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Cairns becomes vice-chair of Westminster taxi group just months after new job as advisor to taxi company

13 Mar 2021 4 minutes Read
Alun Cairns. Picture by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0).

Alun Cairns has joined a Westminster interest group for the taxi industry months after becoming a paid adviser to a major taxi company.

The Vale of Glamorgan MP has been made a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on taxis, according to UK Parliament transparency data published this week.

The group was established in 2016 to “support and promote the interests of the taxi trade in parliament.”

The former secretary of state for Wales joined at the group’s latest AGM in January, where members agreed that a “strong push for the long-overdue taxis legislation would be a priority.”

Cairns took up the role less than six months after Nation.Cymru revealed he is being paid £15,000 a year to provide “strategic advice” to taxi operator Veezu, which runs Cardiff’s Dragon Taxis.

Alun Cairns told Nation.Cymru: “The Parliamentary Authorities formally approved my role in the all-party group, following my request for advice. My interest has been declared and registered and noted in the minutes accordingly.”

However, Tom Brake, the director of Unlock Democracy who was a member of the APPG on taxis during his time as a Liberal Democrat MP, raised concerns that the Welsh MP could be in danger of breaching lobbying rules in the MPs’ code of conduct.

“Any MP who receives payment for providing advice to an organisation that would benefit from the activities of an APPG, that the same MP is a member of, is walking a tightrope,” Brake told Nation.Cymru.

“The rules on paid advocacy are clear: An MP who has received a payment ‘must not engage in any parliamentary proceeding, or any approach to a minister, other MP or public official… which would provide a financial benefit to the organisation from which they received a payment’.”

The UK Government’s lobbying watchdog, ACoBA, has also imposed a “lobbying ban” on Cairns as a condition for accepting the job with Veezu.

“It would be inappropriate for you to use your contacts across the UK Government to the unfair advantage of Veezu”, they told Cairns, who was obliged to seek their permission as a former minister.

Asked whether Cairns risked breaching their ban, Brake added: “As the purpose of most APPGs is to promote the interests of a sector, group or country to the Government, it is a razor-thin tightrope.”

‘Vocal’

It’s not the first time that Cairns has joined an all-party group linked to his outside interests.

Nation.Cymru revealed how the Conservative MP set up an all-party parliamentary group on “energy security” months after receiving a £5,000 donation from energy firm Aquind Ltd.

The stated purpose of the group, of which Cairns is the chair and registered contact, is to “promote the security of energy supply in the UK”.

Aquind, which is behind a project to build an electricity interconnector between England and France, say it is needed to “ensure additional security and diversity of energy supply.”

The website of Conservative donor Alexander Temerko, who this week took a controlling stake in the company, describes him as a “vocal champion of UK energy security.”

Cairns’ role with Veezu is one of two side jobs he does on top of representing the Vale of Glamorgan.

He is also paid £15,000-a-year by the BBI Group, a company working on a home Covid test.

Cairns told ACoBA he was offered the job at BBI through a connection with its chairman, Alan Peterson, who is also a director of Veezu.

The two jobs, which both require a commitment of up to 70 hours per year, take his total earnings to at least £121,932-a-year when his £81,932 MPs’ salary and income from a rental property in Cardiff are taken into account.

Cairns isn’t the only Welsh MP with a link to Veezu. It was reported last week that Welsh Labour MP Stephen Doughty received Six Nations rugby tickets from Veezu after thanking them in Parliament.

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