Category Archives: Lobbying
In Bolton on Sunday (18.8.19) Mr Corbyn announced a new policy to ban donations or loans to parties from non-doms and those not registered for tax in Britain. He said:
“People are right to feel that politics doesn’t work for them. It doesn’t. Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party are captured by big donors, who are corrupting democracy. If you have the money you can get access to ministers. Look at the fracking industry. But if you wish to protest against the frackers because it will damage the environment, you can’t get a hearing”.
Lamiat Sabin (right) reports that Cabinet Office shadow minister Jon Trickett is working on a comprehensive plan to stop big money “buying up our democracy” before outlining further plans in the autumn and that Mr Corbyn revealed details of donations to PM Boris Johnson – nearly a million pounds – from hedge funds and bankers.
In all: £953,056.47 came from hedge funds and bankers in donations and income over the last 15 years, (Labour’s analysis of Electoral Commission data and register of members’ interests entries) and contributions of up £730,000 to him or Conservative Associations in his Henley and Uxbridge seats. Some detail:
- speeches to banks in Europe and the US: £233,056;
- £100,000 received in June from Ipex Capital chairman Jonathan Moynihan, who also chaired the Vote Leave finance committee;
- £10,000 in June from hedge fund manager Robin Crispin Odey, who is short-selling the sterling in expectation of a slide in the value of the pound in the event of Mr Johnson’s no-deal Brexit — according to Labour;
- Johnson flown to New York and paid £94,507.85 for a two-hour speech at the multibillion-dollar hedge fund company Golden Tree Asset Management and
- £88,000 from hedge fund boss Johan Christofferson from direct donations or contributions to Uxbridge Conservative Association.
He said: “We have to stop the influx of big money into politics. Politics should work for the millions, not the millionaires. Labour is the party of the many, not the few and we do things very differently. We are funded by workers through their trade unions and small donations, averaging just £22 in the last general election. That’s why we will be able to drive big money out of our democracy.”
Most UK care homes were managed by local authorities until Margaret Thatcher ‘reformed’ the system in the 1980s; now just 8% are said to be under state control.
In April, the shadow minister for social care and mental health said, “There are major concerns about the debt-driven business models of some companies in the care sector and the role of foreign private equity firms and hedge funds in deciding the future care arrangements for large numbers of vulnerable people. The real price of this instability and underfunding is now being paid by the 17,000 older people in Four Seasons care homes and their families who face an uncertain future”.
The Bracknell care home and Kingsmills care home (above) are two of more than 300 owned by Four Seasons Health Care. In May, administrators were called in by the firm which has struggled to repay its debts.
All four of Britain’s biggest care-home businesses have been up for sale in the past year and have failed to secure deals.
A recent report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services reported that almost half of councils have seen the closure of domestic home care providers in their area in the past year and a third had seen residential care homes closed, collectively affecting more than 8,000 clients and residents.
Gill Plimmer reports an estimate by Care England, which represents the independent providers, that around £4bn is needed from the government to stabilise the sector.
In addition to sharp cuts to social care budgets due to the government’s austerity policy, private care providers have had to deal with an increase in the minimum wage and rising food costs.
Ms Plimmer comments that understanding where taxpayers’ money is going is essential if Britain is to resolve the funding crisis in elderly care, adding, “This is made difficult by the companies’ complex, multi-layered offshore private equity structures”.
Nick Hood, debt restructuring adviser at Opus, the social-care analysts, said, “We don’t know whether taxpayers’ money is going to the private equity owners or the financiers, or indeed how much is being paid in cash and how much rolled up on the debt”.
He pointed out that the care companies’ debt interest payments which average £4,800 per bed per year, contributed to overall losses at the companies of £900m from 2015 to 2017, adding:
“The figures showed that the “debt-laden model, which demands an unsustainable level of return, is completely inappropriate for social care. Hundreds of millions of pounds that could be going into improving facilities and care are being sucked out of the industry every year to fund the debt”.
Some question the whole concept of residential care as inspections by the Care Quality Commission, which oversees provision of social care, find that some homes shamefully neglect residents – citing here an establishment owned and controlled by a US property investment group.
In 2009 this site was set up to report on the distortion of policy-making by those on ‘an inside track, largely drawn from the corporate world, who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence’ according to a 2009 report by the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee [PASC].
Tactics covered, such as the ‘revolving door, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding, continue to block effective action addressing the social, environmental and economic challenges facing this country.
