UK Politics

Growth fund process 'not transparent' - Labour MPs

Labour MPs have said there was too little "clarity and transparency" in the allocation of £1.4bn to companies via the regional growth fund.

Angela Smith said one member of the panel choosing the winning bids, Jon Moulton, would benefit himself via a firm in which he is an investor.

Shadow business minister Gordon Marsden said the government must explain the panel's links to bidders more clearly.

The government said Mr Moulton had "no role" in the decision about his firm.

The regional growth fund was discussed in a Westminster Hall debate a day after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the recipients of the second and final instalment of £950m.

Mr Clegg said the money would help create or safeguard "hundreds of thousands of jobs" in England.

'Links'

But Mr Marsden said: "Let us take the panel. We know who they are, but we still don't know very clearly - 15 months after this process was launched - what they do and how they do it.

"It would be helpful if the minister were to explain just precisely what the links were between the advisory panel's advice and the decisions that are made."

He also referred to an article in the Times newspaper which he said drew "some conclusions... about the way in which there seems to be a relationship between the distribution of the bids, political areas in the country and companies who are, and I quote, 'significant backers of the Conservative Party'".

Ms Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said there was "not much clarity or transparency in a process like this".

"One member of the panel assessing bids for the growth fund, Mr Moulton, is actually benefiting from the fund himself to the tune of £5.9m at a company called Redx Pharma in which he is an investor with a stake of about 26%," she said.

Venture capitalist Mr Moulton is a significant donor to the Conservatives and also donated £35,000 to a charity at the behest of former Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

The charity was set up by Mr Fox's friend and self-styled adviser Adam Werritty - whose links to government led to the defence secretary's resignation last month.

Mr Moulton said he had disclosed his potential conflict of interest and played no role in the funding decision relating to RedX Pharma.

'Pretty good homes'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: "All the panel members were asked to share with us their conflicts of interests.

"When those conflicts became relevant they withdrew themselves from the discussion. Mr Moulton was not involved in the decision-making process affecting his company."

Mr Moulton told the BBC's Newsnight on Monday he believed the grants that had been given had gone to "pretty good homes".

"But the odd thing was I would've expected - for free money - that we'd have had 10 times as many people applying as we actually had."

He added: "There isn't enough confidence. There isn't enough manufacturing. There isn't enough dynamism."

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