Universal Credit: Households to miss out on benefits over Christmas and New Year

Thousands of people on universal credit will not be paid over the festive season or will get a reduced payment, the BBC Moneybox show has highlighted.

Those hit will be some of the 67,000 people who claim the benefit while working and who are paid weekly.

This is because there are five paydays in December, so their monthly income will be too high to get any or some of the benefit. Some will have to reapply.

The government said only a “minority” of claimants would be affected.

What is universal credit – and what’s the problem?
Universal credit callers face five minutes on hold
Universal credit rollout ‘should be paused’
Universal credit merges six benefits for working-age people into one new payment, which is reduced gradually as you earn more.

The Department for Work and Pensions warns on its website that people who are paid five times in a month may have an income that is too high to qualify for the benefit in that period.

It says people will be notified if this happens and told to reapply for the benefit the following month.

Other people who are paid fives times in a month but do not earn enough for universal credit to end will have their benefit reduced.

Kayley Hignell, from Citizens Advice, said the way universal credit was calculated brought some benefits but also “significant budget challenges”.

She said: “The key thing here is about communication.

“People need to know that if they’re getting extra income in one month… it may stop their universal credit payment, and that they then subsequently need to put in a new claim to make sure that they continue to get those payments.

“If you’ve got extra money in the month, don’t necessarily bank on the fact that your universal credit is going to stay the same, because it could change it either in this month or the next.”

Rolled out

The government said the payments balance out, as claimants will receive more in the following month.

It said those who reapplied for the benefits would not have to submit new forms and would have their current claims restarted.

Universal credit is being rolled out across the UK in stages, but its implementation, particularly the six-week wait to receive the benefit, has caused controversy.

This week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Prime Minister’s Questions that hundreds of families have been issued with eviction notices by a landlord concerned about the impact of universal credit.

With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story



26 Countie Surveillance bill ‘breaches EU law’

Charlie Flanagan                                Draft legislation aimed at reforming State access to communication data is in breach of European law, a leading human rights body has warned.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) called for a super surveillance watchdog to oversee all state surveillance activities — to include not just communication data but interception of communications, deployment of surveillance devices, and use of informants.

European Court of Human Rights

The organisation, along with the National Union of Journalists, appeared before the Oireachtas justice committee for hearings on the General Scheme of the Communications (Data Retention) Bill 2007.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan published the draft heads of bill in early October along with the Murray report, which reviewed the law in the area.

The report said the current Irish system amounted to mass surveillance and said it “may no longer be lawful” to compel service providers to retain indiscriminate private communication data.

Communication data does not include content of telephone or digital messages but covers all traffic and location details, including on the sender and receiver, time and frequency of messages, as well as websites visited.

The Murray report called for the replacement of the current system, with no independent authorisation of requests, with prior authorisation from a district court judge (High Court for journalists) or from an independent agency. He also called for an independent monitoring body for the communication companies.

While the Government’s bill provides for district court authorisation, it does not include High Court authorisation for journalist data. Neither does it allow for an independent agency to authorise requests, nor a monitoring body for the industry.

In a joint submission with Digital Rights Ireland, the ICCL said the bill failed to bring Irish law into line with European jurisprudence.

Elizabeth Farries, ICCL information rights project manager, said the current bill is “invalid according to European Union law”, citing two landmark cases known as Tele2 and Digital Rights Ireland.

TJ McIntyre of Digital Rights Ireland previously told the committee that the bill as proposed would end up being tested in the courts.

Ms Farries said the Murray recommendations represented the “minimum standard and reflected EU law” and must be implemented to bring Irish law into line.

She said the bill allowed for emergency requests for journalists’ data without judicial approval — again contrary to EU law.

She said that, despite the claims of the Department of Justice, the current oversight system was “not working”, citing the part-time nature of current High Court reviews, the formulaic one-page reports produced, and the general lack of data.

