"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Liars & Lobbyists

Following on from the Dispatches programme yesterday evening and the news that Hoon, Hewitt and Byers have been suspended by the Labour Party (Moran was de-selected by her constituency association some time ago), here are a few more notes:

* See update. Sir John Butterfill, Con, MP for Bournemouth & Chairman of MPs' Pensions Scheme.  Has repaid £17,000 of expenses claimed for his servants' quarters.  Will receive a golden parachute of almost £39k when he stands down at the GE plus his MP's pension.  "I could organise a meeting with a Minister in his office or possibly, if the Minister were interested in getting more briefing, they might come to you...  Can I tell you something very much in confidence?  Well it is quite likely that I will go to the Lords...nothing is certain in this world but ...  that would be nice and it also gives me another string to my bow as far as you're concerned.  Because quite often the right mover and shaker happens to be in the Lords... ..." 6 meetings a year - £30,000+ pa.

Baroness Sally Morgan, Blair Babe, outside earnings of £135k pa  including work for Lloyds Pharmacies.  "As a Peer you've got to be careful that you are not lobbying so there's a kind of,  there's Codes that you have to... ... I can have conversations with people without pushing my client necessarily but I can push a direction of travel on policy... My view is that I'll do anything so long as I'm transparent, reasonably transparent about it..."  Diabetes connection, NHS primary care trusts.

Margaret Moran, Lab, Luton.  Claimed £22k for dry rot repairs on a 2nd home more than 100 miles from her constituency - has repaid £6k.  Golden parachute of almost £55k, plus pension.  "I'm reasonably flexible really I mean particularly if it's something that's sort of you can tell that certain things I go woomph." [sic]  Claimed to have contact with SpAds & Select Committees.  Said she was free to 'work now'.  Has not voted in Parliament since May and not seen her Luton constituents because of "ill health".  Half an hour after the London meeting the investigative reporter telephoned her constituency office and was told she was still too ill to see anyone.

Stephen Byers, former Transport Secretary, former Business Secretary.  "Keep it confidential".  Consolidated Contractors International; National Express; Tesco; Rio Tinto.  Would want between £3k & £5k a day plus expenses.  Blairite.  Says he sees TB 'about once a month' and offered access.  "Depending on how quickly you can get things moving, there's a very good opportunity actually, which is that when the election is called, and this is very soon, we all run off and start campaigning, if we're trying to get re-elected.  The civil servants then spend that month working through all the sort of policy options and it's a great time, if there's an issue where your clients actually want to, to get a regulation changed or some law amended, that's the time to get in to see the civil servants.  Because there's no Ministers around, they've got more time and no one really thinks about that and it's a missed opportunity and I, you know, if I, well I'm giving you this advice now but, is to get in and see them.."  Also said he helped National Express get out of the East Coast Mainline franchise and avoid paying a penalty of £500million to the public purse and boasted of changing labelling legislation to favour Tesco, in concert with Lords Mandelson and Adonis.

Patricia Hewitt, another Blairite, former Health Sec.  Outside earnings of £180k pa from BT, Boots, Barclays and Cinven, the company which owns BUPA (which alone pays her £60k pa for 18 days' work), plus ministerial pension and golden parachute of almost £55k.  "I'm interested in taking on another major Board position ... 2/3 days a month"  Spoke of "subtleties" in working the system (ie loopholes), think tanks and seminars.  Outlined ways to gain access to ministers "without getting trapped by the officials".  Boasted of influencing the Bradley Report on behalf of private healthcare providers.

Geoff Hoon, Blairite, resigned last year, former Defence Secretary.  Claimed expenses for constituency home while renting out his London home and living in a Grace & Favour flat in Whitehall.  Golden parachute of almost £65k plus ministerial pension.  Now reviews NATO strategy (unpaid).  Has added another word to our dictionary: Hoon-Work, which means tracking down lucrative positions in Defence Finance industries.  "I went to see a private equity fund this morning...one of the things they do want me to do is come back and maybe talk in strategic terms about the relationship, if you like between NATO at the higher level and national defence policy, which is the strategic defence review, one down, and how it all fits together so I would be quite happy to do that for your clients.  In a sense I'm devising, I'm developing this policy so [your clients] would get a fairly accurate account of what's going on.  There will be opportunities for American companies in particular to look around at some vulnerable European companies because those companies will become vulnerable as their own governments cut back on defence spending.  I foresee, it's one reason why I'm talking to American private equity firms, I foresee a period where we may well see American companies in effect buying market share in Europe because they will buy up the national champions who are not getting the support they need to continue...  After April, I'm yours."  Daily rate = £3k.

Gordon Brown's spokesman said the PM was "satisfied" that there had been no impropriety on the part of ministers in the Transport and Business departments. "The Prime Minister has seen the statements from the departments and is satisfied that there is no impropriety."   Expect further 'clarification' soon.  Brown may have initially preened himself at the downfall of the Blairite Byers, Hewitt and Hoon but they were Labour Ministers and he is tainted by this, as are Adonis and Mandelson.

Many adjectives could be used to describe this small sample of MPs, Lords and Ladies but this morning further news emerges of yet more MPs breaking Parliamentary rules. Andrew Dismore (Lab, Hendon) has broken the rules more than 90 times, according to the report.

While our Parliamentary representatives squeal all the way home a group of MPs warned that the Ministry of Defence faces a funding black hole of up to £80 billion over the next decade because of poor budgeting and it has emerged that up to 500 soldiers would lose their jobs under a plan to modernise the Army.

With this venal government in charge of defence equipment procurement, any who lose their jobs are the 'lucky' ones.

* UPDATE: Cameron has done the only thing he could and announced in his morning press conference that Butterfill will not be elevated to the Lords.

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