Cumberlege Connections

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Cumberlege Connections is a consultancy founded in 2001 by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, a Conservative peer in the House of Lords.


Ostensibly set up to offer, in Cumberlege's own words, "training courses", Cumberlege Connections is - the Lady maintains - "not a lobbying company".[1] According to the official website, the firm's unique selling points are as follows:

"Experiential Learning: Our programmes are firmly rooted in the principle that the best way of learning is by “doing”. Our training sessions are designed to be as interactive as possible, giving all participants the opportunity to put into practice the tactics and strategies learnt throughout the day. We always ensure that participants on our programmes will have an experience that they will never forget, embedding learning which individuals can draw on in the future.
"In-depth knowledge of Politics and the NHS: Cumberlege Connections, and Julia Cumberlege in particular, has experience of working at all levels in the NHS. She has a natural empathy and understanding of the working situations and politics, both with a small and large “p” that affect their everyday working lives.
"Network: The network of contacts and excellent relationships that Julia has established during her exceptional career ensure that we have assembled a team of the highest calibre to support us in our programmes.[2]

Programmes offered include a two-day course titled 'Politics, Power and Persuasion', aimed at nursing and midwifery leaders[3] and available at a cost of £550.00 (ex vat).[4] Also available is 'The Westminster Experience' in which senior NHS managers, clinicians and non-executives are offered "an opportunity to better understand the influence that national politics has on the NHS and in turn, how you can better influence for the benefit of your organisation".[5] This one-day course is available for £1200.00 (ex vat).[6] In January 2009, The Guardian reported that Cumberlege Connections made a gross profit of £135,000 on a turnover of £350,00 for the last available year of accounts.[7]


Following a series of "Cash for Influence" claims, it emerged in January 2009 that numerous peers in the House of Lords - including former government ministers - had established private companies through which they could offer their work as consultants to industry without being required to disclose the identities of their clients. Although the practice is within the rules of the House, members are required to declare an interest should they say anything in the chamber or sit on committees which could lead to a conflict of interests with their own companies.[8]

Spinwatch complaint against Cumberlege

The pressure group for lobbying transparency - Spinwatch - uncovered the Cumberlege case and lodged an official complaint with Baroness Usha Prashar at the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests in January 2009.[9] Cumberlege was accused of abusing her political position to advance the interests of her private company, having reportedly used a Lords email address to recruit clients to her commercial courses organised by Cumberlege Connections. It was also claimed that she granted a Lords access pass to her business partner and PA Amanda Simonds, without having declared Simonds' business interests in the official anti-sleaze register.[10] After establishing the firm in 2001 with her Simonds - formerly a city trader who would later become director of business development - Cumberlege admits that the business was run from the House of Lords until "it took off".[11] When challenged about the potential conflict of interests, Cumberlege responded:

This is not a lobbying company. It puts on training courses, for example, for young doctors, to tell them about Parliament and politicians. Many people in the NHS are naive about politics, not realising that the boards of their heath trusts are run by politicians... When I realised that the business was taking off I took special measures to separate it from the House of Lords, setting up its own website and employing staff outside. I have never claimed money from the public authorities, not even telephone charges. I have nothing to hide.[12]

However, she also conceded that she had not been "punctilious" in declaring her interests during Lords debates, owing to the fact that "It is such a long list and most of it is pro bono work".[13]

Official response to the complaint

The complaint from David Miller of Spinwatch dated 30 January 2009 received a response from Brendan Keith at the Lords' Register of Interests dated 10 June 2009. This explains that Cumberlege was interviewed by the Registrar and apparently "acknowledged that the form of her entry in the Lords' Register of Interests, and some details relating to her interests, could usefully be clarified".[14] The main points of this "clarification" are as follows:

