We need to talk about Kevin

kevinYesterday Kevin Hollinrake resigned from the vice-chairmanship of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas claiming he had not previously been aware of any potential conflicts of interests in the way the group was funded.

If I were an MP I think I might be aware of that there is a web site which monitors such things and I might consult it.

Once I had consulted it I might perhaps think more than twice about whether the funding listed since August 2014 might cause any potential issues if those that elected me were to question it. The list of  supporters of this particular APPG is quite impressive and includes Centrica, Cuadrilla, Essar Oil, Ground Gas Solutions, Igas Energy PLC, Ineos, Ove Arup & Partners, Ove Arup International, Peel Environmental, Schlumberger Oilfield, Shale Gas World and UKOOG.

I might then look at the value of the secretarial services provided and ask myself why this particular group needed such a massive amount of secretarial support  (valued at £81,001 to £82,500 – that’s an awful lot of photocopying!) compared to all but a very few of the other several hundred APPGs.

appg H&K
A quick scan of the register suggests that the next highest is about £50,000 and that is highly atypical, with most APPG’s receiving either zero or benefits in kind in the range of £1501-£3,000. Noticing, therefore,  that this amount is extraordinarily high compared to any other APPG I might ask who provided it.

Learning that the services were provided by H & K strategies I might, even if I were innocent enough never to have heard of them, have looked them up.

At that point I might wonder how my vice-chairmanship of this group might look if I were to claim at the same time to be trying to maintain an objective and transparent position on the subject of fracking.

It seems from Mr Hollinrake’s comments reported on the Drill or Drop website that it did not occur to him to ponder any of this until it was brought to his attention by some of his constituents, and that he sent a “letter of resignation from the APPG … shortly after being made aware of the funding issue” which suggests that it suddenly became rather obvious to him that his role was prejudicing his claims to objectivity and transparency. If I have that wrong I will be happy to correct it.

I think if I suddenly discovered all this thanks to the diligence of some of my local electorate I might well, like Kevin,  resign from the vice chairmanship. I’m not sure, though, that I would remain a member of the group. It is not clear from the statements on his own website whether or not he has in fact done so. I am sure all will become clear shortly though.

{edit – a list of MP members of this group received from H&K on 20th January 2016 did NOT include Kevin Hollinrake’s name, so it seems he has fully resigned from this APPG}

This is the list of members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas provided on January 20th by H&K Strategies

Name Party Position
Nigel Mills MP Conservative Chair
Jim Fitzpatrick MP Labour Vice Chair
David Nuttall MP Conservative Vice Chair
Angela Smith MP Labour Member
Corri Wilson MP SNP Member
Chris Pincher MP Conservative Member
John Pugh MP Lib Dem Member
Steve Baker MP Conservative Member
Albert Owen MP Labour Member
John Spellar MP Labour Member
Graham Jones MP Labour Member
Jeremy Lefroy MP Conservative Member
Mark Menzies MP Conservative Member
David Mowat MP Conservative Member
Lord Greaves Lib Dem Member
Peter Lilley MP Conservative Member
Andrew Bridgen MP Conservative Member
Lord Crickhowell Conservative Member
Steve Brine MP Conservative Member

Interestingly our own MP here in the Fylde , Mark Menzies, was in 2013 also a Vice Chair of this very same committee. he resigned when his vice-chairmanship was questioned but remains a member of the APPG as at 20th January 2016. I cannot find any record explaining his decision to step down.

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