Mandy's Paper Thin Excuses

House of Lords rules were recently updated to make sure peers registered any interests they may have from “personal clients” rather than simply hiding behind a declaration that they work for a firm. So odd then that in his register of interests, Lord Mandelson does not mention controversial Asia Pulp and Paper, who have a lovely progressive record of  illegally logging endangered rainforests. Mandy is claiming that his declarations are in all in order and they are not a personal client,  yet in an interview last year he claimed:

“We are helping the top management at the company to realize their sustainability ambitions. To do this they have to comply with exacting standards and in a sense we are providing a bridge between what they are doing in Indonesia and what the EU and their European customers expect of them”.

He goes onto boast about what his experience in the European Commission brings to the client:

“When I was at the European Commission, I encouraged dialogue and a progressive trade policy, one that harnessed development and in which I encouraged sustainable and progressive practices wherever I could… So working with APP and helping the senior management understand the implications of the tough new European standards, and how they can use them to drive further improvement within the company is a big opportunity for us, and is in a sense continuing the work we did at the Commission.”

That sounds a lot like personal work to Guido… 

How Lords Help Lobbyists Flout Rules

Cameron’s Lobbying Bill certainly leaves a lot to be desired, not least with its failure to address the clear abuse of parliamentary passes by lobbyists working for Lords. Take the case of Lord Kilclooney. The Ulster Unionist peer sponsors a pass for the confusingly-named Edward Lord, a LibDem City of London Corporation figure. Lord was done over by the Indy back in 2011 for his involvement in a deal to lobby for alleged Rwandan war criminals. Yet he is wandering round Parliament…

Lord was the Deputy Chairman of the European Azerbaijan Society, which according to its website specialises in public affairs. In his City of London register of interests he also confirms he lobbies on behalf of four other organisations, indeed Lord declares no less than thirteen links to “bodies whose principal purposes includes the influence of public opinion or policy”. A lobbyist pure and simple, given access to the corridors of power by a peer. This is a scandal the Bill needs to deal with…

UPDATE: Lord responds on his own blog. It was Uzbekistan, not Rwanda and he no longer works with Azerbaijan. He does not deny he is a lobbyist with a parliamentary pass though.

Lobbyist Bill "Covers Just 1% of Lobbyists"

The spinmeisters were out in force yesterday trashing Dave’s Lobbying Bill. While it is obviously a case of well-they-would-say-that-wouldn’t-they, there is a pretty big hole in the Bill. Guido isn’t sure how Cameron can be claiming to clean up lobbying when his Bill, according to the Association of Professional Political Consultants, only covers 1% of lobbyists. Firstly, lobbyists won’t have to disclose clients if they limit meetings to SpAds and civil servants. Unless they meet minsters or permanent secretaries, they can keep their clients secret. Secondly, if you are an in-house lobbyist or your company is not a lobbying firm first and foremost, as are many of those who actually lobby ministers in person, you are exempt. Which means a huge amount of the type of lobbying that needs most scrutiny has been let off entirely. 

If a lobbyist only meets a SpAd or permanent secretary, their clients can be kept secret. If an in-house lobbyist meets a minister, their clients can be kept secret. APPC surveyed 998 meetings between lobbyists and ministers, finding only two that would be covered by this Bill. These aren’t loopholes, they are chasms…

Lobbyists Moan About Lobbying Bill

For some reason today’s Lobbying Bill hasn’t gone down too well with one crowd in particular:

Anyone would think this lot spin for a living…

WATCH: Gobby Meets Aussie

For those readers unfamiliar with Gobby, the BBC have helpfully profiled their attack dog here.

Miliband's Marlboro Man

Tobacco was top of the agenda at  PMQs today, with Ed Miliband puffing away about the Prime Minister’s indirect connections to Phillip Morris International via Lynton Crosby. But what of his own Marlboro Man? When Ed’s Political Relations Manager left his desk in the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, where did he go? Phillip  Morris International, obviously. James Barge is now the tobacco giant’s Corporate Affairs Manager. When was was the Labour leader last lobbied by his former aide?

