Today
Wed 22 September 2021

Just two years after leaving office, the former Chancellor and life peer is now free to lobby the Government on behalf of businesses registered in tax havens and set up by Conservative peers

The former Conservative Chancellor Philip Hammond – who was given a life peerage to sit in the House of Lords by Boris Johnson – is now free to lobby the Government on behalf of a dozen or so businesses he has won contracts for through the independent consultancy he set up after leaving office.

Under current rules, ministers are banned from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving their positions. Hammond’s ban was up three days ago, after he resigned from his ministerial position on 24 July 2019. 

Since then, he has been given the green-light by the UK’s lobbying watchdog on more than a dozen new roles – including advising three Gulf regimes that use the death penalty; and working with a number of companies set up by former Conservative MPs and hereditary peers.

The former MP for Runnymede and Weybridge stepped down at the 2019 General Election after having the Conservative whip removed for rebelling on Brexit votes. But he was still appointed to Parliament’s upper chamber by the Prime Minister last September and is now officially known as Lord Hammond of Runnymede. 

The majority of his new appointments are being delivered through an independent consultancy, Matrix Partners Ltd – which he set up in January 2020 and is owned by Hammond and his wife – and another company called Chiswell (Moorgate) Ltd.

Matrix Partners submitted accounts in May showing net assets of nearly £40,000 and employed an average of three employees, but it was exempt from submitting full accounts under section 477 of the Companies House Act 2006 relating to small companies. 

Earlier this month, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) – the watchdog which monitors the ‘revolving door’ between government and business – approved Hammond’s latest bid to advise Saudi Arabia’s finance ministry on “fiscal reform” despite considering “concerns” about the role.

The committee noted “the risks associated with a former senior minister of the Cabinet advising a foreign government”. It is the second role Hammond has accepted from the regime in Riyadh after he worked as a part-time advisor to its Finance Minister as the country prepared to host the G20 leaders’ summit last November. 

The ACOBA also cleared Hammond to take on a paid, part-time role with the finance ministry of Bahrain – a role in which he will be advising the country on a “programme of economic and fiscal reform”.

In addition, the former Chancellor has been advising the Kuwait Investment Office, part of the sovereign wealth fund of the Middle Eastern state, with estimated assets of $592 billion, since the middle of last year. He told the ACOBA that he would advise on “economic challenges and investment opportunities”.

According to reports by Amnesty International, restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly intensified in all three of the Gulf countries Hammond is advising over the past year, in addition to other human rights abuses that include the exploitation of migrant workers. 

Capital punishment is legal in all three countries, the use of which in Bahrain has risen by more than 600% over the past decade, specifically since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, according to a joint report by anti-death penalty and human rights group Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. 

Saudi Arabia regularly persecutes Government critics and tortures and beheads the accused, and is suspected of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the regime, in 2018. 

Kuwait last carried out an execution in 2017, but at least 12 Government critics and activists were detained and prosecuted last year under the provisions of the Cybercrime Law and Penal Code, which criminalises legitimate speech, including criticising neighbouring countries or spreading false news.

None of this mattered to the ACOBA when approving either of Hammond’s appointments advising foreign governments. Just last month, the UK Government agreed to deepen its relationship with each of these countries through the Gulf Cooperation Council.


Tax Havens and Peers

Not content with advising regimes with poor human rights records, Philip Hammond has also won business with companies registered in tax havens and ones set up by former Conservative MPs and hereditary peers.

He is a partner at Buckthorn, an oil and gas fund manager run by Lord Colin Moynihan, a former Conservative MP and hereditary peer. He is also a paid advisor at FMA Partners, a company founded by the Conservative peer Francis Maude and co-run with Baroness Simone Finn, who was appointed as a non-executive director of the Cabinet Office last May. 

As Chancellor, Hammond said that he would crackdown on billions of pounds in tax avoidance, but reports suggest that he is earning up to £125,000 a year as a director of Ardagh, an Irish glass and metal packaging group based in the tax haven of Luxembourg. 

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His other appointments include advisory roles at Apidae, a company run by Boris Johnson’s fintech ambassador, Alastair Lukies; and at the Canary Wharf Group. During his time in office, Hammond lobbied for a development bank, which is part-owned by the British state, to move its headquarters to Canary Wharf.

As with most of his appointments, Hammond was warned by the ACOBA that he must not lobby the Government for two years after leaving office. But, with that time up, and in the wake of the David Cameron Greensill scandal, Labour has called for the minimum gap between ministers leaving office and lobbying the Government to be extended from two years to five.

Hammond has dismissed concerns over his latest role and told The Times newspaper that he had “no plans to lobby” the Government. 

Tamasin Cave, co-author of A Quiet Word and a campaigner at Spinwatch – which investigates PR, lobbying and power networks – told Byline Times: “Philip Hammond, or Lord Hammond of Runnymede to give him his full title, is one of many peers who are, unbelievably, in the pay of foreign governments while they sit in the House of Lords and shape Britain’s laws. And not just any governments, but some with really poor human rights records. 

“You’ve got to ask: what do they want from our former Chancellor? What is he doing for his wage? The same goes for the roster of companies he’s paid to help. Even in the wake of the scandal surrounding David Cameron’s crass lobbying for Greensill, former senior politicians are still free to cash in on their insider knowledge and contacts.”

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