Friday, 27 April 2012

Special Report | Selling the NHS: how parliament and the healthcare industry got cosy


In a hard-hitting investigative exposé, Dylan Weber examines the network of vested interests that runs between Parliament and the private healthcare industry. This cosy, toxic relationship, he warns, threatens not only the future of the NHS but that of democracy in the UK. This article appeared in Ceasefire magazine.


As the Lords and Baronesses of the UK’s parliamentary chamber debated the government’s Health and Social Care bill, it was revealed by the Daily Mirror that 40 of these Peers had financial interests in companies involved in private healthcare. This number, though shocking, was just the tip of the iceberg. Further research revealed the true extent of the financial interests the unelected Peers of the House of Lords had in passing the Health and Social Care bill.

Carrying the Mirror’s research further, we at Social Investigations, went through the Lords’ register of interests with a fine tooth comb. In total, an extraordinary142 Peers were found to have financial interests in companies involved in private healthcare. These interests are, however, not the exclusive domain of a single party, but highlight self-interest that is endemic within every major party of every political persuasion, raising the question: Who are they actually serving?

In total 1 in 4 Conservative Peers were found to have these vested interests. The Labour Party had a total of 1 in 6, a number equalled by the Crossbench Peers, and the Liberal Democrat Peers, the coalition’s willing partners in passing the bill, had a total of 1 in 10 with such interests.

So what of these connections?

The mixture of the Peers’ financial interest and involvement varies. Some MPs have shares in healthcare companies set to benefit from the bill’s passing. Some are chairmen, partners, consultants, or are acting as senior advisers to investment groups funding the private companies, such as private equity firms, ready to swoop.

These interests, although indicative of where their priorities lie, would be less influential if the Peers were prevented from voting when they have a conflict of interest. At local government level, such conflicts come under a ruling of ‘prejudicial interest’, which requires the councillor to leave the room and take no further part in discussions or voting. No such safeguard exists in the House of Lords.

The subject of voting with conflicts of interest was put to the Peers after Social Investigations emailed all 142 with financial interests.

The email stated:

It is obvious that with these vested interests there is a conflict of interest and many who have seen this list are quite frankly shocked that this situation exists whereby those with vested interests can and are voting in favour of policies which could benefit those interests through the promotion of the further privatisation of the NHS.

The response was notable in its silence, except for a single reply from Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Barker, who ignored the issue of interests and simply stated:

Please supply your evidence that any of the people named below…have failed to declare their interests as they are required to do. Please supply your evidence that the individuals named below have furthered their own interests. Please supply as much detail as you have.’ 
Apparently a list of 142 Peers who have financial connections to private healthcare companies and are taking part in a bill that will hand more opportunities to private healthcare is not ‘evidence’ enough; but of course, by evidence, she means evidence that the Peers are not abiding by the existing rules, which simply require them to declare their interests, but do not prevent them from voting on issues that may directly benefit those interests. There is as of now no mention of preventing these conflicts of interest in the House of Lords reforms currently being put forward by the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Lord Popat
Take Lord Popat, a nursing and care home tycoon who has given the Conservatives a total of £319,641. The Ugandan-born dad-of-three has amassed an estimated £42million fortune as founder and chief of TLC Group, which provides services for the elderly. Prime Minister Cameron made the businessman a Peer shortly after entering No10 in May 2010. Lord Popat’s donations include a £25,000 gift registered a week after the Conservatives health reforms were unveiled in July last year.

This blatant money for power behaviour is matched by the actions of another Conservative Peer Lord Chadlington, who has been in the House of Lords since 1996. Lord Chadlington is the founder and chairman of a PR and communications company called Huntsworth plc. One arm of the group is Huntsworth Health, which operates globally, and here in the UK. Its website states that the company ‘provides a full continuum of consulting and communications services to the healthcare and well-being industry.’
In the same month as the white paper was released, Huntsworth Health acquired healthcare communications agency, ScopeMedical for £4.6m, thus expanding its health division. Lord Chadlington said of the takeover: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition…Healthcare is a major growth area and we are now very well positioned to take advantage of that growth.’

Not only do they have Lord Chadlington as their CEO, but up until last year, they also had Labour Peer Lord Puttnam as a Director, and from 2001-03 Conservative Peer Baroness Cumberlege was one of their non-executive directors. If that’s not enough, they have some finance provided via Liberal Democrat Lord Alliance, who has shares in the company, making four Lords, from three main parties, working for one company.

Huntsworth plc gave £15,500 to the Conservative party in August last year and has given money every year since 2008. Lord Chadlington and his wife have personally given more than £20,000 to the local party since 2007, including a sum of £10,000 for his leadership campaign. All within the rules that make it almost impossible to prove their actions will exclusively benefit his company. This ‘exclusivity’ part of the rules, is an important word, as found out when a complaint was put to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards about Lord Chadlington, his company and its connections to the government and their Health and Social Care bill.

