Company donation to Mark Spencer MP requires explanation

  1. On 13 April 2017, Mark Spencer, Conservative MP for Sherwood and an Assistant Government Whip, declared a cash donation of £2.15k on the register of MPs’ financial interests. It came from SJ Ankh Ltd, a local company; but the registered company number that Mr Spencer stated fails to match that on the Companies House register. The mismatch between company name and number requires explanation. Further, while £2.15k may not be a huge amount, here I show that Mr Spencer’s declaration on the register means we’re talking telephone numbers.
  2. Farmer Mr Spencer, who was first elected MP for Sherwood in May 2010, listed 9654867 as company number. Yet the registered company number of SJ Ankh Ltd is 10525122, according to Companies House records. While 9654867 is the company number of Bedfordshire Land Promotions Ltd.
  3. There’s something else about number 9654867, though. It’s the phone number for Sherwood Conservative Association (without prefix 0115, area code for Nottingham).
  4. Samuel (“Sam”) Ancliff is sole director of SJ Ankh Ltd, which is a new company. He’s “deputy chairman (membership)” of Ashfield and Mansfield Conservatives, too, says his Twitter biography (screen shot in Figure 1). On 4 May 2017, Mr Ancliff stood unsuccessfully in the local elections, as Conservative candidate for county councillor in Kirkby North, Nottinghamshire County Council. He came second, behind Labour’s John Knight.

    Figure 1. Sam Ancliff on Twitter at 9 May 2017

  5. Mr Spencer, who is Conservative candidate for Sherwood in the current general election, didn’t respond to requests for comment (emails). Neither did Sherwood Conservatives. Where’s the “strong and stable leadership”?
  6. Mr Ancliff, however, said in an email: “Besides that it is a [sic] clearly a simple admin error on someone’s part, I have nothing further to contribute to your blog.” Well, if so, who exactly made “a simple admin error,” and where?

Jake Berry MP’s avoidable conflict of interest

  1. Jake Berry MP’s second job as a paid consultant to a multinational law firm means that it’s unclear, at the very least, in what capacity he spoke at a recent real-estate event in Manchester sponsored by the same law firm. The MP, a self-proclaimed champion of transparency, hasn’t replied to requests for comment on what I consider to be his avoidable conflict of interest. Nor has the law firm.
  2. Mr Berry is Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen. He’s a solicitor, who, according to his personal website, “specialised in housing and development law” before entering parliament in 2010. On 10 November 2016, Mr Berry spoke at a real-estate event at the National Football Museum, Manchester. Here’s a newspaper preview: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/property/more-effort-needed-drive-provide-12156570.
  3. The breakfast meeting had two sponsors: law firm Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP and bank NatWest. The MP has a second job – as a paid consultant to, er, Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP. It’s been paying him £2 500 per month since September 2016, Mr Berry’s entry on the register of MPs’ financial interests shows.
  4. The newspaper preview fails to mention the MP’s second job. An unfortunate omission. I’ve asked Mr Berry in emails in what capacity he spoke at the event. Was he there as MP for Rossendale and Darwen – or as an employee of Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP?
  5. At date of publication I haven’t received a reply. Nor have I heard from Holly Carty, business development coordinator at Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP in Manchester. Ms Carty tweeted about the event on her official work account (@HACarty).
  6. Mr Berry’s failure to respond is particularly disappointing because he’s a self-proclaimed champion of transparency: www.jakeberry.org/transparency. “If you have any questions or would like any further details please do not hesitate to contact me,” he says on that page.
  7. It’s unclear which Mr Berry spoke at the real-estate event in Manchester last November. Yet he had an actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest due to his second job. This conflict of interest risks undermining trust and confidence in the MP, as well as MPs generally. What’s worse, his is an avoidable conflict of interest.
  8. There’s no suggestion that Mr Berry has done anything illegal.

UPDATE: Has Grant Shapps got another alter ego?

  1. I’ve now (evening) received a reply from Grant Shapps’ parliamentary office (see previous post).
  2. Freddie Downing “was a former employee in Grant Shapps’ parliamentary office, who carried out the preliminary research earlier in the year for the most recent British Infrastructure Group report.”
  3. Document “author” Mr Downing isn’t credited in the report, let alone identified. I wonder why he’s airbrushed from history.

Has Grant Shapps got another alter ego?

  1. UK’s mobile phone scam,” screamed the front page of the Daily Mail on 29 October 2016. A new report from something calling itself the British Infrastructure Group of MPs (BIG) says that 17M of us have poor mobile phone reception at home – or none at all. It identified 525 “not spots” where mobile coverage is non-existent. Foreign visitors often get a better signal than UK residents. BIG’s findings were widely reported in the press that day.
  2. It’s easier to say what BIG is not than what it is. It’s not a parliamentary select committee, nor is it listed on the latest register of all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) (at 12 October 2016). There is, though, an infrastructure APPG, chaired by Stephen Hammond MP, on the register. BIG is a cross-party group of MPs “dedicated to promoting better infrastructure across the United Kingdom.” (But who doesn’t want better infrastructure?) Grant Shapps, the former cabinet minister, is chair. And it was Mr Shapps, also an ex-chair of the Conservatives, who popped up on TV and radio on 29 October 2016 promoting the latest BIG report.
  3. Freddie Downing” is the author of the report PDF document, according to the PDF metadata (screen shot in Figure 1). Yet there’s no reference to “Freddie Downing” in the document, which is strange if he is indeed the author. Maxine Vining is acknowledged on the cover for research (“Research by Maxine Vining”).

