Following the first post on this subject I thought it worth a little ‘rooting around’ the world of All Party Parliamentary Groups, however the Register is over 600 pages and it would take a team of researchers to investigate the memberships of each group, the interests they have declared and the questions that they have each asked in Parliament. I would also refer readers to the list of APPGs that exist – a matter on which readers can form their own opinion.
According to the Rule Book covering APPGs, any MP or Peer of the Realm has the right to join an APPG – however in delving into what may be called the murky world of APPGs one can be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that we, the public, are being taken for the proverbial ride. In regard to that statement let us return to Mark Pritchard and his membership of APPGs. Likewise, according to Wikipedia, Pritchard’s main political contributions focus on defence, foreign affairs, counter-terrorism, home affairs, pro-life and animal welfare issues; and one can be forgiven for coming to the assumption that belonging to 92 APPGs presents Pritchard with innumerable opportunities for the odd ‘jollie’ or two. Leaving that what may be termed ‘spurious’ accusation to one side, it should also be noted that during 2012/2013 Pritchard earned from The Soufan Group; The CCA; and International Management Partners Ltd, a further sum of circa £85,000 for ‘consultancy’ services. In respect of Pritchard, one also can justifiably ask whether he would have achieved such consultancy fees had he not been a Member of Parliament?
Let us also look at Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford. Within the last five years he has been to the Cayman Islands, Venezuela, Jordan, Gibraltar, Taiwan, Norway, Switzerland, Lebanon, Qatar, China, Syria, Malta – a total of 12 overseas trips; and still he has yet to visit the ‘holiday delights’ of Thailand, Mauritius or St Lucia. At first sight it may appear unfair to intimate that all APPG groups are but the doorway to ‘jollies’, however bearing in mind that there are over 600 pages of registered APPGs all I can offer in my defence is that one has to start somewhere.
It is also acknowledged that there are, undoubtedly, MPs who do have a ‘passion’ and interest on certain subjects and wish to learn all they can on their chosen interest – but I come back to the question raised in my first post: are overseas trips necessary and could they not learn just as much from research on the internet? ‘Overseas trips’, per se. also beg the question that, as with all those ‘selling an idea’, is not the visitor presented with that which the seller wishes them to see?
If one looks at the membership of APPGs that happen to be what may be called ‘holiday destinations’ it is interesting to note that when considering places such as the Bahamas; the Maldives; Mauritius; St. Lucia; and Thailand, we find that Roger Godsiff’s entries on the Register of Member’s Interests, show that in the last 5 years, he’s travelled (for free) to Mauritius, and also Japan, Syria and Vietnam, which, added to the jaunts enjoyed by Andrew Rosindell, begs the question just what and how is, what may be termed their ‘jet-set lifestyle’, representing the interests of their constituents; and also, just what are the sponsors of these trips getting for their money?
There is also a further point to consider, namely that of the ‘interests’ of those bodies that form the Secretariat of APPGs and what is their role, coupled with the effect that their ‘input’ may have on those at the ‘coal face’. It is not just the body that acts as Secretariat that require consideration, as we now enter the field of lobbying. Let us look at a relatively new APPG; that of Victim and Witness of Crime. Immediately we find ‘stakeholders’ piling in with their views, here and here. Subsequently those at the ‘coal face’ now find their work and ‘work ethics’ dictated by those over whom they have no control. On top of which, is not how victims and witnesses of crime problems are resolved a matter for those in whose neighbourhood such occurs? Is it not through taxation that such is paid and therefore should not those providing said taxation not have a voice in how their money is spent?
I can but now refer to Demand #5 of the 6 Demands: no taxes or spending without consent: no tax, charge or levy shall be imposed, nor any public spending authorised, nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government except with the express permission of the majority of the people, renewed annually on presentation of a properly authenticated budget which shall first have been approved by their respective legislatures; should not we who provide the funds for such support to victims and witnesses of crime not have a voice in what is an important social matter?
All the foregoing raises what I consider to be a fundamental question; namely is it not time that we who funded the sole reason for their position that they occupy, namely to safeguard and ‘manage’ our country, decided to set a few constraints on how they spend their time?