The response stated: ‘You have not supplied any evidence to suggest that any of Lord Chadlington’s votes in connection with this Bill, were designed to confer exclusive benefit on, as you suggest, Huntsworth plc.’

Why do so many companies ask Lords to sit on their boards, become chairman and advisors if it isn’t to access the highest levels of government and acquire an exclusive benefit?

However, private companies don’t just rely on a vote to get want they want; they want to be where the centre for information is too. The Associate Parliamentary Health Group (APHG), which was launched in November 2001 was set up with the intention to provide: ‘information with balance and impartiality on local as well as national matters, and is recognised as one of the preferred sources of information on health in Parliament.’ 
Four key members of the APHG have financial links to companies involved in private healthcare. The Chair of the APGH is Baroness Cumberlege, who runs a company called Cumberlege Connections. Her company is involved in running training programmes for medical staff, but also covers the topic of ‘Politics, Power and Persuasion, in a tailored two-day programme which includes topics such as: ‘Managing the markets, the challenges of commissioning’, ‘who’s who’, and ‘brokering deals with other independent sector providers’; the latter programme is delivered by the Baroness herself.

In 2009, following a complaint from transparency campaigners Spinwatch, the Baroness was forced to admit that she had run her business from the House of Lords until it “took off”, and failed to declare her company’s interests in any debates. The disciplinary action involved nothing more than having to make an apology.

One of the key areas of the Health and Social Care bill involves handing over the purchasing power for services from Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), who were previously in charge of this, to local Commissioning Groups led by Doctors. In order to get these new Groups into a position where they can carry out the complicated duties of commissioning, a collection of ‘Approved Providers’ were formed to be part of a national framework from which the GP groups had to choose from. It is here that private business has already been making money from the reforms. The partnerships are largely made up of private companies, who bid for contracts to develop the new GP groups. Baroness Cumberlege placed her company into one of these Alliances led by management consultancy company PricewaterhouseCoopers, who were bidding for and winning contracts as she debated and voted on the bill, helping it pass into Act.
Another member of the APHG Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, acts as the groups’ treasurer and has received payment from Baroness Cumberlege for work as a trainer and consultant. His input makes up one of five Peers and four MPs who have worked for her company. Lord Harris of Haringey who is listed as an APHG advisor, has also been remunerated by Cumberlege Connections for ‘occasional participation in training events.’ In addition, he is a senior adviser to business services giant KPMG, who are one of the ‘approved providers’, winning contracts for the new commissioning groups.

Mark Britnell, head of global finance giant KPMG’s health division and an advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron had announced in a healthcare industry conference in 2010 that the NHS would be shown ‘No mercy.’ Adding: “…and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.” A rather harsh choice of words for someone who was employed by the NHS for over a decade.

Finally, Conservative MP Mark Simmonds, who acts as Co-chair to Baroness Cumberlege on the parliamentary group, is paid £50,000 a year for 10 hours a month as a strategic advisor to Circle Health, the first firm to win control of an NHS hospital. The former shadow minister for health recently had to apologise to the House of Commons, for ‘inadvertently’ failing to declare his interest when talking in favour of the NHS reforms. Circle has connections to Health Secretary and the architect of the Health and Social care bill, Andrew Lansley. Christina Lineen spent two years as an aide to Mr Lansley prior to moving to Circle as head of communications.


In addition to the leading roles played by these parliamentarian’s, the APGH has a list of external associate members, all private health companies, who attend occasional meetings with the Group. The list, which currently sits at twenty-three members, must pay a subscription fee to be involved. The amount of members allowed is capped at 26 and they become a member on a first come, first serve basis, which according to the manger of the parliamentary group Ella Jackson, is the fairest and ‘most transparent’ way to operate the membership system. That however, is where the transparency ends.

The rules of All-Party Groups demands a record be held of all meetings, and that each Group must keep sufficient records to enable it to prove that the group meets at least twice a year. The APGH according to their manager goes further than this, by ‘audio-recording’ every meeting it holds. The problem is, we the public aren’t allowed to hear these recordings, because the meetings are held under something called ‘Chatham House Rules’.

The Chatham House rule, which doesn’t have to be held in Chatham House to apply, was created back in 1927 and has since been refined in 1992 and 2002, and exists according to the Chatham House website; ‘to allow people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organisations.’ It adds: ‘People usually feel more relaxed if they don’t have to worry about their reputation or the implications if they are publicly quoted.’ This lack of transparency applies to the list of attendees too, where it is forbidden to mention who attended.
In amongst the list of companies paying their subscription are: Alliance boots, Astrazeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline; who all have Lords and or MPs with financial links to their company. Pharmaceutical giant Astrazeneca has 9 Lords who are financially linked to them, including some who hold shares. GlaxoSmithKline has 17 Lords with shares in its company and Alliance Boots can boast having Lord Blyth as one of its former chairman, and former MP Patricia Hewitt, who took a consultancy job with them 7 months after standing down as an MP.

