Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Clive Soley Illustrates the Lobbying Problem

I'm listening to Lord Soley on the Simon Mayo programme explain why it's quite OK, thank you very much, for him to be paid £29,000 by the pro-Heathrow interests to argue their case on the media, and presumably in the House of Lords. He says he would still be arguing the case even if he wasn't paid to do it, but wouldn't be able to argue it as well as the briefing wouldn't be so good. I ask you. He seemed to be saying that as long as you believe in the cause you are espousing, it's Ok to take money.

If I, as a political geek, am appalled by this line of justification, God alone knows what the 5 Live audience makes of it.

I fully accept the argument that because Peers are not salaried they do have a perfect right to earn a living (despite the fact that they get a daily 'allowance'). But this surely has to be in areas outside their parliamentary line of duty. As I understand it, we have banned MPs from taking up political consultancies, and quite right too. We should now do the same with their Lordships.


CC Baxter said...

I do hope next time Baron Soley of Hammersmith appears on BBC News as Campaign Director of Future Heathrow, this is mentioned. Last time he was on they even neglected to mention he was a member of the Labour Party, let alone a former chairman of the party.

Bill Quango MP said...

Its cash for questions..
There is no difference.

{I am, as ever, still able to ask questions in the House for you..
Check out my webpage;
"They casework for you.com"}

List of charges from a simple endorsement to a full public inquiry and white paper. Mention Iain Dale and get 10% off.}

Colin said...

It's not like all this is some kind of amazing revelation. It is well known that substantial numbers of appointed peers have enjoyed remuneration for "consultancy" services.

I wonder if the covert activities of fleet street's finest in relation to these four clowns, is a proxy for an assault on Mandelson? The calls for all peers to come clean will be deafening and won't go away. In addition and unlike the commons, the long grass is a long, long way in the distance.

There may well be a few line items in Peter's Accounts Receivable book that he'd rather not talk about.

I also note that more politically astute MP and the MEP involved have kept their council, so far. No doubt waiting to see if more evidence is released.

Corporal Jones said...

Steady! We don't want professional politicians monopolising the House of Lords.

There is nothing wrong with an industrialist being a peer and speaking about industry, just as there is nothing wrong with a trade union leader being a peer and speaking about employment rights.

What is wrong is peers being available for hire to seek to influence legislation or government decisions for "clients".

yarnesfromhorsham said...

As for the other four Lords I do hope somebody will look into their finances given their alleged interest in "bungs"

John Buckingham said...

I wonder though...Since peers don't represent anyone but themselves, why does it matter where their 'opinions' come from? The opinions of each of us are shaped by a great many 'influences' - the kind of job we do, social background, class, income - is the influence of lobbyists really very different? Surely all this just makes explicit the fact that rich people support rich people's interests? Peers are unlikely to support an issue just because they're lobbied on it, surely? I would much rather the paid element were removed, because it looks grubby, but the notion that that would remove vested interests is ludicrous. Surely we have to face up to the idea that people do have 'interests' - if they didn't, why would they enter politics? Thus a former steelworker will favour steelworkers, a banker will favour bankers - that's to be expected, surely? And whether that opinion comes from them or someone is really by the by.
I'm not sure how much I agree with what I've said there actually, but it's a bit of a tricky area...

Unsworth said...

Soley was always a first class example of moral equivocation. Time and again we see these moral degenerates declaring that if it not in the 'rules' then it's OK to do it.

They have no personal standards of probity and integrity at all. So what happens when they are confronted with something which does not apear in the rules? They just do whatever they can get away with.

Is this really what we should expect of The Great and The Good?

The real pity is that the hereditaries have been decimated. They were, often as not, sufficiently wealthy as to be insulated from moral temptation. And, more often than not, were more concerned about their good names than making some grubby little money on the side. And, more often than not, would have told those making such approaches to piss off - in so many words.

My late grandfather was a Speaker in the House of Lords. He would have been outraged by the machinations of these monsters. Legislation is certainly not the answer. It is time for us to stop looking at the fine print - to see where the get-out clauses are - and to start considering our own actions in the light of our duties and obligations to our fellow man, the Queen and to our country. These money grubbers have no honour and no dignity. They are shameful.

