- Simon Hart among MPs who got money from Pandora Papers company
- Alleged dirty money funding Conservative Party
- Sources of donors’ unexplained wealth are revealed
A LOCAL MP is one of 34 Conservative MPs who received financial support from a company named in the Pandora Papers as connected to a web of international fraud and tax dodging.
Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and the Secretary of State for Wales, disclosed contributions from Aquind Ltd and an individual associated with Aquind, Alexander Temeko, in his register of interests.
In the twelve months before 2019’s General Election, Mr Hart declared he received a total of almost £25,000 from Aquind Ltd and its public face in the UK, Mr Temerko.
Although there is no wrongdoing alleged on Mr Hart’s part, we asked for his personal views on whether the current rules governing donations to political parties were robust enough.
He did not reply.
However, the Pandora Papers’ publication highlights the seamier side of some Soviet-born emigres who’ve supported the Conservatives.
A PIPELINE OF CASH
Aquind has donated more than £365,000 to the Conservative Party in recent years, despite never generating a penny in turnover.
Its former parent company donated almost £500,000 to the Conservative Party between 2012 and 2015.
Mr Termerko is alleged to have made further personal donations totalling around £700,000 to the Conservatives.
Aquind is behind a cross-channel energy and fibre optic infrastructure project valued at £1.24bn.
The Pandora Papers reveal that Aquind’s ultimate owner is Viktor Fedotov.
Both Mr Fedotov and Mr Temerko were closely linked to the former Russian Government under Boris Yeltsin, now widely acknowledged as institutionally and fundamentally corrupt.
Mr Temerko was a member of the defence ministry under former Russian premier Boris Yeltsin dealing with armaments. He later became Vice-President of the Russian oil giant Yukos.
Mr Fedotov is named in the Pandora Papers among individuals who allegedly made their fortunes through a massive contract fraud against the Russian state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft.
One claim puts the total involved in the alleged fraud as US$4bn.
The term ‘kleptocracy’ is often applied to how those linked with Yeltsin’s government managed to enrich themselves at the public expense.
Mr Temerko and Mr Fedotov strongly deny any allegations levelled against them about any involvement in alleged wrongdoing that might be connected to the source of their prodigious personal wealth.
THE BANKER’S MILLIONS
A further prominent Russian-born Conservative donor, Lubov Chernukhin, has donated around £1.8m to the Conservatives. Her husband, Vladimir, is a former finance minister in Vladimir Putin’s government and former head of the Russian National Bank.
Allegations, denied by Mr Chernukhin, claim he massively enriched himself by exploiting his position and links to power.
The Chernukhins have built up a significant property portfolio in the UK using a network of offshore trusts and opaque corporate structures that provided no clue about their fortunes’ origins until the Pandora Papers’ publication.
The stench of back-scratching cronyism surrounding Westminster’s handling of procurement processes during the pandemic – something the UK’s courts are examining in detail – adds to the pervading sense that there’s something rotten at the heart of British politics.
Whether as the beneficiaries of money allegedly obtained through massive corruption, the Conservatives want to address that situation is another matter altogether.
Although the Party has brushed aside concerns about the size of the donations it’s received from those allegedly connected to graft and corruption elsewhere, the Prime Minister’s blasé observation that the last Labour Government brought in the current rules (there hasn’t been a Labour Government for over eleven years, Prime Minister), does little to reassure.
As long as the gravy train runs, Mr Johnson seems eager to continue to feed on it.
Narberth hold on for thrilling win over Bedwas
NARBERTH travelled to Bedwas on Saturday (Sept 24) and came away with an excellent win at a ground where they hadn’t won for many years.
The young Otters team started well and within minutes a break from the base of a Narberth scrum led to centre Ilan Phillips sprinting in near the posts for a try which was converted by fly half Ianto Griffiths (0-7).
Shortly afterwards swift passing of the ball along the Narberth back line resulted in wing Josh Davies scoring in the corner. The try went unconverted (0-12).
Bedwas got themselves back into the game when the Bedwas scrum half took a quick penalty five metres from the Narberth line and scored under the posts. The Bedwas fly half converted to make the score 7-12.
Both teams attempted to run the ball at every opportunity but defences held firm until the ball unexpectedly popped out of the back of the Bedwas scrum and flanker Tom Powell was on hand to receive a pass and charge downfield. He raced a full 50 yards with no-one able to catch him until he reached the Bedwas try line and scored under the posts. Griffiths converted (7-19).
Then just before the break Bedwas were guilty of holding onto the ball on the ground and Griffiths kicked the penalty to make the half time score 7-22.