    Figure 1. PDF document properties – author of BIG report “Mobile Coverage: A good call for Britain?” at 31 October 2016

    Figure 1. PDF document properties – author of BIG report “Mobile Coverage: A good call for Britain?” at 31 October 2016

  4. Ms Vining works for Mr Shapps at parliament, the latest register of MPs’ staff (at 20 September 2016) shows. But Mr Downing isn’t on the register as working for any MP there.
  5. So who is “Freddie Downing”? Is he another of Mr Shapps’ alter egos? I refer, of course, to the senior Tory’s notorious use of the pseudonym Michael Green to flog a get-rich-quick scheme online. On 29 October 2016, I therefore asked Mr Shapps these two legitimate questions in an email to his personal address at parliament.
  6. At date of publication (early morning) I haven’t received a reply.

Director of fake company is official supporter of the Conservatives – and company claims backing of prime minister

  1. The director of a fake company was a signatory in its name to last year’s open letter to the Daily Telegraph from more than 5 000 small business owners backing the Conservatives before the general election. The letter, which the newspaper put on its front page 27 April 2015, was orchestrated by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) and promoted by Karren Brady, the TV star and a Tory peer. Meanwhile, the fake company claims the backing of prime minister David Cameron.
  2. Abbey King Khawaja is signatory 671 to the Telegraph’s letter: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/11565080/The-5000-small-business-owners-supporting-David-Cameron-and-the-Conservatives.html. He signs as director of British Eco Power Ltd of London (screen shot in Figure 1). Yet there’s no company of that name registered at Companies House.

    Figure 1. Abbey King Khawaja: signatory 671 to the Telegraph's letter at 9 February 2016

    Figure 1. Abbey King Khawaja: signatory 671 to the Telegraph’s letter at 9 February 2016

  3. The British Eco Power website is elaborate and detailed: www.britishecopower.com. No registered company number, though. The website creates the impression British Eco Power operates across the world, working with international partners. But the partners page, including the right-hand “newsroom” section, is unchanged between 10 December 2012 (web.archive.org/web/20121210121915/http://britishecopower.com/partners.html) and 4 April 2016 (web.archive.org/web/20160404050000/http://britishecopower.com/partners.html). The exact two dates are arbitrary, just when snapshots of the page were saved in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
  4. Mr Khawaja used to be a director of the firm Britsh [sic] Eco Power Ltd, whose name appears to be deliberately misspelled without the second “i” (registered company number: 08421038). He resigned as a director 6 October 2015. I can’t find a website for what’s a non-trading company, according to Companies House records. It has filed two sets of accounts there, both as a dormant company. In July 2015, Britsh [sic] Eco Power was nearly struck off the public register. Not a good sign.
  5. Back to the fake company. Mr Khawaja is politically well-connected, according to his biography on the British Eco Power website: “Abbey has supported the present Conservative Government as well as the Conservative Arab Network in London and has good relations with all leading UK parliamentarians, ambassadors and diplomatic community leaders in London.” (screen shot in Figure 2). Quite a boast. But the alleged political connections don’t end there. British Eco Power claims the backing of prime minister David Cameron (screen shot in Figure 3).
    Figure 2. Abbey King Khawaja biography at 9 February 2016

    Figure 2. Abbey King Khawaja biography at 9 February 2016

    Figure 3. Prime minster backs British Eco Power Ltd at 9 February 2016

    Figure 3. Prime minister backs British Eco Power Ltd at 9 February 2016

  6. I repeatedly rang the landline phone number – “for all worldwide enquiries” – on the British Eco Power website (screen shot in Figure 4) as I have a few questions. Yet there’s only a recorded message: “This is a digital mail dmClub phone number. It is currently unused and available for sale. For more information, please call 0870 446 0870. That’s 0870 446 0870.”

    Figure 4. Contact us page at 9 February 2016

    Figure 4. Contact us page at 9 February 2016

  7. I asked Mr Khawaja in an email to his personal address if he’d care to comment on the fact that his company British Eco Power Ltd isn’t registered at Companies House. In his same-day reply he wanted to know the reason for the enquiry. I said it’s illegal for a company to claim to be a limited company if the company isn’t registered at Companies House as a limited company. He wrote in his answer: “Britsh [sic] Eco Power Limited is legally registered in the UK”. That’s the company whose name appears to be deliberately misspelled without the second “i”. I then pointed out in another email that these are two different companies – but with confusingly similar names. I finished by asking: “Or have I misunderstood?” At date of publication I haven’t received an answer.
  8. This is the first time to my knowledge that an unambiguously fake company has been found on the Telegraph’s letter of support for the Conservatives from more than 5 000 supposed small business owners. Within hours of publication, dissolved companies and duplicate names had been identified: www.mirror.co.uk/news/ampp3d/truth-those-5000-small-businesses-5592693. Someone – Karren Brady? – should tell Number 10 that British Eco Power claims the backing of the prime minister.