It became common knowledge, with the growth of social media, that those on the ‘inside track’ are skewing parliamentary decision-making and revelations of this corruption are now accepted as the norm. Therefore, after December 14th 2013, individual examples of this practice were no longer listed.
Today, award-winning journalist Owen Walker has once again highlighted the close relationships between politicians and investment fund managers
Mr Walker is a commissioning editor for the Financial Times, selecting and commissioning writers to write specific articles. He has previously edited specialist FT publications on corporate governance, retail investment and pension scheme management. Barbarians in the Boardroom, his book on activist investors, was published in June.
They bring stardust – really?
Last May, Owen Walker (right) quoted David Pitt-Watson’s explanation. This visiting professor of finance at Cambridge Judge Business School said that much of the appeal of recruiting former politicians is the stardust they bring.
Insuring against loss of office is nothing new; Mr Walker notes that every UK chancellor since 1983 has taken up a position in investment management after leaving the Treasury, giving names and dates.
In today’s article he records that asset/investment managers paid MPs at least £126,000 in speaker fees, thousands of pounds’ worth of hospitality and more than £110,000 for advice during the year April 2018-April 2019. Readers may read names and amounts by clicking on the link above.
And now it’s 2019 – time for change!
Disloyal, nakedly ambitious, Watson further assists the media campaign against his decent, honest leader
Francis Elliott and Kate Devlin report, in the Times, that Tom Watson declared “I am not Jeremy’s deputy” as he sought to distance himself further from the Labour leader.
The ‘badge of shame’ misleading/mischief making headline – not the first spotted in this newspaper – is belied by the text. Watson actually described the departure of Luciana Berger (MP for Liverpool Wavertree) as a “badge of shame”.
Watson as compassionate hero
He told the Emma Barnett programme on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It is a badge of shame that Luciana Berger, a bright young female pregnant MP, was bullied out of her own constituency by racist thugs. I’m not putting up with it. I owe it to the 500,000 members of the party to defend their integrity against claims that we are a racist party or we are not dealing with racism.”
He repeated similar charges in Sky News – close to crocodile tears as he ‘feared’ that more MPs would leave the Labour Party.
And confirms another subversive move: his plans to arrange a group of MPs away from the shadow cabinet to create their own policies.
Charles Randell, chair of the government’s Payment Systems Regulator asks a pertinent question: “Should access to such a basic financial service be universal, or commercially driven?”
Cashless: “Digital payments are clearly the future”: a spokeswoman for digital payment company Square
One protagonist, Helen Prowse, a spokeswoman for digital payment company Square, spoke at a debate held by Monzo, a London-based fintech startup. “Digital payments are clearly the future.” She continued: “In the UK, plastic payment cards are the most popular way to buy things. Only about 30% of transactions use paper notes and coins, The ratio is already at 15% in Sweden, which will become effectively cashless in a few years’ time”. Quartz journalist John Detrixhe appears to agree. He gives several reasons for ‘getting rid’ of cash:
- When shops switch over to digital money, their workers are less likely to be subject to violent robbery.
- It can also be faster and cheaper to process than notes and coins.
- Cash helps to enable the underground economy through tax evasion as well as illicit finance.
But G4S issued a report (April ’18) showing that cash circulation has increased
G4S which transports, process, recycle, securely store and manages cash published the World Cash Report in April 2018. It surveyed 47 countries covering 75% of the global population and over 90% of the world’s GDP. The findings show that demand for cash continues to rise globally, despite the increase in electronic payment options in recent years; cash in circulation relative to GDP has increased to 9.6% across all continents, up from 8.1% in 2011.
The report highlights the variety of payment habits in different regions. In Europe 80% of point-of-sale transactions are conducted in cash, while in North America, where card payments are most regularly used, cash use still accounts for 31%. In Asia the rise of online purchases does not mean that cash is taken out of the equation, with more than 3 out of every 4 online purchases in a number of countries paid for by cash on delivery.
Access to Cash Review: cash is “an economic necessity” for around 25 million people in Britain
Natalie Ceeney (right), a successful civil servant who is now non-executive chair of Innovate Finance, chaired the independent Access to Cash Review, funded by Link, the UK’s biggest network of cash machines. She said “The issue is that digital does not yet work for everyone.”
