A blot on Parliament: the slack rules on peers and public affairs consultancies

The House of Lords rightly expects peers to register and declare any outside interest which a reasonable person might think capable of exercising an influence on their conduct in the House.

Beneath this general obligation, the House wishes peers to list any clients to whom they provide advice on public affairs, or other public affairs services. Again, rightly so. If one reads and takes seriously the beautiful language of the writ of summons one might think that peers should give public affairs advice only to their sovereign. Peers who take money to give public affairs advice to outside interests should take leave of absence from the House. (This might be one convenient way of reducing the present surplus of peers!)

But even if one rejects this purist view of a peer’s duties, it should be beyond challenge that peers should declare to the public any outside interest which benefits from any public affairs advice or services to which they are party. That is the clear and proper intention of the House.

In 2011 the House realized that nearly a hundred peers were evading
this responsibility by hiding their public affairs clients behind the façade of a consultancy. It tried to remedy this in the Guide to the Code of Conduct.

Unfortunately, the House decided to preserve an irrational and unworkable rule that peers were obliged to list only their “personal clients”. I call this the “touting exemption” since it was evidently intended to allow peers to enlist clients for a public affairs consultancy without being obliged to declare them even if they were directors or partners in the consultancy – and even if they were successful in their efforts.

This matter continued to cause difficulties and the House decided to amend the “touting exemption” again in 2015.

This is now paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct. This is a very poor provision in several respects.

60. The types of services covered here are those falling under the broad heading of public affairs advice and services. Where a member receives remuneration from an organisation engaged in such work, the member should list any of those clients with whom the member has a continuing relationship on behalf of the organisation which could not fairly be described as immaterial.

First, it is badly written, relying on a clumsy double negative.

Second, it is actually a step backward from the previous wording. This referred to “public affairs advice and services personally provided by the member”, which is a matter of fact. The current wording makes registration of public affairs clients a matter of judgment – by the peer concerned.

Third, the provision gives unscrupulous peers far too much scope to lie about their personal public affairs clients. A peer can choose to declare Save The Panda as a personal client but continue to hide The Landmine Manufacturers Association behind the veil of his consultancy. House officials have no means of challenging this. Nor have members of the public. Unless by chance evidence of the peer’s activity on behalf of the Landmine Association is publicly revealed, a complaint against the peer will not succeed and will be frustrated by his bare denial.

Fourth, and most important, the whole provision works wholly in favour of peers and wholly against the public. It makes a nonsense of the general obligation for peers to list all the interests which might influence them. To take my previous example, suppose a peer is a director or a partner in a public affairs consultancy. He knows that the Landmine Manufacturers are important clients. He is personally enriched by the profits they generate. Even if he does not directly serve them in the House, he is unlikely to make a fierce speech against landmines there or anywhere else. The public are entitled to know this.

Fifth, the great majority of reputable public affairs consultancies and individual practitioners are members of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), and as such, declare the bare name of all their clients on a public register every quarter. The APPC have told me that this provision has never caused any difficulty. Paragraph 60 has the bizarre effect of allowing peers who are not willing to meet a similar obligation to take a full part in the House. They can run public affairs consultancies and be enriched by all their clients, they can tout for clients successfully, and still withhold the name of clients at will from the public.

Although lobbyists can be peers, the APPC does not allow peers or MPs (or any public affairs consultancies to which they belong) to be members. It believes that peers’ duties are incompatible with public affairs activity for any paying clients. It is curious that lobbyists have higher standards for membership than the House.

I continue to believe that peers who are directors or partners in a public affairs consultancy should be required to declare all its clients on the Register of Interests. I would be glad to know why the House thinks otherwise and what merit it sees in maintaining the present position in paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct.

I also continue to believe that the House should adopt a comprehensive definition of “public affairs”, to include all of the services provided by members of the APPC.

From inspection of the Register, I tried to see how many current peers are involved in public affairs consultancies or something akin to them. My analysis is in the Appendix. I was surprised that the number is so low. It leads me to believe that there would be little objection to a tightening of the rules on public affairs and the removal of an obvious anomaly.

Richard Heller June 2018

Appendix

Under the present wording of paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct peers who are directors or partners in a public affairs consultancy are required to declare on the Register of Interests under category 3 any clients with whom they have a significant working relationship.

Among over 800 peers, I have found just seventeen who have made such a declaration. They are:
Allan of Hallam
Blencarthra
Carlile
Chadlington
Cooper of Windrush
Cormack
Finn
Flight
Gilbert
Harris of Haringey
Lansley
Lennie
McIntosh of Pickering
Maude
Rennard
Scriven
Taylor of Goss Moor

It appears to me that Lords Allan of Hallam, Cormack and Taylor of Goss Moor have been especially scrupulous in making such a declaration, since they do not work through a public affairs consultancy. They have declared public affairs advice given to an employer, or to an organization which the member chairs or for whom the member writes regularly.

