House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE
MS LUCY NEVILLE-ROLFE, MR CHRIS BRINSMEAD and MR TOM KELLY
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Public Administration Committee
Dr Tony Wright, in the Chair
Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger
Mr Gordon Prentice
Mr Charles Walker
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Executive Director, Corporate and Legal Affairs, Tesco
plc, Mr Chris Brinsmead, President,
Q637 Chairman: Could I welcome our witnesses this morning. We are delighted to have Chris Brinsmead,
President of AstraZeneca
Mr Brinsmead: In addition to being President of AstraZeneca I also represent our trade association which is the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. There are three things which are really important. We, as an industry, provide tremendous value to patients and to the NHS and to UK plc. For a wealthy country it is sad that patients do not always have access to the medicines they should have. The bedrock of what we do is about trust and how we work with our partners. The industry employs about 70,000 people and invests nearly £4 billion in R&D. We have a lot of relationships with government in lots of different areas, for example government will come and talk to us about education, science, trade or the Medicines Bill and we would have a dialogue with them. Whether you call that lobbying or straight forward dialogue that would be the way we work.
Q638 Chairman: I do not want you to be coy with us; I want you to tell us like it
is. Do not come and lobby us. You are engaged in trying to influence
policy. We have some notes here where
you talk about your role as president of ABPI. I have notes here of a briefing to the
Pharmaceutical Marketing Society in 2000 where ABPI described what it called
its battle plan. It talks about, we are going "to deploy ground troops
in the form of patient support groups, sympathetic medical opinion and health
care professionals ... which will lead the debate on the informed patient
issue. This will have the effect of
weakening political, ideological and professional defences ... Then the ABPI will follow through with high-level
precision strikes on specific regulatory enclaves in both
Mr Brinsmead: The first thing you have to remember is the industry, the NHS and the Government are all working to the same end, which is to improve patient health care and that is really what we are about. It is not that surprising that we would work with the Department of Health who have the same end in mind. Patient groups as well would be seeking to improve patient welfare. It is perfectly true that the industry, either through the Association or through companies, will work with various different people, whether it is civil servants or ministers, to talk about some of the issues of the day. I started by saying that today the UK has the lowest uptake of modern medicines out of any European country and that cannot be right for people in the UK not to have access to modern medicines.
Q639 Chairman: The big issues that you are lobbying on all the time, do you do that primarily directly through your company, through the ABPI or by taking on outside lobbyists?
Mr Brinsmead: The answer to that is probably all three. AstraZeneca, for example, have been approached by DIUS, by Science and Education, by Trade and Investment, to work with them on issues relevant to the Government. Also we will work through the Association if there are issues which are common right across the industry. We will do both of those things.
Q640 Chairman: Lucy, you were director of the Deregulation Unit in the Cabinet Office.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I was but I moved into business 11 years ago and have had a career with Tesco.
Q641 Chairman: I can see that you would be attractive to Tesco who do not like regulation.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I am not
quite sure I would put it like that. We
get affected by a lot of regulations and, therefore, we know how regulations
impact employees and consumers. We
have 300,000 employees in the
Q642 Chairman: Tesco does its own direct lobbying and does not employ outside lobbying firms?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: On government
affairs we have a team of five people led by a director who came from within
the business. She started work doing
customer panels and worked up to become director of government affairs. They would talk to MPs like yourselves and
Q643 Chairman: Lobbying is not a dirty word. It is to do with exercising influence but we are interested to know how central it is in the activities of your organisations and how you do it and then to go on to ask whether there are ways in which we can make some of this more transparent.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: Obviously engaging with government is important, particularly if, like ourselves, you sell a lot of things right across the board. We are in digital, general merchandise, garden furniture and things but also a lot of food. We, therefore, have a lot of knowledge about how the regulatory system is working and so it makes sense for us to talk to government at every level.
Q644 Chairman: But you want to influence policy. You want outcomes that are favourable to your companies.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: Actually, in a sense, we have a win/win with government, the economy and the parties in that if the economy does well and productivity is improved, that helps us and helps our business. It enables us to invest abroad which, since I have been in Tesco, is one of the main things we have been involved with. This has completely changed the business so we now have more space overseas. That is our approach. We come at it from a constructive approach. With something like climate change, we have been working with the Government on trying to reduce CO².
Q645 Chairman: I see at the moment Tesco dislike the fact that the Competition Commission recommended there should be a competition test for local supermarket sitings. You do not like this and have spoken against it. What are you doing to try to influence the outcome of all that?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: We have just had the Competition Commission Report.
Q646 Chairman: Which Tesco did not like.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: We like the fact that this is the third inquiry they have done and they have found that supermarkets were good for society and prices had come down.
Q647 Chairman: You did not like this competition test idea.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: We feel it could be counterproductive in its effect. We do a lot of regeneration schemes and the detail of the competition test could actually stop us doing some of those schemes.
Q648 Chairman: You do not like it and what I am asking is how do you go about trying to influence?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: We go about explaining publicly and privately to MPs, if they wanted to know, why we think it would be a mistake. I have put articles in newspapers explaining that. I think openness and transparency on public policy issues can improve where you get to and that is my starting point.
Q649 Chairman: Tom Kelly, you are a seasoned practitioner of communications inside government, formally Number 10, as we well know, now gone to BAA. We discovered that BAA has been doing lots of lobbying of a rather subterranean kind. I quote only from The Sunday Times, and who can trust The Sunday Times, where it says "The airport operator BAA has used an elaborate network of lobbying and PR groups headed by senior Labour figures with access to the Government to promote its controversial plans for a third Heathrow runway." There has been a lot documented about the lobbying activities and the contacts with government departments.
Mr Kelly: I will not comment on The Sunday Times if you do not mind, but in terms of our position our arguments are there for all to see. The Government established its policy through the 2003 White Paper which was for a third runway so long as environment impacts could be contained at a certain level. We support that policy and that is our public position. There is nothing subterranean about our argument. The important thing is that government fully understands the implications of policies it adopts, but equally that we understand that in the end it is government that makes the decision. The distinction I would make is in terms of do we put forward an argument or arguments. Yes, I think that is right and proper but in the end we have to recognise it is government that makes the decision. Equally, opposition groups are perfectly entitled, and it is entirely legitimate, for them to put forward a point of view and for that point of view to be considered as well.
Q650 Chairman: The information that has come out, and you say you do not want to comment on it, has been that BAA and departmental officials have been agreeing to work on air quality measures so that they would produce figures that produce outcomes that are favourable to the project. That is what has been asserted.
Mr Kelly: We provided a
detailed response to The Sunday Times at the time, and if it is helpful
to the Committee I can provide that.
Unfortunately The Sunday Times did not use it in any detail. What that said was that, of course, officials
at the department were anxious to check whether evidence they had was correct
or not and we co-operated with them. It
would be very strange if, as the owner of 60 % of
Q651 Chairman: Does BAA do its own lobbying or does it use someone else?
Mr Kelly: We primarily have a small team at the centre which liaises with MPs, government and community groups around Heathrow. We also employ Finsbury primarily in a media role but they do some lobbying for us as well.
Q652 Chairman: Do you do lobbying yourself?
Mr Kelly: In the sense
of do I discuss with officials aspects of BAA policy, yes, but in terms of the
main interfaces we have a range of contacts.
We are a business which operates at different levels. There is the day-to-day operation which
impacts directly on the national life.
If say, the BAA plane lands the wrong side of the runway at Heathrow then
of course there is government interest in establishing how quickly we can get
the runway up and running again; that is one level. There are then the more strategic issues
about how we maintain not just
Q653 Chairman: Presumably your role in government and the people that you know in government, rather like Lucy Neville-Rolfe's role in the Deregulation Unit, is very helpful.
Mr Kelly: It is
important to understand what my role in government was. I was a communicator and not a policy
maker. My job was to act as a spokesman
Q654 Chairman: But quite a contacts book.
Mr Kelly: Actually no, because my main contacts are with press officers. My main contacts on a daily basis were with other department's press officers. Again my role was a communicator not a policy maker.
Q655 Mr Liddell-Grainger: First of all, I have to declare a slight interest. I am the secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmaceutical Companies and our secretariat is the ABPI, so good morning Chris. You said something quite intriguing before, that you have many government ministers and people coming to you to ask about drug policy. You have obviously all had that, where government wants to know from you. Can you give us examples of what they are after, what they are looking for and, more importantly, who?
