Science minister attempts to reopen the debate on GM crops
2.New Labour sleaze: Why did Woolas give a Commons pass to lobbyist?
3.The Lobbying Industry and its practices under the spotlight at Labour conference
4.Kick-backs, cronies and Labour's love affair with the City spivs
EXTRACTS: Pearson's comments signal a concerted effort by ministers to reopen the GM issue. On BBC radio's Farming Today this month, the environment minister, Phil Woolas, said opponents of GM had a year to prove it was not safe.
NOTE: The latest Labour minister (Ian Pearson – item 1) to join New Labour's push to promote GMOs is Lord Sainsbury's successor as Science Minister. It's woth noting that Sainsbury – a GM enthusiast with extensive biotech interests – remains the cash-strapped Labour Party's biggest individual financial donor.
The other sleazy aspect of New Labour's continuing GM enthusiasm is its unhealthily close connections to industry lobbyists. Before environment minister, Phil Woolas - currently at the centre of a new sleaze row over his links to lobbyists (item 2) - launched Labour's latest pro-GM onslaugt, he is known to have been briefed by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC). The ABC - set up by the biotech industry, is run by Lexington Communications. Lexington's director, Mike Craven, was head of New Labour's press office as well as working with Labour's former deputy prime minister.
New Labour's former chief media spokesperson's PR firm also runs the GM industry front group CropGen.
1.Science minister attempts to reopen the debate on GM crops
James Randerson, science correspondent
The Guardian, September 22 2008
*We must show benefits of hi-tech food, says Pearson
*Campaigners claim move is cynical sop to industry
Ministers have given their strongest backing yet to GM crops being planted in the UK. The science minister, Ian Pearson, predicted the public would accept GM crops if they could be convinced that the technology would benefit consumers.
He acknowledged that the original public debate on the issue was handled badly by government, but he said if the benefits of GM crops could be put across to people they would be more enthusiastic.
"I don't think the GM debate in 2000 was handled very well," Pearson said. "I think that the public want to see benefits for GM technology for the consumer, not just for the fertiliser company or the farmer. If GM can demonstrably provide benefits for people living in sub-Saharan Africa ... then I think the public will want to support those as products and want to see them commercialised."
He added: "If consumers see benefits from GM then I think a significant majority of them will want to choose GM. That's what we have to do. We have to show that there are benefits to the consumer of adopting GM technologies."
The backlash against GM began in the late 1990s when trials were interrupted by activists who ripped up the plants. Consumer fears also prompted supermarkets to remove GM products from their shelves. In 2004, Lord Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, declared "the end of GM in Britain" after the government announced that no more GM crops would be grown for the "foreseeable future".
The crops are grown widely in north and south America and China, but a Eurobarometer survey of 25,000 Europeans in 2005 found just 27% thought the technology behind GM should be encouraged.
Pearson said GM research held great potential for producing crop varieties that would help poor people in developing countries. "We can produce drought-resistant crops, salt-resistant crops. These could have huge potential benefits for people in developing countries and I think that we should be allowed to do the research," he said.
He added that the government needed to communicate its science message better to the public. "We need to find new and better ways of consulting and of working with people and making sure that we take them along with us," he said.
Pearson's comments signal a concerted effort by ministers to reopen the GM issue. On BBC radio's Farming Today this month, the environment minister, Phil Woolas, said opponents of GM had a year to prove it was not safe. "If you are opposed to GM it is now up to you to provide the evidence that there is harm. Ten years ago it was the other way around," he said.
Claire Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth said ministers were using the global food crisis as an excuse to align themselves with the biotechnology industry. "It seems the government has forgotten what came out of its own debate," she said. "There was this in-depth debate process sponsored by the government ... which overwhelmingly showed that the public were not ready for GM, did not see any benefits, did not trust the technology, and did not want their food controlled by corporations."
Pearson's comments were welcomed by Dr Julian Little, head of the Agriculture and Biotechnology Council, an umbrella group for the food biotechnology industry. "Biotechnology can make a significant contribution to rising food and fuel prices and environmental challenges," he said.
2.New Labour sleaze: Why did climate change Minister give a Commons pass to his friend who is a green lobbyist?
