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Dominic Raab defends £2.6m Downing Road press room kitted out by Russian agency with RT hyperlinks

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Dominic Raab defended paying a Russian agency £2.6million to create a White Home-style media briefing room in Downing Road as we speak, amid security and price fears.

The International Secretary urged the challenge represented ‘worth for cash’ and mentioned the UK was open to funding from companies primarily based in Russia and China ‘the place it is protected’.

Yesterday it was revealed {that a} agency referred to as Megahertz was employed to put in microphones, management desks, cameras and computer systems within the No 9 Downing Road suite.

Megahertz is owned by Okno-TV, a Moscow-based firm that works intently with state-controlled broadcaster Russia At this time, whose UK output has repeatedly been censured by Ofcom.

However Mr Raab advised LBC radio as we speak: ‘We’re not saying that we have got an issue with the Russian folks or the Chinese language folks. Certainly should you have a look at, for instance on the Chinese language entrance, the British Chinese language neighborhood make an unimaginable contribution right here. 

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‘We’re not saying all companies from both of these two nations are dangerous, removed from it, we welcome, we wish to be an outward open wanting nation and naturally in relation to any authorities contract, we wish to get the very best worth for cash.

‘Sure after all the massive emphasis on shopping for British however finally we wish to get the very best worth for taxpayers cash.’

He added: ‘The truth is we’re an open, outward wanting nation, we would like overseas direct funding the place it is protected, the place it may be accomplished with out threat to our personal nation or soiled cash making its means into this nation, however that’s a part of our shtick, our USP as international Britain.’

However Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the Committee on Requirements in Public Life, advised the identical radio station there have been ‘severe inquiries to be answered’. 

The Foreign Secretary suggested the project represented 'value for money' and said the UK was open to investment from firms linked to Moscow and Beijing 'where it’s safe'

The International Secretary urged the challenge represented ‘worth for cash’ and mentioned the UK was open to funding from companies linked to Moscow and Beijing ‘the place it is protected’

Downing Street's new White-House style media briefing room, created with £2.6 million of taxpayer's money, has been revealed

Downing Road’s new White-Home model media briefing room, created with £2.6 million of taxpayer’s cash, has been revealed

In a nod to the White House, a podium is at the head of the room complete with an official Downing Street lectern in front of four Union Jack flags

In a nod to the White Home, a podium is on the head of the room full with an official Downing Road lectern in entrance of 4 Union Jack flags

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the government spent £2.6 million on renovations to make the room ready for the briefings, which will be fronted by fronted by former journalist Allegra Stratton

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the federal government spent £2.6 million on renovations to make the room prepared for the briefings, which will likely be fronted by fronted by former journalist Allegra Stratton

Boris Johnson to unveil evaluate saying Russia and China are ‘largest threats’ to UK safety

Boris Johnson will as we speak declare that the UK is boosting its nuclear arsenal as a significant evaluate warns that Russia and China are the ‘largest threats’ and a organic ‘soiled bombs’.

Unveiling a method that would outline Britain’s future as a world energy, the PM will sign a shift to a ‘extra strong place on safety and deterrence’ together with troops being deployed abroad ‘extra usually and for longer durations’.

The restrict on the variety of nuclear warheads is about to be elevated from 180 to 260. However the Built-in Evaluation of safety, defence, and overseas coverage may even herald an enormous shift in emphasis from typical forces to leading edge warfare, with funding in area and laser weapons.

It’s set to focus on the ‘energetic menace’ of Russia beneath Vladimir Putin, whereas stressing that Beijing poses a ‘systemic problem’ to prosperity. A profitable chemical, organic, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) assault is taken into account ‘seemingly’ by 2030.

And worryingly the doc says one other pandemic is a ‘lifelike risk’ this decade. ‘Infectious illness outbreaks are more likely to be extra frequent to 2030,’ it says.

The blueprint will likely be laid out by Mr Johnson in a press release to the Commons, the place he’ll warn that Western values are usually not assured to come back out on high – and restate his dedication to spending 0.7 per cent of Britain’s earnings on help as soon as the coronavirus disaster is previous.

The 100-page evaluate, which was leaked final evening, will set out the Authorities’s view of Britain’s place on this planet after Brexit.

It declares: ‘We’ll transfer from defending the established order inside the post-Chilly Battle worldwide system to dynamically shaping the post-Covid order.’

 

Sir Alistair mentioned: ‘I could not fairly consider it, actually, as a result of the 2 refurbishments we have had in Downing Road not too long ago have been very weird.

‘To make use of a Russian [owned] firm in a extremely delicate safety space appears unimaginable, actually.

‘I do not assume the federal government [has] defined but whether or not this contract went out for aggressive tender and it appears to be one of an entire collection of very costly initiatives that have not gone out to aggressive tender.’ 

The development of the room inside No 9 Downing Road started final 12 months when the federal government introduced plans to carry televised briefings. 

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the federal government spent £2.6 million to make the room prepared for the briefings, which will likely be fronted by former journalist Allegra Stratton.

Now, photographs have revealed the results of the work together with an opulent new studio and seating for reporters. In a nod to the White Home, a podium is on the head of the room full with an official Downing Road lectern in entrance of 4 Union Jack flags. 

