In their programme for government the Coalition stated that they believed in the need for transparency and to hold politicians to account. Needless to say, as with all political promises it contained an unmentioned caveat as witness by this extract from Lords Hansard (Col: WA404) 28th June:
"Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer attended the 2011 Bilderberg Conference at St Moritz on 9-12 June in his official capacity; and, if so, what expense was incurred, including those of his accompanying officials; and whether he will be giving a report of the proceedings at the conference to the Cabinet and Parliament.[HL10062]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Chancellor of the Exchequer attended the Bilderberg conference in St Moritz. All travel undertaken by Treasury Ministers and officials is carried out in line with the Ministerial and Civil Service Management Codes. Details of all ministerial overseas travel are published quarterly on the Treasury website: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/minister_hospitality.htm.
In addition, the Prime Minister reports annually to Parliament on ministerial overseas travel, encompassing costs incurred by officials and special advisers. In line with the practice of previous Administrations, details of ministerial discussions on ongoing policy issues are not disclosed, as this could undermine effective Government decision-making. Any issues that require the consideration of Cabinet or reporting to Parliament will be dealt with according to the proper protocol."
Followed, on 23th July by:
"Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 28 June (WA 404) concerning the attendance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Bilderberg conference on 9-12 June, what is the purpose of the Bilderberg Organisation; what subjects are discussed at their conferences; whether these are conducted by an agenda; whether minutes of proceedings are published; and what benefits accrue to the United Kingdom from the participation of Ministers of the Crown in these conferences.[HL10848]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Bilderberg meetings are attended by politicians and business people from around the world who come together to discuss topics of significance for international policy makers. Ministers in previous Administrations have attended these meetings and they are also attended by former Ministers.
20 July 2011 : Column WA300
Copies of any agenda and minutes of the meetings are not publicly available as they are part of ongoing policy formulation and their release could prejudice UK economic interests and international relations. The informal nature of discussions provides space for wide ranging discussions and for frank and candid exchange of views.
Commenting on the Government’s response, Lord Stoddart said:
"I am disturbed to find that a Minister of the Crown, no less than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, can travel to another country virtually incognito and take part in a conference organised by a highly secretive organisation, at the taxpayers’ expense, but is under no obligation to provide even an outline of the matters he discussed. Even more troubling is the fact that the Government finds the Bilderberg Conference in Switzerland to be a suitable venue for discussions relating to ‘ongoing policy issues’. Just because something was common practice in previous administrations, does not make it right for this Government to engage in under-cover policy discussions."
"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."Patrick Henry, American colonial revolutionary