In the second half Bedwas came out far more determined and the Otters were forced to defend for long periods close to their try line. Eventually the Bedwas openside flanker raced over to score in the corner. The conversion attempt failed (12-22).
Within minutes Bedwas had scored again when from a lineout on the Narberth 5 metre line a rolling maul enabled the Bedwas hooker to score a try wide out and the conversion attempt was successful (19-22).
The Otters were now under constant pressure and the home crowd were jubilant when a further try was scored in the corner by the Bedwas right wing which was again converted to put the home team in the lead for the first time in the match by 26 points to 22.
However Narberth refused to give up and with ten minutes remaining they managed to score their fourth try when Josh Davies beat his man along the left touchline and passed inside to his supporting scrum half Lewys Gibby who scored the winning try wide out. The conversion attempt failed but the Otters held out for the remaining minutes to win an exciting and enthralling match 26-27.
After the match coach Sean Gale said: “I’m very pleased to come away with a win. We had 7 players in the squad today who were under 23 years of age and as a coaching team we feel we are doing our best to develop the young players in the area which augurs well for the future of the Club.”
Jacob Rees Mogg: Galvanises businesses with action on energy
Getting serious: Liz Truss looks to secure future energy supply
The cliff edge: Businesses may close if support is withdrawn
Westminster unveils energy support for businesses
NON WEDNESDAY, September 21, the UK Government announced new support for households, businesses and public sector organisations facing rising energy bills in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Through a new government Energy Bill Relief Scheme, the government will provide a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices for all non-domestic customers (including all UK businesses, the voluntary sector like charities and the public sector such as schools and hospitals) whose current gas and electricity prices have been significantly inflated in light of global energy prices.
The support will be equivalent to the Energy Price Guarantee put in place for households.
It will apply to fixed contracts agreed on or after April 1, 2022, and to deemed variable and flexible tariffs and contracts.
The Price Guarantee will apply to energy usage from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023, running for an initial six-month period for all non-domestic energy users.
The savings will be first seen in October bills, which are typically received in November.
As with the Energy Price Guarantee for households, customers do not need to take action or apply to the scheme to access the support.
Support (in the form of a p/kWh discount) will automatically be applied to bills.
RISK OF BUSINESSES MISSING OUT
The price reduction level for each business will vary depending on their contract type and circumstances.
Non-domestic customers on existing fixed-price contracts will be eligible for support as long as the contract was agreed on or after April 1, 2022.
Provided that the wholesale element of the price the customer is paying is above the Government Supported Price, per unit energy costs will automatically be reduced by the relevant p/kWh for the duration of the Scheme.
Customers entering new fixed price contracts after October 1 will receive support on the same basis
those on default, deemed, or variable tariffs will receive a per-unit discount on energy costs, up to a maximum of the difference between the Supported Price and the average expected wholesale price over the period of the Scheme.
Non-domestic customers on default or variable tariffs will therefore pay reduced bills, but these will still change over time and may still be subject to price increases.
The government is working with suppliers to ensure all their customers in England, Scotland and Wales are allowed to switch to a fixed contract/tariff for the duration of the scheme if they wish, underpinned by the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme support for businesses on flexible purchase contracts, typically some of the largest energy-using businesses.
The government will provide equivalent support for businesses not connected to the gas or electricity grid. Further detail on this will be announced shortly.
SUPPORT MUST AVOID
THE CLIFF EDGE
The government will publish a review of the scheme’s operation in three months to inform decisions on future support after March 2023.
The review will particularly focus on identifying the most vulnerable non-domestic customers and how the government will continue assisting them with energy costs.
Prime Minister Liz Truss said: “I understand the huge pressure businesses, charities, and public sector organisations are facing with their energy bills, which is why we are taking immediate action to support them over the winter and protect jobs and livelihoods.
“As we are doing for consumers, our new scheme will keep their energy bills down from October, providing certainty and peace of mind.
“At the same time, we are boosting Britain’s homegrown energy supply, so we fix the root cause of the issues we are facing and ensure greater energy security for us all.”
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality said: “This intervention is unprecedented, and it is extremely welcome that the government has listened to hospitality businesses facing an uncertain winter. ef
“The government has recognised the vulnerability of hospitality as a sector, and we will continue to work with the government, to ensure that there is no cliff edge when these measures fall away.”
SOME BUSINESSES WILL FALL
BETWEEN THE CRACKS, SAYS FSB
Tina McKenzie, Policy and Advocacy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said: “This announcement will give certainty for the next six months, but a tough year remains ahead of many small firms.
“Many have been waiting for details on the energy bills support package to plan confidently for the winter and beyond, so it’s encouraging to have clarity from the Government on the form that its support will take.
