Sunday, 15 December 2013

Petition Forces Answer From Government on Prejudicial Vote Flaw

A current petition on the No10 website has highlighted a flaw in the rules that allows MPs and Lords to vote and debate on legislation that may gain revenue for a company that either they own, which employs them or donates to their office.

If you are a local councillor such interests would debar you from a vote and debate at the discretion of the chamber. Now that the petition has reached over 10,000, the government has been forced to respond, so how do they justify such a difference?

The petition made several demands.

i. No member of Parliament may speak or vote in a debate on legislation which could financially benefit any commercial operation in which they have a financial interest;

and

ii. No member of Parliament may speak or vote in a debate on legislation which could financially benefit any commercial operation which has made - or currently makes - donations to themselves personally or their political party.

In response the government stated that it would “not be practical” to prevent Members speaking or voting on legislation which could “financially benefit any commercial operation in which they have a financial interest” or which has made “donations to themselves of (or) their party”. The reason? Because a “significant number of legislative provisions in any year may have beneficial financial implications for all or most commercial operations.”

In terms of donations to the party, as a whole, then this is probably correct. For example, if a person connected to a private health company gave money to a political party, it may make a member of the public mistrust the party, especially if they then go on to win contracts but it is unreasonable to think that this would be enough to debar the entire party from voting on any legislation on legislation that may have an affect on private health and would bring Parliament to a halt.

However, the government claims that it would “not be practical” to prevent a MP from voting with a financial interest is absurd and arrogant. The government says there are many “questions” as to how such a “complex requirement” could be “policed effectively”?

Well, they need look no further than the rules that apply to councillors at a local level. Any prejudicial interest held by a councillor would debar them from a vote and indeed a debate depending on the acceptance of the Chamber.

This current situation suggests that MPs and Lords are somehow more able to separate their public duty from their outside interest, which is patently absurd. Given the level of commercial interests that exist in parliament, the need to change the rules to match those at local level is obvious.

Take Baroness Cumberlege, the Conservative Peer and former Health Secretary. She owns a company that she moved into a position to gain revenue from the new Commissioning Groups, a key component of the Health bill on which she voted. The legislation goes through thanks in part to her vote and she ends up winning small contracts for providing courses to some of the new Commissioning Groups. It’s okay though, because she put her business interest in the Register.

Over 200 parliamentarians had recent or present financial interests to companies or individuals involved in healthcare at the time of the Health and Social Care bill. They were all able to vote, despite these interests. Further research has confirmed that some of these companies attached to Lords either by employment or donations, have gone on to gain contracts in the new NHS.

The fact of the matter is that in their current form, the rules allow any MP or Lord to vote on legislation that may open revenue opportunities for the companies that employ them or donate to them. The rules are different for local councillors who manage to police such matters adequately.

Until MPs and Lords are debarred from a vote when they have a prejudicial interest, then every time they place their vote it will be difficult to know whether their action was in the interest of the public or the corporation that employs them.

The government will always resist further scrutiny, just as they did when a proposal was made for a Register of Interests back in 1974. I leave you with this:

“Should the public know of our outside interests? My answer strictly speaking, is ‘No’. Why should they? There is no opportunity for corruption and precious little opportunity for influence…We are not crooks and we want it to be seen that we are not crooks. We are in the public eye and we hold jobs, which in the eyes of the public are very important. Conservative MP for Lowestoft, James Prior 22nd May, 1974 http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1974/may/22/members-interests



The full petition can be seen here where you can also sign.

Friday, 13 December 2013

ACEVO: Not Neutral Over Health Bill Outcome


EMAIL FROM ACEVO TO MONITOR
A new set of communications has brought into question the neutrality of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), on the outcome of the Health and Social Care bill.

When the Health and Social Care bill came to a shuddering halt following widespread rejection across the medical profession, the government paused the process to set up a Forum in what turned out to be a faux ‘listening exercise.’