Ms Jackson of APGH explained: ‘It’s vital that parliamentarians and other speakers are able to speak freely in an open and frank exchange, without fear of having their thoughts reported out of context.’ What could both Peers and MPs with private healthcare interests and private healthcare companies be talking about that requires such secrecy? Why invoke a rule created over 80-years ago that prevents members of the public knowing who was in attendance and what was said?

The Health and Social care bill is now an Act; the companies who have lobbied for the NHS to be privatised have taken one giant leap into its eventual dismantling. The openness, with which money is given to politicians through donations, highlights an assumption that such behaviour is acceptable. Baroness Barker’s response doesn’t question that 142 Lords having financial connections to private healthcare as a problem; but merely points out the technical rules have been followed.

Our politicians sit on the boards, they own the companies, they are the directors, and they are indefinable from one another. The Labour party has promised to repeal the bill, but as election time comes, will those Labour Lords and MPs with interests in private healthcare, work behind the scenes to water down any changes? What of the future? So long as Lords and MPs are allowed to vote on bills that are directly linked to companies they have a financial interest in, then they will always be open to representing the corporations for whom they work. They are meant to be public servants, yet the evidence points towards them serving another element of society, one that is hidden behind corporate confidentially and ‘Chatham House’ rules.

Our democracy is under threat and our parliamentarians are all in this together, and at the very least should be barred from voting when a prejudicial conflict of interest appears. Until then, such behaviour will continue and unelected corporations will continue to hold the reins of power.

Sign the petition below to try and stop the Lords from being allowed to vote with conflicts of interest  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31991 

Please also check out this excellent MediaLens alert on the subject.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Letter sent to the BBC on NHS coverage

Dear Ms Boaden.

I am writing in relation to the BBC coverage of the NHS Health and Social Care bill, that has now become an Act.

As an organisation that has huge resources, I am curious to know whether you had thought to invest time and money into uncovering some of the vested interests of our parliamentarians in private health care?

As the Lords were sitting in the chamber debating the bill, I was unearthing and putting out the list of Lords and MPs who have these interests. The list went viral and although I accept you may personally have not seen the list, I am slightly aghast that the BBC didn't pick up on it, or think to make this connection yourselves.

The research found 142 Peers having financial connections to companies involved in private healthcare. The Conservative Lords have 1 in 4 with these conflicts of interest. Even now, despite the bill becoming an Act, this list represents a threat to our democracy and I alongside tens of thousands of others who have passed this around on twitter feel it must get some coverage. This list is not something of the past, but represents the present, and gives a glaring idea of why this bill was produced.

Furthermore, why, when Andrew Lansley has been outed as having been bankrolled by the chairman of CareUK, was this not raised with him whenever he spoke of the bill? Surely every reasoning he gave as a justification for the bill should be linked to his healthcare financial supporters. The coalition are littered with these connections, yet from the interviews and coverage the BBC has given, you would never guess this was the case. 

Is it not a dereliction of journalistic duty to allow Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary and author of the Health and Social Care bill, to repeat his various reasonings for the bill without constantly challenging him and his party's connections to the private healthcare industry?

Finally, i would be grateful if you could tell me if you think the matter of the Lords financial interests in Private Healthcare is now in your thoughts, and whether you will intend to highlight this in a future news item?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

Dylan Weber
Social Investigations

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Conservative Lord is Partner of Firm that Moved into a Position to Make Money from Reforms as he Voted on the Health and Social Care bill


As the Health and Social Care bill was being debated in the House of Lords, Beachcroft an international law firm heavily involved in healthcare positioned itself into an alliance led by Capita, which was making money from developing the new Clinical Commissioning groups (CCGs).

Beachcroft like so many companies involved in healthcare has a Lord in a senior position. Lord Hunt of Wirral was a senior partner at Beachcroft Wansboroughs now DAC Beachcroft from 1996 until 2005, whereupon he became chairman of the firm’s financial services division.

When speaking in a House of Lords debate on health in October 2010, he said: ‘
Many of the Government's commitments will require primary legislation, and a Bill is due to be introduced later this year which will attract considerable attention not only from within the NHS but from firms in the private health sector and from professional advisers.’

Seven months before the Conservative Peer made that statement, and five months before the government publically released their White Paper:
Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS: Beachcroft were busy strengthening their healthcare team. In an article appearing in the lawyer, it revealed how Beachcroft were raiding a ‘10-strong team of lawyers from Halliwells’ healthcare practice.’ Head of healthcare Nigel Montgomery told the lawyer: “It [healthcare] is absolutely a growth area and has grown substantially over the last three years,”

Further depth to their healthcare team was made following the appointment of partner Eve Gregory, from legal giant Eversheds, a firm that had already lost a five-strong health team in the health sector to Beachcroft in 2008.

