Why won’t the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust disclose its funders?

  1. Charity Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust (AFPT) doesn’t routinely disclose its funders. Worse, it refuses to reveal all of them, despite separate, repeated requests to four individuals: the chair, another trustee, the chief of staff and deputy chief of staff. Senior Conservative MP James Gray, a former member of the commons defence select committee, is chair; while a member of his staff at parliament, Adam Fico, is deputy chief of staff. Although AFPT, like any charity, should be independent of party politics, the deputy chief of staff has publicly praised Tory MP Alan Mak as “a strong supporter of our service personnel” after Mr Mak’s involvement with the charity. Mr Fico’s praise is prominently quoted on both Mr Mak’s website (screen shot in Figure 1) and in a diary the Havant MP wrote for local newspaper Portsmouth News in February 2016. I can find no other example of the deputy chief of staff praising a participant thus.

    Figure 1. Tory MP Alan Mak is “a strong supporter of our service personnel”, says Adam Fico, deputy chief of staff of AFPT: Mr Mak’s website at 19 June 2018

  2. AFPT runs the armed forces parliamentary scheme (AFPS), which offers educational visits to bases and units of all three armed services – Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force – the purpose of which is to inform participants about the operation and work of the armed forces. AFPS is open to MPs and lords.
  3. AFPS long predates AFPT: the charity was only registered on 21 November 2014. To date AFPT has submitted two sets of accounts to the Charity Commission – for financial years 2015 and 2016. Both fail to disclose income sources, only reporting a total figure for “sponsorship received”.
  4. I therefore requested an itemised breakdown of each year’s income, naming sources. Chair and public contact Mr Gray refused to provide this, only saying in an email that AFPT is “funded by donations from the large defence contractors – BAE, Rolls-Royce, and so on”. I asked Mr Gray three times in writing for the exact funders and amounts, but to no avail.
  5. Deputy chief of staff Mr Fico didn’t respond to emailed requests for the funder information, either. Nor did chief of staff Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Longbottom.
  6. Mr Gray only revealed the existence of the chief of staff and named him after I asked who received the “salaries” detailed in the accounts. Neither the trustees’ annual reports nor accounts identify the paid staff or specify their role(s).
  7. Trustee Helen Kennett was the fourth person at the charity I asked in an email for the funder information. Ms Kennett is director of UK government relations at Rolls-Royce PLC, but again this isn’t disclosed in either the trustees’ annual reports or accounts. An automated acknowledgement said Ms Kennett is on maternity leave. Nevertheless the same message gave the names and email addresses of three colleagues at Rolls-Royce who could help in her absence. I contacted Katie Roscoe because she seemed most appropriate from Ms Kennett’s instructions. Ms Roscoe didn’t respond to requests for the funder information.
  8. The AFPT website, meanwhile, has nothing on it except a form to send a message to the charity (screen shot in Figure 2)!

    Figure 2. Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust website at 4 August 2018

