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David Guyatt
03-22-2010, 01:22 PM
Cameron is right to cal for an inquiry - providing the police can do it without fear or favour. And providing that his own Treasurer, Lord Ashcroft's involvement with drug money laundering through his Belize bank is similarly investigated.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7497129/Stephen-Byers-refers-himself-to-watchdog-over-lobbying-claims.html






David Cameron calls for investigation into cash for influence scandal
David Cameron has called for a full investigation into claims that Government ministers may have influenced policy on behalf of companies.

Published: 12:36PM GMT 22 Mar 2010
Former Cabinet ministers Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon were among a group of MPs secretly filmed by journalists posing as lobbists.
Mr Byers, a former transport secretary, this morning referred himself to Parliament's sleaze watchdog John Lyon to investigate his conduct.

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Mr Byers said: ''I am confident that (Mr Lyon) will confirm that I have complied with the MPs' code of conduct and have fully disclosed my outside interests.''
But Mr Cameron, the Conservative leader, called for a wider inquiry: “What we need is not just a parliamentary investigation into Stephen Byers, welcome though that is, what we need is a Government investigation into what these ex-ministers have done.
"Let’s be clear about what’s at stake here, these ministers, Hewitt and Byers were claiming that they changed government policy, they got people appointed, they cost the taxpayer money, they’re making these claims and that goes to the heart of the issue of the integrity of the government.
"Now, we’ve written to Gus O’Donnell, the Permanent Secretary at Number Ten, to get him to investigate, looking at all the departments mentioned, to see what happened. It’s a question o government integrity, it cannot be left as it is.”
The revelations forced Labour to rush forward a promise to enforce a compulsory register of lobbying which it said had been planned for the election manifesto.
All of the MPs filmed denied any wrongdoing and insisted they had breached no rules.
But serving ministers said the behaviour of their colleagues had been "appalling" and "ridiculous", and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg called it "very, very sleazy".
Mr Byers was among retiring MPs interviewed by an undercover reporter posing as the representative of a fictitious US lobbying firm.
He told the undercover reporter he had secured secret deals with ministers, could get confidential information from Number 10 and was able to help firms involved in price-fixing get around the law.
The Sunday Times, which carried out the interviews with Channel 4's Dispatches programme, said Mr Byers, who held several key Cabinet portfolios such as trade and transport, wanted £5,000 a day.
The North Tyneside MP retracted his claims the following day – insisting he had "never lobbied ministers on behalf of commercial interests" and had exaggerated his influence.
But there were immediate demands by opposition parties and a trade union for an inquiry into a series of policy changes that Mr Byers, who called himself "a cab for hire", said he secured.
Among Mr Byers' boasts was that he had come to a secret deal with current Transport Secretary Lord Adonis over the termination of a rail franchise contract and that Business Secretary Lord Mandelson had got regulations on food labelling amended after he intervened on behalf of a supermarket giant.
All parties firmly denied the claims but the Tories and Liberal Democrats will today table a series of Parliamentary questions seeking clarification from ministers about the claims and whether there had been any breach of the Ministerial Code.
Ms Hewitt, who served as health secretary, said she "completely rejected" the suggestion that she helped obtain a key seat on a Government advisory group for a client paying her £3,000 a day.
The work under discussion would have been taken up after she stepped down at the imminent general election and was no longer subject to the MPs' code of conduct, she pointed out.
Mr Hoon was reported to have wanted a £3,000-a-day fee for work which would allow him to turn his political knowledge and contacts "into something that frankly makes money".
"At no stage did I offer, nor would I attempt to, sell confidential or privileged information arising from my time in government," he said.
Of 20 politicians contacted by the programme-makers, 15 agreed to meet and 10 were invited in for interviews – nine of those being secretly filmed, of which six feature in the documentary.
An influential Commons committee called more than a year ago for a compulsory detailed register of all lobbying activity overseen by a powerful watchdog.
In response, the industry said it would merge a number of trade bodies to oversee activities and the Government said it would give the voluntary arrangement a chance to prove itself.

David Guyatt
03-26-2010, 11:44 AM
At last an apology.

Defendant: I unreservedly apologize m'lud.

