Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
6 MARCH 2008
Q380 Chairman: That was helpful.
You advised McDonald's at the height of the BSE crisis, did you
Mr Bingle: We did.
Q381 Paul Flynn: Can I confirm you
have in the past worked for General Pinochet, Thaksin Shinawatra,
Mark Thatcher, BAE Systems, the South African National Party,
Boris Berezovsky and the Governments of Saudi Arabia, Syria and
Iraq? You say you do not want to sully your reputation. What reputation?
Mr Bingle: We also advised Newport
Council when it became a city, a good campaign that was successful.
Q382 Paul Flynn: Against my advice,
may I say.
Mr Bingle: But it worked brilliantly.
Q383 Paul Flynn: That is what your
claim is. I will not be diverted into that. You mentioned the
pro bono things you do, the nano-proportion of your work
that that probably is, but your work is to further advantage the
Mr Bingle: We are giving our skill;
our objective is to give commercial advantage to our clients,
yes, like lawyers, accountants and bankers.
Q384 Paul Flynn: Mr Granatt, what
attracted you to lobbying?
Mr Granatt: I did not join the
company, sir, to be a lobbyist. I joined it because my speciality
is basically things like crisis management and strategic advice.
I was not attracted to being a lobbyist and I did not join the
company as a lobbyist.
Q385 Paul Flynn: You have left the
Civil Service, where you held very high office. When the final
obituary is written to Mr Granatt, what would you like to see
at the top? Your work as a lobbyist or your work as a public servant?
Mr Granatt: I think my work as
a public servant, sir.
Q386 Paul Flynn: So why are you a
lobbyist now? What was the attraction?
Mr Granatt: Earning a living seemed
to be a rather good idea.
Q387 Paul Flynn: Is it a handsome
living compared with the Civil Service? How would you compare
it? I do not want you to give us your pay rate but just give us
some idea. It is crucial to our work.
Mr Granatt: I think it is essentially
Q388 Paul Flynn: So there was no
major attraction, unlike some others who have come to lobby or
which we know in America, where there are huge sums of money?
Mr Granatt: It was not for the
money, sir. I actually wanted to continue to earn a living. I
am serious about that. Secondly, this is an organisation, a company,
that offered me the chance to do much of what I had been doing
Q389 Paul Flynn: If the Government
brought in a law to make it obligatory for your firms to announce
who their clients were, how would you react?
Mr Bingle: If it is the law, it
is the law.
Q390 Paul Flynn: And you would co-operate
Mr Bingle: We disclose 99% of
our clients. Most of our clients are on our website today. Occasionally,
clients will ask us to sign a nondisclosure agreement if there
is a commercial situation in terms of a potential bid where it
would be unwise, but the crucial point over disclosure is that,
even if we are working for a client whose name is not public,
when my staff deal with government advisers, civil servants, ministers,
they will say on whose behalf they are calling. The issue is simply
whether or not we put their name on a public website. In terms
of interaction with yourselves and government advisers, we will
always say on whose behalf we are calling.
Q391 Paul Flynn: Do you think you
have a commercial advantage by not belonging to any of the three
associations that have certain minimum standards for lobbyists?
Mr Bingle: If it is the view that
we are the largest company in this sector, it would seem not.
We have had a consistent view. We agree with everything in the
various codes apart from one thing: we are not prepared to join
and then break the rule by saying we will declare all clients
when we cannot. I would rather be honest and upfront and say we
support the code apart from one issue. We do not pay MPs, we do
not pay peers. Everything in the codes we support. All of my staff
are members of the CIPR.
That code is very stringent, quite Draconian, and that is a condition
of employment. From my point of view, Mr Flynn, everything we
need to do in terms of disclosure we do.
Q392 Paul Flynn: Do you not think the
public have a right to know ...
Mr Bingle: No.
Q393 Paul Flynn: ... who is lining
the pockets of people who are advocating cases?
Mr Bingle: I think the tone of
the question suggests the answer. No, I do not. The public has
no right to know who our clients are.
Q394 Paul Flynn: You are arguing
for large contracts and so on. They might have repercussions later
on. You might have ministers or former ministers through the revolving
door who might be working for you. Do you have former ministers
or former special advisers working for you now?
Mr Bingle: I have one former specialist
adviser, Jonathan Caine, who was an adviser to Sir Patrick Mayhew
in Northern Ireland.
Q395 Paul Flynn: We have cases, if
I can interrupt you there, where ministers have been involved
in awarding contracts between companies A, B and C, and then,
remarkably, within a year or so after stepping down as ministers,
finding themselves working for those companies. There might be
a doubt that those ministers might well have been influenced in
their decisions by their future prospects of riches.
Mr Bingle: You are describing
a world I do not know. I have been doing this for 27 years and
my view of advisers, politicians and ministers who I have dealt
withI have a high regard for them. I do not believe politicians
act in that way.
Q396 Paul Flynn: We have heard this
before. I presume this is from your book of how to address a committee,
by praising the Labour Government and praising the wonderful things
that we are. You will tell us what a wonderful Committee this
is in your next sentence. What is the attraction in employing
special advisers? What do they bring to you? Is it contacts that
is the main advantage?
Mr Bingle: My earlier point is
that the idea that public affairs people are required to pick
up the phone and speak to a minister's office, anybody can do
it. In the past there may have been the attempt to create a little
black book, the black art of lobbying. The reality is to arrange
a meeting between a client and a minister is one phone call, and
on the basis of the company concerned, often they do it themselves.
We may say who they should meet. Often they do it themselves.
The advantage of employing people with knowledge of politicsin
fact I actually employed John Grogan's former special adviser.
Q397 Paul Flynn: Mr Granatt, you
started work at Luther in March 2004 but you were banned from
lobbying until 2005. What did you do for the company in that period?
Mr Granatt: I did what I joined
them to do, sir. I exercised my expertise as somebody who deals
with strategic communication and things like crisis management.
Q398 Paul Flynn: What miraculous
thing happened in 2005 that made it possible for you to lobby
when it was thought to be in the public interest that you could
not lobby in the nine months before that?
Mr Granatt: I am entirely unclear
about what happened at that point.
Q399 Paul Flynn: Was your memory
washed out? Did you forget all your contacts? What was the purpose
of that? Should it not be a lifetime ban? If people have information
like that, should they not be told that they have had their careers
in the civil service and high office and they should not go around
and hawk the information and contacts they have to lobbying organisations?
Mr Granatt: I think there are
two points there, sir. One is that the rules are laid down by
the people you had before you, the people who run the committee
on business interests. It is there to prevent the fact that somebody
can suddenly let contracts one day and then leave the civil service
or the armed services and join the company that won the contract
the next day. I think that is a perfectly understandable restriction.
I do not see any reason why I should not be allowed to ply my
trade as an individual outside the Civil Service when I have plied
it inside the Civil Service, if I do it against certain standards.
I did find the idea that I could not lobby until March 2005 slightly
odd because I could not work out what it meant.
3 Association of Professional Political Consultants Back
Chartered Institute of Public Relations Back