“The next stage will be for small businesses to learn what the changes mean for their current contracts and for any offers they have been looking at.
“Subsidising the unit costs of electricity and gas for six months is welcome, but there are those who miss out from before the six-month period, and help must not result in a cliff-edge afterwards.
“We are calling for a hardship fund to be created for those who fall outside of the current support or for whom the current support will be insufficient.
“There will be hardship for some businesses which signed fixed contracts after prices rose but before April, who find themselves excluded from the scheme.
“FSB calls on energy suppliers to allow those customers to switch without charge to new fixed contracts, covered by the Energy Supported Price if that makes the difference for the small business to survive.
“Small businesses are the definition of vulnerable when it comes to these energy price hikes. Small firms do not have the ability to hedge, or negotiate energy prices, so we will be encouraging Government to continue to help small businesses across all different sectors after the six months have elapsed.”
Ms McKenzie called for common sense and understanding from the energy industry, which will continue to reap massive profits: “Energy companies must play their role to support their small business customers.
“Energy providers must pass on the benefit of the freeze in full and must immediately provide updated bills and quotes to each small business customer who will be wondering today what the changes mean for them.
“We’re concerned that there is no mention of a cap on rises to standing charges, which are the other main element of energy bills. While households’ standing charges will be capped, the same can’t be said for businesses.
“We call on energy suppliers to support their small business customers by committing to lowering standing charges as far as possible.
“We’d like to see energy companies promise not to disconnect businesses from energy supply that are currently unable to pay for their energy bills this winter and not ask for disproportionate upfront payments.
“Currently, small firms could be disconnected from energy supply if they cannot pay bills after 30 days.
“We will be writing to energy companies in this regard and encourage them to support their small business customers in this difficult period.”
SHORT-TERM FIX FOR
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director, said: “We welcome the government’s quick and decisive action to provide hard-pressed businesses with a substantial short-term fix to a long-term problem.
“The package will ease worries about otherwise viable businesses shutting up shop, and smaller companies especially will benefit from the discounted rate.
“Businesses will also want to know more about the exit strategy and what happens when the six-month cap runs out. Working closely with businesses will be key to successful implementation.
“The long-run solution is to double-down on energy security and to incentivise firms to push ahead with ambitious energy efficiency programmes to lower demand.”
Kwarteng gambles on rush for growth
CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled his and Liz Truss’s economic vision for the UK on Friday morning.
The headlines are straightforward.
There will be £45bn in tax cuts by 2027; however, the largest cuts – national insurance cuts, the abolition of the cap on bonuses and the highest income tax rate- benefit only high earners.
Cut in the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023;
National Insurance will not rise as scheduled, and the Government will reverse the current year rise as of November 6;
New Health and Social Care Levy to pay for the NHS will not be introduced;
The top rate of income tax was cut from 45% to 40%;
Cancel the rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023;
Rules around universal credit tightened by reducing benefits if people don’t fulfil job search commitments;
VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors;
End of the cap on bankers’ bonuses;
Planned increases in the duties on beer, cider, wine, and spirits cancelled;
Government to discuss setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England.
Alongside the above, the Chancellor announced plans to remove environmental safeguards for building developments and reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions.
KWARTENG LEAVES LABOUR AN OPEN GOAL
In an interview with Rishi Sunak during the Conservative leadership contest, Nick Robinson observed that it would be a nasty surprise for the former Chancellor when he found out who’d been in power for the last twelve years.
Kwasi Kwarteng followed Liz Truss’s preferred method of operation: he pretended they hadn’t happened.
The Chancellor comprehensively dumped on the policies pursued over the last dozen years by successive Conservative governments, for a decade of which Liz Truss has been a member.
His statement was, as one ministerial colleague said, “a game changer”, although perhaps not in the way he envisaged.
So complete was the change of economic policy that it leaves an open question about how Mr Kwarteng and his Cabinet colleagues ended up in the same political party as most of their backbench colleagues and served under the last three Conservative leaders.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves did not miss the open goal. Even as Mr Kwarteng and Ms Truss shook their heads on the government benches, she hammered home that the Chancellor’s statement was an admission the record of Conservative governments since 2010 was one of a failure to deliver growth or a viable economic plan.
THE SUPPLY SIDE FIX
The Chancellor and Prime Minister’s rationale is that cutting taxes for the already well-off will benefit all citizens as they are incentivised to invest and act in entrepreneurial ways. In addition, reducing regulation for businesses will encourage increased commercial enterprise.
They believe the growth stimulated will make up for any loss in tax revenues as increased economic activity, encouraged by lower taxes, leads to increased government revenues.
