Showing posts with label 'Baroness Barker'. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 'Baroness Barker'. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Case of Baroness Barker - Two bills -Two Opportunities


Please supply your evidence that the individuals named below have furthered their own interests. Please supply as much detail as you have. Thank you, Liz Barker”

The Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Barker wrote these words after she and all her fellow peers had received a list of parliamentarians and their financial links to companies and individuals involved in healthcare.

The list of over 200 parliamentarians had proved annoying to the Baroness, especially because at the time, they were all debating, amending and voting on the bill to help it become an Act.

One month after the legislation gained Royal Ascent, the Baroness
incorporated a consultancy company, which she co-owns and that works with the third sector to assist in their quest for NHS contracts.

The company, Barker & Woodward Consultancy Limited offers advice to third sector organisations through a two-day course called the “the right prescription”. This service offers information on how ‘third sector organisations can constructively work for the NHS’ and
advice about ‘competitors and development of strategic partnerships.’

The “right prescription” can
cost up to £400, which fits into Ms Barker’s personal request that we supply ‘as much detail’ that we have that ‘individuals’ have ‘furthered their own interests’.

Baroness Barker was the
Spokesperson on Health for the Liberal Democrats up until 2010 and has since remained a member of their Health and Social Care Team. She herself debated, made multiple key amendments and voted on the Health and Social Care bill, helping it become an Act.

One of the amendments drafted by Ms Barker during the Health bill progress, was in the area of conflicts of interests. It
read "CCGs must make arrangements for managing conflicts and potential conflicts of interest in such a way as to ensure that they do not, and do not appear to, affect the integrity of the group's decision-making processes". She concluded “It is extremely important that these groups not only set out to uphold the highest standards but that they are seen to uphold them.”

The ability to see into the future is a skill all good entrepreneurs’ must have, but perhaps when you are producing the legislation, it is easier to know what lies ahead. One month after today’s Care bill hearing, Ms Barker’s company is offering a briefing on its content in exchange for money to the third sector.

The third sector is playing a key role in the dismantling of the NHS, acting as a Trojan horse to allow private healthcare companies to come in and take over the running of services. They lobbied alongside private health for Jeremy Hunt to not water down privatisation regulations, they lied when they said they were neutral over the outcome of the Health bill, and their Chief Executive acted as a handy inside man at a critical moment in the health bill’s progress. The reward for the third sector has been 70% of all NHS contracts awarded since the implementation of the Health Act, have gone to private firms.

The Code of conduct that all Members sign up to states that ‘Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.’

The loop-hole that allows Members of both Houses to vote on legislation when they have a financial interest is ridiculous. Now Ms Barker is about to vote on the Care bill, helping it to become an Act and then one month later gain revenue from imparting that information.

Local councillors must abide by a stricter regime, which is imposed on them by parliament. If they have a financial or non-financial interest, then they must neither ‘participate in any discussion of the matter at the meeting’ nor ‘participate in any vote, or further vote.’

Currently the government has no intention to reform the rules that govern their own working life. In response to a petition placed on the No10 website that demanded ‘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’, they replied that it would “not be practical” to introduce any curbs to such behaviour because a “significant number of legislative provisions in any year may have beneficial financial implications for all or most commercial operations.”

Exactly!

See the latest list of parliamentary recent or present financial interests to healthcare here.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Baroness Barker avoids conflict of interest in email correspondence


The Lords have been exposed as having large amounts of connections to companies involved in Private Health companies, who potentially may benefit from the new Health and Social Care bill, which they have voted on. Latest research revealed over a quarter of Conservative Lords as having financial links to companies in private healthcare.

When the list of Lords and MPs was originally put together, Social Investigations with some help sent the list to all the Lords and MPs. They have this list, they are aware of it; a list that has grown almost double in size since we first sent it to them.

One Baroness in particular, Baroness Barker, seemed to take offence at this list and has been in correspondence with us: Below is a timeline of our interaction. The first email we sent out was the list of Lords and MPs:
An e-petition has been set up which is here - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31991 - if you can please sign it to stop Lords voting on their own interests, this would go some way to prevent their behaviour.
STARTS --------

I am sending you this information on behalf of Social Investigations who would be grateful if you could take a look at the following list of politicians with links to private health interests/organisations which we feel is something that should be noted and taken into consideration when voting takes place with any connection to the debate on the National Health Service. 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.

She replied:

Dear xxxx

Please supply your evidence that any of the people named below who have taken part in the Health and Social Care Bill 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.

Thank you,

Liz Barker




We felt this missed the point and so replied: 

Dear Baroness Barker


As you can see in the introductory paragraph and closing one it has not been stated that anyone has furthered their own interests but there is the possibility that this could happen seeing as there is an obvious conflict of interest.

