Sunday, 29 April 2012

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Government terminates contract with Addison Lee

The minicab company Addison Lee is losing its contract with the Government for private car hire, according to information received today from the Cabinet Office.

The Government's Chief Procurement Officer, John Collington, who is based at the Cabinet Office, confirmed the termination of the contract in an e-mail today. He stated:

"We expect all private hire vehicles in London to adhere to the prohibition on using bus lanes.

In regard to Addison Lee, the only existing government contract with the company will expire at the end of this month and is not being renewed."

Addison Lee has been hit by controversy on two issues recently:

In the Chairman's Column of the company's magazine, Add Lib, John Griffin suggested that "the influx of beginner cyclists is going to lead to an overall increase in accidents involving cyclists". Cyclists responded this week by staging a protest and "die-in" outside Addison Lee's offices on Monday evening.

Then, on 16 April, the company issued a press statement saying that it had instructed its 3500 drivers to use bus lanes, in breach of the law. Griffin said he would indemnify its drivers from any fines or payments that resulted. Transport for London today won an injunction preventing Addison Lee from using bus lanes. Mr Justice Eder said the injunction had been put in place to "prevent crime and protect the freedom of others".

It can be assumed that the Government's decision on terminating the contract is the direct result of the company's disregard for the law. In the meantime, Addison Lee awaits an impending judicial review of the Bus Lane legislation.

by Marcus Williamson
Freelance journalist
26 April 2012

[Please credit the author if you use this article as a source of information for your own writing or broadcasting]

Update: 27 April

Mainstream media coverage of this story:

Independent: Minicab firm Addison Lee loses Government contract over bus lane rebellion

Guardian: Addison Lee loses government contract

Daily Telegraph: Addison Lee loses Government contract after bus lane row

The Times: Bus lane rebels Addison Lee lose government contract

Daily Mirror: Taxi for Tory donor: Tycoon loses contract after rows over cash-for-access, cyclists and bus lanes

Evening Standard: Addison Lee loses deal to drive ministers after bus lane battle

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Three disgraced Peers return to House of Lords

Three disgraced peers are returning to the House of Lords. Two have served jail sentences and repaid their false claims. Another has just repaid £125,000 in wrongly claimed expenses, after previously claiming that she could not afford to do so. The members, Lord Hanningfield (Paul White), Baron Taylor of Warwick (John Taylor) and Baroness Uddin (Manzila Pola Uddin) were all suspended after their abuse of the Lords expenses system was discovered.

Lord Hanningfield - "benefits cheat"
Paul White was jailed on 1 July 2011 for 9 months for false accounting after a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court found him guilty over a £13,379 expenses claim. In some cases, White had double-dipped, claiming the same expenses for chauffeur-driven travel from both the House of Lords and from Essex Council, where he was Council Leader. In other cases he claimed for stays in London when he had, in fact, returned to Essex.

On sentencing, Justice Saunders said that he would be remembered as a "benefits cheat".

He was held at Wandsworth and then Stamford Hill open prison before being released in September 2011. White returned quietly to the Lords on Monday 23 April 2012, following the Easter recess. He is once again claiming £300 per day in attendance expenses.

Baron Taylor of Warwick - "protracted course of dishonesty"
John Taylor falsely claimed expenses for travelling and staying in Oxford. He was found guilty on 25 January 2011 on six counts of false accounting and jailed on 31 May 2011 for 12 months.

Justice Saunders found that Taylor lied, was guilty of a "protracted course of dishonesty" and stated that "making false claims involved a breach of a high degree of trust".

He was released from prison in September 2011 under the home detention curfew scheme and is eligible to return to the Lords on 11 June 2012.

Baroness Uddin - "wrongly claimed" £125,349
Manzila Pola Uddin claimed £174 a night in subsistence by designating a property in Maidstone as her main home. She is rarely seen there and lives full-time in a property belonging to Spitalfields Housing Association in Wapping.

In October 2010 the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee decided that Baroness Uddin should repay £125,349 and be suspended until Easter 2012. In December 2011 the House Committee in the Lords further recommended that she should not be allowed back until the outstanding amount is repaid in full. However, it admitted that it had no way of forcing her to repay and that "Debt recovery through the courts is not practical in relation to such repayments". There is currently no mechanism to expel her from the House of Lords, without an Act of Parliament.

The House Committee had discussed allowing Uddin and Hanningfield to use their £300 Lords daily allowance to pay back the debt. However, they rejected that option, stating: "We consider that it would be inappropriate for a member to return to the House while still owing money."

After previously claiming that she cannot afford to repay the money, it now emerges that she repaid the entire debt of £125,349.10 earlier this week.

She will now be able to return to the Lords on 9 May 2012.

by Marcus Williamson
Freelance journalist
25 April 2012

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Monday, 9 April 2012

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Government snooping - How to protect yourself

The British Government's recently announced proposals to introduce legalised snooping of telephone calls made, e-mail envelopes sent and received, websites visited and social media activity have been met with widespread and justified outrage. The proposals were not part of the LibDem or Conservative manifestoes and they contradict the commitments on Civil Liberties from the document The Coalition: our programme for government. (see p.11)

A few people, who appear to favour this kind of unwarranted intrusion into our lives on the grounds of "national security", might say "If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about".

However, there are many legitimate reasons why you may want to protect yourself from intrusion by the Government. British governments have a poor track record of handling private data, so you may not trust the security of the computer system where this information is stored and the integrity of the people who are using it. Further, you may be worried how a future Government might use this data. If you're in business, you might be concerned that your company's trade secrets would be spied on by the Government.

Prevention is better than cure

Clearly, prevention is better than cure, so the best way to avoid Government snooping is to prevent it from happening in the first place. You can do this by writing to your MP and writing to or calling the private offices of Cameron and Clegg (020 7276 3000).

The Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the company which provides your connection to the Internet. British ISPs include such companies BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky.

If the surveillance proposals are made law then the ISPs will be obliged to keep logs of each instance of telephone calls made and received, e-mail sender and recipient, addresses of websites visited and social media site visits. The result is a mass of data which can be used to build a "profile" of you and your connections to other people.

If this misguided plan does go ahead, here are a few ways in which you can protect yourself from Government snooping. These are techniques which are already used by ordinary people in repressive regimes such as China, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

Protecting your Internet connection

One of the most effective methods of protecting your Internet connection is to install Virtual Private Network (VPN) software. This creates a "pipe" between you and a VPN server, through which all Internet access is encrypted. By choosing a VPN server outside the UK you will not be subject to spying on your Internet traffic. However, your e-mail could still be monitored if you use your ISPs e-mail server.


For security, it is best not to use a UK ISP's e-mail address, which is usually in the format name@yourprovider. Instead register your own domain name and e-mail address with an overseas provider or use a free Internet address from Hotmail, GMail or any other provider based outside the UK.

Web surfing

In addition to the use of a VPN, you might consider using a proxy server outside the UK for your web surfing. This redirects all web surfing activity so that it appears to come from the "proxy" system instead of from your own computer. The result is that a website does not see the real person who is connecting to the site.

Social Media

Social media sites use web technology to display status pages, updates and Tweets. These can be protected by the use of VPNs and proxy servers and by using the secure versions of the sites. So, for example: instead of
and instead of

The Government log would then just show a connection to the website but will not include further details.


All of these methods are legal and available to everyone. What they demonstrate is how easy it would be for us to protect ourselves from a snooping Government. They also show that the proposals, from a technical perspective, are a folly. For, if every law-abiding citizen can hide, then those who might want to use the Internet to break the law, can also hide using the same methods.

Marcus Williamson, 4 April 2012