Speaking up. Lord St John of Bletso speaks at the NaviSite ‘Cloud Node’ launch.
The House of Lords has been used to launch a bizarre range of commercial products including toilet valves, sliding doors and IT infrastructure over the past two years.
If a company has connections with a willing peer, it can book some of the grandest rooms in London for its launch party.
Lord St John, for example, hosted the launch of IT ‘cloud’ infrastructure by Time Warner web hosting company NaviSite in the Chomondeley Room – the grandest in the House of Lords, with access to the famous terrace overlooking the Thames.
‘NaviSite welcomed an eclectic mix of customers and partners to their UK launch,’ the NaviSite website said of the day, which included a buffet lunch for 115. ‘It seemed apt that such a historic venue was chosen as the venue to launch Cloud Node, further highlighting this turning point in technological history.’
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House of Lords rules do not forbid launches of commercial products as long as the peers sponsoring the events have no financial connections to the company concerned. But companies are not supposed to benefit financially, even indirectly, from events held in the Lords.
Lord St John, who has no financial links to NaviSite, told the Bureau he had agreed to host the event as a favour to the firm’s then chief executive, a close friend and former colleague. ‘I was also very interested in IT Cloud infrastructure,’ he said.
Another product introduced to the world at a Lords launch was an ‘easy fit valve’ created by the flood prevention firm Watertight International.
Lord Redesdale delivered a joint presentation at the event.
The former hereditary peer, who is now a life peer, became a non-executive director of the firm a month later.
He said there was no link between the appointment and the launch. ‘I was interested in the product as it could solve flooding caused by backflow. I have been working on water for years. Following the launch I was approached by Watertight.’
The event was attended by existing and potential users of the system.
Lord MacKenzie of Framwellgate sponsored the launch of a set of doors. ‘Not one, but two unique environmentally friendly automatic door systems developed by ECO Automation Ltd were unveiled at a special launch event held recently at the House of Lords,’ said a press report covering the event.
The peer told the Bureau he had no financial interest in ECO Automation. Its director was a friend, he said, and the event was not a launch but was instead a way of generating interest in a ‘green concept’. He had checked the rules before hosting the function, he added.