Mr Brinsmead: For example, we have a shortage of science teachers in this country and for the future of the pharmaceutical industry and life sciences that is critical because we need to ensure we have a well trained workforce. We have been working with various government ministers and government civil servants on that specific issue about how can we work together, not just the life sciences industry but other industries as well, to find solutions to finding more science teachers. That would be one example.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I suppose the area of skills and apprenticeships and getting degrees for people who are retail workers and how that links into the education system would be a very good example because we have a large workforce (with a range of different skill needs). The Government are very interested in engaging with us and we are interested in engaging with them. Tesco management is well regarded. Climate change is another area where our contribution has been about trying to engage the consumer in climate change, using fewer bags and that sort of thing. Then little things they are interested in, when the national minimum wage came in they asked us whether we would be able to put the national minimum wage on our payslips which actually was going to cause a problem because our IT system would not do it without changes. That is quite helpful for all employers across the economy. There is usually quite an interest in engaging on practicalities. Government and opposition parties are interested in moving forward on social issues; we are in communities so people often come to us to talk about that and we try to be as helpful as we can.
Mr Kelly: In the past
we have been at the forefront of arguing that aviation emissions should be
included in the ETS. We were very much to the fore in arguing that,
both here and in
Q656 Mr Liddell-Grainger: You want extra capacity at airports, there are runways, et cetera, yet on one side you are getting lobbied by government about green issues and they are wanting you to do more to cut them in flight times, et cetera, and on the other side you want extra capacity built in. Where do the two cross and, when they cross, how do you rectify that?
Mr Kelly: What that
illustrates precisely is why, in the end, these are matters where only
governments can decide the right balance because they are properly national
strategic questions. For 50 years in
this country we have been able to rely on the fact that because of our
geographical position Heathrow is a meeting point for the world and that has
had enormous benefits for this country in terms of maintaining air links around
the world. Going forward global competition
is going to be such that other countries, such as
Q657 Mr Walker: What is the role of your business, Mr Brinsmead, the pharmaceutical industry?
Mr Brinsmead: Our business discovers, develops and commercialises new and innovative medicines to treat health care.
Q658 Mr Walker: Ms Neville-Rolfe, what is the purpose of your business?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: We are retailers and in our business we try to earn lifetime loyalty of customers.
Mr Kelly: Our business is to address the strategic need for aviation in this country and to provide a service to our customers.
Q659 Mr Walker: What about maximising profits? I thought the role of business was to make a profitable return for shareholders. Why have none of you mentioned that? In fact, no-one we have seen has ever mentioned the profit motive as a driving force in their decision making. Why do you think that is?
Mr Kelly: I have no problem at all in recognising that unless you get a proper rate of return you will not get proper investment, but could I remind you that in our industry in this case new infrastructure is funded not by the public paying but by the private sector. Therefore, the return for the country is that it gets its aviation infrastructure renewed by the private sector rather than from the public purse.
Q660 Mr Walker: The purpose surely of lobbying is to influence decision making at a governmental level that is positive for your businesses and allows them to generate profit which is not a bad thing. Profit is a pretty good thing because you pay corporation tax which funds the NHS and all the things we value in your society. I wonder why you struggle, and you do all struggle, to say that. Why do you feel constrained from saying that?
Mr Brinsmead: I would not
feel constrained in any way. The
pharmaceutical industry has delivered well over 90 % of the world's medicines
Q661 Mr Walker: You did a pricing deal with government a few years back which you thought was fixed for a certain period of time and now the Government is coming back to you and trying to change the deal to make it less advantageous to the pharmaceutical industry. How do you feel about that? How are you trying to persuade them that they have got it wrong?
Mr Brinsmead: It is a good example of the comment around lobbying and influence. Clearly if we had that much influence we would not be in a situation where we would be going back to a deal that was supposed to be five years, but the Government has decided unilaterally that it would end the deal early. We are working very closely with the Government to see if we can find a way through that to come to an agreement between industry and government. At this moment it would be inappropriate to go into the details of that.
Q662 Mr Walker: Do all three of you do secondments from the Civil Service into your businesses?
Mr Brinsmead: We have had some but very few.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: We have two people: one working on climate change and one working on corporate responsibility. We are about to take an extra person on climate change because the other person is going back to government.
Mr Kelly: I am not aware we do but speaking from personal experience, as someone who went from the BBC to the Civil Service and now to BAA, I believe that this change between different organisations, between government and outside government, is only beneficial. What it allows is an insight into the way in which you can work, within your perfectly appropriate roles, to achieve the same end. To take your broader point, the Government in my industry has a strategic policy. It has to be able to understand how its decisions on particular aspects affect that strategic policy and that is only possible through dialogue. If you put up a barrier which stops that dialogue then the real danger is that government unintentionally defeats its own strategic purpose. It is a perfectly legitimate activity.
Q663 Mr Walker: We have had lobbying companies come and see us and there is always a concern about what lobbying companies get up to, some of which is misplaced. As individual organisations, what value do lobbying companies bring to your business? I think the three of you have some pretty top level contacts in government and opposition where Secretaries of State and Shadow Secretaries of State are more than happy to take your phone calls personally because you are very big employers and generate a lot towards their balance of payments. Why would you employ lobbying companies to help you?
Mr Brinsmead: From our perspective it very often is an issue of capacity. A project might come up, we do not employ a lot of people internally, and it may be that there are too many things to do so we would seek outside help. We would be looking for people with the skills and experience to complement our own but also extra pairs of hands. It is very often as simple as that.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I would agree with that. I made the point about needing to consult. We tend to employ companies to talk to you on local schemes because they will have specific local knowledge. They will understand how to get the transport studies done and so on and that can be a valuable supplement. We would also want them to say they acted for us because our brand is important to us.
Mr Kelly: I agree with both the capacity point and the supplementary point. In the end it is we who have editorial control over the message. The only other point I would make is I always believe personally it is valuable to have an extra pair of eyes, perhaps slightly detached from the day-to-day policy making, to give you a real view of what perception is. The worst thing is that you are so engrossed in your own perspective that you lose the outside perspective. They can provide a useful pair of eyes.
Q664 Julie Morgan: I wanted to ask you about your contacts with local government. How would you set about making the contact with local government and to lobby local government for any developments that you wanted to put forward or to generally influence local government? Tesco have expanded enormously and rapidly and local government is an essential part of overseeing that expansion.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: We have two sets of relationships with local government. First it would be on things like health and hygiene where they are responsible for enforcement. It is incredibly important to us and to them that you do not have food safety incidents. We talk to them about that and have a relationship in those sorts of areas. Where you have a specific development scheme, it is part of the process that you have to explain to local government what you are doing and we would set out our proposal. I mentioned we have local people around the country so typically the person in Manchester would get involved on a Manchester scheme and when the planning application was being put in would seek to talk to local government about the scheme, how it was green, what people wanted and did not want, and try and make sure that the scheme was more likely to be attractive to local people.
Q665 Julie Morgan: In each area you have somebody who is responsible for lobbying, liaison, or whatever you call it.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: They do quite a lot of things. They are interested in local sourcing, working on apprenticeships and things. You are asking how we would do it. If we had a local development, their local knowledge would be extremely valuable in terms of saying this is a council with particular characteristics. It may be that the local MP would be interested in development so we would try and talk to the local MP. We would probably have an exhibition to show what the development is about. Very much part of the philosophy in planning is that you need to engage the local community. People debate the merits of our sort of investment and it is very important to talk to people, and that includes the councils.
Q666 Julie Morgan: This debating the value, I have been involved in my constituency quite extensively and we have met before. The public often feel that organisations like Tesco have an enormous amount of power and they feel they have little power when they are objecting to a development. Do you think there are any ways that your so perceived power should be regulated?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I think it is regulated by the planning system, to be honest. There are lots of checks and balances in the planning system including consultation. We often have to change our proposals or do not get them through. We try to talk to individuals but we are bringing investment and jobs into communities and, at the end of the day, the councils have to decide through the planning system. Ultimately, in difficult cases, they go up to government ministers and that seems to be right.
Q667 Julie Morgan: Have you ever felt any concern about any lobbying that has been done by Tesco which you thought has been unethical or illegal at any level?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I think not. Clearly I do not know about every exchange that goes on in every area but I try to get my teams to have an approach which is ethical. If we get involved with external companies, as in buying, they have to have a commitment to trading ethically. We have a review system with anybody we use externally which is very similar to performance management in the business. You sit down with them after six months and if they have done something which does not seem right or the right approach then you would have a conversation with them about that. We try to run all our businesses in a similar efficient way that allows feedback. Obviously I am sure we do not do absolutely everything right but that is the approach. The way we do it is similar throughout Tesco. We say we are Tesco and we try and talk about the benefits of Tesco but also understand the concerns people have and then try constructively to meet people's concerns. I feel that is the best way forward. We try and have the same approach in our overseas markets.
Q668 Julie Morgan: What about the other two witnesses, do you have any comments about local government?
Mr Brinsmead: We do not
have the same footprint. One example is
Mr Kelly: Clearly our relationship
with local government varies from region to region. Take an example such as
Q669 Julie Morgan: How many of those links would be informal links that people would know nothing of?
