REPORT BY THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON LORDS'
INTERESTS: COMPLAINT AGAINST LORD CUNNINGHAM OF FELLING BY MR
NORMAN LAMB MP|
Summary of the complaint
1. On 8 February 2008 Mr Norman Lamb MP made a complaint
against Lord Cunningham of Felling.
2. Mr Lamb's letter of complaint, based on an article
that appeared in the Guardian newspaper on 14 February
2008, is headed "Lobbying activities of Lord Cunningham of
Felling". However, the complaint itself does not specifically
allege that Lord Cunningham has been involved in "lobbying"
(although some of the accompanying evidence might be viewed as
having been submitted in support of such an allegation). Instead,
it consists of two substantive allegations:
- That Lord Cunningham had failed
to register the fact that he was a paid consultant to the City
of London Corporation;
- That this consultancy was a parliamentary
consultancy, and should have been registered under paragraph 12(a)
of the House's Code of Conduct, not a non-parliamentary consultancy,
falling under paragraph 12(d).
The practical consequence of this distinction is
that Members are required, under paragraph 14 of the Code, to
disclose the level of remuneration they receive from parliamentary
consultancies; there is no such requirement in respect of non-parliamentary
3. In support of his complaint Mr Lamb submitted
13 documents of evidence, some obtained by the Guardian
newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lord Cunningham's response to the complaint
4. Following a meeting with Lord Woolf, who was at
that time Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests, Lord
Cunningham responded to the complaint in writing. He stated, first,
that he had at no point engaged in lobbying on behalf of the City
of London. This does not appear from the letter of complaint to
be an allegation against him, and insofar as an allegation of
lobbying formed part of the complaint, it can be dismissed.
5. On the first of the substantive allegations set
out above, Lord Cunningham stated that his relationship with the
City of London derived from his role as a non-executive director
of Sovereign Strategy ("Sovereign"). This interest had
been registered in the Register of Lords' Interests in November
2005 under paragraph 12(e) of the Code ("remunerated directorships"),
with the company itself described as a "management skills
company". Lord Cunningham explained that in July 2006 Sovereign
"was successful in tendering for a contract to advise the
Corporation of the City of London on Public Affairs." As
a result, Lord Cunningham became Public Affairs Adviser to the
City of London.
6. One of the documents submitted by Mr Lamb is a
press release issued by the City of London on 14 July 2006 announcing
that, following a competitive tender, Lord Cunningham had been
appointed as its "retained public affairs adviser".
The press release stated that Lord Cunningham would "provide
high level consultancy and strategic advice to the City of London
on a range of issues". A document available at that time
on the City of London's website, but no longer available there,
stated that the remuneration for the post was £36,000 a year.
These documents make plain that there was never an intention to
conceal the relationship between Lord Cunningham and the City
of Londonindeed the opposite is the case; and the remuneration
was also in the public domain. For this reason we dismiss Mr
Lamb's assertion that "the public do not know [Lord Cunningham]
is a paid consultant to the Corporation".
7. We note however that this was not apparent on
the face of Lord Cunningham's entry in the Lords' Register until
May 2008; and we consider later in this report whether it should
8. Lord Cunningham made no change to the Register
until May 2007, when his directorship with Sovereign came to an
end. He informed the Sub-Committee that the City of London's existing
contract with Sovereign was at this point replaced by two contracts,
a revised contract with Sovereign (with which Lord Cunningham
was no longer involved), and a new contract with a company called
9. Brinkburn Associates ("Brinkburn") is
described in the new contract as "a private partnership"
and Lord Cunningham is stated in it to be one of the partners.
Lord Cunningham had already in November 2005 registered his interest
as a partner in Brinkburn under paragraph 12(d) of the Code (non-parliamentary
consultancy), describing the firm as a "political and public
policy consultancy". Thus when the new contract with the
City of London was agreed in May 2007 he deleted the reference
to Sovereign Strategy from his entry in the Register, making no
10. The final change to Lord Cunningham's entry in
the Register came about following his meeting with Lord Woolf
to discuss the complaint. At this point, as he writes in a letter
to the Registrar, he "made it clear to Lord Woolf and you
that I would be happy to register the appointment as Adviser to
the City of London and also give you a copy of the contract. When
Lord Woolf and you indicated that such a course of action would
be helpful, I did so immediately." His entry in the Register
now accordingly lists the role of "Adviser to the Corporation
of the City of London", under paragraph 12(d).
