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Murdoch press lists corporate spending on political and lobbying activities

Times journalists Alex Ralph, and Harry Wilson present and comment on material collected by the Times Data Team: Tom Wills, Ryan Watts, Kira Schacht. Links have been added by PCU’s editor to enable readers to learn more if they wish to do so.

“FTSE 100 groups, including banks, defence contractors, tobacco manufacturers and telecoms companies, have spent more than £24 million on lobbying in Brussels and about £335,000 funding all-party parliamentary groups in Westminster”.

They add: “There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing or rule-breaking by companies”.

FTSE 100 political spending (over the last two years)

The Times first focusses on All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs)

APPGs are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords who join together to pursue a particular topic or interest. Many involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities – or as the journalists put it, “help to push industry agendas in parliament”. Read more here.

Unsurprisingly, BAE Systems, which spent £37,000 on a group “to promote better understanding of the Her Majesty’s armed forces in parliament”, is among the biggest backers of the parliamentary groups.

The writers comment that parliamentary groups have proved contentious because of the large amounts spent on reports that often support the views of industry and which grant access to parliament for companies and lobbyists.

BT’s £53,000 included backing the parliamentary internet, communications and technology forum, known as Pictfor, whose members include Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader and Lord Birt, former Blair adviser and director-general of the BBC. A list of funders may be seen here.

Note: ’Donations to APPGs’ shows spending between Jan 2015 and Mar 2017 as declared on the Register of APPGs. ’Spend on EU lobbying’ shows companies’ minimum estimates for the most recent financial year declared on the EU Transparency Register at the time of research. Here is a snapshot taken from one of 10 pages listing donations/other spending and the companies’ rationales for these sums being given.

The Times’ second focus is on the denial of information to shareholders

Less than £10,000 of identified political and lobbying spending in the EU was disclosed to shareholders in the companies’ recent annual reports. ompanies are not required to disclose details to shareholders and little information on corporate political and lobbying activities is revealed in annual reports, which are published before shareholder meetings. The tens of millions of euros spent each year in the EU go largely undeclared to shareholders.

Corporate Europe, which campaigns for greater transparency in EU decision making, has spent years tracking how the business world moulds policy.

Vicky Cann, the group’s UK representative, said that the banking and energy industries were the most active lobbyists. “The financial services industry is a huge spender and even then we think the real scope of their spending is probably bigger than we can currently see,” she said. Her colleague gave the example of recent emissions legislation that was the subject of intense lobbying by BP and Shell.

As Peter van Veen, director of business integrity at Transparency International, said, “Corporate transparency over political activities is important to ensure the public can have the confidence that their politicians and industry leaders are conducting business ethically . . . If companies are not voluntarily willing to disclose their political activities and funding of these, then stronger legislation should be considered and a possible starting point may be to broaden the definition of political activities and expenditure in the Companies Act 2006.”

 

 

 

 

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PCU: the ‘captive state’ – a Britain organised under successive governments to suit the corporate few – grossly mistreats people like the late Stephanie Bottrill

Following posts on Birmingham and Solihull websites, readers who have responded fall into two categories:

Some – living on average or above average incomes have been quite unsympathetic:

  • In her place I’d cut my coat according to my cloth
  • Would losing £20 be such a big deal?
  • These people are always whining.
  • The son’s approach to the Sunday papers was motivated by financial gain.
  • Think of the mothers and children cramped in one-bedroom accommodation.
  • She didn’t care about the trauma she would be inflicting on the lorry driver

Others affected:

  • are thankful that this issue has been raised,
  • have written about similar problems they are facing,
  • say that their grand-children will not be able to stay with them if they move,
  • point out that to a person with a disposable income of £77 – £20 is a 25% cut,
  • and that for a single person, £20 is the amount a person will spend on food bill – not including fresh meat.
captive state cover
PCU sees the captive state – Labour and Conservative governments alike, in thrall to the rich and powerful.
Many politicians are eager for the crumbs falling from these corporates – not usually in brown envelopes but in the form of declared directorships and also undeclared lucrative opportunities for family employment.
Two of many examples where the ‘captive state’ is easy on the affluent but bears down on people like Stephanie Bottrill:

The government commandeered taxpayers’ money to bail out other affluent bankers and HMRC created a “bespoke” tax arrangement for Goldman Sachs in order to resolve a “huge relationship issue” with the bank. It excused Goldman Sachs from paying £10 million interest on tax it had not paid. The government also commandeered taxpayers’ money to bail out other affluent bankers.

