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Sir John Butterfill embroiled in MPs’ lobbying row
BOURNEMOUTH West MP Sir John Butterfill is today embroiled in the political lobbying row after he was taped suggesting he would set up meetings with ministers in a David Cameron government for money.
The long-serving MP, who is standing down at the general election, was the only Conservative to be secretly recorded for last night’s Dispatches programme on Channel 4.
Although there is no suggestion he broke any regulations, the MP told undercover reporters:
• He had “good relations” with David Cameron and could arrange meetings with ministers if the Conservatives won the next election.
• He might charge between £30,000 and £35,000 for sitting on a company’s advisory board – which the programme says would involve half a dozen meetings a year.
• He was “likely” to be made a member of the House of Lords.
The Dispatches programme found former Labour ministers Geoff Hoon, Stephen Byers and Patricia Hewitt apparently willing to exploit their government contacts for money once they had left parliament.
But its reporters, claiming to represent a bogus American communications company called Anderson Perry Associates, also met with the 69-year-old MP for Bournemouth West.
Sir John was recorded presenting his CV and saying he had done “quite a lot of consultancy for people who wanted to get involved with the public sector”.
He said: “It’s now quite difficult for a serving MP to do that but once you’re retired, you can do as much of that as you like, and a lot of ministers do that as well, retire into that. So people have come to me for advice on procurement issues for example.”
He said he could organise a meeting with a future Conservative minister. Asked whether there was anyone in the shadow cabinet he had an especially close relationship with, he said: “Yeah, again most of them. David Cameron. I was one of the four original people who persuaded him to stand.”
He later told the undercover journalist “in confidence” that it was “quite likely that I will go to the Lords” and that this “also gives me another string to my bow as far as you’re concerned”.
Sir John, who has represented Bournemouth West since 1983, was criticised last year for the allowances he claimed towards a second home in Surrey. He voluntarily paid back £17,500.
Sir John did not return calls from the Daily Echo on Monday or on Sunday but told the programme he had never know-ingly broken the MPs’ code of conduct.
MPs keep their parliamentary passes when they retire and, with the exception of ex-ministers, there are no restrictions on them working as lobbyists.
Tory leader David Cameron has called for a full investigation into claims that ex-Labour ministers were prepared to influence government policy for cash. But the party had no comment to make on Sir John’s situation ahead of last night’s programme.