Research by: Abi Simons, Phillip Baker, Sam Fletcher, Jonathan Parker, Josh Kneale
Until recently, I, like most people, was not aware that the position of the Remembrancer even existed in the British Political system. You can imagine my shock when I found out that this role is perhaps one of the most aggressively direct forms of lobbying that the City of London has to offer.
Paul Double aka “The Remembrancer” has stood up for the interests of bankers in the City of London rather than the country as a whole, including recently playing a pivotal role in the UK-China Nuclear deal in October.
This is in fact what the Remembrancer was created to do, “to protect the interests of the city of London” – the 1.5 square mile patch of land that is the financial heartland of the country. As Nicholas Shaxson, author of ‘An Investigation into the City of London’, describes the Remembrancer is the “world’s oldest institutional lobbyist.”
Double has been The Remembrancer since 2003 and is one of the Key Officers of the City of London Corporation, a body which is elected by residents and businesses alike. Businesses get a vote due to the fact that the non-residential vote is still being used in the City, which was abolished everywhere else in 1969.
The Remembrancers resources
The Remembrancer has an annual budget of approx £5.3million with an additional £500,000 for staff wages – including a team of lawyers. This gives him the resources to effectively scrutinise pieces of legislation to see if it adheres to the interests of the City, and in turn, the banks.
As if this wasn’t enough, there is a special seat in the House of Commons in the “Under Gallery” for him, as well as a seat in the House of Lords – making him one of the only people able to sit in both Houses. This allows the Remembrancer to watch debates that could affect the City in one way or another and to express his opposition to pieces of legislation should the situation permit.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the Remembrancer is able to meet directly with legislators and key people in Government, such as organising state visits for the Queen.
Professor Jeffrey Henderson, of the University of Bristol, writing in reference to the recent UK- China Nuclear deal said the Remembrancer “seems recently to have been at work ensuring that Britain’s infrastructure is made accessible to Chinese state-owned companies”. The deal would be significant financial boost for the City of London due to a plan to link the UK and Chinese Stock markets unveiled by George Osborne in September.
Opposition to the role
The Remembrancers interference in British politics has not gone unnoticed. In 2013 Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow asking for the Remembrancer to be removed from the House of Commons, as well as getting his privilege of viewing legislation in the drafting process to be revoked.
Leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett was quoted saying “The fact that the City Remembrancer is the only non-MP allowed on the floor of the House of Commons is an historical anachronism”, referring to how the role dates back to 1571.
Removing the positon of “The Remembrancer” was even a part of the Labour Party’s manifesto until 1997, this has since been removed.
Can the role be justified?
It is almost unbelievable how in the British Political system there are so many checks on the power of the Government (such as Prime Ministers Questions), yet there are none on a person that has as much power over legislation as a cabinet minister.
Additionally, the fact that this person (who arguably has a prolific impact on nation-wide pieces of legislation) is not elected on a nation wide level, can be considered a significant blow to our democracy.
Perhaps if the Remembrancer was regularly questioned by select committees, or even if he decides to do the occasional media interview (considering the fact he has never agreed to one) then maybe the fact that this person is in our parliament could be taken with a pinch of salt.