Lobbying’s hidden influence: Conservative peer hired as tax haven lobbyist

Oliver Wright, Whitehall Editor for the Independent [“law makers should not be lobbyists”], sets the background for the latest revelations from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

MPs are no longer allowed to lobby for any organisation with in which they have a financial interest . . . in the language of Parliament it is “inconsistent with the dignity of the House” for an MP to “advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment, or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect”. And the penalties for transgression are severe, as former MPs Stephen Byers and Geoff Hoon found out. 

But a few hundred yards away from the green benches of the House of Commons things are rather different. Yes, peers have to declare their financial interests in the Register of Interests but beyond that it is a free-for-all.  

One senior Liberal Democrat described the scene in the lobbies and bar of the Lords on occasion as being like a ‘lobbyist’s convention’.   

Today’s report by Melanie Newman highlights the case of Lord Blencathra, a former MP and Tory Chief Whip [right: swearing allegiance] who is being paid by the Cayman Islands’ government to represent the interests of its financial services industry – despite also being able to vote on legislation affecting the territory.

 The report notes that in the last few months Lord Blencathra has: 

  • Lobbied the Chancellor George Osborne to reduce the burden of air passenger transport taxes on the Caymans;
  • Facilitated an all expenses paid trip to the Caymans over the Easter recess for three senior MPs with an interest in the islands, including the Chairman of the influential Conservative backbench 1992 committee;
  • Followed up an early day motion in the Commons that had called for the Caymans to be closed down as a tax haven by trying to introduce the MP responsible, the former Treasury Select Committee member  John Cryer, to members of a Cayman Islands delegation in London. The meeting never took place. 

The Premier of the Cayman islands Mckeeva Bush said at the time of the peer’s appointment: ‘It is vitally important that Cayman has a strong voice in Westminster and Brussels and I am delighted that a politician with David’s experience will ensure that our interests are protected at a time when tax neutral jurisdictions such as our own are the subject of such malicious and ill informed attacks.’ 

Contacted by the Bureau, Shadow Cabinet Minister Jon Trickett said: ‘It can’t be right that a member of the legislature, which is responsible for setting tax policy, can be employed by a well-known tax haven.’

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Posted on April 17, 2012, in Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Government, Lobbying, Lords, Revolving door, Vested interests and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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