Richard Wilson's blog

richardcameronwilson AT yahoo dot co dot UK

Fair comment in the public interest

with 8 comments

*Help defend freedom of speech in the UK – sign the petition for libel reform*

Some readers will know that the post I wrote earlier this week about Tony Baldry MP and James Ibori has been taken off this site. More on that in due course.

In the meantime, I would recommend that everyone take a look at this blog post from Will Jordan, which I believe is both fair comment, and self-evidently in the public interest.

It seems to me that the core issue here is, as Craig Murray also points out, the extent to which it is appropriate, in a modern democracy, for MPs to hold down second (and third, and fourth and fifth) jobs without creating serious conflicts of interest which threaten to compromise their independence as MPs.

Tony Baldry has been at pains to stress the extent to which his work as a barrister is distinct from his activities as an MP. And yet the website of his own legal chambers, One Essex Court (accessed and archived 6/3/10), seems to blur this distinction, stating that:

Recent Heads of Chambers include Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, a leading Conservative MP for over twenty years, and Parliamentary connections are maintained under One Essex Court’s current head Tony Baldry MP.

The question of whether or not individual MPs are currently “acting within the rules” is, to my mind, secondary to this much larger question of whether the rules, in their current form, are really doing an effective job of maintaining the robust independence we need from our Parliamentarians in order to sustain a healthy democracy.

As was often the case during the expenses scandal, we might happily accept at face value all of the public statements that Tony Baldry MP has made, yet still have grave concerns that the Parliamentary rules could permit the arrangement he describes.

And as with the expenses scandal, it is vital that members of the public are able to voice these concerns openly, without facing threats or intimidation.

As Chairman of the Conservative Human Rights Commission, Tony Baldry must surely be aware of the growing international concern around the use of UK libel law by super-rich claimants to deter critical reporting of serious public interest questions.

The debate around MPs’ second jobs – in which the controversy surrounding Tony Baldry is just one example – is clearly a public interest matter. Democracy depends on our freedom to scrutinise the conduct of our MPs, and question the rules they make for themselves.

Written by Richard Wilson

March 5, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

8 Responses

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  1. When MPs hold down multiple other jobs they often claim that it is so that they can ‘stay in touch with business/the law/finance*’ (*delete as appropriate) and that it in fact makes them a better politician. It’s never because of the cash. So why don’t they spend time volunteering in a soup kitchen, or at a women’s refuge, or doing community gardening? These things would make them better politicians. The greedy fucks.

    And another thing, where do they find the time? I used to work for a politician and its bloody hard work with long hours. If you’ve got another job, you’re not adequately representing your constituents.

    Naomi Mc

    March 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm

  2. @Naomi: So why don’t they spend time volunteering in a soup kitchen, or at a women’s refuge, or doing community gardening? These things would make them better politicians.

    Hear hear! According to the Oxford Mail article Richard links to in this post, Mr Baldry earned in the five and a bit months to 6 January this year £48,749.75 from company directorships and in the three and a half months to 14 January 2010 he earned £63,222.57 for remunerated employment. That’s a second income to shake a stick at.

    Mr sympathies go out to Richard for being the target of this misconceived use of the libel law.

    Niklas Smith

    March 6, 2010 at 3:23 pm

  3. Mr Baldry’s register of interests makes for interesting reading.

    He owns shares or is a director of various companies involved in oil exploration and development of oil licences, in investment in “infrastructure and natural resource projects in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in West Africa” and in “gold and diamond mining in Sierra Leone”.

    James Ibori was governor of oil-rich Delta State.

    Draw your own conclusions.

    Niklas Smith

    March 6, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    • I used an Amnesty international letter to send it to CEO Shell, raising concerns on the Niger Delta environmental issues.The reply I received from Shell proved again how they continue to be immoral in their greed of growing profits,commissions for CEO!

      The reply from Shell came from a “Native” of Niger Delta, working for Shell in the Netherlands.She said that she is “proud” to work for Shell.At the end of the Email, she added “it is my Country”…

      Corruption in our homeland Continent (Africa) always involved some African Natives in complicity with Corporation wishing to exploit minerals, do Military Coup, supply or sale Weapons,etc.

      Their network is extremly sophisticated, from Former Zaire Leader Mobutu to Angola, orchestrated crimes by Corporation and CIA have gone unpunished.


      March 10, 2010 at 6:55 pm

  4. Meanwhile, please join 39,199 other people in signing the petition for libel reform:

    (The link at the top of the blogpost is broken.)

