Broken Britain 42: ruled, in effect, by lobbyists who have privileged access and wield disproportionate influence

This website was set up because the social, economic and environmental challenges facing this country are not being effectively addressed, due to the distortion of policy-making by those on ‘an inside track, who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence’ according to a 2009 report by the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee [PASC]. 

An investigation by openDemocracy, showing that these practices continue, reveals a £8m ‘splurge’ from a range of donors to fly MPs abroad, often including the cost of wining and dining with foreign diplomats and dignitaries. Overall, 713 current or former MPs have accepted more than 3,100 all-expenses-paid trips since 2012.

Its analysis reports that more than a quarter of all MPs’ trips abroad were paid for – in full or in part – by foreign governments, including many with poor human rights records.

One such is the government of Qatar, which spent almost £440,000 flying MPs out to the repressive Gulf state in the decade leading up to the World Cup. Over the last ten years, MPs have made at least 78 trips to Qatar that were funded by the country’s Foreign Ministry or its embassy in London. Over the years the spotlight on Qatar has moved from the plight of its foreign domestic workers to that of the thousands of migrant workers who have died in the Qatari construction industry since the World Cup tournament was awarded to the country in 2010. (Sporting News).

Tory peer Eric Pickles on a trip to Israel for UK parliamentarians funded by the Conservative Friends of Israel, July 2022

Israel is another country cited. The Conservative Friends of Israel paid for MPs to go on more overseas trips than any other donor. Records show the group fully or partially funded trips with an overall value of £367,000 since 2012. Israel’s construction of the Separation Wall, army checkpoints and broader restrictions of movements of people and goods have limited Palestinians’ access to healthcare services for decades (LSE blog), increased food insecurity by restrictions on agriculture (Wilson Centre) and interfered with their fishing (Middle East Monitor).

In May this year a parliamentary debate on foreign lobbying was opened by MP Bob Seely who called for “a substantially improved lobbying law—in fact, lobbying laws “ What we have is arguably no longer fit for purpose, if it ever was. Secondly, there is a specific problem with foreign lobbying, which has been getting worse over the past decade”.

Cultivating relationships with academic institutions, think-tanks and regulatory bodies, serving and retired politicians and civil servants who are the policy experts, buys power.

MP Chris Bryant pointed out during the parliamentary debate: “Some countries forbid members of their legislative body from taking any form of hospitality of any kind, let alone several thousand pounds-worth of trips abroad, from a foreign state. We should consider that.”

 

 

 

 

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Posted on December 17, 2022, in Broken Britain, Corporate political nexus, Lobbying, MPs, Party funding, Revolving door, Vested interests and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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