By Glen Owen
Daily Mail, 20 September 2008
[IMAGE CAPTION: Sleaze row: Phil Woolas gave Deborah Dunlop the sought-after Commons pass while she worked for him as an adviser]
The climate change Minister is at the centre of a sleaze row after it was revealed that he gave a Commons pass to the director of an environmental lobbying company.
Phil Woolas gave Deborah Dunlop, 28, the sought-after card while she worked for him as an adviser.
At the same time she was establishing a consultancy to 'help companies succeed in the green economy'.
Last night, the lobbying industry's regulatory body said Ms Dunlop's arrangement with Environment Minister Mr Woolas clearly breached its code of conduct banning political consultants from holding a Commons pass or having 'any involvement on behalf of a political party'.
Ms Dunlop's company SD Environmental Solutions boasts to prospective clients that 'the green pound is more powerful than ever and with Government legislation affecting more industries and institutions it is vital you are well informed and understand ongoing requirements if you are to survive and thrive’.
It adds that its consultants 'include a former adviser to the UK Environment Minister and other key specialists'.
Ms Dunlop last year became the third wife of Steve Morgan, 56, a controversial lobbyist who has been friendly with Mr Woolas, 48, for years.
Since Mr Woolas moved to his environment post in June last year he has been involved in several policy controversies, including defending genetically-modified food against criticism by Prince Charles, ordering power companies to introduce energy-saving measures and calling for greater use of biofuels. All are issues likely to be of interest to Ms Dunlop's potential clients.
This month Mr Woolas was accused of being out of touch when he suggested families hit by soaring bills should remortgage to pay for loft and wall insulation.
Last night Ms Dunlop insisted she was not covered by the lobbying code because her company was ‘dormant’ while she was working with Mr Woolas.
She said: 'I have never been employed by Phil Woolas MP. As a lawyer and member of the Labour Party with a keen interest in the environmental field, I acted as a voluntary adviser to him from October 2007 to May 2008, when I handed in my parliamentary pass.
'From the end of November 2007 I was a director of a company called SD Communications. This was dormant until June 2008 when I relaunched it as SD Environmental Solutions.'
But a member of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, the regulatory body for lobbyists, said: 'To be a director of a public affairs lobbying company and holder of a parliamentary pass, whether the company is active or not, is a breach of the APPC code of conduct.’
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'People will think there are real double standards in someone who has just finished working for a Minister helping people to outwit the Government. Politicians have to be extra careful about dealings with people in the lobbying industry and in this case there appears to have been a serious error of judgment.'
Ms Dunlop established SD Communications with her husband, who managed Peter Hain's scandal-hit bid for Labour’s Deputy Leadership last year.
Mr Hain resigned his Cabinet post as Work and Pensions Secretary this January after it was revealed that £103,000 in donations for his campaign which was chaired by Mr Woolas had not been declared properly. The friendship between Mr Woolas and Mr Morgan goes back more than a decade.
In 1998, Mr Woolas’s then wife Tracey Allen was a founding director of Steve Morgan’s PR company Morgan Allen Moore. The firm was at the centre of the Hain controversy. It is registered at the same address in London's Wimpole Street as the Progressive Policies Forum, an obscure think-tank that was used to channel gbp50,000 to the Hain campaign from secret donors.
Companies House records show Ms Dunlop’s environmental outfit used to be known as Madecrest, also registered at the same address.
Mr Woolas said: 'I was not aware of the SD company and it would appear that there was no work done while Ms Dunlop had the Commons pass. She did not work for me at Defra, she worked at the Commons and in a free country you are allowed to do that, aren't you?
'Presumably this is part of a dirty-tricks operation against Steve Morgan.'
Mr Morgan said: 'The APPC is a voluntary organisation that only covers the public affairs industry. SD Communications was not a public affairs company.' He declined to talk about his wife or Mr Woolas.
3.Notice of fringe events on lobbying at the Labour Party conference 2008
The Lobbying Industry and its practices under the spotlight
Lobbyists will be more visible than normal during party conference season this year as two back-to- back fringe events put the spotlight on their practices, their influence in politics and raise the crucial and timely question: should lobbyists finally be regulated?