Judge: No prison for you then Mr Hoon. Take this feather and beat yourself severely until it tickles. And don't get caught again!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/26/geoff-hoon-wrong-lobbying-scandal-dispatches?CMP=AFCYAH


I was wrong, says Geoff Hoon over lobbying scandal

Former minister caught in Channel 4 Dispatches sting apologises unreservedly for damage he has caused

Hélène Mulholland, political reporter
guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 March 2010 09.24 GMT

Geoff Hoon today admitted he had been wrong to meet what he believed to be a lobbying firm and apologised "unreservedly" for the damage he has caused.

Hoon was suspended by Labour on Monday after being filmed by the Channel 4 Dispatches programme seeking £3,000-a-day work with a lobbying firm when he stands down from parliament after the general election.

He was filmed along with two other former ministers, Stephen Byers and Patricia Hewitt.

The former defence secretary was also sacked by Gordon Brown from a Nato post following the broadcast on Monday, which showed his meeting with undercover reporters posing as representatives of a US firm.

Hoon told Radio 4's Today programme that he apologised "unreservedly" for any disappointment felt by those who elected him, but insisted he had not tried to sell his influence on the back of his former ministerial career.

In his first public comments since the programme was screened, Hoon said he "should have known better".

"I certainly got it wrong," he said. "I have paid a considerable price since then for the mistake I made in agreeing to what I thought was a private conversation.

"I obviously didn't know that private conversation was being filmed and recorded for broadcast, and I shouldn't have said some of the things that I did say.

"I recognise that I was guilty of ... 'showing off'. I think is the best expression that I could use. I was trying to impress, I was trying to demonstrate my knowledge and experience, background in a particular sector."

He said he had not had any intention of lobbying the government or attempting to sell confidential or privileged information arising from his time in the cabinet.

"I accept that some of the things, in the cold light of day when they appear in print and are broadcast nationally on television, don't look good, and I'm not pretending that they do," he said.

"All I'm saying is that I went into this with a very clear view of what I want. I don't want to be a lobbyist. I want to provide strategic advice to companies.

"I said both of those things in the course of the interview, and I made clear this is a matter only for after I had become a private citizen and I was no longer a member of parliament."

He went on to say he was doing what anyone did when they were preparing to leave one career and seeking alternative employment, adding that some had expressed sympathy over the way he had been "set up" by the programme.

"I knew by then I would no longer be a member of parliament now in a matter of weeks," he said. "I knew at that stage I would need to find some employment.

"You mention my pension, but my pension is not payable in many years in my case, and therefore I think anyone about to leave one job, not surprisingly, would use their knowledge, their experience, their skills drawn from their previous positions to try and earn a living in the future.

"That's what happens in all interviews. And I don't think I was in any different situation from anyone else leaving a job and looking to go to another."

Hoon – who attempted to organise a coup against Gordon Brown alongside Hewitt earlier this year – said it would be "petty" if his suspension from the party had been payback for his attempts to raise the leadership question.

But he appeared offended that, after 35 years in the Labour party, he had learned of his suspension by watching the television news.

"I assume that, in the rush to tell people about the suspension, they failed to contact me," he said.

Keith Millea
03-28-2010, 12:29 AM
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/27-6

Published on Saturday, March 27, 2010 by The Independent/UK (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/howard-jacobson/howard-jacobson-one-by-one-the-socalled-pillars-of-our-civilisation-tumble-shamefully-1928767.html) One by One, the So-Called Pillars of our Civilisation Tumble Shamefully

by Howard Jacobson

So let's just see where we are again. We as homo sapiens I mean, we as a supposed improvement on those blind progenitors of ours who swam in the primeval soup without a thought but survival in their rudimentary brains. This could, I acknowledge, be a futile exercise.

Somewhere in a cave on the Afghan-Pakistani border a branch of the family is sitting in the dust and rolling the dice of death, imagining a world cleansed of everybody but itself, and if things work out the way it wants them we'll be back in the primeval soup anyway. But I don't know - call me a dreamer - I just think we should go on giving ourselves termly reports on our progress on the off chance a few of us survive. It would be nice for our children to read. Learn about what mummy and daddy did between the Second World War and Whatever Happened Next.

We can leave China to the Chinese - they will Google or they won't. And we can leave America to the Americans - hooray for healthcare, but the atmosphere of venomous fatuity in which Obama's bill has limped towards the finishing line proves you can have all the access to enlightenment that Google brings, but if you choose ignorance, ignorant you stay. As for Africa - we don't talk about it. And the Middle East - we none of us have the time.

