LONDON, England -- The Commissioner for Standards in the UK’s House of Lords has cleared the Cayman Island’s former London office director Lord Blencathra of breaking the rules by lobbying Parliament and MPs.
The Commissioner has found that Lord Blencathra did not in reality lobby improperly. However he was critical of the first contract signed by Lord Blencathra with the Cayman Islands government since there was a phrase in it which suggested lobbying Parliament.
That phrase was removed when the contract was renewed in November 2012 but its simple presence was a technical breach of the rules. Lord Blencathra will apologise to the House for that inclusion whilst pointing out that he did nothing wrong.
In his letter of apology to the commissioner Lord Blencathra mounted a highly robust defence of the Cayman Islands and the political attacks the islands have had to continually face. In particular Lord Blencathra highlighted the media attacks in The Independent newspaper. The original complaint was tabled by left wing Labour MP Paul Flynn.
Lord Blencathra wrote: “As you can see from the newspaper headline, this article was politically motivated and is as much an attack against the Cayman Islands, which The Independent clearly detests as well as an attack on me. The prime minister stated in the House of Commons last year that Cayman and other UK OTs were no longer “tax havens”. The Independent does not accept that reality. They have distorted the truth about Cayman referring to this UK Overseas Territory in derogatory and emotive language in an attempt to blacken their reputation and what I do.
“When I wrote to you last time I described my role as a sort of mini ambassador. Many people, including some members of parliament and journalists dislike Cayman so much that they will seek to denigrate anyone who defends this UK Territory. This is not the place to make an issue of it but I find the hostile comments about Cayman and its people to be quite despicable. The vast majority have British nationality, have been totally loyal to the Crown for the last 300 years and they do not deserve to be denigrated as if they were criminals.
“The British Overseas Territories are not like some ruthless multinational companies seeking to put one over on the UK government. They should not be kept at arm’s length and treated with suspicion. They are not pariah states like North Korea. They are part of the UK family and that is why the FCO works closely with the Overseas Territories and the London based representatives. We are treated as mini ambassadors and we act merely as conduits between the UK government and territory governments in addition to all the other EU and international issues with which we deal. I do not claim that this role is completely unique but it is fairly.”
Lord Blencathra’s statement to the House of Lords, which will happen later this week, will say: “Although I never actually provided nor intended to provide parliamentary services to the Cayman Islands government in return for payment, I acknowledge and deeply regret that I entered into a written contract under which I was apparently committed to provide such services (as one of 14 specified “consultancy services”).
“I now recognise and accept that such a contract was in clear breach of the requirement in paragraph 8(b) of the Code of Conduct that members “must not seek to profit from membership of the House by accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.”
“I misled myself into thinking that, since it was understood that I would not be making representations in reality, then the wording did not matter. But words do matter; I was wrong and I apologise to the House for that misjudgement.
“When the contract was renewed in November 2012 the reference to providing such services was deleted and in March 2014 the contract ended. I deeply regret having breached the Code in this way and the embarrassment to the House that I recognise is caused by such conduct. I offer the House my sincere apology.”