Blog Archives

Revolving door 40: ACOBA not fit for purpose

Parliamentary lobbying condemned: 2010-2017

“It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.”

David Cameron, then prime minister, promised that a Conservative government would stop the lobbying industry’s attempts through former ministers to access and influence policy. His attack on “crony capitalism” came in a speech in which he attempted to tackle Britain’s “broken politics”:

“Now we all know that expenses has dominated politics for the last year. But if anyone thinks that cleaning up politics means dealing with this alone and then forgetting about it, they are wrong. Because there is another big issue that we can no longer ignore.

The Conservative leader said that the “£2 billion industry” has a big presence at Westminster and in some cases MPs are approached more than 100 times a week by lobbyists.”

But in 2013:

And in 2017, admirable MP Paul Flynn sponsored Early Day Motion 1079


Session: 2016-17

Date tabled: 15.03.2017

Primary sponsor: Flynn, Paul

That this House recalls former Prime Minister David Cameron’s condemnation in 2010 of politicians who are out to serve themselves and not the country by lobbying; notes the abject failure of the Government’s watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, to reduce the abuses of the potentially corrupting revolving door between ministerial office and big business lobbying; and calls on the Government to establish an effective watchdog that would enhance the House’s reputation for probity, removing the opportunities for former Ministers to sell their inside knowledge and contacts for financial advantage by prohibiting their lobbying for companies they influenced or regulated in their Ministerial roles.

As ACOBA, the Government’s ‘watchdog’, has failed to reduce the abuses of the revolving door between ministerial office and big business lobbying, government should establish an effective mechanism which would prevent former Ministers from selling their inside knowledge and contacts for financial gain.




Former minister Andrew Lansley passes through yet another revolving door

revolving door peopleA search on this site reveals 73 references to the revolving door phenomenon to date – and this is only the tip of the iceberg. A Moseley reader recently sent news of another high-profile revolving door operation.

David Cameron’s promised in 2010 to end the “revolving door” between Whitehall and the private sector. Despite this, Andrew Lansley the former health secretary, seen as the architect of the coalition’s privatisation moves, has taken on private sector jobs as adviser to:

  • Roche, the Swiss drugs company;
  • private equity firm Blackstone on investments in the health sector
  • and adviser to the chair and executive director of UKActive, a fitness industry trade body which is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Rowena Mason, political correspondent for the Guardian reminds us that Roche was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the cancer drugs fund that Lansley set up in 2010 to pay for life-extending medicines considered too expensive by the NHS.

guilt by association logoLansley told the Guardian that none of the roles involved lobbying the government and all had been notified to the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba).

The Straw/Rifkind cases – tip of the iceberg

‘Becoming richer’ is not the most important issue; the most damaging effect of these cases is the destruction of democracy as enriched politicians and civil servants influence decisions in the corporate interest.

cameron lobbying

The BBC reports that, speaking to Sky News, Speaker John Bercow said his attitude was that MPs should represent their constituents and not use their position to make money from outside interests, adding: “People should not be in parliament to add to their personal fortune”.

Anglo-Saxon attitudes: in a British graphic, the Union Jack would look somewhat similar to this ‘Stars and Stripes’:

corporate capture of USA

Following the “cash for access” allegations, the Labour leader Ed Miliband called for a ban on MPs being allowed to have two jobs.

The Vested Interest in Politics Group would go further and many would advocate the extension of ACOBA’s remit to ensure that any personal friend or family member of a senior politician or civil servant gets employment with any corporate, totally on their own merits.

fit to rule tests atos

Policy of perfection for MPs – steer clear of business interests and work for the constituency and the wider good.

ACOBA is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office, which considers applications under the business appointment rules about new jobs for former ministers, senior civil servants and other Crown servants. Read more:

India stops one carriage on the Gravy Train in its tracks

When will senior politicians in the British government decide to have an arms length relationship with currently close defence, banking, construction, pharmaceutical and bioscience corporates, stop rewarding failure, close the revolving door and begin to believe that – long term – honesty is the best policy?

gravy train

For years the name of Agusta Westland has surfaced in our database files.

Reuters now report that India, after terminated the 2010 contract for twelve AW101 helicopters, partly produced in Britain, has recovered 228 million euro bank guarantees. Allegations of bribery (detailed here) had emerged in Italy against executives at Finmeccanica’s helicopter unit, leading to the arrest of former Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland senior executives.

The revolving door between government and multinationals

revolving_doorA 2009 investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence: “Last year 394 civil servants applied to sell their skills to the highest bidder – and 130 were MoD personnel.

ACOBA, the committee which vets such appointments, approved all the applications, although some carried conditions”.

The MoD handed a £1.7billion contract for helicopters to Finmeccanica who then appointed as chairman the department’s top civil servant, Sir Kevin Tebbit, who ran the MoD in 2005. Finmeccanica, owns AgustaWestland.