Also it has been stated that no complaint is being made whether or not these interests have been declared as most of them have been, it is this conflict of interest that worries many and simply registering ones interest is not enough, and is something we feel should be addressed.




Hope that helps.

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

Baroness Barker’s reply:

Dear xxxxxx


Have you read the Code of Conduct which all members have to agree to abide by in writing before they can take their seat?

Liz Barker


Then she nudged us a few days later:



Dear xxxx, 

In case this e-mail didn’t reach you I am resending it. I look forward to your response.

Liz Barker


------------------------- 


She still hasn't got it. 


Thank you for your email.


Yes we have read the rules of conduct, it is not for us to decide whether the standards of a Lord's behaviour have been in keeping with these rules, that is for the commissioner.


It is of our opinion that it is simply not sufficient for a Lord to simply register their interest, and be allowed to influence a bill with which they have potential financial interest. Lord's business interests as long as they are declared are not a barrier to voting on an issue, or indeed speaking if the peer has declared the interest. This is not the same at local level.


We would be very interested on your thoughts on this matter as there are a lot of Lords who have financial interests in private healthcare companies to varying degrees who are able to influence the bills outcome.


Yours


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

She didn’t reply, so we nudged her.


Dear Baroness Barker,


In light of the latest revelation that over a quarter of your coalition partners peers have financial links to private healthcare companies - I wonder if you would be so kind to respond to the email we sent regarding the matter of potential conflicts of interests, and give us your views.


Yours


Her latest reply read:


If you have evidence that any peers have not observed the code of conduct you should say so. 

Liz Barker


Roundup:
Although we appreciate Baroness Barker taking the time to reply, she has entirely missed the point. The issue is not whether they registered their interests, which I assume they have; it is that they have these conflicts of interests in the first place, and are still allowed to vote. After all if you are a councillor at local government level with financial interest or a partner with financial interest, then they must declare a prejudicial interest, then they must leave the room and take no further part in discussions or voting. 

There is a reason for this. With conflicts of interest, comes the potential for corruption, insider dealing, and the weakening of our democracy. Two in-depth looks into peers Baroness Bottomley and Lord Chadlington, revealed just why anyone with a vested interest, should not be allowed to vote. (Update) Indeed now the bill has been passed, companies with MPs and Lords on their books have gained revenue as a direct cause of their vote and the changes imposed due to the Health and Social care Act.


As for her final email asking us whether we have any evidence that any peers have ‘not observed the rules of conduct’, the answer to that is yes. Two complaints have gone in to the commissioner for standards, one of which is here, and we await the verdict. In the meantime, perhaps Baroness Barker would be better off questioning the conflict of interest rather than demanding evidence on a technicality. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Are the Lords breaking their own rules? Lord Chadlington - Three Lords, One Company and a Democratic Failure.

The Lords are about to read through the Health and Social Care bill (H&SC), and this time they are looking at the elements within the bill that deal with ‘competition.’

The H&SC bill has been controversial from the start, in part because no mandate for the ‘reforms’ was offered to the public by either of the two parties who now form the coalition government.


Now, the bill is in the hands of the Lords, who through expert eyes will discuss and vote for various amendments placed before them, which we would hope would be conducted in an unbiased and considered way.


But…


141  of the Lords have financial interests in private healthcare companies.



Now here is a key point: In the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords it states under General Principles:




'14. A Member must not act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House; that is to say, he or she must not seek by parliamentary means to confer exclusive benefit on an outside body or person from which he or she receives payment or reward.'

24. The “exclusive benefit” principle would mean, for instance, that a Member who was paid by a pharmaceutical company would be barred from seeking to confer benefit exclusively upon that company by parliamentary means. The way in which the benefit is conferred should be interpreted broadly. All proceedings of the House are included, for instance:

• tabling a motion or an amendment to legislation;

• voting in a division;

• speaking in debate;


These Lords are set to decide the future of our National Health Service. And the question is should they be allowed to have outside interests that may affect their decision-making process. This ‘conflict of interest’ is exactly why the compilation of Lords and MPs created such anger, spreading throughout twitter and the Internet, because people feel these connections are not right, and are not good for democracy.


Baroness Barker

Part of the campaign to highlight this list has now reached the Lords themselves who are beginning to reply to the list presented to them: One such reply came from Baroness Barker, a Liberal Democrat peer. Although she is personally not on the list, she replied to Social Investigations with this message:

‘Please supply your evidence that any of the people named below who have taken part in the Health and Social Care Bill 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.

Thank you,

Liz Barker’

Seventy-seven Lords and rising with direct financial links to private healthcare companies who are about to vote on a Health and Social Care bill that may prove beneficial to the companies they have interests in, is not evidence enough. Although, it must be said we are not saying they ‘have’ furthered their own interests, what we are saying is that in a democratic society, they should not be in a position where they can further their own interests by voting on this bill.


