Top City Lobby Group U-Turns and Embraces Brexit

Number one square mile lobby group TheCityUK has performed a complete u-turn, abandoning its Remain position and instead embracing Brexit. TheCityUK – which represents major banks and professional services firms – said leaving the EU is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and declared:

“TheCityUK is a strong believer in the potential opportunities that the UK’s departure from the European Union will offer.”

Before Brexit they said:

“A Brexit risks damaging our industry in the UK through uncertainty, reduced market access and a loss of influence over trading conditions. Major global businesses also come to London to access the Single Market – but that position is dependent on the legal freedoms made available by the Treaties and Single Market legislation. The overall competitiveness of the UK as a place to do business would therefore be threatened by Brexit.”

Screech…

Bet Against Banks Leaving

bank-of-guido-cheque

Anthony Browne of the British Bankers Association is a deservedly well paid lobbyist on behalf the industry. He earned his crust this weekend by getting the Observer’s front page splash:

observer-brexit

The lurid claim made in the first line is that

“Britain’s biggest banks are preparing to relocate out of the UK in the first few months of 2017 amid growing fears over the impending Brexit negotiations, while smaller banks are making plans to get out before Christmas.”

This echoes the claims made during the referendum campaign – claims which included that Britain will go into immediate recession this year if we dared to vote to leave the EU. Guido tried to bet anyone of the 71% of City economists who made that claim £1,000 that there would be no recession in 2016. Not one economist him up on the wager. So Guido’s new offer is to Anthony: £1000 says that not one leading bank will give up its UK banking licence next year to relocate to the EU.

Winnings to charity. Well Anthony, do we have a bet?

Ex-SpAd Spins for Murky Lagoon

tomos

Tomos Davies, a SpAd who advised the government on green energy, is in hot water after getting a job with the Cardiff lobbying firm Deryn less than a year after he left his government job. Spin merchants Deryn, a firm which has a hand in far too many Welsh government lobbying scandals, employed the former Special Adviser from the Wales Office.

Until recently Tomos Davies was advising UK Government Ministers on policy issues, including the proposal to a build tidal lagoon off the coast at Swansea. Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Neil McEvoy has complained to the Cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, that he is in breach of the rules governing SpAd employment. Davies, he complains, jumped straight into lobbying work and failed to get Civil Service clearance to work for the firm.

McEvoy cites Davies’ ConservativeHome article praising tidal power as evidence of lobbying on behalf of one of Deryn’s clients in breach of the rules, especially as one of Deryn’s clients is trying to build a tidal lagoon off Swansea. In it Tomos claimed, without irony, that “the unit cost of power from the project can, at a manageably small scale, match that of Hinkley”. Hinkley’s energy costs are among the most expensive in the world. Guido thinks Tomos Davies might be left high and dry…

Remainers Split Over Freedom of Movement

REMAINERS SPLITTING

The remnants of the Remain campaign have descended into an almighty squabble over their future direction. Britain Stronger In Europe has rebranded as Open Britain, a new lobbying group which has ditched the commitment to freedom of movement, a pillar of Europhile principle. On Sunday, Open Britain’s founders wrote:

“The strength of feeling is clear. Free movement of people cannot continue as it has done. It has to be reformed.”

This has caused other prominent Remainers to kick off. Guido hears a letter is being circulated among pro-EU groups condemning BSE and Open Britain. Signatories include the man in charge of Scientists for EU, previously one of BSE’s main backers. Meanwhile the CEO of the European Movement, Matthew Fulton, says “our red lines are protecting freedom of movement”. When asked whether BSE and the European Movement were still on the same side, Fulton responded:

“At the time we were, but now with their lack of commitment to freedom of movement – I know it’s not popular thing in the country at the moment – but there needs to be people making that argument.”

Soft Remain versus hard Remain…

Serjeant at Arms Gets Complaint About Carolyn Harris

HARRIS BAILEY BLACK TIE edit

The Serjeant at Arms has been sent a complaint by one of Carolyn Harris’s constituents, demanding to know why she has granted a pass to lobbyist Lawrence Bailey who told Guido he was “not an employee or member of Carolyn’s staff.” The Serjeant’s office can now begin the official complaints procedure, which could see Bailey have his pass revoked and Harris face sanctions. This follows on from a complaint to Harris earlier this week from the director general of lobbying trade association the PRCA. Bailey’s made at least £51,305.60 from the taxpayer for doing what amounts to “5+ days a month support”, doing PR for an opposition backbencher and her predecessor, the former of which nobody had heard of until she became embroiled in allegations of homophobic abuse to a staff member. Time to take away the public teat…

PRCA Complain to Carolyn Harris Over Lobbyist’s Pass

prca-bailey

Following up Guido’s story Francis Ingham, the ever-lunching director general of the trade association for lobbyists the PRCA, has written an open letter to Carolyn Harris to complain about the lobbyist being granted a parliamentary pass by her. Guido revealed that Harris had granted a parliamentary pass to Lawrence Bailey of Whiterock Consulting, a man who was by his own admission “not an employee or member of Carolyn’s staff.” The PRCA’s Director General writes:

“I would like to remind you of your obligations to behave ethically as this story undermines the reputation of the lobbying industry and the integrity of MPs.

