They still don't get it.
PASC, the Select Committee on which I serve, expressed 'serious concerns' about the appointment of Lord Lang as chair of the committee that oversees the appointments of former ministers and civil servants to business appointments. Lang is a former cabinet minister with many business interests. There was a spot of bother with one
Lang this week rejected our criticisms of his appointment in the magazine Civil Service World. He is not the independent new broom required; he is part of the parliamentary tribe that thinks it’s reasonable to have a clutch of jobs when ministerial life ends. Lang is a director of Marsh and McLennan since 1997 Lord Lang was sued in 2004 'accused of orchestrating a massive fraud against customers.' Bloomberg reported on 13th of this month that the company 'will pay $400 million to settle a lawsuit by investors who said they had lost money because the company failed to disclose illegal practices'.
Ian Lang insisted that the company were blameless. I asked him whether 'they had paid the $400 million out of the goodness of their hearts?' Others will ask the same question. While there may have been no dishonesty, the perception of wrongdoing is present.
There is a wide choice of independent candidates for membership of this committee from outside of the parliamentary tribe. Former trade union leaders, charity workers, ombudsmen, even an 'ordinary person'. The last person likely to end the scandal of the revolving door is someone who have been propelled through it.
Lang rejects the idea that a 'hair-dresser or a taxi-driver' should be appointed to the committee. He says that the strength of his committee is because it includes,'a retired ambassador, a retired senior civil servant, a retired chief of the defence staff and four peers.' Precisely. It's the great and the good judging the great and the good. This hidden scandal of the revolving door allows formers ministers and civil servants to profit handsomely by trading on their experience of public service. Lang agreed when I questioned him at the PASC meeting that there was a danger that the decisions of top people may be distorted when they are in office by the prospect of retirement incomes. This is potentially corrupting.
Lang has not been touched by the public suspicion and anger aroused by the expenses scandal. He is still living in the old world where honourable gentlemen can be trusted to take impeccable public spirited judgement of honesty. This is the cosy 'Old Boys Club' that created the expenses scandal.
Perhaps Lang's committee will be the final bastion of establishment complacency.