Vince Cable defends MPs over spending claims

Christine Jardine Image caption Christine Jardine won the Edinburgh West seat from the SNP in June's general election

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has said his party has "nothing to apologise for" after questions were raised about election spending.

A second Liberal Democrat MP has denied wrongdoing over claims about the way campaign spending was accounted for.

Christine Jardine, who took Edinburgh West from the SNP in June's election, described the claims as a "smear".

It follows questions about the expenses of Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire.

The Electoral Commission strictly limits the amount a candidate can spend to be elected to a Westminster seat to ensure there is a level playing field.

According to The Herald newspaper, Ms Jardine failed to include £3,000 in her total campaign costs[1] submitted to the Electoral Commission.The paper said that if the costs had been included, it would have taken her over the spending limit.

Ms Jardine, however, has insisted the spending was on the national campaign, and did not need to be included because it did not highlight her as the local candidate.

Sir Vince Cable, the UK party leader, was questioned on the issue during a visit to Edinburgh to meet party activists.

He said:"My understanding is it's absolutely completely above reproach, that there's absolutely no question of any impropriety and what's happened is it's a complex process apportioning costs, but the party has followed advice.

"There's no question of anything wrong whatsoever, nothing to apologise for.As far as I'm aware no official complaints have been made and from what I understand there's no basis for making them."

Christine Jardine won the Edinburgh West seat by 2,988 votes over the SNP's Toni Giugliano.

She told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland[2] programme:"If it had been local expenditure, it would have been included as local expenditure.

"It was national expenditure and therefore it was counted as national expenditure."

'Reputational damage'

Ms Jardine described the story as "weak" and denied playing "fast and loose" with the rule book, saying:"No, no we're not, we're following the rules to the letter.

"That is kind of like saying I spent x-number of pounds on my car and x-number of pounds on my house and then trying to say that everything was spent on your house.

"No.The money which was spent on the national campaign was spent on the national campaign and the money which was spent on the local campaign was accounted for in the local campaign.

"This is nothing more than an exercise in reputational damage by the SNP because they lost the seat."

Image caption Lib Dem Jo Swinson was returned as MP for East Dunbartonshire

On Wednesday, it emerged that Ms Swinson's spending came in £210 below the legal limit.

She took the East Dunbartonshire seat from the SNP with a 5,339 majority amid questions over £7,000 of expenses, which she said were only used to promote the national party[3].

The Electoral Commission said it had not received a complaint about either candidate.

'Vanishing leaflets'

A spokeswoman said:"General election candidates or their agents must submit campaign spending returns to their local authority.

"Any investigations into alleged breaches of candidate spending rules would be a matter for the police."

Police Scotland confirmed that they had not received any complaints in relation to the matter.

Image caption Alex Cole-Hamilton has been reported to the procurator fiscal over alleged criminality

In June last year, the Lib Dems' general election campaign director Alex Cole-Hamilton was reported to prosecutors[4] over an allegation that he may have breached the legal spending cap regarding the Holyrood election campaign.The party denies any wrongdoing.

SNP MP Pete Wishart said there was an "extremely worrying pattern" emerging.

He said:"Vince Cable needs to get a grip of his party and explain just how widespread these practices are.

"The Lib Dems must start being transparent about what they spent in constituencies across Scotland or else we've got an emerging election expenses scandal on our hands."

He added:"Edinburgh West is where the Lib Dems faced a police probe into their expenditure during after last year's Holyrood election.

"They've clearly not learnt any lessons from that experience.

"But they now have the chance to come clean and provide the evidence of the vanishing leaflets and fess up to what appears to be creative allocation of local and national spending."...

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Young people should 'think twice' about university - Frank Field

Frank FieldImage copyright PA Image caption Frank Field chairs the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs

Students have been "mis-sold" degree courses and should choose apprenticeships, a Labour MP has said.

Frank Field warned students receiving their A-level results against pursuing "any old degree" and said vocational training could lead to better jobs.

He called for a rethink of careers advice given to 16 and 17-year-olds to avoid students being "sold a pup".

The government said universities "deliver extraordinary returns" for students.

Mr Field, a free-thinking former minister, who graduated from Hull university with a degree in economics, is chairman of the influential Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

In his article for the Times Educational Supplement,[1] he wrote:"As we reflect on this year's A-level results, many sixth formers all over the country are mis-sold a graduate career, when the right advice, in terms of pay and happiness, is to take an apprenticeship.

"There is already a growing unease among young graduates who feel they have been ripped off."

He added:"This mis-selling scandal is so strongly embedded that it is countering any appetite across the country for alternative routes into jobs that pay decent wages and offer healthy prospects for progression."

