Wednesday 12 September 2012

Reform - a voice for corporations - Aviva

As the TUC held their conference, Reform produced a ‘briefing’, which made a series of suggestions on how to weaken the public sector and their workforce conditions. In response to this, the GMB union wrote an article that claimed Reform as being a ‘fake charity’, calling on the Charity Commission to recheck their criteria that allows organisations like the think thank Reform to exist as a charity.

One week ago, I produced an article on Reform here, which revealed their connections to our Lords and MPs as well as the series of meetings they have held with Monitor using Chatham House rules.

The time has come to explore what is charitable about a think tank like Reform, and let the Charity Commission know the findings.

Giving a voice to Aviva

If you want to be a corporate partner of Reform, then you are encouraged to donate a minimum donation of £7,500, ‘or more if they choose’.

Corporations are recommended to partner Reform because they can involve themselves in research work, but the reason for this partnership is because according to Reform, corporations don’t have a voice. On their website, they state that the reason they are ‘keen to involve corporate organisations’, is because ‘their expertise is left out of the Whitehall policy discussion.’ Yet, if we are to consider the corporate partners that Reform have in their stable, it is hard to imagine such companies not having a say.

Take Aviva; they are one of the world’s largest insurance groups with over 53 million customers worldwide and 45,000 employees. In 2011, Aviva’s UK profits, climbed 8% to £1.45bn; the poor little darlings must be desperate for Reform’s help in giving them a voice.

In January 2011, Andrew Moss, the Aviva group’s chief executive, addressed MPs, Lords and other invited guests at a parliamentary reception. He informed them how Aviva ‘could work with politicians and policy makers in helping address serious issues on pensions, savings and protection.’  In fact they get to provide their insight to the government all the time, as well they might as they have a lot of expertise. In March 2011, they met with former environment minister, Caroline Spelman, to discuss the green economy. In July, they met Vincent Cable to discuss executive pay. In August 2011, they were invited to provide written evidence at a Works and Pensions Committee. In October 2011, they were asked to give evidence to the Treasury committee on whether the objectives of the Financial Conduct Authority are ‘clear and appropriate. In February 2012, they provided evidence to the Mortgage Market Review.
Parliamentary connection
This is not a company whose expertise is left out of government discussion; in fact they are helping to formulate policy and have direct access to parliament. Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Sharman was until recently, the chairman of Aviva, and he was allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care bill as it passed through the Lords despite this conflict of interest. This he did on several occasions, loyally with the government.

However, just in case Aviva did need a voice between parliamentary receptions, Lord Sharman votes and evidence submissions, then the think tank Reform is always on hand. In 2009, Reform director, Andrew Haldenby, stated how the Tories needed a ‘clear vision and a stronger message on health’, in which ‘vertically integrated insurers’ took over the process of our health system.
Writing in the Telegraph prior to the election in January 2010, Mr Seddon made clear his desire suggesting the NHS become an insurance system, a statement which would greatly please Aviva. First, because money talks and preference walks’ Seddon informed us, an insurance based ‘service would become properly accountable to patients’.

There are countless other examples on the Reform website of insurance scheme promoting articles. Reform is not here to give a voice to the voiceless, but is acting rather to leverage money from the public sector into the hands of the corporations, some of which just happen to be partners of the Reform ‘charity’.

Download the Aviva PDF here.

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