Tuesday 6 May 2014

The Case of Baroness Barker - Two bills -Two Opportunities

Please supply your evidence that the individuals named below have furthered their own interests. Please supply as much detail as you have. Thank you, Liz Barker”

The Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Barker wrote these words after she and all her fellow peers had received a list of parliamentarians and their financial links to companies and individuals involved in healthcare.

The list of over 200 parliamentarians had proved annoying to the Baroness, especially because at the time, they were all debating, amending and voting on the bill to help it become an Act.

One month after the legislation gained Royal Ascent, the Baroness
incorporated a consultancy company, which she co-owns and that works with the third sector to assist in their quest for NHS contracts.

The company, Barker & Woodward Consultancy Limited offers advice to third sector organisations through a two-day course called the “the right prescription”. This service offers information on how ‘third sector organisations can constructively work for the NHS’ and
advice about ‘competitors and development of strategic partnerships.’

The “right prescription” can
cost up to £400, which fits into Ms Barker’s personal request that we supply ‘as much detail’ that we have that ‘individuals’ have ‘furthered their own interests’.

Baroness Barker was the
Spokesperson on Health for the Liberal Democrats up until 2010 and has since remained a member of their Health and Social Care Team. She herself debated, made multiple key amendments and voted on the Health and Social Care bill, helping it become an Act.

One of the amendments drafted by Ms Barker during the Health bill progress, was in the area of conflicts of interests. It
read "CCGs must make arrangements for managing conflicts and potential conflicts of interest in such a way as to ensure that they do not, and do not appear to, affect the integrity of the group's decision-making processes". She concluded “It is extremely important that these groups not only set out to uphold the highest standards but that they are seen to uphold them.”

The ability to see into the future is a skill all good entrepreneurs’ must have, but perhaps when you are producing the legislation, it is easier to know what lies ahead. One month after today’s Care bill hearing, Ms Barker’s company is offering a briefing on its content in exchange for money to the third sector.

The third sector is playing a key role in the dismantling of the NHS, acting as a Trojan horse to allow private healthcare companies to come in and take over the running of services. They lobbied alongside private health for Jeremy Hunt to not water down privatisation regulations, they lied when they said they were neutral over the outcome of the Health bill, and their Chief Executive acted as a handy inside man at a critical moment in the health bill’s progress. The reward for the third sector has been 70% of all NHS contracts awarded since the implementation of the Health Act, have gone to private firms.

The Code of conduct that all Members sign up to states that ‘Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.’

The loop-hole that allows Members of both Houses to vote on legislation when they have a financial interest is ridiculous. Now Ms Barker is about to vote on the Care bill, helping it to become an Act and then one month later gain revenue from imparting that information.

Local councillors must abide by a stricter regime, which is imposed on them by parliament. If they have a financial or non-financial interest, then they must neither ‘participate in any discussion of the matter at the meeting’ nor ‘participate in any vote, or further vote.’

Currently the government has no intention to reform the rules that govern their own working life. In response to a petition placed on the No10 website that demanded ‘No member of Parliament may speak or vote in a debate on legislation which could financially benefit any commercial operation in which they have a financial interest’, they replied that it would “not be practical” to introduce any curbs to such behaviour because a “significant number of legislative provisions in any year may have beneficial financial implications for all or most commercial operations.”


See the latest list of parliamentary recent or present financial interests to healthcare here.

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