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'Baby-faced assassin' Gavin Williamson handed Michael Fallon's old job as MPs fear who could be next for the chop in …

Theresa May rushed to plug a hole in her Cabinet[1] today after her ousting of Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon over sexual harassment claims left other ministers fearing they will be next. In an extraordinary twist, Sir Michael’s job went to a man known as “the baby-faced assassin” for his ruthlessness — Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson, 41. The Standard has learned that Sir Michael’s sudden resignation last night was instigated by Mrs May.

A friend of the ex-Defence Secretary said emphatically that it was “her idea”, despite an exchange of letters saying Sir Michael had made the decision after reflecting on his conduct.

Sir Michael Fallon said his past behaviour may have fallen below the high standards expected of him (EPA)

Mr Williamson, who coasted into the newly vacant role, was reported to have played a key role in pulling the rug from under Sir Michael by advising the Prime Minister yesterday that more embarrassing allegations about him might be made. That led to a meeting with Mrs May where Sir Michael, 65, was persuaded to fall on his sword. After days in which the Government has been battered by allegations of sexual impropriety, it left some senior Tories worrying that by forcing out Sir Michael, Mrs May had made other Cabinet members more vulnerable to accusations of harassment.

One minister said: “If someone has to resign when the only public allegation is that someone put his hand on a knee 15 years ago, that is a very low bar indeed. Where does that leave others who might be accused of similar offences?”

Theresa May ordered a meeting in which Sir Michael, 65, was persuaded to fall on his sword (Sky News)

In other changes, Mr Williamson’s deputy Julian Smith moves up to be chief whip, in charge of discipline among Tory MPs at Westminster. He in turn is replaced by Esther McVey, a former TV presenter and minister, who was on the backbenches after a spell out of Parliament.

The big winners in the changes were Mr Williamson and his ally Mr Smith, who both became MPs just seven years ago in 2010.

Cabinet will suffer from losing bruiser

Sir Michael Fallon’s ousting threatens to further destabilise Theresa May’s Cabinet, writes Nicholas Cecil. The former defence secretary was deployed as a political bruiser at home to fight Labour and abroad to defend Britain’s corner on the world stage. A loyalist, he was a heavyweight in a Cabinet riven by Brexit feuding.

He ruthlessly attacked Labour leaders, warning voters in 2015 not to back Ed Miliband because he had “stabbed his own brother in the back” and claiming that Russian president Vladimir Putin would welcome a Jeremy Corbyn government. He led Britain’s campaign to crush Islamic State and hit back against Russian military actions. After entering the Commons in 1983, he held a string of government positions.

In recent years, the Sevenoaks MP, 65, was often sent out on the morning airwaves to try to smooth away the latest crisis, including during Mrs May’s disastrous snap election in June. His fall from grace began with a report this week that he had touched the knee of journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer in 2002. She brushed it off as “mildly amusing” and he apologised at the time, but Sir Michael could not guarantee No 10 that there would not be other allegations and was forced out.

Nicholas Cecil The new Defence Secretary, who famously keeps a pet tarantula in his office, is the youngest in history. He was one of the “two Gavins”, along with No 10 chief of staff Gavin Barwell, who became hugely influential in Downing Street after Mrs May lost her majority in June.

Today Mr Williamson left Downing Street with a military officer and got into a waiting car. Shortly afterwards, Ms McVey walked into No 10 without speaking to reporters. Meanwhile, senior Tory Ruth Davidson has said the “Boys’ Own locker-room culture” in Britain’s political system has to stop.

The Scottish Conservative leader said the “dam had been broken” on inappropriate sexual behaviour by politicians. Talks are now under way for a UK-wide code of conduct for elected officials and political staff.

MoD crisis deepens

The deep crisis in UK defence has just got a lot deeper with Sir Michael Fallon’s departure. The politician, who had been in charge at the Ministry of Defence for more than three years, was due to deliver a major defence review in six weeks’ time.

Now the new person at the helm has to deliver a package of cuts and reforms with the fortunes of defence and the armed forces at their lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War. Money is short, ships are being laid up, exercises cut back or cancelled, morale is wobbly in key areas, overall personnel numbers are down and so is recruiting. Senior officials have been resigning.

Last month Tony Douglas, in charge of defence equipment and support, walked out. After two years, he felt he had achieved little in the tangled world of defence procurement, according to friends and colleagues. Put bluntly, the sums in defence for all the plans, programmes and policies in train for the next 10 years just don’t add up.

The MoD says “contingencies” have been put in place against currency fluctuation but nothing sufficient is in place to meet the soaring cost of at least half a dozen items of equipment from the US, from Apache and Chinook helicopters and F35 aircraft for the two new aircraft carriers. Something has got to give. The problem is that too many big-ticket items have been ordered which the nation can barely afford.

This will be the 13th defence review since 1945. The services have been offering up the cuts and “adjustments” they think they can get away with — a process known in the past as salami-slicing. However, it now looks as though the defence crisis has gone way beyond salami-slicing and that the whole apparatus needs a comprehensive overhaul and new strategy.

It is likely that Sir Michael knew this. Robert Fox Ms Davidson told BBC radio: “The dam has broken on this now, and these male-dominated professions, overwhelmingly male-dominated professions, where the Boys’ Own locker-room culture has prevailed, and it’s all been a bit of a laugh, has got to stop.”