The review indicated that physical notes and coins are “an economic necessity” for around 25 million people in Britain, and nearly half of people surveyed said a cashless society would be problematic for them. ATMs and bank branches are under particular pressure in rural communities, where broadband and mobile service is unreliable or unavailable. Next month, the review plans to publish its recommendations on how to deal with declining cash availability.
Nicky Morgan, chair of the UK’s Treasury Committee, said recently, “Whilst cash may no longer be king, it continues to play an important role in the lives of millions. So what we’ve heard today from the PSR should set alarm bells ringing. It’s clear that the whole way that people access their cash via ATMs is starting to fail. With the way that people access their cash seemingly on the precipice of collapsing, the government can’t just bury its head in the sand. . . .”
And what will happen in a cashless society when electronic systems malfunction – as machines do – when the mobile phone cannot get a signal, when cable sheaths fail or when someone accidentally damages a phone cable?
At a time when apprehensions about low-quality food entering the country post Brexit are rising, the Times reports that Michael Gove, the environment secretary has announced that “Britain will lead an agricultural revolution with the use of gene editing”.
In July, after hearing scientific evidence that gene editing “causes many profound mutations and DNA damage”, the European Court of Justice ruled that food resulting from genome editing would be regarded as genetically modified, which is outlawed in Europe.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is underwhelmed
Disregarding this science-based evidence, Gove pledged, at yesterday’s CLA meeting in Westminster, that scientists and farmers would be freed from this European court ruling. The first report seen however, makes no reference to this exciting prospect, whatsoever.
Genome editing, or genome engineering is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in a specific location in the genome (genetic material) of a living organism, unlike early genetic engineering techniques that randomly insert genetic material into a host genome.
Support from vested interests
Scientists in the industry, like the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, funded by the government’s Department of Business believe that the technique will lead to crops and animals with higher yields, resistance to disease and the ability to cope with the effects of climate change.
Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, urged the government to keep the UK aligned with the European court: “Scientific research has long shown that these new gene-editing technologies give rise to similar uncertainties and risks as GM always has. We have always been clear that these new plant breeding techniques are GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and therefore are banned in organic farming and food”.
Bloomberg reports that under the Trump administration, gene-edited foods don’t need to be labelled or regulated and that Zach Luttrell, a principal at industry consultant StraightRow LLC, sees gene-editing as a way to continue lowering costs.
A recent Telegraph investigation (paywall) revealed that senior MPs and peers, including many ministers, have given access to Parliament to spouses involved in lobbying for companies and campaign groups. Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland Secretary, and Sir Kevin Barron, the chairman of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee (Telegraph, ‘sleaze watchdog’, are among 900 parliamentarians whose partners hold “spouse passes” entitling them to around-the-clock access to the Palace of Westminster despite their work for organisations that lobby MPs and ministers over policies and funding.
They note that in recent years politics in the UK has been plagued by corruption scandals and public trust in politicians is plunging.
These scandals have exposed serious fault lines in the UK political system, and have raised particular concerns over the following:
- The regime for parliamentary expenses
- Lobbying of politicians by those who can apparently buy access that influences legislation spending priorities or policy decisions;
- The revolving door between government and resources-resources-business;
- Political party funding; and
- Oversight regimes.
They explain that the problem lies when it happens behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny. It can lead politicians in office to steer away from good government. Their decisions can benefit those who fund them. The public interest comes second. Special interests, backed by money, may sway decision-making and undermine democracy.
Opaque lobbying practices backed up by extensive funds at the disposal of interest groups can lead to undue, unfair influence in policies – creating risks for political corruption and undermining public trust in decision-making institutions. We can attribute this factor, in part, to the crisis of confidence in politics we have seen unravel in the UK in recent years, resulting in apathy and low voter turnouts.
TI-UK believes regulation needs to address both those who seek to influence inappropriately and those who are being lobbied:
- Money should not be a distorting factor in forming policy or gaining access to decision makers.
- Lobbying on any particular issue or decision should be visible and have an audit trail.
Such information should be presented in a manner that is accessible and comparable for the public, media and civil society to scrutinise.
The report on UK corruption by TI-UK revealed that the British public perceive political parties to be the most corrupt sector in the UK and parliament to be the third most corrupt. It concludes there is a danger that the public will cease to regard decisions made by government and parliament as legitimate and fair; this represents a serious threat to British democracy and ultimately, to the rule of law.