A number of other peers declare under categories 1 or 2 personal clients of businesses which may not fall within the category of public affairs consultancies, namely

Arbuthnot
Boateng
Boyce
Coussins
Fox
Henig
Richards

This may reflect advice from the Registrar, or an especially scrupulous approach from the peers concerned.

I have identified another group of peers in leadership positions in businesses which seem to fall under the category of public affairs consultancies who declare no clients. These are

Adonis
Barker
Bell
Fall
Goddard
Goudie
Hain
Livermore
Mandelson
Myners
Suttie
Wyld

Finally, Lord Rogan lists no personal clients on the Register but has made a full list of clients of his consultancy, Stakeholder Communications, available for inspection through the Registrar.

It is possible that these thirteen peers have acted on advice from the Registrar. Without such advice, they are relying on their own bare assertion that they are not providing public affairs advice or services or that they have no significant relationship with a client.

My analysis suggests to me that the rules on the declaration of personal clients are not well understood by peers and would benefit from clarification. There is a risk of unfairness to conscientious peers.

Second, and more important, any tightening of the rules would affect only a handful of peers. Even if all of these were so enraged as to leave the House it should be able to stagger on without them.

Richard Heller June 2018

26. September 2018 by rkh
Categories: politics | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on A blot on Parliament: the slack rules on peers and public affairs consultancies

An example to today’s business leaders who trade with Putin

 A British business leader boycotts Hitler

 

From The Earl of Woolton’s Memoirs (Cassell 1959)

 

“In 1938 the world was shocked by the relentless persecution of the Jews in Germany. Many were escaping to this country and to America, including some of the most eminent scholars and scientists in the world. Meanwhile, the ordinary innocent people among the Jewish race were being treated with a sadistic cruelty that was stirring the sympathy of the Christian world and creating both anger and despair that such things could be possible in this supposedly enlightened century – and still more that they could be tolerated by the civilized world.

 

“When in the spring of 1938 Hitler moved into Austria, I found it impossible to resist making the small effort of protest that a private citizen could make. Lewis’s [department stores] had at that time fourteen buyers in various parts of Germany. I cabled to them, telling them to close their books, honourably fulfil all their contracts, and to return home. A few nights later, I took the occasion of a speech I was making at a Lewis’s sales managers’ dinner at Leicester to express my personal alarm and disgust at what was happening and to say that I thought each one of us individually ought to do what he could to warn the people of Germany of the gravity of the position into which Hitler was leading them. I then announced that as far as Lewis’s was concerned, we should proceed at once to sell all the German goods that were in our stores and that we would have no further trading with German manufacturers whilst the German people continued to tolerate a Government that ‘for no other reason than that of their faith persecuted one of the oldest races in the world.’

 

“The effect of this speech, which lasted but a few minutes, surprised me. It  was what the public wanted someone to say: it gave the individual citizens something to do – a means of expressing their emotions.”

 

Sir Frederick Marquis, as he then was, infuriated the Chamberlain government. “I was sent for to appear at Number 10 Downing Street, and there handed what is now colloquially called ‘a high-powered rocket.’ I was told that the Prime Minister strongly disapproved of my action and that I had no right to interfere in this manner in the foreign policy of the country. I remained respectfully unrepentant, and said that I should continue to exercise my rights to trade where I would, and to say what I thought.”

 

Marquis later became famous as the successful wartime Food Minister and promoter of the Woolton pie. He was also a reforming postwar chairman of the Conservative Party, widely credited for his role in its 1951 General Election victory.

30. May 2018 by rkh
Categories: politics | Comments Off on An example to today’s business leaders who trade with Putin

White On Green review in the Cricket Society Journal Autumn 2017

Generous and perceptive analysis by John Symons

One year on from the Book-Of-The-Year shortlisted Wounded Tiger: A History Of Cricket In Pakistan, Richard Heller and Peter Oborne return to the topic with a new opus which aims to “celebrate the drama of Pakistan Cricket.” Now, patently, there is a connexion between the two books but this is no series of offcuts or even a sequel but instead a set of short essays of aspects of cricket in Pakistan that could not reasonably fit into a general history but were far too interesting to leave on the discard file.