Beachcroft’s influence cannot be overstated, with the law firm having
over 300 health clients; Beachcroft is one of the largest commercial law firms in the UK and is widely regarded as the leading legal adviser to the health and social care sector. In July this year, Peter Lee, former Partner and now consultant at Beachcroft, was appointed Chairman of The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust. In the same month, the NHS Commercial Alliance, a new procurement partnership set up in 2010, selected 11 law firms in one of the largest legal services framework agreements in the country, valued at £20m for up to four years. The framework agreement, which was awarded last month, covers eight lots, and Beachcroft are represented in every one of them.

Lord Hunt is not the only parliament representative they’ve had; Charles Clarke the former Labour MP for Norwich South was once listed as a consultant to Beachcroft LLP. The MP was roundly condemned by those on the left of the party for his statement suggesting people should be charged for 
'peripheral treatments'.

Beachcroft who have just launched a new updated guide for Clinical Commissioning Groups at the beginning of April, are all set to make money from the continued CCG development process. Capita who have won multiple contracts to develop the new CCGs, are leading the way, sponsoring the Clinical Commissioning conference titled: ‘‘Defining Our Future’, taking place today (24th April) in London.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but say it I will, Lord Hunt of Wirral was able to vote on the Health and Social care bill, and vote he did; loyally with the government in all key divisions. His connection to a company involved in private healthcare makes him one of the 27% of Conservative Lords with such interests.

Did Lord Hunt give inside knowledge of the upcoming changes to Beachcroft? The answer is we don’t know, and Beachcroft can surely stand on their own two feet. What is certain however, is Lord Hunt of Wirral should not be allowed to vote on a bill with this conflict of interest. Our democracy is broken and the corporations are running the show.


Please sign the petition below to stop the Lords from being allowed to vote with conflicts of interest  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31991

If the story sounds familiar, it’s because another Tory Peer Baroness Cumberlege who runs a training and consultancy company called Cumberlege Connections, had also moved her company into an alliance led by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is winning contracts to develop the new CCGs; the story is told here

Thursday, 19 April 2012

National Clinical Commissioning Conference Links Multiple Private Health Companies to Lords and MPs


A national conference for CCG leaders to air their ‘concerns’ over the implementation of clinical commissioning, is littered with companies who have financial links to Lords and MPs. The event, which is titled ‘Defining Our Future’, is sponsored by Capita, a private company winning contracts for developing the CCGs.  

The Capita partnership includes amongst it clients: Beachcroft, PHAST, NHS Alliance (Who are hosting the event), Foresight partnership, Ville & Company, and Penna.


Capita partner Beachcroft, is one of the largest commercial law firms in the UK and is widely regarded as the leading legal adviser to the health and social care sector. To their advantage, they have Lord Hunt of Wirral as a partner. In October 2008 when speaking in a healthcare debate in the Lords, the Peer stated: “A Bill is due to be introduced later this year which will attract considerable attention not only from within the NHS but from firms in the private health sector and from professional advisers.”

Lord Hunt is not alone in being involved in a company that has moved into a position where it can make money from the reforms; in which he voted; which he did in all the key areas of the debate as it passed through the House. Baroness Cumberlege positioned her company Cumberlege Connections, into an alliance led by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as she debated the merits of the bill in the House. The story of her involvement is well covered here.


Included in Beachcroft’s connections to power, is former Labour MP for Norwich South Charles Clarke, who was listed in the 2008 register of interests as a consultant to commercial firm Beachcroft LLP. When Mr Clarke was a sitting MP, he promoted the idea that the NHS should charge for 'peripheral treatments'. In 2008, he was also registered as a consultant to KPMG LLP, on the 'future of public service reform.' KPMG are heavily involved in implementing changes in the NHS and its commissioning groups.

Companies in the KPMG partnership with links to parliamentarians are UK law firm Morgan Cole, who have Conservative MEP Ashley Fox as their connection, who was an Associate to the company until 2009 when he was elected to the European Parliament. In addition, I.T. company McKesson
Information Solutions Ltd, have Lord Carter as their chairman. The Labour Peer is also the chairman of the NHS Co-operation and Competition Panel (CCP), a conflict of interest, which in a statement made by McKesson to the Guardian is avoided because he: "steps down from any investigation where there is potential conflict of interest.” 


So that’s alright then.