Mr Field argued that apprenticeships could provide a better route into work for some school-leavers and they could earn more than some graduates.

"A large number of students have been sold a pup," he alleged.

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Media captionUniversities Minister Jo Johnson told Today that higher education remained good value for money

His comments follow recent criticism of the cost of degrees[2] from Labour peer and former government adviser Lord Adonis, and Theresa May's former chief of staff Nick Timothy.

Mr Timothy has argued that successive governments had assumed that an increase in university graduates would boost economic growth, when technical qualifications were more likely to boost productivity.

However, an organisation which aims to help low-paid 16 to 30-year-old women out of poverty, criticised the way apprenticeships were offered to women.

"It's right that apprenticeships should be taken more seriously as an alternative to university degrees," said Carole Easton, chief executive of the Young Women's Trust.

"They have the potential to be a great route out of poverty and into fantastic careers.At present, however, gender stereotypes and a lack of support shut women out.

"While men are encouraged into industries like engineering and construction, women are expected to go into beauty, administration and care - where they are often paid less, given less training and are less likely to get a job at the end of their apprenticeship."

Speaking to the BBC as A-level results came out on Thursday, Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:"Universities continue to deliver extraordinary returns for people who go.

"On average, if you're a woman, you're likely to have higher lifetime earnings than women who don't go."

Image copyright PA Image caption A government levy on employers aims to boost funding for apprenticeships

An association representing school heads rejected Mr Field's criticism of careers advice for teenagers.

"Schools work incredibly hard to prepare young people for whatever route they want to pursue," said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

However, he added:"Apprenticeships may be a more attractive option than university for many young people, particularly given the cost of university.

"So the more information we can give students about the range of options available, the better."

In April the government introduced a levy on employers to boost funding for workplace apprenticeships....

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Nicola Sturgeon would change SNP name

Nicola SturgeonImage copyright PA Image caption Nicola Sturgeon said she would call her party something other than the Scottish National Party

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wishes she could turn the clock back and change the Scottish National Party's name.

The SNP leader admitted the word "national" could be "hugely problematic" during a debate at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

She was speaking with Turkish author Elif Shafak, who said the word had a "negative meaning" to her.

However, the first minister insisted her party was about self government and was not insular.

Ms Shafak, who was wrongly accused of public denigration of Turkishness for her novel The Bastard Of Istanbul, told the audience:"Coming from Turkey, seeing the experiences there, not only in Turkey, across the Middle East, the Balkans, for us for instance the word nationalism is, for me personally, has a very negative meaning because I've seen how ugly it can get, how destructive it can become, how violent it can become and how it can divide people into imaginary categories and make them lose that cultural coexistence.

"Whereas when I come here, I hear the word nationalism being used in a different way and I felt that, can nationalism ever be benign?Can it ever be a benevolent thing?So there is a part of me that doubts that very much."

'Too complicated'

In response, Ms Sturgeon admitted:"The word is difficult."

She said:"If I could turn the clock back, what 90 years, to the establishment of my party, and choose its name all over again, I wouldn't choose the name it has got just now, I would call it something other than the Scottish National Party.

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon was attending an event with Elif Shafak and publisher Heather McDaid

"Now people say why don't you change its name now?Well that would be far too complicated.Because what those of us who do support Scottish independence are all about could not be further removed from some of what you would recognise as nationalism in other parts of the world.

"Two things I believe that I think run so strongly through the Scottish independence movement are firstly that it doesn't matter where you come from, if Scotland is your home and you live here and you feel you have a stake in the country, you are Scottish and you have as much say over the future of the country as I do.And that is a civic, open, inclusive view of the world that is so far removed from what you would rightly fear.

"Secondly one of the great motivators for those of us who support Scottish independence is wanting to have a bigger voice in the world, it's about being outward looking and internationalist, not inward looking and insular.

"So the word is hugely, hugely problematic sometimes for those of us who ...but Scottish independence is about self-government, it's about running your own affairs and making your own mark in the world.

"So yes words do matter but I think we can't change the connotations that the word has in other parts of the world, what we have to do is just demonstrate through words of our own, through deeds, through actions, through how we carry ourselves, that we stand for something completely different to all of that."...

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Barcelona attack: Theresa May says UK stands with Spain against 'evil'

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Media captionTheresa May says the UK stands 'shoulder-to-shoulder with Spain'

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the UK "stands shoulder to shoulder with Spain in confronting and dealing with the evil of terrorism".

She said she had "offered any assistance we can provide" to Spain after the attacks in Catalonia.

She also confirmed that British nationals were caught up in the attacks and the UK was looking into reports of a missing child with dual nationality.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said was "shocked and appalled" by the attacks.

The Spanish flag and the union jack are flying at half mast in Downing Street and at other government buildings.