Colin said...

Unsworth @2:07PM

Well said.

Matthew said...

Have they banned it in the Commons? According to the latest Register of Members Interests, Lembit Opik still collects several thousand pounds a year as a Parliamentary Adviser to the Caravan Club, and has also been paid to do training for lobbyists Luther Pendragon. So it seems the rules still need tightening up.

The fact is that no one can offer paid advice on the legislative process while simultaneously being part of the legislative process. It's a clear conflict of interest and it should be banned.

David Boothroyd said...

I think you ought to correct the entry. According to Hansard, and they should know, Lord Soley has never spoken or asked questions about air transport in the House of Lords during the period he has been involved with Future Heathrow. No "presumably" about it.

Man in a Shed said...

All of this has presumably been public knoweldge in the MSM and political class for a very long time.

So the relevant question is "why now ?" for kicking up a fuss ?

Could it be to provide cover for a smash and garb Lords reform to hobble a future Conservative Govt ?

PS Nick Clegg's attempt at getting the lunch time headlines is dangerous and childishly simplistic. Give another branch of govt the right to throw people out of the legislature and you'll get dictatorship.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

My jaw drops even further than Gordon Browns while he is trying to fill his cheek with his tongue when I hear statements like these. Do people like Clive Soley really believe what comes out of their mouths or are they so accustomed to defending the indefensible that they don't think it matters what they say as long as it is "politically correct".
Time now to scrutinize the Lords. I did fear that Blair's ham-fisted reformation would lead to future trouble but like most people largely forgot about it. Now that I am paying attention I see that it has been peopled in recent years with time-servers and fee-payers. Brown is now using the Lord's chamber as a means to a non-elected cabinet.
So it is not simply the outrageous sleaze but the quality and accountability that needs to be examined.
What a legacy!
Unnecessary and pointless wars
Serial ministerial incompetence
Public sector services manacled by wasteful targets
Social services run by government paid interventionists
A bankrupt economy
And now the corruption of what I once naively believed was a benign democracy.

Anonymous said...

@ Unsworth

I like that description of "moral degenerates", which sums it up so well and so many of the parliamentary tribe.

Old Holborn said...

As a protest, I bought myself a Landed Lordship title for £29.

I am now officially entitled to call myself Lord Old Holborn of Tattingstone.


New business cards and letterheads being printed this week.

I intend to ruin the "noble" title of Lord within 12 months.

Hamish said...

David Boothroyd wrote:
"According to Hansard"
and I assumed he was going to quote chapter and verse, but he went on
"and they should know"
Since when did Hansard make pronouncements about what wasn't said in Parliament?
Link please.

................................. said...

Is he cashing in on his status as a peer? If so that's wrong.

Is he selling his vote? If so that's wrong.

Is he selling his influence? If so that's wrong.

I'm not sure on what level he thinks this is "okay", other on the level of his bank balance.

Chris Paul said...

Dorian Smith makes an interestign point ... then again they often don't mention that Iain Dale is a Tory ...

And David Boothroyd makes an excellent point. Showing that once again Mr Dale is un unwitting scoundrel.

Chris Paul said...

PS Hansard capture what is said in parliament and if you search for Soley and the relevant terms you will presumably find as Mr Boothroyd has done that he ain't been speaking on these matters as Mr Dale so wrongly implies.

Nigel said...

Time to dust off that obscure common law offense, "misconduct in a public office" ?


Trend Shed said...

You have to wonder - Is Labour institutionally corrupt?

Labour seem set up, top to bottom, to sell influence over government policy.

For instance - allegedly the following has all taken place:

1. Prime Minister - changed tobacco laws for a fee

2. Party Finances - cash for peerages

3. Lobbyists - a certain new blogger got caught selling influence of government

4. Trade Unions - have Labour over a funding barrel and extract policy change

5. House of Lords - a few peers have been caught selling amendments to laws.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but non the less

The record time for a headless chicken to live is 18 months - lets see if Gordon can beat the record


John Pickworth said...

Jonathan Cook said...

You have to wonder - Is Labour institutionally corrupt?

