Sunday, March 23, 2014

An Honourable Gentleman?

Lord Blencathra, a senior Conservative peer, who denied that he ever lobbied MPs and peers on behalf of a Caribbean tax haven, had signed a £12,000-a month contract that stated he would do so, according to the Independent. 

He had previously been investigated by the Lords Commissioner for Standards for his work on behalf of the Cayman Islands government and insisted in written evidence that none of his work involved lobbying Parliament. The peer told the commissioner that he would not have agreed to do this. Yet a copy of a contract signed by the former Conservative Party Chief Whip and passed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that the services stipulated included “making representations to … members of Parliament” in the Commons and Lords.

Lord Blencathra insisted that the lobbying clause was one that he had not carried out.

So either way, this “honourable” peer of the realm was either lying to the British Parliament or taking money from the Cayman Island government under false pretences.

 Lord Blencathra’s company, Two Lions Consultancy Ltd, and the Finance Ministry of the Cayman Islands government,  shows that lobbying Parliament was part of the job description, the company’s responsibilities include: “Promoting the Cayman Islands’ interests in the UK and Europe by liaising with and making representations to UK ministers, the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office], members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords.”

“I made clear that I would not be lobbying Parliament or MPs – that was firmly understood between us” Blencathra now claims, although the only proof is his verbal assurance of such a condition and a contract amended AFTER being investigated by the commissioner.

 It is no wonder he tried to propose exemptions as an MP to the Freedom of Information Act and later voted to keep his expenses secret, particularly since he was accused of a £20,000 house improvement scam.
As an aside,  being a peer doesn’t apparently hold as much prestige as previously.  Blencathra said in one message to the Cayman Ministry of Finance: “The only way I can guarantee access to all the key people in the FCO is to be designated ‘official’ Cayman Islands government ‘Political Director’. No matter how good I may be and even with the title ‘Lord’, I need that endorsement.”

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