Officials in Barcelona say at least 13 people were killed and more than 100 hurt when a van ploughed into pedestrians on Las Ramblas.Police later shot dead five suspects after a second vehicle attack, in which a woman who was injured later died..

The Foreign Office has issued advice[1] to tourists to take care and follow the advice of local security authorities.

'Extremist ideology'

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it had "deployed additional staff to Barcelona" and "offered support to the Spanish authorities".

Image caption Flags are flying at half mast in Downing Street

Speaking from her Chequers country residence, Mrs May said countries must "work together if we are to confront this evil of terrorism" and the "perverted, extremist ideology which drives it".

She stressed the importance of ridding the internet of "poisonous material", adding that terrorism was "the great threat that we all face" and vowing that "together we will defeat it".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he had been "appalled" by "the terrible loss of life, people innocently down Las Ramblas just enjoying themselves and somebody does this unbelievable act, which has taken the lives of many".

He added:"Obviously our sympathies to the families of all those who have lost ones and to all those that are injured, and thank you to the authorities in Spain for reacting so quickly."

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn said he was 'shocked and appalled' by the attack

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, also expressed his condolences on Twitter."Concerned and saddened by #Barcelona attack.Our thoughts are with those affected.Doing all we can to identify whether Brits need help," he wrote.

Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood has sparked a row with comments on Twitter[2] suggesting far-right ideologies drove both IS and white supremacists.

'Outrageous smear'

Following the attack on Thursday, Ms Wood tweeted:"Ofnadwy / terrible.Is this more far right terrorism?My thoughts are with all those affected."

She added:"All forms of political violence are the same.USA, Barcelona, everywhere.They are ideology-driven &we have to understand that to stop it."

The Welsh Conservatives called on Ms Wood to apologise or resign, while UKIP accused her of an "outrageous smear".

The Plaid Cymru leader said she was "staggered" by the response to her comments but stood by them, saying "politics and ideology lie behind these acts of violence," and adding:"My thoughts are first and foremost with the victims of last night's horror."

'Sympathy'

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London which has seen two similar vehicle attacks in recent months, tweeted[3] his thoughts were "with the victims of this barbaric terrorist attack in the great city of Barcelona".

"London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism," he added.

Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight, secretary of the British-Spanish all-party parliamentary group, tweeted:"Pleased the PM has said Britain stands with Spain against the evil of terrorism."

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable tweeted:"Shocked to see another #TerroristAttack this time @barcelona.Every sympathy for victims with many injured."

EU officials also condemned the attack.European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted:"All of Europe stands with #Barcelona.Our thoughts are with the victims and all affected by this cowardly attack on innocents."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted:"My thoughts are with the people of #Barcelona.We will never be cowed by such barbarism." ...

References

  1. ^ The Foreign Office has issued advice (www.gov.uk)
  2. ^ has sparked a row with comments on Twitter (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ tweeted (twitter.com)

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London-based Redcar steelworks job is a 'sick joke'

the steelworksImage copyright Getty Images Image caption The Redcar steelworks closed in 2015 with the loss of almost 3,000 jobs

An MP has called a job overseeing the regeneration of the Redcar steelworks a "sick joke" as it is based in London.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is advertising for a project lead for the Tees Valley's Mayoral Development Corporation[1].

Redcar's Labour MP Anna Turley said the job should be based in the Tees Valley.

Conservative Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said it needed to be in London to liaise with government departments.

The job, which starts at £49,525 a year, would include "occasional trips to Tees Valley".

Image copyright DCLG Image caption The key focus of the job is to oversee the regeneration of the steelworks site

Ms Turley said:"This job will be a leading position overseeing the regeneration of the steelworks site, a big challenge that is crucial to bringing decent jobs to our area.Why on earth, then, is it based in London?

"It's a sick joke.

"We have a lot of talented people in our region with the knowledge and experience to take on a role like this."

She said the people working on the project need to be "here on the ground, not hidden away" in an office in London.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Anna Turley wants the job to be based in Tees Valley

The steelworks closed in September 2015 with the loss of almost 3,000 jobs.

The key focus of the new job is to work with recently elected Tees Valley mayor Mr Houchen and other agencies to organise the future of the old steelworks site.

Mr Houchen told BBC Tees the job was at the central government end and needed to be in London to better liaise with the various departments.

He said Ms Turley's comments about the job showed "five or six different levels of ignorance" and he was "disappointed she hasn't educated herself on probably the most important project in her constituency".

The DCLG said the new role would be a "crucial link between Whitehall and our existing team in the region who are working closely with Ben Houchen and his office"....

References

  1. ^ project lead for the Tees Valley's Mayoral Development Corporation (www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk)

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