The tories-on-the-take club: Cash and freebies galore for MPs leading controversial Commons committee pressure groups
- Tory MPs are sitting on controversial Westminster pressure groups while also being paid thousands of pounds from ‘vested interests’ in the same industries
- The backbenchers run the risk of accusations of lobbying by the back door
- They hold often lucrative advisory roles with major businesses while also helping run unofficial parliamentary bodies that promote the same sectors
Tory MPs are sitting on controversial Westminster pressure groups while also being paid thousands of pounds from ‘vested interests’ in the same industries, Daily Mail analysis has found.
The backbenchers run the risk of accusations of lobbying by the back door.
They hold often lucrative advisory roles with major businesses while also helping run unofficial parliamentary bodies that promote the same sectors.
It has heightened concerns that All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are the next controversy in the wake of the Owen Paterson sleaze lobbying saga and Sir Geoffrey Cox’s £5.5million second career as a barrister. There are almost 750 APPGs devoted to everything from individual countries to industries and sports, which try to get ministers to attend their events then take up their causes.
It has heightened concerns that All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are the next controversy in the wake of the Owen Paterson sleaze lobbying saga and Sir Geoffrey Cox’s (pictured) £5.5million second career as a barrister
Some MPs and peers sit on dozens of them and they are allowed to host meetings in Westminster rooms and produce official-looking reports to influence Government policy.
Yet the groups have no formal status and can be funded by private companies, trade bodies or even foreign governments.
The Committee on Standards is already investigating APPGs and has been sent evidence by campaigners that some are a ‘front’ for lobbyists to gain access to ministers while others are being used by corrupt regimes to give a false veneer of legitimacy.
Now the Mail has found that at least ten Conservative MPs who are chairmen or vice-chairmen of APPGs are also being paid or receiving free trips and tickets from organisations within the same sectors.
Among them is a former Cabinet minister who is paid £15,000 a year for advising a private hire business and who joined an APPG for the taxi industry just months afterwards.
Now the Mail has found that at least ten Conservative MPs who are chairmen or vice-chairmen of APPGs are also being paid or receiving free trips and tickets from organisations within the same sectors (file image)
Among them is a former Cabinet minister who is paid £15,000 a year for advising a private hire business and who joined an APPG for the taxi industry just months afterwards (file image)
One MP who is chairman of the Packaging Manufacturing Industry APPG also receives £30,000-a-year to be chairman of the Food Service Packaging Association.
Another who is a paid adviser to the Betting and Gaming Council is also chairman of the racing and bloodstock APPG.
While they are not breaking any rules, campaigners say that the coming crackdown on outside earnings should see MPs no longer allowed to sit on interest groups if they are also paid by the same industries. Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the committee on standards in public life from 2003 to 2007, said: ‘This just shows that all-party parliamentary groups are very often totally controlled and dominated by interested parties outside of parliament rather than MPs themselves.
‘I think it’s a very unregulated area that needs tightening up.’
On the involvement of industry bodies who regularly finance APPGs and act as their point of contact, he added: ‘I don’t think it’s right.
‘They are not then genuinely cross-parliamentary groups, they are add-ons to industry associations where they can seek to influence public policy because that’s the only reason they are providing money – to seek to control their interests.’
One MP who is chairman of the Packaging Manufacturing Industry APPG also receives £30,000-a-year to be chairman of the Food Service Packaging Association (file image)
Director of reform group Unlock Democracy Tom Brake said: ‘I struggle to understand how MPs who are prominent on APPGs representing sectors of industry are not lobbying on behalf of those sectors.
‘Their whole purpose is to promote a particular cause or sector and that happens by writing to government ministers, inviting them to speak at meetings.’
He said it was a ‘murky area’ and had drawn it to the attention of the Commons Committee on Standards, which is carrying out an inquiry into APPGs.
