1. Opening Narrative
a. Lord Hill is to be appointed to a key role within the EU, delivering through his office, Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union portfolio in the Juncker Commission. The newly-created Directorate-General will assimilate existing EU expertise and has responsibility for ensuring that the European Commission remains vigilant over banking and financial sectors and is pro-active in implementing new supervisory and regulatory rules accordingly, (exempt overseeing pay in the financial sector) which has been allocated elsewhere. He will be in post until 2019 and will be expected to bring change to the EU reforming marketing policies working hard cementing alliances so that the UK and EU achieve success.
b. His introduction to the Tory government and subsequent elevation to high office within Europe is remarkable since he has never placed himself before the UK electorate for approval but perhaps the ever expanding appointment of ex advisers to cabinet posts reflects a continuing development of political Party’s in the UK. It is a fact that an increasing number of MP’s have never worked outside the Westminster machine taking up well paid, (through the public purse) advisory posts to ministers before being allocated safe seats allowing their progress through the ranks of the Party to high office. Ed Miliband and David Cameron entered politics this way. Of concern is the marked increase in the influence of Lobbying companies in Westminster and Europe and Lord Hill’s extensive links to private enterprise.
2. Recruitment, Award of Life Peerage, Government & European Commissioner Appointments
a. Lord Hill has known Mr Cameron since they were advisers in Sir John Major’s government. He left front line politics after the defeat of the Tory government and co-founded the PR and lobbying firm Quiller Consultants, whose clients include, PricewaterhouseCoopers, HSBC Bank, the United Arab Emirates government, Telefonica O2, the controversial outsourcing company Capita, the right-wing think-tank Migration Watch and Tesco.
b. Hill owned 50% of Quiller before it was sold to Huntsworth Plc for £5.9m in autumn 2006 — in a mixture of cash and shares, the latter of which appear on Hill’s entry in the Register of Lords’ Interests. Hill in consequence maintains an interest in Huntsworth’s massive network of communications businesses — including Grayling a leading Public Relations, Government Relations, Investor Relations and Events Consultancy with specialist services including CSR, environment and sustainability and digital. Operating from 54 offices in 26 countries worldwide across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia the company has revenues in excess of €100 million. A second company based, in London is Citigate a leading international consultancy specialising in financial and corporate communications. It’s mission is to ensure that clients engage to best possible effect with all relevant stakeholders across capital markets, government, business and consumers. Both companies also boast offices, “in the heart of Brussels’ EU quarter”.
c. Quiller Consultants is led by Conservative peer Lord Chadlington and George Bridges, (a friend of George Osborne’s) who helped run the Tory Party’s 2010 general election campaign. Quiller also employs Stephen Parkinson, who used to prepare David Cameron for Prime Minister’s Questions, and Malcolm Morton, a former adviser to Cabinet office minister Mark Harper. The company has already been brought to book over their clients’ regular access to Conservative ministers – having employed one of the Chancellor’s mates in a leadership role at the company.
d. International PR group, Huntsworth recently purchased another PR agency the Mmd Group for £12m. The company is a group of public relations businesses operating in 18 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It was acquired from Anglo Irish Trust Company Limited for a total of £12m. The existing management team, under Chairman Alistair McLeish, will continue to operate the business following the acquisition. There is an earn out planned over the next three years which could result in a maximum total consideration of £35 million.
e. Lord Chadlington, Chief Executive of Huntsworth said ‘We are delighted to announce the acquisition of Mmd which builds on our core strategy. Central and Eastern Europe is an area of tremendous growth and opportunity in public affairs and public relations and a key strategic hub for our global network. Together with our existing 25 offices in mainland Europe and our very strong presence in the UK, this acquisition into Central and Eastern Europe extends our existing presence into these fast-growing markets to create what we believe is the most comprehensive European network in the PR industry. Huntsworth and Mmd are already working on a number of client assignments together.”
f. Mr Cameron at the start of the Tory government, tempted Mr Hill back into politics, made him a peer and appointed him schools minister. As a peer and whilst employed at the Department of Education, Lord Hill intervened in a controversy over plans for Newquay Tretherras Academy in Cornwall to sell playing fields to the supermarket giant Tesco. The proposals provoked fierce opposition and generated a national outcry but were approved, “in principle” by the Department for Education, where Lord Hill was a minister until he was promoted to the Cabinet. Explaining the decision to back the sale, he told opponents that it would “significantly enhance” the learning experience of children. In a letter on official government headed paper, seen by The Telegraph, Lord Hill said: “Our consideration of this case concluded that the proposed development would significantly enhance the learning experience of the pupils at the Academy, which would outweigh the loss of land.”
g. The lobbying industry’s official register, published by the Association of Professional Political Consultants, states that Tesco was one of Quiller’s clients at the time and remains on the company’s books. Lord Hill had declared his shareholding on the Lords register of interests but not on the register of ministers’ interests. Lord Hill’s spokesman insisted that the Cabinet Office remained content that the peer’s shareholdings complied with the ministerial code, despite his move to a broader brief covering all government business. “He does have shares in Huntsworth,” the spokesman said. “When he became a minister at the Department for Education in 2010 he complied fully with all Cabinet Office advice and he continues in his new job to comply fully.” The spokesman said the ministerial code said it was not necessary to duplicate declarations already made on the Lords register of interests in the separate register of ministers’ interests.