She is calling for action at Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament. “When we look at some of the house clearing that … needs to happen in the next few weeks, months and years ahead, are we going to say that we didn’t need some pretty big shovels for the Augean stable?” she added. Education Secretary Justine Greening, the Minister for Women and Equalities, said political parties needed to decide what “modern” standards of behaviour were now expected.

“There’s quite possibly a debate within the public about what those standards should be and there may be different groups of people who think that, actually, standards should be at different levels,” she said.


  1. ^ hole in her Cabinet (

New Garden Village Proposed Near Stone

Stone Garden VillageStafford Borough Council have revealed plans for a new garden village on former MOD land with the prospect of new homes, school and a doctor’s surgery.

The idea for a new garden village could be considered as part of Stafford Borough Council’s local plan process should the Government go ahead with the plans to build a new HS2 railhead near Yarnfield/Stone. The council has previously opposed HS2 proposals – but the local authority is working to ensure the area would not miss out on any economic boost if the high speed line goes ahead. Recently the council announced a ?500 million Stafford Station Gateway masterplan to transform the area near the existing railway station which is to be a hub stop for HS2 and will see journey times to London from the county town slashed to under an hour.

Now the local authority is looking for benefits that can be achieved if the railhead comes to Stone with a new permanent junction off the M6 being built to support it. And the council say proposals to create a new garden village could relieve the pressure of building more homes in other towns and villages across the borough – helping retain the area’s ‘shire identity.’ The area which has been mooted is brownfield land around Cold Meece near Stone but it is too early to say how many houses or what facilities will form part of any possible development.

Council Leader, Patrick Farrington, said:

“I have always been clear that if what is proposed as part of the HS2 project goes ahead, then as a borough we should capitalise on any economic gains that this brings.”

The council works with other local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships, who form the ‘Constellation Partnership,’ and are looking to engage Government to progress opportunities that HS2 will bring. The council is embarking on a review of its local plan which will guide development in the future. Part of the exercise is asking landowners to suggest land they would like to have considered for development in the review.

Councillor Farrington continued:

“The idea of a new garden settlement is only at the concept stage and entirely dependent on HS2 and the Government confirming their plans before we could develop ours in any detail.

“If and when they progress they would be part of the local plan and subject to detailed consultation with local residents.”

The Government sets targets for councils to deliver new homes in their districts and Councillor Farrington added:

“If there were to be new sites put forward as part of the local plan process then it would obviously reduce the need to look for other sites to build on in our existing towns and villages.”

“And a permanent junction would allow better access to businesses and communities and would provide a boost for the economy of Stone.”

Annual Performance Review: SBP takes several initiatives to improve forex regime

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has taken several initiatives to improve effectiveness of foreign exchange regime during FY17. According to SBP’s Annual Performance Review, in order to improve effectiveness of foreign exchange regime, besides amendment to laws, several trading sessions were conducted and an Electronic Import Form was launched. In addition, registration of contracts with Afghanistan and reporting of Exchange Companies were also initiated.

During FY17, the Parliament passed the amendments to Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), 1947 proposed by the SBP empowering the central bank to impose monetary penalties on its regulates for violation of foreign exchange rules/regulations.

It will enable SBP to more effectively administer the foreign exchange business of authorized dealers and exchange companies in Pakistan. In addition, capacity building of authorized dealers, exchange companies and law enforcement agencies in collaboration with Institute of Bankers Pakistan and National Institute of Banking and Finance is being done on continuous basis and so far around 1500 officials have been given training in foreign exchange rules and regulations at different locations across the country. According to SBP, In order to facilitate stakeholders and to strengthen monitoring of import payments from Pakistan, SBP and Pakistan Customs also developed Electronic Import Form (EIF) module in Pakistan Customs’ Web Based system WeBOC.

The project has successfully been implemented and is operational since September, 2016. During the last fiscal year, the permissible offshore accounts of resident entities were brought under SBP regulatory ambit. The registration/acknowledgment procedures of capital account transactions of private sector were simplified along with segregation of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in order to establish a database of foreign exchange obligations.

These instructions will also enable SBP in effective assessment of foreign exchange implications of CPEC. In order to promote the culture of documentation, the regulatory due diligence of export of securities (Issue/Transfer) to non-resident investors against their investment into Pakistan (FDI-Inward) was enhanced. The instructions will also facilitate real investors and discourage money launderers to channellize their funds as foreign investment in Pakistan, the SBP informed.

Similarly, in view of peculiar nature of trade with Afghanistan through land routes, especially through Torkham and Chaman borders, banks have been allowed to register contracts of the Pakistani importers and make payments there against, as and when required, through a more liberalized mechanism in terms of which routing of transport documents has been allowed directly from exporter to importer, without involving exporter’s or importer’s bank. During the last fiscal year, SBP further streamlined foreign portfolio investment through banking channel, whereby non-resident portfolio investors were allowed to use their funds in Special Convertible Rupee Account to meet margin requirements of ready/cash market transactions in Pakistan Stock Exchange. The foreign investors have also been permitted to pledge their unencumbered securities in favor of National Clearing Company of Pakistan to meet such margins till settlement of respective transactions.

Exchange Companies are required to submit various reports/returns to SBP according to their scope of business.

In order to facilitate Exchange Companies and enhance integrity of reporting of data, an integrated reporting system has been implemented to enable Exchange Companies to submit comprehensive data to SBP through web based online system.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2017

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