Barker’s relationship reveals a climate that must change
Author: Zoe Stavri
Published on Sep 12, 2012
Climate change minister Greg Barker has raised a few eyebrows after a freedom of information request has revealed he has met with corporate clients of departmental adviser and energy consultant Miriam Maes.
Emails between Maes and Barker reveal that Maes put some of her clients in touch with the minister, including organising a meeting between Barker and a company called Air Products. The meeting appeared to have gone quite well: further meetings occurred, Barker was later photographed with Air Products equipment and gave them planning permission for a new plant and a supportive quote for a press release.
The relationship between Maes and Barker seems to be rather close, with Maes accompanying Barker on official engagements, rather than civil servants, as is usual. At Maes’s request, Barker intervened and encouraged the department to renew her contract.
Unfortunately, the full extent of the contact Barker had with Maes and her clients cannot be determined. The emails released in the FoI request were heavily redacted. Barker appears to have been somewhat aware of the possibility of the messages being made public, saying in one email “let's have a chat rather than email."
This story follows a similar path to those of other questionable relationships between ministers and advisors like that between Liam Fox and lobbyist Adam Werritty, and Jeremy Hunt and News Corporation’s Adam Smith. As it stands, lobbying lacks transparency, allowing meetings to be organised and take place behind closed doors when corporations have the right contacts- namely, advisers.
This climate of secrecy and privileged access needs to change, quickly. A robust register of lobbying would open up information about who is meeting whom, providing better information for us to judge on whether relationships are appropriate or if access is unfairly privileged. We could keep track of legitimate lobbying better, and so more easily identify and crack down on the more dodgy practises. Why not sign up to our Open Up Lobbying campaign to demand that this cannot happen again?