During an appearance on Fox News's "The Ingraham Angle," Graham alleged that Biden is not pushing back forcefully against China and Russia.
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Biden has made countering China's expanding influence across the globe a top foreign policy priority.
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It would be a major mistake if Biden and his NATO colleagues simply wax philosophically and avoid making the real changes that NATO needs.
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Even without regulation as a stick, consumer demand is now serving as a carrot to increase sustainability’s impact on public companies’ agendas.
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President Biden's foreign policy leaves much to be desired, but it's not too late to reverse course.
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President Joe Biden called for an ambitious pandemic economic recovery plan focused on jobs, infrastructure, and childcare.
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Biden is facing growing criticism from progressives and advocacy groups for upholding Trump era policies on everything from refugees to arms sales.
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Blinken's summary of Biden's foreign policy presented a picture of a president with a decidedly traditional, but also pragmatic, worldview.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will inform President Joe Biden about the progress of a shared US-European Union approach to the Iranian regime and its clandestine attempts to build a nuclear weapon.He will have decided that a strategic change of direction is possible and further mollification of the Iranian regime is not only pointless but dangerous too.Point to be noted that Blinken attended high-level meetings with NATO and senior EU officials.The European External Action Service and its top diplomat (the Spanish socialist Josep Borrell) will have been quick to confirm their priority foreign policy objective regarding the rapid reinstatement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.The EU has been desperately trying to find ways of restoring the deeply flawed deal and mollifying the Iranian regime.It is noteworthy that former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the JCPOA in 2018 and imposed a range of tough sanctions on the Iranian regime under his maximum pressure campaign.Blinken will be well aware of the pitfalls that such a policy of appeasement will involve, in spite of the EU’s frantic efforts to reopen negotiations with the Iranians.
Theresa May has revealed that her sacking of Gavin Williamson as defence secretary meant that senior intelligence chiefs could once again “speak freely” without fear of their secret discussions being leaked.In a withering account of Williamson’s conduct, the former prime minister said that officials on the National Security Council had a “concern” that an explosive leak of a meeting about Chinese telecoms firm Huawei meant their confidential advice could be made public.Williamson, now education secretary, was dismissed from the Cabinet in May 2019 after an internal inquiry into the leak of a discussion by the NSC to grant Huawei limited access to the UK’s new 5G network.The minister had allegedly sworn on his children’s lives that he was not responsible of the leak to the Daily Telegraph, but the inquiry led by cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill concluded there was “compelling evidence” suggesting his “responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure”.Williamson made a dramatic return to the cabinet under Boris Johnson just months later, in a move seen as a reward for his role running Johnson’s leadership campaign.However, HuffPost UK understands Williamson was not granted high level security clearance for key parts of his education secretary role, with other junior ministers having to take up some of his duties.Giving evidence to parliament’s National Security Strategy Committee, May was asked by chair Margaret Beckett about the impact of the Huawei leak.She said that the NSC – which is where secret intelligence can be shared by the heads of GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 with ministers – “didn’t take long to recover” once Williamson was gone.“Obviously an incident like that is a shock to the system when it happens. I think there was a slight sense initially of concern, particularly obviously from those who weren’t the politicians sitting around the table, about the advice and evidence that they were giving in to the council,” she said.“Because it had always been the case that the assumption was and it had practically been the case since it was set up that nothing leaked from the National Security Council.“And it’s really important that nothing leaks from it, because of the nature of the discussions we are having, and you want the agencies, Ministry of Defence and others, who are advising you, to believe and feel confident that they have the freedom to give their best and genuine advice, without feeling that they have got to hold something back.“So, a slight judder, if you like, when this incident happened, when people were concerned initially, but I think we then got back into the rhythm of people recognising that they could speak as freely as they had done previously.”Williamson continued to protest his innocence after his sacking, claiming that a “kangaroo court” had found him guilty and that it had been “a witch hunt from the start”.In a further dig at Boris Johnson, May also said that it was clear that his original plan to appoint Brexit aide David Frost as the new national security adviser was flawed.“I think it is so important to have security experience, and to have been in that world to understand it and to be able to slot in immediately and dealing with those issues. And that was my concern about the appointment of David Frost,” she said.Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove is due to take over as the national security adviser, with Frost instead appointed as a minister and PM’s envoy on Brexit and international policyMay – who approved Chinese investment plans for a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point as well as agreeing to Huawei’s role before Johnson overturned her policy – praised the recent Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy for its “balanced” approach to China.“China is not going to go away. It is a major economy, it’s a major player on the world stage... So I don’t think we can live in a world where we think we can shut China out in some sense, we have to find a way of balancing the relationship with China, which is economic on one side and then the concerns about security and human rights on the other.“On the security front, it’s about being very clear minded and and understanding exactly what the pressures there are. What we know about China is it thinks much more long term than we tend to think in the West, and sometimes I think we do respond with more immediate responses when we need to take a very long term view as to what China’s intentions are and how we respond to those.”Several Tory backbenchers have been furious with a failure to take more hawkish action against China, not least for its treatment of the Muslim Uighurs.But former chancellor Philip Hammond, who also gave evidence to the committee, agreed with May that the economic power of Beijing could not be ignored.“There is...an element of optimism in thinking that we can separate our strategic approach to China, and our trade and investment approach to China, and assuming that the Chinese will allow us, as it were an à la carte approach to the menu of relationships,” he said.“We have a long experience of dealing with states who are strategic challengers. What we don’t have much experience of is dealing with a state that is both a strategic challenger, has fundamentally different value sets arising out of a different history and culture, and is also a major economic power.“We’ve been rather used to dealing with strategic challenges that are economically inferior to us. This is going to require a wholly different way of thinking about the broad challenge across the economic, strategic and political fronts.”Related...Gavin Williamson Was 'Not The Lionel Messi Of The Cabinet', Says Ex-Civil ServantPM Signals UK Will Bow To Trump Pressure To Block Huawei 5G PlanGavin Williamson Back In Cabinet Despite Sacking Over Huawei Leak
Dominic Raab has confirmed the UK wants to strike free trade deals with countries that do not meet European human rights standards.The policy was first revealed last week by HuffPost UK after we were leaked a clip of the foreign secretary explaining his position to staff. In the recording, he said the government didn’t want to exclude countries from trade deals solely because they fell below European Convention on Human Rights standards.To restrict deals to countries that meet these standards would mean missing out on “the growth markets of the future”, Raab told Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office staff.After Raab’s comments were reported by numerous news outlets, including The Times, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg used parliamentary privilege to claim wrongly that HuffPost UK had “shockingly distorted” Raab’s words.He accused this website of “low quality journalism” and called deputy political editor Arj Singh “either a knave or a fool”.But Raab has now repeated his position during a Commons statement in which he announced sanctions on four Chinese officials deemed responsible for human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.The foreign secretary’s exchange with SNP international development spokesperson Chris Law came after Downing Street refused to apologise for Rees-Mogg’s remarks, despite rebuking him over the language he used.In the Commons, Law said: “Last week the prime minister published a long awaited integrated review which stated ‘our first goal is to support open societies and defend human rights as a force for good in the world’.“Yet despite this the prime minister wants to forge closer ties to some of the worst human rights violating states in our world.“Moreover, in the immediate aftermath of the [...] publication, the foreign secretary lamented that restricting trade because of human rights abuses would mean missing out on growth markets.“The foreign secretary’s words last week do not chime with today’s statement – his insistence that the UK will seek to do trade deals with countries that violate standard, enshrined in the European convention of Human Rights, the very last drawn up by British officials after the horrors of the Second World War, mark yet another record low for this UK government.”Raab replied: “I made clear we would never do an FTA [free trade agreement} with a country that had a human rights record that is beyond the pale.”He went on: “[Law] raises the question as to whether we would ever trade with countries who do not have ECHR-level human rights.“I would just put it to him that he has never once [...] suggested that we should tear up any of the free trade deals that we do with countries that still have the death penalty, which of course wouldn’t comply with ECHR.“If he wants to keep making this argument, could he tell me which of the FTAs, whether it’s Korea, Japan, or is it negotiations with the US, that he is opposed to?”Raab’s leaked remarks last week had proved particularly controversial as they came on the day Boris Johnson was accused by Tory MPs of going soft on Beijing. The prime minister had announced hours earlier that the UK would seek “deeper trade links and more Chinese investment” as part of a landmark foreign policy review.Related...Exclusive: Raab Says UK Wants Trade Deals With Nations That Violate Human RightsNo.10 Refuses To Say Sorry For Jacob Rees-Mogg's Smear Against HuffPost JournalistJacob Rees-Mogg Accused Of Misleading Parliament With Claim About HuffPost Reporter
