Exclusive: Activists and MPs take on City’s influence on Parliament

The Square Mile enjoys 'unfettered and unmonitored' access to senior politicians and civil servants, campaigners claim

Nigel Morris@NigelpMorris
Sunday 24 November 2013 21:36
Dominic West is one of the signatories on a letter written to the anti-sleaze watchdog
Dominic West is one of the signatories on a letter written to the anti-sleaze watchdog

The City of London’s lobbying activities should be investigated by Parliament’s anti-sleaze watchdog, a coalition of MPs, academics and celebrities urged tonight.

The Square Mile enjoys “unfettered and unmonitored” access to senior politicians and civil servants through the historic privileges of the City of London Corporation, the campaigners claim.

In a letter to Lord Bew, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, seen by The Independent, they call for an inquiry into the relations between the City and political leaders, arguing the lack of scrutiny risks undermining confidence in government.

One of the signatories, Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, said the time had come to “reveal the revolving doors between government and the City”. Their intervention coincides with a meeting in London today organised by major charities to protest about levels of corporate tax avoidance.

The campaigners are urging an inquiry into the role of the City Remembrancer, a post dating back to 1571. The incumbent, Paul Double, is entitled to sit in the House of Commons chamber and heads an office with an annual budget of more than £5m.

His remit is to act as the “formal channel of communication” with Parliament, although it has not disclosed how many meetings Mr Double holds with politicians. There is no suggestion that Mr Double has behaved improperly

The letter’s signatories say they are concerned the Lobbying Bill, currently going through Parliament, “will not include any measures to monitor or make publicly transparent the constant lobbying activities of the office of the Remembrancer and his staff”.

Lord Bew is also being asked to examine meetings between representatives of City UK, a lobbying organisation closely linked to the City of London Corporation.

The letter’s signatories say that City UK, which it accuses of promoting the “tax avoidance industry”, holds “extremely high levels” of meetings with ministers and civil servants. The signatories claim “a problematic arrangement … has built up within our democratic institutions”.

Other signatories include the actor Dominic West, the playwright David Edgar, three Labour MPs, the Green MP Caroline Lucas, academics, charities and community groups. Copies have also gone to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

The letter was prompted by a documentary film, The UK Gold, into the alleged links between the City and tax avoidance schemes. Showings of the film are planned today in Westminster and the City.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation said: “As an organisation providing a range of services for the nation, including green spaces, culture, supporting charities as well as promoting the UK’s financial and professional sector, we are affected by a number of legislative areas.

“The Remembrancer’s office communicates on behalf of the City to Parliament on these matters but does not have any special entitlement to influence legislation or meet with politicians.” No one could be contacted from City UK.

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