Why wonder? From that first day in 1997 they have pretty much run the show for their own benefit. Remember how quickly Blair stuffed his lawyer friends into prime roles? The hoards of Scots, and the friends of Scots? The rubbing shoulders with the Celebs?

Its one complete scam... The UK Government is a Firm in precisely the same way certain Chicago 'families' used to conduct business. Few in Government are there on merit (including the PM), they're there because they've got powerful friends or they've trampled upon others to get to the front of the trough of plenty.

And us? We are the easy marks, the suckers paying protection money to the Firm with no guarantee any protection will be forthcoming.

Weygand said...

To those who wish to check what speeches were made to the Lords and what he said and other data - follow this link;http://www.theyworkforyou.com/peer/lord_soley#hansard

Unsworth said...

If Messrs Chris Paul and David Boothroyd seriously believe that all of the business carried on in Parliament is within the Chambers and recorded in Hansard then they are deluded.

However, I do not believe that they think that. I believe that they are mere apologists for Labour Party corruption and incompetence. They are disingenuous. They may protest that they wish to see fairness and justice. But I cannot recall a single occasion when a Conservative or Lib Dem member has been found wanting where either of these two gentlemen has so readily rushed to put up a defence. Thus it's clear that they wish to continue bolstering a discredited, incompetent and dishonourable regime.

By their friends and deeds so shall you know them.

MattyT said...

Why this obsession on the part of Boothroyd and CP as to what Hansard reported?
Iain said "I'm listening to Lord Soley on the Simon Mayo programme explain why it's quite OK, thank you very much, for him to be paid £29,000 by the pro-Heathrow interests to argue their case on the media, and presumably in the House of Lords."
Do they seriously expect us to believe that argument/influencing is all going to be on the record?

DespairingLiberal said...

You're right, it's utterly appalling Iain.

Even more extreme then is a case you should also be focusing on - I refer to none other than Timothy John Leigh Bell, Baron Bell, aka, Tim Bell of Bell Pottinger.

This is the noble Lord who amongst his many past lobbying achievements, I quote from his Wikipedia entry, "successfully lobbied on behalf of the Saudi government to discontinue the Serious Fraud Office investigation into alleged bribes in the Al Yamamah arms deal."

In his spare time he indulges in lobbying for many a foreign dictator or bent Russian.

It is difficult to imagine a more clear-cut case to bring to your reader's attention Iain.

Oh dear, I just realised.

Baron Bell is a Tory and therefore not worthy of mention in this context.

Silly me.

DespairingLiberal said...

John Pickworth - I am sure you are right. NuLab are institutionally corrupt. This is wholly different to the Tory Party. The latter is merely corrupt as an institution.

Iain Dale said...

Despairing Liberal, I don't think I have played the party political card with this at all. Every party has its problems in this area - even the LibDems.

I'm not saying this in his defence, merely pointing out a fact, Tim Bell owned a PR firm long before he was ennobled. But I accept that it's a legitimate issue to raise.

DespairingLiberal said...

True Iain, but my point is that a very large number of them are at it, of all parties.

It's a shame really, but the British Parliament has sadly (and really very quickly) headed the way of the fantastically bent US Congress, where most of the opinions and votes are for sale to the highest bidder.

Unknown said...

Re Chris Paul 3:44

Hansard :
Statements :
Infrastructure (15 Jan 2009):
Column 1384:

Though if he'd taken the £29k and not spoken, I would say that was worse.

Anonymous said...

Never mind the ethical issue Iain we want to know who allowed a crackpot religious cult to infiltrate the Labour Party. The last thing we need in the corridors of power is a Moonie.

Unsworth said...

@ Despairing

"True Iain, but my point is that a very large number of them are at it, of all parties."

And that oft repeated opinion leads you to what conclusion? That this is therefore acceptable? That we should just simply accept it?

"It's a shame really, but the British Parliament has sadly (and really very quickly) headed the way of the fantastically bent US Congress, where most of the opinions and votes are for sale to the highest bidder."

That may or may not be so, and it depends on what you might mean by 'very quickly' but your point is what? After all, peerages and constituencies have been sold for centuries and so on.