A supply advised ITV Information final evening: ‘A Russian-owned agency has been putting in the entire communications gear in Quantity 10. Questions should be requested, the corporate does massive installations for numerous organisations – however that is authorities.’

Ms Stratton, a former journalist, mentioned there have been ‘completely not’ any safety issues, including: ‘Clearly, in a contract like that we take all the mandatory measures to make sure the best requirements of safety.’  

Nonetheless, the Labour Occasion questioned the contract course of for the renovation. 

The revelation got here as photographs of the brand new briefing room have been ridiculed on-line with some customers questioning the liberal use of Tory blue and dubbing it a ‘dictator’s podium’. 

Final evening Labour’s shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves mentioned: ‘Given how a lot cash Boris Johnson has thrown at his newest self-importance challenge, we have been anticipating one thing a bit extra spectacular. 

 ‘This raises severe questions on who’s getting rushed-through authorities contracts.

‘And that is earlier than we even get to why our nurses are getting a pay reduce whereas the federal government spends hundreds of thousands on a media briefing room.

‘The actual fact the federal government appears to have merely brushed this off with no additional transparency or assurances on how they’re spending British taxpayer cash is deeply regarding.’ 

The televised briefings have been mentioned to be the brainchild of Boris Johnson’s former adviser Lee Cain and are anticipated to be automobiles for the Conservative authorities to report on its insurance policies. 

They’re anticipated to run in an analogous technique to White Home press briefings with Ms Stratton answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister and authorities. 

As a politically-appointed particular adviser, reasonably than an neutral civil servant, she’s going to have the ability to take purpose at opponents in addition to defend the Authorities’s actions. 

Critics slammed the design on social media after the photographs have been revealed. 

One wrote: ‘Dictators Podium. Why is it blue. Is it going to be a Trump like occasion political broadcast room?’

One other mentioned: ‘The blue is disturbing right here. It subliminally says U.Okay. state = the Tory occasion. Whereas till now, elections, the equipment of state, its legal guidelines, traditions, and erm, accountability mechanisms and requirements have been the framework inside which events operated.’

Whereas a 3rd mentioned: ‘Seems a bit low-cost does not it?’

The new briefing room seems to have been inspired by the White House. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing on March 15

The brand new briefing room appears to have been impressed by the White Home. White Home Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks through the day by day press briefing on March 15

Much of the equipment used in the briefing room was installed by a Russian-owned company with links to state broadcaster Russia Today

A lot of the gear used within the briefing room was put in by a Russian-owned firm with hyperlinks to state broadcaster Russia At this time

Firm Megahertz was hired to install microphones, control desks, cameras and computers. Megahertz is owned by Okno-TV, a Moscow-based company that works closely with state controlled broadcaster Russia Today

Agency Megahertz was employed to put in microphones, management desks, cameras and computer systems. Megahertz is owned by Okno-TV, a Moscow-based firm that works intently with state managed broadcaster Russia At this time

In response to a Freedom of Information request earlier this month, the Cabinet Office issued a breakdown of the costs of the renovations totalling £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT

In response to a Freedom of Info request earlier this month, the Cupboard Workplace issued a breakdown of the prices of the renovations totalling £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT

The televised briefings were said to be the brainchild of Boris Johnson's former adviser Lee Cain and are expected to be vehicles for the Conservative government to report on its policies

The televised briefings have been mentioned to be the brainchild of Boris Johnson’s former adviser Lee Cain and are anticipated to be automobiles for the Conservative authorities to report on its insurance policies

They’re anticipated to run in an analogous technique to White Home press briefings with Ms Stratton answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister and authorities

In response to a Freedom of Info request earlier this month, the Cupboard Workplace issued a breakdown of the prices of the renovations totalling £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

It mentioned the funds had been spent to permit day by day broadcasting by information organisations inside the Grade-I listed constructing.

‘This can essentially require one-off capital works, together with audio-visual gear, web infrastructure, electrical works and lighting,’ the response mentioned.

‘This spending is within the public curiosity as the brand new broadcasting of foyer briefings will improve public accountability and transparency in regards to the work of this Authorities now and sooner or later. 

‘Such spending on upkeep and technical services displays that 9 Downing Road (the Privy Council Workplace) is a Grade I listed constructing.’  

An advert mentioned the wage for the press secretary position can be primarily based on expertise, however stories urged the taxpayer-funded publish would pay round £100,000 a 12 months.

The FoI response, which was delayed by a number of weeks as officers determined whether or not the disclosure was within the public curiosity, included £1,848,695.12 for the ‘fundamental works’.

Different prices included £198,023.75 on ‘lengthy lead gadgets’, and £33,394.63 on broadband gear.

The launch of the televised briefings had been anticipated as early because the autumn, however in January No 10 mentioned they have been being delayed as ministers deliberate to carry common press conferences through the lockdown.

Foyer correspondents, the political reporters primarily based in Parliament, presently have day by day briefings with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman, or his deputy. Each are civil servants.

However beneath proposals set out in July, a day session will likely be filmed at 9 Downing Road and will likely be led by Ms Stratton.

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