ALT news release, 7 May 2008

As MPs questioned former Health Minister, Lord Warner, over his lobbying activities, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (ALT)  calls for the system for monitoring the revolving door between Westminster, Whitehall and business to be radically tightened.

Lord Warner, who currently holds paid jobs with 7 private sector companies, many in the health field, has been called to give evidence to the current inquiry into lobbying alongside former Sports Minister Richard Caborn MP, who is a paid consultant to nuclear services company Amec , and Stephen Haddrill, Director General of lobbying body the Association of British Insurers (Thursday 8 May 2008).

Lord (Norman) Warner was until December 2006 Health Minister with responsibility for NHS delivery, which included overseeing the troubled NHS IT programme. A member of the House of Lords, his current, paid private sector jobs include:

  • Non-executive Chairman of UK HealthGateway, a company which aims to facilitate private contractors' access to NHS contracts
  •  Adviser to Xansa, a technology firm, and Byotrol, an antimicrobial company, which both sell services or products to the NHS
  • Adviser to DLA Piper, which advised Ministers on the £12billion NHS IT project
  • Part-time adviser to professional services company, Deloitte
  • Adviser to private equity investment group, Apax Partners.

Lord Warner is just one of a number of former Department of Health officials to have recently gained employment in the private sector. These include:

  • Former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt landed two paid jobs with Boots and a company that owns 25 private hospitals earlier this year.
  • Former Health Minister Alan Milburn MP is a paid member of the Lloyds pharmacy's Healthcare advisory panel, and Pepsico’s nutritional advisory board.
  • Former Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson became an advisor to the lobbying organisation, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry in 2006.

While all Ministers have to consult the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments prior to taking a job in the private sector, the system has come in for much criticism for reasons including the limited time banning them from lobbying Government, and the lack of checks on whether former ministers and senior civil servants are following the advice of the committee regarding restrictions on lobbying.

Prof David Miller of SpinWatch, a member of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said: “There is a now a real need for the public to know in whose interests officials are working - the public’s or those of the businesses who hire them. Across all sectors, the revolving door is clearly out of control and a longer ‘cooling off’ period urgently needs to be introduced. If we are to protect services like the NHS, we need tougher rules to ensure that companies are not given privileged access to Government and that any lobbying by them is out in the open.”