Minister for Incompetence, ‘Failing Grayling’, Born on April Fools Day, Leaves Government

For many, Chris Grayling’s name was a byword for incompetence – and he left Government wedded to the unflattering moniker “Failing Grayling”.

His record for mistakes was long and notorious.

As transport secretary, his decision to award Seaborne Freight a contract worth £13.8 million to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend in Belgium – despite having no ships – attracted widespread criticism.

He faced a vote of no confidence – but survived – over Northern Rail’s chaotic timetable collapse which resulted in widespread disruption and thousands of furious passengers.

And the minister – born on April Fool’s Day – faced ire when he controversially ditched plans to make the railway network faster, greener and cleaner by electrifying lines.

His reputation for blunders was forged long before he stepped into the role of transport secretary in 2016, his reward for masterminding Theresa May’s leadership campaign.

As justice secretary before that, he introduced new fees for employment tribunals, banned people from sending books to prisoners, and brought forward court fees which the then chairman of the Bar Council warned could incentivise innocent people to plead guilty.

All of the moves were subsequently overturned.

He also triggered an angry campaign from musicians such as Johnny Marr, Dave Gilmour and Billy Bragg when he banned steel-string guitars from prisons.

Other failures included Mr Grayling’s decision to bring forward legal aid restrictions for domestic violence victims, cut legal aid for prisoners and set up a body which won a £6 million contract to train prison staff in Saudi Arabia.

Before entering government in 2010 as employment minister, Mr Grayling held a series of shadow cabinet positions and was also caught up in controversy then.

While in opposition he claimed parts of Britain were so blighted by crime they resembled the streets of Baltimore in cult TV show The Wire.

In 2010 he faced calls to quit when he said bed and breakfast guest houses run by Christians should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of their sexuality.

He told a meeting of the Centre for Policy Studies think tank that hotels should not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, but individuals should have the right to decide who stayed in their home.

But he was also seen as “the jackal” of the Tory Party, ruthlessly and persistently pursuing what he considered breaches of ethics and the collapse of standards.

Some believed his unrelenting campaign against David Blunkett’s alleged breaches of the ministerial code played at least some part in the then work and pensions secretary’s second resignation from the cabinet.

Until then, Mr Grayling was virtually unknown outside political circles, having entered Parliament only in 2001.

As a former quiet man of Westminster, he then began making ripples as the custodian of political morals.

Born in 1962, he grew up in Buckinghamshire but his parents moved to Cheshire when he was 19 and he has extensive family links in the North West.

He was educated at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe before going to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to read history.

After university, Mr Grayling joined the BBC’s news training scheme and worked as a producer on BBC News and Channel 4’s Business Daily.

Later he moved to the business side of the media industry and worked for a number of small and medium-sized production businesses before going to international communications firm Burson-Marsteller, where he completed his time as European marketing director.

Grayling being ‘completely airbrushed’ out of history by Gove

chrisgraylingairMichael Gove is “completely airbrushing” Chris Grayling’s time as justice secretary from the history books, shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant has said.

Mr Bryant claimed the new Justice Secretary, who has already scrapped Mr Grayling’s secure colleges plan and a justice training contract bid in Saudi Arabia, is also going to get rid of mandatory court fines introduced by the now-Commons Leader.

The fine – called the criminal courts charge – was introduced by the coalition government to help towards the running of the courts system and sees anyone convicted of a crime forced to pay a fee.

More than 50 magistrates are reported to have quit over the charge, which can range from £150 to £1,200, paid by criminals towards the cost of their court case.

After an embarrassing defeat in the Lords over the mandatory fees, Justice Minister Lord Faulks said the issue is “very much on the agenda” and The Independent claims Mr Gove is leading a review of the charges.

Mr Bryant claimed they were making innocent people plead guilty to avoid the higher fees as he slammed Mr Grayling’s tenure as justice secretary.

During the business statement in the Commons, the Labour frontbencher said: “Yesterday the Government was quite exceptionally defeated in the Lords on a motion condemning the mandatory court charges introduced by you when you were the injustice secretary, sorry justice secretary.

“One magistrate has written to me saying that because of these mandatory charges many innocent people are now pleading guilty.

“He says that he recently had to impose, because it’s mandatory on the magistrates, had to impose the court charge of £150 on a homeless man who had stolen a £1.90 sandwich from Sainsbury’s.

“That’s not the rule of law, it’s cruel injustice.