  • Three years ago this site recorded the award of a £1.7billion contract to former Cabinet minister Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary who became AgustaWestland’s executive senior vice-president of international business.

Another reward for failure?

The Financial Times and so many others – recalled that Hoon left his position with NATO in 2010 after being filmed by Channel 4 Dispatches telling undercover journalists posing as representatives of a lobbying/PR company, that his experience as a minister would help ‘open doors’ for firms wanting to lobby government.

A comment on the Movement for the Abolition of War newsletter: “Ex-defence secretary Hoon, having ensured AW earned millions, is now working for them.”

In March this year, another appointment was highlighted by Exaro News, an online service which investigates issues that are important to both the business world and the public in general, but which are being inadequately covered – or ignored – by the mainstream media.

jackie callcut

jackie callcut text

Yesterday, a blog by David Hencke, an investigative journalist, pointed to an article by Exaro colleague David Pallister which reveals that proceedings investigating alleged corruption involving a middleman and another British businessman and Indian officials are continuing in India and Italy.

Squeaky clean – only ’foreigners’ involved?

cameron singh indiaDavid Cameron in 2013 visited India with 100 business and, as you can read here, praised Westland, saying that any corruption problems about the order were a matter for the Indians and the Italians;

“Britain has … some of the toughest laws in the world, so people know if they do business with British companies, they have protections.”

How odd that must have seemed to Indian listeners – as one of the people under investigation in the corruption scandal was British.

The Indian Parliament has recorded a request for more information and a written answer to MPs says: “MEA (ministry of external affairs) has also been requested to take up the matter with the government of the UK, as well as requesting its co-operation in verifying the allegations, and helping us by providing relevant information relating to the alleged involvement of a middleman and/or of any Indian individual/entity.”

Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, was asked what was happening by David Hencke at a press gallery lunch in Parliament. His reply was that he was “unaware of any request” and repeated the Cameron line (above).

British workers in Yeovil will suffer from various forms of corruption in the higher echelons

Hencke ends by adding the latest news reported by the Times of India, that India has been considering whether to blacklist the company – a decision currently ‘put on hold’. He points out that this arrogant attitude towards corruption – “only a problem for others” – might well have serious repercussions for British workers who assemble the helicopters in Yeovil.


Radical change? Long overdue

A new year wish for our malign corporate sponsored plutocracy to wither and be replaced by true democracy

john cryer mp smAt present, as MP John Cryer explained:

“There’s a far too close relationship between the corporate world, lobbying, the city, big financial interests, big business and the heart of government.

It’s an access and an influence that isn’t available to resident associations, trade unions.

Ordinary citizens don’t have that sort of access . . .”


alt logoCampaign group ALT adds: “Right now lobbying happens in secret: we don’t know who is being paid to influence our government, its policies, our laws, and how public money is spent, whether it’s the private healthcare lobby pushing for the current NHS reforms; or banks lobbying against reform of the financial system; or the construction industry wanting to get their hands on greenbelt land, the activities of lobbyists affect our lives in countless ways”.

A step forward? Jim Pickard, political correspondent of the Financial Times, reports that a new regime monitored by a compulsory register for lobbyists will be introduced within a few weeks. But lobbying – and political influence bought by donations to political parties – are not the only problems.

The revolving door

caatFor years CAAT has diligently recorded interchange of employees between government and the arms industry, known as the revolving door, drawing on the website of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). See its latest findings here.

Lucrative employment offers

There is a half-way version of this – a foot in both doors – when large corporations offer directorships and other salaried positions to senior civil servants, politicians and their family members, while still in post.

The taxpayer pays corporate staff to work in government – standard practice

There is evidence of this influence in other sectors – most obviously in those of health and biotechnology. Today a Shirley reader adds news of the latest concern in the energy industry.

caroline lucas -(damian carrington2Damian Carrington (opposite) reports that MP Caroline Lucas and others made Freedom of Information requests which revealed that 23 employees from companies including British Gas and npower are working at the Department of Energy and, in most cases, are being paid by the government. Oil companies such as Shell and Conoco Phillips also have staff inside the department, and civil servants have travelled in the opposite direction to work for the companies. Government comment: this is standard practice . . . self regulation ensures no conflict of interest . . .

Joss Garman, political director of Greenpeace, says that corporations making huge profits from the fossil fuels have “a clear financial interest in putting their people into key positions where they can exert a malign influence that runs counter to the public interest.”

Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Close the Revolving Door Act of 2010 to end lobbyist abuses, and get Congress back on track to move America forward. It was not enacted, but we can still hope that John Cryer, Caroline Lucas or some other honest parliamentarian will gather sufficient support for a similar bill to be passed in this country.