Dozens of MPs who left the Commons at the last election have taken jobs in organisations involved in lobbying and have been given passes that give them privileged access to Parliament, an investigation for The Independenthas established. Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that one in five of the 79 MPs who have applied for Former Members’ Passes after the 2010 election now work for companies or organisations with a possible interest in influencing present MPs.
Several have worked for lobbying firms. There are 326 former MPs who hold Former Members’ Passes, allowing them access to informally meet MPs, bring guests into the House of Commons and book restaurants with family in the Palace of Westminster.
The Parliamentary authorities keep no record of who they allow into Westminster or bookings made in their name, although the use of the passes for lobbying is explicitly forbidden.
Unlike serving MPs, journalists, and Parliamentary support staff who also have access to Parliament there is no need for the former MPs to declare their business interests. The system was set up by the former Speaker Michael Martin in 2004 to allowing former MPs to keep up with friends in Parliament.
There is no suggestion that any of those former MPs who hold ex-member passes have misused them in any way, but there is a lack of transparency about the outside interests of those who hold them. Last night, Labour called for a register of interests to be established for ex-MPs with passes, in response to the findings. Among those with ex-member passes who left at the last election are former ministers including Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt. Mr Milburn, who set up AM Strategy before he left Westminster to handle his “media and consultancy work”, has also worked for PepsiCo, Bridgepoint, and Lloyd Pharmacy, according to the Register of Members Interests when he was still an MP. But, since he left at the last election there is no record of his private business work despite him still having access to parts of Parliament. Mr Milburn said he was now a “private citizen” and did not want to comment.
The former health secretary Patricia Hewitt is now chair of the UK India Business Council and on the board of Eurotunnel. Before she left the Commons she was recorded describing to undercover reporters the ways in which ministers could be lobbied. She said: “I use my parliamentary pass very rarely. I do not use it for private business purposes.”
Another former minister, Richard Caborn, now promotes the interests of high-value UK manufacturingto ministers, Whitehall and Parliamentarians. He said there was nothing wrong with having an ex-MP’s pass. “I am very proud of what I do and would have no problem with lobbying on behalf of our hi-tech manufacturing industry,” he said. “But I would back moves for a register as it would make things more transparent.”
Another MP who left Parliament in 2010, and has access to the Commons is Labour’s Andrew Dismore, the co-ordinator of the Access to Justice Action Group, which is fighting against cuts to legal aid and is partly funded by the legal industry. On the business connections website LinkedIn, Mr Dismore promotes himself as “an expert on parliamentary procedure especially promoting and blocking Private Members’ Bills”. He adds that he has a “detailed understanding of how to influence government and parliamentarians”. Mr Dismore said he had not done anything wrong, was open about his involvement with Ajag and would also welcome a register. “I believe the more transparency the better. When I applied for the pass I asked if there was a register and was told there wasn’t one which surprised me.”
Another passholder is Nigel Waterson, the former Conservative MP for Eastbourne, who was listed as a consultant for the lobbying firm Butler Kelly on the August lobbying register. He said: “I am careful to follow the House rules about not using my pass when visiting the House in a lobbying capacity.”
Among other members who left the House of Commons in 2010 who are listed as having ex-member’s passes are Jane Kennedy who was listed on the August APPC register as a consultant. Ms Kennedy said it had been in connection for some work she had done on high-speed rail. She said she had never used her pass for business purposes. “I use it mostly for seeing friends apart from during the No2Av campaign and I make no apology for that.”
Privileged access: Ex-MPs with Commons passes
Richard Caborn (Lab 1983-2010)
A former Trade minister, he now works on behalf of high-value UK manufacturing and, in particular, the advanced manufacturing centre at Sheffield University. He said there was nothing wrong with having an ex-MP’s pass but backed moves to makes the system more transparent.
Andrew Dismore (Lab 1997-2010)
Mr Dismore is co-ordinator at Access to Justice Action Group, a campaign group supported by the legal industry, which has campaigned against elements of the proposed Legal Aid Bill.