Mr Kelly: Inevitably you have the formal discussions, the public discussions, but equally inevitably you have people phoning up saying there is a particular problem and asking can we look at it, and so on. Again, I would be concerned with anything that would get in the way of that dialogue, whether you call it informal or formal, because the important thing is that dialogue takes place. The problems I have always come across, whether in government or outside government, have always been, in the end, down to people not understanding what the other side is saying or not understanding the full implications perhaps of the decision because of a lack of dialogue. I would be concerned with anything that got in the way of that process.
Q670 Mr Prentice: We are trying to find out if there is a problem with lobbying and, if there is, what the remedy should be. Let me try this on you and just a one word reply to begin with. Is there a problem with lobbying?
Mr Kelly: My answer would be no.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: My answer is not that I am aware of but I can only speak for my own area.
Mr Brinsmead: I do not believe there is a problem with lobbying.
Q671 Mr Prentice: Lucy Neville-Rolfe, you told us at the beginning that you favoured more openness and transparency and I think you said it improves public policy. When you said that, were you inferring that there is less openness and transparency at the moment than there should be?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I was saying I do not know. You get things in the newspapers about how things are kept secret, which to be honest is not my experience because people know a lot about Tesco and there is a lot debated about it. I have found that being open about what you want to do, what is good and that there are problems tends to lead to better public results.
Q672 Mr Prentice: You would not have any problems with full disclosure, tell it as it is, openness and transparency is the order of the day and it is win/win for everyone.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: There is obviously an issue about commercially confidential information. If you are engaged on something where there is an intellectual property issue, which there might be in drugs, or individual commercial numbers that you are trying to give to somebody in the political world because they are interested in those, you need to make sure, particularly in an industry where there is a lot of competition and people are longing to get hold of your figures, that their confidentiality is protected. You, as legislators, have an interest sometimes in knowing things which are commercially confidential but we have to try and find a way to make sure that does not go to a competitor.
Q673 Mr Prentice: I have an interest in who influences who. We have Friends of the Earth coming along after you and they have been pressing for a mandatory lobbying register with full financial disclosure as a first step, they say, in ensuring democratic oversight of influential lobbyists. The question to the three of you, who told us earlier there is no problem: is this something you could live with, a mandatory register of lobbyists?
Mr Brinsmead: I am not quite sure what problem it is trying to solve. All three of us have spoken about a dialogue with ministers, civil servants or government about things. People may use the term lobbying but very often the Government will come to us.
Q674 Mr Prentice: You maintain that there is no problem. That is a starting point.
Mr Brinsmead: Yes, there is a dialogue. In the case of the pharmaceutical industry and our own company, we would expect anyone who works with us, internally or externally, to sign up to our code. Our code is recognised internationally as being one of the strongest in the world and that is why I do not think there is an issue in lobbying per se.
Mr Kelly: Can I add a different perspective on this? It is not that we are not scrutinised. In the six months since I joined BAA we have appeared twice before the Transport Select Committee, we have been the subject of a CAA price review and we are still the subject of a Competition Commission hearing. The scrutiny is there and it is constant and if you are a regulated industry that goes with the territory and rightly so. It is not the case that there is a lack of scrutiny.
Q675 Mr Prentice: You appearing before this Committee today, that is above the ground. Tony earlier talked about subterranean influence and that is what interests many people. I was about to remind you of the Information Commissioner's ruling, quite ground breaking I think, that details of meetings held between the then DTI in 2001 and the CBI should be made public. That was an action that was brought, I think, by Friends of the Earth. Does it give you any problem that meetings between the CBI and government officials should be on the public record and published?
Mr Brinsmead: It would be wrong of me to speak for the CBI. You would have to get Richard Lambert to come and talk to you.
Q676 Mr Prentice: I am talking about the general principle.
Mr Brinsmead: My personal experience is meetings with ministers basically are very rarely one to one. Generally they are recorded. If anyone wanted that information they could get it under the Freedom of Information Act. In a sense I have no problem with that being available, subject to the comments made earlier about commercial confidence and IP. Companies do not want to share that around the world because that is the basis of their business. By and large these conversations are recorded and could be made available.
Q677 Mr Prentice: We do not know whether the Government is going to appeal against the Information Commissioner's ruling but if the Information Commissioner's ruling stands, then that is absolutely going to change the terms of trade. Lobbyists are going to know that their contacts with government officials, and indeed government ministers, are going to be put out in the public domain at some stage. You are saying you are relaxed about that.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: Subject to the point about commercial confidentiality which could be important, and also obviously the notes of the meetings that are done by government are done on the government's side and do not necessarily get shown if you go to a meeting. It is important to make sure the record is accurate but subject to that. But you need to ask the Government because they may feel that will change the way things work and they may not be happy about it. All we can do is speak for ourselves.
Mr Kelly: The only thing that slightly disturbs me about this approach is that in some way it suggests that contact between government and companies such as ours is wrong. I think that is completely perverse. If you, as we do, control 60 % of Britain's airports, if you are responsible for delivering a strategic industry which affects thousands of people's lives on a daily basis, and thousands of people's lives for the foreseeable future, then surely it is only right and proper that you fully understand the Government's intentions and the Government fully understands what you are doing. Therefore, contact, far from being in some way wrong, is beneficial.
Q678 Mr Prentice: I do not think I am suggesting, and no-one on the Committee would suggest, that contact between leading players and the Government is wrong, it is the nature of the contact and whether it is open to public scrutiny to see if influence is being exercised properly.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: The other point is it would not only be business but other people who are engaging. I do not know what plans you have.
Q679 Chairman: What has been put to us is that the problem, in so far as there is a problem, is certainly one of public perception. Lobbying is a natural, necessary and, in some senses, good activity but there is a perception that, certainly, powerful people have disproportionate influence and, therefore, in order to allay that perception we ought to have more transparency in the process, for instance, Mr Brinsmead, when your organisation has these high-level precision strikes on specific regulatory enclaves someone knows about it and meetings are recorded and it says "strike on regulatory enclave".
Mr Brinsmead: We have a
dialogue with the MHRA
between the industry and the Department of Health which is all minuted. We have moved on from those days and we have
much better collaboration. I would say,
in my experience, when you are talking about big players or small players, a
friend of mine set up a charity, and it has been a very worthwhile charity,
helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He found no problem at all getting access to talk to government
ministers. He rang them up and said
could he come and talk to them about this and they said yes. We have to differentiate between access and
influence. It seems to me that everybody
has access if they ask for it. I
personally, and I know people in small companies, have found it is perfectly
possible to access people. The point made
by Tom is very important. If you are in
a strategic industry that brings huge benefit to the
Q680 Chairman: If there were a record of who meets whom and what they talk about, bearing in mind we shall not do the stuff that gets into trouble, that would be perfectly straight forward and you have no objection to that.
Mr Brinsmead: My only slight concern would be that it would become awfully bureaucratic. If you were going to try and record every single conversation or phone call that happened, that would be a nightmare. I do not think there is anything wrong with meetings being recorded generally. I would not worry about that because the dialogue is proper and is about the relationship between the Government and industry.
Mr Kelly: The one caveat I would enter is that there is a danger, given the way in which these matters are sometimes reported in the media, that such procedures end up acting as a disincentive on government ministers or on officials having conversations which they should have. I think that would be disadvantageous to the country as a whole. If, because of the fear of the way in which these matters sometimes are reported, ministers and officials do not have the proper conversations, they end up less well informed about the areas they are covering. From my period in government just observing this, and now on the other side, there is a danger of that and that needs to be considered quite carefully.
Mr Kelly: I am not sure
whether I should say I am afraid but I am afraid that you vastly overstate my
role in government and you vastly overstate my influence. I was a spokesman. My job was not to represent the views of Tom
Kelly but to represent the view of the Prime Minister at the time just as in
Mr Kelly: Again you
overstate my role. I was a spokesman not
the policy maker. I was known in
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I do not think it is wrong. The world has changed. When I entered the Civil Service I assumed I would stay there the whole of my career but the Civil Service has changed quite a lot. We were encouraged to go and work in business, that business was fantastic and that doing so would be really good and improve your skills. In fact, I became a much better manager from working in Tesco. I have got on in Tesco. I have had a number of promotions. I am now running a large part of Tesco and have helped them overseas and I think that is probably good for the country. We bring certain skills. I have a certain ethical code which I find chimes quite well with the Tesco values, which are quite broad church, treating people how you like to be treated, and I do not think that is wrong. It is quite rare for people from Tesco to go and work in government. One of our HR directors now works in the NHS. A certain amount of interchange can be useful because you bring different skills.