No parallel desire is shown to create relationships and help the poor and powerless.

The case underlines the need for a new (cross-party?) incorruptible politics designed to offer equality of opportunity and security to all its citizens – not just the affluent few.
cllrs jc, ss, cw
Do readers know of any energetic and innovative, public-spirited politicians likely to make a difference? Three named in the West Midlands are pictured above.

 

Bad decisions by government – 35: a short-sighted elitist, corporate friendly agricultural policy

“All I can see is a monster opportunity,” said Mr Paterson, before heading to China.

owen paterson on return from chinaIn the Financial Times, Louise Lucas describes DEFRA minister Owen Paterson’s steering of the latest attempts to ship food from Britain as a move “redolent of selling snow to Eskimos”.

She added “Britain is gearing up to sell more cheese to France, land of Camembert and hundreds of other sorts of cheese, and pork to China, home to half the world’s pigs”.

Who set this merry-go-round spinning?

In the mid-1990s, following heavy lobbying by banks, hedge funds and free market politicians in the US and Britain, regulations on commodity markets were steadily abolished. Contracts to buy and sell foods were turned into “derivatives” that could be bought and sold among traders who had nothing to do with agriculture. In effect a new, unreal market in “food speculation” was born.

Devon farmer Pippa Woods (FFA) and Kath Dalmeny (Sustain) disagree in “A Better CAP”: “The natural pattern of food production is for each country to use its own resources to feed itself as far as practicable”
ffassociation logo small

3.5 Doctrinaire theories that farming is just another industry and should be subject to international trade regulation to suit multi-national companies are causing untold misery all over the world. They completely distort the natural pattern of food production, which is for each country to use its own resources to feed itself as far as practicable.

Lancashire farmer Tom Rigby re the World Trade talks:

Tom - smallest 3The World Trade talks have ended in chaos. Outside the hall hungry farmers from across the world had been banging at the gates all week, the security fence just about held and thankfully there was little bloodshed . . . the only con­sensus seems to be amongst the farmers themselves, from the gates at Cancun to the FFA picket line, that the system does not seem to benefit us – so what is going wrong?

. . . They had come to protest at the injustice of using their markets as a disposal ground for our unwanted surplus, creating glut then famine, and despite all the recent reforms our detested system of intervention buying and export subsidies remains in place. (Farmers Guardian 19.9.03)

MH 2So who does benefit from the “mindless vortex quite unrelated to any conscious national purpose?” Cornish farmer Michael Hart, seen visiting US farmers on Transition TV, names a few:
  • Farmers don’t export anything but international traders do, so they are the ones who will benefit.
  • Processors and exporters are paid export subsidies to get rid of surplus production in the EU and USA caused by low farmgate prices which cause farmers (the world over) to increase production in order to survive and stay farming.
  • Major processors and retailers of the developed world want to deal with a few large farms – it makes their life much easier.
  • PCU adds another rich and powerful driving force: parasitic speculators. John Vidal explains: “The same banks, hedge funds and financiers whose speculation on the global money markets caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis are thought to be causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. The charge against them is that by taking advantage of the deregulation of global commodity markets they are making billions from speculating on food and causing misery around the world”.
A resounding conclusion is provided by Peter Cruttwell quoting Paul Kennedy: “It is now beyond argument that it is the furious drive to manufacture and to export in order to finance imports, in a mindless vortex quite unrelated to any conscious national purpose, which is responsible for environmental destruction and resource depletion; and it is these distortions of the natural state which are largely responsible for fuelling the population explosion and for the seismic uprooting and urbanization of people by the billion around the world as they seek to respond with mesolithic brains and bodies to the twin imperatives of economics and technology”.

 

IMF study links lobbying by US banks to high-risk lending

Powerful American banks spending lavishly on lobbying are more likely to engage in high-risk lending and their shares have performed less well than others, a groundbreaking study by the International Monetary Fund has found.

More on The Guardian website