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Jon Trickett MP, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office has written to the Chair of the Political & constitutional Select Committee ahead of their scrutiny of the Government’s lobbying proposals.
Recent evidence has come to light that calls into question the objectivity of the Government’s lobbying consultation paper, published on the 20th January 2012.
It is absolutely vital that questions as to the impartiality and transparency of the consultation process need to be scrutinised by Parliament.
30th January 2012
Dear Mr Allen,
Following a series of recent scandals involving lobbyists and access to the decision making process, there is now a widespread perception in this country that there can be an unhealthy relationship between powerful vested interests and Senior Parliamentarians.
The Government recently published their consultation paper on lobbying, inviting contributions. The document itself was delayed and came in the form of a Written Ministerial Statement, rather than an oral statement to the House.
Following a recent tweet by the Senior Civil Servant tasked with writing the Government’s lobbying Consultation, I am concerned that there may have been a breach of the Civil Service Code of Conduct and have written to the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake, requesting that he investigate the alleged breach of the Code. However I am particularly concerned that the Government’s consultation process has been brought into disrepute.
The tweet casts substantial doubt over the impartiality of the civil servant responsible for lobbying reform, and calls into question the objectivity of the Government’s consultation paper, published on the 20th January 2012.
As a result of this incident, it has now been alleged that although the Government, through the civil service, have had four meetings since September 2010 with UKPAC (the body responsible for the self-regulation of the lobbying industry), it has never met the constitutional reform group Unlock Democracy, despite their repeated calls for meetings. I strongly believe that this allegation of a lack of impartiality and transparency in the consultation process needs to be scrutinised by Parliament.
In light of the issues raised above, will you look into the following three points I believe need to be addressed:
For your information I have attached a copy of the tweet in question. I would be very grateful if you could give a response to the concerns raised in this letter.
24th January 2012
Dear Secretary of State,
As you are no doubt aware, as a result of the owners, Petroplus, filing for bankruptcy, production at Coryton oil refinery in Essex may be reduced, particularly in the short term. There is a possibility that production may have to stop completely for a period.
Coryton oil refinery supplies 10 per cent of the UK’s fuel and supplies over 20 per cent to London and the South East. There is the potential for considerable disruption.
I am keen to have your reassurances that strong civil contingencies will be put in place to mitigate the wider impact of any disruptive challenges that may result from the problems at the refinery.
When were you first aware of the potential problem at Coryton oil refinery and what assessment of the risks was made by the Government? How resilient are the arrangements which are now in place?
I would be grateful if you could also indicate which other Departments the Cabinet Office has been working with and continues to work with to form future contingency plans as the situation at the Coryton refinery continues to develop.
Apart from the current situation regarding Coryton, what preparatory work has been done in anticipation of future problems that could arise with the UK’s fuel supply?
I look forward to your response.
Jon Trickett MP
Government answers to Parliamentary Questions tabled by Jon Trickett, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office have revealed that Whitehall departments and quangos are spending around £10million a month on recruitment agencies alone
Commenting on the figures, Jon said:
“These figures reveal a shocking false-economy; it is quite clear that the Government’s left hand doesn’t know what its right hand is doing.
On the one hand they are talking about the need for savings, cutting thousands of jobs and forcing redundancies. On the other hand they are spending tens of millions of pounds in recruitment agency fees alone and hiring new temporary workers.
This is a chaos theory of government and David Cameron has demonstrated yet again just how irresponsible his Government really is when it comes to spending public money.”
Prevarication. Obfuscation. Delay.
These have been the three Government watchwords as they try to work out what to do with the lobbying industry.
Finally released after months of delay, the Government report on lobbying has been sneaked out in the form of a written statement on a quiet Friday morning. The statement should be quickly followed by legislation but instead it has been revealed that there is to be more delay while a long-winded consultation takes place.
Lobbying ought to be a healthy and necessary part of our democracy. Not only can it help politicians to have fully informed debates, but it also allows for open access to government by constituents, individuals and organisations.
But, as the Public Administration Select Committee’s (PASC) stated, whilst lobbying “enhances democracy…it can also subvert it”.
Amongst many practitioners within the lobbying industry I have discovered that there is an aspiration to operate ethically. But after a string of scandals, it is clear that at its worst the current unregulated and closed circle of secretive lobbying of senior politicians by powerful commercial interests is unhealthy and undemocratic. The Government need to get serious about lobbying transparency and end the current uncertainty that exists in the lobbying industry. If we are to give an assurance to a sceptical public that politicians are serious about cleaning up our act then we need action now.
The Opposition will support actions by the Government to regulate the Industry. But let’s be clear. We will insist that the only way this can be done is by introducing a statutory register of lobbyists.
Furthermore, the Government must use this opportunity to sort out once and for all the serious flaws in the current system that allowed the recent scandals to happen. There is now widespread acceptance that there needs to be statutory regulation.
At a time of such growing public concern about the access to and influence over elected representatives by some lobbyists, failure to act will show this government to be utterly out of touch.
These are tests for meaningful legislative proposals to protect and enhance our democracy.
Senior public servants and politicians also need to have their activities subject to scrutiny. This should be the case for example with the so-called “revolving door”. It is destructive of public confidence when someone leaves a Ministry one day and within a short time is employed by the industries which lobby that same ministry. Although guidelines state that former senior public officials and Ministers who lobby government after they have left office should not do so for two years, it is clear that these rules could be stronger. On this issue it seems that the Government has made a u-turn. David Cameron stated in his “Rebuilding Trust in Politics” speech that: “we will rewrite the Ministerial Code to make it clear that anyone who ignores the advice of the Committee will be forced to give up some or all of their Ministerial pension.”
