The British Council, a charity, has been awarded a licence to offer inducements to MPs by the Speaker. MPs will no longer have to declare whether the British Council has entertained them, and not even the Information Commissioner can do anything about it. The Speaker has slapped a secrecy order on MPs’ overseas trips, specifically in connection with the British Council.
Here’s the chap that heads up the “British Council Associate Parliamentary Group” beaming out of the British Council’s own pages. He got a First Class ticket to India worth 2K. I bet the hotels weren’t bad either. The Foreign Affairs Committee, the parliamentary body that supposedly scrutinises the British Council, has also been got at: the (last) list of MPs entertained includes a member of that committee, Paul Keetch. Like so many others in positions of privilege, not least in the British Council itself, Mr Keetch apparently has not got to grips with the concept of “conflict of interest”. Will he now gracefully resign from the FAC? What do you think?
Why do British Council “trustees” lend their names to all this corruption? Why does the Committee for Standards in Public Life not answer letters about the British Council? Why does the Charity Commission support the pretence that this is a charity? Why does the OFT not even consider the blatant monopoly powers the organisation enjoys courtesy of the taxpayer, thus eliminating competition? Why does the NAO not answer correspondence about the British Council? Why do the Ombudsman’s powers not extend to reviewing the organisation? Why does the FCO do nothing? Why is even the Information Commissioner barred from investigating the organisation’s parliamentary handouts? What sort of democracy is this?
Britain now has an officially sanctioned, supra-legal channel for sleaze. To its privilege of being able to use public money to undermine enterprise and secure contracts for itself, its privilege of taxpayer subsidy, its privilege of charitable status, the privileges which allow it to operate out of diplomatic premises and avoid prosecution, we can now add the privilege of being licensed to provide off-the-record jollies to those who control its purse strings. The British Council has graduated from parasite to cancer on the body politic.