Buying and Selling Members of Parliament - Truth about Westminster: Chapter 2 - Page 3

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Maureen Tomison went on to explain that Dame Angela Rumbold was on her books in order to provide valuable advice and expertise.
Diana Warwick later turned the questions to the fairness of lobbying. 'One of the arguments [against lobbying] is that lobbying provides privileged access for those who can afford to pay and therefore disadvantages those who cannot. What are your views on this?'
'I do not think there is any doubt that in an ideal world everybody should have their own lobbyist.'
Lord Nolan asked whether having an MP on her board was a 'very good selling point for the organisation'.
'Well it would certainly be much more useful than if I were to say I have got a plumber or an electrician on my board.' She also added, regarding her own personal contacts as Chairman of Decision Makers: 'It is obviously important to know a Minister or Member of Parliament. What the Minister, or the MP at the end of the day is concerned about is, here is this woman, I knew her at university, can I really be bothered seeing her, is she going to waste my time?'


Lord Thompson asked about the allegations in the Evening Standard: '. . . Allegedly on the basis of this leaked document, that there was a dinner with the Prime Minister, there was a reception at number 11 Downing Street as part of the campaign that Miss Tomison organised. What I want to know is, is that true or not, or is that a false statement by the Evening Standard?
'There are opportunities and there were opportunities to attend a dinner with some 400 other people at which the Prime Minister was present. My client took that opportunity but I am not sure that that client took any opportunity to discuss his particular case with the Prime Minister. . .
'And the reception at number 11 Downing Street?'
'There was a reception at Downing Street which we were not able to offer the client access to. The client, I believe, paid for that in the way that they would have paid for it and in the same way as we paid for the meeting in Brussels.'
Lord Thompson remarked: 'I do, I must say, draw a distinction between the public home of a Minister (as a venue for sponsored reception) and a meeting in Brussels or a hotel in London organised by any political party.' It was pointed out that Hansard contained a statement that no such reception had taken place on the night in question.

Dame Angela Rumbold told Lord Nolan's committee later that morning that she had first earned £8,000 a year from Decision Makers and that this had risen to £12,000 a year. She was asked by Professor Anthony King if she still held the view that 'it is all right for a Member of Parliament to be paid to work for a general lobbying firm'.
'Of course I do,' Dame Angela replied.
'You do?'
'Yes, absolutely.'
'There is no problem about that at all?'
'Absolutely no problem at all, provided there is a code of conduct, provided it is clearly demonstrated to everyone who wishes to know exactly what that role entails.'
Professor King asked her about the alleged meetings she had attended as part of her role with Blue Circle or with other clients.
'You spoke of lunches and various meetings outside the House of Commons, and so on. I mean, who on these occasions would you have been seeing?'
'Well, I might have been talking to people who were clients of Maureen. i might have been talking to Maureen herself in the evening, when it was possible for both of us to meet, so we did have a number of meetings like that, both in...'
'Specifically not Ministers and fellow MPs?' asked Professor King.
'No. I think only on a couple of occasions did I have an evening meal with someone who happened to be a Minister at the time present.' Dame Angela pointed out that in any event as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party she had no access to ministerial papers or to the decision-making process in government and her party role had 'no bearing whatsoever on my role as Member of Parliament'. She had been 'seven years a Minister' but was not in office while lobbying.

Professor Anthony King made it clear that she was 'in no sense on trial. You followed the rules.... What we want to do, however, is see whether your experience, precisely because you've played by the rules, throws some light on what those rules should be.'

He asked later: 'Is there not a problem about public perception, and although everything you say [about the adequacy of current rules] may well be true, is there not a problem that people may find it odd that somebody should be paid to be a Member of Parliament, should be a senior figure in a political party, yet, at the same time, working for an organisation whose express and stated function is to lobby the institution of which he or she is a member?'

Dame Angela replied that the 'mystery that surrounds this particular area' Was something she hoped the Committee would sort out.

Lord Nolan took her back to her resignation from Decision Makers. 'You resigned because you had been put in an impossible position, you felt, and had become, in effect, an embarrassment to the company, quite unjustly because you were behaving perfectly, but because there was an apparent conflict of interest in the eyes of the public. Is that right?'
'I felt . . . that it was extremely important from the company's point of view not to have further embarrassment
Dame Angela's evidence was then followed by that of Stewart Steven from the Evening Standard, whose article had precipitated her resignation. He gave a copy of the leaked document to the Committee and began reading from it.
'On page three: "Ministerial Meetings, No 10 Downing Street" is the portentous heading. "The Prime Minister had already been brief (sic) on the proposed East Thames Corridor Project in an informal and private presentation by the campaign team." Then it says: "The Prime Minister showed a keen interest in the project and would like more information." I found that incredible.
'As a matter of fact I have to say that the following day we approached No 10 Downing Street for an on-the-record statement, which they were not prepared to give us before publication. It wasn't clear if the meeting had happened, but the Prime Minister was aware of the lobbying: he was aware of. the issue. Quite what had gone on between the Prime Minister and the lobbying firm I think is a bit murky. All I can say is that here it specifically states that he had been briefed by this lobbying team at No 10 Downing Street and that he had shown a keen interest.
'The document is remarkable. It is remarkable because it seems to suggest - of course we are dealing here with a PR company so one has to remember there are obviously elements of hype which could be involved as well - that indeed they are deep into the government of this country so that when they say in this document, as they do on page three, "The following lists details of the key meetings and briefings of, senior Ministers and officials" there is indeed a long list. Later it goes on to say that Dame Angela as Deputy Chairman of the Party has been able to keep the Party fully appraised of Blue Circle's plans of the East Thames Corridor. She told you today that, of course, she did not involve herself with the constituency. It also says here: "Dame Angela has recently visited the project site and met local authority leaders." It then goes on to say that, timetable, there was a dinner with the Parliamentary Labour Party: "28 May. A dinner with the Prime Minister." It does not mention here that 400 other people were allowed to be present too. '18 June. Evening for the Ministers at Hampton Court. 28 June. Reception at No 11 Downing Street." If there is any hype at all I do wish to emphasise that that hype is not Evening Standard hype, it is the hype by Decision Makers.' 48

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