  9. As I say, AFPS long predates AFPT. AFPS was founded as a private organisation outside parliament in 1988 by former Tory MP Sir Neil Thorne, who was chair. (There’s confusion about when AFPS was founded: 1989 is often quoted. Here I say 1988 because that’s the year shown in Sir Neil’s Who’s Who 2018 entry.) Sir Neil, now a trustee of AFPT, was an MP from 1979 to 1992. AFPS controversially awarded medals to MPs and lords who had participated in the scheme. Critics said the medals invited ridicule, and were an insult to serving soldiers and veterans. Back in 2008, meanwhile, then Conservative MP Douglas Carswell was ejected from AFPS following speaking in parliament about inadequate military helicopters in Afghanistan. Under the scheme, he’d visited UK forces there and thus had direct experience.
  10. On 11 September 2013, Mr Gray opened a debate in Westminster Hall on the future of AFPS by announcing that the scheme was to be relaunched as a charity, and brought within parliament. In the final sentence of his introduction, he said: “The [relaunched] scheme will be wholly accountable and transparent, with annual accounts, annual general meetings and the rest of it, as we must have in modern times.”
  11. Mr Carswell and several other speakers in the debate emphasised the need for AFPT to be open, transparent and accountable – particularly around lobbying, actual, potential or perceived, by the sponsoring defence companies.
  12. In practice AFPT has been and continues to be opaque and secretive. The concerns about use of the charity for lobbying are legitimate. It’s not only that the big arms companies are notorious for their political lobbying. Trustee Ms Kennett, as we know, is director of UK government relations at Rolls-Royce PLC! Similarly, another trustee, Bob Keen, is head of government relations at BAE Systems PLC. That AFPT is located inside parliament only increases the need for both clarity and transparency around the relationships between sponsors (whoever they are) and politicians. The non-disclosure by the charity on funding and how it operates is unacceptable. The trustees’ annual reports fail to name the parliamentarians taking part in the scheme, for example.
  13. Back to the deputy chief of staff’s public praise for Tory MP Mr Mak. From the beginning, AFPS participants themselves have spoken to local and national newspapers about their experiences with the scheme. What’s new with Mr Mak is Mr Fico’s praise for him in the name of AFPT (“a strong supporter of our service personnel”). Yet charity law requires charities to be, and perceived to be, independent of party politics. I can find no other example of the deputy chief of staff praising a participant in this way. Moreover, what exactly does the deputy chief of staff do anyway?
  14. AFPT’s lack of transparency and accountability only undermine the organisation’s reputation. The irony, of course, is privately-run AFPS was relaunched by Mr Gray as a charity supposedly to improve transparency and accountability. Similarly, the move inside parliament was intended to bolster independence and credibility. Yet its new location only accentuates long-term concerns about use of the scheme by the big defence companies for political lobbying. In its current state, AFPT doesn’t deserve public trust and confidence.

Extradition on the dance floor

  1. Extradition could be coming to a dance floor near you, thanks to a new firm set up by Lord Carlile and ex-MI6 chief Sir John Scarlett.
  2. Practising barrister (QC) Lord Carlile doesn’t say much about what Manet Solutions Limited (registered company number: 11351325) actually does on the latest House of Lords register of interests. There he only states providing advice in relation to extradition”.
  3. The firm has three directors: Lord Carlile, Sir John and Rowley Sword, according to Companies House records. The first two, both born in 1948, already work together as SC Strategy Limited (registered company number: 08248586). Mr Sword, meanwhile, is considerably younger: his year of birth is 1992. Manet Solutions is the first UK company where he’s been a director.
  4. Mr Sword and Oswald Miller are the founders of “Meatz & Beatz”, a music (live DJs) and catering entertainment service. The pair own the UK trade mark “Meatz and Beatz”.
  5. An unusual mash-up: extradition and partying. I asked Lord Carlile in an email whether Manet Solutions Limited will be working with Meatz & Beatz” in any way. He hasn’t replied.

Mirror columnist Fiona Phillips is “sick of being ‘had’” by greedy companies

  1. On 21 July 2018, Daily Mirror columnist Fiona Phillips was mad as hell. The lead story in her column was a rant (her word) against greedy “big companies, corporations, banks and local councils”. Ms Phillips is “truly sick of being ‘had’” by all of them.
  2. I similarly felt ‘had’ by Ms Phillips, when I exclusively revealed that earlier this year she’d used her column more than once to plug well-known optician Specsavers, without disclosure of interest (see 25 April 2018 post). Private Eye magazine reported my findings, too (see 3 May 2018 post).

GambleAware works with The Jockey Club’s advertising agency

  1. On 22 June 2018, GambleAware (GA), the UK’s leading problem-gambling charity, announced that it had appointed M&C Saatchi to develop a new “safer gambling” advertising campaign. There’s only one problem – and it’s a big one. The Jockey Club, the largest commercial group in British horseracing, is also a client of M&C Saatchi (screen shot in Figure 1). GA’s choice of an advertising agency with this glaring conflict of interest only undermines the charity’s independence and credibility.

