Lobbying: Access and influence in Whitehall - Public Administration Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 580-599)


8 MAY 2008

  Q580  Paul Flynn: We have very little time and I must ask my final question. How does the income you have from your present employment with these companies compare with your ministerial salary?

  Lord Warner: I gave up income to become a minister; I reduced my income when I was employed as a minister, so I had a reasonable expectation that I would quite like to re-establish my income at a reasonable level after I ceased to be a minister. I still have not returned it to the level it was before I was a minister.

  Q581  Paul Flynn: And the answer to the question is what?

  Lord Warner: I have answered your question.

  Q582  Paul Flynn: How does it compare?

  Lord Warner: What I am actually paid now is less than I was paid as a minister.

  Q583  Jenny Willott: You are all defending the different roles you play. Why do you think we are conducting this inquiry? What do you believe the issues are?

  Mr Caborn: I think it is because of the lack of understanding of the role of lobbying. That has become quite evident in the evidence submitted to you and from what you are trying to put this morning. It is about the revolving door and we have tried to answer that. To be quite honest, the one thing I want to get across is that I hope that the recommendations that emerge from the Committee are ones that positively encourage the lobbying of Parliament per se, whether it is the business sector, the voluntary sector and others who need Parliament to be knowledgeable about their concerns. This is but one area of that. I honestly believe that industry does not know how this place works in the main. You might refer to one or two big companies and big contracts that have been awarded, but in the main—I say this as a former chairman of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry and one who has come from industry—there is little knowledge about how this place can be influenced and affected. It is the wealth creators out there for whom we legislate and sometimes it is done in ignorance. If I may say so, the Industry Parliament Trust was totally misrepresented in this Committee by some witnesses. It is not a lobbying organisation; it is a body that brings outside interests and parliamentarians together which I think is very important. I hope that you make that a central part of your findings.

  Mr Haddrill: I hope that the purpose is to find a point of balance between the public perception of integrity and actual integrity. Another factor which I do not believe has to be in conflict with that but is on a different track is that people will not join the Civil Service or enter a political career if they think that after 20 years in it they are not able to use the skills, experience and knowledge they have developed as a result. One wants to make sure that people can see something after that career and experience. Another factor that affects the Civil Service in particular is that as society ages and people work longer we want a group of people who move on in their fifties and sixties and make way for a younger cadre. Particularly at the pinnacle of the Civil Service, the harder it is for senior people to find other things to go on and do because they are restricted as a result of what they have been doing the more they will just stay put. I do not believe that is in the public interest either. Therefore, it is about balancing those sorts of things.

  Q584  Jenny Willott: Obviously, all three of you come to it from a particular perspective and you seem quite defensive about whether or not there is an issue. There is a huge range of views on this Committee and there are lots of experiences of lobbying, good and bad, having done it or not done it. The reason we have undertaken this inquiry is that there are some concerns, whether genuine or not, specifically around public perception. If you have looked at the evidence we have received clearly there are issues about lobbying. You have all said that the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments was a fair and reasonable process and looked carefully at your appointments. Do you think that the system as it now is does enough to allay concerns that people may have when looking at the process? What do you think could be done differently to make it tighter?

  Mr Haddrill: I do not think it is very well understood or well known. Does it do enough? I think it does enough when the question is asked and is debated, but in terms of public confidence I do not suppose that most of the time the public has a clue that it exists. Therefore, a bit more openness about how it works and its very existence would be very useful.

  Lord Warner: I can see that there is some public concern and why you are here. I do not feel defensive; I am just trying to be fairly robust about my position here today. I sense that the Committee is starting from a different position from me and Mr Caborn about the whole business of accepting private sector appointments after one has been a minister. I do not think we start from the same position as some Members of the Committee, but I do not feel defensive about it. If you want me to be constructive about how the system might be improved to deal with some of these public perceptions, you could change the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments so that it was an outside independent body; you could take it out of the hands of parliamentarians if that was something you wanted to do. You could also define a bit more clearly what you mean by "lobbying". I do not believe everybody has the same view about what constitutes lobbying. Those are two constructive suggestions about how you might improve the system around this issue. I do not think any of us argues that it is inappropriate there should be some vetting process of the appointments that former ministers take up when they leave office. As Mr Haddrill said, the public understanding of the fact that there is such a process is probably not very good.