The ICCL said the bill’s proposal for district court judges to grant authorisation was not sufficient in that the judges were busy and did not have sufficient resources and competence — including technical knowledge — to exercise full control.

The ICCL and Digital Rights Ireland argued for a resourced, independent agency dedicated to this purpose — and said this agency should examine all surveillance activities.

“We recommend that the designated judge be replaced by an independent supervisory authority, with parliamentary accountability, to be chaired by a judge, and supported by a secretariat with sufficient technical expertise and financial resources to provide detailed support including formalised public reports,” states their joint submission.

“This supervisory authority should also take on the oversight of interception of communications, use of surveillance devices, and the use of covert human intelligence sources.”

With many thanks to: Irish Examiner for the origional story.

Britain’s Prime Ministers husband linked to Paradise Papers


Theresa May and her husband Philip © Eddie Keogh .                                           Theresa May’s husband Philip has been linked to the Paradise Papers after his company was accused of arranging investments in tax havens. Thousands of documents have exposed how Britian’s mega rich invest their money abroad to legally avoid paying hefty tax bills.

Although not illegal, they are depriving the Treasury of juicy tax revenues at a time when many Britons are having their welfare payments slashed, and the National Health Service (NHS) faces a yawning budget black hole.

Philip May, the PM’s husband, is a relationships manager for investment-management firm Capital Group. His is the latest big name to be associated with the papers.
According to the documents, Capital Group allegedly used offshore-registered funds to make investments in a Bermuda-registered company. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party wants ‘flush Phil’ to answer some questions.

“There are some serious questions for Philip May to answer about his firm’s use of tax havens, whether he had any knowledge of it and if he thinks this is an acceptable way to do business,” Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, told Business Insider.

“Labour has previously asked Theresa May what her government plans to do to clamp down on the tax havens where money is squirrelled away to avoid paying taxes for public services in this country.

“When it comes to paying tax, there is one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest of us and, in refusing to act, the Prime Minister appears to condone this,” said Trickett.

Other notable Brits implicated in the papers include Prince Charles and Her Majesty the Queen. Revelations of the great British tax stitch-up come as the Universal Credit roll-out sees the most vulnerable Brits have their benefits axed.

Earlier this month, a mother was found dead in her flat after her benefits were cut. Elaine Morrall died in her house in Runcorn, Cheshire, amid claims her financial woes meant she switched the heating off until her children got home from school.

A Downing Street spokesman denied Mr May had any involvement in Capital Group’s playful accounting.

“Mr May is involved in the development of Capital Group’s retirement solutions,” he said.

“He is not an investor but consults with other Capital associates on retirement products and solutions for clients.”

With many thanks to: rt.com for the origional story.

Ex-RUC/PSNI officer bought gun on ‘dark web’

Allen Kennedy pleaded guilty at Downpatrick Crown Court
A former RUC/PSNI officer has pleaded guilty to trying to buy a gun, ammunition and a silencer on the so-called dark web.
Allen Kennedy, 31, whose address was given as Strandtown police station, had been due to go on trial on 14 gun, ammunition and drug charges.

On Friday, he pleaded guilty to attempting to possess a 9mm pistol, 10 rounds of ammunition and a silencer.
He also admitted possessing 102 grammes of cocaine with intent to supply.
A prosecution barrister asked that a further eight charges relating to the firearm, ammunition and drug offences be “left on the books in the usual terms”.
The judge ordered the preparation of a probation report ahead of a plea and sentencing hearing next month.
No application for bail was made and the judge remanded Kennedy back into custody at Maghaberry prison.
Cocaine hidden in tins
No details were given in court on Friday about the circumstances surrounding the gun and drug offences.
But a previous court hearing was told the charges related to Kennedy’s involvement in trying to buy the firearm and ammunition over the internet.
Following his arrest in September last year, Kennedy resigned from the PSNI having previously been suspended on an unrelated matter.
The court was told the then serving constable was detained during an undercover sting operation said to have resulted in the seizure of quantities of cocaine hidden inside drinks tins.
Kennedy resigned from the PSNI in September of last year
Kennedy was arrested at Annadale Embankment in south Belfast on 5 September 2016 after handing over £500 to receive a package.
A detective said the accused had used an online moniker and tag to arrange to buy a Russian pistol, silencer and ammunition.
Searches of his vehicle were said to have uncovered drugs inside hides disguised as tins of drink and WD-40 oil spray.
Mobile phones containing text messages associated with someone allegedly involved in supplying narcotics were also seized.
Two properties were then raided as part of the investigation which stretched to the north Down area.
In one bedroom where Kennedy stayed police found quantities of ecstasy and cannabis, more drug-related paraphernalia, price lists, ammunition and documents linked to the use of the “dark web”, the court heard.

