Lord found in breach of U.K. lobbying rules
The drama over a Tory Lord’s Cayman Islands lobbying contract will be played out later this week in the U.K. House of Lords, as Lord Blencathra is required to apologize to the House over his initial agreement with the Cayman government.
The apology, scheduled for late Thursday morning U.K. time, will come nearly four months after Lord Blencathra’s contract with the Cayman Islands government ended.
While maintaining he did not lobby U.K. Parliament members improperly, serving as both director of the Cayman Islands London office and as a peer, Lord Blencathra, formerly known as David MacLean of Scotland, is expected to acknowledge that the first contract he signed with the Cayman government suggested that he might be able to perform such lobbying duties.
It is against the rules in the Lords for members to lobby parliament in return for payment or other reward.
“The Commissioner [for Standards] finds that by agreeing to a contract which would involve the provision of parliamentary services Lord Blencathra breached paragraph 8(d) of the [House of Lords] Code of Conduct,” a report from the House of Lords subcommittee on Lords conduct issued July 8 states. “Although the commissioner finds that there is no evidence that Lord Blencathra in fact provided such services, the mere existence of that contractual term put him in breach of the code.”
Lord Blencathra had earlier stated that while he did lobby U.K. government civil servants and other officials, he never attempted to influence the elected members of U.K. Parliament while serving as Cayman’s London office director between December 2011 and March 2014.
“Although I never actually provided nor intended to provide parliamentary services to the Cayman Islands government in return for payment, I acknowledge and deeply regret that I entered into a written contract under which I was apparently committed to provide such services (as one of 14 specified “consultancy services”),” states a copy of Lord Blencathra’s statement due to be given in the House of Lords.
“I now recognise and accept that such a contract was in clear breach of the requirement in paragraph 8(b) of the Code of Conduct that members must not seek to profit from membership of the House by accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.
“I misled myself into thinking that, since it was understood that I would not be making representations in reality, then the wording did not matter. But words do matter; I was wrong and I apologise to the House for that misjudgment.
“When the contract was renewed in November 2012 the reference to providing such services was deleted and in March 2014 the contract ended. I deeply regret having breached the code in this way and the embarrassment to the House that I recognise is caused by such conduct. I offer the House my sincere apology.”
The issue with Lord Blencathra’s initial contract with the Cayman Islands government – which paid some CI$14,000 per month – was the subject of a second review earlier this year by the U.K. Commissioner for Standards, which looked into Lord Blencathra’s lobbying duties in 2012 and cleared him of any wrongdoing.
In the second review, Commissioner for Standards Paul Kernaghan found Lord Blencathra’s initial contract with the Cayman Islands government to be in breach of the code of conduct. Mr. Kernaghan was critical of the U.K. Lord’s role in this matter, though he pointed out that Lord Blencathra told Cayman’s government beforehand that he would not lobby members of parliament as part of his duties.
“The commissioner stated there was no evidence to dispute this,” the Lords’ subcommittee report on the matter read.
According to a statement released Sunday on Lord Blencathra’s behalf, the U.K. peer had also issued a letter of apology to Commissioner Kernaghan.
The text of that letter lambastes certain elements of the U.K. press and the Labour Party for what the U.K. Lord termed a “politically motivated attack on the Cayman Islands” as much as on himself.
“The British Overseas Territories are not like some ruthless multinational companies seeking to put one over on the U.K. government,” Lord Blencathra said. “They should not be kept at arm’s length and treated with suspicion. They are not pariah states like North Korea. They are part of the U.K. family and that is why the [U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office] works closely with the overseas territories and the London-based representatives.”