Evidence on Cayman Islands lobbying that is worth a second look

 

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It is now two years since The Independent revealed that the former Conservative minister Lord Blencathra was lobbying for money on behalf of the Cayman Islands government.

At the time our allegations, which led to an investigation by the Lords Commissioner for Standards, were strenuously denied by the peer. He told us we had “confused lobbying Parliament, which I do not do, with lobbying the Government, which I do”.

He reiterated this to the commissioner, Paul Kernaghan, stating: “None of my work involves lobbying Parliament or seeking to influence either House. I made that clear when I took on the role that I would not do that.”

It led the commissioner to conclude that “no evidence has been presented that he provided parliamentary advice or services”. 

What a pity Lord Blencathra did not hand over a copy of the contract he signed to help the commissioner in his deliberations. Because that seems to envisage a rather different state of affairs.

In an annex – setting out the services he will provide as part of the £12,000-a-month deal – it states clearly that he will promote the Cayman Islands’ interests by “making representations to UK ministers, the FCO, members of Parliament in the House of Commons and members of the House of Lords”. That sounds a lot like lobbying.

Lord Blencathra’s explanation now is that, while he signed the contract, it was accepted by both parties that he would not be doing so. 

“I made clear that I would not be lobbying Parliament or MPs… That was firmly understood between us,” he said. So why put it in the  contract in the first place?

And why, if the position is clear, have the clause taken out of a revised contract that was signed after The Independent and Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s original article?

The case may now be  reopened and, if so, Lord Blencathra will have some more explaining to do.

For the sake of his  reputation and that of the House of Lords, it had  better be less contradictory than it has been so far.

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