The head of the ‘Choice and Competition’ element to the Forum was Sir Stephen Bubb, the Chief Executive of ACEVO. Sir Bubb’s preference for competition in the NHS was no secret; he openly called for the “health and social care market to be opened up” and consistently voiced his support for more competition.

However, throughout the period of the farcical ‘listening exercise’, ACEVO said they did not take a position on the Health and Social Care bill, and were neither for it or against it. This view was repeated in March 2012 when they said "ACEVO has not taken a position on the controversial health bill as a whole."

The email
However, a Freedom of Information request has unearthed an email written on the 17th August 2011, just after the ‘listening’ period that brings this statement into serious doubt. The author of the email is unknown because the name was redacted. The person thanked David Bennett, the head of the NHS regulator Monitor, for a ‘roundtable summary.’ It stated how it was good to see…that so many participants…place ‘choice’ at the top of priorities for Monitor.’ If ACEVO were not taking a position on the Health bill, then why are ACEVO in an email to Monitor saying it is 'good' people at the meeting were placing 'choice' as a priority for Monitor. Surely, if they do not take a position such a priority would be neither good nor bad as far as ACEVO are concerned.

Furthermore, the author of the email also suggested Monitor hold a 'desecrate' (discreet) meeting with ACEVO members to 'bounce ideas off and sound them out on reform and competition'. Why was it suggested to make this meeting discreet?  What did they have to hide?
ACEVO did indeed attend a roundtable meeting with Monitor hosted at the offices of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, with representatives from voluntary organisations that included CEOs from Asthma UK, Action on Hearing loss and Diabetes UK. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the new regulators' new role and purpose'.

Lobbying letter
This email follows on from the recent revelation uncovered by Social Investigations that Sir Stephen Bubb had teamed up alongside private healthcare trade and lobby group, the NHS Partners Network to urge Jeremy Hunt not to water down the secondary legislation, S.75 privatisation regulations. The letter carried the ACEVO logo, which strongly suggests this lobbying letter was in agreement with ACEVO and not Sir Stephen Bubb acting alone. Acevo are not ambivalent to the outcome of the the Health and Social Care bill, but have actively lobbied to ensure competition remains a key component of the new NHS.

ACEVO have twice been contacted to answer questions on their neutrality and have so far refused to answer.


Questions
The questions are below and we welcome a response at any time.

1) If ACEVO were not taking a position on the Health bill, then why are ACEVO in an email to Monitor saying it is 'good' people at the meeting were placing 'choice' as a priority for Monitor. Surely, if they do not take a position such a priority would be neither good nor bad as far as ACEVO are concerned?
2) Also, the names are redacted - who wrote the email?

3) The author of the email also suggested Monitor hold a 'desecrate' (discreet) meeting with ACEVO members to 'bounce ideas off and sound them out on reform and competition'. Why was it suggested to make this meeting discreet? 

4) The letter is sent with the ACEVO logo on it. It is therefore logical to assume, this position is that of ACEVO and not Sir Stephen Bubb. Is this the case?

5) Was this letter written by both Sir Stephen and David Worskett?

6) By sending this letter out on behalf of ACEVO, is it right to assume members of ACEVO were contacted about this before the letter went out? If not, then is it normal practice to send out lobbying letters on behalf of the membership without consent?

7) Finally, I have looked for your membership list but it appears to be hidden. Why is this, given the moves towards transparency? In http://www.acevo.org.uk/Page.aspx?pid=2150

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Charity Sector lobbied Hunt not to Water Down Controversial NHS privatisation Regulations



Sir Stephen Bubb
Charity boss Sir Stephen Bubb lobbied alongside the head of a private healthcare trade group to persuade Jeremy Hunt to not water down highly controversial “Section 75” privatisation regulations, according to new documents revealed today.

The regulations - made under the Health & Social Care Act just as the bill was coming into force in April this year - were seen by many as confirming the determination of the government to hand over large swathes of the NHS to private companies. The regulations effectively force local health bosses to put all services out to tender unless they can prove there is just one capable provider.

