This tweet from Huw Merriman late yesterday, came because of a blog I had written that was also printed in the Argus newspaper as my weekly column. The focus in the piece was on the lobbying issues that have arisen from David Cameron and a number of other Politicians as well as at least one Civil Servant. The impact that Lex Greensill and his actions have had are clearly only one subject and there will be many others. The way in which Ministers, including Prime Ministers, MPs and Civil Servants have responded to jobs and money from powerful companies and people is very disturbing in itself. However when these people then use their political influence either while they are still working or connecting with their past joint workers after they have left is when the political lobbying issue becomes very damaging. So my comment yesterday was that Sussex MPs need to learn from a Professor in the University of Sussex who is Liz David-Barrett and who works as part of the Centre for the Study of Corruption which they describe as being the UK’s first academic centre dedicated to interdisciplinary research and teaching on corruption which is understandably based at the University of Sussex. The comment that I replicated in my blog from Liz David-Barrett was provided by Brendan O’Hara who is an SNP MP.
Those who can be described as being linked to politically exposed persons are usually treated as being higher risk and therefore deserving of more scrutiny rather than less.
So I also focused on the votes that took place on Wednesday. The Labour Party were calling for a Committee to focus on Political Lobbying and understandably the two Sussex Labour MPs, Peter Kyle and Lloyd Russell-Moyle voted to endorse that. Their votes were joined with a third from Sussex from Caroline Lucas. Sadly in my view there was no other Sussex votes in favour and indeed every one of the Sussex Conservative MPs voted to oppose the Committee. So in response to Huw Merriman, here is most of his speech on that subject from that debate. I did reproduce some other words yesterday and to be fair this is the main theme of what he said that is not relating to the same theme
Of course, there is a serious point behind this, and I want to make a point in defence of the Select Committee process. I am very fortunate to be Chair of a Select Committee, and I note, as I sit alongside the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, that we will be in very safe hands in any inquiries that are needed or for any changes that have to be recommended.
It is not very well known that Select Committees can now group together. We have done so for the COP26 scrutiny, so we have Select Committee Chairs all the way across. We have it through the Liaison Committee. We can also move members of one Committee to another, so if there is a great requirement to review across Government Departments or for Parliament to look at an issue, it can be done as the structure is in place.
The Select Committee on Transport met this morning, and it would be fair to say that for even the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Robert Courts, who was appearing before us, it would have been impossible to tell which party each MP came from, because we all united as one in wanting a particular approach. To make a Select Committee more partisan with a sole aim would be poisonous and would diminish the role of Select Committees in scrutinising Government, which, having always been a Back Bencher, I absolutely support.
One of the challenges or perhaps he would say one of the strengths is his support for his previous Prime Minister. After all of these valid words he then finished with these words which of support David Cameron which is perhaps indicative of how easy it would be for ex Ministers and MPs to gain access to existing MPs and even Ministers. This is one reason why I believe we need people from outside of Politics to scrutinise this sort of issue.
It is not very political of me— it is perhaps a bit naive—but I am also a firm believer in loyalty. I touched on this at the start of my speech. I first became an MP in 2015 under David Cameron. I found him to be an inspired leader, a genuine man and someone who really wanted the best for his country and for his party. He modernised our party. He took the country from the very desperate economic position that he had inherited in 2010 and worked across the divide with the Liberal Democrats to try to make something better. He succeeded, as we see if we look at the 1,000 jobs a day that he created. There was much he did well, and he was a genuine, sincere and very public spirited man. It may be naive of me to stand up and say this as a politician, because we tend to bury those who go before us, but sometimes in life, loyalty—remembering virtues and trying not to bury those who are no longer here—is a good thing. That would serve us much better as a House than what others seek to do.
However I would be very pleased to find out more from Huw Merriman and perhaps even more importantly I would be very pleased if he could persuade some of his colleagues in Sussex to join him to spend some time with Liz David-Barrett and the Centre for the Study of Corruption so that their decision making when it comes to such issues are not purely party political. I would also personally be very keen for all of the Sussex MPs to reflect on what happened in 2013 when it came to a lobbying Bill before Huw Merriman was elected. In those days most Universities were not Charities but I was heavily involved in several Charities and the impact from the Government was very damaging. It seems to me that we need a reformation of the previous lobbying Bill that will both remove some of the pressures onto Charities and provide some extra barriers towards the really powerful people in our society.