Labour will not support government moves to increase the number of nuclear warheads in its stockpile, according to Lisa Nandy.UK ministers previously committed to reducing the level to a maximum of 180 by the middle of the decade, but now the stockpile could be up to 260.Shadow foreign secretary Nandy said ministers have yet to justify a decision which has “baffled” the Opposition and others.She added Labour “won’t support” the decision until it can be explained by the government, suggesting it will either abstain or vote against the measure.Asked if Labour would support another 80 nuclear weapons, Nandy told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are absolutely baffled, as many Tory MPs are as well, about why the government has chosen this moment – at the point at which the United States has stepped forward to try to deal with nuclear proliferation, signing a new treaty with Russia, at the point we face a growing threat from Iran from nuclear weapons – to do it.“There may be a reason why they’ve done this.“One of the examples mooted has been perhaps they need to have two nuclear deterrents concurrently.”Pressed to answer the question, Nandy replied: “This is a really serious step that potentially threatens the security of our country.“So far the government hasn’t given any reason why it’s broken with 50 years of convention and gone against the direction of travel that reigning in nuclear weapons is an important part of our safety and security.“Until they can give an explanation to the House of Commons, we won’t support them.”The Government last week published details of its major review of foreign and defence policy, known as the Integrated Review.It stated the UK could consider deploying its nuclear arsenal against non-nuclear countries if they possess equivalent weapons of mass destruction – including new “emerging technologies”.While the document stated that the UK will not fire, or threaten to use, its missiles at a non-nuclear state, it also says that assurance could be reviewed in future in order to maintain the deterrent effect against potential adversaries.The UK’s policy is to only consider using its nuclear weapons “in extreme circumstances of self-defence, including the defence of our Nato allies”, according to the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.Related...Saturday Was A Record Day For Vaccines In The UKWhat To Know About So-Called Post Pandemic Stress DisorderRevealed: The 20 Happiest Countries In The World
Good news for Mancunian infosec and chip design bods, but we're raising an eyebrow on the nukes The British government has published its Integrated Review into defence and security policy – and though you'll like it if you're in the UK infosec industry, threats of nuking North Korea in revenge for WannaCry are very wide of the mark.…
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responds after Boris Johnson made a statement to MPs in the House of Commons." src="https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/60513af63900003200eb1628.jpg?ops=scalefit_630_noupscale" />You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.It was a busy old day for Boris Johnson today. His cabinet had a packed agenda, including the strategy on violence against women and girls, progress on disability policy and an update on Covid. Before he took questions in the Commons, the PM also discussed with fellow ministers the huge integrated review of defence and foreign policy.But before all of that, Johnson staged a “political cabinet” meeting to discuss the coming May elections. It was a sign that no matter how crammed his day job duties are, he never loses sight of the electoral main chance.Party chairman Amanda Milling pointed out that some seats last fought in 2017 were won at the peak of Theresa May’s stratospheric popularity. The PM played down the “vaccine bounce” in the national polls, preferring to talk about expected losses of hundreds of council seats. Yes, expectation management is even alive and kicking within “privacy” of the Cabinet room.The full cabinet meeting was barely over when news emerged of another key contest on May 6: a Hartlepool by-election, prompted by the resignation of MP Mike Hill amid sex harassment allegations. Given Labour’s need for high turnout, it’s no surprise they decided to move the writ to hold the contest in super-quick time to coincide with the super-Thursday of the other elections.The bookies swiftly installed the Tories as favourites, clearly swayed by the fact that Labour’s majority was slashed to just under 4,000 in 2019, that this is a ‘Red Wall’ seat, and by the government’s growing national poll lead. In what many will see as another bit of expectations management, one Labour insider tells me: “If you could pick one seat we didn’t want a by-election in, it is Hartlepool. It’s a nightmare.”Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Yes, the “vaccine bounce” looks quite stable so far. Yes, the continued rollout of the PM’s “roadmap” exit from Covid restrictions could further fuel a sense of spring optimism (April 12, the next big date in the roadmap, will see hairdressers and outdoor pubs open and you can bet the media will swarm round such establishments in Hartlepool).Labour strategists think everything the PM does these days is aimed at the kind of former Labour voter in Hartlepool who defected to the Brexit Party at the last election (giving Farage’s party a whopping 25% of the vote). Tuesday was a case in point, with claims Labour was soft on crime over the Policing Bill and soft on defence over its complaints about nuclear proliferation.Some Tories think Labour will squeak it, though in a manner that will fail to lift wider doubts about Keir Starmer in his first electoral test on May 6 across the country. There’s even a theory that a near-miss could echo Ed Miliband’s narrow Heywood and Middleton by-election victory over UKIP in 2014: just good enough to keep the leader limping on in place, but just bad enough to confirm his problems in northern heartlands meant he could never form a government.I remember Dan Jarvis once telling me that if Miliband had lost that by-election, a leadership challenge would have become a serious prospect and who knows how the 2015 election would have turned out under someone else? Of course, we shouldn’t forget too that UKIP in Heywood and Middleton turned out to be the gateway drug to a Tory victory five years later in 2019.And yet, for all that, many will expect Hartlepool to really stay Labour. It’s perfectly plausible that more than half of the Brexit Party vote at the last election came from Labour and not just Tory supporters. This time there will be no serious Farage party presence, and with Starmer’s much higher national poll ratings compared to Corbyn’s in 2019, it should be a Labour “hold”. With many Tory “Red Wall” seats having Brexit Party votes larger than their Tory majority, squeezing that in Hartlepool could spell real danger for Johnson in other seats in 2024. A clear victory, backed by gains of some country councils, could give Starmer some much-needed momentum as he finally gets to make speeches in person and meet the public (35% of whom still say “don’t know” when asked about him) this summer and autumn. Some around him hope that politics, like the country, may be heading back to “normal”.With the right candidate, Labour should be increasing its majority in Hartlepool, not hanging on for dear life. It’s possible that Starmer will try and capitalise when the reality of some defence cuts are revealed next week. Similarly, his tougher line on China (and Russia) than Corbyn has some pick up on the Tory backbenches. The sense that the UK is putting trade with Beijing before human rights was heightened by Dominic Raab’s remarks leaked to HuffPost today. Starmer is sure to press hard too on BBC claims the PM tried to “ignore” the pandemic in its early days. Most toxic of all for the Tories, is the NHS nurses 1% offer, a cut-through basic fairness issue that threatens to undo all the good PR for the government on the vaccine. Matt Hancock didn’t help the case when he told the health select committee this was a “rise” (even on his own definition, a rise of 0.1%) not a real terms cut.The brute fact is that governments don’t normally win by-elections from the Opposition. If Starmer does somehow lose Hartlepool, and if his gains in the council elections fail to show serious progress, his mountain path back to a Labour government will look more distant than ever. That won’t mean it’s suddenly all over for him, not least with unemployment set to rise later this year. But if he limps on like Ed Miliband in late 2014, Boris Johnson may think that’s the best of all possible outcomes.Related...Mike Hill, Labour MP For Hartlepool, Quits CommonsTories Get Polling Boost From Over-55s Who Have Had Covid JabWhat The Controversial New Policing Bill Means – And Why You Should Care
Dominic Raab has told officials in a leaked video call that Britain will seek trade deals with countries around the world that violate international standards on human rights.The foreign secretary told staff in his department that only trading with countries that meet European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) standards would mean the UK missing out on trade with future “growth markets”.In a question and answer session with Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) staff, a recording of which has been heard by HuffPost UK, Raab said: “I squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world.“If we restrict it to countries with ECHR-level standards of human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future.”Raab’s words came after the government published a major review of foreign policy, which includes plans for post-Brexit Britain to tilt towards the Indo-Pacific region as the world’s “geopolitical and economic centre of gravity” moves east.The increased focus on the region is an acknowledgement of Chinese influence, as well as the importance of countries including India and Japan.The shift will be underlined by the deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to the region on its maiden operational mission later this year and a visit by Boris Johnson to India in April.The prime minister said Brexit marked a “new chapter in our history” and the UK was now “open to the world, free to tread our own path” as the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy was published.Responding to Raab’s comments, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said it was the second time in as many weeks that “that the foreign secretary has exposed for talking up trade deals with countries that abuse human rights”.The Times reported last week that Raab had said the UK would be open to signing a future trade deal “with our Chinese friends” at an event attended by senior Beijing diplomats.Nandy said: “This is the second time in as many weeks that the foreign secretary has exposed for talking up trade deals with countries that abuse human rights.“It is the latest example of a government entirely devoid of a moral compass and riddled with inconsistency, happy to say one thing in public and another behind closed doors.“Today the prime minister stood up in parliament and lauded the UK’s commitment to defending human rights around the world.