Scrutinising government

Analysis: Former MPs – where are they now?

Alan Milburn - Flickr_Downing Street

 Former MP Alan Milburn still has a parliamentary pass

When most people in the UK leave a job, the last thing they do is regularly return to their old workplace. However parliamentary passes handed out to former MPs mean that the corridors of parliament are open to ex-politicians, long after they have been voted out of power.

At the last general election in 2010 225 MPs retired or lost their seats. Over the following 18 months a third of those ex-MPs successfully applied for Former Member’s Passes, giving them privileged parliamentary access.

An investigation by the Bureau and the Independent has found that many former MPs with existing passes now work for organisations that could benefit from their continuing access to key parliamentarians.

Around 20% of the MPs who left parliament in the 2010 elections now work in lobbying, PR or consultancy capacities and have exclusive access to key decision makers thanks to their life-long parliamentary passes, which they have applied for.

The news comes as a recent investigation by the Bureau and the Independent revealed concerns about the links between lobby groups and parliamentarians.

A ruling in 2004 by former speaker, Michael Martin, means that most ex-MPs can now claim a parliamentary pass for life, though not all do so. The change in the regulation was intended to let departing MPs socialise with former colleagues.

However concerns have been raised that the system is open to abuse.

Labour MP John Mann has repeatedly called for a cleaning up of parliament. Mann told the Bureau, ‘The problem with how parliament is run is it is still very much a gentleman’s club. I can’t understand why any former member of parliament would want to go back. The danger is it can be used to feather business nests,’ said Mann.

‘It is absolutely fundamentally wrong to be using a parliamentary pass to lobby, there is no question, passes shouldn’t be used for that. I would question why there’s a need for Former Member’s passes full stop,’ he added.

Former MPs interest
The Bureau has compiled a list of former MPs who left Westminster at the last election who hold ex-member passes and now work with or for organisations that might want to lobby MPs. There is no suggestion any of the below have used their passes to contact their former colleagues in a professional capacity.

Andrew Dismore
Parliamentary insiders have told the Bureau that they have seen Andrew Dismore in parliament recently.

Dismore, a former Labour MP, is co-ordinator at Access to Justice Action Group, a campaign group which works on legal issues which has campaigned strongly on elements of the proposed Legal Aid Bill.

The Bill is currently passing through the House of Lords and several Lords have recently spoken up against elements of the proposed changes to the law.

The Ministry of Justice’s most recent hospitality records (April- June 2011) do not list any official meetings with the Access to Justice Action Group. There are, however, meetings registered with Shelter, Legal Action Group and the Bar Council to discuss legal aid reform.

Dismore promotes himself on his LinkedIn profile as being ‘an expert on parliamentary procedure especially promoting and blocking Private Members’ Bills.’

Dismore’s online profile, which suggests people contact him with consulting offers and expertise requests, also states ‘I have a detailed understanding of how to influence government and parliamentarians.’

The former MP denied misusing his pass saying, ‘The pass helps me to keep in touch with former colleague friends…I have done nothing wrong.’

Mr Dismore said he would welcome the establishment of a register, saying ‘I believe the more transparency the better. In fact when I applied for the pass I asked if there was a register and was told there wasn’t one which surprised me.’

Nigel Waterson
Former Conservative MP Nigel Waterson was listed on the  June-August 2011 Association of Professional Political Consultants‘ register as doing consultancy work for lobbyists Butler Kelly.

Butler Kelly’s clients include Thames Water and BASF Chemicals, although there is no suggestion Mr Waterson worked on these accounts.

Waterson told the Bureau, ‘I am careful to follow the House rules about not using my pass when visiting the house in a lobbying capacity.’

Parmjit Dhanda
Dhanda was listed as a consultant who had a parliamentary pass for Butler Kelly on the Jun-August 2011 register. Dhanda, who was Labour MP for Gloucester until 2010, still appears on the most recent register but is no longer listed as having a pass. He did not respond to contact made through Butler Kelly.

Tom Levitt
Levitt set up Sector 4 Focus in 2010. The organisation is a consultancy which promotes partnerships between businesses and charities for mutual benefit. The organisation works on a number of areas and their website mentions that they also ‘facilitate engagement with government, local government and business through training and workshops.’

Mr Levitt was Labour MP for High Peak from 1997 until 2010.

Mr Levitt said, ‘I have a small number of clients, mostly charities seeking better working relations with businesses. I have at no point used my Former Member’s Parliamentary pass to gain access to ministers.’

Levitt (centre) set up a consultancy organisation


Andrew Reed

Andy Reed, former Labour MP, is Director of Saje Impact. Saje Impact Ltd offers advice to a variety of Sports Bodies, NGBs, Social Enterprises and Faith Charities in making sure their strategies and communications are effective with the key stakeholders in their sector.

Responding to inquiries Mr Reed said, ‘My new work lies in the sports world and faith charities across the world.’