 
For an obvious example, there is the case of the “lost” Mohammad brother. Hanif, Mushtaq, Sadiq and Wazir are well-known as the four who played Test cricket but what of the unlucky one who didn’t – Raees? Still alive and alert and bearing no ill-will (well, maybe a little) towards those who, in the face of what seem pretty overwhelming evidence of his talent, would not select him at Test level. It is here that we find the first of many references to A H Kardar, who ruled Pakistan cricket at various times and treated it as a kind of personal fiefdom. One feels that there must have been a certain kinship between Brian Sellers, Gubby Allen and A H Kardar in the way that they saw cricket and cricketers.

 
The principles of selection and non-selection are one of the recurring themes throughout the book. “Billy” Ibadulla had to come to England to be recognized as Test class; Miran Bux made his debut at 47; Israr Ali forced his way into the Test team but had the kind of relationship with Kardar reminiscent of Charles Parker and Pelham Warner. Then there is the magnificently eccentric and ultimately tragic Prince Aslam. Talented but wayward, a Prince whose family fortunes suffered under Partition but a Prince who lived as if he were a rich Nawab; skilled on the harmonica [actually the Pakistan harmonium RH]  and prone to perform as a one-man band or arrive late for trains with a pick-up band that he fancied playing along with, he is a character whom no author of fiction would have ever dared to invent.

 
Legends appear as well. Majid Khan declines to live on past glories but is producing a master plan to restore Pakistan’s cricket back to its heights. Zaheer Abbas, ICC President, talks freely and Intikhab Alam is profiled. Then there are the quirky moments as Tauseef Ahmed recalls how he bowled for a day in the nets at the Pakistan Test team, was invited back the following day as a net bowler, and the day after that found himself as a member of that Test team. The father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrent (if that’s the right phrase) recalls his cricketing days in an interview with Najum Latif and the inevitable A H Kardar turns up on US television on Tell The Truth (no irony intended.)

 
There are more serious essays on the relationship between Islam and cricket; the brave “suffragettes” of Pakistan cricket who, in the face of sometimes violent opposition, were determined to play the game they loved; cricket under the days of military rule; and the attack on the Sri Lankan tour bus which led to Pakistan being unable to play cricket at home and to decamp to the Emirates.

 
If, however, you want to find something that encapsulates everything about Pakistan cricket – from the foolhardy, an opener batting in tennis shoes against an express bowler; humiliation, a team losing by an innings and 851 runs; fortitude, a team travelling for nearly a whole day and night to play their first first-class game; an appetite for runs, the experienced team batting on and on until declaring at 910 for 6; and pride, two surviving members of the defeated team speaking in later life of how they felt in representing their team and how they continued to play cricket – one merely has to turn to the account of Railways versus Dera Ismail Khan, still sitting proudly (?) in Wisden as the greatest defeat ever suffered in first-class cricket.

 
A real page-turner of a book, with nuggets everywhere, and a book to be returned to often and not left on the shelf after a single read.

15. November 2017 by rkh
Categories: BOOKS | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on White On Green review in the Cricket Society Journal Autumn 2017

Orange and lime bread

As served in Rubato Towers

175 ml fresh orange juice
50 ml fresh lime juice OR 225 ml of the two as readymixed by Messrs Tropicana and others
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 egg
15g (small pat) of butter or margarine

Put all these first into the breadmaker. Weigh 475g of strong white bread flour. Put about half of this over the juice and stuff. Then add
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
¼ teaspoon of ground mace

Then add the rest of the flour. Then make a little hole at the top and pour in a whole sachet of fast-action yeast. (Not slacker yeast.) Make sure that the yeast does not hit the salt.

If the breadmaker offers you loaf size select 700g. If it does not, hope for the best. Select a crust if it offers you a choice.

23. October 2017 by rkh
Categories: uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Orange and lime bread

Letter in Pedantry Corner, Private Eye No 1452

“In your previous issue, Nursery Times must have misquoted the Big Bad Wolf when referring to his ‘vulpine activities’ – unless he was cross-dressing as the Fantastic Mr Fox. A wolf’s behaviour is normally lupine. I am not allowed to get out more because I suffer from intermittent lycanhtropy.”

06. September 2017 by rkh
Categories: Belles-Lettres | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Letter in Pedantry Corner, Private Eye No 1452

In Praise of Cecil Parkinson 1997

Former Tory chairman Cecil Parkinson gave the best performance I can remember by a politician responding to results on election night coverage. Cecil was on duty for the Tories in 1997. He did not make the mistake which many losing-party politicians make of trying to put any kind of positive spin on the results. He admitted cheerfully from the start that the Tories were taking an almighty beating.

In those days Labour seats tended to declare results earlier than Tory ones and it took hours before a Tory win actually appeared. I think it was Mid-Surrey. Cecil responded eagerly: “Mid-Surrey! We’re on our way!” He then had a long wait for another Tory win but when it appeared he said “I’m glad we’ve got two. We can have a leadership contest now.”