  Q585  Jenny Willott: One matter that has been raised with us in relation to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments is that there is no enforcement; it does not follow up. When you were given advice about what you could take up and for how long the lobbying ban would be in place, did you have any impression as to what would happen if you breached it?

  Mr Haddrill: The thing that most concerned me was that I would damage the reputation of my new employer. If this is about integrity my new employer does not want there to be any question about whether or not it has acted with integrity. The fact that I have been through the business appointments process was included by them in the press notice that announced my appointment. I was perfectly open and said what the restrictions were. If I had breached them in the kind of public space in which we operated it would have been obvious and damaging. Therefore, there is a kind of self-enforcement. Is there any further enforcement? You write back after whatever period of time it is to say what you have done and that is about it.

  Mr Caborn: Having been privy for 10 years to the discipline of public office, I believe that those standards are inherent in the way you conduct your daily life, whether it is in the business sector or anywhere else. It may well be that you will look at some type of enforcement of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. I agree that how it comes to its decisions could be more transparent; it could be more rigorous. There could be some face-to-face interviews, but the important point is: how do you address public perception? The fact is that you are holding this inquiry and there are journalists here who will probably not report it in the most objective ways. Their business is to sell newspapers. Without digressing, the fact that we are here is rather like the funding of political parties and the constraints on that. Are we using a sledge hammer to crack a nut here? I think that phraseology has been used before. It is about having integrity in the system to make sure it is transparent and robust. I think that is absolutely central. Once you have got that it is a matter of saying to the general public that that is what we have. I do not think that is out there at all. The danger is that if we do not have it people will become very concerned about anybody who comes to discuss matters either with ministers or Members of Parliament which to me is a negation of democracy.

  Q586  Jenny Willott: It seems to me that, given the system as it is at the moment, there is quite a big difference between the position of civil servants who move from one job to another and sitting MPs and peers taking on additional roles; they are not giving up one job and moving to another but effectively it is being done on top. Is the present system fair to both situations, which are different? Is it appropriate to have the same set up to deal with both scenarios, or would it be more appropriate to have a different system for politicians who are still sitting in either the Commons or Lords and to separate that out from civil servants and potentially special advisers?

  Lord Warner: Perhaps I may start off by making clear that peers are not paid; they are not salaried appointments.

  Q587  Jenny Willott: I understand that.

  Lord Warner: And peers do not represent anybody in any sense; they have no representative responsibilities and so they are in a different position.

  Q588  Chairman: Do they not represent the public interest in a general sense?

  Lord Warner: The point I am trying to make is that we do not have constituents. There is not a group of people who have voted for us, which is a sore point with quite a few parliamentarians. We are not elected to represent a particular geographical area and we are not paid a salary. I am not trying to stir up House of Lords reform—I am happy to debate it if you wish—but making a point. The question was whether there should be a parliamentary and non-parliamentary system. The point I make is that peers are in a different position from those who continue to be MPs.

  Q589  Jenny Willott: But the difference is that in theory we as sitting Members of Parliament or Members of the House of Lords are in a position to influence legislation, the Government and so on. We are in a role that does that anyway and you are taking on a paid job in addition to being a parliamentarian, which is a little different from a civil servant or special adviser who moves from one role to another and does not maintain that previous role.

  Lord Warner: The earlier questioning by Mr Flynn was all about whether an individual who was receiving the pay of a sitting MP could continue to do an outside job. The point I am making about peers being unpaid is that they have a reasonable expectation of being able to earn some kind of living outside their parliamentary duties. I am not trying to make any wider point than that. I can see as a former minister that if one came from the Lords one would need to be subject to the same discipline as someone who left the Commons. But I do not think it would be reasonable to impose such onerous restrictions that effectively one would seriously affect the ability of a departing minister from the Lords to earn a living.