As the debate raged over the implications of the regulations - with the RCGP, the RCN, and the BMA all coming out strongly against them - the Chairman of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), Sir Stephen Bubb, teamed up with private healthcare advocates the NHS Partners Network to lobby the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt into not ‘watering down’ the regulations. 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Monitor Spend Close to Half Million on 23 New Recruits Using Two Companies Financially Linked to Lords


Monitor the new NHS regulator has spent close to half a million pounds on recruitment fees to two head hunter firms both financially connected to Members of the House of Lords.

The Health and Social Care Act massively increased the significance of Monitor’s role in the new NHS. The previous responsibility had predominantly been as regulator to the foundation trusts. The Health and Social Care Act greatly expanded their significance to become the sector regulator of the NHS and competition enforcer.

These new roles have required new staff and Monitor have chosen two firms with financial links to Members of the Lords to fill the key roles in their organisation. Following a Freedom of Information request, it was discovered that one of the companies, Odgers Berndtson, filled 12 senior personnel at a cost of close to £200,000 in agency fees.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Doctor Will See You Now: So Too Will the Advertisers



Patients are about to be targeted like never before by advertising companies as face recognition software merges with information screens to profile your interests as you wait for your doctor.
 
Lord Sugar is on the verge of selecting one more hard-nosed apprentice to his entrepreneurial stable as his Apprentice programme reaches its latest conclusion this Wednesday. Quite what work the eventual winner will undertake is unclear but a previous winner was selected to run the sales of a project that profiles patients in the NHS as they sit and wait for their GP.

Amscreen Plc is part of Lord Sugar’s Amshold Group of companies, which is based in the tax haven of Jersey and is overseen by his son Simon Sugar, who is the CEO. The company, which launched in 2008 when Lord Sugar bought Comtech M2M, provides T.V screens into places where there is a captive audience and places targeted marketing alongside the other content the organisation may use. These screens are placed in GP surgeries, hospitals and dentists throughout the UK and in Europe and also in petrol stations, convenience stores.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Social Investigations News Roundup



1. Change the NHS from within: New research conducted by Social Investigations has revealed a Head Hunter firm with financial links to a Conservative Baroness has been able to gain revenue directly from changes that took place because of the Health and Social Care Act on which the Baroness voted. Furthermore, the Chairman of the company has funded the Conservative party in a process that changes the NHS from within. Full story...

2. “Nothing Short of Corruption”: The House of Commons have just hosted a second debate on lobbying, following the recent scandal to envelop parliament and once more soil the already tarnished reputation of UK politics. In the debate, which was on the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists, the Labour MP for Easington, Grahame Morris, chose to highlight the breadth of healthcare interests held by MPs and Lords; the first time this research has entered into parliamentary discussion. Full story...


3. 2020health Think Tank: Documents released by the Department of Health under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a healthcare think tank with multiple links to coalition peers wants to turn the NHS into an “asset” of “UK Plc” - and which suggests the government needs to “charm” private healthcare “international corporations”.
Full story...

4. Earl Howe: The Parliamentary Under secretary for Health Earl Howe, who led the Health and Social Care bill proceedings in the House of Lords, was listed as a patron for pro-market think tank 2020health, just before the elections. Full story...

5. Lobbying Moves In-House - Nick Seddon: Number 10 welcomes Nick Seddon, former lobbyist and private healthcare advocate, into Downing Street to lead on health policy formation. What does this say about Cameron’s real attitude to the lobbying game he has publicly decried? And what kind of policies will Seddon be pushing now? There are good reasons to be concerned. Full story...

6. Breaking the code – the Healthcare Chain: The Members’ financial interests represent every stage of the healthcare value chain: from private equity firms that fund private healthcare companies, to holding shares in those same companies. They are Chairmen of companies who run NHS estates, are involved in PFI deals, are partners in legal firms that seal those deals, advisers to private hospitals, they also represent companies in pharmaceutical media, medical equipment, care homes, lobbying, and health insurance. Full story...