With many thanks to: BBC News for the origional story

1972 murder of child by rubber bullet was ‘not justified’ – North of Ireland coroner

British soldiers seen on the streets of Belfast in 1972
The killing of a boy shot by an army rubber bullet in Belfast in 1972 was not justified, a coroner has ruled.

The soldier who fired the baton round that fatally wounded 11-year-old Francis Rowntree used excessive force, coroner Brian Sherrard said in his preliminary findings.

Mr Sherrard said the soldier was not given any training in the use of the bullets or made aware that they were potentially lethal.

Francis Rowntree, (11), murdered by the British Army 1972. The family have waited 45-years for justice for their son.

“There was no justification for the use of lethal force at the time that Francis was shot,” Mr Sherrard told Belfast Coroner’s Court.

“The force used was in excess of what was needed to achieve Soldier B’s objectives.”

Francis was the first person in the Troubles to die after being wounded by a rubber bullet.

The incident occurred in the Divis Flats area of the city on 20 April 1972.

Francis, who was a pupil at St Finian’s Primary School, was shot in the head and died two days later of his wounds which included skull fractures and lacerations of the brain.

The incident happened amid claims a group of people were rioting and throwing stones at the soldiers in a disturbance in the area.

Outlining the preliminary findings, Mr Sherrard said he was confident Francis was not involved in rioting.

It has been disputed whether the boy was struck directly or hit by a ricocheting rubber bullet.

Following an investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team in 2010, a fresh inquest into his death was ordered.

The soldier who fired the bullet has been granted anonymity during the inquest and was known only as Soldier B. He told the court he did not remember the exact day in question.

Eye witnesses, including a lieutenant instructing the soldiers, told the court that a crowd gathered around a vehicle carrying a number of soldiers which stopped in the area.

A disturbance followed in which some members of the crowd became hostile and threw objects including stones at the vehicle.

The court was told a number of youths were among the crowd, who had come to watch the disturbance out of curiosity.

The court was told that two rounds of rubber bullets were fired by a soldier into the crowd in a bid to disperse those present, and that one of the bullets hit the boy’s head. No warning was given before the shots were fired.

He said the soldier was given the gun, which fired rubber bullets, without being made aware that the weapon could be lethal or given appropriate training in how it should be used.

Mr Sherrard said the Ministry of Defence should have been aware by the time of the incident that rubber bullets could cause serious harm, due to prior evidence emerging after tests were carried out using the guns on anaesthetised sheep which flagged up numerous concern about their potential impact.

A further test on skulls conducted four months prior to the 11-year-old’s death showed three of five skulls were severely damaged by the bullets in one test exercise.

British Army murders on the streets of Belfast in 1972

Mr Sherrard also said evidence suggested the guns which fired the rubber bullets were designed for use by soldiers to operate while standing up and holding them at waist height.

However, they were given to soldiers for use inside military vehicles in which they were in crouching positions due to the vehicles’ height.

The coroner is due to consider further matters including the soldier’s anonymity, before delivering his final findings in the inquest.

He told the court he expects to give the full findings by the end of this year.