Originally published on the FDF website
Not so in UK. Whereas 43% are employed in Indian agriculture, British farmers and employees registered to vote are only 1% of the country’s population according to the World Bank’s interesting list and so are not regarded as politically significant, despite their vital role.
Is building a vote-bank the British farmers’ only chance of a fair deal?
A call, not to back a particular party or candidate but a policy such as the one set out by Farmers for Action (NI) and other farm groups (below), which commissioned the drafting of a parliamentary bill on farmgate prices. If successful it would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples.
A vote-bank could be built by enlisting the support of the public and those who do business with dairy farmers:
- feed mills
- machinery suppliers
Juliette Jowit of the Financial Times summarised: “As farm incomes fall thousands of jobs go in allied industries: vets, feed and machinery suppliers”. (Farmers suffer under the yoke of global forces, 2.5.00)
Douglas Chalmers, when regional director for the Country Land and Business Association [North], said “Agriculture . . . supports jobs and services in the local villages and often the larger towns, especially if there is a market . . . As farming loses critical mass, all the agriculturally dependent businesses become unsustainable, and with no vets, marts, hauliers and merchants, further pressure is felt by those who have continued to farm . . .” He continues:
“We ask for a fair deal: that those who set policies and impose legislation consider the wider and real effects of their actions on individuals, farms and businesses in rural areas”. FG: 9.1.04
- Some years ago David and Rosemary Jones of Trebersed Farm, Carmarthen, highlighted the importance of farming to the rural economy by presenting their accounts which reveal that in an eight-month period they paid 117 separate rural businesses and companies for work done or goods supplied. The yearly total is estimated at 130 suppliers. Rural economy: Farmers Guardian 19.3.99
- Ruth and Richard Burrows, Devonshire farmers, assembled suppliers representing 3000 others whose livelihoods depend on them and other farmers. A photograph was taken with notes giving the names and roles of the people pictured. Mrs Burrows said: “They are living proof of the importance of the spending power of the farmer and how enormously important agriculture is in terms of the entire economic structure around here. The rural communities of Britain tick over on a system of mutual dependency of which the farm often forms the hub. If it goes to the wall, dozens of ancillary trades suffer. The web of rural ruin, Richard Price, Daily Mail, 23.9.99
The problems being faced by dairy farmers do not stop at the farm gate but threaten the thousands of other business and jobs both locally and nationally.
Maintaining viable dairy farms not only protects livelihoods of farming families and others directly involved, it also makes a major contribution to local economies and the future of businesses, jobs, and families in the locality.
That is the key message from dairy farmer’s wife, Kathleen Calvert (left), who asks for a fair deal for dairy farmers who receive a significantly lower share of the retail milk price than they did ten years ago, despite considerably higher costs:
“Payment which covers production costs and overheads must be the norm for British food producers. This money will circulate around individual rural communities through the supply of professional goods and services to the prime producer, helping to provide a diverse range of other employment opportunities that support individual families within rural communities.”
Dugdale Nutrition, one of the 60 local businesses with which she trades, specialises in feeds for ruminant animals, its core market being dairy farming. This means its 49 employees and their families rely heavily in turn on local dairy farms for their livelihood. Matthew Dugdale, managing director of this company which has supplied the Calvert family for three generations, explains: “Dairy farming is like any business, needing a fair and sustainable price for its product to ensure a fair income for the long hours worked and a decent return on the often large amounts of capital employed, and very importantly, surplus profit to reinvest for the future.”
Locally based businesses circulate profits within the communities they serve. In turn they are reliant on viable, widespread and profitable farm businesses adding immense value to local economies. It is in their interests to see that farmers get a fair price for their produce.
Britain’s political-corporate circles deliberately failed to give fair compensation to thousands of NHS patients who received contaminated blood. But France, Japan, Italy and other countries put those responsible for their contaminated blood supplies on trial.
Medics and politicians knew by the mid1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. See: Risk, science and the politics of the blood scandals in Ireland, Scotland, England and Finland (page 4) which cited:
- the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada’, (Ottawa, 1997),
- National Academy of Science 1975 (WHO partner)
- and the World Health Assembly, Resolution 28.72. (Geneva, 1975).
The World Health Organisation had warned the UK not to import blood from countries that paid donors and had a high incidence of hepatitis, such as the US. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless, these products continued to be imported and used. Successive governments refused to hold a public inquiry into what went wrong.