7. Healthcare Coup: The Lords didn’t save us the first time: In early 2012 the Lords voted in favour of the Health and Social Care bill, the final step in turning it into an Act. As the Lords sat in the house to debate and vote on the bill, research conducted by Social Investigations revealed the Lords were riddled with private healthcare interests across all parties. Despite these recent or present financial links to private companies involved in healthcare, they were allowed to debate and vote. Full story...
8. Unhealthy Influence: The Rise of  then NHS Partners Network: The transformation of a small private healthcare trade association into a powerful and influential lobby group provides a clear indication of the direction the NHS has taken.  Today the NHS Partners Network has some of the most powerful private healthcare companies as members and is a trustee on the NHS Confederation board. Social Investigations journalist Dylan Weber examines the development of one of the best-connected and most persuasive privatisation cheerleaders. Full story...

9. Tax Haven? No Contract: The message proffered by David Cameron when he spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos was tax avoidance would become a priority of the UK’s presidency for this year. In reality, the government acts in the opposite manner, rewards those companies who channel money to tax havens with further contracts paid for by the taxpayer. Full story...

10. Rights for Shares: No Mandate, Unwanted Rejected: George Osborne has maintained his stance to weaken worker protections in exchange for shares. In doing so he exposes himself as utterly undemocratic, and highlights the need for the unions to regain some strength. Full story...

11. Healthcare Contracts Connecting Lords and MPs and Their Companies: This list represents private healthcare companies that are financially linked to Lords and MPs from all parties that have won contracts since the government announced the white paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, which in turn led to the Health and Social Care Act. Full story...

12. Lord Help Us – Tory Donor Made Peer Reveals A Broken System: When it was announced that John Nash would become a life peer of the House of Lords, I added his name to the list of over 200 parliamentarians who have recent past or present financial links to companies involved in healthcare. Full story...


13. Labour Used Virgin ‘Restricted’ Report to Open NHS to Healthcare Companies: A hitherto restricted report commissioned by Labour back in 2000 has revealed how Virgin overstepped their remit – advice on improving customer service in the NHS - by promoting an increase in the use of private companies. Further inclusions written into the report by mystery authors also reveal a fledgling policy idea that would later become part of Virgin’s expansion into the healthcare market. The document also sheds light on New Labour’s wider programme of marketising the NHS – the job the Coalition has now seen to conclusion. Full story...

14. Half Billion Tax Haven Transfer: A private outsourcing company who are in receipt of one of the highest government spends have channeled over half a billion pounds into an offshore tax haven. One of the group of company directors, part-funded David Cameron’s leadership campaign in 2005 with two £10,000 payments. Full story...



Monday, 1 July 2013

Baroness Headhunter Company Making Money from Her Vote



New research conducted by Social Investigations has revealed a Head Hunter firm with financial links to a Conservative Baroness has been able to gain revenue directly from changes that took place because of the Health and Social Care Act on which the Baroness voted. Furthermore, the Chairman of the company has funded the Conservative party in a process that changes the NHS from within.

Baroness Bottomley is the Chair of the Board and CEO practice of Odgers Berndtson and also holds shares in their holding company Broomco Ltd.

The head hunter company works in thirteen industry areas including Healthcare, and been heavily involved in vetting key personnel into the new NHS

Their website boasts of their ‘unparalleled reach across the NHS, (and) private sector healthcare...(which) enables us to attract inspirational candidates others might never find.’

A key part of the Health and Social Care Act was to move commissioning responsibility for NHS services from Primary Care Trusts to the newly formed Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

‘Nothing short of corruption’: Lobbying Debate Highlights Healthcare Links in Parliament for First Time

The House of Commons have just hosted a second debate on lobbying, following the recent scandal to envelop parliament and once more soil the already tarnished reputation of UK politics.