See also: Labour Ministers Opposed Plain Packaging

VICTORY: Lobbyists Have Passes Removed

Victory for Guido’s campaign against passholder lobbyists as 80 people who work for APPGs have their parliamentary passes taken away from them. Last year Guido revealed Patrick Mercer, then Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Security, received almost £10,000 from a private security firm, sponsoring their MD’s pass for his troubles.

Now the House of Commons Commission has decided that “APPG staff passes should be withdrawn with effect from July 18 and that this category of pass should not be used in future”Bad news for lobbyists…

H/T Jon Craig

WATCH: Boris Blows Crosby's Cover

Cornered about his old campaign manager, Boris recounted Lynton Crosby’s advice to stop talking about airports earlier:

In an interview about airports, naturally.

Labour's Lobbying Reform Proposals Do Not Go Far Enough

Guido welcomes Labour’s new tough stance on lobbying after thirteen years of prostituting in government. They have outlined amendments to be put down to this week’s lobbying bill, amendments which include a change to ensure all professional lobbyists working in the UK will be required to declare their full list of clients and an approximate value of their lobbying activity.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Labour Ministers Opposed Plain Packaging

plain-packsLabour are trying to make a big issue out of the government formally dropping plain packaging, as if this was all Lynton Crosby’s doing. The policy was not actually in the Queen’s Speech so this announcement was hardly a surprise.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Parliamentary Pass-Holders Face New Scrutiny

Rather than suspending them as reported by Sky last night, Bercow has merely ordered the 83 APPG parliamentary passes to be checked by MPs:

“There are currently 83 parliamentary passes that have been issued specifically to staff of APPGs (around 0.6% of the total number of passes). 

[…]

+ READ MORE +

How Lobbyists Buy Legislation

Labour hand-wringers protest that unions cannot be seen in the same light as lobbyists as they don’t have a comparable capacity to influence changes the law. This is patently untrue. Wind back to 2011 and Guido revealed how the GMB union flagrantly bought votes from Sadiq Khan’s Shadow Justice team.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Bell Tolls for Lobbyists

Guido made a modest proposal to lightly regulate lobbyists back in 2011. Here is the outline of Guido’s policy reform:

Guido is no fan of government regulation of the private sector however the political lobbying industry thwarts democracy and pollutes the body politic to such an extent something has to be done.[…]

+ READ MORE +

When Rawnsley Was Wrapped in the Tentacles of Lobbyists

Andrew Rawnsley really went for the lobbying industry in his Observer column yesterday. “Too many MPs are wrapped in the tentacles of the lobbyists” he warned, laying into “the murky world of lobbying”, describing it as an “industry that too often distorts and subverts democratic decision-making” and gagging at “the pungent smell given off by the whole business”.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Shamed MacShane Becomes Lobbyist

In Guido’s Sun column yesterday we revealed that the disgraced former MP Denis MacShane has become a lobbyist despite still under police investigation for expenses fiddles. The laptop grabber is currently hawking around his CV in which he describes himself as a self-employed consultant based in “London, Paris and Washington”, “advising Asian, US and UK based firms on government policy problems and media strategy”.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Lobbyists Warned of Undercover Sting Last Week

Spinmeisters were already trying to get ahead of a sting by “two undercover journalists” last week. This from PRWeek last Thursday makes very interesting reading:

“PRWeek has learned that what appear to be undercover reporters have contacted a number of public affairs consultancies and met with at least one to investigate the role of lobbying firms in the establishment of all-party parliamentary groups.

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Heather Wheeler talks to Burton Mail about her tweet…

“It was a tongue in cheek pop after the European Parliament tweet – it was purely that. I also wanted to congratulate Team GB on a brilliant result and thirdly congratulate the Commonwealth countries who also did very well. Fourth, I am also looking forwarded to establishing new trade agreements. That was it – nothing more. Let’s just enjoy the summer!”

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