comment, some of the MPs concerned were reluctant to discuss the details.

Search for your MP using the Westminster Accounts tool

In one case, Sky News discovered that nobody had heard of a company donating hundreds of thousands to Labour MPs on a visit to its registered address, while the office of another company that donates to 24 Tory MPs was shut and apparently out of action.

Hannah White, the director of the Institute for Government, told Sky News that MPs should be prepared to answer questions about the donations they accept.

It follows an investigation as part of the Westminster Accounts that examines two companies ranked in the top 20 list of donors to individual MPs.

The declared donations provide the public with little information about the true source of the money.

MPM Connect Ltd is the third-biggest donor to MPs since the last general election. The only organisations that have given more to individual politicians in that period are the trade union giants Unite and GMB.

The company has no staff or website and is registered at an office where the secretary says she has never heard of them.

top donors to mps

Read more:
Sam Coates explains the Westminster Accounts and why they matter
Westminster Accounts: Following the money
How to explore the database for yourself

The £345,217 of donations that MPM Connect has made since the end of 2019 went to three Labour politicians.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has received £184,317, former mayor of South Yorkshire Dan Jarvis £100,000 and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting £60,900.

Sky News asked each of the MPs to provide an explanation or comment in relation to who was behind the donations and why the money had been given to them.

Shadow health secretray Wes Streeting speaking to the media on College Green, outside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, after it was announced Liz Truss is the new Conservative party leader, and will become the next Prime Minister. Picture date: Monday September 5, 2022.
Image:
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting

How did the politicians respond?

Ms Cooper provided a statement that said it was not to be quoted, but her entry in the register of members’ interests says the funding is used to “support my offices”.

Mr Streeting said all the donations had been declared in the proper way, and his entry in the register of members’ interests says the money goes “towards staffing costs in my office”.

Mr Jarvis said all his donations support his work as an MP.

MPM Connect’s entry in the Companies House register lists two directors – recruitment mogul Peter Hearn and Simon Murphy, the entrepreneur behind the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station.

The company’s accounts do not disclose where it receives its funding, what it does or why it donates so heavily.

When Sky News went to the office in Hertfordshire, where the company is registered, the receptionist in the building denied any knowledge of MPM Connect.

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‘You look confused…’

She told Sky News she did not recognise the names of the two directors.

“We’d rather not speak to you,” she said, before closing the door.

Mr Hearn and MPM Connect were approached for comment, but no response has so far been received.

Electoral Commission records show that over the past 20 years, Mr Hearn has made a number of significant donations to political parties. These have almost all been to the Labour Party, though he made a £10,000 donation to the Conservative campaign for the seat of Poplar and Limehouse before the 2010 general election.

In 2015 he spent £100,000 on Ms Cooper’s unsuccessful campaign for the Labour leadership, and Rushanara Ali’s deputy leadership bid, before turning his attention to Mr Jarvis in an attempt to dethrone Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy Tom Watson.

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How you can explore the Westminster Accounts

Broadband provider donated money to Tories

Another large donor where the public declarations leave ambiguity over the ultimate source of the funding is a little-known broadband provider from Blackburn.

IX Wireless has channelled more than £138,000 of campaign donations to Conservative MPs since 2019, despite only having two staff members, one of whom lives in the United Arab Emirates.

One of those politicians who received money from IX Wireless was Christian Wakeford, who was a Conservative MP at the time before defecting to the Labour Party in January 2022.

Christian Wakeford MP
Image:
Christian Wakeford was a Conservative MP before defecting to Labour in 2022

He told Sky News he had no “understanding or details as to who they were, what they were doing or what they wanted” when the donation was made.

Mr Wakeford said he had been told by Sir Jake Berry, a senior Tory MP and former party chairman, that there was a block of money from a donor available and to write an application for the funding.

“We’d put those applications in,” he said, “and we’d find out a month later whether those applications were successful and that the monies were going to our local Conservative association.”

“It was only at that time we were told the money had come from IX Wireless,” Mr Wakeford said. “I’d never heard of them. The first I’d heard of them was the email telling us.”

Mr Wakeford said he now knows more about the company.

Sir Jake was approached for comment but did not respond.

Minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office Jake Berry during day three of the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. Picture date: Tuesday October 4, 2022.
Image:
Jake Berry pictured during the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham last year

On a visit to the headquarters of IX Wireless, Sky News found the office empty with flooded floors.

Standing outside the company’s front door, Sky News called IX Wireless and spoke to someone who said they were a receptionist.

She confirmed that the address was correct, but would not say that she was inside the headquarters. After placing the call on hold for several minutes, she declined to answer any questions.

Founded by the entrepreneur Tahir Mohsan in 2017, the company was a successor to Time, a successful British personal computer brand in the 1980s and 1990s.

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In 2005, Mr Mohsan’s computer empire abruptly collapsed with £70m in debts, making 1,500 people redundant.

Thousands of customers had to fight for refunds on products already ordered.

Shortly after the company failed, Mr Mohsan left Britain for Dubai in the UAE.

He has since turned his attention to installing broadband in the North West of England, receiving £675,000 of government funding to roll out high-speed internet in less connected areas of the country.

The company connected 500 premises between August 2018 and June 2020, according to government data seen by Sky News.

IX Wireless and Mr Mohsan did not return repeated requests for comment.

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Why do the Westminster Accounts matter?

Ms White, of the Institute for Government, told Sky News that MPs needed to be more forthcoming about the money they were taking.

“I think there’s a bigger question here… is that transparency actually sufficient?”

Ms White questioned whether it was appropriate for politicians to avoid questions from members of the press and the public over the identities of donors.

“If an MP is asked for more information, should they feel that actually that is something that they’re willing and able to give? Do they actually know the answer to some of these questions if they’ve taken money from a company that they don’t necessarily know how that is funded? I think that’s actually quite important,” she said.