A true stylist in defeat. Others tonight please follow.

08. June 2017 by rkh
Categories: politics | Tags: | Comments Off on In Praise of Cecil Parkinson 1997

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: 1983 Labour mystery man revealed

As Denis Healey’s chief of staff during Labour’s suicide-note election campaign of 1983, I attended many meetings of the party’s unwieldy campaign committee first thing in the morning. Chaired by Michael Foot, the committee spent much time debating such urgent topics as the size of lettering on stage sets, and exactly who should appear on platforms and press conferences.

As many others have narrated, a mysterious silent stranger regularly attended the committee. No one could identify him or whom he represented. Some suggested that he was a trade union delegate, others said that he was a stray pollster, and still others identified him as one of Michael Foot’s Special Branch officers. One cynic suggested that he was a debt-collector.

I can now reveal the truth. The mysterious stranger was a 30-year-old Vladimir Putin, then a mid-ranking officer of the KGB as it was still called in that Soviet era. Putin had persuaded his service that if placed within the Labour party machine he could influence the result of Britain’s General Election. Unfortunately, his account of Labour’s campaign committee was too far-fetched for his KGB bosses to believe, and Putin had a temporary setback to his career when they accused him of cheating on his expenses. It was not until years later that he discovered how to manipulate overseas elections from a distance.

At one point, the mysterious stranger broke his silence to murmur: “poddovki”. I discovered later that this is a Russian form of draughts in which the object is to lose all your men as quickly as possible.

27. April 2017 by rkh
Categories: politics | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on WORLD EXCLUSIVE: 1983 Labour mystery man revealed

Dear Mrs May: why are you shielding Tony Blair?

Letters to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General about the government’s decision to shield Tony Blair from a private prosecution for his conduct over Iraq

 

Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

Dear Prime Minister,

The media have reported today that the Attorney General has intervened to block a private prosecution of Tony Blair over the Iraq war. I am not going to comment on the legal points (as reported) behind this decision. I would like to invite you to consider its wider political significance.

As a front-rank politician for many years, you will have noted the general collapse of public trust in government and indeed, many of the major institutions in British life. A major reason behind this is the perception that leaders and senior managers never accept, and are never compelled to accept, responsibility for error and failure. Sadly, the public have seen widespread evidence of this, over the banking crisis, over terrible episodes in the NHS, over examples of massive waste of public funds, over a succession of child abuse scandals. Occasionally, some suitable figure (such as Fred Goodwin) will be scapegoated. But the great majority of those responsible will move serenely into other well-paid appointments or into cushioned retirements and (usually) collect honours for their distinguished service.

Joining the Iraq war and occupation was the worst decision in Britain’s postwar history. It brought our country no benefits, only debt, danger, dishonour and death. As you know well, it has had a baleful effect on British policymaking ever since, and made it harder to secure public acceptance of the need to resist any genuine threat to our country. The Iraq inquiry report, when finally published, was a stark and damning indictment of those responsible, particularly Tony Blair. But no one at all has suffered any penalty in consequence, least of all Tony Blair. After becoming the richest ex-Premier in history by exploiting the experience and contacts he gained as Prime Minister at the taxpayer’s expense, he continues to hawk himself round the world as a statesman and to offer his simpering guidance to the British people.

I will return to Tony Blair but I would like to ask you first whether any person in public service (home, legal, diplomatic, military, intelligence and security) has suffered any kind of penalty for making, or acquiescing in, a bad judgment over Iraq, or conversely, received any kind of reward for resisting such a judgment or offering a correct one. I think that you yourself would find it very instructive to secure an answer to this question.

One other small question: did any person criticized in the Chilcot report accept its intended criticism without demanding a right to respond under the so-called “Maxwellization” process? All credit to any such person, although I suspect the answer is “no.”

Apart from the action on which the Attorney General has intervened, a number of families who were victims of the Iraq war are seeking to make Blair answer charges of misconduct in public office. I hope that the government will allow such an action to go forward so that the families at least have their day in court. If the government does intervene on Tony Blair’s behalf (and he is a very rich person who can afford his own defence) it will reinforce the public perception that their leaders will always look after each other and will never accept for themselves the rules and standards they prescribe for other people.

I would be grateful if you could invite the Attorney General to consider the view that the Chilcot report offers evidence to justify a prosecution of Tony Blair for the common law offence of manslaughter. The current CPS guidance on manslaughter suggests that there are two separate grounds for such a prosecution:

1) Causing death in an unlawful enterprise (akin to causing death by arson) or
2) Causing death by gross negligence of persons to whom he had a duty of care, namely our forces in Iraq and, as head of government of an occupying power, Iraqi civilians. In this case, the Chilcot report would be used to indicate that Blair’s feckless failure to assess and anticipate the risks of the war and occupation fell below the standards of competence expected in his position.

