Socialist Worker

Tory cabinet minister Caroline Spelman lobbied her own department

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2202

The new Tory government has promised to clean up lobbying of politicians.

And David Cameron's loyal retainer and former lobbyist Nick Clegg announced a register of lobbyists today.

Perhaps the first name on the register should be Caroline Spelman the Tory Secretary of State for Agriculture (DEFRA).

Prior to becoming an MP, Spelman was a lobbyist for agribusiness.

She was the Sugar Beet Commodity Secretary for the National Farmers Union in the 1980s then became Director of the International Federation of Sugar Beet Growers.

She and her husband Mark set up Spelman, Cormack & Associates in 1989 as a food and biotech lobbying firm. Cormack is her unmarried name.

She resigned as a director under a year ago and transferred her share of the company to her husband. At this point the company address changed from her constituency home to her London flat.

She has claimed almost £40,000 in expenses for cleaning on the constituency home.

No rent is paid by the company to the flat.

So the Minister who is main target to be lobbied by agri-business has her name on lobbying company letterhead. Among other things the firm deals with bio-tech clients that Spellman now responsible for regulating such as GM foods.

Mark Spelman was also a unsuccessful Tory candidate but happily helps run the company in charge of the £350 million computer system at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

Mark is a managing director at Accenture, the firm that developed the online system that delivers subsidy payments to farmers.

The RPA awarded Accenture a £35 million seven-year contract to develop new and more efficient systems in 2003.

Accenture was appointed to develop and deliver the new system over two years and then provide ongoing support for the remaining five years.

The agreement – made before Caroline Spelman was appointed minister and while the Tories were in opposition – expires this year.

But the minister now finds herself in charge of the government department that will ultimately decide whether Accenture’s contract should be terminated.

Although the Accenture contract was initially worth £35 million, the cost of the IT system spiralled to £350 million over the next few years.

The Tories are back.


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Article information

News
Wed 19 May 2010, 16:42 BST
Issue No. 2202
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