Fox hunting

What the papers are saying about the beleaguered defence secretary.

With the Prime Minister asking for the preliminary findings of an inquiry into Liam Fox's working relationship with Adam Werritty to be on his desk tomorrow morning, the position of the defence secretary looks precarious. This morning, the Observer produces video footage of Fox's meeting with the president of Sri Lanka last year at which Werritty was present, and which appears to contradict the defence secretary's earlier insistence that his friend and former flatmate had never attended any meetings with representatives of foreign governments.

The press pack has the scent of its quarry in its nostrils. Here's what the papers are saying about Mr Fox today.

Observer

Emails and video footage pile pressure on beleaguered Liam Fox: Film of Sri Lankan meeting and email exchange between friend and businessman undermine defence secretary's prior claims.

Sunday Times (£)

Cameron demands truth as Fox fights to keep defence job: The prime minister has launched an investigation into whether Liam Fox compromised national security by giving special access to his best man.

Sunday Telegraph

Liam Fox: I have nothing to hide over links with aide: Liam Fox has mounted a fightback in a bid to save his Cabinet job in a row over his working relationship with his self-styled adviser, Adam Werritty.

The questions Liam Fox must answer about his friend Adam Werritty.

Independent on Sunday

Fox adviser is involved in arms deals, says MoD source.

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.