Sunday, 22 April 2012

Lobbying pays, UK edition

Last week Richard Murphy posted a story about Lord Blencathra, a former conservative PM, who is drawing fire for shilling for the Cayman Islands while drawing a public salary.  The story comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

A former Conservative minister with close links to the Government is simultaneously sitting as a peer in the House of Lords and lobbying on behalf of a Caribbean tax haven.

Lord Blencathra, a former MP and Tory Chief Whip, is being paid by the Cayman Islands’ government to represent the interests of its financial services industry – despite also being able to vote on legislation affecting the territory.
‘I have been meticulous in ensuring that I have no conflict of interest between that role and my duties in the Lords. You cannot point to one single incident, speech, vote or question where I have sought to advance the Cayman Islands in the Lords’.
...At present there are no clear rules stopping members of the House of Lords acting as paid lobbyists for companies or other governments despite widespread criticisms from transparency campaigners.

...Asked if his activities were compatible with the House of Lords code of conduct, which prohibits peers from accepting payment in return for parliamentary advice or services, Lord Blencathra said in a statement: ‘You have confused lobbying Parliament, which I do not do, with lobbying the Government, which I do.’
Quite correct my Lord, I for one am confused.  He doesn't clarify much:

"On the register of Lords interests Lord Blencathra, formerly David Maclean, declares that he is director of the Cayman Islands Government Office in the United Kingdom. But as he admitted during a recent visit to the island, the role is effectively one of a lobbyist and he was hired not for his knowledge of the British Overseas Territory but for his political understanding and connections.
He told the islands’ media: ‘I’ve been appointed because I have 27 years experience as a Member of Parliament, 10-12 years experience in a British Government, I’m still a Parliamentarian in a different colour of the corridor in Westminster.’

He added: ‘I don’t pretend to be an expert on Cayman but I’ve not been employed to do that job – there are hundreds of experts here who can advise me. My role is to make sure I can feed that advice in to Government ministers, to the Civil Service…on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government.’
The Premier of the Cayman islands Mckeeva Bush said at the time of the peer’s appointment: ‘It is vitally important that Cayman has a strong voice in Westminster and Brussels and I am delighted that a politician with David’s experience will ensure that our interests are protected at a time when tax neutral jurisdictions such as our own are the subject of such malicious and ill informed attacks.’ "

So the Lord feels like a Parliamentarian and his job is to "feed that advice" and the client paying him to do that does so because they want a "strong voice in Westminster and Brussels."

Sorry, where's the British Parliament again?

The Lord also takes it upon himself to serve as PR police.

Before his first visit to the Caymans Lord Blencathra attacked Cayman residents for writing negative comments on-line about life on the Islands, which he said could be read by ‘global financial players’.
In an interview with CNS Business he said his job could not be done if it was ‘undermined by things said and written by Caymanians.’
Let's see, controlling the message, feeding the advice, and seeing himself as still a Parliamentarian.  If you haven't yet read Nicholas Shaxon's book Treasure Islands, it's high time.

No comments:

Post a Comment