“The new Justice Secretary has already overturned your ban on books for prisoners, he’s put a halt on your plan to build Saudi Arabia’s jails and execution centres and we read in the press today that the new Justice Secretary is now going to beat a retreat on these cruel mandatory court charges.

“So just in case you should be completely airbrushed from history can we have a debate on your legacy as justice secretary?

“It needn’t be a very long debate.”

Police cautions to be scrapped

Police cautions are to be scrapped
Police cautions are to br scrapped

Cautions are set to be scrapped in England and Wales as part of an overhaul of out-of-court disposals.

Ministers want to replace existing disposals available to police officers, which include cautions and cannabis warnings, with a new two-tier approach requiring offenders to take one or more actions.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the revamp, which at the bottom-end would see offenders writing an apology to victims or repairing damages but could see more serious offences being fined, removes the “soft option”.

Three police force areas will trial the new approach over the next 12 months and if successful it will be replicated across the country.

The Justice Secretary said: “Under the new system we are introducing, offenders will face prosecution if they fail to comply with the conditions set by the police, so that no one is allowed to get away with the soft option.”

Conditional cautions, simple cautions, penalty notices for disorder, cannabis and khat warnings and community resolutions will be replaced by a new framework.

First-time offenders who commit minor crimes will face a new statutory community resolution, which could see an offender offering a verbal or written apology to the victim, making reparation, such as fixing damages, or paying financial compensation.

More serious offending will be dealt with by a suspended prosecution, which will have one or more condition attached such as a fine or attending a rehabilitation course.

As with the current system, police officers will use their judgment to assess an offence.

Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and Leicestershire police forces will trial the proposed system.

However, Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national prisons newspaper said iut was time to stop our justice system being used as a political football in run ups to elections.

Mr Leech said: “Of course there are examples where cautions have been given out wrongly, every system has its failures of practice, but they shouldn’t be allowed to damage the principle of the thing.

“What is undeniable is that cautions have played a large part in freeing up courts and prisons from minor offenders – and contrary to what Chris Gralyling asserts, cautions do actually have quite serious consequences; a criminal record for one.

“If all crimes should have consequences, as Grayling now insists, can we then see an end to MPs wrongly claiming over £100,00 on their expenses, like former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith did, where the only consequence to her was having to apologise to the House of Commons?” [see: http://tinyurl.com/yhxfqlo]

Grayling denies prisons crisis

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said it is “unfortunate” the press only cover bad news about prisons and was forced to deny a crisis in the system after a serves of damning reports – causing one expert to say he is playing with words.
A series of highly critical reports from Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick over the summer has led Labour to accuse Mr Grayling of burying his head in the sand over the “shambolic” prison system.
But the Justice Secretary insisted there are “many” good prisons for every bad one after being quizzed by Labour former prisons minister David Hanson on the situation at Wormwood Scrubs, Glen Parva, and Doncaster prisons.
All three were identified by the chief inspector as either unsafe or in decline this year.During justice questions in the Commons, Mr Grayling told Mr Hanson: “It is unfortunate that the press coverage is always of the bad reports, not for example today when we have an excellent report from Chelmsford, two weeks ago when we had an excellent report from Parc youth offender institutions.
“The Chief Inspector has rightly been looking this year at prisons where there have been challenges in the past.”But it is the case, and you will know if you visit prisons around the estate, there is a lot of very good work being done by our teams, going through a process of change caused by budget pressures, they are doing a first rate job.
“And for every time you get a report questioning performance in one prison, there are many others that are doing a first rate job, as you will know yourself.”
Mr Grayling’s response prompted shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan to claim suicides, self harm, deaths in prison, serious assaults and call-outs for the riot squad are all on the rise.
Mr Khan said one in five prisons in England and Wales are now rated by the Government’s offender management service as “of concern” – more than doubling in a year.
The Labour MP said: “We’ve had four reports from the Chief Inspector of Prisons which have been pretty damning into Glen Parva, Doncaster, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs.
“What will it take for you to accept that we are in the midst of a prison crisis?”
Mr Grayling replied: “As always you paint a very partial view of what’s going on in our prisons.
“Our prisons are less overcrowded than they have been at any point since 2001, they are less violent than they were under the last government, there is more work being done in our prisons today than was the case under the previous government, the amount of prisoners going through education is rising.
“There are staff shortages in parts of our prisons system but across the prisons system we have a dedicated staff working hard, doing the right job.
“I take very seriously the issue of suicide in our prisons, we saw a rise in numbers in the year, we saw a fall in numbers across the summer, we may see a rise, we may see a fall in the future. These are difficult to track, we work very hard to tackle what is a real problem.”
But Mr Khan blasted Mr Grayling for failing to manage the prison system.He said: “This is classic head in the sand syndrome.”The Government cannot pretend any longer that there is no crisis in our prisons. Even their own backbenchers say the system is shambolic.”Your priorities, regardless of your budget, must be the security of the public and prison officers, and the welfare of inmates.
“Your department is failing in all three – not my words, but an editorial in The Sun newspaper.
“Bearing in mind you were appointed by the Prime Minister in your current job to appeal to the red tops, what’s gone wrong?”
Mr Grayling replied: “I will think we have a problem in our prisons when I am forced through bad planning to release tens of thousands of prisoners weeks early, to commit crimes they should not have committed as the last government did.
“I know I will have a problem when I have to hire thousands of police cells when we don’t have enough space in our prisons.
“The truth is we have space in our prisons, they are less overcrowded, we are increasing education, they are less violent than they were under the last government.
“We have faced challenges given budget pressures but we are doing a much better job than you did.”
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national prisons newspaper said Mr Grayling was “playing with words” on a subject that deserved the utmost seriousness.
Mr Leech said: “Of course there are good reports and bad reports, nothing is all good or bad.
“But what Grayling refuses to recognise is that the bad reports are not only out numbering the good ones but the bad reports are worse than in the past with prisons failing weekly on the most serious issues of safety and decency.
“Grayling is playing with words on a subject that deserves seriousness and respect.”

