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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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Our Secret State – 5: blacklisting outlawed in 2010 but used as `protected` whistleblowers are victimised

The Guardian`s July story about industrial skulduggery went quietly to sleep during the holiday season but has been brought back into the limelight by MP Tom Watson.

Three years ago the Information Commissioners Office discovered records going back more than 15 years naming more than 3,213 named workers three years ago when it raided a firm called the Consulting Association in Droitwich, which was used by more than 40 construction companies to vet new recruits.

84 workers have launched a legal action against building group Sir Robert McAlpine, , which is accused of having unlawfully conspired against workers who may have been targeted as a result of trade union activities or membership. The construction firm is said to have used the blacklist to bar them from construction sites.

Some suspect an unlawful conspiracy by the wider industry which could – if evidence were found – face huge compensation claims.

MP Tom Watson has called on the Information Commissioners Office to inform the named construction workers placed on that list.

ICO manager did not know – did he even care?

The ICO’s investigations manager David Clancy was asked if the office contained databases relating to other industries. He said he did not know, as inspecting other materials “did not appear within the scope of our warrant”.

Is this the tip of a very large iceberg?

Read more here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ee37d03c-1948-11e2-9b3e-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz29tRQrmfp