'That this House notes the strong public cynicism about the influence of corporate lobbyists on British politics; that individuals and organisations which engage in lobbying activities are able to do so effectively hidden from public scrutiny.'
Surprising then for a friend of mine to receive the attached letter from Norman Baker himself, offering a "small private dinner" with the frontbench Lib Dem transport team. He was told that "tickets for the dinner are extremely limited", and that the party's new transport policy paper would be discussed. This does not appear to be advertised widely, just hand-picked lobbyists from the transport sector. So much for transparency!
But worst of all is the price....a staggering £881.25, (£750 excl VAT). Now, to be fair, it does include a conference pass (which is available elsewhere for just £77), and accommodation (at those prices, lets hope its the main conference hotel but unlikely). But even with that taken into account, the dinner and discussion must be fairly expensive!
Now, no rule has been broken here, but the hypocrisy from Norman Baker is staggering. Here's the full text of the letter he has sent out, only a few weeks after signing an EDM slagging off the very people he's trying to get £750 out of.
“Fast Track Britain”: Building a transport system for the 21st century
Liberal Democrat policy paper, autumn conference 2008
One of the key policy debates at the Liberal Democrat conference this September will be on transport policy. I am writing to offer you a special opportunity to meet the Liberal Democrat transport policy team, and other industry colleagues, to discuss how these proposals could affect business, at a small private dinner on Tuesday 16th September in Bournemouth.
The transport policy paper has just been approved by the party’s Federal Policy Committee, and will be published in June. It will include key proposals on national and local passenger transport, as well as freight issues. The party’s transport team – including myself, parliamentary colleagues and key policy advisers – are keen to discuss these proposals with leading companies in the sector. Tickets for the dinner are extremely limited and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. The ticket price is £750 +VAT and will include a two-day full registration to the conference – including the debate on the transport paper – accommodation and dinner.
I do hope you will be able to join us at what promises to be a very interesting evening of discussion. The Liberal Democrat conference office will contact you in the next week, but if you would like to register your early interest please email firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing you in Bournemouth.
Norman Baker MP
Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Don't all rush at once. Having heard Nick Clegg and Norman Baker tie themselves up in knots over their unfunded rail policy on the radio a couple of days ago I can't think either of them will have anything worth listening to. Especially for £750.