The Conduct of Lord Moonie, Lord Snape, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn - Privileges Committee Contents

Submission by Lord Harris of Haringey, Monday 23 February 2009


  1.  My name is Toby Harris, Lord Harris of Haringey. I am 55 years old, was appointed a Life Peer in 1998 and was introduced in October 1998.

  2.  Like many Peers of working age, I still need to earn a living and so, in addition to my duties in the House, I have a "portfolio" existence combining a number of public appointments with advisory and non-executive roles in the private and voluntary sectors. These various interests are declared in the House of Lords Members' Register of Interests (and also in the registers maintained by the public bodies with which I am involved).

  3.  Amongst my interests is the public affairs consultancy that I established some 10 years ago—Toby Harris Associates. This provides mentoring and advisory services to senior people in organisations in the public and private sectors. The work done is described on its website— The consultancy does not provide parliamentary services.

  4.  I received a phone call on my mobile telephone on the morning of Thursday 8 January 2009. The woman calling me identified herself as Claire Taylor, working for what she said was a primarily Brussels-based public affairs consultancy. She said that one of their overseas clients was looking to appoint some UK-based advisors and might that be something I would be interested in doing. I was actually running late for a meeting when she called and told her that I might be, but that I did not have time to discuss it further then and suggested that she should send me further details and gave her my email address.

  5.  She sent me an email the following day, which said she worked for a company called "Michael Johnson Associates" and referred me to its website at She said that they were looking to expand their network in the UK and that one of their Chinese clients was particularly keen for them to develop their UK parliamentary contacts. The email suggested coffee in the next week.

  6.  I responded suggesting three possible times when I was free in the week beginning 12 January and she responded opting for the one time of the three that I had suggested that we meet at the House of Lords. The full email exchange is appended to this submission.

  7.  The meeting took place at 3.30 pm on Tuesday 13 January 2009. I met "Claire Taylor" at the Peers' Entrance and she introduced me to someone she described as her boss, "David Thompson." They both gave me their business cards and I bought them tea in the Peers' Dining Room.

  8.  They again described themselves as from a public affairs company that did most of its work in Europe and said that they had a Chinese client who was keen to expand its presence in the retail clothing market in the UK, by opening a chain of high street shops.

  9.  I outlined the nature of my public affairs consultancy, explaining that I offered strategic advice and/or personal mentoring to senior people in public or private sector organisations. I also made it clear that there were three things that I did not do as part of my consultancy work: I would not act in Parliament on behalf of clients; I would not personally lobby on behalf of clients; and I would not make introductions for clients.

  10.  They then described the issue that was particularly concerning their client. This related to the Business Rates Supplement Bill and the impact that any supplements might have on their client. They said their client was keen to see the Bill amended either to require a referendum of all the businesses potentially affected before a supplement could be imposed or to provide an exemption for a period for newly opened businesses. I pointed out that in my opinion the first would be very strongly opposed by the Government as it would in practice undermine the purpose of the Bill and in particular would make the funding needed for the Crossrail project more problematic. I also suggested that the second option would be better pursued via a trade association.

  11.  Rather to my surprise, they kept coming back to whether I would be able to help their client secure the amendments. I again explained that I was not prepared to act in Parliament on behalf of a client, nor to make personal representations or introductions on a client's behalf.

  12.  The meeting concluded—after about 50 minutes—with "David Thompson" saying they would be back in touch.

  13.  I made no effort to contact them again and did not hear from them further.

  14. On the morning of 23 January 2009, I received a phone call from Michael Gillard of the Sunday Times asking about my business arrangements with "MJ Associates." I said I had no business arrangements and that the only contact I had had with them was a cup of tea about 10 days before. He then informed me that "David Thompson" and "Claire Taylor" were, in fact, under-cover reporters and that they had taped the conversation in the Peers' Dining Room. He asked me whether I had anything to say and I reiterated that I had entered into no arrangement with them and restated that I was not prepared to act in Parliament on behalf of clients, or lobby or make introductions on their behalf. The conversation concluded with Michael Gillard saying that they would be running the story in the Sunday Times on 25 January 2009.


  From: Lord Toby Harris [***]

Sent: 11 January 2009 22:35

  To: ""

Subject: RE: Consultant opportunity

  Excellent! I will see you at the Peers' Entrance at 3.30pm. The Peers' Entrance is marked as (8) on the map at the link below:

Lord Toby Harris

Toby Harris Associates:

  From: Claire Taylor []

Sent: 11 January 2009 18:34

  To: Lord Toby Harris

Subject: RE: Consultant opportunity

  Great, why don't we do 3.30pm on Tuesday at the Lords?


  From: "Lord Toby Harris" <***>

Sent: 09 January 2009 18:16


Subject: RE: Consultant opportunity

  Thank you for this. I would be happy to meet next week. I could do 11.30am on Monday at the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall, 3.30pm onwards on Tuesday at the House of Lords or 3.30pm on Friday. Are any of these any good for you?

  From: Claire Taylor

Sent: 09 January 2009 09:08

  To: ***

Subject: Consultant opportunity

  Dear Lord Harris

  It was nice to speak to you yesterday.

  As I explained, I work for a communications company called Michael Johnson Associates. We currently do most of our work in Brussels but are looking to expand our network in the UK. One of our Chinese clients is particularly keen for us to develop our UK parliamentary contacts and potentially take on a consultant with a good link to government and a track record in working for enterprises outside parliament.

  One of the researchers suggested your name and I wondered if you might like to meet for a coffee to discuss whether this is something you might be interested in? I am in London most of next week, so please let me know what days/times suit. My number is ***** ******.

  Here is a link to our website—

  Many thanks

Claire Taylor

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