    Figure 1. The Jockey Club is a client of M&C Saatchi: M&C Saatchi London website at 17 July 2018

  2. That GA press release was notable for another reason: there the charity finally publicly acknowledged on its website that it had been working with the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), the trade body for UK advertisers (for the importance of this point, see 17 June 2018 post, para 10).
  3. The Jockey Club is headquartered in central London, in the same offices as the British horseracing authorities,” says its website. Equally cosy is The Jockey Club’s relationship with the gambling industry. On 12 July 2018, for example, the largest commercial group in British horseracing proclaimed on its website that gambling company William Hill would operate retail betting shops for the next five years at all 15 of its racecourses nationwide, succeeding Betfred as “exclusive betting shop provider”.
  4. Betfred hasn’t disappeared, though: it’s one of the “four betting partners” that work with Rewards4Racing, The Jockey Club’s customer loyalty programme. (The other three bookmakers involved are: Coral, bet365 and Betfair.) Members of Rewards4Racing – membership is free – collect points on every bet they place online with the four gambling firms. The scheme has “more than 1m” members, according to The Jockey Club website. Members then spend their points at the racecourses.
  5. The Jockey Club says on its website: “Its [Rewards4Racing] aim is to incentivise racegoers to attend more frequently, while rewarding those who already do.” Well, yes, but by working with bookmakers in this way, The Jockey Club is also using its racecourses to encourage people to gamble online – that is, when punters are nowhere near a racecourse or high-street betting shop.
  6. Online gambling is rightly under particular scrutiny because of ease of access – and ease of addiction. The Financial Times newspaper, for example, examined some of the problems in a long article last month entitled “Online gambling: the hidden epidemic”.
  7. Yet another way The Jockey Club depends on the gambling industry is its (The Jockey Club) revenue streams from high-street bookies. The shops pay for media rights, permitting them to show racing on in-store TVs. Also, all gambling firms that take bets on horseracing in the UK cough up 10 per cent of their gross profits from racing, above the first £0.5m they make, to racecourse operators including The Jockey Club. This profits levy is known as the Horserace Betting Levy.
  8. Clearly, The Jockey Club and the gambling industry are inextricably intertwined. Therefore, advertising agency M&C Saatchi has a fatal conflict of interest working for both The Jockey Club and GA. In GA’s press release, Giles Hedger, chief executive of M&C Saatchi, burbled: “We are delighted to be playing our part in the creation of a more mindful gambling culture in the UK. This is a new and important chapter in the ongoing balancing of market freedoms and public health.” The advertising agency wins both ways on gambling. It promotes The Jockey Club, an organisation both closely linked to and dependent on betting firms. Thus M&C Saatchi helps to increase gambling-related harm. The overall aim of GA, meanwhile, is to reduce gambling-related harm, taking a public health approach. Therefore, the agency’s “safer gambling” campaign for GA is intended to tackle some of the problems partly arising from its work with The Jockey Club! On gambling, M&C Saatchi’s business model stinks. What’s worse, GA is legitimising that business model.
  9. The recently finished World Cup was only the latest reminder of the many controversies around gambling advertising (see 11 March 2018 post). Viewers and listeners, including children, were bombarded with betting ads. As I showed on 11 March 2018, the annual advertising budgets of the big gambling firms dwarf the £7m GA says it will spend each year on its new two-year campaign. So will GA’s “safer gambling” campaign even be noticed, let alone effective, in the blizzard of excessive gambling ads?
  10. ADDENDUM 1: A GA ad was certainly noticed last year – for the wrong reasons. Advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled against the charity for its “offensive” cinema ad (see 7 June 2017 post).
  11. ADDENDUM 2: Communications agency Atlas Partners acts as both PR agency and political lobbyist for GA (see 27 February 2017 post). Previously, both roles were carried out by the now defunct Bell Pottinger. Like M&C Saatchi, Bell Pottinger was conflicted when working for GA: Bell Pottinger acted for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) at the same time. As its name suggests, BHA “is responsible for the governance, administration and regulation of horseracing and the wider horseracing industry in Britain”.
  12. ADDENDUM 3: A final point about openness, transparency and accountability – or lack of them. Scott Bowers is group director of communications and corporate affairs at The Jockey Club. He’s “one of the most influential PR professionals in the UK”, according to its website. I asked Mr Bowers in an email when his employer started working with M&C Saatchi. He replied: “I’m sorry but it’s our policy not to comment on third-party organisations. We have thousands of supplier relationships so it’s just not feasible.” A laughable response, as I told him. M&C Saatchi, meanwhile, was non-responsive: I‘d simply requested in an email confirmation of what’s on its website – that The Jockey Club is a client.

