MPs' family lobbying links revealed... but Amber Rudd fails to come clean

Written by @singersz on 22 July 2015 in Diary

Energy secretary Amber Rudd has come under fire for failing to reveal close links to a top lobbyist in official parliamentary records.

Under new rules brought in for this parliament, MPs must disclose all family members engaged in lobbying the public sector.

Ten MPs have declared such links in the new Register of Members' Interests. But the energy secretary does not state that her brother is the boss of the powerful financial lobbying firm Finsbury, Total Politics can reveal.

Campaigners for greater transparency in lobbying seized on the senior Tory’s failure to declare the relationship.

Tamasin Cave, director of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said: “By breaking the rules, Amber Rudd gives the impression she'd rather we didn't know about her brother's lobbying business, or his many clients in the energy business.”

A source close to the energy secretary acknowledged that a mistake had been made, telling us it was an “oversight” that would be corrected.

The news comes as the Department of Energy and Climate Change has this week granted consent to a controversial planning application by a gas storage company represented by Finsbury. The Halite Energy Group has been given permission to go ahead with a vast underground gas storage facility in Lancashire, which has been subject to a 12-year planning dispute.

Granting consent, energy minister Lord Bourne said the £66m project would “benefit the local economy by creating jobs and stimulating businesses”.

But Cave said: “Did having the brother of the energy secretary on the payroll help Halite's cause? We will probably never know, but secrecy inevitably leads to suspicion.”

Rudd is not the only cabinet minister whose family links to a lobbyist do not appear on the Register of Members’ Interests.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin does not state on the register that his son is deputy head of policy at the Institute of Directors, which lobbies for enterprise and entrepreneurialism. James McLoughlin is also a former associate partner at the top UK lobbying consultancy Bell Pottinger.

A source close to the transport secretary said he had been advised by parliamentary authorities that he did not need to declare the link because it was only necessary to list family members engaged in consultancy lobbying. Similarly, Harriet Harman has not declared that her son Joe is head of policy and research at IPA, which works with policy makers to achieve change in the workplace.

The new rules on declaring links to lobbyists came in after the general election as a result of a ruling by the parliamentary Committee on Standards. A report by the committee had stated that greater transparency would be achieved by "requiring Members to register family members involved in lobbying the public sector".

Five Labour MPs, three Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat and one SNP politician have declared family lobbying links in the latest Register of Members' Interests.

The ten include Conservative MP Victoria Atkins, whose brother is deputy chairman of public affairs for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at lobbying and PR firm Burson Marsteller.

Also declaring family lobbying links are Tory MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, whose daughter is a director at the consultancy Blue Rubicon; and the unsuccessful Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Norman Lamb, whose son works as a researcher at the lobbying firm GK Strategy.


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