… Mr Bailey should have never entertained the idea of a parliamentary pass, and as an MP you should have never employed a lobbyist and given him a pass. Situations like this can seriously damage the public’s trust in politics.

We hope that there will be some swift action to clarify the situation. Will this matter be referred to the Commons Authority by yourself? Will Mr. Bailey be questioned as well?”

Bailey, who has so far received at least £51,305.60 in taxpayers cash while working for Harris and her predecessor, is not a PRCA member but is still bound by Parliament’s rules, which strictly forbids granting passes to lobbyists. Quite something for an MP to be blasted by lobbyists for a lack of ethics…

Labour MP Gives Lobbyist Parliamentary Pass

whiterock harris bailey

A Labour MP has handed a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist, giving him unfettered access to the corridors of power. Carolyn Harris is employing Lawrence Bailey, a “public affairs specialist” for Whiterock Consulting, among her parliamentary staff. When Guido asked Harris if she thought it was appropriate to employ a lobbyist in parliament, we received this response from Bailey:

“Just to clarify, I am not an employee or member of Carolyn’s staff. I am a self-employed sole trader. My firm, Whiterock Consulting, is retained by Carolyn Harris MP. We provide 5+ days a month support.”

Guido pointed out that Bailey appears on the MPs’ Register of Staff, directly contradicting his statement. He replied:

“Clearly I work for Carolyn but not as a member of her parliamentary/constituency staff.”

If he is not a staff member, why is he registered as one? Why does he have a parliamentary pass and a parliamentary email address?

Bailey concedes the arrangement is “confusing” but claims it is not “unusual“. He says he needs the pass to access Harris’ office and insists there is no conflict of interest: “I dispute any implied misuse of my parliamentary pass”. An MP has given a parliamentary pass to a lobbyist and declared him as a staff member, even though he isn’t. The Commons authorities will want to take a look at this…

Owen Smith Hires Top Pfizer Lobbyist to Run Campaign

LEHAL2

Owen Smith has hired a leading corporate lobbyist who works for Pfizer to run his leadership campaign, Guido can reveal. John Lehal is the smoothie MD of lobbying firm Insight Consulting, and boasts among his clients Big Pharma giants Pfizer, Novartis and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Lehal’s dealings sparked controversy when he was signed up to run Andy Burnham’s doomed leadership bid last year. Smith used to spin for Pfizer himself and has been dogged by his links to lobbyists over the last week, so it’s a stunning judgment call for him to be using another Pfizer lobbyist who loves Tony Blair:

lehal

John Lehal declined several opportunities to comment. A spokesman for Owen Smith doesn’t deny Lehal is working on the campaign:

“The campaign is still in the process of being set up and no formal paid appointments have yet been made. We expect to be able to finalise staff details at a later date.”

Owen Smith is the Blairite former Big Pharma lobbyist whose campaign is being run by a Blairite Big Pharma lobbyist. Too easy for the Corbynistas…

UPDATE: Smith’s team have now confirmed Lehal will be their Chief of Operations. He’s also signed up Corbyn’s former policy chief Neale Coleman.

Taxpayer Funded ASH Lobbied Government for Plain-Packs

tobacco lobbyists

Outraged anti-smoking charity ASH reacted with glee to the news that an attempt by a consortium of tobacco manufacturers to overturn the government’s plain-packaging legislation had been lost. The charity’s chief executive, Deborah Arnott, was particularly exultant:

“Millions of pounds have been spent on some of the country’s most expensive lawyers in the hope of blocking the policy. This disgraceful effort to privilege tobacco business interests over public health has rightly failed utterly.”

Arnott is not averse to using cash to influence government policy – our cash. ASH waged a half-decade campaign, involving top Civil Service officials, to introduce plain packaging. In a string of emails between Arnott, Hunt, the Department of Health’s top ranking official Andrew Black and surprisingly the PM’s Chief of Staff – Ed Llewellyn, the organisation appears to have broken the department’s rule on the use of its grant money. The Department of Health rules, as stated in November last year, prohibit government lobbying at the taxpayers’ expense:

“Funding applications from voluntary sector organisations are assessed against a number of criteria, but Departmental policy clearly states that grants will not be awarded if there is any indication within the application that some or all of any funding awarded will be used to support political activities, including political lobbying activity.”