In the debate, which was on the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists, the Labour MP for Easington, Grahame Morris, chose to highlight the breadth of healthcare interests held by MPs and Lords; the first time this research has entered into parliamentary discussion.

In the debate, he asked the leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley how he thought the public would react ‘when they find out that, one in four Conservative peers…have recent or current financial links with private health care? Will the Bill address that?’

Monday, 24 June 2013

Communications reveal 2020 Health working with Lord Howe to make the NHS a"UK Plc Asset"



Documents released by the Department of Health under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a healthcare think tank with multiple links to coalition peers wants to turn the NHS into an “asset” of “UK Plc” - and which suggests the government needs to “charm” private healthcare “international corporations”

2020health calls itself an ”independent, grass roots think tank” whose purpose is to “create the conditions for a healthy society through research, evaluation, campaigning and relationships.

Correspondence between the health minister Earl Howe, former patron of 2020 Health, and the think tank’s founder Julia Manning reveals some of the nature of these ‘relationships’.

At Julia Manning’s invitation, Earl Howe was a guest speaker at a ‘high-level discussion breakfast roundtable’ with key clinical and industry leaders back in February 2011, during the ‘listening pause’ in the passage of the Health & Social Care Act through parliament. After the meeting, Ms Manning wrote to thank Earl Howe. In the letter, which has been obtained by Social Investigations, she noted that Earl Howe had told the meeting that the message of the UK health being open for business was “not getting through.”

Manning had asked what should be done to attract “global companies to the UK.” She pushed for a “radical message” to make the NHS part of the “UK PLC”, an “asset” and “driver of economic growth.”

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Earl Howe - A Former Patron of Pro-Market Health Think Tank



The Parliamentary Under secretary for Health Earl Howe, who led the Health and Social Care bill proceedings in the House of Lords, was listed as a patron for pro-market think tank 2020health, just before the elections.

Knowledge of the Earl’s patronage has only just appeared after the discovery of a policy paper written by 2020health for the Spanish right-wing publication ‘Sanifax.’ The ‘Dosier Especial’ titled ‘a healthier nation’, was a Green policy paper produced in January 2010 and introduced in Spanish as having been created with the ‘support of David Cameron’ on the ‘necessary reforms.’

Monday, 3 June 2013

Lobbygate: Milking the system



In 2009, the Rt Reverend and Crossbench Peer Lord Eames, was appointed as the head of a cross party review group to draw up new rules that would ban Lords from taking money from lobby firms to ask questions in parliament.

The rule change took place following allegations that four Labour Lords had offered to try and amend laws for up to £120,000. At the time, not only were there no rules to prevent such behaviour, but there was also no Commissioner for Standards to investigate wrongdoing.

Lord Eames concluded in a report that the rules needed to change, a commissioner for standards needed to be instated because “We need to restore public confidence in the House of Lords, and in the conduct of its members…There is no place in the House of Lords for 'peers for hire'." At least these two proposals were implemented, but the House of Lords has remained an open house to lobbyists.

Monday, 13 May 2013

"We can't go on like this" - Cameron Hires Lobbyist Into the Heart of Government


Number 10 today welcomes Nick Seddon, former lobbyist and private healthcare advocate, into Downing Street to lead on health policy formation. What does this say about Cameron’s real attitude to the lobbying game he has publicly decried? And what kind of policies will Seddon be pushing now? There are good reasons to be concerned.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Just
before the general election, David Cameron declared his opposition to  lobbying, saying “we all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire... It arouses people’s worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works, with money buying power, power fishing for money and a cosy club at the top making decisions in their own interest...We can't go on like this”

Today, Number 10 will welcome former lobbyist Nick Seddon into the heart of Downing Street, as his health adviser. Seddon’s last role was as deputy director of ‘Reform’ - a free market think tank extensively funded by healthcare and insurance companies. He has openly called for an end to the NHS as we know it, and promoted the idea of an insurance-based system.

