As Christmas approaches and things wind down in Westminster Guido thought he would reflect on his favourite stories, headlines, videos etc from the last twelve months, starting today with his favourite dirty digging around old favourite Caroline Spelman. Things got a bit awkward when the Secretary of State’s lobbying past came back to haunt her:
Farm-Gate : Spelman’s Agri-Business, Bio-Tech Lobbying Past
May 14th 2010
On the campaign trail David Cameron said
“It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.”
This week Cameron appointed Caroline Spelman to be the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Obviously he feels that nanny-gate is all water under the bridge. Spelman’s long history in agricultural politics and lobbying somehow makes her an ideal candidate for the job in his judgment.
Spelman spent her days before becoming an MP in the agri-business, with a lobbying focus mainly on sugar beet, one of the most heavily subsidised crops in Europe. She was the Sugar Beet Commodity Secretary for the NFU in the early eighties before becoming Deputy Director of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers. Seemingly well connected in the field, Caroline and her husband Mark went on to set up “Spelman, Cormack & Associates” in 1989 as a food and bio-technology lobbying company.
For over ten years the new Secretary of State, along with her husband, lobbied the very department she now runs. Caroline resigned as a director less than a year ago and conveniently transferred her share of the company to her husband. The company address was also changed from her constituency home, for which Spelman claimed around £40,000 on expenses for cleaning and bills, to their million pound London flat. According to the company accounts last year, no rent was paid on this “office” subsidised by the taxpayers.
Mark Spelman, who was also a Tory candidate (unsuccessful), uses both his name and his wife’s maiden name (Cormack) on his firm’s letterhead – that won’t hinder business. After all, the Minister who is now the number one target to be lobbied has her name on the company letterhead. Caroline Spelman lobbied for the industry and is now in charge of negotiating quotas, subsidies and price tariffs with the EU Agricultural Council. Her “family firm” deals with bio-tech clients that the Secretary of State is now responsible for regulating in the GM foods sector. As a result of anti-competitive EU regulations and industry lobbying British consumers are forced to pay prices for sugar which are massively inflated in comparison to the rest of the world. Did Cameron know that she was so recently a shareholder in a lobbying firm focused on Defra before he appointed her to the position? Because the whole thing taints politics and shows the far-too-cosy relationship between lobbyists, government, business and money…
Another trip down memory lane tomorrow…