The list of companies in partnerships winning contracts to develop CCGs and having connections to Lords and MPs doesn’t end there. In 2008, Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle Gregory Baker, had shares in Penna plc, who deliver HR services to the NHS and are in the Capita partnership. PricewaterhouseCoopers (Pwc) donated more than £100,000 worth of professional advice to some of the Conservative Party's most senior politicians in the first quarter of the year. A total of £102,950 was donated  in non-cash gifts, however it isn’t just the Conservatives. PwC have also donated in the form of research assistants to Ed Balls, John Denham, Caroline Flint, Chuka Umanna as part of their continual involvement in influencing government policy no matter who gets into power. 

Lord Darzi, a former surgeon drafted into government as a health minister by Gordon Brown when he was PM, is now an adviser to medical technology firm GE Healthcare, another ‘Approved Provider.' When speaking at a stage of the Health and Social Care bill when a proposal was put forward to prevent the reading of the bill going any further, he said: ‘he would find it 'difficult at this stage' to vote for blocking the Bill...'I am speaking as a surgeon, not a politician.'

McKinsey also involved in the CCG creations , and who have been accused of being a shadow government  in an article written by George Monbiot, gave £10,000 to David Milliband for a speech made at a Global Business Leaders Summit in February last year. The former foreign secretary also received a sum of £10,044 from the same company for travel expenses and accommodation for a meeting in Singapore in March 2011. In addition to this, Conservative Peer Lord Blackwell, was a partner with McKinsey and Company between 1978 and 1994.

The links to Lords and MPs in this conference, highlights once more the driving force of private companies in the changing state of the NHS.

Monday, 16 April 2012

CARE Bus Ad Outrage: List of MPs with links to CARE interns


MPs have distanced themselves from the Christian charity CARE following a homophobic poster that suggested people who are gay, can be changed. Boris Johnson pulled the adverts, which read ‘Not gay! Ex-gay, Post-Gay And Proud. Get Over It!’ Now, following a campaign, MPs are distancing themselves from the views of the charity, with two MPs promising not to take any interns from the charity again. Catherine McKinnell, and Sharon Hodgson both confirmed they would not take interns from CARE in the future.


Some of the MPs listed below voted against for sexual equality in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, including Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats and Andrew Sealous of the Conservatives.


Perhaps people’s religious beliefs need to be declared on certain subjects that are potentially affected by a person’s religious belief such as sexual orientation or abortion. Well, that’s one for debate?


The list below is of the MPs who have taken on an intern provided by CARE since 2008 up until the latest register of Interests.


David Burrowes: Conservative: Intern provided by Christian charity, CARE. (2008 register of interests)


Alistair Burt: Conservative: Provision of an intern by CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education). (Registered 6 February 2008)


Stephen Crabb: Conservative: Provided with an intern by CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education). (2008 register of interests)


John Glen: Conservative: Four days a week voluntary service from October 2011 to July 2012 provided by a volunteer intern who is self-funding except for the receipt of a bursary of£5,500 as a member of the educational leadership programme at the Christian Charity CARE.

Andrew Sealous: Conservative: Provision of an intern by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education). (Registered 7 October 2008)

Caroline Spelman: Conservative: The bursary of my Research Assistant is met by Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE).


Gary Streeter: Conservative: Intern provided by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) from October 2008- July 2009. (Registered 13 October 2008)

Steve Webb: Conservative: Intern provided by Christian charity, CARE.

Paul Burstow: Lib Dem: Since September 2004 I have been provided with an intern sponsored by CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education). (2008 register of interests)


Tim Farron: Lib Dem: Four days a week voluntary service from October 2011 to July 2012 from a volunteer intern who is self funding except for the receipt of a bursary as a member of the educational leadership programme at the Christian charity CARE. voted against Equality Act Sexual Orientation Reg. 2007.


David Drew: Labour: Provided with an intern sponsored by CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education). (2008 register of interests)


Sharon Hodgson: Labour: Four days a week voluntary service from October 2011 to July 2012 provided by a Volunteer Intern who is self-funding except for the receipt of a bursary of £5,500 as a member of the educational Leadership Programme at the Christian Charity CARE.


Elizabeth Kendall: Labor: Four days a week voluntary service from 6 December 2011 to 23 February 2012 provided by a volunteer intern who is self funding except for the receipt of a bursary of £5,500 as a member of the educational leadership programme at the charity CARE.


Catherine McKinnell: Labour: Four days a week voluntary service from 10 October 2011 to 19 July 2012 provided by a volunteer intern who is self- funding except for the receipt of a bursary of £5,500 as a member of the educational leadership programme at the charity CARE.


Andrew Reed: Labour: Had the services for four days a week of an intern sponsored by CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education). (2008 register of interests)


For full list of MPs who have declared support for CARE since 2007 see here.



Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Four key members of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Health have financial links to companies involved in private healthcare


The Associate Parliamentary Health Group (APHG) was launched in November 2001 and according to its website was set up with the intention to provide: ‘information with balance and impartiality, on local as well as national matters, and is recognised as one of the preferred sources of information on health in Parliament.’  