h. At the beginning of 2013 Lord Hill, replaced Lord Strathclyde as the government’s Leader of the House of Lords. His appointment made him the most senior former lobbyist in Government ensuring his direct access to ministers and subsequent input into Government policy across all areas of legislation. lobbying transparency campaigners were dismayed at the appointment and said it was yet another example of the, “revolving door” between the Tory Government and the industry. Tamasin Cave, of Spinwatch said at the time, “We are still waiting for the Government’s plans for a statutory register of lobbyists two years since it was first promised, This promotion just underlines again the very strong links between the industry and this Government. It does not inspire confidence that they ever intended moving away from the old way of doing things.”
3. European Commissioner Nomination and Appointment
a. In July 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron nominated Lord Hill as UK European Commissioner under Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission, hoping for a “top economic portfolio”. The nomination of Lord Hill rather than a better-known British politician, was regarded as controversial particularly since Hill had apparently expressed initial reluctance to go to Brussels. However two former Conservative Party leaders, Michael Howard and William Hague, both reportedly turned down the opportunity and David Cameron was keen to avoid triggering a potentially difficult by-election by nominating another sitting Tory MP.
b. Juncker had stated after his election that female and high-profile candidates would be among his preferred choices, prompting speculation by some that Cameron’s nomination – of a virtually unknown male in European political circles, despite his competence – to be a protest against Juncker whose election he had opposed. On September 10, 2014 Lord Hill was announced as EU Commissioner-designate for the Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union portfolio in the forthcoming Juncker Commission. His newly-created Directorate-General will assimilate existing EU expertise and has responsibility for ensuring that the European Commission remains vigilant over the banking and financial sectors and is pro-active in implementing new supervisory and regulatory rules accordingly, save overseeing pay in the financial sector which has been allocated elsewhere.
c. He was one of four appointees who “struggled to impress” at their initial confirmation hearings before the European Parliament, and who were required to appear for a second hearing — leading some hostile MEPs to start speculating that his commission could be revoked in a reshuffle. Hill was required to answer what the UK’s position is regarding European banking union, and to submit a completed questionnaire on behalf of the UK Government, and with Juncker helping to smooth the way, Lord Hill won the endorsement of the sceptical MEPs at his second hearing.
d. The peer’s nomination will be presented by the prime minister to the European Council at a summit of the EU’s 28 national leaders in Brussels. If approved by the European Parliament, Lord Hill will serve a five-year term until 2019. The appointment was seen as an important indication of the prime minister’s strategy in Europe, with Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party urging him to pick someone who would take a tough line in negotiations.
e. In a press conference in Brussels, Mr Juncker said: “We have to take into account that the UK government will propose a list of competencies located in Brussels in order to repatriate them, to bring them back to the British Parliament, and other governments have ideas of the same kind. “This will be a matter for negotiation. I will negotiate with David Cameron and with others and we will make a fair deal with Britain.”
a. Lord Hill kept his head down as leader of the House of Lords so it is just possible you might not have heard of him. But his appointment is important. Lord Hill claimed recently he didn’t want the job, But today he said he was excited to play a part in reforming the EU. Jonathan Hill got the post because he is a highly effective operator and political insider. He ran John Major’s policy unit at Downing Street, he set up and sold a successful PR business, before returning to government under the coalition. He was also chosen because his departure would not prompt a risky by-election which the Conservatives might lose.
b. Director General Simon Walker said: “Lord Hill has a track record of rolling up his sleeves and getting on with the job at hand, and his proven ability to deploy these skills within the machinery of Whitehall will serve him well in Brussels. “He is engaged with the business community and has a pragmatic approach to policy making, both of which are crucial to the UK being able to secure a significant economic portfolio in the Commission. The task at hand is to deliver reforms which will benefit Britain, as well as make the whole of the EU more competitive, flexible and growth-orientated.
c. Jean Claude Juncker said, “It is now up to Lord Hill to set out clearly what his priorities will be in Brussels, to reassure the business community that he understands their concerns and that he is committed to making Europe more entrepreneurial and more business-friendly.”
d. Katja Hall, deputy director general of the CBI, also welcomed Lord Hill’s appointment and said he would be best-placed to, “push for a more open, outward-looking and competitive EU”. She added, “Whatever the portfolio, we have the partners to turn reform into reality, so he must work hard cementing these alliances, making the UK’s case in Brussels while also selling the benefits of the EU in the UK.”
e. The Labour Party called on David Cameron to allow MPs to scrutinise Lord Hill’s appointment after the prime minster suggested he was prepared to consider such a move. In a letter to the prime minister Labour’s shadow Europe minister Gareth Thomas said, “I’m sure you will agree that given the importance of the role, it is vital that such scrutiny takes place and that your nominee is able to demonstrate they are committed to an ambitious EU reform agenda, are capable of working across parties, and are able to demonstrate an ability to prioritise British interests. “It would be disappointing if your nominee were only to face scrutiny from the European Parliament, and not our own, before their nomination is confirmed.”