That approach is called supply-side economics, which focuses on increasing the supply of goods and services through growth.
In every developed nation where the Government’s brand of economics has been tried, two things have happened: a cataclysmic bust has followed a short-term burst of economic activity.
In addition, wealth inequalities – and the UK is already grossly unequal – are embedded and made worse.
Low taxes on the wealthiest do not distinguish between those who generate wealth through their industry or create economic activity through business investment and those who inherit wealth or sit on capital without producing anything.
“THE RICH WILL REJOICE”
Wales’s Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, responded: “Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Instead of delivering meaningful, targeted support to those who need help the most, the Chancellor prioritises funding for tax cuts for the rich, unlimited bonuses for bankers, and protecting the profits of big energy companies.
“Instead of increasing funding for public services in line with inflation, we get a Chancellor blithely ignoring stretched budgets as public services find their money is not going as far as it did before.”
Plaid Regional MS Cefin Campbell said: “This Budget will see the rich rejoice as their bonuses rocket and their tax bill sliced, once again it will be the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the brunt of the disastrous cost of living crisis.”
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, added: “Tax cuts for the super-rich will do absolutely nothing to drive growth in the Welsh economy.
“I urge the UK Government to recognise that our Government in Wales must be given the fiscal tools to unlock our economic potential ourselves. That is the only way to improve the lives of people across Wales.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance, Peter Fox MS, said: “Today shows that the UK Conservative Government has a comprehensive plan to provide a sharp boost to the economy by putting cash back into people’s pockets. Labour in Wales has the power to cut taxes in Wales but chooses not to.
“Mark Drakeford needs to take a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book and take immediate action to support hard-working people and struggling businesses, stimulating the Welsh economy rather than stifling it.”
Scott Corfe, Research Director at Social Market Foundation, said: “The Chancellor is taking a very high-risk gamble with the economy.
“If his package of enormous tax cuts and ‘supply side reforms’ fails to translate into significantly higher economic growth, we risk further falls in the pound and surging gilt yields as investors lose confidence in our ability to pay our way in the world.
“That, in turn, means higher inflation, an unsustainable trajectory for the public finances and steeper interest rate rises – potentially deepening rather than alleviating the cost of living crisis.”
Crew rescued after fishing boat broke down at sea
A DRAMATIC rescue took place off the coast of Pembrokeshire on Monday night after a fishing boat failed to arrive...
Milford Haven mosque opening for second Community Open Day
FOLLOWING the wonderful success of the open days at Milford Haven mosque on September 10 and 11, Milford Haven’s Islamic...
Mount Estate man’s car had £73k worth of weed in the boot
A MOUNT ESTATE resident described by his barrister as ‘a gentleman’ tried to stop police looking in his car because...
The world watches HM Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in state funeral
THE QUEEN’S state funeral is taking place with ceremonial processions in London and Windsor today. This is the latest update...
Pembrokeshire solider chosen to stand guard around coffin of The Queen
A SOLDIER from Pembrokeshire has been chosen to stand guard around the coffin of HM Queen Elizabeth II as she...
Thousands line streets to welcome King Charles and Queen Consort to Wales
KING CHARLES and the Queen Consort have visited Cardiff for their first official visit to Wales since the death of...
Pembrokeshire County Council to close majority of services for Queen’s Funeral
SCHOOLS and most services run by Pembrokeshire County Council will be closed or paused on Bank Holiday Monday (September 19th)...
Travel warnings issued over Royal visit to Wales on Friday
KING CHARLES III and the Queen Consort will visit Wales on Friday. The Royal couple will be in Cardiff, and...
Ironman Wales will go ahead with ‘some changes’, organisers have confirmed
THE ORGANISERS of Ironman Wales have confirmed to The Herald that they have made the decision to go ahead with...
The Queen has died, Buckingham Palace confirms
BUCKINGHAM PALACE has confirmed that HM The Queen died at Balmoral this afternoon. Prince Charles is now the King. The...
Popular This Week
News6 days ago
Mount Estate man’s car had £73k worth of weed in the boot
News5 days ago
Two road closures due to separate accidents within hours on Freemans Way
News5 days ago
Milford Haven mosque opening for second Community Open Day
News4 days ago
Roger wins at Trefloyne as Kilgetty Golf Society bids farewell to committee members
Entertainment6 days ago
St John’s Choir hosts successful concert
Sport6 days ago
WRU Cup round up: Fishguard win but Tenby’s game called off
Sport5 days ago
Haverfordwest County knocked out of MG Cup after shootout defeat
News7 days ago
The world watches HM Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in state funeral