Indy: the arms lobbyist and the Lib Dem peer

by Stephen Tall on June 26, 2008

This from today’s Independent:

A senior arms lobbyist is gaining access to ministers, MPs and peers inside Parliament using a research assistant pass allotted to a member of the House of Lords [Baroness (Angela) Harris of Richmond, Lib Dem] who benefits financially from one of his companies, The Independent has learnt.

Though the Indy alleges no wrongdoing, the fact that their relationship can be questioned shows how important it is for the party’s representatives in Parliament to be above suspicion.

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Hang on…

How is this Professional (and senior) Lobbyist a research assistant ?

She should not have given him a pass, and she definately should not be giving passes to benefit any business she has an interest in.

There is clear wrongdoing there – this isn’t a case of being above suspicion this is a case of not following rules and cronyism.

I’m disgusted.

No wonder so many of us outside the westminster bubble feel contempt for the way MPs, Lords and MEPs feel, if this kind of behaviour is considered acceptable!

by Aaron Trevena on June 26, 2008 at 1:44 pm. Reply #

Shouldn’t Mark Pack have picked this one up, or does he only cover bad stories about Tories and Labour?

by passing tory on June 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm. Reply #

On re-reading the article, it appears to be a clear case of misusing a pass and cronyism.

It’s simply not acceptable, not just because it looks bad but because it shows that ‘Friends in the right places’ are what makes a difference, and no campaigning or petitioning by the plebian masses will make a jot of difference.

by Aaron Trevena on June 26, 2008 at 1:50 pm. Reply #

Is this the same Robin Ashby who was Liberal/Alliance candidate in Langbaurgh in ’83?

by Charles on June 26, 2008 at 2:00 pm. Reply #

Or perhaps, Passing Tory, Mark Pack’s a little busy today with Henley? Just a thought.

by Stephen Tall on June 26, 2008 at 2:12 pm. Reply #

The chap in question spent 5 mins at the end of World at One telling us that he only uses his parliamentary pass for charitable and pro bono reasons. But then he would say that, wouldn’t he!

by Alex Foster on June 26, 2008 at 2:35 pm. Reply #

This is really a non story imo. There are a lot bigger problems with sleaze than this. The Indy is getting more and more preachy these days. When are they going to actually put news on the front page?

by Cllr Neil Bradbury on June 26, 2008 at 4:11 pm. Reply #

No Lobbyist for such a dubious cause should be benefiting from a pass from MP’s or Peers alike.

I hope the party leadership will have words with her and this lobbyist should have his pass revoked immediately.

by Andy M on June 26, 2008 at 4:17 pm. Reply #

Listening to the WorldATOne – She has already withdrawn his pass. He sounded none too pleased about it. Am I correct in thinking that passes are permanent until withdrawn? I wonder how long this man had his pass and for what original reason.

by simon croft on June 26, 2008 at 5:52 pm. Reply #

I actually possess a Parliamentary pass from the Lords – originally one of, I believe, three that a Peer is entitled to for research assistants. They’re time limited. I now possess a spouse pass, which is also time limited (some people have no sense of romance!). In fact, the time limit is fairly short, about two years.

Angie has, in withdrawing the pass, acted entirely honourably, and I find it hard to believe that she would have allowed Robin to have the pass if she had known what he was doing with it. I don’t know him at all, but if I had to put my trust in one of them, it would be Angie, she’s a really decent person.

by Mark Valladares on June 26, 2008 at 6:40 pm. Reply #

I think it’s fair to say that Angie Harris would not be on a very very long list of people likely to be involved in shady practices.

However this sort of thing really shouldn’t go on.

“I find it hard to believe that she would have allowed Robin to have the pass if she had known what he was doing with it.”

But surely if you effectively appoint someone as your researcher it is to do work for you so you SHOULD know what they are doing with it.

I think the fact that the Indy doesn’t allege any wrongdoing shows how lax the rules are.

by Hywel Morgan on June 26, 2008 at 6:45 pm. Reply #

The Indy today shows that this *is* the norm, and quite common (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/revealed-30-peers-employ-staff-who-are-also-lobbyists-855409.html)
.

This just means that Lords like Angie Harris, must have known about and condoned this behaviour.

by Aaron Trevena on June 27, 2008 at 9:16 am. Reply #

Aaron,

30 instances arising from 758 members of the House of Lords is hardly the ‘norm’. Even if you factor out those who turn up infrequently, it’s 30 out of 450, or 7%. On that basis it’s the norm to vote Labour in Henley!

But seriously, you have inaccurately declared a norm and then, having done so, used that wild statement to draw an unfair conclusion.

I do not condone the misuse of Parliamentary passes, and there have been some shocking examples of late – using the privilege given by your pass to help protestors access the building is one recent example – but the presumption of guilt without the benefit of both sides of the story is unhelpful, to say the least.

Besides, whatever happened to the assumption of innocent until proven guilty, anyway? Or has that gone in the avalanche of Labour ‘security measures’?

by Mark Valladares on June 30, 2008 at 1:04 pm. Reply #

Just because the Independent says something, doesn’t make it so.

Early in the interview I told the reporter I would be completely open and honest with him, but, as he partly quoted, if he got it wrong for any reason (stupidity? malice?) he could make me look bad. He did.

Much of what was reported was wrong, misinterpreted or just plain foolish reporting. It is now receiving lawyers’ attentions.

As the BBC reported, the only “lobbying” I used the pass for was on behalf of over 100,000 small shareholders in Northern Rock (for whom nobody paid me) What it didn’t say was that this was in the form of briefing Lib Dem Treasury teams (only) in both Houses to ensure that the massive publicity the Party received had factual input, whatever “line” the Party decided to take.

I used the pass for a great deal of support work for All Party Parliamentary Groups, including for Parliamentary Welcome Homes for troops returning from operations.

Those who rail against “lobbyists” should consider the logic of their position. Access to Parliament and Parliamentarians is a right of all subjects, plus those organistaions affected by Governemnt. If “lobbying” is wrong, presumably you condemn all who do it – and if so, are you writing to – to pick just one example – Shami Chakrabati, to tell her so? She is frequently in Parliament and speaks to parliamentarians…..

Angela Harris is a dear friend, completely honourable, who has and continues to devote her life to the Party to which we have both always been committed.

And yes, I am the same Robin Ashby who stood twice for Parliament in the Liberal cause in the 1980’s, was six years a local councillor, and now uses my own resources to produce a BusinessMatters weekly digest for the Party in Newcastle. (If you’d like to receive and modify it for your own constituency purposes email LDBW@north-house.com)

by Robin Ashby on August 9, 2008 at 11:06 am. Reply #

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