Multinational Chairmen's Group
 QUESTIONS ASKED
OVER LABOUR'S `SECRET’ MEETINGS WITH BIG BUSINESS LEADERS
Details of high-level meetings between the prime Minister and top executives of
Britain's most powerful companies will remain secret, the government has ruled,
despite widespread concern about big business' privileged access to senior
politicians.....The documents released reveal that Blair has met with the MCG every year since
he was elected in 1997. Participants at the last meeting, in October 2004,
included top executives from HSBC, Vodafone, Unilever, BP, the drinks giant
Diageo, cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco, and mining company Rio
.....Last year, The Guardian newspaper revealed that the head of one of the
world's largest tobacco companies, British American Tobacco, used an MCG meeting
in March 2000 to put private pressure on the Prime Minister and the then trade
secretary Stephen Byers.
BAT stood accused of facilitating large-scale tobacco smuggling, costing UK
taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, and faced a possible public inquiry by
the Department for Trade and Industry. But after the MCG meeting with Tony Blair
and a second private meeting with Byers, plans for the inquiry were dropped and
a DTI investigation was conducted in secret instead. The findings of that
investigation have never been published, and the government turned down a second
FOIA request from The Big Issue in the North for its release.
Multinational Chairman's Group - all is revealed?
Ever heard of the Multinational Chairman's Group? I hadn't either.
sound a little like the kind of shadowy yet powerful organisation which is
believed by some to control the entire world, but from what I can make out
it seems to be a lobbying group of big bosses who occasionally meet the
Prime Minister to argue their corner.
We may soon know more about it, as the Information Commissioner has
instructed the Cabinet Office to reveal some background briefing
material relating to the meetings. However Downing St won't have to disclose
the speaking notes officials prepared for Tony Blair, partly because he
might not actually have bothered to read out the points that his minions
felt he ought to be making.
One interesting little detail of the judgment is that whoever requested
the information did so on 4 January 2005, the first working day of the FOI
era. And I thought we were meant to live in a time of instant gratification.
press release announcing the judgment, issued today, focuses somewhat
surprisingly on the information to be withheld not that to be released.
It's the latest in a series of 'dog bites man'
ICO press releases with a topline angled on the Commissioner backing
public authorities when they have kept information secret. Anyone would
think that the Commissioner is trying to get a reputation for protecting