Holocaust charity chief executive isn’t employee of charity – yet it fails to both disclose and justify arrangement in annual reports

  1. The chief executive of a Holocaust charity isn’t an employee of the charity – yet the respected charity fails to both disclose and justify the highly unusual arrangement in its annual reports. What’s more, the annual report for the year the chief executive was appointed omitted to mention the fact of a new chief executive, and failed to describe the appointment process. Meanwhile, the two most recent sets of accounts say a little about the pay arrangements for the chief executive, but without reporting employment status. Yet this is better disclosure than the preceding two years: then the pay arrangements were hidden in the accounts, although the same pattern of transactions occurred.
  2. Charity Beth Shalom Limited (registered charity number: 509022) is better known by its working name, The National Holocaust Centre and Museum. Located in Nottinghamshire, it’s “the only centre dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and education in the UK”. The centre’s slogan is “Remembering the past. Protecting the future.”
  3. Phil Lyons MBE is chief executive. The only clue to his employment status is the disclosure that he’s “remunerated through his own consultancy business”, which appears in the two most recent sets of accounts only, for 2015 and 2016.
  4. In its annual reports, the charity fails to disclose that Mr Lyons isn’t an employee of the charity. This is a serious omission. So too is the absence of justification for the highly unusual arrangement.
  5. Why is an explanation required in the annual reports? For transparency and accountability, for a start. Then there’s something else: the charity avoids paying employer’s national insurance (NI) for the chief executive because Mr Lyons isn’t an employee of the charity. Some unscrupulous employers force workers to be self-employed for this exact reason. Is the charity wilfully avoiding paying employer’s NI? It’s a legitimate question.
  6. The charity provided a written statement from Mr Lyons when I sought information about his employment status with the charity. There the chief executive revealed that he’s a self-employed worker who provides services for the charity under a contract for services. Thus he’s an independent contractor. Mr Lyons added that his “consultancy business” isn’t a limited company. In other words, he isn’t paid by the charity through a personal service company.
  7. I then requested a comment from a trustee(s) explaining why the board chooses this arrangement. In his response, Henry Grunwald OBE QC, chair of the board of trustees, confirmed the service contractor arrangement. The charity chose it because at appointment Mr Lyons “was not available to us as as a full-time employee due to his existing commitments”. This arrangement has continued to date, as Mr Lyons still has outside roles. Though Mr Grunwald finished with this interesting information: “Mr Lyons has notified the board that all long-term commitments cease from August 2018 at which point the board will need to consider and, if happy, approve and issue a traditional contract of employment in order to comply with employment status requirements.”
  8. I told the chair I didn’t understand why the information he disclosed about Mr Lyons and his employment status with the charity wasn’t already publicly available in the trustees’ annual reports (TARs). It should be, for transparency and accountability. Mr Grunwald agreed, adding: “we will address this in the next TAR”.
  9. It appears Mr Lyons became chief executive in 2013 – but that year’s TAR fails to mention his appointment to the role. Rather, he’s merely listed as chief executive, without explanation. (The previous year’s TAR shows another chief executive.) So I asked the chair: Why, in their 2013 annual report, didn’t the trustees record the fact of a new boss, and describe the appointment process? Mr Grunwald replied: “This was an omission, and we should have done so. It would have been both an opportunity and good practice.”
  10. Both the 2015 and 2016 accounts reveal that Mr Lyons is “remunerated through his own consultancy business”. But this arrangement is hidden in both the 2013 and 2014 accounts. Why? Mr Grunwald referred me to his previous answer. He went on: “It should have been included in the 2013 and 2014 accounts, as it was in the following two years.”
  11. Meanwhile, is the charity wilfully avoiding paying employer’s NI? Mr Grunwald said: “We are certainly not an unscrupulous employer. That would be entirely contrary to the ethos of the centre. What was done was done, at Mr Lyons’ request, to continue his existing employment status.”
  12. I then put a final point to the chair: the non-disclosure about Mr Lyons and his employment status with the charity isn’t limited to the TARs. It extends to the charity website. The website fails to list the staff, let alone provide details of roles. Thus under “The team” three groups of people are identified: “Academic Advisory Board Members”; “Trustees”; and “Our Patrons” (screen shot in Figure 1). Nothing, then, about Mr Lyons and his paid colleagues. Why? Mr Grunwald replied: “Information about the staff team is published in our ‘Four Year Plan’ and other print publications. However, the centre is a sensitive site, subject to occasional unpleasant activity via the web. Some members of staff have asked that their names and details are not available on the website. We have respected their wishes and removed staff details. This was decision [sic] taken some years ago, but in the light of the other issues raised by you, we will review the information content made available to the public on the website and amend our practice as necessary.”

