Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
MP AND MR
8 MAY 2008
Q560 Mr Walker: For the record, I
have nothing against what any of you do, but ultimately business
is about selling things and influencing buying decisions. It is
not the public sector; it is about profit and the generation of
Mr Caborn: I accept that. There
is no doubt that when you have been a minister a number of people
come to you. I have been sports minister for a few years. I have
now become president of the Amateur Boxing Association and the
UK School Games and I advise the Prime Minister on the 2018 World
Cup. I am also a member of the Football Foundation. None of that
is paid work and I can assure you that I lobby very hard on those.
As far as AMEC is concerned, it has a major constituency influence.
If you look at the record, back in the mid-1990s I was very critical
of government about how we had missed fantastic opportunities
by standing down some of the best engineers and designers on the
nuclear kit. I said at the time Michael Heseltine was president
of the Board of Trade that we would rue the day we stood down
some great engineers and teams. Out of the blue I got a call directly
from AMEC asking whether I would advise them on some of the supply
chain issues, which I did. Obviously, that has a big constituency
interest. We could develop off the back of what I believe will
be a nuclear and manufacturing renaissance, which is at the heart
of my constituency and the company where I served my time. I was
already in discussions with companies in my constituency about
the supply chain when AMEC came along and asked whether I would
advise them on wider social, regional and European issues. Obviously,
being an engineer I agreed to that. I did not even know what they
would pay me; it was only after that. I say that very genuinely.
That was why I took the decision which was based more on my constituency
and something in which I deeply believed. I am on the record as
to that. I also say that having been in this place for 25 years
and served on many committees it needs to open itself up. You
are absolutely right that these types of inquiries should take
place but they should not be predicated on trying to isolate this
activity; they should be predicated on a set of rules on which
the vast majority of people act, whether on the business side
or our side, with integrity, honesty and openness. I entirely
agree that you must have ground rules but the need for an interchange
of ideas and views is absolutely essential. I have done that consistently
for 25 years. When I took this job I did so for those motives.
Q561 Mr Walker: This question needs
to be asked. The crux of it is that in 1997 the Conservative Party
was wiped out. Many secretaries of state lost their jobs; they
were no longer Members of Parliament. Many people, even people
who had been in the Cabinet, struggled to find employment. I ask
this question of the two politicians: if there is a Conservative
government after the next general election do you think your market
value will go up or down?
Mr Caborn: I shall not be here
after the next election.
Q562 Mr Walker: But your ability
to influence may be changed?
Lord Warner: It depends how quick
it is. I think that my ability to influence will be determined
largely by whether people think I still have something sensible
to say on health and social care and whether or not I am sufficiently
well informed about developments in the sector on which I am advising.
They may say that my time is up: I am out of touch and I do not
know. I think that will have more to do with the passage of time
and age than with a change of government.
Mr Caborn: I am in broad agreement
with that. The fact I have been a minister is a minor consideration.
Given the job I am doing now, it is much more to do with the background
that I have been privileged to have outside as well as inside
Q563 Paul Flynn: Mr Caborn, we all
do what you describe in constituencies. I bang the drum for EADS,
Life Force and other companies there. If they came to me and said
they were going to give me £70,000 for the work I was doing
that would be rightly regarded as corruption. Explain the difference.
You are getting £70,000 for doing a constituency job that
you should be doing anyway as an MP.
Mr Caborn: With all due respect,
Mr Flynn, I said that I was already working on the supply chain,
not the development of the new nuclear
Q564 Paul Flynn: But you made the
case that you were doing it because of the constituency base?
Mr Caborn: I was already doing
that. I said that it was something about which I was deeply concerned
in the 1990s as chairman of the Select Committee on Trade and
Industry that the then government was standing down all the design
Q565 Paul Flynn: We have had your
work history a number of times now and we understand it.
Mr Caborn: Obviously, it has not
Q566 Paul Flynn: Do you regard the
job of a Member of Parliament as a full-time one?
Mr Caborn: Yes, I do a full-time
Q567 Paul Flynn: What would your
constituents think of you as a retiring MP with expectations of
going to the Lords taking an additional job that is worth £70,000
which is more than your parliamentary salary? Do you think your
constituents would regard it as right that you should be doing
this while you are their Member of Parliament?
Mr Caborn: The answer to that
is yes because the job I have taken is one that will massively
enhance the wealth-creating base of Sheffield and my constituents.
If you objectively evaluate it you will probably say it is a damn
good thing for my constituents.
Q568 Paul Flynn: The point is not
coming through. Why is that different from any of the companies
in our constituencies we are promoting paying us money to promote
them when we should be doing it as part of our parliamentary work?