The debates come ahead of recommendations by the select committee conducting the Parliamentary inquiry into lobbying, the first in the UK for 17 years.[i]
The first event, Will Lobbyists Come Clean?, organised by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (ALT)[ii] , will examine the ethics of the industry and whether rules should be introduced to open lobbying up to more public scrutiny. It will also ask if MPs and Peers should be allowed to have financial interests in companies offering lobbying services?
The second, sponsored by the industry lobbying trade body, the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), in response to the scrutiny they now find themselves under, will debate the future of the lobbying industry in Licensed to Operate?[iii]
SpinWatch, a member of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, will also launch a new publication at the ALT event: Spinning the Wheels? A guide to the PR and lobbying industry in the UK. The booklet takes you on a tour of some of the major players in the industry, reveals some of their common techniques and tactics, and examines the links between their lobbyists and UK politics.
ALT public fringe event on lobbying ( not in the Fringe Guide):
Monday 22 September, 7pm prompt
Will Lobbyists Come Clean?
A debate on ethics and transparency in lobbying
Panelists: John Grogan MP, Prof David Miller, Director of SpinWatch, (a member of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency), Jon McLeod, Chairman, UK Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick, and Stephen Kingston, Editor of the Salford Star, an award-winning, grassroots magazine. The event will be Chaired by Nigel Pivaro, formerly Terry Duckworth in Coronation Street, now a journalist.
Venue: John Tocher Room, The Mechanics Institute (outside the secure zone)
103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD
Free wine will be served at this event.
[or http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/1033635/ ]
Notes to editors:
[i] The Public Administration Select Committee conducting the inquiry into lobbying is expected to report this Autumn.
[ii] ALT is an alliance of civil society groups concerned about the growing influence of lobbying on decision-making in the UK. It is campaigning for the regulation of lobbyists, and improved ethics regulation for politicians and public officials to raise standards and restore public trust in decision-making. www.lobbyingtransparency.org <http://www.lobbyingtransparency.org>
ALT’s key demands are:
*A mandatory public register of lobbyists, with full financial disclosure
*Enforceable ethics rules for all lobbyists
*Enhanced rules on ethics for politicians and public officials on the so-called 'revolving-door' syndrome between lobbyists and public bodies; and to halt privileged access to decision makers.
Current members of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency are: Action Aid; Campaign Against Arms Trade; Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom; Corporate Watch; enoughsenough.org; Friends of the Earth; Greenpeace; National Union of Journalists; Pesticides Action Network; Platform; SPEAK Network; SpinWatch; Unlock Democracy; War on Want; and World Development Movement.
[iii] "Licensed to Operate? A debate on the future of the public affairs / lobbying industry", sponsored by the APPC, is on Tuesday 23rd September at 8.00 9.30am, in the Dods Marquee (just to the right of the main exhibition entrance, in the secure zone).
4.Kick-backs, cronies and Labour's love affair with the City spivs
Daily Mail, 20 September 2008
Gordon Brown's plan for bailing himself out of trouble before the start of the Labour Party conference is now obvious.
Together with senior Cabinet ministers, he will launch a concerted bid to avoid blame for the economic crisis and place all the responsibility on greedy bankers and City traders.
The Prime Minister kicked off this line of attack on Thursday, when he promised a crackdown on 'irresponsible behaviour' and pledged to 'clean up' the financial system.
Chancellor Alistair Darling then echoed his words, and Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman followed with a full-scale blast against City greed on BBC1's Question Time.
Of course, it is right to say that reckless bankers have played a central role in creating the crisis.
However, the problem is that Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and Alistair Darling have absolutely no right to make such criticism.
Readers of this column will be well aware that, for many years, I have urged Gordon Brown to distance himself from the investment bankers who surround him like bees round a honey pot.
You only need to examine the key people in Number 10 to realise how grave the problem is.
For example, Sue Nye, the 'gatekeeper' to Downing Street, is married to the economist Gavyn Davies, who made tens of millions of pounds as a partner of the troubled investment banking concern Goldman Sachs, and is still said to be a close friend of the Prime Minister.
Earlier this year, Jennifer Moses, a managing director of Goldman Sachs - and so rich that she did not even notice when her secretary, the exotically named Joyti De
Laurey, stole GBP1.2 million from her bank account - was invited to work as a senior No 10 adviser.
