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Tue, 1 December 2020

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Exclusive: A Tory MP Questioned Health Ministers On Topics Linked To His Family’s Lobbying Firm

Exclusive: A Tory MP Questioned Health Ministers On Topics Linked To His Family’s Lobbying Firm
3 min read

Conservative MP Paul Bristow has submitted questions to ministers on a range of health issues linked to his family’s lobbying firm, PoliticsHome can reveal.

The Peterborough MP established healthcare PR agency, PB Consulting, in 2010 before handing over the reins to his wife, Sara Petela, in January of this year.
 
The firm, which boasts a range of US-based medical companies among its clients, is paid over £200,000 by a series of private firms and campaign groups to run a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), including those focussed on adult social care, women’s health and vascular diseases.
 
APPGs are informal cross party groups of MPs that examine policy, and do not have an official status within parliament. They allow NGOs, charities and other organisations to take part and meet with senior ministers and civil servants. Concerns have previously been expressed that they could be used to bypass lobbying rules.
 
Mr Bristow has listed his wife's involvement in the firm in his register of financial interests and has flagged the link when submitting several questions related to the treatment of heart disease and orthopedic conditions.
 
But since January of this year, the Tory MP has submitted a series of questions to ministers with links to the APPGs' interests without raising the potential conflict of interest, including around screening for breast and cervical cancers.
 
Mr Bristow has also probed Treasury ministers and Health ministers over funding in the 2020 Budget for dementia care, as well as submitting questions about Covid antibody testing of health and social care staff; issues which have also been raised by the APPG on Adult Social Care, which is managed by his wife’s firm.
 
There is no suggestion that PB Consulting has been paid by its clients to provide lobbying on the issues raised by Mr Bristow in his questions. However, Commons guidance states that MPs must draw attention to registered interests on "almost any occasion when someone else might consider them to influence what you say or do".
 
Since being contacted by this website, Mr Bristow has retrospectively amended a number of Written Questions to declare his financial interests. One such amendment concerns a question about public awareness of prostate cancer.
 
Mr Bristow failed to register an interest despite one of PB Consulting’s clients, Boston Scientific, providing products to the NHS for the treatment of prostate conditions. It is understood, however, the company only provides funding to PB Consulting to provide secretariat services for the APPG on Vascular And Venous Disease, which does not focus on prostate disease.
 
Meanwhile, the Tory MP also attended a Parliamentary reception for one of the firm’s health care clients, ABHI, just weeks after he resigned as a director. 
 
Following the event, Mr Bristow posted pictures on his official Facebook page and MP website showing him signing up to the group’s campaign to ensure “every NHS organisation has an innovation officer".
  
The revelation comes just weeks after the Committee on Standards announced a fresh probe into the financial governance of APPGs following concerns the groups could provide links for private firms and foreign governments to influence Parliament.
 
Responding to the reports, Rachel Davies Teka, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International UK, said: “When elected to Parliament, it is critical that our representatives scrupulously avoid any perceived - or actual - conflict of interest. 
 
“MPs should take all necessary steps to ensure they declare any relevant interest or risk giving the impression they are doing favours for friends and family rather than acting solely for the benefit of their constituents.”

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