11. In October 2008 the Privileges Committee examined
the complaints procedure and, given the absence of clear guidelines
on the procedures to be followed, asked the Sub-Committee on Lords'
Interests to reconsider the complaint against Lord Cunningham
after new procedures had been established. A new complaints procedure
was agreed to by the House on 18 December 2008, and the Sub-Committee
began work in January 2009. This enquiry was however delayed because
the Sub-Committee was required to give all its time and energies
to investigating the allegations made by the Sunday Times against
four other Members of the House.
12. We have taken further written evidence from Lord
Cunningham. We put to him what seem to us to be the principal
questions, as follows:
- Should you have registered your
interest as Adviser to the City of London, either from 2006, when
your appointment as Adviser was announced by the City of London,
or from 2007, when your contract with the City of London was transferred
from Sovereign to Brinkburn?
- Were your interests, either as
Adviser to the City of London, or as partner in Brinkburn, appropriately
registered under paragraph 12(d) of the Code as a non-parliamentary
consultancy, or should they have been registered under paragraph
12(a) as a parliamentary consultancy?
When should the interest with the City of London
have been registered?
13. As noted in paragraph 5, Lord Cunningham's connection
with the City of London Corporation derived initially from his
non-executive directorship of Sovereign. Sovereign is a public
affairs organisation with a wide range of clients, one of whom
was (and continues to be) the City of London. Lord Cunningham
had registered his interest with Sovereign in November 2005 under
paragraph 12(e) of the Code, and was not required by the Code
to disclose details of the clients of the company or the amount
14. Lord Cunningham explained to the Sub-Committee
that his work for Sovereign was that of a public affairs adviser
to provide high level consultancy and strategic advice to them
and certain of their clients, including the City of London Corporation.
He said that his role did not arise out of his membership of the
House of Lords but was based on his long career in public life
and his wide-ranging expertise in public affairs. He stressed
that he was not involved in any form of lobbying, that he gave
no advice on parliamentary matters, and that he took pains to
avoid involvement in any legislative procedures relevant to the
City of London.
15. When Lord Cunningham ceased to be a non-executive
director of Sovereign in May 2007, the contract with the City
of London was replaced with separate contracts with Sovereign
and with Brinkburn. Apparently this was done in order to allow
Sovereign to honour an undertaking it had given not to pay politicians
directly. Lord Cunningham through Brinkburn then continued with
his role as adviser to the City of London, and continued to provide
them with the services that he had given while a director of Sovereign.
But, he told us in evidence, apart from the transfer of contract
from Sovereign to Brinkburn, "nothing else changed",
and his connection with Brinkburn was already in the Register.
Because Brinkburn had been registered under paragraph 12(d), there
was no requirement to disclose Brinkburn's clients and thus Lord
Cunningham's connection with the City of London.
16. Lord Cunningham also told us that, when he was
interviewed by Lord Woolf in 2008, he readily volunteered to register
his role as Adviser to the City of London Corporation, not because
he was required to do so but because he was keen to co-operate
to resolve the issue. At the same time, and for the same reasons,
he provided a copy of his contract with the City of London, although
he was not required to do so.
17. We conclude that Lord Cunningham was not in
breach of the Code when he did not register his connection with
the City of London, because the paragraphs of the Code under which
he registered his interests with Sovereign and Brinkburn did not
require him to register their clients.
18. This gives rise to the second question set out
in paragraph 12 above, namely, were his interests with Sovereign
and Brinkburn appropriately registered?
Were the interests with Sovereign and Brinkburn appropriately
19. What services was Lord Cunningham providing for
the City of London? This is the question that must be answered
if we are to decide whether or not his interests were appropriately
20. Before turning to this question, we must record
that Mr Lamb's letter of complaint refers only to Brinkburn, and
to another company called Anderson MacGraw with which we deal
below. Lord Cunningham's connection with Sovereign is not the
subject of the complaint, and we have dealt with Sovereign in
this report only in order to explain the process by which Brinkburn
and, through Brinkburn, Lord Cunningham came to have the contract
with the City of London.
21. Moreover, much of the evidence Mr Lamb submitted
in support of his complaint consists of notes of meetings in 2006
and 2007 between the City of London, Sovereign, Lord Cunningham
and others identified only by their initials. There is nothing
in the evidence submitted by Mr Lamb to indicate in detail the
kind of work that Brinkburn and Lord Cunningham through Brinkburn
were doing for the City of London. What we have been given is
evidence relating mainly to Sovereign. Some of the Sub-Committee
expressed the view that because Sovereign was not the subject
of the complaint, the material relating to Sovereign should be
disregarded. We have not in the end taken that approach, and have
considered this evidence on its merits. We believe that it is
reasonable to do so, and is not unfair to Lord Cunningham.