However research conducted by Social Investigations has thrown the self-proclaimed ‘impartiality’ into question as it has been revealed three of the key parliamentary officers involved in the group, have financial links to companies involved in private healthcare.


The Chair of the APGH is Baroness Cumberlege, who has been exposed on this blog as having placed her company into a position where it can make money out of the development of the new GP Commissioning groups. The Alliance the Baroness’s company joined, is led by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has sealed several contracts involved in the development of the new GP led groups. Her company is involved in running training programmes, but also covers the topic of ‘Politics, Power and Persuasion, in a tailored two-day programme which includes topics such as: ‘Managing the markets, the challenges of commissioning’, ‘who’s who’, and ‘brokering deals with other independent sector providers’. The last programme is delivered by the Baroness herself.

Next up is Lord Hunt of Kings Heath who acts as the groups’ treasurer and
has received payment from Baroness Cumberlege for work as a trainer and consultant, making up one of five Peers and four MPs who have worked for her company. Lord Harris of Haringey who is listed as an APHG advisor, has also been remunerated by Cumberlege Connections for ‘occasional participation in training events.’ In addition, he is a senior adviser to business services giant KPMG, who are one of the ‘approved providers’, winning contracts for the new commissioning groups.


Last but by no means least is Mark Simmonds, who acts as Co-chair to Baroness Cumberlege on the parliamentary group. The Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness is paid £50,000 a year for 10 hours a month as a strategic advisor to Circle Health, the first firm to win control of an NHS hospital. The former shadow minister for health recently had to apologise to the House of Commons, for ‘inadvertently’ failing to declare his interest when talking in favour of the NHS reforms. Circle have connections to our ‘’person of the year’’ Andrew Lansley having recruited a former aide to the health secretary as head of communications. Christina Lineen spent two years working for Lansley prior to moving to Circle.


In addition to the parliamentarian’s interests in such an important and supposedly independent organisation, the APGH has a list of external Associate members from the private healthcare world.


The amount of members is capped at 26 and they pay an annual subscription fee to be part of the health group on a first come, first serve basis. This according to the manger of the parliamentary group Ella Jackson, being the fairest and 'most transparent' way to operate the group's membership system.' That however, is where the transparency ends. I asked Ela Jackson whether the group keeps minutes? 


Here's what she said: 'The APHG holds records of all its meetings in strict accordance with the Rules on All-Party Groups. In fact, the APHG goes further than that. Official rules dictate that each All-Party Group must keep sufficient records to enable it to prove that the group meets at least twice a year, whereas the APHG ensures that it audio-records every meeting it holds.

However, because meetings are held under Chatham House Rules the group does not produce written minutes.'

The Chatham House rule was created back in 1927 and has since been refined in 1992 and 2002, and exists according to the Chatham House website; ‘to allow people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organisations, and therefore it encourages free discussion.’ It continues: ‘People usually feel more relaxed if they don't have to worry about their reputation or the implications if they are publicly quoted.’


This lack of transparency applies to the list of attendees too, where it is forbidden to mention who attended.


Ms Jackson explained: 'It’s vital that parliamentarians and other speakers are able to speak freely in an open and frank exchange, without fear of having their thoughts reported out of context.'


In amongst the list of companies involved in the group are: Alliance boots, BT, Astrazeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer; who are all heavily linked to the Lords, and in some cases MPs.


Astrazeneca has 9 Lords with financial links to its company. GlaxoSmithKline has 17 Lords with shares in its company and Alliance Boots has a former chairman in Lord Blyth, and former MP Patricia Hewitt took a consultancy job with them 7 months after standing down as an MP. 


So here we are again, another government policy group, which is immersed in connections to private healthcare, and whose discussions are held in private. The Lords and MPs largely appear to be representing corporations more so than the public. It is time for change.


Sign the petition below to try and stop the Lords from being allowed to vote with conflicts of interest  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31991 - if you can please sign it and pass it on.


Friday, 6 April 2012

Complaint on Lord Hamilton Upheld: No Disciplinary Action Taken


A complaint made to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards on a Conservative Lord who failed to declare his interests has been upheld. 

In March this year, Social Investigations posted how Lord Hamilton appeared to have broken the rules by not mentioning his interests as a director of managing consultancy company, MSB Ltd. The company came to the attention of this blog, when it was found to be earning money from a private health care company serving the NHS.


The complaint filed by a member of the public Robert Wylie, focused on a statement made by the Lord on 13th February 2012.


'My Lords, surely one of the problems of the National Health Service is the wall of money that was thrown at a totally unreformed NHS by the last Government? Do we not need management consultants now to show us the way forward on the savings that need to be wrung out of the NHS so that it can survive into the future?'


