The undeclared vested interests of leading pro-EU PeersPosted on December 12, 2011
We’ve heard a lot from pro-EU members of the House of Lords in the last week. Here are a few examples:
Lord Brittan: “In order to retain the goodwill which will continue to be needed in future, would my noble friend agree that it will be necessary-if not today, certainly soon-to make it clear that we are not going to try to stop the 26 going ahead by denying them the use of European Union institutions?”
Lord Mandelson: “My Lords, people will differ in their view about whether the Government’s negotiating position last week was tenable or realistic. Will the Government reflect on the utterly shambolic way in which they prepared their position and sought support for their proposals at the summit last week?”
Lord Clinton-Davis: “The Government have not been courageous but desperately cowardly and, most of all, barren of influence. Is that not the case?”
They seem happy to share their enthusiasm for giving up powers to the EU with us. But there’s something else they aren’t so happy about sharing – as ex-Commissioners each of them has to support EU integration or risk losing their generous, taxpayer-funded EU pension. Moreover, they don’t declare this financial interest when they speak in EU debates.
It sounds fanciful, but it’s true. The terms of employment for Commissioners are clear – the obligations of the role include the stipulation that a Commissioner
“shall carry out the duties assigned to him objectively, impartially and in keeping with the duty of loyalty to the [European] Communities“
Importantly, these obligations must be followed
“both during and after their term of office”
The consequences of failing to express loyalty for the rest of their days are also clear, in black and white:
“In the event of any breach of these obligations, the Court of Justice may, on application by the Council or the Commission, rule that the Member concerned be, according to the circumstances, either compulsorily retired in accordance with Article 216 or deprived of his right to a pension or other benefits in its stead.”
That’s a clear conflict of interest. Any Peer or MP must declare their interest if they receive a pension from a company affected by a debate before they speak in it – and most companies don’t require undying loyalty even after retirement.
Bizarrely, though, these EU pensions – which are explicitly conditional on ongoing political support – are not currently declared by the Europhile former Commissioners during EU debates, and the House of Lords’ authorities are apparently happy for that secrecy to continue. Just as bad, the pensions are not declared in the online Register of Lords’ Interests.
How can it be right that a portion of our legislature are campaigning for an organisation which they have a financial vested interest in, and yet are not required to declare it?