    Figure 1. The team on The National Holocaust Centre and Museum website at 7 June 2018

  13. I was impressed with the chair’s answers: his approach was open and considered. It’s appropriate to share something Mr Grunwald wrote before addressing my queries in the same email: “It’s important for you to know and accept that nothing in relation to Mr Lyons’ activities at the centre was done with a view to misleading anyone or avoiding any liabilities on the part of the centre.” Fair enough. Also, the chair committed to improve the clarity and transparency of the information published by the charity.
  14. Although opaque, the charity, not only Mr Grunwald, has been open and responsive when asked questions. There’s no suggestion that anyone has done anything illegal.
  15. The last accounts, for 2016, show that the centre paid Mr Lyons £75k for services. The previous year he received £80k. Thus the chief executive is highly paid. And yet until now the charity has withheld three key facts about Mr Lyons. First, he isn’t an employee of the charity. Second, his role as chief executive isn’t full-time. Third, he has outside roles. (For anyone with multiple roles, there’s always the concern that he/she might be spreading him/herself too thinly.)
  16. We’ve learnt something important about Mr Lyons’ outside roles: they’re set to finish in August 2018 (whatever they are). Further, the chair anticipates that the chief executive could then become an employee of the charity.

UK Direct Shop continues to flout its earlier commitment to ASA

  1. On 27 February 2018, I complained to advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an ad from UK Direct Shop claiming “celebrities” (unnamed) use its bracelet. Back then UK Direct Shop told the ASA that it wouldn’t in future make the claims, unless it could substantiate them (see 25 April 2018 post).
  2. Nevertheless UK Direct Shop continues to flout its earlier commitment to the ASA. On 22 May 2018, it advertised another bracelet, the 18-Link Bracelet, in the Daily Mirror newspaper. (Daily Mirror 22 May 2018) And, again, the ad proclaims: As used by celebrities!” It also states: “Even well-known celebrities are wearing them.”
  3. Again, I recently asked UK Direct Shop in an email to tell me which celebrities use its bracelet. And, again, it declined to name them.
  4. The 22 May 2018 ad wasn’t a one-off, either. I saw it again in the Mirror, on 19 June 2018. (Daily Mirror 19 Jun 2018)
  5. So I duly complained to the ASA about the two ads. And guess what? UK Direct Shop again “firmly assured” the regulator that it would cease claiming “celebrities” (unnamed) use its bracelets. On 27 June 2018, the ASA listed UK Direct Shop on its website as one of 45 “informally resolved” cases last week.
  6. The bad faith of UK Direct Shop is shocking – but so too is the ineffectiveness of the ASA in dealing with the repeat offender.

Addendum: Fifth reason for astonishment at Tom Watson MP over Sky Bet

  1. Here’s a fifth reason why I’m astonished Tom Watson MP accepted the gift of four tickets for a football match from Sky Bet (see previous post). On 28 March 2018, gambling regulator the Gambling Commission fined Sky Bet £1m for “failing to protect vulnerable consumers” (http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2018/SkyBet-to-pay-1m-penalty.aspx).
  2. As I say, Mr Watson didn’t respond to requests for comment. I emailed him twice at parliament: 23 June 2018 and 27 June 2018. On both occasions, I immediately received an automated acknowledgement.