Between 2011 and 2015, ASH received a whopping £745,650 in taxpayer funded grants from the Department of Health, their £200,000 grant last year was specifically for assisting the department to implement the “Tobacco Control Plan” (page 22). In that same period, documents seen by Guido highlight 74 separate incidents of lobbying contact, reaching as high as the PM’s office. Taxpayer grants form by far the largest donations given to ASH, and it would appear that they have been used to lobby the government against the Department of Health’s own regulations.

Tory MPs’ Parliamentary Ski Week Freebie

skiiers blunt spelman copy

During the Tory turmoil of the March recess, journalists calling up MPs’ mobile phones were met with a chorus of foreign dial tones. Some of the backbenchers briefing hacks from ski slopes at least paid for their holidays themselves. Crispin Blunt, Phillip Lee, Tim Loughton, Antoinette Sandbach and Caroline Spelman however enjoyed £2,500 worth of free ski passes courtesy of the Swiss Parliament. The alpine alliance bagged tickets to two of the world’s top skiing resorts, all paid for as part of the British-Swiss All Party Parliamentary Group’s Parliamentary Ski Week. Suspect that is one of the more popular APPGs…

Ed Davey Defends EDF Deal

Ed Davey’s worst ever Hinkley Point C deal, which will allow owners EDF to charge treble the current market rate for 35 years, was featured on the Today Programme this morning. The BBC failed to mention at any point before, during, or after Davey’s interview that he is now working for EDF’s lobbying firm, MHP. Davey spoke for three minutes defending his deal with EDF, and did not once think to mention his new role as a ‘strategic adviser at MHP to the energy sector’.

Davey claims the agreement was made with “the best available advice”:

“… the truth is, if you look at deals like this, which are over 60 years of generating, you don’t know sitting here today exactly what the value’s going to be, because you’d have to know the price of carbon, the prices of gases and things, in 20, 30, 40 years time – I’m not a clairvoyant, I’m not God.”

You do work for a firm that lobbies on behalf of EDF though…

EU Delete Damning Transparency Report From History

The EU has curiously removed from the internet a report on lobbying transparency that they themselves wrote. ‘Lobbying in the EU: the cost of a lack of transparency‘ was published this month and could be found on the EU’s website until two days ago. It has since mysteriously vanished…

In the briefing, the EU criticises itself for the way it handles lobbying, reporting a “lack of official (and reliable) estimates of the number of interest groups that lobby the EU institutions“, a “deficiency of reliable information on the typology of EU interest groups“, a “shortage of information on lobbying expenditure” and “conflicts of interest“. In the interests of transparency, the Guido has published the report in full below…

Covering up its own report on transparency? The opaque EU strikes again…

BBC Licence Fee Lobbying Circle Jerk

With impeccable timing, every MP has received a DVD and slurpy letter from the BBC’s lobbying wing.

Ostentatiously designed to show MPs the quality of recent BBC work, it’s no coincidence that the targeted lobbying campaign has taken place in the same week that Whittingdale launches his BBC Charter Review Green Paper.

The BBC really don’t help their cause sometimes.

Using licence fee payers’ cash to lobby MPs not to cut the licence fee because – as they claim – there is no room for cuts in the corporation.

Here is an easy rump saving: say goodbye to the ‘Head of Corperate Affairs’. And his entire lobbying team…

Big Tobacco to Government: See You In Court

Fag manufactures Philip Morris have hit back at the plain packaging vote, calling today’s action “an irrational and unnecessary attack on private property that vilifies products that well informed adults choose to buy”:

“The UK Government is ignoring serious legal issues under UK, European, and international law. Five countries are challenging the legality of plain packaging at the World Trade Organization, and 11 EU Member States have objected to the UK’s proposal at the European Commission – recognising their duty under EU treaties to uphold EU law and free competition. At the same time, the EU Court of Justice is considering whether the UK and other Member States have the power to introduce pack standardisation measures beyond those already required by the EU.

While advocates of plain packaging may downplay these issues, the UK Government should be fully aware of the potential consequences of ignoring them, and of rushing to preempt the legal process.”

Guido suspects we would not have plain packaging coming to the UK if it were not for Lynton Crosby. His lobbying connections made it impossible for a Conservative government to veto this nannying, arbitrary measure.



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