The time has come to reassure a sceptical public that we are serious about cleaning up politics and to rebuild trust and confidence. The present voluntary system is not working. Properly regulated lobbying can be a healthy part of a democracy, but it needs to be transparent and fair. There is no excuse for further delay and the public will conclude that further delay and prevarication is the product of the well-known links between many members of coalition parties and the lobbying industry.
JonTrickett MP, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, has called for the Prime Minister to fully investigate the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan MP, regarding a likely breach of the Ministerial Code in relation to the recent sale of her constituency home..
“If the reports in the national newspapers are accurate, it is very likely that Cheryl Gillan has breached the Ministerial Code. If true this is a shocking abuse of her Ministerial position and shows complete disregard for the constituents she has abandoned as well as the responsibilities and duties that come with her Ministerial post.”
“Gillan has cut and run. She has taken an option that simply wasn’t available to her constituents and her actions have damaged not just her own reputation and credibility but that of the Government.”
“I have written to the Prime Minister, asking him to take immediate action and investigate the very serious allegations with which Ms Gillan is charged.”
Jon’s letter to the Prime Minister:
15th January 2012
Dear the Rt Hon David Cameron
No doubt you will have seen press comment in this morning’s newspapers about the disposal by the Rt Hon C Gillan MP of a domestic property which is close to the agreed alignment for HS2.
As a member of the Cabinet, no doubt Ms Gillan will have been party to the decision as to the precise alignment.
It has been argued in the press, and by local people, that both the value of the property concerned, as well as the ability to sell the property, may well have been blighted by the agreed alignment. Under these circumstances it is patently clear that the disposal of the property in advance of the final decision on HS2 may well have given rise to a conflict of interest, and would inevitably give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.
Under these circumstances, Cabinet Ministers are required to notify their relevant Permanent Secretary. If the reports in the newspaper are accurate it seems that the Minister has failed to do so.
I believe therefore that there is a strong case to answer that she stands in breach of the code. I would respectfully request that this matter is immediately investigated in order to determine whether or not there has been a breach (perhaps more than one) of the code of conduct.
There are three matters which need to be explored:
a) Was there a breach of the code of conduct as a result of a conflict of interest?
b) Was there a breach of the code of conduct as a result of actions which might lead to a perception of a conflict of interest
c) Was there a breach of the code of conduct in the failure by the Minister to inform her Permanent Secretary?
For the sake of simplicity I believe that the possibility of breaches all arise from paragraph 7.7 of the code of conduct reproduced below.
“Ministers must scrupulously avoid any danger of an actual or perceived conflict of interest between their Ministerial position and their private financial interests. They should be guided by the general principle that they should either dispose of the interest giving rise to the conflict or take alternative steps to prevent it. In reaching their decision they should be guided by the advice given to them by their Permanent Secretary and the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests. “
I look forward to your early reply and agreement to carry out an investigation.
Jon Trickett MP
Jon Trickett visited Common Road Primary and Infants School to meet members of the South Kirkby Colliery FC Under 7′s team. Jon met Aaron Tillison, the team’s manager, Charlie Robinson and Lynne Whitehouse from Unison and the headteacher, Mrs Batty. The children were keen to show off their new strip which has been sponsored by Unison. Jon toured the school meeting staff and children. Jon said: “It was great to see the enthusiasm of Aaron and the team. Children gain so much from participating in sports and it is fantastic that people like Aaron and many others give up their free time to train them. The headteacher and all the staff are committed to providing an encouraging and stimulating environment and the children were clearly enjoying learning“
The coalition seems to manifest an almost ideological drive to kick away the few existing routes out of poverty for many of the most vulnerable people. Pre-election talk of social mobility and “we’re all in it together” were unsurprisingly just part of a cynically-crafted illusion aimed at winning votes.
Here’s the link to Jon’s article on how the Government sees social exclusion as a price worth paying, published on Labour Uncut:
Responding to today’s news that Government waste totalled over £30bn in less than two years, Jon Trickett MP, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office said:
“This is yet another example of the Tory-led Government’s mismanagement of public spending and demonstrates their cavalier attitude towards value for money for the taxpayer. Francis Maude’s claim that the Government have saved £3.75 billion if true is just not good enough and a drop in the ocean when compared to the £31 billion waste figure reported today.”
It is clear that there is a huge gap between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality of its ideologically driven policies. If the Government took efficiency savings seriously there would potentially be billions more available to invest in much-needed job creation as well as in essential public services such as the police and the NHS. It is vital that the Government acts now to prevent further unnecessary waste of tax-payers money.”
Hundreds of thousands of children could have their health put at risk this winter because so many young families in the UK are struggling to pay for basics like heating, a Save the Children report into fuel poverty among young families reveals.
Commenting on the findings, Jon Trickett, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office said:
“These findings released by Save the Children today are deeply shocking and show the inherent unfairness created in our society under the Tory-led Government. It is deeply shameful in a modern society that families are being forced to choose between feeding their families or heating their homes.
The Government scheme for help with bills currently reaches just 3% of families at risk of fuel poverty. In their report, Save the Children has found that 800,000 of the poorest families qualify for the Warm Homes Discount scheme but a huge funding shortfall means that only 25,000 families will get it.
The Government are failing to act to help the most vulnerable in society and threatening the health and futures of hundreds of thousands of children. Indeed, they have already closed down the Social Exclusion Task Force which charged with co-ordinating the drive to tackle child poverty.”
Link to the petition on the Save the Children website: http://e-activist.com/ea-campaign/clientcampaign.do?ea.client.id=7&ea.campaign.id=12962&ea.param.extras=tracking:cmppg&utm_campa