Tuesday 10 April 2012

Four key members of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Health have financial links to companies involved in private healthcare

The Associate Parliamentary Health Group (APHG) was launched in November 2001 and according to its website was set up with the intention to provide: ‘information with balance and impartiality, on local as well as national matters, and is recognised as one of the preferred sources of information on health in Parliament.’  

However research conducted by Social Investigations has thrown the self-proclaimed ‘impartiality’ into question as it has been revealed three of the key parliamentary officers involved in the group, have financial links to companies involved in private healthcare.

The Chair of the APGH is Baroness Cumberlege, who has been exposed on this blog as having placed her company into a position where it can make money out of the development of the new GP Commissioning groups. The Alliance the Baroness’s company joined, is led by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has sealed several contracts involved in the development of the new GP led groups. Her company is involved in running training programmes, but also covers the topic of ‘Politics, Power and Persuasion, in a tailored two-day programme which includes topics such as: ‘Managing the markets, the challenges of commissioning’, ‘who’s who’, and ‘brokering deals with other independent sector providers’. The last programme is delivered by the Baroness herself.

Next up is Lord Hunt of Kings Heath who acts as the groups’ treasurer and
has received payment from Baroness Cumberlege for work as a trainer and consultant, making up one of five Peers and four MPs who have worked for her company. Lord Harris of Haringey who is listed as an APHG advisor, has also been remunerated by Cumberlege Connections for ‘occasional participation in training events.’ In addition, he is a senior adviser to business services giant KPMG, who are one of the ‘approved providers’, winning contracts for the new commissioning groups.

Last but by no means least is Mark Simmonds, who acts as Co-chair to Baroness Cumberlege on the parliamentary group. The Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness is paid £50,000 a year for 10 hours a month as a strategic advisor to Circle Health, the first firm to win control of an NHS hospital. The former shadow minister for health recently had to apologise to the House of Commons, for ‘inadvertently’ failing to declare his interest when talking in favour of the NHS reforms. Circle have connections to our ‘’person of the year’’ Andrew Lansley having recruited a former aide to the health secretary as head of communications. Christina Lineen spent two years working for Lansley prior to moving to Circle.

In addition to the parliamentarian’s interests in such an important and supposedly independent organisation, the APGH has a list of external Associate members from the private healthcare world.

The amount of members is capped at 26 and they pay an annual subscription fee to be part of the health group on a first come, first serve basis. This according to the manger of the parliamentary group Ella Jackson, being the fairest and 'most transparent' way to operate the group's membership system.' That however, is where the transparency ends. I asked Ela Jackson whether the group keeps minutes? 

Here's what she said: 'The APHG holds records of all its meetings in strict accordance with the Rules on All-Party Groups. In fact, the APHG goes further than that. Official rules dictate that each All-Party Group must keep sufficient records to enable it to prove that the group meets at least twice a year, whereas the APHG ensures that it audio-records every meeting it holds.

However, because meetings are held under Chatham House Rules the group does not produce written minutes.'

The Chatham House rule was created back in 1927 and has since been refined in 1992 and 2002, and exists according to the Chatham House website; ‘to allow people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organisations, and therefore it encourages free discussion.’ It continues: ‘People usually feel more relaxed if they don't have to worry about their reputation or the implications if they are publicly quoted.’

This lack of transparency applies to the list of attendees too, where it is forbidden to mention who attended.

Ms Jackson explained: 'It’s vital that parliamentarians and other speakers are able to speak freely in an open and frank exchange, without fear of having their thoughts reported out of context.'

In amongst the list of companies involved in the group are: Alliance boots, BT, Astrazeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer; who are all heavily linked to the Lords, and in some cases MPs.

Astrazeneca has 9 Lords with financial links to its company. GlaxoSmithKline has 17 Lords with shares in its company and Alliance Boots has a former chairman in Lord Blyth, and former MP Patricia Hewitt took a consultancy job with them 7 months after standing down as an MP. 

So here we are again, another government policy group, which is immersed in connections to private healthcare, and whose discussions are held in private. The Lords and MPs largely appear to be representing corporations more so than the public. It is time for change.

Sign the petition below to try and stop the Lords from being allowed to vote with conflicts of interest  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31991 - if you can please sign it and pass it on.


  1. Shamefully , but not surprising Dame Tanni Grey Thompson has a paid contract with GLAXOSMITHKLINEand of course is an avid supporter of the ATOS sponsored Paralympics.

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