Has Owen Paterson MP got COVID-19?

  1. On 19 March 2020, former cabinet minister Owen Paterson MP tweeted: “As I am displaying some of the symptoms of #coronavirus, I am now isolating at home. I will still be working on emails and on the telephone. The latest advice on staying at home is available here.”
  2. The Conservative MP for North Shropshire can’t be sure he has coronavirus (COVID-19) without being tested.
  3. Randox Laboratories Ltd, a clinical diagnostics company based in Northern Ireland, manufactures a COVID-19 test. It’s “the only test in the world that can identify the lethal strain and differentiate between other non-lethal variants with the same symptoms,” according to the firm website.
  4. As well as being an MP, Mr Paterson has other jobs. One of these is as paid adviser to… Randox Laboratories Ltd.
  5. The ex-cabinet minister has been a “consultant” to the business from 1 August 2015, the register of MPs’ financial interests shows. As of 20 April 2017, Randox has paid him a handsome £8.3k per month “for a monthly commitment of 16 hours”.
  6. Many NHS workers are angry because they can’t currently get tested for coronavirus – something that’s presumably not a problem for Mr Paterson given his role at Randox.
  7. The Tory MP should arguably disclose his relevant financial interest on his communications about the dreaded virus. Mr Paterson is personally benefiting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ex-lobbyist member of Commons health and social care committee fails to register lobbyist family member

  1. A member of the influential Commons health and social care committee has failed to register a family member engaged in lobbying. Further, the family member’s lobbying firm has clients in the health and social care sector – as does the MP’s former lobbying company, now owned by… his lobbyist wife!
  2. Paul Bristow, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, was elected as an MP for the first time at last December’s general election.
  3. Before entering parliament, Mr Bristow owned and ran a political lobbyist, PB Political Consulting Ltd. He was also founding chair of the PRCA Public Affairs Board, “the voice of the public affairs and lobbying industry”. The Public Affairs Board oversees self-regulation of political lobbying, publishing online a public register of lobbyists, where members disclose their clients (see 4 December 2018 post).
  4. Mr Bristow is married to Sara Petela, who works for PB Political Consulting Ltd (screen shot in Figure 1). There she’s “associate director”, according to the register of MPs’ financial interests. The Tory MP rightly discloses his wife on the parliamentary register under Category 10, “Family members engaged in lobbying the public sector on behalf of a third party or client”. There she’s named as Sara Bristow, though.

    Figure 1. Sara Petela: Twitter biography at 16 March 2020

  5. As you can see, Ms Petela “tweets about health and social care issues” (Figure 1). Set up in June 2010 by Mr Bristow, PB Political Consulting Ltd is a “specialist healthcare communications consultancy”, the website says. Clients include multinational drug companies and health tech firms.
  6. Filings at Companies House show Mr Bristow ran the firm as sole director until 6 January 2020, when his wife became the second director. Three days later, the MP resigned as a director, and handed over ownership to Ms Petela. (Nevertheless at date of publication Mr Bristow remains listed as sole “person with significant control” on the company register.)
  7. On 3 March 2020, HuffPost UK rightly criticised the MP for simply transferring PB Political Consulting Ltd to his wife. (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/paul-bristow-lobbying-pb-consultancy_uk_5e594259c5b60102211015ff) That article doesn’t mention Mr Bristow is a member of the Commons health and social care committee: he became a member on 2 March 2020.
  8. But the situation is even worse: the ex-lobbyist member of the committee has failed to register a SECOND lobbyist family member.
  9. Sara Petela appears to have an identical twin, Emma Petela, who’s also a political lobbyist! Emma is a director of lobbying firm GK Strategy, as well as co-chair of the Public Affairs Board (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Emma Petela: Twitter biography at 16 March 2020

  10. As you can see, Sara and Emma look the same; they also share the same date of birth at Companies House, October 1987. Each names the other as her “doppelgänger” in their Twitter biographies.
  11. The MPs’ Code of Conduct is clear on the definition of family members. Chapter 1 of the Code of Conduct is “Registration of Members’ Financial Interests”. There para 58 states: “Family members should be regarded as including a spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of the Member and the parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the Member or of a spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of the Member.”
  12. Emma recently retweeted Mr Bristow’s tweet dated 26 February 2020, where the MP expressed his “delight” to attend that day’s #RightToRehab event in parliament, Mr Bristow adding: “I know how important this issue is” (screen shot in Figure 3).