In written evidence to the committee inquiry into APPGs, campaign group Transparency International said: ‘It is possible organisations are using this privileged access to MPs and the ability to book rooms within the parliamentary estate, as a way of impressing clients and at the very least appearing to influence the views of parliamentarians.’
In written evidence Lord Evans, the former MI5 chief and current chairman of the committee on standards in public life, wrote: ‘APPGs come with the badge of parliamentary branding, and it is therefore likely that members of the public would assume that APPGs’ activity is led solely by their MPs.
‘However, APPGs are often funded and staffed by external organisations, leaving them vulnerable to the accusation that they provide official “cover” for private sector interests.’
He added: ‘Involvement in APPGs must not operate on a “pay to play” basis, where those who provide financial and/or secretarial support gain privileged access at the exclusion of others.’
From racing to taxis, who’s hitched a ride
THE EX-MINISTER WHO CAN ALWAYS HAIL A CAB
MP for Glamorgan
Vice-chairman of the APPG on taxis
Former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairn
Former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns joined an APPG for the taxi industry just months after becoming an adviser to a major minicab firm.
The ex -Welsh Secretary is paid £15,000 a year for providing ‘strategic advice’ to Veezu, Britain’s biggest private hire business, under a deal agreed in September last year.
He was told by the watchdog that monitors the revolving door between politics and government – the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments – that he must ‘not become personally involved in lobbying the UK or Welsh Government on behalf of Veezu’.
But in January this year he became a Vice-Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis, whose purpose is to ‘promote the interests of the taxi trade in parliament’. The APPG’s secretariat received £40,000 this year in funding from taxi firms and the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association union for cabbies.
Minutes of its Annual General Meeting, at which Mr Cairns was one of ten MPs elected as an officer of the group, state ‘it was firmly agreed among all attendees that a strong push for the long-overdue taxis legislation would be a priority’.
They also agreed to ‘continue pressuring government to provide urgent financial support for taxi drivers’.
Mr Cairns did not respond to request for comment.
A spokesman for the APPG said: ‘Mr Cairns was elected as a Vice Chair of the APPG on Taxis at the AGM on Thursday, January 26.
‘The minutes record that, “Mr Cairns declared his financial interest in a private hire transport and technology platform, Veezu Holdings Ltd, and sought clarification from the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests before confirming that he can accept nomination as a Vice Chair”.’
In a separate development, it was reported yesterday that Mr Cairns took a £15,000-a-year job at a diagnostics company called BBI Group a few weeks before it was part of a consortium that secured a £75million government contract for lateral flow tests.
A STUDENT OF THE TURF
MP for Tewkesbury
‘Racing and bloodstock’ APPG chairman; vice-chairman of golf APPG; member of ‘horse’ APPG
Laurence Robertson MP for Tewkesbury
As well as his horse racing and golf APPG commitments, Mr Robertson is paid £2,000 a month for an ‘expected’ ten hours’ work to act as a parliamentary advisor to the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents betting shops and online gambling.
He has also received thousands of pounds worth of freebies from betting and racing companies to attend the likes of Ascot and Wembley Stadium for football matches.
Mr Robertson, whose constituency includes Cheltenham racecourse, has used questions in Parliament to warn ministers not to introduce tougher new laws on gambling. Last night he said his chairmanship of the Westminster racing group and his role with BGC were ‘perfectly within the rules.’
JAMAICA JAUNT FOR CANNABIS CONFERENCE
MP for Reigate
Chairman of the APPG on drug policy reform
Crispin Blunt MP for Reigate
He has been the unpaid chairman of the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group since January 2019 as well as director of Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group Ltd since September 2018.
In November 2019 the group paid for his accommodation when he attended a cannabis conference in Jamaica and also a visit to France to learn about the medicinal cannabis industry.
Last night he said: ‘I am acutely conscious that I must earn nothing from my engagement with drug policy reform as this is an issue of such societal, economic and public health importance that there must be no suggestion that my contributions to public debate have any motivation other than the wider public good that has been so ill-served by our policy over the last 60 years.’
