Legal and General, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fidelity and M&G have defended their contributions to over £93,000 of donations made to an all-party Parliamentary group over the past year as part of a legitimate effort to help shape policy.
Details of APPG funding are publicly available but when the Guardian reported on the issue last week it quoted freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke criticising the arrangements for giving the perception of “undue influence” over policy by companies and wealthy individuals.
The APPG on Corporate Governance has received £93,244 in donations in the past year, from insurers, asset managers, consultancy firms and others. M&G contributed £10,000, Legal & General £5,000, PricewaterhouseCoopers £7,500 and Fidelity £5,000.
The APPG’s website says the group was formed in 2004 to “develop and enhance the understanding of corporate governance at Westminster and influence future policy making”. Treasury select committee chairman Andrew Tyrie is one of the group’s vice presidents as is the TSC’s previous chairman Lord McFall.
A Legal & General spokesman says: “We are yearly subscribers and pay £5,000 a year to be a member. The APPG is at the forefront of Government policy on corporate governance so we find it useful to be involved in the group. We contribute to debates, listen to what is going on and help shape policy decisions. This is a group of MPs and Lords so it is an open and transparent as you can get. Information on donations is all publicly available.”
An M&G spokesman says: “M&G does not make political contributions. The APPG is subject to all the usual regulatory requirements of such parliamentary bodies and its annual activities are clearly disclosed on the group’s website.”
A Fidelity Worldwide Investment spokeswoman says: “Members may not have come into much contact with these kind of issues so we participate to help them understand what we are doing. We support it as a positive way of working with others to help make better policy.”
PwC says the donations are not political sponsorship and that the money donated to the APPG is used to host events and facilitate discussions between interested parties on corporate governance. A spokesman says: “PwC does not make any cash donations to any political parties or other groups with a political agenda.”
Other donations to the group include £10,944 from Bank of New York Mellon and Jefferson Wells a risk advisory, tax and accounting consultancy contributed £2,500. Hermes donated £2,000, Richard Davies Investor Relations contributed £2,000 and Mazars LLP £6,750. Better Capital chairman Jon Moulton contributed £2,500 while £14,000 came from BP, £10,000 from National Grid, £10,000 from Bosch UK and £5,000 from BT.
Work and pensions select committee member and Conservative MP Brandon Lewis says: “These are cross party groups and often companies sponsor the cost of being a secretariat or research or a range of things. As long as it is clear and transparent I think it is fine.”