MPs linked to pounds 20m 'crazy' consultancies

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The Independent Online
TWELVE Conservative MPs - including five ex-Cabinet ministers - have links with consultants who enjoyed a pounds 20m bonanza of spending on outside advisers by Brian Mawhinney, the Tory Party chairman, while Secretary of State for Transport.

In Dr Mawhinney's period as Transport Secretary, spending on external consultants almost quadrupled from pounds 5.5m only four years previously, according to figures disclosed by Transport Minister, Steven Norris.

The massive dossier of consultants was revealed in a written parliamentary reply to Labour's transport spokeswoman, Glenda Jackson, who said: "This proves the incompetence and hypocrisy of the Tories. At a time when ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet, the Government is squandering millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on these crazy consultancies."

While many of the consultancies are linked to transport needs, some border on the bizarre. Three separate consultants were paid to undertake a road pavement study in Jordan. Another was held into households in Colombia. A consultant was hired to advise on a "post opening scheme" and three were asked to review the DoT's own regulations. A consultant was paid to conduct a "furniture review" and the Department had a consultant to advise on how to employ consultants.

The total cost of consultants in 1994-95 was pounds 19,733,000, but that is not the full story. Mr Norris says: "A complete list of consultants could not be provided except at disproportionate cost."

The ex-ministers linked to DoT contracts are:

John MacGregor, a former Transport Secretary who is now Deputy Chairman of Hill Samuel Bank Ltd. In 1994, his bank was awarded a contract for "financial services". Mr MacGregor was Transport Secretary from 1992 until July last year but did not join Hill Samuel until the following July.

Archie Hamilton, the former Defence Minister, a remunerated consultant to WS Atkins Ltd, engineering consultants, who won nine contracts in 1994.

David Howell, the former Transport Secretary, economic consultant to Coopers & Lybrand, including "advice on transport issues". In 1994 Coopers & Lybrand won four contracts and this year three more.

Kenneth Baker, the former Home Secretary and ex-Chairman of the Tory Party, an advisor to ICL plc, which last year was awarded two contracts.

David Mellor, former Heritage Secretary, who is a consultant with Shandwick Consultants and Ernst & Young, chartered accountants. In 1994 Shandwick was employed for "consulting" and in the same year Ernst & Young was awarded three separate contracts.

The MPs linked to consultants who won contracts in 1994-95 are:

Peter Ainsworth, parliamentary affairs consultant to S G Warburg Group plc, which last year advised on merchant banking.

Quentin Davies, a director of Dewe Rogerson Consultants Ltd, employed this year for "marketing" advice.

Hugh Dykes has a registerable shareholding (more than 1 per cent of the issued share capital) in Dewe Rogerson.

Sir Terence Higgins, an adviser to KPMG Peat Marwick, accountants. The company was given contracts in 1994 and 1995.

Sir Peter Hordern, a consultant to Pannell, Kerr, Forster accountants, awarded two contacts for "reporting accounts". Sir Peter is a former chairman of the Public Accounts Commission.

Andrew Hunter, a consultant to Scott, Wilson, Kirkpatrick, consulting engineers who last year were awarded four separate contracts related to motorway tolling trials.

Sir Geoffrey Pattie, chairman (non-executive) of GEC Marconi, which last year won a contract for "installation and maintenance of traffic counters and similar equipment".

Ms Jackson said: "What are things coming to when ministers have to pay someone to explain how to open a letter or rearrange their office furniture?"