Pharma lobbyist-turned-MP told ex-colleagues of aim to influence NHS reforms by joining key committee

Stourbridge MP Margot James helped shape the controversial ‘reform’ of the NHS after telling ex-colleagues in the pharmaceutical public relations industry of her aim to join its deliberations.

Shortly after her election in 2010, Ms James was filmed at a meeting of the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) telling delegates and former colleagues of her ambition to ‘go on the Health Bill committee’.

Parliamentary records show that she succeeded and, and according to the political research website social investigations, she placed herself ‘in a position where she could affect the bill in the interests of her former industry.’

In Hansard, Ms James is reported to have attended 39 out of 40 meetings of the Health and Social Care Bill Committee.

The subsequent Health and Social Care Act that passed in 2012 has seen the NHS and its patients suffer junior doctors’ strikes, nurses’ protests and lengthening queues while the service undergoes the biggest ever enforced outsourcing of services to private providers in its 70-year history.

The film recording of the MP’s address to the pharmaceutical lobbying group has since been taken down from the HCA website but a report of another talk by Ms James to the Pharmaceutical Marketing Society (PMS) in which she talks of ‘nudging’ the NHS to change remains online. (pictured above)

In 2012 it was reported on the social investigations political research website that ‘since becoming an MP, Ms James ‘continued to speak at events hosted by the Healthcare Communication Association (HCA), a lobbying group which according to its website at the time ‘has sufficient influence and credibility to shape opinion and lead debate.’

Ms James is one of a sizeable cluster of Conservative MPs who come from a corporate lobbying background She co-founded a private health sector PR company in 2004. She sold her share in the business for £4m and set her sights on becoming an MP. In 2010, she was elected MP for Stourbridge. (Biography here)

Footnote: In 2012 Margot James was a vocal advocate of the Lobbying Transparency Bill, a new law that was said to be needed in the wake of a series of cash-for-questions scandals that rocked Parliament.

Initially, campaigners for transparency in politics welcomed the plan to rein in the extensive corporate and industry professional lobbying organisations that operated inside and – literally – just outside both Houses of Parliament. (The Health Industry Lobby Tour – film)

But the draft legislation that emerged shocked the campaigners who had called for controls to prevent political deals done behind closed doors and instead found themselves caught by restrictions on their own activities.

The new law now barely touched the professional corporate lobby industry at all but stringent curbs were placed on charities, campaign groups and trade unions. In many cases, the same voices that called for more open democracy were the ones being restricted. ‘Offenders’ can be prosecuted and even jailed.

Greenpeace, the Women’s Institute and the Ramblers Association were among charities and campaign groups that spoke out against the legislation.

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