    Figure 3. Emma Petela retweets Paul Bristow MP’s tweet dated 26 February 2020 about the #RightToRehab event in parliament and his support for the campaign

  13. #RightToRehab is a campaign calling for “equal access to high quality community rehabilitation services for all”.
  14. Three organisations lead the campaign as the so-called Right to Rehab Steering Group: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; Royal College of Occupational Therapists; and charity Sue Ryder. By happy chance, the Right to Rehab Steering Group is a client of GK Strategy, according to the current Public Affairs Board lobbyist register, dated from 1 December 2019 until 29 February 2020 (screen shot in Figure 4).

    Figure 4. Right to Rehab Steering Group is a client of political lobbyist GK Strategy at 16 March 2020

  15. Therefore, the MP hid his link to Emma and her agency in his tweet about the #RightToRehab event in parliament and his support for the campaign.
  16. Meanwhile, there’s another omission to note in relation to Mr Bristow: an omission in the accounts for PB Political Consulting Ltd.
  17. There’s a legal requirement to disclose the average number of employees in company accounts.
  18. Yet none of the last five years of accounts filed at Companies House, 2015-2019, disclose the average number of employees. Why?
  19. Back to Emma Petela. Mr Bristow appears to have breached the MPs’ Code of Conduct by failing to register a second lobbyist family member on the register of MPs’ financial interests. What’s more, the former lobbyist isn’t just any backbencher: he’s a member of the powerful Commons health and social care committee. Both PB Political Consulting Ltd and GK Strategy lobby politicians on behalf of organisations in the health and social care sector.
  20. When asked for comment on the omission in the accounts for PB Political Consulting Ltd, the “Office of Paul Bristow MP” said in an email: “Paul no longer owns PB Consulting and is not involved in any of its work or accounts. Your questions should be directed to Dan Jones, the company’s managing director.”
  21. By reply, I said the omission in the accounts is a matter for Mr Bristow. He was sole director and owner at the time. That’s why I put the question to the MP.
  22. There I also requested comment on Mr Bristow‘s non-disclosures in relation to Emma Petela.
  23. Mr Bristow or his office didn’t respond to the second request for comment before a reasonable deadline.

Melanie Phillips agrees about Alzheimer’s Society’s partnership with William Hill

  1. On 17 March 2020, Times columnist Melanie Phillips wrote about Alzheimer’s Society‘s “seemingly perverse” partnership with gambling firm William Hilla partnership I exposed (see 3 March 2020 post) and was reported in the newspaper last Saturday (see previous post).
  2. Ms Phillips agrees it’s not a good idea.
  3. Here’s a scanned copy of her Times column in its print edition (“Charity doesn’t begin in the betting shop”): Times 17 Mar 2020.

Times reports my exposé of Alzheimer’s Society’s partnership with William Hill

  1. On 14 March 2020, The Times newspaper reported my exposé of Alzheimer’s Society‘s partnership with gambling firm William Hill (see previous post).
  2. Here’s a scanned copy of the Times story in its print edition (“Charity wanted betting shops to be ‘safe haven’ for dementia victims”): Times 14 Mar 2020.
  3. Unfortunately, the article omitted to credit me – despite opening with a quote I gave Andrew Ellson, consumer affairs correspondent, on the phone! (As you can see, the quote is unattributed.)
  4. Blaming sub-editors for the omission, Mr Ellson pre-empted my complaint by offering to credit me on Twitter under his tweet announcing the article. This he did (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Andrew Ellson of The Times credits me for story in tweet dated 14 March 2020

Why is William Hill a corporate partner of Alzheimer’s Society?