MP Calls For Grayling ‘Spin Machine’ Probe

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling

A Whitehall whistleblower has claimed the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has ordered advisers to vet all answers given by his department to official parliamentary questions to ensure a “favourable reply” is provided.

In a letter to shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan MP, the “concerned official” claims Ministry of Justice (MoJ) staff at all levels are “infuriated” by the way the minister’s advisers have sought to drag them into “the spin machine”.

Mr Khan has written to MoJ permanent secretary Ursula Brennan to demand an investigation into the allegations made by the whistleblower and has accused Mr Grayling of politicising the department.

The shadow justice secretary and MP for Tooting has also called for a review of parliamentary answers given to him in recent months, which he says have shown a “noticeable deterioration” in timeliness and quality.

An MoJ spokeswoman said it is committed to answering parliamentary questions “in a way that provides the necessary context for members”.

Mr Khan said: “It appears as if I am being deliberately denied information I am entitled to.

“The only explanation is that Chris Grayling wants to hide how badly he is doing as Justice Secretary.”

He went on: “Asking parliamentary questions is absolutely crucial to MPs. Without them, it would be almost impossible to get to the bottom of what’s really happening in the justice system, what taxpayers money is being spent on and whether the Government’s policies are succeeding or failing.

“If my answers are being manipulated for party political purposes, the public are denied the true facts.

“This is bad for democracy and bad for the British public.”

The shadow justice secretary labelled the Justice Secretary a “cowboy” and attacked his record at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

He added: “That’s why I’m demanding an immediate inquiry by the most senior officials to get to the bottom of whether the Ministry of Justice is being blatantly politicised with MPs being denied information we are entitled to with obstacles put in our way.

“Information must be freely available, quickly, with no grubby interference by a political spin operation trying to hide the embarrassment of Chris Grayling.”

MoJ officials preparing answers to parliamentary questions have been told to pay “particular interest” to questions in 48 areas, including prisoners in police cells, first-class rail travel, deaths in custody and ministers’ personal matters, the whistleblower claimed.

In his letter to the permanent secretary, Mr Khan said parliamentary answers go unanswered, some are dealt with via holding answers, which fail to be followed up, and some provide answers to different questions.

Among unanswered questions, issues such as prison capacity and the experience of staff at Oakwood prison run by G4S are covered, some of which Mr Khan says are “clearly politically embarrassing” for the Justice Secretary.

An MoJ spokeswoman said: “Special advisers are employed to provide advice and assistance to ministers across a wide range of areas, as required and in line with the code of conduct for special advisers.

“The MoJ receives a high volume of parliamentary questions on a wide range of subjects.

“These vary in complexity, and can sometimes involve compiling detailed statistical information. We are committed to answering PQs in a way that provides the necessary context for members.”