    Niklas Smith

    March 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm

  5. P.P.S. I think one of my comments is stuck in you spam filter…

    Niklas Smith

    March 6, 2010 at 3:41 pm

  6. Ibori timeline
    • 28/08/1990: James Ibori convicted of theft at Uxbridge Magisterates Court
    • 12/09/1991 James Ibori and Theresa Nakanda (his future wife), found guilty of theft of a credit card and handling a stolen item at Clerkenwell Magistrates Court. Mr. Ibori was fined £300 and ordered to pay another £450 as cost.
    • 1992 A year later, Mr. Ibori was convicted again, this time for handling a stolen credit card
    • September 28, 1995, the Bwari Upper Area Court, Nigeria convicts a man named James Onanefe Ibori of negligent conduct and criminal breach of trust.
    • 1999-2007 Mr James Ibori elected Governor of Delta State in the Federal Republic of Nigeria between.
    • 02/08/2007: Met Police application for assets valued at £17million linked to James Ibori to be frozen , granted at Southwark Crown Court
    • 01/11/2007: Theresa Nkoyo Nakanda Ibori arrested at Heathrow Airport by Met Police Proceeds of Corruption Unit
    • 2007: James Ibori arrested by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja Nigeria on charges of corruption and money laundering, released on bail
    • 2007: The governments of Lagos State, Akwa Ibom State and Delta State in Nigeria sell their share holdings in a mobile phone company V Mobile (formerly Econet). The sale to Celtel is valued at $1.05 billion for a 65% stakeof which $37.8 million was realised by Delta State
    • July 2009: Adebimpe Folayinmi Pogoson, Christine Omatie Ibori-Ibie and others charged to appear at Southwark Corwn Court in September on charges of money laundering etc
    • Udoamaka Okoronkwo (nee Onuigbo) lawyers Bryne and Partners apply for bail on the grounds that she wishes to return to Nigeria to face charges in the EFCC case against Ibori. Application refused by Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC on the grounds it would not be in the interests of justice
    • Affidavit submitted by Steven Otituoju on behalf of the Nigerian Attorney General of the Federation Michael Aondoakaa for the suspects to be extradited to Nigeria rejected
    • September 2009: trial begins at Southwark Crown Court of Adebimpe Folayinmi Pogoson, Christine Omatie Ibori-Ibie, , Theresa Ibori, Bhadresh Gohil, Daniel McCann and Lambertus De Boer on charges of money laundering, fraud etc relating to the sale of the V Mobile shares
    • 24/09/2009: Tony Baldry MP writes letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and copying in the Attorney-General, the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for the Home Department allegedly endeavouring that the influence of Her Majesty’s Government to get the charges dismissed stating they are harmful to UK interest and national security
    Tony Baldry Timeline
    • MP for Banbury and Bicester since 1983, re-elected 2005 with 10,797 majority
    • 1994 Covered the FCO portfolio for Lynda Chalker
    • 2001-2005 Parliament he chaired the Commons Select Committee on International Development. Cureently chairs the Conservative Human Rights Commission, is an officer of numerous cross party groups, including the All Party Groups on China and Overseas Development. He is Secretary of the All Party Police Group.
    • 2005 wrote letter to Vice President of Sierra Leone Solomon Berewa on Commons note paper seeking meetings between the director of Angel Gate Aviation Ramy Lakah and the Vice President. At the time Mr Baldry owned 439,000 shares of Angel Gate Aviation and was paid £30,000 as their chairman
    • In March 1998 he arranged breakfasts for a fictitious group Asian Business Breakfasts, which served as a marketing label for the firm of Solicitors Zaiwalla & Co
    • Mr Baldry is alleged by Andrew Milne a former business partner of Sarosh Zaiwalla of Zaiwalla & Co to have solicited a loan of £20,000 from Sarosh Zaiwalla
    • Mr Baldry was give £5,000 by Mr Zaiwalla who allegedly told Mr Baldry that the balance would be given if Mr Baldry wrote a reference for Mr Zaiwalla to be placed on the Lord Chancellors list for a CBE for services to the legal profession.
    • He was compelled to apologise to the House for failing to disclose this
    • He also wrote to the International Development Secretary Hilary Benn on 14/01/2005, asking if his department could meet with the representatives of a company called Milestone.
    • In the letter Mr Baldry acknowledged that he had been asked to become its chairman, but what he failed to mention was his financial interest in another company, Red Eagle Resources plc.
    • In November Mr Baldry had signed a joint participation agreement on behalf of Red Eagle with Milestone in which the two companies pledged to work together in promoting their businesses in Sierra Leone. The next month Red Eagle billed Milestone for £22,060 in professional charges. And under the terms of the joint agreement, Red Eagle stood to obtain a 3% shareholding in Milestone if it floated successfully on the stock market – possibly worth about £1.5m.
    • In 2004 Milestone was blacklisted in Sierra Leone due to an investigation into links between one of its directors and two mafia figures wanted in Europe and South Africa. A report by Val Collier (Sierra Leone anti corruption commissioner at the time) confirmed that Gershon Ben-Tovim, a partner in Milestone, had business links to Vito Palazzolo, a mafia figure wanted in Italy.
    • Mr Baldry wrote to Solomon Berewa on 04/10/2004 dismissing the links as “tangential” thus negating the objections made by Collier and clearing the way for Milestone to receive new mining licenses. In return the MP’s company, Red Eagle Resources, received a $75,000 payment, and the promise of a potential £1.5m shareholding in Milestone.
    • He was compelled to apologise to the house and Hilary Benn for these breaches
    • It is alleged that he wrote a 5 page letter on the 24/09/2009 to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and copying in the Attorney-General, the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for the Home Department endeavouring that the influence of Her Majesty’s Government be used to prevent the continuation of the trial of Adebimpe Folayinmi Pogoson, Christine Omatie Ibori-Ibie, Udoamaka Onuigbo, Theresa Ibori, Bhadresh Gohil, Daniel McCann and Lambertus De Boer for a variety of fraud, money laundering and criminal conspiracy charges at Southwark Crown Court.
    • 28/09/2009: recorded in the MP’s Register of Interest: Zaiwalla & Co. Received Fee of £22,012.57 for advising clients. Hours: 16hrs
    • It is alleged that the reasons advanced in the letter for his request are that the case is harmful to UK national interest and relations with the Federal Republic of Nigeria
    • FOI requests to the FCO have been refused. In subsequent communications to online news agencies he has acknowledged writing the letter but refused to disclose content

    Osyman Dias

    March 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm

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