Q684 Kelvin Hopkins: There is a difference between a civil servant who sees their primary loyalty to the State going back to have some experience to make sure they understand how business works and going into private business for personal and financial reasons no doubt. Am I right to feel uncomfortable about the possibility that civil servants working in senior posts and dealing with private industry might anticipate a lucrative career outside the Civil Service on what Tom Kelly has called the other side and that this might influence, to an extent even semi-consciously, their activities when they are civil servants? They cannot see that clear, and I would say, deep ethical divide between serving the public and serving the private sector.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I cannot
speak for the Civil Service as it was 11 years ago when I was last there. There were proper procedures for clearance to
ensure that if you went to work outside then that was considered. In some cases where there is a conflict
gardening leave is imposed and I would support that. I come back to my point that overall there
can be benefit from people moving. It
happens quite a bit in other countries like
Q685 Chairman: Is not Tesco pursuing people in
Ms Neville-Rolfe: There is a
Q686 Chairman: That is not something that a public servant would do? You do not seek to silence your opponents by taking them to the courts.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: You have to
Q687 Chairman: You are the director of corporate and legal affairs in Tesco?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I am, yes.
Q688 Chairman: Do you feel comfortable with that?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: Certainly I understood the difficulty the Thai business had with this particular repeated libel. They took local advice and that was the way they proceeded.
Q689 Chairman: So you do feel comfortable with it.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I obviously support the legal advice that was taken locally, yes.
Q690 Chairman: It does not sound to me as though you do feel terribly comfortable with it.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I think I
should go back and just explain there was a serious continued libel and that
was the way it was dealt with in local Thai circumstances which are different
to here. We run local businesses
overseas and they have to fit in very much with the local culture and that is
the way we operate in
Mr Brinsmead: I have never been a civil servant. I have been an industrialist for nearly 30 years and the only thing that troubled me about the question was the notion that the public interest and the commercial interest always have to be different. I would like to think the pharmaceutical industry is about helping patients to get better and that is what the NHS and the Government are about. The notion that there has always got to be a difference in the goal is probably not necessarily valid.
Q691 Paul Rowen: Tesco and BAA have employed a number of civil servants or former politicians close to the centre of government. Tesco have employed Philip Gould, David North; BAA, Stephen Hardwick and yourself. Peter Ainsworth talks about this and described that this "reinforces the sense that there is a charmed circle around the Prime Minister which major corporations feel they need to get inside". Why do you employ so many people who have been close to the Prime Minister or close to the centre of where decisions are made?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: David joined
us six years ago and he had worked within government. He was an ex-civil servant as well and he has
led our community and climate change work within the company. We had used Philip Gould's firm, who did
polling to help us primarily with our internal communications in Tesco to try
and improve our messaging, but that was nothing to do with the political
side. He has now sold the company which
we continue to get help from on that issue.
Compared with 300,000 people in the
Q692 Paul Rowen: He was the Prime Minister's private secretary. Is that not one of the reasons why you wanted him?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: As always with senior appointments, we went to headhunters and they came forward with a number of different people. David went through five interviews and was eventually appointed for his skills and ability to be able to work in Tesco. His powers of analysis and his knowledge of things like environment and climate change have helped us to do some very good things.
Mr Kelly: In our case if you think about our industry we are at the interface of a variety of issues: on the one hand, aviation and, on the other hand, the environment and regulation. We are affected to various degrees by government policy and we are also affected by the debate that there is over the environment, and quite rightly so. I do not think it is surprising that the company would want to employ people who are accustomed to dealing with those kinds of issues and forming responses in that kind of debate. I think, therefore, it is not surprising that it wishes to have people who have experience in contributing to those kinds of debates. What is a mistake is to say that because you have worked in government you automatically continue to have access to policy makers. As I said, in my case I was a civil servant. I am not a policy maker but a communicator.
Q693 Paul Rowen: I will give you another comment from John McDonald. He said "BAA dominates the Government's aviation policy. There have been a number of front organisations over the years that have promoted aviation. They are all funded by the industry and are largely paid lobbyists." A number of those are former Labour politicians now being paid. Why are you employing these front organisations?
Mr Kelly: There is a coalition of groups on both sides of the debate. You know that those who oppose a third runway at Heathrow have their coalition of groups and they have paid people who lobby on their behalf. I do not think it is surprising that the aviation industry as a whole, not just BAA, contributes to, on the one hand, Flying Matters which is promoting aviation in general and equally to Future Heathrow. These are matters which are of public debate and, therefore, it is entirely appropriate we contribute to that debate.
Q694 Paul Rowen: You do not think it is coincidental that Clive Soley happens to head one of those organisations where you paid £48,000 last year?
Mr Kelly: We are not the sole contributor to that organisation; it represents the aviation industry as a whole. As for Lord Soley, his interest in this area goes back quite a long way. I think it is entirely appropriate we have someone who is knowledgeable about this industry and who cares passionately about this industry.
Q695 Paul Rowen: Gordon asked you earlier on about Freedom of Information. Given those emails that you sent to the Transport Department, would you have been happy for those to be released on a Freedom of Information request?
Mr Kelly: That is a matter for people to make the request and for us to process in the normal way.
Q696 Paul Rowen: If we put the request in, would you be happy for the figures you supplied to the Department of Transport, which appear to modify the basis on which a third runway meets environmental standards, to be made available and that one of your officials was actually dealing directly with an official inside the Department of Transport?
Mr Kelly: We deal directly with the Department of Transport on a daily basis because they ask us for information and it is entirely appropriate. I have already offered to supply the Committee with our written responses to The Sunday Times, which unfortunately it did not print in full but which sets out clearly the nature of the dialogue.
Q697 Chairman: Could you do your job if you thought the expansion of Heathrow was not a good idea?
Mr Kelly: I do my job as a representative of BAA in the same way that I was a spokesman for the Prime Minister. I do my job because that is what I am paid to do. I am a communicator. What I do not do is pretend that I make the decisions.
Q698 Chairman: You do not have to believe in what you are communicating?
Mr Kelly: In terms of Tom Kelly as a person, that is one thing; in terms of what I am paid to do that is another matter and that is why I am here to answer questions.
Q699 Chairman: You could be an opponent of Heathrow expansion.
Mr Kelly: I think that
goes into what I used to call, in my old job, the hypothetical. I am a user of
Chairman: I can see why Mr Blair called you in when he was having difficulty with Alastair Campbell.
Q700 David Heyes: Chris, you are the only one of the three who has not been a civil servant. I guess your firm has employed retired civil servants for their skills, is that right?
Mr Brinsmead: I believe we have but I cannot be specific.
Q701 David Heyes: I was going to ask you to comment on what benefits you get from that from your point of view?
Mr Brinsmead: When we employ anyone, regardless of their background, we would be looking for someone to do a job and we would be setting out what we are seeking to do with that job: what skills, what experience, what knowledge we would expect. It is perfectly possible that someone who has worked in the Civil Service would have those skills. I do not understand the logic of saying if someone has worked in one career then for some reason it would be bad for them to have a career on the other side. As AstraZeneca we would look at each job on its merits and if somebody had the relevant skills and experience we would employ them.
Q702 David Heyes: We have a Business Appointments Committee which vets the suitability of these types of appointments. Have you ever had encounters with the Business Appointments Committee?
Mr Brinsmead: No. We have employed people who have been civil servants and made sure they have observed the code which you have put in place for MPs and civil servants because we think that is proper but I have never had any experience.
Q703 David Heyes: Perhaps I should direct the question to the other two witnesses. What I am getting at is the impact of the Business Appointments Committee on your movement of people between the Civil Service and your firms or the other way.
Ms Neville Rolfe: My one experience, not direct because it was perfectly harmonious, was when David North joined us six years ago. He took a period of gardening leave because he had been working at Number 10. I think it was three months but I could confirm that.
Q704 David Heyes: What was the logic behind that?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I do not know but I accepted it.
Mr Kelly: My own experience is I believe my appointment went before the Business Appointments Committee. They considered the matter and I accepted their view, which was that it was OK for me to join BAA. I think it is perfectly right and proper that should be the case but I have no indication other than the system works.
Q705 David Heyes: From the point of view of BAA, it must have been a great disappointment to you that the Business Appointments Committee blocked the appointment of Sir David Rowland recently. He would have had an awful lot to offer BAA.
Mr Kelly: It would be wrong for me to talk about individuals but all I would say is it is important that the Business Advisory Committee does its job and that it does it properly. As with all these matters, sometimes it will say yes and sometimes it will say no and that is whole point of having a Committee. It fulfils a very useful function.
Q706 David Heyes: The offer of appointment to Sir David Rowland was made by the firm. It was subsequent to that that the Business Appointments Committee blocked it.