In either case, such a prosecution would re-establish the vital principle that no one in high public office is beyond the reach of the law.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Richard Heller

Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC
Attorney General
5-8 The Sanctuary
London SW1P 3JS

Dear Attorney-General,

I enclose a copy of a letter which your officials may already have received from the Prime Minister’s office.

On the matter concerned, an official spokesman made a somewhat delphic statement that you often intervene in private cases to protect the public interest. I would be grateful if someone could amplify this statement and explain why you believe that it would not be in the public interest for Tony Blair to be brought to court over Iraq. There can be no higher public interest than demonstrating that people in public office are subject to the rule of law.

Of course one wants to ensure that the courts do not pass judgments on political decisions: that would usurp the role of Parliament. But that assumes that those decisions were lawful, that the decision-maker acted within his or her authority and that he or she met the general standards of competence, diligence and integrity which are expected of public office-holders. When there is doubt about any of these points, it is right for this to be tested in the courts. The Iraq inquiry report amply supports such doubt: as I suggest in my letter, it provides double grounds for charging Tony Blair with manslaughter.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Heller

 

Further letter to AG 19 May 2017

 

I wonder if your officials are now able to reply to the above letter, which is a month old. I have had no reply from the Prime Minister either.

 

I would be particularly grateful to understand why you consider it in the public interest to prevent a trial of Tony Blair for waging an aggressive war. It seems to me very much in the public interest to give the courts an opportunity to decide whether this is indeed an offence under domestic law. That is a matter which the new Parliament may wish to consider at the earliest opportunity. Or is it your view and the government’s that waging aggressive and therefore unlawful war should not be a domestic offence?

 

A trial of Tony Blair would also demonstrate powerfully that ministers in our country are subject to the rule of law and face the same standards of criminal responsibility as other citizens.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Richard Heller

 

 

23. April 2017 by rkh
Categories: politics | Tags: | Comments Off on Dear Mrs May: why are you shielding Tony Blair?

Harry Truman’s Biggest Mistake

On this day (April 12) in 1945 Harry Truman became President of the United States, on the death of Franklin Roosevelt. He won a famous re-election victory in 1948 to serve another term in his own right.

Years later Truman was asked by his biographer, Merle Miller, to name his greatest mistake. Truman’s was an eventful Presidency. He could have cited dropping the atomic bombs on Japan, or allowing MacArthur to drift into war with China, or failing to check Joe McCarthy or a heap of other big issues, foreign and domestic. But Truman immediately replied: “My biggest mistake was appointing Tom Clark to the Supreme Court. It wasn’t just that he was crooked (which he was) but he was such a stupid son of a bitch.”

How many current politicians, worldwide, merit the same description?

12. April 2017 by rkh
Categories: politics | Tags: | Comments Off on Harry Truman’s Biggest Mistake

Screenwriting Blues

I reach this point in every Screenplay. It arrived this morning in the Lahore Movie.

I have pared down the major characters.

I have wiped out all the colourful but cluttering minor characters.

I have murdered all the little darlings, those cutesy bits of dialogue or business that seemed irresistible on first creation.

The Screenplay’s first hour is now reduced to its essential elements of raw drama.

And it’s a complete turkey.

No actor would want to play any of these characters, even if offered big money. No one would pay money to watch them in a cinema. Opening night and closing night would be simultaneous. In Luke Upward’s memorable piece of theatre criticism (about himself): “One could have stored meat in the audience. Long before the end, the rattle of retracting seats was like gunfire. Even the portly and the infirm leapt over them like young ibex, in search of the exits.” The only audience left in any cinema at the end of my movie would be teenagers in the back rows, too busy “making out” to notice anything on the screen.

And there is no remedy. Not even the sudden entrance of Beppo the Wonder Dog could save this movie.

Now I have had this feeling about every screenplay I have written. Now so too have dozens of agents, directors, producers and actors. And many more serendipitous readers of the screenplays I have left in cricket grounds all around the world or abandoned in the drawers of desks later sold in the shops of exceptionally indigent charities. And perhaps all these people are right.

The Screenplay is a turkey.

Fulham lost last night.

Mandelson still lurks and smirks in our political system.

Woe, woe, woe, thrice woe!

05. April 2017 by rkh
Categories: Belles-Lettres | Tags: | Comments Off on Screenwriting Blues

← Older posts

Newer posts →