The Haemophilia Society: https://slideplayer.com/slide/4794472/,slide 5
The blood industry proved to be a powerful lobby and nothing was done
Many manufacturers supplied clotting factor products to the UK during the mid-1970s and 1980s which infected haemophiliacs with life-threatening viruses. Armour’s Factorate was the most used product, with Baxter’s Hemofil, Immuno’s Kryobulin and Bayer-owned Cutter’s Koate following, see paragraph 21.332: “Final Report: Chapter 19 – Production of Blood Products – Facilities”.
The Penrose Inquiry (Chapter 5) recorded that in the 70s, Dr J Garrott Allen found that the incidence of Hepatitis among haemophilia patients was related to the increase in the use of prison plasma and “Skid Row” inhabitants, “whose use of alcohol, drugs and unsterilised needles made them prime hepatitis carriers”. His findings, published in the journal “California Medicine”, provoked a national debate but “the blood industry constituted a powerful lobby, and nothing was done” – or as the Haemophilia Society (page 19) put it: “Although a great deal of evidence was clearly documented in the report, no useful recommendations were made.”
Over 2400 of the people who were given contaminated blood have now died and MP Diana Johnson (left) asked for an urgent Commons debate in 2017 – recorded here. She had to get six leaders of opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry before Theresa May finally announced a public inquiry into how thousands of people became infected with HIV and hepatitis.
The MP for Stratford on Avon said: “Many victims—this is certainly true of my constituent, Clare Walton—initially did not want an inquiry; they wanted a settlement”.
The BBC reported that Eleanor Grey QC, speaking on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care in England (and its predecessor which covered the whole of the UK), apologised for the infected blood scandal.
”At worst, a cover up or, at best, a lack of candour about past events”: Eleanor Grey QC
Many of the relevant records had disappeared. Former Health Secretary Patrick Jenkin and former Health Minister David Owen both searched the departmental archives, but were told that the documents had been accidentally destroyed. The British Medical Journal records that the public inquiry, which opened in September, was told in a preliminary hearing that the UK government engaged in a cover-up and in some cases the NHS altered or destroyed the medical records of patients who received blood products infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s.
A Private Eye journalist, after giving a detailed account of the tragedy, ended: “If the government wants to demonstrate just how sincere its apology really is, it might take a leaf out of the Irish government’s book and pay survivors proper compensation and ensure priority healthcare, in recognition that their injuries were caused by the NHS. And do this before the inquiry resumes in earnest next spring.”
But ultimately, as Sunita Narain points out re the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal, it is a collective failure: as in other cases, the British public have not expressed the level of outrage needed to shame the government into action.
Nationally and internationally eminent researchers and commentators are focusing on the damage done to damage the environment and human health by agriculture (example).
This, in a country whose manufacturing industry was the first to pollute its air, water and soil and whose armaments industry continues the process (see a recent study of pollution caused by war activity, during development and testing of hardware, weapon systems and procedures, war operations and subsequent reconstruction).
A country which could and should provide its own staple food is becoming increasingly dependent on imports because their family farmers have been grossly underpaid for many years by middlemen and large retailers. According to the NFU (2015), the number of dairy farmers in England and Wales has halved since 2002 – cause and effect.
As family farmers leave in droves each year we must assume that the country’s environment and human health will improve by leaps and bounds. Not so, their land will be bought by those largescale investors who have reaped the benefit of EU subsidies for so many years.
William Taylor and other leaders of Northern Ireland’s farming organisations have been actively lobbying politicians from all parties and none. Their August press release ended:
Farming families traditionally were charity givers, now 25%+ are living below the poverty line, therefore, denoting complete current Government policy failure. FFA therefore call on the Westminster Government to implement legislation on farm gate prices which would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked forthwith across the staples throughout the UK to force fairness into the food chain for farmers immediately.
There is now proof from University College Dublin that in the farming industry every new job on a farm would create 4 down the line and whilst farming is not viewed by Westminster as the biggest UK industry in money terms (partly the fault of the food corporates) it is the largest UK industry by tonnage handled, 60%+ of all commercial road vehicles haul food or food related products to give but one example.
If legislation on farm gate prices is not forthcoming from Westminster, such as that being sought at Stormont when it re-sits to sort the UK’s farm gate price crisis, then it will confirm what we all suspect, the large food retailers are out of control with their influence in ‘Democratic’ Westminster, the limited powers of the supermarket Ombudsman’s Office a case in point!