  1. Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s largest dementia charity, faces serious questions about its judgement after beginning a three-year partnership with gambling firm William Hill in May 2019.
  2. Alzheimer’s Society has recently hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. On 22 February 2020, The Guardian newspaper exclusively revealed on its front page that the charity had allegedly paid out £750k to staff who agreed to sign controversial non-disclosure agreements. It also reported allegations of bullying and a toxic management culture. Alzheimer’s Society‘s chief executive, Jeremy Hughes, was due to become chief executive of Samaritans in May; but the latter charity has now announced it won’t proceed with the appointment.
  3. On 20 May 2019, William Hill announced on Twitter its tie-up with Alzheimer’s Society (screen shot in Figure 1). There the bookie also made a “commitment to become the leading dementia-friendly betting and gaming organisation, including making our shops a safe haven for customers”.

    Figure 1. William Hill announces three-year partnership with Alzheimer’s Society: tweet on 20 May 2019

  4. There are at least four problems for Alzheimer’s Society with this partnership.
  5. First, the charity risks undermining its credibility by working with a gambling firm, any gambling firm. The gambling industry is rightly under increased scrutiny for the serious harm it causes. Some consider gambling companies to be so-called sin stocks, to be grouped with other controversial sectors such as tobacco and alcohol.
  6. Second, it’s surely inappropriate for William Hill to be targeting dementia sufferers in its shops. It beggars belief Alzheimer’s Society is happy to be associated with a gambling firm behaving this way. Yes, the charity supports people with dementia – but should its support really include encouraging those with the condition to gamble?

    Figure 2. William Hill publishes a short film of football pundit Robbie Savage meeting a football fan with dementia: tweet on 21 May 2019

    Figure 3. “Forget Me Not Quiz 2019” fundraising event: top of page at 27 February 2020

  7. Third, the celebrities fronting Alzheimer’s Society-William Hill joint events and activities are paid ambassadors for the gambling firm, not volunteers – but the charity hides this. On 21 May 2019, William Hill tweeted a short film of football pundit Robbie Savage meeting a football fan with dementia: the film marked the launch of the partnership (screen shot in Figure 2). Mr Savage is a longstanding ambassador for the bookie: it sponsors his ghost-written column in the Daily Mirror newspaper on Saturday, for example. Meanwhile, the charity website details a joint fundraising event, “Forget Me Not Quiz 2019”, which took place on 5 December 2019 at a central London hotel (screen shot in Figure 3). Alzheimer’s Society says the event was hosted by celebrities Robbie Savage, AP McCoy and Kirsty Gallacher (screen shot in Figure 4). The flyer on the charity website confirms the three as hosts (Figure 5). Nevertheless Alzheimer’s Society fails to disclose all three stars are paid ambassadors for William Hill. They aren’t volunteers. By hiding this commercial relationship, the charity misleads the public.

    Figure 4. “Forget Me Not Quiz 2019” fundraising event: bottom of page at 27 February 2020

    Figure 5. Flyer for “Forget Me Not Quiz 2019” at 27 February 2020

  8. Fourth, the charity’s omission of Mr Savage’s commercial relationship with William Hill is made worse by the fact that elsewhere on its website, Alzheimer’s Society identifies him as an ambassador for the charity (screen shot in Figure 6). Thus Alzheimer’s Society urgently needs to disentangle the football pundit’s roles in relation to the charity. There should be clarity and transparency.

    Figure 6. “Alzheimer’s Society ambassador Robbie Savage”: charity website at 27 February 2020

  9. When asked for comment, Alex Hyde-Smith, director of fundraising at Alzheimer’s Society said in an email: “People with dementia tell us that they want to continue doing the things they enjoy, including their right to take appropriate risks, and stay included and involved in their communities.”
  10. Mr Hyde-Smith continued: “By partnering with William Hill, all frontline staff will be taking part in a Dementia Friends session, which will provide them with information as well as equipping them with confidence to support customers affected by dementia. For the 850 000 people living with dementia this means they can retain the freedom to do the things they want to do, while being protected from threat of financial harm. Our aim is that by working with William Hill to support people with dementia, they will become the leader and set an example to others in the betting industry about how to protect vulnerable customers.”
  11. On the matter of the bookie’s paid ambassadors fronting Alzheimer’s Society-William Hill joint events, Mr Hyde-Smith wrote: “Alzheimer’s Society has never paid celebrities to support our vital work and this includes the valuable support of William Hill ambassadors.”