Which leaves, since I never promised inclusiveness, Continental Europe, where the French First Lady might or might not be wearing a bra today, as might or might not whoever the Italian Prime Minister is taking out to dinner - and us. I propose we stick with us. Not because we are uniquely disgusting, but because you can't go cleaning up other people's houses when you're living in a pigsty.

Compared to the expenses scandal, the latest "cab for hire" manifestation of small greed in high places has not occasioned as much outrage as one might have anticipated. Some commentators have wondered whether, since Byers, Moran, Hewitt and Hoon are spent forces anyway, their offers of under-the-counter services amount to anything other than low-level prostitution, the equivalent of telephone sex - more brag than shag. Or it could just be that we expect nothing of any of them now; that after claiming for hubby's porn and floating duck islands they have nothing left with which to shock us. If so, we've underestimated them. This time they've dug below the bottom of the barrel we'd thought they'd scraped.
Fiddling your expenses is a venial offence - expenses have a fiddle-clause built into them: you have to claim for the cup of tea you didn't buy to make up for all those you did buy but forgot to mention - but playing Pandarus to your own professional disinterestedness is a root and branch betrayal of trust and a deep shame, for which the stocks or the ducking stool would be too mild a punishment.

That a serving politician should have no interests which might conflict with what he owes those who voted for him ought to go without saying. Never mind declare those interests: don't have them. If you can't survive without a clutch of directorships, stay out of politics. And stay out of politics, too, if the clutch of directorships waiting for you when you've finished is all that's attracting you to Westminster in the first place.
There are other things a man might do with his retirement. Read Dickens. Listen to Mozart. Dig his bloody garden - who knows, he might find a few copper coins he can grub for in the dirt. Indigence is no excuse. Indigence is relative. Where the cost of making money is dishonour, it is not a foregone moral conclusion that you must choose the money.

But money always was a temptation too slithery to say no to for New Labour. What else did the "New" stand for? No more old-fashioned distaste for wealth. The rich would be our friends and we'd grow rich ourselves on the contiguity. I never bought the "Bliar, Bliar, pants on fire" rhetoric; a man can err and tell the truth; a man can build his house on gold and tell the truth. But without doubt Blair was a sucker for the blandishments of fame and fortune, and his legacy in these dying days of old New Labour lingers like a poison.

Money is not only the goal, money is the measure. We have nothing else to gauge value by. How do you know you amount to anything? How do you know society prizes you? Money. The banker's creed and now the politician's: money is worth, worth is money, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.

Oh, and of course money's bastard little offspring, fame-lite. This, too, contributed to the deep shame of Byers and the rest - the apeing not only of influence but celebrity pizzazz, the vitalistic charm of it, the nothing too serious about it, the easy self-promotion as though auditioning for Jonathan Ross. What was it that that malingerer Margaret Moran, the sitting, if of late largely absent, MP for Luton South, promised her fake lobbyist? - that if offered the sort of thing that interested her she'd "go whoomph!", her arms windmilling wildly, her girly laugh infecting even herself, much like a presenter of something no one ever watches on daytime telly.

Once upon a time the shamed might have taken themselves into a retreat, knelt an hour by the cross, whispered their contrition to a priest. But God's servants are scarcely faring better than Mammon's. The Catholic Church has been saying sorry to its victims, but it's hard to avoid the impression that what it's actually apologising for is covering up its sins, not the ambience of cruelty and contempt in which its sinfulness was at every level winked and connived at - as though its lies as to the Catholic Church's occupational paedophilia are of more consequence than the occupational paedophilia itself.

This is how the apology should have gone: "Sorry, everybody, for having turned a faith of no small philosophic subtlety into a club for sodomy. We will think again. About the way we dress, about our incensed obduracy, about the exclusive masculinism of our cult, but above all about the celibacy fetish which turns out, as it was bound to turn out, to be a fetish for the opposite. Those who deny the flesh are the first to be its servants. St Paul got it badly wrong. Marrying isn't just better than burning, it's better than buggery."

So who does that leave who's not buggering us up? Slip me a fiver for my trouble and I'll tell you.

© 2010 Independent News and Media.