22. This material is the only evidence to suggest
that Lord Cunningham's work for Sovereign and the City of London
related to matters that might reasonably be considered to constitute
a parliamentary consultancy, as opposed to the non-parliamentary
consultancy that Lord Cunningham actually registered. It includes
references to: Crossrail; GLA (Mayoral Planning Powers) Bill;
Lords Reform; "MJS meeting with Jack StrawJAC [Lord
Cunningham] could push on this"; "MJS to meet Jack StrawJAC
to chase"; "Commons scrutiny of EU legislation";
"franchise, including Parliament view of City of London";
"Response to Brown government"; "Sue Nye is key
to Gordon Brown's diary"; a number of references to invitations
to or meetings with Ministers and Opposition spokesmen; and other
23. Mr Lamb also submitted a report from the Guardian
newspaper of 13 February 2008, in which a "spokesman"
for the City of London Corporation was extensively quoted:
"'Cunningham's main work is to advise the Corporation
on how to present its case at meetings with ministers and the
government, the best time to speak to politicians, and general
The spokesman said that 'sometimes' Cunningham helps
to arrange meetings with ministers for the Corporation.
He added that from time to time Corporation officials
tell him that they are having 'a bit of a problem' getting a meeting
with a particular minister and he agrees to make a call to that
24. In his evidence Lord Cunningham categorically
rejected the allegations against him. He said:
"I do not lobby for the Corporation's interests
in Parliament. Specifically I do not write letters to Ministers,
speak in debates, ask questions, arrange meetings or sponsor functions
for the City of London. I do not discuss such matters with my
colleagues in the House of Lords. I have deliberately avoided
any involvement in legislative procedures relevant to the City
of London. I do not conduct business matters for the City of London
or anyone else at the House of Lords."
25. In later evidence Lord Cunningham told us that
"Brinkburn Associates is a non-parliamentary consultancy
which provides advice to those who employ it
I do not participate
in parliamentary work of any kind for those who may engage Brinkburn
Associates. Brinkburn does not employ anyone who has access to
research facilities in Parliament or who works at Westminster
Brinkburn Associates is correctly registered as a non-parliamentary
26. Lord Cunningham supplied a copy of his contract
with the City of London. It contains a brief which outlines the
services to be provided. These are "a public affairs consultancy
for the provision of high-level advice and counsel to the Lord
Mayor, the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee and
other senior elected Members, together with the Town Clerk and
the Director of Public Relations". The contract specifies
regular monthly meetings which Lord Cunningham is expected to
attend. It goes on to say that his work "will also involve
meetings and other contacts throughout the year on an ad hoc basis,
as and when required, in relation to specific projects and areas
of work". The brief also states that it is a condition of
the contract that Lord Cunningham personally provide the services,
and that he is "expected to attend all the regular meetings
with the relevant individuals, as well as providing the advice
and counsel on an ad hoc basis, as appropriate".
27. We note that there is no mention of parliamentary
advice or services. The contract cannot reasonably be interpreted
to require the provision of such advice or services. The words
"high-level advice and counsel" cannot be understood
to mean the sort of services described in the Guardian
report by the "spokesman" for the City of London. If
it is asked "why then is Lord Cunningham being given the
contract?", we find the answer in what Lord Cunningham said
in his evidence to us, that he is being employed on the basis
of his experience in public life extending over more than 38 years.
Moreover, even if Lord Cunningham was providing some of the services
that the Guardian report attributed to the "spokesman"
for the City of Londonand there is no other evidence that
he was doing sohe was evidently not contracted to do so
and was not being paid to do so. So it is unfair to suggest that
he is guilty of paid advocacy or other breaches of the Code of
Conduct. Finally, it must be noted that the remuneration he received
from the contract was already public information.
28. We find that the allegation that he deliberately
concealed his involvement with the City of London is without foundation.
We accept what Lord Cunningham has told us about the nature of
the services that he provides for the City of London, and we therefore
conclude that his interests have been appropriately registered.
29. Mr Lamb's letter of complaint of 8 February 2008
also referred to Anderson MacGraw and asked us to investigate
whether Lord Cunningham was being paid via Anderson MacGraw by
"other interests which he has not declared". Lord Cunningham
explained to Lord Woolf that he had been a partner in Anderson
MacGraw. It was a political and public policy consultancy firm.
The partnership had ended in 2007, but he had asked for it to
be removed from the Lords Register only on 1 April 2008. He was
no longer receiving income from that source. We believe that this
answers Mr Lamb's question.
30. We dismiss the complaint made against Lord
31. We would not wish it to become a rule that every
report we make to the Committee for Privileges is then made to
the House. But many complaints against Members receive much publicity,
and there is usually less publicity when the facts are investigated
and the complaint is not upheld. For this reason we recommend
to the Committee for Privileges that they make this report to