Posts Tagged ‘MPs’


The killing goes on

The news yesterday that the Metropolitan Police are looking into evidence of war crimes by the Saudis in the Yemen is encouraging.  It comes at a time when the prime minister, Theresa May is touring the middle East, including Saudi Arabia, in an effort to promote trade.  She is not alone as Liam Fox is in the Philippines with president Duterte and Mr Hammond is in India.   Mr Fox has received widespread condemnation having spoken of this country’s ‘shared values’ with a regime which has extra-judicially killed around 7,000 of its citizens as part of a war on drugs.

There has been a lot happening this week with the awful news of possible use of Sarin nerve agent in Syria allegedly by the Syrian government.

Starting with Yemen: the British government has authorised £3.2bn or arms sales to the Saudis a fair proportion of which have been used to bomb schools, hospitals and wedding ceremonies in Yemen.  The result has been a humanitarian disaster with nearly 10,000 killed and a million displaced.  RAF personnel are involved in the control room of the coalition although their direct involvement in the bombing is denied.  The Campaign Against the Arms Trade is currently pursuing a case against the government.

One would think that as we are selling arms to the Saudis to enable to continue the carnage in Yemen, that our politicians would be a circumspect in criticising others.  Yet both the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Theresa May were voluble in criticising Bashar Al-Assad for the terrible events in Syria seemingly oblivious to our own activities in Yemen.

Teresa May

The activities of the prime minister, the foreign secretary and the secretary for international trade have all been widely criticised by a wide range of commentators and organisations.  It is becoming increasingly clear that to promote the idea of a ‘Global Britain’ we are going to have to deal with a wide range of unsavoury regimes.  This means that any vestige of an ‘ethical foreign policy’ is long dead.  The emphasis is now on business with any country and few questions are asked about their human rights.

To take Saudi as an example.  In addition to its activities in Yemen, it is an autocratic regime, torture is routine, its treatment of minorities and women is deplorable and it executes people in public after highly dubious trials.  But to our government none of this matters and getting them to buy more arms and list their oil company, Aramco, on the London Stock Exchange are the real prizes.

These activities go to the heart of what we are as a nation.  The European Union, for all its faults and shortcomings, is a union of countries which believe in the rule of law, democracy and liberal values.  We want to leave this union and no sooner have we sent in the letter triggering our departure, than four of our senior politicians dash off to dubious regimes grubbing around for any deal they can get.  It is deeply shaming and added to which, they want to come out of the European Convention of Human Rights, the convention we were so instrumental in setting up.

It has quickly become clear that securing trade deals is now paramount, with no questions asked.  In defence of our turning a blind eye to the Saudi regime’s lack of human rights, the prime minister says the state is crucial in saving British lives by providing valuable intelligence information, an assertion impossible to prove and extremely convenient.  The abandonment of our British values is much lamented.  Paradoxically, one of the driving forces for leaving the EU was the desire to reassert British values.  The decision to leave seems to mean that we shall have to dump them quickly to enable us to trade with a range of disreputable regimes.

Economically it makes little sense as the amount of trade with these regimes is tiny in comparison to the EU.  From the moral point of view, it lowers our standing in the world and reduces our influence.  It sets a poor example to other countries wishing to promote their arms sales.


We would welcome anyone in the Salisbury area wishing to join us in our campaigns for better human rights.  The best thing is to come to one of our events and make yourself known.  Look on this site, on Twitter or Facebook for details of events.  We look forward to meeting you.

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Lobbying and business influence in government at a high level.  MPs receive millions for lobbying

We have frequently drawn attention to the issue of corporate influence on our political process and in particular, the role of oil and arms companies.  We have recently seen three leaders from China, Egypt and India, visit the UK and be given the red carpet treatment.  Each has – to put it mildly – a poor human rights record.

In the case of China it includes the use of torture, shutting down the freedom of speech and more executions than the rest of the world put together.  Egypt has been involved in mass arrests and torture and President Modi of India has a dubious record in terms of the treatment of Muslims.

It seems as though the ‘prosperity agenda’ is eclipsing all else and the only thing that matters seemingly, is the pursuit of business and contracts.  No one is arguing for boycotts but that the issue of human rights be brought up in discussion with these leaders.

A factor in this is the role of lobbyists and a recent analysis by Transparency International is worrying and should receive wider coverage.

Analysing the new UK Register of Lobbyists and data from Parliamentary registers of interests, their new research has found:

  • Less than 4% of lobbyists are covered by the Government’s new lobbying register – almost all lobbyists are completely unaccountable.
  • 8/10 of the most frequent lobbyists are from FTSE 100 companies – lobbying is dominated by the corporate world.
  • £3.4 million paid to 73 MP’s last year for external advisory roles – a significant risk of conflicts of interest.
  • Payments for Parliamentary advice is still allowed in the House of Commons, but prohibited in the House of Lords, Scotland and Wales – a major loophole in the rules (TI’s emphasis)

The findings come after detailed analysis of research across Westminster, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The report can be read on their web site or can be accessed here[There is also a permanent link to their site at the bottom of our page under ‘Links‘]

With such a high level of corporate lobbying and with the substantial level of fees MPs are earning, it is perhaps not surprising that business interests get such a high profile and human rights issues so low.

It appears from the report that the situation has got worse under the new government.  There were some publications of meetings with lobbyists concerning the previous year but that now seems to have stopped.  Most of the lobbying it seems is around domestic matters for example, firms trying to get a slice of the health service.

Business is important and of course companies should be free to lobby.  But it should be transparent and registered.  More importantly, business interests should not trump all else.  The government is not after all some kind of selling operation for FTSE 100 companies.

UPDATE: 16 NOVEMBER

It’s not about human rights but as if to illustrate the point, it’s just been reported the ex Health Minister, Lord Lansley, is to take up posts with firms hoping to profit from the NHS. 

Andrew Lansley and the revolving door