Mr Kelly: It is entirely proper that people who are changing from government to outside government go through a process which considers whether it is right and proper to take up particular roles. I do not want to talk about particular individuals because I do not think it would be right to do so but that is precisely why the Government has the committee and it will consider all the relevant information. What I do think, however, is that it would be to the disadvantage of this country's national life if you stopped people using their expertise and their experience in different roles. I fully declare I went from the BBC into the Civil Service and I was a much better, in my view, spokesperson because of my experience in the BBC. I hope that worked to the advantage of the Government. Therefore, my view has always been that of course there is a core Civil Service complement, many of whom will stay for their entire careers in the Civil Service, but I believe the Civil Service benefits from two-way traffic.
Q707 David Heyes: Does not this episode betray a lack of understanding by BAA of the ethics of this situation? If the Business Appointments Committee said Sir David could not take up his appointment for a year, should BAA not have spotted that as an issue and, therefore, have refrained from making the offer? Should your code of ethics not have led you to that conclusion?
Mr Kelly: These matters are never black and white but are matters of judgment and, therefore, it is right and proper that we have a process, and we do have a process, whereby those judgments are made and that Committee makes those judgments.
Q708 Mr Walker: I still think our witnesses have been very defensive. Why do you not stick it to us? Why do you not just tell us to grow up? Why do you not tell us that you employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country and of course you are going to talk with government because you are putting food on families' tables and you are generating billions of pounds of profit that is taxed? Why are you so defensive? It is a criticism but it is not meant to be a criticism. The private sector is good, is it not?
Mr Brinsmead: I do not think we have been defensive. All of us have said there is a dialogue with government, ministers or civil servants and for good reasons, whether it is for Tesco, AstraZeneca, the Association or BAA. You are right that we all produce enormous economic benefits for the country. We produce good things for the people in the country and it is absolutely proper there should be a dialogue. If I have been defensive, I apologise but I would say there is an absolute place for a dialogue.
Q709 Mr Walker: Perhaps you have not been as robust as you could have been.
Ms Neville-Rolfe: I think it is good to work for government and Parliament and you want to have a strong Civil Service. The only concerns I would have as a mother of four boys who will no doubt have careers, hopefully some of them in public life, is that you do not want to get a system which perversely discourages people from going into public life, the Civil Service or politics, in the recommendations you make.
Mr Kelly: I fully understand and accept the scrutiny but I would be very wary of anything which would stop proper dialogue taking place between the private sector and the public sector because if that happens government will not hear the voices it needs to hear to understand the implications of the decisions it makes. That is my way of saying that. I do not think I will go down your way of saying it.
Q710 Chairman: What kind of recommendation would stop your boys going into public life?
Ms Neville-Rolfe: A recommendation that somehow suggested that the Civil Service did not have a good part to play in the State or politics. I was making the point because I was concerned that if you said no civil servant could ever have a different career, with young people much more interested in moving around, that could perversely cut them off from that particular choice and make it even more likely they go into banking.
Chairman: I think I can give you and your boys some reassurance. You can put Charles on your payroll instantly! We are grateful to you for coming along. We have had a very interesting session. We have learnt a lot and we shall draw upon what you have told us.
Mr Tim Hancock, Campaigns Director, Amnesty International, Mr John Sauven, Director, Greenpeace and Mr Owen Espley, Corporate Power Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, gave evidence
Q711 Chairman: I apologise for being slightly late in getting you on but thank you very much for coming along. We are delighted to have Tim Hancock, Campaigns Director for Amnesty International, John Sauven, Director of Greenpeace, and Owen Espley who is the Corporate Power Campaigner for Friends of the Earth. You know what we are about. Do any of you want to say anything by way of introduction? If not, let me ask you how central is lobbying. I asked the question to the people who were here before and it was quite difficult working out exactly how central lobbying was to them. I imagine to you, for your organisations, lobbying is absolutely central, is it not?
Mr Sauven: Yes, that is absolutely true but there is a difference. The comment was made in the last session about access and influence. Certainly we do have access but I would not say we had the same kind of influence. I would also say that we are about putting things out into the public domain and engaging people. Lobbying and campaigning is all part of that. That is about increasing people's role in government and influence over government. It is all about citizenship and that is very different, for example, from the three speakers you heard before. One might be trying to get the expansion of Heathrow and another might be interested in stopping regulation that might be around the expansion of supermarkets or whatever. We are much more engaged in the whole process of how people and the public can be engaged in issues and how we can put things more openly on the table. For example, a lot of the campaigning that all three organisations have done, even around requests under the Freedom of Information Act is about getting some of the things we think are going on subterranean out into the public domain. If you want to ask some more specific questions about Tom Kelly and BAA, I think it was quite revealing what he did not say rather than what he did say. Apart from the fact he said they have daily contact with the Department for Transport, none of us have daily contact, and certainly not in the kind of ways that he has contact and influences government policy. I would say that our work is about lobbying and campaigning but it is very much about doing it in public and with the public.
Q712 Chairman: Would it be fair to say that if the object of their lobbying is government directly then the object of your lobbying is predominantly the public, who in turn might be expected to have influence upon government?
Mr Sauven: It is both. We meet ministers, we meet MPs, we provide evidence to committee, and so on, but I would say we do a lot more in the way of engaging the public. It is very different. On the expansion of Heathrow we are involved in a campaign with lots of non-governmental organisations and local authorities; we worked with all the Mayoral candidates including the current Mayor of London, with church organisations and so on. That is a very different relationship in terms of lobbying and campaigning and engagement with the public than BAA is involved in.
Mr Espley: To add to
that from Friends of the Earth's perspective, we have over 200 local groups
Mr Hancock: From my
perspective, lobbying is important. I
share the same kind of views that John and Owen have just described about the
importance we attach to getting awareness of human rights issues out to the
public, Parliament and the Civil Service.
We also have a structure of groups, and this will be quite interesting
because there will be some campaigns which will be run where we are proactively
trying to get them to talk to their MPs and constituencies and there will be
other examples where they will do that on their own initiative. They will contact their MP about the human
rights situation in
Q713 Chairman: When Charles asked our previous witnesses what they thought their job was, they all managed to avoid saying they were in the business of making profits for their companies. They told us all kinds of public interest things that they are engaged in. Could I ask you the same kind of question and suggest that you are all lobbying for sectional interests; you may describe it as the public interest, but on the whole all the groups that lobby us here in Parliament are representing only their bit of the territory or only a part of an argument, are they not?
Mr Sauven: Quite clearly we want to influence government opinion; there is no question about that. We also want to change business practices and make them more sustainable. That is our job. We are a campaigning organisation and we are quite open about that.
Q714 Chairman: You do not write to us and say about nuclear power that there are arguments on this side and arguments on that side, the arguments in favour of nuclear power are this and the arguments against nuclear power are that. Your job is to do a section of the argument, is it not?
Mr Espley: That question touches very closely on the issue about transparency. You mentioned the Freedom of Information request but we are not aware of what arguments are being put to government, what claims are being made. One of the reasons we made that Freedom of Information request was because we felt, at the time, that the CBI was making exaggerated claims about the cost to industry of environmental regulation or underestimating the benefits of environmental regulation. If we are not able to see what those arguments are, we cannot address them. We give our sectional interest to the Government so the Government can adequately weigh those different discussions and be able to come to a properly informed decision. That is where that transparency is so important. You are not just seeing one side or one argument, or at least policy makers are not; there is that open dialogue between different sectional interests. Sometimes we see an argument and we change our mind. It does happen.
Mr Sauven: You are right in terms of the nuclear debate, for example. We have advocated that we do not think an expansion of nuclear power in this country is the right direction for energy policy and we have been quite open about that. When you look at the lobbying power from the other side, from the nuclear industry, it is quite extraordinary the number of former MPs and ministers who are now working for the nuclear industry: it includes Geoffrey Norris, Jamie Reid, Jack Cunningham, Ian McCartney, Richard Caborn, Brian Wilson and Alan Donnelly. Some of them also run PR and lobbying firms like Sovereign Strategy which is run by Alan Donnelly and also employs Jack Cunningham. There are a lot of revolving doors, particularly where Labour MPs and Labour ministers have gone into the nuclear industry which provides it with quite a lot of influence and lobbying powers, certainly much more than we have. I think that is really the question in terms of what this Committee is asking in terms of the kind of openness and transparency, people being made aware of what the links are and the meetings that are talking place and the influence that has been brought to bear on decisions that the government is taking. That does lead, I think, to better government and better trust in government. The Government actually itself runs into a lot of difficulties because it is not more open and transparent about what is happening. Because the High Court judge said that the first public nuclear consultation process was deeply flawed, they then had to have a second consultation process which was run by Debbie Mattison's company OLR, again very close to Number 10, a very close friend of Gordon Brown and other ministers. Now that is the subject of an investigation by their own governing body because of the number of complaints made by academic bodies, by people who participated in that consultation process, as well as other NGOs. The problem is that all this subterranean activity, as you called it, is having quite a negative impact, not just in terms of good government policy but in terms of public attitude towards government and faith in public policy and government policy.
