Wednesday, 27 July 2016

We need greater scrutiny of Lobbyist

One of Plaid Cymru’s major figures has been criticised over her role as a lobbyist representing a company that has won contracts worth more than £110m from the Welsh Government.

Nerys Evans, a former AM, is both the vice chair of Plaid Cymru and a director of lobbying firm Deryn who represents Associated Community Training (ACT) Ltd, Wales’ largest private training provider.

Ms Evans chairs the governance committee of ACT, which provides post-education vocational training for the Welsh Government, and owns a 10% equity stake in Portal Training, a company linked to ACT.

Plaid AM Neil McEvoy, who represents South Wales Central, said that her roles represented a conflict of interest.
Mr McEvoy said:
“In my view it looks like a conflict of interest for Nerys Evans to chair the governance committee of ACT while working for the firm as a consultant.
“I am also concerned at the perception created of a conflict of interest by the fact that she is also a director of an associated company, Portal Training, in which she also has a 10% equity stake.
“I believe she should consider whether it is appropriate for her to continue chairing the governance committee of ACT in these circumstances.”
 Mr McEvoy has been calling for the introduction of a lobbyists’ register at the National Assembly, and earlier this month clashed with First Minister Carwyn Jones after alleging that “cash for access” to Ministers existed in Cardiff Bay. Mr Jones emphatically denied that was the case.

So he probably needed to appear to single out Nerys Evans  or be accused of hypocrisy .

A response was issued by Huw Roberts, who was a special adviser to former Labour Welsh Secretary Ron Davies , and now chairs Deryn.
He said: 
“Nerys uses her strategic understanding and focus on excellence across a number of roles to build new businesses and deliver good quality jobs. She is hugely sought after for her advice and has forged a very successful business career.
“All information mentioned is in the public domain as we firmly believe it should be. We see no conflict of interest in working with clients in the wider sense.
“We are members of the APPC – the UK-wide body and register all of our clients publicly with them, we would also be happy to see a Wales specific register.”
Another director is Cathy Owens, a former Labour Welsh Government special adviser. The firm was set up in 2011

It highlights the problem  that politicians face  when not in office or starting their climb up the greasy pole  with an eye on a seat.

It explains why when you look at the CV of many of our elected members  in any of the four UK legislators  you will often see involvement in such a company as  ACT or with a number of charities.

It means that they are contact with those legislators who they may wish to join  either through Lobbying  or representation  by some other means.

For the Lobbyist  Company it means that they have someone working for them who has links within the Bubble at cardiff Bay or Westminster.

It may not always be useful for an aspiring candidate however.

In 2006, while still Head of Policy and Government Relations for Pfizer, Owen Smith fought the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election. At the time Mr Smith said that Pfizer had been “extremely supportive” of his aspirations to public office. Smith lost to independent candidate Dai Davies: Smith polled 37% of the vote while Davies polled 46.2%. During the by-election campaign, Smith spoke with Wales Online and expressed his support for the private sector playing a supportive role in the NHS,private finance initiative (PFI) schemes,
A statement that has been used against the Labour Leadership candidate .

I am not sure whether we can or indeed should prevent Politicians  from being part of the lobbying process.

What we should do however is make it far more open and scrutinised.

However of far grater concern  is that  legislators have outside interest which clearly compromises their Impartiality. 

In 2012 over 200 parliamentarians had  recent past or present financial links to companies involved in healthcare and all were allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care bill, turning it into an Act.

We have strict rules for local councillors over  declaring an interest and preventing them for voting and yet these do not apply in the same way it does to MPs and AMs

I don't think it would work in a legislature  but when a MP pr AM  backs the  "private sector playing a supportive role in the NHS".  We kneed to know whether that is because they think it is in the Interest of the Nation, their constituents or  their own financial advantage .

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