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George Osborne: failed to declare Bilderberg meetings

May 30, 2013

     :: PRESS RELEASE ::


Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne met with media owners and editors at Bilderberg 2011, but failed to declare these meetings in his Treasury transparency data.

“Official capacity”

George Osborne is a regular attendee at Bilderberg conferences. He went in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and most recently he attended the 2011 Bilderberg conference in St Moritz (9-12 June). According to the official Bilderberg website: “Participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not an official capacity.” However, the Treasury was able to confirm:

“George Osborne is attending the Bilderberg conference in his official capacity as Chancellor of the Exchequer”

George Osborne was there in St Moritz as Chancellor – in the company of at least one member of Treasury staff (according to the Treasury, “probably not more than one.”) He spent 3 days, as Chancellor, meeting behind closed doors with bank bosses, corporate CEOs, politicians, venture capitalists and royalty. Also present at this international policy summit were a considerable number of media proprietors and senior media executives. These included:

    John Micklethwait (Editor-in-Chief of The Economist; Director, The Economist Group)
    John Elkann (Director, The Economist Group)
    Mikael Pentikäinen (Publisher and Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanomat – Finnish newspaper)
    Matthias Nass (Chief International Correspondent, Die Zeit)
    Juan Luis Cebrián (Chairman, El País)
    Oscar Bronner (Publisher, Der Standard Medienwelt – Austrian daily)
    Marc Chavannes (Political columnist, NRC Handelsblad – Dutch newspaper)

Note: John Elkann joined the Board of Directors of the Economist Group in July 2009. Elkann is also the Chairman of Fiat, and of Exor – the investment company controlled by the Agnelli family. The Agnelli family is a major shareholder in the Economist Group.

Transparency data

In April 2013, when George Osborne came to declare his ‘Meetings with proprietors, editors and senior media executives‘ for the period May 2010 to July 2011 (which covers June 9-12, 2011) he only mentioned one of these names – John Micklethwait – at the relevant point in his declaration:


Which means either that Osborne spent three days ducking round corners and hiding in broom closets for the whole duration of the conference, managing to avoid them all except John Micklethwait, or he’s simply failed to declare his Bilderberg meetings with media proprietors, editors and senior media executives.

Ministerial Code

At the time Osborne was meeting with these media proprietors and executives at Bilderberg 2011, the Ministerial Code stated – in fairly broad terms:

Departments will publish, at least quarterly, details of Ministers’ external meetings.

However, by the time the relevant declaration of media meetings came to be made (19 April 2013) the Ministerial Code had been changed by David Cameron to include the paragraph:

“The Government will be open about its links with the media. All meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives will be published quarterly regardless of the purpose of the meeting.”

This change was made in July 2011. The declaration was made in April 2013. The new edition of code is explicit and all-encompassing: “all meetings” with owners and senior executives, “regardless of the purpose of the meeting“. Not limited to the British media, not excluding conferences. Rather, it is “the fullest possible list assembled from the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Parliamentary diary, his departmental diary, personal diary and memory.”

George Osborne’s breach of Ministerial Code is clear cut.
Which begs the question…

What next?

The Fourth Special Report of the Select Committee on Public Administration (2007) states:

it must be for the Prime Minister to judge whether the facts amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code and the consequences of any such breach.

In other words – over to you, David Cameron.


See also: Kenneth Clarke