ELECTRIC CAR MAN’S CHANGE OF GEAR
MP for Don Valley
Vice-chairman of the APPG on Electric Vehicles
Nick Fletcher MP for Don Valley
Nick Fletcher is also a director of electric vehicle charging point firm Analogue Electrics and receives a company car, phone and health insurance worth £800 a month.
He also has shares in the firm and they gave him a £2,000 donation last year.
Mr Fletcher did not respond to a request for comment.
MP for Wellingborough
Chairman of the APPG on American Football
Peter Bone MP for Wellingborough
Peter Bone, whose office was vandalised last week in the aftermath of the Owen Patterson controversy, received more than a dozen free tickets to American Football games donated by the likes of the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars team and William Hill bookmakers. Last year he was found to have breached minor APPG transparency rules by the Standards Commissioner.
Mr Bone did not respond to requests for comment.
STARS IN HIS EYES FOR £90K A YEAR
MP for Wyre Forest
Vice-Chairman of the APPG for Space
Mark Garnier MP for Wyre Forest
Works ten hours a month for Laser Light Communications, a startup satellite company, and ten hours a month for the Shetland Space Centre, receiving a total of £90,000 a year.
Last night he said he abided by all of the rules including declaring his interests at meetings.
‘I think it’s really important that if an APPG produces a report it’s absolutely crucial that all interests should be declared,’ he added.
WORK ACROSS THE POND FOR MP IN LOVE WITH CANADA
MP for Goole
Deputy chairman of APPG on Canada since early last year
Andrew Percy MP for Goole
Joined the advisory board for Toronto-based Cumberland Strategies in 2019 to provide ‘strategic advice. He received £710 for eight hours’ work a month.
In April moved to the board of Canadian clean energy firm Iogen Corporation and now gets £3,000 a month for six hours’ work.
He said: ‘There is no connection between my love of Canada and working there and anything I have done with Iogen or Cumberland. There is no link at all.’
FROM A TO Z… THE PERKS OF BEING IN 43 GROUPS
MP for Romford
Sits on 43 APPGs ranging from Armenia to Zoos
Andrew Rosindell MP for Romford
Over the past decade, Andrew Rosindell has declared more than 30 free trips to foreign countries and overseas territories paid for by their governments or political parties.
Just last month, as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) for San Marino, he had a week-long trip to the tiny state worth £4,438 paid for by its consulate, and was given an honour for his ‘valuable support’.
A spokesman for Mr Rosindell said he had never had a second job and added: ‘Andrew takes regular trips abroad to ensure he remains fully informed about the many international issues he cares about, particularly relevant given his position on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
‘He declares these trips in the proper way as he did in the recent trip to San Marino.’
HOTTEST TICKETS IN TOWN
Philip Davies; MP for Shipley
Vice-chairman of the racing and bloodstock APPG; Vice-chairman of Formula One APPG; Vice-chairman of bingo APPG
Over the summer he got a ticket to Ascot from horse breeders Normandie Stud, worth £750, a ticket to Wembley worth £1,537 by online gambling company Gamesys Group and hospitality at Wimbledon worth £1,100 by sports betting company Entain Holdings.
Mr Davies, pictured with wife and fellow MP Esther McVey, did not respond to a request for comment.
PACKAGING CHIEF CLUTCHING AT STRAWS
MP for Rugby
Chairman of the Packaging Manufacturing Industry APPG, which is run by an industry body
MP Mark Pawsey
Mr Pawsey is paid £30,000 a year as chairman of the Foodservice Packaging Association, a role he took up last year. He has spoken up in the Commons on behalf of the industry to raise concerns about the impact of new environmental laws, with his interventions labelled ‘deeply concerning’ by Greenpeace.
Mr Pawsey, pictured, said in a debate last year that single-use plastic straws should not be banned, and in January this year he argued that greater costs for recycling and disposal of packaging should not fall on producers. He did not respond to requests to comment.
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