James Purnell
Another former Labour MP is James Purnell. In April the Boston Consulting Group announced they have hired James Purnell as a ‘Special Advisor to their Public Sector Group’. BCG is a management consulting firm which advises clients on business strategy.

A spokesperson for BCG told the Bureau, ‘James has used the pass to attend Parliament twice, once to provide evidence to a Select Committee and once to have tea with two former colleagues who wanted to discuss an article he had written. On both occasions he was invited to the meetings and as such a parliamentary pass was not necessary. He has never used the pass on behalf of BCG clients.’

Jane Kennedy
Jane Kennedy was listed on the Association of Professional Political Consultants register (June-August 2011) as a consultant for Westbourne Communications. Westbourne confirmed Kennedy provided a small amount of consultancy work for their High Speed Rail Network project.

According to Westbourne Kennedy gave advice on how to mobilise support in the North West.

Kennedy, former Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, said she had never used her pass for business purposes, ‘I use it mostly for seeing friends apart from during the No2Av campaign and I make no apology for that. But I have never used it for business purposes.’

Gillian Merron
Merron, who had been Labour MP for Lincoln for 13 years, now works a consultant for the Public Affairs team in for Cool Milk, one of the UK’s leading school milk suppliers. She was unavailable for comment.

Former Labour MP Gillian Merron now works in public affairs


Alan Milburn

On Milburn’s MP registered interests he lists a directorship in A.M. Strategy, which was established November 2006, ‘to undertake media/consultancy work’. Milburn also reported receiving payment through the company for his role as a Member of Lloydspharmacy’s Healthcare Advisory Panel.

The former Labour MP who stood down at the 2010 election, has also been reported as a consultant to Pepsi and Bridgepoint..

The Twitter feed EyeSpyMP, which allows members of the public to tweet when they spot politicians, reports Milburn being seen in Portcullis House on Tuesday.

Last night Mr Milburn said he was now a ‘private citizen’ and did not want to comment on the issue.

John Austin
Former Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Austin is on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. According to the organisation’s website, ‘Caabu is one of the most active NGOs working on the Middle East in British parliament. We aim to create a more constructive and positive UK foreign policy towards the region by supporting human rights, international law and democracy.’

Mr Austin told the Bureau, ‘I do hold a former MP pass which allows restricted access to the Houses of Parliament.   There is a rule that ex-members should not use this facility for lobbying or commercial purposes. I visit Parliament occasionally to attend meetings which are open to the general public and to others by invitation.’

Former MPs Philip Woolas (Labour) and Paul Keetch (Liberal Democrat) are both primary partners of Wellington Street Partners Ltd.

Philip Woolas (second from right) runs a political consultancy agency

 

Wellington Street Partners Limited is a political and business consultancy founded by three former Members of Parliament.

The Wellington Street Partners are consultants and their website is clear to point out they do not actively lobby for clients.

Keetch is also listed as Director of Raynard Research on Companies House. The organisation has a business and management consultancy remit.

Claire Ward
Ward was Labour MP for Watford from 1997 to 2010, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice from 2009-2010.

Ward now works as Chief Executive at Independent Pharmacy Federation who are ‘the only body to politically represent independent pharmacies exclusively, it is often invited to comment to governmental and non-governmental organization on issues affecting independent pharmacy.’

Patricia Hewitt
Hewitt, former Labour MP and Health Secretary, is now chair of the India UK Business Council whose website states, ‘UKIBC plays a key role securing a favourable regulatory environment for trade and investment between our two countries. This includes acting as a intermediary for UK PLC to both Indian and UK Governments in order to create the conditions whereby the relative strengths of both countries have the greatest chance of success.’

Following an undercover sting by The Sunday Times and Dispatches, in 2010 Hewitt was investigated by the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee over allegations that she had engaged in lobbying activities while an MP. The Commissioner investigated and did not uphold any of the allegations against Ms Hewitt.

Attempts to contact Hewitt through the UKIBC failed.

History of lobbying
Sir John Butterfill, Mr Stephen Byers, Mr Geoff Hoon, Mr Richard Caborn and Mr Adam Ingram were also investigated under similar charges.

Of those five MPs, four now have Former Members’ passes, including Richard Caborn who was banned from entering parliament for six months following the investigation.

Mr Caborn told the Bureau, ‘The CSP found that I had not brought the House into disrepute and that I had not intentionally broken any of the rules, they requested I apologise which I did for the infringement of one of the rule but I refused to apologise for an infringement on a further rule which  the Commissioner said I had committed and I disagreed and did not apologise. The CSP imposed a six month ban on using a former members pass.I received my pass back after the six months.’

The conclusion of the Committee’s report written by John Lyon, stated that While there should be no suggestion that former Members of Parliament should not seek paid employment, it might be right to consider some restrictions on the activities they can undertake in the first few years once they have left Parliament.’

Lyons concluded his report by saying, ‘The mischief which needs to be considered is whether former Members of Parliament should be able to be ‘hired hands’, using the contacts they have made in the course of their parliamentary duties to benefit directly an employer.’