Burying the bad news

Only yesterday, Tom Watson raised an interesting query about David Cameron’s entry on the parliamentary register of member’s interests.

What Tom noted was this rather curious entry:

To facilitate my travel in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition since December 2005 I have received helicopter and private plane travel from the following:

JCB Research Ltd
Jonathan Green retired businessman from London
Lord Harris
Harris Ventures Ltd
Michael Spencer
JC Bamford Excavators Ltd
Community Security Trust charity
Henry Lawson of Henfield Lodge Aviation Ltd, Henfield
Mr Andrew Cook, through William Cook Holdings, Sheffield

(The details of the travel provided have been provided to the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.)

The interesting question here is why, when other MP’s provide clear individual records of any interests arising out of donations of flights and other travel expenses, is David Cameron providing nothing more than a list of donors, and submitting the detailed information on number of flights, destination, etc. only to the Parliamentary Commission for Standards?

Tom’s post provides a detailed list of 31 private flights taken by Cameron, either by plane or helicopter, of which a fair number (I count a minimum of twelve provided by Lord Harris) are recorded in the register of interests in only the most cursory manner.

Curious.

What Cameron appears to be doing, so far as I can see, is openly recording his overseas travels, together with the source of any relevant donations, but when it comes to his use of air and helicopter travel within the UK he is simply making one annual declaration of the kind given above – his register entries on They Work For You show two such blanket declarations (21 June 2006 and 1 May 2007).

So, it would appear, that Cameron is using the artifice of submitting information to the Parliamentary Commission for Standards to stay within the letter of the requirement to declare interests without revealing the full extent to which he’s using air travel to get to and from various locations in the UK. Not a breach of the rule, per se, but hardly a practice that within the spirit of openness and transparency.

That’s the Parliamentary register – what about the Electoral Commission?

Well, if you check Cameron’s personal entry (he has two but the one marked ‘member of a registered party’ relates specifically to his campaign for leadership of the Tory Party) then you’ll find bugger all – and the same goes for looking specifically for ‘visits’ on both his personal register and on the main register of donations for the Conservative Party, where you’ll find only two entries, both relating to flights provided by…

…Flying Lion Limited.

So where’s the rest?

Well, for that you have to work through the 260 or so non-cash donations given to Conservative Central Office since Cameron became Tory Leader, which will provide you with this list of donations for ‘travel’.

Received by
*

Donor
*

Date accepted
*

Donation
*

Conservative Central Office

JCB Research
status: Company
company reg no: 00682651

05/12/05

£ 2,673.17
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Jonathan Green
status: Individual

05/12/05

£ 6,560.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Michael Spencer
status: Individual

06/01/06

£ 4,912.22
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Lord Philip C. Harris
status: Individual

31/03/06

£ 9,588.13
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Philip Lord C Harris
status: Individual

05/05/06

£ 24,465.44
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

David Ross
status: Individual

20/06/06

£ 12,865.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

JC Bamford Excavators Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: 00561597

26/06/06

£ 14,481.88
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Jonathan Green
status: Individual

28/06/06

£ 8,390.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Mr Michael Spencer
status: Individual

07/09/06

£ 63,912.28
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

JC Bamford Excavators Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: 00561597

29/09/06

£ 4,112.50
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Ellerman Investments Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: 01848089

29/09/06

£ 7,200.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Philip Lord Harris
status: Individual

29/09/06

£ 15,017.88
nature: travel

Conservative Central Office

John Hoerner
status: Individual

26/10/06

£ 5,524.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

JC Bamford Excavators Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: 00561597

04/11/06

£ 12,410.94
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Philip Lord Harris
status: Individual

10/11/06

£ 22,849.32
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Lord Philip Harris
status: Individual

31/01/07

£ 21,300.83
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

JCB Research
status: Company
company reg no: 00682651

04/03/07

£ 5,875.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Michael J Peagram
status: Individual

26/03/07

£ 3,519.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Henry C Lawson
status: Individual

29/03/07

£ 13,669.75
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

JCB Research
status: Company
company reg no: 00682651

18/05/07

£ 12,484.38
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Henfield Lodge Aviation Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: 04451975

18/05/07

£ 18,888.00
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Harris Ventures Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: 02278367

24/05/07

£ 22,435.59
nature: Travel

Conservative Central Office

Kensington & Chelsea Aviation Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: 03217625

30/06/07

£ 6,697.50
nature: Travel

In total, there are 23 separate donations for travel – and these are the only such non-cash donations recorded for the Conservative Party since December 2005 – all of which appear to relate to the use of planes and/or helicopters by David Cameron, and which total a little over £298,000.

Cameron, who has spent much of the last two years talking up his ‘green’ credentials, is currently averaging £150,000 a year in donated flights of one variety or another, flights which are certainly being recorded on the relevant registers – no direct impropriety there – but which are being recorded in such a way as to bury them in the records where only an obsessive blogger or journalist stands any chance of uncovering them.

Especially when it comes to using planes and helicopters for internal flights, which Cameron appears to have gone to even greater lengths than usual to obfuscate the full extent to which he’s using air travel to get around – perhaps because even Sun and Daily Mail readers would struggle to swallow the sight of Cameron riding to work on his bike in front of an executive jet.

If anyone fancies it, they could have a go at calculating his total air miles over the last two years, and especially his carbon-offset requirements – you could even take a stab at working out how much extra his donors will have to cough up to cover the Tories proposed tax on air travel.

Me? I’m just content to bring this out into the full public gaze where everyone can judge his ‘green’ credential based on the evidence, not on Tory obfuscation.