With many thanks to: RTÉ News for the origional story

Irish Prime Minister vows to block trade talks if Theresa May fails to explain border plans by next month

‘They want us to take a leap in the dark and we are not prepared to do that,’ source tells Independent’. Leo Varadkar has Brussels’ backing in worrying about a hard land border after Brexit
The Irish Prime Minister has set Theresa May a one-month deadline to explain how she will avoid a damaging hard border with Northern Ireland, or the EU will block Brexit trade talks.

Leo Varadkar dismissed Ms May’s claim that negotiations on the future land border are “almost there” as “wishful thinking”, at a breakfast meeting.

Instead, he told the UK prime minister that she must set out detailed proposals that can form part of the conclusions of the crunch December EU summit.

Without that reassurance, the EU would block any attempt to move the negotiations onto future trade and a transitional period to cushion Brexit – the Holy Grail for the UK.

“They want us to take a leap in the dark and we are not prepared to do that,” one Irish source told The Independent.

“The British want to give the impression that we are all on the same page, that it is just a question of finding a form of words, but that is certainly not the case.

“We need an explicit commitment, confidence about the impact on the island of Ireland, before the talks can progress to phase two.”

It is understand that Ireland would not exercise its veto, but has no doubt that all 27 EU countries would unite in drawing a red line to frustrate the UK.

The stance, following talks between the two leaders at a summit in Sweden, is a stark reminder that the so-called “divorce bill” is not the only remaining obstacle to breaking the deadlock in the negotiations.

However, No 10 insisted there had been “constructive discussions on Brexit” and that both leaders anticipated “further progress” before the EU council.

“On Northern Ireland, the PM was clear that the Belfast agreement must be at the heart of our approach and that Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances demand specific solutions,” a spokesman said.

“The PM said it was important to protect progress made in Northern Ireland over recent years. Both leaders agreed to work together to find solutions which ensure there is no return to the borders of the past.”

British negotiators had, until recently, hoped that the vexed issue of the Irish border could be “parked” until trade talks begin, because they are so closely linked.

However, a leaked European Commission earlier this month showed that Dublin has Brussels staunch support in ensuring the controversy remains a priority.


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It made clear that, in order to preserve the Good Friday Agreement, the Brexit divorce deal must respect “the integrity of the internal market and the customs union”, with Ireland remaining a member of both.

That meant the UK, to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland, must also remain part of the customs union – something London has categorically ruled out, at least long term.

Previously, Brussels has dismissed the UK’s proposals to use untested new technology to police a light-touch Irish border as “magical thinking”.

Dublin is said to be demanding that the UK preserve about 100 EU regulations, many covering customs and agriculture, to ensure an open trade border with Northern Ireland.

Richard Radcliffe leaves the Foreign Office with his local MP Tulip Siddiq, following a meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Marc
But that would mean London either accepting the rules for the whole of Britain or granting special status to Northern Ireland, weakening the integrity of the UK – which ministers have rejected.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told his Irish counterpart, that only a progression to trade talks could solve the border issue.

But Simon Coveney said Britain would have to bend if it was to stand by its promise of no return of “physical infrastructure”.

“We simply don’t see how we can avoid border infrastructure, whether it’s on the border or somewhere else on the island, if we have regulatory divergence in Northern Ireland versus the rest of the island,” he said.

“When you have a different rule book applied to trade and business, well then, you are starting to go down the road of having to have checks and inspections.”

With many thanks to : The Independent’s Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor for the origional story.

Prince Philip ‘cheated on Queen with famous women’ new book claims just days before their 70th wedding anniversary

None of the claims has been proven and there are now questions over the timing as they are dug up before the couple’s platinum wedding anniversary.

Persistent rumours that Prince Philip has had a series of affairs during his marriage to the Queen have resurfaced in a new book just days before the royal couple’s 70th anniversary.

The book claims the Duke of Edinburgh has been romantically linked to a string of famous women and close friends.

His alleged mistresses include the stage actress Pat Kirkwood, TV presenter Katie Boyle and Susan Barrantes, the mum of Sarah Ferguson, his son Prince Andrew’s former wife.