Although Lord Hamilton had registered his interests in MSB Ltd, any Peer must announce their interest before speaking in a session.


Lord Hamilton who is one of 141 Peers exposed as having financial links to companies  involved in private healthcare, apologised for the ‘oversight’: ‘Mr Wyllie is correct in alleging that I contributed to the Private Notice Question on the NHS and management consultants without admitting that I was a director of MSB. I apologise for this oversight.’


An apology, is apparently enough when you are a Lord.


Paul Kernaghan the Standards Commissioner, replied to the Peer saying: ‘I am satisfied that the complaint whilst justified, highlights an oversight which you readily acknowledged. Thus, I feel it is appropriate that I propose the following course of action. I suggest that you write a letter addressed to Baroness Manningham-Buller (Chairman, Sub- Committee on Lords' Conduct) but forwarded via my office. That letter should, in essence, repeat the core facts contained in your letter of 21 February 2012.’ He continued: ‘Namely, that you accept the complaint was justified, you should have made a declaration and you apologise for not declaring your directorship. I am of the view that such a letter setting the record straight, is all that is required in this instance.’


So an apology is enough. Lord Hamilton blatantly promotes an element of NHS reform in which he is a director of a company involved in the same line of work. Even though he was forced to make an apology, he initially told the Standards Commissioner in a letter on the 21st February: ‘Years ago MSB pitched for work with the NHS but I do not think that they have fulfilled a contract during the ten or so years that I have been a director.’


Wrong. In a follow up letter to the Commissioner three days later. He announced: ‘I have checked with MSB as the last time they indirectly worked for the NHS was as a sub- contractor to CARE-UK doing patient research. The contract ended in the first quarter of 2009 after 2 years.’


So as a director of MSB Ltd, he didn’t know they had a contract with a private healthcare company Care UK, whose director incidentally funded health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s office. He also forgot to mention his registered interests, but what he didn’t forget to do, was vote loyally on every division in the Health and Social Care bill, as it passed into Act.


An apology is not enough. The Lords is an open house for companies disguised as Lords, who have passed our health service into the hands of the corporations to which they are paid to serve.


Sign the petition to Change the House of Lords rules to stop Lords voting on bills where they have financial conflicts of interest.



Write to your MP and demand a change in the rules.


Or better still when the opportunity arises; take to the streets.


To view the full complaint click here.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Letter sent to Lord Alliance on Conflict of Interest



FOR THE ATTENTION OF:


Lord Alliance

House of Lords


Thursday 5 April 2012




Dear Lord Alliance,



I would like to ask you a couple of questions regarding a conflict of interest you appear to have.


I note in your registered interests you have shares in a company called Huntsworth plc run by Lord Chadlington.


Do you not think that having shares in a company run by a Conservative, who funded David Cameron's leadership campaign, and a company which gave £15,500 to the party in August last year, and has given money every year since 2008, crosses the boundaries of the coalition somewhat?


Furthermore, one company in the group that make up Huntsworth Health plc, and which you have shares in has involvement in private healthcare. Huntsworth Health's website states how the company ‘provides a full continuum of consulting and communications services to the healthcare and well-being industry.’ 




I consider this is a conflict of interest?


Also can you tell me if the vote you made rejecting Lord Rea's proposal to decline 'to give the bill a second reading' was influenced in any way by your shares in the company?


Finally, would you agree that such conflicts of interests could be avoided if Peers were not allowed to vote when such conflicts arise, as in this case? At local level councillors cannot vote with a prejudicial interest, Do you think this should apply to Lords?


I appreciate your taking the time to read this and would like to hear from you on this matter when you are able?


Yours sincerely,


Dylan Weber


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Baroness who ran private business interests from Lord Office positions her company to gain from NHS reforms


Baroness Cumberlege, one of the 141 peers exposed as having financial links to companies involved in private healthcare put her company into a position whereby it could make money from the reforms as she debated them in the House of Lords.

The former health secretary-turned-peer set up an organisation called  Cumberlege Connections, which runs training programmes across the NHS spectrum for consultants, GPs, NHS managers, Directors and chief executives. In addition to this service, part of their training programme covers ‘Politics, Power and Persuasion, a tailored two-day programme which includes topics such as: ‘Managing the markets, the challenges of commissioning’, ‘who’s who’, and ‘brokering deals with other independent sector providers’. The last programme is delivered by the Baroness herself.

These are useful services, which enabled her company to become a partner in the PwC Alliance, set up to bid for contracts to develop the new Clinical Commissioning Groups.


One of elements of the bill is the transition of commissioning responsibilities from Primary Care Trusts to local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which could eventually lead to these groups being in charge of the £65 billion NHS funding.  


