The Conduct of Lord Bhatia Contents

Appendix A: Extract from letter from Mr Martin Williams to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, May 2016

Please find attached a list of politicians who appear to have broken parliamentary rules over their financial interests.19 For each politician, I have set out clearly the allegations against them.

I am requesting that you launch an inquiry against each of these individuals. I am also sending a copy of this letter to the Standards Commissioner in the House of Lords.

For the last six months I have been investigating MPs’ private finances. During this time, I have seen just how corrupt Parliament has become. Greed is endemic. If you want to understand why British politics isn’t working, it seems the first place to look is in the bank accounts of our politicians.

Yet this is an issue which authorities have turned their backs on. Rules and regulations are lax, and transparency is laughable. The whole thing is shrouded in secrecy. Because of this, it is easy for politicians to milk the system and get away with it.

I regret, too, that your office—in charge of policing MPs’ behaviour—has refused to be interviewed by me.

Much has been written about the public’s disillusionment with politics. We constantly hear that people do not trust politicians any longer. And MPs are widely perceived as “greedy” and “privileged”. But it appears this problem cannot be blamed on the public for being cynical or apathetic. Nor can it be blamed on the press for treating politicians unfairly. In fact, the problem lies with the politicians themselves.

This issue has been allowed to fester for too long. The MPs whose names I have attached all appear to have misled Parliament and the public by failing to declare crucial conflicts of interest. Some have promoted private companies without revealing that they are being paid by those same companies. But no one has noticed and they have been allowed to carry on as if it didn’t matter.

It’s not just conflicts of interest and the promotion of big business; Parliament is too often treated like a business itself, where politicians can make money and live an elite lifestyle.

I will tell the full story of my investigation in a book that I am writing, which will be published shortly. It will explain how this letter came about, and how democracy has been tainted by quiet financial dealings.

In the meantime, launching an inquiry into these allegations would be a great start towards clearing up politics.

Lord Bhatia

Bhatia is currently suspended from the House of Lords for 8 months from 21 April 2016. However, this case relates to his activity in the House before this date, so I believe it should still be reported for the sake of it being put on the record, at least.

Bhatia is a director at the British Muslim Research Centre (BMRC), a non-profit organisation. He has said the organisation aims to “inform policy makers”. However, the charity has not been listed in his declarations of interest since June 2013, when he deleted it.

After he deleted it from the Register, Bhatia went on to give a speech in the House of Lords, where he appeared to attack the principle of free speech to protect Islamic sensitivities. He said: “Muslims are shocked when the prophets are ridiculed or abused on the altar of freedom of speech and expression … Freedom of expression is a democratic right, but it carries responsibility.”

The undeclared directorship in BMRC should arguably have been declared not just because there is a very clear cross-over in subject matter, and the potential for his outside interests to influence his political activity. But also because one of his co-directors at BMRC is Iqbal Sacranie, a highly controversial figure who has been quoted saying that homosexuality is “not acceptable” and same sex civil partnerships are “harmful”. In the 1980s, when Salman Rushdie received death threats for his book, The Satanic Verses, Sacranie said: “Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him; his mind must be tormented for the rest of his life unless he asks for forgiveness to Almighty Allah.”

I believe this directorship should have been declared both in the Register and in Bhatia’s speech to the House because it is clear his involvement in BMRC could have the potential to colour his perspective on the issues being discussed.

His House of Lords speech can be found here:

19 Only the parts of the complaint which related to Lord Bhatia are printed.

© Parliamentary copyright 2016