‘Speaking on the libdemvoice.org website, Baroness Barker said: The NHS is too important to be used like a political football and failure to give this Bill thorough and fair scrutiny would be condemned by the public, who have already shown an unprecedented level of interest in this legislation. I hope they will continue to follow the proceedings of the House closely and be alert to any signs of gamesmanship.’

Agreed. Let's take Baroness Barker’s advice and examine one Lord in a little more detail to see if there is any ‘gamesmanship’, and you can decide whether or not he should be voting on anything to do with the Health and Social Care bill. 

Lord Chadlington 



Lord Chadlington is the founder and CEO of Huntsworth PLC, he also holds shares in the company, and has been a member of the House of Lords since 1996.



Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) is a non-profit organisation whose members are made up of pharmaceutical companies and communication agencies that work in the health sector. According to its website, it is run ‘by its members for its members.' It adds: 'It is now a high profile and influential player in the healthcare arena. It has sufficient influence and credibility to shape opinion and lead debate.’


One such member of the lobbying organisation is a communications company called Huntsworth PLC, who run a group of companies involved in ‘communications and lobbying.’


One arm of the group is Huntsworth Health, which operates in the U.S., Hong Kong, and Europe including here. Their website states how the company ‘provides a full continuum of consulting and communications services to the healthcare and well-being industry.’


One of Lord Chadlington's employees is Fiona Bride whose role at Huntsworth is the ‘director of market access.’ Her area of work is succinctly laid out on her personal profile page on the Huntsworth website: Fiona says she has: ‘expertise at leveraging commercial opportunities through market access at all levels of the NHS.’


In April 2010 Huntsworth Health’s director Fiona Bride chaired a meeting of the HCA, which looked at the ‘central role of commissioning in the NHS.’ Interestingly, the meeting took place two months before Andrew Lansley had released the white paper (Liberating the NHS), which since developed into the much maligned Health and Social Care bill.


Three months after the HCA meeting and 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 of ScopeMedical," then added: "Healthcare is a major growth area and we are now very well positioned to take advantage of that growth with a fully integrated healthcare offering that supports the product lifecycle from discovery to patent expiry." It is not just Lord Chadlington that thinks his company is in a good position. Liberal Democrat peer Lord Alliance has shares in the company. The coalition is even closer than we realised.


Incidentally, Lord Chadlington is the Prime Minister’s constituency party chairman. They know each other well. Lord Chadlington paid £715,000 for a house next to Mr Cameron's last November; the home which Mr Cameron took out a £350,000 taxpayer-funded mortgage on. Lord Chadlington never moved in but sold David Cameron, a piece of the land at £137,000, which Cameron failed to declare.


The merry-go-round of politicians sitting in positions of power and working for corporations so that influence is increased is perhaps nothing new, but in the case of Huntsworth, they have truly had their fair share. Not only do they have Lord Chadlington as their CEO, but up until last year, they also had Lord Puttnam as a Director, and from 2001-03 Baroness Cumberlege was one of their non-executive directors.  Three Lords one company. Not bad.

Further connections between the lobbying company and the Conservatives were revealed in an investigation by the Independent, which showed the company had given money to the party over several years. Lord Chadlington had until recently denied there had been any payments, however, Electoral Commission records exposed this as a lie. Huntsworth gave £15,500 to the party in August last year and has given money every year since 2008.  Following the exposure, Huntsworth were forced to admit they had given money stating the money was given by buying tickets for ‘Conservative events’, a classic way for lobbying to take place.  Furthermore, 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.


So, when Lord Chadlington (also known as Peter Gummer, the brother of John Gummer the former minister under John Major and fellow Lord) votes in the Lords, we know that anything he might say in the arguments for and against any amendments, will be clouded by the possibility of self-interest. Alongside this we need to consider to, the forty other Lords with financial interests and the prospect of the possible financial benefits the bill will present to their respective interests.


So there we have it. Three Lords working for one company who receive work from the NHS and through their membership of the Healthcare Communications Association act in tandem with pharmaceutical companies lobbying the government. 

What do you think – Is it enough to simply register your interests? Should Lord Chadlington, alongside the other forty Lords with private healthcare interests be allowed to vote? Do you think Huntsworth Health have an unfair advantage because Lord Chadlington is at the helm, alongside two other Lords who worked for the company. Is he breaking the House or Lords own rules? If so then are the others, and does this mean their votes on the bill should be voided. Or do you agree with Baroness Barker, that such a tale does not provide evidence that ‘the individuals named below have furthered their own interests.’


Finally, under the Rules of Conduct:


'12. The test of relevant interest is therefore not whether a Member’s actions in Parliament will be influenced by the interest, but whether a reasonable member of the public might think that this might be the case. Relevant interests include both financial and non-financial interests.' 

Therefore - You be the judge.

countercounter