  Mr Haddrill: I think the fundamental issue is probably the same on both sides. Obviously, one must take into account how serious is the risk. As now one puts in place different sanctions on different people, but I am not sure I particularly want to divide the system in half and say that somehow the issues of integrity for civil servants are different in nature from those governing ministers or MPs. The discussion has been very much around lobbying. People probably think of it in terms of public policy lobbying; at least I tend to view it in that way. It seems to me that these issues are probably sharpest in the public mind where there are big contracts at stake, and maybe that is something that has not come out sufficiently. If the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments does different things in different places then it is about being clearer in relation to potential contracts rather than informing public debate which, perhaps more kindly, is what I say I do.

  Q590  Mr Prentice: I want to come to big contracts in a moment. Mr Caborn, we know that you get £75,000 for what you do for AMEC. We know that Ian McCartney gets £115,000 a year for what he does for the Fluor Corporation, which is a nuclear decommissioning group. We know that Patricia Hewitt gets £65,000 for her job with Boots the Chemist because all of that is in the Commons Register of Members' Interests. Lord Warner, when Mr Flynn pressed you on how much you got paid you danced around the issue. Should the money that you get from all your appointments be listed, if it is not at the moment, in the Lords register?

  Lord Warner: I am paid as an adviser according to the number of days' work I do. I do not know in advance in any one year what my pay will be.

  Q591  Mr Prentice: So, it is done on a daily or weekly basis; you have no idea?

  Lord Warner: I have an idea. I was trying to make a calculation in my head very quickly and my answer was my best judgment.

  Q592  Mr Prentice: We understand that. One of your employments is DLA Piper. What do you do for that company? Is there a job description?

  Lord Warner: There is a contract.

  Q593  Mr Prentice: It lists what you are expected to do?

  Lord Warner: In very general terms, but I have—

  Q594  Mr Prentice: I was looking at the DLA Piper—

  Lord Warner: Do you want the rest of the answer? I have a contract with a particular part of DLA Piper concerned with infrastructure and public services and that requires me to give advice in those areas, including a bit of health regulation. Therefore, it defines the territory in which I shall be giving advice and the contract is with a particular part of DLA Piper.

  Q595  Mr Prentice: I was about to say earlier that buried deep in the DLA Piper website—you must really search for it—is this: "Raids by regulators often happen at the crack of dawn, at weekends or at times when least expected. Such crises require immediate management by specialists", and then there is all this stuff about dawn raids and having people who know how the regulatory system works.[5] Are you involved in that side of DLA Piper at all?

  Lord Warner: First, I have not seen its website; second, I do not remember being asked to be involved in any dawn raids or advising anyone who has been the subject of them.

  Q596  Mr Prentice: Anyone with five minutes to spare can bury deep into the DLA Piper website and read what I have just read out to the Committee. I want to be clear what you do for the money you get.

  Lord Warner: I give them advice.

  Q597  Mr Prentice: You give them advice?

  Lord Warner: I give them advice. I do think that if we are to have a conversation—it is a bit like being on the Today programme. One likes to be able to answer the question and complete the sentence.

  Q598  Mr Prentice: I am conscious that we are under time pressure here. Let us have brief questions and answers.

  Lord Warner: I am trying to do that but it would be quicker if we were allowed to finish our sentences. I give advice in the area of public services, public sector infrastructure and health regulation in particular. I do not give advice on environmental regulation or any other form of regulation.

  Q599  Mr Prentice: When you were minister for health service reform one of your policy objectives, which was subsequently overturned by Patricia Hewitt, was to move a quarter of a million people out of primary care trusts in the health service and into the private and not-for-profit sectors. Does that make you and your expertise an attractive proposition for private sector companies that want to get into the NHS?

  Lord Warner: That is your interpretation of what I was trying to do. What I was actually trying to do, as distinct from your interpretation, was to separate out the provider side from the commissioning side of PCTs. That is a different proposition from the one you put.

5   Rapid Response, www.dlapiper.com Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 5 January 2009