The Times – on the questionable lobbying of MPs on Parliamentary All Party Groups, such as the one on aviation

The Times, writing about the lobbying by industry of parliament, says of the Commons all-party group on aviation that is one of a large number of such groups that are not official bodies. There is concern about the extent to which these all-party groups get a lot of funding from companies, and produce reports that do not properly declare the degree of influence that has been exercised by outside interests.  The Times reports on how the all-party Parliamentary Aviation Group produced an report in August, on the subject of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and its effect on the aviation industry. It did not clearly declare that it was produced “with help from” airlines, travel companies and airports through the “A Fair  Tax on Flying” campaign group, which wants APD cut for reasons of self interest, to increase the amount of air travel. The report, being biased towards the airlines, ignores the other side of APD – that it is in compensation for airlines paying no fuel tax and no VAT.



 

Behind the portcullis: when MPs and lobbyists collide

  • See the Times Graphic: Warm beer, cricket and world travel
  • which says
  • All-Party parliamentary Aviation Group. Produced a report on aviation policy supported by A Fair Tax on Flying, a  campaign group funded by British Airways, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and a number of airports.

Full Times article by Laura Pitel  at  http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3645518.ece

2nd January 2013

The Times, writing about the lobbying by industry of parliament, says of the Commons all-party group on aviation that it produced a report that gives the impression it is an official parliamentary document.

However, it is not.  The all-party group produced a 46 page report in August 2012 on the subject of Air Passenger  Duty (APD) (see below – report is called “Inquiry into Aviation Policy and Air Passenger Duty”) does not mention that it was produced with help from airlines, travel companies and the aviation industry.  Nor does it mention that the aviation industry is bitterly opposed to APD for reasons of the industry’s self interest. Any tax on flying is likely to reduce demand for flights, and hence the income of airlines and airports.

The report by the all party group ignores the inconvenient fact that there is no fuel duty on air travel, and there is no VAT on air travel, or on almost anything bought by airlines or airports.

The Times notes that the all-party’s report on APD does in its introduction the involvement of a lobbying company, MHP Communications, and the aviation industry campaign group, A Fair Tax on Flying.

But the report does not say that one of MHP’s clients is Heathrow airport.

The Commons all-party group backs the position of A Fair Tax on Flying on cuting APD, and advocates the growth of the airline industry . Its chairman, Brian Donohoe, said that the membership of the all-party groups is public and members of the public can find out who the members are. He said it was not necessary to declare motives of bias of an all-party group.

Susan Pearson, of AirportWatch said the group is being misleading: “Just as I would be surprised if an all-party group on brewers came out in favour of teetotalism, it would be equally unlikely for a group so closely linked to aviation to produce an objective report. The degree of involvement of the industry should always be completely transparent when giving out facts to the public.”

Despite a clear emphasis on transparency in the guidance for all-party groups, there are several other examples where groups have failed to properly declare the source of their secretarial or financial support. The Times goes on to mention bias on several other all-party groups such as on Energy Studies, on Georgia, on Beer, on Spain and on Pakistan and on the Armed Forces. Some MPs defended the use of corporate funds, arguing that there was nothing wrong with seeking outside help

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The Times article  ££ is at 

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3645518.ece

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Also

Companies pay MPs in lobbying free-for-all at Westminster

Jack Straw was asked by the Speakers of the Commons and the Lords to review all-party groups

Laura Pitel (The Times)
2nd January 2013
The Times writes that MPs and peers have received hundreds of thousands of pounds from arms manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and foreign governments to sponsor parliamentary special interest groups.

Dozens of all-party parliamentary groups (including the aviation group) have received funding and other benefits from outside organisations during the past 12 months. The Times says this is as much as £1 million a year between the groups.

Many of the groups produce reports (including the APD report mentioned above) that echo the views of their industry funders. The groups also petition ministers on policy, and are even involved in drafting policy reports, which is a cause for concern due to their links to their backers.

Companies get benefits such as access to events in Parliament,

Despite repeated calls for transparency on funding, The Times  believes some groups may be in breach of parliamentary rules for failing to declare properly the source of their secretarial and financial support.

Baroness Shepherd of Northwold, a former Tory Cabinet minister said that it was alarming how much corporate money was spent on all-party groups.

Full Times article £££ at  http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3645567.ece

 

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Earlier

29.8.2012   http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=764

Pro-aviation expansion report produced by All Party Parliamentary Aviation Group

 

A report has been produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Aviation, looking at the effect of APD and the economic impact of aviation in the UK. It said efforts should be made “to ensure the UK retains and grows hub capacity” at Heathrow or a new purpose-built hub airport.  It is very much a report from the point of view of the aviation industry.  It is important to stress that this is not a formal select committee of Parliament.  It is just a group of MPs who are enthusiastic about aviation.  It has no official standing.  By contrast, the official Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport will start an investigation into aviation in September, and that is the report people will take seriously.  One of the APPG report’s many pro-aviation-expansion recommendations is that the “Government develop a comprehensive growth strategy for aviation that addresses all “barrier” issues in a coherent and consistent manner.” With little regard to environmental constraints on growth.

Details of this “All Party Parliamentary Aviation Group” are at

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/aviation.htm

This includes its membership (Chair is Brian Donohoe; Vice Chair is Anne McIntosh; Secretary is Mark Pritchard).  It is an All Party Parliamentary  Subject Group (APPG) – it is not an official committee.  Its purpose is stated as:  ”To encourage interest in aviation and to arrange meetings and briefings on aviation issues with airlines, airports, the Civil Aviation Authority, trade unions and other relevant organisations and individuals.”   MHP Communications (a consultancy) acts as the group’s secretariat.

APPGs have no formal place in the legislature, but are an effective way of bringing together parliamentarians and interested parties. APPGs allow campaign groups, charities, and other non-governmental organisations active in the field to become involved in discussions and influence politicians. Details on APPGs


The report the group has just produced entitled  Inquiry into Aviation Policy and Air Passenger Duty is at

APPG Aviation Report – August 2012  (47 pages)

 

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, commented on the APPG report: ”As expected, this report is written from the point of view of the aviation industry.  It is important to stress that this is not a formal select committee of Parliament.  It is just a group of MPs who are enthusiastic about aviation.  It has no official standing.   It is not surprising they don’t like anything that stands in the way of airport expansion.  It would be like the All Party Beer Group going tea-total.”

He added: “The official Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport will start an investigation into aviation in September.  That is the report people will take seriously.”