The whole point is this: Legislation cannot ensure observance of laws, nor can it substitute for individual decency and honesty. But if we do not protest then this behaviour will certainly increase, so it is up to each of us to do what we can to ensure that these people are made uncomfortable and are held to account. I do not see many Labour Party supporters expressing their concern at these reports - quite the contrary. It follows that they are in favour of this kind of activity.

Or would you rather simply close the door and hope it will all go away?

Savonarola said...

Lords are paid. Like us who work they have to pitch up to get £350pd ++++++.
Unlike us they can sit and nod for this. And then get subsidised food and bev.

an ex-apprentice said...

Dear Mr DespicableLiberal, 6:08pm

"Oh dear, I just realised.

Baron Bell is a Tory and therefore not worthy of mention in this context.

Silly me."

One small matter that differentiates Lord Bell from the four Labour peers is the fact that Bell openly declares his interests in lobbying firms in section 12b of the register.

The Labour peers declare all their interests in 12d, non-parliamentary employment.

The extent to which such declarations have been made fraudulently will no doubt be of interest to the investigating authorities.

DespairingLiberal said...

Er. Unsworth. It leads me to the conclusion that it's not just Labour, yet Iain in time honoured tradition for this blog, simply cites Labour examples.

I am making a point in rhetoric known as "attacking by exception". It's a worthy game!

Anyway, I was rather having a private conversation with Iain, which you somewhat rudely brushed in on. Hardly the behaviour of a Whig gentleman.

DespairingLiberal said...

Thanks for that "an" "ex" "apprentice" (not sure how to pronounce your name in public) - actually quite interesting, didn't know that.

I'm sure that Tim Bell's extensive trouserings always get a fullsome airing every time he approaches a government minister with some trivial concern or other.

an ex-apprentice said...

Dear Mr DespicableLiberal, 9:16pm

"Thanks for that "an" "ex" "apprentice" (not sure how to pronounce your name in public)"

Same way you pronounce it in private.

"actually quite interesting, didn't know that."

Why does that not surprise me.

"I'm sure that Tim Bell's extensive trouserings always get a fullsome airing every time he approaches a government minister with some trivial concern or other."

If you have a specific allegation to make with regard to Lord Bell, feel free to make it plainly.
If, however, you either lack the guts or the justification, and are merely playing the usual LibDumb games, go forth and multiply!

DespairingLiberal said...

Thank you Ex Appy, I will, I will.

I think the point is clear. Iain Dale is leading you frisky young attack dogs onto the oh-so-dreadfully corrupt Labour peers who swilled a few grand to lay down the odd ammendment. Whilst at the same time keeping the gloves off some much bigger Tory lizards who lounge in the sun, soaking up millions and fixing legislation right, left and centre for God knows what bent b***ards worldwide. All of which is apparently fine with you.

Let the casual reader decide.

Unsworth said...

@ Despairing

If you will insist on having private conversations with people in a public forum you can hardly be surprised if others comment. I seem to recall that Iain offers his e-mail address - why not use it if you wish matters to be private? If you sit at the dinner table don't expect privacy.

As to Iain's choice of blog - well that's his prerogative. What do you want him to do, to become impartial - just like the BBC, perhaps? It's his blog, full stop. You don't like the content? Too bad. You don't like his approach? Too bad.

As to "attacking by exception". Well, yes, you might choose to say that.

And as to Whig Gentleman - well you're wrong on both counts. I'm not a Whig - and I'm most certainly not a Gentleman.

Shamik Das said...

Ken Clarke anyone?

You know, the Tories' new rising star?! lol!

Being paid by British American Tobacco. Disgraceful!

Wonder which way he voted on the smoking ban...

Simon Gardner said...

“ As I understand it, we have banned MPs from taking up political consultancies, and quite right too.”

Hmm. I note that outside income is rife - particularly on the Tory benches.

Wasn’t William Hague rather pissed off at having to give up some of his lucrative outside work when he joined the shadow cabinet? Indeed wasn’t there a mini rebellion in the shadow cabinet when Cameron started to tighten up on this?

Are shadow cabinet members now completely banned from such income - or not?