Unbeknownst to the vast majority of the British public, there is currently an organisation funded and supported by over 150 huge corporations which has been granted special access to directly influence the decisions of MPs from within Parliament.
The Industry Parliament Trust (IPT) was founded in 1977 by the CEOs of 10 major British companies who were concerned about the “lack of dialogue between parliamentarians and industry“.
On their website, the IPT describe themselves as:
“An independent, non-lobbying, non-partisan charity that provides a trusted platform of engagement between Parliament and UK business.”
However, despite claiming to be a “non-lobbying” organisation, the IPT specifically state on their website that a central aim of their organisation is to “create lasting relationships [with Parliamentarians] and facilitate the exchange of ideas“.
Just for clarity, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of “lobbying” is a group of people, usually an organisation or business, who seek to “influence politicians on a particular issue“.
Furthermore, despite also claiming to be “independent”, last year the IPT received donations and support from a grand total of 179 major businesses, many of whom have been awarded government contracts to run public services – such as Capita, Carrilion, G4S, Interserve and Serco.
Other donors to the IPT include numerous banking institutions, such as HSBC, Barclays and Santander, as well as companies whose shareholders and Directors have been massive financial beneficiaries of the privatisation of public services, such as Thames Water and Royal Mail.
As Evolve know full well, donations such as these from partisan sources immediately negate any claims to true independence.
The main activities of the IPT include hosting breakfast and dinner discussions amongst business leaders and Parliamentarians, sending MPs on fellowships to help them ‘learn’ about a relevant sector, and hosting companies in Parliament to help them understand how legislation is crafted.
Much of this activity is openly documented on the IPT’s Twitter account, who regularly post pictures of their liaisons with Parliamentarians.
For example, here’s Tory MP Mike Wood smiling broadly as he stands in front of a massive weapon after ‘learning about the challenges arms dealers face’ during an IPT-sponsored visit to the MBDA Missile Systems unit in Stevenage:
— IPT (@indparltrust) December 6, 2018
Another IPT tweet shows Labour right-winger Caroline Flint, whose 2015 Deputy leadership campaign was partly funded by corporate lobbyists and who infamously wanted Labour to start ‘attacking benefit scroungers’, pictured with a representative from Serco, a company who have benefited hugely from right-wing policies such as increased privatisation and outsourcing.
Thank you to @CarolineFlintMP and Rupert Soames @SercoGroup for leading our event last night. We were exploring the outsourcing of public services and how to ensure the recent collapses are not repeated #IPTBusiness pic.twitter.com/iBTbo8vnPu
— Industry and Parliament Trust (@indparltrust) November 14, 2018
Furthermore, another Labour right-winger, Angela Smith – who was recently criticised by Labour members after going against her own party’s policy to warn against the renationalisation of water in a recent Guardian column – is one of the IPT’s 15 Trustees. Like the IPT, Smith also has numerous links to private water companies.
Two current serving Conservative MPs – John Howell and Kevin Hollingrake – are also on the IPT’s Board of Trustees. They sit alongside one SNP MP, Lisa Cameron, and three Labour MPs, Angela Smith, Adrian Bailey, and Ian Mearns, as well as several other Parliamentarians.
The IPT are also allowed to hold regular events and debates within Parliament, which are usually chaired by an IPT Trustee and accompanied by a speaker representing a big business in the relevant sector, to discuss how they believe business and MPs should work together to forge future policy direction.
For example, on January 29th, the IPT is planning to host an event entitled “Strengthening UK Road & Rail Infrastructure”. The guest speaker for the event is none other than Julian Lewis, the Deputy Managing Director of Abellio Group – a Dutch state-owned company who have benefitted hugely from the privatisation of the UK railways.
Furthermore, an event scheduled for the 27th February, entitled “UK Freight Operations Post-Brexit”, has been set up so numerous business leaders can discuss with Parliamentarians “the challenges and opportunities of Brexit for UK freight and its stakeholders“.
Essentially, in this one thinly-coded line, the IPT’s true aims are revealed. The meeting is for the representatives of private companies to liaise with MPs to discuss how they can work together to make as much money as possible for themselves and their stakeholders from the changes that Brexit will serve up to the freight industry.
The latest accounts for The Industry Parliament Trust (IPT) show that in 2017 it took in over £740,000 in donations from 179 companies, and it had over £1m in the bank.
There is currently no similar organisation for workers or trade unions to directly liaise with or educate Parliamentarians about the struggles and problems workers and ordinary people face, and given this disparity, it is little wonder that – since the IPT was set up in 1977 – there has been such a huge shift of power and wealth away from workers and into the hands of the big business.
One pro-Corbyn Labour MP told us that they believed the IPT was simply “another example of a rotten system that serves the interests of the elites“, and until a similar organisation is allowed similar special access to educate MPs on the struggles of workers and ordinary people, our political system will surely only continue to be glaringly biased and despicably weighted in favour of big business and financial interests.