The book describes gossip about wild parties as Prince Philip visited the outer reaches of the Commonwealth – without the Queen or their children – over four months in 1956.

None of the claims has been proven and there are now questions over the timing as they are dug up just before the Queen and Prince Philip mark their platinum wedding anniversary.

Queen Elizabeth 11 The couple vist Kaduna, Nigeria in February 1956
Actress Pat Kirkwood wears a pirate costume for the film ‘Band Wagon’ in 1939
The TV presenter Katie Boyle in 1958
Susan Barrantes, the mother of Sarah Ferguson, in June 1986
The Queen and Prince Philip attend a Remembrance Sunday service at the weekend

‘Anonymity is really dangerous’: Prince William warns against dangers of social media as he launches crackdown on cyberbullying

“My Husband and I: The Inside Story of 70 Years of Royal Marriage”, by royal watcher Ingrid Seward, details the ups and downs of a relationship that was at times under heavy scrutiny.

But some fellow Royal Family observers have dismissed the book’s claims as unfounded.

The Queen was once forced to make a rare statement in 1957 – a year after his tour – in response to claims he had been meeting a woman in a society photographer’s flat in the West End.

The Queen meets Ms Kirkwood and actor Bill Fraser during her tour of the BBC Television Studios in 1953
Actress Merle Oberon in a photo from the 1960s
Novelist Daphne du Maurier with her husband General Sir Frederick Browning
Actress Anna Massey was also romantically linked to Prince Phillip, it was claimed.
Prince Philip holds Prince Charles as Princess Elizabeth holds Princess Anne at Clarence House in London in 1951
The Queen and Prince Philip on her Coronation day on June 2, 1953

Her spokesman said at the time: “It is quite untrue that there is any rift between the Queen and the Duke.”

There were already rumours that Prince Philip had allegedly been involved with Ms Kirkwood as far back as 1948, when Princess Elizabeth was pregnant with Charles, wrote Mrs Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, in a serialisation published by the Daily Mail.

It was claimed that he was introduced to the actress in her dressing room and they had stayed in touch after partying the night away.

The Duke of Edinburgh visits the HMS Condor in 1956
The Queen, Prince Philip and children Princess Anne, Prince Charles (right) and Prince Andrew at Balmoral in September 1960
Prince Philip takes part in the BBC radio programme “Lets Find Out” in March 1965
Prince Philip relaxing at the Royal Windsor Horse Trials in 1976
Prince Philip and the Queen attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May 1982

Before she died, Ms Kirkwood had denied claims that they had had an illicit relationship.

The book also claims Prince Philip has been romantically linked to childhood friend and actress Hélène Cordet, who never publicly revealed who fathered her two children.

Rumours have also linked him to the novelist Daphne du Maurier, actresses Merle Oberon and Anna Massey, and family friends.

The couple share a laugh during a reception for the Polish president in May 2004
Prince Charles, the Queen and Prince Philip at a farewell for the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997
Actress Anna Massey with her CBE in 2005
Prince Philip and the Queen at the Braemar Gathering in September 2007

Sarah Bradford is the only one of the Duke of Edinburgh’s respected Biographers who insists that he has had affairs, the book adds.

She claimed in 2004: “The Duke of Edinburgh has had affairs – yes, full-blown affairs and more than one.

“Not with Pat Kirkwood or Merle Oberon or any of those people… All that was nonsense, complete nonsense.

The Queen and Prince Philip at Royal Ascot in June 2015
The couple arrive at the Royal Festival of Remembrance last Saturday

“I don’t think there was ever anything in any of that. But he has affairs. And the Queen accepts it. I think she thinks that’s how men are.”

In 1992, Prince Philip addressed rumours of affairs, telling a reporter: “Have you ever stopped to think that, for the past 40 years, I have never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanying me?

“So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?”

With many thanks to: Chris Kitching, Daily Mirror for the origional story.