Before joining Reform, Nick Seddon was head of communications at private healthcare company Circle - the first company to take over the running of a NHS hospital. 

His role during the passage of the Health and Social Care bill was to lobby key people to defend competition in the bill. His reward? A place in Cameron’s health policy unit,  developing  policies for the 2015 general election.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Breaking the Code and the Healthcare Chain


'In the conduct of their parliamentary duties, Members of the House shall base their actions on consideration of the public interest, and shall resolve any conflict between their personal interest and the public interest at once, and in favour of the public interest.' - the Lord's Code of Conduct

The Lords have spoken. The coalition with a little help from Labour Peer, Lord Warner chose to vote in favour of the government to keep section 75 regulations of the Health and Social Care Act in place. In doing so, they imposed increased legal pressures on the new commissioners to put out services to tender, which will fragment the NHS into the hands of private companies.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Healthcare Coup: The Lords Didn't Save us the First Time


Lord Tim Clement-Jones
In early 2012 the Lords voted in favour of the Health and Social Care bill, the final step in turning it into an Act. As the Lords sat in the house to debate and vote on the bill, research conducted by Social Investigations revealed the Lords were riddled with private healthcare interests across all parties. Despite these recent or present financial links to private companies involved in healthcare, they were allowed to debate and vote. 

Now, for the second time of asking the Lords are about to pass or reject a key piece of legislation that will affect the NHS to such an extent its very existence is in the balance. Will they or will they not choose to vote for or against section 75 Regulations of the Health and Social Care Act. If it is the former, then if passed will sound the death knell to the NHS.

Tax Haven? No Contract



The message proffered by David Cameron when he spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos was tax avoidance would become a priority of the UK’s presidency for this year. In reality, the government acts in the opposite manner, rewards those companies who channel money to tax havens with further contracts paid for by the taxpayer.

The calls for the government to bring about an end to tax havens has continued to grow ever louder as the general public observe the stripping of the welfare state, whilst billions of pounds exits the county into offshore accounts. Many of these companies are in receipt of taxpayer’s money, which are handed contracts by cash-strapped councils who continue to work with the organisations despite their dubious tax practices.

Rights for Shares: No Mandate, Unwanted, Rejected

Michael Fallon
George Osborne has maintained his stance to weaken worker protections in exchange for shares. In doing so he exposes himself as utterly undemocratic, and highlights the need for the unions to regain some strength. 

The latest chapter of the undemocratic tale that threatens to shred hard-earned worker protections is about to reach a conclusion. The Lords have just voted for a second time to reject plans to swap protections for shares, a policy rejected by business as unworkable and unwanted.


The process began when David Cameron asked Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist; a funder to the Tory party and investor in pay-day lender Wonga, to write a report on ways to grow the economy. The report focused largely on how difficult it is to dismiss someone, and that the process 'makes it too easy for employees to claim they have been unfairly treated'.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tax Havens: Outsource Company's Half Billion Transfer


A private outsourcing company who are in receipt of one of the highest government spends have channeled over half a billion pounds into an offshore tax haven.

The Pears family’s property empire began back in 1950 when the grandfather ran the humble business of three greengrocer stores in North London. Today however, they control Trillium Holdings which owns about a third of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) estate, including job centres, the pension service and child maintenance offices.

Trillium and its subsidiary companies - are responsible for a £3.2bn 20-year deal to manage and provide property services for the DWP offices.

This is where it gets complicated. The parent company of Trillium Holdings is owned by London Wall Outsourcing, which in turn is owned by London Wall Outsourcing Holdings Limited. This company is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The ultimate controlling entity is the B Pears family trust in Bermuda.

Since 2008, London Wall Outsourcing accounts reveal that the vast sum of £666.7m  has been sent in dividends to its Virgin Island based parent.