“This afternoon, the foreign secretary is sending a very clear message to countries engaged in appalling human rights abuses that this government welcomes them with open arms.”In a Commons statement, Johnson insisted the UK has led international condemnation of China’s alleged “mass detention” of Uighur people in Xinjiang and its actions in Hong Kong."China will pose a great challenge... but we will also work with China where that is consistent with our values and interests"Setting out a foreign policy overhaul, Boris Johnson says UK can "thrive" and fulfill "historic mission as a force for good" https://t.co/s5NPOj67zQpic.twitter.com/jy4M2CTjUS— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) March 16, 2021“There is no question China will pose a great challenge for an open society such as ours,” Johnson said.“But we will also work with China where that is consistent with our values and interests, including building a stronger and positive economic relationship and in addressing climate change.”The plans for closer engagement with China were criticised by senior Tory MPs, who warned Johnson to avoid the “grasping naivety” of the David Cameron years.Julian Lewis, chair of the intelligence and security committee of parliament, also suggested the impact of the economic closeness with China sought by Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne was still evident.Lewis said: “It’s suggested on pages 62-3 [of the review] that our adversary Communist China [...] is an increasingly important partner in tackling global challenges like pandemic preparedness, if you please, and that we want deeper trade links and more Chinese investment in the UK.“Doesn’t that unfortunately demonstrate that the grasping naivety of the Cameron-Osborne years still lingers on in some departments of state?”During the statement, Johnson also faced opposition MPs shouting “genocide” when he described China’s treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang as “mass detention”.Responding to Lewis, the PM said: “Those who call for a new Cold War on China or for us to sequester our economy entirely from China, which seems to be the new policy of the opposition, weaving as they generally do from one position to the next, are, I think, mistaken.“We have a balance to strike, we need to have a clear-eyed relationship with China. “Of course we’re protecting our critical national infrastructure and we’ll continue to do that. “We will take tough measures, as I have said, to call out China for what they’re doing in Xinjiang.”Related...Exclusive: Russian-Owned Firm Played Key Role In Downing Street Media RefitBoris Johnson Is 'Perfectly Happy' To Take The AstraZeneca VaccineNo.10 Awkwardly Dodges Questions About Whether PM Wanted To ‘Ignore’ Covid
Downing Street has “serious questions” to answer over how a Russian-owned firm played a key role in a £2.6m renovation to get No.9 ready for televised media briefings, a former standards watchdog chief has said.Sir Alistair Graham, ex-chair of the committee on standards in public life, described the hiring of Megahertz in an undisclosed contract as “incredible”.He said it was the second “very bizarre” refit of a Downing Street property in recent weeks. Questions remain over who paid for a reported £200,000 refurb of the flat above No.11 occupied by Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds.But as the government prepared to publish a major foreign policy review that is expected to describe Russia as the biggest threat to UK security, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the media refit contract provided “value for money” and said he was not worried about security “for a second”. Nick Ferrari clashes with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the "strange" decision to allow a Russian company to fit the new Downing Street press briefing [email protected]/0DgRyDgK5B— LBC (@LBC) March 16, 2021HuffPost UK revealed on Monday that Megahertz had carried out crucial work, including installing computers, cameras, microphones and a control desk, to get the building ready for White House-style briefings from Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton.Megahertz was bought in 2013 by the UK arm of Okno-TV – a Moscow-based firm that has carried out technical work for state-controlled broadcasters Russia Today, Channel One, and Public Television of Russia.Most of Megahertz’s current shareholders are either current or former workers at the Russian firm, according to Companies House. To use a Russian [owned] company in a highly sensitive security area seems incredible, really Commenting on the revelations, Graham told LBC: “I couldn’t quite believe it, really, because the two refurbishments we’ve had in Downing Street recently have been very bizarre.“To use a Russian [owned] company in a highly sensitive security area seems incredible, really.“I don’t think the government [has] explained yet whether this contract went out for competitive tender and it seems to be one of a whole series of very expensive projects that haven’t gone out to competitive tender.“So I think there are some serious questions to be answered.”He added: “To find you’ve got a Russian-owned company doing sort of sensitive work really does raise very serious questions and I’ll be surprised if the story dies very quickly, and it will be pursued in parliament.”Raab defended the contract on the day the government prepared to publish its integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy.He told LBC: “We’re not saying that we’ve got a problem with the Russian people or the Chinese people.“Indeed if you look at, for example, on the Chinese front, the British Chinese community make an incredible contribution here.“And we’re not saying all businesses from either of those two countries are bad – far from it, we welcome [them]. We want to be an outward, open-looking country.“And of course in relation to any government contracts we want to get the best value for money.“Of course [there is] a big emphasis on buying British but we want to get the best value for taxpayers’ money.”Asked, however, if it looked like a strange decision given Okno-TV’s involvement with state-controlled broadcasters like Russia Today, Raab said: “No. I think if they are engaged in interior design...”Asked about Megahertz installing audiovisual equipment, Raab said: “Any of that stuff as you’d expect would be very carefully checked by our own authorities, so I’m not worried about that for a second.”Raab added: “We’re an open, outward-looking country. We want foreign direct investment where it’s safe, where it can be done without risk to our own country or dirty money making its way into this country.“But that is part of our schtick, our USP as global Britain.”Related...Exclusive: Russian-Owned Firm Played Key Role In Downing Street Media Refit
