Showing posts with label 'house of lords'. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 'house of lords'. Show all posts

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Lord Help Us – Tory Donor Made Peer Reveals 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.

The Members financial interests represent every stage of the healthcare value chain from advisors of private equity firms funding the private healthcare companies, to having shares in those same companies. They are Chairman of estate companies involved in PFI deals, partners in legal firms that make those deals, advisors to private hospitals, they represent companies in pharmaceutical media, medical equipment, care homes, lobbying, and insurance. You name it, they have it covered and the list of vested interests in both the Commons and the Lords is so great, that it can best be described as a healthcare coup d’état of our parliamentary institutions.

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


Monday, 26 March 2012

142 Peers have Financial Links to Companies Involved in Private Health Care


The investigation into the registered interests of the House of Lords members has revealed serious flaws in our democracy whereby Lords who have outside financial interests are allowed to vote on a bill that may benefit them.

As the Health and Social Care bill went through the upper chamber, Social Investigations highlighted the various members and their financial links to companies involved in private healthcare. These Peers across all parties have a mixture of interest, which include shares in private healthcare companies; being chairman, consultants, and senior advisers to investment groups funding the vultures ready to swoop.

At best this is self-interest, at worse this is institutional corruption and is a part of the same problem that just came to light over the donation scandal. We are not in this together, they are out for themselves and the corporations they serve.

One rule for others, one for them:

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. In many cases this is left down to the discretion of the elected member but with the knowledge that this will be challenged somewhere down the line. Why are the Lords not treated in the same way?

Petition:

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.

The numbers:
In total there are 141 Peers that have these connections, representing 17% of the total. The Conservatives who created the bill and in many quarters want to see the NHS dismantled had over a quarter of their members with these self-interests. This is intolerable.  In addition to this the Liberal Democrats who have allowed this bill to go through have one in ten with these interests. This may well be the least, but none of them should have been allowed to vote. However the self-interest is across the board with one in six Crossbench peers and one in six Labour peers having these interests. This means we must watch them if they get back into power in case they try and water down any repeal.


When we look into more detail, as I did for Baroness CumberlegeVirginia Bottomley and Lord Chadlington the behaviour and the clear conflict becomes apparent.

Conservatives: 1 in 4 – see full list
Liberal Democrats:
1 in 10 – see full list
Labour:
1 in 6 – see full list
Crossbench:
1 in 6 – see full list

To view full list of peers with financial interests in private healthcare companies click here.

The investigations will continue, with certain Lords and companies being looked at in more detail. If you are a journalist or member of the public who has any information then please contact me at: andrewfiskar (at) gmail.com


Monday, 19 March 2012

Complaint to Lords standards commissioner rejected


The Commissioner for Standards for the House of Lords has responded to a complaint I made about Lord Chadlington, the founder and chairman of a communications company Huntsworth plc. My complaint suggested his position in a company, which he founded, and which lobbies government in tamdem with pharmaceutical companies and which donates to the political party that is introducing a bill that could benefit his company, is in breach of the Lords rules of conduct.


More fool am I.


The context of the letter sent back to me has clearly defined how biased the rules are in favour of the unelected peers, who are allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care bill despite having a clear financial interest in its outcome.


We were told in the letter; ‘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.’


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.’ This could be done in various ways including:


• tabling a motion or an amendment to legislation;

• voting in a division;

• speaking in debate;


So why did Lord Chadlington not ‘exclusively benefit’ from his voting in the Health and Social Care bill?


‘The Bill may or may not, if passed in to law, affect the business activities of Huntsworth plc but not on an exclusive basis. I would suggest that they would have to compete for business against their competitors in the context of any new legislative framework.’


Oh really! So how come Huntsworth plc has given donations to the Conservative party since 2008, if it were not for a nudge, nudge, wink, wink? Donations to parties unfortunately, lie outside of the remit for the Commissioner of Standards, and are dealt with by the Electoral Commission instead. Come on! Why does any company give money to a political party if it isn’t to expect future return? 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 exclusive benefit? Who knows perhaps one day they can vote on a bill that will open up new markets for them. Unlikely I know.


So no, I can’t provide ‘evidence’ that Huntsworth plc will ‘exclusively benefit’ through their founder’s vote. There is no document I can lay my hand on that says the Prime Minister’s constituency party chairman Lord Chadlington will benefit from his own vote but I’d be very surprised if the company didn’t.


What I can be sure of is this: Any set of rules that allows a Lord to vote on a bill that will potentially benefit the company of which he is the founder and chairman, which has donated money to the party that is bringing in the bill is not fit for purpose.


What is the point of a complaints procedure that doesn’t hold such conflicts of interest to account? After all if you are a if you are a councillor at local government level, with financial interest, then they must declare 'prejudicial interest, which includes they 'may' benefit int he future. Voting in these circumstances would be forbidden.


We are being taken for fools; they are robbing us of our NHS and our unelected peers are voting for their own gold rush. To date 100 Lords have financial links to companies involved in private healthcare, and there will be more. It is a merry-go-round of self-interest, which looks increasingly like institutional corruption; it is wrong and it must be stopped.


Below is the Full letter:


Dear Mr Robertson


I am writing in response to your letter dated 5 March 2012, which was brought to my attention on 8 March.


I note your complaint against Lord Chadlington and your specific reference to Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords.


I have conducted an initial assessment of your complaint and in the absence of evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case that the code has been breached, I have decided that your complaint does not merit investigation.


Lord Chadlington, according to your complaint, voted against a proposal to consider the Health and Social Care Bill by means of a Special Select Committee. That is his right and the procedure, if it had been adopted, may or may not have had the impact outlined in your letter.


Turning to the issue of ‘exclusive benefit’, 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. The Bill may or may not, if passed in to law, affect the business activities of Huntsworth plc but not on an exclusive basis. I would suggest that they would have to compete for business against their competitors in the context of any new legislative framework. You will note that Paragraph 25 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct makes it clear that the nature of ‘exclusive benefit’ should be interpreted narrowly.


I note that Lord Chadlington has registered his interest in Huntsworth plc.


Turning to the issues of political party funding and the potential use of such funding to seek exclusive benefit, which you raised. Such matters are very clearly outside of my remit. However, the Electoral Commission have a specific remit in respect of the funding of political parties and they are therefore better placed to assist you.


I trust that my reasoning/explanation is clear but if you have or obtain evidence, I stand ready to review my decision not to investigate your complaint at this juncture.


I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely


Paul Kernaghan CBE QPM

Commissioner for Standards

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