Despite Tory MEP Dan Hannan’s claims that he is lobbyist-free, it turns out that by the Conservatives’ own definition, he has met lobbyists.
Update 1600hrs 18/06/12:
I have now received an email from Mr Hannan answering my earlier questions regarding the names of those he met with and which companies they were from. His response was:
“I had two meetings with Doug Morrison, director of Southampton Port – one at Southampton Port and one at my office. Both, I think, were in late 2010. Doug set out his case very eloquently, and I took it up with both the Department of Transport and the European Commission. The former has required that the grant from Liverpool be repaid; the latter, as I hope, will soon do the same.”
His original blog post on the matter said he met with managers from Southampton Port “last year” (which is why we refer below to the 2011 lobbyist records) but in his email he said 2010. Regardless, our point still stands, as the lobbyist reports from 2010 also state he didn’t record any meetings.
Despite Tory MEP Dan Hannan’s claims that he is lobbyist-free, it turns out that by the Conservatives’ own definition, he has met lobbyists – and kept it from official records.
Hannan has blogged for the Telegraph about his distaste for lobbying, yet wrote a post on Wednesday exposing his dealings with managers of Southampton Port.
This is a problem for Hannan as he is obligated to follow the Conservative MEP delegation “Policy on Transparency regarding Lobbying” that dictates:
“Conservative Members of the European Parliament shall publish online on a six-monthly basis a list of all lobbying contacts during the period.”
Where a lobbyist is defined as:
“Any individual who represents an organisation which seeks to influence currently or in the future… the administration or execution of a European union programme or policy including the negotiation, award or administration of a contract, grant, loan, permit or licence.”
Fellow Conservative MEP for the South East, Richard Ashworth, obviously felt that meeting Southampton Port’s operating company Association of British Ports counted as meeting lobbyists.
He declared a meeting with ABP’s “government affairs manager” David Leighton – government affairs being widely understood as lobbying.
Following meeting what Hannan called “managers” of Southampton Port, he wrote for the Telegraph about his worries concerning a new cruise terminal in Liverpool that had managed to swerve EU competition rules and receive UK and EU subsidies.
Managers from the Southampton port claimed “they were happy to take on competition from anywhere else in the world” but apparently not from the Merseyside port receiving suspect grants from the EU.
Via his Telegraph blog, Hannan explained how he came to their rescue:
“To cut a long story short, we managed to get the UK component of the grant repaid and, following a very positive meeting with the Competition Commissioner yesterday, I’m hopeful that the EU portion will also be paid back. There will then be a level playing field, and Liverpool will be free to run whatever services it wants.”
A hard-won victory for the Southampton Port managers involved but looking at the Conservatives’ definition, it is almost certain that Hannan met with lobbyists.
Hannan says that he met with the port’s representatives “last year”, yet the MEP claims to have met no lobbyists for the periods January-June 2011 and July-December 2011 on the Conservatives’ Lobbyists Contact Reports:
However, the MEP brandished his lobbyist clean sheet in his Telegraph blog. He wrote:
“At what stage does the [lobbying] process become unethical? I am uncomfortable trying to answer that question, so I don’t meet lobbyists at all.“
However, by the Conservatives’ own definition, it appears that Hannan has met lobbyists. Left Foot Forward contacted Hannan to ask the names of the ‘Southampton Port managers’ with whom he met, to check whether it was indeed David Leighton, but we are yet to receive a reply.
It appears that Hannan’s hands are less lobby-free than he’s been claiming.