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Revolving Doors 38: beware corporate management of HS2

Open corruption in the UK in the form of “brown envelopes” is rare. We weave a subtler web, unholy alliances in which those already wealthy entrench their position – and that of friends and family – with high salaries from consultancy and non-executive directorships supporting some political or corporate interest.

The revolving door between HS2 and CH2M

An earlier post on this website covered the report that Roy Hill, managing director of the US headquartered engineering company CH2M, had been seconded to HS2 acting chief executive on a temporary basis.

Mr Hill had worked at HS2’s offices in Canary Wharf for CH2M between 2012 and 2014 after the company won the role of development partner carrying out preparatory work.

CH2M further entrenched?

In Gill Plimmer’s FT article (February 2017) readers were reminded that Mark Thurston, an executive at CH2M, has now been appointed chief executive of HS2 Ltd, replacing the aforementioned Roy Hill. He will take over in March.

However, after a competitor threatened legal action (conflict of interest), in March this year CH2M handed back the contract to design the second phase of the £56bn HS2 — extending the London-Birmingham link on to Manchester and building a branch from the Midlands to Leeds.

HS2 fortified by lobbying consultancies MHP and Westbourne Communications

MHP employees: former politicians and civil servants/government advisers, including:

  • Jane Wilson (public relations, civil service adviser), managing director, corporate affairs team. Former chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and reviewer for the Department for Education.
  • Charles Clarke Former Labour Party MP, hired to ‘provide advice to its team’.
  • Edward Davey – former secretary of state for energy and climate change until May 2015.

Westbourne Communications co-founded and run by Conservative James Bethell, the 5th Baron Bethell. Other environmentally damaging causes supported include fracking and extending Birmingham airport. As Transport secretary, Philip Hammond attended the launch of Westbourne’s Campaign for High Speed Rail, when rail companies were asked to pay £10,000 each to a fund. At a dinner organised by Westbourne in November 2012, transport minister Simon Burns said the campaign’s efforts were “greatly appreciated”. HS2 champion Lord Adonis has also spoken at the firm’s events. Westbourne provided the secretariat and press office for the all-party group for high-speed rail, paid for by rail and commercial interests: TSSABruntwoodSouth West TrainsAbellioEurotunnel and Core Cities. With the passing of the HS2 bill (first phase) this APPG has now been disbanded.

The records of potential HS2 suppliers also need to be scrutinised

The president and managing director of Alstom Transport UK & Ireland, which was bidding to provide HS2 trains, stepped down over corruption allegations relating to the supply of trains to the Budapest Metro. Other legal actions facing the company relate to bribery allegations in connection with transport contracts in New Delhi, Tunis, Lithuania and Warsaw.#

 

 

 

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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?

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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.

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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

Yet more on the corporate-political nexus: Ministry of Defence and Saudi Arabia

 Ministry of Defence: Saudi Arabia pays for its Sangcom project team

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After a protracted investigation saga (details via any search engine), Exaro has finally driven the UK’s Ministry of Defence to admit that officials working on a contract embroiled in bribery allegations are paid for by Saudi Arabia.

Snapshot

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The extraordinary story of persistent investigation as MoD twists and turns may be read after registration with Exaro News.