Tory handed paid roles on Parliament groups to lobbyist amid football team row


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Tory MP Karl McCartney has been chair or vice chair of seven sport-related All-Party Parliamentary Groups, including the MPs’ football team – and the same lobbyist is listed as secretary for all of them

Tory MP, Karl McCartney, who chairs the Parliamentary football team
Tory MP Karl McCartney, who chairs the Parliamentary football team

A Tory MP handed thousands of pounds worth of paid roles to a lobbyist, prompting calls for tighter rules on cash and influence in Parliamentary groups.

Karl McCartney, the Conservative MP for Lincoln, was until last month, chair or vice chair of seven sport-related All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) – bodies set up to allow MPs to discuss a particular subject or interest.

And on each group chaired by Mr McCartney, Three Lines Sport – a firm run by lobbyist Mark Ramsdale – is listed as Secretary.

According to records held by Parliament, Mr Ramsdale’s firm is paid through sponsorship by at least five of the seven groups, earning him or his firm at least £90,000.

As of February 2020, there were 355 APPGs on a range of subjects – but the figure has gone as high as 692 in recent years.

Parliament’s Standards Committee last year launched an inquiry into whether rules should be tightened to prevent lobbyists using APPGs to bypass Parliament rules, and gaining access to MPs, peers and ministers.

Millions of pounds are given to APPGs in cash and ‘benefits in kind’ each year.

A recent study found 58 health-related APPGs had received £2.2m in direct and indirect funding from pharmaceutical firms between 2012 and 2018.

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Mr McCartney is listed as chair of the APPGs for Motorsport, Esports, Rowing and Snooker, all of which list Mr Ramsdale’s firm as Secretary.

He was, until last month, listed as chair of the APPG for Darts, for which Mr Ramsdale firm is listed as Secretary.

He has been a vice chair of the APPG for Golf since January 2020. Mr Ramsdale firm is listed as Secretary.

And last year, Mr McCartney took over Parliament’s football team, which operates as an APPG, and brought Mr Ramsdale’s firm in as a paid Secretary. The role was previously performed for free by the FA.








Former members of the Parliament football team included Ed Balls and Andy Burnham
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Image:

MDM)



Meanwhile, a Business Insider investigation alleged Mr McCartney had used public money to pay a donor, and had allegedly “concealed” his position as a shareholder of his brother’s firm, Moonlighting Systems.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has launched an investigation into Mr McCartney’s Register of Interests, following a complaint from Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds.

Mr McCartney declined to comment on BusinessInsider’s allegations.

There’s no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr McCartney’s brother or Moonlighting Systems.

Emails seen by the Sunday Mirror show club members asked Mr McCartney on July 1 to explain his relationship to Mr Ramsdale, in light of the story.

The following day, Mr Ramsdale wrote to the Club’s officers saying he had resigned as Secretary with immediate effect, blaming “tensions” within the club.

Mr Ramsdale’s firm has been listed as Secretary for two APPGs – Baseball and Netball – which Mr McCartney has never been involved in. Both are now defunct.

There’s no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of Mr Ramsdale or Mr McCartney – or that they broke any APPG rules.





But Tom Brake, director of campaign group Unlock Democracy, said there were questions about the arrangement that needed to be answered.

He said: “Firstly, is an open and transparent tendering process being followed that confirms the organisations funding the APPG Secretariat facilities provided by Three Lines Sport get value for money, as they need reassurance that contracts are being awarded fairly, rather than on the basis of who knows whom.

“Secondly, with a Committee on Standards inquiry into APPGs and lobbying underway, is Three Lines Sport’s involvement with the APPGs simply about producing minutes and agendas or is it of a nature that would be of interest to the inquiry?“

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Mr Ramsdale, who is registered as a lobbyist, told the Sunday Mirror: “I know Mr McCartney purely as an MP through sporting APPGs but I once played in a rugby game alongside and against him well before his first election to Parliament and attended an event I believe he organised before becoming an MP.”

Mr Ramsdale said his firm had been supporting some of the groups Mr McCartney now chairs before he was re-elected as an MP.



He added: “House of Commons rules governing the operation of APPGs includes the officer election process and the structure which must include both government and main opposition parties.

“Three Lines Sport was asked to support the Club after it reformed after the General Election and we worked with originally a single chair and co-chairs of the two main parties equally once elected to ensure they and the Group were fully compliant with these rules, including recording all financial declarations to the House of Commons registrar and minuting meetings, all of which are available on the Club’s website.

“It was clear there were tensions on party lines, but we believed they were resolved with the appointment of a co-chair from another party, and election of additional officers from opposition parties.

“As the Secretariat to APPGs must be apolitical, when it became clear those tensions not only remained but increased, we resigned immediately citing those tensions and sought to handover all assets – including the website – to the Club’s co-chairs.”

Mr McCartney declined to comment.









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