Parmjit Dhanda (Lab 2001-2010)
Was listed as a consultant who had a parliamentary pass for Butler Kelly on the June-August 2011 register. Dhanda still appears on the most recent register but is no longer listed as having a pass. He was unavailable to comment.
Nigel Waterson (Con 1992-2010)
He was listed as a consultant who had a parliamentary pass for lobbyists Butler Kelly on the June-August 2011 register. Butler Kelly’s clients include Thames Water and BASF Chemicals, though there is no suggestion Mr Waterson worked on these accounts. Mr Waterson said: “I am careful to follow the House rules about not using my pass when visiting the House in a lobbying capacity.”
Alan Milburn (Lab 1992-2010)
He served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Health Secretary and Cabinet Office minister under Tony Blair. Set up AM Strategy before he left Westminster to handle his “media and consultancy” work. He has also worked with PepsiCo, Bridgepoint, and Lloyds Pharmacy, according to the Register of Members Interests, when he was still an MP. However, since he left the House of Commons at the last election there is no record of his private business work. Last night Mr Milburn said he was now a “private citizen” and did not want to comment on the issue.
Philip Woolas (Lab 1997-2010)
Mr Woolas founded Wellington Street Partners Limited with Sir Sydney Chapman and Paul Keetch. Wellington Street is a political and business consultancy providing advice to clients on the working of Westminster and government. However, the company is clear on its website that it does not actively lobby for clients.
Andy Reed (Lab 1997-2010)
Mr Reed is director of SajeImpact. SajeImpact Ltd offers advice to a variety of sports bodies, NGBs, social enterprises and faith charities in making sure their strategies and communications are effective with the key stakeholders in their sector. He said: “I don’t think I can add anything of use to your article as my new work lies in the sports world and faith charities across the world.”
Brian Iddon (Lab 1997-2010)
The former MP for Bolton South East, Mr Iddon is now director of Care Not Killing Alliance, a campaign group that advocates for palliative care and against euthanasia. The group’s website states that it “seeks to build up and mobilise mass political support to be deployed with maximum impact on the parliamentary process as and when necessary.” Mr Iddon was unavailable to comment.
Patricia Hewitt (Lab 1997-2010)
The former Health Secretary is now chair of the UK India Business Council and is also on the board of Eurotunnel. Last night Ms Hewitt said: “I use my Parliamentary pass very rarely; I do not use it for private business purposes.”
Tom Levitt (Lab 1997-2010)
Mr Levitt set up Sector 4 Focus in 2010. The organisation is a consultancy which promotes partnerships between businesses and charities for mutual benefit. The organisation works on a number of areas and its website mentions that it also “facilitates engagement with government, local government and business through training and workshops”. Mr Levitt said: “I have a small number of clients, mostly charities seeking better working relations with businesses. I have at no point used my Former Members’ Parliamentary pass to gain access to ministers.”
Jane Kennedy (Lab 1992-2010)
Ms Kennedy was listed on the Association of Professional Political Consultants register (June-August 2011) as a consultant for Westbourne Communications. Westbourne confirmed that Ms Kennedy provided a small amount of consultancy work for their High Speed Rail Network project. Ms Kennedy said: “I use it mostly for seeing friends apart from during the No2Av campaign and I make no apology for that. But I have never used it for business purposes.”
Claire Ward (Lab 1997-2010)
Ward was Labour MP for Watford from 1997 to 2010 and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice from 2009-10. She now works as chief executive at the Independent Pharmacy Federation, which, according to its website as “the only body to politically represent independent pharmacies exclusively, it is often invited to comment to governmental and non-governmental organisations on issues affecting independent pharmacy.”
Gillian Merron (Lab 1997-2010)
Ms Merron works as a consultant for the public affairs team of Cool Milk, one of the UK’s leading school milk suppliers.
Written by Maeve McClenaghan and Oliver Wright