The Commissioner for Standards for the House of Lords has responded to a complaint I made about Lord Chadlington, the founder and chairman of a communications company Huntsworth plc. My complaint suggested his position in a company, which he founded, and which lobbies government in tamdem with pharmaceutical companies and which donates to the political party that is introducing a bill that could benefit his company, is in breach of the Lords rules of conduct.
More fool am I.
The context of the letter sent back to me has clearly defined how biased the rules are in favour of the unelected peers, who are allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care bill despite having a clear financial interest in its outcome.
We were told in the letter; ‘you have not supplied any evidence to suggest that any of Lord Chadlington’s votes in connection with this Bill, were designed to confer exclusive benefit on, as you suggest, Huntsworth plc.’
‘The “exclusive benefit” principle would mean, for instance, that a Member who was paid by a pharmaceutical company would be barred from seeking to confer benefit exclusively upon that company by parliamentary means.’ This could be done in various ways including:
• tabling a motion or an amendment to legislation;
• voting in a division;
• speaking in debate;
So why did Lord Chadlington not ‘exclusively benefit’ from his voting in the Health and Social Care bill?
‘The Bill may or may not, if passed in to law, affect the business activities of Huntsworth plc but not on an exclusive basis. I would suggest that they would have to compete for business against their competitors in the context of any new legislative framework.’
Oh really! So how come Huntsworth plc has given donations to the Conservative party since 2008, if it were not for a nudge, nudge, wink, wink? Donations to parties unfortunately, lie outside of the remit for the Commissioner of Standards, and are dealt with by the Electoral Commission instead. Come on! Why does any company give money to a political party if it isn’t to expect future return? Why do so many companies ask Lords to sit on their boards, become chairman and advisors if it isn’t to access the highest levels of government and acquire exclusive benefit? Who knows perhaps one day they can vote on a bill that will open up new markets for them. Unlikely I know.
So no, I can’t provide ‘evidence’ that Huntsworth plc will ‘exclusively benefit’ through their founder’s vote. There is no document I can lay my hand on that says the Prime Minister’s constituency party chairman Lord Chadlington will benefit from his own vote but I’d be very surprised if the company didn’t.
What I can be sure of is this: Any set of rules that allows a Lord to vote on a bill that will potentially benefit the company of which he is the founder and chairman, which has donated money to the party that is bringing in the bill is not fit for purpose.
What is the point of a complaints procedure that doesn’t hold such conflicts of interest to account? After all if you are a if you are a councillor at local government level, with financial interest, then they must declare 'prejudicial interest, which includes they 'may' benefit int he future. Voting in these circumstances would be forbidden.
We are being taken for fools; they are robbing us of our NHS and our unelected peers are voting for their own gold rush. To date 100 Lords have financial links to companies involved in private healthcare, and there will be more. It is a merry-go-round of self-interest, which looks increasingly like institutional corruption; it is wrong and it must be stopped.
Below is the Full letter:
Dear Mr Robertson
I am writing in response to your letter dated 5 March 2012, which was brought to my attention on 8 March.
I note your complaint against Lord Chadlington and your specific reference to Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords.
I have conducted an initial assessment of your complaint and in the absence of evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case that the code has been breached, I have decided that your complaint does not merit investigation.
Lord Chadlington, according to your complaint, voted against a proposal to consider the Health and Social Care Bill by means of a Special Select Committee. That is his right and the procedure, if it had been adopted, may or may not have had the impact outlined in your letter.
Turning to the issue of ‘exclusive benefit’, you have not supplied any evidence to suggest that any of Lord Chadlington’s votes in connection with this Bill, were designed to confer exclusive benefit on, as you suggest, Huntsworth plc. The Bill may or may not, if passed in to law, affect the business activities of Huntsworth plc but not on an exclusive basis. I would suggest that they would have to compete for business against their competitors in the context of any new legislative framework. You will note that Paragraph 25 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct makes it clear that the nature of ‘exclusive benefit’ should be interpreted narrowly.
I note that Lord Chadlington has registered his interest in Huntsworth plc.
Turning to the issues of political party funding and the potential use of such funding to seek exclusive benefit, which you raised. Such matters are very clearly outside of my remit. However, the Electoral Commission have a specific remit in respect of the funding of political parties and they are therefore better placed to assist you.
I trust that my reasoning/explanation is clear but if you have or obtain evidence, I stand ready to review my decision not to investigate your complaint at this juncture.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Paul Kernaghan CBE QPM
Commissioner for Standards