Q715 Chairman: The recommendations that have been put to us for more regulation of lobbying usually involved the idea of a register. Everybody would have to register their lobbying activities which would all be recorded and published in some form. The argument has been that this should apply universally to campaign groups as much as to big corporate interests. I want to ask if you are happy with that or whether it would not be a huge bureaucratic burden for organisations like yours.
Mr Espley: From Friends
of the Earth's perspective we would be happy with mandatory lobbying
registration. In terms of our
recommendations, we would recommend that there is a threshold which needs to be
passed before you have to register and that can be done in two ways. In
Q716 Chairman: It may not capture one crucial meeting that affects public policy. If you measure it by the number of days devoted to it then that would not capture a decisive meeting between an outside organisation and a policy maker.
Mr Espley: The idea of the register is to put on the record who is lobbying who, for which issues and what resources are going into lobbying. That is separate and addresses a different need to the idea of the transparency around meeting notes and minutes of meetings and so on and so forth.
Mr Hancock: I have come to this quite fresh. It is something I have been interested in looking at since the invite came to appear before the Committee. My impression of it is that some kind of mandatory register would be fine. I would not want constituency contact brought into that because that is something, as I said before, that is voluntary and not co-ordinated and would not necessarily be right to be brought in and would be difficult to administer. Transparency matters and it matters to understand not only who are lobbyists but it is really important to understand what the contacts are between the lobbyists and the officials or the MPs, but that also means at what level. One thing that is important to understand is the difference and frequency between the contact that Amnesty International has with the Foreign Office and a company like British Aerospace and at what level those contacts are taking place. I am not necessarily saying those contacts are right or wrong but they should be visible.
Q717 Mr Walker: You all do fabulous work in your own areas and you play a very important part in civil and civic life but the cold reality is that the three people we saw before you from the private sector between them, or their organisations, employ thousands of my constituents, and that in turn supports thousands of families but you do not. That is the reality of it: you simply do not. As much as I admire everything you do, the building block of my constituency and its stability is people having jobs and places to go to work and wealth to spend. It is perhaps unrealistic to expect that you will have the same or similar levels of contact with government than say an organisation that employs half a million people.
Mr Hancock: It is important to recap what I was saying and perhaps I was not clear enough. I was not saying that the volume of contacts is right or wrong, just that we should make sure that it is visible. Quite clearly jobs are an important factor in how politicians make decisions and how officials make decisions but jobs are not the only part of your constituents' lives. They also have values and they have interests as well and you will factor those in in terms of how you approach your parliamentary life. It is part of a complex mix. All we are saying is make it visible.
Q718 Mr Walker: Public services are a huge part of their lives, hospitals, transport, crime, but all of those things need to be funded off the back of an economy that can generate wealth. It does, in the end, come back to wealth generation, and this is more a question for Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. You are competing against that at the end of the day. We, as politicians, have to balance our ability to generate wealth and meet people's expectations against the need to take a longer term view of our responsibilities to the environment and our children and grandchildren's future.
Mr Espley: That is exactly right. Going back to the different claims the CBI was making around 2005, they were claiming to represent the whole of business at a time when there were significant dissenting voices from that viewpoint. We were concerned that government was uncritically accepting that as the voice of business when there were areas of potential for the growth of more environmentally friendly industries which would provide those jobs for your constituents which could transform that. At the same time, the claims that the CBI were making about the impact of environmental regulations and the impact of that on job losses were exaggerated. While your constituents would want good jobs, they will also want to live in a clean and healthy environment. It is important that we have a system where government and the way that policy making is made effectively balances those different considerations. That is enabled on a much greater basis when we have that transparency, when we can see who is a player in different policy making discussions, and when those exaggerations are made different people are able to see those exaggerations and question whether the negative impacts of a policy have been exaggerated or whether the benefits of that policy have been underestimated so that government is in a position to strike that balance in the best way possible.
Mr Sauven: All we are calling for is more openness and transparency. We are not anti-business saying business should not have the right to lobby and influence government decisions. Of course they have and nobody has an issue about that. Coming back to, for example, the Heathrow expansion, which will affect the lives of millions of people if it goes ahead, it was only through Justine Greening, the Tory MP, who put in the Freedom of Information requests that we found out there was something called the Project for the Sustainable Development of Heathrow Airport which was being run by BAA and the Department of Transport. This was collusion between two bodies where they had already decided what the outcome was and they were doing a bit of reverse engineering to try and fix the results of that. It was only through extracting a lot of information from requests that she put down that we were able to understand a bit more about the relationship between BAA and the Department for Transport, how embedded BAA was within the Department and how influential it was. All we are saying is that should be much more open and much more transparent. It should be much easier to get that information rather than having to drag it out. That is really the core of what we are saying. Then you will have better consultations, the public will be better reassured about the way government is running and dealing with issues than it currently is. I then think people like BAA need not be quite so defensive about what they are doing because this is out in the public domain and people can say whatever they want to say about it. At the moment there is far too much going on in a very underhand way, too many revolving doors, too many secret meetings, too many lobbying groups where people do not know who is doing the lobbying and who they are influencing. When you draw up the maps of all the politicians and civil servants in these companies it is very, very expensive. It is a lot of people and it is involving a lot of money, even more so when you have a lot of public/private partnerships now in the health sector and other areas. It does mean there is a lot of public money involved in the commercial area as well that needs proper scrutiny and openness around it.
Q719 Mr Walker: I do not understand the argument for more runway space when we can
have flights going to
Mr Sauven: We did have reservations about it. This was more done by the need to keep the farming lobby happy and also to keep the car industry happy, because rather than dealing with fuel efficiency targets in the transport sector they thought they would shove biofuels into the tank instead. We did make very strong representations, with Friends of the Earth, RSPB, WWF and others, to Ruth Kelly at the Department of Transport to try and slow down the kind of mandatory targets that they had in place and to do a proper review, including land use planning in terms of what was required for food and what was required for fuel.
Q720 Mr Walker: Did you feel your voice, although heard, was competing against much louder voices which ultimately have been proven to have it completely wrong on biofuels?
Mr Sauven: We found it very difficult to convince her, but Gordon Brown actually became more concerned about this for development reasons and because of the food riots and other things that were happening globally. He then started to raise it and has put it on the agenda of the G8. He became aware of it much faster and took much more serious concern over that issue than Ruth Kelly did.
Mr Sauven: It is both. It depends on the organisation, charity, NGO or whatever it is, in terms of what its remit is. As Owen said, we are for business and not anti-business. We also lobby strongly for energy-efficiency regulations, for energy-efficient industries, for renewable-energy industries, for a whole variety of businesses. We would join forces with them, sometimes in partnership alliances. We support some of the lobbying they are doing in conjunction with them, producing reports with them and lobbying MPs and governments about these issues. That is quite a key thing to understand because we do not make widgets; we are not here to make a profit. We do not have the same motives that the corporate sector has but still we want to see some business sectors succeed because that is ultimately what, particularly Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, are about in terms of more a sustainable environment done also in a more socially responsible way in terms of human rights and so on.
Mr Espley: There are two levels of debate in terms of lobbying and transparency. When it comes to the regulation of that democratic space, that right to petition government, that right to talk to MPs and express views, the right for people to come together within their communities and express a viewpoint, we are not suggesting a distinction should be made within that space. Through that process it is up to MPs to form a judgment and weigh different issues and where the public interest lies, and it is up to the Government to do the same. I would hope that there would be an understanding that we come from different places and we are different types of organisations.
Mr Hancock: We do have that ethical drive. We are not here to maximise profits, although as much donation as you can offer would be gratefully received. There is a sense in what we are trying to do, whether it is Amnesty International itself or trade associations or business, that we try and influence the political system and try to get information into it. In that sense we are about the same game but there are differences in approach to that. You talk about business lunches or free lunches but we do not have the money to do that on a widespread basis. It would not be something we could do financially so it is not even a question for us. We have to be a bit lean, a bit mean, and try to use other techniques that are less based on our ability to spend.
Mr Espley: There is a
difference in the way we lobby in that we want people to know who Friends of
the Earth are. We want them to know what
our position is. We want them to support
us and we want them to become active in their communities and join a local
group. As Tim pointed out, there is a
difference in resources there. To give
an example, lots of Friends of Earth local groups have been involved in the
local planning system, in developing what the local plan says around retail
space. Their experiences of the
influence which organisations like Tesco can have is quite illustrative of why
we need all of that community engagement which we heard about earlier, why we
need to understand how big that actually is.
You have a situation in
Mr Walker: That is about informing local government, and most parties would agree.
Mr Sauven: You are definitely right about that.
Mr Hancock: Yes, you are right.
Mr Walker: From a small part of the corporate world maybe.