The British Virgin Islands appeared in the news recently in dramatic fashion, after a massive leak of over 2 million emails and documents revealed a host of political leaders and wealthy individuals whose fortunes are stored in the tax haven.

The Pears family control a property empire valued at £6bn through a labyrinth of companies. Until her death in 1999, the matriarch Clarice Pears was one of the country’s richest women, with a fortune that surpassed that of the Queen. The Pears brother, Mark, Trevor and David, have an estimated wealth of £1.7bn, which ranks them at 38 on the Sunday Times Rich List.

One of the Pears brothers, Trevor, part-funded David Cameron’s leadership campaign in 2005 with two £10,000 payments. The Prime Minister has said tax havens and avoidance will be key part of the G8 summit in June this year, yet here we have his leadership being part-funded by a director of a company who are involved in tax havens.

In a rare interview given to the Telegraph, director Mark Pears said “We have got nothing to hide, but we are a private company”.

The business empire is run by the William Pears Group, which has been built over the last sixty years and encompasses residential property, offices and fund management. The latest accounts reveal the family company quadrupled their profit over the last year. One of the family’s property coups has been the purchase of a vast chunk of the DWP estate.

In 1998 under Blair, the then Department of Social Security transferred the management and ownership of its estate to Trillium, which had been set up by two entrepreneurs and was later bought by the property company Land Securities. The government obtained £250m for its estate and agreed a £2bn contract for serviced accommodation until 2018.

In December 2003, the Land Securities contract - known as the PRIME agreement extended to cover the Employment Service estate. The company bought the offices for £140m and agreed a £1.2bn deal to provide serviced offices. A NAO inquiry concluded that the deal was good value for the taxpayer and justified.

Six years later, Land Securities sold Trillium to the William Pears Group for £750m, which included the DWP estate and the government contracts. The changeover of more than 300 government offices to a company who’s ultimate ownership lies in an offshore company was not undertaken.

The DWP is paying about £464m a year for services to Trillium, but the company has also seen a steep increase in the value of the offices it now owns. Trillium,
who are advised by Conservative Peer Lord Griffths of Fforestfach, values its DWP estate at more than £1bn.

The group’s use of tax havens will be even more frustrating for the taxpayer given the fact that the company’s revenue is hugely bolstered by British public spending; a situation that looks set to significantly increase. In 2012, the government made an announcement that a new organisation to manage Defence property was to be formed, called the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. The new programme will see contracts of MOD facilities across England and Wales drawn up, worth up to £4.35bn and Telereal Trillium, who are a member of free market think tank Reform, have been short-listed as part of one of three consortia approved for making bids for the MOD estate contracts.



See Telereal Trillium Holdings Accounts (scroll to bottom to see link to London Wall)
See London Wall Outsourcing Accounts (scroll to bottom to see link to BVI and Bermuda)

Friday, 5 April 2013

Abolish ACOBA

The Chair of the committee that advises on business appointments to departing senior civil servants is a director of a company that has won a contract related to the Health and Social Care Act in which he voted in favour.

Lord Lang of Monkton is the chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). Set up in 1975, the remit of the committee is given by the Chairman Lord Lang on the website

‘It is long-standing government policy that it is in the public interest that those with experience in government should be able to move into business or other areas of public life and it is equally important that in the taking up of an appointment, there is no cause for suspicion of impropriety.’

Lord Lang of Monkton is also the director of Marsh & McLennan, a risk and strategy management company that amongst other services helps ‘hospitals, insurers, pharmaceutical companies and industry associations understand the implications of changing policy environments". 

Despite this interest, Lord Lang along with 142 other peers with recent or present financial links to companies involved in private healthcare, was able to vote on the Health and Social Care bill helping it become an Act. The Conservative peer did indeed vote in all key divisions loyal to his party.

In February 2011 Marsh was appointed by the Department of Health to conduct an ‘industry review’ of the NHS Litigation Authority. The objective of the review was to ‘identify opportunities to introduce greater commercial management and practice to services.

