I subscribe to the TheyWorkForYou RSS feed for my local MP – James Arbuthnot, Conservative MP for North East Hampshire – and it truly has been (and is) an enlightening experience.
You drag-n-drop the RSS feed under “Recent Appearances in Parliament” and get an ongoing trickly of what your elected representative is up to – in my case his interests seem entirely to revolve around the Chinook Helicopters at RAF Odiham.
You know the ones. They’ve been grounded since 1998, something to do with the system that would permit them to fly in cloudy weather.
Mind you, that’s not the only thing in which he’s interested. He’s also interested in Puma aircraft, overseas military bases and deployment – in fact you might think he’s a bit of a military animal, and unlikely to be sympathetic to some narrow causes in which I have interest.
However he’s also interested in export credit guarantees:
James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire, Con) Hansard source:
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what amount he is budgeting to cover possible liability for costs (a) for his Department and (b) for those for whom his Department has agreed to pay all or any part of their costs in relation to the action for judicial review brought against his Department by Corner House in respect of Export Credit Guarantee Department forms.
…his interest appears to be related to The Corner House, an “anti-corruption campaign group”; some digging around provides possible context:
Corner House Double Victory on UK Government Department’s Anti-Bribery Rules and Public Interest Litigation
Mark Tran, The Guardian, 13 January 2005
A pressure group claimed “a great victory in the public interest” today after winning the right to be consulted over changes in bribery rules for British exporters.
Corner House Research, a group that campaigns for enforcement of the law in overseas corruption offences, had accused the Export Credit Guarantees Department of failing to consult it on changes that had “watered-down and weakened” key procedures on Britain’s anti-bribery policy.
The ECGD underwrites bank loans to enable overseas buyers to purchase goods – most controversially military hardware – from the UK. Export credit guarantees have, for instance, been issued for major arms sales to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
Nearly half the work of the civil servants in the ECGD is related to arms exports; the cost of the civil servants and the credit guarantees issued by the department to subsidise UK-based arms companies come to around £180m annually.
As Britain’s official export credit agency, the ECGD has pledged to eliminate bribery and corruption in overseas contracts involving UK exporters. In November, the department published a revised anti-bribery policy.
Originally, British exporters had to give anti-bribery undertakings on behalf of any affiliate involved in the deal. The later guidance limited that to companies controlled by the exporter.
A full judicial review application was due to be heard by Mr Justice Moses in the high court today, but the judge was told the dispute had now been settled.
So: this morning, before even having coffee, I’ve gone from zero to having a thumbnail sketch of my MP’s interests, and an intriguing dangling thread on another political story.
Your meme for today: If you live in the UK, visit [www.theyworkforyou.com] and skim what your MP does and in what they are interested. Post a synopsis in your blog, and send me a link as a comment upon this message.