Back in 2012, we revealed that Lord Blencathra, a former MP and Tory Chief Whip, was being paid by the Cayman Islands’ government to represent the interests of its financial services industry – and that he had written to George Osborne asking him to reduce air passenger taxes on flights to the Islands. He had also asked an MP critical of the Islands to meet a Cayman delegation.
Lord Blencathra admitted that he lobbied the Government, but said he did not lobby Parliament.
The Lords Standards Commissioner investigated and concluded in November 2012 that there was no breach of the Lords Code of Conduct. This was because the peer had been open about what he was doing on each occasion and had not been acting in his capacity as a member of the House of Lords when he made the approaches.
The investigation prompted a recommendation that the rules around lobbying ministers be clarified.
In February 2014 a rule change banned peers from lobbying ministers for financial gain.
A month later the Bureau obtained a copy of Lord Blencathra’s contract, signed when he first took up the job in 2011. The contract obliged him to promote Cayman to MPs, peers and the ministers. A new contract, signed in November 2012 after the Standards Commissioner’s conclusion, removed the references to MPs and peers and required the peer to make representations to “governmental stakeholders”.
The Standards Commissioner was asked to look into whether the peer had breached the Code by signing either contract. News of the investigation prompted the Cayman Islands to terminate his £12,000 a month job.
Which takes us to this week, when the Standards Commissioner released the results of its enquiry, and ruled that Lord Blencathra, formerly David Maclean, must apologise to the House of Lords for signing the first contract with the Cayman Islands.
The Commissioner did not mention the second contract and accepted Lord Blencathra’s argument that while the first contract required him to lobby Parliament, he had not done so.
The apology is scheduled for this Thursday.
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