Early days
ACOBA was initially created to provide advice on applications from the most senior Crown servants who wish to take up outside appointments after they leave Crown service. The work of the committee then expanded from 1995 to provide advice to Ministers on their employment for two years after leaving office.

The organisation’s inability to prevent the conflicts of interests that riddle both parliamentary houses led the transparency campaigners Spinwatch to call for ACOBA’s abolition.

McKinsey
In written evidence submitted to the Public Administration Committee on a report on business appointment rules, they pointed out the danger private interests being in a position to gain ‘a competitive advantage by virtue of the inside knowledge, contacts and networks developed while in (temporary) public service.’

Further evidence focused on McKinsey, the management consultancy company that encouraged the £20 billion cuts the NHS is now forced to apply and who made several suggestions to end the free at the point of need in Northern Ireland.

Spinwatch pointed out how Tom Kibasi who ‘started at McKinsey in 2004, left two years later to become Senior Policy Advisor to chief executive of the NHS David Nicholson, and moved back to McKinsey in 2008, where he’s been busy helping the DH reform the system.’ Further revolving door behaviour came in the form of David Cox, who ‘worked in the NHS, jumped ship to McKinsey, then moved to the Conservative Party’s “Implementation team” for nine months, before settling at NHS London as “Strategy Manager” responsible for “cutting-edge system-wide design and planning of London’s healthcare system strategy.”’

Ex-NHS hospital head Mark Goldman is now an adviser for the ‘McKinsey Hospital Institute, (which contracts its services to NHS hospitals); ex-McKinsey consultant Nick Moberly who is now CEO of Royal Surrey County Hospital; Dr Doug Russell, ex-medical director of Tower Hamlets and now senior advisor to McKinsey.’

Such links are but the tip of the iceberg, which Spinwatch rightfully concluded continue despite the existence of ACOBA, which led them to conclude ‘We believe that ACOBA is an ineffective body that should be abolished and replaced with a statutory regulator.’

All civil servants who go through the site are told either it is okay to take up this job without conditions or if conditions apply then a standard reply is given such as - so long as it is on the understanding that the person ‘would not draw on any privileged information from his time in Government.’

When Jim Easton left his position as ‘Director of Improvement and Efficiency’, at the Department of Health to become Managing director of Care UK, ACOBA stated that there must be a waiting period of three months from his last day of service; that for 12 months, he should not become involved in advising on bids or contracts for Department of Health business; and that, for two years from the same date, he should not become personally involved in lobbying UK Government on behalf of his new employer.

Do you trust that this won’t happen in some form? Do we honestly believe that when a person moves to a corporation they do not pass on information to their corporate employer on government thinking!

The line between public servants and corporate employees is practically non-existent which Spinwatch suggests would be much better served with a statutory regulator because ACOBA lacks ‘teeth’. ACOBA has no enforcement powers, so even if a person was to step out of line, nothing would be done, which is why Paul Flynn, Labour’s tireless campaigner on lobbying described it as a ‘Committee of Futility.’

In the meantime, they can start improving things by removing a chairman who voted on a health bill despite a financial link to a company who earned a contract from the NHS on the changes before it became an Act. A Lord who offered his services to a fake lobbying company in a 2010 Channel 4 sting. 

The committee is utterly flawed, the work they do has made no difference to combat the problems of the revolving door of civil servants working in the private sector only to return on the corporations behalf.
I add my voice to those of Spinwatch and Paul Flynn calling for its abolition. Also the resignation of Lord Lang from both ACOBA and the Lords. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Unhealthy influence: The rise of the NHS Partners Network


The transformation of a small private healthcare trade association into a powerful and influential lobby group provides a clear indication of the direction the NHS has taken.  Today the NHS Partners Network has some of the most powerful private healthcare companies as members and is a trustee on the NHS Confederation board. Social Investigations journalist Andrew Robertson examines the development of one of the best-connected and most persuasive privatisation cheerleaders.
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