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The local party of the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent, Jack Bereton received a donation from a manufacturing firm – shortly after he praised the company in Parliament, according to the new register of MPs’ interests.
An £8,000 donation, registered 27 June 2023, reveals that a gift to Brereton’s local association for “political campaigning”, came from Rayne Precision Engineering Limited, a Stoke-based firm which offers ‘a range of CNC machining, laser cutting and metal fabrication services’.
The donation comes after the MP spoke up for the company in the Commons, highlighting a struggle for recruitment within the sector, and an increase in job vacancies.
Speaking on 23 January, Brereton put to Minister for Employment Guy Opperman: “We have some fantastic engineering companies in Stoke-on-Trent, including Don-Bur, IAE and Rayne Precision Engineering. However, they are struggling to fill what amount collectively to hundreds of vacancies. Will my hon. Friend look at what more we can do to help those companies recruit people and get them back into work?”
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Opperman responded that “a jobs fair is planned at Port Vale football club on 16 February, and Don-Bur, IAE and Rayne are all invited to attend.” On 15 March, the DWP is also hosting a jobs fair at IAE’s new exhibition centre.”
Shortly after his contribution, the MP visited the company premises in February, with Rayne posting on Facebook: “It was our pleasure to show you round our factory and hearing your vision for the future and how businesses like ours play into that vision for your constituency over your time in office”, including the hashtags “#JackBrereton #Conservatives #government”.
Brereton had posted on social media that he was “pleased to mention in the House of Commons the vacancies available at Don-Bur (Bodies & Trailers) Ltd, IAE1969Careers, and Rayne Precision Engineering. If you’re looking for work and fancy a good skilled career in engineering, apply now”.
While there is no accusation of wrongdoing on the part of Rayne, which is free to make political donations as it sees fit, it raises questions of potential preferential treatment given to those companies which donate to members of Parliament and their local parties.
Not the First Time
In March, the Conservative MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, David Simmonds, faced criticism after receiving £10,000 in donations and a ticket to a Tory fundraiser, paid for by the owner of a luxury hospitality goods retailer he’d asked a parliamentary question about. Labour chair Anneliese Dodds said at the time: “David Simmonds must justify why he thinks it is appropriate to ask questions on behalf of a personal donor, and why he never got around to declaring it in the Commons.”
Similarly, the Conservative Party faced questions in June, when it was revealed that they had accepted a £20,000 donation from a trade body which lobbies for the exclusion of glass in deposit return schemes – shortly after they changed their position on the issue in line with the industry body.
During the pandemic, one of the Conservative-linked companies that won highly lucrative contracts, Globus Shetland, was awarded £94 million to supply respirators just 18 days after donating £10,000 to the Party, as previously reported by Byline Times.
Brereton himself was among four MPs named in a 2021 report by the Guardian as being engaged in writing “sponsored content” online for the Betting and Gambling Council, a lobbying group that backs the gambling sector. In an article written for ConservativeHome, Brereton wrote urging ministers to ensure that a review into it does “nothing to put the industry’s competitiveness at risk”.
Another Tory MP, Brandon Lewis, recently held a Commons debate about supporting small and medium sized businesses in his seat of Great Yarmouth. In it, he mentioned the need to support housebuilders. Local developer Thakeham Homes provides him with £60,000 a year for his work as an advisor to the CEO and Board, Private Eye reports. No rule-breaking is alleged.
Speaking to Byline Times, Rose Whiffen, Senior Research Officer at Transparency International U.K. said: “When MPs participate in parliamentary proceedings their contributions should be solely in the public interest.
“Accepting donations from a private company, having spoken about them favourably in Parliament looks dangerously close to receiving outside reward for lobbying. Members should scrupulously avoid the perception that their actions are in the interests of private entities, even if this means potentially returning donations from certain sources.”
Rayne itself had previously launched a petition, active since 2018, calling for greater government support for the manufacturing sector, stating that “As a British company who passionately believe that the Government are not doing enough to support British manufacturing, we have launched a petition that will be presented to Parliament”.
Former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane recently described how a lack of a coherent plan for manufacturing, specifically Green Industry, meant the UK risked ‘falling behind’ in the new ‘arms race’ to reindustrialise, while other countries develop the green, hi-tech industries of the future.
The Guardian recently reported that MPs had received £4.75m in income from second jobs over the past year – and that’s when you exclude Boris Johnson’s £5m in outside earnings.
Jack Brereton and Rayne Precision Engineering were approached for comment.