Sunday 26 February 2012

Meet Lord Chadlington: He's about to vote on the Health and Social Care bill

Lord Chadlington 

Lord Chadlington is the founder and CEO of Huntsworth PLC, he also holds shares in the company, and has been a member of the House of Lords since 1996.

Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) is a non-profit organisation whose members are made up of pharmaceutical companies and communication agencies that work in the health sector. According to its website, it is run ‘by its members for its members.' It adds: 'It is now a high profile and influential player in the healthcare arena. It has sufficient influence and credibility to shape opinion and lead debate.’

One such member of the lobbying organisation is a communications company called Huntsworth PLC, who run a group of companies involved in ‘communications and lobbying.’

One arm of the group is Huntsworth Health, which operates in the U.S., Hong Kong, and Europe including here. Their website states how the company ‘provides a full continuum of consulting and communications services to the healthcare and well-being industry.’

One of Lord Chadlington's employees is Fiona Bride whose role at Huntsworth is the ‘director of market access.’ Her area of work is succinctly laid out on her personal profile page on the Huntsworth website: Fiona says she has: ‘expertise at leveraging commercial opportunities through market access at all levels of the NHS.’

In April 2010 Huntsworth Health’s director Fiona Bride chaired a meeting of the HCA, which looked at the ‘central role of commissioning in the NHS.’ Interestingly, the meeting took place two months before Andrew Lansley had released the white paper (Liberating the NHS), which since developed into the much maligned Health and Social Care bill.

Three months after the HCA meeting and in the same month as the white paper was released, Huntsworth Health acquired healthcare communications agency, ScopeMedical for £4.6m, thus expanding its health division. Lord Chadlington said of the takeover: "We are delighted to announce the acquisition of ScopeMedical," then added: "Healthcare is a major growth area and we are now very well positioned to take advantage of that growth with a fully integrated healthcare offering that supports the product lifecycle from discovery to patent expiry." It is not just Lord Chadlington that thinks his company is in a good position. Liberal Democrat peer Lord Alliance has shares in the company. The coalition is even closer than we realised.

Incidentally, Lord Chadlington is the Prime Minister’s constituency party chairman. They know each other well. Lord Chadlington paid £715,000 for a house next to Mr Cameron's last November; the home which Mr Cameron took out a £350,000 taxpayer-funded mortgage on. Lord Chadlington never moved in but sold David Cameron, a piece of the land at £137,000, which Cameron failed to declare.

The merry-go-round of politicians sitting in positions of power and working for corporations so that influence is increased is perhaps nothing new, but in the case of Huntsworth, they have truly had their fair share. Not only do they have Lord Chadlington as their CEO, but up until last year, they also had Lord Puttnam as a Director, and from 2001-03 Baroness Cumberlege was one of their non-executive directors.  Francis Maude was a director of Huntsworth in 2005, following a merger with Incepta Group plc: Four Peers, One MP,  One company. Not bad.

Further connections between the lobbying company and the Conservatives were revealed in an investigation by the Independent, which showed the company had given money to the party over several years. Lord Chadlington had until recently denied there had been any payments, however, Electoral Commission records exposed this as a lie. Huntsworth gave £15,500 to the party in August last year and has given money every year since 2008.  Following the exposure, Huntsworth were forced to admit they had given money stating the money was given by buying tickets for ‘Conservative events’, a classic way for lobbying to take place.  Furthermore, Lord Chadlington, and his wife have personally given £80,823.91 according to the electoral register, of which £44,700 went to the Central party - £21,623 went to David Cameron's office in Witney. A further £4,500 was given to Michael Howard's leadership campaign and £10,000 to Cameron's leadership campaign in 2010.

So, when Lord Chadlington (also known as Peter Gummer, the brother of John Gummer the former minister under John Major and fellow Lord) votes in the Lords, we know that anything he might say in the arguments for and against any amendments, will be clouded by the possibility of self-interest. Alongside this we need to consider to, the forty other Lords with financial interests and the prospect of the possible financial benefits the bill will present to their respective interests.

So there we have it. Four Lords working for one company who receive work from the NHS and through their membership of the Healthcare Communications Association act in tandem with pharmaceutical companies lobbying the government. 

There are 141 Lords with private healthcare financial interests. For more on whether they are breaking the Rules of conduct and to see what the Lords have said in reply to Social Investigations, please click here.

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