  • Cumberlege "has now made the required changes to her entry" listed on the parliamentary website
  • Cumberlege "now registers her directorship of Cumberlege Connections ("CC") as a remunerated directorship and not a non-parliamentary consultancy" as she owns and runs the company, rather than providing consultancy services to it
  • She "now also makes clear the nature of the company's business"
  • It is not required by the Code of Conduct for Cumberlege to list her clients, and she "does not wish to volunteer this information because she believes that it is commercially confidential"
  • It is permitted to Cumberlege to receive payment for advising clients on how they can persuade or influence parliament, whereas direct advocacy in exchange for payment is an offence - there is no evidence Cumberlege has been engaged in the latter
  • With regard to declaring interests during relevant debates, "no-one can be 100 percent certain that she did this on every occasion on which she intervened in the House, and in any case it is a matter of judgement what should be declared in the context of any particular debate... she cannot be certain that she always exercised her judgement correctly, as others would see it, but she has told the Sub-Committee that any failures to do so were inadvertent and she has apologised for them. She has also assured the Sub-Committee that she will in future be punctilious about declarations of interest in debate"
  • With regard to the complaint about registration of her staff's interests, Cumberlege "acknowledges that the role of Mrs Amanda Simonds as Company Secretary to CC should be registered... This has now been done... Mrs Simonds's status is now made clear. Mrs Simonds does not now have a parliamentary e-mail address"
  • Melanie Thew "is not sponsored for a parliamentary photo-pass and does not therefore appear in the Register... She can only enter the building at the invitation of Baroness Cumberlege and must be escorted by her at all times
  • Cumberlege "has assured us that she has never used the Palace of Westminster for business purposes and that CC is run from her home... At one time in the past she did facilitate access to the Palace of Westminster for her clients to attend debates and select committees, but she no longer does so and those of her clients who visit the Palace of Westminster now do so as members of the general public".[15]

Despite breaking the rules with regard to declaring her outside interests and those of her business partner, Cumberlege did not face any disciplinary action.[16]


  • Consultant from June 2010 - former Labour health minister Lord Philip Hunt [18]

Former staff

Contact, Resources, Notes


Address: Cumberlege Connections Ltd
Snells Cottage
The Green
Newick, Lewes
East Sussex BN8 4LA
Tel: +44 (0)1825 723833
Fax: +44 (0)1825 723873



  1. Andy Tate, "Sussex peer accused of misusing her position", The Argus, accessed 09.09.10
  2. Cumberlege Connections, "About Cumberlege Connections", accessed 09.09.10
  3. Cumberlege Connections, "Programmes for Nursing and Midwifery Leaders", accessed 09.09.10
  4. Cumberlege Connections, "Power, Politics and Persuasion", accessed 09.09.10
  5. Cumberlege Connections, "Programmes for NHS Chairs and non-executive Directors", accessed 09.09.10
  6. Cumberlege Connections, "Westminster Experience", accessed 09.09.10
  7. David Hencke and Rob Evans, "Tory peer accused of misusing Lords to boost her own firm", The Guardian, 29.01.09, accessed 09.09.10
  8. Gordon Rayner and Christopher Hope, "Peers using loophole to 'hide' their consultancy client lists", The Telegraph, 29.01.09
  9. David Hencke and Rob Evans, "Tory peer accused of misusing Lords to boost her own firm", The Guardian, 29.01.09, accessed 09.09.10
  10. Andy Tate, "Sussex peer accused of misusing her position", The Argus, accessed 09.09.10
  11. David Hencke and Rob Evans, "Tory peer accused of misusing Lords to boost her own firm", The Guardian, 29.01.09, accessed 09.09.10
  12. Andy Tate, "Sussex peer accused of misusing her position", The Argus, accessed 09.09.10
  13. Andy Tate, "Sussex peer accused of misusing her position", The Argus, accessed 09.09.10
  14. Brendan Keith, "Letter dated 10 June 2009", accessed 09.09.10
  15. Brendan Keith, "Letter dated 10 June 2009", accessed 09.09.10
  16. David Hencke and Rob Evans, "House of Lords takes no action over peer who broke sleaze rules" The Guardian, 25.06.09, accessed 10.09.10
  17. Parliament.UK Interests and amendments, accessed 11 March 2015
  18. ACoBA Annual Report 2010-11
  19. David Hencke and Rob Evans, "Tory peer accused of misusing Lords to boost her own firm", The Guardian, 29.01.09, accessed 09.09.10

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