Jeremy Heywood is another very worrying case in point. He was hired from a senior role at Morgan Stanley - reportedly this weekend in negotiations for a distress sale to
a Chinese fund - to take a highly sensitive and senior job as Downing
Street Permanent Secretary.
It is worth noting that such a career move ”” from high finance to a delicate official position in the heart of government, with all the possible conflicts of interest involved - would have been unthinkable before Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took power in 1997.
Take also the case of Baroness Vadera (a former SG Warburg banker), who is a trusted adviser to Gordon Brown as a trade minister, said to be one of the least courteous members of the Government.
One could list many more examples, for this unhealthily close connection between bankers and the New Labour Government was also a hallmark of Tony Blair's time in
Incidentally, Dennis Stevenson, chairman of the doomed HBOS bank, played an important role in introducing Blair to the City - while the buy-out expert Sir Ronald Cohen grew disturbingly close to Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor.
It is no coincidence that Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell (I last spotted him eating lunch at a GBP150-a-head London restaurant with a partner from the leveraged buy-out firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) now works for Morgan Stanley. And, of course, Blair himself was appointed as a consultant with banking giant JP Morgan.
Is it any wonder that Tony Blair's closest friend, Peter Mandelson, once notoriously remarked that he was 'intensely relaxed' about businessmen making immense
Throughout the 12 years of New Labour government, ministers have tailored regulatory and taxation policies to make life easy for bankers.
In the late Nineties, almost as soon as Gordon Brown took charge of the Treasury, taxation policy was changed to help the private equity companies that have subsequently laid waste to much of British industry, while creating
giant fortunes for their bosses ”” many of them New Labour cronies.
That crucial reform was made at a time when several of those private equity moguls were donating money to the Labour Party.
Even today, very little is known about this connection, but it has always smelt like a first-rate scandal.
The truth is that Labour has been the party of freewheeling international capital for more than a decade.
In collaboration with the global corporate elite, it has created the perfect conditions for the inevitable financial storm that struck this week.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown created a soft tax and regulatory regime for hedge fund managers, share speculators, private equity sharks, investment bankers and the worst kind of financial spiv.
So it sticks in the gullet to hear the Prime Minister, now presiding over the most short-termist and greed-obsessed government in history, denounce City speculators.
Above all, this hypocrisy also raises very pertinent and troubling questions.
This week, Gordon Brown crowed after Lloyds Bank moved in to rescue HBOS, a company created from the disastrous merger between the Halifax Building Society and Royal Bank of Scotland.
It is instructive to compare the recent history of HBOS and Lloyds. The latter, under the austere leadership of its outstanding chief executive, Eric Daniels, steered clear of foolish financial entanglements.
He was to be never seen at the kind of glitzy London party so often favoured by Labour Cabinet ministers, hedge fund managers and investment bankers.
He preferred to get on with running his bank in a prudent manner.
In contrast, the same could never have been said of the HBOS hierarchy and was a key reason why the bank has collapsed.
James Crosby, architect of the Halifax/Bank of Scotland merger, is a crony of the Prime Minister. And so ””very worryingly ”” is Sir Victor Blank, the newly appointed chairman of Lloyds. Sir Victor gives the impression of being very much at home in the shallow and trashy world of New Labour high finance.
Indeed, only last Monday night, Sir Victor and Gordon Brown had a long conversation at a smart London cocktail party.
By the end of their chat, the sale of HBOS to Lloyds was more or less assured.
The deal seemed to reflect well on Gordon Brown and it would be no surprise if a peerage floated Sir Victor's way before long.
Yesterday, both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister spoke as if the Lloyds and HBOS deal had already been completed.
However, that is very far from being the case. City regulations insist that Lloyds shareholders should vote on the merger.
For years, these people have supported the deeply unfashionable and prudent policies of Lloyds. But now, they are being asked to chuck good money after bad on the advice of a highly political prime ministerial crony - Sir Victor Blank.
It is entirely possible that the purchase of HBOS, and its heap of bad debts acquired during many years of New Labour hubris, will sink Lloyds, too.
It would be a tragedy if Lloyds TSB was brought down to save Gordon Brown's reputation for economic competence.