A Russian-owned company played a key role in the £2.6m renovation of No.9 Downing Street in an undisclosed contract to get it ready for White House-style televised media briefings, a source has told HuffPost UK.According to the source, Megahertz carried out crucial work, including installing computers, cameras, microphones and a control desk, to get the building ready for briefings from Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton.In 2013, Megahertz was bought by the UK arm of Okno-TV – a Moscow-based firm that has carried out technical work for state-controlled broadcasters Russia Today, Channel One, and Public Television of Russia.Most of Megahertz’s current shareholders are either current or former workers at the Russian firm, according to Companies House.It has not been suggested that either Megahertz or Okno-TV is under the influence of the government of Russia, which will reportedly be described as a “hostile state” and the UK’s “biggest state-based threat” in a landmark review of foreign policy this week. It comes after parliament’s intelligence and security committee last year declared Russian influence in the UK as “the new normal”.But Labour said there were “serious questions” to answer about the No.9 refurb, while the chair of parliament’s cross-party group on Russia said it sounded “dodgy”.An industry source added: “They are Russian-owned and the owners supply the Russian state broadcaster, and they have just put all the technology into Downing Street.”The televised briefings are believed to have been the brainchild of the prime minister’s former director of communications Lee Cain, who left No.10 in December alongside his Vote Leave ally Dominic Cummings. The Johnson government seems to have learnt nothing about the involvement in sensitive UK projects of companies with ties to autocratic regimesChris Bryant MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on RussiaDowning Street said that it “takes all necessary measures” to ensure “very high standards of security are always met”.But it could not say whether the work was put out to competitive tender, and did not publish the contract.Chris Bryant MP, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, said: “This new vanity project sounds dodgy. “All the details should be published immediately but what shocks me most is that the Johnson government seems to have learnt nothing about the involvement in sensitive UK projects of companies with [links] to autocratic regimes, whether in Russia or in China.”Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said: “This raises serious questions on who is getting rushed-through government contracts.“And that’s before we even get to why they’re spending millions on a media briefing room while our nurses face a [real-terms] pay cut.“This gets to the heart of this government’s deeply flawed obsessions with layer upon layer of wasteful outsourcing – pretty soon, they don’t appear to know or care about where British taxpayer money is going or who it is funding.“The fact the government seems to have simply brushed this off with no further transparency or assurances on due diligence is deeply concerning.”The industry source told HuffPost UK that the firm had carried out systems integration work to make the No.9 studio function to Downing Street specifications.HuffPost UK understands the work has taken around four months and that Megahertz was subcontracted to do it by Interserve, which partially merged with Mitie last year and holds the Cabinet Office’s facilities management contract.The source said the government could have used a British firm for the job, and that it could have been done for hundreds of thousands, rather than millions, of pounds.“It could have been a couple of hundred grand,” they said.“As far as I can see there has been no competition.”They went on: “Doing this kind of work is a skillset that exists in the UK. It is something that we are good at doing.“There are technical experts in building broadcast systems all over this country and none of us were involved.“Megahertz have been in the UK market for years but they got bought out by the Russians.“They have been involved in UK television for years. They are a perfectly good and respectable systems integration company – they know what they are doing.“But they are Russian-owned and the owners supply the Russian state broadcaster, and they have just put all the technology into Downing Street.”A government spokesperson said: “We take all necessary measures to ensure the very high standards of security that we have in place across the government estate are always met.“All procurement decisions and contractual awards are made in line with strict government guidelines to ensure value for money for the taxpayer.”HuffPost UK asked Megahertz whether there was a competitive process for the contract, how much the firm was paid for the work, and whether it could respond to concerns about security.The company declined to comment.Related...Spy Agencies 'Didn't Do Enough To Protect Brexit Vote From Russian Interference'
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