Mr Caborn: I am not saying that
it is solely because of my constituents; I am saying it is the
wider issue of the nuclear rebuild and it addresses climate change
and security of supply. It is a major part of the energy mix that
I argued back in the 1990s. The opportunity arose on a number
of fronts. It is difficult to put all of these together, but I
made statements in the middle of the 1990s and got the opportunities
for my constituency and on the wider issue to become a consultant
to AMEC. All of that came together. They were not little silos;
the whole thing came together.
Q569 Paul Flynn: But why do you take
a salary for it?
Mr Caborn: Because they want to
pay me. What is wrong with that?
Q570 Paul Flynn: Lots of people want
to pay MPs. What is the point of people wanting to pay legislators
in order to prostitute their office to their commercial advantage?
Mr Caborn: I do not believe I
am prostituting myself.
Q571 Paul Flynn: I still cannot see
the difference between doing your work as a Member of Parliament,
as you still are, and working for an outside body that pays you
Mr Caborn: With all due respect,
if we debated that until kingdom come you would not accept it
because you have a different view from mine.
Q572 Paul Flynn: That is fine. Someone
in your constituency, possibly a political opponent, might cynically
suggest that what you are doing as a retiring MP with a short
time to go and expectations of going to the Lords is feathering
your nest in order to get a comfortable job after you stand down
as an MP?
Mr Caborn: If they want to make
that judgment they will do so. They might be as cynical as you,
Q573 Paul Flynn: Lord Warner, you
have a very busy life. You work for Xansa, Apax Partners, Byotrol,
Deloitte, DLA Piper and UK Healthgateway. Were these firms ones
with which you were in contact when a minister? Did it involve
any contact with them at all?
Lord Warner: No, none whatsoever.
Q574 Paul Flynn: You were a minister
from 2003. Were those firms involved in some way in shaping the
health service and its present condition for which I am sure you
Lord Warner: I am sure that a
number of those firms had contracts somewhere in the NHS and were
doing some work for it, but since the health service spends £110
billion a year it is highly improbable that a minister will know
what or who is involved in the NHS at any point in time.
Q575 Paul Flynn: You still maintain
that you had no contact whatsoever with any of those companies
as a minister?
Lord Warner: I am trying to remember.
I am not being evasive. Given the number of people who come through
a health minister's door, without consulting all of my diaries
for those four years I cannot in all honesty say I am 100% certain
that I never saw anybody from any of those companies.
Q576 Paul Flynn: So, there was no
expectation of future employment in your involvement as a minister?
Lord Warner: To be clear, I did
not know until the last minute when I decided to resign when I
was going to cease being a minister. I did not spend four years
as a minister thinking what my job opportunities would be after
leaving the place. With all due respect, this is a fantasy view
of the world.
Q577 Paul Flynn: I am glad you are
amused by it, but there are other ministers and former ministers
who have been involved in very big contracts valued at billions
of pounds and later they have found themselves employed by those
companies. These cases exist.
Lord Warner: I am talking about
Q578 Paul Flynn: I appreciate that.
There are other ministers who are not before us today. Perhaps
we should look at other former ministers and peers who are in
the same position. Do you think there is a danger that if someone
is in a position of great influence involving contracts somewhere
in the back of their minds they might be thinking how they might
enrich themselves in retirement by influencing those contracts?
In order to avoid any possibility of that, do you not think it
would be useful to have a rule that former ministers should not
take employment in the areas of their departmental powers after
they leave office? Would that not be a sensible precaution to
ensure they are not influenced in awarding contracts as ministers?
Lord Warner: To be clear, we have
a process in which you sign a piece of paper where you state the
job for which you ask approval. You have to indicate on that form
whether you have had any previous contact with them. It is open
to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments to say to me
that it believes my contact with this previous outfit makes it
inappropriate for me to take up the appointment. I have been through
that process. I have answered the questions honestly and have
accepted the ministerial code and the rules of the Advisory Committee
on Business Appointments. Behind your question lies an inference
that there is not a process that provides some sort of check.
Q579 Paul Flynn: It is a process
that everyone would suggest is imperfect. Why at the end of six
months or two years should it become appropriate for you to lobby
when it is not appropriate up to that point? What happens at the
end of this period?
Lord Warner: Clearly, I have failed
to get across the point that I have not spent my time lobbying
according to any general interpretation of that word. I can answer
this only from my own point of view. If people choose to make
a malign interpretation of what we do I cannot do anything about
that. I agree with you that if I had gone straight out of the
Department of Health and signed up with one of the big contractors,
for example, for the national IT programme