Q725 David Heyes: The three of you have been around campaigning and lobbying for a number of years. Have you seen any change in the balance of power during that time? My feeling is that corporate lobbying is growing in its intensity, organisation and volume and increasing in its impact and ability to persuade governments of its point of view and, in terms of a balance, maybe your kind of campaigning and lobbying is, therefore, less effective. Is there anything in my perception?
Mr Sauven: It is a
growing industry. I think 20,000 people
in this country are involved in lobbying and it is a several-billion-pound
industry. We are also finding it is
becoming increasingly powerful in
Q726 David Heyes: Is that a shared perception?
Mr Hancock: Coming from my perspective, we have only been looking at the impact of business on human rights for a relatively short amount of time so probably have less experience of that business politics dynamic than Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace. One thing I would say is that in recent years government departments have put a lot more emphasis on what they call stakeholder engagement which is a process where they go out and talk to people like us and others, and that is welcome. If we are in a process now which is about going out and consulting stakeholders and then we are going to go into a closed room and decide on the basis of what we heard, that is process where all the stakeholders get involved, whether it us, business or trade associations. Then they really do go into a closed room and decide rather than then talking to the company concerned. If we are in that sort of thing, that is good news because it is equality of arms. Sometimes I have been at civil service seminars where we are talking about the process of what we do, how we try to influence government, and we are characterised as being a pressure group, which is a relatively pejorative term but one I am comfortable with on the basis we also understand that British Airways, BAA and Tesco are also pressure groups. That is what I want: I want equality of arms. I want equality of opportunity.
Q727 David Heyes: You are accusing them of tokenism, is that right?
Mr Hancock: No, I am not accusing them of tokenism. Sometimes it can be tokenism and sometimes it can be genuinely meant. What I am saying is I do not have the money that a lot of corporations have to spend so when I am told this is a consultation phase for something, I want to know that I am engaged in a consultation on the same basis as anybody else and we are not going to get into a position where I have had my opportunity to contribute but business or anybody else has got lots of avenues.
Mr Sauven: The Heathrow consultation with BAA involved running it with the Department of Transport and that was a poor example of a consultation taking place.
Mr Espley: I am still quite a young man so I have not been around long enough to see a massive growth but what I understand of the evidence is the numbers are growing and the industry is growing. What you can also perceive is different issues have changed over time. Business has increased. We have heard today how Tesco is about communities and climate change, which maybe 10 or 20 years ago they were about groceries. There is this increasing interest and they are exercising their ability to influence in wider and wider areas. That means, in a sense, they are trying to lead those debates which, in certain instances, we absolutely encourage. Business can make a massive contribution to creating the just and sustainable society we want to see but in other instances they are engaged in greenwash and initiatives which do not stack up. It moves the debate from where the core impacts of their business are to one or two minor impacts on the side which are not addressing the real issues of where that business impact is on the environment.
Mr Walker: What is, in your definition, a just and sustainable society?
Chairman: I am going to intervene because we do not have time for that.
Q728 Mr Prentice: There is a difference between proper influence and improper influence. I had a Catholic priest down from my constituency yesterday wanting to speak to me about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which is proper influence. I am interested in information that you have, and you can let the Committee have, where policy decisions have been taken as a result of what you would say is improper influence. I would be interested in getting that information. There was a huge U-turn in government policy on nuclear power: the White Paper in 2003, non-nuclear from where we are now where the Government is embracing nuclear. Is that an example where the U-turn was the result of improper influence?
Mr Sauven: I would go back to what I said before. There are a huge number of Labour ministers and Labour MPs involved in the nuclear industry and in lobbying organisations working for the nuclear industry, or working for companies associated with the nuclear industry, and obviously their influence is massive. I think that kind of revolving door situation and the power and influence they have is, for example, different from what British Airports Authority did with the Department of Transport with the Heathrow consultation. One was more revolving doors influence able to have an impact on government thinking, while the other one was almost fraudulent in the sense that here was a company getting into bed with a government who had run the consultation on its behalf and was given access to all kinds of confidential information and was able to fiddle the figures and so on. I think that was wholly improper. With the nuclear debate you had a situation where there was a huge amount of inside pressure and influence and lobbying, and aligned with that was this idea that they had this public consultation but they had already made up their mind what they wanted to do and that is when it was thrown out by the High Court. They did it again but they did it again badly. It was a question where the Government had made up its mind and then had to go through the motion of appearing to consult the public before it actually decided what it already wanted to do. The reason why it was in that situation was because in the 2003 Energy White Paper it said it would consult the public if it ever went back to the nuclear question. Partly it went back to the nuclear question because it had failed to carry out anything that it said it would do in the 2003 Energy White Paper, which was develop energy efficiency, renewables and so on and so forth. There are lots of complex reasons about why that change happened and how it happened but there was certainly a failure at the heart of government policy.
Q729 Mr Prentice: You mentioned a number of MPs. We had Dick Caborn in front of us last week. I do not want to misquote him, absolutely not, but I think he told us he got £75,000 from AMEC because he was apprentice of the year many years ago and he was doing some work for Forgemasters and nothing to do the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority or any contact with the nuclear industry. We all believe that to be the case, do we not?
Mr Espley: One of the difficulties with providing the kind of examples we are talking about is, in a sense, you cannot show a deductive cause and effect. What you see is what you induce. You see that this activity is taking place and you see that the CBI is having a meeting every month with Digby Jones. You see that the DTI and the CBI are having away days and you see that government policy comes out the other end very close to what the CBI was pushing. You also see that the Government is repeating some of the exaggerated claims which the CBI had been saying. You cannot deduce necessarily that the Government has not come to its own clear and informed decision in the same way, but that sequence of events does not lead you to be absolutely trusting that that has not taken place in a particular way that it has.
Q730 Mr Prentice: I understand all that. Dick Caborn told the Committee last week that he did not have any contact with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and so on, absolutely not. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments had actually banned him from lobbying on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for a year, but he told the Committee the date when the decision was going to be made on the contractor who was going to get the billion-pound contract for the clean-up at Sellafield. When I subsequently put in a parliamentary question I was given a holding answer. My question comes back to the Business Appointment Rules. Are there any changes that you would like to see made to the Business Appointment Rules? At the moment they are not policed. We know that the Advisory Committee said to Dick Caborn you cannot lobby for a year but it is not policed. Are there any specific changes you would like to see to the Business Appointment Rules?
Mr Sauven: I have a list of members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority itself and three of its most senior executives are ex-DTI civil servants. There is a revolving door that is happening not just with the Civil Service but with former ministers and this is becoming an increasing problem. You are talking here about hundreds of billions of pounds worth of contracts. The clean-up bill is currently £70 billion or £80 billion and takes up about 40 % of the Department of Business's budget. It is huge amounts of public money.
Q731 Mr Prentice: You are not telling us that retired civil servants cannot go into the private sector subsequently, are you?
Mr Espley: For senior civil servants and ministers there should be a period that is set when it is not appropriate for them to be engaged in lobbying activity.
Q732 Mr Prentice: There is at the moment.
Mr Hancock: Amnesty International is not pushing this but I am looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes. It seems the 12 month period, or whatever period you institute for this, is a little bit arbitrary when you consider some of the issues that are under consideration. I think companies or charities can benefit from the kind of knowledge of the way government works when ex-civil servants, former MPs, former researchers for MPs, come and work for us. That for me is a good thing. When we start getting that insider knowledge which is specifically related to a contract, whether nuclear decommissioning or building an oil pipeline, then we have a problem because it is not about the lobbying contact as much about the knowledge of who is making the decisions and when the decisions are going to be made. If you consider the duration of some of these projects before they get to implementation stage, the length of time it takes from the inception of an idea to build an oil pipeline to the date the oil starts running, that is going to take a lot longer than one, two or three years. It is not about the period of time but about saying if you have been working as a civil servant intimately involved with all the negotiations and all the issues around this particular issue then you should not be touching that issue in the private sector at all. That is not Amnesty International speaking but just what I have observed thinking around this issue.
Q733 Mr Prentice: If Tony will allow me a few final points about the register of lobbyists. Should we have a situation where lobbyists have to file their game plans? We had an interesting submission from SpinWatch who told us how the people lobbying on behalf of the nuclear industry were going to try and change government policy. They would focus on climate change, nuclear is clean, and it would be led by workers in the nuclear industry. They would be the shock troops. It worked and government policy changed. Would you like to see, in this register, lobbyists filing their game plan saying this is their lobbying objective and this is how they intend to go about it? You are already calling for financial disclosure, Friends of the Earth. What should be in this register?