The transition process has already begun in earnest, with some CCGs already in existence. It is here where the private sector have already been making money out of changes, even before the bill became law, which was on the 27th of March 2012.


In order to get GP groups into a position whereby they can commission properly, a national framework needed to be followed.


The framework is split into 4 separate areas called Lots. Each Lot has a series of ‘approved providers’, and falls into these categories:


Lot 1 - Setting up and leading a high performing Clinical Commissioning Group,


Lot 2 - Working collaboratively and across boundaries – promoting partnership working


Lot 3 - Managing and influencing local and national politics


Lot 4 – Engaging and leading colleagues in primary care through distributed leadership - ensuring that the organisation is clinically led


When any CCG wants assistance in any of the above categories, they must invite all the companies listed under each ‘Lot’ category to make a bid. PwC Alliance, of which Baroness Cumberlege’s company is a part, is listed in all four groups. Some of the other companies involved include: McKinsey & Co, Deloitte and Capita, and KPMG partnership, all financially benefitting from the restructuring of the NHS.


In short, Baroness Cumberlege and her company are in a position to make money from a bill in which she has voted in favour. This she certainly did, voting loyally with the coalition on every division on the Health and Social Care bill.

So what sort of money is being made? Well, according to Chair of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Clare Gerada, quite a lot. She told the leading General Practice magazine Pulse:
'Most of the resources for commissioning development went into the coffers of big private consultancies such as KPMG. In London alone £7 million of funding has gone into those companies.' The highest-earning firms were: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) (£1.61m), KPMG (£1.47m) and McKinsey & Co (£1.27m).


So is the Baroness making money out of the restructuring? It would appear so. In an updated report released in January this year, NHS Barnet announced that the NHS Harrow Clinical Commissioning board had chosen PWC Alliance for their organisational development. Minutes of a meeting held by the Lincolnshire GP commissioning Executive Committee confirms the Lincolnshire South-West Executive Team had met with PwC Alliance regarding the ‘future working and Governance’ arrangements for the CCG. A further contract for the PwC Alliance is revealed in the minutes of the Havering Clinical Commissioning Committee’s Chairman’s report, which involved the merger with the NHS outer North-East London cluster and states the PwC Alliance had been commissioned to undertake ‘their organisational baseline assessment,’ which was presented to the joint shadow CCG. All of these taking place before the bill had passed, and while Baroness Cumberlege was debating on the bill. 




Even if her company hasn't received money for this yet, she has put her organisation in a position to do so. 

The Baroness and Cumberlege Connections made the headlines only two years ago, when, in 2009, the peer was accused of misusing parliamentary facilities to promote her own business, admitting that she had failed to declare her interest properly during House of Lords’ debates. In addition, the Baroness faced other charges of using her Lords email address to recruit people to commercial courses her firm was organising. Cumberlege was forced to admit that the business was run from the House of Lords until "it took off". The complaint was made by lobbying transparency campaigners Spinwatch, who uncovered the case and made the complaint.


At the time, the Guardian reported Spinwatch's spokesman, David Miller, as saying: "No peer should be treating parliament as an office from which to do commercial business…" The Baroness however maintained that her company is not a lobbying company.

Despite being found guilty of breaking the rules with regard to declaring her outside interests, Cumberlege did not face any disciplinary action.


Her company is not only connected to parliament, but it utilises a plethora of other peers in its work. Aside from Baroness Cumberlege, there are five other peers who have offered their services to her company, either as a trainer or a consultant. Baroness Billingham, Lord Grocott, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Baroness Jay, and Lord Harris of Haringey. Indeed Lord Harris, who works as an occasional trainer, is also a senior advisor to KPMG, the lead body in one of the other partnerships vying for contracts to develop the new CCGs.


In addition to the Lords, Labour MP Rosie Cooper received payment of £300 for a focus group meeting with health professionals on ‘understanding MPs.’ David Lammy (also Labour) has received multiple payments throughout 2011 for participating in, amongst other programmes, the ‘Westminster experience’ conference. Stuart Gisela received two payments in 2011 for appearing in workshops, and Frank Dobson was paid £600 for a 4 hour presentation.

However, it was not just the Peer’s ability to vote when such conflict of interest is clear, but that she was able to influence the debate by speaking. No wonder then she should say: ‘I applaud the flexibility of the bill’, and it would appear the flexibility of the rules too. 


-------------


For more on her former employer and fellow peer Lord Chadlington’s PR and lobbying firm Huntsworth plc. For more on Lord Chadlington, Huntsworth plc and their power of influence see here.




Note: In addition, Cumberlege Connections was listed under another partnership led by KPMG, until October 2011, where it appears she switched to the PwC Alliance. On asking whether she was part of both alliances; John Lewin a project manager of the NHS Leadership Acadamy confirmed to me ‘Cumberlege Connections are part of the PwC Alliance.’

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