Mr Espley: Very concretely in the register you have the name of the lobbyist, the person who is engaged in the activity, so if they work for a particular organisation you would have their name as well. You would have the area of legislation which they are trying to influence, whether that is a piece of legislation going through or a particular decision about a contract. Disclosure for different organisations works in slightly different ways but you would disclose who is paying and how much money and on which areas of policy. There are other areas such as using the Freedom of Information Act and the availability of those minutes of meetings where we can be clear that these are the arguments they are making. If an organisation is representing workers in the nuclear industry, their staff, if they have staff, would register as lobbyists and you would see how much money that organisation was receiving from individual donations from workers in the nuclear industry and how many donations it was receiving from the nuclear industry itself. That information would help journalists, ministers, civil servants and MPs judge the evidence those groups are putting.
Q734 Mr Prentice: We heard about the 15,000 lobbyists in
Mr Espley: I said
earlier there should be a threshold of activity. Finance or time are two ways that it is being
done but a threshold where below that amount of lobbying activity you are under
no obligation to register. I was talking
to a lobbyist in the
Mr Sauven: It will not solve every problem, and like tax people find ways to get around it, so front groups, micro-groups, people who get under the threshold and so on and so forth but so what. That is daily life and those are the kind of things you expose and find out about. Basically you are trying to set up a system that is workable, manageable, fair and equal, and which applies to all groups in society who are involved in lobbying and pressuring people.
Q735 Mr Prentice: You are telling us it is possible to have a register that would not collapse under its own bureaucratic weight.
Mr Sauven: Do not set up one that is designed in that way.
Q736 Chairman: In some of your answers to Gordon there was an implicit assumption that policy outcomes are determined by these networks of influence and some people have more influence than you and therefore the outcomes are such, because you tell us who works for whom and so on. Is it not just conceivable that the Government takes the decision it thinks is the right one balancing evidence and is then held to account for it politically by Parliament and the people? You are not held to account for things that you do. Is it not conceivable that they actually evaluate evidence and come to a decision which often involves very complex trade-offs but on balance they think is right?
Mr Sauven: That could well be true but we need to know that. For example, when they were looking at the economics around the expansion of Heathrow Airport it is quite important people should know that the research they based those conclusions on was paid for in a joint study by the Department for Transport and the aviation industry and that other reports done by other people were not taken into account. It was only afterwards that a whole range of people, including Bob Ayling who used to run British Airways, came out against the expansion of Heathrow, as did lots of other business groups and academics who began to question the studies and the facts that had been put on the table. It is quite important that people know who funded the information that the Government was making that decision on. This is really where it is important. When we dealt with the Judicial Review over the nuclear consultation, for example, the judge laughed at some points because we asked for information to be put into the public domain on the terms of which the Government had made that decision and there were entire reports that were redacted and blanked out except for the title. It was a kind of a joke and laughable and the Government lost the case. That is the problem and the whole issue around this is to be more open and transparent. I accept the fact that, at the end of the day, government makes decisions and either wins or loses elections as a result of how people think they have made those decisions, whether they are right or not.
Q737 Chairman: You could be wrong.
Mr Sauven: Absolutely. I am not saying we are right and they are wrong or vice versa; all I am saying is let us be more open and more transparent. Let us increase the trust that people have in the decision-making processes in the government process.
Mr Espley: The point of holding the Government accountable is precisely the reason why you want more information about what lobbying activity is taking place because without that information you cannot judge whether the Government has weighed different arguments in a fair way. If you are going to hold the Government accountable for its decisions, both that they do take a decision which balances that effectively but also that we can judge and hold them accountable for where they do not, that is precisely the reason why there needs to be more transparency in lobbying.
Q738 Paul Rowen: Do any of you employ any MPs, former MPs or civil servants as part of your organisation?
Mr Sauven: I do not think we do.
Mr Espley: I do not know of any examples.
Mr Sauven: It is not that we would not. It is a fair point when Tesco employs 100,000 people and we employ 60 or 70 that on balance we are less likely to have every sector of society employed on our books whereas for a large corporation that is more likely to be the case. Also there is an issue around Tom Kelly downplaying his role on how important he was and saying he was not very influential. I am sure in the interview for the job he said he was very important and influential and had lots of access to people. You have to take into account how people describe themselves.
Mr Hancock: We employ one person who was a political adviser; we employ a former researcher for an MP; we have one person from a UK Civil Service background but not in a front-line lobbying role; and one from a non-UK Civil Service background.
Q739 Paul Rowen: What proportion of your income is spent on lobbying?
Mr Sauven: For our organisation that is more difficult because we are campaigning organisations. It is how you define that.
Q740 Paul Rowen: Influencing government and Parliament.
Mr Sauven: We have two people whose job in particular is to be involved in dealing with parliament and with that kind of political process. I would say that one way or another a lot of our staff are involved in engaging civil servants, MPs, engaging the broader public in how they can be mobilised to engage with MPs, but that is the nature of a campaigning organisation rather than a manufacturer or a retailer or whatever.
Q741 Paul Rowen: Do any of your organisations engage in any illegal acts or issues that might push the law to its limits?
Mr Sauven: We are often
accused of being involved in illegal acts.
Juries normally find us not guilty but magistrates sometimes find us
guilty. We have tested the security at
Mr Espley: Friends of the Earth always attempt to act within the law.
Q742 Paul Rowen: I know you said you are very young, but Des Wilson, your former chairman, went from poacher to game keeper when he went to work for BAA and helped them get Terminal 5. Do you think that is a legitimate career move for him to make?
Mr Espley: There is a big difference between revolving doors between different private entities or businesses and civil society than there is with public servants. There is a clear distinction there between public servants who need to be seen to be acting within the public interest.
Q743 Paul Rowen: Was he not setting himself up as a paragon in defending the environment and then he is helping an organisation that in some of your eyes is the opposite?
Mr Espley: It is an issue for an individual's choice. Some people believe it is better to be in an environmental campaigning group to make changes, other people believe they can make more difference within companies.
Q744 Paul Rowen: Is it the same answer for ministers or MPs who are now on the payroll of some of these companies?
Mr Hancock: It comes back to the knowledge and the ability to influence the decision-making process. We had one person about 10 years ago who went from Amnesty to the Foreign Office. That was her choice and good luck to her. If there was an internal decision-making process that Amnesty was going through then we would not want her involved with it because she would be representing the Foreign Office. We would be careful about maintaining that kind of distinction.
Q745 Paul Rowen: Des Wilson's skills learned at Friends of the Earth clearly worked because BAA got the fifth terminal, did they not?
Mr Sauven: That is why they employed him for his campaigning skills and that is presumably why people employ ex-ministers or MPs, or whatever, for their skills in terms of influencing the political process.
Q746 Paul Rowen: According to Tom Kelly he is merely the mouthpiece, a very simple one as well.
Mr Sauven: He obviously has got very extensive contacts. In Tom Kelly's case it goes much deeper than the individual in terms of how BAA were treated within the Department of Transport. It was very difficult to draw a line between the government department and BAA when it came to the Heathrow consultation?
Q747 Mr Prentice: One final thing on the Information Tribunal ruling, do you have any sense that the government is going to challenge that?
Mr Espley: We hope they will not.
Q748 Mr Prentice: If it is not challenged, you will be putting in requests for this kind of information across all the government departments will you?
Mr Espley: Probably not. Those requests came about at a particular time immediately following the 2005 election where we understood the Government and the Civil Service would be going through a slightly deeper policy-making process. There were a lot of issues there on the table at the time which had environmental and business crossovers and links. We were particularly concerned about the influence which the CBI, then Digby Jones, was having on the DTI and being listened to uncritically and that is why we put in those requests. I cannot judge when we would use Freedom of Information again but it would not be worth our time spending our resources doing blanket Freedom of Information requests left, right and centre.
Chairman: A generation or so ago you say there were insider groups and outsider groups and that the insider groups, like those in the previous session, get ready access to policy makers and outsider groups do not and, therefore, they have to go off and campaign with the public. The difference now, listening to you, is that you are not saying you do not have access. It has been a big development that groups like yours do now have access but the suggestion is that other groups have even better access and that some of that has more influence than you do and, therefore, the conclusion is the process should be more visible and that would inform public debate. It is interesting that that is the argument we are now having. Obviously the questions we have given you have been to try and see if there are any improvements we can make to present arrangements that will impact across the board on groups like yours and on the groups that were here before that are all going to be equally useful or equally burdensome and contribute to the public good in some way. It has been very interesting being able to test these out on you so thank you for all of that.
 the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
 The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI): A Corporate Profile, www.corporatewatch.org.uk
 Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
 "Labour's flying club lobbies for BAA", The Sunday Times, 16 March 2008, p 10
 Emission Trading System
 Civil Aviation Authority
 Department of Trade and Industry
 The Confederation of British Industry
 Intellectual Property
 Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
 "Tesco recruits two Blair aides", The Independent on Sunday, 9 December 2001, p 9
 "Labour's flying club lobbies for BAA", The Sunday Times, 16 March 2008, p 10
 Opinion Leader Research
 Non-governmental organisation